Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This is for Lea

Lea is a mom who recently adopted her son from the same Babyhouse. She loves this supermarket at Maxima and the restaurant called Mama Mia.

Tuesday, June 30th

Entering the home stretch of our bonding period. Roman was rather calm today when he first came in the play room. We tried to play with various toys, he wasn't so interested in the macaroni today. I brought stacking cups, he just tried to play with some of the toys already there. There's a plastic infant phone that makes annoying noises that he likes to play with. He seems really bright and is interested in trying to figure out how things work, like that plastic phone or our camera. Sometimes he gets interested in learning the English for a few of the colors and at these times, I can see his eagerness. Other times, he gets distracted from one activity to another, but I think this can be attributed to his age too, we will see as he gets older. Oh, at one point, he found our hand anti bacterial bottle from Bath and Body. At first he didn't like the smell, but then he started rubbing it on his legs and even his face. We couldn't get him to stop and I kept telling him 'ha va teet' which I think means 'that's enough'. We had to hide it and he kept asking 'gde?' which is 'where' in Russian. And boy, he got mad, he is strong willed and he kind of stomped around...somehow we got him distracted with something else.

He loves bubbles and when he saw the bubbles Galina gave me, he went wild over them. He ended up spilling the little bottle of bubbles I bring. Tip for those who bring bubbles for older children....bring a small bottle and refill it at the hotel. He always wants to do it himself but inevitably, it all gets spilled out so I always insist on holding the bottle while he blows bubbles.

Whenever we go outside and his group or the other group his age comes outside, he wants to avoid them. I think he is worried we will take another child home instead. Maybe he has seen other kids leaving with their parents or even children being returned.

Here is a family picture:

And here is a picture with our translator, Galina. She is so sweet and so great with Roman, telling him to sit up when he is eating and making sure he knows that I'm his mama and gently scolding him when he has taken too big of a bite of the banana we gave him.

After our visit, Galina went with us to the Green Market so we could buy the flat bread I am now addicted to and to buy some fruit for the babyhouse. She also took us to the chocolate shop inside which sells the locally made chocolate by the brand name of Paxat (means pleasure).

I guess I never blog about the girls except that I miss them! So since someone asked, they seem to be doing well, except they do miss us. We talk to them usually in the morning when we are getting ready and in the evening before we go to bed. Their grandma says usually they are so busy with activity during the day that they don't miss us till it's later in the day. Sometimes we do video Skype so we can see each other too. My in-laws have been taking care of them and their cousin has been there helping to occupy their time. We are so grateful they could all come help with the girls. Olivia was going to theater camp for the last 4 weeks which ended in a performance last Thursday (which we sadly missed) and Claire has been going to summer preschool 3 days a week in June, this being the last week. I also set up a few play dates for the girls. Some other things they have done is our local museum, the La Brea Tar pits, the Museum of Natural History (both of these down in Los Angeles), our local zoo (kind of a zoo, very small), swimming in our pool, and going to the movies...they just saw 'Up'. Olivia's 7th birthday is on Wednesday and they will all be going to the big pizza place in town to celebrate. We will have a swimming party to celebrate Olivia's birthday after we get home. And in just 4 days we will be reunited with them!

Monday, June 29, 2009

More pictures

Here are a few more pictures of Roman. Right now we call him Roman because that's his name. When we get home, we are thinking of using both names and we will see what happens. We like his given name and we like Nicholas. I thought he might want a new name for his new life or maybe he'll just keep his same name. We thought Nicholas is a nice name and could be a variation of a Russian name.

From our first day of bonding, I'm showing him pictures of our house.

Learning some colors in English.

Building something with Papa.

A couple of action shots, he will be a 'futbol' player for sure, he has a really powerful kick.

Monday, June 29th

Day 9 of bonding? I lost count. On the way to the babyhouse, we stop at the big supermarket to stock up on water, snacks, and some fruit that we plan to give to the babyhouse in case Roman is getting extra fruit. We bought a few apples.

It was raining this morning when we got up, so we thought 'oh, no, what are we going to do with Roman and his energy if we can't go outside?!' We were worried how we would occupy our time. Today was a good day though, Roman was having a calm day. He was eating an apple when he came into the playroom, so we just waited patiently for him to finish. We started off with sorting macaroni by size into 2 coke bottles. Then I drew some pictures for him, he loves this yellow truck, so I drew a picture for him.

