Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!!!!


We wish you all the very best in the new year! This year was full of ups and downs with the adoption, but it was all so, so worth it to finally make it to this point. Changing to Lighthouse Adoptions was key! We'd still be waiting with our old agency and I don't think I could have taken another 6-8 months of waiting and wondering.

Cassiana has been home a month now and is doing great! She is growing and thriving like crazy. She is very healthy and happy. Kai has adapted amazingly well to having a baby sister. He is very helpful and showers her with love and attention. They are blowing each other kisses to each other as I type this! :) It's already like she's always been a part of the family.

I remember talking to people over the past year and a half, telling them we were adopting a baby girl from Russia. Many were thrilled, but others looked at me like I was saying I was planning to be in the Olympics or had been abducted by aliens. She is finally in our arms and I'm just amazed every time I look at her and hold her tight. There were so many times that things could have gone wrong and didn't or that I wondered if this would really happen during the agonizing wait.

Now on the more current events! Cassiana's First Christmas (with us)!!! Here are some pictures from our many present opening sessions. Excuse our tree this year. It was thrown up in a jet lagged haze and nothing was put low enough to entice Cassi to discover more. She did find the garland few times, so it's all askew.

I tip my hat to ya!

Kai does have teeth--this makes him look like he's chopperless! :)

Cassi eyes some of Kai's loot. Moon Sand, by the way, is a huge mess. Don't believe the packaging. Kai has wanted this stuff a year and I finally caved.

Had to search high and low to find these fantabulous Blendy Pens, but by golly, I did it!
The day after Christmas, it was an unseasonably warm 75 degrees! So, we headed out to the backyard to do some swinging. Cassi loved it! She wanted to go higher and higher! Kai says he's so glad that he will have someone to play with out there all the time, instead of just when a friend is over.

Brother and sister, together at last!

Friday, December 19, 2008


ARGH! I took Cassi to get her blood work this morning and it was awful! They tried both arms and hands and only got enough blood for only one of the tests! The main thing we wanted to test for are titers for the vaccines she had while in Russia to be sure they took. She was soooo upset, to put it mildly. I had a full blown migraine by the time we left. I'm not sure what we are supposed to do now, but I'm not putting her thru that again. We did take the wrist x-ray before that to see if she still has rickets, so at least that was accomplished. She doesn't seem any worse for wear, but I'm still trying to recover...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

First Dr. Visit

Yay! It felt so great to finally get Cassi in to see our pediatrician! We had to wait a while for an appointment because they are booked up for the holidays as far as "well child" visits are concerned. I had to beg and pull the orphan card to get this appointment as it was. I explained that she is well as far as the Russians have told us, but that we need her seen as soon as possible to be sure. The dr. was thrilled to meet Cassi! He has a lot of experience seeing kiddos who were adopted internationally and you can tell he really does love kids.
While in the waiting room, I was thanking my lucky stars that Cassiana is so healthy. There was an adorable little girl who was about 5 with cerebral palsy. They had to work her in in front of us for some sort of emergency, which we gladly said was fine. Then, another girl about 10 was in because she had passed out and possibly had a seizure this morning. And, another infant in who was very tiny, probably a preemie.

Cassi has grown an inch since we met her in Oct. (mid-Oct. to end of Nov.) and another 1/2 inch was since she arrived home 2 1/2 wks. ago. She is still 10% for height and 10% for head circumference, but her head has grown since we saw her in Oct., so that's great news as well. Also, she has gained 2 pounds since arriving home and now weighs 22 lbs. (50%tile). Developmentally she's on target as well. She is not walking yet, but moves closer to that every day. The dr. is running blood tests to check for titers for the vaccines she had in Russia, to be sure she did and that they were strong enough. Also, running blood work to double check for other diseases. We will also take her for an x-ray of her wrist to be sure her rickets are gone, as they said they were in the orphanage.

Well, I put her to work doing paperwork when we got home. No, actually I sat down to check e-mail for a minute and forgot that the baby gate was not in front of the printer as it normally is. She decided to do some work on the printer.

Also, we are trying to get Cassi used to her ducky bath tub that goes in the real bathtub. Right now she takes a bath in the kitchen sink and loves it. She screams her head off when we try to put her in the ducky bath, though. I guess she knows that ducks are not supposed to be that big and if I saw a duck that large, unexpectedly, in the bath tub, I suppose I might scream, too! LOL! If nothing else, it's some else for her to play in. She loves Kai's old Hokey Pokey Elmo and the glowworm that plays music and lights up.

