Friday, March 21, 2008

Happy 1st Birthday Neil!!!!

Yup!! Today is Neil Hollis' 1st birthday!!! He turned 1!!! Coby and I thought about him all day long and got so excited thinking that this time next year we will get to be with him on his birthday!!

I have to say that today has been the most beautiful day of the year so far! Coby cut the grass for the first time this year, I did a little gardening and went over and talked with one of our new neighbors. Coby and I went out and hit golf was just a great day all around!

Yesterday Coby and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary!! I am so grateful that our little man is coming to us this time in our marriage....we are so ready now!

Well, I hope you all had a blessed Good Friday and had the opportunity to think and meditate on what this day is all about. The suffering of our Lord and what He did and gave up for us...HIS LIFE!! Thank you God for the suffering you suffered, so I would not have to!!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Pictures of our 'Second' First Trip...

Coby and I at the airport in Nashville waiting to leave.
View from our hotel room the day we arrived.The bottle lady outside the hotel. We still don't know what she is doing.....
Man it is cold....2 degrees.
Coby leaving the baby home...notice the coats the ladies are wearing...
A picture outside our hotel at 3am... This is the entrance to the fortress in our region....once was a prison.
Inside the fortress....
The beautiful temple in our region!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Tornadoes in Atlanta & Lost Luggage??

Well...we are home! And we are already wanting to go back!

We made it from our region to Moscow no problem. Although we did have a 2 hour drive from the airport to our hotel in Moscow and again the smells added headaches and chest pains and hallucinations!!!! At one point, we were driving through an underground tunnel for almost 15 min! I had to lay down in the back seat and close my eyes and think of my 'happy thoughts.' I had a Charmin wipe held to my nose the entire way to the hotel and by the time we got there, I had dried the cloth out.

Coby and I were hoping to go to Red Square and tour around, but we felt so 'sick' once we got the hotel, that we ended up staying in. We also found out that we were not as close to the RS as we thought. (A $50 cab ride, or jumping on the metro and going for about 30min) So we thought we will have more time our next time in Moscow when we return and the weather will be better and we will do it then!

Moscow was cold and a little rainy..but not bad. We asked where we could eat and they said there was a KFC right across the street. GREAT!!! Coby LOVES KFC, so we were happy. We had to go under the street in a walking tunnel to get there. OK.....we thought the 2 hour drive was bad, the tunnel smelled like a nasty truck stop bathroom and everyone smokes under there, and there is no ventilation.....I know you all can picture this! YUCK! Coby and I couldn't get through the tunnel maze fast enough. Just to find out that the KFC basically was....well.....lets just say it was NOT Americanized! Coby and I ended up ordering our food and sat down and looked at each others food and switched. We ended walking out still hungry.

On the way back we stopped off at the little market next door and bought the essentials......chocolate and Aqua (water). On our way in the market there was a car parked on the side walk with a sign in the window that we think said FOR SALE....that is the only thing that made sense. And Coby looks and the amount of rubbles it was being sold for and Coby laughs and says, "This car is for sale for $85!" is the funny part....we just spent $100 in the airport because our luggage was 'illegally' over the weight limit......don't get Coby and I started on that. And we see a car for sale in the streets of Moscow for less money...I mean less rubbles??? Crazy!! I told Coby I thought we should buy it for $85, and then take the sign out of the window and sell it for $100 and make our luggage money back! The thought actually entertained our thoughts while we were in the market....but we decided to pass. How funny would that be.....we go to Russia and come home with a baby and a CAR! I can't imagine what they would charge us for being overweight for the car!

Well....we left in the morning for the airport and get there and the fog is so thick you could cut of course, we are delayed. We arrived at the airport around 9:30am for a 11:30 flight...and we don't leave until about 4pm. NOT FUN! But...Coby made a friend with a group of college kids from I think South Carolina and one of the guys was the starting center for the football team and so they talked sports for a while. Amazing what boys can talk about when they don't know each is the 'universal man language.'

