Saturday, May 31, 2008

Milestones in overdrive

When we took custody of Annalea on May 21, she was not able to sit up unassisted. We would have to prop her on something. Well, yesterday she figured it out and is now sitting up on her own. It is amazing to me how fast she was able to do this. I personally think she might end up being the athlete in the family. She has incredible muscle tone and is going to be a very active child...much more active than my Ryan. Like I said in an earlier post, she has abs of she will be a great pilates partner!

Last night was tough because we kept her up as late as we could, which was around 7:30. She just wanted to sleep all day, which is understandable. But we all know what happens when a child sleeps all day. So she was pretty cranky up until we finally put her down. She woke up around 3:30 had a bottle and went back to sleep until 6:15 and was back to her cheerful self. I think we are getting her on a schedule, because she just went down for her morning nap at 9:45.

I took some photos of her sitting up and will post these as soon as my luggage gets here hopefully by noon today. I have so many photos I want to share, but my USB cord is in that lost piece of luggage.

Friday, May 30, 2008

We made it!!!!!!

We are here in Potomac!!! And I am up for the day at 4:00 a.m. Annalea doesn't realize that we are now on eastern daylight time. Oh well, we'll have to work on that.

Annalea was amazing through the trip. On the first leg, she napped here and there, and on the second leg, we had a bassinet, and she slept 5 solid hours. Kevin and I also were able to sleep, but poor Ryan did not. He was too excited about Cartoon Network on demand, watching shows he is never allowed to watch at home. So by the time we got to Dulles and at immigration, he had been up a total of 24 hours. It was not pretty...I have never seen Ryan in such a fowl mood.

Immigration was not pretty either. We had to wait an hour and a half to get processed. But in the end, it is all worth it.

Annalea seems to like her new digs. She seems very calm and at home here. I have to say anything is better than the airplane and the airports!! She was probably relieved to get back to some peace and quiet.

She is happily playing in her exersaucer as I write this. But now I must go and give her some floor time while she is rested. I have more photos to post, but unfortunately one of our bags was lost, and it was the one with all of our usb cords.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Dorothy, hand me those slippers please

Today is our last full day in Yerevan. I am anxious to get home. We really enjoyed our stay here. As usual we got the royal treatment from our facilitator and translator. The apartment we are staying in is very comfortable...and somewhat American. Big comfy leather sofas and chairs, a very comfortable bed. We even have an exersaucer here, which was a lifesaver for us. Annalea loves it and it gives us a break.

But, as the saying goes, "There's no place like home." So I thought I would list the things I look forward to going home to (in no particular order):

  • Dishwasher
  • Dryer
  • Egyptian Cotton Towels
  • My rain head shower
  • Having my own sink
  • Starbucks
  • Our community pool
  • My friends at the community pool
  • Structure
  • Pilates Classes
  • Being able to read labels
  • Clean Air
  • My bed
  • My DVR

I'm sure I could come up with more, but you get the picture.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Zvartnots and Etchmiadzin

Today our translator (T) and we went sightseeing. First we stopped at the Zvartnots Cathedral ruins. The cathedral was built in AD 661 at the sight where St. Gregory the Illuminator and King Trdat III met to declare Christianity a state religion in 301. It is claimed that the structure has been in its current state of ruins since the tenth century, when it was probably destroyed by an earthquake.

We then continued our venture in Etchmiadzin, the seat of the Armenian Church and the holiest of religious sites in Armenia. First we visited the St. Etchmiadzin Cathedral (also referred to as the mother cathedral). One of the things I love about the Armenian church is the smell of incense. Some may find the smell overwhelming...not me. Something about it gives me a sense of comfort.

Before we headed home, we stopped at St. Gayaneh. Visiting this particular church was very special to me. My grandmother had a sister named Gayaneh, who died as a young child during the Turkish genocide.

Back again

We lost internet access for a while, but we're back in business. It is hard for me to get computer time because Kevin is working against a deadline. He is reading to Ryan right now, so this might be short.

When we visited Armenia in December, we worked with a translator that we really loved. She has since moved on and is working at another full time job, but when she heard we were in town, she rearranged her schedule so she could work with us. We are so thrilled to be able to spend time with her. For the purposes of privacy, I will call her T, for "translator."

