Friday, June 20, 2008


I'm thrilled to be writing this post from home.

Wow, I think I'm in a bit of shock. We finally reached the finish line. We started the adoption process about 18 months ago and it feels wonderful to have our whole family together for the first time. (Side note: we filled out the first piece of adoption paperwork on Jan 1,2007 only 8 days after Griffin was born.)

Believe it or not the flights home went very well. In the 24 hours of travel Griffin only had about 2 or 3 hours of "freak out time". Yes, we were one of those couples with a screaming baby stuck on an airplane with no where to go and no way to get him to calm down. I think Griffin realized that if he acted the same way on the next two flights we'd put him in the cargo area therefore he was an absolute angel for the remainder of the very long day.

Connor and Lana met us at the airport along with Grandma T and Papa, proudly wearing their hand-crafted Big Brother, Big Sister T-shirts. There were tears, hugs and kisses for all. We were also greeted by welcome home signs from our Churchill Court family.

I don't know who's luckier: for us to have him or for him to have all of you. Thanks family, friends and co-workers for your support.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

We're coming home...


We got Griffin’s travel Visa today and we’re coming home!

I'm so excited to embark on the journey home… well sort of. The journey home starts with waking at 3:30 a.m., a 7 + hour flight to Amsterdam, a 5 hour layover, a 9 hour flight to Detroit, a 3 hour layover, 1 hour flight to Cincinnati… oh and an hour drive home. Seriously!

If the Travel Gods are with us we’ll be landing in Cincinnati at 10:35 p.m. Wednesday night.

Tired Cowboy

Preface to story: When ordering a meal at a restaurant in Kazakhstan you usually seat yourself at a table and then are presented with a menu. A minute later the waiter is hovering to take your order. They don’t take your drink order and then come back for food order. They take your complete order all at once and then bring food and drinks at random times. The side dishes and entrees come separately and each person at table just has to wait until their food arrives. You always have to ask for the bill, they will not bring it until you ask. We’ve been here long enough to know the routine and it’s really no big deal.

So Monday night we meet the Finney’s for dinner and decide to go to a “bar and grill”. This saloon has a serious cowboy theme. Cowhide, horse shoes, wooden benches and post, bull horns, even the waitress wore a cowboy hat. The restaurant decided to carry the cowboy theme onto the menu. They had dishes named, The Big Horn and Saddle Stew. We all chuckled as we read the names because we’re quite right. For example, one dish is named the “Tired Cowboy”, the description says “beef that will melt in your mouth”. Everyone places an order and we sit and wait. Finally the first entrée arrives, the waitress puts the plate down in front of Ben (see photo above) and we all start laughing. You’ve got to be kidding me… is that sausage? So Jesse is in hysterics and really starts giving Ben a hard time about his dinner. “Where’d they get that sausage from Griffin’s diaper”, “Isn’t that cute, it has a peace sign. Have peace on your digestive tract”, “What was that dish called, Alpo?”, “I need a picture of that gross looking stuff”, and on and on and on and on.

The completely none-English speaking cowboy hat wearing waitress comes back a few minutes and appears to be apologizing about something. We have no idea what she’s saying. She finally just reaches in front of Ben and grabs the untouched plate from him and places it in front of… Jesse. That’s the Tired Cowboy dish that Jesse ordered, not Ben’s sausage. The laughter that exploded from Ben, Kerry and I could be heard in Ohio! Jesse was speechless.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

An Evening at Medeo

Ever hear of the fairy-tale of the Olympic sized speed skating rink located in the mountains?  Well, Saturday evening we set out to determine if indeed such a place really existed.   In this case, the ‘we’ consisted of Amy, Griffin, and me, as well as our new American friends the Finney’s (Ben, Kerry, and Liam).  Medeo is truly a unique place, and is hard to describe in words, so I’ll include several pictures to help give an overview of the place.  As you can tell from the picture below, Medeo definitely exists, and is truly an Olympic sized speed skating rink located in the middle of the mountains.

