Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Happy at home

We love our new home!

Merry Christmas To All

Thanks for all of the prayers and gifts.

God Bless!!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Special Thanks

We'd like to thank our coordinators and homeside organizers. We’d also like to thank all of those who filled our house for our arrival. We walked into a home filled with gifts for the kids; Christmas decorations for the adults. Plus, there were kids clothes to last the winter and beyond, and food for a week, for all. Please thank Grace and Michael’s cousins who had to sacrifice their favorite toys and clothes for children they have not yet met. To have used items that we know worked for your kids was exactly what we were hoping for. . God is Good and you guys prove it.

Worst enemy ideas

If you have an enemy that you would like to punish, have them take two children on a 20 hour plane trip. 6 hours on one plane, 4 hours in an airport and 8 1/2 hours on the 2nd plane. No, no, please don't; it is too cruel. I am sorry I even suggested it. I was going to describe our painful trip from Kazakhstan to JFK in NYC but similar to what we hear mothers tell about giving birth, the pain subsides and it becomes a memory. Well the pain is subsiding for us but for the people on the plane, I am sure they will be talking about their experience for a long time. They will tell of screaming children and parents who couldn't prevent their kids from running up and down the isles. They will also tell of a girl who spoke Russian too many of the passengers and laughed infectiously when she wasn't screaming. They will tell of a little boy who screamed less and with less volume and who walked around for hours preventing his parents from getting any sleep. What they don't know is that the parents hadn't slept in days anyway.
Using EST
Wednesday 8:00pm - new parents wake up with kids
Thursday 11:00am – Parents get a power nap; kids get 5 hours sleep
Thursday 1:00pm - Left for the airport
Thursday 5:00 pm - 1st plane takes off – small naps
Friday 12:01 am - land in Frankfurt GMY. no naps
Friday 4:00am - 2nd airplane takes off – no naps
Friday 12:49pm EST - land in JFK.
Friday 12:50pm EST - Passengers ask if they can vote to let the kids become US citizens, luckily for Michael and Grace, it happens automatically. We weren’t able to get a full sleep until Sunday night. A beginning just like all parents, some have the stork come to them, we flew in the stork. We just wanted to get this documented to show the kids in the future. They owe us big time.
Final pictures are on the way.

Monday, December 12, 2005

There is no place like home

Two of the newest US citizens arrived at JFK on Friday 12/9/05 at 12:49pm EST. They did not enjoy their trip. I will tell you about the trip in a separate segment. We were greeted by Uncle Michael and Aunt Brigid. Grace was introduced to Brigid and she was not too sure about this stranger. Then Brigid handed her a bouquet of Balloons and suddenly she was the favorite Aunt. And since Michael was the driver he is the front runner as favorite Uncle. We know others want the title too. We say let the competition begin. The Aunt and Uncles can spoil our kids any time. As a matter of fact if you can pay for their college we will grant you the title outright.
The ride in the van was exciting for Grace and Michael, they both slept. Chris and Barbara were too wound up to sleep. When we got home we ran in to greet the dogs. They missed us and we missed them. They were a little out of sorts with the commotion the first day but they have settled down. Then we greeted the Barbara’s parents. They were jumping out of their skin to meet their first Grandchildren. Barbara carried in Michael. Michael was happy to see them. It was very emotional. Then Chris brought Grace in. As he took her from the car, the emotion over powered him. It is difficult to put into words. We are sure every parent has felt the same surge of energy when you are carrying your child to begin life in their own home. Your life passes in front of your eyes. Your entire heritage, all of your dreams for the child swell up. This is the moment you waited for, worked for and were groomed for all of your life. To take your child into their home, You feel the power of God. Chris walked with a tear in his eyes. Whispering “Welcome to your home, Grace Tanya”, “Ya tee bya Lu Blu” I Love you. Then Chris looked up to see his big sister Brigid looking at him with a knowing look, asking “how are you doing?” She gave them both a big welcome home hug. As Chris and Grace approached the door the grandparents were looking with wide grins and a sparkle in their eyes. Chris turned Grace’s face to them, their was as gasp, as if they said “this is our granddaughter, she is so beautiful”.
On Sunday Chris’ parents came to the home to visit. Grace was out playing in the snow with her father. Chris brought her to the car where the parents had that same wide smile and sparkle in their eyes. Even though there are more then 20 grandchildren it was obvious that these two are as special as each other one. A grandparent’s love has no limits. Their smiles lasted through the whole meeting. Grace and Michael behaved in a way that seemed to suggest “Yes, we are a family” Grace sang and danced with her new Snoopy doll from the grand parents. It was nice to watch her Grandfather’s eyes when her sang her song in Russian and she enjoyed her gift. At one she gave an unsolicited hug to Chris as if to say to the grandparents “don’t worry about us; I love my Mama and Papa.” As the Curran grandparents were putting their coats on to leave, Chris hugged his mother while holding Grace. Grace wanted nothing to do with that, she pushed Grandma away saying something in Russian including Papa, She was obviously saying this is my papa, you get your own. WE ARE HOME. THANK GOD.

New writer

We need to apologize for the grammatical errors on the previous two blogs. Grace wanted to participate, so we let her. We thought it would be cute to leave the mistakes in the final write up. Considering that fact that she only speaks Russian we are happy with her typing.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Embassy doctor

Grace is as smart as she looks. We went to the embassy doctor and Grace asked to interpreter if there will be neddles. She was told no. Grace said she will not be afraid, she will not cry. They both had gppd physicals. Grace is 33 pounds and Michael is 22 pounds. Both are groing by leaps and bounds. Michael does what every his sister does and Mama and Papa too. He is not the quiet slow moving kid we met 3 weeks ago. Grace is is pure test mode. "Let me see what the parents will give me" Let's put it this way Barbara is not planmning to fail the test. We are having a lot of fun. We are learning that Grace will do a lot of the little work around and Michael can now hold the sippy cup on his own. This parenting is getting easy. That first day was not easy.