Monday, December 15, 2008

We wish you a merry Christmas, dance fever style

Here's an adorable video of Cassiana dancing to the Christmas globe music. She has figured out how to make it play and goes thru the songs to get to the ones she likes! Normally, she swings her head and hips back and forth in some sort of 50's manifestation. Yes, I turned the camera to get a better shot, so you'll have to crane your neck to see it! :)

We have finally figured out that this baby needs two naps a day, even if she is perfectly happy (as in not cranky) with one a day if she sleeps in past 8:30 and misses her morning nap. She will think that she we put her down at bed time that it's really a nap and get up 2 hours later, ready to play. So, we wake her up between 7 and 7:30 am, as hard as it is to waking a sleeping baby, because it makes for a much smoother night!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Loves to ride in the car!

Just have a moment, but wanted to post a picture of Cassiana riding in her car seat (I was not driving while taking this picture--lol!). She loves it! I think it's because she was completely swathed in pink and purple.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Okay, I just got back from the bank. I had to cancel my debit card because of weird charges that have shown up from Moscow and Singapore (I did not even go there!). The bank is disputing the charges for us, so hopefully that will be cleared up. Get this, Cassi's original ticket shows it was not used AND the second ticket that Singapore Air said we needed didn't show up as one of these weird charges. Something is fishy in shenaniganville!!!

Cassi is starting to move out of the living room after a week of surveying the coffee table area. She has yet to notice the Christmas tree or the presents, so that's good. She was terrified of Peppy our Bichon and Candy Lou Lou our Yorkie mix and now wants to pet Peppy (well if you call pulling hunks of hair out petting) and let's Candy get pretty close before she decides Candy needs to vacate the area. So that's progress!!! We are teaching her to use "nice hands" with Peppy, so don't worry, he's not in harms way. He's a very gentle dog and just gets up and moves if she's within striking distance.

Peppy is looking more like the Shaggy DA dog--we have put him low on the totem pole as of late and promise to get him groomed this week!!!

Kai and I were reading a book about God's blessings and we were reading a part about Jesus. Kai interrupted to tell me that Jesus goes to his school and is in Mrs. Smather's class. LOLOLOL! I explained that the boy was named after Jesus but probably pronounces his name differently and is not, to my knowledge, the same Jesus from the book. :)

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Well, it's finally turned cool here as of yesterday, so I made chili and pumpkin spice bread. Yeah, I know you folks had your fill of that stuff last week, but we folks who were in Russia last week did not. I've been wanting to make them since the beginning of October which is where my mind things I am! Later today, we are putting up the Christmas tree, something we usually do the day after Thanksgiving, so maybe this will get me at least thinking it's November! Have I started Christmas shopping???--nope!
Kai is adapting to having a baby sister wonderfully! I guess talking about it for the last year and half had something to do with that, plus he's a good boy anyway and loves babies. He plays with Cassi, waiting on her hand and foot, bringing her the toys she likes best. He kisses and hugs on her and she tries to do the same back. Very sweet! He brought a picture of Cassi while were we still in Russia to school for show and tell.
Here are some shots I took of Cassi this morning:

Little Tykes should just manufacture remotes because that's what babies like best to play with! Cassi is learning her name and will turn her head most times we call it. She said her name and pointed to her self this morning---so cute in her little voice! She says "Mamama" for me and "Mmmammmamma" for more food (more m's for more)--LOL!

Well, she just went down for a nap and I'm going to do the same thing. Sleep when the baby sleeps

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The paperwork continues???

For those of you who are still waiting to start your adoption journey or are mid-way through, I have some disturbing news. The paperwork does NOT stop once you are home! I know, shocking, huh? LOL! I spent 2 hours in the wee hours of the morning working on just the stuff to send Lighthouse for the Consulate paperwork! Now, I have 30 days to register Cassiana with the consulate, but I'd rather get it out of the way.
This part will really touch a nerve, so brace yourselves. We had to get some documents notarized!!!! Then we had to lug babysita to Kinko's to get more passport photos for this paperwork. She was a little angel and just sat for her picture. We will have to apply for her social security card, get her a US passport and check into getting her a state birth certificate.
Cassiana decided that 4:30 a.m. would be a great time to start the day, so start it we did. It actually worked out because she went back to sleep at 6:30, so I got the paperwork out of the way. When she woke up, she was ready to go run errands after a few bites to eat. She loves riding in the car! I think she's just so happy to be out and about without a couple hundred layers of fabric encasing her tiny body!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Update on lap ticket ordeal

I spoke to the travel agent who booked Cassiana's lap ticket and she is checking w/ Singapore Airlines to see what happened and to try to get us a refund for the second ticket we had to buy in Moscow. The whole thing was just so fishy leaving we'll see.

