Our Adoption Journey to Kazakhstan

Our adventurous journey to complete our family by traveling half way around the world...literally!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Beyond The Picket Fence: How Did You Paint That?

Beyond The Picket Fence: How Did You Paint That?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Polina's home and doing great!

WOW...almost a year and a half ago we began the process to adopt a daughter from the country of Kazakhstan. Time seemed to move at a snails pace completing the necessary paperwork and then only to wait, wait, wait for the day we would get "the call"...being patient has never been one of my strong points and preparing to adopt a child sure did put my ability to be patient to the test!

Then suddenly, it all came together and now our family is complete. Our new daughter, Polina (aka Polly), officially became a "Watrous" March 7th, 2007 before a judge in a Kostanai, Kazakhstan and an official United States citizen when she touched US soil for the first time April 20th, 2007, already over three weeks ago. Now time is racing...funny how things turn around.

To fill in minor some minor details, I departed alone for Kazakhstan to complete the adoption process and bring Polly home Friday April 13th, five weeks following our initial return home. After a couple of days of traveling mishaps I finally saw Polly again on Monday April 16th. With permission, I turned our reunion meeting into a mini birthday party for her with her baby home peer group since we were unable to be with her when she turned three years old March 26th. This was a fun way for Polly to spend her last day in the baby home with the other children in her group.

I was nervous about how she might react to me after not seeing me for five weeks but the moment she saw my face standing in the doorway her recognition of me and her enthusiasm for my presence was as though I'd never left. As soon as she saw me she hollered out "MOMMA!" and pointed to me. I will never forget that moment nor the warmth and excitement I saw in her precious face. Less than 24 hours later I returned to the baby home to pick her up and hustle to the airport. To my surprise, she was enthusiastic about changing her clothes to leave and then confidently held my hand to walk out the door as she waived and said good-bye to her peers and caretakers, the people who loved her and she loved for the entire past year. To this day, she has latched on to her new family and has not looked back.

Our stay in Almaty was short and sweet. The team responsible for seeing Polly and I through the final steps in the adoption process were efficient and wonderful. Our required medical visit and interview at the American Embassy was completed in two days. With spring in the air, the weather was quite warm and the sky was clear. Like Kostanai, everything was close by and many people were getting around on foot. So, in our down time, Polly and I took advantage of our visit to Almaty by walking, exploring and getting to know each other better. A special time for us both.

Polly is adjusting very quickly. She now has a brother (Luke) who is a year older than she. Polly adores her brother and it is obvious he has welcomed her with open arms. We expected her to be shy and timid with new introductions at first but she has once again surprised us. She hollers and waves hello to strangers on the street, in other cars and while out and about. She is warm and loving to all those who show her warmth and love. She already understands most of what we say to her and can say at least 25 English words. "I love you" are the words she speaks most often.

We have no doubt that Polina's warmth and confidence are a reflection of the love she was given at the Delfin Baby Home. We are forever grateful to Dr. Irina and her staff, Olesya and the officials of Kostanai responsible for seeing our adoption through for all they did for Polina and our family.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Day 33 (Wednesday, March 7th)

Today was our final court day and…OUR ADOPTION OF POLLY IF FINAL!!! At least on paper. Here in Kostanai, there is a 15 day waiting period before a child can leave the city. For health reasons (and the safety of both the child and the newly adopted parents) the Delfin Baby Home does not permit the children to leave the baby home until you are ready to board a flight to leave Kostanai. This is approximately four to five weeks following the final court date. The next few weeks will flow as follows:

  • 15 day waiting period – nothing else happens
  • child’s new birth certificate is ordered (+/- day 16 to 21)
  • child’s passport and visa is processed (additional couple of weeks)

Tomorrow morning Brett and I will visit Polly one last time before saying goodbye for approximately one month. I will then return, alone. I’ll spend three to four days re-bonding with Polly in the baby home and then board us both on an airplane for Almaty, Kazakhstan where we will complete the processes required by our American Embassy located there (another three to five days). I’ll post more when we get to this stage.

Brett and I will begin our 36+ hour journey home to Virginia tomorrow afternoon at 2pm (3am Eastern Standard Time). Three flight legs, two 7+ hour layovers and a 3/12 hour drive.