We knew that T was probably good with children based on how she interacted with Annalea back in December. But she has exceeded our expectations in that department. Ryan adores her. She is also the best tour guide in Armenia. We are so fortunate to be working with her.

So yesterday Ryan and I spent the afternoon with T while Kevin stayed behind with Annalea to get some work done. We went to Vernissage (a flee market held each weekend) and bought some great souveniers. But before we shopped, we had to get lunch at the City Diner, a blast back to the US of A. Burgers and fries are their specialty, and Ryan was in heaven.

After we made our purchases, we came back to the apartment to rest before venturing out for dinner. We went back to one of our favorite restaurants, Gusto, and I had pasta, Ryan had pizza, and Kevin had his favorite bean soup.

Annalea has been doing great and we have gotten into a groove with her. She is really warming up to all of us...and Ryan is being an incredibly wonderful big brother.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

On the road to Garni...

...we stopped for some entertainment

A Day in the Countryside

I wanted to post last night, but we lost our internet access and won't get it back until Monday. So I am in an internet cafe, and don't have too much time.

Yesterday we ventured out of Yerevan to see Garni Temple and Gerhart Monestary.

Garni Temple:

Garni Temple is located in the village of Garni and on the way to the Gerhart Monestary. The temple was built in the 1st century by an Armenian king and dedicated to a sun god. Once Christianity had been established as the official religion of Armenia, all temples were destroyed, except for this one. It was kept because the queen at the time liked the spot and used it as her summer residence. A church was built beside it, but that was destroyed during an earthquake.

Gerhart Monestary:

A breathtaking spot where a complex of buildings were built into the side of a mountain. A very holy and spiritual place. More photos coming later...but here is my favorite.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A word of advice...

...for those of you who will take custody of an orphan who spent their entire 8 month life in two not take them to an amusement park any time soon. We made that mistake today...and all I can say is "over-stimulated." It was hard to say no to our 7 year old son, who has been patiently waiting for HIS day. Everyday so far, we have done official business in government buildings...not really fun for him. He has been patiently waiting for this day.

As I mentioned, people in Armenia love babies, so in addition to the excitement of the park, people kept coming up to her and giving her all kinds of attention. We finally got home, and all I can say is tonight it was nothing like last night. It took quite a while to calm her down...but the upside of it all is that when she finally did calm down, she was still awake and I put her down awake, and no crying!! Even Ryan was not this easy.

Of course I'm leaving out the 1:30 a.m. feedings. We don't feel bad about it though because this kid needs to eat and gain weight. She is in the 5th percentile...but you should see the muscle tone on this little lady. She has abs I would kill for. Her metabolic rate is probably through the roof, so in addition to being a slow feeder, she burns the calories in no time. Oh, if only I could have that problem.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ryan has gotten to be quite the photographer...

...and this is one of my favorite shots

Angel Baby

OK, so here's the situation with temperament. I got a little worried today because Annalea would not let me put her down at all...thank goodness for the baby bjorn. But...

Tonight after our walk (she napped quite a while in the stroller), she was obviously not tired, so a bottle was not going to do the trick and get her to sleep. So Kevin was thinking that he might have to go to bed with her. I wanted to just TRY to put her down in her crib (wide awake) and see what happens. Ya know what? She just happily lied there, cooed a little, and eventually went to sleep. Do I really deserve this? With my 49th birthday approaching in June, yes I do.

Babies are loved in Armenia

Today we had a very good and uneventful interview at the embassy. Everything appears to be on schedule and we should have Annalea's VISA by Tuesday. Apparently the US Govt. has to do a system check on her photo to make sure she is not a terrorist...I kid you not. Well at least I'll be confident that I am not the parent of an Al Qaeda operative.

Later in the day the four of us wondered around town. The weather here is absolutely perfect California weather. We had dinner in an outdoor cafe once again.

One thing we have noticed is that Armenians LOVE babies. People stop us in the street to take a closer look at her. One woman told me to straighten out her hat because it was falling on her eyes. Another woman told me that her head was leaning too far over and touching the metal of the stroller. While we were having dinner, a woman at the next table came over to admire Annalea and proceeded to straighten out her socks and wipe some drool from her mouth. A couple of days ago, Kevin was walking the sidewalk with her in his arms, and a waitress from one of the cafes came out and asked to hold her. She took Annalea into the restaurant and started showing her to other staff. People just stop and admire all the time...nothing like in the U.S. Now I know Annalea is cute, but this is a bit out of the ordinary. It is definitely cultural, and made me realize how hard it must be for a young Armenian woman to relinquish her child.

