Thursday, April 29, 2010

Celebration Dinners

In our normal lives, every time that something good happens and we have any reason to celebrate we go out for a celebration dinner. Tonight we would definitely be going out for a celebration dinner, but instead are talking about where we would go if we were home!! Our Bonding Period is now complete and we received promising news on our home study update this morning! Right now we are waiting on some updated paperwork that needs to be sent to us. We are in a small holding pattern until we get that. Once the paperwork arrives, our coordinator will be able to request a court date. The days here are long and each day is a whole new emotional roller coaster!

Today’s visit with D was pretty low key and we mostly did arts & crafts. He’s about done with being in front of the camera for all the constant “official” photos for court each day. He’d much rather be behind the camera taking pictures of everything and anything. I felt a little guilty today, because I lied to him…but I’m sure it’s for the greater good. He didn’t like one of the pictures that he took and wanted to delete it and asked how to do that. We told him there wasn’t a way to delete! So scared he would accidentally delete “official” photos. I’m sure it’s the first of millions and just part of being a mom, but it made me think…

Our life right now is a series of steps, processes and things to handle. We raise our glasses and toast to completing two major steps on our journey today and in the words of Jay-Z…”On To The Next One”!


Cort & Dust

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Trip to the Bazaar- 13th Day of Bonding!

Today we were able to take D on a supervised trip to the Bazaar to buy a few more clothes items! We were so excited! It was his first time in a taxi and he was very excited, but once he got in the car he went silent! He was taking everything in and was on sensory overload. He sat in the middle between us the back and was a perfect rider! Hoping he keeps that with him! Once we got to the Bazaar, he held my hand and didn’t let go for the remainder of our outing. He didn’t ask for one thing and we had to really coax him to tell us if he liked a pair of pants we found for him. Of course, like any boy, he didn’t want to try them on! We bought the pants and traded the jacket we got him for a bigger size and that was enough for one day! As we were headed out we stopped to get him an ice cream. He held a napkin in one hand and would wipe his mouth and fingers after each bite – hope he keeps that as well! In the taxi ride back you could tell we had drained him and he looked so tired!

All in all, it was a great first experience taking him out of his element. I was worried that he would ask for everything he saw. Dust and I talked about it over breakfast this morning…how we would handle not buying him everything. Although I know it wasn’t a wasted conversation, it wasn’t needed for today! Where he is comfortable he is a totally different kid, it’s going to take some time to adjust to things here, let alone back home.

Still no concrete news on our home study paperwork, but we have a few potentials that we are working on… Cross your fingers for us!


PS – I had the MOST delicious pancakes this morning stuffed with apricot jelly, kind of like a crepe.

One of the girls in D's house, wrote this and gave it to us.  To the best of her ability, she spelled out our names, Dustin on top, Cortney on bottom and D's in the middle.
One of D's favorite things is the camera, he loves to take pics and then view them!  Above is a pic he took of me and below is one he took of Dustin.
The view from our balcony to the left.  The things in the center of the pic are the other balconies to our left.  We are on the 7th floor.  The pipes on the ground are the heat pipes for the building.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On the 12th Day of Bonding...

Today we met D at his house getting ready to play outside with his friend; the only 2 boys not in school today. Both he and his friend were wearing the sun glasses we gave out yesterday; way to share! This is round #2 for the sun glasses; a whole day without breaking! He wanted to go play in the library again, probably to get out of the heat. We can’t believe how hot it has gotten here already; thank goodness they finally turned off the heat in the apartments! Unfortunately we packed for Antarctica, but we make due where we can. We brought a new art set today including crayons, markers, paint, pencils, etc., all packed up in a little briefcase he can carry around. His favorite part of the whole kit was the pencil sharpener! He had to re-sharpen every pencil in the kit and then sharpen the opposite end so you could write with either side. It’s funny the things we think he’ll like only last 5 minutes and the trivial things entertain for hours! After the kit was snack time; apple juice and a toy water gun filled with jelly beans. Every time we bring him a drink, he’ll shake it near the end to see how much is left. If just a little bit is left, he’ll want us to cut off the top to make sure he gets every drop! We’ve been working on his counting in English and some mannerisms like Please and Thank You. He’s getting really good at counting and will even anticipate and count by himself! He’s learning so quickly. After snack time, we filled up the water gun and went outside to “water” the trees. The gun wasn’t well made, so he just opened the cap and watered all the newly planted trees from Saturday. Once it was time to say good-bye again this afternoon, we were told we may have the opportunity to take D to the bazaar tomorrow to go shopping! I hope we get to go, that will be very exciting to get him out of his element and let him pick out some things he likes!!

As far as our paperwork goes, we are still looking to find a solution to our home study update. We just recently learned that we need the paperwork changes to apply for a court date, not just by the court date! We’re still working with a couple independents and our former agency to come to an agreement; we’ll keep you posted.

P.S. – Sorry for the typo in the link to Lonely Toys!! Here is the correct link:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Lonely Toys & Clothes

Dear Online Community,

While in Kazakhstan adopting our son, we have found a hole that we
would like to fill. Kids Village, the orphanage our son is from, is
funded by the government. They only receive funding for bare
essentials. We visited the house that he lives in with 7 other
children and there was only one toy in the house, a lonely yellow
remote controlled taxi - with missing batteries. The kids wear
whatever is available - all the children (boys and girls) share the
same clothes. We have decided to reach out to our community to see
what we can do to help Kids Village out! We'd like to raise money
that we can use to buy toys and clothes locally for the children at
Kids Village.