Almaty at last

Folks we made it. It was an emotional trip to Almaty on Monday. We went to pickup Michael and Grace and every one was felling good Grace was happy and the fairwell was lively. Grace had been prepared to Go to a new houes and go on a plain ride. Then to pick up michaelk down the hall. It started out happy but became sad for the careworkers. We are sure they had a few tears in both rooms after we left. Even Graces friends seemed to know something was different. The we as parents were brought back to Earth when 10 minutes into the ride to the airport we were told what Grace said. She said. I want to go back. I don't want to live in a house. The car ride was sad after that. Grace was sold a 'bill of goods' She didn't want it. Michael was OK until the airport and the open spaces in the building. Grace was OK in the airport. Then the plane arived and she ran to the plane. How exciting to see a real plan and actually get on it. She lasted an hour then had trouble because she wanted more juice then we were willing to give. The screams and tears. We are officially parents. I used to laugh a people with screaming kids knowing full well that I would be one someday. Everything was OK until the car ride to the hotel when grace sobbed over and over Dome moi, dome moi, my home, I want my home. More scary open space at the hotel. The elevator ride was not fun either. Today Tuesday all is well and a lot less tears.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

final Semey notes

Folks the time has come to begin closing down the blog. We wrote this Blog for a number of reasons. We wanted to keep our family and friends informed of our adventures in Kazakhstan. Imagine the communications problems we would have without the internet. We also wanted to keep a day to day log so our children will get an idea of our raw thoughts at the time of their early days and as they joined our family. As it turns out, including the comments from all of you, this blog will show how much they have been loved even before their parents came to get them. And how much God has been protecting them for all of their days. Plus, This will help tell them about the interesting heratige they have.
We also wrote as an educational book about the adoption process in general. We wanted to write to people who are in the adoption process or are thinking about joining the ranks of parenthood through adoption. We wanted to show that adoption is hard work and that the rewards are great. (As we all know ”Hard work is never easy”). We know they are reading and we are glad to help. Be prepared for an adventure of your children's life.
Since Monday 11/28 our title has changed from adoptive parents to just parents. And the children have changed from ‘children to be adopted’ to the Curran kids. When we first started this process we were told that there is a term that people in the adoption process hear inappropriately all of the time. The kids are often asked “where are your real parents” Or the parents are asked “imagine if you had real children”. And these are adults who ask these questions. Of course they are really talking about “birth” parents and “birth” children. Our kids will know that they are adopted. We will discuss it at different stages of their lives. There probably won't be opportunies for the readers of the blog to mention adoption. We are real parents and they are our real kids. We think the only evidence that people outside the family will know that our kids are adopted, is that they will have straight hair, and their parents have naturally curly hair.
We will celebrate our “Family Day” on the day everything became official on Nov. 28th . It could be the 1st day in Semey of the Nov 13th also. We will see when the anniversary comes in 1 year. Many people call that day “Gotcha Day” We think ‘Family Day’ is a more fitting day to celebrate. Our children will know they are from Kazakhstan. We will celebrate that heritage as much as we do our Lithuanian, German/English/Native American and Irish heritage. Of course on all college applications they will be listed as Native Americans(joke). They will be US citizens on the day they land in New York and we hand in our immigration papers. They will be proud to be Americans. They will know that a kid from the Steppes of Southern Siberia can grow to be anything they put their mind to be. Thank you for being here for us and our children. We love all of you. God Bless!

PS We have booked our flight to Almaty for Monday morning. We may be out of communications during our travels from Semey to Almaty to home. We will post agina when we can. We will definitely post an epilogue when we get home.

It is time to leave Semey

There are certain signs that it is time for us to go home.
The street light on the corner seen in the picture of Semey has been broken since our second day here. Today it was fixed.
The resturant in the hotel that we have eaten in at least once per day just started construction. We now have to eat in a different part of resturant.
The people in the internet cafe have a reserved seat for us. They are starting to speak English.
The caregivers have the kids ready before we get to the orphanage.
We started signing papers on Friday.
We met with our coordinator on Saturday. Only the second time since we have been here. She gave us the completed documents and we have them to bring to the embassy.
We booked a Flight to Almaty - Hooray. We fly on Monday. We still have work to do in Almaty but at least we will be moving.
A couple of more prayers that the paperwork is not delayed.
It looks like it is time to move on to our next adventure - Traveling with kids. We will carry a new sign - HELP!

Friday, December 02, 2005

The paperwork is starting to move.

