>>Sunday, April 30, 2006<<
Just a couple of pictures today...
We made a visit to Red Square today to get some pictures of Nikolai in and around Moscow.

The little guy walked nearly the whole square. He loved it!

Mommy and Nikolai enjoying the sights including St Basil's Cathedral.

S has been up to the challenge of caring for her new brother.

That's all we have time for tonight...Stay tuned for a Caroline's Strange Sightings in Moscow Series including the "Lady with the Dolls" story, that's right, lady with dolls. I would be wondering too, but I saw it live.

>>Saturday, April 29, 2006<<
Shhh, he is sleeping.....

This is me typing quietly as our new son is sleeping soundly in the other room. No, we are not staying at the orphanage tonight, he is here, with us in our apartment! It is OFFICIAL, Nikolai Edward Ellavsky is our son! We picked him up this afternoon shortly after I arrived in Moscow with our daughter S. We had a great trip over, but slept barely a wink the whole way...me and our 5 (soon to be 6 as she would correct me) year old were giddy and giggly.

We went over to the orphanage in the afternoon armed with a fresh set of clothes and and what could only be described as the snowsuit from A Christmas Story (see pic here). One can never be too careful in a 53 degree chill. Russians are very particular about bundling up children, but even this got a laugh out of them. We hung out for a few minutes and played with him not sure what to do next. Suddenly, they said "Ok, get him dressed so you can leave." That sounds blunt, but I think they meant "Hey, this is your new son, no sense hanging out here."

Caroline and I had joked around recently about how we would actually get Nikolai, as in exactly how would they give him to us. Since we knew we had to bring a set of clothes, we joked that they'll just hand him over naked. Well, one of the caregivers whisked him off to the other room for about 60 seconds and then emerged with a stark naked Nikolai looking to figure out what just happened. Uh, question answered....thank you.

We said our goodbyes and S and Nikolai immediately started playing around. They have been inseparable every since, or at least until Nikolai pushes S away to get out of his face :) . He did just GREAT today! A little scared in the long car ride, but did just fine. He played and ate Gerber Puffs. Some other highlights were the unbelievable amount of food he ate at dinner. We were not sure when to stop feeding him. He just kept eating, which is fine because he needs to bulk up. He loved his bathtime, which was a surprise actually.

So, here we are, sitting in the quiet of the apartment reflecting on what an amazing day this has been. Stay tuned, there is more to come.....Now let's get everything done so we can get home. ;)

Thanks to everyone for all your support!

Blake and Caroline
>>Friday, April 28, 2006<<
I have been tagged (it is a week overdue)
Sorry Tricia for not posting a week ago when I got tagged. But, I am catching up on everything now!.

So, as most of you know..this tag is 6 wierd things about me. Oh, this one is SOOOO easy!!! Coming up with 6 other people who have not been tagged is not easy... :(

(1) I love putting french fries in my milkshake. It is that sweet and salty thing :)

(2) When I was a kid and I would go out on the pier...I would hang on to the side rail and tip toe on each board. I was scared to death that I would fall through a crack!

(3) I cannot stand "smacking" of any kind. Smacking your gum, your food... it can take me from zero to sixty in a nano second!

(4) I have a foot "issue" if you will. I don't like my feet, and I don't like people looking at my feet, touching them..nothing. I love having a pedicure...but, that is the only time I can get over my issue.

(5) When I was pregnant, I put Dorito's in my ice cream. (back to that salt/sweet thing again)

(6) I can speak with several different foreign accents and make my voice go to a very high octave like a cartoon character.

You said to list wierd things about myself. Are you afraid of me now? You should be. ;)

this is probably against the rules, but, I need to think about who I can tag next. everyone has been tagged. I will have to write that in a different post.
Q&A Time....
Preevit! (Hi!) everyone! How are you? I realize that it is 5:30 am for the East Coasters...so, i can only imagine that you are all doing well since you are probably asleep! ;0

So, I had a few people ask me some questions that I wanted to answer and then there were some things that I wanted to throw out there myself.

** Do most people here speak English?*** Well, for the most part I would have to say "No". If you are in a hotel, then the Front Desk/Concierge will be able to speak some English. If you are in a large city like I am or St. Petersburg or possibly where Elle is..then, you might find more people. One of the translators here said to that typically the younger people will be able to speak some English. That they are learning it in school. Typically, the older people do not. Now...that is typically. At the orphanage...no one knows how to speak English. That has been our case.

**What are the Orphanages really like?** I can only speak for the one where Nikolai is. When you walk through the door, it is really dark. Most of the lights are cut off throughout the orphanage. I was told that it was because of energy conservation. That is how it has been our Host families. If you don't need a light, you keep the lights off. The care givers have all been exceptional. They get paid very very little. But, yet they work so hard. The care givers in Nikolai's group and the group next to him are constantly moving, cleaning, taking care of the children. I noticed that the Caregivers are also responsible for the grounds outside. Last weekend, one would stay inside while the children were sleeping, and the other would be outside cleaning the outside ground area. So, each group had a person doing that.

**Are the Orphanages Clean?** Again, I can only speak for our childs. So, when I answer these questions...I can only speak to what I know. Our orphanage is very clean. We were quite surprised at how well it was taken care of. Considering the fact that orphanages get very little money, they have done a lot with it. Every toy has its place, the floors are clean, the surface areas are clean, the cribs are clean, the play area. They seem to be very concious of making sure everything is "just so".

**What about Maintenance Wise?** Yes, they are constantly keeping up with the maintenance at the orphanage. Not only do the caregivers work outside (primarily on weekends), so does the security guard and they have maintenance workers. They have been painting the stairwells as of late.

** How many children in a room?** In N's room, there are 6 children. I think the room next to him is about the same or less.

