How it all started


Jeff and I met in early 1998, both divorced with kids. I brought 4 with me ~~ Chris (12), Sarah (11), Emily (9) and Alex (3) and Jeff brought 2 of his own ~~ Erin (5) and Kevin (3). Mine lived with us and his visited on the weekends. That made for some pretty crowded times since when we got started we lived in a 1200 sq ft apartment in Thousand Oaks, California. Eventually we bought a house and Jeffrey Jr joined our crew in November 2000. What's one more when you've already got a half dozen?

We bought a bigger house in May 2003 so my mom (who was suffering from end stage Parkinson's Disease) and her live-in help could move in with us. That's 9, count 'em... 9 people under one roof.


My mom lived her last year with us and passed away in February 2004. It was the same month our oldest, Christopher, joined the Air Force. I guess the sudden loss of 3 people created a rather large vacuum in the house because suddenly I needed to adopt a little girl from Russia. Having been adopted myself, I had always wanted to adopt a child.

Jeff had been adopted too so it only took a little prodding for him to get on board.

I spent hours scanning the Internet photolistings of adoptable Russian kids. These databases are actually illegal in Russia but at that time it was not highly enforced. Probably a good thing because otherwise I would not have seen Katherine's picture.



She was so cute with her cropped hair, thick winter sweater and no shoulders.... what more could you ask for? She looked a lot like Jeffrey and Jeff thought the agency was trying to pass her off as boy off and hope we wouldn't notice. (Boys were much harder to place than girls.)

After the agency assured me that she really was a girl and she really did have shoulders, we started the adoption process in October of 2004.

Paperwork for an international adoption is unending. You need about 500 different forms and each form must come from an official source. Each source must then be verified by a different official source by attaching stamped forms with signatures of officials who have been been given the power to use said stamps and make said verifications.

And if that weren't enough, each verification form must be further verified by sending the pile of stamps and signatures to the state capital so officials there could further verify the verifications. 

And then they charge you $50 each for the pleasure of doing so. That adds up fast.

Now Russia has this funny policy that when they don't like how an agency is being run, they shut it down. Just close the doors and that's that. They eventually get around to reopening it again but there is no telling when. 

Twice while we were waiting for permission to travel (Russia has to invite you before you are allowed to come over and play) they closed the branch of government responsible for foreign adoptions. They were the ones that would issue something called a "databank release letter". The golden ticket that releases Katherine's name out of the "adoption databank" and makes her available for visitation and possible adoption.

January rolled around with no news of when we could travel

About this time Russia also decided that they didn't like how we Americans were handling our side of the adoptions so they stopped re-licensing agencies. If your agency still had a valid license then you were fine, but if the license expired while you were in the middle of an adoption, you were screwed. We would be screwed at the end of February.


While we were waiting we met a lady named Cathy who was adopting a little boy, Victor, out of the same orphanage using the same agency that we did. We emailed quite a bit and became friends while waiting to go and meet our kids.

During this time Jeff had been sick for a couple of weeks. First a cold, then a fever, then he developed chest pain. We thought it was nothing more than a chest cold and overlooked the fact that it was getting worse.

One day, while we were at the Honda dealer buying a new van, he sat down and told me to take him to the hospital.

We got him to the hospital and no one could find anything wrong. They were about to send him home when a single test came back showing an elevation in heart enzymes, indicating the beginning of a heart attack. They rushed him to ultrasound where they found that a piece of plaque had broken off and become lodged in his left descending artery. The lower half of his heart had stopped beating. They inserted a stent and opened the blockage. The good news was that he had no heart disease or even partially clogged arteries anywhere else. 

He spent 4 days in the hospital, 3 in the cardiac care unit. It was a complete blur. I began to wonder if we would be able to go to Russia at all. We knew we had to get there within the next 4 weeks and I had no idea whether the doctor would let Jeff travel.

I felt selfish even thinking that after what he had just been throughbut it turned out though that he was thinking the same thing. His nurse pulled me aside and told me he kept telling them he had to be OK because he needed to go to Russia and get his little girl.

