James 1:27

"Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father
means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and
refusing to let the world corrupt you."
James 1:27

Friday, July 6, 2012

Our trip home

***Notice - I wrote this the Monday after we came home, but saved it and we went to the beach for a week.  I finalized it today, that's why it's taken so long for me to get to the end of our trip.  Thanks for being patient!***

We all finally fell asleep by midnight only to wake up at 4:15am (9pm ET the night before) Saturday to get our kids up, take out the garbage, and bring all our bags down to the curb for the taxi ride to the airport for our 6:20am flight.  The first taxi was on time, but the second one was late.  The driver said the second one would be arriving in 6 minutes so whoever is going with him, get in and we'll go.  We told him we did not want to leave without everyone together.  He seemed in a hurry to get us dropped off but we weren't leaving anyone behind.  Who knows what kind of drama would ensue if we were split up and had trouble re-connecting had something happened.  Fortunately, the second taxi arrived (about 15 minutes after the original estimate) and the 3 boys and Annie piled into it and we were off.

We arrived at the airport 4 minutes later, just kidding, and we went over to the kiosk to print our boarding passes.  It was taking FOREVER so we went over to the lady to print our passes for us.  She asked if we checked in, and I said I did the night before online.  She said we did not check in.  I love it when people ask you questions when they already know the answer.  Yes, we are dumb.  Sorry we don't know how to use the computer to check in.  You win.

She handed us our boarding passes after talking more about us not being checked in and off we went to our gate.  On our way to the gate, Scott & I picked up a coffee and the kids had orange juice.  I hadn't had any coffee pretty much the entire trip (I'm a coffee snob and only wanted DD hazelnut) so I was really enjoying some hot hazelnut coffee, even though it wasn't my brand.  We didn't wait very long til we loaded up on the first of three planes and settled in for a 2 hour flight to Frankfurt, Germany.  Emma, Jack and Andris were sitting together, Leah and I, and Annie & Scott.


The flight was pretty much uneventful with the exception of the coffee working it's way through me, if you know what I mean, and of course this had to happen as the drink cart is going by only to block the lower class, excuse me, economy toilets.  I bee-lined it to the first class one just in time.  As I made my way back to my seat past the elite of the flight, I received a few questioning looks.  Yep, I'm returning to behind the curtain, people.

We arrived in Germany and had a 4 hour layover.  We found a place to eat and settled in for a little bit.  Everyone was getting cranky and the sleep deprivation was starting to get to everyone.  Well, mainly Scott and Annie.  :(  We figured we would just hang out at our gate, so we gathered our things and worked our way over to the sign to see where our gate was and couldn't find it.  We asked an official airport person and they gave us difficult directions.  We finally figured out our way and started walking.  A nice man with an extended golf cart drove us to the other side where we needed to go.  Whew.  That would have taken us forever!  We enter the main area, find our gate and sit down.  We have 1 hour and 10 minutes to wait.

We were not able to have our boarding passes printed for this next flight to Dulles in DC, so we had to wait for an attendant to come to the gate so we could have them printed out.  This man, who we thought was going to help us, was so rude.  He was short with his answers and acting like we were wasting his time, even though that was his job.  After we went through the "did someone ask you to hold a bomb and bring it on the plane with you" questions, Scott got in line to have the passes printed.  We finally had them and only had 20 minutes left to kill.  We ate "soft" pretzels, irritated one another, said mean things and "apologized" all the while Scott and I were acting like we had our act together.  This is going to be a long plane ride.

And yes, it was.  That little plane was never going fast enough on the screen, the 1 child movie was never playing when the girls wanted to watch it, food came when they were sleeping, they didn't like it when it did come, and kept asking when the flight was going to be over.  Sigh.  Breathe in breathe out.