**Are the rooms well staffed?** For the most part, there has only been on care giver in his room. She is constantly working. The crib room is connected to their play area. When the children are awake from their nap, she dresses one at a time and then takes them to give them their afternoon snack. The rooms are all right there so she can hear everything. Then, she will put them in their play pen area with toys and go and get the next child. Sometimes, like on the weekends, there are two to a room.

**Are the children generally in good health?** They are very concerned about keeping them healthy. Most of the kids seem to run some sort of cold at any given time. But, having been in childcare myself that is the nature of children being together in close quarters. One gets something and passes it on to someone else. They DO NOT like for them to be outdoors long. Especially in the cold. They believe that the draft (of air) will get in their lungs and get them sick. I got scolded (not really, but, talked to by my host family) about keeping Nikolai out too long. They do everything they can to keep them well. If one child does get sick sick...then, they have to go to the hospital. They cannot risk any of the children getting too ill in the orphanage. Like I said, our care givers have been fantastic. They are constantly making sure if they have a cold that they monitor them, and they have done such a great job with Nikolai. All of them act like each one of those children are their own.

**Any recommendations on gifts?** We gave our caregivers their gifts after our court and it was finalized. We were told my our Translator/Host here that a lot of the women love Clinique. He said that "no no" on the Bath sets. Either they get too many of those or it is seen as something that has no thought put into it. What I did was I found on "ebay" the clinique bags that come with the makeup sets in them. They were great. Because, typically you can find them in Lots. 10-12 at a time. Depending on time of year, if it is really cold...then a scarf, or sweater. And then of course, the higher the rank..the different the gift. (ex: the Director, the Orphanage doctor, etc.) The best thing to do is ask your translator that has been going with you to the orphanage on your first trip what they think they would want. Most of time, they will tell you. We never would have known that one person really wanted Centrum vitamins. We went to a Sam's Club and bought a years supply. Best advice is ask.

**Did I know any Russian before I came and what words should we know?" I knew very little. The only reason that I knew any was because we hosted a little girl from Ukraine for the Christmas holidays and she spoke Russian. Here is a really good site to get you started ...MasterRussian....

For me.. it started out as the basic words. 'Hi, goodbye, thank you, your welcome" 4 words. That was about it. Now, I can understand some of what they are saying, but, not really speak it very well. I know that "das vi dah niya" is the formal word for "good bye"....but, once you get to know someone well..then you can say 'pakah'. That is the informal word for "bye". I know at the Baby home... the care givers would always wave Nikolai's hand and say "pakah, pakah". It took me a minute to figure out what she was saying. Also, it is not "peek a booh" here. It is "coo coo" Same thing, different words. My vocabulary has grown somewhat. The best advice if you are going to be here for a while is to learn a little bit of the Cyrillic alphabet. For me, it helps for the street signs, and it helps on the Metro. A word here that starts with a "C" is really an "S" for us. So, you can see how it could get confusing.

Anyway, I am sure there are more questions. Please keep them coming. I would love to answer anything!.
Touch of the "mung" ....
Sorry for not posting sooner. I am the one who caught a nasty bug now. I use the word "mung" because it is my made up word for feeling like Yuck! Fortunately, I brought my Zycam Flu Medicne with me and yesterday, I slept the entire day. That, and my host family gave me some Russia Flu Medicne too. I assume it was the same stuff...but, it really helped me feel a lot better. Unfortunately, I could not see Nikolai. Although, I am much better today, they said it was probably best that I didn't go today either. This is how it works.. Nikolai was sick, then he gave it to H.D. (Handsome Devil), then all of the other little kids had it as of Wednesday. So, it was only a matter of time with me kissing on everyone and hugging that I would get it.

Although, it is terrible for me not to see Nikolai...it is ok. Because, tomorrow, he will be with us forever!!!!! So, all I have to do is spend one more day completely getting better so that when B and my sweet little girl arrives, I will be at the airport with open arms and then off to the orphanage. The sad news, I have to say goodbye for good to H.D. tomorrow, which pains me. But, I know that God will take care of him. It was the same way with Alyona, the little girl we hosted from Ukraine over Christmas. It hurt so bad to watch her leave. We pray for her every night to find a home.

I look like a sad little puppy today wanting to get out though. I do believe I will have to get out of the apartment and venture down to the market. It is about 50 degrees F and sunny. A beautiful day. My blogger friends are here in Moscow Brian and Rebecca we are hoping to get to see each other. But, I can't get them sick either, they are visiting their sweet babies in the orphanage. Our other friends, Stacy and Roy, who have been with me the whole time here are leaving back to Detroit tomorrow. They have completed (well, almost...they are doing the Embassy today) their process and it is back to the good ole US of A. I will miss them terribly. They have been my constant companion here. It is great when you have people here from the same country. It makes things a lot easier.

Anyway, let me get to posting some of those Q&A's.....

>>Wednesday, April 26, 2006<<
View of the World....
Nope, your eyes haven't tricked you...I haven't gone to Tahiti. I am still in Moscow.

First of all...I just read what my amazing husband just wrote on our blog. I love him so much! Don't let him fool you though. He is doing a ton at home with taking care of the house, the girls, our cat, and our sweet Lilly...the Bulldog. And on top of it all..he is working a majorly stressful job!! He is the one that deserves the honors! I am a lucky woman to have found the man of my dreams. And now, we have 3 beautiful children. I am truly, truly blessed.

So, about that picture I put up today....what is up with that you might ask?. Well, the longer that I am here...the more that I realize I am getting a better view. Are you scratching your head yet?

Where I am living right now in Moscow is the very top floor of an apartment building which allows me to look at over a lot of Moscow. The view is great. But, I am talking about a different view.

I realize that sometimes in life we get so busy in our everyday world that we only see what is in our own "box", our own reality. We get so bogged down in working our jobs, taking care of our children, our parents, our pets, worrying about the bills, who said what on some adoption board, or some blog that got us riled up. I could keep listing it all. I know that was me. I couldn't see past my front door. I thought that I was limited in what I could do in my own world. That I was "just" at Stay at Home Mom that worked at the Y part time and wrote on the side. I felt very blah about my personal looks. I let myself get into a rut. I would dread having to walk further than my mailbox. I refused to watch the news, because it was too depressing.

