Lexie the Licker!!

6/30/2007 10:42:00 AM Edit This 0 Comments »

The update on Mom is not great. Her back is about the same even though she stayed home – yes, I’m using that term very loosely – today and rested. The pills she has are different than what she usually takes and they don’t seem to be as effective. So tomorrow will be another day of rest for her and hopefully her back will be better by Monday. These beds are very hard and low to the ground so it’s tough for her to lay down for long. But she doesn’t want to be left behind, which is what I’ve been threatening to do if she’s not better by next Saturday when we have a flight out of here. You think I’m kidding????? I’ve talked to the landlord and they said she could stay as long as she wants. So she’s on her own a week from today if she can’t make it down those 66 steps. Don’t worry. They said they should have the hot water working by then so Mom will be fine.

Speaking of water, we have technical water. Woo Hoo!!!!!!! No more bucket hauling. Still no hot water but since it’s been in the upper 90’s this last week and tomorrow it’s supposed to be 101, who needs hot water? A cold shower is fine after the initial shock. Plus you use less water since you take a quicker shower and the mirror doesn’t fog up. I’m actually thinking of turning off the hot water heater at the house once I get home.

Lexie is spending her last weekend at the orphanage so she’s really excited. Yes a 12 month old can understand what’s happening especially one as smart as Alexis Falen. I’m including some pictures that show her personality, which is coming out more each day. She can be quite the character and today since it was just Lexie and Mommy she decided to be a real goof. My favorite photo of her is the one in the mirror. She was so surprised she could see me - it was very funny. Oh yeah, did I mention she likes to eat or lick anything? I mean anything!! A book, a ball, a bag, my toes, my face, the rug or even the floor, she will lick or bite it. Yes, in the picture with her and the zebra she was going in for a lick. The books she eats to the point of saturation. She licks the back of the bottle before turning it over to suck on it. I don’t know why she was trying to stuff it in her mouth today but she gave it the old Quast try. She really likes to lick the disgusting floor in the music room. She’ll crawl away looking all cute and innocent. Then she’ll look over her shoulder at me and lean over to lick the floor. You’ve seen the pictures of the water so you can just imagine how gross these floors are. Even if they mopped these floors, which as far as Mom and I can tell they haven’t mopped or vacuumed the music room since we got here over a month ago, they would be mopping it with water that is dirtier than the floors. Needless to say, after she licks the floor she doesn’t get any more kisses from Mommy. When I run over to grab her off the floor she thinks it’s very funny and turns around to try to lick my face. Miss Lexie has a very sick sense of humor and she likes to inflict it on her Mommy. She also likes to pull my hair or scratch me to get a reaction out of me - which she does. All the women here have short hair or pull it back and I can certainly understand why. Lexie grabs mine every chance she gets and I’m not quick enough half the time. So I’m coming back with a few bald spots and missus a little skin but a squirmy bundle of energy, so I guess it’s a fair trade.

Lexie Crashed!

6/29/2007 02:45:00 AM Edit This 0 Comments »

We Have Phone Therefore Internet - So Life Is Good!

6/29/2007 02:14:00 AM Edit This 0 Comments »
That's right. The phone bill was paid so we have a working phone which means internet as well. The internet at the Mall is still not working so I'm doing this from a very slow dial up at the apartment which means I can only attach a few pictures. But at least the family can call and check in with us tonight and my brother Kyle won't call the American Embassy as he threatened to do if someone didn't speak to us at least once every three days. So Kyle no need to call in the Marines unless they are really cute. Then send them on over. There has to be some entertainment around here.

Just 6 more days and Lexie will be free of the Baby House and my daughter officially. I can hardly wait. This second waiting period is much harder than the first. It seems like a waste of time and I don't see who it benefits. I think the bonding period is really important since it gives parent and child a chance to get to know each other before they are on their own. But this waiting period seems to help no one. Alexis is just sitting in the orphanage getting bitten by more bugs and sweating in this 90+ degree heat when she could be on her way home to the US. Oh well, it will be over soon but I really hope they don't follow through with this new ruling and make families wait a month before going to court after the bonding period. I think it will be especially hard on the older kids. What was a great way to transition the kids into their new families now becomes a confusing time in limbo when the orphanage has already started giving more attention to the children that still don't have parents and the child doesn't understand where "MaMa" who was spending so much time with them has gone. I hope for every ones sake they make the process quicker not longer. At least for Lexie and I it will be over soon. Then we're off to Almaty and then home to lots of family, friends and fun. I'm not sure how much fun the 20+ hours of flying will be but I'm sure we'll make it just like so many other families before us. I am just really lucky to have found Alexis when I did and I can hardly wait for everyone to meet her. She's a very special little girl that will bring joy and laughter to lots of people. I am truly Blessed.