If you’ve been following along, we thank you and hope you’ll check back in with us mid April sometime when I return to Kostanai Kazakhstan to bring Polly home, once and for all.

When our travels are complete we will add a final post which will include suggested items to bring you might not otherwise have considered. If you are traveling before then, please do not hesitate to ask questions by email. We would love to hear from you.

Day 29, 30, 31 & 32 - Final Days count down

Day 29 (Saturday, March 3rd)

Saturday is a big day for Weddings here. Every Saturday since we arrived we’ve witnessed at least one caravan of honking cars all following an elaborately decorated car. It surprises us that so many would get married during such cold months, yet they do. If we hear continuous honking while sitting in our hotel room on a Saturday we don’t need to look out the window to know that two more people have tied the knot!

Laura woke up this morning with a miserably congested head. Both of us thought it best for Laura to stay back and Brett to visit Polly alone. He brought a book just in case Polly rejected him without Laura in the room. To Brett’s surprise, Polly was quite receptive to his visit alone and they fully enjoyed their “Daddy-Daughter” time without Mommy.

Late this afternoon we walked to nearby Victory Park. This park is large and beautiful with fresh snow blanketed high where grass and gardens, we assume, lay below. At the far end of this park is a platform which stands an enormous statue of a soldier. Behind the statue is a marbled wall engraved with the names of soldiers from Kostanai Kazakhstan who fought and died during World War 2. A must see for anyone who comes to the town. From the park we ventured over to the soccer stadium, which borders Victory Park. The gate was closed and locked but we could still see inside. We took some video but it was difficult to capture the true size of this field. Soccer must be a big spectator sport here.

Day 30 (Sunday, March 4th)

Today is absolutely gorgeous! It’s about +20F here in Kostanai with mostly blue sky. This is one of the first days we’ve seen a number of people walking without head cover. The humidity is low as is the wind so the temperature actually feels warmer than it really is.

Immediately following our morning visit with Polly, I (Laura) hustled over to my facial appointment. Yes…I said facial appointment. When I heard the price would only be 4000 tenge (about $32 US) I could hardly pass up this splurge. Let me tell you girls, this was by far the best treat I’ve given myself in years. My face was pampered for a full two hours. If you are planning on visiting Kostanai any time in the near future, I highly recommend getting a facial. I went to a place with the words “Eden” on the front. The salon is located directly across the street from the small mall with the mosaic exterior.

Day 31 (Monday, March 5th)

It’s another beautiful day in Kostanai Kazakhstan…we think Spring is trying to sneak in a little early. We took a very long walk today and got to see some sights we hadn’t seen yet. For starters, we walked past the Russian Orthodox Church. We did not go inside but I would imagine it is beautiful.

Our walk took us into more residential areas than what we are accustomed to seeing here and we were surprised by the number of new homes being constructed. BIG, EXPENSIVE homes (see linked photos). I guess these are signs of the improving economy here.

Day 32 (Tuesday, March 6th)

March 8th is “Women’s Day” which is a big national holiday celebrated in Kazakhstan. In honor of “Women’s Day”, the three adopting families here working with our agency (including us) all pitched in and purchased the director of the baby home our children are in a bouquet of Chrysanthemums and a cake. We presented her with the flowers and the cake this morning since she will be taking Wednesday, Thursday and Friday off (as will many working women in the country) to celebrate this special day for women. She was thrilled with this gift and immediately invited us all (8 in total including our coordinator) to sit in her office and share the cake and have some tea. This was quite an honor. As I raised my cup to toast to “Women’s Day” the director stopped me and asked that she give the toast. We raised our glasses and she proceeded to toast to us and the children we will soon bring home as family. When the tea cups and cake plates were empty we all exchanged hugs and words of warmth with her and wished her a very happy “Women’s Day”.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Day 26, 27 & 28 - Four Full Weeks Completed

Day 26 (Wednesday, February 27th)

Today was likely one of the most fun days we’ve had yet! Following everyone’s regular visits with the children they are working on adopting, the three American families staying at The Medeo Hotel decided to so some afternoon bowling. We arrived at the seven lane bowling alley around 2:30pm only to learn they do not open until 4:00pm during the week…what were we to do for the next 1 ½ hours? Find some place to have a beer, of course. We strolled a few doors down to “Bavaria” Café (who brews their own beer) and did just that. At “Bavaria”, we also enjoyed pistachios and the most interesting smoked string cheese any of us had ever encountered. We had a 10 and 6 year old in our group who opted for hot tea and ice cream.