My life has changed being here. In more ways than the obvious. The obvious is...we are parents to a new son!!. But, I realize that there is more than my front door. As much as I have travelled the US and have been abroad...I somehow forgot that any other world but my own house existed. Until now.

I feel alive...I feel like I have a whole new lease on life. Being with Nikolai and of course H.D. (which by the way, thank you for your prayers...I am getting better..I am giving it up to God and praying that he will find a family soon) made me realize that my small problems at home are nothing compared to what they have been through in their short life. And I have also seen first hand what some of the people who have lived through Communist times have gone through. I have seen a whole other way of looking at people and not looking at them as "The Russians", but, as people with a different lifestyle. I realized that I can walk much farther than I have in ages. It makes me feel good...makes me feel envigorated. Believe it or not, I don't mind the silence on the Metro. There are no pretenses...fake conversations. Sounds jaded. But, I needed for my mind to stop racing and have time to really take in this entire experience. I see everything, hear everything, smell everything here.

I never thought that I could tackle that Monster of a Metro by myself. I did and now I can pretty much take it by myself wherever I want and I can't speak Russian!! I feel like I have taken back my own power. Sometimes in life, we just get in a rut... I am definitely out of it now.... I wished I could travel the world and experience what everyone else is experiencing. Well, most everyone.

The biggest lesson that I have learned from this is experience is.... education leads you to tolerance and no excuse for ignorance. Those two combined allow you to walk in the shoes of others and gives you a different view of the world.
>>Tuesday, April 25, 2006<<
How proud I am...
Hello everyone, I am the B that Caroline talks about from time to time. I have been the silent, well at least from the blogging perspective, partner in this amazing adoption journey. I just wanted to take a moment and let everyone and Caroline know how absolutely proud I am of her. I could not ask for a more incredible person to have as a wife. She is over in Moscow now, essentially all alone, trudging out and travelling and hour and a half each way to go see Nikolai every day. All in a foreign place where she doesn't speak the language and can't read the signs. She is doing this all for our family and I would do anything to be with her right now. I cannot wait until this Friday when I fly back over there with our 5 year old daughter to pick up Nikolai and bring him home.

A year from now, this week and a half between when I left and returned will seem like a short amount of time to us. But the significance will never diminish. Thank you Caroline. I miss you and cannot wait until this weekend. Let's bring him home!
I am in love....

I do have a confession....I am in love. I am head over heels for our son Nikolai. There is no question, no doubt, no nothing. He has taken my heart and he has it in the palm of his hands.

But, I will admit that there is another little boy who has also stolen my heart at the orphanage. I promised myself that I wouldn't let this happen. I saw it coming when we came for our first trip to meet Sasha (Nikolai). I saw the other little boy then. Everyday that I was there he stared at me the whole time. He never let up on his gaze. There was something about his eyes that drew me in. I couldn't let go of the thoughts of him. I even inquired about adopting two at once. Before I could even do that, my husband put that notion to a quick end... "FOUR??????? No way!!!" He said that three children for us was quite enough. I know he was right. Then, I heard that it is double the price to adopt another from this area. Even if my husband said yes and my senses came back to me....we don't have that kind of money sitting around. WHO DOES?????

Then, I have been to the orphanage, every day now (but two) for a week and 1/2. I get to see our Nikolai and now he smiles and he is happy when he sees me. But, guess what? So does the other little guy. I will call him H.D. (Handsome Devil) He smiles whenever I walk in the door. He is about the same age as our son. He squeals with laughter. The other kids seem to notice me when I walk in. But, our son and H.D. really brighten up when I walk in the room. H.D. wanted to hold my hand yesterday and I was holding Nikolai. Nikolai did not like me holding H.D. 's hand. He was jealous. When I kissed Nikolai goodbye, I also kissed H.D. goodbye. H.D. broke out in the largest smile. Nikolai proceeded to push him. Both were crying when I was walking out the door. My heart broke in half.

Today, H.D. played with my hair while he was in his playpen and I was playing with my son. I turned around to smile at him and he reached for my hand. He grabbed onto my finger and never let it go. So, i held his finger and played with Nikolai at the same time. Nikolai allowed it this time :)

When the first time I saw H.D. he seemed so intense, so serious. However, whenever I got close to him and tickled him...he had a laugh that came straight from his belly. It could melt anyone. Now, when I walk into the room...he lights up.

How do you say " Goodbye...it has been fun, I will never see you again?" When I tell my family and husband at home about him and the attachment we are having...they are like "oh, that is nice". But, Stacy and Roy (the other adopting family here) have seen it and Stacy saw H.D. when he was crying when I left yesterday and she said to me "That is killing me watching this happen" I don't think my family or anyone really knows how much it is killing me. Because, I have fallen in love with H.D. too. Is that wrong?. Of course I love my son.... I could never imagine wanting any other son. But, is it wrong for wanting H.D. too?. I know you will all say.."oh, you will get over it" or "oh, that happened to me, you want to take them all home". No, I don't want to take them all home. They are all so beautiful and sweet and I pray for all of the children. But, I don't have that same feeling. But, when I leave that orphanage on Saturday and have to say goodbye to H.D.....I am going to feel devastated. It will be bittersweet. I will be leaving with my son and have my husband and daughter here. But, that little boy with those blue eyes has taken a piece of my heart and he is twisting it right now.

I wished he were my son too. There, I said it. Knowing that he can't be is what is so heart wrenching. I suppose you would have to be here and going through it to understand. But, it is hard. My prayer is that he will find good parents and I hope that one day, somewhere I can see him again.

