Friday, December 14, 2007

STILL No Court Date after 12 1/2 Weeks!!

Well, it looks like Haylie will have to spend Christmas and New Years in Russia. We still haven't heard anything about our court date, and today was the cut off to be able to get it done before the New Year. The Russian government shuts down from December 28 - January 15 for their New Year's and Christmas celebration, so it will now have to be after January 15. I'm so angry that we couldn't have gotten her before the holidays. Mainly because that is just another month she will have to spend in an orphanage without anyone to love and care for her. But I'm also selfish and really wanted to get her back by the holidays and before Rich has to go back to work on January 3. Especially considering other couples who traveled for their first visit at the same time and even after we did are already home with their babies. It just doesn't seem fair.

AA says there is no problem, we just must wait till the judge appoints a court date. Normally that happens within a few days of getting the release letter (which we got 8 days ago), but because of the holidays it will take longer. As a result of this delay, we had to redo our medical forms which are only good for 3 months. The current ones would expire Jan1, 2008. When we did them originally in October, Alina said "there is no way these will expire before you go back"--HA!! Luckily, I work in the medical field and can get these done easily and cheaply. I feel sorry for those other folks out there who would have to make another appointment with their physician, for another physical exam and more blood work, none of which is usually covered by insurance. We also now have to do MORE notarizing and apostilling, and shell out more money for that of course.

Oh well, I'll get off my soapbox now and quit complaining, if only for a short period. I'm posting some pictures of all the documents we've done and aspostilled for our dossier, and now will add to.

These are only about half of the ones we had to do for our original dossier before we even got our referral.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Pictures of Russia & We Have Progress After 11 Weeks!!!

St. Basils Cathedral, Moscow
Homes in countryside on way to orphanage
Countryside near Novokuznetsk
Prokopiesk Orphanage where Haylie is living

Red Square, Moscow
Red Square in the rain
Gardens near Kremlin
Park surrounding Kremlin, Red Square
GUM Department Store

I just heard from our Adoption Ark coordinator that our release letter has been received finally. This was the last step needed before the judge could set the court date, and for some reason our release letter had kind of been MIA. I was soooo discouraged yesterday after I spoke with Alina. I kind of felt like we were getting the run-around. She just kept telling me they didn't know where the release letter was and all we could do was wait for it to get back into the region from Moscow. In the mean time, the people we went on our first trip with as well as at least 2 other couples who traveled after we did already had a court date. In fact Dave and Stacy are in Moscow as we speak and already have finished with court. Alina said yesterday that she didn't think we would hear anything now until after the first of the year....needless to say, not what I wanted to hear.
So when she called today and left a message that she had just been notified about the release letter, I was shocked. I do feel much better, because having the release letter indicates all of the needed paperwork is in order and we can proceed to court. I still don't see it being possible to get a court date before the end of the year since things really slow down with the holidays. The US Embassy will close from Christmas to New Years, and then the Russians celebrate their Christmas holiday from December 28 until January 15. But at least we can see light at the end of the tunnel!!! I'll keep you posted.
In light of this progress, I thought I would post some of the pictures of Russia we took on our first trip. I had forgotten I had never posted any pictures. In September, Moscow was georgeous (even in the rain) with beautiful flowers everywhere. I just looked on the weather channel website and the current temperature in Moscow is a high of 12 degrees, low of 0 with snow showers predicted all week. So we probably won't be able to get out and sightsee too much, especially with a baby.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Visitors From Around the World

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10 Weeks, but the nursery is FINALLY ready!!

Before the turkey dinner
Finally, the "After" pictures--no more boxes!!
Picture above crib
Picture over dresser/changing table

Everybody at work on Thanksgiving Day!!
Even Daddy got in on the act!!
Grandma and Aunt Lisa taking a breather
The crib all put together
Beautiful Laura Ashley crib bedding

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!! We had a really nice weekend. After Thanksgiving dinner, everybody pitched in to put the nursery furniture together--finally (it's been sitting on the floor in boxes for over a month now). It was a great way to spend turkey day!! Next year we can tell Haylie we put her bed together on Thanksgiving Day--hah!! My mom, sisters, me, my sisters boyfriend Pete, and yes even Rich all worked together to get the crib and dresser put together. I really love it--it turned out just the way I had hoped it would. Now we just need little Haylie to move in--it's all ready for her, and so are we. Well actually, the room is only HALF finished. One half is the beautiful nursery you see above, the other half is still Daddy's office that we will start moving into the other bedroom this week.

Today makes 10 weeks since we were in Novokuznetzk, not that we are counting or anything. We are praying that we get the word sometime this week about the court date. I know I've been sounding like a broken record, but its really getting down to crunch time now for us. If it goes much longer we will be there over the holidays, and the US Embassy shuts down between Christmas and New Years, so we would have to sit in Moscow after the court date, waiting til it reopened. Or, the other scenerio is that it could be after the holidays, and Rich (who has been off on sabbatical all fall) has to go back to work the first week of January. Soooo, needless to say, we really are anxious to hear something this week. We are really trying to be optimistic, but know the reality is that this could take longer than we want it too. I know it will all happen in God's time, but have to keep telling myself that constantly.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

9 weeks waiting!!