Then we sat next to a man who we notices spoke perfect English and perfect Russian. He worked for the military and lived in Russia with his wife and 2 kids, but goes back to the states to work every few months. He translated all the announcements that were being said and told us 2 guys sitting next to us were drunk and they were looking for their luggage and basically gave us more insight into the Russian people....he said that Russian's could give the Irish a run for their money when drinking their Vodka...

Once we arrived over Atlanta...they were still having bad weather and we could see it from the plane, it was amazing! So they were in a holding pattern for about 20 extra min before we landed. 11 hours and almost 45min later.....we arrive in Atlanta. We were told we missed our connecting plane to Nashville and they put us on the later flight. We go through customs and RUN to our gate and they said that our first flight was actually delayed and had not left yet and we were still on that flight. So we RAN to the opposite end of the airport because they told us the plane was leaving in 10min.....great! We get there and they were not even boarding yet. We finally get in and arrive in Nashville and of course.....our luggage doesn't make it.

So, we are driving home with our friends Michael and Sarah....Thank you a million times over!!!!! and we realize that no one has a house key. Sound familiar? We had the same thing happen the last time we came home from Russia and we found our hide a key...thank goodness! But this time, we knew the key was not there, so we drove to M&S's house and got the key and got home at 12:30am Sunday morning!!!

So, we woke up Sunday around 12:30pm and Coby went off to work and I did laundry and then we both woke up this morning around 3am wide awake. So I made a big breakfast for Coby and I around 4am and he just left at 5am for work and I decided to blog!

It's good to be home, the trip was wonderful and beautiful and educational and just great all around. We have already said 10 times that we are ready to go back and we want to be there now! I am very encouraged and thankful again for all these things that went on and I love to see God's hands move us in His direction in His time and in His way....and He did that this past week.

The one thing that we did not even have was fear! It never showed its face to either one of us the entire trip. Even the jitters on the plane were so quick, that we didn't think anything of it once they passed. God says not to fear and that His grace is always upon us. Before leaving, my fear was fear itself. Now I can say that when you tell God you are fearful and realize that is what it is, He will take it and replace it with so much joy and sometimes just a calm peaceful feeling that is nothing more then the lack of fear itself in you. What a restful thought to meditate on!

My prayer for you all is many peaceful, fearless, restful moments filled by God alone!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Winter Wonderland

OK…my turn.

