Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day!

First and foremost - Happy Memorial Day!  We are so thankful for all the soldiers that have sacrificed for this great country!  Although you are lost, you are never forgotten.

Our judge starts a month long vacation this Saturday so she would like to push our court date back to JULY!  Our lawyer is going to meet with the Chairman of the Court early this week to see if there is the option of switching to another judge.  We are just waiting to hear what will happen.  We will feel so much better as soon as we have a plan...whatever that plan might be.

Painting D's room has been an experience and we have several coats of Killz covering up the bright colors that were in there before.  We plan to paint the colors later this week.

While you are BBQing, shopping, at the lake or pool - take a minute today and think of all the soldiers!  I am so proud of my Dad, husband and all of our family/friends that have served our country!!

Friday, May 28, 2010

More Delays

We found out yesterday that our visas won't be ready until Thursday or Friday next week, which doesn't give us enough time to get to Pavlodar for court.  Our in-country team is working on what we should do next.  I've been working so hard on trying to stay tough, but broke down for a little yesterday.  I've been mising D a lot and was really looking forward to seeing him middle of next week.  There's been some strange court decisions and things happening in Kaz that have me worried as well.  So glad that we are already in Svetlana's hands, but still nervous...Hopefully the delay in getting our visas will only delay our trip for about a week...hopefully.

In other news, the bedding we ordered came in yesterday from Pottery Barn and I am excited about it and confident that D will love it.  We plan to paint the room this weekend and the furniture is stil set to be delivered on the 22nd of June. 

Hoping for more news soon.

Hope everyone has a great weekend and is able to spend time with family and friends remembering all those that have sacrificed for us.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend,

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Life back home has been crazy busy!!

This weekend we shopped like crazy and found furniture and bedding for D's room.  We're having fun shopping and finding stuff, but we are stressed out too!

Court is still scheduled for June 4th and we plan to head back to Kaz early next week.  Still waiting on information about our new visas, so we haven't been able to make any travel arrangements yet. 

Our home study update is in process and we hope to receive the completed update this week.

It seems like we have a never-ending list of things to do, but it's nice to be busy!  All that downtime in Kaz really gets to you!

We miss D so much and think about him all the time.  We wonder what he is doing and how he is handling this time apart.  We see things all the time that remind us of him.  Last night we went to Toys R Us and found soooo many things that we think he will like.  We are so excited for him to come home and know that we are going to have so much fun!!!  We bought a remote control boat and we know that he will have a blast driving that thing around the pool!!

-The Stone's

Friday, May 21, 2010

Back home

We are back home and trying to re-adjust!  The trip back was long and we are still stiff from sitting for so long.  We had our home study update interview this morning and we are in good hands!  We should have everything finished and ready to go soon! 

It's amazing how much we miss D already!  I hope that he's doing ok and not constantly wondering about when we're coming back.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Homeward Bound

Our lawyer met with the Judge and the Chairman of the Court this afternoon and due to the difficulty ofour case, they cannot schedule the court date this week as more info needs to be gathered. Our new court date has been set for June 4th. Since our visas expire on May 25th, we have to head home. We have made all of our travel arrangements this evening and we will be flying home in less than 24 hours. We will leave Pavlodar tomorrow night and arrive back in Dallas on Thursday afternoon. While home we are going to work on our getting our home study update completed and apply for an updated CIS approval. We will be issued a brand-new visa that will be good for 3 months (hopefully we won't need all of that!!!) We'll be home for about a week and a half before we have to fly back for court.

We can't even think about how hard it will be to say goodbye to D. We HATE this, but it is what it is and there is nothing else we can do at this point.

Off to clean, pack and everything else!