Well, it's been a long 9 weeks since we were in Russia and now waiting for a court date. I must check my email and cell phone 20 times a day to see if we have gotten a call about the court date. Since I never got a reply to my email, I finally broke down yesterday and called our Adoption Ark coordinator to see if she'd heard anything. She also said we are waiting on the "release letter". Seems it was supposedly sent from the region to Moscow, then has to be sent back to Kemerovo before the judge will appoint a court date. Evidently the Russian mail system leaves a lot to be desired, and can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 weeks to receive. She told me legally, the judge had up to 2 months!! to set the date, after they get the release letter. I about died, this was the first I had heard of this. She did say that that USUALLY didn't happen, and most of the time they set the date quickly after getting the letter. Funny thing is, our letter and the couple we went with, Stacy and Dave, letters went in at the same time. Luckily for them, theirs is already back and they are going next week to get little Alexander. Everyone please say prayers for us that we will get our date soon and be able to go get Haylie.

Hope everybody has a wonderful Turkey day. We had so hoped to be getting packed to go by Thanksgiving, but guess it's just not meant to be. But I just try to remember that next Thanksgiving, we will most assuredly have something most wonderful to be thankful for (not that we don't already!!) because Haylie will be with us to celebrate. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Surprise Baby Shower!!!

My sister Lisa and the beautiful table

Friends and family lined up for the goodies

What an adorable cake!!!

My wonderful mother and sisters and my mom's best friend Betty went together and gave me a surprise baby shower for Haylie on Saturday. It was the best baby shower ever!! It was soooo nice and I had such a good time. They had invited lots of old friends, many of whom I used to work with but hadn't seen in a long time, as well as some sweet family who live in Indiana. Also, several of my dear friends from work and church came. It was so nice to see all these dear people I hadn't seen in a while, and of course the shower made it even nicer!! We got so many nice gifts. Haylie will certainly be the best dressed little girl around--I can't wait to try all the outfits on her.

I want to thank my dear mom and sisters, Marcia and Lisa, and Betty for all the hard work. I absolutely loved it--it couldn't have been nicer. I really was surprised, but I must admit I got a little suspicious that something was going on when Lisa told me to "wear something nice, like dress pants" to go to a movie. That was what I thought we were going to be doing, and guess she didn't want me showing up at the shower in my old sweatpants (which by the way would have been a great possibility.) Thanks too to Bobbi Jo, my dear friend from work who I see everyday, for all your help and for keeping it all a secret--she never let on once that anything was going on.

PS Look closely at the cake and you can see a great picture of my girl (I know I'm not supposed to post pictures, but I'm gonna live dangerously--it's only cake!!)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Look at the "Time Waiting" Ticker

Hah, I just noticed on the Lilypie Time Ticker above that we have been waiting for Haylie for exactly 9 months and 1 day today!!! I think it's hilarious. I sent the signed contract into Adoption Ark to get the whole thing rolling on February 14, 2007. If I'd been pregnant with her, it would be time for her to be born....guess by the time we actually get her and the adoption finalized she will be "overdue". I've heard people call international adoption a "paper pregnancy"--well, guess we are right on track!!

Waiting 8 Weeks

Well, it's been 8 weeks now since our first trip to Russia. We got the news earlier this week that the couple we traveled with, Dave and Stacy have gotten their court date for November 29. I am soooooo happy for them. I've kind of been waiting with baited breath all week for a phone call from Adoption Ark for our court date too, since they got theirs. I finally couldn't stand it any longer and emailed our coordinator in Chicago. All she had to say was that we were still waiting on a "release letter" to get a date and that she would let me know if she heard anything. Not what I wanted to hear obviously. This waiting gets harder every day!!! I keep reading on the web message boards about others getting their court dates--seems like about 5 families got their dates last week. I try not to be jealous, but can't help wish it was us too. There has also been several posts about people loosing their referral right before their second trip, and so now I'm worried to death that something will happen and we won't be able to get our Haylie. We certainly don't have the best luck in the world, and I'm really scared our bad luck will come through in this matter and something will happen that we won't get Haylie.

Oh, well I'll get off of the pity potty and show you our first official baby gift. The sweet doctor I work with bought this for us way back when we first started the process, and planned to give it to me at a shower. But she was so excited, and said she couldn't wait for the shower, so went ahead and gave it to me. It is so adorable, I can't wait to see Haylie riding the rocking horse. It's kind of hard to see in the picture, but there is also a little blanket, bottle, pacifier, shirt, teddy bear, and a bib with "Haylie" embroidered on it. I just LOVE it!!

Friday, October 26, 2007

It's Been 6 Weeks Since We Met Haylie

It was 6 weeks ago today we met Haylie at the orphanage. In some ways those weeks have flown by, but they have also been interminable waiting to get our court date so we can go back and bring her home. Every night Rich kisses her picture on the refrigerator and says "Booster, come home!!" several times--it is so cute. Is this really my husband who really wasn't too sure about kids just a couple of years ago? He is over the moon in love with Haylie. I guess I need to tell you my family is crazy about nicknames. Just about everybody has one, and Rich started calling Haylie, Haylie Boo. From there it went to "the Booster", and now the poor child who isn't even here yet has the nickname of "Booster".

I sent the last of the apostilled documents in to Adoption Ark last week, and supposedly a couple who left for Russia on Saturday hand carried our documents over as they went. Please pray they get there safely and that they haven't lost the ones we took when we went. I'm a little concerned taking them in 2 separate batches that something will be missing and it will delay our court date. I just saw on the Kemerovo webgroup I'm on, that a family who went for their 1st trip 2 weeks before we did got their court date for the middle of November!! So with any luck, we could be 2 weeks behind them, which would be right around Thanksgiving. That would be SOOOO awesome. They are using a different agency than us, but I'm sure going to keep my fingers crossed.