There you have it....my true confessions.....
Nikolai is better! YEA!!
We just wanted to thank everyone for your prayers about Nikolai. I spent about 45 minutes with him yesterday and about an hour with him today. He still has a bit of a cold, but, nothing like it was on Friday. And the best news yet is that we get to pick him up on Saturday instead of Monday!. YEA!!!! That is the same day B and our daughter S are flying in to Moscow. She is not even 6 and will be flying all the way to Russia...I still can't believe it. Then, we will all fly back together the following Saturday. So, I will be here for another week and 1/2. Our smallest child (well, now...our next to smallest child) M will be with Nana and Pa back in the States. Boy, do I miss our babies!!!. Can't wait to see everyone at home!.

So.....now that Margaret asked me that question about clothes...I really, really have been playing close attention. Remember, I am in the city (Moscow), so, i can't tell you about what everyone is wearing where Elle is and the other towns. But, here in Moscow...the rules have changed now that it is getting warmer. More jeans are showing up. Still the black shoes, but, different colored tops and jackets are being worn besides black.

Here are a few pictures of people on the street. Notice that behind the people are the little "markets" where I can shop for my food. Some of them have the beef, or chicken, some are ice cream, some are pastries. Each are different.

Besides seeing our sweet little boy....I took the Metro by MYSELF today for the first time. The other adoptive family that is here with me was able to take their son home today (out of the orphanage to their host family). So, they don't have to go back to the orphanage. I could get one of the drivers here to take me. But, if you ever come to Moscow you will understand me when I say that it could take an hour to get from one end of the street to the next sometimes depending on traffic. Here is a very normal, light traffic day on Arbat street. And mind you, this is a side street. Wait until you see the highways! I say that with a big grin on my face... Boston..LA...New York...you might have found a city that beats you in traffic.

Back to the Metro. The Metro is not some little rinky dinky subway system. We really don't have a system like it that is comparable in the US. It is a monster. Here is a link to the map of it....Metro This map is written in English. There is no English here. I am trying to figure it all out in Russian. If you look on the map...I take the green to the purple to get to the orphanage. Now, if I want to go to Red Square, I take the Green to the Blue. See what I was talking about the other day in my post? :) Today went just fine...I got a little lost on the way back transferring to different lines. But, it all worked itself out.

I do have a bit of very sad news about the Metro. The exact stop where I transfer to go to the orphanage at the exact same time that I usually transfer to this line something tragic happened. I was fortunate that it was on Sunday, or I would have been on the same line (they call it "line" here not train. The train is a seperate station and totally different thing). Anyway, I would have been on the same line with the men who killed this boy. The 17 year old boy was an Armenian student and a group of young men were around him and one stabbed him and jumped on the "Green Line" and took off. On Monday, I saw his family and friends at the site of where he died with tons upon tons of flowers and candles mourning it. Some are calling it racial motives. Others say it was someone he knew. But, most say it was skinheads who have a problem with Armenians. But, I don't know where the truth lies. I just know that is scary, because it happened at 5:00 or so in the afternoon. BROAD DAYLIGHT. THE SAME PLATFORM where I stand to get on my next train. Freaked me out. My prayers are with that family.

Sorry, didn't mean to bring you down. It is just hard to believe that that only a few weeks ago..I got up and got our kids dressed, went to work, took care of the house, the girls, stressing out about the adoption, etc. etc. and here I am in a totally different world realizing that a pile of laundry is not really a whole lot to get stressed about in the scheme of things. There is so much going on in this great big world. I just had to get outside of my box.

I will write more later my friends! Hope all is well with yoU!!

P.S... If anyone has any questions for me about Moscow or Russian life, or what I am up to while i am here...feel free to ask. Or about adoption process, rumors, etc....
>>Sunday, April 23, 2006<<
Caroline's Top Ten Reasons Why Russians know that you are a Tourist...
It is past midnight here and I am a complete insomniac. There are no dishes to wash, no clothes to wash, no babies to tuck in and no hubby to kiss goodnight. I believe that I have read all of the books that are in the house. I am reading through Russian Tales at this point. So, when I have the chance to be on the internet...I am a junkie. But, I will try and stop after this one for tonight :)

Margaret mentioned about not knowing what to wear here. Good question. Contrary to misconception, people do wear jeans. But, no tennis shoes with jeans. All I see is black shoes with jeans. For kicks and giggles, I will do a David Letterman style Top Ten Reasons Why....countdown for everyone...

Top Ten Reasons Why Russians know that you are a Tourist (especially American)

(10)You forget to take off your shoes in a Russian home....
(9) You have a backpack on your back.
(8) You are looking at everything with your mouth wide open.
(7) You ask for directions in English and when they respond in Russian, you speak louder in English.
(6) You have a Fanny pack on...
(5) You are wearing any other color than black, except in Spring..(green, red, and possibly pink is ok)
(4) You want to have your picture taken with a Russian Guard
(3) You talk, breath or move on the Metro..
(2) You are wearing bright white tennis shoes.


(1) Smiling..... Our tour guide from the last trip said that Russians think that those who giggle and laugh and smile all of the time out in public are thought of as crazy and lunatic.

So...there you have it my friends. That is just my take on what I have seen so far. As far as fashion goes. I give up. I am not a size Zero, so....for the ladies younger than 60...they are very tall and slender and wear tight fitting clothes. The older woman might have a little more meat on them and do not have a fashion sense. Some of them do mind you. Nice hats...but, most of the babushka's (grandma's) look like they could beat my butt any day of the week. Out of everyone here in Russia...they scare me the most. Very serious.

Do not pack much, bring a pair of blank pants, jeans, and possibly one other pant. The way that it works here....is the tops. Wear the same bottoms over and change the tops all of the time. I can see why now. The washer is very small and you have to hang up your clothes to dry. Very hard to do a lot of laundry. That is if they even have a washer. Not everyone does. Black boots, or black shoes are good. Make sure you wear something VERY COMFORTABLE on your feet. I cannot tell you how much you walk everywhere you go. Did I mention, everywhere????