We landed in Dulles and it just gets better.  We all walk like cattle down a long, long, long corridor to the Customs and Immigration section.  We are one of the first ones in line and go up to an agent to have our passports stamped.  He gets to Andris' and asks us if we filled out an I-94 for him.  Uh, no.  Well, we just have to go all the way to the back wall and fill one out, then come back for Andris' Visa.  As I am filling out the form, Leah screams and as we look to see what was wrong, SHE PEES ALL OVER THE FLOOR AND ALL OVER HER DRESS!  RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF ALL THESE PEOPLE GETTING IN LINE!  Poor thing starts crying and is embarrassed.  I'm guessing she had to really go and couldn't hold it in. We go to the bathroom, change clothes and now she's crying and not stopping.  She's exhausted.  Everyone is.  We leave the wet spot on the carpet, go through a short cut line and back to the guy we talked with and he stamped the Visa and off we went.  (Yes, we left it.  Don't judge.  You talk to a government agent about a pee spot and see how far you get!)

After leaving Customs, we walk towards the security section to have our luggage checked yet again and we hear the speakers overhead say "A fire alarm has been pulled.  The authorities are investigating.  A fire alarm has been pulled.  The authorities are investigating."  Over and over again.  No one seems to care, much less notice, so maybe this is a regular occurrence.  Who knows?  We wind our way through the roped walkways and put our bags on the conveyor belts and proceed to take off our shoes to go through the metal detector.  A security agent gives Emma a hard time because she took off her shoes when only adults need to, so she should put hers back on.  As she's putting them back on, the same agent tells her that she needs to hurry up and go through the detector.  Jeez.  She's a child.  Give her a break.  

Anyway, we finally get through that hurdle and continue on into the airport.  Then, we came to an escalator.  Oh boy!  We love escalators!  This is a good thing.  We went up the escalator, walked 30 feet and went down, up then down, up then down.  Who designed this airport?  We had to take a subway to another part of the airport, but first, an escalator.  We hopped off the subway and what do you know?  An escalator!  Time to go down.  As we approached the next escalator (I'm getting tired of writing that word), Annie trips over her own feet.  And screams bloody murder.  This is her trademark.  She screams like she's getting her arm ripped off.  At everything.  And this is no exception.  After picking her up, we go down another escalator only to have Jack turn to look back at us and since this is a shorter one, he tries to jump over the end piece but trips and bites it into the carpet in front of a ton of people.  Naturally, I laugh.  What?  It's funny!  Don't fall around me, I laugh.

He stands up and holds his arm and yells "Stop laughing!" and keeps walking.  I bite my lip and we all continue walking and then we see those walking conveyor belt thingys.  Oh goody!  Another fun toy to ride! Everyone starts running, Annie included.  Man!  There are 3 in a row!  Life is good.  As the kids get off the 3rd one, Annie and Leah are still running and now it's up hill.  (Yes, we are still in the airport).  BAM!  Annie trips again and bangs her forehead smack on the tile floor.  She's screaming bloody murder again, but she's really hurt this time.  I didn't laugh because the head hitting the ground was awful.  After a minute or two, we continue on.  Jack comes really close to the side wall posts because he's not paying attention and I yelled to him to watch out. No more than 30 seconds later, Leah falls and scrapes her knee and palms.  Now Scott is carrying two kids, and we continue.  Jack helps Scott by taking his rolling luggage and is looking back at us like "look at me!" and BAM! runs right into the side wall post.  He hit the side of his face full on because he was running and starts to cry.  After we console him, we start going again.  Jack looks back at us, and yes BAM! runs into another side post.  Now I'm irritated.  "Watch where you're going!"  Man alive!  He gets all upset at me and screams "stop talking to me!" and continues walking faster.  Thankfully, there aren't anymore wall posts.

We get to our 3rd and final gate and find out everyone is sitting by themselves except 2 of us.  Everyone is so happy, it was the best flight.  Although, Jack did get locked in the bathroom and the flight attendant felt so bad she gave him 2 dollars.  :)  (He was locked in the bathroom on the way to Latvia too but no one knew he went so we didn't hear him yelling for us and finally made his way out.  Nice parenting, huh?)

We landed in Charlotte and we were renewed!  A handful of families met us there and it was so nice to see them!  Andris had a proper welcome home; he was so excited!  We took the shuttle to the van and went home.  We were in bed by 10pm.  Exhausted.