Because there was another home UK football game, we still didn't get a chance to get the nursery put together. Next week is out too because our church is having a Ladies Inspiration Day all day Saturday. So maybe one of these days I'll be able to post pictures of the nursery all put together. For now, it's still in boxes sitting in the middle of the room. So here are the "before" pictures, with the "after" pictures to follow in a few weeks.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I Have The Best Mom In The World!!!

Mom and Julia

This is my mom, Meleta and with my neice, Julia. She is the absolute best mom in the whole wide world (at least to me!!). She is so excited about getting Haylie, at times I think she is even more excited than we are. She should have had about 20 grandbabies, but none of her 3 daughters were fertile. She only has one precious grandchild, my neice Julia, now 11 years old, who is also adopted. We have all about loved Julia to death since we got her at 3 months old. Now with Haylie coming, Mom will have another baby to spoil. She has already hand-knitted her 2 beautiful sweaters (one with a hat), an afghan, made a handmade cover for a shopping-cart, and put together a fleece coverlet to use as a floor cloth. She also has bought Haylie her first shoes. In addition she is going to help me assemble the crib and dresser, which we finally bought last week (since Rich has no apptitude for anything remotely resembling a handyman!!). Above are pictures of the beautiful sweaters (one white, one yellow) and the afghan she has made.
I can't wait to see them on Haylie--she will be an absolute doll!! We're going on 5 weeks now since our first trip, so hopefully we will hear something about a court date within the next month.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Go Cats!!!

We had a great weekend this past week. We are long-suffering University of Kentucky Wildcat football season ticket holders, for the past 12 years. As most of you know UK has not been a powerhouse in the SEC, and that's putting it nicely. We always go to every game and tailgate with a bunch of friends from my church. We always have a big time, even when Kentucky looses, which is normally often. This year however, has been different, as Kentucky is now 6-1 (an amazing record for us poor KY fans!!)

So last Saturday, we played LSU, who at the time was ranked #1 in the country. We were hopeful, but nobody really thought we would win. Well, hallelujah we actually won after 3 overtimes!! It was so much fun, probably the best time we've ever had at a football game. The whole day was great starting with the tailgating...we had smoked pulled pork sandwiches which were fantastic. One of the guys uncle from church actually makes it himself, from his own pigs. It was a gorgeous October day and we had a crowd of about 40 people tailgating. These folks go all out, with 3 tents set up, a flat screen TV, even heaters when it gets cold. Above are some pictures of our tailgating extravaganza and some of the game after we won.

Friday, October 12, 2007

It's the Hill Family Birthday Week

It's been a busy week as we celebrated birthdays all week. BOTH my mother and father's birthday is October 10th and mine is October 11th. Because of everybodies crazy schedules, to be able to get everybody together, we started celebrating last Saturday the 6th. We officially celebrated Mom's birthday on Saturday (unfortuneately my Dad passed away 3 years ago, so even tho he's not here in body to celebrate, we still feel he's here in spirit so we still celebrate both of their birthdays!!).

We started with lunch at the Garden Cafe at the Flag Fork Herb Farm. They have a "Birthday Thank You" that you sign up for and they send you a free lunch for your birthday that you can use anyday of your birth month. We REALLY took advantage of this with both Mom and I using ours, plus my sister Marcia who's birthday is October 1 used hers. So we got 3 free lunches. You do have to have one paying person with you to get them free, so we also took Julia, my niece; Lisa, my other sister; and Betty Schlarb, my mom's best friend who lived next door to us growing up, so she is just like family too. This restaraunt is really fantastic and does a great job with homemade soups, salads, & sandwiches. It's really such a "girlie" type of place (but Rich loves it too!!--he couldn't go because he had to go to the annual Kentucky Teachers of History Conference--fun, fun). There is also a really nice gift shop attached to the restaraunt so of course we had to shop after eating. I did buy some really nice silk scarves to take as gifts when we go back to Russia.

After lunch, Mom and my sisters and Julia went to check out the new Hobby Lobby that just opened here in Lexington. We were soooo excited to have one here since the closest one before was in Louisville and we are HUGE Hobby Lobby fans!! After shopping all afternoon, we then went and picked up Betty again (she didn't want to go shopping) and then went to Bonefish Grill for Mom's Birthday Dinner--Lobster Yuuuuummmmyyy!! Rich met us at the Bonefish and we had a great time.

Sunday, we then did the family celebration for my birthday. My mom has always made our favorite meal for our birthdays as long as I can remember. It's a great treat since my mom is the worlds best cook. I always ask for her to make her homemade pizza--it's the best!! So after church we all went back to her house for pizza. She also made me her banana nut cake--from scratch!!! It's delicious, and I know how much work it is for her to make, so I really appreciated it. It was the first time Rich had ever eaten it, and he freaked out over it--said was about the best dessert he'd ever had.

So, after all of that partying, we also got together on my mom's actual birthday for dinner prior to Wednesday night church. Her favorite place to eat out these days is a little Chinese place called Chopstix (this is a woman who REALLY does NOT like to eat out at all!!) So we ordered and had dinner delivered to her house and my sister Marcia, Julia, and I ate with her before we left for church.

Then yesterday was my birthday!! I had to work (boo!), but my boss and a couple of girls from work took me out for Thai food for lunch, which was yummy. For dinner, just Rich and I went out for a nice quiet dinner at Le Deauville which is a swanky French place in downtown Lexington. It was delicious--maybe the best steak I've EVER eaten. We figure it may the last time we'll have an opportunity for a "swanky/romantic/quiet" dinner for awhile, once we get Haylie home!! It's been a very nice birthday week. I could just kick myself because I didn't take ANY pictures of any of this. I've gotten out of the practice of taking a lot of pictures. I used to take tons, but as we've all gotten older, the adults whine "don't take my picture--I'm so fat!!" But we're going to ratchet up and start taking LOTS of pictures once we get Haylie.

