Friday, November 30, 2001

Our Wait Between Trips

We returned home from Ufa, Russia on November 13th, 2001. Little did we know we would not be reunited with our sweet girl again until March 18th when we would see her for a very short time just before court. There was supposed to be one month between travel trips, but of course, we ran into unforeseen problems. Above are pictures we received between trips. They only made us want to travel to our girl all the more. But they also gave us the strength to hang on. Kara was ten months old when her forever Mommy and Daddy met her. She was fourteen months old when we brought her home. It was a long and very difficult wait. But one we would soon realize was so worth it. Our girl is a dream come true.

Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Tuesday, November 13, 2001-Our First Meeting with Kara

It’s 2:10am Moscow time and we are flying on a tiny plane, probably meant for chickens!! I just need to state for the record how much I love Donald because we are eating yummy skittles!!! Don gave me a goody bag before we left and it has been a lifesaver. So now, Corey and I are sitting here, eating skittles, happy as clams!! This plane is very smooshy (yes, I know that’s not a real word). Corey’s knees are pushing into Tom’s back because there is not enough leg room—which I don’t understand because there are many tall people in Russia. And to top it off, the name of the airline is Aeroflot (a little too close to flop for me!!).

We are about 45 minutes from landing in Ufa. We will meet our daughter today. I have a feeling that I don’t think I can accurately explain. While this trip feels so surreal—the country, the language, the experience itself, it feels completely right—we were meant to do this. While it is uncomfortable for me to be surrounded by things that I don’t understand, we’re sitting on a plane in the middle of the night far from home, eating skittles to avoid eating mystery meat and I don’t find anything strange about it. Despite the fact that at most times of the day I am scared to death, none of my nervousness or fear has anything to do with Kara. And when I think of her, I feel completely calm. Hard to explain.

We landed in Ufa at 5:30am and Nadia was there to meet us. As soon as we met her, we were all asking when we would see our children and for how long. Nadia thought maybe an hour and Tom almost had a stroke. Although he and Janet live in Newark, he works in NYC and sometimes expresses himself like one. But he was just expressing what we were all thinking.

We drove to our hotel with a different driver. It was very dark and we couldn't see anything. We checked into the hotel. Again, the room was nice enough but the beds had funny mattresses. However, at this point we could have slept hanging upside down. Again, phone trauma. As you travel from city to city, the electrical current changes and so does the phone system, as well as the phone equipment. Finally, we got through to our parents and then it was off to sleep. We went to sleep at 8:30am and slept until 12:45am.

When our wakeup call came, I was so out of it that I couldn’t figure out where we were or what was ringing. We both had that overtired, sick to your stomach feeling until we moved around a little. It was at this point that I made the sad discovery that my curling iron wouldn’t work with the current in this city, so I had to meet Kara with WINGS!!!

We checked out of the hotel and paid our $75 phone bill (I was in trouble!!). The phone didn’t work the way I thought it did so we were billed by the hotel and used 1.5 prepaid calling cards-oops. It was now daylight and we were able to see Ufa. Ufa is an industrial city with many concrete buildings and large apartments. I don’t think it ever gets sunny there. It’s a city without color. We went to lunch with Tom, Janet, Julia, Nadia, a couple who had gone to Baby Home #2 the day before- John and Jane, both of our drivers and John and Jane’s interpreter.

Since the menu was in Russian, we had no need for it. Nadia asked all of us what we liked to eat and ordered for everyone. I’m pretty certain that everyone said “no” to the horse meat and goat. We were served Pepsi (not quite the same), peach juice and they brought out the salads. The salads were really vegetable platters that everyone shared—except "Mr. I don’t eat vegetables." Next we had a very small mushroom casserole, which was so delicious that I ate Corey’s too (he doesn’t like mushrooms). Our meal was chicken soup, which wasn’t bad. Nadia had ordered the guys pork something which didn’t come out until we had to leave. So Corey ate a little bit of chicken broth and had a Pepsi.