Tomorrow is our first free day and we have promised Ryan a day for him. He has been amazing through all of this...very patient, nurturing, and cooperative.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Happy Baby


So continuing from my last post, yesterday we accomplished two things. Annalea had to have blood work and a medical exam in preparation for our embassy interview (which is tomorrow). The blood work was no fun as you would imagine. I was afraid she would associate us with pain!!

Today we took Annalea from the orphanage permanently. It was very emotional. We had to sign some papers, and when we were done, the orphanage employee's phone started playing this emotional first I didn't realize it was a phone and thought it was part of the ceremony of it all. It was timed perfectly. Then we took Annalea to pick up her passport and came home to the apartment. She is blossoming already. She is very strong...bears weight on her legs. I gave her her first bottle is American formula, the organic Similac, and she liked it. After a bit of playtime, we took a walk around town in her stroller. She likes the stroller as long as it is moving. We had an early dinner at an outdoor cafe. Annalea took a nap in her stroller on the way to dinner and on the way back. She looks so sweet while she sleeps.

When we got home, I made her a mixture of apricots and peaches and she absolutely loved it!! Now Ryan is playing with her...he is such a great big brother...very attentive AND entertaining.

I haven't had much time online, and I apologize if I am not answering individual emails. I am using Kevin's laptop, and he needs it most of the time to do work. I do appreciate all the kind words from everyone!!

Tomorrow is our embassy interview where we will get Annalea's VISA. The process is moving very quickly, so hopefully we will be able to spend the rest of our stay sightseeing.

Moving Right Along

Sorry I have taken so long with new photos and updates. We have been very busy with official business to get Annalea out of the country.

Monday we went to get Annalea's birth certificate. We also went to apply for Annalea's passport, which is going to be ready to be picked up today.

Today we bring Annalea home from the orphanage!!!!! We are all ready with her, stocked up with diapers, her crib made up, and a makeshift changing table set up. We are very excited!!!!

After we pick up Annalea from the orphanage, we will go to pick up her passport, and then we will come home and introduce her to her temporary home until we return to the U.S. Later this afternoon, one of us will go with our facilitator to the U.S. Embassy to apply for an interview so that we can get her VISA.

As promised here are a few more photos...sorry not much time to upload many right now.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Our Family is Now Complete

We are finally here in Armenia and got to reunite with our beautiful Annalea. It was love at first sight for Ryan. She is a very content baby...maybe I'm getting lucky a second time!!

Today we got a lot of paperwork done and applied for her passport. Annalea is officially our baby now!! The next step is to have bloodwork and a physical done tomorrow in preparation for our embassy appointment!

More photos to come tomorrow!!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Great perspective from another adoptive parent

This was lifted from my brother-in-law's wife's blog, Desperate Irish Housewife.

It doesn't get any cooler than this.

Adoption has been in the news a lot recently. Earlier this week Laura Ingraham announced on her show that she has adopted a little girl from Guatemala, and on Saturday my brother-in-law and his wife will travel to Armenia to pick up their new daughter. It's all the rage.

DIH's gorgeous daughter is adopted. Let me just say right away, there is nothing cooler than adopting a child. One day you're walking around empty-handed and the next you've got a baby in your arms. Your baby. I mean, come on, how cool is that?

You know from Day One it's your kid. Um... the baby doesn't necessarily know that, yet. The first few days she may stare at you with a "Who the hell is this???" look in her eyes. She may also be quite vocal about her feelings. This is good. It means she's paying attention and is no pushover. [Note to overseas airline passengers: try not to complain that the baby in seat 34 E is making too much noise. New parents who just spend 24 hours in the air and two weeks on the ground in some godforsaken corner of the world are in no mood to be conciliatory. Trust me.]

Of course there's tons of adjusting in store. Suddenly becoming a mommy in your 40s has its challenges. Like, playgroups. Playgroups are full of young children and their ridiculously youthful moms. When DIH walked into her first baby playgroup with Sophia in her arms, the group leader gave her a big smile and exclaimed, "You look too young to be a grandmother!" "Thank you, " DIH croaked.