I have made some progress on the nursery front. My mom and I went Tuesday night and actually bought a crib and dresser. Problem is, we've been so busy birthdaying that they are still in the boxes in the back of my car!! Hopefully we'll make some progress this weekend and I'll post pictures. Of course, they have to be assembled and Rich just doesn't have the "handyman gene", so my mom and I are going to put them together--we are actually pretty handy, which of course we have to be since we don't have any men around that are!! I've also finally finished ALL of the documents for court and Rich went yesterday and got them apostilled, so I'll mail them in to AA today. With any luck, we'll get a court date by the end of November. Keep your fingers crossed and say lots of prayers it's soon.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Getting The Nursery Ready

We've been back exactly a week now, and so ONE week down in the wait for a court date!! They say to expect 8-10 weeks before we can go back and finalize the adoption in court and bring Haylie home. We've been gathering goodies to fix up the nursery ever since we started the adoption process, but I waited until we knew for sure what age child we were going to get before actually buying the crib and other furnishings. I've been keeping everything together on this daybed in the spare room. As you can see, we already have a lot of STUFF waiting for Haylie. I bought a Laura Ashley bedding set months ago on sale for a great price that I love. It's pinks, blues, greens, and yellows. I had already picked out the crib and dresser I wanted several months ago, but was waiting to buy it until after our first trip. It's a crib that is convertible to a toddler bed, so that should work well since Haylie is already 15 months old. My mom and I went last night to actually buy the crib, but wouldn't you know they were out of stock of the one I wanted. So, we'll have to go back next week after they get in a new shipment. I'll post pictures of the nursery once we get everything set up.
We've shown off pictures and video to all of our family and friends and everybody says they think she is a doll too. Even the international adoption doctor who looked at her photos said how cute she is. Of course, we thinks she's absolutely gorgeous, but it's nice to hear it from others too!! I think my mom is more excited for her to come home than we are even. She'll be only her second grandchild and she'll be babysitting everyday while I work. Haylie will probably be spoiled rotten by all the family, but that's OK. My niece Julia, who is 11 (and is also adopted--domestically) has been the only child in the family all these years, and feels like my "surrogate child" since I certainly love her like she is my own. I think she is actually a little jealous of all the talk about Haylie!! She has gotten all the attention for so long, she doesn't know how to act having to share the limelight. She'll do great with Haylie though, and in fact the little stuffed lamb I left for Haylie at the orphanage was a gift from Julia.

Friday, September 21, 2007

We Made It Home!

We left the hotel in Novokuznetzk, Russia at 5:45 am Wednesday morning (which was 5:45pm Tuesday night at home)and were taken to the airport with Natasha and our driver. We got checked in to fly to Moscow at 7:40. While we were waiting for our flight we met two other couples who were also adopting from another agency from a baby house in Novo. For one of the couples it was their second adoption, so they gave us some pointers to survive our next trip which were really helpful. It was nice to find some other English speaking folks in a sea of Russian speaking folks!!

Our 4 1/2 hour flight to Moscow was uneventful. It was again on the most uncomfortable plane I have ever encountered. They fed us what Natasha kept saying was a "substantial breakfast". Not your typical US fare for sure. They asked if we wanted "chicken, fish, or meat?". I went for the chicken and it was a mistake--it was about 5 small pieces of what looked like boiled chicken on some kind of grain product. I can't say I really ate much, but I did at least taste it. Rich got the "meat" and it was actually pretty good, kind of like chunks of pot roast on white rice. They also served a small salad, a roll, and some pieces of smoked turkey and ham.

We got to Moscow and then had to transfer to the other airport for our international flight. We were met promptly by our driver Dimitri, who didn't speak much English. It was about a 35 mile drive from one aiport to the other, but because the traffic is horrendous, it took us a little over 2 hours to get there. Once there, we had to say goodbye to our friends Stacy and Dave, as they were flying another airline home.

We took off for Atlanta at 1pm for an 11 1/2 hour flight back to the USA!! We arrived in Atlanta ahead of schedule at 4:10pm, then had to go thru customs. It was really kind of strange. We just had to fill out a form, go get our bags, go back thru security, and then recheck our bags. They didn't look in any of our bags at all. We then had a 3 hour layover, before we took off for our blessed Kentucky homeland. We finally landed 29 1/2 hours after we left at 9:30pm. Our bags made it the whole way this time--yeah!! My mom and Betty picked us up at the airport and we went back to my mom's house for a little while to show her a few pictures. We only stayed a little while as we still had an hours drive to get home. Rich decided since he was back in the USA we had to stop at White Castle for a few sliders for the drive home. I must admit they tasted mighty fine after the Russian food!!

So we are now back home. We finally got to bed around midnight Wednesday night and slept til after noon the next day. Luckily, I don't have to go back to work until Monday, so I can rest up before going back, and of course Rich is off on his sabbatical until January, so he has a lot of time to catch up on his sleep. Now the wait begins for our second trip. They told us 6-8 weeks while we were there, but we know realistically it will be more like 10-12 weeks. We are just praying we can get Haylie home in time for Christmas--what a Christmas present that would be.