Medeo is only about 20 kilometers outside of Almaty, and can easily be reached within 20-25 minutes.  The roads to Medeo are very well maintained, since they pass through some of the most expensive properties in Almaty (as our driver would say ‘big dollars’).  Contrary to the American stereotype of Kazakhstan living, there are certainly many people in Almaty that are very well off, American standard or otherwise.  As a matter of fact, Amy and I happened by a gentleman driving a Ferrari just yesterday afternoon.  And the cars parked in front of the McMansions on the way to Medeo would rival any posh neighborhood in the States (think BWM, Lexus, Mercedes, etc.). 

As we wound our way up the mountain toward Medeo, the first thing we noticed was the cooling temperatures and clear, alpine air.  The landscape was beautiful, and certainly not a place where we would expect to find an Olympic speed skating rink.  Actually, Medeo is one of two venues that were built as a start toward a bid to host the winter Olympic games (unsuccessful so far), with the second being the Chimbulak ski resort that is located another ~7 kilometers farther up mountain from Medeo.  Since the weather definitely gets much cooler in Chimbulak, we decided to enjoy our stop at Medeo and hold skiing for another trip (hmm… say next year?).   Below is a picture from inside the rink.

If you can get past looking at the good looking people in this picture, you will notice the large damn-like structure in the background.  It’s actually not a damn, but was built to protect against avalanches.  Makes you feel safe, eh?  If you look really closely, you will see many, many steps leading up the structure.  We felt that the views had to be outstanding from the top, so we mentioned to our driver that we would make the trek to the top with the kids in tow.

He smiled at us politely.  Then he nodded, and communicated that we could do that, but we would in effect be crazy.  Now realize that our driver speaks only slightly more English than I speak Russian, but for some reason we had some ‘Onagee’ thing (‘Friends’ reference for Jamie) going that allowed us to fully understand each other.

He then motioned to a side road that we hadn’t noticed, and indicated that we could drive up to the top.  As we sat in the car and listened to it struggle to pull us up the hill, I realized the magnitude of the error that I would have made had we tried to climb it.  I’m thinking that Griff would have had to roll back down on his own, as his two out of shape parents would surely have suffered heart attacks.  Below is a picture of the group from the top.

To help give some additional perspective on how remote this area really is, below is a shot of the valley from the top of the ‘damn’, opposite side from the skating rink.

Yep, there is really nothing else out here but the skating rink and a few snack stands, but we really enjoyed getting out of the city for a few hours.  On our way back to the city, we noticed that they are building a ski lift from the city to Medeo, continuing on to Chimbulak.  That will be a great addition for tourism, and should hopefully help spur along some additional investment in the area surrounding the rink (as much as you can on the side of a mountain).

And for those that are curious, the rink is actually used for more than simply entertaining goofy American tourists.  Several Kazakhstan Olympic skaters have apparently trained here, and Medeo will be one of the venues when Almaty hosts the Asian Games here in 2011.

After our adventures through the mountains, we enjoyed a great late dinner at L’Affiche, a little café outside the Hotel Almaty.  For those that will be staying near this area, we highly recommend this spot, as the food is the best we have had yet in Kazakhstan.

Long Distance Happy Father’s Day Wish


I know that we traditionally get together on Father’s Day and grab dinner together as a family.  Since we are half-a-world away this Father’s Day, we’ll obviously need to postpone the dinner, but wanted you to know that I’m thinking of you today. 

Ever since I can remember, you have always been there for me.  You have shown me that one of the more important traits of a great father is not in having all the right answers to the difficult questions, but just always being there to support your children in their struggles.  While this sounds fairly obvious, I think it’s more difficult in practice, as the perspective of a youngster tends to make everyday issues into monumental quests.  I thank you (and mom of course – focusing on dad since it’s papa’s day!) for having the patience to deal with my continually changing interests as a child, and for now showing the same love and care with my kids.  They are very lucky grandchildren. 

Know that Amy and I would not be able to maintain our sanity (or what’s left) without the knowledge that you are holding down the fort at home, while we are off globetrotting for Griffin.  It’s clear that Connor and Lana are doing great, primarily due to the activities that you have planned for them on a daily basis (swimming, karate, gymnastics, movies, sweatshop work… kidding).  I thank you for being the rock during this process, and can’t wait to get back home to thank you in person, and give you some relief from your duties. 

