Tuesday, December 20, 2011

One month as a family - doctors appointments - developmental evaluations

So we have spent one month as a family and many things have changed.  Polina no longer rocks herself to sleep, she lets us rock her.  She goes up and down stairs without help.  She loves her dad!! And she no longer goes up to random strangers for hugs.  Polina has had the most amazing transition.  We kept her home for about a week and she was doing so well we started venturing out here and there and she has done awesome.  Last week we went to my moms work, the holiday luncheon at Brett's school, Jaxon's Christmas program, and the Holiday sing-a-long at Brett school.  She has been a rock star everywhere we go.  She dances and claps her hands when she hears music.  She went out to recess with Brett and his friends and acted like she owned the place.  On Sunday we went to Brett's basketball game and afterwards we stopped at the mall.  I took her to Stride Rite to get fitted for shoes.  She picked out some silver sparkling tennis shoes with pink flowers on the toe.  When the lady put them on her, she just pranced around the store so proud.  There was no way I could leave there without those shoes.  Polina has wonderful eye contact.  She takes a bottle at nap time and night time.  She loves to explore our faces when we are giving her her bottle.  She can say about 10 words so far.

Last Friday we had our doctors appointment at the International Adoption Medical Clinic.  Everything went great.  As far as they can tell Polina is healthy and has had all of her immunizations.  She is small but that didn't seem to concern him.  I think she is small because she is such a picky eater.  Couple that with being in the orphanage and that seems like a recipe for a small child.  Anyway, I was so happy that everything looked good.

Today we had 2 ladies come over to evaluate her development.  They had absolutely no concerns with her development at all aside from speech.  They want me to give her about 4 months to learn the language and they will come back and see how she is doing.  I was so proud of Polina when I was answering their questions about her development.  They said, had I not told them she was adopted, they would never have guessed.

Suffice to say that this has been one of the most amazing months of my life.  We love being with her.  She is so happy and loving and dramatic and entertaining.  I just smile as I write this.  I love hearing "eww" with big eyes when she sees something new.  And I love hear those big laughs when we play with her.  Here's to a wonderful Christmas and a very special new year.



Polina loves to pretend to talk on the phone.  She goes crazy with hand gestures.  I laugh so hard.

This is my first attempt to get a bow in her hair that stayed!  Don't you love the outfit?  Her dad bought that at Babies R Us.

Polina has worn the boys out!

Polina dancing while waiting for Brett at the holiday luncheon at the elementary school.


video




Sunday, December 11, 2011

One week at home.

I am soooo tired!  Christmas season is not the ideal time to bring a new toddler home. 

Here is how our first week went.  Our family and friends met us at the airport which was awesome!  It was so nice to see everyone and be able to share Polina with everyone.  She was such a trooper.  After all that travel she was smiling and hugging everyone.  She opened a couple of gift with a big "Ohhh".  She fell asleep on the way home and we put her in bed and she slept until about 3:30am.  As soon as she was up, she was exploring and happy.  That night family came over and the Sykes family.  Polina turned on the charm and received her gifts with a big "OHHH" "EWWW".  She even gave Mike a big hug.  We had decided to start our "cocooning" on Monday when everyone went back to work.  That has worked well for us.  I take Brett to school every day which is about a 10 min trip to help her realize that we will go back home.  She still gets nervous and starts to rock.  We have had people bring dinner every night which has been a God send!!!  That has been such a big help.   I have read so much about attachment and know the importance that I wear myself out trying to take every opportunity I can to work on it.  By the end of the day I'm exhausted and in bed by 8 or 9pm.  Polina is slowly warming up to Joe but still gets nervous if I leave the room.  I hope this changes soon as I need the break sometimes.  There have been times throughout the week where Polina has tried to reject me as well (ie. I put her on the slide and instead of sliding down to me she looks away as if to tell me to go away.)  She also gets really mad at times and will try to hit me in the face or pull my hair.  This has not been too frequent though, most of the time she is super sweet and wants to play and hug.  She loves to go outside and she loves to dance.

Today is Joe's birthday, Brett has a basketball game and homework, and Jaxon has 2 birthday parties to go to.  Did I mention that I'm worn out?        I have added some pictures to previous post. 