Unfortunately, our adoption agency has asked us not to post any more pictures until the adoption is final, so I can't show you my pretty girl. Trust me that she is a doll, and as soon as we get her home I'll share LOTS of pictures.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Our Last Day with Haylie--for awhile

We started our day at 3:30am when we woke up. Because of the crazy time differences, we went to bed exhausted at 7:30pm, then awoke at the crack of dawn. We were starving, and since it was so early nothing was open. So we ended up eating some of those premade tuna salad & cracker packs that I had brought. We stayed awake for 2 hours and then went back to sleep until 7:30.

We met Natasha in the hotel lobby at 8:45 and drove back to the orphanage for our last day of visiting with the babies. We signed some legal documents saying we definately intended to adopt and change her name to Haylie Ann. Afterwards, they brought in both Haylie and Alexander (Dave and Stacy's little guy). The orphanage is being remodeled so the rooms where they usually take adoptive parents were all torn up. They ended up putting us in the "music room" which also was being renovated, but they pulled out some gym mats for us to sit on and play with the kids.

Both of these kids are sooooo cute. I got a chance to look Haylie over closer and check her all out. She looks great!!! We also measured her--she is so tiny. I had taken several toys but turns out the toy she and Alex liked best was the tape measure!! They had a cute little one piece outfit on her that was 6-9 months and it was too big!!! Alexander is 4 months older but they are almost the same size because he was a preemie...he is 30 inches tall and she is 29 inches, but she has a bigger foot by just a little. We tried to feed her some cheerios, goldfish, and even some Gerber puffs, but she wouldn't have any of them--she just liked to throw them. Alex however, loved his goldfish and ate a whole bag!!

We got to spend a couple of hours with the kids. They were getting really sleepy by the time they came to take them away. Haylie loves to be held and snuggle and I know would have fallen asleep on my shoulder if they had waited a few more minutes. We got some good videotape, but I am not a very good baby photographer. Seems like in almost all of the pictures I tried to get of her, her eyes were closed. I still can't post any pictures because I have to use the hotel computer and they won't allow me to download anything. As soon as we get home I'll put a bunch of photos on.

After they took the babies away, they took us back to the directors office to see if we had any questions and kept asking if we are happy with our babies. We both had taken gifts for the director and the orphange workers, but they said it was unessacary and not to give them. So we each left one present for the director, Dr. Ludmilla. She seems like a nice, caring woman. She does however wear the most blue eyeshadow I have ever seen!!

We drove the hour ride from the orphanage back to Novokuznetsk in the van with Natasha and the driver. They then took us to a store that carried all kinds of good quality Russian souvenirs like the Mateotroshka dolls--those handpainted wooden dolls that come apart and have lots of littler ones inside. Of course we silly Americans spent lots of rubles getting souvenirs. The quality was much better than anything we had seen elsewhere.

We got back to the hotel around 2:30. Stacy & Dave and Rich & I then went out for lunch/dinner since we hadn't eaten since 3:30am!! We ended up going back to the little restaruant we ate at last night. Rich was more adventuresome and got some of the stew that Stacy had tried the night before. He ended up liking it after all. Both Stacy and I ordered Russian ravioli. The menu said it was mushroom, but it ended up being stuffed with meat with just a few mushrooms over top and covered in sour cream. It was actually pretty good and kind of reminded me of beef stroganoff. After dinner we were all exhausted again and headed back to the hotel for a "nap." Rich & I ended up sleeping till 9:30 pm. So now its 10pm and I'm down in the internet room writing this. I sure hope we'll be able to go back to sleep after that long nap.

We are leaving the hotel in the morning at 5:45am to start the LONG journey back. It will take a total of 29 hours to get back to Lexington, and then we have a hour's drive to get home. We will be toast I'm sure. It has been an amazing trip, but we are both very ready to come home and start the long wait until we can come back to pick up Haylie. Being here has made us all really appreciate the blessings of home. While the land here is beautiful, it is very depressing to see the living conditions. As Rich the history teacher says, it is much like the US was at the beginning of the 40's & 50's with so much industry and mining, with no regard to the environment. The pollution is terrible with a constant bad smell which leaves a sediment on everything. Even the water has a bad smell and we have to brush our teeth with bottled water. This will be our last time in this city. On our next trip we go to Kemerovo for court. We will drive back to the orphanage that time to pick up the baby, but won't stay here again.

Since we will be flying all day tomorrow, the next blog will be from home!! Can't wait to see everybody.
Love Jody

We Met Haylie Today!!!

Well, we finally made it to the orphanage to meet our little girl. They ended up picking us up from the hotel in Moscow around 4:30 to take us to the domestic airport to fly to Novokuznetzk. We met the other couple traveling with us, Stacy and Dave. Turns out we have a lot in common as Dave is a professor and Stacy is a nurse...even our last names are similar. They are really nice and we get along well. They are from Delaware and we are gonna try and get together after all of this process is done and get the kids together.

We got to the airport around 5:30pm but our flight didn't leave until 10:05 pm so we had a lot of time to kill. They said they would be very specific about the weight of the bags, but we lucked out because ours were overweight but we didn't have to pay any extra for it. We ate dinner at a "Russian" restaurant which was cafeteria style. We both had a sausage roll and potatoes. It wasn't bad. We sat and talked with Dave and Stacy the whole time waiting. The airport was extremely crowded and there were no seats anywhere to be had so we had to stand up the whole time. We finally took off on time for a 4 1/2 hour plane ride in a 1970's vintage plane. It was kind of spooky but had no problems. Because of the crazy time changes we arrived at 6am. The airport is literally in the middle of nowhere and it was really small and dark. Luckily our baggage made it all the way this time.

