Monday, November 13, 2006

Fall update!!!

Dorothy and the cowardly lion..... sadly I see Star Wars characters or super heros in their future for next Halloween if Daddy has his way.

The first of many, many fights over control of Toto.

First trip to the pumpkin patch!!

First 4th of July.... mama went a little overboard with the outfit.

Jackson decides it is his turn to ride whether Madden likes it or not.

The kids hanging out on Sunday morning. These days they would be wearing their 49ers jerseys and yelling touch down on on Sundays. Unfortunately, they are probably also learning some inappropriate words when daddy's team isn't doing so well....

So, it's been a while since I've posted, and I've received more than a few emails reminding me of this. My apologies to all!

It's hard to believe, but Thanksgiving will mark one year since we met them for the first time! A year ago we were scrambling to get plane tickets, travel visas, a second crib for Madden (though she may have still been known only as "baby girl"), girl clothes, snow gear, etc. At that point, we couldn't actually believe we were actually getting a baby, much less two! We hadn't even changed a diaper yet!

How much has changed! A few thousand diapers later we are all settled in. The kids are thriving though they do run us ragged at times. They are constantly climbing and running everywhere. We had to buy tents that fit over their cribs and seal them in to keep them from making a prision break! Given that a year ago Madden couldn't even sit up on her own this is quite a change. They are really skilled with their sign language, can point to their body parts and can point to pictures of things, but still don't talk too much. They do have their own language though, and can spend quite a while "talking" to each other on their play cell phones. Other than their cell conversations, their favorite thing is reading books. I cannot believe how many times I have read Go Dog Go- it seems like we are constantly buying or re-buying books.

We are all looking forward to the holidays and the new year with the joys and challenges that will come with two 2 year olds!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Spring Update!!!

I think that we may never have a family photo where everyone is looking at the camera, but this is the best we've got so far. We dressed them up for Easter dinner at Grandma and Grandpa's house. Jackson was so adorable in his little sweater vest!
Poor Madden- she will probably hate this picture later in life, but it's one of our favorites! I tried to brush her hair back instead of straight down into her face as it naturally grows, and this was the result. I can't wait until she has enough hair for little ponytails.

Happy Birthday Madden!!! She liked her strawberry cupcakes much more than the chocolate ones we made for Jackson. What kind of girl doesn't like chocolate?!?!?
Yes, he is wearing Madden's bloomers on his head. He just thought he was something special with those things on his head.
Well, Madden is already a better cook than her mother. She loves this stove!! (Thank you Aunt Donna and Uncle John!)
The kids enjoying a stroll on one of the first sunny days we have had since they've been in America. All is good with the world....
....and just a few seconds later Jackson is "exploring" Madden's ear. Poor Madden. This is only the beginning.
They enjoy dumping the toys out of our downstairs "toybox" almost as much as they enjoy playing with them!
Madden was just so thrilled with herself with this thing in her mouth.
Jackson and daddy early in the morning on the way to Jackson's hernia surgery. Nothing stops this kid!! After his surgery they said he would be grumpy and probably wouldn't be able to walk until night time since they had numbed him from the waist down. Well, he woke up from his morning nap, ate a full lunch, and started running around. What a trooper!
Madden drumming up a storm! I keep thinking she will stop sticking her tongue out when she gets excited, but it hasn't happened yet.
Jackson, now an expert cupcake eater, just crams it in a fistful at a time.
Madden loves "reading" the newspaper. She likes the shiny ads the most.

OK, so Jackson is not so much of a reader, but at least he ejoys himself!

So, as you can see, the kids are doing well and getting big! They are really starting to look like little kids rather than babies. Jackson is running around and climbing everything. Madden is now walking along furniture really well, and can stand on her own. She isn't quite brave enough to walk yet, but she has progressed so much since we got home. When we first got home our pediatrician referred her for a developmental assessment because she wasn't crawling or standing yet, and we just had the evaluation a few weeks ago. It was really nerve racking watching her be tested for an hour. They were simple little things like putting a peg in a hole, turning a bottle upside down to get a ball out, etc. However, it was so scary for me each time she couldn't complete one of the tasks. I knew she had made tons of progress, but still it is an odd feeling waiting for a doctor to tell you if your child is "normal". Thankfully she is on track, and on top of that we now have an official medical report that says she is "very cute"!

It's hard to believe we've only been home four months. We've definitely settled into a routine now, and can safely say having "twins" is not nearly as difficult as we feared. Some of you reading this know how we agonized for months over whether we could handle two at once, and now that all seems so ridiculous. Although, I might be singing a different tune 17 years from now when they both start college at the same time. According to an online estimate, a four year degree at a UC school will be over $200k each!!! I suppose since they don't share my genetics there is a chance they might be good at a sport and get a scholarship- we can only hope! I also see a minivan in our future, which Kevin is dreading. I really thought our SUV would have enough room, but with the car seats and double stroller, we have no room left. I've actually been paying attention to minivan commercials, which is just so hard to believe.

