Wednesday, May 26, 2010


We are finally experiencing some much needed warm weather here.  Now my boys would argue with me that it is too hot.  It is for them, when they are playing soccer in 90+ temps with full humidity I would say it is hot for them also.  But, Ava Grace is having a great time being outdoors.

We went to the park today, and I put her in a baby swing, and I got the best, belly laugh ever.  She couldn't help herself, she was laughing so loud and for so long I couldn't believe it.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Showers of Blessings

Over the last weekend, my friends Kelly, Julie and Pam threw Ava Grace a very beautiful shower.  It was held at Kellys house, and she had it all decorated in Pink Roses, Pink Balloons, Pink Lemonade, Beautiful plates and napkins and the most beautiful family and friends.

To tell you the truth, I am NOT fond of being in the spotlight.  That has never been my calling, I'm a better  "get er done" type of person and not in the forefront.  I was a little uneasy having everyone buy presents for Ava Grace and me being in the middle of everything.  Well my daughter is the complete opposite of me, she knew how to put the "charm" on and take the spotlight and make it beautiful.  She is a complete winner when it comes to stealing the show.  She LOVED it.  The best display of an "acting career" was when she received a bathing suit and sunglasses.  She put the glasses on and put out her hands, like here I am world don't I look glamerous attitude.  When she received some dresses, she held them up to herself and showed them off.

I really can't thank everyone enough for being so generous to Ava Grace.  She is a miracle and an angel sent from God.  She brings such joy to our house and to our lives that we feel truly blessed.  Her precious spirit is so beyond her 1 year old self that it is a joy to be around her.

The Moms
Julie and Kelly (Pam had to leave)

Sara stealing a kiss

Ava enjoying her new rocking chair

Cake, it was yummy

Family and friends

more family and friends

and more family and friends
there was one more room of guests
that didn't get their picture

Just a fraction of the gifts to open

putting her sun glasses on and giving kisses

putting them on her head like who I wonder?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Ava has been in a really good routine lately.  I still give her 2 naps a day.  This is what she wants.  She wants to take a nap, when she starts to act "slap happy" we know she is past her limits.  Ava has been adjusting very well.
Here are a couple of cute pics of her from this past week:

Will you be my friend?

How come you won't play with me?

Tom went and bought Ava this Hot Pink
Life Jacket for the lake house.
She refused to take it off!

One night while we were almost done eating
Ava went and got her baby stroller,
she wanted a ride in it.
Austin was kind enough to continue to
push her back and forth while he was finishing eating.

Helping daddy with some repairs

Gramma and Papa, stopping by to say Hi!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Another Driver

Ava and I, went with Austin to get his Learners Permit for Driving.  Yikes, I can't believe it, another driver to be in my family.  Austin is a good driver, he has been driving actually for a long time down at the Farm.  When Tom has the boys at the Farm, he lets them drive the tractors, trucks and A.T.V. so my boys are experienced when they take the class.

Congratulations Austin
Keep up the good driving
I must be getting old, when they handed Austin this large sheet of paper, I asked "what's that?"  The Secretary of State employee said, "that is his permit."  I said, "What, where is the little blue sheet you put in your wallet?"  The employee just looked at me, and said "We haven't done it that way for a while."  I must be getting old,  I remember the "Good ole days" like they were just yesterday.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Typical Morning with Ava

Well since we have been home things have been going great.  Ava is adjusting well to everything and everyone.  Her whole life is different, yet she takes it in stride.  We have been home most days except for the taxi service I provide for the boys, Ava is doing great in her car seat.  She is a very patient girl, since the new car seats are soooooo different then when the boys were little, it takes me a while to figure out how to buckle her in.
Ava is sleeping wonderfully, and she is still on the orphanage schedule of 2 naps a day.  I am going to continue on this schedule until summer, that's when we will be a little more busy and she will adjust nicely then.  I am still trying to keep her world small, although having 4 brothers it isn't that small.

We did venture out to lunch with Kelly on Wednesday.  That was nice, and she did a good job.  I fed her her lunch and we were able to eat ours while she ate her Gerber Puffs.  I tell you, those things are like gold.  She can't get enough of them.  We never had them when the boys were little, so I am finding all these new things out.

Ava has regressed a little in her eating.  While we were in Russia, she would eat almost anything off my plate, now she really only wants baby food.  She doesn't like the texture of regular food and wants things only super mashed. Don't know why, but it is easy to give baby food to her and she eats it all so I guess I won't worry about it too much.

She seems to understand a whole bunch.  She can say "ello", "eye", "dada", and of course her "ah", which started in St. Petersburg, but has gotten much more aggressive with it.  She knows her name, she can wave bye bye, and points to her eyes, nose, mouth and ears when asked.  I think she is super smart.