It turned out the doctor didn't see any reason that he couldn't travel since the rest of his heart was in near perfect condition. So Jeff came home and we began real preparation for our trip.

10 days later Jeff's mom called. His father had had a massive stroke and was in the hospital in a coma. We waited through the weekend and it was obvious that things were not going to get better. Jeff booked a last minute flight and flew to Vegas for 24 hours to be with his mom. He came home and said things didn't look good but there was nothing we could do and his mom was insistent that we not postpone our trip.

We reluctantly agreed and within a week we received our OK to travel and were on our way to St Petersburg.

Our First Trip

So the three of us (Jeff, myself and Jeffrey) set off in the dead of winter on our journey.

Here's Jeffrey and some of our 1/2 ton of luggage waiting at LAX


A couple of shots flying over the Rockies:



Landing in Detroit:



Stopover in Amsterdam:


Our plane getting fueled up:


Finally, countless hours after we took off from LA, we landed in St Petersburg Russia.

The lady in passport control glared at me the moment I stepped up to the window. She snatched my passport out of my hand and looked at it for a long time before she looked me, one eyebrow raised. "Eeez theez you?"

I immediately felt guilty. Was that me? I couldn't remember. Who knows after 16 hours on a plane with a 4 year old. Maybe this was a trick question. I couldn't think straight and I stood there with my eyebrows knitted together staring at her blankly. She shoved the passport back across the counter and snatched Jeffrey's from my other hand. She held the passport up to compare the picture to him. She scowled even more deeply and informed me that "Your child eez not dressed to go outside... Eeeez that how you 'ave dressed him for this terrible cold?". I grabbed his sweatshirt from my bag, yanked it over his head and assured her that his winter parka was in the luggage. She shook her head, shoved his passport back over the counter and motioned for me to get out of her sight.

With that fun out of the way we met our translator Natalya (the first friendly face since we landed) near the airport's entrance doors. She presented me with flowers and hugs.

We headed outside and immediately froze to death. By the time we got to the car Jeffrey was trying to climb under my shirt.

We discovered that we had 1/2 ton of luggage and Natalya only had a 1/4 ton car. It took a lot of juggling, swearing and Jeff's incredible packing skills and we somehow got everything (including ourselves) into the car and off we went.

We arrived at the Renaissance Hotel at 6 PM local time. That was 5 AM our time and I had slept less than 2 hours since we left LA over a day ago. I was dizzy with exhaustion.

Jeff said we should stay up another few hours so we could get a regular nights sleep. He said if we did that we would sleep through the night, wake up in the morning and be on Russian time. It was a good practical idea he said. I'm sure he said more but I had fallen asleep next to Jeffrey and missed the rest.

The problem with going to sleep at 5:30 AM (LA time) is that your body wakes you up in the middle of the day (LA time) and wonders why you are sleeping and why on earth it's pitch black outside.

2:30 AM Russia time and I'm sitting up in bed wide awake. 10 minutes later everyone else was awake too. We turned on the lights and began our day. Jeff surfed the internet on our laptop, Jeffrey watched DVDS on the portable player and I read the current Harry Potter book for the next 4 hours while we waited for the breakfast buffet to open up.

We were the first ones in line and were starving since it had been more than 12 hours since we last ate on the plane.

The food was delicious. It definitely had a European flare with several types of fish and Russian pastries. But they also had eggs, French toast, cereal and fruit. I found a pitcher of milk and poured some over my cereal only to be greeted with lumpy, thick keifer. At least it wasn't milk gone bad as I originally thought.

After breakfast we went back up to the room and spent the next 2 hours unpacking and getting organized while we waited for our driver to pick us up.

When we got down to the lobby, I found Cathy and her daughter waiting for us. It was great to meet her face to face for the first time.

When our driver showed up we all ran through the freezing cold and straight into the large van they had provided for us to travel back and forth to the orphanage. There we met Cathy's husband Mike and son Patrick.