He kept peeking into the bag I brought in to see what is in there and found a banana we got for him. Galina had it cut in half for him so he wouldn't spoil his lunch. I had to hide the other half in my purse. After he gobbled this down, he found some plastic animals we bought last week at the Green Market that included a shark...he loves sharks and fish. So this occupied our time for quite some time. Other activities we did, include rolling the beach ball around, and playing with some other toys from the shelves.

After the babyhouse, we went to TSUM to shop for some souvenirs. It seems to have the best variety of souvenirs and we always ask for a discount. The souvenirs can be found on the top at the 3rd floor.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Introducing Nicholas Roman

This is one of my favorite pictures of Roman, he loves this ball we got for him. Usually after we take a picture, he likes to look at the camera and see the picture. We just bought this outfit for him here at the Green Market, it's labeled 12-18 months, but he might be more a size 2 or 3 in the US.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saturday, June 27th

Day 8 of bonding and one more week till we return home! We start off in the playroom; Roman comes in with a banana and gobbles it down. We play for a little bit but we see he is wound up so we head outside. He is distracted by the apple trees and tries to eat an apple. We and Galina and Maigul scold him and tell him no, that they are bad to eat. We try to distract him, but he again, grabbed an apple. It was just us so we tried to tell him ‘nyet’ (Russian) and ‘jocque’ (Kazak) but he is ignoring us. We have to physically take the apple away. It’s a difficult moment because we don’t know the best way to discipline him and he doesn’t understand us. We don’t want the workers see we don’t discipline and we don’t want them to see we would give in, it’s very awkward and frustrating especially for hubby. We know these are issues we will have to work with him at home. There will be issues with food and with sharing things with the girls. Maigul comes out with a big apple just for Roman. He loves fruit, especially apples and he always seems hungry. We were given Roman’s schedule today and what they eat. They really do eat a lot of food throughout the day. The babyhouse is required to feed them every 4 hours and they even give snacks, but it’s all on a very rigid schedule.

We go back in the play room so Roman can eat his apple. We wait for him to eat his apple and then decide to try to show him pictures or video of the girls. He doesn’t understand what a sister is or even what is a family and I am determined to show him he has sisters. We attempt to get the computer out and show pictures but it backfires. He has likely never seen a computer and wants to touch everything. I guess this is a lesson for us, too. At least we show him pictures of him with us and we try to show him pictures of Olivia and Claire, but to him, they are just girls. I just worry about how we will all adjust when he comes home. It’s so hard. Right now we are still getting to know Roman and our love is slowly growing. When we first met him, we felt a kind of love that you feel towards any child you would see that you think is cute. It takes time to get to know him and learn to love him as a son. Like any child, he will have different moods and will have good days and bad days. Right now, he only spends time with his Mama and Papa; he will be in for a shock when we bring him home. Maybe he will think he is trading in his big ‘group’ for a smaller one?

Today at the end of our visit, we got to see where he lives, eats, and sleeps with his ‘group’. They live in 2 rooms, a play room which is also where they eat and a bedroom with small beds lined up in rows. We were allowed to stay and watch them eat lunch. They got a lot of food! At first they are given a bowl of soup with potatoes and meat and a basket of bread, maybe this is their biggest meal of the day. They were then given a drink that is called ‘compote’ which is liquid from boiled fruit, like apples and another plate of food which had vegetables, pasta and ground meat. All the kids eat very quickly. One of the newer younger kids falls asleep at the table, but the caregiver gets her attention and wakes her so she can eat. Roman ate almost everything; he just left most of the pasta. In his group, there are about 11-12 kids from around age 2-4, most of them girls. Galina said she thinks none of these kids are available for adoption because they haven’t been relinquished by their parents. There is one other group of the same age, but they all have some kind of medical issue. I think the infants must live on the 2nd floor of the babyhouse.

Sigh. I'm missing the girls...

Friday, June 26th

Today was day 7 of bonding. On the way we went to the big supermarket at Maxima to stock up again on water, snacks, etc. While at the Babyhouse, we try to get Roman to play outside because hubby is constantly sneezing in the play room. We kick the ball around outside and play with bubbles. Back in the playroom, we try making macaroni necklaces with Roman but that only keeps his attention for a few minutes. He did manage to make a small necklace. We also bring out a set of blocks we bought at the Green Market. The instructions which come with the blocks show a train. He gets excited about the train, but there is no train with this set and he is content to try to make a house. This keeps his interest for a short time as he tries to make a small house with the blocks. While outside, Roman’s attention is always caught by the ‘alma’ (apples) on the trees in the courtyard. He grabs one and tries to eat it, Galina and we tell him ‘nyet’ (no). When we get back in the room we bring out a small juice we bought at the supermarket and a small baggie with cookies which Galina brought. He is not as interested in the cookies…the boy loves his fruit, but he eventually eats them all. Galina says it’s common for the kids to overeat because they worry the food won’t be there and they don’t know what it’s like to be full.