Mom was not so Blessed this morning. She feeds one or two of the babies in Lexies group as I feed her every morning. Unfortunately Mom threw out her back when she placed the little girl she was feeding back into the playpen. This happens every few years so of course now is the perfect time for it to happen again. She took a muscle relaxer and is resting in the apartment. I'm sure she'll be fine in a day or two. I don't even want to think about having to go to a doctor here or having to stay longer until she feel better. So please say a couple of prayers that she gets better fast. I know I will be. More later.

More technical problems - No Phone!!

6/27/2007 02:08:00 AM Edit This 0 Comments »
So our technical problems at the apartment continue. Monday I plugged in the phone line on the computer to try to get on the Internet to check emails but I heard in Kazakh, Russian and English "you're phone does not work due to non-payment." Well that kinda ticks me off since I am paying more for this apartment than I do for my mortgage. So I call Zina to ask the Landlady to pay her phone bill with some of those crisp new 100 American dollar bills that I paid her for our lovely apartment. It's getting harder every time that I haul water after using the toilet or take a cold shower not to become an ugly American. But have no fears. I promise even if we are without any water and electricity not to cause an international incident since I want to get out of here with Alexis in my arms. As my friend Paul says, keep my eye on the prize. And what a price she is. We have been practicing with Lexie in the stroller since she's never seen one let alone ridden in one. At first she wasn't too happy about it but she's getting better. She really just wants to be held all the time and who can blame her since she was not held much before we got here. We just have 8 more days until we can take her out of there for good. We leave Aktau two days later for the big city of Almaty if everything goes well. As long as the judge doesn't change her mind and Flora can get Lexie's new birth certificate with her new name on it and me as her mother - how cool is that - then we can leave Sat July 7th as planned. Then we wait for her Kazakh passport to be issued here in Aktau and for Flora to bring it to us in Almaty. After that we deal with the American Embassy before we can leave. So we're still looking at 3 weeks before it's all said and done but we're getting closer.
I'm going to attach some pictures of the open market that we go to every few days to get some fresh fruits and veggies. The pink single story building is the Open Market - so it's not really open but that's what they call it. These pictures make it look much nicer than it is but the produce is great. I'm including my "newspaper lady" that I meet when we first went there. I printed the close up picture of her and gave it to her when we went back. Zina said when I handed it to her she said "who is that woman?" I guess she doesn't get in to look in may mirrors. Isn't she beautiful. I also gave the lady standing in front of her stand with the orange dress on her picture and she came out to give me a big hug. Whenever you can interact with the locals they are very nice and courteous. It's just in the stores or on the street when they don't know you that they seem so rude. They will push in front of you in line or take a shopping cart right out of your hands if they want it but when we go to the same shops then everyone is very nice. It's quite the contradiction. The last pictures are of what people wear. Notice the older lady on the right with her hat & bag. Then the girl to her right wearing heals with jeans.

More of the Same

6/25/2007 10:21:00 AM Edit This 0 Comments »

