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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » What my fans have been - done (Page 2)

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Author Topic: What my fans have been - done
pooka
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This is great, Dan. Or should I say Pappa.
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policyvote
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Congrats!!

BTW, I myself had hypospadius repair when I was four. They knew they would need the skin to repair it, so i was not circumsized until the surgery was performed. I have had a long, safe, happy life of accurate urination. [Big Grin]

Peace
policy

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rivka
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*cries happy tears*
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ak
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Aw, man! That is so great! I can't wait to hear what happened next!
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Shan
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*joins rivka in wiping away happy tears*

*naughtily reflects that bedtime blues haven't ended for her 10-year old*

[Big Grin]

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Kwea
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Dan, I can't say how happy this thread has made me for you. One of my old friends from MI adopted his daughter from Russia last year, and I got to meet her for the first time this summer. I saw the look in his eyes when he talked about her, and even more so when he introduced her to me for the first time....adn I am picturing you with the same look in your eyes right now.

You are all very lucky to have each other.

God Bless,
Rob Brill

[ July 25, 2004, 01:05 AM: Message edited by: Kwea ]

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fallow
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toute suite!

fallow

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Dan_raven
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but theres more, unless you are tired of it:

.

Friday June 11th

My first day of daddyhood started slowly.

I lay in bed alone, fearing to move lest I wake Sasha.

Cindy laid in bed with him, though I could tell that she wasn’t sleeping soundly.

We held our breaths and waited for him to awaken.

I lay in the bed so that I could watch the two of them through the partial parted blinds that separated the bedroom from the rest of the hotel room. Sasha was staring back at me.

He smiled.

Slowly he began stirring and we all got up.

His bed and his pants were dry. I sighed in relief.

We had brought 40 Pullup pants so that we wouldn’t have to worry about potty training while traveling. He was so much trouble putting to sleep that first night that we hadn’t tried to force them on him. I was relieved I didn’t have to explain an accident on the sheets to the Russian staff.

I was even more relieved when he said, “Toilette?” and stared longingly at the bathroom. By George he was toilet trained.

I was most please when Momma grabbed his hand and took him. Perhaps I could convince her that this bathroom thing was a mothers job.

Then it was my turn to use the bathroom. I went in, and found that I had company. Three times I pushed him out, and three times he returned. There was a stack of toys and a tv full of shows for him to watch, but Tinkling Daddy was the best entertainment in town.

I jumped into the shower and realized how the women in a peep show feel. Every few seconds the curtains parted and Sasha checked up to see what Poppa was doing. Mother got the same treatment next. We realized that any semblance of privacy in our lives was gone.

Sasha was starved. He quickly devoured one of the yogurts we had been saving for just this time. I made a move to the Cheezits, but Cindy said no. Those were for later.

We made a quick call to see if Mary Beth and Larry, and Asalon would join us for breakfast. Mary Beth sounded terrible on the phone. She was exhausted. It seems that Asalon had cried and screamed until 4:00am in the morning.

Larry was about to loose his sanity.

Cindy and I fought hard to hide our pride-filled smiles. Sasha was such a good boy. He’d never behave like that.

Yeah, right.

They decided to join us for Breakfast anyway. We were celebrating. Not only were we celebrating our children, we were celebrating the fact that today was our last full day in Astrakhan.

We learned several lessons at that first breakfast.

1) Before eating, someone needs to remove all the knives from the table, not just from where the two children were eating.

2) Asalon is a beautiful name, but if we dared called him by it, Mary Beth would hurt us. His name was now Joshua, Josh for short, and Joshua Asalon if we had to.

3) The ugly fish tank on the bar in the restaurant would attract children.

4) Carrying children, and lifting them up to said fish tank, and holding them in front of said fish tank is hard work.

After breakfast we prepared for a day of site-seeing and touring in the wonderful town of Astrakhan. We headed toward the beautiful Kremlin building we had seen previously, and passed several times. We would tour that in the morning because that is what I wanted to do.

Mary Beth and Cindy wanted to go souvenier shopping, so we would do that afterword.

Larry wanted to see the Volga river, so we would go there.

Then we would return to the hotel for nappies.

Everyone over four foot looked forward to nappies.

This compared to our plans for the entire afternoon—a local amusement park. We would spend half the day there because that is what the kids wanted.

We noticed it was a bit cool, so we headed outside with long sleeve shirts on.

We quickly turned around and added a layer of clothes for the kids. It was chilly.

We headed outside to wait for Vika and Galina. They met us at the door, ordered us inside, and insisted that we put yet another layer of clothes on the kids, and one on us. It was very cool.

We drove past the bowling alley to the center fo town. The Kremlin is on a big hill. At the bottom of the hill, outside the wall, is a wide open square full of Soviet era statues and fountains. We had walked that previously.

Up the hill was the beautiful Kremlin itself. I white tower gate in a white wall, green roofed, and containing a large four faced clock to show the busy business center of Astrakhan what time it was.

We pulled all our stuff out of the van and made our way to the entrance. I juggled bags and Sasha’s hands, and two different cameras to get good photo’s of this place.

It was here I decided that all fathers should be granted at least three extra hands.

Half way to the Kremlin Josh decided that he didn’t want to ride in his stroller any more. That was fine by Sasha who proceded to get in. We made a note to buy Sasha a stroller.

We entered the Kremlin and discovered---well—not much.

There was a cathedral to the left, but it was not open to the public. There was a church to the right but it was closed at this time of day. There were plenty of other buildings, but they were all in use. The large open courtyard was great for the children to run across. As we explored deeper there were trees to play on and we even got to walk up on the wall of the city itself for about 10 feet.

Yet it was not very impressive. A large part of the place had been set aside as an Art School, where young men and women hung around in dirty clothes and smoked cigarettes. The grass was uncut, the buildings inside the Kremlin needed paint, if not major structural repair, the gardens needed tending. It was on the whole, unimpressive, especially compared to the gleaming white Kremlin tower that cast its shadow over everything.

Josh had to use the toilet.

There are no public toilets in the Kremlin.

We rushed to the Art School, where Vika took courses. She knew where a toilet was.

Sasha decided that he had to go too.

Since Vika was leading, Mommy got to take Sasha again. Yea.

I wouldn’t say the bathrooms were in sad shape, but Sasha refused to use them. Momma refused to wash her hands in them because they would have come out dirtier.

Sasha showed his gift for imagination that day. While we were strolling around the dirty gardens, he decided to be a rabbit. Two of us, Me and Cindy or Mommy and Vika, or Marybeth and Larry, would hold on to Sasha’s hands and he would lift his feet off the ground and “Jump” for 10 feet at a time. Sure, this separated a few adult shoulders, but he had fun. He sang a Russian song that Vika told us, was about a rabbit boy who ran away from home and had adventures.

Sasha showed us his disturbing side too. He wanted to be with Larry and Mary Beth as often as possible. He called her momma. Then again, he called Vika momma. He also called me momma.

I was beginning to wonder about his attachment to Mary Beth.

We walked the couple blocks from the Kremlin to the souvenier shop Cindy and I had frequented Wednesday. Mary Beth wanted a copy of the book Cindy and I had bought. It told all about the city of Astrakhan.

Vika was proud.

Her favorite professor had written it. I was appropriately respectful, and didn’t point out the books many grammatical errors.

All the other souveniers in the shop didn’t call to us. They seemed a bit tacky to me. We grabbed some post cards and left.

Now all that we had on our to-do list this morning was a visit to the Volga. We drove to the riverside, got out of the van, and did a quick bit of site-seeing. We also froze our noses off. For the middle of June, it was nippy out.

The kids were neither thrilled by the water nor happy with the weather. Sasha started picking up rocks. I had images of us paying Aeroflot a fortune for being overweigth—all due to my sons rock collection.

As we headed back into the van Vika pointed out a nearby restaurant. It was an interesting look, half log cabin, half Western ghost town. “It’s a Texas restaurant, a favorite of visitors.”

We agreed it would be a great place for lunch.

Before entering I told Sasha that rocks weren’t allowed in the restaurant. We set them on the ground outside, where we could pick them up later.

We entered and the waiters all were wearing old-west garb, from the cowboy boots to the cowboy hats. The back wall held a framed Texas state flag preserved under glass. So what would be the one thing one would expect to find on the menu?

Steak!

Nyet Steak.

Nyet hamburger, nyet beef of any kind other than what looked to be a swedish meatball on a stick. Yes, more meat on a stick is what is needed, according to “Something about Mary.”

They had Fish and they had more fish and they may have even offered some chicken, but a Texas Restaurant without steak is grounds for war, according to several of my Texas friends.

They did serve a mighty fine Borscht. That in of itself would anger many Texans.

We learned that Sasha loved soup. He ate a lot. He also ate jealously, prefering to eat the food off of others plates, especially off of Momma’s plate.

Again, Momma took Sasha to the bathroom. I was breathing easier.

We finished our meal and headed back to the van.

We were in the van before Sasha remembered his rocks. I promised him more later.

As we were returning to the hotel we spoke to Vika about Sasha’s desire not to sleep. Spot is the word for Sleep in Russian. Vika had a long talk with Sasha, in Russian. This afternoon would be spent at the local amusement park. However, first Sasha must Spot. No spot, not park.

Sasha said he understood. He would take a nap.

We got back to the hotel and divided up. Mary Beth and Josh went upstairs to sleep. Cindy, Sasha and I headed to our room. Larry went out to relax and smoke. He knew what was coming.

As soon as the door closed, with us on one side and Josh and Mary Beth on the other, Sasha began to scream. He cried. He kicked. He ran around causing trouble. He was a ball of anger and frustration looking to crash into something, and that something was us.

We closes the curtains, turned off the lights, and prepared to sleep. He refused. He would not stay still. Even when his crying ended he continued to demand attention. We reminded him of his promise to Vika, no spot—no park. He would put his head down for three to four seconds, then be up again.

Cindy really needed sleep. She was laying there, eyes heavy, anger boiling just behind the exhaustion, when Sasha said “Toilette.”

I knew that it was my turn, or it would be my life. I grabbed his hand and led him to the bathroom. Sasha was a sitter. All his toilet duties he did sitting. The problem is that he is so thin that he could easilly fall in. My mission, as potty parent, was to hold him on the seat so he didn’t fall in, then make sure he does everything from the paperwork to washing of the hands, to remembering to pull up his pants.

Nudity is not a fear of his.

I did the fearful deed and it was much better than I dreaded. Even if this was a more stink filled bathroom experience. Such as small boy certainly can make a big stink.

Sasha discovered he had free access to the refrigerator. We had strawberries and cherries bought at the open market across the street. We put away the cherries unless pappa pitted them for him, but he had all the strawberries he could want. He would jump out of bed, open the icebox, and grab a strawberry.

By 3:00pm Galina had joined Vika to take us to the park. Galina was shocked that we let Sasha eat so much. “His stomach is not used to it” she explained. “Only give him small portions at regular times.”

We explained Sasha’s naughty behavior to Vika. She talked to him about his betrayal of their promise. He started screaming when we threatened not to take him to the park. We relented, with the promise that he would go to bed when asked to this evening.

Yeah, right.

I was a bit abashed by Mary Beth’s self congratulatory smile. Josh had taken his nap with a minimum of fuss, and Mary Beth was darn proud of it. Did we look that smug this morning?

We loaded into the van and headed to the park. Sasha loved the ride. Joshua Asalon was getting used to it.

The park was Astrakhan’s version of Disney World, but without the immaculate upkeep, costumed characters, or most of the fun. It stood on about 3 acres of land with a few rides and games for kids. There was a row of trampolines, surrounded by netting and protected by cushions. There was a couple of inflatable moonbounces, rooms for the kids to jump up and down on airbag floors. There was a pool filled with small intertube-boats with water guns. There was a somewhat rusted swing ride, where swings on the ends of poles swung you around and around. There was a small train on a track that curved its way around scenes of Russian folklore.

There was also a playground with slides and swings and bridges to climb on.

There was also a large dining area with a full bar and a small souvenier shop. Near the bar there was ongoing construcion of an ampitheater. Sasha enjoyed watching them work nearly as much as anything else.

The centerpiece seemed to be a 20 foot tall birdcage filled with exotic birds all singing at once.

We tried to enter the playground, but we needed tickets. Galina ordered Vika to run to the ticket booth and get some. We gave her the money and she ran off. She returned and we entered. For a good half an hour Sasha and Joshua had fun playing on the slides and other small rides. We had a great time.

Near the kids playground was a smaller bird cage, perhaps only 10x10 where the large was 30 foot round. In this smaller bird cage sat the largest Eagle I had ever seen. It was trapped, caged, barely enough room to stretch out its wings if it so desired, and no room or no place to fly. Yet this eagle looked out at the world, with dignity, if not with contempt. It was a proud bird despite its present confinement. I had an urge to rush its cage and set it free.

Getting tired of the play area, and playing with more of the sand/dirt on the ground than on the slides, we decided to move on to another ride. We asked the kids what they wanted to ride? The train? NO. The moonbounce? OK. Again Galina sent Vika to buy the tickets. Sasha and Asalon got as far as the entrance to the moonbounce, when they both chickened out and ran to the bird cage. Hey, at least that was free.

What else? We now had tickets we needed to get rid of. The answer? Toilette. This toilette was at the far end of the park, around a miniature golf course under construction. There was a sweet elderly lady who blocked our path. Ten Rubles to enter. This was more expensive than the Train ride. She looked at the kids and directed them on through free of charge. Only the adults who needed to go had to pay the toll. Aparently the cost of cleaning up kids messes was more expensive than proft to be gained in charging them. Either that, or they recognized the urgency in a child’s cry for Bathroom.

We returned to the main part of the park and really psyched the kids to ride the train. Sasha agreed and we set him in with the conductor. Nervously he watched us as the train headed out. He was on the verge of crying for us, but was soon overtaken by the fun of being on the train.

Joshua (Asalon) refused to ride the train, until he saw how much fun Sasha was having. He joined him half way through.

We returned to the other rides. Joshua said he’d go on the water ride so again, Vika was sent off to buy the tickets. Joshua took his ticket and got to the very edge of the ride, saw the water, and took off running. That was a big NO!

It was starting to get a bit late, and we were all tired, so we decided to head to dinner and home. First we would return the ticket.

NO REFUNDS.

Galina would not accept this. When Vika told her, No Refunds, she went to the booth. We spent ten minutes in the sun listening to her yell at the attendant.

Still, no refund.

Finally, in a huff, she walked off. Cindy and I bought the ticket off of Mary Beth and sent Sasha on anther train trip. Josh joined him anyway.

Now we needed to decide where to eat. There was the Pizza place right next door that had served us good food in the past. The only problem was that Larry had stayed home. He was desparate for sleep. We asked if we could run back to the hotel and pick up Larry before going home.

A frustrated Galina said no. She was tired and didn’t appreciate the outcome of her spat with the ticket agent. We thought hard about this. What was better? The questionable hotel food or good food with a desert of Larry’s wrath. Good food won.

We rode to the Pizza place quickly.

We had been here several times, but never quite this early. It seems they do a big business in birthday parties—or the owners family was celebrating a birthday. While it was open to the public, a large series of tables in the center of the room were all for the birthday of one young boy. He and his young friends were thouroughly enjoying themselves, running around, shooting toy guns and swinging toy swords.