I can't wait for the weather to get nice here, because Ava loves to be outside.  Soccer games are calling us and I know she will have a blast there playing with the other girls there.

In the morning with Andrew
she was just crawling on him to get the remote
which he wouldn't let her have

Getting ready to play with her toys

showing me her favorite spot to sit

I asked her, "how big is Ava?"
and this is what she does
"So Big"
She is Super Smart

her ride on Ice Cream Truck
see Samson in the background
he can't wait for her to accept him
That is our average morning here, things are going well and I know that all the prayers sent before were the difference for this sweet girl to have such an open heart.  All this change and she is still our sweet loveable girl.  God Is Good!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pride of Lions

This is an exclusive award given out by the head of each department at the end of the year, given to a student who has shown outstanding leadership, commitment to each area of study, and excellence.  Guess who received this award?  TYLER, he did it again.  I have to brag and tell you that last year, he received this award in 2 different classes, and now he got it again for another class.  My son, I am sooooooo proud of you and your committment to make yourself the BEST!  We are proud to be your parents.  Love Ya Tyler!

It is presented in the morning with a nice breakfast!
This is the Teacher that awarded him this wonderful honor!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Recap of Mothers Day

Mothers Day was wonderful here.  Our first day home and things were going great.  Ava was adjusting to the boys, dogs and her daddy.  We laid low and didn't really do anything.  Tom made a wonderful meal for me and we had Gramma Marilyn over for dinner.  We just enjoyed hanging out as a family.

Today has been another day of just bonding.  We haven't gone anywhere, but later this afternoon, I will start my Taxi driving the boys to their activities so I hope Ava does well in a car seat!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Theres No Place Like Home

Well the clicking of my heels 3 times ended up not working great.
 Let me explain:  Saturday morning our driver was coming to the apartment to pick us up at 4:00 a.m.  We had a 6:45 a.m. flight on Swiss Air.  We got up, got ready woke Ava up and we rode to the airport.  Ava did great, no sounds from her at all.  We waited the 2 hours before our flight took off at a cafe in the airport.  By the way, the DME airport in Russia is REALLY nice.  I have heard some horror stories about the airport, but we found it to be pleasant, new, bright, airy and easy navigating.  We had a 3 hour flight, and Ava slept 2 1/2 hours of that flight.  It was great having the extra seat.  I strongly recommend it to other new parents, as our kiddos probably haven't been held very much to sleep.  I felt that she slept better when she was down on her own.  We flew to Zurich, Switzerland and we found out when we landed that our flight was being delayed 2 hours because of the Ash cloud from the Volcano.  So we waited, and waited, when our flight was about to board, they announced that nope it is being delayed longer.  We ended up in the Zurich airport for over 6 hours.  It was a very long time to wait, as the airport didn't even have a great cafe in that part.   Ava was awake this whole time, she did wonderful, she ate, played, walked around a lot.  She smiled at all the strangers that would stop and look at her and comment on how cute she was.  Right before we were supposed to board for the second time, she fell asleep, 10 minutes longer and we would have been good, but since she took that 10 minute power nap, guess what, she was wired on the plane ride.  Now I say wired, but really she was just very curious about everything, how the tray table worked, how the ear phone plug worked, the pages in the magazine didn't stand a chance against her grip of shredding it.  She was this way for about 2 1/2 hours.  After a while I could tell that she was really tired, and she was just fighting it.  I laid her down on her seat, and she laid there really well, but she would whimper really loud a lot, and it looked like she wasn't going to go to sleep. She did that for about 1 hour.  So I picked her up, took her to where the flight attendants were and just held her tightly and rocked her.  She did not like that at all.  She screamed, and when I say screamed, she screamed a blood curdling scream for about 10 minutes, and then, boom she was out like a light.  I held her and rocked her for about 5-10 more minutes, I laid her down  in her seat, and wa la, for the next 6 hours she slept!  She was an angel.  All the passengers around us were commenting on how wonderful she was.  When it was time for the landing, I had to pick her up and she sat on my lap the whole time, no sounds or anything.  THANK YOU GOD!

Sleeping like an Angel!

We went thru customs and it was a breeze.  We came out of customs and Tom and the boys were there waiting for us. 

When we arrived home, there was a sign on the garage door, made by Sara, Kelly Ashley Johnson (one of my AWANA girls) and my Andrew.  That was really nice guys, Thank you so much.

First glimpse of the beautiful sign and Home

Andrew with Ava

Trevor with Ava

Our first night together as a family was wonderful, the boys are thrilled that she is here.  They ask me so many questions about her, I think it is awesome they want to know everything about her.  Trevor and Andrew even helped me change a stinky diaper.

The dogs even missed me

Ava is a little unsure of the dogs right now.  She likes to watch them, she holds out her hands to touch them, but when they get closer to her, she pulls her hand away.  I think it will only be a matter of time before they are the best of friends.

Cooper hoping Ava will drop some of her cherrios.

I am loving my Mothers Day, as a Mother of 5 wonderful kiddos.  God has been good to me.

Friday, May 7, 2010

What a difference a day makes

Moscow Day 2: I woke up this morning to beautiful sunshine, a nice welcoming since all I have seen this trip has been a lot of clouds and rain. Let me take you to what happened yesterday. Tyler, Ava and I walked down to the Kremlin to find that it was closed on Thursdays, bummer, so we decided to walk Old Arbat street. This is a pedestrian walk way with a lot of shops and souvenier places and restaurants. The weather was about 45 degrees and it had a crisp wind. I was a little chilly and Avas hands were cold, she wouldn't keep the blanket on her. We walked the whole street and found a place to eat at, it had a Cow in front of it. It was really crowded and it is like a cafeteria style place where you point and get what you want. Well the problem is, we really didn't know what any of the food was and the people working really didn't have any english. We did the best we could and Tyler ended up with a good selection. I was a little bit more picky and ended up with soup and a salad. It was an OK meal, not great. We left there and ended up walking to the end of Old Arbat, there was a McDonalds, it was the first one opened here in Moscow. It was quite large and since I was still hungry we went inside. The menu was a little different here than in the states, I asked for an english menu, and then I pointed to what I wanted. I got a cheeseburger, fries, and a hot fudge sundae. I gave Ava one of my fries and she did not like it. She doesn't seem to like texture of things yet. We gave her some of the sundae and at first she made a really funny face again, but then she ended up liking it. I don't think in the orphanage they ever gave her anything cold. Everything she eats has to be warmed. On our way back to the apartment we stopped at a grocery store. It was really nice. I mean really nice. We decided to buy our dinner and eat it at the apartment. We came back and relaxed basically the rest of the night. We did go out to go across the street and visit the toy store. It was a little like a small Toys r Us.

Today however we wanted to get to the Kremlin early since we didn't have a lot of time. We needed to be back and ready to go to the Embassy by 1:15. We bought our tickets and wanted to go into the Armory. We had a difficult time finding the right entrace to get into the armory. This place is huge, nothing marked in English, and no one will help you find your way. It's a good thing that I am a pushy kinda person, because I just kept asking and asking. I think Tyler was a little embarrassed of me, but hey I found the place and he didn't. The armory is spectacular. There is so much to see and so much to know that your head starts to spin after a while. Considering I did a really good job understanding history in St. Petersburg, it was a whole new thing to learn more here. My favorite rooms in the Armory are the "Coach" room, which held all the coaches that Katherin the Great rode in. They were BEAUTIFUL! Works of art in evey detail. Then the second room I liked was the room that held all the beautiful Ball Gowns, and Innunciation Gowns. The detailing on the dress is just remarkable. To think that they would only wear the gown one time, thats it, no more. It would takes months and months to make and then its over after just one night.

We made it thru the rest of the Kremlin, the flowers in the garden were beautiful. I wished I had more time to see all of it, but since we were in a hurry we rushed thru that part.

We made it back, ate a quick bite, and then we were off to the embassy. The embassy is really no big deal. You go to a number of windows, pay your fee, take it to the next window, raise your right hand, swear that all details are correct. Wait about 15 minutes, pick up your sealed envelope, go home.

After we had Michael drop us off in front of Red Square. It is closed today because they are getting ready for the big parade. Huge bummer, I really wanted to take our picture in front of St. Basils. We walked a long time, around the baracades to come out by the "Gum" pronounced goom. It is a huge indoor mall, really beautiful with all high end shops. We walked thru it, to get out the other side, and wa la, we saw St. Basils. It was the back side of it, but none the less. I had Tyler take our picture. We walked all the way home, which was far and now we are resting. I think for dinner, we will go to TGI Fridays. I am tired of not knowing what any thing says, so I'm longing for home.

Tomorrow, we get picked up at 4:00 a.m. to make our plane trip HOME!


Outside of the Kremlin,
flowers in the shape of the
St. Basils Cathedral peaks

Flower Garden inside the Kremlin

GUM shopping mall
St. Basils Cathedral
Back side of it

Shoes that the women wear here

how about this style ?????

Our apartment building

Thursday, May 6, 2010


We left St. Petersburg last night around 7:30 on a "Speed Train" directly to Moscow.  I have to say, it was a really nice train, there was enough room for all of our luggage, one advantage is we didn't have to weigh anything.  We were allowed to bring food and drinks on with no problems.  The stroller was used for a high chair and then Ava slept for 3 of the 4 hours it took to arrive in Moscow.

