Ok, so I'm sorry to everyone who has been so patiently waiting for an update. I've been having trouble remembering my name much less having the time to update the blog. So where do I begin?? How about where I left off?
We arrived in Moscow on Friday night at 1 am and checked into our hotel. Thankfully, the boys went right back to sleep and Jim and I finally got a little sleep ourselves. Our coordinator, Natasha, had actually arranged for the doctor who was doing the US Embassy medical exam on the boys to come to our hotel on Saturday morning so we didn't have to go out and fight the traffic and wait in lines at the US clinic. That was so very much appreciated! The doctor was a Russian doctor who spoke very good english so it was easy for us to understand and communicate with him. As we guessed, the boys are both unusually healthy for children who have been in an orphanage. They both have some structural/postural issues which he attributed to rickets from lack of vitamin D as well as enlarged tonsils and sinus issues from chronic cold/flu viruses circulating at the orphanage. He was not really concerned about either issue and just advised getting them out in the sun, feeding them a nutritious diet and potentially getting them into some good arch supports because the arch structure of their feet was poor due to the rickets. After he left, we had free time until Tuesday when we went to the US Embassy.
We spent the time at the pool, walking around Moscow (it was unusually warm while we were there) and generally getting to know each other. We discovered, as I had suspected, that our "potty trained" 2 year old is not really potty trained, but rather will potty on demand when asked to but won't ask you when he really needs to. Mama does NOT have a schedule like the orphanage so thank goodness for pull-ups! We discovered that a hotel employee vacuuming is worth about 30 minutes of extremely focused attention. We discovered tantrums!! Epic tantrums over anything and everything. Apparently they believe that louder is better, which in an orphanage may be true, but not so much in our house. We worked on names. They had us down as mama and papa right from the start (they had been told that they were going home with mama and papa). Their new names, on the other hand, took some getting used to but we're getting there. We explored food, lots of food. Elijah puked on me every day for the first 3 days because he just didn't stop eating when he'd had enough. Finally I realized that I had to limit how much he was allowed to eat at any one time which led to more tantrums but finally, no more puking. We roamed up and down the halls of the hotel, just trying to burn off some toddler energy and get out of the hotel room which after 3 days was getting a bit claustrophobic.
On Tuesday, we had our appointment at the US Embassy for our exit interview and to get entry visas for the boys since they were traveling on Russian passports. When we arrived at the embassy, we found ourselves in a waiting area with about 30 other people, American families and adopted children, all waiting to do the same thing. Our coordinator had arranged for our visa fees to be paid in advance so we didn't have to wait in line to do that. Again what a relief!! The computers were down at the Embassy while we were there. Some of these people were panicked at the though of not being able to get their visas and go home with their children when they had planned. One couple had friends who had adopted previously who got stuck for 5 extra days because of a computer glitch. Keep in mind that Jim and I had been in Russia for a total of 1 week at this point and could hardly wait to go home. Some of these people had been there for 3 weeks or more because their 10 day wait after court had not been waived. Eventually they resolved the computer problem and people were able to pay and get their visas but the stress, ugh!!
So while we were all waiting for our exit interviews, a very nice American woman came out and gave us all the instructions about what would happen from here forward. Our children are Russian citizens. Once they land on American soil and we get through customs and immigration, they are automatically granted US citizenship, but they will retain their Russian citizenship until they are at least 18, at which point they can formally renounce it if they choose to. They warned us to be very mindful of this if we were adopting boys that might someday travel back to Russia because Russia has mandatory military service for all males between the ages of 18 and 35. They said that the Russian government will not come here to the States to enforce that, but if our sons are in Russia between those ages and still have their Russian citizenship, it can be enforced. That's kind of scary!
The last thing we were required to do before we could leave was register our children with the Russian government. We were given a choice of "regular" registration for $150 per child or "fast" registration for $250 per child. The difference being same day turn around or 24 turn around. Apparently, the fast registration was done by someone who had a "connection" with whatever Russian government agency it is that handles these registrations. Since we could fly home on Wednesday instead of Friday if we did the fast version, that's what we chose. So our driver, after we left the Embassy, drives down the road a bit and pulls over to the side where a very nice woman jumps into the car and proceeds to tell us that she will be doing the registration for us. We needed to give her the boys passports and the $500 fee and she would return all of our documents to us at our hotel by 9pm so we could fly out in the morning. If that sounds a bit odd to you, it did to me too. Now I don't think I've mentioned that all along on this adoption journey we have been traveling with and paying out large sums of money with brand new $100 bills. If I hadn't read about this time and again on the Russian adoption boards and had our bank know exactly why I was requesting huge sums of new $100 bills, I might just think I was involved in something illegal, but it's how the adoption business is done in Russia. So this last weird little encounter in the back of the car was not that far out and we just went with it, trusting that our translator and coordinator knew what they were doing. It worked out just fine and we left Moscow on Wednesday, March 17.
I've got to sleep now, but I promise to be better about posting. I'll continue the story soon....