This was not the example we needed to show our kids on their first restaurant experience.

We settled them down and made our order. Then we settled them down again. And again. Finally, realizing that running and screaming was not a good thing, Sasha turned to the naughty kids and gave them a stern “Oy, oy oy.”

The food was slow in arriving. By now Sasha was starved and irritable. We were just hungry and irritable. Ganlina had ordered pizza appetizers, and passed it around to everyone. She was generous with it.

Finally Sasha’s food came, extremely hot from the oven. He couldn’t eat it. Momma cut it for him, blew on it, and finally gave him a piece on her own fork. Again Galina was shocked. “He’s a big boy. He can eat what he wants. Let him eat more. Here is some more. Tell him to eat more.” What happened to her limiting advice from earlier? Or did she just want to clear her own plate?
Cindy did not take the unsolicited advice well. Neither did I nor Mary Beth, but Galina had worked hard for us so we played nice.

After dinner, with a suitable doggy-bag to appease Larry’s stomach, we headed back to the hotel. It was 7pm now, the kids normal sleep time. We hoped to make a quiet dash separating the kids allowing them to sleep.

No good. Galina wanted to talk to us all.

We went to our room where Galina made a formal presentation. She gave us all the children’s passports. Despite the holiday on Saturday, the paperwork had all come through on time. I relaxed.

She also presented us with a momento of Astrakhan. A box was given to each mother. I was thrilled. What could this be? A russian scarf? Some beautiful momento? Caviar?

It was a wooden sturgeon on a plaque with the word Astrakhan splashed across it.

It was tacky and not pretty and the only good thing I can say about it was, well at least it didn’t sing.

Saturday was our last day in Astrakhan, and our last day with Galina. However, our plane would not take off until 7:30pm. She suggested we pay for one room to have late checkout, and move both families into it by the noon checkout time. Then, around 3pm, she would show up and we would do some shopping. We wanted to get Sasha a stroller, since he had decided to kidnap Mary Beths. We also wanted to buy some Russian Kids music on CD for him to listen too as we flew. Our plan was this would keep him busy during the long boring flights.

Yeah, right.

We would shop tomorrow afternoon and go anywhere else we needed to. Then we would be directed to our plane, but alas, Galina would be staying over in Astrkhan.

I arranged our late check out while I let Cindy arrange the leave taking of everyone else. That way we wouldn’t have the cry fest like we had had earlier.

Well that didn’t work.

As soon as Mary Beth had left the room Shasha began crying and screaming. It was 10pm before Sasha finally went to sleep.

I finished the book I was reading. It seems Ms. Rowena Drake was the murderer. I looked at Cindy and admitted my surprise. If she was truly like Galina, I was surprised she wasn’t the victim.

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katharina
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Oh, I love this.

I was shocked that Rowena Drake was the murderer as well - who would have thought?

quote:
We entered and the waiters all were wearing old-west garb, from the cowboy boots to the cowboy hats. The back wall held a framed Texas state flag preserved under glass. So what would be the one thing one would expect to find on the menu?
I don't know why this is so weird to me.
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PSI Teleport
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quote:
Then we would return to the hotel for nappies.

Everyone over four foot looked forward to nappies.

Thought ya meant diapers.
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Shan
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Oh, what a great story! I am laughing and yet so proud of you both! All those hard parenting lessons ALL AT ONCE!

You really do need to write all this up and publish it -

Thanks again (for the zillionth time) for sharing this.

It really is precious - and not in the Gollum way - [Big Grin]

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pooka
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((((Dan)))) [Smile] [Cry] [Smile]
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beverly
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Beautiful! Way to dive into parenthood!

(Actually it sounds *very* challanging and I am amazed at your courage!)

[ August 12, 2004, 12:09 PM: Message edited by: beverly ]

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Dan_raven
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Is this a hint that you are ready for the next days events?

Ok, Ok. I can work on it today.

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Dan_raven
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Saturday June 12th

Time to leave Astrakhan.

I awoke battling two overlapping emotions, joy at the prospect of beginning our journey home, and dread at the two plus hours on an airplane with a screaming child. I settled on being happy to be getting out of that town.

Again, Sasha and Mamma had slept on the futon. They were stirring as I awoke so together we started what would become our dailly routine.

First “toiletta”. Sasha first, with Pappa helping, then Pappa with Sasha helping. Then Momma with Sasha wanting to sit on her lap. Then we did teeth. Sasha loved brushing teeth, washing hands, anything that involved playing with water.

Then we got a call from a jubilant Mary Beth. Josh had fallen asleep by 8:30pm. Sasha hadn’t stopped crying until after 9, and didn’t get to sleep to well after 10. #$@#$@#$@#.

Anyway, we joined them for breakfast.

Breakfast was a happy affair. Larry in particular was happy to be getting out of this town. We celebrated our last greasey meal. We had also learned how to take all the knives off the table, and most of the other elegant trappings, so that Sasha and Josh didn’t have too many toys to play with. Hopefully this would encourage them to eat.

Hopefully is such a depressing word.

They ate, but showed a desire to A) have momma or poppa feed them, and B) have momma and poppa feed them with food from momma’s and poppa’s plate. They seemed determined to get the good food the the grown ups ate, and not the junk on their own plates.

Even if it was the same junk.

Sasha also had a tendancy to turn to Mary Beth for food as often as he turned to Cindy. This was beginning to annoy me a bit.

I took Sasha to look and the fish bowl again. When he got bored with it I held Joshua up to it. At this point I started to really appreciate Sasha’s light 30lbs. Josh, though a year younger, was about 5 pounds heavier, and that was a hefty five pounds.

I took them both to the windows. They were double windows for the rough Russian winters. The 1st pane of glass was open, the second closed, and about a foot and a half of sill was between them. I held on to one at a time and stood them on the sill. They loved the view.

While I was doing this the others were watching the TV. It was “Freedom Day” in Russia, a nation wide celebration of freedom and independence. Great parades and shows were happening at the Red Square, and were being televised around the country. If we had gotten an earlier flight out, we could have been there.

Larry was excitedly planning our visit to Red Square.

We returned to our rooms to finish packing. Sasha wasn’t happy to be leaving Josh and Mary Beth (or Larry who was extatic to be leaving Astrkhan), but he kept his tears down to a minimum.

Cindy packed, and repacked, and then packed again, trying desparately to make things as small as possible. I watched Sasha—he was in terror mood. He ran around the room hitting every light switch he could find. I chased him yelling “Nyet, No, Nyet.”

I had done it.

I was the Nyet Pappa.

Strawberried and Cherries in the refrigerator would not travel to Moscow, so I was able to slow him down with a treat. He loved the Strawberries, and after I pitted the cherries, he ate those too.

Soon enough, after watching some English gardening shows and playing with the puzzles, it was nap time.

Unfortunately only Momma was in the mood to nap.

Sasha refused to lay still and Pappa was drafted to chase him. We played a game called, “Stay on the @#$@#$@# bed” in which he was told to stay on the bed, and I ran around it stopping him from running off.

This was interrupted by toiletta breaks, and demands for water or strawberries.

Momma did not get any sleep. Momma was not happy.

And I kept thinking about the confined airplane. How would I keep him safely seated on a plane when he wouldn’t even stay in his bed for nap time.

About 2 pm Mary Beth called. She was ready to come down, having given up on putting Josh to bed too. They came down.

Sasha and Josh saw the pile of items we were bringing with us, and decided to get organized. They took their toys and started laying them out, piece by piece, all along the far wall, around the corner, and across the bathroom door.

This made Cindy’s last attempt at packing a bit difficult.

Cindy and Mary Beth decided to take a lunch break and buy flowers for Galina, Vika, and Vera. We owed them a lot. They also picked up some munchies since we had decided to skip the in store lunch in favor of snack food for us, and fruits for the kids.

They returned with three beautiful bouquets of flowers. The flower market in Astrkhan was superb.

At 3:00 we wheeled everything out of the room, including the kids, and down the steps and into the van. Vika and Galina were waiting for us. We hid the flowers until later, but they could see them.

We still had four hours before our flight, but there was shopping to be done. We waived good bye to the hotel, the market, the streets we couldn’t name. He headed down town to the big markets.

An Astrkhan department store is a departement store in the old sense. Each department acted as a separate store, and may have been. Perhaps they were more mall than store. We were shopping for five things, a stroller for Sasha since he loved Josh’s, Russian kids music for Sasha, a Astrakhan Hip Flask for Sasha’s 21st birthday, a Russian Pocket Watch for Sasha’s wedding, and souveniers for Larry.

The first department store had a large CD counter with hundreds of CD’s. Vika translated and we ended up with a collection of popular kids songs and russian fairy tales. Later we discovered the “Kids Music” was some of the most depressing songs I’ve ever heard. I didn’t understand what they were singing, but the deep base voice and the slow cemetary pace of the music had me convinced it was something along the lines of “My dog died today, ran over by the hearse carrying grandma away.”

Next we went upstairs to find a stroller. Well, Galina and I went looking for strollers. The rest did a great Toiletta run. They made it in the nick of time.

The store had no little strollers left, but there was a nice padded larger stroller. It thought it was perfect. We needed Sasha’s approval, and Cindy who had the cash. We went to the other end of the store, near the toiletta’s and collected both. Sasha seemed excited until he sat in the stroller. The leg holes were too small. He refused to use it. We went in search elsewhere.

On the way to the car I noticed a table sitting outside full of videos. Yes, I could buy Troy, which had only been out in the US theaters for 2 months. I could also buy Shrek 2. That was still playing. Harry Potter 3 was available too, and that hadn’t come out until the Friday we left for Russia. I paused. Should I? It would be illegal, and possibly in Russian.

I chickened out.

The second store had more of the grand Marble and Brass look to it that the old-style depmartent stores used to have. It was more “Miracle on 34th Street” than “Valley Girl”. Unfortunately none of the departments carried child strollers. We did find a nice pocket watch though.

While Cindy evaluated it, and Larry evaluated other purchases, I watch Sasha. Sasha was dertermined to strike out on his own, trying to run ahead of us, or away from us, or be by himself. He has an iron hard core of independence and he was determined to show it.

Unfortunately an store full of expensive breakables is not a good place for a two year old to show his independence. My only hope was that he was getting exhausted for the plane trip.

Back in the van, we stopped off at the square. We had 3 hours to kill. We took a long walk across the open square. The flowers were blooming and the fountains were on all in celebration of the holiday.

We talked of interesting things, like the wedding ribbon ceremony. Its a tradition for the groom to tie a ribbon in the trees when you get married. The higher the groom climbs, the higher the ribbon is tied, the luckier the marriage. The trees were awash in a rainbow of highly placed ribbons.

(It was very bad luck for the groom to fall, break his back, and be in traction for the length of the honeymoon, but that is true anywhere.)

Larry also got into a discussion with Vika on what they thought of Communism. It was interesting hearing from a regular Russian what they truly thought of Yeltsin, Lenin, and Stalin. While the condemnation of Stalin was pretty thick, and the praise for Lenin was pretty light, I sensed an underlying nervousness when it came to discussing any of the living leaders. Aparently it was something Vika was uncomfortable with, and quite possibly, something most Russians were uncomfortable talking with strangers about.

At the far end of the walk the city was offering pony rides and rides on little battery operated cars. Josh and Sasha seemed thrilled at the idea, until it came time to get on either. Then they chickened out.

They had another adventure in store. The van drove down to meet us and we were debating what to do. Suddenly Sasha and Josh both cried “Toiletta”.

The problem was that there was no toiletta’s in this city park.

There was a thin row of trees and bushes separating the walk area from the street. Galina insisted this was OK. I just pictured me trying to talk my way out of a ticket from an ex-KGB enforcer now working as Astrakhan cop. I took him anyway.

We hid as best we could, they squated, and we watered the bushes. One family walked by with their dogs. The dogs looked at me as if saying, “How uncouth. Even I don’t water these bushes.”

I was really happy to be getting out of that town.

We drove to the airport. It was still 3 hours before our flight, but we had run out of things to do. Besides, we really wanted to get out of that town.

We arrived at the airport. Security made it so we had to drag our bags across a large empty parking lot. Thankfully Vika and Galina pitched in. Sasha refused to help. He was starting to get a bit wound up. I was starting to get a bit panicy.

Before we moved out, we realized that bringing the flowers any further would be counterproductive. We had hoped that Vira would show up for us to say goodbye. Instead we gave her flowers to Vika to pass on. It was a warm and touching moment only partially spoiled by Galina’s prodding to get into the airport.

Once inside the cavernous main room of the airport we discovered that the check in counter would not open for another half an hour. We grabbed a couple of tables by the snack stand and sat down drumming our fingers.

There was a second story to the airport, where waiting passengers or people waiting on passengers could climb up and view the planes landing and taking off. We were at the base of these steps chasing the children.

The seemed determined to flirt with Vika and the lady behind the snack counter, and stay as far away from us as possible. Even the music we played for them did not keep their attention long.

Finally a group started climbing the steps. This struck Sasha as wrong, especially since Momma had told him several times, not to climb the steps. In a clear echoing voice he yelled out for all the airport to hear—“Oy, Oy, Oy!”

Apparently that means “No, no, no, you are in trouble now buddy.”

The counter opened and Galina took off running to get us checked in. Could it be she was getting as tired of us as we were of her? Nah. I was trying to grab all of our luggage and lug it over to her. Cindy was chasing Sasha. Vira did join us to say good-bye, so she was roped in to watch the kids too.

Tickets were handed over. I goofed and only gave her two. I forgot, there are three of us now. I corrected it. Then I ran off to get the kids as Mary Beth started checking in.

Suddenly Galina was calling me. I was half way across the airport following a speeding Sasha. I looked back and Galina’s frantic signaling meant I had to return. I ran, grabbed Sasha, and drug his kicking and screaming body back to the counter. Vira took over and he behaved.

He behaves well for cute young ladies.

He’s bright.

Vika tried to explain. There was something wrong with our baggage. I had to go in back and fix it.

I assumed it was the broken wheel finally falling off.

Nope.

Behind the check in counter was the baggage x-ray system. I walked the length of the building to find the right door, then walked back to see what the problem was.

Security had found something strange in my bags. Could I identify it please.

I had no clue from the x-ray image, but offered to open up my suitcase and show whatever it was to the officials with the guns.

The sweet little lady with the x-ray machine and holstered pistol smiled.

I opened it up.

The Fan.

@#$@#$@#$@#.

I was ready to kill Cindy, but I didn’t know how Sasha would take it.

Security checked out the fan than had me repack the bag. Then in a huff I stormed out of the area ready to complain to my loving wife. Instead she looked like she was going to kill me? Why? What did I do.

I left her alone with the kids running wild. How could I goof off with the security people when our son was being a terror?

Well, she didn’t say those words. I just read them in her eyes from half an airport away. A briefly considered going back to the nice little old lady with the x-ray machine. All she could do would be to shoot me.

I was really, really glad to be getting out of this town.

We took our boarding passes and went to the far end of the airport by our gate. It was a large, relatively safe area. We let the kids run.

The plane was on time and before we knew it, we were saying good-bye. We thanked them for all their hard work. They thanked us for all of our help. Hugs were shared. Kids were grabbed before they ran off.