Sorry it's been a couple of days since I've been able to post anything but we keep running into technical difficulties - I'm sure that's a big shock to everyone. We went to the Internet Cafe to post something on the blog today but when we got there we found out that the Internet is down and won't be working again until Thursday. I find that very strange but "whatever" as they say around here. Of course, I had to call Zina, the interpreter, to figure this out since Mom and I are on our own here. The day after court Flora, Zina & Rosa flew to Almaty and Rosa went on home from there. Our driver, ReNot, picks us up twice a day to go see Lexie and after that we just point to where we want to go on a sheet of paper of places we've been to that Zina wrote out in Russian and English for us. The system works pretty well except for things like broken Internet Cafes or people not understanding my gesturing. If all else fails, I call Zina, tell her what the problem is and then hand the person the phone. It's really funny how people will just take a phone handed to them and say "ha-low." Today I was trying to buy a DVD of Finding Nemo for Lexie on the plane. I found what I thought was the movie but figured out was some games, so I tried to get the clerk to understand that I wanted the moive of Finding Nemo but 5 minutes and lots of gesturing and stacks of videos later I called Zina who was on a bus from Almaty to her village to visit her family. A few minutes later the lady hangs up with Zina and then hands me a DVD that is just songs and scenes from Nemo but not the DVD. After more gesturing with no luck she pushes me out of her shop and points down the hallway. I'm guessing I offended her or something so I'm saying "Spa-See-Bo" and bowing and shrugging my shoulders but she finally grabs my hand and pulls me down to another video shop where she tells the clerk about Nemo and leaves. I have to say it's REALLY hard to get across the simplest requests when not one word in Russian or Kazakh sounds like ours. So the new lady doesn't have it either but I settled on another movie she had and went back to the first lady to buy the songs for Finding Nemo. I figured she worked too hard not to get a sale. Nothing is easy around here but it's kinda entertaining.

Our other technical difficulties are the usual. We are going on day 14 of no "technical water" which means we haul a bucket of water to fill up the tank to flush the toilet every time we use it. Mom still doesn't understand the sequence of events that have to occur to make it flush and not just run through the tank without flushing it, so I end up taking care of that little chore most of the time. This morning we also woke up to no hot water and very little cold water. The shower was not only cold but it was more like being spit on than an actually shower. So we stopped at the store and I got 20 more gallons of water. An extra trip up the 66 steps to our apartment later we have enough water for 4 flushes (since it takes 5 gallons to flush) and maybe tooth brushing and face washing if we wake up tomorrow to no water at all. With the heat in the 90s most days I don't even want to think about not showering but we are prepared. Don't worry though, we still have enough drinking water since the water from the tap was never drinkable even before this latest lack of water.

Miss Lexie is doing just great though. No technical difficulties there. She does have a bunch of new bug bites which drives me crazy since she wouldn't have that problem if she was with me. It's been a month now since we got here and they exterminated the orphanage for bugs and it clearly needs to be done again. I tried to talk to Meruert, Lexie's head caregiver, about it today but of course it was a very short conversation. Lexie has these bites that look like ant bites with puss in them on her hands and feet. It's like an ant got in her hand and it bite her about 10 times before it moved on. Her whole little palm is covered with them and some she's scratched so hard that they are scabbing over. She has them in between her toes too. She also gets new mosquito bites everyday but as long as I put Benadryl on them they seem to clear up pretty fast. I just want to get her out of there and we are 10 days away from that. I can hardly wait. I just wish for all the children's sake that they could take care of the bug problem. When I first got here, I talked to the Pediatrician about it but she said they have done all they can but I can put on whatever medication I want. I'm going to be sending to them as much Benadryl as I can when I get back to the states. Her nurse called it the "miracle medicine" after it cleared up Lexie's bites and peeling feet when I first started using it. I just wish I had more for the rest of the kids right now.

Anyway, I had planned on putting pictures of the Caspian Sea, Open Market and other places in Aktau but it would take me days from here. So you'll just have to wait like I do until the Internet is back up at the Internet cafe. Sorry but that's the breaks in Aktau. I will try to put on a couple of pictures of Alexis though. I know you need to see her sweet face.

Baby House

6/21/2007 01:53:00 AM Edit This 0 Comments »

14 days left and Lexie get's her first DO. It was so hot her hair started to curl. Now we start the count down until I am officially Alexis' mom and I can take her out of the baby house. So I thought I'd show you pictures of the Baby House. The last pictures are of the playgrounds at the Baby House. It's just what I want Lexie to play around - medal play equipment with rusted pipes stick up from the ground, tall weeds and broken glass everywhere. They don't ever mow or weed eat the grounds so weeds are tall and there are cigarette buds, sunflower seeds and trash everywhere. The local teenagers hang out there at night and there is new graffiti on the exterior of the buildings most mornings. This was an elementary school until 1986 when it became an orphanage and they haven't done much to it since. I do think that is why they have the paintings on the hallway walls, the music room with the piano and the kitchens. But it also means they haven't painted the interior walls for 20 years which I can certainly believe. The floors are very uneven linoleum but they try to keep them cleans. The poster is on the wall as you enter. I can't read it but they clearly want to appear to be concerned about germs but I've never seen anyone wearing a mask even around the sick kids or when they gave Lexie a shot.

