Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Book Us, Dano!

We were fingerprinted yet again today. The last time was by Homeland security this past January to get our clearance to adopt an orphan. That was done electronically, which I must say, is much nicer. No messy ink and no "whoops!" when the print doesn't look so great. This time, was at the sheriff's office the ole' fashioned way with paper and ink. We took my good friend Tamara's advice and had 2 sets made, just in case. They've changed the rule and the FBI clearance is now good for 6 months instead of 3. YAY!

I asked the administrator if this is how they "book" the inmates and she said, no, they do those electronically, but still use paper for folks like us, people wanting concealed weapon permits, attorneys and various other occupations. Then, she goes on to tell me that the place in GA that we are sending these consists of 6 women in a room, counting the rings on people's fingerprints! No wonder it takes 4 weeks to get the clearance back! I'm not too sure I believe that in this day and age with the current technology, however, they ARE still using paper and ink, so who knows. Maybe someone out there can enlighten me?
Anyway, I'm really excited to be getting these particular fingerprints taken care of, because it means we are getting closer to traveling than ever before!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Family Fun and Dog Gone Wild

These are pictures from last weekend of our son and some of his cousins, blowing bubbles, chillin' and getting ready to eat cake. The last one is Candy Lou Lou in her dog-kini (dog bikini). She prefers to go au naturale, however, so this look was short lived. Peppy is looking on wondering what the heck? Peppy is 10, so you'd think he'd be used to us by now! Maybe he was wondering if he was next (we respect the elderly, so we spared him this indignity).

S'mores, please!

This is a little late, but here are some pictures from the 4th when we made S'mores, our son's favorite!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Survived the shots

Well, I ended up needing 4 shots (tetanus w/ pertussis, Hep. A, typhoid and MMR booster) and Dan needed 4 as well (tetanus w/ pertussis, Hep. A/B twinrix, typhoid and MMR booster). I had a slight reaction from the tetanus. It still feels like I really pulled a muscle, but sure beats getting tetanus, I'm sure! I have to go back for my last Hep. A in 6 months and Dan will need his second Hep. B next month and the last in 6 months. We will have about 60% coverage w/ only 1 shot of Hep. A (and B for Dan, I had those shots about 10 years ago) before we travel, so word to the wise, get these done way ahead of time.

The nurse also recommended rabies shots, which as something like $200 a pop and you have to get 3, however, she said that there's been a big outbreak of rabies in the southern US, so they sent their vaccinations down there. So, she said to avoid petting any animals at all while in Russia, just to be safe.

In addition to drinking bottled water, the nurse said to avoid dairy products because milk, etc. isn't pasteurized in Russia and if the cow drank tainted water, then a person could get sick.

Stay tuned for next week's exciting episode: FBI Fingerprints!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pin Cushions!!!

Tomorrow we get to have a bunch of shots for travel to Russia. Our son will take great joy in seeing his parents get shots for a change! We will be getting a typhoid, tetanus and Hep A/HepB combo. shots. I wasn't sure what typhoid was other than some story about Typhoid Mary, so I looked it up. Here's's explanation. I have no idea why the bullets aren't lining up because they do in the "Preview" view.

Typhoid Fever At A Glance

Typhoid fever is caused by Salmonellae typhi bacteria.
  • Typhoid fever is contracted by the ingestion of contaminated food or water.

    • Diagnosis of typhoid fever is made when the Salmonella bacteria is detected with a stool culture.

    • Typhoid fever is treated with antibiotics.

    • Typhoid fever symptoms are poor appetite, headaches, generalized aches and pains, fever, and lethargy.

    • Approximately 3%-5% of patients become carriers of the bacteria after the acute illness.

    Okay, after reading all of that, I'll take the shot, please! More on Typhoid Mary:

    Mary Mallon (September 23, 1869November 11, 1938), also known as Typhoid Mary, was the first person in the United States to be identified as a healthy carrier of typhoid fever. Over the course of her career as a cook, she infected 47 people, three of whom died from the disease. Her fame is in part due to her vehement denial of her own role in causing the disease, together with her refusal to cease working as a cook. She was forcibly quarantined twice by public health authorities and died in quarantine. It was also possible that she was born with the disease, as her mother had typhoid fever during her pregnancy.