Then we divided up into family groups.

That is when Sasha paniced. He did not want to leave the lovely Vira or Vika. We passed him through security as he was screaming for them. He wanted to play with them, now!

It surprising how little security actually bothers checking parents with screaming children.

Once around the corner in the waiting room, Sasha quieted down. He still had Mary Beth and Josh. This was good because nobody around us now spoke English. The only problem was keeping him from bothering all the other passengers.

Thankfully he fell for Josh’s playdo. He tried to play catch with all the other passengers around us, but they were not thrilled to be playing catch with playdo. Luckilly he is so irrisitably cute, nobody really got upset.

The bus pulled up and we went out and climbed on board. Now was when I dreaded the crying to begin, the screams, the fear.

Nothing.

He stared at the busses, the planes, the trucks.

He was amazed.

We got on the plane and buckled him in.

Larry, Josh and Mary Beth walked past us to sit behind us. Sasha started to panic. He didn’t want to sit alone. He didn’t want to be away from Josh or Mary Beth. He settled on sitting on Momma’s lap.

I feared the stewardess would force him to sit alone.

Instead they just smiled at them and he smiled back. Two more young ladies under his spell.

He was still restless and nervous. Momma reached into her bag at her feet. She handed Sasha some treats.
Sasha smiled.

It was time for the Cheezit’s.

As the plane rolled down the runway Sasha’s eyes became heavy.

By the time we reached cruising altitude he was asleep.

The same could not be said for Josh.

He fidgeted and cried throughout the flight.

I do want to give praise to the flight crew. When the man in front of Josh laid his seat back so that Mary Beth could no longer hold Josh in her lap, they forced the man to be polite and not lean back as far.

When another man asked that they do something about the noisy child, the stewardess politely told the man what he could do to himself.

By 10pm we were over Moscow and preparing to land. I looked out our window and was met with a strange site. It was a holiday, and it was being celebrated. Fireworks flashed thousands of feet below us. Yes, I watched the tops of fireworks as we began our landing. I most remember how small they looked. When you are on the ground, one big blast seems to fill the sky and reach the stars. In truth, the biggest blasts are under 200 feet off the ground. From the air they looked tiny.

We landed without incident. We went to get our luggage. We began to worry. Anna was not there yet.

I volunteered to watch Sasha while Cindy went to get the luggage.

Sasha volunteered to go with Cindy to get the luggage.

I got to stand next to our carry on bags waiting for them.

Anna still didn’t show up.

We got our bags, it was going on 11. We drug them out of the baggage area. With a great sigh of relief we found Anna waiting for us.

I also figured out how to stack our bags so that I could carry most of them while Cindy grabbed Sasha.

We headed off to the hotel.

Here we discovered a mistake. The hotel gave us two great rooms, but had forgot to get us our rollaway beds. We had one bed for the three of us. That was manageable. It was not ok for Larry, Mary Beth and Josh.

We talked to the manager. We yelled at the manager. The manager promised us beds within half an hour.

We went upstairs and fell asleep waiting for the beds.

My last thoughts while I was luxurating in the comfortable bed was, “I am so very very thankful to be out of that city. I will be even more thankful when we get out of this one.”

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Shan
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Ahhhh . . . . the chapter of "The NeverEnding Hour in Parenting"

[Big Grin]

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Zeugma
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*drums fingers impatiently*

I'm pretty sure Sasha isn't still in a hotel in Russia. [Wink] [Big Grin]

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Space Opera
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It's so nice to watch a parent falling in love with his child. [Smile]

space opera

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Dan_raven
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Ok, Ok. Here's an update.

Sunday June 13th

Back in Moscow

I awoke at 1:30 am due to the phone ringing. Sasha lay snoring his kiddie snores next to me. Momma, on the other side of him, grumbled as she reached for the phone. It was next to me so I got it instead.

It was the hotel.

The extra bed we had been promised, and that had been promised to be delivered within a half an hour of our 11pm check in, was ready for us.

“No thanks.” I hung up.

“If they woke up Sasha….” Cindy threatened. They hadn’t. We went back to sleep and the hotel staff was safe from Cindy’s wrath.

We awoke again around 7 and debated what to do. I got a first real good look at our suite and was impressed. It was a “Business Suite” which meant it was designed for the business exec. It had a large bed room with a king sized bed, large enough for us three. There was a TV Console with stereo sound and a DVD player built in. It faced the bed and sat above a locked “Honor Bar” with overpriced goodies. With Sasha we apreciated the lock. To the direction I will call West were two large windows overlooking the City of Moscow from our fourth floor vantage point. We got to look right into the department store across the way. Not a great view. Still, it was a comfortable view from our bed.

The suite meandered off to the east. There was a small hallway which connected the Bedroom to the living room I’ll discuss later. Along the halls southern wall was a large closet with a safe and plenty of room to hang clothes and put shoes. Where it ended was a large sink and food service area. Along the halls northern wall was a fair sized bathroom. The shower was sparkling and ready with unlimited hot water. The sink was surrounded be samples of soaps and white fluffy towels. The toilet itself was sanitary and glistening.

The living room, at the eastern end of the hall, held a couch, a small coffee table, a few end tables and the TV Cabinet. In the cabinet was a nice TV with DVD and all the other necessities. Below the TV was a small refrigerator. I vaguely remembered coming in the night before and throwing all of our foodstuffs into the fridge. The remainder of our stash of Astrakhan Yogurt filled most of it.

We were still in our bed, not wanting to wake Sasha, but needing to get up. Just as we both silently agreed to try and stand up, Sasha woke up. We had a good five minutes of morning hugs and tickles before doing bathroom runs. Showers followed. It was my first time washing Sasha. I had been nervous, what should I do with a naked little boy, but it all went so naturally. We showered and washed and laughed.
While I did this Cindy began Sasha proofing the room. Ash trays, sharp, pointy, or breakable things were being hidden.

We then got dressed and ready for real food. The Marriot’s breakfast buffet was what we had all been dreaming of since our first meal in Astrakhan. Fresh fruit, waffles, potatoes, -- all missing the standard poundage of grease we had started to get used to. We had arranged to meet at the restaurant at 9:30am. We were running late.

And I was starved.

When we told Sasha we were going out to meet the others, he rushed to get done. I pointed out that he didn’t have any shoes on. He ran to get them. I pointed out that Mamma didn’t have any shoes on. He searched the room for Momma’s shoes. He was ready to go.

Our room was down a long corridor from the main area. We were almost at the end. Mary Beth, Larry, and Sasha were in a room about two doors closer to the main area than we were. We passed it on our way out. We also passed a small area where two potted trees stood guard. Then we came to the main meeting area of the floor. Here was our first meeting with the other kids in the hotel. Sasha stared, have scared, half in desire at the kids playing in this common room.

The Marriott Trey is built as follows. The ground floor is where you check in and visit all the ammenities such as the gift shop or the travel guide. Its center area is open at top so you can see the second floor. On the second floor are the meeting rooms and the restaurant. It has a ceiling. The third floor is all enclosed. The fourth floor, designated the Family Floor, has a large common area with one computer offering free internet access. All the floors above the fourth do not have this common area, but have balconies around an open area. In other words, from the fourth floor you can look up at eight more floors of balconies, and on up to the glass roof atop the building.

They put the kids all on the fourth floor if they can as a safety precaution, and to give them a big central area to play in.

Going up and down from floor to floor is done in two glass elevators. This is considered as much fun as anything Disney has by most 3 year olds.

We went down to the second floor, and proceded to the restaurant. For once Mary Beth and company had not beat us to an appointment. We grabbed a table. Quickly we hid all the knives. Then we waited.

And waited.

Starved, I made an excuse to get me some food.

Cindy made sure I got some for Sasha.
Finally she got up to get some.

We were half way done with our meal when Mary Beth and company showed up. Josh looked happy and well rested. The other two did not. They couldn’t sleep. Without the second bed, Larry tried sleeping on the couch, but it was uncomfortable. Josh was not in the mood to sleep. He kept them awake. Finally, Mary Beth had gone out to complain about the missing bed. She found the manager of the hotel and let her have a few choice words. The manager explained that the beds were in route from one of the other Marriotts and that they would be arriving shortly. She was promised a free surprise and no charge for the extra bed.

The bed arrived by a little after 1. They finally got settled and asleep by 2am.

Some good food seemed to make a bit of a difference. By 11 we were making plans for the day. Larry wanted to go site seeing, but we were promised a site seeing trip to be held on Monday. Mary Beth wanted to get some pull-ups. While Sasha had done very well in the potty department, Josh, a year younger, had not. We had brought a case of 30 pull ups, and offered to give her some, but Mary Beth didn’t want to be a bother. Perhaps a little walk outside would do us good. After the nap would be best.

We returned upstairs, (after grabbing an extra yogurt of two). When we went to divide the two kids, a screaming match errupted. We did the wrong thing. We gave in. Cindy returned the food to the room. I took the kids to the play area and they played.

They played very well. First they took all the books out of the book shelf—only about a dozen—and stacked them dangerously around the three steps leading into the semi-sunken common area. Then they started mingling with the other children.

There were several other families there, all with newly adopted kids. There was the shy bashful little boy who was scared of everything except his stuffed bear, which, if he liked you, he let you hold. There was the little 2 year old girl from one of the outer regions. They had not flush toilets in her orphanage. She was used to squating over a whole in the ground. This made her families attempts at potty training an interesting challenge as she tried to climb up onto the toilet seat. There was the brave family that had adopted five children from the same orphanage. I called these kids the Common Room Gang. Taking courage from each other they ruled the common room. They became the popular clique. The became the wild clique.

By noon we were hungry again. The kids loved the idea of going out to eat. Before I knew it we were down stairs with Mary Beth and family, headed for a walk. There was a drug store just down the block where we hoped to find the pull ups for Josh. There was a real good Italian Restaurant just down the other block where we could get dinner. There was a small shop that had religious souveniers that we Larry liked.

Josh, comfy in his stroller and Sasha comfy holding Mary Beth’s hand, out we went.

The drug store just sold drugs. They had no childrens neccesities.

The souvenier shop, being a specialty Christian store, was closed on Sunday.

The Italian restaurant seemed to disappear. We ended up going to a fast food chicken franchise.

Josh got tired of his stroller. Sasha never did. He spent most of the trip being pushed in Josh’s stroller. We made up for it by carrying the bulkier Josh.

Nap time crept up on us as we walked. We went back to our rooms, and planned on a quick bite. Cindy and I started to lead Sasha off, but he screamed and ran to Mary Beth. Mary Beth and Larry were trying to lead Josh off. Sasha grabbed a hold of Mary Beth and refused to let go. Josh grabbed Larry. We worked our way down to our rooms. They stopped at the small alcove with the potted plants. Inside the planters were small rocks. These became perfect little play toys piled on the nice clean carpet. The maids cleaning the rooms nearby didn’t seem to appreciate them, and we certainly didn’t. Just as soon as we got one to stop doing this at one tree, the other one began emptying the other tree. Rocks found their way into pockets and purses.

Finally, since it became apparent the kids were not going to clean up their mess, Larry and I did while the mothers grabbed the kids and hauled them into the rooms for a nap. Larry headed to the bar. I went to join my hopefully sleeping family.

Hope was dashed.

There was about half an hour of screaming and yelling and crying before the nap finally began. Sasha was doing most of that, but momma and pappa were helping with the crying. Sasha demanded his freedom, demanded to go outside. Pappa just wanted to relax in front of the TV. Neither got our way.

However, nap finally happened. After he fell asleep I got up and worked my way to the living room and watched TV. Momma slept a bit, but then got up and started cleaning. Pappa is just lazy.

By 4:30 Sasha was up, rested, and ready to go. He grabbed everyone’s shoes and headed for the door. We were not so ready. Mamma was in the middle of washing clothes by hand in the sink. After a fifteen minute heart wrenching cry fit by Sasha, he started helping Mamma with the wash.

I am not sure if Help is the right term. He was splashing and playing with the soap and bubbles and faucet. Mamma didn’t get much wash done, but she had fun.

I was spending my time forcing the uneaten chicken into the crowded refrigerator. Momma finally had enough, and she sent her two children, Sasha and me, out to play. There were no other children in the common area, so the two of us got to have some fun alone. It was great.

Many families brought toys and left them out for everyone to play with. The greatest of these were beach balls. The kids loved the balls, and they are inexpensive and easy to pack. We played for a while, but I kept looking longingly at the computer. I wanted to get on and send a few quick lines to everyone saying hello.

Finally another family showed up. Sasha had kids to play with. It was the young shy boy with the bear. They got along well, though Sasha was a bit possesive of his stack of books.

Josh and Mary Beth showed up to join the group and everyone had a good time. They watched Sasha while I got on line. I watched their kids as they got on line. It was a true community effort. The adoption war stories were rampant.

Then I noticed a new toy appear on the floor. The were white rocks. Around the elevator the hotel had provided a nice rock garden with a few green plants and an arrangement of white rocks. Sasha and Josh and a couple of friends were mining those rocks and moving them to the middle of the glass tables.

As I was putting a fatherly halt to this landscaping endevour my nose caught a wiff of something. At one point Sasha had said “Toiletta” but when I questioned him, he just squatted down for a second, then went on with his playing. I began to suspect that little squat.

Under intesive questioning it became apparent that Sasha had had an accident. Without shame or retribution I took him back to our room, to the bathroom, and scooped out his shorts. Then I changed his clothes and out we went again.

Dinner was a question we were soon considering. By now Cindy had come out and joined us. She had a great idea. Some of the parents had lunch in the common room, sharing a community pizza. She took Sasha out and headed for S’barro’s pizza. I, feeling exhausted, got in some prime TV watching.

Too bad there was nothing on TV worth watching.

After waiting what seemed like a long while for them to get back I decided to check out the computer. I left the room and headed out to the common area. There was Cindy, talking with a gentleman, while Sasha was playing and the pizza was getting cold. I introduced myself. This gentleman was in town for business, for about 6 weeks. He had discovered all sorts of local wonders. Cindy was pumping him for all the informations she could get. He suggested things like taking the train down to Red Square instead of paying over $20 for a taxi that the hotel would arrange.

I saw the pizza getting cold and Sasha drooling just a bit. I volunteered to take Sasha off of Cindy’s hands and feed the poor kid. She smiled and hardly noticed. Sasha followed the pizza more than me and we headed back to the room.

The pizza was fine. Sasha rattled on about watching the man throw it and make it. At least that is what I thought he was saying. His English vocabulary wasn’t much beyond Toilette and Shoes.

After about the second slice Sasha began to notice that Momma was not back yet. He began to question. This quickly led to demands. This quickly led to panic. This resulted in screaming.

A first started to go into dicsipline mode. I wanted to make him stop crying. Then it struck me. Why? Why not let him have what he wanted. I asked him if he wanted to go outside and find Mamma. He said a teary yes. I helped him put his shoes back on, grabbed the room key, and left the pizza sitting on the table.

We walked out to where Mamma was sitting at the table still chatting with the gentleman, taking all kinds of notes on a S’Barro’s napkin. As soon as Sasha saw Mamma his eyes lit up and he went running to her. I was a hero for finding her.