Today, Friday, we signed a bunch of papers. We know the passports are created. We still don't know when we are going to Almaty. The earliest will be on Monday. Once there we can expect a communications blackout until we can find a new cafe.
We will let you know on Saturday or Sunday if we booked the flight for Monday.
It is so close we can taste it.
Well at least still have time to see the couple of museums that we haven't seen, plus the Steppes and ski area in the forest.
Signed: Still having fun in Beautiful Semey.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

What we will miss

Our time is winding down here in Semey. We still don’t know when. Here are some things we will miss:
Our time together – 3 weeks without Chris or Barbara leaving for work. With the language problem we pretty much have been in-separatable during this whole time, shopping eating and visiting. We have enjoyed this time.
We will miss the city life. It has been great being able to walk to a store or a park or even the internet café. We will miss writing our life story to the world. This will be a good kick start to our journaling days.
We will miss our buddies at the café. They will miss us.
We will miss our movie night. 8:00 every night we set up the theater in our room and enjoy our wine and Pringles and our quiet time together. We will see if maybe we can keep this in the future…Something tells me this is not reality.
We will miss going to the orphanage. Picking up Michael with his big smile for a greeting; Picking Grace as she bops/hops down the hall leading to her big greeting for her little brother.
We will miss our little family room, although we know the kids are ready to bust out of that room. When the time comes for us to reminisce about the quiet and simple times with the kids, we will fondly remember our time in the family room.
We will miss Raushan, our friend and protector. It is nice to know there is someone in town worrying about us. We will miss our great conversations.
We will miss our driver Almas. How great is it to have a driver take you around the city every day. Almas was more then that, it was fun hearing about his tests for his law degree and stories about his girlfriend. We will miss his big smile.
We will miss our daily tea.
We will miss our dinner in the same restarant in the hotel every night. Those people know us well and we enjoy eating in their company.
We will miss the few times where were heard people in town speaking English. At the same time we will miss trying to speak Russian or trying to communicate to Russian speaking people. It is always a great achievement to get what you want without using words.
We will is our daily snow. So far we are up to a total 3 inches after some snow-globe type snow every day. There is not much at a time but it is slowly accumulating. I predict a white Christmas.
We will miss talking to the video camera every day. I hope 21 days of looking out the same window giving a morning commentary is not too monotonous. (My sister Tara you will kill me if when see these videos, bad technique)
We will miss trying to be creative for you, our reading public. Trying to figure out what you would be interested in and what you would think is humorous. We have really enjoyed talking to you. I must admit the pictures of the kids really helped.
We still have a couple of more segments for your reading pleasure, but we are running out of material. We can see by your comments and emails that you have enjoyed this as much as we have. God Bless.

Investors needed.

This is a picture of a rightside view of Semey from our hotel window. That 2nd tiny looking smokestack in the upper center of photo, is accross the street from the orphanage. The closest building used to be a bread factory plus other semi used and abandoned apartment buildings. We had Thanksgiving in the tallest building in the picture. 16 stories is as tall as they get here.
I promised you I would talk about the economics of Semey and Kazakhstan. Have you heard of the pioneers? Kazakhstan became a country in 1993 since then there has been a tremendous amount of people moving. In Semey the Russian military, Russian nationals, Germans and Ukrainians have gone back to their respective countries. This has left a city of about 500,000 people with a current reading up to about 300,000. There is investment opportunity if you are willing to take the risk. What can you get cheap? Food, drink and cigarettes. We eat dinner of two small salads, 2soups, 2 small entrées and 2 beers for 1300 tenge (ten-gay). That is $10. We went to one place for the same price we fed 4 people. You can get 2 beers for $1. A pack of cigarettes cost .35 cents. We would fill our suitcases with cigarettes if we thought we could get past customs. What does the city need? Steel, road repair works, fleece sweatshirts, postcards and cash and much. Semey was a major producer in Soviet times. They had the biggest meat packing plant in the Empire they had bread factories, shoes and clothing factories. All of that is gone. Now all anyone wants to do is import cheap clothes and shoes and sell them in small crowded booths. Everyone sells the same stuff. Every 3rd booth is for kids clothes or toys. Then there are women’s cloths and bags. There are some electronics booths and cell phone booths. The all look the same. What they are missing is manufacturing. In our hotel we see the bread factory that used to employ about 500 people. Now the roof is collapsed. People work a number of jobs, like teach English and then interpret for adopting families. During the transition from the Soviet times there was a time of land grabbing. The people in power took everything. But they didn’t know how to run it. Every time there was a conflict the owners just shut the factories down. Now there are empty buildings every where. The people of the city are very proud of what they have and things are improving. That is why it is time to act. You can get an apartment building for a song. You can get workers to maintain it. You just need renters. If you are willing to lose some rent money early you will make it back in the long run. If you can restart a factory that will hire workers that rent in your buildings things will move faster…It’s a whole economic theory. You need to be in an MBA program to understand it. My brother Michael can explain it if you need helpJ(sorry, inside joke to half of the readers.) Anyway, the city is growing again and they are looking for investors.

Day 4 of parenthood - thursday

On Tuesday we told the kids that they had parents. They weren't impressed. Grace smiled and asked for her juice. Michael asked for his cereal treat. Maybe they didn't understand us. We thought it was good news. We will we tell then again in the future. We are trying to prepare the kids for travel. We have pictures of the house and their rooms so they will recognize it when they see it. We are also starting to walk through the halls with little commands like "walk' and "stop" so they know them when they hear them. Whoever said that our skills we learned while working with the dogs will used for kids, was right. 'Walk' and 'stop' are universal.
Still no word on leaving. It seems that with new laws come new paper work. Our interpreter and coordinator or working overtime with new forms and additional copies. We will keep you informed.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Thank You for Caring

Here is Grace with one of her caregivers. She is not in her normal uniform today. We think she was putting on some type of play for the kids. Today the caregivers were scrambling to have their picture with Grace and Michael. The word must have spread that they are heading home soon. We can see how much our children have been loved in this place. Each time we go to the room the caregivers give special hugs to welcome the kids back. We know they have taught them well. Grace speaks clearly and knows how to hold a pen. Grace even teaches Papa every time she breaks out the writing book. These are special people and we will not forget them.

