Saturday, December 31, 2011

This Time Last Year

This holiday season has been making me very sentimental about my Christmas and New Year last year in Kazakhstan. In many ways I feel like I didn't have much of a Christmas or New Year because I was so away from home, friends and family, and I didn't get to enjoy the lead up to the holidays. And of course, the celebrations there were different.

Here are some photos of my time in Kazakhstan from a sentimental me. I had a good time overall in Kazakhstan, but would have had a great time if I hadn't had the underlining feeling of fear that something would go wrong and Denis wouldn't be my son.

This is the view on a snowy morning from my apartment kitchen window.
And here is the same view in November, just after I arrived in Kaz.
And looking out the same window watching some work. Really, how many men does it take to dig a trench at minus 26 degree C.
Here is said kitchen window. It was the window from which I could see the town center and watch the fireworks on Independence Day and on the day of the tree lighting.
This is the kitchen in the apartment. It was a very quiet and clean apartment with a very bright kitchen.
I took this picture while standing on the balcony of the apartment. That's the main road of Uralsk and the nightclub CumCum pronounced SimSim was directly below me.
And the view the other direction, toward the Orthodox church.

And this was the living room. The couch was my bed while I was in Uralsk. The chair too would pull out to be a bed.
The stair case in my apartment building. I was on the sixth floor and I walked up and down the stairs unless I was with people or had my suitcase. I did not like the elevator.

This is the door of said scary elevator. It was small and you had to use a card to go up or down. It was good for my health going up and down with all the water jugs and shopping.
The door at the end of the hall was in the hall and my apartment door and another door were behind these doors. I got told off by my neighbour for not pulling these doors shut properly when I had gone out one day in my first week in Kaz,

And this is the hallway leading to the outside door. There was a homeless man who would often be found on the stairs ahead leaning against the radiator on the right hand side as you go down.

Baby House 1, where Denis moved to the second week I was in Kaz. It was the one close to the Ram store mall. I also learned that it was around the corner from the Catholic church that I had hoped to visit while I was in Kaz, but didn't know where it was until I returned to collect Denis.The playground on the ground of Baby House 1, donated by families from the US who had adopted prior to 2006, or so said the plaque on the side of the climber.This is unit 7, Denis' group and this is their dining room. Denis is in black sitting on his care giver's knee. I took this picture during the final days I was there prior to leaving to return home for the month.
Denis' bed in the sleeping room.
Group 7's playroom. The large windows were Denis' spot where he would stand looking out waiting for me to come each day. These are the toy shelves in the room. Not a lot of toys for up to 12 children. As to that, I know Denis has more toys than that in the house. Wow!
I think this was Denis' favourite toy in the room. I would often see him playing in this 'bus' with one of the other children, they loved to look out the window at each other while sitting on the benches.

The other rooms in the unit were a classroom, the isolation room (both rooms where I would go to visit with Denis. And beyond the sleeping room there was a large room used to store toys such as the bicycles, it is the room connected to the outside door and stairs.
And here is the music room and the goodbye to the fir tree party. All the children were dressed in the finest clothes and immaculately groomed. The children are each putting an ornament onto a little Christmas tree, or as they called it the fir tree.

And finally a picture of me at the memorial flame. I went there 4 times during the time I was in Uralsk and no matter the weather I was never the only one there.

And finally, Uralsk airport. This was February 14th, the day I returned to collect Denis. Jody's mother and I were flying in together. They'd had a huge snow storm the day before and our flight was delayed by about 4 or 6 hours. I can't remember, I was just so glad to be back and getting my little boy.

Wow, I do love looking at these pictures. Doing this has been a nice way to spend the final day of 2011. And now I'm looking forward to all the marvelous things that 2012 will bring.

Happy New Year!

Thoughts of Them

I often think about the children in Denis' group that are still in the baby house.

There were 8 in his group when they moved back into Baby House 1. By the time I left to return Denis in January there were 5 left, including Denis. When I returned there were just 2 that I recognized and 8 new children.

So, what has happened to those children. Did they get adopted, collected by their families or moved to another room. And where are they now?

I especially think of these two, (picture removed as I don't have the right to publish their photos) Artomb and Anna(I spelt his name phonetically).

He was the little boy who I gave the first pair of shoes I bought Denis but were miles too big (he's just growing into that size now). Artomb's face completely lit up, I don't believe he'd ever had anything new or his before. Must mention, they were not in his cubby weeks later, who knows where the shoes went.

And Anna, she fell one very cold and icy day when we were walking outside. It was a hard fall right onto her face. She picked herself up, wiped her own face and kept going. When I made to help her she looked at me as if I was strange. At the age of 2 she didn't look for comfort and/or help as they were completely foreign to her.

Neither of these two talked much, like Denis when he was in the home. And I don't believe anyone visited them. They were the only 2 left in the room when I returned last February to collect Denis. I think about them daily. I hope they are healthy and happy.

Their faces haunt me, I just wish I could have done more/ do more for them.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Super Mom

The other night, as I was in the kitchen making a pot of tea after putting my sister to bed, I could hear Denis and my brother in the living room talking.

Denis wanted my brother and I to watch Thomas the Train on his DVD with him. As my brother went to join Denis on the couch he was told in no uncertain terms that the couch was off limits to him. My brother pretended to cry saying he was very sad. Denis told my brother not to worry, Mommy would be in soon and would give Un-con (Denis' version of Uncle John) a hug and Un-con would feel better (I must point out Denis never offered to allow my brother a seat on the couch though).