Cindy realized that it was getting late so finally returned to the room, with Sasha and with an envelope covered in all kinds of interesting information. Maps to the Kremlin and a flea market and a play ground were all sketched in illegible ink on the krinkled envelope. Cindy was excited. She considered finding this Moscow Insider a real coup and we were going to exploit it to no end.

First, we had to get Sasha to sleep. We went into our new routine. First a bath. Then into bed clothes. Then brush teeth. Then into bed with 1 stuffed animal and 1 book. He didn’t understand any stories, so we focused on learning new words. We had a wonderful book called “Your First 1000 Words” which showed pretty pictures and had all of them labeled in Russian. We went through it twice, then turned out all the lights and went to sleep.

An hour later he was snoring well. I crawled out of bed and headed to the TV in the other room. Cindy pulled out a book and joined me, but could not sit still. She was cleaning quietly the rest of the night.

We had started him to bed at 7. He was in bed and supposed to be sleeping by 8. By 9 I was watching TV. By 10 I realized I was too tired to stay awake and watch the Hallmark Channel. Really, when is anyone awake enough to watch the Hallmark Channel? The only other English speaking channels were doing news. Ronald Reagan had passed away and they took great enthusiasm in telling us every detail about the ceremony.

When I graduated High School, Ronald Reagan had talked about “The Evil Empire.” He joked, got on a TV Camera, that “The US Congress had outlawed Russia. The missiles are in flight.” Here I was, in Moscow, with a Russian son, planning hard to make sure he keeps that Russian heritage. President Reagan had lived long enough to see Communist Russia buried. Moscow and I had lived long enough to see President Reagan buried. I wonder what wonders Sasha will live to see, and what powers he will see buried?

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Space Opera
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[Big Grin]

Thank you so much for sharing all of this with us!

space opera

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advice for robots
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Wow, Dan.

Hope you've gotten more used to having Sasha by now. I'm sure bedtime is a bit more deftly handled. Hopefully Sasha is getting acclimatized to his new surroundings. Reading through your stories reminds me so much of our own children (and the time and effort it takes to be a parent).

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Zeugma
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Chills. [Big Grin]
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Zeugma
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Gosh, has it only been two weeks since the last update? It feels like two years!

Maybe you could start a daily blog about Sasha. Yeah, a 2-page story every day. That would be about right. [Big Grin]

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PSI Teleport
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Forgive me if this has been answered already in a thread. I was telling my husband about Sasha's hypospadias and he wanted to know if there's really a good reason to fix it? What I mean is, he wants to know if there's anything wrong with leaving it the way it is.
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Zeugma
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*bump* [Smile]
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Dan_raven
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First, a quick apology. Between new jobs, and new son, I've been
negligent in my writing. I'll try to do better.

Tour Time:

If you remember where we left off, it was Monday in Moscow. One
thing that we were looking forward to from the first days of our
adoption plans was the promised guided tour of Moscow. Today was the
day it was finally to be given.

We also had one other important scheduled event on Monday. The US
Government would not allow us to adopt a child into the US without a
thorough medical exam. The embassy doctor would come around early
and give Sasha a checkup.

It was going to be a busy day. In this regard I was not
disappointed. The size of this chapter won't disappoint anyone
because of it.

We got up at 7 and got ready for the day. Sasha and us quickly
cleaned up and headed to breakfast. Sasha was excitedly waiting to
meet with Aslon and Momma MaryBeth. There were a few difficulties
getting up and ready. There were the usual arguments about showers
and clothes, but we were quickly on our way.

We arrived first at the restaurant, and quickly grabbed a table for
six. I had learned and, much to Sasha's disappointment, quickly
cleared the area around Sasha of all knives, glassware, ceramics, and
anything else he could grab and play with.

We waited a couple minutes, but Sasha and Pappa were hungry.
Besides, the doctor would be coming at 10. We couldn't spend all day
lounging around the breakfast table. Sasha and I went up to the
buffet and filled our plates with good food. Before we were back,
Larry, Mary Beth and Aslon had joined us. We first went over a few
excited worries about what the days doctor visit would bring. The
doctor would be visiting Aslon just before us. That didn't last
long. The real area of excitement for today was the tour.

Sasha soon cried "Toiletta." Breakfast was over as I took him to the
bathroom. We all soon parted to get ready for the doctor visit, and
then the Tour.

That is, until we got to our room. As we were getting ready to spend
some time in the common room with the other kids we saw we had a
message on the phone. It was CHI. It seems the tour had been
pushed back to 2pm, and the doctor was back to noon. Further, there
were papers requiring signature downstairs.

I was sent down to get the paperwork, while Cindy took Sasha to the
common room. He was thrilled to play with mamma Mary Beth. This
began to worry me. Was he bonding with the wrong momma?

Anna was down stairs working in the comfortable leather chairs.
Between the holiday and the limited court days for adoption, the
hotel was full of people waiting for their doctor checkups and
embassy paperwork. She was taking care of everybody in the comfort
of the hotel lobby, and between the frantic parents she was working
on her master's thesis.

We talked for a couple of minutes. She had some last minute
paperwork to finish, plus wanted to make sure I knew the schedule for
the next few days. I needed to get some details from Cindy, and a
signature.

Back up the escalator. Cindy filled out the missing info (I can
never remember her social security number). This is where we also
brought out our tax papers and other important data.

Meanwhile Sasha and Joshua Aslon had emptied the cabinet under the
common room TV. It was becoming their own personal hideout.

Back down the elevator. I turned in the paperwork and discovered
that the Doctor was running late. About 1pm she would be up to see
us. At 3 we would do our tour, the tour we'd been promised since the
first visit.

Lunch came and went (I believe by now you are all tired of my daily
dietary review. Lets just say don't eat the salad. The salad was
great, but they washed the leaves in tap water, and my stomach did
not appreciate the tap water.)

Lunch gave us the excuse to drag Sasha out of his cabinet of hiding,
and back into the room. That way he wouldn't be crying and screaming
when the doctor came. By 1:30 we began to panic. Where was the
doctor?

We called Mary Beth. Had she seen the doctor? Yes. The doctor was
visiting all of the children today, starting at 1pm. We just had to
wait our turn.

Around 2pm we had a knock on the door. The doctor arrived, a kindly
older woman who spoke very good English. We called Sasha in. How
would he behave for the doctor?

Perfectly.

Almost robotically, he stripped and stood while the doctor poked,
prodded, and put cold instruments to him. Then came the hurdle. Was
he well enough to go to the US? Was he in good shape?

Perfect.

Except for a minor penal problem later corrected (another long story
surprisingly involving good lunches too) Sasha was perfect. We
laughed, thanked the good doctor, then quickly dressed for the tour.

A van pulled up in front of the hotel and we all climbed aboard.
Mary Beth, Larry, and Asalon were there. So was another couple who
had yet to get their child. This meant they doted as much on our
kids as we did.

Larry's big question, and a smaller question for all of us
was, "Would we be stopping for souvenirs?"

Our tour leader was a elderly Russian woman with died red hair and an
over enthusiastic tone. "Yes." She said. "We will definitely stop
for souvenirs."

"There is this book we wanted at the hotel gift shop." Cindy started.

"Oh no. Where we are going it is much cheaper. All souvenirs are
much cheaper." Larry smiled. This is why he had come.

As the van pulled away from the hotel our guide began by telling us
about the favorite Russian fairy tale.

"Does anyone know Kolobok?" she asked. Sasha jumped up (seatbelts?
In Russia? Yeah, right.)

"Kolobok!" he yelled. Then in a quick energetic Russian he told
everyone in the bus the story of Kolobok. Unfortunately nobody but
the driver and the guide knew Russian, and they wanted him to be
quiet so they could get on with the tour. Somehow she Grandmotherly
talked him into being quiet.

Kolobok is a old folk tale very similar to "The Gingerbread Man."
Accept the hero was not made of Gingerbread, and did not resemble a
man. He was more of a hyperactive dumpling, or more realistically, a
round cake that rolled away.

We rolled away. We saw the Bolshoi Ballet, and the old headquarters
of the KGB and several other interesting buildings. I'm not trying
to short shrift the tour. I couldn't tell you more about those
places because when I said we saw them, I mean we saw them. The
guide pointed them out to us as we passed them by. We didn't get out
of the van.

We stopped at a hotel in front of the Kremlin. This was the second
hotel that CHI used for their adopting parents. It was not as nice
as the one we stayed at, but it had a view to kill for. It was
across the street from the Kremlin, Red Square, and St. Basil's
cathedral. We were picking up a couple more couples to continue the
tour. While we waited for them we got out of the van and took some
pictures. They were great pictures, from a distance.

While we adults were photographing one of the great wonders of the
world, where were our children? They had found dandelions. They
were playing with pretty weeds. I got pictures of that too.

We all loaded up to begin the tour. Larry asked, "Will we get to
tour Red Square on the way back?"

"Oh no. We had a big holiday Saturday. Red Square is closed."

Larry just sat down dumbfounded. All he had talked about for the
past week was visiting Red Square. How could we visit Moscow—twice—
and not visit it? That is like going to Egypt but not looking at the
Pyramids. It was like going to Hershey Pennsylvania without eating
some chocolate. This could not stand.

The tour went on. We drove by some of the greatest buildings in
Moscow, and took pictures of them through the van windows. We did
stop at one of interest before our much hyped souvenir stop.

Everyone is familiar St. Basil's Cathedral. It's the crazy colored
onion domed cathedral in the Kremlin. Its on 92.7% of all pictures
of Moscow. We didn't get to see that one.

We did get to see "Christ The Savior Cathedral". This is a beautiful
building in a more western tradition. It set on this site for
several hundred years. However, during the communist era Stalin
believed that it was an inappropriate view from the Peoples Hotel.
He had it torn down. The basement was turned into a public swimming
pool.

In 1986, with the help of some US Christian groups, the Eastern
Orthodox Church decided to rebuild this place of worship. Using
saved and restored drawings, it took them 6 years to rebuild it.
That is a tribute to their faith. As we toured it I would never have
guessed this impressive cathedral was anything other than the
classical place of worship it appeared to be.

The tour of the cathedral was over quickly. I have toured other
active churches and always felt a bit nervous. They are more than
just historic buildings or tourist site. They are functioning places
of worship. This one was full of people worshipping, and praying and
seeking highly personal guidance. Gawking at the surrounding artwork
didn't feel right.

Chasing my three year old around the naïve as he tried to experience
everything through his hands definitely didn't feel right.

Then again, walking through the metal detector to get into the church
didn't seem quite right either.

We got back in the van and headed a few blocks away to the souvenir
store.

This was the moment we've all been waiting for. Well, the moment
Larry had been waiting for, but that we were also interested in.
Souvenirs!! The best souvenir store in the city.

It was a very unpromising little store that we walked into. As a
group we walked down the steps and met the staff. They greeted us
with smiles, and with free Vodka.

"It is an old Russian tradition to welcome guests with a drink!" our
guide explained.

When I was in India we were told it was an old Indian custom to
welcome guests with a hard drink. They told us this at every shoddy
or overpriced souvenir shop we ran across.

I began to think that there is an ancient Las Vegas tradition to
offer a free glass of whisky to every guest as a sign of friendship.
In fact, drunkenness is an ancient tradition every place they try to
grab your money.

I took a glass anyway. Sasha was given some juice. Cindy took the
juice too.

Is vodka supposed to burn as it goes down your throat?

Is it supposed to taste like gasoline?

Is it supposed to make the lights shine all pretty, where there are
no lights?

It was gooooood vodka.

Needless to say I began to believe that this was a great store, with
nice caring loving people who only had my best intentions at heart.

That was why they picked up Sasha and gently sat him on the $900 hand
made rocking horse and told him to enjoy.

The vodka was good, but a $900 toy being proffered on your son will
sober you up faster.

Cindy went investigating the rest of the souvenirs. They were
ridiculously over priced. The book of fairy tales we saw at the
hotel souvenir shop was more expensive here than at the hotel.
Considering hotel souvenir shops are notoriously expensive, that is
saying a lot.

We left there grumbling and went back to the drive-by tour.

We made another stop that actually allowed us to get out of the car.

We stopped outside a famous nunnery. Peter the Great worked hard to
transform Russia from a large country of illiterate farmers into a
world power. His success is still questioned by scholars today.

Back then it was the cause of rebellion.

And if you are rebelling against an all powerful ruler, who better to
lead your rebellion that the rulers sister. Unfortunately for the
sister, she lost. However you don't kill your own sister for one
petty mistake. If your royalty you send her to the nearest nunnery
where she can have her maids and ladies in waiting do your penance
for you.

So we got to take pictures of the outside of the nunnery where Peter
the Great's sister was kept out of the way. (To follow up on the
history, you do kill your Sister after she uses the nunnery you are
imprisoning her in to launch a second rebellion).

Our next stop was atop of Moscow. There is a hill overlooking
Moscow, on which Stalin built the Russian University. It was a 20
some odd story wedding cake styled building, the only building of its
style in the entire city, and it was visible from almost anywhere in
the city. At its foot was a look out point where one could see all
of Moscow, if you could wade through the souvenir tables. Cindy
noted that they were also cheaper than the super special souvenir
shop which was the supposed highlight of our tour.

Sasha took all this in with a smile, and a snore. Half way up the
hill he fell asleep. Mary Beth watched him while I took pictures and
Cindy went shopping. After word we headed for the next stop. Our
tour guide showed so many wonderful sites, the Tears of the Orphans
Fountains, and Gorky Park, and more, all while explaining that rental
prices were outrageous. We stopped once to stand outside the Moscow
river, and look at a hotel called "The White House." We stopped one
final time outside the monument to Peter the Great.

This monument is a great statue of Peter, standing atop of ships that
represent his success in creating a Russian navy. Peter is three
times larger than the ships. The ships are larger than life size,
and they stand on top of each other. All of them stand on top of 20
foot tall fountains, all in the center of the river.
It's a little bit much. Its great.

And while I am trying to photograph all of this, where are Sasha and
Aslon? Picking more dandelions.

By now it was almost 5pm. We were all exhausted. The tour wound
down and we dropped off the other couples at their hotel near the
Kremlin.

"Can we get out here too?" Larry asked.

The tour guide looked a bit confused. "Sure. But don't expect to
see much at the Red Square. They are still cleaning up from the
holiday. It is closed."

We abandoned the tour here and visited Red Square on our own. The
four adults and the two little children crossed the traffic and
stared wide eyed at the wonders that were set before us.

First we had to cross two busy streets to find our way into Red
Square. This was accomplished with the help of two strategically
placed tunnels and a visiting American Church Group. The teen church
girls who gave us directions were a godsend. Then again, any group
that spoke English was a godsend.

We rushed in line to tour St. Basils. Here we were at the most
internationally well known building in Russia, the highlight of our
Russian tour. They closed 15 minutes before we arrived.

We used a few words that the church girls would not have approved of
and moved on. We turned around and took our first good look at Red
Square. It was fantastic.

Red Square is a large open area that sits between the walls of the
Kremlin and Lenin's Tomb, St. Basil's Cathedral, several blocks of
classical buildings, and on the far end, a beautiful multi-story red
building.

During the cold war days nuclear missiles and tanks drove across this
ground demonstrating Soviet might. Today it was filled tourists.
The classical buildings that lined the one side of the square used to
be governmental offices filled with soviet bureaucrats pushing the
communist ideal. Now it was a series of department stores.
The red building intrigued me. What piece of history did it
represent? We headed across the square. I will admit, there were
remnants of the celebration still in the square, but it was far from
closed.