Cort & Dust

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Today I was able to meet with D’s caregiver for about 30 minutes and I got a ton of great info. I have been working on a list of questions and got everything answered today. While I was inside with the caregiver, Dust was outside with D and the other boys from his house playing soccer and volleyball. He was showing D how to play volleyball and bumped a ball to D that hit him in the face. He rubbed his face for a minute and then looked at Dust and said “It’s OK”! All of the boys then said “It’s OK” – D has been telling them all the English he is learning!! Hilarious!

After our visit was over and it was time to take him back home, he said that he wanted to go home with us.  We told him that he couldn’t today but that he could come home with us soon. He asked how about tomorrow and we told him not tomorrow but later this summer once it gets hot. He was sad and said that he wanted to come home with us now. It broke my heart… This is so crazy and time consuming and it’s hard for us. It must be so hard for him especially since he doesn’t understand the concept of time. Poor baby.

When it was time to say good-bye he told us that he will miss us and that he loves us very much. This is the first time he’s said this on his own. If we tell him we love him, he will tell us back and if you ask him if he loves us he says yes. Wow…what a declaration for a 4 year old! It melted our hearts… He also asked if we could bring him a kinder egg tomorrow! “Mama, please”. He told us that he loved them because it was chocolate and a toy all in one! He is such a perfect fit for us – blows our minds everyday. We CANNOT wait to bring him home so that everyone can meet him!

I miss home more than anything, but I don’t know how I’m going to be able to leave him here. I can’t even think about it.



PS – Anyone seen or heard of any Russian food stores in the DFW area?

This is the artwork that we bought that has caused all the problems!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Leaving D

We hate the idea of leaving D while we are between trips, but don’t have any choice. We’d like to reach out to anyone that’s done this before for any tips/advice for things that we can do to make the separation easier on him (and us)! We plan to leave letters, toys & treats for him with his caregivers to give him periodically while we are away. We thought about a calendar with stickers, but since we are not sure on a return date we are not sure if that will be a good idea.


Court Date

We have a court date…May 27th…the problem is that our visas expire on May 25th and we have to be out of Kaz no later than the 25th. SERIOUSLY!?!?!? How does this stuff constantly happen to us?

Our team here is doing everything that they can for us and the judge has told our lawyer that her hands are tied, the 26th is the best that she can do. So, our lawyer is going to try to meet with the Chairman of the Court (head of all judges) later this week to try to get our date moved up. The soonest she was able to setup a confirmed meeting was for Wednesday, but she is going to go to his office on Monday to see if she can get anywhere. She is going to bring the Chairman a gift from us that will hopefully help…

Cross your fingers for us!

If they are unable to change the date, then we have no choice but to go back home. (We can not extend our current visas for any longer.) Once home, we will be able to re-apply for a new visa. Once we are approved for that, we would need to come back for our court meeting in early June. (No later than June 5th, because starting the 6th, our judge will be on summer vacation!)


Trying to wait patiently,

Cortney & Dustin

Friday, May 14, 2010

Journey to Ekibastuz

Today we had the great opportunity to visit D’s motherland – Ekibastuz (Or how the local teenagers call it – Eki-‘Boston’).

Ekibastuz is about 150km from Pavlodar, and a very bumpy ride. It seemed as we made great time, passing slower vehicles on the left and occasionally dodging some local wildlife. Along the way, we passed a large Kazakh cemetery with large buildings, stone works and fenced off burial sites; pretty impressive. Just before entering town, we passed an extremely large coal mine worksite (thought it was a plateau from a distance). In fact, the city sign for Ekibastuz is a large mining wheel with a golden star in the middle.

Once in town, we went to visit the orphanage which housed children from 7 to 18 years of age. The setting was very well taken care of, arranged in sort of a dormitory fashion, and the staff very friendly.

Flowering trees lined the sides of the main street and tulip-shaped lights were suspended from street-lights; a nice look to it. Our first stop was the old maternity hospital where D was born. Initially we thought it was this large, blue and yellow-painted building, but after parking around the side learned it was just the small section attached. Perhaps 50 ft wide and 3 stories tall, it was one of the oldest buildings in the town.

