Friday, October 9, 2009

It is not every father

So I am going to brag a bit. Right now I am sitting in a hotel room by Disney with C1 (14), A (4) and RP (3). The Wife is enjoying her peace at home (though C2 is bitterly complaining that he should have gotten to skip school and go with us even though he has already had 3 absences from school this year).

One of my pride points as a father is that I have never been afraid to alone on adventures with my children. I have always been willing to pick up a diaper bag and just go! We are enjoying the heck out of ourselves. C1 is at the World Cup for Paintball (you laugh but ESPN televises it) and A and RP and I have been going to Disney each day. Today we wandered all around the magic Kingdom and tomorrow we are going to Animal Kingdom.

The hotel we are in is sort of interesting. It has huge rooms (my room has two king size beds and room to spare). So the rooms fit about a $75 a night hotel. The lobby is extravagant for a hotel like this and would fit a $100 a night hotel (or more). Then the hallways are nasty and would go will with a $25 a night fleabag! So an interesting place. I got it for $50 a night. It is safe and good enough for the boys. The Wife would not be caught dead here. It is a good thing The Wife does not read this blog either or she might drive up here and rescue RP!

The funny thing is that when I traveled for my company I would never have stayed at even a $100 a night hotel. It was always luxury hotels for me! When I vacationed it was always in the same quality of hotel using points. Now that I am not in consulting my tastes are much cheaper. When The Wife is with me I will stay in a nice place but when it is just me and the kids we downscale substantially. When I am adventuring we don't need much of a hotel anyway since we are never there.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Something to remember

It has been a slow month or so and I have not have much to post. But today something really cool happened. I came home from work really late (which was not cool) and my 4 year old son was sitting on the porch waiting patiently for me to come home. There is really nothing like driving up and seeing this little body sitting there waiting for you. It makes everything worth it.

I spent the majority of my working life travelling 4-5 days a week. And I got to live in some cool places and see some amazing things. But I cannot tell you how happy I am these days just for the simple joy of coming home and seeing my family every night.

Other than that not much has been happening. C1 has officially been banned from paintball until his grades improve. I am learning to follow a zero tolerance policy with him. I told him paintball would be gone if the grades were not these and gone it is. We will see if that gets the grades up. He is smart enough to be a straight A student but he hates school and cannot seem to get the value of it.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

This weekend was V-day at Camp Longhorn in Burnet, Texas. To provide some background. My wife and I both were raised in Texas. We moved to Florida way back (15 or so years) but once we had children we really wanted our children to appreciate our home state. So as my children have reached 9 or 10 they have started spending 3 weeks every summer in a camp in Burnet, Texas.

Camp Longhorn is a very traditional summer camp for Texas. It has been in existance for 70 years and the events are not much different now than they were when it started. I am amazed that in a world of lawsuits and insurance companies that Camp Longhorn seems completely immune. For 3 weeks my sons bounce on trampolines, shoot guns, jump off high dives, swim in lakes, jump off rocks and generally have a great time. They live in unairconditioned cabins with college students as counsellers.

My son C1 chose not to go this year. He has always struggled to make friends at the camp and now that he is 14 I just decided it was time to stop making him go. But C2 loves it there and is showing no signs of slowing down. He has already asked to go back next year.

C2 flew into Austin three weeks ago and his grandparents picked him up and put him on the bus to Camp. I flew in last Friday and then drove out at the crack of dawn to go pick him up. It is always a huge to do. All the parents line up and then drive into the camp at 8:30 in the morning. Then the campers show you their cabins, you meet the counsellers and have a cabin meeting. Finally, you go watch your children perform three of the activities. This year it was swimming, rifle shooting and trampoline. C2 proudly showed off his skills.Then you go to the Camp Store and load up on $100 or so of camp logoed junk to carry you until the next year.

We had a fantastic time. As we were leaving C2 told me he wished he could stay. That he has so much fun. It made spending the money to send him there worth it!

This year C2 finally overcame his fear and jumped off the blob. The camp has aquired these old, portable fuel cells from the Marines. They are basically huge bags (30 feet or so long and 10 feet high) that the Marines use as portable fuel bladders. When you blow them up with air and paint them they become the worlds largest bouncy ball. The camp puts them in the lake and kids jump off this high tower onto them. C2 was finally talked into jumping onto it. He said he turned around and 8 cabins were watching him jump! They announced to the whole camp at dinner that he had jumped and the camp applauded him!