Coby and I are sitting here in our room waiting for Natasha to call us and tell us the plan for the rest of the day…so I thought I might just say a little something.
It snowed all night and it has not stopped yet today. The entire town is under a beautiful white sheet of fresh untouched snow. Sitting here on the 6th floor and looking down at, I just wish you all could see it. Woman are walking around in their thick long fur coats and gloves with fur hats that add another foot to their height. Scarves around their necks and if their coats have hoods, they are pulled up. The ladies coats, whether fur or not, have fur around the rim of the hood and the sleeves cuffed. They look like dolls walking around with a ring of fur around their faces and wrists. It is quite beautiful to see.
The men are mostly in black and they too have the tall hats with the sides that fold down to cover their ears. They too have the gloves and the scarves and usually a cigarette out of the side of their mouth that they can puff and blow without using their hands. Crazy! Coby keeps telling me that he is going to pick up smoking. It is all that we smell around here. We were talking to Natasha yesterday on our drive back from the orphanage and she told us that cancer is the leading cause of death here due to the pollution of the coal mines……..I couldn’t find it in me to correct her and tell her it was probably due to all the smoking…’s probably a combination of the two.
The children are out about as well. They are in ski jackets and snow bibs and they too have the fur around their heads and scarves around their necks. Some kids have gloves, and some not...that I don’t get. They are so cute. You could push one over and they would bounce right back up due to all the padding they have on.
One thing that is missing, and I have yet to see anyone wearing them, are snow boots. No one is wearing them and I mean no one!!! I am the only one! The ladies wear boots with 2 inch heals and the men wear dress shoes with pointy toes. The soles of the shoes look no thinker then a pancake. It is crazy!!! Some ladies have wedges on their boots, but that is it. And they walk this way! We have yet to see anyone fall, but that could be because they walk SO FAST!! Mom, I think they could really give you a run for your money! They are so quick! My thoughts are because it is so cold…they have to!
And the weather changes so fast! One min. it is snowing and windy and you can feel your face lose feeling and the next the sun is out and the snow is beginning to melt. We walked to the market 2 days ago and going there it was cold, but the sun was out and I was wearing sun glasses. By the time we walked out of the market, it was a blizzard!! You had to cover your face completely, walk looking at the ground and Coby and I held onto each other so we wouldn’t blow away. Crazy!
But we really have loved every min. I have to thank God and praise Him and Him alone for this trip. It has been a complete turn around! Coby has smiled so much, we are both have so much more fun, we are enjoying the company of our translator and agency and we both feel sad today knowing we are saying goodbye to our Neil for a little while. I can honestly say, I can’t wait to come back and I know Coby feels the same way.
Our adventure…yup, I can call it that…has been kind of like the store of the Vineyard Workers in Matthew 20. (I am studying Matthew so I find so many similarities from there) The story talks about a landowner that hires workers throughout the day to work in his vineyard. He agrees to pay them all the same amount of money, but they all started working at different times of the day. At the end of the day, the landowner calls the workers he hired last, first, and the first hired, he calls them last. Then he pays all the workers the same amount of money. Whether they worked all day or just a few hours, he pays them what he agreed to pay them when he hired them.
I picture Coby and me as the workers who were hired first. We were the first ones to begin our adoption journey and we have watched all our other adoption families come after us and finish and given their child. Here we are…..we were the first, but now we are the last. But we are all paid the same……we will all receive our children at the end of the day. For that I am happy! It might not seem fair that we went through so much and our time was longer, but we were told that we would be given a child…..and at the end of the day, God will give us the child that He has so perfectly promised us.
Well, we are off to the orphanage in about 30 min. I will kiss the baby 100 x’s over from all of you!!!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Scorpions!!! What?!!!

Scratch that…this dude is going to be a tight end. Standby for an explanation.
Well we just got back from spending our second day with our little man and let’s put it this way, we were trying to figure out if he would fit in Brandy’s backpack so we could sneak him out and bring him home now. Unfortunately everyone walked in right when we had both legs and one arm in so we had to put him back.
Backing up….we woke up this morning around 6am (our bodies are so messed up), threw some clothes on and went to the restaurant in the hotel for breakfast.
We knew Natalia would be calling around 9am to let us know when we would be going to the notary public to officially petition to adopt him.
Long story short, Natalia told us it would be 1pm before she came to get us so we decided to go for a walk (in 9 degree temperatures) to the store about 10 minutes away to pick up a few things.
When we got back we found out the entire area around our hotel was in a blackout and which meant the elevator didn’t work. So we had to trek up 6 flights of stairs to our floor.

Funny Story of the Day

I’m not sure if you had to be here to witness it but we got to our room and one of the housekeepers was inside. She had just finished cleaning and had a new comforter in her hand along with some brand new sheets.
She notices us and starts spewing off about a 30 second statement in Russian. Here’s the funny part…Brandy was nodding along as if she understood and when Natalia (I’m sure that was her name) finished talking, Brandy responded, “Oh, ok. Got it. That sounds fine.” I’m not sure if this translates to funny as you’re reading, somebody let me know. It was very funny to witness in person.
Anyways, Natalia picked us up and we went to the Notary Public. It’s official, we have “petitioned to adopt” little Neil. As we signed the documents, Natasha was fighting back tears because of what we’ve been through. We are both very, very excited this day has finally come.