Please check out the page that we have created for this and help out
if you're able. We'd appreciate you spreading the word about Lonely
Toys so that we can help the children out as much as we can.

We can't wait to post pictures on lonely toys when we hand out all
the new clothes and toys!

We genuinely appreciate all of the support! As you can imagine, this
is very close to our hearts and we see the void here with our own eyes
everyday. We know first-hand how much the simple things can improve
these kids' lives!

Dustin & Cortney Stone

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Day 10

Our bonding days are flying by! Today we had a couple other kids that wanted to come play with D and us, so we all painted and drew away the morning. We worked on some English words a little more, he can count to 10 with help and our favorite is when he gets to 3 which he pronounces as flea (so cute)! His fave new English word is bubbles. We brought some today thinking that he probably wouldn’t be interested…boy were we wrong. It was bubbles, bubbles, bubbles for the rest of the time! Catch bubbles with your hands, shoot bubbles with an airplane, catch bubbles on the wand. Make tiny bubbles, big bubbles and of course eat the bubbles!!! We would have never guessed he would have so much fun with bubbles! A 10 year old girl in D’s house brought me a book in English today to show me that she will start working with D everyday to teach him English! I was so impressed! Of course, the book was an adult grammar book, but we loved her sweetness!
We are doing great but are sooo hot! They turned the heat off at our translator’s apartment, but not at ours yet…we are crossing our fingers for any day! Today we were going to paper, rock, scissors to see who had to cook dinner in the hot kitchen, but luckily Dust just said he would do it! We went back to the bazaar to try round 2 for jeans for D. Found some that we think will work, but I thought that last time!!! Today I remembered the measuring tape though!
The Stone’s

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Spring Cleaning Day - Bonding Day

Today all over Kazakhstan was Spring Cleaning Day.  All schools students and business employees go to clean their respective buildings.  They cleaned, re-painted, did yard work.  Pretty impressive.  At Kids Village it was the same!  All the children and staff were outside freshening up the buildings and surrounding areas. During this time, Kids Village plants a couple trees each year.  This year they wanted us to plant a tree with D right in front of his house.  They said that they wanted to name the tree after him so that they could remember him after he went to America.  To say that this 4 year old was a BIG help planting the tree was an understatement.  He wanted to do EVERYTHING that Dustin did.  He was holding the shovels and kept saying that he could do it himself; he never got tired and never lost interest!  It's hard work for a little boy, but what a trooper!  They only wanted him to hold the tree, but he HAD to dig the hole with his Papa...too cute!

We were so impressed with Kids Village and so happy that they let us be a part of this experience!

Not to mention, we saw first hand what help he will be back at home!!!  :)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bonding Day 8

We arrived today to find a bald spot in the back of D’s head! We asked what happened and apparently he was chewing gum last night and put it on his pillow and forgot about it. When he fell asleep last night, it got stuck in his hair, so they shaved it out. Lovely…little boys, gotta love ‘em! We brought all of his new clothes and tried everything on. He especially loved his new shoes that fit him and his sunglasses! He walked around all the office and showed everybody his new sunglasses because he looked so cool! Each new shirt or pants we tried on him, he had to walk out of the room and go see what it looked like in the mirror! It was adorable, he really loved everything…especially the socks and shirts with cars and motorcycles! I can only imagine that making the monumental switch from briefs to boxers can be hard thing to do!!! We brought him so new underwear (boxers) and he said that they weren’t underwear, just shorts and that is how he was going to wear them!!
During snack time today, he worked on learning the names of all of our family in the photo album that we made for him. (PS – Leah, we get complimented on the photo album allll the time!) He knows Sadie’s name without hesitation and also has Chandler and Nyah down. For some reason he really struggles with Tyler, Leah, Christen & Todd! He keeps calling both sets of grandparents the Russian term for grandparents! I know that our moms will just love being called babushka (sp?)! We also worked on counting in 5 to English and learned the English words for ball, juice, thank you, help me and ok! He now loves high 5 time with Dust and I! Every time he does something he looks to us like “are you going to say high 5”? Cuteness!
After snacks, we were able to go to a soccer stadium next door and play with a new soccer ball. We had so much fun and he loved running around. He loved to wear sunglass like mama & papa today and wanted to take pics of all of us in our shades! He didn’t bring a coat with him so he wore my hoodie which looked like some kind of Monk robe on him!

Cortney & Dustin Stone

Typical Day in Kaz...for those of you who are interested...

We get up at about 7:00 in the morning and check email, eat breakfast, shower and get ready to go to the orphanage to visit D. Our driver/translator pick us up about 9:45 and we head over to Kids Village (about a 10 minute ride from our apartment).
We play and spend time with D from 10:00AM until about noon. After that, we typically head home or head to the Irtish Hotel to have lunch and check email and post an update to the blog. By mid-afternoon we clean up the apartment and take a trip to the market for items for dinner. We usually watch a TV show (right now we are in the middle of Heroes & Always Sunny in Philadelphia) on the laptop for awhile and then make dinner. After dinner we read or play games until about 8:00 PM when we get on the internet and try to Skype with fam & friends. Once we’re finally frustrated of the internet dropping (gotta love dial-up), we head to bed about 10:30 – 11 and watch a little TV before trying to fall asleep.