Natasha, the regional coordinator met us at the airport and took us to the hotel. We got checked in and cleaned up a little before we met her to leave for the orphanage at 9am. The hotel is interesting. Old and kind of dingy but clean. The orphanage was about an hours drive away to meet the babies. It is in a small industrial town which appears to be very poor. All of the housing is either large apartment buildings or small wooden shacks with tin roofs. Funny thing is, all these little wooden houses have like tyrolian gingerbread around the windows in pastel colors, kind of reminiscent of Austria. There are lots of smoke stacks billowing black debris and there is a lot of air pollution/smog.

The orphanage is a medium sized 2 story building, kind of run down but clean. They just celebrated their 75th anniversary. They took both Rich and I and Stacy and Dave into the Directors office. She read the medical and social history about Haylie to us while Natasha translated. Nothing unexpected came up. Turns out she was an only child of a 21 year old mother. They then started telling Stacy and Dave about their baby. They had had a referral of a 15 month old boy, but tragically when we got here today, they were told that little boy had been placed with a Russian family. Of course they were very upset as they had already formed a mental bond with that little guy. But they did give them another referral of a little boy 21 months old who had the most beautiful blue-grey eyes I've ever seen. I feel so sorry for them, it just is heartbreaking. While they like the new one, they had already really bonded with the other one.

Next they brought Haylie in for us to see. Boy, was that something. She is absolutely adorable. Very bright-eyed and active. She's crawling like a champ and pulling herself up to stand and walk around the table. She can't quite walk by herself yet, but it won't be long. They had her fixed up really cute in a new outfit and bow in her hair. We took tons of pictures and videos. Unfortunealtely, I can't download any pictures of her from this hotel computer--not allowed, but I'll have tons to show when we get home. We only got to spend about 1 1/2 hours with the kids today. It was supposed to be more but the schedule was different than Natasha thought. We will go back tomorrow and see them again and hopefully get to spend more time with them. She loved the little stuffed lamb her cousin Julia sent to her and she laughed out loud whenever we played with it. We will sign papers tomorrow saying we will accept her as our child and change her name officially to Haylie Ann.

We then drove back to the hotel and took a short nap. All of us are completely exhausted and just running on adrenaline. We slept for 2 hours and then went out walking and exploring the area around the hotel. We had hoped to find some traditional Russian ware, but all we could find were clothing, shoe, coat stores, etc. Stacy and Dave did buy a cute stuffed bear for their little guy. Around 4 we decided to go find something for dinner which was harder than it sounds. Unfortunately, Russian food is not so good. We ended up going to 3 different restaraunts before we found anything that sounded edible. Turns out what Stacy, Dave, & I had was all really good. Rich wimped out and just got a cheese plate because he didn't think anything else sounded appetizing and his cheese wasn't very good. It's now 6 pm and we are all completely exhausted and are going to go to bed really soon. It's 12 hours ahead of home so jet lag has really set in. Hopefully we'll all feel better tomorrow after a good nights sleep. At least Rich and I got to sleep one night in Moscow, but poor Stacy and Dave have been up continuously since Saturday as they flew the whole way. We are really glad we chose to stay over the extra night.

Tomorrow is our last day at the orphanage and the last to see the babies until our next trip.
Maybe I'll be able to post some pictures tomorrow.
Jody & Rich

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Update--We're Happy Now!!

Well, we just found out Oksana has our luggage at the Moscow airport!! We also just read that Kentucky beat Louisville last night so Rich is ecstatic. They are going to pick us up at 6 then we fly overnight to Novo. We won't be able to change clothes until tomorrow morning, but at least we can clean up before we go meet Haylie. We've enjoyed our time in Moscow even in the rain and cold.

We Made It To Russia--Our Bags Didn't!!

Well, we FINALLY made it to Russia!!! Our journey started on Friday morning Sept. 14. We woke up at 6:30 am (I didn’t get to bed until 3:30am getting ready!!). We had to stop at the post office to mail our last documents to Alina at Adoption Ark before we left. Then we went thru the drive thru at Hardee’s for breakfast before driving to Lexington. My mom and her friend Betty drove us to the airport at 10:30. Our flight was supposed to leave Lexington at 12:45. Rich & I got checked in and were killing time browsing in the book store at the airport. I decided to buy a soft drink and it was then I realized I had left my wallet in the car!! Luckily we had plenty of time for my mom to bring it back to us before our flight—or we’d really been up a creek.

As it turned out, we had PLENTY of time. Due to storms in Atlanta, our flight was delayed, and delayed, and delayed. First they delayed it one hour till 1:45. We got on the plane and started to actually take off, when all of a sudden the pilot slammed on the brakes. He said something on the computer went off saying something was wrong. They then did some checks and said it was OK to take off but we’d have to get in line again. Before we were first for takeoff, they came on the intercom and said the Atlanta airport was closed totally due to weather. So we taxied back and all got off the plane again. Finally, at 3:30 we reloaded and took off for Atlanta. Unfortunately, our connecting flight from Atlanta to Moscow was scheduled to take off at 3:45. They kept telling us since the whole airport was closed it would be late too and we’d probably make the connection—HAH!! When we approached Atlanta, they again said the airport was closed due to weather (evidently the remnants of Hurricane Humberto). Said we would probably divert to Knoxville to get more gas after we circled for 1 ½ hours. Anyway, we finally landed in Atlanta at 6pm. There was no listing on any of the boards for a departure to Moscow. We raced to the gate where we were supposed to have left from and of course the flight was long gone. We went to the assistance counter and this little oriental woman grabbed our tickets and went furiously to work to find us another flight since there wasn’t another direct flight until the next day and we really didn’t want to spend the night in Atlanta. She said “you better run now” and handed us boarding passes on a flight to Vienna. So off we ran, of course 32 gates away, and flew to Vienna. We then caught an Aeroflot flight from Vienna to Moscow which arrived in at 4:30pm Moscow time, only a mere 22 hours after we left Lexington.