He is geared up for next year and I hope he keeps his excitement until then. I really love the place and I hope he is still there for many years to come.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

So it was A's fourth birthday (hard to believe) and he kept going on and on about a "bounce house" he wanted to go to. He had heard about it from one of C1's friends and that was it. That was his birthday destination.

So we decided to go. The place is called Monkey Joes and is a really, really smart idea. Basically, someone took a big open space (like a big box store kind of space) in a store and created a huge indoor playground. The place had these huge slides and play areas (all inflated) along with an area for the parents to hang out.

Security was fairly tight. When you enter with your child you get an arm band with a code on it and your child gets one with the same code. When you try to leave with said child the codes have to match or they do not let you out the door. So you can feel fairly safe letting your kids out of your sight since there is only one way in and out.

A and RP had a blast. I guilted C1 into coming also for the birthday party. It was A's first party in South Florida so he had no one to invite. He really wanted his big brother there. So I laid the guilt on thick for C1 and he finally agreed to show up. It worked out for him in the end. Turns out the place was staffed heavily by girls in the 14-16 year old range so he ended up staying for almost 2 hours when all we had agreed was 30 minutes!

My kids would scale these huge inflatable play sets and slide down the other side. They did it for 3 hours. I was hurting by the end though. Since RP is only 2 I had to accompany her on all the slides! That was a trial for a heavy old man like me!

No seems like a great time to start one of these things. There are a ton of open box stores now that Circuit City and Linens and Things are gone. I think it is a franchise. If I was not hapilly employeed doing something I love to do I would think about setting one up.

After the slides we went to the fish store. A loves animals (any animals) and he wanted a fish tank. I ended up buying a salt water tank for him (cool thing called a Bio Cube (Google it if you ever want a fish tank) and we needed to start getting the tank ready. In two weeks it will be ready for real fish and he is getting a "Nemo Fish" as promised.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

It's fun to have fun

These pictures are from the Miami Metro Zoo. Today the Wife decided she had to drive 250 miles back to Tampa to get her hair done. Being a wise husband of 17 years I decided to not say a thing! There are some times when I realize that no matter how many years I live with a female I will just never truly understand them.

A, RP and I ended up spending almost 4 hours at the zoo. I took a double stroller this time which really helped. I have a Maclaren double stroller. As an aside I was never willing to buy a Maclaren because I thought they were overpriced. Then I finally broke down and bought a double for A and RP. I have to admit that the Maclaren is one of those rare expensive products that is actually worth what you pay for it. I have owned about 10 strollers over the years and this is by far the best one I have ever owned.

We had a blast at the zoo. We got these cat masks that RP had a blast with. Then we rode a train around the zoo. We stopped first at the kid area since I had promised A that he could ride a camel. We rode it and then rode the train up to the new Amazon exhibit at the Miami Metrozoo. It was really cool. They have done an excellent job on it. We looked at lots of snakes and birds and turtles and stuff!

Finally we walked over to the Australia exhibit and looked at the Kangeroos. They are fun to watch but man is that an ugly animal up close!

I am always struck by how different my children's exposure to animals has been versus what I had growing up. I went to the San Antonio zoo a couple of times and saw a bunch of sad, caged animals. My children have been to Lowrey Park Zoo, Busch Gardens and now the MetroZoo probabably 100 times. They have seen tons of animals living either in large open spaces (Busch gardens) or large enclosures. And they have seen every major animal out there. At least I can say that my chidlren were exposed to lots of animals!

Anyway, a good memory at the zoo. Then we left the zoo and decided to hunt down a Chick-Fil-A. That sounds easy but there is no Chick-Fil-A within 10 miles of my house. I went to two locations using my GPS that turned out to be malls that had a Chick-Fil-A inside before we finally found a free standing store. We went in and the kids played on the playground. RP has really exploded in her growth. She used to be scared of the slide. Now she climbs up the playset like it is no big deal and slides down the slide! I was shocked. She must have gone down the slide 50 times.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A really, really great place to vacation

Today my family rolled back into South Florida after that long 35 minute flight from the Bahamas. The picture above was the view from my hotel room in Atlantis.

