Friday, June 22, 2012

I wish I MAY

In my continued effort to get caught my life and blog synced back up - here is a quick recap of May's events.  When we left off in April, my mom had just entered the hospital and I was up to my elbows in alligators.  

To kick off May, I hosted 5 of my work counter parts in Detroit to assist with my largest distributor.  Translation:  I had to travel for 2 nights while my mom was in the hospital rehabbing from surgery #1 - a partial hip replacement for her broken hip.  My kids have only ever stayed with myself OR Gramma.  Needless to say, I was a BALL of stress.  Too add to the craziness, my kids are BOTH structure kids.  Coming out of institutions in Russia with a very specific schedule, they do best with a structure.  My cousin has volunteered many times to have my kids stay with her while I travel, and it's such a gracious offer.  Her family is at the other end of the structure spectrum, however, which poses challenges.  I am totally not criticizing a more loose life - in fact I wish sometimes we were a little more laid back, but alas it's not meant for us.  

How far we've come in 1 year...
the boy LOVES the bath now!
May was a whirlwind of activities:  Alex's 1 year Gotcha Day, Mother's Day including a visit from Grampa & Gramma, Spring Sing at school, the return of nice weather, a trip to Ohio for Memorial Day AND many, many visits to various hospitals to visit Gramma Darlin.  

Gotcha Day celebration - Pooh Matroyska!

Alex's 1 year Gotcha Day was May 7th.  It's so hard to believe that 1 year has already passed by.  Alex's adjustment was very smooth.  He is such a sweet, cuddly, loving boy.  He does still like to use his tears and whining to manipulate people - and given his background, it doesn't surprise me.  With everything going on:  just home from vacation, hectic crazy weeks, etc. we celebrated with a low key dinner out and then special breakfast the next morning.  

Hanging with Grampa
Grampa's got a lapfull
Love that my kids get to know my Gramma - who looks horribly frightened here,
but honestly, she had a great time at brunch

Mother's Day with Gramma Darlin at the hospital - this was after 2 surgeries!  
She'll probably kill me for posting it... but it's how we spent our day!
A rare picture of all 3 of us

 Mother's Day weekend was another crazy weekend.  Gramma Darlin had just had surgery #2 on her right arm, which broke sometime between when she entered hospital #1 and day two of hospital #2.  Grampa and Gramma came up from the south to spend some time up here and also to see Great Gramma.  We had brunch out at the golf course and spent some time with Gramma Darlin as well down at the hospital.  Both hospitals were about 45 minutes south of us, so our weekends were usually pretty busy.

The next step for May was "Spring Sing" at Tatiana's school. It was adorable and everyone had a blast.  As you can tell from the photo's below (blogger will absolutely NOT let me leave captions on them without moving them into the Mother's Day pool... grrrr), she was horribly shy that night.  HA! 

 Spring Sing!

Our last stop in May was a whirlwind Memorial Day weekend.  Tatiana's school district decided to take the Friday prior to Memorial Day as a teacher in-service day, which gave us a 4 day weekend.  Normally, I prefer to laze around town on summer holiday weekends, enjoy the pool and take advantage of an extra day off.  However, a couple weeks prior to the holiday one of my oldest friends from high school days posted a reunion concert tour for one of our favorite bands from back in the day.  Ironically, that now free day Friday had a concert stop in the Ohio town where my friend was now living.  The other opportunity we had was to visit an adoption reunion for one of the agencies I used during Alex's adoption.  The reunion was at a zoo about 2 hours from where my friend lived, so suddenly it made sense to travel south to Ohio for a couple nights.  For an added bonus, we were able to finally meet my adoption consultant for Alex's adoption and my friend Stephanie who adopted a little guy who could be Alex's biological cousin.  Stephanie and I had just missed each other in Moscow last May, so it was great to finally meet up!

 Memorial Day reunion!

We finished off a HOT Memorial Day weekend breaking in our town's new Splash Pad.  It's AWESOME!  The town did a great job planning this new hot spot out.  It was a big hit on a hot day. We've been repeat customers ever since!  