Give Connor and Lana and hug and kiss for me today, and let them know that we’ll celebrate my day when I get back.  I’ll expect cookies from Lana, and some fierce tackling from Connor.

Look forward to seeing you soon,

-Your son

And to the other father’s out there, have a great Father’s Day today.  I know that I’ll be looking for some shashlyk (i.e. kabobs) and a few colds ones to enjoy with Amy and Griffin (nyet cold ones for Griff, but he certainly enjoys the kabobs).  Best, Jesse.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A typical day in Almaty

It’s Saturday morning and we’re trying to stay positive and enjoy our time with Griffin in this beautiful city. The last couple of days the weather has been cooler, in the upper 80’s. We call these days “one shirt days”, meaning we should be able to get by without changing our sweaty clothes at mid-day. This is only an issue because we didn’t bring many clothes. I’m washing things almost daily in the sink – at least they dry quickly.  As nice as it is here, I’d still much rather be at home.

 I’m looking forward to some home-cooked meals when we return, even willing to tolerate my own cooking. (As most of you know Jesse does the majority of the cooking for our family).  Mealtime here feels like a chore. We try to plan where we’re going to eat (or just start walking), find the restaurant and pray that they have an English menu and a high chair for Griffin.  So far only two places have had high chairs, our hotel’s breakfast room and Mama Mia’s Pizza place.  I think the Lonely Planet Tour Book should add a “kid friendly” rating to their restaurant recommendations.

Although I must admit we enjoyed dinner last night, because it wasn’t a chore at all. We went out with our new friends Kerry, Ben and their son Liam. The boys were content throughout the whole meal, the food was fine and the conversation was great.

If we weren’t living in a hotel with a tiny refrigerator we would take greater advantage of the fantastic grocery store nearby. It has everything you could imagine. A deli with recognizable meats, a bakery and fresh produce area.  Much to Jesse’s displeasure, they even sell non-alcoholic beer!  Jesse stood in front of the beer section for 20 minutes, mulling over which beer to select. Later that evening after a long day in the heat, he opens the beer and scans the label as he begins to drink it. The words, “Nyet Alcoholic” suddenly jumps out at him. Ahhh, I can’t help but to laugh. Yesterday for lunch we bought food at that grocery and ate at the park across from our hotel (see picture below).

A little about Griffin… we’ve figured out his schedule and I must say it’s very “parent friendly”! 

7:00 – 8:00 a.m.  Wakes in the morning and eats breakfast #1 (formula)

9:30 – 10:30 a.m. Eats breakfast #2

10:30 – 11:30 a.m.  Sleeps  (Jesse’s time to go downstairs for internet use)

12:30 – 1:30 p.m.  Eats lunch

3:30 p.m.  Eats pre-nap snack (formula)

4:00 – 6:00 p.m.   Sleeps  (Amy’s time to go downstairs for internet use)

7:00 – 8:00 p.m.  Eats dinner

9:30 p.m. Eats pre-bedtime (formula)

10:00 p.m. Bedtime

Jesse here – I had to interject a quick comment.  Notice anything interesting with this schedule?  Yes, our youngest child is either eating, planning on eating, or sleeping.  The ‘tick’ will be a nick name that may stick for awhile…

Griffin’s food issues are challenging but expected. He has no control over his eating, yet. He will not stop on his own, which means that we must remove food from his sight.  Actually, we’ve started trying to time it so we’re all finished eating at the same time. He freaks out if we’re eating and he doesn’t have something.  We allow him to carry his snack cup full of Cheerios in hopes of providing comfort. Ben and Kerry said Liam did the same thing for a couple of weeks as well.

As Jesse said in the last post, we’ve seen the new passport and it’s correct. It’s traveling long distances throughout Kazakhstan for the required stamps. We’re hoping it will arrive in Bayan’s (our coordinator) hands on Tuesday morning.  If so, we go back to the Embassy on Tuesday afternoon and then home on Wednesday.  Our fingers and toes are crossed!