The next day we were so blessed to be able to join our church in the baptisms of 6 people in Lake Norman. What a cool thing to show Andris and be able to start sharing more of the Gospel with him.  We ate, laughed, talked, and swam with our friends and it felt great.  What a great end to our trip.

Welcome home, Andris.

Friday, June 29, 2012

It's about that time

We had a full day of activities for one last hurrah in Latvia and then off to bed we go.  We're packing up and getting ready to ship out tomorrow morning at 4:45am.  Our flight leaves at 6:20am and we arrive in Charlotte at 6:30pm, hopefully without any delays.  I wanted to have a few pictures to go along with this post but our uploading contraption seems to have died, so we'll have to wait.  I'm so happy to be coming home.  We all are.  Looking forward to the heat...

Love you guys.  Good night!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

We're getting closer...

Remember how I told you that the forecast called for rain for the next 4-5 days?  Well, they were right!  It's been raining non-stop for days.  We've been only going out for food at Maxima (small grocery store) and restaurants close by.  The computers, tv, phones, iPad, books and card games have an all time high of being in use.  We only have 2 converters that work here, so it's a hot commodity to plug in your item when it's low on juice.

On a positive note, we have had 2 social worker visits throughout our stay.  Both went very well and the social worker was very happy with how our family has bonded and progressed with this first transition with Andris.  Normally we would wait until the 2nd court date to go to the US Embassy for a Visa approval because they need the paperwork from that court.  However, due to Mrs Hillary Clinton visiting the Embassy here, we had our appointment before we had the court date and the Visa was approved pending court status.  At that time we were told that public AND private schools are not permitted on Andris' Visa, so we'll have to figure schooling out in the fall.

A few days later we went to our court appointment, early this time!  (Referring to an earlier post regarding our Griswold arrival for our first court date. Scan back if you need a refresher...June 12th was the date.)  At court they asked us if we've received all our paperwork for Andris, if we still want to continue with the adoption (uh, yeah), our activities since we've been here, if we've thought about medical insurance, schooling, living arrangements at home, etc.  We answered all to the best of our ability (;-) and then they asked Andris questions like does he realize he'll be the oldest of 5 children, he'll have responsibilities as a family member, etc.  He said that he wants to be part of this family, he wants to come home with us, and that he loves us.  I teared up because these are the words that you rarely hear from a child, let alone a teenager and it touched my heart.  This boy has been living in an orphanage almost his entire life, the past four years he has been praying for a family to belong to, and here we are.

After our question/answer period, we were told to wait in the hallway for their decision.  We waited for about 5 minutes (which is a long time to wait) and I prayed for God's hand in the decision.  I know Andris is supposed to be in this family, God has been in the driver's seat all along, but it doesn't hurt to pray.  :)

They called us in, read the verdict that they believe us adopting Andris is in his best interest and granted custody at that moment until we can complete the adoption process.  Boo Yah.

We were so excited and happy!  We were dropped off at the apartment and went over to Queens, one of the kids' favorite restaurants for lunch and promptly ruined it with tons of whining, misbehavior and crying.  Awesome.  Well, you can't win them all.  LOL.

Tomorrow we are squeezing in Jurmala to see the Baltic Sea, Lido to go on the bounce houses one last time, and have the rental lady walk through the apartment to make sure we didn't ruin anything and need to pay for replacements.  Guess I'll be doing a pre-walk through, walk through.  :-0

Then...we'll pack!  We're almost home!  I can't wait!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

LIDO, Livu Akvaparks and Jurmala

We've been busy the last few days with lots of fun activities.  Not only because we have 5 very active children with tons of energy to release, but because the weather forecasts for rain for the next 4-5 days and we'll be cooped up in the apartment with only our electronics, 3 TV channels, playing cards, coloring books and imaginations.  Ack!  (ah, just remembered, we do have a Hardy Boys book and Action Bible, too!)