We took some pictures of the Roman Orthodox Church and Mosque before heading back to pick up our travel-mates from the orphanage. We stopped for lunch at a favorite restaurant where we enjoyed some Borsch, various chicken and beef dishes and finished up with some Tea with milk (prepared in a Kazakh fashion). Our trip back was equally eventful. We even passed through what I called a “Texas Twister” that blew a few tumbleweeds and pushed our van sideways!!

All in all, it was a nice visit to D’s birthplace and a great chance to see some of the country. Fortunately it was a beautiful day and we have lots of pictures to share with D.

Today we should receive a court date (hopefully before our visas expire!) and look forward to visiting our son again tomorrow morning!

Da Zavtra! (until tomorrow!)

Kazakh Cemetary

Russian Orthodox Church

D's Maternity Hospital

Ekibastuz City Sign - Us with Marie Chan and Svetlana

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thursday, May 13th

Our lawyer had a good meeting with the judge today. She is a new judge and this is the first time our lawyer has worked with her. This is also the judge’s first foreign adoption case. Our lawyer believes that this will work in our favor and end up being a good thing. The judge didn’t question any of our paperwork during the meeting, so we should be ok on that front. Our extended visas expire on May 25th and Svetlana asked the judge if we could please have our court date before May 25th as we will not be able to extend our visas again. The judge said that she needed to think about it and review our case. She will call Svetlana tomorrow and let her know when the court date will be. We have to be out of Kazakhstan by the 25th, so worse case we will leave on the 25th!

Tomorrow we are going to Ekibastuz! This is the village that D is from and where he was born. We are going with Svetlana as she will be doing some work for our case there. We are all crashing our friend Marie Chan’s visit to Ekibastuz to visit her son. His orphanage is located there and she has made this journey several times! We are excited to see where D is from, but are not looking forward to the hour and a half car ride each way! This will also be the first day since we met our little guy to not visit him.  Oh well, I know he will appreciate the pictures from there someday!

Had a great visit with D today and when we picked him up, he not only had his backpack, but the toy still in it that he took home yesterday! This is nothing short of amazing! Typically when he takes a toy home, we never see it again; it ends up lost or broken. He is doing great on the computer game and looks at us each time he wins a little challenge so he can show us! High 5’s all around!

After our visit today, our social worker took us out in search of a Kazakh blanket. We went to this large building that offers all different types of classes for kids. (Something similar to a YMCA type of place.) We visited an Art Teacher there who hand-makes all kinds of traditional Kazakh items. We found a great blanket and table decoration. She was so excited that we liked her work that she wanted to give Dustin a traditional Kazakh hat while he was trying it on, she also brought out a small one for D! Adorable! Can’t wait for the father/son pics! The people are so nice and friendly and want to share their culture with us.

We are trying to learn a few more Russian words/phrases each day and it is going pretty well. Along with D learning English every day – I am hoping that our transition at home goes as smoothly as possible!

As I type this, Dustin is playing D’s Cars game on the computer to try and unlock some new things for him…or so he says!


The Stone’s

PS – We got the water back about 7:00 last night!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Water - come back, we miss you! forget how much you use it until you don't have it anymore.

We woke up this morning to no water at all in our's 3:30PM and still no water...sure hope it's back on by morning. Our translator told us that this happens often and sometimes the water could be turned off for days. Lovely.

Yesterday we found a little backpack for D. We gave it to him today and you wouldn't believe how happy it makes a kid to have their own backpack. He couldn't get over that it was his and wore it for our entire visit! He would only take it off to go through the entire contents, again, and then put everything back into the backpack and put it back on. It was cute.

Once we get there in the mornings, we typically go to his house to pick him up and then go to the library to play. Today he was waiting for us in front of the library. The teacher in the library told us he had been there all morning, waiting for his mama & papa. He told the teacher that he loved us and that we come to play with him every morning.