We headed into the city to the MOE (Ministry of Education) where we received our official referrals and then headed off to meet our kids. (In general you aren't supposed to know what child you will be meeting until you get to the MOE, but most adoption agencies find a way around that.)

The 2 hour ride out to the orphanage was through beautiful snow covered countryside. The van was comfortable and afforded lots of good viewing from the big windows.

First two shots are as we were leaving the city:




This is Natalya in the front seat:













Driving in Russia is always an adventure.
We got a little too close to log truck in front of us but by now I was already learning to close my eyes and hope for the best.


As we got into Kingisepp I took some pictures of the village.





When we finally arrived at the orphanage they escorted us into the tiny directors office. Only our translator spoke English.

They started with Cathy, telling her all about Viktor. Then they turned to us and began telling us about Katherine (Katya in Russian). Suddenly there was a commotion in the hallway, Cathy looked up and said "OH here they are..."

I couldn't see anything from where I was sitting but suddenly I started to cry. So much for holding it together. They marched both kids into the room and there she was.

My first thought was that she didn't look anything like the picture I had seen and she was so skinny. Like pictures from the "Feed the Children" commercials. She dutifully walked over to me, turned her back and waited to be picked up. I scooted her up on to my lap and I could feel every rib through her dress.

Before I even had a chance to get a better look at her, they took her hand, pulled her off my lap and led her out of the room.

They began to apologize right away and said that there was something that had not been written in her files and that we should know about it right away. They said she had been exposed to TB 2 years before and that they understood that it was a serious matter and again were very sorry that we had come all this way without knowing that. They said it would be possible for us to meet another child but they did not want us to see her again if we decided to do that because it would be very hard for her to understand.

All this being passed from the director through the translator to us.

At first I was surprised but having read about it I knew it was a common occurrence with Eastern European adopted kids and not as big a deal to us in the America.

We told them of course we still wanted to meet her and they brought her back into the room where she hurried up to me and starting talking very earnestly and pulling at her hair. Natalya laughed and said "she is telling you she wants to grow long hair."

Natalya told her I said she could have long hair and she burst into a long string of happy chatter and spent the next hour and half stringing beads, coloring and playing with some of the toys we brought for her.



Here is a shot of Victor:



Soon it was time for us to go, but we told her that we would be back tomorrow.

When we arrived next day, they told us we could take the kids out for a walk in the town. They sent along 2 of the older girls from the orphanage next door as our guides. Very sweet girls who were already 16 and past the age that they could be adopted.

They gave us a sled for Jeffrey so he didn't have to walk in the snow and off we went.

Jeffrey prepared for the cold (and this still wasn't warm enough).


We walked to the top of a hill where the children from the town had created a sledding slope and were careening down the hill on small soggy pieces of cardboard.

It was fast, dangerous, life threatening and wet. The kids couldn't wait to do it.

You can just see the end of the ice slope on the lower right of the picture:


Katherine, looking like the little boy from Christmas Story who couldn't put his arms down, was the first to to go flying down the ice slope. She pushed off and went airborne before reconnecting with the ground, flipped over and slid the rest of the way down the hill on her back.

Apparently this was the correct way to do it because everyone in the group applauded. Viktor and Jeffrey went next, both becoming airborne before landing on body parts other than their bottoms and arriving at the bottom head first.

Much cheering and applause from the crowd.

After many runs down the hill it was time to head back.

Before we reached the orphanage, Natalya suggested we stop at a cafe for some lunch. It had been almost nine hours since we had eaten so that sounded really good.

The place we went to was a little hole in the wall with 2 rooms and giant fireplace in the back.

Natalya read us the menu and we decided on soup and a sandwich which turned out to be a small piece of bread with a pickle and 2 slices of salami. I liked it better than I thought I would and the soup was fantastic.

Natalya ordered the kids a piece of layer cake. It didn't even hit the table before Viktor starting eating. It was gone before Katherine even got hers.