We passed Lenin's tomb, which was closed because it was after 5. I
couldn't resist. "There's Lenin's tomb. Where is McCartney's"?
I can now say that I was booed out of Red Square.

We made it to the big red building at the far end. I noticed a group
of costumed folks standing around in the street near the red
building. They were dressed as historical characters, kind of a
Russian SCA. They were waiters at a themed restaurant around the
corner. I tried to take their pictures but they shied away. They
were supposed to draw customers in their fun costumes but they looked
extremely bored.

I turned around and there were three interesting people standing at
the side of the red building. It took me a moment to put names to
their faces. It was Lenin, Stalin, and Marx lounging outside the
mysterious red building.

I know what you are thinking. Here I get all mystical and symbolic.
No. It was Lenin, Stalin, and Marx, posing for pictures. Yep, for
$10 slipped to Karl Marx I could get a memento for a lifetime. I
still giggle at that.

I ventured into the big red building at the opposite end of red
square from St. Basil's cathedral. What could it be?

It was the best souvenir shop we found in Moscow.

Seriously, the stuff we had been searching for, books, pratushka
dolls, crafts and Russian wonders, were priced the best we had seen
them in the country.

About an hour later, after even Larry had his fill of shopping, we
decided to head back home.

That's when Sasha decided to remind us of his existence. He threw a
tantrum. He demanded Joshua Aslon's stroller. He screamed. He sat
down and didn't want to move. Sasha was tired. He'd walked too much
and wanted to sleep, however he hated sleeping so he insisted he
didn't want to sleep. In other words, he was a typical 3-year old,
and we were panicking a bit.

Now we needed to find our way back to our hotel. I couldn't even
remember the name of it. I new it was a Marriott, but there are
several in Moscow.

Luckily Cindy was prepared. All of her earlier reconnaissance paid
off. She knew where the taxi's were waiting and even what we should
be charged. Ok, she wouldn't be able to find her way out of Red
Square even with a map, but she had the info we needed to get home.
We joined the crowds leaving the square and heading for the taxi's.
First we met one last capitalistic hero who has invaded the one-time
home of communism. Standing outside Red Square, posing for
pictures, was none other than Mickey Mouse.

Ok, he was a Mickey impersonator. He was also charging for pictures,
and when I snapped a quick picture on the run he made some very un-
Disney gestures.

We grabbed the cab and headed back to the hotel. The cab driver was
very polite and didn't even try to overcharge us.

I was hungry. So were Larry and Mary Beth.

Cindy, however, was fed up with Sasha, and Sasha was being a big 3
year old pain. Cindy just wanted to get Sasha up to bed. She told
me to go on and eat, just bring her back something. We had friends
who were stationed in Germany. When we visited them Cindy fell in
love with good German food. There was a nice German restaurant just
across the street from our hotel. From the first trip Cindy had
talked about going to it.

We went without her.

Why we are still married I don't know.

The food was very good, though Joshua Aslon was showing signs of
being over tired. He was flirting with the girl in the booth next to
us, over the booth in fact. Trying to apologize for that to a family
that spoke only Russian was a bit difficult. Since it wasn't my son,
I considered it a dinner show.

In the middle of dinner exhaustion set in, at least for me. I
couldn't finish my delicious Schnitzel. Instead of ordering another
one for Cindy, I packed up my leftovers and brought them back to our
hotel.

I was halfway back, waiting for the light to change, when Larry
mentioned I was holding the bag sideways. Oops.

I snuck back into the room and offered Cindy the leftovers. I fell
asleep before she could complain. I think she was too exhausted to
notice. She mentioned how good it was the following morning.

One more day down, and one less left before we got home. All we
needed to worry about for the next day was the getting pass the US
consulate.

Did I say all?

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Dan_raven
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After almost a year of waiting to post the next chapter, nobody has anything to say?
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Farmgirl
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We're waiting on the full novel, and don't want to ruin it by reading the short story.... [Smile]

I'm reading! I'm reading! Wish work would quit interrupting!

FG

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whiskysunrise
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Wow. I want more.
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Dan_raven
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Tuesday: The Embassy

Sasha woke us up early as usual. By 6:30 we were awake and getting ready for the big day. Sasha was a bit worried about the shower until he got into it. Then he was a bit difficult to get out of it.

As Cindy began her shower I was given the opportunity to entertain Sasha. He was not trusting me too completely yet. What could I do to overcome the language barrier and have fun?

Our room had two great windows overlooking a department store. The window sill was nice and wide. It was also hip height. I picked up Sasha and set him on the sill. It was wide enough for him to stand and look out the window, but not wide enough for him to be safe. I held him, both from falling backwards and from falling into the glass.

He laughed. We watched traffic (Machinas) and people and he laughed.

I figured the day was going to be a great one after all. For our last full day in Russia, it was going to be a simple matter of spending a few minutes at the US Embassy then we will come back here, have a good dinner, and be so close to the long dreaded plane ride home.

Such are the hopes of ignorant people.

In the back of my head was the voice reminding me that if we somehow fouled up the embassy thing, we’d be stuck here in Moscow for who knows how long. Our airplane tickets would be so much expensive coloring paper. I worked real hard at ignoring that voice.

My turn in the shower and I discovered that with new children, modesty is a lost luxury. Sasha liked Papa now, and insisted in helping me take my shower, mostly by opening up the shower curtain and letting the cold air-conditioned air freeze my wet naked body. He also seemed to enjoy critiquing my other toilette skills, from the way I washed my hands to the way I “made a Stinky”.

We all got dressed. Sasha again doffed his favorite (only) hat, and off we headed. Breakfast was almost routine now. We arrived at the table and immediately began clearing everything near Sasha’s seat of knives, breakables, and anything else he could play with. I was humming to myself. Thirty-six hours and we would be heading home.

Then I began to panic. In thirty-six hours we’d be trapped on an airplane with bunch of screaming, crying, seat-wetting kids. The loudest and wettest could very well be mine.

Mary Beth and Larry soon joined us. Breakfast was good and tasty. We then went up to the main play area and allowed the kids to run free. One eye was kept on Sasha. The other was on the time. At 10 we had to be downstairs, ready to go to the Embassy. The kid’s area was full of parents all leaving at different times for the embassy. I was a bit worried and a bit relieved. I was worried that all these people were going to the embassy, but I was relieved that there seemed to be enough spacing that the line wouldn’t be too long.

Sasha discovered the elevator again. He asked to go to the top, so Sasha, Aslon, three other kids, and I took the glass elevator up to the

Four times I took them up to the top. I was less than thrilled with prospect of redundant trips in the elevator. Among the wild amusement park rides that I’ve enjoyed, this promised to be as exciting as mud.

Then, I watched the kids as they stood there looking outside the glass walls of the elevator as it ran to the top. Through their eyes and amazement I realized how great a thrill this ride really was. I felt the tickle in my stomach as the elevator began to rise, and the smiles in my head as it stopped at the top. I shared the brief flicker of fear as the doors closed and the exultation of freedom as the doors spread wide open. It was a great ride indeed.

Soon enough, however, it was time to go. We dressed professionally, grabbed our son and our dossier. The dossier was our stack of forms, papers, and legal, certified, notarized, apostilized papers that we needed for the adoption. It weighed almost the same as Sasha, give or take a paperclip.

We met Mary Beth and Larry and our guide down at the hotel’s main desk. A third family joined us as we loaded into the van. I smiled. It wasn’t much of a crowd. It should be over with quickly.

We headed for the American Embassy in Moscow. Now almost anyone born before 1982 will be impressed as I with a visit to this front line of the cold war. Here spies plotted, planned, and patrolled. Unreported deeds of valor and villainy centered on this modest building. The world was changed, repeatedly, by those who walked through its doors. History was made, and quite possibly, allowed to continue, due to decisions made within its walls.

We began at the drive thru-window.

Well, maybe walk-up window is a more accurate description. Our driver parked the van on the street, next door to the embassy. As we got out we were given our instructions. Only the “parent-to-be’s” were allowed in, so Larry had to wait outside. We were to go up to the window on the side of the building and hand over all cameras, tape-recorders, or other spy equipment. Then we were to walk around the front and the real security check would begin.

Suddenly this average looking building didn’t seem quite so average any more.

We walked to the window and a not very enthusiastic man mumbled something through the glass. Cindy handed over her cell phone. I did likewise, and added our electronic translator. We were on official American soil. I figured someone here would speak English. Sasha didn’t say a word except try to pull us forward. He wanted to catch up to Ms. Mary Beth.

We then went around the front of the building and entered between some marines. I stood a bit taller and made no sudden moves.

The first room was large, with cue lines set up around a semi-circular desk that backed up to the walk-by window. Busy people were standing there taking care of the throng of people doing business at the embassy. I paused to ask for directions and was quickly told “follow that line”.

That line, painted on the floor of the embassy, ran right into the second room, where metal detectors and more marines waited. Great, I thought. I reached into my pocket to dig out the keys and change that would set off the alarm. Then I felt my camera. It was a small, pocket-sized, digital camera. It was the type of camera that we were supposed to leave at the desk, the type that any spy would love to bring into a US embassy, the type that could inspire these guards to drag me away to some unknown location for deep intensive, unpleasant interrogation.

“Cindy” I gasped. No cameras were allowed in this room. I couldn’t show her. “I’ll be right back.” I ran back to the round desk.

There I presented my camera with a shy, embarrassed, confused explanation when the busy man behind the desk stared back at me. He looked at me exactly the way the lady at the return desk at Wal-Mart looks at me when I return some non-fitting shirt. They’ve heard it all before. They are not impressed. My guilty conscience was totally unjustified.

He took my camera and appeared to not be bothered. I have my doubts about that.

My delay made us loose our place in line for the adoption forms. I quickly passed through the metal detectors and screening. Cindy was stuck at the screening with her giant bag of stuff. In it was packed all the necessities she deemed important. Our dossier, a change of diapers, enough toys to keep a child entertained for 15 years, two translation books. A book for each of us to read, and a magazine incase we were bored.

It is impossible to be bored with a three year old child who isn’t sleeping.

She signaled me to go on, so as not to be further delayed. She would catch up. Sasha and I rushed through the bowels of the embassy, rarely getting lost. Cindy ran and by the time we reached our goal, was there with us.

There are grand elegant dining and ball rooms in the American Embassy, filled with all the impressive things necessary to demonstrate American culture, style, and sophistication. There are large technical rooms filled with state of the art electronics for surveillance, communications, and chrome. These rooms exist I am sure. We never saw them, but they exist.

No, we got the 2 penny tour. My view of the US Embassy in Moscow is that of an unfinished 70’s basement. It was very utilitarian, very sparse, very ugly. Basically it was about 30 years out of date, and even then, not pretty. Even the soda machines off to the corner were out of the 60’s—and that was not a high water mark in Coke dispenser art.

The best description of it would be to picture the drivers license bureaus-a large maze of drivers license bureaus.

We worked our way through this maze, as we had worked our way through the bureaucratic maze of paperwork, with pure panic laced efficiency. We finally came to what should have been the last obstacle—a set of steps going up into the offices we needed. Unfortunately, twelve feet away there was ramp going up the same direction. Which was the right way? If we took the wrong way—well—the well armed marines would wonder what we were doing in the wrong place. I paused in indecision.

Cindy did not. She marched right up the steps. Sasha drug me forward, following her.

At the top of the steps was a room, maybe twenty feet wide and ten feet deep. At the far end were a row of windows with lines of parents waiting patiently for their turns. The lines were short, and there were seats lining the right wall and most of the wall around where we came up. This was going to be comfortable and not take to much time at all.

The wall where we came up was broken by our entrance way, with the stairs leading down. It was close to the right wall. It was also broken by the entranceway to the ramp I had debated using. The wall between these two entranceway was lined with chairs. This left a nice 12 foot square block with no doors in the middle of the embassy. What mysterious purpose did this architectural oddity serve? I didn’t have time to imagine.

The left wall wasn’t. It was an open space leading to a larger room. This larger room was overflowing with families sitting in generic plastic and wire chairs that are so common amongst bureaucrats. There were divided cubicles at the far end where people sat on one side and officials sat on the other. I tried hard to ignore that room. It was my hope that we wouldn’t have to go in there.

Cindy and Mary Beth got in line. Cindy had volunteered to be custodian of the paperwork, and she guarded it like a trooper. Its not that she didn’t trust me with the paperwork. Her hand writing was much clearer, and her organizational skills are very good, and well, now that I mention it, she didn’t trust me with the paperwork.

Aslon and Sasha quickly tired of waiting in line. They started to play and pull the others out of line. “I’ll watch them” I said.

I let them wander a bit, building within them a sense of independence that would be great for the future development.

They took it and ran—literally ran, and at full speed. And they headed straight for the steps.

Three year olds don’t run fast. With ease I got ahead of them and gently turned them around. With even more ease, Sasha looked up at me and smiled, then ran for the entranceway with the ramp. He and Aslon had a new game.

With about five big Papa steps I was in front of them and spun them around. They giggled, then headed in a third direction, towards the crowds in the far room. As I went to stop them there, Sasha broke away from Aslon and headed for the steps. They were dividing up, which meant I had to be twice as fast.

I had speed on them, and a long reach, but they had numbers, and stamina. By now the women were done with the line. Each had a pad of papers to fill out and a number. We just had to wait for numbers to be called, but till then they needed to fill out the paperwork. Mary Beth tried to grab a hold of Aslon to keep him from giving me a heart attack. All that succeeded in doing was creating a safe “base” for both of the kids. When I cut off their retreat they would run back to her. Then when my back was turned, or if I dared sit down, they would be off and running again.

Slowly the fun of the game wore off on me, but not on them. One time Aslon got a bit ahead of me and was almost at the steps when a kindly mother stopped him for me. I thanked the nice woman quickly and was off after the other. Mary Beth eyed the woman with a lingering bit of suspicion.

Later a kindly young father stopped Sasha at the bottom of the ramp. I moved like lightening, grabbed Sasha from the man, and without growling too loud, got him clear of the child-hungry dangerous stranger. Hey, I had been a father less than a week. NOBODY TOUCHES MY SON—HE’S MINE!

They called Mary Beth’s number and she went back up to the window. What was said or done there I did not know, but with regret I saw her head toward the larger room.

A child ran for the steps. I reached down and redirected him before I realized it was someone else’s. Even before my hand was off his shoulder, a father stood in front of me glaring. His thanks were squeezed between clenched teeth. He spun and moved on quickly. What an overprotective, angry man he was.

A few minutes later they called our number. Cindy went to the window. Papers were exchanged. She then motioned for us to follow, into the large room, where we would be forced to wait.

We had been there for about a half an hour, and had just made it through the check-in. Now we had to wait for our interview.

This room was large, about 30’x50’. The walls on three sides were lined with the same plastic chares with the wire legs. In the center of the room were several rows of identical chairs. Families of all sizes filled every chair and extra’s stood waiting.

At the far end were four half-cubicles. A table sat in the center of each. On our side families gathered one at a time. On the other side, stressed Embassy Staff worked hard, repeating the same questions, over and over again.