 

                                      

Saturday, December 3, 2011

We are home..

We made it. Princess P couldn't have done a better job! More later.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Headed Home

so it's late and we are still packing so no time to blog but sufice it to say that we had another great day at Red Square with our friends Allison and Chuck and little Sarah.  We leave at 1:30pm tomorrow and should be in KC at 6:40pm.  Unless otherwise stated, we will be on United flight 3629.  If you would like to meet Princess P we would be happy to see all of our friends and family at the airport.

see you then.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I think it's Wednesday???

So last night we went to Arbat St which is where you will find all of the tourist. We went into a souvineir shop. Before I go on, I have bought about 6 nesting dolls 4 of which were for other people. I bought another one the other day outside of the Hermitage and Joe ask me how many of those dolls I needed. Now back to Arbat St...we are poking around inside the shop and low and behold I spot the KU Orange bowl nesting doll! That was all she wrote, get a shopping cart! I had to chuckle to myself but my husbands shopping habits opened up my own budget and I started looking for that perfect faberge egg. I bought the most amazing egg that I will treasure forever. It's dark green and has the Kremlin in gold on the outside and when you open it it has St Basil inside. I love it! I believe our driver was shaking his head and laughing at us crazy Americans. After souvineir shopping we went to the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner. Little did I know how much Polina and I would bond at dinner. They were playing 80s rock and her and I were both dancing in our seats! Seriously, we even got this on video. We all left Arbat street very happy! :).

Polina only slept until 4:30am today so once again we walked the halls. She ate a great breakfast about 8am and went back to sleep around 9am. She is sleeping again, the boys are swimming and I just finished doing laundry by hand which sucked.. That's all for now.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday

Sunday night I got all of one hour sleep. Princess P went down at 9pm and woke up about 12am. Never to fall back asleep. We rocked her and rocked her. You name it and we tried it. Finally about 5:30am I gave her a warm bath, fed her breakfast and then strapped her in the baby Bjorne and walked the halls of the hotel untill she finally fell asleep at 7am. By 7:30 she was awake again! Seriously who can stay awake that long! Before we can get Polinas US VISA she has to have a medical exam. So our driver picked us up at 9am to go to the doctor. The appointment seemed silly. It took about 5 mins. He had me undress her. He went up and talked to her and she was still crying so he turned around and explained to me that Polina will be a very good actress someday and for me to not fall victim to her tactics. I just laughed to myself. Then he turned back around and addressed her again. As he is checking her out he told me I should consider purchasing a shotgun as we will need it when she gets older to keep all the boys away since she is so cute. Then he went on to tell me hat she must have been a favorite at the orphanage since she was so on target with her development which I found funny since he hardly spent any time with her. He did confirm that she is getting her 2 year old molars so that might explain her drool and lack of sleep. After our appointment we went back to the hotel to sleep and then our driver took us to see red square. It was pretty amazing. After our outing to Red Square, we met the Bakers for dinner at TGIF's..yes that's right folks, I ordered an American cheeseburger and fries. It was so good! Then back to the hotel to exchange some photos and have a night cap.

Polina slept better on Monday night. Today we had our apptment at the US Embassy. Our driver picked us up at 10:45. It's 35 degrees out. I had Polina in a hat and coat. We walked about 75 ft from the car to the door. The agency worker was horrified I'm pretty sure. I think from here on out its snowsuits only for us. I don't get it but I just can't stand being questioned all the time. Our embassy appointment took about an hour. There were 6 families there today. 3 AAC, 2 IAG, and another family from Small World adoptions (I think that was the name). They were adopting 2 older kids 7 and 9. That was pretty awesome. We officially have the paperwork we need for Polina to become a US citizen! Yeah!! We are free to go home...only problem is that our flight isn't until Friday...so looks like we will have time to see a few more sights. Tonight we will go to Arbat Street and do some Shopping.

Crystal

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Our first day at Marriott Grand

I LOVE THIS HOTEL!!