When hers arrived she stared at the cake without touching it. We kept saying Eat.. Eat! She would smile but wouldn't touch it. Finally she took a small bite and then the cake was gone in a flash.

Natalya told us this was a treat that they never got in the orphanage and it was also the first time for them in a restaurant.

I took Katherine to the bathroom while we were there and discovered that bathroom etiquette is quite different in Russia. First there is no toilet seat. Just a cold dirty toilet bottom which she had no trouble perching herself on top of while her hands touched the inside of the rim. ICK ICK!

Then of course there is the issue of toilet paper. Most people in Russia don't use it. She looked at me like I was crazy when I tore off a piece of the brown roughage and tried to get her to wipe her under parts with it. I figured we'd work on that later.

We spent quite a bit more time sitting around the tables next to the fire talking and laughing. It felt very surreal being 100 miles from anywhere in a small village in Northern Russia.

Finally it came time to leave and all too soon we were back in the directors office getting ready to go home.

As we were packing our stuff Katherine began to talk to me... chattering on and on in Russian. Natalya said she wanted a picture of us together. The director took a picture with her own camera and printed it out and then we took two with a Polaroid Cathy had brought. Katherine smiled and tucked the pictures into the family photo album I left for her so she could look at pictures of us and our house while we were gone for the next who knew how long.

We took a few for ourselves. We had to wake Jeffrey up... can you tell?






Suddenly the social worker was there gathering Katherine's things and leading her out of the room. She pulled away and came and looked up at my face and said something very seriously. I looked to Natalya who said "She wants mama to come back... " Tears pooled in my eyes. She smiled and leaned up for a kiss. I leaned down to kiss her and then she went to Jeff and kissed him on the cheek and left.

"She certainly has taken to you" Natalya said.

I looked up and saw Jeff standing with his back to the group looking out the window with tears trickling down his face. I somehow made it the van, sniffling and wiping my eyes before I completely broke down and cried.

The long trip back was a blur and I think all of us slept most of the way.



The next day we went to the notary to sign the acceptance papers and then stopped at a little retro looking cafe not too far from our hotel.



That night I went down to hotel gift shop to get some small souvenirs to bring back for the other kids.

The shop was small and filled with some very expensive looking things. But the prices didn't seem overly expensive. As a matter of fact most of them seemed down right reasonable.

This is where I like to say all the traveling and time change and stress and lack of sleep all came into play and clouded my otherwise intelligent mind.

I walked through the store feeling positively giddy that all the things were priced within reason and chose generously. Several nesting dolls, 2 crystal key chains and a crystal with a beautiful ballerina lazered into the center.

I took the things to the counter where the well-dressed lady asked if wanted the total in rubles or euros.

Well, rubles I suppose, I mean after all...that's what they were marked in wasn't it? We WERE in Russia so I naturally assumed that all the prices had been marked in rubles.

She rang up my purchases and the total came out to 4200 rubles.

OH NO.... wait on a second.... 4200? That's, um, let's see. I was desperately trying to do the math in my head but seemed to have lost all ability to think. But unfortunately I hadn't lost enough of the ability because my brain was quickly doing the calculations and coming to an answer that I didn't like very much.

It turned out the prices I were looking at were in Euros and the equivalent Rubles were marked in tiny little print up in the corner of the price tag. Who bothers to read the fine print?

The items I thought were $5 each were actually closer to $30.

I stuttered and stammered and basically stood there with a stupid look on my face. The lady behind the counter asked if there was a problem. I was too embarrassed to say anything, so I simply handed over my credit card, said "Thank You" and shot out of there before I bought anything else.

My little shopping expedition had totaled 150 AMERICAN dollars.

You can bet the kids weren't getting their hands on those $50 nesting dolls.

I figured I wouldn't say anything to Jeff until he got the bill and by then I was hoping I could think of a better excuse than I couldn't read the price tag.