I want to tell everyone how much we've enjoyed reading your comments.  Not only it is great that so many people are reading the blog and following along with us on this journey, but your comments of support and humor are very comforting and a constant reminder of how many people we have supporting us back home.  Thanks so much!

Friday, June 13, 2008

One Step Closer

So, before any adoption related updates, I figured we should just start with the fun stuff.  Kinda like starting with dessert.  To the left is our little munchkin' caught in one of his favorite activities.  As I mentioned in the previous post, Griffin loves his sleep.  What I didn't mention is that this little guy could sleep through a tornado, which makes sense considering he is probably used to another ~100 or so screaming Griffin's laying next to him.  In addition to the quite, the air conditioning is a bonus that he also seems to greatly enjoy.  The average temperature in Kazakhstan in the summer is near the 100's, and I've heard rumors it can reach near ~120 F in Shymkent.  No fun.  This picture to the left, of course, is pre-haircut.

And this picture above is after Griffin's haircut yesterday! Holy cow, it's a boy!  It was another fun experience trying to arrange Griffin's appointment.  Our first try was to ask the ladies at the hotel beauty salon ourselves as a 'walk-in'.  After a few failed attempts at hand signals and garbled Russian phrases, I punted and headed for the front desk attendant for a little English-Russian translation assistance.

As the lobby attendant could not actually leave the front desk, she instead agreed to call the salon on our behalf (a distance of approximately 50 feet).  Meanwhile, Amy had decided to stay in the salon with Griffin to practice her Russian.  After the lobby assistant got the salon attendant on the line, she proceeded to ask if we could get Griffin's haircut (yes, you would think we were trying to negotiate the purchase of a Uranium depot).  So the conversation went something like this...

Lobby attendant: 'He is a boy?'
Me: 'Yes', I emphatically respond.  I'm still a bit sensitive from the whole passport issue.
Lobby: 'You would like to have all of his hair cut?'
Me: 'Uh, yes.  We would like to have his hair cut.'
Lobby: Speaking into the phone to the salon, she makes a motion with her hand that seems to indicate a buzz cut.  I begin to rethink the meaning of the phrase 'all of his hair cut', and the likely response that I'll get from Amy if I screw this up.
Me:  'Excuse me.  By 'all his hair cut', do you mean that they will completely buzz off his hair?'
Lobby: Smiling proudly, 'Of course.'
Me: 'Ah.  Well, then.  How about 'nyet' to that one. Just a simple trim will do...'

In spite of the fun we have with the language and cultural differences, everyone seems to take it in stride.  The ladies that cut his hair did a great job.  I say ladies as it seemed that we had a virtual pit crew working on him.  One to distract him, Amy to hold him, one to actually cut his hair, one that would brush off locks of hair that inevitably landed in his face, and I paced around nervously.  

Regarding the adoption update, we met with Bayan (our coordinator in Almaty) yesterday evening and were happy to hear that Griffin's new passport has been completed!  I actually held the new passport in my hands, and had the chance to verify the information first hand.  Now, the passport must travel back to Shymkent for an official stamp (not sure what it is), then on to Astana for another stamp (again, not sure -- but it is sacred).  At this point, we are hoping that the passport will make it's travels back to us by Tuesday, so we can meet with the US Consulate, then travel out Wednesday morning.  Of course, that is best case.

For dinner last night, we abandoned our adventurous side and headed out for the American Bar and Grill.  Yes, it was a bit cheesy, with wagon wheels hanging on the ceiling and a general 'cowboy' feel (I guess that's the definition of American).  However, the food was good, and the cafe was located semi-outdoors, which made it a good place to enjoy the cooler evening weather.  

Today (Friday), we are attempting to coordinate a trip to the nearby mountains.  No major hiking with a 17 month old, but a little sightseeing out of the city.  Should be a good change of pace for all of us, and a much needed distraction from the adoption related stressors.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bouncing Back

It’s Thursday morning here in Almaty, and I keep thinking that we should be sitting on a plane right now on our way home. The disappointment I feel is still very strong, but the tears are almost gone. Actually, I received words of encouragement last night on the phone from Connor, our wise 6 ½ year old.  He’s fully aware of the situation regarding Griffin’s passport issue. He asked me during the conversation “who typed the word female?”  (Yes, he used the words “typed and female”).  I replied that I wasn’t sure who typed it incorrectly, but whoever it was made a mistake. He said to me “you know mom, it’s ok if you make a mistake sometimes”.   So that started me crying all over again.  Thanks son for your support, I really needed it!