After our bonding session, we return to the hotel for lunch in our room and a short nap. This is the point at which hubby blew out one of our converters (luckily we have a back up, but it’s at least 25 years old) and blew a fuse in our room. Since it’s warm and the fan in our room doesn’t work anymore, we decide to walk around and explore some. While exploring, we see some of the traffic lights out….hmmm, could this be from the incident in our hotel room? It caused quite a mess with the traffic which is crazy to begin with. We check out a couple of bookstores then we head back to the hotel. Luckily we finally are able to make a staff person in the hotel understand the problem in our room. A maintenance worker is summoned and quickly solves the problem.

After the other family returns from their babyhouse, we have Galina drop us off near Mama Mia for dinner as it was highly recommended to us. We were surprised we were offered real cloth napkins for a change! Every place we have been to, with the exception of Argento, only small squares of paper napkins are available. Guess us Americans are used to being messy! We shared grilled vegetables and a pepperoni pizza. The pizza was very thin and tasty. The walk back to hotel is a long one which takes us uphill. The wind picked up so at least it wasn’t hot. On the way, we stop in a store called Booking, which reminds us of a Borders or Barnes & Noble, with books, movies, and music.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thursday, June 25th

I took another walk to the Memorial Park and Cathedral this morning. I love walking around the park away from the fumes of the cars and in the shade of all the trees.

Here are some pictures from my walk:

Day 6 of bonding. Another great day. Last night we had a thunderstorm, it seemed to clear the air a little and bring us some cooler weather. We played indoor for a little bit, but then we had Roman try on a new shirt and his new cap. We wanted to go outside since it's nice weather. We had to discipline Roman a little because he threw his cap on the floor. I showed him the bubbles which he LOVES and motioned we go outside. I pointed to the cap he threw and told him don't throw in Russian. So he got the cap and put it on. I held out my hand for him to give it to me. Then I showed him the bubbles and we went outside. The 'boys' kicked the balls around on the playground, then Roman wanted to show us the apple tree. Then he wanted to eat the apples, so I distracted him with the bubbles. I tell him that Mama holds the bottle and then he blows the bubbles, he wants to do everything himself. He likes to make shooting noises when the bubbles hit the ground...he is ALL boy, let me tell you!

We left the one playground and started to head to another but he saw his group coming out, I don't think he wants us to be around his group, he tries to avoid them when we are with him. So we end up at another playground where there are 2 kids about his age but with health problems. One is playing in the playhouse and he is sweet with the other boy and gives him a kiss. He didn't like it when the other boy took one of his balls though. It will take time for him to learn to share when he gets home.

So for the rest of the time, we stayed outside with Roman, he had a good time.

This evening after we took afternoon naps, we checked out a couple of stores down the street from the hotel on Dostyk. Then we went to dinner at Assorti which Tatyana recommended. We both had the chicken shashlik which is like chicken kebobs and grilled vegetables. We walked around on Dostyk before going back to our hotel.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wednesday, June 24

Day 5 of bonding. Today went well, I was really surprised that when Roman came in the room, he was finishing a piece of chocolate and finishing a whole apple. I guess it was a myth that the kids in the Babyhouses didn't get sweets! Roman gets totally wild while kicking the ball, and he could do this all day. So we brought a few other more calming things to do. We brought macaroni to put in an empty coke bottle. He would patiently put these in and then pour it out, at one point he even started making a design on the floor with the macaroni, but he's just not into art too much. We have this 'Parents' brand phone from when the girls were babies that he likes to play with, too. You can record something short on it. There is a play mat in the room so hubby decided to make a 'dom' (Russian for house) and we played house. We also each played hide and seek. He can get totally hyper when playing with the ball, but if we find something quiet that he likes, it will calm him down pretty quickly. We've also tried learning a few phrases in Russian that helps, such as, Ni na do (don't do this), Ni brra sigh (don't throw), mol ode yets (good job), horr oh shoew (great/wonderful), ha va teet (that's enough).