LIDO is an outdoor amusement park that has rides similar to a carnival in the states, bounce houses, bungee trampoline, pedaling go carts, a playground and a large log cabin building that holds several different restaurants.  We took an electric tram to get there and the ride was about 20 minutes or so.  

We got off at the LIDO stop and looked around but didn't see this big place we pictured from their website.  Andris looked around a corner and said "there it is!" and took off at a fast pace down the street.  He was so excited.  This was one of the few places that he's been really looking forward to visiting.  

Once we were there we played really hard for 3-4 hours.  Swings, Tower ride, bungee trampoline, peddling go carts, bounce houses galore, soft cannon ball games, and this really weirdly cool bubble thing that would never be allowed in the States.  

We had a buffet lunch or dinner, can't remember the time we ate and went back for a couple last minute jumps and bean bag throws.  

Another day we went to the largest water park in Latvia called Livu Akvaparks.  This was THE PLACE Andris has been talking about since we picked him up and past it on our way home from the Children's Home on the 12th.  He had hyped it to the kids, so all they talked about for days was going to this water park.  Well, the day had finally arrived and so did we.  After getting our wristbands and paying to enter, we walked up this wooden floor with the walls decorated like we were walking under the ocean.  It was cool.  Then we entered the locker room area.  At first I was horrified because men and women and children were all in there together.  I thought I saw people changing right out in the open, but here all the men and boys pretty much just wear speedos, so they still had their bathing suits on.  Whew.  Okay - so then we got a locker, put our stuff inside, had to rinse off in a shower and entered the water park.  Wow.  There was so much going on that Scott and I had no idea where we could have our "home base."  Andris and Emma just took off down a slide that who knows where it comes out and if it's scary or not.  Jack hopped the side of what looked like a lazy river moving at a fast pace and sunk to the bottom and was pushed down a little ways before coming back up again.  I grabbed his arm and pulled him out and then we went around the corner and yelled to Emma and Andris to come back upstairs so we could get a lay of the land before we let them loose.  There were pretty much zero safety measures.  I think the thought process there is to just use your brain.  That would be nice if people actually did.  The water depth was in meters and there were only pictures for signs telling you where the slides were, but not where the come out.  This place has a ton of floors and stairs, but who knows where you'll end up once you come out at the bottom.  And no, not all the slides went down to the lower floor.  Some were outside, some started on the main floor, or three to four stories up.  I was trying to pair up the kids, but some rides were too big and the ones that could go down did, leaving the smaller ones behind to climb back down and look for them.  Ugh.  What a safety nightmare.  After a couple hours, I felt better about the whole place but man, I guess I'm so used to rules all the time when you go to a public place that this seemed out of control.  

Oh, I forgot to add one thing: the photographers.  Yes, there were a bunch of cameramen walking around taking pictures so that you could purchase these at the end of your visit.  They were very annoying.  This will be the closest I'll ever get to experiencing paparazzi.  They took pictures of you all the time, everywhere and right in front of you too.  Snap Snap Snap.  I was hoping to get a family picture of all of us in the "lazy river" but just because they take a ton of pictures, doesn't mean they are good ones.  Bummer.  

A funny story, that may just be funny to me, was the first time Scott and I were with Annie, Leah and Emma in the lazy river.  Annie had a tube around her and Leah had an inflatable "life jacket" on and Scott and I were just holding on to them while we were being flung down the river.  Annie was saying "this is the best day of my life and I just love this place so much!" when SMACK! The plastic flaps that separate the outside portion of the river with the inside hit her upside her head.  I bust out laughing.  And laughing.  And laughing some more.  I'm laughing so much that tears are coming to my eyes and Annie & Emma ask if I was hurt.  I couldn't stop.  Thankfully, Annie wasn't hurt or upset about the flaps otherwise I would have felt bad after I stopped laughing.  After writing that, it's still funny.  :)

We stayed for about 5 hours or so and everyone had a wonderful time there.  Everyone was very adventurous, especially Jack who managed to try most of the slides even though he didn't meet the height requirements.  One slide was pretty much a straight drop!  We did have to take most of the next day off to lay around the house and nap because we were so exhausted.  That was nice too.  