So, that's pretty much it for us. We are thrilled that the sun has finally come out and our local levees are still intact. It was pretty scary for a while watching the rivers get higher and higher. Of course, now the news says that there will be a huge mosquito population because of all the standing water, and of course the mosquitos carry the west nile virus, so we really can't win. Kevin has just finished four weeks in a row of travelling for work, which was no picnic for me. Thankfully he is now pretty much done with travel for the year. I've been pretty stressed out from my new gig as "divorce lawyer". Right now my boss has pneumonia so I have been covering his cases on top of my cases, which is just insane! So, anyhow, although we have had some challenges trying to balance work and home, overall the Bristows are doing well. We are looking forward to a nice, uneventful summer!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

We have one-year-olds!!!

"Hmmm..... what's this? They've strapped this funny thing on my head and now this strange thing is in front of me."
"Well, I've got up the nerve to touch it, and now it's stuck to my finger."
"Well, now that I've figured out it's food, I'm gonna shove the whole thing in my mouth!"
"I've really enjoyed my birthday cupcake. Most of it is in pieces on the floor, but I managed to eat some of it."
"The aftermath of the cupcake."
Madden managed to eat her cupcake and only get a few crumbs on her face and none on her shirt- such a girl!
Jackson and Grandma on Valentine's Day.
This is the typical "sharing" situation. Jackson plays with the toy and Madden looks like she can tell she has years and years ahead of her of being frustrated by her big brother.
Madden showing off her Valentine's Day dress and the gumball machine her great-aunt Tina sent for Jackson's Birthday.
Madden and Jackson enjoying time with Grandma and Grandpa. This is literally the only picture we have where they are both smiling at the same time. So difficult to photograph kids with no concept of posing for the camera.
Jackson spent an entire evening walking around with this flower in his mouth.
Madden hanging out with Mama. Later in the day Jackson would discover he could pull the headband down around her neck. Who would think a headband could be dangerous!
Madden loves to imitate her big brother! Note the exact same pose down to the toy.

We've been home about seven weeks now, and it seems like they've been with us forever. As you can probably guess from the pictures, Jackson had his first birthday on February 1, and Madden will follow soon on the 24th. It's so hard to believe we have one-year-olds!!!

Things have been going very well for all of us. Jackson is now walking like crazy and Madden can easily pull herself up and walk along furniture. She is so eager to walk just like her big brother! They both say "mama" and "dada" although we aren't completely sure they know what the words mean yet. They both love music and we really enjoy watching them "dance".

They are finally both getting some baby fat, and are growing every day. Jackson will be having surgery to fix his hernia next month, but other than that they are both healthy and happy.

I'm going to try my best to do an update every month from here on out. It's amazing to me that we are still hearing of people we don't even know who were following our website or who are considering adoption and have used our site as a resource. So, look forward to our March update. We should have some professional portraits done by then to post!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

We're Home!!!!

We were all still a bit jet-lagged, but we managed to make it out on Chrtistmas. This was the kids' first time in car seats, and they screamed for about 20 mintues solid, but they are doing much better now thankfully!
Well, they enjoy the bath as long as there is no water. Bathtime is our only remaining challenge. Jackson shows some signs of coming around, but Madden continues to go stiff and scream at the top of her lungs as soon as she touches water.

Well, we've been home almost two weeks and I have finally gotten around to adding some photos from home.

Our journey home was definitely a challenge!! Our total travel time was about 35 hours, and we survived the last 24 on a Snickers bar and some water since there simply isn't enough room to eat on an airplane with a baby on your lap. By the time we made it to San Francisco, I had been awake almost 45 hours and was at the end of my rope. We made it through immigration and customs with no problems and were excited to have the kids become citizens. We hadn't realized that even though we had another flight we would have to claim all of our luggage and go through security again, so that was our next challenge. So, somehow we managed to get two babies, two large suitcases, two carryons and a stroller through security. I nearly lost it when they insisted we take the babies out of the Bjorns at the X-ray machine so that they could be X-rayed. There was a huge line behind us and it was just not fun trying to fold the stroller, un-Bjorn the babies and take our shoes off.