    Now, that's a strong work ethic!

    Saturday, July 12, 2008

    MOCKBA' (Moscow): Home to 74 Billionaires and 39 Orphanages

    I thought for those of you who are not adopting or for those who have not yet made the trip to Moscow, it would be interesting to post some facts about Moscow. Here is some general information according the Wikipedia:

    Moscow In General:

    Moscow (Russian: Москва́, romanised: Moskvá, IPA: (Click on the following for a pronunciation)[mɐˈskva] is the capital and the largest city of Russia, and the largest city in Europe, with its metropolitan area ranking among the largest urban areas in the world. Moscow is the country's political, economic, religious, financial, educational and transportation center. It is located on the Moskva River in the Central Federal District, in the European part of Russia. Historically, it was the capital of the former Soviet Union and the Grand Duchy of Moscow, the pre-Imperial Russian state. It is the site of the Moscow Kremlin, which serves as the ceremonial residence of the President of Russia. Moscow is a major economic center and is home to the largest number of billionaires in the world; in 2007 Moscow was named the world's most expensive city for the second year in a row. It is home to many scientific and educational institutions, as well as numerous sport facilities. It possesses a complex transport system that includes the world’s busiest metro system, which is famous for its architecture and artwork.

    A Tornado? Toto, we aren't in Kansas any more!

    Moscow has a hemiboreal climate (Koppen climate classification Dfb) with warm, somewhat humid summers and long, cold winters. Typical high temperatures in the warm months of June, July and August are around 22 °C (72 °F); in the winter, temperatures normally drop to approximately -12 °C (10 °F). The highest temperature ever recorded was 36.7 °C (98.1 °F) in August 1998, and the lowest ever recorded was -42.2 °C in January 1940.
    Monthly rainfall totals vary minimally throughout the year, although the precipitation levels tend to be higher during the summer than during the winter. Due to the significant variation in temperature between the winter and summer months as well as the limited fluctuation in precipitation levels during the summer, Moscow is considered to be within a continental climate zone.

    The June 29, 1904 Moscow tornado was one of only two disastrous tornadoes that occurred in central Russia in recorded history (the other occurred June 9, 1984 in Ivanovo and Yaroslavl regions). The 1904 disaster started as a thunderstorm in Tula region. It travelled northward, passing through eastern suburbs of Moscow into Yaroslavl region. When the cloud approached remote Moscow suburbs, it formed a tornado funnel, destroying suburban settlements and Lefortovo district within the city itself.

    This explains why people park anywhere, including the sidewalk:

    There are over 2.6 million cars in the city on a daily basis. Recent years have seen the growth in the number of cars, which have caused traffic jams and the lack of parking space to become major problems.
    The MKAD, along with the Third Transport Ring and the future Fourth Transport Ring, is one of only three freeways that run within Moscow city limits. However, as one can easily observe from a map of Moscow area, there are several other roadway systems that form concentric circles around the city.

    World's Most Expensive City (an example: Marriott Courtyard, per night is $450!)

    In 2006, Mercer Management Consulting named Moscow the world's most expensive city for expatriate employees, ahead of perennial winner Tokyo, due to the stable Russian ruble as well as increasing housing prices within the city.
    A significant portion of Russia's profits and development is concentrated in Moscow as many multi-national corporations have branches and offices in the city. The plush offices and the lifestyles of the typical corporate employee in Moscow are often indistinguishable from any Western European city, although the average salary for the Muscovite is a bit lower. Since the Russian financial crisis in late 1998, various business sectors in Moscow have shown exponential rates of growth. Many new business centres and office buildings have been built in recent years, but Moscow still experiences shortages in office space. As a result, many former industrial and research facilities are being reconstructed to become suitable for office use.

