We are a married couple who adopted our little Russky, Nikita {aka Nicky, Nicky noodle, little man, Nikoli, the Nickster, crazy dude, goofball, puppy love, etc...you get the picture!} from St Petersburg, Russia four years ago. Join us as we stumble through the joys and perils of parenthood, while our son teaches us a few things along the road...


August 28, 2008 - Pushkin Visit

Our coordinator (Svetlana) picked us up at our apartment at 9:15am and after all the "hi's & how are you's", she gave us an overview of our agenda for the day. We needed to head to the city registration office to get Nicky's official birth certificates (the original with his born name & birthmother; and the new one with Kris & I listed as the parents & his new name: Nikita Miles Alexander Johnson...whoo hoo!). After the registration office, we would visit Nicky at the orphanage (ДОМ РЕбЕНКА - baby home) (in Kirovsky Region) for a little bit before he went down for nap. We would then be heading to Пушкин (Pushkin), the town just outside (about 25k) Peter where Nicky was born so we could get his registration cancelled, therefore transferring it over to the orphanage, then eventually to us. When Svetlana was finished telling us about our day, she casually said "So I think we can pick Nikita up tomorrow so he can spend the weekend with you. That might be better so he can get more used to you since he wasn't as comfortable with you the last visit." Kris & I looked at each other with silly grins, then asked Svetlana "Really?!". We had contimplated asking for that to happen; even had the "You ask her. No, you ask her." conversation before we got in the car! This whole process is very different than anything us Americans are used to...especially for those like myself that like to plan things and know what's coming next. We had left, after our first trip, under the very clear assumption that we would not pick Nicky up from the orphanage until the day we were to leave for Moscow (Labor Day). We were pleasantly surprised & giddy like little school girls (ha! Kris a schoolgirl?!)...maybe more like kids on Christmas morning...when she told us! Of course, then the "OMG what the heck are we going to do with a 2+ year old over the weekend in Peter" came to the front of our minds! We definitely weren't prepared in the toy & stuff to do department. We packed the bare minimum; enough for a few days in Moscow (considering most of the time will be paperwork, waiting around & some sightseeing), and enough for the (OMG crazy long) flight home. Needless to say, Nicky has now made 2 trips to the toy store here...something all the "experts" warn you against doing too soon for fear of the institutionalized child becoming overwhelmed. (Toy stores are enough to overwhelm most adults, if you ask me!).

The rest of our Thursday... the registration office took about an hour or so. The lady was very nice and wished us well, and seemed genuinely happy for the 3 of us; we never really know what type of attitude/reaction to expect from the "powers that be" here. We got to the baby home just before 12pm & the kids were all eating...not sure what, but it definitely smelled tasty to Kris & I! Nicky came into the music room to see us and this time he was calm, no tears, and actually seemed relaxed with us. We played with the машина (literal translation is "machine", said like machine with the emphasis on the "ma" & ends with "a"; it means "car") we brought for him...he loves him some Matchbox! We also "read" the book "Cars" to him...not that he really understands what we're saying, but the book makes fun sounds & he likes to push the buttons! His caregiver came for him around 1pm for nap time, so we headed to the car for the drive to Pushkin (named after the Poet Alexander Pushkin).

Pushkin is situated on land granted by Peter the Great to his wife, the future Catherine I. The Catherine Palace, also known as "Tzarskoye Selo" (Tsars Village), built in 1717, is the centerpiece of the town, along with Alexander Palace. Catherine Palace is a blue, white & gold marvel. More than 100 kilograms of gold were used to gild the sophisticated stucco façade and numerous statues erected on the roof (stole that from Wikipedia!). It is surrounded by a huge, beautiful garden, which of course, we didn't get to see much of since it was pouring down rain (figures!). We went inside, and even thou several others made it thru the pseudo-security check with their bags & overcoats, Kris & I were told to "disrobe" and visit the coat check (at least that part is free!). (note - it cost more to go inside the Palace & Park (you paid for both separately...grr!) than it did to visit both the Church on Spilled Blood & the Hermitage). Never fails - we got sent to the same place the day before at the Herm, so we shoulda known better...stupid Americans! Anyway, in order to protect the beautiful marble & wooden floors, we were instructed to put (what looked like hospital) booties on over our shoes...quite fashionable!

We were then ushered with many other (smelly) visitors up the staircase to endure a long explanation about the marvel of the palace, room-by-room...in Russian...no wonder they charge so much! Several of the rooms are still under reconstruction, so they were closed for viewing; we saw maybe 7 or so rooms & 2 staicases...real bummer. However, the Grand Ballroom was beautiful - it had gold-gilt mirrors all over the walls, and the doors & window sills were covered in gold as well. The ceiling was painted with angels and Gods & Goddesses, ala Sistine Chapel. There was a room that was entirely encased in Amber...very amazing - of course this room was off limits for picture taking.

My favorite room was the Green Dining Room - it was a pale green, white & pink and was very soothing & peaceful. We eventually left the pack and took our own tour of the remaining few rooms and looked at the pictures hanging in the hall to the exit of the destruction from WWII. When the German military forces retreated after the siege of Leningrad, they had the residence intentionally destroyed,leaving only the hollow shell of the palace behind. Prior to the WWII the Russian archivists managed to remove a fraction of its contents, which proved of great importance in reconstructing the palace. The work that has been done is amazing, althou they still have a long way to go.

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