Yesterday we went to Jurmala.  This is a pretty village on the Baltic Sea.  We walked down the touristy street called Jomas Iela and kept an eye out for possible souvenirs.  About halfway down the street we stumbled on BUMPER CARS and enjoyed "bumping" each other (gently, of course!).  We found our way at the end of the street and walked to an awesome climbing park.  We spent a long time there until Andris' flip flop broke and decided to go back to the shops to buy him a new pair.  For a fairly large seaside village, it was pretty surprising that countless stores didn't sell flip flops or any other casual shoe for a teenager.  Wish we would have known that BEFORE checking so many stores!  That's okay, we'll get him something at the mall or another store closer to our apartment.  After the shoe hunting, we ate dinner and went home due to bad weather, promising to return so we can see the Baltic Sea up close.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Broken, destroyed, ruined, lost, stained, banging

We must be animals.  Someone* has broken off 3 drape slats (I really don't know what else to call them) from the girls' bedroom window and the window treatment hardware is bent downwards and we're afraid to open and close it.  Someone else* ripped off one of the tassles from a chair cushion.  Still another person* broke one of the legs off their bed.  I'm not sure if the glass door to an end table was broken before we got here or after someone* tried to fix it the second day we arrived.

  *Names have been removed for privacy.

Our shower looks like something out of a space age movie.  It has a radio, fan, lights, and multiple spouts where the water comes out and two doors that open and close.  The only thing is it leaks.  A lot.  Like, 4 large towels worth.  Soaking wet.  It's like one of the spouts is underneath this thing and when the shower goes on, so does the spout.  Kind of annoying, not bad enough to forgo showers, but enough to say something to the rental people.  They sent out a guy who glued the areas in question and said that should do it.  Unfortunately, it's still leaking.  They are setting up an appointment with us to show the guy the water coming from under the shower because he thinks it's fixed.  Fine.  Will do.  :)

Last night Scott and I heard hammering above our bedroom ceiling.  It sounded like someone was replacing a few pieces of their hardwood floor.  We tapped the ceiling with a broom and I think they switched to a smaller hammer because it was quieter, but still frustrating.  It continued for another 30 minutes or so and then sounded like it traveled to the side of our room and even underneath us.  What the?  We looked outside but didn't see anything.  The weird thing is there is a restaurant below us that was closed for the night.  I told Scott not to go upstairs and talk to the person or persons because who knows what would happen.  We're in Latvia, baby!  Just kidding.  It's not dangerous, but it was 11:30-2am when this was happening and nothing good happens after midnight...just saying.

Oh, we found a sweatshirt for Leah but she wouldn't smile for the camera so I had to take a picture when her back was turned.  We also purchased a collared shirt for Andris' Embassy appointment and another t-shirt for 80% off.  Sweet!  I'm not sure how many times Andris has tried on clothes, been in a clothing store, or received brand new items, but it really was sweet how surprised he was to receive a shirt, let alone 2, that he could pick out and that was JUST FOR HIM.  Made me want to go and buy him a whole bunch of stuff. I'll save that for the States.  :)

And with that, here are a few pictures to enjoy.  Good night!

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Andris had gifts for us when we came to pick him up on Tuesday.  He presented Scott and I with a large box of Latvian chocolates, a jump rope for Emma, a car for Jack, a Barbie for Annie, and a stuffed hippo for Leah.  Scott and I were touched and the kids were thrilled!  Especially Leah.  We bring her hippo, called Baby, everywhere.  When we were leaving that particular room, our court attorney took us aside and told us that the children receive about $9 each month.  Most spend it quickly, but Andris has been saving up his money for a few months to buy us those gifts.  Most children do not present their families with anything when their adoptive families come.  The ladies who were with us were so shocked when he gave us those gifts.  I had tears come to my eyes when she told us this.  What a wonderful boy.  So thoughtful and caring.  We love him.