    Billionaires A Plenty:

    Moscow now has 74 billionaires with average wealth of $5.9 billion, placing it above New York, Forbes Magazine said in its annual rich list published on Thursday. According to the list, New York has 71 billionaires, followed by London with 36, Istanbul with 34, and Hong Kong with 30. Russia is second only to the United States in the number of its super-rich. An additional 35 Russians have crossed the $1 billion mark in the past year, helped along by the continued rise of the ruble against the dollar. "Sixteen years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia, with 87 billionaires, is the new No. 2 country behind the U.S., easily overtaking Germany, with 59 billionaires, which held the honour for six years," said Forbes associate editor Luisa Kroll. The Unites States accounts for 469 (42 percent) of the world's billionaires. Topping the list of Russia's billionaires is Oleg Deripaska with $28 billion, placing him ninth in the world, ahead of the more famous Roman Abramovich with $23.5 billion, in 15th place. Deripaska's holding company, Basic Element, owns huge assets in insurance, auto manufacture, and aluminum, while Abramovich, since selling his oil company Sibneft to Russian state-controlled gas giant Gazprom in 2005, has bought up steel and mining assets. He also owns Chelsea Football Club. Russia's richest woman remains Elena Baturina, the 45-year-old second wife of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. Forbes estimates that she has added $1.1 billion to her personal wealth in the past year, bringing it up to $4.2 billion and putting her in 253rd place globally.

    Living Quarters:

    During Soviet times, apartments were lent to people by the government according to the square meters-per-person norm (some groups, including people's artists, heroes and prominent scientists had bonuses according to their honours). Private ownership of apartments was limited until the 1990s, when people were permitted to secure property rights to the places they inhabited. Since the Soviet era, estate owners have had to pay the service charge for their residences, a fixed amount based on persons per living area. Due to the current economic situation, the price of real estate in Moscow continues to rise. Today, one could expect to pay US$4000 in average per square meter (11 sq ft) in the outskirts of the city or US$6000-$7000 per square meter in a prestigious district. The price sometimes may exceed US$40000 per square meter in a flat. It costs about US$2500 per month to rent a 1-bedroom apartment and about US$1500 per month for a studio in the center of Moscow.
    A typical one-bedroom apartment is about thirty square meters (323 sq ft), a typical two-bedroom apartment is forty-five square meters (485 sq ft), and a typical three-bedroom apartment is seventy square meters (753 sq ft). Many cannot move out of their apartments, especially if a family lives in a two-room apartment originally granted by the state during the Soviet era. Some city residents have attempted to cope with the cost of living by renting their apartments while staying in dachas (country houses) outside the city.

    The Moscow Melting Pot:

    The 2002 Census reported the national composition as:
    Russian 84.83%
    Ukrainian 2.44%
    Tatar 1.60%
    Armenian 1.2%
    Azeri 0.92%
    Jews 0.67%
    Belarusian 0.57%
    Georgian 0.52%
    Moldovan 0.35%
    Tajik 0.34%
    Uzbek 0.23%
    Mordvin 0.22%
    Chuvash 0.16%
    Vietnamese 0.15%
    Chechen 0.14%
    Chinese 0.12%
    Ossetian 0.10%
    Korean 0.08%
    Kazakh 0.08%
    Pushtu 0.06%
    Bashkir 0.06%
    German 0.05%
    Avar 0.05%
    Polish 0.04%
    many other groups of less than five thousand persons each.
    Just over 4% of the inhabitants declined to state their ethnicity on the census questionnaire

    The History of the Orphanage in Moscow:

    The Moscow Orphanage or Foundling Home (Russian: Воспитательный дом в Москве) was an ambitious project conceived by Catherine the Great and Ivan Betskoy, in the early 1760s. This idealistic experiment of the Age of Enlightenment was intended to manufacture "ideal citizens" for the Russian state by bringing up thousands of abandoned children to a very high standard of refinement, cultivation, and professional qualifications. Despite more than adequate staffing and financing, the Orphanage was plagued by high infant mortality and ultimately failed as a social institution.

    The main building, one of the earliest and largest Neoclassical structures in the city, occupies a large portion of Moskvoretskaya Embankment between the Kremlin and Yauza River, boasting a 379-metre frontage on Moskva River. The complex was built in three stages over two centuries, from Karl Blank's master plan (1767) to its complete implementation in the 1940s. Today, the ensemble of the Orphanage houses the Academy of Missile Forces and Russian Academy of Medicine.