Also in the afternoons, we work-out, do a load of laundry, go toy shopping, etc…depending on the day.

And then we get up and do it all over again!!! We are REALLY looking forward to getting high speed internet installed in our apartment, which should be ANY day! By doing that, hopefully we’ll be able to work in the afternoons/evenings!


In reading through some of the blog comments about our home study update, we were so embarrassed that so many people did not know where we were from. WHOOPS! We are from Texas and very proud of that! I’ll try to throw a couple more y’alls into my posts!

Also, on the home study front, we think we have found a lady to help us in Austin...thanks Dad!

We could go on and on about how disappointed we are with our former agency right now...but we will refrain. Karma...


Bonding Day 7

We were able to meet the official Orphanage Director today as she was back from vacation. Super nice lady; as is all the staff @ Kids Village…we really lucked out. At first we met with the Director and with the representative from the Guardianship office to make sure that everything was going ok during our visits. Today was movie day! We brought Ratatouille and Tom & Jerry in Russian. He’d stay interested for a couple minutes, but then would want to play with his new police motorcycle. We put together the Spiderman puzzle again and he is getting faster at finishing it each time. We played with a new game on our cell phone that let him be a pilot and fly a plane – loved it! Today we got to spend about 3 hours with him and when it was time for us to go, we got to walk him to his house. He told us that he didn’t want to go to his home and that he wanted to come home with us to America and that he would fly on a plane to get there! We’re making progress everyday!!

Right after the visit, we went with another coupe here from Canada and our translator to the shopping mall to have lunch and do some clothes shopping for our kids. Lunch was delicious; we had dumplings stuffed with meat and potatoes and bread stuffed with potatoes. We went outside to the Bazaar which is kind of like an outdoor market/flea market type of place. You can get things really inexpensively and can haggle over prices. We found all sorts of new clothes, shoes, coat etc for D and of course a couple of toys as well! We got some great items for future “GOTCHA DAYS” and had fun with everyone! Big purchase of the afternoon – a fan!!!! After shopping for hours, we quickly took a taxi home and dropped off our bags and freshened up. We then took another taxi over to a fellow American’s apartment to meet her and have dessert. It was fun to meet her and hear all about her travels as well.

It was a long day and by the time we got home, we were beat!

Let me paint you a picture of our nights…

It’s 11:30PM and you are in bed (the small, hard bed) trying to fall asleep, but you can’t. It’s freakishly warm in the apartment and your only hope is a cool breeze, so you open the window. No idea where the wind is blowing, but it’s definitely not in the direction of your window. Opening the window also means letting in the outside air and apparently there is a chain-smoking family on the balcony right above your window. Perfect. Just as you are about to finally drift off, someone’s viper car alarm goes off…again. The sound machine app on your iPhone is up so loud to drown out the noise from outside that it actually becomes a distraction and is no longer part of the solution but is part of the problem.

To all of you sleeping soundly in your air-conditioned houses with ceiling fans and pillow top mattresses – you’d think I’d envy you, but I don’t. There’s no where else in the world that I would rather be. In a few short hours I’ll wake up and have one more night down. I’ll get to go play with my son and be one day closer to having my whole family home with me…in my air-conditioned house with ceiling fans and pillow top mattresses.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bonding Day 6

Today’s activities included playing with an airplane transformer, painting, snack time, a Spiderman puzzle and playing with some toy guns. Although D loved playing guns, we think his favorite part of the day was snack time! We brought some cookies with chocolate in the middle and what we thought was a juice box. The juice box was actually a strawberry milk shake (strawberry milk) and he really enjoyed it! He wanted every drip of the milkshake and even asked us to cut the top once he could no longer get the last drips with the straw. He kept shaking it and could hear that there was still a little bit left! He shared the cookies with both of us and made sure to polish off every last crumb! He tipped the bag upside down to make sure there was nothing left! He is a great eater! We originally thought he would lose interest in the Spiderman puzzle, but he actually stuck it out and he completed the whole 48 piece puzzle! We brought out the guns and his eyes lit up. Amazingly, he didn’t want to shoot at people and actually said “Don’t worry, I wont shoot you”. We fired at some makeshift targets and bounced off the walls. He loved it; I think mainly because Dust and I were the ball gophers! He shot Dust once in the head and he played dead. D came over and started petting his arm nicely to wake him up; cute! At one point, a ball rolled behind the book case. Dust moved it out a bit and D had no problem going in after it. When it was time to leave, we let him take back both guns and the ammo; one for him and his best friend. We helped him get his shoes back on and told him bye at which point he gave us both a hug and kiss. We told him we’d be back again tomorrow; maybe bring some candy and a movie – which sounds pretty good to us after the exhausting day of ball chasing! ;)

Kitchen inside of D's house @ Kids Village
Dustin on D's bed

Right before date night to Classic Pizza

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bonding Day 5

Today we brought some new toys to try out; a picture-card memory game and a small Lego race car. The memory game was quickly figured out and became boring. The lego car was fun, we followed the instructions and finally pieced together the car; I think it was a little too tough though because all the pieces were pretty small. We colored and painted for a bit, then gave him another kinder egg. This time he remembered about the egg, took it apart to eat the chocolate and open the toy inside. His memory is very good and surprising!! However, in the end, he wanted to see our cell phone to play some more games on. :) We were having such a good time today that we were moving into his second breakfast time. We could also tell he was getting sleepy from all the playing. Today we asked D if he enjoyed us being with him and if he would want us to be his Mama and Papa! He immediately said yes; what a great thing to hear!! We packed up our toys and got him ready to go eat; putting on his coat and hat. The orphanage staff asked if he wanted to give us a kiss and he said yes and ran over to us right away. We were all kind of suprised because boys his age don't normally like giving kisses - gross! :) We're so happy and excited that we are really bonding and making the best out of our time with him!

