Monday, November 30, 2009

GO COLTS!

Thanks to our friends, the Lopers, in Indianapolis, the boys now have some very sharp looking Colts gear. We really appreciate the nice gesture and welcome the opportunity to also root for the Colts. With the Patriots losing as I type this, the Colts and Bengals look like the cream of the crop in the AFC, so hopefully the boys have some tough decisions to make about who to root for come AFC Championship time (it won't be a difficult decision for the Parker, as he already bleeds orange and black, but he is loving the thought of rooting for Mommy's favorite any week that they aren't playing the Bengals).



Thursday, November 26, 2009

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

We packed up the boys and headed over to Grammy and Pop's house this afternoon to spend some quality time with the family. All of my siblings and their children were in attendance, so there was non-stop action. Mother, once again, put together a wonderful meal. She tried out a new stuffing recipe, and in my opinion, it was a huge success (she makes a mean batch of stuffing, no matter what recipe). We spent a good portion of the afternoon outside staging our first family Turkey Bowl. I am glad to report no one came away injured. Here were the participants (Claire is not pictured, but she represented the girls very well).



After we wrapped up our game, we headed inside to prepare for our feast. I wish I could report that Parker tried a bunch of new foods and loved every one of them, but I can't. He remains pretty picky. He did enjoy the rolls, which I think he had six of, and he loved the pumpkin pie and ice cream. Lleyton picked his way through some ham, turkey, mac and cheese, and stuffing. He is fairly picky as well. They will grow out of that.

Here are Lleyton and Avery enjoying each other's company at the little people table.



As all of the festivities were slowing down and the adults were growing tired, the kids had a great idea about how to keep the fun going...a spontaneous dance party!

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Lleyton and Parker both have great moves, as do their cousins. I just love the way in the next video that Lleyton can switch from a Patrick Swayze like slide move into an Elaine Benes like kick move in a matter of seconds.

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We are very thankful to have such intelligent, funny, talented, adaptive, caring, affectionate, resilient, and strikingly handsome little guys.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

IMDb

Parker came storming on the acting scene this morning with his debut performance as both a turkey and a pilgrim in his daycare school play.





He couldn't have done it without the help of his teachers. A special thanks goes out to Miss Brittany, Miss Josie, and Miss Jen (Pictured here). Not pictured here, but certainly worthy of a big thank you are Miss Rachel and Miss Allison. Each of these teachers has helped Parker so much over the past 5 months.



Lleyton got to come over for the after party, as we enjoyed cookies and punch with the rest of the cast.



While I am on the subject of performing, I can't forget to mention that Lleyton is becoming quite the performer as well, he has just chosen to go the more musical route, versus Parker's theatrical choice.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bon voyage care package

Given the current state of uncertainty surrounding Baby Sister's paperwork, I write this post with a hint of trepidation.

Our adoption agency director is slated to travel to Ethiopia as soon as the end of this week, and she will be so graciously delivering the care package that Sara lovingly put together for Baby Sister. It is very cool to think that a week from now, Baby Sister will be formally introduced to us, and will have a picture of Sara and I and the boys hanging from her crib.

Here are a couple pictures of the package.





The trepidation stems from the unknown surrounding what is taking so long for the orphanage to produce the necessary paperwork for this little beauty that we have whole heartedly welcomed into our family.

Our minds are racing every day wondering what could be delaying the process. My hearts skips a beat each time I see an email pop up from our adoption agency. Parker wants to know how many sleeps it is going to be before mommy and daddy travel to Ethiopia to pick her up. We can't answer that question right now, we are just hoping that one day soon we can.

I can't seem to think of a way to effectively relay how challenging this time has become. We spoke to our agency director the other day, as I have made it a point to check in every week, and she gave us the option of waiting for Baby Sister or looking at new referrals when they become available. At this point, we have rejected the notion of looking at other little girls, because Baby Sister has occupied a large spot in our hearts, and we are willing to wait for her. Our agency director remains optimistic that the gathering the paperwork is a matter of when and not if, so hopefully her upcoming travel to Ethiopia will bring an opportunity to investigate what is holding up the process and maybe she can assist in getting what needs to be done completed.