As for an update as to when we’re coming home, we don’t know for sure yet. We’re hoping for next Thursday. We should get more information today.

So in effort not to turn this blog into doom-n-gloom for the next 6 or 7 days, we’ll continue to journal our activities.  Not at all to say I’m happy to still be here, but at least we are stuck in a beautiful city.  Almaty is surrounded by mountains that are clearly visible, and the streets are lined with big, mature trees. While walking on the sidewalks, there is usually plenty of shade, which provides relief from the midday heat. There are also many parks in the area that are nicely landscaped.  The language barrier here is not as drastic as Shymkent, since many people speak at least some English and cafés tend to have English menus.   Although, buying a band-aid turned into a 30 minute ordeal, and even drawing a picture did not help. Jesse ended up soliciting the help of a local that spoke English to help translate, and now we are careful to keep the outer package in the event we need to buy more.    

It’s Jesse’s turn to use the laptop, so I’ll check in later with more information about Griffin. By the way, I’m so excited to get his pink hair cut today at noon!

Jesse here---

The last few days have certainly been difficult.  It seems that the closer we come to the finish line, the more elusive it becomes.  While we have weathered many challenges during this adoption, this one was particularly painful.  We not only had our expectations set on having our entire family together today, but we also set the expectations of Connor and Lana.  Fortunately, as usual, our children have wonderful perspective, and are rolling with the punches very well.  Yet again, they are making mommy and daddy very proud indeed.

On a very positive note, Griffin is completely oblivious to any of our administrative conundrums.  He is sleeping well, with two naps a day and at least 8-10 hours of sleep at night (yep, I'm sure I just jinxed it).  And he eats like a horse.  Actually, his newest moniker has become the ‘human tick’ (with love, of course), because if we would let him, he would literally eat until his little pot belly burst.  It seems that he is accustomed to eating as much as possible, as fast as possible, which makes us a bit sad.  So, for now, we accommodate him without letting him hurt himself.  I’m guessing that he’ll gain about 3-4 pounds over the next few weeks – hopefully all in his arms and legs!

As a real-time update to Amy’s note above, Griffin’s haircut went very well today (we’ll post a picture later).  He now looks less like our little girl, or as a boy about to try out for a junior Beatles band.  And Amy’s OCD has been satisfied, for now…

We hope to hear more regarding the status of the passport this afternoon, and in the meantime, we are attempting to make the best of our time together here in Almaty.  The weather has cooled a bit, meaning it is now in the mid 80's.  Perhaps we will be able to make an excursion to the mountains this weekend.  More to come...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Brick Wall

I write this post through teary eyes and with an extreme amount of frustration and anger. We did not get Griffin's travel Visa yesterday at the US Embassy and therefore can not come home tomorrow. There is an error on his Kazakhstan lists him as a female, a typo made at some government office. The US Consulate here can not issue the Visa with that type of error. We begged and pleaded but he explained we'd have serious problems upon our arrival in the US with that type of error. Our adoption agency is working to get a corrected passport...let's hope they handle things better this time around. We hope to be home next Thursday.

This set back is almost too much to bear emotionally. I feel overwhelmed by shear frustration. At this point Jesse is the calm one and I'm the one pacing around like a caged animal.

We're so sorry Connor and Lana!

We'll pass along an update as soon as we have one.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Thanks for the Blanket (from Griffin)

Connor and Lana,

Griffin wanted to let you know that he really loves his new blanket, as you can tell from the picture above.  He can’t wait to meet his big brother and sister, and looks forward to hearing your voices on the phone this evening.  He wanted to speak to you this morning, but was so comfortable with his blanket, that he decided to sleep in late (which was a gift to mommy and daddy).