But you make a lot of younger friends. Which is very, very cool. it has its odd moments, of course. Like when your fellow parents invite you to dinner and serve barbecued ribs and macaroni salad. You get this wistful, nostalgic feeling for a moment--"I remember when I could eat this stuff. Sigh..." Then you get a grip and load up you plate with whatever greed stuff that's around. Pull up your socks, suck in your stomach and eat your salad. It's good for you.

We adopted Sophia when DIH was 45. She is now seven. You do the math. By all reasonable standards DIH should be way past the "mommy" stage.

But she is not. At 52 she has a second-grader. And I have never, ever felt luckier.

There are so many special moments Sophia and I have shared. True story:
SOPHIA: "Mommy! I lost a tooth today!"
DIH: "Really? So did I!"

Last weekend my daughter made her First Holy Communion. Did you hear that? Her FIRST COMMUNION!!! And I, her 50-something mom, got to buy the white dress and the shoes and the little veil, and take the pictures and throw the party and beam with pride, all the while thinking "I CAN'T BELIEVE I FINALLY GET TO DO THIS!!! THANK YOU, GOD!!"

I'm telling you. Adoption rocks. Congratulations, Laura, and good luck on your mission, Kevin and Sonia. You're in for the ride of a lifetime. Welcome to the adoption club- we're a fun, fabulous group!

Got some interesting news from my GYN today...

...and no, I am not pregnant. But, I found out that I have grown a half inch since 2004. The nurse asked me if I do yoga or pilates. I have been doing pilates for about 3 years now and have heard that you can literally increase your height from these types of exercises. My pilates instructor had mentioned that one of her students had also increased her height. But to be convinced that this is not just a crock of you know what, I had to research it. Sure enough I found this in a Washington Post article:

The normal aging process takes a toll on height. The disks that separate and cushion the vertebrae lose hydration and elasticity after the age of 25. The disks begin to shrink, and up to an inch of height may be lost. According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, any height loss greater than an inch signals vertebral bone degeneration.

Lifestyle factors can drag you down, too. For those who spend too much time hunched at the computer, the trapezius and latissimus (back muscles) become stretched and weak. Shoulders and pectorals (muscles surrounding the chest) become tight. Even the neck loses mobility.

To correct these effects, Pilates exercises extend the chest. The front of the body is opened and stretched, while the muscles along the back are strengthened. The crown of the head is extended upward, lengthening the back of the neck. Over time, these moves lead to more erect posture -- and a taller look.

So Kevin, all that money for those reformer classes are paying off...just ask Dr. Wolfgram.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

So, whadaya think??

OK, you are probably saying, where the heck does she find the time to work on her blog...she is leaving the country in a few days!! But anyway, what do you think of the new layout? The colors are similar to Annalea's room.

Annalea's suitcase is packed!!

And boy is it!! I probably overdid it, but I have no idea what is going to fit her! All I can say is that we are prepared for anything!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Checking the list feels good!

So I am making progress on "The List." You'll notice that I have added it to the right. I spent yesterday morning gathering all the documentation. That really felt good! Today I go to Target to get the meds for the orphanage...that will feel great!!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Yummy Mother's Day

For those who voted in the poll

Thanks for your input. I am taking your advice and waiting to post her photo. We are leaving in less than a week!!! So I promise that while we are in Armenia, we will post a photo of her as well as a family photo. We will officially be parents of Annalea when we arrive in Armenia, so I think it is pretty safe at that point. But I don't know how easy it will be to upload photos, so you might still have to wait until we get home...we'll have to wait and see!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Girls just wanna have fun...

...well at least the girls I hang with out do. Last night we had our "girls night out." A group of moms in our neighborhood do this occasionally...about every 6 weeks. It was special last night because we were celebrating Barbara's birthday.
Barbara is the glue that keeps us together and "partying." Because of her diligence, we have a monthly cocktail party where the entire neighborhood is invited and we rotate houses every month.

Getting back to last night. We had dinner at Hunter's, a local bar/restaurant in Potomac. Tammi and I started it off by arriving a half hour earlier than our reservation so we could have a cocktail. Then the other girls joined us. The food was good, the cosmos were delish.

Then it was time to go home...but...Tracy invited us to her place for more drinks. So we were there until 2 a.m. I kid you not. This is way past my usual bedtime of 9:30.