I will try and take pictures of just regular everyday people so you can get an idea of what a day in the life is like. That will surely put me on the Top Ten list. But, hey...it is for a good cause!!

On a completely bizarre note.. I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked from the people who live here if I am from Germany. I had one Russian ask if I was from England. Hey... I have been to both places and they are great. I love it!. But, I am very proud to be an American and I think I look like a ringer for an American. Go figure?

I will talk more about clothing, packing, and what not....also, feel free to write me in the comments section and I will surely write you back about anything you want to know and then some :)

I leave you with some pictures that B took at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier.

P.S. This was taken in March. So, no, it is not snowing right now. But, I saw the same guys today. They still look the same...just no snow. :)

Standing in the center.....

of the earth....or at least that I was told. Right behind me is a circle in front of Red Square that is supposed to be where the center of the earth is. So they say.... Beats the heck out of me. Normally you can walk on it or stand on it, do whatever you want. But, NYET....no....not this afternoon. Today, is Easter in Russia. So, a lot of areas were restricted in rememberance of the Holiday.

Look at my face...would you? I am as pale as a ghost. It is almost 80 something degrees back at home. Sunshine. Which is a commodity here. This morning it was in the low 40's and a little sleet. So, we wore bigger coats. This afternoon, in the higher 50's and the sun shined. Then, back to a storm again. So, if you ever come to Moscow in April. Pack a lightweight coat and possibly wear layers and or a heavier coat as well and bring an umbrella!. It changes on a dime here. Sometimes you see sunshine, sometimes you don't. Mostly, you don't. But, I have only been here when it has been very cold, and semi-cold.

Here is a funny picture. There were a bunch of protesters out today. No idea of what it was for. But, for whatever reason...one of the guys wanted to pose for me and another was very interested in our camera. He started to ask me about pixels in Russian. I am sure I answered "Da" (yes) to everything. God only knows what I said....#1 this is my husband's professional amped up camera and #2 I am just learning how to read the dag on street signs ok? ;)

And then there were these guys hanging around after their march of protest of "I have no earthly idea"

The guy on the left was chomping away on a hamburger from a famous fast food place in the good ole US of A...wanna take a guess???

(oops....you busted me...I am smiling!) ;)
Green line, Red line, Blue line, oh my!!!

This has been the weekend of Trams and figuring out how many colors the Metro has to their many different train lines. If you are color blind in Moscow and plan on using the Metro and making different stops........ I would suggest getting really familiar with the Russian alphabet :)

I know colors, and it makes no difference...the Metro is SOOOOO confusing.. if you don't get on the right train line, the you will be goodness knows where. I went with my friends to Red Square today and saw Lenin's Tomb (will comment on that in a minute) and decided to take the Metro to Arbat. We summised that it was the "Gray Line". After about an hour of figuring out where the Gray line was...we got on and when we got off, we ended up only to be on the other side of Red Square. Needless to say, we spent 3 hours in a complete circle trying to get to one place. Had we walked from Red Square to Arbat, it would have only be a 30 minute walk. BUT....NO....we thought we were now the Kings and Queens of the Metro. Only to learn...that we have so very much to learn. :)

But, as for Lenin's Tomb....as morbib as many people think that it is to see him...there were tons of people in line to see his tomb. My friends Stacy and Roy who are adopting from here were at Red Square with me. However, Stacy decided that she would go shopping and leave Roy and I to the Tomb. Well, you have to go through security to get to the tomb. Roy had a camera and he had to go to a separate building than I to even be let back in so that he could check in his camera. They wouldn't let me wait for him. So, I was pushed along to go through the Tomb. It was very dark in there...so, I tried to hold on to the wall. Some guard yelled out something. I supposed that was Russian for "get your hands off that wall". Finally, in encased glass lied Lenin. It was very strange for me. After all of the school that I have had, I find myself knowing nothing about this man that was lying before me. He didn't look like a wax doll like so many people said he did. He looked like he might have fallen asleep. But, he has been dead for almost 80 years. Then, they shush you quickly outside of the tomb. The guard that hurried me in the first time actually was trying to joke around with me when I came outside. I was by myself and I was looking rather solemn. He stopped me, and made a face of a frown and shook his head and then made a face of a smile and nodded his head up and down. I had to laugh and he smiled. IMAGINE THAT!! A Russian guard stopped me to make me smile.

Then, they lead you around to go and see the rest of the tombs. I could not read who they all were, but, I knew who Stalin was. I kept thinking that this was a part of my son's history. How bizarre to have this as a part of his history and to have George Washington just as much of his history too. (or soon to be) Funny how life intertwines.

Yesterday was spent at the Vietenamese Market. It is like a huge Flea Market owned and operated by the local Vietenamese population. We got on the Tram for that one. Next time, I will remember to put on my shoulder pads. There is no "excuse me", or anything. New Yorkers look like Southern Belles next to this crowd I was with on the Tram. One woman could have easily walked around me. But, instead..she full on came towards me and rammed right into me and pushed me right out of her way. Not a baby push....a big push. I had to remember who I was, and where I was and hush my mouth. Can't go running my mouth in places where I don't know where i am or where I don't know the language. Anyway, we all packed on the Tram like sardines. If you think one more person couldn't fit, then the doors opened up and 10 more people came on and it kept happening. I do not think there are any fire codes here. When it came for our stop to the Market. I had to pretend like I was a football player and push my way through to get out the door. That was enough excitement in and of itself.

But, the Market was great. The daughter of our friends Host Family said that it wasn't located in the best part of town, but, you could get some great bargains. I did!!!. I got a great leather coat from Turkey that is the type of leather that feels so smooth it is almost like silk. You could almost get anything under the son there. The trick is....you need someone who speaks Russian and who knows how to bargain to go with you. You will never find your way around or understand or if you do....you will not get the deal you are looking for if you don't have someone.