Out of a door at that far side of the room, out stepped a man in a well rumpled suit. “May I have your attention please.” All of the adults hushed. Most of the children did the same. Most of the babies took their turns in the screaming choir. “Thank you all for coming. Since Saturday was a holiday which we observed yesterday, we are a bit more crowded today than usual. Please bear with us. When we call your name, step up to a window and have all of your paperwork with you.”

What followed were more detailed descriptions about the paperwork. I didn’t notice much as Sasha was making a break out of my hands and I had to stop him.

Then he continued. “As you know, the US Government does not acknowledge dual citizenship. Russia, however, does. Please remember that your children will remain Russian Citizens in the eyes of Russia for the length of their lives. This means that they must meet all of its citizen’s obligations. For young men, this means that you may be drafted. Any Russian male between the ages of 18 and 22 may be forced to serve a couple of years in the Russian military. We suggest that you do not visit Russia during those years.”

The room was silent for a moment. Even the babies quit screaming.

Then, in a flash, it was over and the screams, jabbering, laughs and random noise continued.

The game was easier now that we moved into the big room. There was only one exit leading to the steps and ramp. I blocked that easily, and the boys seemed beaten.

Then Sasha decided that if you couldn’t walk out, he could crawl. It started while sitting on Cindy’s lap in one of the chairs along the wall. He decided he wanted to sit on Mary Beth’s lap, put I was in the way. He got down on the floor, on his knees, and crawled under the chair, under me, and out between Mary Beth’s legs. She was busy holding a tired Aslon, and just laughed.

With Aslon out for the count, Sasha decided to see where else he could explore. Since keeping him trapped in my arms was a bruising and loosing battle, I let him. I followed by walking along the chairs, passing out apologies whenever someone noticed his movement.

With a flash he crawled out from under one of the chairs and crawled across the open space, and under the end chair in one of the middle rows. Now I had a problem. The chairs in the center are close together. While there is room to squeeze in and sit down, there is not room to walk between the knees of a sitter and the backs of the next row.

On the other hand I couldn’t let Sasha disappear into the crowd. Nor could I follow him by crawling under the seats. I dove in. Apologies followed as I squeezed past knees, bumped heads, stuck parts of my anatomy into strangers faces that one would not normally put in the face of a stranger. Finally I reached the end of the row.

Sasha had beat me. He stood up and waived me on. At least now people believed me when I told them why I was barging in on their frustrated waiting. Just as I was about to grab Sasha he dove under the next row of chairs.

Now all those people who’s heads I bumped a moment ago got to have me bump their knees this time.

Its good to meet new people.

This went on for about an hour, or 40. Finally, bit by bit, the room began to empty. More and more parents and children were becoming official US families. Fewer and fewer were entering.

At long last we were called. We grabbed our seats, and our son, and presented our papers. Mary Beth was in the cube next to us. It took some force to get Sasha to come to our table instead of hers. Sasha protested.

The man at the table was pleasant. He told us the obvious things, like how adorable Sasha is and how lucky we are. I think the man was brilliant. He then asked for our paperwork.

Here, the last of our dossier, the work of 9 months labor, of endless meetings, constant notarization, and repeated apostilization, was handed to the man, and I mean “The Man” for the last time.

He glanced at it, marked a sheet, then ignored it.

Three years of meticulously kept tax records were in that stack of papers.

All it earned was a mark and then move on?

I was stunned. I almost demanded that he at least acknowledge the tax report, that he check my math, do something. I almost screamed for a tax audit!

Then I realized that I had missed lunch, and that low blood sugar does strange and stupid things to me. I smiled as he handed us the papers.

“Its official.” He said with a warm smile. “The moment you get off the plane in the US, Alexander Matthew Davis will be a US Citizen.” He handed us all the passports back. We thanked him, got up and left.

The way out of the embassy was just as labyrinth like as the way in, but since we were one of the last to leave, it was more empty, more solemn, and just a bit more creepy. We moved quickly.

I picked up my camera and cell phone from the walk-up window and headed back to the van. The third family was still inside so we had to wait for them. I used this time to take a wonderful memorial photo of the famed US Embassy in Moscow.

I took out the camera I had inadvertently snuck through one layer of our prestigious security. I turned it on and took a digital picture.

For the first time since I owned the camera, the image did not come out clear. There were strange vertical lines running up and down the digital screen. Three more times I attempted to take that picture. Three more times the image was messed up. I began to wonder if there was some Sci-Fi based interference system that was blocking my photos.

For the next two years that perfect camera continued to malfunction, requiring a sharp smack on the side to work well. I am not saying that my mistake in taking the camera into the embassy resulted in some intelligence operative dissecting then reassembling my camera, with a resulting imperfection that caused this problem. I would never criticize my country, and its well armed, torture proficient, security forces. Nor would I ever dream of demanding monetary recompense for this camera.

Still, I won’t be making that mistake again.

We climbed into the van as the last family emerged from the embassy. Now, I planned, we go back to the hotel, have dinner, go to bed, and when we wake up we plan to leave.

Wrong.

First we had a quick stop to look for some pull up pants for Asalon. Apparently they were unheard of in Russia. Then we stopped at CHI’s offices. We got out of the van, walked through the building into the open alley behind it, followed the alley to another door, entered that building and got in the questionable elevator. Sasha loved the elevator. Cindy hated it.

Then we went down the hallway and to the CHI offices. Small snacks were provided for the kids, as were toys. For the adults, internet connected computer was our toy. Snacks, not so much.

We were then presented with our last bill.

There was more paperwork.

There were tearful farewells and thank you’s to all the staff.

Finally we went back to the hotel.

In our room we emptied the refrigerator of all of our leftover food, holding a great farewell banquette to Russia. We only kept a few yogurts which might come in handy on the plane rides.

While Cindy was busy preparing the food, Sasha and I went out to play in the main room again. I hoped to get on line on the computer there, but it was busy. Asalon was out there and they played with great gusto, picking up other kids toys and trying to take them home.

At one point he came to me and said, “Papa—potty.”

I made the big mistake. I said, “Hold on” as I finished my conversation with one of the parents. He went back to his friends and their toys. I walked up to him and said, “Do you have to go?”

He looked up at me and smiled. “Not anymore.”

His pants looked dry. He had been doing such a good job with his bathroom habits that we were not putting him in the pull up pants. Yet as I bent over to see if his pants were dry, the aroma that rose to my nose told me dry and clean were not the same.

I took him, protesting and walking funny, back to our room. Cindy was busy, so I got to do the honors, of cleaning out his underwear and changing his clothes.

“Stinky” he said.

I agreed.

Soon we were back out playing.

This may have been one of the most important things that I did that day. I had wondered how I would handle the issue of messed pants. Would it be to icky for me to deal with? No. I got over it, got used to it, and got on with my life.

After dinner we put Sasha to sleep, then cleaned up. We packed a bit, washed some clothes, did general housekeeping. It still hadn’t sunk in that it was all but over.

Still, as I laid down to go to sleep that night, I didn’t have sheep jumping over a fence to relax me. I had hours sliding over a fence, the hous until our flight left, and more importantly, landed, in St. Louis, and we were home.

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jexx
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Man, I love this story. Even if it *does* take years to tell.

[Smile]

Thank you Dan, thank you Cindy, thank you Sasha.

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Dan_raven
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With any luck, I'll have us home and safe by the end of April. Well, in the story anyway. We get home and safe every night in real life.
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Dan_raven
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Wednesday—The Last Longest Day.

Children can be useful at times.

I say this with the full knowledge that one of the great roadblocks that often stop international adoptions is the fear that we are only looking for a cheap source of child labor. I do not mean that our endeavor to adopt Sasha was a labor saving device.

Not at all.

It is only that, occasionally, children can be useful.

We woke up early, to Sasha’s demand for to play. I went to the restroom, only to be quickly joined by a smiling Sasha. And I mean he joined me in my current endeavor. Contrary to that movie, crossing the streams did not cause every particle in our bodies to fly in opposite directions at the speed of light.

Oh the joys of bonding that only a father and son can share.

We washed our hands and prepared for the day. A shower was necessary since it would be a real long day—thanks to time zones. Sasha was ready this time and jumped in. Getting him out, however, was a bit of a task.

While we were doing this Momma was beginning to pack up. We joined her all refreshed and clean. She jumped in the shower while I spent the time keeping Sasha from unpacking everything that Cindy had packed. When Cindy came out of the shower I realized my work had been useless as she unpacked everything to repack it yet again. Now she was trying to keep Sasha out of the suitcases as his curiosity had him moving, touching, examining everything from the hairdryer to her underwear.

Cindy can get a bit overly motivated with things like this packing, so she was about to explode when I suggested breakfast. The car would be arriving at 10 to take us to the airport. We needed to eat a good meal before then. Packing could wait. Cindy agreed and up we ran to eat.

Sasha began looking for and crying for Asalon and Mary Beth. When he saw Larry behind us he took off running to them. The six of us had our last meal together at the breakfast bar.

They even had bottles of Pepsi for me to drink. It just whetted my appetite for later.

Cindy snuck a bottle in her bag—for later.

Still, nobody was really hungry. We were all excited to leave, so soon we were back at the elevators, going to our rooms. As we got out, into the big play room, Cindy turned to me and said “You, take Sasha and play. I’ll call you when the bags are ready.”

See. Kids can be useful.

Though I think packing up a few bags wasn’t as exhausting as watching Sasha.

We said good-bye to the place that was such a big part of our bonding. Sasha and Asalon hid in the cabinet as Larry attacked the computer. They even brought one of the other boys, the bashful little boy who seemed scared of everyone, and the three of them took turns being closed up in the little cabinet.

Before long the bellboy came up and soon had a cart full of our luggage, and a couple other families as well. Cindy came out of the room and took over Sasha patrol while I did a last minute check of the room. It was spotless. Cindy would never forget anything, and my check insured that nothing of value went missing, like the book I lost on the first trip. I still don’t know how Michener’s Caribbean ends.

Hands were gabbed and strollers unleashed and we went downstairs to await our van—our escape vehicle from Moscow as I called it.

It arrived and everyone loaded stuff inside, then loaded us inside. The seating was tight, as they packed in as many of us as could go in one trip. Since there were no child-seat laws or seatbelt laws in Moscow we were perfectly legal sitting on the floor and squeezed four to a seat. We headed down the road and to the airport.

We passed the “3D Simpson’s Movie In Imax” and the Ikea store—two things that will always make me think of Moscow. We passed the People’s Athletic Stadium, with its powerful statues of the common man/athlete of the Soviet Union in their unparalleled glory, though now separated by a Nike’ billboard.

We made it safely to the airport. Moscow was officially a memory.

We had arrived early for two reasons. First, some of the families had earlier flights. Secondly, I would rather wait around for an hour or two instead of missing my escape—flight by a few minutes.

The Moscow airport was not the most impressive airport I’ve ever visited. However it did have hints of the American life I was so missing. There in the main concourse was TGIFriday’s. Alas, we couldn’t stop.

Finally we reached the point where we had to leave our CHI Muscovites. From this point on only those with tickets were allowed. There were thanks and hugs and a tear or two, and we pushed our oversized carts full of luggage.

Sasha was not upset by the parting. He was in great spirits. If I could keep him this happy then all my fears of the flight home would be for nothing.

There were four open lines we were divided into. This was the preliminary id check and luggage check-in. After our luggage would disappear down a chute to the waiting machination of the airport crew, we were supposed to move into a long maze of a cue line to passport control. Then we would enter the international concourse and await our plane.

That was the plan.

MaryBeth, Larry and Asalon were in front of us, and they got in one of the long luggage lines. Cindy and I moved into another. This meant we had to separate.

Sasha did not want to separate from Mary Beth and Asalon.

Sasha began to protest.

It was not a soft, well spoken protest. There was no “Dearest father and mother, I wish to spend more of my time with yon friends Ms. Mary Beth and Mr. Lawrence as well as my good comrade Mr. Joshua Asalon.”

No. His protest was, how should I put this, more a soul wrenching scream of the damned. And that was just the beginning. He yelled. He cried. He hit. He bit. He threw a tantrum that the grand vizier of the tantrum kingdom would have bowed down to in awe.

Every fear that I had of the flight home was coming true. Being locked up in an airplane for 8 hours of this would be unbearable. Desparately I tried everything I had read, heard, half heard, and a few things I made up. They didn’t work. He continued his tantrum. All around me others stared, each praying “please don’t let THEM be on our flight.” Cindy pulled out the crackers, the cookies, the much loved cheese bits. Food was not the answer. Mary Beth looked on caught between wanting to come over and quiet him, and not wanting to interfere. I knew if she came over, then next parting, our final parting for a long time, would be even worse.

Suddenly the sea of people parted as a manager came forward. He spoke no English, but gestured for us to follow.

”Great” I thought. “We are going to be kicked off of our airplane.”

He took us to a just opening 5th line, and put us in the front. Cindy held him despite the bruises he was inflicting, and the screaming in her ear. I just had to push our heavy cart of luggage. They quickly relieved me of most of our luggage (just three heavy bags of carry-on).

I smiled, grabbing tight on the still tantrum-ing, screaming, hitting, biting Sasha. Cindy relinquished him to me in order to give our paperwork to the officials, and to staunch the flow of blood from one of his more nasty bites. (I am not exaggerating here.)

There was a bit of confusion, but soon our paperwork was approved. Heck, it was rushed as the manager continued to push his officials to finalize things. I looked back at the crowds still in line, expecting to see a wall of angry eyes glaring at me for my son’s tantrum and our expedited treatment.

Instead I was met with a wall of sympathy. Most had been through this before, or feared it would happen soon enough.

There was also some impatience for us to move our child swiftly out of earshot. We did.

We wound our way through the maze of cue lines to the passport officials. Sasha was now screaming at the top of his lungs, but his voice was shot. We were just getting bright red face and large gasps of air.

It was almost humorous to look at, if we weren’t scared he’d suffocate himself.

And there was still the kicking and hitting and occasionally, biting. I began to wonder what part of Transylvania Sasha’s ancestry derived from.

We got through Passport Control in a flash. I stared back at the long lines and the long wait that we had quickly been escorted around. I knew we were tired and sore and mad, but the thought returned to me once again…children can be useful at times.

We walked into an open concourse full of duty-free shops and world travelers. We began to walk up and down the concourse, avoiding anywhere Mary Beth and Asalon might turn up. We didn’t want to have to go through this again.

There was a bar there of course. It was an Irish pub. I was so tempted to go in there and get a Black Russian. I had often contemplated the fact that I had been twice to Russian, and had only one drink of cheap Vodka. Ordering a Black Russian in Russia seemed, somehow, appropriate. Yet I had never gotten around to it. Looking in at the pub I considered it. Then I looked at Cindy. Leaving her here with Sasha and his tantrum, while I was passed out from alcohol, was not a good idea.

She’d hurt me badly in my sleep.

Or Sasha would.

Sasha was still calling for Momma—Mary Beth. He was still crying. Cindy was on the edge of tears as well. She carried him while I lugged our carry on luggage, which seemed to gain weight as we walked.