Now, there are the husbands at home wondering where their wives are, right? Well, Tammi was in big trouble poor girl. Apparently her spouse was trying to reach her through repeated phone calls and text messages starting at 12:45. She said going home was like facing her parents as a teenager.

As for my return home, Kevin was of course sound asleep. I asked him the next morning when he would start worrying about me. He told me "probably around noon."

Poor Tammi was up at 7:45 with the kids because her husband was too tired from being up all night. As for me, I slept till noon. There is upside to Kevin's apathy.

Left to Right: Lisa, Meera, Sonia, Barbara Tammi

Friday, May 9, 2008

More About Strabismus

I have been researching strabismus as you can imagine. And being the control freak/OCD type I am, I have been spending my time trying to come to a diagnosis. Imagine trying to diagnose a baby using a photograph, and not having any medical training at all. This drives my husband (who happens to be a physician--trained as an internist) crazy. But now, apparently I know more about strabismus than he there.

So the diagnosis I have come up with is Infantile Esotropia. This is a form of strabismus (of which there are many). I pulled this description from

Infantile Esotropia

The baby with infantile esotropia usually cross fixates, which means that he or she uses either eye to look in the opposite direction. The right eye is used to look toward the left side, and the left eye is used to look toward the right side. By definition, they alternate which eye they are looking with. It is more difficult to help this type of strabismus with non-surgical methods, such as vision therapy and/or glasses. Sometimes, clear tape applied to the inner third of each lens (occlusion) can reduce the tendency to turn inward. Prisms may aid alignment if the turn is not too large.

Some children who develop strabismus, in which coordination between the two eyes is poor, also have atypical gross motor development patterns. They typically skip the crawling stage with bilateral movements, and go right from creeping to standing. The interplay between gross motor, particularly balance systems (cerebellar and vestibular) and binocular systems (motor control of the two eyes) is evident in the large number of young children with cerebral palsy who have strabismus.

If the inward turn of the eye is constant, and of a large amount, surgery may be indicated. Both the parent and surgeon have to be committed to multiple procedures to obtain perfect alignment. Improved alignment may look better cosmetically, but it does not necessarily enable the brain to utilize information from both eyes together. Stereopsis, or two-eyed depth perception, is often poor following surgical treatment. The best chance for visual success occurs when the surgeon works with an Optometrist who is comfortable in prescribing glasses and exercises to encourage perfect alignment of the eyes with proper fusion. This model of cooperative care is similar to the relationship between the orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist.

If amblyopia is present (poorer vision in the turned eye), therapy including patching is often required so that the turned eye develops the capacity to see as well as the better eye. It is best to do this before surgery.

The chance of developing binocular vision with surgery alone diminishes with age. Older children with infantile esotropia may need both surgical intervention, if the turn is large, and vision therapy. Smaller turns may only require vision therapy. Getting the eyes to work together requires a lot of time and effort, but is usually worth it!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The right side of the store

One of my favorite places to shop for Ryan is the Childrens Place. It is cheap and the clothes are of pretty good quality. And there is one in my favorite shopping plaza, Congressional Plaza. So a couple of days ago I went in to find some stuff for is a whole different world on the right side of the store!!! So dainty and colorful!!! I am loving it!!!!!!!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Prayers Please

We just discovered that little Annalea may have an eye condition called strabismus. It is a condition involving the eye muscles where the eyes are misaligned.

Kevin discovered this when we got our most recent photos. We checked with the international adoption doctors, and they agreed that it appeared that one eye is turning inward. I've learned through research that it is a condition that affects up to 5% of the general population. Another interesting fact that the IA doctor told us is they see a 27% incidence of eye issues in children from Eastern Europe.

There are a couple of ways to treat it. Sometimes it is minor and corrects itself. A very common way to treat it is to patch to good eye for a few hours a day. If that is unsuccessful, there is a surgical alternative.

One friend asked me if I was OK with this. Surprisingly, I am OK. If this is the only issue, I am thankful. I'm ready to tackle this.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A "Golden" Evening

One of Ryan's favorite activities is Tai Kwon Do. Part of it, I believe, is because he gets to act like a Power Ranger. The other part is that his two best friends are also participants. Last night he received his gold belt. We are very proud of him.

In this video, he is the fourth child back on the right...