There are just some places where the human race has managed to create something special. A place you can really get away from reality. Disney World is like that. Atlantis is another. I cannot speak highly enough of it. They spent hundreds of millions building it, but it is truly a special place. It redefines Beach Resort in a way that will ruin all other resorts for you.

Every morning I woke up to the sun at about 7 to 7:30. I would walk down from my room in the Coral Towers and go to Starbucks for a coffee. The Starbucks is in the harbor next to Atlantis. I would then sit and have coffee and watch the crews working on the line of multi-million dollar boats that pull up at Atlantis every day. I will never have enough money to own one but they are sure cool to look at.

Then I would return to the hotel rooms (we had two) to take a shower and start prepping A and RP for the day. C1 and C2 would sleep late but A and RP were ready to go by 8:30. We would head out either to the beach or to the kid's areas of Atlantis. On the beach (really a cove not a true beach) A would chase fish around the rocks by the shore. He never caught one but he sure tried. It was great to watch him endlessly chasing fish but just never quite catching them. Meanwhile RP would endlessly dig in the sand and enjoy herself. She always managed to get a truly impressive amount of sand on her. She has the ability to spend hours just digging in the sand.

By lunch time we would go to the same hamburger stand and have lunch. Food at Atlantis is the real issue. You can get cheap flights and you can get cheap rooms (relatively) but eating is super expensive. A $100 meal there for a family of 6 is a deal. We found a cheap place to eat so we went there every time. a, RP and I would eat our food and then walk over to the shark tank to watch the sharks and sting rays swim around. Sometimes the Wife joined us and sometimes not.

As an aside here. The Wife and I have very different views of vacations. She is happy lounging in her room and going out occasionally. I am an experience addict. I need to gather every experience I can before my vacation ends. So it has always been our routine that she enjoys her break in the hotel room and I drag my kids all around wherever we are. So at Atlantis the Wife rarely left the hotel room before noon. She read a ton of books that week and watched a bunch of movies on her laptop.

In the afternoon it was nap time for A and RP. Sometimes the Wife went with me and sometimes I spent the time with C1 and C2 while the Wife napped. I had to prove my Dad cred by riding all the scary slides with C1 and I even got some alone time with C2 so it was cool. I rode the Abyss and the Leap of Faith there. Truly terrifying rides but fun once you were done!

I took C1 and C2 on the water ferry over to Old Town in Nassau. We rode these rickety boats across the harbor and then walked around in the Straw Market. It was okay but nothing special. A huge number of very expensive designer handbags that they were somehow able to discount to $20 or less. A heaven for a woman who wanted to buy a lot of fake bags but not much else worth buying.

One afternoon we went snorkeling with the Manta Rays. I really recommend this. It is cheap at $79 per person and a great experience. You get to snorkel in the main tank with a bunch of huge Mantas and some sharks. By the end of it C2 was really feeling his oats. He decided that the Mantas were too calm and he wanted to try sharks! So we went to the main shark tank and got to Walk with the Sharks. Personally, I thought the Mantas were better. But I considered it an investment in my son's ego. He has been strutting ever since and talking about how he went diving in a tank full of sharks.

In the evening we would make C1 and C2 babysit (which was an adventure in and of itself) and the Wife and I would go out to a movie. Atlantis has a full size movie theater on site so you can go catch a movie whenever you want. They even have a concession stand where you can get popcorn and drinks.

The final evening was one of my favorite memories. At 5 I took A and RP to the beach. The sun was coming down and the weather was perfect. We sat on the beach until 8 and just had fun. RP finally got the courage up to splash in the ocean and the three of us had a blast making sand castles. Too bad they are too young to remember the day but I will probably never forget it.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

C1 and other rampantly social people

My oldest son C1 is the most social animal I know. When we first moved to South Florida he was the most visibly emotional of all my family. He moaned and groaned about how his social life was over now he had moved from the booming metropolis of Tampa (pop. 500K) to the oh so boring Miami metroplex (pop 2 M).

A funny thing happened though. He started playing paintball at a local field and the next thing I know he now has a new team and a whole new set of friends. He also went to summer school at his new school so he met more people there. Now he is the most adjusted of all of us and seems to have a whole new batch of friends here! I am amazed at his social skills (which he gets from his mother, I am a social hermit).