We get free breakfast, snacks, and drinks all day!  They have an actual high chair for Polina.  And I can use an actual computer and post pictures.  Plus they upgraded us to an AWESOME room.  We are in heaven after slumming it a that Courtyard!  LOL And I can't forget to mention they have a Starbucks right outside the front door.  Joe is in great spirits here!

They have gift, art and flower shops here, and a Pool!!  Doesn't Polina just look like part of our family?  I love it.




Pictures of Polina's home.

So as I said, we did get the privledge of seeing where Polina spent most of her time.

This was her bathroom.  She was number 10.




Here is where she slept.

Here is where she played.  It might look like a lot of toys until you think about the fact that this is where they were all day, everyday.


Here is her old snowsuit in her locker.

Gifts for the caretakers.

We were ask to provide a small gift to each of the women that took care of Polina.  What do you get the people that have cared for your child for 2 years?  We had to buy 10 gifts which can add up fast.  Here is what we decided on.  I bought pashminas, lip gloss, and instant Starbucks lattes.  I was told that they love all of those items.  For the head caretaker I bought special soap from Philosophy.  I also printed a card for each one of them using Google Translate.  And I made a Christmas ornament using one of our photos and gave it addressed to "Baby Home #4".


Friday, November 25, 2011

the good and the bad

What I loved about St Petersburg:
Meeting Polina and carrying her out of the orphanage knowing that she is ours.
The beautiful churches
the water
walking around
the weather
breakfast at the Renaissance.
Galina
matryoshka dolls
amber jewelry
the amber room
spending time with Romney
the food
Thanksgiving Dinner
having coffe and carrot cake for lunch while overlooking an awesome church (the Singer building).
people watching
the architecture of the city
taking Brett to the Hermitage
the beautiful painting I bought of the Church of the Spilled Blood
seeing the Christmas decorations
reading the Russian Fairy Tales
meeting the other adoptive families
seeing what products the US exports
sharing this experience with my boys
skype/internet access
being able to have a drink almost anywhere
learning the history of the country


What I didn't like about St Petersburg:
the traffic
the cost of things
shopping at the grocery store
the tap water
having to pay for water at a restaurant
the maid at the courtyard
dressing my children in snow suits
not being able to read the menu or anything else for that matter
not having a free breakfast at the courtyard or a coffee pot
not being able to wash my clothes
the smoke

Our last day in St Petersburg

So today was our last day in St Petersburg. I am feeling sentimental about leaving here. This is such an amazing city that I never dreamt in a million years that I would ever have a chance to see. It's the birth place of our daughter, it's where we met her for the first time and shared our first Thanksgiving as a family. This city is rich with history and culture. I have truely loved my time here.

I refused to eat another breakfast in our room so we ate together at the hotel. Polina is getting harder to eat with as she wants to test boundaries more and more everyday and a public place is not where I want to challenge her. So I feed her on my lap and then joe takes her back to the room while I eat. I took the boys for a walk today while Polina napped. We went to an awesome baby store/toy store. I swear if it was colder in Kansas all my kids would have new snow suits and boots. The selection was amazing!!! I let the boys pick out a couple of toys and we bought a DVD for Polina in Russian.
Tonight we went out for dinner to Stolle, it was wonderful. They serve something resembling a bierocks. Polina ate an entire one by herself! Then we walked down by the Metro station for coffe and dessert. Polina was not interested in this event and felt free to express her displeasure. So we took turns walking her around outside until we could get the bill paid and get out of there. We felt it was important to get her out a bit here and there since we will be leaving tomorrow and taking the train to Moscow. I have to say that I have been thankful for having this time in St Petersburg with her while we waited for her passport. I feel a lot more comfortable traveling with her now. We spent the rest of the night packing and playing in the hall with Chuck, Allison and little Sarah. Polina has learned so much in just the one week she has been with us. She knows that she can't get off the couch head first. She is mastering going up and down the stairs. And she can say "bye bye", "hi" and "Brett".

After the kids went to bed Joe and I called his parents to wish them Happy Thanksgiving. We ask how the dog was doing and Marge said she misses us terribly. So Joe ask his mom if she would put the dog on the phone which of course she did. Brandy got all excited when she heard our voices, so excited that Marge ask if she could put her back on the phone because she wanted to talk more! LOL. I told Joe, I can't believe I'm skypeing with the dog!