Until tomorrow,
Dust & Cort

Monday, April 19, 2010

WANTED: Social Worker

We are reaching out to our online Kaz community!

Our home study and CIS paperwork states that we are approved for a child 0-36 months. Since our little guy is almost 5, we need to get our home study updated before court and we will also need to get our CIS approval updated. Long story short, since we are no longer working with an agency - the Social Worker that did our paperwork is unable to help us. Do any of you know a Social Worker licensed for International Adoption that could help us? We're really not sure what's entailed and hope that we can work on this with someone remotely.

Has anyone else done this before? Any words of advice?

Thanks in advance!

Bonding Day 4

Dad test #1 and Dustin passed! He fixed the airplane so that the buttons work and make all the necessary sounds! D was very excited to see his airplane again and to see it working right! We colored and drew for awhile and then played with the airplane and transformer. Then it was time to move on to playing with the camera and video camera. After a while, D asked Dustin if he could play with his cell phone. He quickly figured out how to work the iPhone and found some fun apps to play with. He found a racing car game that Dustin had on there and figured out all of the buttons super fast. I was amazed! Dad - he may be able to teach you how to use your new iPhone! He played with that non-stop until it was time for us to leave. On our way out, we were able to stop by his house. It was so cool to meet his caretaker, see his bed and see where he spends his days. We took a bunch of pictures and got to hear all about his schedule, habits, etc. from his house "mom". We found out that he loves to brush his teeth (that's for you Aunt Leah!) as soon as he gets up and then makes his bed immediately! She said that he is a gentleman and that he will help her without being asked if he sees her struggling with something. We are delighted!

Where D lives, at Kids Village, is very unique. It's a "village" of about 9 houses and there are 6-8 children per house. Each house has 3 care-takers that work shifts so that there is a "mom' there for 24 hours a day. The "moms" do all the cleaning and cooking for the children that live in the house. In D's house there is a 5 year old boy and the rest of the children vary from 10-16. It is a very unique living arrangement and we think that it is wonderful for the kids. Also in the village is the main offices, doctor's offices, library, etc.

This evening Dustin and I made our first solo trip to a restaurant!! SUCCESS!! It sure helps when restaurants have an English menu!
It is starting to warm up here and has been very nice for the last couple of days. I should have brought more than my big winter coat!

-Dust & Cort

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bonding Day 3

Since this is such a new process at this orphanage, we haven’t been able to explain to our little guy what is going on and that we want to be his mom & dad. We’re hoping to do this early this week, but for now we’ll refer to our little guy as D (the first letter of his given name). Today we met with D again on the doctor's floor, but this time we had the back three sitting rooms. When we heard him come inside, I quickly hid behind the table; poking my head out just a little bit so he could make me out. D immediately said hi to Cortney and started strutting around the room. After he caught a glimpse of me, he started giggling and running to get me. Today he skipped being shy and went straight to being D.

The little guy colored in his coloring books we brought last visit at first, then Cortney pulled out the Kinder Egg! For those who don’t know what those are, they are a thin chocolate shell with a plastic egg inside. Inside the plastic egg is a toy that you can put together. He had the chocolate handled in no time (loves chocolate – one of his favorite foods; I know, shocker!), then we put together what we thought to be a space ship. It didn’t quite take flight like it should have so we all quickly lost interest. After a bit more drawing, we brought out a toy fighter plane. D raced over and took it on a ‘test flight’. We played a while with that, racing it on the floor and flying it around the hallway. The plane has some buttons on top that are supposed to make take-off noises and gun sounds… but of course they only worked occasionally, and only if you hold the toy upside down – quality!! Needless to say we were all getting frustrated with this. I told him we’d take it home, try to fix it and bring it back tomorrow… no pressure here! :)

We did find one use of the kinder egg “space ship”; it made an excellent gun! D snatched up his ‘gun’ and started chasing us around. Cortney and I quickly grabbed some guns of our own (markers) and gave in to the chase. We played hide and seek within the three rooms and occasionally the doctor’s office. At first it was all fun, but I’m sure the doctor was starting to get annoyed so we innocently smiled and kept back to the rooms. We took lots of pictures and had our translator take a video clip of us playing. Hopefully we can get high-speed internet installed and start uploading these to share! D was intrigued with the camera and video camera; before long he had all the buttons figured out and was taking his own snapshots – so smart! He really enjoyed looking at the pictures/video afterwards.

With all the drawing and chocolate, his hands started getting real messy. We borrowed a towel and washed his hands in the washroom. As the doctor was telling us that he loves to brush his teeth and eat the toothpaste, D pointed to some soap and asked “toothpaste?” – What funny timing.

