We had a busy day today. We got to the baby house and proceeded with our usual routine - went upstairs, unpacked outside of Kai's room and went to get him. He was in his walker and when he saw us, he smiled and tried to cruise over to the door, but got stuck on a stroller, so the caregiver helped him. The doctors still wanted to keep Kai and Sierra separate so Carla was going to stay with Kai and Jim was going to have the morning visit with Sierra. Carla went down with Jim (while Les stayed with Kai) so she could at least see her this morning.
We could see her cruising around in her walker, seeming to have much more energy than the day before. She saw us and started her gyrating with excitement. When Maria, her caregiver, brought her to us, she asked if we wanted to see where Sveta slept. We of course were ecstatic and followed her in. She showed us their playroom area where they spend time in the big crib, playpens, walkers and strollers. Then she took us back to the "crib room." It was great (since families usually don't get to see the crib room until after the adoption is final). There is room full of cribs, but they pair 2 cribs together and then there is a gap between the next set... etc. So when they told us that Sierra's and Anna's cribs were together, they meant literally touching each other. It was so cute. They can stick their hands through the cribs and play with each other. The cribs were very simple and didn't even have sheets on them. I'm sure they lay something down before they go to sleep so they don't soil the mattress. We got a ton of pictures so we can show her when she's older.
After the tour of the "crib room," Maria kept putting the kids in different poses so we could take more pictures. She put them in their walkers beside each other. We took a few pictures there and then she picked up the walkers (with the babies in them) and slung them to another part of the room so we could get pictures without all the other babies in the background. Next she proceeded to put them on the couch. She put Sierra down first and then went to get Anna. In the meantime, Sierra (who can't sit well on her own) topples over sideways but was unphased. Carla had her corrected by the time Maria got back. We propped them up next to each other so they could sit up. Pose #3 was behind the little wooden school table. Maria put them in the chairs and then "pinned" them to the wall with the table so they wouldn't fall. It was such a crack up. This was the last pose she proposed. Our final picture was of both our families and Maria. We plan to get them developed and leave her a copy (she was very interested in having the pictures that she is in).
After all this fun, Jim stayed with Sierra for the remainder of the visit and Carla went upstairs with Kai. Les in the meantime, went downstairs to see if Maria would show him the back as well. She was confused at first and was trying to explain that Jim and Carla had already seen it, but Assia was able to explain and she took him back. She is such a nice women and the babies love her. Before Les headed back upstairs, he stopped to visit Jim and Sierra. Jim had another surprise - the first messy diaper of our trip. We have been lucky while visiting - neither of them have needed their diapers changed during our visits (Jason and Keely haven't been so lucky - they've been changing one or both children almost every day). Jim did well and you can see from one of the pictures below that Sierra was pleased (by the way - all of you who bought Jim diaper wipes - he used two to clean and one for insurance - not too bad).
Our last morning surprise was finding out the Ministry of Education Inspectors were coming by to visit and observe us playing with the babies. We were told not to do anything special. They just needed to see us, so on final court, they could tell the judge that we seem to be bonding with the children. When they came to the baby house, they sat downstairs and gabbed with the Baby House director forever. They children go down for their nap at 11:30 so we were trying to keep them awake and happy until the inspectors came around. Finally they came for the "observations." They saw Jim and Sierra (and Keely and Anna first). They asked if we liked the children and how everything was going. Afterwards, they came upstairs and saw Les, Carla and Kai. They asked how Grandpa liked the babies. Dr. Irena (the baby house director) then started to talk to Erkin and his face crumpled and he let out a major cry (we haven't seen him do that since we we've been here). Carla comforted him and he settled down - in the meantime, Dr. Irena was laughing and shaking her fist at him (in a mocking way). Dr. Irena took them to see Erkin's playroom and crib and Les got pictures of everything. The inspectors told us (through Masha) that they were glad Jim and Carla didn't have any biological children. They said they worry sometimes that if a family has biological children that they will not love the Kazakh babies the same (which is totally untrue as many of you reading this know). So it appeared we "passed" another hurdle.