Then the fun really began, because of course when we went to pick up our bags they were nowhere to be found. I had predicted this but Rich remained optimistic they would be there the whole trip!! We then had to go to the lost and found counter where there were a large group of Russian women shouting at each other. I stood there for probably 10 minutes waiting for help and I was first in line. Finally this woman from Aeroflot Airlines started to help us in English. Turns out our bags were still back in Atlanta—surprise, surprise. She said they wouldn’t be here until the next flight the next day. We had to fill out 5 forms and then go somewhere and get them stamped in customs then take them back to the shouting women. It was wild!! We finally headed out and luckily Oksana, our Moscow coordinator was there waiting for us.
A driver picked us up and drove us to the Marriott Courtyard in Old Moscow.
It is really a nice, Americanized hotel for only $395/night!!

We went out walking around the hotel for a couple of hours since we were both pretty hyped up. The hotel is only 6 blocks from Red Square/ the Kremlin. Moscow is actually a very clean and pretty urban city. We looked for a nice restaurant but couldn’t find one, so we eventually ended up eating at the hotel restaurant. Moscow is outrageously expensive, making New York City look cheap!! We had 1 cheeseburger which we split, a fruit plate, a diet coke, and an iced tea for only $60!!! Luckily it was good. We finally went back to the room and bed about 10pm. Of course without luggage, that means no jammies, toiletries, etc. The worst part for me is no blow dryer, hair spray, or other hair essentials. For Rich, the worst is no jacket since it’s about 45-50 degrees.

Sunday, we woke up and it was pouring down rain—just our luck. The hotel did have nice umbrellas they leant us, but no jacket for Rich. I had worn a sweatsuit like thing on the plane, so I at least have a little jacket. Rich just has on short sleeves. The natives are all wearing heavy coats, scarves, and even some have on gloves. Rich was cold but actually didn’t complain too much about it!! We walked down to Red Square, and wouldn’t you know it, the entire place is closed all week for some sort of Military Appreciation Week. They have barricades up with many soldiers everywhere keeping everybody out of the entire Red Square and the Kremlin. We walked all around the perimeter and thru the beautiful gardens. We also went to GUM department store which is huge. We ate lunch there at an Sbarro Pizza—not like home but pretty good and actually a bargain in this town. For breakfast we had a croissant, a chocolate ├ęclair and one glass of milk for $25!!

Anyway, we are now back at the hotel just hanging out. They let us have a late checkout at 3 pm. Oksana will be here to pick us back up at 6pm. So I’m on the computer and Rich is napping. I went down to a little convenience store and bought some deodorant, hair spray, and a brush. They say they may not get our bags to us until we come back to Moscow in 3 days!! We leave tonight for Novokuznetsk and will meet Haylie tomorrow morning. Hopefully, we will have our luggage so we can change clothes before then, otherwise she might not want to see us!! This may be the last time I can post for awhile. They have wireless internet here, but I think I read the hotel in Novo doesn’t. No luggage also means no electrical plug converters and they don’t sell them here so I won’t be able to plug up. I’ll try to post again ASAP.

Love you all,
Jody & Rich

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Getting Ready to Leave for Russia

Well, we finally have all of our arrangements made for the big trip. Nothing like waiting for the last minute!!! We leave Friday, Sept. 14 from Lexington to Atlanta, then fly overnight directly into Moscow, arriving there Saturday morning. We decided to spend one night in Moscow both to rest and to get in a little sightseeing. We figured the next time we go, it will be cold and possibly lots of snow, so thought we would take advantage of nice weather while we can.
We will stay at the Marriott Courtyard near Red Square, which is close enough to walk around and see the major sights. We then have all day Sunday to look around.

We will fly Sunday night to Novokuznetsk, which is a 4 1/2 hour flight from Moscow. Because of the crazy time zone changes, we leave Moscow at 10pm and arrive in Novo at 6am. They will pick us up at the airport and take us to a hotel. Then, we will finally get to travel to the Baby House in Propokuznetsk (about an hour a way by van) to meet our georgous girl!!!

We are going kind of crazy trying to get everthing together to go. I'm trying to scramble to get as many of the court documents ready as possible. We were told they wouldn't be needed until time to go for the second visit, but our coordinator at AA says we need to go ahead and take as many now as possible, so they can be translating them. It may speed up the time to go back to court, so of course we are all for that!! But it's been harried trying to get them all together, notarized, authenticated, and apostilled. We are also still waiting to get our visa back. The application and our passports are at the Russian consulate and we are praying they overnight them today or tomorrow since we won't be able to go unless we get them back. We haven't even started to pack yet either and have things lined up tonight and tomorrow, leaving only Thursday night to get it all done!! Oh, well I always do better under pressure anyway!! Anyway, it will all be worth it to be able to see and hold our baby. We only wish we could bring her home this time--it's going to be terrible to have to leave her there after we meet her and wait another 2-3 months before we can go back and finalize the adoption. We're praying we can get her home by Christmas, which would be the best Christmas present EVER!!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

We have a referral!!!