Hopefully June's recap will be just around the corner.  And hopefully, blogger will be a little more willing to work with me.  

Friday, June 15, 2012

Is This Thing On?

Holy crud!  I still have a blog??  WOW...

I swear I didn't forget about blogging life.  I don't think I could ever completely stop blogging.  It is basically what got me sanely (well, relatively sanely) through my adoptions.  Life has just been, well, busy lately.

So in order to get caught up, I think I'll attempt to recap life as it was - a month at a time.  Since we left off on Tatiana's Gotcha Day at the end of March, here's my attempt at April's events.

With Easter and all it's celebrations at the start of the month, we kicked off the month with lots of fun.  We made special Easter treats for school and welcomed in Spring Break.
Treats for school - inspired by Pintrest

Getting ready for Easter!

The Easter bunny arrived with much excitement this year.  Alex missed Easter last year, so technically this was his last "first".  I am not 100% sure he still understands it all, but under the tutelage of his big sister, he figures it out pretty quick.

The weather was super crazy and unseasonably warm which got us in the perfect mood to take off and fly south the day after Easter. Much to mama's dismay, we had planned our vacation time frame before this year's school schedule was published so we based it off LAST year's schedule - which, as you can guess wasn't the same this year.

Last summer, my good friend Yvonne (another single mom) and I were bemoaning vacations where you return almost as exhausted as you were when you left.  We had the idea to cruise on a cruise line featuring a kids club so we could balance fun times with the kids and adult time to relax.  For budgetary reasons, we choose the Carnival line - and then we found a ship leaving out of the Port of Tampa - which would be close to my dad and a LOT less congestion than Port Canaveral.

We timed the vacation to leave after Easter, spend 3 days in Bradenton with Gramps and then off to cruise world.  In addition to Yvonne and her kids, we were also going to be joined on the boat by more friends:  the famous Rhonda and her daughter Megan; my dear friend Angie and her neighbor Lorraine;  Jeanette, the woman across the hall from me in the Vlad Inn during Tatiana's adoption and her daughter Sophie; and finally another Vlad family:  The Bendlin's - Alex, her husband Jason and their son Victor.

Time with Grampa was as it always is:  TOO SHORT!  We had a BLAST!  Both Tatiana and Alex had their very first ocean experience:  the Gulf of Mexico.  We went to Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo and spent some great time with Grampa & Gramma.

Feeding the giraffe's at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo
Alex and Grampa playing on the beach
Little Miss Water :  Tatiana

After we left Grampa, we were off to the boat.  Minus one rough, rocky day at sea, we had a BLAST on our cruise.  The kids LOVED the kids club, but we also had a blast exploring the ship and staying out late dancing til midnight!  We stopped in Cozumel, Mexico and had a great day swimming with the dolphins and hanging at the port.  It was great to catch up with good friends and relax!  I left feeling like I would cruise again in a heartbeat - which is a good thing, because we're planning on attending a very large Russian adoption reunion cruise next summer!

Swimming with the dolphins

My computer is playing games on me and I seem to have misplaced some of my cruise pictures.... so I will attempt to edit later (if I remember) with more pictures.

We returned home mid-April ready to get back into the swing of life and prepare for the last months of school before summer.  My mother however, had other plans for us!  We got home on a Monday and the following Friday she entered the hospital with a variety of different ailments including a broken hip and eventually a broken arm, both that required surgery.  It ended up being a 6 week journey of two hospitals and one rehab facility, and pretty much a good chunk of why life has been so hectic!

Next up.... May.  And hopefully it won't be May 2013 before I get back to post again!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Where Has the Time Gone?

Last Tuesday we celebrated Tatiana's 3rd "Gotcha" Day.  Sometimes it seems like yesterday I was back in cold, snowy Vladivostok waiting out the mandatory 10 day wait.  I was bored, excited and anxious all in one.  Bored from staring at the walls of a hotel with little to do, excited about our upcoming life together and anxious about the transition.  Finally, on Friday, March 20th, 2009, we were finally together, permanently.  