Raushan and Her Little Buddy, Michael

To start with, you all are brining tears to our eyes with all of your comments. We just love reading them. Thank you.
This is picture of our translator, Raushan, with our little man. Michael became very special to Raushan when she would visit the orphanage in the past. Michael would cry a lot back then and he would hold his arms up to her as to ask to be picked up, whenever she was in his room . Raushan said to us that she always wondered what kind of family Michael would have. We believe that she is very pleased with his selection. Raushan has been a tremendous help to us not only with her job of translating for us, but also as a wonderful friend. In addition, she is the local historian who provided the historical information you've read on our Blog. Raushan was born here and her family has been in this area for generations. Thank you so very much Raushan, we know you read this!!!

Monday, November 28, 2005

What a Great and Glorious Day!!!!

Success. We are the proud parents of healthy little girl and little boy. She speaks Russian and is 100cm and about 30;bs. She has all of her fingers and toes. We call her Grace Tayna. He is 80cm and is about 20lbs. He has all of his fingers and toes. We call him Michael Joseph. Both are vey happy. Both parents are very happy and feeling good. We would join in a shot of Vodka if we were with you. Join us, we already had ours.
The court proceeding went very smoothly. We knew we were in good shape when all of the women of the court; the Judge, the prosecutor and the child advocate oogled at the required pictures of the family. Most of these picures were the same ones you saw already. Our coordinator was extreamly happy. She gave Barbara a big Russian bear hug. Our translator was eaqually happy. We have enjoyed our time here in Semey, it looks like we will be here a few more days to get the paper work done. We will travel to Almaty soon, we don't have an exact date yet. In Almaty we will present the kids to the US Embassey. Then we will head home. We will know a better time frame later in the week. Thank you for all of your prayers. It looks like they have been answered. Later.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Day 15

Significant milestones were hit today. Grace said her first English word without prompting. The word was BOOK. Later on she was pointing to the ceiling and said the word UP. Michael, our little man, finally drank from the sippy cup after two weeks of putting the thing infront of him in attempts to get him to use it. When he finished the juice he cried because he wanted more. Go figure!! Today was our last official visitation day before court. Now we will not see our little munchkins until Tuesday. Tomorrow we will sit tight and wait for our coordinator to take us to court. Then our next round of paperwork will begin. We are getting nervous...It will be a relief when it is all over.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

What we are thankful for!

Chris&Barbara: We Thank God for all that we have
We are thankful for our parents for teaching what it is to Love. With Love there is happiness and sorrow involved and that it so overwhelming that it guides you to do the right thing. Love helps you live in peace. We are thankful that they taught us the gift of Faith in God. Without it we would have ended our journey a long time ago. We thank them for so much more. We are thankful to the new aunts and uncles and people in our lives who have kids. As we struggle to be contributing member for the "parents club" you have given us so much useful advice, not only with words but by actions. We will work on emulating the good and avoiding the bad. We are thankful to the nieces and nephews who will invite our children into their world. We are thankful that our family and our dogs are enjoying relatively good health. We are thankful that people have jobs that they like. We are thankful that our family is still expanding and that the kids of the clan are healthy. We are thankful that Donna and Tom are on the way to Russia to reunite with their son. We have a lot to be thankful for on this Great and Glorious day!

Grace and Michael: We are thankful to our birth parents who love us. We will pray everyday that they have peace in their heart and mind and that they know that they are loved. We are thankful for our caregivers who are extraordinary people. They have taken such good care of us. It will be tough for our parents to match their high standards. We look forward to torturing our parents as they try for perfection. Our caregivers will also be in our prayers everyday. We are thankful for our parents. They don't even speak our language and they are able to communicate with us. They are very nice and they bring us toys and make us laugh. We can't wait to get home to continue to learn and grow into loving people just like our parents. We are thankful to our grandparents. We can feel the love and excitement that they have for us already. We can't wait to meet them and be spoiled by them! Most of all we can't wait to get home and join the cousins. We love to play and share and we love to be around other kids. We thank God for the opportunity to expand our horizons. We Thank God for our Forever Family.

Here we light a candle in the 120 year old Russian Orthodox Church in thanksgiving and prayer for Grace and Michael's birthparents.

You are the best!

Thank you all for your comments and prayers. We are enjoying reading your comments as much as you are enjoying our Blog. We can't wait to get to the Internet Cafe to see if we got any new comments. And like all parents we enjoy hearing good things about our kids. Thank you for your support.

Pictured are Raushan our interpreter on the right and Almas our driver on the lft of Barbara. They are in front of the regional museum.

Thanksgiving in KAZ

What a Great and Glorious day Thanksgiving was. Of course we miss being home with the families. We were able to meet up with a few Americans and enjoy a great meal and great fellowship. Christine was our host, in her apartment. We met Christine on the flight from Alamaty kz to Semey. She helped us with a communications problem. She recognized us as adoptive parents from miles away. We sat with her on the plane and were invited to Thanksgiving. Christine is from Atlanta and originally from Liberia. she is physician. The other Americans were from Arkansas. Tara and Rusty. Also there was Donata(sp?) who works on missionary work with Christine in the villages 1-2 hours outside Semey. She goes to the University here and teaches English. They work with the Vlad who is a Russian Baptist minister. With Vlad at the celebration was his wife Svetlana(?) their daughter Eve. Eve is 6 years old. Chris had fun teaching her little games like “high-5 in the middle, down low …too slow” It was the only game he could think of.
The food was incredible, 4 different salads, beet, carrot, Garden and corn/peas. We had tons of chicken and rice. Then we had 3 different cakes and a variety of cookies and pastries. We all met at 12:30. Vlad said grace, being a minister and all. Then we ate to our fill. Tara and Rusty left for a while. The rest of us stayed and talked and sang spiritual and Christmas songs, some in Russian some in English. Tara and Rusty returned at 5:00pm and we repeated a number of stories and had a second portion of salads and chicken and sang more songs. We left at about 8:30 pm. It was full and enjoyable Thanksgiving. Wish you were here.