With all this fun and excitement, time flew by and it was time to go. He gave us real big hugs and told us he would like for us to visit again tomorrow – we will be there! Perhaps tomorrow, being a work day, we’ll be able to visit his house, meet some of his friends/caretakers, etc. We will see!

Dustin & Cortney

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Day 2 of Bonding

Had a great day today! We met with the doctor first thing this morning to go over his medical history. Afterwards they brought him in and we played in the Doctor’s office for about an hour and a half. We colored and played with a new car today! GOOD NEWS – in our meeting today we discovered the following about our new little guy… 1. He likes dogs and can already say Sadie! 2. He loves to swim! 3. He LOVES chocolate (it’s his favorite food)!

He is so detailed and likes to keep order. He would take the lid off a marker, color with it, put the lid back on it, line the marker up with the others and then select a new color. He puts everything away when he is done playing with something and is very creative. We got him one of those cars that you roll backwards to make it drive forward and he and Dustin created ramps, jumps and roads. As soon as the car would crash into something and put it out of place, he would stop and fix everything before playing with the car again. It’s adorable. While playing, Dust and I just look at each other and smile!

At the end of our meeting today, he gave us both a hug for the first time!! (Awwwww !) He also asked us to bring him another airplane tomorrow for him to play with!

After leaving the Kids Village we went to Svetlana’s office to meet with her again. Since Yakov happened to be in town, he came over to her office so that we could meet him as well. It was great to finally meet him; we are sooooo thankful for all the help that Yakov and Svetlana have given us over the last 2 months!  So glad they were still there for us when we had all the issues with our agency.

Just finished dinner (grilled cheese sandwiches & vegetables) and are gearing up for our evening of dial-up internet blog postings, email checking and probably a couple more episodes of Heroes.


PS – We can’t post pics of him on our blog until after our court date (since our blog is public), but I am going to try to post on our Facebook pages tonight since they are private. If you’re not on our Facebook and interested, feel free to add me.

Cab ride to Kids Village

Friday, April 16, 2010

Day 1 of Bonding Period

Today was our first official day of the bonding period. Per Kazakhstan law, we have to visit him everyday for 14 days before we can request a court date to petition to adopt him. On our way home last night we stopped at the market to pick up some toys. We found an airplane and some cars that we brought to him today. He was happy to see us today and LOVED the airplane! We spent about an hour and a half playing with the toys and drawing pictures. This orphanage doesn’t have a doctor on-site like the Baby House, so we will probably meet with the doctor early next week. The Assistant Director at the Kids Village hasn’t done any foreign adoptions from this orphanage before, so we are learning the process and ins/outs just like they are. The good news about this is that we are able to visit him 7 days a week! He is 4 now and will be 5 in July. He speaks Russian & Kazakh but not English – so we have some major communication barriers! We know that we will be able to communicate with him in no time though! We at least know the important Russian words, like airplane and cars!!!

After our visit today our translator, Tanya, took us to the shopping mall and bazaar to pick up some more toys for him and we were able to find some souvenirs and traditional items to take home for him as well!

For many years, Dustin and I have imagined having girls at home – but ever since we met this little boy, nothing seems to make more sense than having him in our lives! The kid’s room that we have ready at home is all decked out for a little girl, so we will have to make some major changes to that when we come home between our trips! Looking forward to that though, bring on the planes, cars and trucks!!

Thank you so much for all of the prayers, thoughts and positive thinking!!! We are so happy that we have finally met our little guy and will have quite the story to tell him about our journey to him someday!!


The Stone’s

In front of Kids Village

Initial Meet-n-Greet

Yesterday we arrived to the Kids Village orphanage and had a brief interview from the Assistant Director (the Director is out of town right now). Everything went well and they wanted to introduce us to a little boy. They wanted the meeting to be in the library where he was being taught a lesson and they wanted us to pretend like we were just in the library reading at first. After awhile, Svetlana started talking to him and drawing pictures with him. She told him that she would like to introduce us to him. He agreed and got up from his chair to shake our hands, it was very cute. He then was drawing pictures and was answering questions about what he liked and what he wanted to be when he grew up. He said that he loves airplanes and that he would like to be a pilot someday. Dustin then helped him draw an airplane, which he liked very much. There were several ladies in the room and it was intimidating for him to answer questions and we could tell that he had a little bit of a shy side. He was quickly engrossed with Dustin and I’m sure it is because there are not many men around the orphanage. After a little while of talking to him they told him that we had to leave. He stood up to say goodbye, nice to meet you and shook our hands again. This time he shook Dustin’s hand with both of his hands, which is tradition for men to do when greeting each other in Russian culture. Again, it was so adorable and made our hearts melt! We left the library and went back to the main room to discuss what our visiting schedule would be like over the next couple of weeks. About 5 minutes after we left the library he came into the Director’s office to give Dustin a paper airplane that he made from the drawing that they were working on together!!! They flew it around for a while and then he said goodbye to all of us again. About 3 minutes later he came back again to give me a paper airplane as well! It was the cutest thing and I cried happy tears. It was very emotional to meet him and interact with him; so special!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Today we met a little boy that stole our hearts!  It was a very good day!  He is living at the Kids Village which is an orphange in Pavlodar.  This was the very last child that we could meet.  You know that saying, "saved the best for last"...well it couldn't be more true.  We don't want to post too much information until we find out more details tomorrow.