Our First Full Day Together

Ahhh… it’s a good morning here in Almaty. We’re all feeling rested and refreshed today.  Yesterday we figured out the key to Almaty… it’s simple really: stay inside during the hot, hot, hot afternoon and go out after the sun goes down.  Yesterday for lunch we went to Mad Murphy’s Irish Pub. I know it doesn’t sound very adventurous but I was curious. Is there truly an Irish Pub in Kazakhstan?  Yes, it’s an Irish Pub. Jesse ordered Fish-n-Chips and a Guinness.  After walking in the heat we came back to the hotel for our family afternoon nap, and didn’t go to dinner until almost 8:00p.m. For dinner we went to Coffeedelia. The Lonely Planet Tour Guide gave Coffeedelia rave reviews and now we know why.  It’s a great coffee house / fresh deli with free Wi-Fi.  The frapaccino that Jesse ordered would make the people at Starbucks nervous… it was delicious!

Griffin is an active participant on all our excursions.  He enjoys his time in the stroller as we’re walking, and seems to take in the sights and sounds of the city.  He also enjoys all the food we give him… everything! We’re not sure if he is making up for a few missed meals or if he just really likes the new flavors and textures he’s getting.  (Daddy here – Lana, I bet he will really like our homemade Guacamole!).  

The only time he’s looked completely shocked was in the car ride to and from the SOS clinic. It was probably too much stimulation for him to process so quickly, but he still dealt with it well.  At the clinic we found out that Griffin is ~20 pounds. He’s so light but seems to be average height.  His legs and arms are tiny.  Most of the 12 month shorts we brought for him to wear are too big, because he has no butt to hold them on! He’s wearing 12-18 month shirts.  I think most of his 20 pounds is on his head – the boy is in serious need of a haircut.  He has so much hair and some of it is still tinted pink from the medicine they put on it almost 8 weeks ago.  My OCD issues are struggling with the hair… I’m so temped to cut it.

I’m not sure if Griffin remembered us from Shymkent 6 weeks ago.  Jesse thinks he saw a flicker of recognition (a bit if a grin…).  While I didn’t notice signs of recognition, I fortunately didn’t see signs of fear or anxiety either.  It has taken a couple days, but now he’ll smile when we get him from his crib and he’ll reach for us to pick him up.  Last night we had a new first -- we gave him a real bath. Jesse got in the tub with him, and at first he was scared, but by the end of the bath he was completely relaxed and loved the scrub down with baby body wash.  I think he’s starting to realize things aren’t so bad.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

He’s Finally Arrived!

Amy did a great job summarizing our ordeal with the airlines (see post below). Needless to say, my version of the story wouldn’t have been as ‘family friendly’, and she’s right that I might have used a few expletives to fully describe the incompetence of our friends at NW airlines. Ahh, but to the fun stuff…

We arrived at Hotel Almaty early this morning, still dazed from our travels. However, we were quickly awakened from our collective stupor after our driver mentioned that Nurshai’s flight was scheduled to arrive in Almaty at 11:00 am, and our son should be in our arms before noon. The day was certainly beginning to look brighter.

Fortunately, his estimates were right on, as we got the call from the lobby (‘you must come to the lobby’… in stoic Russian accent) around 11:45am, at which time we scrambled for the miniaturized elevators and made our way to finally welcome Griffin to our family. I think we were both surprised by how well he looked, as we both felt that he would probably regress a bit during the 5+ weeks since our last visit. Not so – other than a few lingering spots from a rash that we knew about when we left, he looked physically healthy. And he was active, playful, and most important of all; he smiled after a few minutes of seeing us. All is well now.

We enjoyed the rest of the day hanging out over a late lunch, getting in a good afternoon nap (which it took all of my strength to awaken from), and a casual dinner under the stars (outside dinning at the hotel… nothing fancy, but convenient). Tomorrow morning we head to the SOS clinic to get the final medical review and approval, and should have the rest of the day to ourselves. Assuming all goes well there, we are then scheduled to go to the US Embassy on Tuesday for our final interview and paperwork, and Wednesday will be a contingency day in case anything pops up. Then we are back to the airlines Thursday… and homeward bound.