Our fingers are crossed.

You don't know it yet, because I can't post her pictures or videos, but she is perfect. Just ask Lleyton and Parker.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

OFFICIAL RETRACTION

I would like to formally retract my statement about the Bengals reaching the Super Bowl this year. Although if you noticed, I think Alice did this for me minutes after I posted about my dream scenario of a Bengals Super Bowl and a Bearcats BCS National Championship Game. Thanks Alice, for bringing me back down to Earth. You're probably right, Peyton Manning might take issue with my plan.

Although I am confident that it could happen, it seems that just as soon as I get to the point where I think this Bengals team could be the one that takes me on that journey I have been eagerly awaiting since that fateful night in 1989, when Joe Montana ripped my 9 year old heart out, they then go out and lose to the Oakland Raiders in a gut wrenching fashion only seen during Bengals games.

This is one of those losses though that I am not overly distraught by, because I am certain there is an adoptive dad in Pittsburgh right now doing the same thing I am, taking up space on his blog that was designed to update family and friends on the happening in his family's life, writing about how he can't believe that his beloved Steelers just managed to lose to the lowly Chiefs. I am sure he is lamenting about the fact that if the Steelers could have just made a tackle or two in overtime, they could be again tied with the Bengals for the division lead. What do I say to that guy? I feel your pain (and I hope your Steelers lose every game remaining on their schedule).

Friday, November 20, 2009

11/20/07 - The day we had dreamt of (until the train ride)

Day 2 with Lleyton was far different than Day 1. There was no visit with Coffee Talk Lady, there was no tossing and turning, there were no nervous calls to the doctor at home, there was plenty of snow, but we were ready for it.

On this day, we entered the orphanage and were greeted by a totally different little boy. The boy we had dreamt of. Lleyton was feeling much better and our time with him, although not nearly long enough, was thoroughly enjoyable. He was the very active, highly entertaining boy that we had been told about.

This picture from that day is my favorite picture ever taken.



Late in our visit, as Lleyton was growing tired, I was able to capture a moment that I will never forget. I can vividly remember feeling that this was the moment that Lleyton knew he was in his mother's arms. It may sound dramatic...for me it was.



The other couple we traveled with and Sara and I were given the option early in the day to forgo flying back to Moscow that afternoon and instead take the train from Samara to Moscow later in the evening, as this would allow us more time to spend with the kids in the orphanage. We quickly voted unanimously to take the train.

After we said our very difficult goodbyes to Lleyton (then named Gorsha), we made our way to a restaurant in Samara for a meal that was undoubtedly loaded with dill (I had enough dill during my time in Russia to last me the rest of my life). Then the fun began, we boarded a 14 hour train ride that would take us through the heart of Russia. Sara and I had a room with two beds, a little table, and nothing else. We were fed some sort of food that I still can't identify, nor can I stricken it from my memory. The saving grace of the train ride was the warm Baltika that came with my meal, and I read the book The Blind Side (which interestingly enough comes out in a movie theater near you today).

I could type for hours trying to recount the uncomfortable nature of the train ride, but I must say that I am happy we did it. It was a mini adventure within a very large adventure. I wouldn't want to do it again, but at least we can say we did it.

The flight home, on Thanksgiving Day, was spent passing the camera back and forth, over and over again, looking at the pictures and videos we now had of our little boy...the boy we had been dreaming of.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Meeting our little man

This was the day, November 19, 2007, the day we had waited for since concluding it was time for us to start a family. We had arrived in Samara very late the night before and made our way to our hotel. I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned, read a book, wrote in a journal, probably utilized the mini bar once or twice, anything to help me relax and get some sleep before the big day.