So when I came into the room I had to give my brother a hug (Yuck). And then Denis said, "See you feel better now.

My hugs are legendary, at least to Denis. How great is that!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas 2011

This was Denis' first real Christmas.

Last year I got to visit Denis for 20 minutes. I totally agonized over what kind of gift I could give him, as any toy would have to leave with me as he wasn't allowed to keep anything between visits. In the end I gave him the red stripped t-shirt.

I had a plan to have a Christmas the weekend Denis and I arrived home from Kaz, but because my sister was so unwell we had to put that plan off until March 26th. Kathryn had spent Christmas 2010 in the group home so she hadn't had a Christmas either. I put up the tree and we had a nice dinner together. It was nice, but very low key, but it just wasn't really Christmas.

This year I got Denis really into the preparations for Christmas. We attended 2 parades, a tree lighting ceremony, visited Santa at a mall and we went to Uncle John's school's children's Christmas party. We also had a Costco wooden Advent calendar to count the days too Christmas. Every day I'd put a couple of chocolates into the little cupboard so we would take out the little carved toy and hang it in Santa's workshop while he ate the chocolate. And my brother and I bought and read a dozen little story books about Christmas. I even found two beautiful picture books appropriate for a 3 year old about the true story of Christmas (Denis said the baby was cold in the manager).

Finally we had a wonderful family Christmas, just like I'd imagined all those years as I waited. Denis and I picked up my sister on Saturday evening (she's staying with us until tomorrow afternoon). We have our macrame tree hanging in the living room (my late mother made it as a decoration, but the finished tree was so big it became our tree for years). I'd had thought about buying a real artificial tree but in the end decided to go with the tried and true and really easy tree. When I finally did put the tree up, Denis saw it and immediately said it was a Christmas tree. As long as he doesn't complain we'll keep the macrame tree.

Denis woke up on Christmas morning at 8 (thank you so very much) and I had to remind him that Santa came during the night. He went out into the living room and saw all the presents. He said, "Too many". I told him that there were presents for him and me and for his aunt and uncle. He went running back to the bedrooms to tell his aunt and uncle to get up and come see the tree and that Santa had brought them presents.

As soon as all the presents were unwrapped Denis was upset and wanted to know where all his presents were. It was too funny. I kept the food easy as it is too hard to do a big meal and look after both my sister and son. So we had cold cuts and store bought salads. My brother made a huge pot of French Onion soup, yummy.

Now that Christmas is over, Denis keeps saying, 'Where my calendar? I need my calendar!" I interpret that that "I need chocolate". He also keeps saying Santa is coming again. So sad at this age that all the fun only happens on that one day and then you have to wait an ENTIRE year to have so much fun again.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Whole Year Later

It was a year ago today that the judge said "Da" and I knew that I was to be Denis' mother.

I was so anxious as I stood in front of the judge. I'd tried to memorize the speech I'd been given with it's awkwardly translated phrases. I have NO problem talking, but I am not good at following a script. I'd had nightmares about that speech, only to have the judge cut me short and outright ask me questions to get at the heart of the matter. What a relief!

I had to wait 5 hours for the judge to give her judgement. I really thought that I would learn the judgement right away, I was so startled by the delay. My team was confident that everything would be alright, but I was a little worried.

Then, finally it was time to stand again in front of the judge to hear what she had decided. It was so anti-climatic. She'd agreed to the adoption application and the request to change Denis' name and to list me as the mother on his birth certificate. And then I was done and could go. Wow. All those years of waiting, and with a simple statement my dreams had come true.

After the judge's decision I was able to go to the baby house to see Denis. I remember he was so interested in my legs as it was the only day I wore a skirt while in Kazakhstan.

My day ended with a trip to a beautiful church. My driver was there to arrange his daughter's baptism. It was so worth the detour on my journey back to my apartment.
The memories of my time in Kazakhstan are so amazing. I can't believe that it happened, but the proof is sleeping down the hall.

It was a year ago today, wow! Good memories baby. We continue to make such great memories each and every day.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

First Christmas Party

Last night, Denis and I attended a Christmas party hosted by a childhood friend. It was Denis' first house party and first Christmas party.

I had Kathryn home for the day (we are still recovering from the flu and colds and I'm just not up to having her for longer). After dinner I got us all changed and out the door in less than 20 minutes. I told Denis that we couldn't talk about the party in front of Aunt Ka as she loves parties but she couldn't come with us. He never said the word party while she was with us. As we drove to the group home, I told Denis that he'd stay in the car while I took Aunt Ka up to the house. He got very upset. I asked what was the problem and he quickly and clearly said that he wanted run up the ramp (there is a ramp at the group home entrance). Wow, it is amazing how his language skills have improved. So I agreed that he could get out of the car and run up and down the ramp. He LOVED it, what to be surprised by, my little guy loves running at all times.

The party was great fun. Denis met many of my childhood friends for the first time, and I ran into many people I know from my former job. It is amazing how small the world and how interconnected we can be.

Denis has only visited 2 other families in their homes, and this was the first back split (my house is a bungalow and the other houses were both 2 story houses). Denis loved going up and down the stairs, all the stairs. He also loved how there was candy in all sorts of places in the house, he has such great candy radar.

The party was held in memory of my friend's daughter who suddenly passed away 8 years ago in her sleep at the age of 2 and a half. They raise money for a children's charity though craft sales, donations, silent auction and raffle.