Friday, August 26, 2011

Ciao Riga

 When Michael returned to ATL, he navigated the airport with no troubles. When we arrived at 10am, the airport was a madhouse. We could barely squeeeeeeze into the check in area! Lines for Air Baltic were 1 plus hours long and stretched far outside the cuing area. It was insanity—babies crying, pushing, shoving, and generally complete bedlam—with no representative taking any responsibility for the situation. No one could even figure out where one line started and another stopped!

Of course, the self-check-in kiosk would not accept our information, so we were forced to wait, causing Dima to become extraordinarily stressed and Natasha to try to tell me that “this was Latvia” and I “not doing it so good.” I was getting more than a little irritated with the situation--it was HOT, people stunk, the kids were flipping out and an 11 year old was telling me how to do things.

But, we made it, last ones to get to the gate....and HAPPY SURPRISE! We have been upgraded to first class! Whoopie! None of us are seated together, but I will enjoy the blissful lift of responsibilities for 2.5 hours. Leg one of our flight will entail being painstakingly coddled, then we will return to the cattle car from Netherlands to Atlanta. Wondering how much upgrades cost for leg two?!?!?! I could get used to this!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Come On, Irene!!

  Yes, I KNOW it's really Eileen.  But my version of the song is stuck in my head with that hurricane trying to ruin my plans to come home.  It looks like I will be landing Friday night in ATL as the hurricane is slightly off the GA coast.  I do not relish the idea of flying into a hurricane.  We called Delta daily in an effort to more our flights to the exact same flight, just a day earlier, but they won't do it without a 678 dollar price differential PLUS a change fee...and that is per person.  Oh, and their are about 6-8 open seats.  Makes a lot of sense, Delta, thanks a lot.

  Last day in Riga!  Last day in Latvia...for now!  We have two additional trips to make before this crazy process is complete.  Hopefully we will travel sooner rather than later because I am NOT looking forward to being here in the snow!  Some of these summer days were cold enough for me!

  Today was 75, sunny, and really downright perfect.  Here are some great "end of trip" photos:

Sand sculptures on the banks of the Daugava

My favorite

This one was some old lady's fav..she kept pantomiming pinching his butt.

Riga Castle (Where the Pres conducts business)

House of Blackheads (red bricks) and Old Riga Town Sq.

These are the preferred heel size of women here.  I would certainly break my ankle.

Pigeon Man

  Just to make my life a little MORE interesting, I pretty much failed my visa interview with the kids.  Mr.  Visa Man at the US Embassy made a point of stressing that the kids cannot go to any PUBLIC school, which was fine, because I wanted them to go to PRIVATE school.  So I am thinking it's ok and I ask about private school.  (This has been a huge debate with adopters from Latvia.)  This gets me a stern lecture on not screwing up the Latvian adoption program by sending them to school when it's strictly prohibited.  This is apparently a US restriction bc they are not actually legal citizens yet and they are entering the country on a visitor, not student, visa.  SIGH. 
  Right about then I wanted to throw a gigantic screaming and yelling tantrum in the Embassy because I do not WANT to homeschool two kids.  (No, this does NOT make me a mean nasty ogre.  It just means I prefer not to homeschool.)  But, alas, they have impressive guns and I have no desire to go to jail or possibly get shot.  So I will homeschool.  
  So right now it's 1 am in Latvia.  We are packed.  The kids are excited to get out of the hotels.  And I am shopping for online options for their schooling.  Sigh.
  On another note, I have one kid with a verified UTI, one who refuses to skype with me, and a little daughter who has over 60 envelopes filled with God-knows-what for those of us returning, and two birthday parties and swim practice Saturday.  I can't wait to get home.  Let the games begin.  

PS--Anyone concerned about my mental health should leave Cabernet Sauvignon on my front porch.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Serious Stuff

  The best way to explain our "court" today is to compare it to a trip to a social services department.  Our first visit with them was to basically hand us the kids and tell us when to check in with the and to remind all of us that we are being watched  ;-)  We checked in a few times at the offices, ticked off our list of tourist accomplishments, and continued our "bonding time."  Today, the "orphan court" (social services) deemed us acceptable candidates to adopt these children.  As Dima is 13, he had to sign his own legal documents stating his desire to be adopted.  As Natasha is only 11, she was simply asked if she wanted to be adopted or not.

  Latvia is quite unique, because at this point, most countries make the parents go home until a "real" court date.  Kids in other countries stay in their home country.  But Latvia allows the kids to come home with the potential parents.  We are now approved to adopt. as per the social services division.  A flurry of papers must be submitted, from all parties--our attorney, the "orphan court", and us.  Once all these papers are in the proper hands, we will be granted proper court dates in about 2 months or sooner.  And that means we come BACK to Latvia.  But only for a few days, thankfully.  BUt legally, they are not our kids yet.