Well off to bed, tomorrow is a big day. We are taking the high speed train to Moscow.

See you all soon!



Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

So I believe that right about the time I hit "publish Post" on my last post Princess P decided that was a good time to start stirring. I tried rocking her which is not easy when you don't have a rocking chair. She seemed like she was in some sort of hyper vigalent sleep. Like she was asleep but yet conscious of what was going on. After about an hour of wrestling with her I finally got her up and fed her. I changed her and held her. After about 4 hours of this I had had enough and threw in the towel and handed her over to the boys. Joe tried to rock her but she would have none of it. Finally "Super Brett" shows up, he showed her baby Einstein videos and patted her until she finally fell asleep at 6am. We were up again at 10am and got ready for our day. When Joe got back from the passport office (which he said was really smokey...shocking I know!), Brett and I left to go to the Hermitage. We had a great time looking at the art and discussing history. Meanwhile back at the ranch Polina was left in the sole care of her father...she was terrified! :) luckily the savior of Thanksgiving was there to save the day...you guessed it, the ever charming Jaxon. Jaxon played with Polina for an hour and got her calmed down and having fun. Joe was able to put her down for a nap and then get her dressed in her super cute Turkey Day dress.

We met everyone for dinner at the Reniassance and had a fabulous dinner. Eight adults and 8 kids (5 adopted from St Petersburg). Three of the families were AAC families and one was from IAG. The hotel had prepared a special turkey dinner just for us and it was amazing. We all had a great time! On the way home our driver stopped at a local baby store and found me the next best thng to Pediasure!

Well everyone is asleep and I should be too, so I will not be proof reading this post either...enjoy.




Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wednesday

So with a little help from my best friend Google, joe and I are improving our parenting skills! We have had good moments and rough ones over the past few days. But over all things are going well.

Yesterday we got up and got around and took the kids to the playground, yes all bundled in their snow suits. After that we went out for some coffee at Illy. Spent the rest of the day doing homework and playing in the hall. At dinner I decided I had had enough of the snowsuit so I put Polinas cute little coat on her and strapped her into the baby bijourn zipped her inside my coat and walked to dinner. The Russians didn't know what to think! No snowsuit but yet could they argue that she was cold?? No! Lol. I was sweating though...like I said, it's only like 32 and no wind. We went out looking for Stolle which we had heard so much about. We did not find it initially so we ate at a Lithuanian restaurant. I think Brett's head was about to pop off that we weren't going to eat at the "pie place". So I made a deal that if him and Jaxon each colored a great picture I would take them to Stolle for dessert...I hardly heard another word from either one...so we ordered some interesting food including potatoe pancakes (which Brett did try and officially decided that he does not like) and a beer. We all enjoyed ourselves and liked the food. Afterwards we stopped at Stolle and got dessert. All and all a good day.

Today we had a slow start. We ate breakfast in the room and irritated the maid again by not having our room available when she came by...plus its always a disaster...what does she expect though when you have 5 people living in about 400 square ft w/o a kitchen or laundry facility. Around noon Joe took the boys to the Military museum and Polina and I hung out in the hall and then I laid her down for a nap. When the boys got home, we went out in the hall and visited with another adoptive family. This couple adopted a 2 1/2 year old little girl. Then we had dinner at the hotel. Joe is working hard to win Polina's love, she is warming up to him slowly. That's where our friend google is coming in handy....she likes that she can understand him. Then of course joe and technology, he had to take this app down to dinner and use it to talk to the waitress. Brett said he was embarrassed by Joe trying to speak Russian when the ladies knew he couldn't. I was cracking up! Our sweet baby girl is sleeping now. :)

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and we will be meeting 2 other adoptive families at the Renaissance for a good ol American Thanksgiving. The hotel has even agreed to make turkey for all of us. Have a great holiday! I can't believe Im going to miss black Friday! That sucks! :(