We are going through a whirlwind of emotions, but we are so excited and hopeful!!  Can't wait to share more news tomorrow!!

:)  :)  :)  :)  :) 

--Cortney & Dustin


Dear Former Mother in Tennessee,

Thank you so much for sending your child back to Russia all alone; what a great idea.  Your timing couldn't have been more perfect and we really appreciate all of the extra questioning that we are getting because of your ridiculous actions.  Who knew that your actions would reflect badly on all Americans adopting internationally?

Congratulations and Thank You!

Sorry for not posting the last couple of days...we've been having a hard time.  We got all the paperwork and went to the Baby House.  The interviews get harder and harder each time, it is really emotional.  The language barrier is hard.  It's hard to explain things in an easy way to translate...  After spending all day at the Baby House on Tuesday, we came to the conclusion that our child was not there either.  This is very hard and taxing on Dust & I.  I keep thinking of how to explain this process and I just can't figure out how to put it into words...

Is our child here???

Our paperwork had to go back to the Dept. of Education to get re-signed so that we can go to a different orphange in a village outside of Pavlodar.  The paperwork was finally signed off on this morning and we are going out to the orphanage this afternoon.  The strange part about today is that we are excited and nervous...more than usual.  I sure hope that today brings us peace and good news!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Long day of waiting...

We spent all day waiting for our paperwork to be signed off on. Finally at 5:00 we got the call that the paperwork had been signed and we had to rush to the Dept. of Education for our second interview. It is amazing that government employees work past 5:00PM here! The interview was interesting – we were asked a lot of questions and had to explain a lot – but it all ended ok. Tomorrow morning we are going to the Baby House!

Super Excited,

Cortney & Dustin

Kaz Traditions/Customs

During our time in Kazakhstan we have learned about some interesting customsthat we wanted to share. The info below may not be 100% correct, but this is what we understand from our translators. If you know of something not correct – let us know…we’d love to know the true customs!

Name Meanings –In the US, we tend to pick cute, trendy names that we like for first names and typically middle names are family names passed down somehow or in memory of. In Kazakhstan, they choose names based on the name meaning. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cute name or a family name, what matters is what the name means/represents.

First/Middle Names - A person’s second name/middle name in Kazakhstan is always from their father’s name. For example, my name would be Cortney Franklin Stone. In the US, middle names are typically family names or names that represent something special. In Kaz, when addressing someone with respect, it is proper to say their first and second names. If I were a teacher here, the students would call me Cortney Franklin; not Mrs. Stone like we would do in the US.

Weddings/Memorial Park – Here in Pavlodar there is a Memorial Park that was created to remember World War II. On the day of your wedding, you would go to this Memorial Park and lay flowers and pay your respect to all those that sacrificed.

Cemeteries – There is an old cemetery near our apartment and this is what we have learned about it so far. The headstones in it are metal, not stone. Also, on most headstones there is a framed portrait of the person who is laid to rest there; eerie and interesting all at the same time. Also, several of the graves are fenced off individually with small gates. For a few days after people are laid to rest, the gates to these fences are left open so that their souls can still leave the grave. After a few days, it is time for the soul to rest with the body, so the family will close the gate. Also, Kazakh women do not attend funerals but they go to the cemetery the next day. Kazakh funerals are only attended by men.

Dress Code – I’ve always thought this, but I realize it more than ever here. America is casual. Most people here are dressed up when out in public. There are no Juicy velour suits and slippers at the supermarket. Most women wear high heeled boots with skirts, dresses and pants; all the time.

Smaller Portion Sizes – At restaurants, portion size is much smaller than in America. We’ve also noticed that on some menus it gives the price and weight of each item.

Transportation – People walk everywhere and take the stairs everywhere. There are some buildings with elevators, but for the most part everyone takes the stairs. There is public transportation in the cities, buses, trams and trains. Most women do not drive and men constantly complain about those women that do. Need groceries? Walk to the market. Need to go to work? Walk to work. Need to go shopping? Walk to the store. Get the picture??

Credit Cards – Most places take credit cards, but most people do not have them. They pay for everything in cash. If you’d like to get a TV, you save up until you have the money and then go to the store and buy it with cash. This is something that is so foreign to me. I can’t even imagine someone walking into Best Buy trying to buy a $2000 TV with cash. It would look fishy! Our translator told us that she doesn’t even know anyone that has a credit card! On the other hand, if this were the norm in the US, there would be so much less credit card debt…what would happen to the economy then?!?!

Tips – Tips in Kazakhstan are included in the price. This goes for restaurants and taxi rides.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A few snaps

Apartment Living Room
Apartment Living Room

Apartment Balcony- this is where they hang laundry to dry.  The scary look of this and the fact that it is on the 7th floor is crazy.  Dustin won't step foot out there!
Entrance to the Apartment Stairwell

Inside the tiny elevator - we take the stairs unless we have luggage or groceries!


Going out for pizza last night was so fun! We met an amazing family (James, Kari & Ava) and their story is such an inspiration to us. They are leaving tonight to start the long journey home and we wish them the best! We took a cab round trip from our apartment to the restaurant and it cost us about $3 total! Besides that, we had a pretty lazy Saturday. The apartment that we are staying at has a lot of toys and we found some children’s puzzles. We put puzzles together for most of the morning and then watched a couple TV shows and a movie.