After security, we managed to drag ourselves to gate 87 only to find that it wasn't really a gate, but the place to catch a bus to the commuter terminal. So, we manage to get everything on the bus and make it to the right terminal only to find that none of the flights were getting out due to fog. At that point, I swear I nearly had a stroke. I just couldn't imagine being stranded overnight just 100 miles from home. We decided to get back on the bus to the main terminal and see if we could get a limo home. We couldn't rent a car because we somehow managed to loose our driver's licenses in Kaz, and honestly neither one of us was in any condition to drive. I was pretty skeptical that we would find a limo on the Friday before Christmas, but luck was with us, and we found a limo service. I honestly don't remember anything of the limo ride, but finally we made it home!!

Since we've been home, we have been amazed at how well things have gone. From day one the kids have slept through the night and napped well. We had asked my mom to be available to help the first week because we thought we might have a difficult time, but we actually were just fine. It's amazing how much Madden has opened up since we got home. She just "talks" and smiles all the time and is finally crawling. Jackson has taken some steps, but after about two he realizes he isn't holding on to anything and plops down. They love the high chairs and are getting used to the car seats. They still have a very hard time with baths, but other than that it is just impossible to imagine that they have been home only a few weeks. We just couldn't have asked for a better adjustment!

So, we'll try to update our site when we can, but for now we are all happy, healthy and glad to be home!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Last post from Kazakhstan!!!

Well, it looks like we made it! We will be leaving for the airport in about 12 hours, which is 1:00 a.m. here. It's really strange- looking back it seems like the last month really went quickly, but when we think back to each individual day we remember feeling like the days were just dragging by. There were honestly a few times we felt like making a break for the nearest airport, but overall things went exactly as our agency said they would, which is a great thing because that is not the case for everyone who goes through this process.

We are so happy to be at the end, and promise to post some pictures from home as soon as we get settled in. It seems odd that we completely missed Thanksgiving and will only catch the tail-end of the Christmas season. However, things are pretty "christmasy" here. There are huge decorated Christmas trees and lights and Santas everywhere in Almaty. However, they are "New Years Trees" here, and I have no idea what they call Santa or how he is associated with New Years. It seems they just got caught up in our Christmas traditions and just found a place to fit them in. Anyway, whatever the reason, it's nice to have a little bit of Christmas here.

So, goodbye for now! Please send good vibes our way for a pleasant (ha,ha, ha) flight home!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

56 hours to go.....

OK, so we are seriously counting down the hours until we are home. We are done with everthing and have all of our documents from the embassy, so basically we are just waiting to get on the plane.

Yesterday we had our appointment for the kids' medical exams. The appointment was for 11:30, but it was almost 1:00 by the time we went in. It was so not fun trying to keep them entertained and quiet in the waiting room for so long. The good news is that we actually have some reliable info. Their weights, according to a real scale, are 17 lbs for Madden and 19 lbs for Jackson. I'm not sure what the purpose of the exam was because all they did was measure them, listen to them breathe, and look down their throats. I suppose if they had leprosy or something it might be obvious from this, but it really wasn't much of a screening by our government. You may wonder how I came up with such an obscure thing as leprosy, but that was just one of the strange conditions our doctors had to swear we didn't have. In fact, we actually had to arrange for a Notary Public to come witness the doctors signing that we didn't have any of the diseases. I'll never forget walking down to the lab with a form from my doctor saying I should be tested for HIV, syphillis, herpes, etc.... Such an experience this has been.

So, while I was with the nurse having Jackson weighed and measured, Kevin took Madden in to the exam room. Then the screams started. That girl is really something. 99% of the time she is smiling and totally mellow, but when she really doesn't like something she just starts screaming and screaming. It went on the entire time of the examination, which, as I said was very limited other than looking down the throat. She definitely has good lungs. It is just so hard to believe she can make so much noise. Jackson was perfectly fine with the examination, but for some reason really didn't want to have his pants put back on and started crying about that. Go figure.

Today we went to the embassy to get their passports and visas and immigration documents. And, of course, pay Uncle Sam. For some reason, in addition to the standard $380 per child, they also charge a $525 fee for processing two non-related children. I suppose we're supporting homeland security. Speaking of homeland security..... we met at our agency with our travel partners and another woman who is adopting with our agency and her mother who was with her as her husband had returned home to be with their other children, and then all of us, with all four babies walked to the embassy with a representative of our agency. So, as we approach the entrance, we see a guard raise his machine gun at us. Now, I'm sure this is standard procedure when someone approaches, but it was very odd to have someone point a gun at us. As we were entering the building, we went through a metal detector. Some of us beeped, but no one seemed to be concerned. Then, we had to have our bags searched. So, while we were doing this, I couldn't help noticing that many people coming in beeped the metal detector, and no one was doing anything about it. We, however, we being searched, had ID sticker stuck to each of us, and had to be escorted by armed guards up the elevator. We were allowed to bring our bags after they were searched, but for some reason they wouldn't allow Paula, our travel partner, to bring a tube of hand sanitizer. She had to leave it at the desk. We were joking about her having chemical weapons. Normally I am all for security and wouldn't joke, but after seeing everyone else coming through the door, setting off the alarms, and heading straight to the elevators unescorted, it was clear that security was selective.

