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.