At the bowling alley we bowled, played pool, talked, laughed and had an overall wonderful time, including the kids. Mr. Tennessee was awarded a free bottle of vodka for scoring three strikes…add that to a few beers for all of us (except the kids, of course) and draw your own picture. Part of our fun included the realization that we were the prime entertainment for everyone else there. I guess it must be a rare sight to see a group of eight American’s at one time, let alone laughing and caring on like we would back in the US.

This was a fine last day for our new friends from Tennessee. They left the US for Kostanai Kazakhstan on January 7th, 52 days ago. Following their long awaited final court appointment tomorrow afternoon, they finally will get to return home to the US. We will miss them during our own final days here in Kostanai and wish them good luck in court and safe travel home.

Day 27 (Thursday, February 28th)

We experienced our first temper tantrum with Polly today. We’ve read about preparing to be tested and today, I believe, we passed one of many tests. After 10 minutes or so of trying and failing at comforting tears that were caused for no apparent reason, Brett and I finally opted to ignore the fit and let her “cry it out”. We took down some LEGOS and the two of us began to build things. She screamed in protest. After a few minutes Brett offered her a Lego’s piece to add to what we were building and she refused. We continued to build, while she continued to cry. A few minutes later she finally gave in, put a big smile on her face and decided if she couldn’t beat us she’d join us. It was a growing experience for all of us. The balance of our visit was warm and fun.

Our coordinator has been taking the families she’s working with out to a special place in the evening at least once each week. Tonight was this week’s adventure. We traveled about 20 minutes outside of Kostanai to a town we never did get the name of. Our destination was a rustic place known as “Silver”. “Silver” is situated in the middle of nowhere amongst what looked to be birch trees and field. It was built to resemble a log cabin with the smell of fresh wood and all. The ceiling is tongue and groove, the lighting fixtures are chandeliers created from what looked like old wagon wheels and the walls display numerous animal trophies. There is even a full size wolf that stands on the performance stage. Very different from anywhere else we’d been to date. No fancy dancers this time though. However, as usual, a nice time had by all.

Day 28 (Friday, March 1st)

At 12:15 am, as we were winding down from our evening out and trying to go to sleep, we were jolted out of bed by loud popping noises outside. We were surprised to discover the noise was being caused by fireworks. We asked Oleysa today what the occasion was for the fireworks and she surprised us with not having any idea. We’ve heard about the many holidays celebrated here and how the people go all out, but the celebration of last evening remains a mystery. However, the streets here are still glowing with the lights of their Russian New Year celebration which took place in early January.

While shopping with the girls the other day Laura picked up a children’s music CD of tunes from popular Russian cartoons. Today, we brought the notebook computer with us to our visit so we could play the music for Polly. What great fun! We danced and danced for most of our visit (the dancing also provided our daily workout).

This afternoon, Brett worked on the home movie he’s been creating of our Kazakhstan adventure while Laura went to the OTHER outdoor market with Mrs. New Jersey. She came home with a few treasured finds. She also came home with the beginnings of a cold. As the evening has progressed so has the cold. Hopefully she’ll feel healthy enough in the morning not to miss our visit with Polly.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Day 23, 24 & 25 - Preliminary Court

Day 23 (Sunday, February 25th)

The weekends are especially quiet and laid back around the baby home. We walk in like we work there and nod our heads to any (if any) persons we pass in the halls. General routines for the kids seems to be a bit more relaxed on the weekends as well as the children in Polly’s group are either playing with toys or watching cartoons on TV when we show up on the weekends. Something we don’t tend to see during the week.

Polly must have had a great night sleep ‘cause she was full of fun energy today. Laura had done a few sit-ups with arms behind the head using the lower pipes of a radiator for foot support. Polly thought this looked like fun and jumped right in with her own set of sit-ups when Laura was done. Laura may soon be motivated to begin a workout routine soon since she seems to have found a workout partner (LOL).

We’re winding down it seems spending more time in the room and less time walking around. Brett’s become quite regular with his afternoon napping routine and Laura is surprisingly sitting back and enjoying a book. Something she doesn’t take time out to do at home. Our crazy home life is going to take some adjusting to when we get there.