I Think She Was Trying To Proposition Us

While waiting to go into the Notary’s office, a woman from Canada was sitting in the lobby with us, talking to us.
She made small talk with Brandy and me. I guess we made quite an impression because when we were done and leaving the office she told Natasha we were her new friends and gave us her phone number.
She said tonight, give her a call and she’ll walk us around the town…whatever that means.
Natasha thought she was weird and wanted to “walk” around our hotel room.
So we get picked up at 2:30 by our driver and go to the baby home with yet another German couple who was going to pick up their 3 year old daughter after completing court.
On the way there, I noticed a billboard that said, “Scorpions World Tour 2008.” I’m sure I just misread it but on the way back home from the orphanage, there it was again.
Yes the Scorpions are going to be playing in Novokuznetsk in April if anybody isn’t doing anything and wants to relive the 80’s hairband genre. Apparently it’s just getting around to this part of the world.
I can’t wait for them to discover M.C. Hammer, but they’re easily 5 or 6 years out from that.
Now to the moment you’ve all been waiting for. They took us to a room upstairs in the orphanage that was designed in a Montessori School motif. It was really cool with different zones to help with different learning stations.
A minute later, in walked the Doctor (Natalia) with our little Neil. Today’s outfit was a onesy (?Sp) with a vest over a buttoned down collared shirt.
He immediately smiled at us and we were hooked again. We got to play with him for about two hours, which was great and tiring all at the same time.
We laid him on his back, played some games with his legs. The cutest thing was we took his sock off and I’m pretty sure that’s the first time he has seen his bare feet. (See the picture)
He kept wiggling and scrunching his toes and at one point just held his foot for about two minutes straight. It was ridiculously cute.
Now to the tight end part…they had this inflated globe hanging from the ceiling so I picked him up and we went to play with it. He took full swings at it and would just wallop the globe. Then as it was flying back at him, he would catch it with both hands. He’s 11 months old!!!!! I think the Chargers are already scouting him and I’m pretty sure I saw Pete Carroll come up from outside the window to catch a glance. If you don’t believe it and think we’re making it up, we have video to prove it.
Well our time was up and they asked if we wanted to see his room and the area he plays with the other babies.
Of course we said yes and we walk upstairs, turn the corner, and there must’ve been 15 babies just staring at us like little puppies asking us to take them home. It was very sweet but very sad at the same time.
They set our little man down in the middle of them (he is by far the cutest of them all, but we’re not biased) and he immediately started crawling towards a truck on the floor that was his size and started playing with it.
We also got to the see the crib room where he slept. This was a great day!
So tomorrow we go back for our final visit at 2:30. Neither one of us are sure how we are going to be able to leave him. We’re trying not to think about it. We will update you all after our visit.

Das Vidania,
Brandy and Coby

P.S. We have a slight update about Andrey #1. It turns out he is still in the orphanage but in a separate room with other children who are sick as well. Today they actually took him to the hospital because he was sick. So say a little prayer for Andrey. It sounds like he needs it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

He's Very Pretty!!!!

Hello from Day Two of Operation Neil, Part Two. Man are our bodies screwed up.
We went to bed around 11pm local time, which is 11am Nashville time and about 3:30 in the morning, woke back up.
And naturally we did what anybody would do in our situation, you guessed it, we popped in Fever Pitch.
We eventually went back to sleep for a couple of hours, but by 8:30, we were up and ready to go.
We went to breakfast, went for a walk (although it wasn’t a long one because it’s frickin cold outside), grabbed some lunch, and got ready to go.
Natasha picked us up at 2:00pm and we were on our way to the baby home to meet our little boy for the first time.

Quick Quiz

For 50 points, can anyone name a funny moment the last time we went to the baby home for the first time?
That’s right, the dreaded shoe covers. And I’m happy to report they still don’t fit my feet.
I stretched them to sort of cover my feet and as we walked to the directors office, the lady that greeted us at the door was following us, staring at my feet, and saying something like, “you know what they say about the size of a man’s feet…torn shoe covers.” (In Russian of course)