After our time in the Babyhouse, our translator, Galina, took us to the Green Market where there are bargains to be had, well, bargains to Almaty, anyway. Everything is really expensive here. We bought a couple of outfits for Roman to try for size. I think he is about 18 months-24T. We also bought a couple of toys. A small bag of building blocks and a bag of animals which includes a shark, he loves for us to draw sharks and fish. On the upper level of the market people sell all sorts of goods, clothing, lots of shoes, hardware, toys, hats, etc. The lower level has all the food stuff, herbs, counters of cabbage and other items to make a dish, fruit, nuts, meats, all kinds of meats. She took us by this one man's sausage counter and he gave us samples of different kinds of sausage and smoked meats, including horse. The smoked horse tasted like ham. She treated us to some meats and bought us a flatbread, I'm not sure what it is called here, but it was yeasty, with a very hard crust almost like a cracker. It was fun, I always love going to farmer market type places.

Bus stop:


Green Market upstairs where we bought some clothes and toys for Roman:

Green Market sausage/meat vendor:

More pictures of the Green Market:

The rest of the day was spent in our room and making a trip to the supermarket for more water and Coca light. You might wonder what we do in our room, most of the time, we are on the internet, taking a nap, talking to the girls, watching one of the dvds we brought (thanks to several friends who lent us dvds), reading or knitting (that would be me who is reading or knitting). Tonight we had a picnic with the sausage and smoked meat while we watched 'John Adams'.

Our 'picnic' dinner:

Here I am on the internet probably typing this!

Random pictures

Some from the post office:

Look! They sell AVON at the post office!

Dima called this the 'chicken house':

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesday, June 23rd

Today was day 4 of bonding. On the way there, Galina had us stop at the nice, big supermarket everyone likes. It has good prices. We bought water, Coca light, a wooden puzzle, couple of snacks and I bought dry pasta. I plan to use the pasta as a 'game' with Roman. I got this idea from another AP on a message board. I'm going to have Roman put the pasta in an empty Coke bottle just to work on fine motor skills and it's something kind of quiet to do in the play room.

It was a little tough today because I was really missing the girls and couldn't focus all my attention on Roman. I played a little, we worked on colors a little and I watched alot. The boy wore us out! Whew, he is a super active boy, I hope he slows down during the day. Maybe it's all the excitement of having the personal attention and toys to himself. About 5-10 minutes before 12, he said he was ready to go. It was time for his snack, I think he was hungry. Galina and/or Maigul make sure he always gives us a kiss before leaving and say 'bye' to us.

Some teaser pictures:

Driving around Almaty is an experience. We always have a driver for wherever we need to go. The drivers we've had have been great, very friendly, and helpful and the cars are nice and comfortable. However, I get carsick easily and I have been carsick every time I get in the car because the driving is crazy and it's always stop and go. The smells don't help either, there is alot of gas smells and car exhaust fumes. And I thought we had it bad back home!

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a post office for some stamps. We had postcards to mail to the girls, but they will probably receive them after we are already home! After this, I had to take a nap.

For dinner, we met with a single mom and her mother for dinner at Guns and Roses Pub which is attached to the hotel. They are actually neighbors and we often run into them at breakfast. It's nice to have some other people to talk with and share experiences. The chicken burger and fries were good, it was comfort food.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday, June 22nd

This morning, I decided to take a long walk to try and keep up with my daily exercise. I walked over to the Memorial Park (not sure what exactly it is called) and near the Cathedral. It was a nice park with lots of flowers and lots of tall trees providing nice, cool shade. There are a couple of monuments, too, I can't wait to go back and take pictures.

We left for the Babyhouse a little after 9:30am. We brought a few new things for Roman to play with. I was so pleased to see we would be the only family there. You see, the last couple of times, there was a family with a baby and they would already have all the infant type toys laid out near a mat. It was hard to get Roman to focus on us with so much stimulation of all those toys. So, I think today went well on Day 3 of bonding.

On Sunday, we bought a couple of inflatable balls, a plastic playground Mickey ball, and a coloring book. Roman loved the Mickey ball so we started rolling it around between the 3 of us...it ended up in the air a few times. I brought out the coloring books and crayons as I was hoping to work on colors. On Saturday, Maigul helped me to teach him red, green, yellow, blue in English. He's really bright, I think he's got yellow down. Well, instead of practising colors, Roman wanted us to draw fish and sharks so we just did some pictues, he didn't even really color in the coloring book much.