Needless to say, I am getting the full experience here. No word on Nikolai. But, the way it works in Russia is pretty much the same in America...no news is good news. Or rather here, it is on a "as need to know basis". I must tell you my friends.....this is a great experience, no doubt. But, I will be honest and say that you really need thick skins and a lot of patience and be able to change gears on a moments notice. 3 of the things that I didn't really think that I had. I fully believe that God is testing me here. I am absolutely accepting the challenge. I know that and am embracing it.
>>Friday, April 21, 2006<<
Our Little Man is Sick
I thought I would post one more time before going to bed. It is about 12:35 AM here. It doesn't matter which time zone I am in. I am still an insomniac!!! Goodness!

I wanted to ask for your prayers. They always say that when more than one come together in prayer..... I went to see Nikolai today and I was only allowed to see him for about 45 minutes. He was pretty sick. He had a cold now for about a week. I had taken him outside the past few days because it had been so nice here and close to 60 degrees. I noticed that his cough and wheezing was getting worse. When I showed up today, they said he needed to sleep and I could only stay a little while. I can't see him tomorrow or Sunday. And then next week, I am limited to an hour. Because if he gets sicker, they said they will have to send him to a hospital. I am sure if that happens, I definitely won't be able to see him.

It is really hard knowing that you are the "official" mother to a little boy, but not really "officially" his parent until a piece of paper gets released 7 days from now saying that he is "official". I am not allowed to do anything for him or about his illness. He has incredible caregivers though, I will give them that. We are blessed to know that he is being taken care of. If he had to be at any orphanage, we are glad that he is at the one he is at... everyone that I have met has been wonderful. They respond so well to him and vice verca.

If he does have to go to the hospital, that will set us all back a while. They can't let a sick child be in an orphanage...they go directly to a hospital. So, that is why we are asking for prayers. I hate that I can't see him for the whole weekend. But, I know he is beginning to know me because he smiled when I showed up today. That made me feel good.

I will write more this weekend. I have to say that outside of him getting sick, things are going really well. I am able to exchange money easy, shop for myself, I have become fairly self sufficient. If only I could figure out what in the world everyone is saying! :)
Out here on my own....
My hubby left Moscow several days ago and I am here in Russia staying with a Host family. It is very different being without him and our two girls. When I call home our girls are having so much fun that they aren't interested in speaking to me. Selfishly, I wished that they would be a little sad. But, that is wrong of me. It is just that I am missing them so terribly. The right thing is happening. They are being taken care of by my mother in law, my husband, my mom, my sister, my dad...everyone. They are having so much fun that they will hope that I go out of the country all of the time!! It brings me peace knowing that they are well and happy.

It is hard to explain the two extremes that are going on out here. One is a very quiet world and the other is very fast paced and a gajillion people. (don't you love my new made up word?) I have been to 2 Host families now and their homes are very quiet. I can hear my heartbeat.

The orphanage is EXTREMELY quiet. One would think it would be so loud. When, you look at the building, you can guess that there must be close to a 100 children. But, when you walk through the doors, you would think that no one is there. When we visit Sasha (this is his nickname in the orphanage and we decided to use his middle name now as his first...thus...Nikolai) the caregivers always greet us, and we go in and play with him or take him outside. But, wherever we go...it is so painfully quiet. Maybe it is because I am so used to so much noise.

I take the Metro (subway) every day from my host's families apartment to the orphanage with another adopting couple here. It takes about an hour and 15 minutes to get there. It is a long walk from the Metro stop to the orphanage. Although there are so many thousands upon thousands of people crammed on that Metro...no one and I repeat no one talks (well..rarely). Did I forget to mention that no one smiles? Everyone is walking fast and hustle and bustle to get wherever they need to go. But, once we get on the Metro...everyone stares at the floor or the ceiling or you just close your eyes. The first day or two, I didn't know what to do with myself. I always smile and I never shut up. :) My head is always racing with a million thoughts. But, late yesterday...I found myself becoming used to it. I just followed the crowd on to the train...stood there and stared at the floor, not smiling and stayed quiet until it was time for the next train stop. I don't even talk to the other American couple. We say that it is best that we don't talk to each other in the open because it attracts attention that we are tourist. Sounds crazy, I know. But, by yesterday...i was already fitting into the crowd. I was getting asked directions. In my very broken Russian, I would say "I don't know" and I just looked down. I am not embarrased to be an American by any stretch of the imagination. But, in this big city...and on a train as single woman (well, by myself...not single..you know what I mean)...it is best not to draw any attention. If you do, you could attract people who would like to mess with you or pick pocket, which someone tried to do today. But, I moved away in time.

Just a word to the wise...it doesn't matter what country you are in. If you are wearing one of those money belts..make sure that they are hidden way in your pants or up in your shirt so that no one can see it if you happen to have your arms raised above you like I did today while holding on to the train rail. A person could easily have a pocket knife and in a crowded space cut the tiny rope that is around your waist and before you know it they are off the elevator or train or wherever. This goes for any place....especially touristy places. Disney World, etc.

Anywhoo....in wrapping up what I was trying to say. Although it seemed so sad and depressing. It is just a difference in lifestyles and not that either one is better, it is just a matter of what your customs are. I found myself actually hearing my own thoughts today and they weren't racing. I could hear my own breath, my own heartbeat. Maybe silence isn't so bad. It isn't what I would want for the rest of my life. But, for now, I am giving it a try. If not....the babushka's give you a dirty look ;) ha!!!!
Finally,,,I have internet access in Moscow!!
Hello my friends!!! Yep....it is me...in Moscow!! I have been gone from the good ole USA for about a week now. So, imagine me.....a blogger junkie without internet access for this long. (yep, i am now bald... :)

Sorry it has been so long since I have posted, but, before we left...there was so much packing and last minute running around that I had no time to write and then all of a sudden...it was time to get on the plane. Here it is exactly a week later since we have been gone.