In between our visits, Igor took us to the Big Market to get some KAZ stickers. From there, he took us back to the bakery (where we picked up lunch and went back to the apartment to rest and check email). On the way, we spotted Igor's son, so we stopped and met him (and took his picture). He's a beautiful boy. He was on his way to the hockey game. There is a big tournament today and tomorrow between Russia, Kazakhstan and Sweden.
Our afternoon visits were more low key. Jim and Carla switched so Jim had Kai and Carla had Sierra. Kai and Jim played pretty hard most of the visit so he was a little warm from all the activity. Masha asked the caregiver for some water for him and when the caregiver brought it to them, she also brought a thermometer. When she took his temperature it was 37.8 C (100 F), so the visit was over. Apparently another boy in his group is sick (there are a lot of babies sick right now). He was close to nap time, so she put him to bed. Jim told her that Kai never fussed or acted sick at all - they had a good visit (the caregiver said he doesn't act fussy when he's sick - good for us). At this point, Jim came down with Carla and Sierra. Sierra was in a good mood for most of the visit but is still not 100%. She was getting fussy towards the last 30 min, so Jim, Les and Carla rotated carrying her around. When we gave her back to the caregiver, Carla asked how she comforts her when she's not feeling good. The caregiver said that most of the time Sierra is fine - no problem, but now she doesn't feel good (fever, running nose, headache, teething etc.). Hopefully they recuperate in the next few days or we'll have a fun plane ride back to Almaty.
Ok - this post is getting long, but we had one more surprise today. When we got back from our visit, Sholpan,
Meyram, and Katya came by to see us again (our friends from Zhas Dauren - the older childrens orphanage). When there were here earlier in the week, we showed them our picture albums from back home and also showed them pictures of the babies. They wanted to come by and show us their sponsor families. Each of them brought all the pictures that the families have sent them over the last 2 years. They were very proud of them. Sholpan also brought a book that Sue (from the Peace Corp) had given to her that details the history of Central Asia, including Kazakhstan.
After looking at the pictures, we invited them to dinner at the Chagala. As we were coming in the gate, the guard stopped us and were questioning the girls. We were asking Sholpan to tell us what he was saying. Apparently he wanted to check to see if they were allowed in (or something like that). Sholpan was very "cool" about it, while we were getting aggravated since they were with us and we'd been there several times a week since we've been here. The guard went in the hotel/restaurant. Jim went with to see the hotel manager and explain that the girls were with us. As it turned out, we learned that all three of the professional hockey teams were staying at the Chagala last night (it's also a hotel). It seems the guard was concerned that the teenage girls might be trying to gain access to the hotel to meet the hockey players. Once the manager learned we were there for dinner (and not stalk to pro hockey guys), it was all a non-issue.
The girls had a blast. We watched a music television channel (similar to MTV) and ordered pizzas, french fries and Pepsi. They had never had Pizza and fries before (sorry to have "poisoned" them with the American junk food - but they loved it). They are girls after our own hearts - they loved Heinz ketchup. They even dipped the pizza in it. They had to catch their bus at 8:00pm so we headed back to the apartment. They took their left overs home in a box to eat later or share with others back at school.
When we got out of the restaurant, it was like a blizzard outside (NOTE: there is snow here for about a 1/3 of the year). The snow was coming down so hard, it burned your eyes to look up. So we walked backwards most of the way home. Jim lent Katya his hat since she wasn't wearing one and it was freezing outside (acting like a new dad, he also told her that it was too cold to be running around town without a hat, even though she said she didn't wear one because it messes up her hair). They came in for a little while in the apartment to warm up and get their pictures. We also downloaded the pictures Les had taken so they could look at them on the computer. They asked us to email their sponsor families so they could see the pictures (which we did). They left about 7:30PM to catch their bus. We gave them hugs and promised to stay in touch through Sholpan on email. They're great girls - they have a lot of potential and all of them seem to have a good head on their shoulders. Their wonderful sponsor families have been great to help boost their self esteem (all of them want to go to university). We'll miss them. We probably won't see them again since we leave this week and their school starts back on Monday. They definitely helped make our trip more memorable.
Here are the pics from the day: