Archive for August, 2006

August 20, 2006

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

I’m ashamed of taking so long to write the synopsis of the Plyler birthday party/baby shower for Arina, but I’ll lay the blame on Thomas King.  He took so many great photos that it’s taken me this long to sort through them and choose the ones for the gallery.

Arina loved her day at the lake.  She followed her cousins, Jake and Hope, around most of the afternoon.  She would take a dip in the pool, followed by a dip in the lake.  In short, she was in the water so much that she looked like a little blond prune by the end of the day.  For once, she didn’t want to sit and play in the bathtub before bedtime.  She had either had her fill of water, or she’s discovered that there are bodies of water (pools and lakes) that are even more fun than bathtubs.

We were again overwhelmed by our family’s generosity.  Scott and I are going to have to be careful.  Arina’s birthday has reminded me of one of Dudley’s in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books.  I can just hear Arina screaming, “Only thirty-six presents?  But that’s two less than last year.”  Seriously, it’s been so fun to see how mesmerized she is by her stash.  She finally has things of her own — clothes that fit, more than one pair of shoes (thanks to Natalie for the most recent acquisition — brown and pink cow”girl” boots), and some Fisher Price toys that actually work. 


August 19, 2006

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

Happy Birthday Arina!

For Arina’s birthday, we had a shower/birthday party at “Grandma and Grandpa’s” house, followed by a shower/birthday party at Rebecca King’s house on Sunday afternoon.  We’ll also have a shower/birthday party at Jill Jividen’s house this Saturday.  So many birthday parties for one little girl, but we’re making up for missing her first birthday, which probably went uncelebrated.

It’s hard to define the highlight of Arina’s special day.  She seemed to enjoy everything — the cake (of which she had three pieces), the company, and especially the mountain of presents.  As always, she was quite the trooper and tireless in her endeavor to make sure every package was unwrapped and every baby doll was cuddled.  After all was said and done, she climbed on the empty present table and tried to take one of her ten-minute power naps.

Thank-you, everyone, for the wonderful gifts!  I’m working on the thank-you notes and am looking forward to the day when Arina can write her own!  I can’t express how wonderful it was to see family and friends.  We (Arina, but also Mama and Papa) feel so loved.

The featured photo from the August 19th party is of Arina’s present from Grandpa — a golf cart.  We think the present was as much for Grandpa as Arina, although the latter clearly acted like it was hers alone.  She insisted on being the one in the driver’s seat and tried to knock any interlopers off the cart . . . (sorry, again, for Arina’s behavior, Vena).

Coming soon: Photos and a synopsis of Arina’s second birthday party!

August 14, 2006

Monday, August 14th, 2006

Yes, two posts in one day.  Arina had her first “overnight” at Grandpa and Grandma’s, so Mama has time to play catch-up with posts and emails (Sorry to all of those who haven’t received replies from me).  Summaries of the past couple of days are as follows:

Saturday, August 12: Arina was “showered” with gifts at a get-together in Charleston, hosted by Mee-Maw and Aunt Kelly.  Scott was working, so there aren’t many photos, or — I should say — not many good photos.  All of mine were blurry.  Thanks to Katelyn Ratliff for the few that turned out well!  I wish I could take her with me to all the showers Scott can’t attend. 

Arina loved everyone but was absolutely smitten with her Uncle Danny.  She enjoyed playing with Marly, who showed her how to play what is quite possibly Arina’s favorite game, one from Aunt Susan and Uncle Steve that features ducks.  We, unfortunately, left it in Charleston, so we’re avoiding the words “quack, quack” until we get it back.

Sunday, August 13: Grandma and Grandpa treated Mama, Papa, and Arina to a zoo trip.  Although Arina was timid at first, she came alive when she saw the warthogs (of all things!).  After that, she ran from one animal to the next, waving “hello” and saying “bye-bye” to all.

As promised . . .

Monday, August 14th, 2006

The Top Ten Things We Love About Kazakhstan:

10. Driving; This is on Scott’s list of favorites and on my list of things that terrify me because, in Kazakhstan, anything goes where driving is concerned.  In other words, Britney Spears would have been just fine with baby Sean on her lap.  As far as we noticed, no one wore seatbelts, and dodging pot-holes was of greater concern that dodging on-coming traffic.  I have to say, though, I felt perfectly safe with our drivers, who dodged pot-holes with the best of them.

9. Fashion; This is on my list of favorites and on Scott’s list of things he couldn’t care less about.  Let’s just say I felt like a soccer mom in my t-shirts and tennis shoes.  Young Kazak women live and breathe fashion.  We saw more high heels in Kazakhstan than we did in New York City.  And have you ever watched a fashion show and wondered, “Where would anyone wear that?”  The answer is “in Kazakhstan.”  

8. The Harry Potter fans; What can we say?  We simply loved the fact that the first person we met in Kazakhstan — our escort in Almaty — was eager to talk about the Harry Potter books.  I also loved flipping through a Russian translation of Harry Potter at a local bookstore.

7. Language; We’re proud of ourselves for learning a handful of Russian words and phrases, and we enjoyed saying all the words we learned.  The Russian words for “hello,” “goodbye,” and “thank you” roll off the tongue.  Also, it was fun trying to communicate without language.

6. Festivities; We were able to witness many weddings and parties since our hotel was a popular place for hosting big events.  Every festivity was well attended by well-dressed and happy people, and Scott and I commented that everyone in Kazakhstan seemed to be having more of a good time than people do in the States.  Festivities are marked by hugs, laughter, dancing, and enthusiastic conversation.  Scott and I could have wandered into the mix, uninvited, and would have been welcomed with open arms.  We were eating at the hotel restaurant during one wedding reception and a photographer took our photo and brought us a copy of it.

5. Landscape; As I mentioned in one of my posts, we’ve never seen mountains more beautiful than those in Almaty.  In Karaganda, the landscape is sprawling and flat, though you can still see mountains in the distance.  Scott and I have a book, The Soul of Kazakhstan by Wayne Eastep and Alma Kunanby, and the photographs in it will make you think of the Garden of Eden.  Kunanby writes about the landscape and notes, “It includes almost every geographic feature known to humankind except an exit onto the open sea.”

4. Market; Scott and I loved our walks to the outdoor market, and, I have to admit, we love the fact that there are places in the world where people don’t get in a car and drive to Wal-Mart to get what they need.  There’s something wonderfully appealing about making a daily trek to buy fresh eggs, produce, and bread.  The market was divided into “departments” (hardware, produce, clothing, etc.), and we enjoyed the sense of friendly competition between vendors in the same “department.”  The produce vendors, in particular, would try to out-shout each other as customers walked by but were quick to pat the winning vendor on the back and make change for him if he was lacking. 

3. Food; Although we enjoyed all of the food while we were in Kazakhstan, we couldn’t get enough of the produce.  I know I mentioned a melon, of which Scott and I were huge fans, that is unique to Kazakhstan — delicious.  I also enjoyed the grape juice so much that I drank it every day — morning, noon, and night.  Mom had some Welch’s waiting for me when I got home, but, sadly, it’s not the same.

2. People; There’s no way I can pay tribute to all the remarkable people we met in Kazakhstan, so I’ll cite Wayne Eastep, photographer of the before-mentioned book.  His observation mirrors ours:  “The characteristic that stood out to me as one of the strengths of Kazakhstan is the generous spirit of the Kazakh people.  My family and I were always made to feel welcome.  People opened their homes, hearts and minds, and shared with us their ideas, feelings, and delicious food.  After each of our encounters we felt our bodies nourished, our minds expanded, our spirits uplifted and our hearts warmed.”

1. Love for children; By far, our favorite thing about Kazakhstan is the deep love and respect this country has for its children.  The way Kazakh people care for their little ones should be an example to us all.  A U.S. doctor told one adoptive parent, after inspecting a child newly arrived from Kazakhstan, “I don’t know what that they do in Kazakhstan that’s different from other countries, but — whatever it is — they’ve got it right” (I can’t believe I’m not citing my source, but I can’t remember where I read it!).  Every person we passed in the Baby House knew Arina’s name, which is remarkable when you realize that there are around 150 children.  In short, we’re honored to have had such good people caring for our daughter.  We couldn’t have asked for anyone better.  Whether Scott and I have biological children or not, we hope to return to Kazakhstan and adopt again.

The photo for this post is an old one — Arina and Mama walking in Almaty.  Po-ka, Po-ka, Kazakhstan!

August 11, 2006

Friday, August 11th, 2006

Yesterday Arina had her first hair-cut, U.S. style.  She whined when our hair-dresser took her from me and sat her on the kiddie bench, but hushed instantly when she was presented with a sucker.  After losing her *mullet, she left with her first babysitters (Natalie, Tracy, and Rachel) and Mama got to have a much needed hair-cut of her own.

My favorite thing Arina has done since she’s been home:  We went to Columbiana Mall earlier this week and visited both a toy and a book store.  The latter had a little table where children could read, and Arina was so excited to be able to pull the books of her choice off the shelf and take them to the table.  When it was time to go, she plopped down on the floor and cried.  Normally I cringe when she cries in public, but this time I couldn’t have been happier.  I told her that I feel the same way when I have to leave a book store.

* Several of you have asked what a “mullet” is.  I was looking for a definition, but found (much to my surprise) a variety of sources on the web, including,, and  Apparently the mullet has quite a fan base. 

August 7, 2006 – August 8, 2006

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

So many of you have been sweet to tell me you’ve been addicted to the web site.  Well, I’ve been addicted to writing journal entries.  I know I have to stop (I have a dissertation to write, after all) but I can’t resist carrying on a little longer.  I’ve decided to update several times in August, mainly because we have several showers to attend in Arina’s honor, so I’d like to post photos of her new family members and friends.  After that, I’ll update once a month for a year, on the anniversary of Arina’s Adoption Day, which will be the 10th.  I told Scott that this means he’ll need to post a monthly video, but he makes no promises.

The past two days, August 7th and 8th, have been full of family, friends, and shopping.  We’ve been amazed at Arina’s energy until we discovered that she has the rare gift of taking 10-15 minute “power” naps.  She’ll drop off when her visitors are engaged in adult conversation and wake up with a grin, refreshed and ready to go.  Mama and Papa wish they had this ability.

Scott and I were talking and feel that we need to pay tribute to Arina’s birth country.  We never posted a formal “goodbye,” so we came up with a soon-to-be-posted list of the top ten things we love about Kazakhstan.  Unfortunately, as I have to wake up Arina, this entry is to be continued . . .

August 5, 2006 – August 6, 2006

Monday, August 7th, 2006

Well, it’s 5:30am on Monday, August 7th, and I woke up at 4:00am.  Scott woke up an hour later.  Arina and Grandma are still sleeping peacefully.  I feel well rested, though, as I’ve been in bed by 9:00pm the past two nights.  Believe it or not, I think I might keep this schedule.  I write best in the mornings, so if I go to bed early and wake up early, I’ll have several hours to work on my dissertation before the little one wakes up between 7:00-8:00am.  I went to Kazakhstan and turned into my grandfather.  He would always be up at 4:00am so that he could have a 5:00am breakfast at the Huddle House with his buddies.  I always laughed when he asked if I wanted to go.

Summaries of the past two days are as follows:

Saturday, August 5:  Arina enjoyed being the center of attention for so many people today.  Her visitors included her great-grandmother, her paternal grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, neighbors, and several of my friends from school who have dubbed themselves her adoptive aunts.  She did amazingly well, smiling and blowing kisses (or giving lip kisses) to all.  Scott and I have been amazed by such an outpouring of love (I’ll be writing thank-you notes until December), and Arina must feel it as well because she’s been so content and happy (except when Grandpa left to go back to McBee yesterday).

Sunday, August 6:  We took Arina for a short visit to church, so that she could meet Mama and Papa’s friends and visit the toddler nursery.  She loved dressing up in her Sunday best, which wasn’t quite her Sunday best.  We had to take off a beautiful purple dress with matching hat and jacket when we realized that the only shoes she has besides tennis shoes are the white and hot pink sandals we bought her in Kazakhstan.  Grandma was horrified and raided Arina’s closet to find a dress that would look okay with white and hot pink sandals, all the while muttering, “Don’t worry.  Grandma’s going to take you shopping for shoes.”

August 4, 2006

Sunday, August 6th, 2006

Home at last!  A summary of August 4th is as follows:

August 4: Our day began at 3:30am.  We wondered why we were being driven to the airport so early as our flight from Almaty to Amsterdam was departing at 7:15am.  Once we got to the airport, which is too small for the city, we understood why.  We got through the lines just in time to board.  Seven hours later, we arrived in Amsterdam and rushed to make our connecting flight, not even stopping to go to the bathroom.  Eight hours later, we arrived in Detroit. 

Arina was quite the trooper, only getting a little fussy on occasion.  But as Mama and Papa got a little fussy on occasion too, she was in good company.  At one point, Scott, desperate to stretch his legs, walked her up and down the airport aisle, but quickly returned because Arina flirted with all the passengers, pulled at sleeves, and tried to initiate games of “peek-a-boo.”  While many were amused, many were trying to sleep, so it wasn’t the best time for Arina to transform into the social butterfly.

Arriving at the Detroit airport was climatic, as Arina became a U.S. citizen as soon as she touched the ground.  The first official we met in Detroit grinned at us, said, “I see you brought us a new U.S. citizen,” and welcomed Arina to America.  We were all sweaty and exhausted, so we booked a room at the hotel airport, showered, and slept for four hours of our seven hour lay-over.  One of today’s featured photos is of Arina, still smiling after a fifteen hour flight.  About a minute after the photo was taken she was sound asleep.

We arrived in Columbia at 11:30pm and were immediately mobbed by my parents (first time grandparents), Scott’s childhood friend (Tommy), and his wife (Becky).  Arina loved everyone at first sight and was more than happy to pass from my arms to theirs.  She batted her eyelashes at Tommy and tried to give him her baby doll.

We arrived at 63 Hamptonwood Way at 12:30am, and Arina visiting three rooms — the dining room, the living room, and the kitchen.  She plopped down on the dining room floor and played with toys.  She plopped down on the living room floor and played with toys.  She plopped down on the kitchen floor and drank some juice.  This was all the excitement she could take for one night because she willingly submitted to bath and bed at 2:00am.

July 31, 2006 – August 3, 2006

Thursday, August 3rd, 2006

August 3, 2006

I’m typing this in our Almaty apartment.  Sorry we’ve been silent for several days, but we’ve been unable to figure out how to use the internet card we purchased (the instructions are in Russian).  But, Scott, with the help of his nifty electronic translator has just connected us to the web.  The only problem is we have no idea how much time we have before the card runs out.  So, a day-by-day summary is as follows:

July 31, 2006: Our last day in Karaganda!  We practiced with the pat-a-pum today, in preparation for the first leg of Arina’s journey home.  We had a farewell dinner in Celia’s new room.  She upgraded to a larger one since she’ll have her two boys with her shortly.  The new room has a crib for baby Ryan, and Arina LOVED it.  She insisted on sitting in it the entire time and faked sleep whenever it looked like we were going to take her out of it.  We assume she misses being an infant and are glad that we bought an adjustable crib for her room.  The mattress can be taken down to about the height of her toddler bed, while maintaining the crib “look and feel.”
August 1, 2006: I was in a disgruntled mood this morning as Scott questioned my packing ability.  After asking him if I had ever failed at anything, he backed off and we were packed and waiting at the appointed time: 9:40am.  The only mishap was a bathroom incident with Arina, which included screams and a “hosing off.”  She made up for it by being an absolute angel on the flight.  She never cried, although she uttered a sympathetic “Oh!” for another baby who screamed the entire time.  She slept for the first part of the two hour flight and happily played on my lap for the second part.  If only she’ll be so content on the longer flights.

She was also a real trooper in Almaty.  We spent several hours running errands (dropping paperwork at the U.S. Embassy, confirming flight arrangements, and visiting a doctor who dubbed Arina “perfect”).  FYI:  We were told Arina’s “percentiles:” 5-10% for her age in height and weight and 50% for her age in head circumference.  Dr. John, a physician from South Africa, loved that her doctor at the Baby House listed her emotions as “positive.”  “It’s good to be positive,” he told her with a smile.

August 2, 2006: We had the “day off” today and spent our morning buying a fan for our apartment, which is great aside from the fact that it has no air condition.  Scott, who is forever complaining about how much our heating/air conditioning costs, has now decided that it’s worth every penny.  We went exploring in the afternoon, and Scott was impressed at my ability to “sniff out” a mall within walking distance.

Today’s featured photo is of Arina driving around the supermarket.

August 3, 2006: Today is Scott’s 30th birthday and his first as a Dad, although he’s really been a father since he was 28.  He just didn’t know it.  Arina and I bought him a delicious cake from a corner supermarket near our apartment and the U.S. Embassy gave him all the paperwork we need for Arina, along with some immediate instructions for re-entering the U.S. and some not-so-immediate instructions for some decisions about citizenship Arina needs to make when she’s eighteen.  Until then, she’ll be a dual citizen of Kazakhstan and America!  Please send us your positive thoughts and prayers as we embark on the longest flight ever tomorrow morning.  Our day starts at 3:30am, Kazakhstan time.