We are now the proud parents of Nikolai Edward Ellavsky. I wished that I could give you more information on him. We are bursting at the seams to give out his picture and the video to show you guys. We are just dying to talk about him. I feel like everything has been kept such a secret. But, we have to wait until our 10 day wait period is up until we can officially show his picture or talk much about him. It is then that it becomes official...official. I know, it doesn't seem to make sense does it?. We went to court on Tuesday and he became our "official" son. But, then we have the mandated 10 day wait where anyone in Russia can protest the court order. So, we have another week and a couple of days and we can tell the world and show the world Nikolai. So, if I don't say much...it is not because I am not happy about him...I am estatic!! It is just a part of the rules. But, I can talk a lot about my experiences though. I will probably break up a lot of my blogs into pieces since I just got online and there is so much to say.

Hello World!! I missed you!!!!!
>>Wednesday, April 12, 2006<<
Angry people...

I realized today that I see more and more angry people, including children all of the time. We talk about the Russians being grumpy and not smiling. I can speak for today, I ran into some angry folks here in the 'ole friendly South.

Driving into work, I was waving at someone to say hi as they entered the building...they looked at me as if they smelled poo. A few hours later, it was time to tell the kids to get off of the playground and head back in to class. I was helping another class of older kids get their children in also. This seemingly adorable child turned around to me and screamed "NO I WILL NOT!!!" Ok...that is cool...that is a kids behavior at times. I am a Mom. But, this child looked at me and reminded me of watching the movie "The Exorcist". All the way down to the voice and the eyes. (I could have sworn I saw him turn his head all the way around). He was one more angry kid!.

Then, after work, it was time to go to the grocery store. I was strolling down the aisle with my girls and my basket was full because I wanted to make sure my mother in law and our kids had enough food while we were gone and my husband when he got back next week. So, the pile was large needless to say. A man was walking down the aisle and looked at my cart and literally gave my cart this look which wasn't so nice. It was a look of disgust that there was so much food in there. I was like "What is happening today?"

The icing on the cake was when we left the grocery store. Mind you, the girls were actually angels today. They didn't fall on the ground or catch the food as we drove by on the aisles and grab things. They were great!. So, there was nothing for anyone to be mad at us about today. We put all the groceries in the car. I SLOWLY backed out of the parking space. I am talking "Driving Miss Daisy" here. I look on both sides to make sure no one was coming. I proceeded cautiously because I am a nervous nelly that I am going to hit someone. So, along came an angry woman barrelling down the parking lot in her cart on my right...I put on the brakes. She stopped her cart so fast and I looked in my rear view mirror and saw her give me several hand gestures which I am sure was not sign language for hello. ;) She huffed and puffed all the way to her car. However, she never took her eyes off of me. I still can't figure out how she managed to push that cart forward and have her head turned backwards to stare me down. She gave me the "hate eyes". I was totally in "shock and awe". Do I stink today? I know I bought new deodorant for the trip and I used it already!

Maybe I was wearing the wrong makeup or had the wrong color of hair or maybe my socks were on backwards. But, today...the angry people were out. Come to think of it...I have noticed it more lately. Especially in public. Don't get me started on angry drivers. But, at the stores (especially a Walmart), although I shop there on occassion...I firmly believe that there is a "Angry Moms Club" that meets every week and they decide that Walmart is their place of choice to go and take their anger out on their children. Because, my husband and I both can attest that each time we have been, there has been a Mom screaming and yelling at their child "Johnny, if you look at me that way one more time...I'm gonna......"

If you want to go somewhere where there is relaxed people, do not go to the one across from me. :) I am not sure why there is so many angry people out there. I could be angry if I wanted to be. We all could. We all have had things go wrong, and I am sure bad things have happened. We all have had bad days. But, I wonder how hard it really would be if people stopped and thought about how they acted???, especially in public. What if that person they just gave that lovely hand gesture too had a really bad day and they just needed a smile?. Sometimes all someone needs is a smile.

My mom always told me that it takes as many muscles to smile that it does to frown. Maybe we should all try smiling at others once in a while. Although, in Russia...they may put you in the funny farm for that. :)
>>Monday, April 10, 2006<<
Our New Home....
Nope...your eyes do not deceive you... We have set up a new home!!! Elle
has done an amazing job designing our new blog! Thank you...thank you....thank you!!!! Oh and by the way, if you see a post from me with a new picture and a new name "California Dreamin' Mama"...it's still me. I just decided to change everything. Hey....we have enough change in our house...lets change the whole blog and my name and my picture while we are at it. Just for fun!! :) This is why I love the blogger world!!

I am so happy in our new home. Because it is totally me. I love the color blue...I LOVE water. Water/The Ocean is where I feel my spirit lives. There is just something so peaceful about it. I feel so close to God there. Then, there is another part about our new home that is about the "Journey". We are travelling across over thousands of miles of water to get to our new son. How appropriate to have Water in our theme. So, maybe that gives you a little background into why I went with that theme. Hey...and hubby loves it too!

I just want to say to Gaye and Andrew that we are so excited that you are travelling at the same time!! I will write you guys so that we can see if you will be in Moscow the same time we are. You have to be, because we (definitely me because hubby will be coming and going and coming back again) will be there until May 6th in Moscow. We can show you the town! Listen to me acting like I know what I am talking about only being there for one trip! ha ha!! And Lisa and Derek if I understand correctly, you guys might be in Moscow one of those days too. That would be awesome if we could all meet!! Hey.....is there any of my blogger friends going to be in Russia in the next 3 weeks???????

I just had to brag on Elle....she is just so amazing...most of you already know that. I just hope she knows it.
I know that I am going overboard...

but, I feel like there is a method to my madness. We leave on Saturday for our Final Trip, the Finale, the end of the Amazing Race, the closing of one chapter and a beginning of a new one. You get my drift. I know that our district will not waive the 10 court period, so I will be there for 3 weeks. I did hear that I may be there longer because there are a couple of Russian holidays in there.