Follow up pictures.

This is the Nuclear test memorial that I described earlier. It is very moving, especially with the mother protecting the child. This was opened in 1999; 50 years after the 1st test explosion.

Day 14

Grace planned this picture; she even got Michael to look at the camera.
Grace: I love hugging my little brother
Michael: Yikes!! I hope she doesn't kiss me.
Grace: Listen to me I am the big sister!!!
Michael: Actually, it is nice to have a big sister to take care of me.

Big News!!!!

We are on schedule. Friday we were told that the court day is on Monday(Nov 28) at 2:30pm our EKT. That is 3:30 am your time. This is just as we had hoped for. We will not see the children that day. We will have a morning dry run for court. We have our suits and our pictures and we are ready. The pictures need to show if we are bonding with the children and if the children are bonding with each other. We still have dangers ahead. The judge can deny our request. We may be staying in Semey for a few more days post court as we wait for paperwork to be completed. It will make life easier on the kids. This way they are not stuck in a cramped hotel with their parents for longer then needed. We will keep you posted.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!!

Reading is fundamental...

Papa is reading to me but I'm looking at the camera!!
I love books. Today I said the word "book" and my mama and papa got very's the little things that keep them happy. Love Grace

Modern city

There are about 250,000 people in this town. What does the city look like, you ask? Imagine a city built during the Soviet era sixties and seventies. Did you imagine gray cement? You are correct. Most of the buildings are flat gray buildings on the initial look. We live in the Semey Hotel a 5 story gray building. There are no more then a handful of buildings taller. I would say 10-12 stories is as tall as you get. It is funny when we first got here we saw nothing but flat gray buildings but the more we get around we see some pink and orange color. We see blue and gold colors. We see some buildings with architectural interest with columns or window frames. We also see many very old wooden structures that have great craftsmanship in the doilies on the eves and over doors. Many of these structures look run down but you can tell that in is heyday this down was quite beautiful and it still is. Many of the apartments in the center of town are named after the Soviet leader who was there at the time of Kennedy. They are very nice looking on the outside. On the inside they were built to accommodate as many families as possible so they are quite small. It looks like every one lives in apartments here, except for the few newly rich, those who acquired wealth by being in the position of power when the soviet wall came down. According to one local’s theory. They city is littered with little parks and big parks. Our hotel is at the eastern end of victory park. Dedicated to the locals who fought in World War Two. They still light a flame on May 9th the day after the war was over for the Soviets. It is a very nice memorial It is interesting that they shoveled the center of the park where there is a square and the place for the flame. But they did not shovel the paths leading to the center. In an other park in the city center they did the same thing. The whole square is shoveled. Both parks have trees and grass on the edges but the center is all cement block. I am sure it looks beautiful during the summer. Maybe we will come back then. One other statue we saw was dedicated to the locals who fought in Afghanistan 1979-1989. One was a boy that was taught by our interpreter when she was part of 5th grade class. It is sad to see the name of a person you know on a memorial monument.
Overall the city has grown on us. We are able to communicate better and better every day. We see the buaty that surrounds us. We also see the potential and wish we could buy and renovate every empty building in town. I am looking few a few partners with plenty of cash…we’ll make a killing… more on economics of the city later.

City tour

On Sunday we went on a tour of the city of Semey. The city was founded by the army of Peter the great in 1718 as a fortress. The army that defended the fort were the Cossacks from west Russia. Semey was a walled in city with a gate facing the river. The river is the Irtish, it flows from China in the east to Russia to the north. A replica gate has been built to show where the original city wall was. Near the gate the Semey people had a magnificent bridge built connecting the industrial West or left bank to the residential/business right bank. It is the only suspension bridge in the former soviet union countries. The called it the Golden Gate Bridge of the Steppes. I looks like it might be as big as the Golden Gate. Tricia I let you know if I get to walk over it.
We are told that the Japanese built the bridge. People are very proud of the bridge.
The river itself is pretty big. We were told it was much wider and deeper in the past. It has a park along the right bank. It looks like a great place to be in the summer. There are gazebos and paths and trees. It is nice. At one point we went to the Semey University right along the river and in the court yard they have these statues. About 20-25 of them. All dominated by a 4 story tall statue of Lenin. All of the other statues are people from the Soviet times. Plus one of Marx. At the time of the fall of Russia the Mayor of Semey decided to gather all of the Soviet era Statues. He did not want to destroy them just keep them for historical purposes in one area. Many older people were not happy about this. They wanted them to remain in the center of the city. The older folks are still not thrilled that the Soviets life is gone. I’ll talk economics at another time.
Another park we went to was a memorial to the local victims of nuclear testing done by the Soviets. It was dedicated in 1999; 50 years after the 1st test explosion. The soviets did all of there testing right outside of Semey. The above ground testing were stopped after the people of the area held “Nevada” rallies to protest the tests. From 1963 to 1987 the tests were under ground. The monument is 20 stories tall with black marble shell representing the belief that the testing was justified to protect the soviet union. The inner part is rough stone in the shape of a mushroom cloud. At the base within the hollow cloud is a statue of a mother protecting her child. It is a very moving memorial. Next to it is a Traditional Kazakh wish tree. Where you place a piece of cloth on the tree and make a wish. There are 100s of thousands pieces of cloth on the tree. We added ours and gave the wish to our kids.
The last stop was to the Abay (sp?) statue. He is the Shakespeare of the Kazakh people. He died in 1904. He wrote great wisdom and tolerance at a time when there was cultural unrest. He is recognized by UNESCO as an important world literary figure. More if we have time.