It took about 40 minutes to get to the Baby Home and this gave us the opportunity to see Ufa. It looks to be a depressed city, by American standards. Everyone lives in tall gray apartment buildings. We were all nervous and were pretty quiet on the way to the Baby Home. We were moments away from the most important meeting of our lives and there was really no way to prepare ourselves for that.

From the outside the Baby Home looked nice. The building was only a year old so it was in very good condition. Inside, the building was nice as well—it looked like a school. We went directly into Rema, the Baby Home’s Director’s office, and were told that the children’s caretakers would be bringing them in shortly. After approximately 5 minutes, Ivan and Regina were brought in. They had to wake Kara so it would be a few more minutes. Corey and I were on the edge of our seats waiting. I could feel myself starting to get emotional and then the door opened and they brought in the wrong child!!! Same first name, different last name. So we waited a few more minutes. Finally, they brought our baby girl in and as I reached out to take her, she gave us a really big smile, as if to say “Hi!! Here I am!!”

It’s hard to explain how I felt when first meeting her. I think I just looked at her and thought, “Ok, I can imagine you as my daughter." After talking to Michelle about their early time with Zach, I had prepared myself for not having a huge rush of emotion, and I didn’t. I think we just tried to absorb as much of her as we could to keep with us during the time between trips and to tell our loved ones. After about 20 minutes, Corey took her and she was very smiley again. He kissed her on the cheek right away and she did a kind of shy smile—very cute. We took turns with her and took lots of pictures and video. We had the opportunity to ask Rema any questions we had but I honestly drew a blank.

All I could think about was being with Kara while we had the chance. We played with the toys we had brought—Fuzzy, the bear, a Baby Mozart musical toy and a photo album that Stacy, Billy and Allie had given to Kara—which was her favorite. Although we did play with her, we mostly cuddled, gave her hugs and kisses and tried to get to know her. She was very cuddly and smiled all the time. When she started to get tired, she sucked her thumb and layed on our laps.

Toward the end of the visit, I took Kara on the floor with Ivan and Janet and they played. All of the sudden Janet picked up Ivan really fast—he had peed all over the place. Apparently, the kids are on the same schedule because Kara did the same thing a few minutes later!! We knew our time was coming to an end so we said our goodbyes, telling Kara that we would be back soon.

When the caretakers come in, they quickly scoop up the children to avoid parents upsetting them with long tearful goodbyes. But they stayed for a few pictures and then they were gone.
On the way back to the airport, we kind of quietly sat there, not really knowing what to say. We agreed with Tom and Janet that we thought we should be having some emotions, but really were so overwhelmed that we were numb—very strange.

We flew from Ufa back to Moscow. This time, Corey and I didn’t get seats together but we were all in the same row. I sat on one side with Tom and Janet and he sat on the other side with Boris and Natasha, as Tom called them. Poor Corey, he was on the inside seat and Boris and Natasha were not small people!!

Same food on the flight back—very scary. Again, I ate the roll and cookie. We arrived back at our hotel in Moscow at 10:00pm and were going to be picked up by Michael at 4:00am. We decided to forgo sleep and site see in the dark instead. We hadn’t seen any of Moscow so we decided to walk around with Tom and Janet. When we first started walking, a man started to follow us and I was a little bit nervous until I saw him drawing Corey. He followed us for miles and answered questions for us as he drew. We, of course, bought the sketch that slightly resembles Corey.

In Red Square, we bartered for a matroyshka and those furry Russian hats. When Corey was trying them on, the man selling them looked at Corey and said, “Oh, big head”, but managed to find one that would fit him. While we were in Red Square, it started to snow and got pretty cold but it was nice to get some air. We had a great time, talking and seeing Red Square, Lenin’s tomb, the Kremlin and many other historical things. Moscow is really beautiful and so full of history. I hope we have more time to site see in the daylight on our next trip.

We got back to the hotel at 12:30 and then had to pack. By this point, we were starving again, so we ate Russell Stover chocolate—one of the gifts that we brought to give but didn’t need. Finally, we laid down at 2:00am and then had to get up to get ready at 3:00am. I don’t really know why we bothered to lay down. At 4:00 Michael was there to pick us up and then we were off to the airport. We had a little luggage issue that had Corey ready to strangle our driver, but that worked out and we boarded the plane.