Two little grandmothers rushed over to us as soon as they heard Sasha crying. These sweet babushka’s spoke not a word of English. We did not speak enough Russian to understand what they said. All I know is that they talked to Sasha. He stopped crying and buried his shy face into Cindy’s shoulder. Then, with the utmost care and delicacy, he reached out to them. In their hands was a small piece of candy. He smiled as we opened it for him. We thanked the ladies, and Sasha thanked the ladies. They seemed to be thanking us as well, or telling us how sweet and cute Sasha is (though in truth they may have been also calling us filthy names for abusing this little angel, but I don’t think so).

We never learned their names, or where they were from or where they were going. We just learned once again that the Russian people have hearts bigger than Siberia.

We did grab some real food, looked around for some shopping, and eventually ended up in a corner at a bit of a distance from our gate. I didn’t want Sasha to see Mary Beth until after the flight landed. There may not be any babushka’s on the plane. (We did take in a supply of candy though….just in case).

The international terminal at Moscow International Airport is a round building. You actually enter in the center, and a ring of gates intermixed with a variety of stores await you. Outside of that ring was the incoming flight debarkation path. In other words, people arriving in Moscow walked the outside of the circle, while we waiting to leave waited inside. There were walls of glass that separated the two circles, and that separated the outer circle from the outside. From where we sat we had a great view of the outside, and all the comings and goings of all the planes. We chose a gate that was not in use, that was 25 feet, and one set of walls and shops, from our gate, and from Mary Beth.

We sat, entertained Sasha, and read while we waited the two hours left until our flight. Occasionally I got up and walked to our line just to see if everything was OK. Mary Beth and Larry wanted to make sure Sasha was OK. They agreed to the distance policy, either realizing that it was best for Sasha, or wanting to save their own ears.

Sasha had his own bag, filled with toys and a spare set of clothes or two. He pulled out the biggest thing in it, the coloring carry case his Aunt had gotten him. It would not go back in the case easily, but we didn’t care. He was quiet.

That didn’t last. He soon got bored, so Momma took him shopping again, away from our gate. Then I took him. We must have walked a marathon or two during that waiting time.

During one of these walks I ran across a group of teens. They were thrilled to have the opportunity to practice their English with a real American. They talked about Sasha, and about their trip. This youth group of 40 or 50 were going hiking in Finland. I was just amazed, how European does that sound?

Mostly they just said, “Hello sir” and giggled. Apparently that was the limit of their English. I am not complaining. It sure beat my Russian.

When the plane started loading we got our stuff together and went to the back of the line. I was praying that Mary Beth was farther back in the plane than we were. Having Sasha walk by her would be very bad. Having him see her and start screaming again would be a disaster, especially since his vocal chords had stopped swelling by now.

We were in luck. Our seat was in the first row in the coach section, center seats. Mary Beth and company were about 10 rows behind us along the window. Our first row gave us plenty of leg room, even room enough to play a bit if we were out of our seats. Cindy had arranged this after reading about it on a web-site.

The only possible problem this seating could have was that the movie would be a bit difficult to view. Then again, I didn’t care as long as it was in English, and wasn’t Scooby Do 2.

My big worry was Sasha. Were we ready to be hit by yet another tantrum torrent? The plane moved away from the terminal and began to roll down the runway. Cindy began digging out all the possibly toys and tantrum cures she could find and placing them in the easy to reach magazine holder in front of us. I closed my eyes and prayed.

By the time the plane reached the end of the runway, Sasha was asleep.

We were safe. With a sigh that could have been mistaken for gratitude over a safe liftoff, I relaxed. Soon the movie started and I planned a nice 8 hour calm flight to New York.

The move came on.

It was “Scooby Do 2”.

Food came and went. I don’t even remember what was served. I was hoping that Sasha would remain asleep all the way to New York. That didn’t happen. After about 4 hours of sleep, Sasha got up and told me “Toiletta”.

I have previously crossed my legs and held my bladder across three states other than use the flying facilities. They were an odd and uncomfortable, and usually crowded inconvience that I always managed to avoid. This time I was up and half way down the aisle before I realized where we were going.

We passed Mary Beth and Asalon. Sasha stopped to say hello, but he was in too big a hurry to stick around. We did our business safely and efficiently, then returned down the aisle. Asalon was being cranky and noisy, crying because his ears hurt or because he was hungry. Sasha didn’t like that and moved past them quickly. I gave Mary Beth a sympathetic glance, then moved on as well.

Now Sasha was beginning to get fidgety. He needed something to do, to keep himself busy. Momma passed him the playdo. He was thrilled.

There was no crisis to avert so I relaxed just in time to catch the next film. “Peter The Great’s Negro Takes a Wife.”

“Odd” I thought.

What followed kept me riveted for the next two hours. Let me sum up. With African Shadow Puppet like cartoons we learn the back story. In a small African village, Ottoman raiders take a young boy. He eventually winds up as a gift to the new Russian Czar, Peter the Great. While usually the lot for such a child was to be one of servitude and manual labor, this child amused Peter. He was educated.

He proved to be intelligent, loyal, and brave, three things not readily seen in most of the nobles in court, or in Peter’s own sons as well. He became a favorite of Peter’s. Apparently many were the adventures of this African, but they show up in other movies.

Eventually the boy is sent to Paris, as many young nobles were sent to Europe, to learn how to build ships, engineering in general, and all the science of the west. He was also given many diplomatic duties in Paris, which was the center of the Western world at that time.

Apparently Paris of that time resembles High School. One bored young woman, looking for novelty and to make her husband jealous, takes this young African—Abraham Hannibal, as a lover.

Then she gets pregnant. When the new born babe has dark skin, the woman’s husband discovers her games and seeks revenge. He challenges Abraham to a duel. The poor Abraham makes the mistake of winning the duel, which gets his stay in Paris cut short.

The poor woman, now widow, has her dark skinned child sent off to the Caribean Islands to live a life of slavery.

This is where our story picks up. It is a fun and emotionally moving tale of how this outcast befriends a petty thief into being his servant, and eventually marries the daughter of a nobleman, despite the noble’s family’s fear of her marrying down. Only when Peter himself scares them into the realization that this marriage is good for their future, does everyone agree. She loves him, he loves her, and everything is fine until the next movie.

Of more interest is watching Peter maneuver and out maneuver the local nobles into making his dream of a modern Russia a reality. At one part there is a grand party on the new giant warship created for Peter. The ship rests in dry-dock, awaiting its grand christening the next day. During the party Peter discovers that poor workmanship and poor materials, all arranged by the greedy nobles dancing on the boat, make the ship useless. He single-handedly launches the ship while everyone else is dancing. As it sinks the nobles all must swim for their lives back to shore.

Another time a group of young nobles return from their training in Europe. Peter promises to appoint captains to every one who can walk a spar—cross a large opening between the ship under construction and the supporting dock, by way of a small piece of lumber. Those who truly studied ship building hands on would have no trouble. Those who wasted their time drinking and socializing would not. Most of the young nobles fell into the water below.

The bad news about this movie was that it was done in black-face. Apparently there were not a lot of black actors in Russia during the 50’s when this was made.

What of the ex-slave Afro-Russian this story was about? What ever became of him? Well, for answers you would have to ask the legendary author Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin. Pushkin did not create this character. He was descended from him.

Abraham Hannibal actually existed. His brilliance descended into his great grandson, Pushkin, who did start to write about him.

Another interesting fact was that Pushkin’s children married into the limited web of European Nobility. Here is just one of several threads of African lineage that invigorates the old blue blood worshipped by so many.

Back to my own little Russian noble, Sasha eventually tired of the play-do and tumbled off to sleep. I packed the fun Play-do, mostly as an excuse to play with it myself. The red container was empty. Looking on the floor, the seats, the walls, I realized the play-do itself wasn’t really missing. It was spreading like an alien blob. I quietly covered up what I couldn’t pick up, and hoped I wouldn’t be receiving a bill for the cleaning of a 747.

The announcement came to prepare ourselves for landing. Due to time zones, it was still light, so I stretched my head around hoping to see the Statue of Liberty. I did not. What I did see was just land, the US, home. That was enough to make me happy.

Sasha awakened again as the air pressure changed. I held his hand and held my breathe. Some in the plane said as soon as the wheels touched the ground, Sasha would be an American. Others claimed it would be only once we stepped on US soil. Others said it was once we were through immigrations.

I decided the best solution was to celebrate each of those steps.

The wheels lowered with a muffled thump. My heart began racing.

Lower and lower we came, though from the middle section I couldn’t see out the windows well to see how far we had to go. That was fine. It helped build the tension.

The pressure changed and the ears stopped up a bit and we continued down.

Suddenly, bump.

The wheel touched the ground and I shouted “Hurray”. I was not the only one. Nor was this shout for the miracle of a safe landing, as such shouts had been in Russia. This was a “You are now an American” shout.

Two more bumps and we were taxing to the gate.

We did not rush from our seats. With Sasha we were learning the value of taking our time. We were busy, but there was less stress than if we were rushing.

Eventually we reached the gangway, and up that to the airport. I tried to shout and celebrate again, but Cindy was tired. She drug me on, insisting that there would be plenty of time to celebrate while we waited in line at customs.

The thought of that wait had me considering what I could do to get Sasha to throw another tantrum. The bruises on my arm made me realized that was not a good idea. I could always throw a tantrum, but grown ups that throw tantrums usually end up in jail.

Luckilly American efficiency, and the fact that few other planes were landing this early, meant there was practically no line at customs. We walked right up to the window and handed over our paperwork.

And were quietly told to get our bags and report to the office. There was a problem.

Panic ensued. Could I grab Sasha and pull Cindy through the terminal before being shot? I wanted to go home.

Cindy smiled and went where we were told, holding tightly on to Sasha. I went to find us a cart, and almost to get a lawyer.

I packed our bags onto the cart with a lot of help from Sasha. He wanted to run after being cooped up on that plane, and I wasn’t going to stop him…unless he got more than 4 feet away from me where some stranger from New York could grab him.

We then wheeled our way to the office. There a pleasant young man took our papers and stamped them as needed. I saw Mary Beth there with Asalon, and other parents there as well. Apparently this was just standard procedure for new American adoptees.

There may have been more, but Sasha looked up at the man. Sasha’s big brown eyes and bright smile melted his heart. He stamped with a smile.

Yes, sometime kids can be useful.

Within minutes we stepped out of the customs area, now completely legally in the United States. This time we all Yahoo’d.

Now with a cart full of all of our bags we began the long ascent up to the bus stop where our shuttle would take us to the hotel. First, however, we had to say goodbye to Mary Beth, Larry, and Asalon. I expected tears and screams, from Cindy if from no one else. Instead we all seemed rushed, exhausted and happy to be home, we exchanged promises to call and visit and to work out details later and yes we had you e-mail address.

Just like that they were gone. Somehow I felt cut off from an anchor as I watched them leave. I felt deprived that there were no tears, no long good-byes. More, I realized I was going to miss them all, even if they inadvertently try to steal my Sasha.

We called the hotel, and they sent a shuttle bus for us. We rushed to meet it, and arrived just as it did. The driver loaded our bags and we crashed on the seats. Sasha stared out the windows at everything. So did I. I was looking for NEW YORK CITY! All I saw was standard urban sprawl. There were schools and churches, play grounds and factories, people and cars, but nothing outstanding.

Then when we got to the Hotel, I found something outstanding. Burger King! Ok, Burger King is not normally considered outstanding, but if you’ve gone weeks without fast food, or at least fast food that you are used to, you would find the fact that there was a Burger King within walking distance of your hotel to be greatly outstanding.

We arrived at the hotel, and got our room. Reaching the elevator, a hand darted out to hold it open for us. A maid, on her way to deliver something in another room, stopped to allow us and our luggage inside. It was a tight squeeze, but she didn’t seem to mind. She was busy staring at Sasha, who was staring back with his big brown eyes and his easy bright smile.

Yes, children could be useful.

We got to our room as the sun was setting on this long day. I was ready to sleep, or at least go out for a cheese burger. First we had to unpack and get ready for the next day. Our flight was set for mid-morning and we didn’t want to miss it. We just unpacked sleeping clothes and clothes for the trip home, and about two tons of things for Sasha to do. All he wanted to do was not go to sleep. I had the honor of unpacking the money belt. Almost $3,000 in unused emergency money was secure in the too tight belt Cindy wore all day. While she got changed I looked around for a secure place to store most of the money. The room contained a TV cabinet that did not reach the ceiling. After removing what I thought I might need for a hamburger run I placed the rest on the cabinet, behind the rim, where no one would find it.

We then watched a few minutes of TV, but that didn’t last. Sure having 100 channels of mostly English speaking TV was a great relief, but Sasha’s demands to not go to sleep only proved how tired he was. He demanded exercise, a tour of the sights of this new place. We went for a walk, which I hoped would end at Burger King. Instead it lasted up one end of the hallway and down the other. We spent a large amount of time admiring the wonders and fascinations of the hotel’s Ice Machine. Never, never, never teach a four year old what lever to press to make ice pour out. Trust me. It is not a good idea.

Eventually we returned to our room where Momma was waiting to tuck us all in. We turned off the lights until his snoring commenced.

Then, when we were sure he was sound asleep, I started hinting to Cindy that we really should eat, and that the restaurant down stairs was probably closed, and that the nutritional value of a hamburger and greasy French fries were not to be ignored. She told me to go.

Down the elevator, across the not-so-dangerous streets of New York, and into my first English speaking restaurant in a week. Ten minutes later, and one dodged Cab, and I was back in our room sharing my bounty with my tired wife. As I sat back in the bed, clicking through the usual stations, wiping excess ketchup from my lips, I realized that now, not when we entered the plane, or the wheels touched down, not when we stepped on US soil, or when we got through customs, but now I was truly in America.

I lifted my overly sugared, overly iced carbonated beverage to the TV and saluted. “Viva America!” I said quietly as my wife rolled over in her sleep. Soon I turned of the lights and the TV and through my arm over both Sasha and Cindy. We were all almost home.

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rivka
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[Big Grin]
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Dan_raven
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Thursday June 18th…home.

The phone rang precisely at 6, as we requested. He had a lot to do and only a few long hours to do it in. More importantly, we didn’t want to be late for our last plane.

First thing, get up and take turns in the bathroom. Shower, shave, brush teeth, and answer the call of nature. All of it was done while half asleep, and with a complete audience. Sasha took his turn and Momma followed.

While Sasha and I waited for Momma’s exit from the bathroom we began to get dressed. I turned on the TV to keep us company, and try to wake myself up. “Turn that off!” came the command from the bathroom. I did.

Momma emerged half dressed and proceeded to organize our packing endeavors. We had only unpacked what we needed for the night, yet there was still a mess. How could we do that?

By 7am we were ready to leave the hotel room. Sasha had already left, with me, to take three walks down the hall. Two of them ended at the ice machine where he pushed the button and made ice appear magically.

I contemplated the cost of an ice machine for his birthday.

Yet at 7 we were ready to drag all of our bags out of the room and down to the front desk. Sleepy as I was, I did the idiot check. I checked under the bed and behind the toilette and in the drawers we never used.

“Clear” I declared, and we left.

Two thousand dollars sat on top of the TV cabinet in a worn money belt that I assumed Cindy had hidden away somewhere.

We went downstairs and checked out. Cindy grasped my hand as the creakity elevator began to descend. Sasha giggled.