None of that worked, so I was going on very little sleep once the morning rolled around. As the sun rose, we were greeted with plenty of snow on the ground (that's the only way we ever saw Samara. I hear it is really quite scenic during the summer months). We met the other family we were traveling with for breakfast and then we were off to meet with the Minister of Education so that we could get her blessing to see the boy that we had traveled thousands of miles to meet.

This lady, who I affectionately nicknamed "Coffee Talk Lady", due to her uncanny resemblance to Mike Myers character on Saturday Night Live, essentially is the gatekeeper for each of the children housed in Samaran orphanages.


As we sat on the other side of her desk, along with our new best friend and translator, Jane, Coffee Talk Lady gazed down at us over her glasses that had been perched ever so close to the edge of her nose, and she grilled us about our motives for wanting to adopt. She asked us why don't we have our "own" kids, why do we want a Russian child, how much money do we make, how will we discipline this child, what will we do if we get home and don't like him, why we so young and adopting, and on and on and on. It was quite intimidating. After all of the questions she slowly stood and made her way out of the office, as if to make it seem that she was going to go into another room to ponder whether we could be worthy parents to this child.

After a minute of Jane telling us we did great, CTL reentered the room and sat across from us and slid a small picture of this boy to us and said we were welcome to meet him. This was the first time we had ever seen Lleyton's picture. An unforgettable moment, to say the least.

I would be lying to you if I said our first meeting with Lleyton was everything we dreamt it would be. We eagerly waited in the visiting room to see and hold this little boy. He was brought to us shortly after we wrapped up a conversation with the orphanage doctor. Frankly, he looked pitiful. Not the bouncing baby boy we were expecting, more like the sick little boy that was yearning to be in his crib.



Even though he wasn't feeling very well, he took a quick liking to Sara.





We sat and played with Lleyton and were introduced to his patented rock back and forth move.

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Our visit with him ended after about an hour and we headed back to the hotel to call our doctor in Cincinnati and to see what she thought of the pictures I had sent her. To our delight, she thought he looked great. That, and a couple Baltikas (a delicious Russian brew), made sleep much easier that night.

It's hard to imagine that this is two years to the day that we met Lleyton. Plenty has happened between now and then, but the memories from that day and the days and weeks following will always be cherished by Sara and I.

As I was driving the boys to school this morning, I was talking with Lleyton and Parker about Russia. Lleyton seemed very excited to hear about Russia and he even claimed he saw Russia out the window of the car. I was surprised, because I thought Sarah Palin was the only one that could see Russia from her house. Little did I know. As a matter of full disclosure, I am a big fan of Sarah Palin.

That was Lleyton then, this is him a few weeks ago. I can't tell if he likes the camera or not.

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Remembering Russia

Two years ago today, Sara and I were in Moscow preparing to take the two hour flight to Samara, where we would be introduced to Georgiy Valeryevich Ivanov (Lleyton). I can remember it like it was yesterday. We were in a faraway land, enjoying every step along the way (other than not being able to figure out how to cross the street).

Moscow in late November, and December, and January is brutally cold. I get cold just thinking about it.

Here are a few of the sights from that day...

The Marriott Grand Hotel, one of the many hotels we stayed at during our weeks in Russia (very nice hotel).



One of the many theatres throughout Moscow. Theatre and ballet, and the arts, play a prominent role in Russian life.



In the distance, you can see one of the Seven Sisters. Joseph Stalin ordered the construction of these seven buildings. The towers were constructed for the glorification of the Soviet State after WWII, and were intended to rival the American skyscrapers that had previously been built. Each Sister was designed according to Stalin’s specifications, in a so-called ‘wedding-cake’ style, that concentrated the eye towards a central tower. Stalin also insisted that all of the Seven Sisters be given a spire, in order to distinguish them from their American counterparts. Who says blogging can't be educational?




Here we are the airport in Moscow, ready to embark on our journey to Samara. You may not be able to tell, but I was a huge ball of nerves (Sara, of course, was cool as the other side of the pillow). Notice, the all black attire. It was recommended that we, as Americans, try to blend in as much possible, so that involved wears black pretty much everywhere we went, as Russians are big fans of dark clothing (and lots of it).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Waiting (less) patiently

Here we are, almost 45 days since accepting the referral for what we already consider our beautiful baby daughter, waiting, wondering, and worrying. We are used to the ups and downs of adoption, but you certainly never enjoy the downs. One of the downs is waiting on the unknown.