I'm including my journal of the first day I meet Lexie and came to the Baby House.

May 25, 2007

Friday Day 1 of Bonding

Meeting the Babies

So today is the day!!! It’s been a long time coming but in a few hours I’ll be meeting the child God picked out for me. I’m a little nervous about the whole “you choose your child from a group of babies we will show you” thing but I got the impression from Flora last night that she really expects me to adopt the girl she picked out for me two months ago that was 10 months old at the time. She said she sent pictures and medical information to Svelana, the head country coordinator, when she first “found” the child but I never received anything other than an email saying there is a healthy 10 month old baby girl at this Baby House for sure. So if I would be willing to travel blind they know there is at least one child in my age range at this Baby House. So two months later I’m finally here with no more information than I had months ago. At this point I just want to get this part over with.

Were back from our first trip to the Baby House and we met 4 babies but first the process of getting to meet them. We went with Zina & Flora to the Ministry of Education office but no one was there since today is “Last Bell.” It seems they start school on Sept 1 every year and end it on May 25th, today. They only go to 11 years of school but start at six or seven for first grade so most are 17 when they have “Last Bell.” All the graduates wear blue sashes with gold writing on it which I think is the name of their school. The guys are in suits and the girls are dresses up like they dress on the first day of school for 1st grade with short dark dresses on with white lacy aprons and big white bows in their hair. Most had either knee socks or sheer thigh high white hose but some wore panty hose like the two in this picture. They all had heels on though. It looked to me like a Penthouse fantasy letter come to life but Zina said this was a long standing tradition for the graduates to finish school as they started – literally. They also came to the baby house to give the kids some toys so which was sweet and also why they were at the Baby House when we got there.

Anyway, the Ministry of Education office was deserted so Zina went with ReNot to pick up Rosa, the lady from Spain, at the airport and we would wait with Flora for the people at the MOE to come back. Not 5 minutes after Zina left the lady we needed to see showed up. So we all sat in this office and Flora gave her a bag of candy and a hug then they got down to work. Mom and I just got to sit there on display as they clearly talked about us and even asked a few questions which of course we couldn’t understand. I got my cell phone out (the one I rented from here before I left the states) and pointed to it saying Zina but Flora was very clear she didn’t want me to call her. It was a good 40 minutes before Zina came in with a very tired looking woman in jeans and a t-shirt (Mom and I where dresses up as we were told to be.) Poor Rosa had to sleep at the airport in Almaty when she landed at 11pm last night and then caught a 7 am flight to Aktau. They came straight from the airport but the MOE seemed to understand and not take affiance. So then Zina explained to us that this lady (I couldn’t pronounce her name let alone remember it) would be representing us at court and to the baby house today so she’d like us first to tell her what child we would like and then to tell her something about ourselves. Well I can see my dossier right in front of her but I guess this was to make sure we were the people who wrote the information or something. So first I said that I wanted a girl under 1 year old but looked to Flora to see if I could asked about the second child. I got a head shake no, so I let it go for now. Then I explained what I did for a living, that I owned my home, that Mom lived with me and would be able to stay with the baby when I was working. They asked if Mom worked – nyet. Then what if I got married and the man didn’t want this child? What a strange question. But I said we’d be a package deal and that if he didn’t want this child then I didn’t want him. I think that satisfies her because she moved on to Rosa. They didn’t ask her any of the same questions but she must have been happy with what she heard because she said we could now go to the baby house to meet the children. That’s when I asked Zina to ask Flora if she would ask if I can adopt two on this trip. The MOE lady was very firm in her nyet, that single women can only adopt one child at a time unless they are siblings and they had no siblings at their Baby House. I really don’t know why Flora told me that she thought it would be no problem yesterday if this is the rule and she didn’t seem overly surprised when the MOE lady said it. I was really disappointed but I didn’t want to rock the boat at this point. I’d bring it up with Flora again later.