He’s sleeping peacefully in his crib now. Any misery associated with our travels seems pretty insignificant. Goodnight all.

Misery Loves Company (2nd Trip Travel Woes)

I’m going to author this post because if Jesse did it would all look like this %#!%&*. All along we’ve tried to maintain a positive fun blog, but instead I ask you to feel our pain!

We’re so eager to get back to Kazakhstan that we get to the Cincinnati airport early. We ask the ticket counter agent to help us work out our seat assignments on the return flights, the ones with Griff. He’s unable to help so he gives us 800 # to call. Jesse calls the 800# to discuss our situation… we’re traveling with a 17 month old who’s spent 90% of his day in a crib and major “freaking out” is highly possible. He explains that we’re hoping to have seats together and in the 2 seat section of the plane versus the 4 seat section in middle of the plane. The lady on the phone acts like we’re asking to change the orbit of the earth. She says she can’t help unless we’re ‘status members’ – bingo! -- Jesse has Delta Gold Medallion status. Delta and Northwest are both part of SkyTeam Alliance, so his status should work on this airline. The NWA lady says she can’t verify his status and refuses to help any further. A supervisor gets on the phone, calls Delta to verify his status as Gold and then says she can’t really help because the flights are full and then literally hangs up on Jesse. The very frustrating phone calls last almost 45 minutes and we got nowhere!

As we’re sitting at the gate waiting to leave the NWA agent says we’re going to be delayed because the flight before us is delayed going to Minnesota and they have to wait for the pilot to move that plane out of the way so we can began boarding our plane. Moving us to another open gate would have been too easy, right. We start to panic now because we only have one hour in Detroit to catch our next flight to Amsterdam.

RUN FOREST RUN… we get to Detroit at 9:05p.m. and our flight leaves at 9:20. We land in terminal C but have to get to terminal A. We ran, seriously ran, through the airport. I’m sure looking like two big ole dorks; me in my flip flop sandals, pushing an empty baby stroller and Jesse dragging luggage behind him. He gets ahead of me (nice to be wearing running shoes) and I’m yelling … “just goooo, I’lllll catch up” We come running up to the gate, out of breath and red in the face and the airline agent looks scared to death and says, “But where is your baby?” Our only laugh of the day!

We’re the last to board the plane and feel encouraged when the pilot comes on to say there will be a slight delay while we wait for a few additional passengers and late luggage to be loaded. About 20 minutes later, there’s another announcement about a further delay, only this one ended up lasting almost 7 hours. Yes, it happened to us. We sat inside the plane on the tarmac with little or no air conditioning for 7 hours as they did a repair. We were not allowed to leave the plane “for security reasons”. After two hours we got a drink of water and after five hours we got a bag of pretzels. We sat for 7 hours on the tarmac and then had to endure the actual 7 hour flight. We got off the plane in Amsterdam, walked straight to the gate for the Almaty flight that is now boarding and walked directly onto the plane. No time to stop for a bathroom break or a sip of water, directly onto the plane and then sat for another 7 hour flight! For those that are keeping track, including the Cincy to Detroit flight, we had the joy of experiencing ~22 hours of time sitting in our less than 2 feet of coach space… together. You’ve got to be kidding me… I wanted to cry!

So we’re here now, in Almaty at the hotel, amazingly with all of our luggage. We’re laying down with our legs propped up to help reduce the leg pain and swelling. You should see Jesse’s ankles, they look like baseballs. And we’re thrilled to be waiting for Griffin to arrive… very soon the last 24 hour nightmare will be forgotten.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Robeez Shoe Donation

We'd like to send out a huge THANK YOU to Robeez Shoes for their generous donation. Robeez donated 30 pairs of their adorable shoes to the Baby House in Shymkent. Let me tell you...these shoes are so cute! I applied to be a part of their Heart & Soles Program and was accepted. The donation was shipped to our house here in the States and we'll deliver it to our coordinator in Kazakhstan. A special thanks to Robeez employees Stephanie and Kelly for your assistance in making this happen.

You can find out more about Robeez (a division of Stride Rite) at