Corey and I waited for the airplane meal like two kids on Christmas day. We were sooooo hungry that we could have marched down that isle and gotten the food ourselves!! Finally, it arrived, the best meal of my entire life---a croissant, an omelet and asparagus and we ate every bite. We tried to sleep but couldn’t get comfortable so it was a long flight.

Our flight from Frankfurt to Moscow was much better—Corey and I had a whole row to ourselves since the flight wasn’t full and we able to take turns sleeping. Finally, we landed in JFK and I could have kissed the ground. We had no trouble getting home. Some of our family members came over to see the video that we had taken. Initially, we had technical difficulties and couldn’t plug the camcorder into the TV so Mom and Connie were sitting on each side of Corey and watching it on the camcorder.

After everyone left, we climbed into bed and were sleeping within seconds. Our last thoughts before falling asleep were of a little girl, half way across the world, just waiting for us to bring her home. Soon, Baby, soon.

These are pictures we carry in our minds and hearts until the day we return to Ufa, Russia to bring our baby girl home. It seems so right to evolve from a couple to a family of three.

Monday, November 12, 2001

Monday, November 12, 2001

Despite the fact that I am looking at a clock that says 8:30am, my body knows that it’s only 2:30am and I SHOULD BE SLEEPING!! I tried to sleep, here at gate 50 in the Frankfurt airport, but I couldn’t. Using jeans as a pillow and my blazer as a blanket just wasn’t the same. Corey wouldn’t even try to sleep, so hopefully we will get some sleep on the plane. Earlier, we went upstairs and walked around the shops. We had donuts and I had coffee, which I had to drink all at once because it is GROSS!! The donut didn’t taste the same as in the US but it was good. It was $8.00 for coffee, 2 donuts and a croissant. The airport is nice—very modern with many signs in English. Many of the people who work at the airport speak English. In the shops, all of the prices were in Deutch marks or English pounds. It was our first experience during this trip with being surrounded by things that we didn’t understand--strange.

In my next life, I need to be wealthy because I’m pretty certain that is the only way that an eight-hour flight can be comfortable—in first class. Holy cow!! Turns out that we were so tired it almost doesn’t matter. Corey was sleeping sitting straight up and I slept with my head on the fold out tray. We slept for much of the flight, on and off. There was a little girl in front of us who wanted to play peek a boo but I just couldn’t do it. I was actually entertaining thoughts of taping her mouth closed because she yelled A LOT. Luckily for her, I was off to dreamland and forgot about my plan. God will probably punish me for that and on the way home from our next trip, it will be Kara who will be yelling!!

We arrived in Moscow and when we got off the plane, we could see our breath. We went into the airport, which is really dark and dreary. We waited with about 200 people for 45 minutes to get through the passport checkpoint. I was really nervous at this point—what if we didn’t have the right papers or what if we were missing something, despite the fact that I had gone over my list a billion times. I leaned over to Corey and said, “Just to update you on my current situation, I’m so nervous I could pass out!!” He looked at me with that “my honey is so pitiful" smile and said that I was nuts and there was nothing to worry about!! This is why I love him so—moral support. Turns out, he was right. The people who work there really take their time and part of me wondered if they enjoyed tormenting nervous travelers like me. We continued through the airport and picked up our luggage with no problem. Next, we went through customs, also with no problem. We were approaching the exit to the airport, my panic increasing with each step and the first person we saw there was Lala, holding a Wide Horizons sign!! I could have kissed her, but I controlled myself. We also met Julia, a single woman from Michigan, who was very nice. We went straight to the car and our driver, Michael, took our bags. We got into a large minivan type vehicle. It was 5:00pm in Moscow—rush hour.

Drivers in Moscow have nothing on NYC drivers—they are maniacs!! Downtown Moscow looks just like a big city in America—bright lights, nice buildings and lots of advertisements. It was strange to see all of the billboards and have no idea what they said. We arrived at our hotel and checked in. The lobby was very fancy and our room was nice. The style was different from the US but it was clean and the furniture looked new. The elevators are very small, four people could fit if they were snuggling.