The next morning at 4 AM our driver arrived to pick us up in a black Mercedes sedan and whisked us to the airport through the dark and quiet streets of St Petersburg. I felt like I was in an old spy movie with the mist hanging low along the roads and our driver hunkered down in his seat with his hat pulled down over his eyes.

When we got to the airport it was closed. I wasn't aware that entire airports could close, but apparently I don't know everything. It finally opened at 5 AM and after going through a rather questionable security check (which amounted to them asking me if I had any weapons, taking my word for it and waving me on) we boarded our plane and were on our way home.

We stopped in Frankfurt where they confiscated my nail clippers. Everyone also got a huge kick out of the fact that our last name is Zucker which means Sugar in German. I began to humor them by acting surprised and laughing along. It had to be better than shouting "YES I KNOW... Everyone in the freakin' airport has told me that already!". I guess it was good they took away my nail clippers. Who knows what I might have done.

From there we flew on to Detroit where we went through customs and then had some time to eat and relax for about an hour. I took Jeffrey to the food court while Jeff made some phone calls now that our cel phones worked again.

I came back with sandwiches, cookies and drinks. Jeff was looking out the window.

"Hi" I said.

"Hi" he said.

"So did you get in touch with everyone?"

"Yes."

"Is everything OK?"

He turned to look at me with tears in his eye.

"He's gone."

I knew immediately that he meant his father had passed away. We had been keeping in contact with his mom and uncle via e-mail during the time we were gone and knew things weren't looking good.

I'm sorry was all I could manage to say.

I looked around us. 100's of people milling around, some trying to get seats, some talking and laughing. Completely unaware of what we were feeling. I couldn't bring myself to let go and cry.

Jeff looked at me and I looked at him and we hugged and tried to shut out the world for just a moment.

They called us for boarding and we got swept up in the mass of people and before we knew it we were taking off on our last plane ride home.

I got a beautiful shot out the window as we were flying and imagined Pa-pa Teddy out there waving and telling me everything was going to be OK.


Back Home and Waiting

The weekend we got home we had to unpack from one trip and immediately pack to go to Las Vegas for the funeral.

Here are a few shots of our group while we there. We stayed at the Excalibur which has a great buffet.

Erin, Jeffrey, Alex and Kevin:


Kevin and Alex:



Sarah, Emily and Grandma:



Erin and Jeffrey:


We went to the huge indoor aquarium at one of the hotels.
Aunt Robyn is all the way on the right.




I was jet lagged and cranky but by the time we got home again 5 days later we had re-adjusted to our own time zone.

Thus began 2 months of waiting for Russia to grant us a court date. 2 months of checking my emails daily hoping for some news. Any news.

All I got for the most part were emails telling me I needed another piece of paperwork. More verifying the previously verified.

And one thing after another.

Jeff's passport was expiring. We didn't want to have to redo his passport because our coordinator told us if we redid it, then it would have a different number (she was wrong) and it would cause too many paperwork snafus for the Russian government. Russian adoption is one big snafu from start to finish so we didn't need to add any new ones. But we were worried we couldn't secure a visa because there are rules that say you cannot get a visa if you don't have a certain amount of time left on your passport before it expires.

In the end, after much sweating, hair pulling and worrying we were granted a visa. I don't know how, but thank you "Russian Connections Travel Agency" and whatever connections you have that got it approved. I am quite sure some money must have exchanged hands for this to have gone through.

I finally received word that we had been granted a court date for Tuesday April 12th and purchased plane tickets accordingly only to have it changed on April 10th to the following Friday, April 15th.

We changed our plane tickets which of course cost a fortune, but it simply would have cost more to stay in the hotel for those extra days.

Monday, before we were set to leave on Tuesday, I got an email telling me the Russian judge wanted 2 more pieces of paperwork. I spent the better part of the day scrambling to get the paperwork I needed, getting them notarized and taking them to the county to have them certified, verified and stamped with blood (well it felt like it).

We were in downtown LA getting the last official stamp on the way to the airport on Tuesday. Talk about cutting it close.