We received an email last Thursday, August 30 saying they had a referral of a 15 month old girl for us. Both Rich and I fell in love with the pictures of this beautiful little girl at first sight. I'd heard about that happening, but was skeptical. It's weird I know and somewhat of a cliche, but somehow I just knew this was the child God intended to be ours. She actually looks a little like Rich and is blond and blue-eyed like both of us.

We sent her pictures to an international adoption doctor at the University of Kentucky to see if she saw any problems. She said she looked absolutely great and saw no obvious problems. So, we called Adoption Ark the next day and told them we would accept the referral!! Today, the ball really got rolling when our caseworker called to start setting up the trip, which is going to be a whirlwind.

We will travel for our first trip to meet Haylie on Saturday, Sept. 15 from Lexington to Moscow. Then we will fly to the region to a city called Novokuznetsk in southern Siberia. From there we will travel by car to another town to the Prokopyevsk baby house to meet our Haylie. We will only be there for 2 short days before we have to leave her and return home to wait for a court date. We will return to the US on September 19.

So there is much to be done before we go and I know I will be going crazy before its over, but it will be worth it all. Turns out we will miss the UK vs Louisville football game while we go. Rich at first was not a happy camper about that since he is a huge UK football fan. But, even he said it would be worth it to go see Haylie.

I'll try and keep you all posted in the next few days as we make the final arrangements. Please say a prayer for us that things go smoothly.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Still Waiting!!!

Well, we are still waiting for our referral of our precious baby girl. We have made some progress along the way. We are adopting from a region of Russia called Kemerovo. The court system there decided we needed to do even more paperwork than was already done. So, we had to go back and get yet more copies of our marriage license, along with 3 other new documents they wanted. Then they all had to be notarized and apostilled, requiring yet another 2 hour drive to the state capitol to get them notarized. We sent them all in last week, August 13, 2007. Adoption Ark notified us they had received them on August 15th. They will have the next family that travels over hand carry our documents over to Russia.

Two weeks ago our caseworker at AA said I might want to get our homestudy report ammended to say we would take an older little girl. She said it was a very easy process that only required a one page addendum. When I asked about the document from the US government which said we were only approved for 9-12 months old, she assured me it didn't really say that, that they never put the age limit on there. Well, I was sitting looking at the form talking to her and assured her it did indeed have the age limits listed. She said to notifiy the USCIS and have them change it, not a big deal. WELL, hah says the USCIS. We can change it by reapplying, waiting 2-3 months and paying another $340. Obviously, this option isn't really appealing to us. So, we decided we would continue to hope for a baby 9-12 months "at time of referral" so we won't have to do all that. It's OK if she's older by the time we get her home.

The big news we got today, is that we are now #1 on the waiting list for a little girl. All along, there has been a couple ahead of us on the waiting list, and they finally got their referral. So, the next little girl between 9-12 months old will be ours!!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Welcome to our blog!!!

Welcome as we tell our story of the adventure of adopting our daughter, Haylie Ann Holl from Russia. We are Rich & Jody and we live in a small town in central Kentucky. We have been married for 10 years. Unfortunately, we were never blessed to have a child of our own. We began thinking about adoption seriously in the past year, and decided to start the process of an international adoption from Russia. We are currently "paper ready" and just waiting for our referral of a baby girl. We are hoping to get a baby between 9-12 months old. Nine months is the youngest age the children can be released for adoption in Russia. Just getting the paperwork together for the dossier has been an adventure. Our timeline so far has been:

November 2006--Began researching adoption agencies
December 2006--Checked multiple references before deciding to go with Adoption Ark
January 2007--Received packet of initial paperwork from Adoption Ark
February 14, 2007--Sent in contract to Adoption Ark & began working on dossier
February 16, 2007--Sent in I600A to apply for permission to bring Haylie to the US
March 5, 2007--1st Homestudy visit
March 13, 2007--Fingerprinting in Cincinnati for I600A & all documents notarized
March 19, 2007--2nd Homestudy visit
April 6, 2007--All documents apostilled in Frankfort, KY
April 19, 2007--Completed dossier mailed into Adoption Ark
May 1, 2007--Dossier hand carried to Russia by another adoptive family--the wait begins!!!
June 6, 2007--Jody re-fingerprinted in Louisville (1st set "lost" by US govt!)
June 16, 2007--Received I-171 from US Government giving permission to legally bring her back to the USA--yea!!
June 18, 2007--Notified of possible referral of 18 mo. old (who would have be 2 years old by the time she came home)--rejected to wait for younger child
July11, 2007--still waiting, and waiting, and waiting

If all goes well, the next step will be a "referral" of a baby girl in the age range of 9-12 months who is available for adoption. They will send us some basic medical information and hopefully a picture. If we agree to accept the referral, we will travel to the Kemerovo region of Russia (which is in south-central Siberia) to meet our little girl. We will visit with her daily for 3-5 days and get more detailed medical information on her and begin the bonding process. We then have to leave her there, and come back home for 2-3 months--boo!! This is a mandatory waiting period in place by the Russian government. We then wait for a court date to travel back and go before the judge to make the adoption final. Then we fly to Moscow to complete paperwork for the US consulate to get her a new American passport. Once that is completed, we will be able to bring her home for good and she will be all ours!!! They tell us the 1st trip will last 5-7 days and the 2nd trip 7-14 days.

Stay with us as we make this journey on the adventure of a lifetime--the "Adventure to Haylie".

We will post periodically to keep you updated. Once we get to travel, we will post as often as possible while over there to let everyone know what is happening. We would appreciate everyones prayers for us and especially for Haylie that all goes quickly and smoothly.
Jody & Rich