Cassi is doing so well! We just took a trip to Target, the first time she and I have left the house since we got in on Saturday. She loved the car seat and sitting in the cart at the store. She kicked her feet the whole time and looked around. I think this was the first time she's been out in the sunshine and the wind (especially without the protection of a humongous snowsuit!). She really enjoyed it! She still doesn't know what to think of people who try to talk to her in the store. She freaked when they did this in the airport. Today she just looked at them stoically, so that's an improvement. Everything is a new experience! :)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Home Sweet Home and First Birthday!!!!

We are finally, finally, finally HOME!!!!!!!!!! For those who are new to the blog, we switched to Lighthouse, Ann Arbor, MI from another agency and our dossier went over this past July. We got our referral in Sept. and met the baby in Oct., had court Nov. 10th and here we are!!! It was a quick, pain free process with Lighthouse! (Our dossier with the first agency went over exactly a year ago today.)

We made it safely and soundly, with a few hiccups getting home, but the main thing is we are here. Cassiana was amazing on the plane. She only took a few short cat naps on the 12 hour flight Singapore Air portion and was happy to sit and play during the rest. She did watch some Barney (over the course of the flight, I played the only episode they had on the flight over 7 time for her, though I think after #6 she was starting to see it was the same one--lol!)

We almost missed this flight, despite getting to the check-in stand 2 hrs. and 15 minutes early. The dimwits at the stand swore up and down that Cassi didn't have a reservation. It was a long, awful ordeal, resulting in us waiting 1 hr. 45 mins. (mean time, Cassi is getting hungry and tired, crying on and off) for them to finally reissue Cassi another LAP ticket that I had to PAY for again. We had to RUN to the gate, having to go thru passport control first, where they gave me a hard time about her having a Russian passport. They wanted to see her birth certificate and something was really funny as they kept laughing and taking their sweet time. I said, "She has an immigrant visa for the US and our flight leaves in 15 minutes!!!" On cue, Cassi started to cry and they finally agreed she was legit. Whatever!!!

We went thru security, which was another ordeal and then ran to the gate where they were saying the same dimwits that checked us in were telling us to hurry. I was like, well, if you all hadn't taken almost 2 hours we wouldn't be in this situation. One of them asked if she could take any of my bags and I said it was a little late for help now. It was infuriating to put it lightly. I'm going to call the travel agent later to see if we can be refunded for one of the the TWO lap tickets we had to purchase for the SAME flight.

Then, on to Houston, where we had to explain the whole thing and Continental said they had a record of her and that she didn't need a boarding pass because this portion was domestic. It sounds like the Singapore folks didn't know what to look for or something because Continental had a record of her ticket. So, at this point (we had to go thru passport control and then immigration, then customs, so it was quite a while later---oh yeah, and when we had to get our luggage to go thru customs and then re-check it, we had to find another passport photo of Cassi for immigration because there weren't enough in the packet. While doing this, Bo-Bo the customs sniffing dog, honed in on Cassi's apple flavored baby cereal in the diaper bag, so we had to deal with that. He was looking for fruit brought in from another country--- I was like Pa-lease!!!), Cassi is screaming because she has on a wet diaper and is hungry. I changed her and fed her and then we went thru security AGAIN (I don't understand this part since there's no access from the outside portion of the airport) and then on to the gate. We had a sandwich and celebrated making it to the US!!! Here's a photo of the first time Cassi's feet touched US "soil."

Now, on to less stressful times. Cassi's first birthday was Saturday, so we celebrated yesterday, her first day in the US! Dan got her a cake while we were gone (one for us and one for Cassi to devour, which she did!). They did spell Cassi's name wrong but we didn't care as it was such a happy event! Her Nina and Grand Dad got her the sparkly ballerina Mary Jane socks, which matched perfectly with her dress. Also the bib and the first birthday napkins. We girls do like to co-ordinate!!! Yes, I do have on my pj's!!!! I could only "get it together" that much.

I took some video that I may upload later. Here is the "before picture."

And, the after!