Lunch time at the ranch.

Mama only feeds me in her lab coat.
Today I am eating Baked eggs and curds. And that cup of kafiel. I don't like to drink from the cup. I just recently came off the bottle...I still prefer the bottle. I was on my best behavior today no spitting or throwing food. I am saving that for when we get home. See you later. Michael.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Day 10 status.

I thought we should give a quick update on the status of our paperwork. Nothing has changed. We went to the orphanage with our coordinator last Sunday. We saw her last Wednesday as she rushed in with papers to sign. That is it. We know she called our interpreter to see how we were getting along. We know she was supposed to be in town on Monday to pick up some migration papers but no one knows if that happened. We are still hoping for a court date early next week. Who knows? We are not worried; to tell the truth we have not even thought of it. We are doing our job of getting to know the kids and getting to know Semey and the Kazakhstan people so we can tell the kids about them when there are a little older. Our coordinator is doing their job. We will let you know when we know. Now for more pictures.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Hurry up put your arms around me and give me a kiss

Help! My sister is smothering me with love!!!

Mama's loving touch

You can only fall asleep on the shoulder of one you trust.

Styling with Mama's hat

Or should I say mama's former hat?
It looks like we need to get a pocketbook to go with that hat.

What to eat in Kazakhstan?

It is hard to describe the food. Let me say we have not found anything we totally dislike. And only one place had exotic meat. It was good it taskes like a gamey roast beef. Chris ate it as an appetizer and as part of his main meal. He liked it. Yes it was horse meat. They breed them for food. What can we say when in Kazakh do as the Kazakhs do. Barbara could only take a nibble. She didn’t want to eat Mr. Ed for lunch. We have not ventured out much for dinner. Our coordinators fear for our safety. They don’t want us out after dark. Our Translator Raushan, lives in town and walks around after dark with no problem. But she is worried that the two of us could not be able to handle the ‘big city’. We feel completely safe. Heck we are world travelers. We have gotten caught many times. She has called to check up on us. She even called the hotel restaurant because we didn’t answer our hotel phone. Then once we went to the internet café after dark and who walks in but Raushan. Busted again! Well back to our food. We have only eaten dinner in the hotel restaurant. Usually beef goulash or chicken leg/thigh with a tomato and cheese melted over it. Or chopped steak. We could really go for a big juicy steak or even spaghetti and meatballs, but we have not seen it available yet. For lunch we have been having a lot of pizza. It is good. We usually have chopped meat and veggies on the medium pizza for two. Sometimes we just point to the picture on the wall and see what we get. All the salads we have had have been great. Lettuce, cabbage, ham, and wonderful tomatoes. The mayonnaise is a little sweet and very good. They also have this great vinaigrette dressing that Barbara is dying to figure out so she can make it at home. When we went out for breakfast we had thick ham, like a thick pork roll and Barbara has had rice porridge. We can’t read the menu and that is all we remembered from our menu review with Raushan. So now we have yogurt. We’ll go back the ham once or twice more. With the breakfast they also have this kafeil(?) an unsweetened yogurt type of dairy product. The kids eat this too. We didn’t like it until we put it over jam on bread. They don’t have much milk just cream and this kafeil. I would not say we have lost weight. The portions are perfect; not too much and we have not been starving. They do not serve big meals in Kazakhstan. Chris wrote this I am sure Barbara would have been more elegant when it came describing her passion…cooking.

Life on the road.

Our daily routing has varied little since we arrived in Semey. What has changed is our sleep time. The first few days we woke up early (4:00 or 5:00) wide awake. Mostly time adjusting but the first few days after we met Michael and Grace we worried about their future if they liked us, what medical problems do that have that we have not been told about…All normal parenting stuff (I think). Lately we have been getting a solid 7-8 hours.
Chris wakes up at 7 and pre-writes emails or blogs or downloads pictures and video. Barbara gets up at 8:15. In the beginning of the week we ate in the hotel restaurant. We ate dinner there too, so that got old very quickly. We now eat yogurt and juice and tea in our spacious 2 room hotel room. At 9:55 we are picked up by Almas our driver. We go 4 blocks north and 4 blocks west to get to the orphanage. We put out stuff in our room and at the same time pick up the kids. We alternate who goes to get who. One of us will go to Michael’s group room (named sparrow in Kazakh) Michael will have just finished his early snack and the caretakers are usually feeding other children. They get Michael and change him into his Sunday-going-to-meeting clothes(the same one every day). We he sees us he has a great big smile. And he runs to us. Grace on the other hand is always ready. She is in her bright shinny dress. She always greats us with a big hug. Then see runs down the hall to help get Michael. They have bonded well so far. Grace hugs Michael and we all go into the family room. Where we play and take pictures. Every day we learn something new about both of them. At 11:3o we clean the room and bring Michael back to his room. Grace then runs down the hall turns the corner and hide in the corner leading to her room. We finally get there and hug her and kiss her. Say “Ya tee bya lu blu” (I love You). She is quickly changed into her everyday clothes and she joins her group at the lunch table. The rest of our day is shopping and the internet café until 4:00 when we have tea. At 5:00 Chris usually goes back to the internet café. Barbara writes hers letters to the kids for their life book. We meet up again at 7:00 for dinner. We watch DVD movies on the computer at 8:30 with our glass of wine and Pringles chips. We are in bed with a book by midnight. If we did not have these movies we would have been stir crazy by now. The only other English is the BBC world wide and they repeat their stories every half hour. This is day 9 and everyday is beginning to look like the previous day. Hmm... might be a good theme for a movie...