We are yearning for answers to our questions. As far as we know, this delay can be attributed to the orphanage that Baby Sister is living in has been very slow in getting her paperwork to our agency. I have all of the confidence in the world that our agency is doing everything they can to get the paperwork, but I just wish we could get past this and get the paperwork and be submitted to court.

Of course, our worst fear is that for some reason Baby Sister won't be ours, but we have been told that is highly unlikely, and that this is simple a case of an orphanage dragging their feet. But for 43 days?

I never lose sight of how fortunate that we have been with our first two adoptions going relatively smoothly. Relatively smooth in Russian terms meaning only being being told at the last minute that our travel plans have changed, twice. The paperwork part of Parker's adoption was a breeze, from beginning to end, the whole process only took 5 months, and without any hiccups. So we are used to process going smoothly, that is one reason this is so troubling. That and the undeniable fact that we are in love with this little baby girl that is waiting for us in Ethiopia and we want to travel to get her as soon as we can.

This issue may seem minor to someone from afar, but let me tell you it is getting more and more difficult each day. I have taken it upon myself to call our agency each week, hoping that there will be good news, but also knowing that if there was good news, we would have been called.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for giving us a place to air our emotions, good and bad. Hopefully something will happen soon. I am looking forward to posting about all of this being behind us and what we are doing to prepare the house for our newest addition.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

WHO DEY!

Our (Parker and I's) beloved Bengals are now 7-2. Needless to say, we are excited about this team and the prospect of having a playoff team to root for.



2-0 against the Steelers this year.
2-0 against the Ravens this year.
WOW.

Cincinnati is now, for the time being, and in my opinion for the foreseeable future, the football capital of the world.

We are looking forward to watching the Bearcats stake claim to a National Championship and the Bengals march straight to their first Super Bowl victory.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Handsome

Some mornings, I just feel like the boys are looking too good not to take a picture of them. Today was one of those days.



Parker is a big fan of striking a pose for the camera.

Week in Review

We have had a pretty eventful last week. As we wait anxiously for any type of news out of Ethiopia regarding Baby Sister, we are trying to pack our days full of activities to entertain the kids. Last Saturday began with Parker and I taking a quick trip to the vet with Molly. Let me tell you, Parker enjoyed the vet much more than Molly did.



Keep little Molly in your thoughts as this coming week she will be heading back to the vet to go under the knife to take care of a couple of things. Nothing major, just an issue that she will hopefully be happy to have resolved. I know we will.

After leaving the vet's office, Parker and I headed into Cincinnati to meet our new friends Jarso and Endgada. We were introduced to these two by a mutual friend. Jarso and Endgada make Ethiopian food, so Parker and I were more than willing to purchase some injera and doro wot from them. We picked it up and brought it home and enjoyed it for lunch on Saturday and even had some left over for dinner on Sunday. Here is Parker with our new friend Jarso.



It is so rewarding for me to think that a year ago I knew virtually nothing about Ethiopia, and here we are today, having traveled there and preparing to travel back, loving every second of getting to know more about this wonderful country and culture. Thank you to Jarso and Endgada for welcoming us into their home and sharing with us their delicious Ethiopian fare.

We did add a little American flare with chocolate milk and Kroger brand Cheez Its, but Parker's favorite part was certain the doro wot, and specifically the the eggs. As it turns out, he loves hard boiled eggs.



On Sunday afternoon Sara began feeling under the weather, but this was a different type of under the weather, as it continued to grow worse throughout the evening and night. She hadn't felt well over the past couple of weeks, but she felt so badly on Sunday night into Monday morning that we had no choice but to load the sleeping boys into the car and head to the Emergency Room.

Here are the boys waiting for Sara to muster up enough energy to make it to the car.



Even though it was very late, and we all were quite tired, the boys seemed to almost enjoy the adventure to the hospital. I am happy to report that after about a 3.5 hour stay in the ER, Sara was released and she is feeling much better now than she did a few nights ago (the boys and I headed back home to catch some quick "shut eye" while mommy was nursed back to health, so they weren't hanging out in the waiting room for that entire 3.5 hour period).

So I am hoping the illness is leaving this family, as Lleyton hadn't been feeling very well himself about a week ago. This boy is usually non-stop action, so when he came home from school one day and laid down on the couch like this, we knew he wasn't feeling well.



He, like his mother, bounced back quickly.

Our days are now, again, filled with anxious waiting, as we have yet to get the good news from Ethiopia that our paperwork has been submitted to court. The hold up is that our agency's staff in Ethiopia has been unable to collect Baby Sister's paperwork from her orphanage. Our agency director has told us not to worry, that her paperwork would be submitted, it is just taking longer than expected. So we have no other choice than to just sit by the phone and computer and wait for the good word that her paperwork is in the hands of the right people and all of our documents have been submitted to court. But until we get that news, we will be on pins and needles hoping that nothing unforeseen happens, because we are in love with little girl.

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I also want to say happy belated Veteran's Day to all veterans out there. Over the past couple of years, Sara and I have done some extensive traveling outside of the US, and after each trip I have come home with a greater appreciation for this country.

For those of you that put yourself in harms way to protect and preserve what we, in this house, are very grateful for, THANK YOU.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Professor Parker

For good measure, Parker is also doing a nice job helping Lleyton learn his days of the week.

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Now if we can just get one of them to be able to tell time, we will have all of the bases covered.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Little Einstein

We have been working diligently with Parker as of late on his days of the week and months of the year, and to our delight, Lleyton has turned out to be a great instructor when it comes to the learning the months of the year. Here is proof (Sorry I wasn't quick enough on the trigger to catch January and February):

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Monday, November 2, 2009

BIG BOY BED

As of late, Lleyton has been growing tired of life in a crib, so we decided it was time to transition. So last night we surprised him with his big boy bed. Sara and the boys headed out shopping yesterday afternoon while I made the switch. By the looks of these pictures, he is enjoying the new addition to his room.





Our little boy isn't so little anymore. As I type this, he is fast asleep surrounded by his babies on his new bed. Now we are going to have to convince that big boys don't need pacifiers. Wish us luck. He is hooked on his "passies".

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Superheros

We wrapped up a fun filled couple of days full of Halloween activities. It all began with a costume parade at the boys' daycare on Friday morning.

All the kids were instructed to sit with their respective classes, but Batman and Robin couldn't be separated, so they sat together.



The Saturday fun first led us to Kokomo so that boys could model their superhero looks for their grandparents. They didn't disappoint. We had such a nice time visiting with Sara's mom and grandparents, and then onto her dad's house. The boys love making that jaunt to Kokomo.

After wrapping up our visit, we quickly jumped in the Batmobile and headed to Nick and Drew and Claire's house for some trick or treating. The boys (and Sara and myself) had a blast. Here are the pictures to prove it.

BATMAN


ROBIN


Cousin Drew was Batman as well, so these two stuck together while trick or treating, as Parker and Claire did what all good big brothers and sisters do and utilized their longer legs and ran ahead to scout out the houses for the little ones.


Speaking of Claire and Parker...


Grammy and Pop surprised everyone as they unveiled their newest look.


What would Halloween be without a couple refreshing beverages? Uncle Jason, not surprisingly, took the lead on that and happily served as our mixologist for the evening.


The anticipation for this Halloween was greater than any other I have experienced, as Parker was just so excited, and his excitement certainly wore off on Lleyton as well. I will be the first admit that Halloween has never been my favorite day of the year, but after days like yesterday, it is moving up the list rather quickly.

Thanks for Megan and Jason for being our gracious hosts again this year, please save a room for us for next year as well.