When I asked C2 how he liked Miami his answer was "I am not sure, I have not left my room yet". C2 is like me, he tends to be fine spending time alone. He says he will meet people once he goes back to school. Until then he is fine with online friends. He recently told me "I am going to spend the day playing with my friend Peanut". Turns out he meant spending the entire day online with Peanut!

The Wife is still hunting for a good way to meet people. She has not found a church she likes (she is not Catholic so she gets to sort of shop for churches). I think once she connects with a couple of people areound here she will find friends. Next to C1 she is the most social person I know.

A and RP could care less really. At 2 and 3 they are already forgetting their old lives and moving on. I am sure they will have lingering memories but I think they are just happy to have more time with me.

As for me I am busy, busy, busy. My new job required me to juggle about 10,000 things at once. I am loving it but it keeps me busy.

Next week we are leaving for Atlantis in the Bahamas. I went there with the Wife and we spent the entire time telling each other "oh C1 would love that" and "I wish A were here to play in that". So we decided to take the whole family on a vacation!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Welcome to Miami

This afternoon I decided to go have a real taste of Miami. So I went down Calle Ocho (8th Ave) to 36th street in the heart of the Cuban quarter and ate at Versailles. Versailles is the restaurant that is always on TV whenever it looks like Castro may be dying. All the old Cuban activists gather there to watch TV and sip Cuban coffee as they wait for news about Castro.

Today was the first time I had ever gone there without a Cuban to guide me. My issue quickly became that I got too confident up front. I walked in and boldly pronounced "Necessito una mesa for dos por favor(I need a table for two please)". I need to point out that this is Miami and the heart of the Cuban quarter. Since I spoke in Spanish up front they assumed I actually spoke the language. I ended up back in the back with the other Spanish speakers with a waitress who barely spoke English and a menu in Spanish.

Thank God for texting. I sent a call for help to my Cuban friends and I quickly had on my phone "Nessecito Ver un menu in Ingles for my amigo por favor (I need a menu in English for my friend please". I already had written on a Post It note what I normally ate there. Whatever it is it is not actually on the menu. But I read the Post It to the waitress and the next thing I knew there was my meal. We ate some of the best Cuban food in the world and spent an hour there talking about boring work stuff.

On the way out I snapped the picture above. Could not resist being a tourist for just a second!

Monday, June 22, 2009


One of the earliest memories I have as a child is waiting at my house for my father to come home so I could go swimming with him. I think I actually have a memory of looking at a picture of myself waiting to swim versus actually remembering waiting. But it is one of those enduring memories I still hold 30-35 years later.

As we settle into South Florida and I begin to build a routine where I actually come home each night, I am slowly settling into the routine of swiming with A and RP. Every night I come home and every night they are waiting. A has been taking lessons. For a 3 year old he has really exploded. He had two lessons and went from a fearful child sitting on the steps to a crazy swimmer jumping into the deep end. Now he has had 4 lessons and he is actually starting to freestyle swim. I think it is because all the people on my side of the family are part whale!

For someone from a place where most swimming pools are inside the RP is also taking to water like a duck. She has a ring (pink of course) that she swims around in. She is actually very fast for such a little girl. She furiously pumps her legs and paddles across the pool!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A year later for RP

The Wife was quite frustrated with me today. She said the line that all men dread to hear "do you remember why today is special?". I went through the usual frantic mental check; birthday-no, anniversery - no, special event - hum. Turns out it was the one year anniversary of our meeting my daughter for the first time.

Today one year ago I was sitting in a Russian orphanage trying to coax this scared little girl into my arms to start getting to know me. It was rough going at first. For the first couple of days we were just trying to get to know her. By day three she started to warm up.

I think the ladies in the orphanage can really judge how to "move a child". They know you have to rope in dad and that most men are easy sops for a cute girl. On day three my daughter announced "papa!" when I walked in. I was lost.

Today I came home and my daughter ran up to me screaming "daddy, daddy, daddy". She is a bouncy, happy child who laughs easily and loves to play. She runs, giggles and generally acts like the happy child she is.