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday

It is now 10pm and oh what a day! Polina took her first bath today and it went great. We put just a bit of water and her stacking cups in there. She had a great time. We didnt try to wash her hair yet. I thought that could wait. We still have yet to buy any milk so we had breakfast at the hotel again. Polina finally lost it after breakfast today. She keeps trying every door on our floor hoping that one of the is the way home. I finally made her go back in our room and she just lost it. She tantrumed for about 25 minutes and finally passed out. It was so hard to not be able to help her but I've read enough to know that this is normal and I just sat next to her and patted her when I could. After nap we went to the play ground where we were promptly repermanded for not having the proper footwear on her. We did have our snowsuit and hat but no snow boots. It wasn't even cold! After that we ended up in an Irish pub that was super smokey and we didn't recognize much on the menu. We let Jaxon order for and he did a great job. We had to pay Brett 100 rubles to taste it but that was only because he was crabby (he was tired, but claims he wasn't). Tonight sleeping arrangements have been problematic. Polina insist on sleeping on the rollaway. Jax insist on sleeping with Polina. Brett doesnt want to sleep with Joe because he snores (again Brett is crabby) and I'm just laughing at this comedy act that is my life. Lol. As I write everyone is sleeping and I'm thinking back over the day. Polina still screams if I leave her alone with joe, she tantrumed and rocked really hard to get to sleep to night but all in all I think we made a lot of progress today.

So I have to mention that joe and Brett left to get groceries and came back with no food but they did have a huge pink bicycle with a canopy, streamers, backpack and basket. When Polina woke up she saw it and had to ride it. I think she thought it was her ticket out of here. So lucky me spent about 45 mins pushing her around the hall. :)

Time for bed..good night.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Day after Gotcha Day

So today well.....hmmm...Joe left at 9am to go back to the passport office which left me with three kids in a hotel room. Needless to say it was rough. Polina did great but the boys were a little stir crazy and found enjoyment in irritating each other. We knew from the night before that Polina was not ready to leave the hotel so we just stayed in the room or played in the hall (we've had a lot of fun in the hall). After about 2 hours I was texting Joe, "where are you? HELP!!!". So he came back and got the boys and took them out and about. In their snow suits of course! I took Polina down to the resteraunt in the hotel where I ordered exactly what the baby home director said she ate and she wouldnt even entertain me with a bite of it. I ended up with green vegetable soup on my shirt..which btw I'm still wearing. We moved to the courtyard because it said they had washer and dryers but they dont. Oh,I can have a shirt washed for about $12. Yeah...No. all in all the day was long but we made it through and everyone is sleeping but me. Polina is timid of Joe again but I think that will pass soon. Joe said tonight "she's such a sweetheart I wish we could just fast forward a month" he is in love and so am I. I will say that I have feelings of sadness for my relationship with jaxon but I think that is normal when you add another child to the family. I'm so blessed to have a large family (by today's standards) it just feels good.

I thought it would be interesting to mention that Joe said him and the other adoptive dad had a beer while they were waiting at the passport office. I had to post this because how much nicer would the DMV be if you could have a drink while you are waiting!

Thursday - another great day!

So Thursday we got up and went to Illy for breakfast. We manage to order eggs, toast, cucumbers and tomatoes for breakfast. We also had a few lattes and on. After breakfast we took a nap and then got ready to go to the baby home. The car ride is long with lots of exhaust which made Brett a bit sick. Our visit with Polina couldn't have gone better. The boys must have said her name 100 times. She had tons of fun playing with them. At the end go our visit we had Galina explain to Polina what was going to happen the next day and we gave Ludmella a gift we had made for the orphanage. I took one of the photos from our first visit, a picture of the 3 of us all smiling and had a Christmas ornament made to go on the Christmas treeat the baby home. When she opened the gift she was very touched and really loved it. She said she would make sure it went on the tree each year to remember her.

After we left, the boys were starving so we all went to McDonalds, including Galina and Alec. After that Alec dropped us off at the gift shop so we could pick up the Nebraska nesting doll for the McKernans. Brett loved my amber necklace and wanted one too so he picked out a really awesome one and of course that's what Jax wanted to because he loves to be like his big brother. Amber is actually mined out of the Baltic Sea which is why it's associated with Russia. Then we walked down Nevesky Prospect to the Lego store, the chocolate museum and on to the metro station. Galina went with us and helped us by the tickets for the Metro station nd showed us how to get back to our hotel. It was actually really east...I told her she was teaching us to fish. It was absolutely a great day!