Our first impression of Moscow under cover of darkness:  Big, Lots of tall buildings, loud.

Our driver came onto the train to help us get off and helped us with all of our luggage.  Awesome!  Drove us to the apartment on Novy Arbat Street.  My first impression of the apartment:  Old, Run Down Building.  The aparment itself inside is o.k.  Comfortable and clean.  Not great, but it does have a lot of space.  We arrive around 12:30, and then we called home, it is free!  I did a load of laundry and got Ava to bed.  She was still so tired, she went right down. 

The Doctor came to the apartment at 6:30 this morning to look over Ava.  This is a requirement for the US Embassy paperwork.  He says she is very healthy, held her up in the air said "she is about 20 or 21 lbs.  Wow if he is right, that doc is good.  He listened to her heart, no murmurs, he listened to her chest, no congestions.  Healthy he said.  Dry skin.  give lotion!  Have doc test for stool when home.  good, have nice day, bye.  That was really about it.

Tyler is sleeping now, I'm going to wake him and then we will go out and explore Moscow.  It isn't a very nice day, looks like rain.  Hopefully we will be able to see everything we need to.

Ava is doing great, she just transitions from one thing to the next.  She does look to me for comfort which is a good sign. 

Before we got on the "Speed Train"

Our area on the train

This morning Michael came to the apartment and helped fill out more paperwork for the Embassy.  He is going there today to submit the paperwork.  Tomorrow, Tyler, Ava and I get to go to the Embassy to pick up her visa and then we leave on Saturday. 

This is so cool, as I was writing this blog, a huge noise came from outside the windows.  I went to the window and what did I see, a huge procession of Military trucks, tanks and Jets.  They are practicing for Victory Day, which happens on Sunday May 9.  It was a long procession, probably 20 minutes long.  Ava liked it to, or maybe she just liked the window being open.

Looking down from our window
Look between the buildings,
the fighter planes went by

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Getting Around

Tyler and I feel very comfortable getting out and around St. Petersburg.  Monday was a beautiful day here, the sun was shining, the weather was about 50's  with just a slight wind.  We ventured back onto the Metro today to go to the same stop and head over to the zoo.  We were not totally sure where it was, but knew that when we exited the Metro to go left.  Well it really wasn't that hard to find, we just kinda followed the other people who had kids and we ended up right where we needed to be.  I have to say, that Tyler does not like Zoos, he feels terrible for the animals living in a cage.  After seeing this zoo today, I have to agree with him.  It was kinda awful conditions for the animals.  They really didn't have a lot of space to "roam" or live.  So I didn't take many pictures while we were there.  Ava did great tho, she really didn't pay attention to the animals, she just like being out and about.  The girl likes her stroller and likes the fresh air.

After the zoo, we came back and I laid Ava down for a nap, and Svetlana picked me up to go to another baby store.  We were running low on items for Ava, (since she loves to eat) and the local corner stores do not carry anything for babies.  Weird huh?  On our way back Svetlana got pulled over by a cop, now when I say pulled over, I mean waved over.  The cops stand in the street and wave a lighted stick to tell you to move to the side.  When he came over, Svetlana talked to him, it sounded like pleading, and then she had to hand over her "papers".  The cop walked away to his car, Svetlana told me to wait in the car, and she took her purse and said, I guess it's time to pay.  She walked over to the cop car and sat inside for a long time.  I could see conversation going on between the two of them.  When she finally came back to the car, she said well that only cost me 1000 rubels.  If I were to go to court, it would of cost me much more.  I asked her what she did wrong, and she said the cop said her left tire went over the white line.  What??? Have you seen the way that everyone drives here?  It is crazy and I am from Chicago.  The cop just "exercised his authority" and made some money over Svetlana.  What a system huh?

We went out to dinner last night, and Ava was a little out of control.  The restaurant did not have a high chair and I did not bring her stroller.  It made for a very interesting meal.  She does not like to be held for long periods of time just yet.  Yikes, I can't imagine the plane ride home.  If this was a glimpse into the future for the plane, I may be in TROUBLE!

I forgot to post this picture, this is from the first day we had Ava,
she went down for a nap, with no problems. 
I sat in the bed reading a book and just watching her sleep. 
 It was a wonderful feeling.

Walking around the apartment
She is really good at walking now

On our way down the escalator at the Metro
We were on our way to the Zoo

Just a sampeling of the High Heel Shoes in St. Petersburg
these have fringes on them

at night before bed.  She was trying to open a box.
I didn't need to bring any toys
What was I thinking, Toys?