We have many more years of fun to look forward together. I am just happy that my life was blessed with the wife and children that I have.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

We like fish

So somehow I was convinced to take C1 all the way up to Lakeland for Paintball. That is a 4 hour drive from where I live in South Florida. He is the original con artist. Somehow he convinced me that his life would essentially be over if he could not go and try out on this South Florida team called the Vipers. Turned out they were not even holding tryouts but I did not learn that until long after I had started the drive.

I took both A and RP with me. We dropped off C1 and headed to Tampa to visit the Florida Aquarium. Both kids loved it there. We had a lot of fun walking around looking at fish. There was this section of the place where you can reach into a fish tank and pet a starfish. I really though RP would not be interested but she grabbed starfish like there was no tomorrow. She loves fish!

Friday, June 5, 2009

This is C2 my 11 year old

I am not sure if every family is like this but in mine some of my kids are more like my wife and some are more like me (though all of them are mostly like themselves as I always say). C1 is a lot like the Wife which is why they tend to scrap a lot. C2 is my 11 year old and he is my younger double. I watch him growing up and it is startling how close his personality is to mine. I love all my children (I always say that the sun shines just as brightly for having five windows open as it does when there is only one). What is interesting is that I like to hang out with C1 because he reminds me of my wife and with C2 because he reminds me of me.

C2 tends to have a small number of friends but the friends he has are deep friends. He is easy going and can basically get along with anyone. He generally likes it when things are peaceful. He is also really, really smart. He can pull straight A's without even trying. I can spend hours sitting next to him not even talking and we are both happy. 

I think in the long run C2 will benefit the most from the recent end to my traveling days. Now that I have a real job he and I can spend more time together. 

My favorite picture

This is my favortie picture of my wife. It was taken while my wife was trying on a traditional Indian dress in a store in Mumbai. Personally I think she looks HOT in it though after 18 years of marriage I am sure she would roll her eyes if I actually told her that.

My wife dated a frat brother of mine when we were in college. She was always just one of the girlfriends that I was somewhat aware of but did not pay a lot of attention to (since they were not my girlfriend). I actually used to have an old, old picture of both of us at a party. We both graduated and went our separate ways.

Two years after I graduated from collage a friend of mine invited me to her child's kindergarten fair. I think I was the token male since she was a single mom and needed someone to bring. I ended up working in a kindergarten booth at the fair with this little blond teacher (she is 5'2" and I am 6'4"). Sure enough we figured out it was the same girl that used to date my frat brother. We ended up out at that night with another male friend of mine. I had not so much luck since she seemed far more interested in my male friend than in me. The night ended and once again we went different ways.

A week later she called me out of the blue. Apparently she was trying to play hard to get before and I was just clueless. We started talking and talking and talking. Then dating and dating and dating. Two months later I asked her to marry me. Ten months later we were married. That was 17 years ago and four children so I guess things worked out! I love her and for some reason she puts up with me!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Who is this Giant in my house?

My oldest son graduated from middle school last night. As I watched it happen I kept thinking over and over "who is this giant in my house?".  I still remember the little boy in his T-ball uniform. Now I have a 190 lb , 5'11" giant tromping though my life. I remember lifting him on my shoulders, now he carries his little brother and sister on his sholders and we walk side by side. 

My oldest son and I were always very close. I have never been a father who shied away from alone time with his kids. By the time my son was one we were off on adventures that often lasted entire weekends. He would ride on my shoulders through Disney World with a diaper in one pocket and wipes in another. We spent hours together. Mom often took the opportunity to rest (since I was away all week at work), so it was just me and him.

As he turned 10 or so the adventures began to slow down. Suddenly I could not just pick him up and go, I had to ask if he wanted to go and more and more he did not. We still spent time together but it became less of a constant adventure and more of a treasure I grabbed when I could.

These days I grab what time I can. I am keely aware of the sand moving through the clock. I have 4 more years before he leaves for collage. I intend to grab what time I can from him between now and then.

One thing I have learned is to treasure time with all my kids. One day it will end and I will look back on it with a vague longing.  Right now my life is full of the chaos of four children and I am loving every minute of it.  

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A and RP

It is very interesting (to say the least) to be raising another set of children. My oldest are 14 and 11 and now my two youngest are 3 and 2. So basically two generations (though same wife just in case you are wondering). I would like to think I have gotten better at the whole dad thing but who knows.

I do like how my 3 and 2 year old play together. The 3 year spread between the first two was just enough so that they were never really the buddies I thought they would be. As you can see from the picture, the two youngest seem to spend all thier time together. That does not mean they are always nice to each other though! On more than one occassion I will see A look around and, convinced that no one can see him, reach out and whack his sister for no reason.

But most of the time they play well together. RP has integrated into the family and now holds her own with the all the boys. C1 is completely smitted with her. He is a bit of a softy though like any teenager he wants you to think he is tough as nails. C2 basically ignores her though he is not above picking her up every once and awhile.

It will be interesting to see how things change now that we are moving. I spent the last 16 years travelling for my company. I was out every Monday and back Thursday or Friday. Now I have switched to a new job where I no longer have to travel at all. So first the first time in their lives they will have dad there everyday. If I had to make a guess things will be a bit more stable for them. My wife is not a habitual person but I am. Her tendency towards chaos was only made worse by having to raise all these kids without me around. I think the kids are going to find that dad is much more predicable. I like to follow patterns and I am going to expect them to follow them with me. So it should be interesting to say the least!

About Me

I like to remember small things about the places I have been. Somehow it makes it more meaningful if I can remember a small street scene instead of some big tourist moment. When I forget those I think it is time to go back to that place so I can experience it again.

In my life I have been blessed with the opportunity to travel the world and see much of what is worth seeing. I have:

Been to more states in the US than most people visit in a lifetime

Sat with my wife and son in a hookah bar on the rooftop of a building in Mumbai and ate some of the best food in the world

Jogged along a canal in Amsterdam while the girls in their little glass booths tapped the glass at me and yelled encouragement

Stood in June under an incredible Melbourne night sky and watched people ice skate outside

Walked though the city with my wife and watched the Queen of England ride into her palace in London

Skied down a mountain at night and looked out over the Vancouver skyline

Sat in a Starbucks in Paris with my son and watched the struggle as they tried to be nice to the Americans

Stayed up way too late for an old man like me drinking pints of Guinness with a bunch of crazy Irishmen in Dublin 

Swam in a blue, blue sea in paradise in the Carribean

Argued in broken Spanish with a taxi driver in the depths of Matamoras, Mexico

Sat by a clock tower in Prague and drank a beer in the same place people have been drinking for the last 1000 years

Walked through the blast doors deep under Moscow and rode the Metro with a bunch of Russian soldiers 

But probably the most amazing place I have been in is the desolation of a Russian Orphanage where a hundred children sit silent and were I met my beautiful, beautiful daughter

Monday, June 1, 2009

My Russian Princess

 I went to Moscow twice last year for the adoption of my young daughter. We adopted RP on what is called a blind adoption. We basically said that we would adopt a female child who 12-24 months old and had no permanent medical damage. They then call you up and tell you that you have three weeks to get to Moscow to meet the child! That is all the information you get until you get there.
 I started the process with over a million frequent flier miles and half a million hotel points (I was a consulant for 15 years so I banked a lot of points). I ended it with zero, nilch, nada! However, I do have a beautiful daughter so it was a good trade. We stayed in American hotels and flew business class. I was laughing that my daughter is going to have high expectations one day since her first flight ever was in business class!
 The first time we went we stayed at a Renaissance over by the old Olympic village.It was a nice hotel but sort of far from everything. We did not really have a lot of time to do stuff though except at night. We did master the Metro so the Wife and I were able to catch the subway into Moscow to meet some friends of ours who live there. It was about a 30 minute train ride to the nearest Starbucks so that was a bit tough on me!
 On our first visit we went to the Ministry of Education (who controls the orphans) and were given our packet on RP. We then went out to the orphanage to meet her. What followed was a sort of crazy 5 day rush to decide if we were going to accept the referral. I seriously think it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Each day we would get up in the morning and be driven to the orphanage about 30 km outside of Moscow.  We had doctors in the US and Moscow looking at her for days! On the third day she looked right at me and said "Papa!", then she kissed me on the nose. I was sort of lost after that. No way was I going to turn down my child. As soon as she went from being "the child" to "my child" I was lost. She has pretty much had me wrapped around her little finger ever since!  
 As a funny aside, our driver and our translator were convinced that we would only eat American food. So they kept taking us to McDonalds until my wife and I finally rebelled and made them let us eat at somewhere else! I liked the food there but I have a British stomach. I always tell people that the British conquered half the world just to find a decent place to eat!
 Visit two was much more calm. We went to Moscow for a week and really we only had to go to court for one day of it. We stayed at the Hyatt which was right off Red Square and we could walk in the Kremlin gardens each morning. I ended up finding a little French restaurant that served breakfast so each morning I would wake up before the Wife and go have coffee and pastries.
 Court was a very formal affair with a lawyer and a judge. Social services came in a presented that we were good parents and that we would take care of little RP. We had to show them pictures of our family and our house and swear up and down that we would be good to our daughter. The Russian government now has a thorough understanding of my finances also.  