To all of our work families reading this – if you have any offline work that we can do, send it to us- we have a lot of downtime and it gets boring quickly! We are quickly mastering Checkers, Solitaire & Black Jack on our iPhones!

--Dust & Cort

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Latest from Pavlodar

We had our interview at the Dept. of Education yesterday. It went pretty well, but the Director had not had time to review our Dossier yet, so she needs to review that before she will sign the letter for the next step. It is so wonderful to be here with Svetlana; we know we are in the best hands now. She let us know that everything happened very quickly for us in Petropavlovsk and that things take considerably longer here in Pavlodar. We may not be able to go to the baby house until Tuesday, but Svetlana is doing all she can.

We have a social calendar for the first time since we’ve been here this weekend and are very excited. Tonight we are going to meet a couple that have been here in Pavlodar for a long time and are finally able to take their child home! They fly out on Sunday night, but we are looking forward to meeting them. When we first heard about the transfer to Pavlodar, we reached out to them and they have given us a lot of info and advice. We’re meeting for a pizza dinner in a couple hours. We’re also meeting a couple from Canada that are adopting here as well. They are working with Svetlana too and we are all going to meet up tomorrow afternoon!


It’s official…I’ve been told that I don’t look American right away and look Russian twice now, by 2 different people. I know this doesn’t sound like much of a compliment, but it does to me!! When we moved to Germany when I was younger, this is always something that I worked at. There are constantly those Americans that travel with such an American look and stick out like a sore thumb. You know the type, American Flag jacket, blue jeans, white sneakers, huge camera around your neck! I was so worried that I would stick out here and am glad that we somewhat blend in; at least at first glance!

Once again, Dustin and I are the youngest couple that our translator has worked with. Our coordinator also told me that she rarely sees Americans come here to adopt and wear heels. People are always telling her that they aren’t practical! So glad I brought the boots and will probably buy another pair here!

Finally found a flat iron for my hair yesterday. It’s no CHI, but it somewhat straightens and that is all I can ask for at this point!

Being here in Kazakhstan has really made us so thankful for what we have back in Texas! We miss our house, our cars, our family, our friends, our jobs, our dryer and of course, Sadie, so much!!!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

In Pavlodar!

We have made it to Pavlodar!  At the airport we met our new translator and driver. After a quick stop at the supermarket, we went to our new apartment.  This one is in the center of Pavlodar and in walking distance to the supermarket, so that is nice.  Svetlana met us at the apartment and she is so nice!  Dustin and I think that working here with her will be a big help to us.  This apartment is on the 7th floor, but luckily there is a very small elevator so we were able to bring the suitcases up that way (in a couple if trips)! We only have dial-up internet here again.  :( Oh well, it is what it is. 
Our translator is coming to get us at about 11:30 to take us for a walk around the area to show us where everything is.  They are waiting on our paperwork transfer to complete but hope that it will happen today.  If so, we will have another interview at the Dept. of Education, possibly this afternoon.  With the other letters and approvals that we need to complete the transfer, it looks like we won't be able to go meet the children until Monday. 

More to come later,

Train Ride

The train ride was definitely an adventure, but one we are glad that we took! Our translator and driver took us to the train station and took us aboard the train. We had a small private room with 2 beds. They explained to all the staff on our car what we were doing and where we needed to get off, etc. Right after the train took off, they came by our room with a traditional Kazakh tea setup. CUTE! It looked like any Grandma’s old porcelain tea set with flowers on it. A man came by to check our passports and we couldn’t understand each other at all! We have a translation of our passport, but he was still questioning. Luckily our translator, Irina, had written us a note explaining what we were doing. Basically something like this – “Hello, we are Dustin & Cortney from America. We are here to adopt a child and are traveling to Pavlodar. Unfortunately, we do not speak any Russian. Please call me with any questions about this as I am their translator.” I thought it was so cute to have a note, but it worked wonderfully!! Great idea! He read the note and smiled and tried to call Irina. She didn’t answer, but he was fine with everything and left.

After that excitement, we read for a while and then feel asleep. The sleep wasn’t great as trains are loud and bumpy, but we can now say that we’ve done it! Once we arrived in Astana we got off the train, with all of our luggage (that’s the fun part) and quickly found a taxi to take us to the airport. The driver was fast and very polite/helpful. Astana looks like a beautiful city with a lot of new construction. So different than Petropavlovsk!

The Astana airport is impeccably clean, there our cleaning ladies constantly cleaning the bathroom about every 5 minutes! We have about 4 more hours until we can check in for our flight to Pavlodar!

Having the high speed internet here at the airport is great. We are able to catch up on some work and were able to video call with Skype!

Hope everything is going great back home and that we have good news to post soon!

Cortney & Dustin
On the Train to Astana
Our translator (Irina) & driver (Alexander) in Petropavlovsk

Our room on the train

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


We aren't going to have internet for about 24 hours, so we wanted to post our schedule.

We are leaving on the train tonight from Petropavlovsk @ 10:20PM.  The train will arrive in Astana about 8:00AM in the morning.  We will then take a taxi to the airport in Astana and wait for our flight to Pavlodar.  The flight leaves about 2:30 in the afternoon and arrives in Pavlodar about 3:30PM.  (Air Astana)

Last time during our extended layover in Astana we at least had high speed internet the whole time.  Hope to post from Astana all about the train experience!!