Random thoughts

Hello.  I wanted to take a moment and let you know how things are going within our family dynamics.  Jack is so excited that he has an older brother.  He is on him, literally, 24/7.  They hold hands while walking down the street.  They buddy up to climb whatever is in front of them and they usually order the same food in a restaurant.  Leah and Annie have taken to him as well.  I think they enjoy having another older brother around and he's fun to be with and helps take care of them.  Emma is great.  She sees Andris not only as a brother, but she's learning that she can do things with the boys and can keep up probably better than Jack.  Andris is opening up a little more everyday.  He has started singing and dancing with the kids, but stops when I walk in the room.  (I remember doing that when I was younger.)  Even though he never asks for food, I know he's hungry and sometimes have to force the food into his hands.  He's 16 and has a man-size appetite despite his slight frame.  I keep telling him to eat, but I think he doesn't want to stand out from the others and is trying to be polite.  He is so sweet with the kids.  He makes sure Annie and Leah aren't left behind.  If someone is hurt, he's the first to check on them and make sure they are okay.  He's really a great boy.

A little side note, if you will.  Why do Latvians make the light switches 3' off the ground?  Leah and Annie go around turning on and off the lights in every room.  Also, there are key locks for every room in this apartment, plus 2 main entry doors in addition to the apartment complex door.  All use a different key.  Scott has it down now, and I can do it every once in awhile but otherwise, I'm at each door for a minute locking and trying to unlock.  Locking and trying to unlock.  The people in this building probably think we have some serious issues.  Not only do we not speak the language, we can't even open our doors.  It's hilarious.

I lost Leah's sweater a couple days ago.  Since then, we have been trying to locate a children's clothing store near our apartment.  We have been to a few places, including a mall, but no luck.  We're going to try a children's store further down the other way we normally go and another mall if that doesn't pan out.  Not even souvenir shops carry sweatshirts.  Just t-shirts.  Hmm...

The park benches are twice the depth of ours, but they are made of wooden slats with spaces so if you don't sit far enough back or far enough forward, your butt cheeks will sink in.  Nice.

Enjoy your dryer, people.  We don't have one.  I have a washer that will fit 7 items of varying sizes and then a drying rack that I have to position near an open window because they also do not have fans.  Socks and underwear take about a day to dry (if it's not windy outside) and jeans take a good 2 days.  After the clothes dry, they are board-stiff and I have to iron them to get the wrinkles out and look presentable.  I thought I'd put some fabric softener in the washer with the clothes, but it helps only a little.  Hats off to those who do this everyday.

Oh, Leah grew out of her shoes but that will not be hard to find here.  There are shoe stores everywhere!  One thing these people have is their style.  You do not go out without looking your best.  And they literally wear high heeled shoes on cobblestone streets.  They don't even act like it's painful.  The women have dresses or really nice business casual clothes on and most guys look like they stepped out of a Brooks Brothers store, casual and dressy.

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Moving Right Along

Hey guys!  If you're reading this, then you know we bought a cable and uploaded our pictures.  Boo Yah!

Let's see, what's today?  Oh yeah, Friday.  Ha.  Well, we still haven't quite got a handle on this time change thing.  Besides Emma being on a normal schedule (sleeps through the night), we all either go to bed after 1am or wake up at 2am and go back to bed at 4am and we all are sleeping until noon.  It's crazy.  Tomorrow, I am determined to wake everyone up at 10am and have breakfast waiting so we can actually eat breakfast during breakfast hours!  Wow!