Finally the judge left to deliberate and when she came back we got custody! I was sort of nervous. At the time the whole Georgia thing was going on and I was worried that she would rule against us for being American. There have also been cases where Americans have not respected the Russian judicial system and managed to get their case denied. So we were on our best behavior. 
 We spent some of visit two seeing RP in her orphanage each day and the rest touring the city. Very modernized now. All the big American and European chains are there and stores are everywhere. I fell in love with the Metro and ended up riding it just for fun a lot! I have pictures of me wandering all over the city. It was spring though so Moscow was at it finest. I have heard stories about being there in Winter and I think I will pass. 
  I actually went home at the end of the week and the Wife stayed in Moscow for the next 3 weeks with her mother. In Russia now every court adoption has a two week waiting period where a Russian citizen can protest the adoption. In the past it has actually happened that a relative of the child pops up and contests. After the two weeks the Wife had to go through a bunch of paperwork with RP to get her Russian passport and her American Visa. Then they got on a plane and RP became a US citizen once she landed in Chicago. 
  I am planning on taking RP back when she is a teenager and old enough to appreciate it. I want to see St. Petersburg then too since I have heard it is beautiful.
 That is sort of a Reader's Digest condensed version of a huge event in my life. I wanted to get it out there though.

Most productive Teenager ever

 C1 has a serious paintball obsession. At first I thought it was just sort of a fad and then it kept lasting longer and longer. Finally I had to admit that my oldest son is really hooked on this game. He now plays for a real team and gets better everytime I watch him. It is funny how it sometimes takes time for you to realize your child has developed a skill that you did not teach him. One day I watched him play 5 people (1 on 5) and beat them all. Of course only my teenager would develop a skill set that is only really useful in the military!
 This weekend he decided that he wanted to play in a tournement. We were actually supposed to be packing our house for the move to South Florida. So jokingly I told him that if we packed the attic and moved our storage shed then I would take him to the paintball field for the tournement. 
  I spent the next 8 hours in agony. For the first time in my life my 14 year old pushed me on and on to get the work done. Every break I took was with an impatient teenage hovering over the old man waiting for me to be done! I seriously thought this was the end. 
 For the first time I begin to have hope that my seriously undermotiviated teenager may actually grow into someone who does productive things like graduate from college and get a job. I saw a glimpse of the man he may become. Now if I can just figure out how to make him do it again!

P.S. In the end he did get to go to his tournement.

Hello World

Hi Everyone,
  I am the father of three healthy and mostly happy sons. In 2008 my wife and I went on a Russian Adventure and adopted a beautiful young girl in Russia. So now the six of us are living in South Florida and trying to live our lives to the fullest!
  This blog will mostly be about my wife and kids since they provide the entertainment in my life. To introduce them I have C1 (14 years old), C2 (11 years old), A1 (3 years old), RP (Russian Princess) and finally the Wife. However, if I think there is fun stuff to chat about  I reserve the right to talk about anything.
 I will also try and figure out how to link to blogs I like. I follow a couple of blogs about people raising adoptive children and a three or four blogs about americans living in Moscow.
  When I was in Moscow I really fell in love with the city (though it was admitedly spring at the time) and I fully plan to go back there at some point. The Wife laughs at me though since I read the Moscow blogs since I miss the city but every blog is about how tough it is to live in Moscow! So maybe it is better to live the Moscow dream versus the Moscow reality! 
  I expect to get better at this blogging stuff as I progress so please have some patience.