Well, before we left for our first trip with our children was buy little presents for our children for every day that we were gone. Each day, I wrote how many days that we had left until we came home (ex: "today is Thursday and Mommy and Daddy will be home in 3 days") and then I wrote them a letter from us letting them know how much we love them. Let me tell you what a big deal that was to them. They looked forward to them every morning that they woke up. For us, it was our way of letting them know that they were always on our mind. It really made the transition easier for all of us.

This time, I bought a gift for every day, that is 3 weeks for our smallest and 2 weeks for our oldest. Our oldest is flying back out with my husband. SO....in most eyes...that would seem excessive. But, you have to realize that I have NEVER been away from them for this length of time. So, I need for them to know that they are not forgotten and we are still connected.

Then, for the caregivers...I found these gift bags that have picture frames in them. I decided that we should put the pictures that we took of Baby S and put them in the frames of the gift bags and put our gift in there. My thought on it was that they have taken care of him since birth and we wanted them to have something that would be a little functional (the gift) and then personal (the gift bag).

I realize that I am creating more work for myself. But, I totally believe that in life it is the small things that make the difference. When it comes to this trip...I am a project manager. I have detailed lists and our daughters school knows how to get to us, my mother in law is coming in to town and I will make sure she knows how to get to point A to B, and I have it all planned out through May. I may stroke myself out this week....but, the end result is this beautiful baby that will be a forever part of our family. We cannot wait!

Blogging doesn't create more work...it allows me to step away from my own TYPE A'ness (I know that is not a word...but, it should be ;)

Good night for now....
I am an internet addict...I admit it....
I realized since our modem has been down that I have been having complete withdrawal symptoms. It started with the constant checking of the computer. My husband (who is a techie sort of guy) told me that our internet was toast until the guy came to fix it today. I refused to believe it. I kept checking the computer over and over again for the last several days. Then, came the talking to the computer. Finally, I came to realize that I am a complete internet junkie. I have missed blogging and my blogger friends. Of course, I have had a million and one things to get done before leaving on Saturday. But, blogging is a bit of therapy for me.

But, today....I had my fix!!. The "guy" (isn't what they always say whenever anyone fixes anything? ) came to fix the modem on our computer and we are now "live" WOOO HOOOO!!!!

We have mounds of things to do tonight and I know my husband thinks that I am nuts to drop everything to blog. But, hey...I have to...or else I might go crazy! ;)

Just glad to be back friends!!!!
>>Tuesday, April 04, 2006<<
Blonde Ambition Tour

Nope, I am not talking about Madonna's "Blonde Ambition Tour"...I am talking about my own. I am not sure what has happened to me. But, something has gone off in my head like an alarm system saying:

"Warning, warning...you have less than 2 weeks to get every project that you ever needed to get done in your entire life before you leave because you will be gone for 3 weeks and when you come back, you will have another addition to the family"

So, yesterday...I thought I was Wonderwoman, and took one of the chairs from upstairs to downstairs and threw it into the garage. It needed to be done for a long time now. I took out the Queen sized mattresses from the playroom that we had stored there because we had nowhere else to put them. So, I proceeded to yank them out of there and put them in our room so that I could take them to the attic. (They are still in our bedroom). We made our plane reservations and I made a list that was longer than the pad of paper that I had. Around 2:00 am, I finally went to sleep.

Today, I woke up thinking I was Hercules. Our 5 1/2 year old had a play date and Baby M took a nap and Mommy started back on her Blonde Ambition Tour. We have needed to throw out the couch in the living area now for months. So, I decided today was the day. I picked that big ton of mass and headed out the door. Oh...I would have made it too... there was one small problem....it got stuck. I pushed it from inside the door, went around the front of the house and pulled and tugged at it like a rabid animal. No movement. Then, my neighbor came down the street.

"I know I don't see you doing that!!!"

I yelled back with a big grin on my face "Your right, it isn't me, someone else has taken over my body, pretend you don't see me!!!"

She said "Caroline...when did your doctor say you could start lifting again after your surgery?"

I said "6 weeks...and it is now 8 weeks and I am a woman on a mission and nobody wants to mess with a woman on a mission".

So....there you have it....goodness knows what tomorrow will bring. By the way, I did get the couch out. It had to sit it like that in the doorway for 3 hours until my husband came home. I saw him drive up and his face was priceless. His jaw dropped and then he started laughing and shaking his head. This blonde ambition tour is far from over folks!! ;)
>>Sunday, April 02, 2006<<
Less than 2 weeks, we will be travelling
It is so hard to believe that in less than 2 weeks, we will be travelling back to Russia to be the official parents of our baby boy barring any crazy complications during the 10 day waiting period. We do not foresee any.

My husband and I were painting the babies room today and no where near finished. I suppose in my mind, I thought we had all of this time. But, it really dawned on me in full force today that we only had one full weekend left. B is going over for the court date and then coming home and I will be over there for 21 days. He is coming back with our 5 1/2 year old daughter after the 10 days are up. But, i will be away from our youngest for 3 weeks. It is such a wierd experience for me.

I am SOOO excited to get back to Russia to be with Baby S. But, this will be the first time that I have been away from my husband or children for this length of time. But, on the other hand...this will probably be the only time in Baby S' life that I will have alone time with him. So, it is such a double edged sword.

There is so much too get done at home to get our house in order before we leave. I am a "lists" person and lots to do. But, it is also a very exciting time. We will be staying with a host family while we are there which will be really cool to experience it all.

No one really tells you or explains to you what a roller coaster ride it is. For us, we have been blessed that it hasn't been a roller coaster ride so much in the process, but, in emotions. It will all be worth it. No worries, I will be reporting live again when we get there. Our host family has internet access....YEA!!!!!!!!