Quick Quiz #2

For 75 points, can anyone name the name of the doctor who is caring for our boy. I’ll give you a minute to think about it……….that’s right Natalia!! Anyone two for two on the quizzes?
So we sit in Ludmila, the orphanage director’s office. Natalia, the doctor and Natalia/Natasha, our translator are ping ponging back and forth the medical reports. Natalia would say things in Russian, Natasha would translate in English.
Do you remember the scene in Saved By The Bell (did you know I went to high school with Tiffani Amber-Thiessen) where the history teacher who spoke at the speed of light was reviewing for a test and all the students were burning up their papers because they were writing so fast?
Well that is exactly how you can visualize Brandy trying to keep up. It was quite comical.
After 15 minutes or so, they were done giving us the rundown of his medical history and the last thing on the list was, “he’s very pretty.” (Brandy underlined that on her notes)
They asked us if we had any questions…we said no…they then said are you ready to see him.
We replied yes, and five seconds later, the door opened, and in walked a man about 55 years old with sideburns and about the height of my mother. (5’4” in case you were wondering)
This was the carpenter who had perfect timing. All of us cracked up in hysterics when he walked in. Poor guy was just returning some keys and had no idea why we were laughing at him.
Anyways, about a minute later, in walked the caretaker with our little man. I think “pretty” was a perfect way to describe him. Blonde hair, blueish-grey eyes, two dimples and a smile that lit up the room.
And this kid is a chunk. He’s either going to be a defenseman for the Preds or a linebacker at USC.
We were hooked right away. We couldn’t wait to get him to the playroom and hang with him.
He took to both of us immediately although he bonded with Brandy a lot more than me, which is fine.
He laughed, he cried (he’s teething), and he just hung out with us, playing with toys. His favorite by far was a tambourine that he shook from hand to hand. Maybe we have a musician on our hands.
We got to play with him for nearly two hours before they came in and took him for his dinner.
We must say, the immediate feeling we had of how perfect he was for us, was overwhelming.
So now we’re back at the hotel. We are going to have dinner with the German couple we met yesterday. They went to court today and are officially parents. So we’re excited to hear all about it.
Natasha will pick us up in the morning and take us to the notary public where we will do the official “petition to adopt.” The process will be rolling and the only thing left will be to wait for a court date.
We will then go to the baby home again at 2pm and will get another couple hours with our man. We can’t wait.
Thanks to everyone for your prayers for this day. We both know they have been answered.

Until Tomorrow,
Brandy and Coby

P.S. This is Brandy…..It was amazing to see this little boy, he really is pretty!! I also wanted to say that my Saturday morning ASK’s given by Pat at the speed of light REALLY helped when writing everything down that the Dr. was giving!! Keep praying the way you all are, they are being felt and answered and today was proof of that!!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

So That’s What Happened to Him!

Back by popular demand….me! :-)
Well we made it to Novokuznetsk where the local time is 8:44 am, Monday the 10th.
Let me first explain the title of this blog. We landed in Moscow and walked off the plane on the tarmac and you’ll never guess who was pulling bags off….give up? Yup it was Milli, or was it Vanilli? Which ever one is still alive, it was him.
All I could keep singing in my head was, “Baby, don’t you lose my luggage.” (Any Rob and Fav fans out there?)
All things being said, this trip has started out much better than the last one, for the most part.
We woke up Saturday morning to the snow storm of the century. Nashville was blanket with 1 to 3 to 6 inches of snow, depending on which weathercaster you were listening to.
This was a bit concerning to us because we weren’t sure how this would affect plane travel, knowing our layover in Atlanta was 2 ½ hours before the flight left for Moscow.
And before getting to the airport, we had to drop Trot and Pebbles off at Trot’s biological (as Brandy calls them) parents house.
Thanks to our friends Jenny and Jonny who picked us up at 7:45 am and played dog taxi and airport taxi for us.
Well we get to the airport and notice our flight was still scheduled on time, which was 11:50 but I noticed the 8:50 Atlanta flight was delayed until 12:38pm. Being the investigative journalist that I am, this threw up a red flag.
When we checked in, we asked if our flight was on time and the attendant said, “yes” but just to be safe, put us on a flight that was scheduled to leave at 10:50. (Confused yet?)
Well it gets to be 10:40 and no sign of our plane yet. But our original flight shows up and the people board on it and it takes off. This stressed Brandy out a bit but the lady at the desk assured us we would be fine and we were. We actually left at 11:56 so we made it to Atlanta with plenty of time.
While waiting in Atlanta, we met a couple from Carrollton, Georgia, on the Alabama border, who was going on their second trip to pick up their son.
They actually sat behind us on the flight to Moscow so it was cool getting to know them.