Day 24 (Monday, February 26th)

Today was our preliminary court day. At 2:00pm sharp, we gathered in the judge’s office. Present were Brett and I, our coordinator-translator, the baby home director, and a woman from the office that over sees the guardianship of the children in the care of the city of Kostanai. Our coordinator had prepared us for most of what to expect. However, the judge surprised all in the room when she began asking detailed questions regarding the adoption of our current son and how domestic adoption works in the US. We were happy to answer each of her questions. Our coordinator told us later that the judge’s questions were unusual as it is very rare that they have an adopting family who has already adopted a child from their own country. That surprised us. The meeting ended with the judge announcing when we would meet again for final court which she scheduled for Wednesday, March 7th. We will re-book our flights home for Thursday, March 8th.

Day 25 (Tuesday, February 27th)

Our visit to the baby home was the same as most days. Polly is always very happy when we arrive and is anxious to get into the room we spend alone with her during our visits. On the other hand, when it’s time to go she is definitely ready to say goodbye and get back to her peers. It was difficult during the early days of our visits not to take this the wrong way. However, we just kept reminding ourselves that we know few toddlers that would (1) spend a couple of hours alone in a single room (2) with the same two adults (especially adults not speaking the child’s language) (3) with the same few things to do EVERY DAY. With those thoughts completely clear now, we know we are definitely at the top of Polly’s favorite adult list.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Day 20, 21 & 22 - More fun in Kostanai

Day 20 (Thursday, February 22nd)

Today our coordinator will travel the approximate two hours to the town where Polly was born. Before a child can officially be adopted from the baby home, an attempt to locate the biological mother and bring before a Kostanai judge is required. We’ll be on pins and needles all day.

It’s hard to believe we’ve been here almost three weeks already…my, my, how time flies! As time passes, we are finding it more difficult to find ways to pass our time. We still enjoy a daily walk even if it only takes us to the grocery store. A couple of days ago we actually took a new route and found the train station. We talked about how fun it might be just to hop a train one afternoon to see outside downtown Kostanai. We fear, though, we would not understand how to get on the train, let alone get off. We may still do this if we can get some translation done first.

Some of the other things we are doing to pass the time include:
Brett: puzzles, reading, knapping, push ups, Discovery Channel series on World War 2 and email.
Laura: beading, shopping, journaling, exercising the 3 flights of back stairs in the hotel and email.

What would we do without our email?!

We’re both trying to get a bit of exercise daily so in addition to our daily walks and personal exercise routines we have created “home made” weights out of 5 liter water jugs we each get a little time with.

Day 21 (Friday, February 23rd)

While visiting Polly today, our coordinator stopped in with the news of her travels from yesterday. She will meet with the judge herself later today to give her report. We may now proceed to our pre-court which has been scheduled for Monday the 26th of February.

Even though it was very windy and cold outside, Laura ventured out for more shopping at the outdoor market while Brett stayed in and read. These outdoor markets are a never ending fun fest for anyone who enjoys flea markets and garage sales (although everything is new).

For dinner, with our coordinator and the two American families we befriended at the hotel, we piled into three taxies and traveled into a neighboring town to experience “444” which is also referred to as “the shish kabob place”. It is a favorite of everyone who has told us of this place. We ate shish kabobs, drank beer, and danced, danced, danced. When we weren’t dancing we were being entertained by dancers. Once again, a wonderful time had by all.

At the end of the evening, we all piled back into our designated taxies for the ride back into Kostanai. Those with children (all but us) went back to the hotel. Our coordinator thought it might be fun for the three of us to stop at a dance club on the way home. We did. This was a whole new experience. In this place we chose to sit and people watch rather than dance. The hired entertainment and the club’s customers were equally entertaining. We people watched, until 2am.

Day 22 (Saturday, February 24th)

Still very tired from being out late last night, we managed to get up for our routine visit with Polly. She brought the life back into us.

Following our visit we grabbed a quick bite to eat and napped the rest of the afternoon. A luxury we don’t generally take advantage of at home. We napped for over three hours.

After our nap, we took a long walk then strolled across the street to the pastry shop. For 1081 tenge ($8.65 US), we purchased two small pizza’s, two beers, a whole cake wrapped in peanuts (hummm) and two apples. We spent a relaxing evening watching a DVD we brought from home and dined in.