Once we were settled, we called home. Panic again set in. Calling the US was very difficult and all of the sudden I felt very cut off and far away from our families and I was trying not to freak out. Fortunately, I got through to my parents. I could hear the relief in their voices and despite the fact that we had just left the day before, it was so nice to hear their voices-it always gives me a safe feeling. Corey’s parents were at a funeral so my parents called them and our families to let them know we were safe. Then we went downstairs to pick up our visas at the desk and buy some bottled water. While we were there, we also got a cup a boiling hot water so I could make an instant cup of soup (which didn’t actually work out).

We laid down at about 8:00pm and we could sleep until 10:00pm. We were laying there thinking how comfortable the lumpy bed and pillows were when we discovered that the blanket was not as wide as the bed. So in order to both have enough blanket, we had to lay cheek to cheek. Corey said, “I don’t know if I am going to be able to sleep.” And literally within seconds, I could hear his deep breathing, followed by snoring, which he only does when he is really tired.

I, on the other had, didn’t sleep a wink. I blame my sister for this because I was afraid that our alarm clock wouldn’t wake us up!! I got up at 9:30 and took a shower, which was very messy. The shower was so strong that when I turned the water on, the water sprayed against the wall and came flooding out of the tub all over the floor!! Oops!! Corey got up at 10:00 and took a shower and then went downstairs to get me more boiling water, so I could make some instant oatmeal. My lack of sleep and food was starting to get to me and I wasn’t feeling well. I forgot to ask him to get me two cups—one for oatmeal and another for coffee. Another family had suggested that we bring instant soup and oatmeal and coffee for times that food was not available. I was afraid that I would get a caffeine headache if I didn’t have coffee, so I put a teaspoon of coffee in my mouth and drank water to wash it down---so gross—but I didn’t get a headache!!

Corey came back with the water but forgot a spoon so I ate instant oatmeal using my toothbrush holder as an utensil—very messy. At 11:00pm, we went downstairs to meet the other families and Lala. This is when we found out about the plane crash at JFK airport. Tom and Janet, from NJ, were watching the BBC channel and there was tons of news coverage on it. Obviously, the plane crash was just horrible and our hearts went out to the families affected. But honestly, the first thought that came to mind was, “WE ARE GOING TO BE STUCK HERE FOREVER.” I know that was completely irrational but this trip confirmed what I had suspected all along—God did not mean for me to be a world traveler and I am a really big wimp (I think that Corey knew both of these before I did!!).

Normally, with Corey by my side, I am not nervous about much, but he doesn’t speak Russian and things are very different here, so I was feeling a little vulnerable. I am really going to try to soak in as much of this as I can to share with Kara when she is older, but all I can think about now is going home. We left the hotel and Michael drove us to a different airport in Moscow. We brought a change of clothes and all of our important papers with us, but left our luggage in our room. This airport was even darker than the last one. We sat and talked with Tom, Janet and Julia and got to know them some more. We were waiting for our flight to be called but we had a little problem. They didn’t speak English!! So we found someone going to Ufa and when he stood up to board, so did we!!

Sunday, November 11, 2001

Sunday, November 11, 2001

Breakfast this morning was pretty quiet-both of us caught up in our thoughts. I could just hear Corey thinking, “We had to leave on a Sunday?? Which games am I missing today?” And I was thinking, “Eat a lot, this is the last decent meal I will have until Wednesday!!” Corey had gotten directions to JFK from the hotel staff and it appears we should have written them down. Our travel agent told us to get to the airport 3 hours before our flight left so I am on the edge of my seat because he didn’t know where we were going. I'm trying to keep my mouth shut and not turn into the wicked witch. Of course, I couldn’t hold it in any longer when, all of a sudden, we were crossing one of the bridges into Manhattan!! Fortunately, the toll collector gave us great directions and we made it to the airport on time. We sailed right through check-in, but took a little longer than usual at the security check points. Neither of us minded, considering all that had happened in NYC. They searched Corey for so long that I was afraid if I looked over at him, he would be in his underwear!! They only wiped my bag down for bomb residue. Apparently, between the two of us, I looked like the mastermind!! Right now, we are waiting for our flight. Corey is watching football and I was wandering around. I told him that I was really nervous about Lala not being at the airport when we got off the plane—what would we do?—We would be stranded. He told me to stop reading novels. My honey, so reassuring.