Friday, November 28, 2008

Leaving tomorrow for HOME!!!!!!!! :)

Tomorrow is the big day (yet another one of those!)!!! We are heading home! Our 12 hour flight leaves at about 10:00 a.m. Saturday (the driver is picking us up at 7 a.m.) and we get home (gaining a day) at about 7 p.m. Saturday. We fly through Houston with a nice long layover to take care of all of the immigration stuff, etc. Chili's (at Houston airport) here we come after that! :) Then, a short 1 hour flight to OKC. Dan and Kai are picking us weary folk up in OKC. I can't wait for Kai to meet his new little sister!

We are spending today relaxing and packing. Mom and Cassi are napping to "Smokey And The Bandit" on tv. Later, we will take a stroller tour of the hotel to get a few more last minute pictures. They have started putting up the Christmas decorations, so we want to take Cassi to see all of the different trees.

Goodbye Moscow, we will miss you! We'll be back again one day for a heritage trip. :)

HELLO, USA!!!!!!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving From Mockba!!!!!!!!1

(View from our hotel window)

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

We have soooo much to be thankful and grateful that I could not even begin to list everything! One of the blessings is sitting in my lap, trying to help me type! Here she is dancing to the song from a Happy Thanksgiving e-card that her Grandma and Grandma Holtmann sent:

Cassi learned to drink from a straw this morning, so we are pumping her full of liquids since she hasn't wanted to drink anything via the cup (the way they give them liquids in the orphanage). Here is a video of her eating and then drinking from the straw this morning.

We went to the grocery store after that, a 5 min. walk from the hotel:

Outside hotel

Going to market

First trip to grocery store--they don't bag the food here for you, so the checker and some other guy stood there while we were holding baby, paying and trying to bag our own stuff.

Going back to hotel, loaded down w/ stuff

Having lunch! She loves table food. Even after her baby food, she wanted some of my sandwich (my hair was wiped out after having the hood on).


We took a taxi to Old Arabat this afternoon. It was a lot of fun shopping and looking around. An artist did a quick charcoal of Cassi and me that turned out pretty well! A great keepsake. Here are some photos from today. Oh, I had lasagna again and Mom had spaghetti for dinner! Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

Starbucks (an online adoption chat joke!)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's official!!!!!!!!!!!

We had our Embassy visit today and it's official! Cassiana is on her way to the good ole USA!!! We leave on Saturday. We will spend tomorrow being thankful and grateful for all that we have!!!!

Here is a picture of Buddha Baby:

Also, she is taking to table food just fine. We wondered if she isn't really Italian as she was woofing down the lasagna tonight! This was after she had eaten 1 big jar of meat/veggie combo and a big jar of applesauce. After the lasagna, she ate a biter biscuit and did much better this time with the chewing. She is on Stage 3 baby food food now. Still not drinking very much, but all is well.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Reaching the top of Mt. Adoption...

All of a sudden there arose such a clatter so me in my kerchief and ma in her cap, we threw up the window and opened the sash to see what was the matter. Oh, no, that's not it. Here's what really happened. After an awesome night's sleep, we awoke to the alarm at 7 a.m. for the doctor visit. I turned on a light so that Cassiana could wake up on her own some. She woke up smiling, as per usual (I'm not making this part stuff up!). A little later the phone rang and it was Dr. Boris saying he was on his way up to see Cassi.

He is about 55 and has a mustache and dark/greyish hair. Cassi didn't cotton to him at the orphanage during that dr. visit and she sure didn't this time either! He checked her over and she got straight A's. This is the "official" you are set to leave the country exam, so that was great news! He says she's had several of her shots, which he translated on her shot record, so more great news in that we don't have to start over from scratch or have titers run. She has a small scare on her upper arm and that is from the TB inoculation. Not sure why it would leave such a scar. It's sort of a longish indentation, not the same as the small pox scars I've seen. After he left, we fed Cassi her breakfast (oatmeal and bananas), saw a therapist for her traumatic event (that part is made up) and then we all set out for breakfast downstairs.

Cassi loved the highchair from the start this time. There was a harpist playing and when she was finished, Cassi clapped her hands. She can say, "bapp" for clap and "Ma,ma,ma" for more and "up" and "down" because after I change her she likes to flop back and then up again, so we say that over and over (big fun when you are 11 months old!). Some times she says "da,da,da" and "ma,ma,ma" when I point to use in her photo album, her favorite toy. This is probably a learned response but maybe she's made the connection. We've also taught her to wave bye-bye. This was at the hotel restaurant for breakfast:

Practicing self feeding is over rated when you can just push everything onto the floor:

Now, Mom and Cassi are napping and then it will be lunch time for Cassi. I'm leaving at 2:00 to pick up her passport and visa w/ the driver. Then, at 5:00 the interpreter is coming over to the hotel to help me fill out the Embassy paperwork. Our appt. w/ the Embassy will be either tomorrow or Friday. So, that leaves Thanksgiving day as a free day. We are planning to go to Old Arabat, a walking pedestrian tourist area and do some SHOPPING! Mom hurt her back with all of the stroller lifting yesterday getting in and out of the underground tunnels with tons of stairs, so we are going to take a taxi and then the hotel will arrange one to pick us up. We could take the metro, but there are stairs there, so we will take the posh way out since it's a holiday and all! LOL!