We are becoming a normal fixture at the orphange and everyone knows who we are. We've been visiting with D for a month now, every single day. We've been having a ton of fun with him here, but we are ready to be home!

Anxiously awaiting tomorrow's meeting with the judge and the water to be turned back on...
Dust & Cort

PS - Apparently Sadie is getting plenty of water while we are away! My dad sent me this pic of her having some fun at their pool!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


We've been looking for a piece of local art to take home and today we went to an exhibition. We found just what we were looking for...something uniquely Kazakh, but that will still fit in with the rest of the stuff in our house. We went to buy it and had them wrap it up since we will take it on the plane. This turned in to a huge debate about how we were going to get it through customs in Kazakhstan. Several calls to the customs office later, here is what we have to do...

1. Today we paid for the art, took it with us and got an official receipt stating that the art was sold to us as a private sale.

2. Tomorrow we have to take the receipt and art to the local Dept. of Culture and fill out a bunch of forms.

3. Wait 5 days and then we should receive a letter saying that it is ok for us to take the art out of the country because we paid for it and it has been verified that it did not come from any museum in Kazakhstan.

Just wanted to share this as a glimpse of how different things are here...
In other news, our attorney has a meeting with the judge that will oversee our case on Thursday afternoon. During this meeting it will be decided if the paperwork that we do have will suffice or if we will have to get updated documents. We should also find out our court date. Waiting patiently for Thursday afternoon...

Had a great day with D today! He is speaking more and more English everyday and it is so cute! Today he kept saying "it's OK" all the time. We were playing with a ball and every time it bounced off of him, he'd look at us and say "it's OK" so that we knew he was fine and not hurt. Too cute!

-The Stone's

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Victory Day!

We had so much fun today!! We picked up D and the social worker and headed down to the river. It was his first time riding in a van and he was pumped about that. On the way there, we passed a camel on the road…seriously, I can’t make this up! I couldn’t get to the camera in time…too bad!! Once we got there, we were given Victory Day ribbons (black & orange) by a really nice Russian lady. She was very happy to see Americans joining in celebration with them. We were a little late to the parade and it was packed, so we didn’t get to see much. D was up on Dustin’s shoulders and probably got to see the most. He was interested to see all of the soldiers, but admitted that he was a little scared of them. Every time he saw a soldier he asked if they had a gun.

After the parade, we walked to the park by the river with the fountains and D was amazed by them and thought they were beautiful. It was his first time seeing the river and he really liked it. They had horse, donkey and camel rides and we asked D which one he wanted to ride and he picked the closest donkey! The donkey ride salesman whisked him up and on the donkey and took off before we even knew what was happening! Dust threw me some money to pay for it and ran after the donkey to try to get some pics! After the ride, we asked if he wanted to ride a different animal, but he said no, that was enough!! We took lots of pictures and walked all around the park. Lots of people were flying kites and just enjoying the day. Victory Day is a very important holiday here and a BIG celebration.

Our social worker’s family was all there for the celebration and she wanted to take us over to meet all of them. She is one of 10 siblings and they were all gathered in the park. They were very nice and extremely hospitable. They invited all of us to join them for a picnic lunch. Dust and I LOVED every minute of it! Everyone was happy and cheerful! There was all of this delicious homemade Kazakh food and fresh fruits and veggies that they grew. We all enjoyed the food, but none more than D; he chowed down!! They raised their glasses and gave many toasts, to Kazakhstan, to Victory Day, to family members that have been lost and to their new American friends! They were fascinated with us and asked many questions and introduced us to their children that learn English at school. When it was time to leave, my face hurt from smiling so much! The people were so happy and full of life and it was infectious! They invited us over for a traditional Kazakh meal and we can’t wait for that!!

He held our hands the whole time and got soooo tired! He wanted to be carried a lot and was affectionate, even though he was mesmerized by everything all afternoon! On the way back to find our driver, we finally found the coveted airplane shaped kite! D is a very happy boy now and can’t wait to play with it tomorrow…pray for wind! He had his first tastes of cotton candy and caramel popcorn today…both were huge hits! When it was finally time to take him back, he took fistfuls of popcorn back to his house!

SMILES, SMILES, SMILES – it was a great day for all of us!

WWII Memorial in Memorial Park
Flames & Flowers at the base of the Memorial to remember those lost.  There was a huge line of people waiting to lay flowers and pay their respects.
Kaz Flag
Some girls on the camel ride of a lifetime!
Riverfront Park
Family Picnic (Our Social Worker's Family)
Our new Kazakh Family - The Ladies (our SW is in the aqua jacket)
Our new Kazakh Family  - The Men

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Smart Boy

We bought the “Cars” computer game in Russian for D to play with and we have been amazed at just how smart he is. There are all sorts of puzzles and things to figure out and he gets them ridiculously quickly. (The game says 5+, but I will admit that some parts stump me!) So far it seems he is a good mix of both of us – smart & impatient!! Since the weather has been so nice, we’ve loved flying the kite and making bubbles outside. Today we had a couple little girls join us for computer games and bubbles. D didn’t really want them to take a turn on his brand new computer game, but finally obliged. He kept telling and showing the older girls how to do it. He was very cuddly today and wanted lots of hugs, kisses and attention.

Tomorrow is Victory Day to celebrate the end of World War II and they are having another big show/parade. The Director has allowed us to take D to the celebration tomorrow and we are so thankful! We’re going to pick him and the social worker up and then head over to the festivities tomorrow morning. We are anxious to see how tomorrow goes as we know he will be on sensory overload again! Can’t wait to tell y’all all about it tomorrow!


Thursday, May 6, 2010

May 6th Update

Our paperwork is finally on its way to Kazakhstan and we are very excited! Should arrive next Friday the 14th or sooner. Yesterday we were able to visit 2 churches here in Pavlodar and it was interesting to see both of them. At first we stopped by the only Catholic Church and were greeted by a very friendly staff that gave us a tour and allowed us to take as many pictures as we wanted. After that, we stopped by the Russian Orthodox Church and things were not as friendly. The church reminded me more of a museum than a church and they allowed us to take pictures, if we made a donation.

We’ve still been visiting with D every day and love the time that we get with him each day. It’s amazing how many hours of fun a $1 bottle of bubbles can create! Today we brought a kite that we got for him last weekend, but there was no wind. Every other day is sooo windy, but not even a breeze today… the one day we bring a kite. He didn’t care and said that he didn’t need wind, so he just ran up and down the road in Kids Village flying his kite. It was so cute to see how much the simple things in life make him so happy. He kept cracking up and laughing at himself, and us, running up and down the street with him. He is such a joy and brings so many smiles to our faces daily! Every time that he was ready to go again, he’d say “OK…one, two, three!” and start running.

After our visit today we went back to the Bazaar and bought a couple soccer balls for the kids to play with and found a little store that sold Kazakh souvenirs and items. I had a field day in there and the little old ladies loved me to pieces and kept bringing out more and more things to look at! So excited about all the presents we are bringing home for D to enjoy over the years!

I’m reading a great book right now about Kazakhstan and if anyone is interested in learning more about this country, check it out. Apples Are From Kazakhstan By: Christopher Robbins


PS – Still no high speed internet…

Russian Lemonade...Dust liked it, but I wasn't too fond.  Tastes sort of like cream soda with a hint of banana (to me).  Not the lemonade we're used to!
During art time, Dustin created this to show D our trip home with him.  Starts with all of us getting in a taxi, flying on the airplane and arriving home. Then D can go for a ride in Papa's truck, with Sadie (the red thing next to the taxi).  :)
Inside the Catholic Church in Pavlodar
Russian Orthodox Church
Catholic Church
Inside the Russian Orthodox Church
Inside the Russian Orthodox Church

On the grounds of the Russian Orthodox Church

Lonely Toys Update

A HUGE thank you to everybody that has helped out, donated and spread the word about Lonely Toys & Clothes! We are so excited and are continually overwhelmed at the support that you all have shown us! We’ve already raised over $1,000 and donations keep trickling in!! We can’t wait to help bring some fun into the orphanage!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Not much to report

Not too much going on right now. Since our Bonding Period has ended, we are still able to visit with D everyday and are having a fun time! We do a lot of the same everyday and I’m sure it doesn’t make for fun reading! He can pretty much count to 10 in English on his own now and is saying new words every day. He’s pretty decent at please, thank you, candy, bubbles, good morning, bye, Spiderman and today he really worked at how are you. My parents have found out that the elementary school in our neighborhood is the ESL school for our area and we are really happy about that! There is a summer school program this summer that we hope he can attend – if we can get him back to the States in time!!

Still waiting for our high speed internet…the apartment owner checks on it everyday for us, but the telecom company here is slow. Tomorrow afternoon we are going to go on a tour of the Russian Orthodox Church as well as the Catholic Church here in Pavlodar. Should be interesting and we are looking forward to an afternoon out!

On the paperwork front, our home study letter with the age range increase is on its way and it should leave the US on Tuesday or Wednesday. Our in-country coordinator is going to start working with the judge and our court process this week. Hoping that our home study letter will work in lieu of an actual update and we should know by end of week.

Hope to have some great pics to post tomorrow!

--The Stone’s

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Medical Building @ Kids Village
Arm Wrestling Competition
There is no sink in the bathroom, so we brush our teeth at the only sink in the!
We have bought eggs in a carton before, but today all they had was bags of eggs...we walked very carefully back to the apartment!
Older Kazakh Women singing @ Friendship Day
Cort - Friendship Day
Kids Village Houses

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Friendship Day in Kazakhstan

Today we went to visit D early this morning so we could go see the Friendship Day celebration downtown by the river. Friendship Day is held every May 1st and celebrates all the different cultures in Kazakhstan. Everyone is very friendly today and you hear a lot of “Happy 1st of May”! They blocked off several streets downtown where the celebration would take place. When we walked up to the stage area, you could see all the kids and adults in costumes getting ready for the event; lots of colors and flowers! A little after noon, the Pavlodar officials showed up and the show began. It was sort of like a parade; each group of performers marched up in front of the main stage for their turn to dance and sing. The main stage had big speakers and video screens so the crowd could see and hear everything. Balloons and streamers shot up into the air while each group performed. It was really great to see this in person; we took several videos that we can try to upload when we have better Internet access. The last group to perform was a bunch of little kids with flower hats – all dancing around and singing; super cute!! After the parade, we crossed over to the park and river where vendors were selling bubbles, kites, etc. The water fountains were streaming in the background and smells of cooked shish kabobs filled the air. It seemed the whole town was there enjoying the nice day and festivities. Down by the river, they had an arm wrestling competition in action – where can you see that nowadays?! The river was very beautiful and even had a sand beach. We’ll have to come back for a day just to take pictures! In the streets by the park, there were Gypsies selling rides on a camel and some donkeys. Cort was disappointed that they were for children only! After buying some trinkets from the vendors, we stopped for lunch at an authentic Russian restaurant with another couple here adopting; it was very good! When the check arrived for lunch (in an ornately carved wooden box), they also brought a guestbook; so of course we left a message. You’ll have to check it out if you’re ever in Pavlodar! There was so much to see and experience, we actually ran out of batteries in all our cameras!! This seemed like a busy day for us since we are used to long afternoons at the apartment; but such a good change of pace.

Friendship Day Celebration Parade

River with Russian Orthodox Church in background

More Friendship Day Parade

Dustin & Cortney by a park fountain

Camel ride.  Sorry Cort, kids only!

Dustin & Cortney