We are on our way to Frankfurt and have been in the air for almost 2 hours. I have already taken a nap (that’s for you, Michelle) and we are waiting for dinner. The flight attendants are coming down the aisle with it and we see an attendant hand a ham sandwich to a passenger who says, “No, thank you, I can’t eat pork.” The flight attendant said, “That’s okay, this is ham.” The attendant standing next to Corey, who knew we were Americans, said to Corey, “Ham is pork, correct?” Very funny!!

Saturday, November 10, 2001

First Step - Getting to New York City

The closer we get to NYC, the more nervous I am. Who’s idea was this anyway?? Just kidding!! At this point in our lives, this is the most important trip we will ever make and the only one that will be more important is when we bring our baby girl home. Our flight doesn’t leave until tomorrow but after all of the traffic that we encountered when we were picking up Zachary and parents from JFK, I just couldn’t chance it. Corey, after putting up a bit of a fight, agreed to leave today just to make sure I didn’t have a breakdown (which I’m hoping that he has realized would have been first of many that I’m sure I will have during this trip). Saying goodbye to Michelle today was emotional, which caught me off guard. I didn’t think that I would be, although she thought I would be. I guess it feels a bit strange to be making this monumental trip alone, without our families who have helped us to get this far.

We are in our room at the hotel now. It’s a nice hotel but not nearly as nice as the price would suggest!! From the window in our room we can see all of LaGuardia Airport, which looks pretty cool. We have decided to eat in the hotel and not venture out into NYC. We have a few big days ahead and I think they will be adventurous enough for me!! On the flip side of that, there’s not too much to do in the hotel so it seems I have some extra time to be nervous.

Our Trip to Our Daughter Kara Michelle

This is our first trip to Ufa, Russia. We will meet our daughter, Kara, and spend a short time with her. Then we will return home, without her, waiting for a call telling us we can return to bring her home. This first trip began November 10, 2001. Below is our travel itinerary.

Saturday, November 10, 2001
Left home at 12:00pm
Arrived at hotel at 3:15pm

Sunday, November 11, 2001
Left hotel at 11:30am
Arrived at JFK at 12:30pm
Flight departed at 4:15pm

Monday, November 12, 2001
Arrived in Frankfurt at 5:35am
Departed Frankfurt at 10:35am
Arrived in Moscow at 3:35pm
Arrived at hotel at 5:45pm
Sleep at 8:00pm, up at 10:00pm
Met other families and departed hotel at 11:00pm

Tuesday, November 13, 2001
Departed Moscow at 1:35am
Arrived in Ufa at 5:35am
Arrived at hotel at 6:30am
Sleep at 8:15am, up at 12:30pm
Departed hotel at 1:30pm
Ate lunch with other families 2:00-3:00pm
Arrived at Baby Home #1 at 4:00pm
Met Kara 4:10pm
Departed Baby Home #1 6:00pm
Departed Ufa at 8:30pm
Arrived in Moscow at 9:00pm
Arrived at hotel at 10:00pm
Walked around Moscow with Tom and Janet 10:30pm-12:30am

Wednesday, November 14, 2001
Sleep at 2:00am, up at 3:00am
Departed hotel at 4:00am
Departed Moscow at 7:00am
Arrived in Frankfurt at 8:35am
Departed Frankfurt at 10:45am
Arrived in New York at 1:00pm
Home at 5:30pm

Friday, November 9, 2001

Preparing for Kara Michelle

Our First Picture of Our Daughter-to-be

When we received the envelope and telephone call about our referral, we had already decided the child's picture in this envelope would be our child, no matter what. This is the first picture we received of Kara. She is wearing layers and layers of clothes . Her caregiver is holding her up in the air using just her hand. Our baby girl is a peanut. We just can not wait to begin our trip to meet her!