Checking out was simple and easy. Keeping track of Sasha was not difficult. I just followed him around and said “Nyet” every time he touched something. The shuttle to the airport wouldn’t leave until 8, but we knew that. We walked into the diner that shared the hotel building.

The food in Moscow was probably better, definitely lower in grease, but did not have the one thing I longed for most—English. It was simple pancakes and Mrs. Butterworth syrup and just about as comfortably American as I could hope for. Sasha seemed happy as he wolfed down his food.

“Asalon?” he asked one time. We said, “later.”
After dinner we walked around the outside of the hotel a bit until the shuttle arrived. Sasha yearned to run off and play, but we couldn’t allow that today.

The shuttle driver was fun and talkative. Unfortunately I was exhausted. I still craned my neck searching for some New York City landmark to tell all my friends about. Highways look like highways.

We were dropped off at the correct terminal. There would be no running from one end of the concourse to the other. With ease and calmness we checked our bags and gathered our tickets and prepared for the last flight.

The airport was mostly empty at 8:15 in the morning. There was practically a shopping mall in the center of the terminal but most of the stores didn’t open until 9 or 10. Most of the flights didn’t leave until then either. We walked through security without incident and found our exact terminal and waited.

Cindy unpacked Sasha’s drawing box. This present from his Aunt Barb contained colors and coloring books and markers guaranteed not to mark on anything except their special paper. Unfortunately Aunt Barb was overenthusiastic with her gift, filling the box past its closing point. Sasha sat down and started drawing, but every time he moved, the box popped open and all the goodies fell out.

We spent an hour watching Sasha draw scribbles that occasionally bordered on a shape. Cindy’s attempts to get him to draw within the lines met with brusque independent annoyed huffs as he turned his back to her and continued to play.

Before too long he got bored with that and tried running around. Our mid-west paranoia took hold. Sure, we have traveled half way across the world, been to parts of Russia that even Napoleon decided to ignore, and dared to drink the water, but this was New York City. It was filled with all sorts of illegal elements waiting to prey on innocent children like Sasha.

I hurried after him and protected him like a shield.

He came back down as Momma offered him some of the remaining Cheez Its. She held them in her bag with just about everything else in the known universe. I tried to pick that bag up once…just once.

The crowd had gathered, our plane was at the terminal and the attendants were at the desk. Soon they would start boarding. We were not rushed. Our seats were near the back of the plane. There was no rush.

Then the boarding steward said those remarkable words, “We will begin seating for those with First Class Tickets, those who need assistance, and those with small children. Thank you.”

Cindy looked up at me as I looked up at her. Together we mouthed, “those with small children?”

In a flash we gathered our bags, our toys, and a confused Sasha. Cindy jammed everything she could into her oversized carry-on bad. I grabbed Sasha, who held onto his drawing table.

We walked onto the plane.

They glanced once at Cindy’s oversized bag, but then saw Sasha and with understanding, let us board. Sasha’s drawing table they considered his carry-on.

Great. After all that rush we were stuck sitting on the plane in cramped airplane seats, with recycled air blowing over us.

Cindy solved the problem. She pulled out the Play-Do. Green was the color of choice, and we kept a close eye on it. We wanted to have some left by the time we got home.

Before too long, and without further incident, the plane took off. Somehow I ended up in the aisle seat. That meant my last chance to catch a glimpse of the famous New York, New York, slipped away. I was too tired to worry about it.

The stewardess fell in love with Sasha almost immediately. Then again, everyone does. We explained what we were doing, where Sasha was from, and why he didn’t say hello. The stewardess was delighted. He got extra pretzels.

Since the flight left at 10, and was two and a half hours long, I had hopes that we would get lunch. Instead we got pretzels. While they were good, they did not satisfy my growing hunger.

Once again the Cheez-Its saved me.

To this day Cindy has a way of amazing me with her forethought.

I introduced Sasha to the wonders of making worms with Play-do. Apparently before now all he knew was to smash it, squish it, pinch it, and rub it all over his skin. What I did by making a ball and a snake was magic. He was set to try this for the rest of the flight.

As the flight reached its cruising altitude only one last thought came to me before a nap. I really should have hit the bathroom before boarding.

Two hours later that thought was with me with a vengeance.

I stared out the window as it flew around St. Louis. I strove with all my energy to determine where we were, to pick out landmarks, to be home. As we were almost landing things became obvious. We flew directly over my work as the wheels came down. Then, as we touched down, I relaxed. We were almost truly home.

I waited impatiently, my feet tapping, my fingers twitching nervously. Part of it was the fact that I wanted to be home, be comfortable, be done with this trip. Part of it was the need for a potty break. Frankly, I couldn’t tell you which was more demanding. The plane unloaded slowly, and with all of our stuff, Cindy wanted us to wait till it was almost empty to leave.

Sasha’s call for a toilette overrode her waiting. We grabbed our bags and flew to the concourse. Sasha’s stewardess said “Goodbye sweetie.” Sasha didn’t even hear her, but I did. When Sasha hits 18, we are going to be in so much trouble.

For now, it was time to race up the gangway and off to the bathrooms. There they were! Just a small 50 foot jog down the concourse and off to the left. Sasha and I ran as best we could through the crowd.

Plop!

The art carrier burst open. Pens, crayons, works of art in progress fell across the floor and spread out. Unable to refrain from teaching Sasha English words he shouldn’t learn, I bent down to pick them up. Hey, we were in St. Louis, the mid-west. We were surrounded by friendly people willing to lend a hand, or a foot. Nobody actually stomped on the artwork, and most passers by tried to kick the crayons back to our general direction. At least I think they were kicking them towards me. St. Louis is also a major center for amateur soccer, but you couldn’t prove that by some of those kicks.

Cindy caught up to us as I finished. I stood and started to say something about needing to get Sasha to the Toiletta .

Plop! Again, on the floor, all the pens and markers and stuff from the art box.

Cindy put her hand out. “I’ll get this. You get him to the bathroom.”

I thanked her as we sprinted the distance, unencumbered by any baggage. There I got to hold Sasha up so he was high enough to do what nature demanded. The seats were full. After he finished I took my turn, with a great sigh of relief. Sasha stayed right on my heels, way to intently watching my business.

With a sigh of relief we slowly went to the sink and washed our hands. Then laughing we calmly walked outside where Mama waited. She was tense and nervous. She was doing her own version of the potty dance. “Here” was all she said as she left our luggage and lunged for the bathroom. I barely had time to grab the art case from her hands before she was gone.

As the door closed to the lady’s room Sasha looked up at me. I smiled down at him.

Plop.

I just stared tiredly at the mess for a bit while deciding what to do next.

Cindy emerged from the bathroom just as I finished picking up the last of the markers. My hands were wrapped around the case to insure it would not open ever again.

By now all of our flight had already passed. We brought up the rear as we entered the main terminal. We didn’t realize how worried our family was. As we rounded the corner, however, a great shout went up. About a dozen friends and family were lined up waiting to congratulate us all, and to welcome Sasha into their fold.

Sasha did the only sensible thing. He tried to hide under my shirt.

I won’t go through the whole cast of characters present. Many more wanted to be, but the timing on short notice made it impossible. There would be other welcoming parties later. One person, however, needs to be singled out. Susie, friend of the family, smiled so big, and had such a bunch of balloons and a great flag, that Sasha liked her instantly.

We spent about twenty minutes shaking hands, hugging, introducing the ever more shy Sasha. Slowy we wound our way to the luggage rack. St. Louis is a wonderful city, and its airport is an architectural wonder. However, their luggage system is about the slowest I have yet to encounter.

An hour after our plane landed, we had all our luggage, and were ready to go. We said farewell to everyone except my brother and his family. They were our ride to our car. We stuffed his car with our luggage, the new stroller, all the gifts, flags, balloons we had just received, and yes, with Sasha.

“Where to?” he asked.

“My car is at work so if you could drop us off there, then we are going to get some lunch.”

Karen, my sister-in-law, chimed in. “That sounds like fun. Can we join you?”
”Sure. Where do we want to eat?”

What followed was you classic standard “I don’t care…I don’t care” except that Cindy and I were too tired to do it for long. New Aunt Karen, or Zsa Zsa Karen are we Rusified her, said, “kids eat free at the Italian restaurant today.”

It was decided.

JaJa Jim, or Uncle Jim drove us to our car, then headed back to his work. We loaded our car with our luggage, before heading out.

“Toiletta!” said Sasha.

I looked around. It meant I had to run into my work and say hi to all the folks there and proudly show off my son while my brother and wife labored on transporting our heavy luggage from one car to the other.

Kids can be useful.

We went into the building, ran right to the bathrooms and did our business. When we got out a whole office full of the curious and the helpful were there to meet us. As a group they fell in love with Sasha.

He walked out with even more toys. One coworker had a Cat-In-The-Hat sitting in her room, as well as two bowls of candy. Sasha left with the stuffed animal and a handful of sweetness.

I walked out with more hugs.

And my boss didn’t even drag me aside to depress me with business questions.

Now for the technical part of our evening, we began to figure out how to strap Sasha into his safety seat. Two torn ligaments and a dislocated shoulder later, and we had it all figured out. Sasha was secure. We limped off, but Sasha was secure.

We live about an hour from my work, so off we went driving down the highways at speeds Sasha had only encountered while airborne, and never with Papa as the driver. He took it like a man. He slept.

Lunch was not too much to speak of. Zsa Zsa Karen and her two kids had already eaten lunch, so they kept us company, and enjoyed a desert. Stevie and Julie buzzed around Sasha almost as much as Karen.

Sasha didn’t like the cold deserts. Ice cream and soda he hated. However we didn’t dare get in between him and the broccoli soup. I had images in my head of some future converstion—“Clean your room young man or no Broccoli for dinner.” Or “Finish that Ice Cream all up or there is no salad for you.”

Then the bill showed up. Karen whispered in our ear. Kids ate free, but only if you reminded them that their big signs said that kids ate free. Otherwise they left the charge on you bill assuming you’d pay without noticing.

We said goodbye to Karen, Julie and Steven. They had places to be, and we needed to get home and sleep.

Get home. What a beautiful idea.
We pulled into the driveway. Sasha was wide awake, his big brown eyes wide open in wonderment at everything. With care we unbuckled him from his seat and let him out of the car. He surveyed the lawn and the drive of his new home with detached appreciation. I don’t believe it had registered yet that he was home.

”Doma” Momma said.

“Doma” I confirmed pointing to the house in front of him.

“Doma?” he asked as he started walking toward the house.

“Doma” I grunted as I grabbed a bag from the car. Essentials only. There would be time for clothes and cameras later. Now we just needed sleep stuff. Funny how quickly 7pm rolls around.

Doma means home.

He walked slowly to the house, and stood by the door, unsure. We opened it and motioned for him to enter. He ran in.

Each step he took, he looked back for approval. Yet once he entered a room and found he was allowed, he buzzed around it like an excited bee. Mama was busy taking the remainder of our food and putting it away. Our frig was mostly empty. We didn’t want food to go bad on our trip. Sasha didn’t notice. He stood in awe of the largest refrigerator he had ever been allowed to enter. We motioned for him to eat. His tummy was full, but he dutifully swallowed a Cheezit.

We showed him the Toiletta. He couldn’t reach the light, and had trouble reaching the sink to wash his hands. The quick addition of a stool into the room and he was thrilled. The room held a trendle bed. One mattress on top where you would expect it. A second rolled underneath, to be rolled out when needed.

We showed him his room, overflowing with stuffed animals and toys.

He grabbed a few and then ran out to explore the rest of the house.

With in an hour we had grabbed him and drug him into bed. Mama slept next to him on the bottom, so he wouldn’t fall. I slept alone on the top, but his hand went up and drug mine down.

We sat with him for about an hour as he wound down and fell asleep. Perhaps we both slept a bit ourselves. The truth was I was numb. We had done it. I had a son. I had a child. I was the papa, the father, the dad. He cuddled my arm and started to snore and I didn’t want to get up.

I was home, like I’d never been home before.
Conclusions:
Or All the days that followed.

One of the hardest things about this history is deciding where to stop it. I’ve been told to end it when the story ends. It doesn’t. I’ve been told to end it when the adventure is over. Its parenthood, the adventure is never over.

I’m ending it at home, but there are some details I am sure you want to know.

The hotel found and returned our money. I just had to say, WOW! That is now, officially, my favorite hotel in New York, if not in the US.

Two days later it was Fathers Day. While out picking up some groceries, and introducing Sasha to the wonders of Wal-Mart, they picked up a cap for papa. Its says “#1 Dad” on it. I wear it proudly.

Sasha was speaking English better than most 5 year olds by Halloween.

Much of that has to do with our lucking into a wonderful Montessori school. He shows great aptitude and intelligence in everything he does.

Sasha endured, and we survived, some minor corrective surgery in a very sensitive area of his person. The results were a bit of temporary lack of control with his bladder. We finally got to use the pull-up pants we had lugged half-way across the world, and back.

Sasha labeled them “Ouchy Pants”. Now, when ever we go on extra-long trips with long bathroom breaks, or when we sleep over in strange beds we don’t want to risk him christening, he goes and puts on his “Ouchy Pants”.

He still loves getting new clothes, even more than new toys.

He still dislikes carbonated drinks, too sweet of sweets, and foods to hot or too cold.

He still loves Broccoli, Asparagus, Salads and fruits.

He is still too good for us, even when he’s bad.

And where ever we go, the first reaction everyone has, when they learn how we adopted him from Russia, is to say, “He is so lucky that you got him.”

Without a break we turn to them and say, “No. We are unbelievably lucky to have him.”

After they get to know him a bit, they agree.

Which is why we are even now getting ready to get him a little sister.

Thank you for reading this, and joining us on this journey.

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katharina
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Oh, I love this story. This is one of my favorite threads ever. [Smile] [Smile]
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rivka
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*happy tears*

So beautiful, Dan. Thanks.

(And I know you mentioned wanting to publish this. I absolutely think you should. Maybe title it "Doma Means Home.")

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quidscribis
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Man, you make me cry. No fair.
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foundling
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Oh Dan. I'm so happy for you guys. Thats a beautiful ending/begining.
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cmc
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Thank you for sharing.
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Anna
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(((Raven family)))
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Evie3217
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"Contrary to that movie, crossing the streams did not cause every particle in our bodies to fly in opposite directions at the speed of light."

That made me laugh out loud.

Dan, I am so happy for you. This is my favorite thread as well. I think you should landmark it, as this trip made such an incredible impact on your life.

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imogen
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[Smile]

I'm all teary. Thanks for finishing it Dan. What a wonderful story.

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Tstorm
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Yeah, if this isn't worthy of landmarking, I don't know what is. But that decision is up to the author.

I just finally made my way through the story, but I'm sure re-reading will reveal new details. I enjoy your writing style.

[Smile]

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Tatiana
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Dan, that's so wonderful! <happy tears smilie>
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Dan_raven
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I have no problem with this being a landmark, though I am putting together this and the 1st trip thread in one document, to edit into a book.
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Belle
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Such a wonderful story, and I can't wait for it to continue when you get his little sister. [Smile]

You guys are cool. And I think sharing your story in a book form is a tremendous idea, as it will offer hope and encouragement to other couples considering foreign adoption.

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Shigosei
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Thanks for sharing your story, Dan! I think it would make a great book.
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