  Now comes the serious part.  Up until a few days ago, I was not nervous about adding two kids.  But I would be a big, fat liar to say I stayed that way.  In fact, I am not sure what a panic attack is, but I may have had one a few nights ago.  Sleepless, agitated, second guessing myself, sending my husband half-baked, ranting e-mails asking him if we had BOTH lost our MINDS.  I would like to thank both him and a friend of mine for reaching across the Atlantic and whacking some sense into me.  Repetitive nights of disco, drunks, and jackhammers can make you a little deranged--and I started further down the scale than most  ;-)

  After the court, I was still in a little bit of shock.  Well, a lot.  Anyone that tells you that adoption is just one happy journey and blah, blah, blah is really full of you-know-what.  I would imagine every parent has second guessed, hoped, prayed, and kept those fingers crossed for kids that turn out to be model students, citizens.  But really, the anxiety comes form not knowing.  We KNOW our biological kids, their past....but we really can't predict their future any more clearly than we can predict the future of Dima and Natasha either, can we?  This is what unnerves me.  Uncertainty.  I like a plan.

We arrived in our new hotel in Riga tonight after another long drive and a trip to the American Embassy (can we see those shoes??  those shoes are setting off the alarm, lady).  We open the room to the junior suite I booked (no, this is not a splurge--it's the only room that would hold 3), and the kids simultaneously let out a huge "OOOOOOhhhh Mommmmm!" and set out to explore.  "OOOOh MOM!  Dey have zees!  What zees eez, Mooom??  Zey have MANY Mom!""  They had never been to a hotel before their first night with us just a few days back.  Now they are discovering the joys of an American style hotel--little shampoos! shower caps! SOAP!!!!! the mini bar!!!!!  (THEY HAVE BEEN WARNED TO STAY AWAY!)  

  They are adjusting remarkably well to American middle class life already.  Natasha, mimicking me, says, "Moooom, deez hotel no smell like da smoke!" and Dima is master of the remote.   

  In parting I will share today's funniest conversation as we are getting ready for bed....
  Natasha (shocked!):  MOM!  Why you hang your bra?  (it's hanging on a hook in the bathroom)
  Dima:  What eezz da bra??
  Me (laughing and pantomiming by holding my hands in front of my chest):  It's what girls wear here!
  Dima (disgusted): Mooooom!  Fooooo!  Eet's NOT GOOOOOOD!

  Some pics for your enjoyment:

Dima affirming his desire to be adopted

View from the Domina of Riga

Michael likes the suspension bridge--pretty cool

another church view

flowers on my balcony

Kids (no, they are not sharing a bed)


Natasha ranching it up with a fancy glass

Monday, August 22, 2011

Crazy American, Back in Daugavpils for 2 days

Dima is took me to some churches he thought I might enjoy and he was right.  I just love the Russian Orthodox Churches.  In many of the Riga churches, they prohibit photography, but when I asked the little hunched over old lady in this church, she smiled broadly and said "DAAAA!  Two Lats!"  Had to admire her shrewdness, but I'd bet she has a wicked Marlboro reds habit!  <JOKING!>  Here are some sights fro the last two days:

I see this old lady daily.  She's always really busy getting somewhere.

This is the house across from the gorgeous church pictured next.  What a contrast, eh?

Russian Orthodox Church

Inside the church....the following ar eth pics granted by the 2 Lat Lady

Okay, I love this.  Catholics, they line up and DRINK the Holy Water.  It was very interesting to watch old ladies and men line up with their water bottles to be filled.  OR you can purchase a little tea cup full of water.  An older lady collects the money and serves you.

We watched this guy toss back a liter of beer and nearly fall out of the window.

The prison.  You can hear them hollering at you form the windows as you walk by.

Catholic Church

Dome in the Catholic Church

Outside the Catholic Church.  DIma tried to tell me it was NOT a church for a few day .  I think he was afraid I would make him go to mass.
We've been biding our time....we are all getting BORED.

They were given a lat each for some trampoline time...I couldn't help noticing some scoundrel or about 13 who decided park himself behind Natash'a trampoline for a little preteen excitement.  I gave him the evil eye and luckily he skulked off because Natasha was too busy chatting with the 5 year old Vietnamese girl on the trampoline adjacent to hers to notice her admirer.  Whew.  I am not ready for dating just yet.  Today, they rode these funny little bike/car hybrids.  And we went shooting again.  I have to admit, that's one of my favorites.  (That's Aija with us.)

My Dad would have been proud.

And here's a funny one to close on........The bathrooms at Latgola smell a bit funky.  Michael messages me on his I-phone and tells me that "Latgola" keeps getting auto-corrected to "latrine."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

OMG! Anya has screwed up her hair.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!  I check my e-mail when we return from our outing, which I will later post, and Anya was getting ready for Sunday school and DISASTER.  She is 4 but has just a very little think wispy blond baby hair.  She longs for it to GROW LONG, like a ballerina....and then, THIS.......

The result.  I am ill. She is going to have NO hair on top.

The problem.

Rat's nest.