As we sat on the plane I simply could not believe that we were on our way. I spent quite a bit of the ride worried that I had forgotten something.

Thankfully that turned out not to the case.

The Second Trip ~~ Back in the USSR

This trip included Jeff, myself, Emily (our 16 year old) and of course Jeffrey. Here we are someplace in Europe waiting for our next flight. (You can tell I was tired before we even started because I couldn't remember where we were, but I think it's probably Paris).



Flying somewhere over Europe:


And here we are landing in St Petersburg... notice all the fires? The people there burn the fields every year to get rid of debris and overgrown grasses. Makes for lovely air quality.



When you've been traveling for the better part of 24 hours on several different planes, any destination seems a good one. Even Russia. We arrived tired and cranky and ready to go back home.

We were shuffled through customs and Jeffery and I were separated from the others into a different line. Somehow we got through our line very quickly and collected our luggage only to find ourselves sitting with it for quite awhile before the others appeared.

In retrospect, I should have figured something was wrong when we were fast tracked through the line without the usual signing of paperwork. One might ask why I didn't ask the customs official about signing things but wasn't that supposed to be HER job... to make sure everything was done right?

We met up with our driver who was sent from the agency and he drove us to the same hotel we used last trip. As I was checking in, I got the first hint something was wrong. The man at the desk asked why neither Jeffery's nor my passport had the correct form stapled to them and why they were not stamped correctly.

In my travels through Russia I had perfected the clueless blank stare. I used it often. Now seemed like a good time to try it out again.

The man behind the counter said I couldn't even check into the hotel without these things. He called the manager over and there was much discussion in Russian. I continued to practice my new look, with a heaping helping of innocent victim thrown in for good measure. I think I just looked sick. The manager kept looking over at me (maybe he was worried I was going to throw up) and finally shrugged his shoulders and stamped the passports himself and said "OK no problem".

I'm not sure why people say "no problem" when it's really not true. It gives one a sense of false security.

Unfortunately the false security didn't last very long because when we saw Natalya the next morning and gave her our passports, she flipped out.

"Why don't you have a immigration slip?  Did you lose it? And where is the immigration stamp? Why don't you have an immigration stamp?"

"The lady going through immigration just didn't give me one. The man at the desk stamped my passport though, see right there.. He said OK no problem". I didn't feel I needed my clueless stare this morning because I actually had answers. OK, they weren't the right answers, but at least I had some.

I have come to realize that living in a free country like America your entire life does not prepare you for going someplace that is not.

Natalya was almost in tears. "You don't understand... they can come and take you out of the country without a slip stapled in your passport showing you went through immigration correctly."

Well isn't that nice.....

Natalya said this is something the immigration people do from time to time. They seem to enjoy the thought of how many poor unsuspecting foreigners were not going to be able to check into their hotels or get harassed by the police because their passports were not processed correctly.

The Russians have a sense of humor after all.

We had to postpone everything we had planned that day to deal with this issue which kept becoming worse and worse as the day progressed.

First we went to the airport and Natalya used a "customer service" phone at one of the counters. Clearly the Russian "customer service" department did not get the memo that when someone uses this line, someone on the other end is supposed to HELP them. A man answered and Natalya explained the situation and asked the man if they could PLEASE stamp my passport correctly .

He laughed and said "Why would we want to do that". (Seriously, that's what he said).

Then he added "If she does not have the right stamp in her passport she has 24 hours to leave the country or be in violation of the law" and hung up.

I felt like I was going to pass out and Natalya started crying. When we got back out to the car, no one needed to ask how things were going.

Our next step was the American Embassy. I had to try to explain to the person behind the counter that No, I did not sneak through immigration, No, I did not lose my paperwork and No, I have no idea why I did not have the right form stapled inside my passport. Honestly people, I am just as clueless and stupid as I sound. Jet lag and humorous immigration officials will do that an otherwise intelligent person.