Before we go any further Barbara wants me to admit that I really don’t know how the Holy Spirit works (see earlier message). It is true. I don’t know. I hope we all feel better now. I do know that all prayers are answered and we often do not see the answer when we get it. This blog wasn’t supposed to be a spiritual dissertation but life is all about faith so we can’t help mentioning it.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Curran family

No words needed!

Kim and Christina contact us.

We forgot to bring some email addresses. Will Kim and Christina please send an email to us so we can talk to you privately. You should be able to reply to a messege we recently sent to you. Thanks. Isn't technology wonderful?

Adoptions for everybody

Last night we heard the most wonderful news! Our friends Donna and Tom have been invited to Russia to pick up their child Ryan. They have a court date at the end of Nov. We are happy that our prayers have been answered and we know a number of people reading this blog would be happy to hear the news too. Congratulations Donna and Tom. Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

General information

Many have been concerned that it would be cold in Southern Siberia. Well we landed on Sunday and it was just hitting 40F. Wed night we had about 2 inches of snow. This is the first snow this year that accumulated. Today Friday it did not rise above 25F. All rooms that we go into are roasting. We open the window each night so we can sleep.
The food is different. We are surviving on meat and potatos. Actually we have been asked not to go out after dark. Our interpreture called our room and also found us by calling the hotel resturant. Tonight we ventured out after dark to write this and we got caught. We are having fun despite our curfew. More later. Mama& Papa

Brother and sister

Michael is 33 inches 84 cm. we don't know the weight. We bought some 12-16 month clothes. We will see if they fit. We think he is realitively normal size.
Grace is about 39.5 inch 100cm. We don't know her weight either. We actually talked to the doctor today about past history. We forgot to ask the current weight and official height. All is well.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Meet Michael Joseph Curran

The face of a happy boy!

Introducing Grace Tanya Curran

This is a smile that is going to break alot of hearts. Click on the photo to get a close up view. I personally can't take my eyes off of her... Papa.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Our Little Girl! Grace!

I hesitate to describe Grace Tanya after only 2 days because I know we will discover more each day. Grace is a very happy little girl. She loves to have fun and she will laugh ‘at the drop of a dime’. Barbara discovered her playfulness the moment we went to pick her up on the first day. She was prepped that “Mama’ and ‘Papa’ were coming to greet her so she was asked to give Mama a big hug. So of course she ran to the interpreter. How was she to know?. Then she was passed to her real Mama and Papa. As Chris was signing the sign-in sheet Barbara was lifting her pocketbook and made it look difficult. Grace immediately took up the challenge and try herself and found it very easy. Barbara tried again and failed Grace had no problem for the next 5 attempts. Then she hosted the pocketbook over her shoulder and walked down the hall to meet her brother. Each day at 4:00 we collect the kids and go into a 10x12 room filled with toys. It is the family meeting room. On the first day the first thing Grace sees is a big clear plastic beach ball the size of her. She picks it up and starts Giggling. She throws it and catches it. She has a catch with Barbara all the time laughing and having fun then she finds a big rabbit bigger then her and starts sitting it up and putting a blanket on him and lays him down to sleep. All along she is talking in Russian and interacting with us and the interpreter Rashan. We bring her over to meet with Michael and she likes him and like all toddler girls she picks Michael up, as if to say I’ll take care of this kid for you. We see that she knows how to share and that she likes to help. On the second day we asked her caretaker about her and that is exactly how she described her. She shares and she takes care of the younger kids in her room. The caretakers agree that she is a happy kid.

Our little boy! Michael

Before we go on any further I know what you are all saying “how can you name a child Michael? You know they are all little devils. It has been proven time and time again” Believe me we know all about that but our boy is the exception that proves the rule. He has been a happy little boy since we meet him. After we made our selection we were told that that is the first time he went to any strangers and did not cry. We have not really seen him cry too much. He is very attentive to things going on in the room. As we move around with Grace he follows along. He also likes to play with his toys. Barbara witnessed how smart he is. At one point he had a toy in each and wanted a third toy that was on the shelf. He thought about it and figured there is only one way to get that toy. So he leans over with his mouth he picks up the rattle. Then triumphantly looks at Barbara to show her that he can have everything he desires. Barbara starts yelling for Chris to witness this but it was too late. He likes playing with his buckets. He sometimes fills them but mostly he like to grip them and bang them around. We will have more descriptions as the days go on. Our children are happy and so are their parents

How will you know your children?