We're pretty much just killing time until we get on the plane at this point. We will be heading to the airport at 1:00a.m. (yes, the middle of the night) on Thursday, which is I think 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday CA time. Needless to say we will be very tired and jet-lagged when we get home at 4:00 p.m. on Friday.

We don't have a whole lot to do when the kids are asleep, but we do get ESPN and Fox News along with something called "V" network in English. Of course, Kevin is thrilled with the ESPN, but the times are so messed up that there is usually nothing on. He did manage to find the weekend football games on early in the morning. On V we watched a show called "America's Next Top Model", which was really entertaining. So many catfights during their little modeling competitions, then a panel of very, very non-heterosexual men just rip the girls apart. Pretty entertaining. It's been good to have Fox News to hear some of the things going on in the world because after a month we are really out of touch. It seems like there have been lots of issues with planes in the news, but I suppose that makes it more likely that we will be just fine if I remember my statistics. Anyhow, it is also entertaining watching Kevin get worked up over the station not giving equal time to Democrats when they discuss the issues. Although I am certainly not the Democrat my husband is, even I had to find it a little suspect when every single commentator they had agreed that the president's speech was great. Oh well, it gave Kevin something to get fired up about while he is suffering from sports withdrawal.

So, that's about it here. We can't wait for our flight to be over! As I predicted, today I discovered that Jackson has 4 teeth starting to come in, and Madden seems to be getting a cold. Should really be a fun flight for us- definitely a birthday I won't soon forget!

Monday, December 19, 2005

4 days to go!!!

We've settled into a pretty good routine here in Almaty, and the time is passing much faster than it did in Uralsk. Thankfully the kids continue to nap two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon with minimal whining when they are put down.

It is amazing how much they have changed since we first met them. They seem to develope new skills and more personality everyday. Most exciting for us it that Madden finally found something she wanted to get to enough to crawl to it. She's only pulling herself along with her arms for now, but at least she has finally decided to try to get around. We're really laughing about what it was she decided to crawl to. As much as we have been trying to lure her with toys, it was the chrome pole legs of the kitchen table that she keeps crawling to. We have to laught because shortly before coming here when there was little else on TV we watched part of a Chris Rock comedy show and he was talking about how he had an infant daughter and that his only job as a father was to keep her off the (stripper) pole. So, Kevin may have his work cut out since she really likes the shiny pole. She is also doing better with sitting up, which is great.

Yesterday I went to a shopping mall called Tsum (zoom) with Paula our travel partner. The third floor of the mall is mostly souvenier items, and we had a good time. We took Madden in a stroller while Kevin and Troy stayed home with the boys. I did have one interesting experience at the mall. I'm sure I've mentioned how the people here take keeping children covered up very seriously. Well, I had taken off her snowsuit when we got in the mall, and thankfully I had brought a hat. Now, I've probably mentioned that it is very warm inside most places here, and poor Madden's hair was wet from sweat under the hat, but it's important to go with the flow when in public. So, I thought I was doing OK, but then this woman leaves her store and starts saying something very emphatically to me and pointing at Madden. Then she bends down and starts fiddling with Madden's legs. I finally figured out that she had slouched in her stoller and the legs of her pants had pulled up a bit so that there was an inch or two of her calf exposed between the pants leg and her socks. I managed to pull her pants down and tuck them into her socks because I seriously think the woman would have followed us if I hadn't fixed it. She was still mumbling something as we left. Even though our agency thoroughly warned us about keeping them covered and people treating babies as public property here I was still shocked to have some stranger come up and start touching my kid. All I can say is thank goodness I had a hat on her or I may have been detained by security.

Today we went to dinner at a place called Guiness Pub, which is another Irish pub type place. We each had a pint of Guiness beer, though Kevin didn't finish his. Normally, I do not drink beer at all, but over here it is pretty much beer or hard alcohol, so I decided to try it. It was so dark and tasted horrible, but hey, who am I to waste beer in an Irish pub. I also had rabbit soup, which was excellent, and "authentic" Irish stew, which was also pretty good. I like to try new things when given a chance, but Kevin on the other hand had a club sandwhich and french fries. The kids were pretty good, although Jackson has discovered that he can yell, and once they discover something new, they have to do it over and over.

Tomorrow we have appointments with a doctor from the US Embassy. From what I've heard, they don't really do much of an examination, but it is one of the requirements for them to enter the US. Other than that, more of the same.

As you can see from the title of this entry, we are counting the days until with get home!