Wednesday was our first morning together as a family.  What did we need?  FOOD!  I have no idea if we ate between the time we woke up (1pm?) and when we went out for groceries and had pictures for Andris' Visa made, but somehow we made it out of the apartment.  We stopped at the first place called Foto to get the pictures taken.  They don't take pictures.  What they do sell are a lot of coloring books, paint books, and some other items we could buy if we get bored or need to stock up for the plane ride home.  Okedoke.  We left and went to another store called Kodak.  Yay!  They take pictures.  The lady motioned for us to follow her to the back and had Andris sit down.  We were all staring at him saying "smile!" and the lady said "no, no smile!"  So we all went "oh."  Then Jack said "why can't he smile?  Why are you smiling Andris?  Stop smiling!"  Believe it or not, Andris was having a hard time not smiling.  So, we moved to the front of the store.  Pictures taken.  "Come back morning, after 9, k?"  You betcha!  Off we went to storm the local grocery store called Maxima, like a herd of cattle.  We touched everything we could.  Especially the food in bins.  Boy were those hard to not open and close!  Good grief.  I could hear Andris saying "no, no, no!"  Scott and I are trying to be good Americans but the kids are blowing it for us!  LOL.  After what seemed like forever to find our items (we couldn't get too much, we had to carry it all home!) we checked out and walked home.  I have no idea what we did then.  Maybe I should blog daily.  I know we had dinner, oh yeah!  I made spaghetti and sausage.  We just hung out around the apartment and went to bed.  I'm sure Annie and Leah were up in the middle of the night and Scott and I probably did scissor paper rock to see who's turn it was.  I'm not very good at that game!

Thursday we woke up at noon and got out of the house by 2pm and went to Riga Zoo.  It was nice but some sections should have been closed due to renovations.  Also, they should take down the signs that point to animals that are no longer at the zoo.  Like the lion, tiger and bears, oh my! It was cute to see a baby monkey with it's mother.  Since the sign had 3 languages (Latvian, Russian, and English), all we knew was it was a monkey.  Maybe a chimpanzee?  You be the judge.

Andris really wanted to see the snakes.  And we saw 2.  But, there was a really cool park with a large climbing pyramid, so that made up for everything!  And, kids really don't care about the facilities or the cages  and habitats the animals are in so we enjoyed being there just like at home.

Today we were all up by 11:30am!  We ate breakfast at the apartment, did a bunch of cleaning and then noticed it was raining.  We were going to call a taxi to take us to the tourist info center and then to see a movie, but by the time we got dressed and outside (3pm), it stopped raining.  We thought we'd make it fun and ride an electric tram to the various stops.  But, by the time we walked to the tram stop, the sun was out and we decided to walk.  On our way to the visitor center, we realized that we were going slower than anticipated (shocker) and decided to skip the visitor center and have dinner and go to the movies.  We were walking past a McDonald's when Andris exclaimed "oh, I like!"  So to McDonald's we went for dinner.  It was the first time I didn't hear one peep during dinner.  Everyone was eating.  They liked what they had and it tastes exactly like our at home.  Emma said the BBQ sauce was different.  :)

After dinner, we walked to the Cinemas and we were all so excited to see Madagaskara 3 in English with Latvian subtitles.  I told the kids we couldn't see the movie in 3D because I get motion sick and Jack and Andris were like "awwwww!"  (sing songy)  Sorry guys.  Stinks for me too.  Up to the ticket booth we go when BAM! the teller said the animations are in Latvian and Russian only and the other movies are in English with Latvian subtitles.  Dang.  All the wind went out of our sails and we felt defeated.  We all sat down on the bench by the window and pouted.  Fine.  Let's go tour Old Riga.

Old Riga ended up being pretty cool.  The streets are cobbled stoned and the buildings are pretty and amazing.  We walked through some really nice parks, saw the Freedom Monument, got hot chocolate (yes, people it's only 19 here!  Celsius, that is.  It's about 65F)  It turned out to be a really fun time.  One of the streets we walked down had a street band playing music.  Guess what they were playing?  The Final Countdown by Europe!  Scott and I had that song playing at our wedding when they announced us at the reception!  Awesome, I know.  Also, I have no idea why the street band were wearing the outfits they were.  Made for a good show.  :)

We came home by 9pm and the kids were in bed by 11pm.  But not before the boys polished off all the leftovers from the last few nights of dinner.  Back to Maxima tomorrow!

PS.  Scott just reminded me that we went to an awesome park after shopping at Maxima's on Wednesday.  There was a cute little kid playground, then a bigger kid playground and a canal going through with boat rides.  Lots of fun!