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Day out in Petro

Today while we were waiting for more info on our region transfer, our translator took us out to explore Petro.  We took a walk down Constitution Avenue for some sightseeing and stopped in at a small museum about Kazakhstan history.  It was neat to see all of the history of Kazakhstan and Petropavlovsk.  After walking through the park, we went to the shopping mall that they have here to look around.  While there we had lunch in the food court.  Cheeseburgers!  Not the same as back home, but they were good and a welcome change from the chicken and pasta we eat at the apartment!!

We are waiting on some paperwork from the Dept. of Education for our region transfer, but if everything goes ok it looks they would like us to arrive in Pavlodar Thursday afternoon/evening.  They would like us to take a train ride tomorrow night from Petropavlovsk to Astana (8 hours) and then once we arrive in Astana we would need to take a taxi to the airport and then catch a flight to Pavlodar from there.  The train ride seems a little intimidating to us as we will be by ourselves, but we are also looking forward to this adventure because we haven't been on a passenger train like this before.  (Well at least not that we can remember!)  So far we have had a translator with us to assist with all the transportation...the train ride will be interesting!!  I wish that the train ride was at least during the day so that we could see the Kazakh scenery, but surely the trip will go by faster at night.  We were originally told that there may be 3 children for us to meet in Pavlodar, but it now seems like there will only be 1 for sure.  This changes often, so we will just have to see what happens once we get there.

When we woke up this morning to check our email and comments, we were amazed at the number of responses and people reaching out to help!  It made me tear up.  Thank you all so much, from the bottom of our hearts.  Our friends, family and online community have been such a support for us; and believe me...we need it!

Here are some pictures from today.

On a bench on Constitution Avenue

Dustin in the Museum
Cortney  - Yurt Exhibit @ Museum
Department of Education
Our new tiny yurt!
Love, Cortney & Dustin

Monday, April 5, 2010

Contact Info

Our email address is and we try to get on Skype about 7:00 - 9:00AM local time (8:00 - 10:00PM Central Time) & 7:00 - 9:00PM (8:00 - 10:00PM Central Time).  We cam sometimes voice chat on Skype, but usually just chat/IM since the internet is so slow here.

Another bump in the road

Well, after another long day of waiting, we have just been informed that we are out of options in Petropavlovsk.  Our coordinator has worked with the Dept. of Education in another region and they have agreed to work with us and have our paperwork transferred.  We don't know any details yet, but it looks like they would like for us to go to Pavlodar where they may have a few children for us to meet.  We are waiting for more news, details, when, etc...

We have figured out a way to check email and post blog updates pretty easily, but most other internet searches are harder on dial-up.  If you know of any info about Pavlodar, please comment or email us, it would be so helpful...everything that we've researched to date has been about Petropavlovsk.

We will post more when we know; better get off of the internet now in case they need to call us again!  Gotta love dial-up!!!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Egg Contest

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!! Wish we were having a delicious meal at my brother’s today! In an attempt to kill time today, Dustin and I are going to have an Easter Egg decorating contest in Paint to see who does the best electronically designed eggs. We’ll post the results later if they are any good!

No news on the adoption from this weekend, but hopefully we will have more info on Monday.
We are worried, but hopeful and trying our best to remain optimistic.

Thanks to all for the comments and well wishes – it helps so much to stay connected!!

The Stone’s

A few pics

The apartment bedroom
We went for a walk...melted snow = muddy mess

Friday, April 2, 2010

Saturday Morning in Kaz

The search still continues. This is by far the strangest toughest thing that we have done. It is not easy to turn down a child. We are still hopeful to find our child(ren) here in Kaz, but don’t know what the future holds for us. We are still positive, just wish we had better news to report. We feel like we are doing the right thing and making the right decisions.

Our days get boring quickly here as we are only doing things adoption related for about 2 hours of each day. We’re hoping to hear more info today, but are unsure since it’s Saturday. The weekend looks very long at this point with not a whole lot to do!! We're going to do some shopping today and try to get out to the birch forest to take some pictures.

Hope everything is going great at home!

--Cort & Dust

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Life in KZ update

So far, we've been eating minimal meals of noodles and yogurt at our apartment but today was our first trip to a restaurant.  We can't tell you how nice it was to eat meat and fruit/veggies!  We need to get out more often, but the only apartment available is on the outside of town, not near any restaurants.  There is a small market with limited items.  After lunch today we went to the market in town and were able to stock up on real food!  We even picked up a rotisserie chicken for dinner tonight!  The best part of all was that I was finally able to get a hair dryer!! 
On April 7th, an apartment will open up in the center of town that will be so much easier for us!  We will be able to walk to all the shopping, restaurants, etc.  We are kind of isoloated now...

We've taken some videos that we'd love to post, but we only have access to dial-up internet for now!  Hopefully we will be in a better spot in about a week.

PS - I did bring some high-heeled boots and am so glad that I did.  A - Every other women wears them.  B - They really make walking in the snow easier, like an ice pick!

The search continues

We are still searching for "Pebble"...we haven't found him/her yet.  Before we came over here I imagined this as worse-case scenario, but we are ok and in good spirits.  We now understand that worse case scenario is actually making a decision with our heads instead of our hearts.  It breaks our hearts to meet these children and not have that feeling of connection, but we are hopeful and will continue to search until we find that.

Every day is a new adventure over here; looking forward to what tomorrow brings.