There was a lot of talking in hushed voices, scowling looks and wandering back and forth by the people behind the counters. Eventually they gave me the correct form, filled out by an official at the embassy. I was warned that since it did not have the immigration stamp that can only be given at the airport someone could get technical about it and have the police come and take me out of the country. But not to worry... no one would probably even notice.

Yeah right...

When my passport was going to be inspected by how many people in the next few days as we tried to complete this adoption?

My head was swimming, but at this point there was nothing to do but keep moving forward and hope for the best.

Oh yeah, and prepare for the worst.

After all that nonsense, we needed a break. So we drove the 2 hours out to Kingisepp to visit Katherine for the first time in 2 months.

We brought bubbles which were a huge hit.

Dig that fancy bow!








They would not let us see any part of the orphanage other than the entrance hallway and directors office until we had the adoption papers in hand. Here is Jeffrey near the front door.



As we were leaving, kids from Katherine's group were peeking out at us from their day room window. In the second picture you can see a few of them with their hands up by the eyes making circles, asking us to take pictures of them. It was rather heartbreaking knowing they had to stay and I couldn't take them all home with me.








So back at the hotel and trying to talk myself into the feeling that everything would be OK, we watched some very exciting Russian television. Of course I can only guess that it was exciting since I couldn't understand a word of it. I never did understand why one of the more fancy hotels in St Pete did not have any English programming on their TVs.

I was preparing for court the next day when Natalya called.

She was very sorry. Really it wasn't her fault. Really Really she was sorry! (That is never a good thing to hear before you even know what is coming).

Court had been postponed from Friday to Monday. The judge wanted to look over the paperwork again.

Honestly, how interesting can these documents be? The need to read them 20 times over seems to be a good excuse to make the parents sweat and wait. and wait. and wait. and spend more money on hotel rooms and food.

So instead of going through court and bringing Katherine home the next day, we had 3 days to do absolutely nothing, except wait and worry.

On Saturday we figured we might as well go out and explore since there is only so much Russian language TV you can watch. Since we were in walking distance of the Hermitage we decided to go for a visit.

The area was filled with beautiful buildings and statues.
I wish I had taken more pictures.






We even saw a man who had a baby bear walking on a leash.
You don't see that everyday!




We went inside, paid for our tickets and had to leave all of our belongings at a coat check. I could have paid to bring my camera along but didn't find that out until later.

It was breath-taking. I loved the Egyptian section and Emily loved the galleries of art from the Renaissance. Jeffery on the other hand loved all the fancy padded chairs they had in each room for the docents to sit on. He loved the chairs so much he tried to climb in each one of them that didn't have a docent sitting in it. He did this by putting the sole of his shoe on the fabric to give himself a leg up. This caused the docent to have a Russian melt-down... it wasn't pretty.

We made our way through the museum, leaving a wake of disgruntled museum employees in our wake. We cut our visit shorter than we would have liked, but to be fair to the 4 year old, we were asking him to behave himself in a boring old museum in the middle of his night.

He fell asleep on Jeff's shoulder as we were walking back to the hotel.

We spent the rest of the weekend watching television which included Homer Simpson having a bad day in Russian which was funny even if you couldn't understand it.

We ate a lot of room service and spent time browsing the mini market next door trying to figure out what was in each package. It was hit or miss as to what you might get. There were packages of stinky cheese that were cleverly disguised as sweet fancy desserts . We learned to figure those out pretty quick. Every time we went into the store,  the lady behind the counter spent most of her time staring at us, craning her neck as went out of view and whispering behind her hand to the other employee.

We also spent some time sitting on our window seat looking out over the city. Here is the view from our bedroom window.



We also ventured out a bit to the local McDonald's. I had to guess at what we wanted and I'm not sure that I got what I ordered in the first place.




The walk to and from the hotel was impressive.






This was outside our hotel.
You can just see the mini Market with the Coke sign next door.



When we got back to our street there had been a car accident. I am surprised I didn't see more of this with the way they drive here.



Soon enough the weekend was over and Court Monday dawned early and cold. My stomach was in knots and I was not sure I was going to be able to make it through the day.