Friday, November 18, 2011

Gotcha Day

What an awesome day it has been!! We woke up early and got everything ready to go. We had a wonderful breakfast and then off to the baby home for the last time! We stopped and got 2 cakes as we were instructed to do. When we got to the Orphanage they had us wait in the gym room while they got the children dressed. Our boys and the Bakers son Alex had a blast playing with all the toys. After a few minutes they brought the children in all dressed in their beautiful clothes. Brett stopped playing and just dotted on his new sister. She sat in his lap for quite a while. She had with her the album we gave her on our first trip and the doll we gave her the other day. She was very attached to both of those items. After a few minutes of play and a ton of pictures, we went in to talk to the director. We got about 10 minutes with them and she covered the basics like schedule and diet. The ladies tried to hurry us by standing up and putting coats on because they wanted to get to the passport office before they closed. I knew this was my only chance so I stood my ground and continued to ask questions. Then I ask for like the 5th time if I could see her room. They said I could but Joe needed to go with them to work on the passports. As we walked down the stairs Ludmella grabbed Joe and I and pulled us into Polinas living quarters. The kids were all asleep so we had to be extra quiet. We saw their bathroom, playroom, and sleeping areas. We could see the children but it was hard because they were sleeping. After that Joe got yelled at for disappearing but it was so worth it. We said our good byes andtook more pictures. Ludmella was crying. She truelly loves our daughter and she touched my heart in a very special way. After that Alec drove me and the kids back to the hotel. We let Polina listen to some music which she enjoyed but then I could tell she was very stressed so I got out those flavored puffs and she was really happy. She ate half the can on the way home and drank some water. She did not cry at all on the way to the hotel. When we got here we played and ran around the halls. I have to say that if you have one available I recommend bringing a 7 year old son along. Brett has been AWESOME! He is at her beckon call. Jaxon, not so much but he has been good. Around 4 I gave her a bottle with pedi alight and she went right to sleep while the boys and I put together a Lego in the closet so we didn't wake her. The rest of the day was simple with a dinner at the hotel followed by some more hall fun. Bed time was tough on me though. She took her bottle and was almost asleep but went I layed her down she started to rock. I sat by her and patted her but I felt helpless. Please if you have experience here, Im open for advice. All in all another great day.





Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My family is here.

The boys arrived today at 3pm. Joe fell asleep on the way to the hotel, Jaxon kept telling the driver he had never been to Russia before and Brett said he wanted to go home because he thought potato pancakes sounded awful. He agreed to stay but he is only eating apples while he is here. Lol


Tuesday

Today we got up and walked to the Hermatage. The place was amazing. We saw paintings from Van Gogh, DeVinci, Picasso, you name it. We saw some of the most amazing rooms from the palace. I was just in awh.

Then we were off to visit Princess P! When we got there Ludmella met us in the "green room" and she had a small gift for Polina. It was a little porciline angel with a post card of the Mary and baby Jesus. She wrote "From Ludmella, Be happy". The she held her heart smiled and said Polina's name. Then she left to go get Polina. I think she has true love for our little girl. When Polina fina came in she was initially a bit timid of Romney and she looked to me for comfort which was great. Then we just couldn't wait any longer to give her the birthday gift Romney had bought her. We showed her how to open a gift and she caught on well which should bode well for Christmas. She was very excited to see what was inside...her first doll!! Biddy Baby from American Girl!!! She was initially interested in the doll but then threw her on the floor and became extremely interested in the bottle. She loved that bottle!! She kept it in her hand most of the visit. We played bubbles, follow the leader, ball, and tried to read a book. About that time Princess P was comfortable enough to start ruling the room again. LOL She tried to get in the thing that holds the ball so I helped her in. Then soon she tried to get out and I held my hands out to help...no she did not need my help. When I conveyed that I would only let her get out if I could help her she choose to go stare at the wall instead. This went on several times. Romney was laughing and said I was in for a whole new game of parenting with a daughter. She is so much fun to try to figure out.