We drive up to another sad concrete building with a blue gate at the entry and go into meet the director. She is new so Flora hadn’t met her yet. She’s probably in her early 40s and wearing a white doctor’s coat over her clothes, sitting behind a nice sized desk with a picture of their prime minister behind her. The lady from the Ministry of Education was already there. The director asked us what we thought of her city and luckily they explained that Rosa had just gotten off the plane so I didn’t have to say anything. I don’t know what positive thing I could say about it right then but I’m sure I’d have come up with something. She and the MOE Lady looked at some papers and then the Pediatrician came in and they talked about what I assumed was the children that were available. A few minutes later they led us down a series of hallways to a very small room (maybe 6 x 8) with two overstuffed chairs, a little occasional table, a book shelf, 4 nurses, the director, the Pediatrician, the lady from MOE, Flora, Zina, Rosa, Mom, myself and 2 very frightened babies and a 3 year old girl. It was unbelievably hot, crowded and noisy. I knew the 3 year old was for Rosa so I looked at the babies and Flora was patting the cheek of one crying baby in pink and the other baby was just starring at her nurse that was holding her. So they gave me the baby in pink that of course started crying more but Flora was beaming so I assumed this was the baby she wanted me to choose. The crying was normal stranger anxiety and she looked fine but it was hard to think with the heat, noise and pressure to decide that I wanted to cry too. Anyway, I held her for a minute and then held the child in green. She had recently had a hair lip operation and looked a little bit off, poor baby. Plus she just sat there and didn’t really respond at all. They then gave me back the pink girl and brought in another very sickly looking boy baby. I asked to see the foundling boy who was about 18 months to 2 years old and God love him he was completely terrified and didn’t look older than a year to me. Needless to say when they asked who I wanted to bond with I choose the girl in pink. They said her name is Muldir and come back at 3 pm and we could start bonding. The whole thing took about 10 minutes and clearly I didn’t have a choice at all. I didn’t like feeling manipulated but knew I wanted to spend more time with this child. This was definitely not how I pictured meeting my child but you really aren’t given any choice.

So they took us to the grocery store which was a very interesting experience but I just wanted a quite minute alone to think so thank goodness they dropped us and our 10 gallons of water and 8 grocery bags of food at our apartment and told us to be ready in an hour to go back to see the babies. I have to say I felt very detached and unsure about the whole thing but figured I might as well go back and see how it goes.

This time it was just the “nurse” and Muldir in a large room with a piano, hence the name of The Music Room. Zina was with Rosa since her daughter was old enough to speak so she needed to translate for them. So the nurse just tried to get her to come to me and not be upset. Mom and I played peek-a-boo with her while the nurse held her for a couple of minutes. Then she gave her to me and played peek-a-boo right out the door. She handled it very well. After she was gone Muldir (that is how it’s pronounced – I’m not sure how it’s spelled) settled down and we had a quite time playing in the room. She really livened up when I played the piano. I would stop playing and she would put her fingers on the keys to try to make the sound. What a smart girl. She crawled around a little bit and took the toys from one hand to the other which are all excellent signs that she was developing at a normal rate which is great. I measured her while Mom watch out for someone to come along and she has 17 & ½ inch head circumference and is 29 inches long which puts her in the 50% if I read the charts right. That’s amazing since the International Adoption Physician that I talked to said if these children raised in an institution are at 15-20% that would be fine, so that made be feel really good about her health. I wasn’t exactly connected to her yet but she seemed to be very sweet even though she was still worried throughout the whole two hours but who can blame her. When I went to take her back to her room she didn’t want to go back to the nurse that was now on staff. I’m not sure if it says something about the time we spent together or that she didn’t like this nurse but I’m going to be optimistic and assume she enjoyed our time together.

Overall it’s been a very overwhelming and I have to say a little disappointing day with a lot of emotional ups and downs. We had a lovely COLD shower to look forward to and some food that we weren’t sure what it was. But I was looking forward to spending more time with Muldir tomorrow.