Here's a shot of Tatiana on that big day and every March 20th since!
"Gotcha" Days:  2009, 2010, 2011 & 2012

Three years later, this girl is the light of my life.  She is beyond smart and has a memory that sometimes scares me.  The plan this year for school was Young 5's but due to budget cuts that plan was scuttled.  Kindergarten was Plan B and it's been going well.  I have decided that it would best for her to repeat next year - to gain some additional age and maturity.  Academically, she's probably ready for first grade, but she struggles following directions and focusing.  Since this was the original plan anyway... it's now in motion!

In other areas of T's life, she adores her brother and her cousins.  She LOVES playing with other kids, which is part of the reason I knew she not only needed to be a sister, but she'd be great at it.  She's mastered the bike, WITH training wheels  (mom might not be ready for the next step) and is reading very well to boot.  She still loves music, singing and dancing - and would rather wear tights and "clack shoes" (think loud shoes that clack when you walk...) then jeans.  She's all girl - within 5 minutes of being home she'll disappear into her room and return 5 minutes later head to toe in princess.  She cracks me up!

Since "Gotcha" day is close to St Patrick's day -- here's my little leprechauns, celebrating:
Luck of the Russian-Irish to ya!

Since my green eggs and ham were not met with smiles, this year we tried green applesauce.  SCORE!
Finally, a quick Alex update since he's been sorely neglected in a majority of this post.  We had our FIRST haircut with no tears!  I couldn't believe we didn't even get a pout.  His language is coming on little bits each and every day as well.  He seems to be a perfectionist when it comes to language - almost as if he doesn't like to say things until he's sure he can say them properly.  It's amazing how much he knows, even if he doesn't SAY it.  

That's it for now... I am sure there are 100 things I am forgetting, but as usual, they've left my brain!

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Whole Lot of Nothing!

I was about to report that I didn't have much to report... and then I realized that, well, I do have things to report!

Tatiana:  We are soon crossing the BIG 3 year anniversary!  3 years ago I was in Russia, impatiently awaiting my court appointment to adopt my sweet girl.  Lots of anniversaries on the horizon with Gotcha day and our home forever day as well.  Last weekend we finished Tatiana's home study chain.  When I contacted my social worker to schedule a date, she thought I was only talking about Alex because she said she felt like Tatiana had been home "forever" -- I have to agree!  

In other Tati news, she had dentist appointment this week to begin fixing her "grey tooth".  Almost 3 years ago she was kicked in the tooth by a very excited friend of the family.  Slowly over time the root of her tooth died due to the kick and her tooth turned grey.  The dentist watched it over time and was afraid with a dead root that the tooth would become infected.  Since it's a baby tooth, I figured we'd just wait until it feel out naturally.  However, the dentist warned that if it got infected, it could affect the nerves of the adult tooth and based on her x rays, he thought the adult teeth were still a year and a half off.  I was VERY nervous to have her undergo work on the tooth as I didn't want her growing up hating the dentist as much as I did (heck, still do).  He assured me that since her tooth was dead, she wouldn't even need Novocaine.  I was still leery but guess what.  She did perfectly.  She told me after that she was a little scared, but it didn't hurt.  The tooth is already MUCH lighter and she LOVES it.  She jumped out of the dentist chair and said "Oh, thank you, thank you!".  
A good recent "before" shot of the grey tooth.  

Alex:  Alex probably has the least to report this week.  While we did Tati's 3 year post placement report, we also took care of his 1 year post placement report.  Hard to believe that his court date anniversary is right around the corner as well!  This year has FLOWN by.

He desperately wants to talk.  Words are coming more and more each day.  Some day soon I regret wanting him to talk so much -- he's a motor mouth already!  
Found this picture on my camera - it's a little old, probably November?  This was my big deal at a Mom 2 Mom sale:  a custom rocking chair for $10!  Since it was already painted "Alexander" the seller had to find the RIGHT buyer.  When the sale was over, she still hadn't, so I scored a HUGE deal.  