After our visit we went to "Zoom" - loved it!!! Great food, fun comfortable place, prices were good, and they spoke English!!! After that we went back to the Hotel and a few drinks with Jamie in the lounge. So far my trip has been nothing short of wonderful. Here to more fun with my boys!!!!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Romney's Guest Post

Once upon time, Crystal and I worked together at Illuminet / Verisign / TNS. I left work to become a mommy and then 6 months later my family moved to Wisconsin. Although, that was eight years ago, Crystal and I have not only remained friends but become really close friends. In fact, my kids are pretty sure Jaxon and Brett are their cousins. Crytal and I used to daydream about meeting somewhere for a scrapbooking weekend. We never seemed to make that work... but now I find myself in a hotel in Russia with her, drinking wine and playing on our ipads. Life surprises you. (Note: Crystal has just moved her empty wine glass in front of me and picked up my full wine glass. She thinks I haven't noticed . . . )

So, today's adventure! After breakfast, we spent over an hour walking the streets of St Petersburg looking for the Russian Museum. We took it in stride and once we found the museum, enjoyed the art. We found it odd the pictures were hundreds of years old and not covered. Many rooms had open windows. How, we wonder, will the art last? We lunched on coffee and cake . . . which cost us over $30! Yikes! Back to the hotel . . . where someone . . . fell asleep . . . no worries! I was up in time for our dinner reservation. We ate at the popular Teplo restaurant and made a reservation for Wednesday night when Joe and the kids are here. It was very good and super cute. On our way out, they gave us bags of cookies - yay! (Note: Now Crystal is eating my cookies!)

Then we spent a long time walking around the city. We went to Zara and H&M. And, a hat shop. We got into trouble for taking pictures of us wearing the hats. I bought a fur hat. It is made of squirrel. Yeah, squirrel. I think it makes me look very Russian. To make it more real, I insist Crystal walks with her arm linked with mine. Just like all the other Russian ladies. In fact, someone stopped us and asked us a question in Russian. When she realized we were tourists, she was horrified and hurried away. I felt quite smug. Obviously, my hat makes me look local :) Then Crystal said something funny and I laughed out loud. A guy passing us on the sidewalk stopped to make fun of my laughing. I read about that. Smiling and laughing in public makes people in Russia think you are an idiot. If you have met me, well, then you know. I smile and laugh a lot. And, loudly. So, in summary, I stand out in Russia. The hat helps . . . I'm convinced!

Tomorrow we see Princess P! I am super excited! When I met my daughter, Sadie, she was an hour old and asleep in the hospital. I was so excited I made loud happy noises . . . she woke up and started crying. I'm guessing the same will happen tomorrow with Princess P. I am too excited to control myself. Stay tuned to find out if Crystal throws me out of the room during the visit b/c Princess P is scared of my wild happy American ways!

Great. Now my wine is gone too. Must open another bottle . . .


Sunday

On Sunday Romney and I went to Cathrines Palace. We took some amazing photos which I can not post due to technical difficulties. Cathrines Palace including the Amber Room, was amazing and we left there with a strong desire to learn more about Russian history, add some gold leaf paint to our own homes and to buy some Amber. So off we went to a lovely souvineir shop. The ladies there were very helpful. Romney bought a couple of dolls for her girls. I bought a book of Russian fairy tales and we both bought a peace of amber. After that we went back to the hotel for a nice nap and then out to dinner. After dinner we spent the evening at the hotel watching Friends in Russian, drinking wine, eating chocolate, playing cards, and reading the Russian Fairytale book laughing about how much these stories will terrify our kids.

Saturday...

Today was a wonderful day! We are not aloud to visit P on weekends so this is what we did:

We woke up to our amazing breakfast buffet at the hotel. Then we met Galina in the lobby and we walked around town while she pointed out different buildings to us and gave us some of the history of each one. We saw St Isaac, The Hermatage,

the Military academy, Peter and Paul's fortress, St. Petersburg university, The Palace of the tsar, the palace square, the museum of Russian history, the church of the spilt blood, The Matriisky Theater and Moika Palace (the palace where Rasputin was poisoned). We ended the night at the ballet Sylphide?


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