I joined the other family that is here on their pickup trip to pick up our passports and visas. Going there took maybe 15 minutes. Coming back took at least 45, maybe an hour for some reason. The traffic was worse than usual. When I arrived at the hotel, the tranlator met me in the lobby and we went up to the room to fill out the Embassy paperwork. Cassi was walking around in her crib, not taking a nap, happy as a lark. The paperwork took about 15 minutes.

While here, I played the Russian singing bear that the hotel gave Cassi (see earlier post from this week where we are playing it for the baby) to see what it is singing. She said it is basically non-sense! Here we've been thinking it was some traditional Russian baby song (i.e. Rock-a-by Baby or something)! Turns out it's jibberish. Oh, well, the baby still likes it.

We have our U.S. Embassy appointment tomorrow at 1:40!!!! This is the FINAL stage of the Mtn. Adoption!!!! It is here at last!!!! The rest is all down hill as we coast on home in our super jet. I was planning to post a picture of the outside cover of Cassi's passport, but the translator is holding on to it until we have our Embassy appt.

Monday, November 24, 2008

St. Basil's, At Last!!!!!!!!!!!!

St. Basil's Cathedral, Red Square

This is one of the many important milestones in the lives of adoptive families who adopt in or near Moscow. We went to Red Square late in the afternoon and finally got a picture of Cassi in front of St. Basil's!!!! It was about 32 degrees and snowing big flakes only occassionally, so that snowsuit came in very handy. The hat that came w/ it is way too big (as is the suit), so we substituted a smaller one and she was much happier with the whole "suit"uation.
We took the hotel shuttle to Pushkin Square and then walked down Tverskaya Street (about a 15 minute walk) to Red Square. It's pretty rugged terrain with a stroller because you have to carry them up and down many, many steps to go down to the tunnels that go under the streets (don't worry, they are very populated and well lite) and go over a lot of cobblestone type brick. There are rungs on some of the stairs for strollers and I'm assuming wheel chairs, but they don't fit American strollers. It was a workout, but so worth it!
Cassiana and I, at last!

Cassi and I (my cheeks are so red because it was a little cold!)
Mom, me and Cassiana the snowsuit baby
Bundled up, ready to go to Red Square

These shoes were made for walkin' (well, when I get a little more practice!)

Mom feeding Cassi, who is totally not impressed by the blueberry cereal combo meal. At least her food co-ordinates with her outfit.

Can anyone guess what these 2 food items are? Those who've been here before are not ineligible, sorry. :P
Well, today on the adoption front, Mom watched Cassi while I went to sign the passport paperwork. The family that had the same court date was there as well. That was pretty quick. Then, back to the hotel where we ate lunch and then napped until it was time to take the shuttle to Pushkin Square.
Tomorrow at 7, gulp, a.m. the doctor is coming over to the hotel for Cassiana's official medical exam. This is the same dr. who saw her in the orphanage before we accepted her as a referral who thought we were kind of nuts calling him over since she's so healthy. She screamed the whole exam, so I'm assuming we are in for more of the same unless she will be so sleepy (fingers crossed!) that she tolerates it and then gets on with her life.
She went right to sleep tonight, thanks to the Ibuprofen for her teething. She will love her nice quiet crib in her room at home. We turn the lights out in the hotel room, but after she goes to sleep, we turn the tv back on, which wakes her up some times. She is apparently used to a pretty quiet sleeping environment in pretty much total darkness. She takes her morning nap without a problem, but walks around the crib and tries to get us to laugh (making rasberry sounds, giggling, moving her head around in a silly way, putting both arms and legs thru the slats while sitting down and moving them up and down), so I lay her back down and we don't look at her and eventually she lays down and goes to sleep. At home, she will have her own space without all of these distractions.

That's all for now. Looks like our Embassy visit will be Wednesday or Friday (closed for Thanksgiving), then we leave for home on Saturday!