He got tired of playing in the play room, so we went outside to one of the vacant playgrounds. It was a sad looking playground with lots of weeds and barely anything to play on, but it was perfect for perfecting his soccer kick and boy can this kid kick! He fell down a couple of times and brushed off his hands, I always approached him to comfort him. One time he fell and skinned his elbow, I immediately ran over to him. I heard this little cry and I scooped him up and kissed his elbow. He motioned for me to do it again so I kissed his elbow several times. I wish I could have held him longer, but he is so active! He is so tiny too. It's strange to look in his face, this face of a 3-4 year old but the body the size of a 2-3 year old. We are also not so used to a child so light.

Then Roman wanted to swing so he took us to another playground. As we walked over there, we walked by his group playing on one of the playgrounds. The kids kept calling him over "Roma!" "Roma!" and he proudly told them he was with his Mama and Papa. There were a couple more playgrounds that had some Little Tikes swings,slides and playhouses. He played on various equipments then we ended up in the little house (dom or domika in Russian). He invited me in and I went to the sink and pretended to turn on the water. He then did the sweetest thing, he took my hands and pretended to wash them and my face, too. Then I pretended to wash his hands. I eventually brought out a little bottle of bubbles and his eyes got big. Friday, the other family had bubbles in the play room but it ended up being a mess and they gave them to us with the battery operated bubble blower. Roman kept referring to the bubble blower as a pistol (as translated to us) so I will not be bringing the bubble blower again! Anyway, he tries to do the bubbles all by himself but I insisted on holding the bottle, then he did very well with the bubble wand.

After some time, we went back into the play room to play a little more till it was time for us to leave. It was nice to go outside and have him run around, but it was so hot after a while, I was glad to go back inside. There is a toy there that we started teaching him colors, so we played with that a bit. I'm not pushing as I know he will absorb the English when he gets home and it's hard work to learn so many new things.

On the way back to the hotel, we dropped off some laundry to be done. As far as I can tell, there are no coin operated laundry, just drop it off to be washed and dried at the cleaners. You pay by weight. Our laundry was 4 kilos and 5000 Tenge which is about $34. We can pick it up in 3 days.

So then we come back to the hotel and check emails and get online. I also did some hand washing of clothes which I may do more of instead of dropping it off, we shall see. We got pretty dirty on the playgrounds at the Babyhouse! Then we decided to explore a little since we have been spending too much time cooped up in the room. We walked around looking for some stores near the American Bar where Tatyana took us to lunch on Saturday. We eventually found them but everything looked rather expensive. We are hoping to make it to the Green Market this week where I've heard there are bargains to be found.

We ended up at a pizza place which is near the hotel, actually located on the opposite corner. Another family mentioned it was good. We ordered water, grilled vegetables and pizza (margherita). It was nice and not too expensive.

Pictures from our exploration:

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Shopping at the Supermarket

Just some interesting pictures from the supermarket at Ramstore.

San Antonio Spurs???? What??? No Mavericks?????!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, June 21st

Happy Father’s Day!

Today, since the Babyhouse is closed to visitors on Sunday, we took an excursion toward the mountains. We went up to 5000 meters, Almaty is at 1000 meters. We passed a sports venue that is being renovated for the 2011 Asian World Games. We parked above the dam and walked/hiked down to the river that comes from the mountains. The water was freezing! We saw lots of people along the way enjoying the outdoors and it seemed as if some people were camping out near the river.

Afterwards, our driver, Dima, took us to the Ramstore which is like a small mall. There is a small food court, a small ice skating rink, some upscale shops and a nice supermarket. The toy store was extremely expensive so we plan to go to the Green Market/Bazaar this week to find items that are cheaper. We stocked up on water, Coca Light, some snacks and a few balls to bring to the Babyhouse. All in all, it was nice today to get out of our hotel room , enjoy the beautiful scenery and just walk around.

Here are some pictures from our excursion, but our camera can not capture the true beauty of the mountains and trees.

There were like a million ladybugs flying all over the place, I have never seen so many ladybugs in all my life!

Hubby with our driver this day, Dima.

Dima told us this is Kazakh tradition to make wish.

Tourist picture with national bird.


Small food court where I bought an ice cream from Baskin Robbins for 550 Tenge which is about $3.60.