    Things are actually better now in Moscow Orphanages than they used to be:

    On the inauguration day, 19 newborn babies were brought to the unfinished Orphanage. Two of them were publicly baptized Catherine and Paul, after the Empress and her heir, but both died soon afterward. This was an early portent of extremely high infant mortality that would be characteristic of the Orphanage in the 18th century.
    Of some 40,996 children admitted to the Orphanage during Catherine II's reign, 35,309, or 87%, died during their stay there. As a result, the vast complex housed only a handful of survivors. A 1792 report listed as few as 257 resident orphans who studied a variety of trades ranging from metallurgy to accountancy. Several attempts to decrease mortality by passing infants on to foster families did not improve the survival rate. The aged Betskoy could not be relied on for managing the expanding faculty, and the Orphanage became notorious for fraud and child abuse.

    Children lived at the Orphanage until the age of 11, whereupon they were sent for training to local factories and government offices. Some were assigned to the Michael Maddox theater school; others managed to qualify for free admission to Moscow State University. 180 students furthered their education in the universities of Western Europe. The majority, however, graduated with little more than a rouble in cash and a passport (which served to distinguish free men from serfs).

    The institution was managed by the Board of Trustees and financed by private donations and two special taxes - a tax on public theater shows and a tax on playing cards. For nearly a century, all playing cards sold in Imperial Russia were taxed 5 kopecks per deck on domestic-made cards and 10 kopecks on imports. As a result, every pack of Russian cards displayed the symbol of the Orphanage, the pelican. This tax generated 21,000 roubles in 1796 and 140,000 roubles by 1803.

    Beginning in 1772, the Orphanage also managed three banks: Loan Treasury, Savings Treasury, and Widows Treasury. These financial institutions, initially plagued by fraud and poor management, became effective and influential under the guidance of Empress Maria. By 1828, their total assets exceeded 359 million roubles, the largest capital assets in all of Moscow. This stock was the principal source of cash for the Orphanage throughout the 19th century.

    Today's Orphanages in Moscow:

    Orphanages, per say, do not exist in the U.S. because we have a foster care system, with the ultimate goal being to reunite families with their children, for better or worse. Russia is currently trying to install a foster care system. As I understand it, while in foster care, the children are not available for adoption. The family taking them in receives money and keeps them for a couple of years. After that, many may be returned to orphanages. It's interesting that there are 39 orphanages in Moscow alone (of which 23 are baby orphanages ) and 74 billionaires in the same city. It's sad that there can be so many with so little living in the same city as so many with so much.

    U.S. kids exiting the foster care system will, most likely, go on to lead productive lives, having grown up in family environments. Russian orphans do not fair so well. When they exit the system at age 16-18, 90% will go on to become prostitutes/drug addicts. And people ask us, "Why Russia?" That's one reason.

    Wednesday, July 9, 2008

    Katia has crossed the pond!!!

    Okay, sorry to leave everyone on the edges of their computer chairs, but my computer decided to take a couple of days off, long story...Anyway, we decided to name our dossier "Katia." She arrived in Moscow City this past Tuesday!!!! We are so thrilled that the family carrying her took such good care of her and documented her journey well with photos. Here is Katia packing her suitcase with the necessities:

    Next, Katia and her bear rode in the car in a dossier appropriate carseat to the airport:

    Here is Katia at the airport, eagerly awaiting her 15 hour plus trip, plastic wrapped for her protection:

    And, lastly, Katia napping in the Moscow City awaiting transport to the agency. She needs her beauty rest after all:

    Now, we are waiting to hear about a referral!!! Katia, pick out a great baby for us, dear! Stay tuned for updates...

    Tuesday, July 1, 2008

    Our Dossier is on it's way!!!!

    We have very exciting news!!! We found out today that our dossier with the new agency is on its way to Russia and should land at it's destination this weekend!!! Whew-whooooo!!!!

    With this agency, a family going over on one of their trips hand carries the dossier. It's tradition that the family name their dossier with a Russian name. Then, the family that carries it draws a picture depicting said Russian name, which makes the dossier more human. They take pictures of it along its route. If you've ever assembled one of these things, then you understand the blood, sweat and tears (well, possibly just sweat, but you get the picture!) that goes into the dossier. Hmmmm...what should we name our dossier?