As we mentioned we were shown 4 healthy children. If we did not get a connection I am sure we could have asked for more. So how do choose out of the 4. Here is how the Holy Spirit works. In walks a little girl with a shy and curious grin. She looks at us and wonders what to do. After a few minutes her care taker tells her she can walk to us. She does slowly but without hesitation. We hold her hands and look at her with big smiles on our faces. She does know not what to do next and neither do we. We examine her hand and she looks at each of our palms. She looks at the flower on her sweater and we all admire it. Then Barbara asks if she would like to sit on her lap. She nods yes and Barbara picks her up. She still has this grin and a look of anticipation but nothing is making this an extraordinary meeting. As she is on Barbara’s lap, Chris admires her brown sweater and her velvety green skirt and finally her green knit stockings under her black mary-jane shoes. When Chris lightly touched her knee she burst out in this great big giggle!!! Chris went to touch her knee again and there was that squealing infectious giggle. We had our little girl! Everyone in the room joined her in giggling. After a few more times of Tanya trying to playful cover her knee and laughing continuously she was asked to go back to her care taker.

Before Grace Tanya entered the room Mishka was walked into the room. He was wearing a white jumper and black shoes. He was happy to be there and he kept looking at us and his caretaker. Eventually he was walked toward us and Chris took his hand and he walked the rest of the way. No hesitation. He looked at us will his blue eyes and held both Barbara’s and Chris hand with a death grip. We made google eyes at him for a while until the director told us that we can pick him up. As you know many 15 month olds do not always like to be picked up. But Mishka was in a good mood and Chris picked him up with no problem. He stood on Chris’ knees like he had been doing it all his life. Barbara lightly touched his hair and face and he gave a slight hint a little smile. We had our little boy! If Chris raised him high by holding his knees like he does with the nieces and nephews we are sure Mishka would have enjoyed it just as much. Since we were being closely observed It is wise that he did not do that. As he was standing on our lap we talked to him and he looked at us and then looked around the room to make sure it ok. Once he was reassured he turned back to us. After a little time he was walked back to his caretaker and the girls came in.

We got off easy we were able to touch 2 of the 4 kids. One big concern was how would we know. Don’t worry they were picked long before we got there!

Information blackout

Sorry it took so long to write but we were held up in our hotel room until our coordinator came back with papers to sign. She flew into our room at 10:oo this morning. So we will fill you in on what has been happening.

Monday, November 14, 2005

God is Good!!!

Today we met our children. We went to the orphanage this morning and met 4 children, 2 boys and 2 girls. After about 20 minutes we were asked to choose who we might want. The decision was actually easy for us, although we would have taken all 4 if we could. We decided on the 3yr old girl. We named her Grace Tanya. We then chose a one year old boy who will be called Michael Joseph. We decided to keep thier Russian names as part of their full names. Michael's Russian name is Miskalene which is Michael in English. Tanya is the girl's orphanage given name.
Now we spend the next two weeks bonding with them. We will go to the orphanage again today to start the process. We are very excited.
Please remember us in your thoughts and prayers. Because we are parents now, we don't know what we are doing. We will post pictures as soon as we can.

Da sveeyi dan ya,
Grace and Michael's parents hooray!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

So, how are we feeling?

Well, This morning I (Chris) had a little breakdown. As I walked the dogs, I started missing them (3 weeks is a long time). I also started thinking about all of the changes that are about to hit me, like: We will be 5 miles from Russia I will not be able to cross the boarder. What would my kids do If I got caught and couldn't return. We will be near a ski slope in the Himalayas; what an opportunity, But how will I get the kids home with a broken leg? Plus the cost! I need that money to buy my kids a new pair of shoes! It is the end of the world as we know it. By the time the mile was up my dogs and I were ready to leave our 'childhood' behind and be the responsible ones. All fathers have said, I can still be a kid; I just need to combine that with more responsibility and authority.
How is Barbara doing? Well, she was up at 7:00 this morning painting a closet. The raw energy is building. Later.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

We have a flight!

We leave out of JFK on Friday 11/11/05. We hope to be back Dec 3rd or 4th.

Monday, November 07, 2005

We are cleared to travel to Semey KZ!

We just received word that the orphanage will be ready for our arrival anytime after 11/12/2005. So we will travel as close to that date as we can. Probably Sunday 11/13/05 or Monday. We will let you know when the flights are booked.
  • We will take 18-20 hours to fly to Almaty KZ. The next day we will fly 2 hours to Semey KZ.
  • Semey is about 10 miles from Russia in the very eastern part of the country, along the Irtysh River.
  • It is 11 an hour time difference. The area is still very Russian so the adults and kids will all speak Russian.
  • We will bond with the kids for 2 weeks then 1 week of paperwork. We will back sometime in early December.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

We have a visa!!

Wow! Flo is in the house. Monday 10/31/05 we send our passports to The Kazakh Embassy, we use express mail (They don't accept UPS, the nerve!). Anyway, it gets there by noon on Tuesday. Nov 1st. Because we sent a self addressed, prepaid 'express mail' envelope, we recieved our Passports back by noon on Wednesday Nov 2nd. By the Way(BTW) when things are going smoothly for Barbara and I, we say "We've got Flow" or "We know Flo." We'll it is a good start. The word on the date should be known on Thursday! We will let you know.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

We have an Invitation!!!!

Almost two years to the day from when we started our Homestudy we have an invitation to go to Kazakhstan. Thank God for getting us over this 1st barrier. Tonight we celebrate. Dinner at the Clinton House. Yeah that is going all out, around here. Thank you for sticking with us all of this time. Rule number 1 while adopting should be similar to Rule number 1 of pregnancies...Don't tell anyone too early. Who would of guessed it would have taken this long. In case you are wondering, we started our process going to Lithuania. We thought it would be nice to go with Barbara's heritage. You never know with international adoptions and Lithuania decided they would work to keep the children in the country. So we went to plan B. We asked for the country with the quickest, process for multiple kids, That is Kazakhstan!!. Now we wait for a date. One step at a time. God Bless Chris&Barbara