Smell Story #1

We’re boarding the plane to Moscow, which surprisingly had a number of Russians on it J, and this dude who was already sitting on the plane when we boarded, jumps up between Brandy and me and grabs something out of the overhead bin.
His armpit was perfect level with my nose and quickly reminded me, as if I had forgotten, of the lack of deodorant use by the Ruskies.

Anyways, the flight was good minus a few turbulent moments where we thought there was a chance we were going to be fish food.
Our luggage arrived safely and we met our driver (same one). Since we had about 10 hours until our flight to our region, we booked a hotel where we were able to get about 6 good hours of sleep. This really helped.
Vadim picked us back up at 7 and took us to the next airport, which was about an hour drive.
More good news, our flight was on time and we only had about an hour to kill once we got through the check-in process.
We took off at 10:05 pm (2:05am in our region, 2:05 pm in Nashville, 12:05 pm in California) and landing to a snowy, windy Novokuznetsk at 6:05 am local time.
To our surprise (I thought she didn’t work with our agency anymore), Natasha was there to pick us up.
We arrived at our hotel, check into the exact same room we stayed in last time and went for our free breakfast.
While at breakfast, we met a couple who’s here from Germany and is with CHI as well. They are both doctors, one is a virologist, and are both going to court tomorrow as they complete their adoption of a 5 and 3 year old brother tandem.
We told them about our experience so far and about our first Andrey and they were able to really enlighten us about a lot of things that make a lot of sense.
It was a blessing meeting them and we plan to have dinner with them tomorrow night after they’ve gone to court.
So the plan now for us involves, sleep, eat and sleep again. We go to the orphanage tomorrow at 2:30pm for our first visit. Natasha says this Andrey is robust, a little chunk.
That’s all for now. We’ll update you after our first visit.

Brandy and Coby

P.S. Sarah, Brandy says your CDS you gave her were great and helped with the flights.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

We leave in 2 days and I have PEACE!!!

How exciting! I sit here this morning and I am going through a lot in my head of what I need to finish before Saturday morning....and it really isn't too much. Can I just say how loving our Heavenly Father is! He has provided such PEACE in my life this week, and I know it is only from Him alone!

I went back and read some blogs I wrote before our first 'first trip' and they encouraged me. I read over the versus that I wrote and realized that I wrote those down at that time because they inspired me....but I also wrote them because God knew I would need them again, and I did.

John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you that in Me you may have PEACE. In this world you will have tribulation, but be of GOOD CHEER, I HAVE OVER-COME THE WORLD!

Romans 5:1-2 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have PEACE with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Ephesians 2:14 For He Himself is our PEACE...

Isaiah 41:10 FEAR NOT, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, YES, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. v.13- For I, the LORD your GOD, will hold your right hand, Saying to you, 'FEAR NOT, I will help you.'
42:2- When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.

What awesome promises!!!! The last Isaiah verse I love because it says that we will not even be scorched! That is God's protection. When we received our referral over a month ago, we really didn't know how we felt about it all. But I can say now that God's peace comes so perfectly! I know it, claim it and follow it! Thanks you guys for your prayers and thoughts and being patient with Coby and I as well. It's odd to have feelings that are unknown and then know what to do with those feelings, we don't always make the right choices. Thanks for loving us all the same!

Well, I am going to get going and start packing and finish my running around. Coby started his new shift at work this week and I must say that we are blessed for that! He is home around 3:30pm and it is wonderful!!

Check out our friend Michael and Carrie's blog if you have a second....they received a court date and they are going back the day after we get home!!!! Congrats guys!!!