Mama:  Even though the first quarter is usually our slow period, work has been busy.  Thankfully my business is off to a strong start, so here's to hoping for a great year.  

On top of work, my mother and I purchased a little house here in our town for a rental house.  The bones of the house were great - it's a OLD house but was in really good shape.  After some face lift work, the renters moved in last week.  It looks great.   Here's a link to some before and after pictures.  

Now we're all in a major countdown to Spring Break.  Even though our winter hasn't been nearly as cold or snowy as usual, we're all ready for some warm weather.  In the meantime, Tati & Alex have been getting their energy out in their new "jump-o-lene".  Highly recommended!  
Too cool!  A HUGE hit!

Happy ALMOST Spring!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

An Open Response to "Stacee Smith"

A couple of weeks ago, when the latest round of RUMORS that Russia was going to close to US Adoptions came out - I commented about this situation in a blog post.  I received the following response in my comment section:  
Russia shutting diwn adoptions looks legit -- Duma hasn't done it yet, but at least one region in Russia has unilaterally imposed an indefinite ban in adoptions by US parents. This is a GOOD thing -- Russia taking steps to protect it's littlest and most vulnerable citizens!!

PAPs undergo spool much scrutiny -- a homestudy, refer reference letters, multiple background checks, etc -- and these marvelously screened folks stioll somehow manage to kill and abuse their kids adopted from Russia. Then the UAs govt charmingly 1) fails to report these incidents to the government of Russia, as promised and 2) said APs somehow get off with no or minimal jail time, eg mr harrisson who accidentally forgot he left beautiful 18 mos old chase harrison in his car ALL DAY in the summer and tge kid died a HORRIBLE agonizing death got off with NO JAIL TIME!!
This comment was left by "Stacee Smith" who has been commenting on various adoption blogs under a variety of different names:  Kaylee, Stacee etc.  Her fake names are not connected to any blog like a majority of the people who read my blog, nor do they provide an email address to respond to, so I have chosen to respond here.  I suspect that *I* became one of "Stacee's" targets because of a comment I left after her on another friend's blog where she was particularly vicious.  The comment he/she left on my blog is not nearly as rude and accusatory as the majority of her comments I have read.  "Her" IP address appears to be Canadian in origin, but I also think he or she is a former Russian citizen, perhaps with some remaining ill feelings for the United States.  I question why all the "fake" names -- my mother always taught me that if you are ashamed to put your name on it, then it probably shouldn't be said.  

Believe it or not, I actually agree that Russia taking steps to protect it's littlest and most vulnerable citizens is a good thing.  Of course it is!  Children are a beautiful treasure and steps should be taken to make sure they are safe.  But I don't see specific steps being suggested other than requiring a Russian person to visit each adoptive family as part of post placement check ups.  My door is open!  

And yes, adoptive families DO undergo scrutiny.  A LOT of it.  I've been fingerprinted by my local police department, the county sheriff, the state AND the federal government.  This is probably more than the average lifelong criminal.  I had a doctors examination here in the states to clear me for adoption and then had to endure 3 hours of doctors appointments, blood work and xrays in Russia to prove that I am fit.  INCLUDING being seen by a Russian psychiatrist.  And finally, YES -- even with all these tests and hoops, there have been a handful of cases of abuse.  I wish I could say every system is perfect, but with everything, there are exceptions.   

However, the VAST majority of us are good, even GREAT parents.  Most of us love our children more than life itself and can't imagine ANYTHING ever happening to them (as communicated in my very honest post about the 5 minutes where I thought I had lost my daughter).   The adoption of my daughter was slightly after the Chase Harrison case went to court.  I followed it as closely as I could and was heart broken with the details.  When asked in court about abuse and if I would ever hurt my child, I could barely get out my response to the judge between tears.  I don't know the Harrison's and so I'll reserve my judgement on what happened.  I cannot imagine forgetting my child in the car.  Adopted or not, these cases happen every year around the world.  

The Hanson case is a whole separate topic.  My second adoption WAS affected by this case.  I would have liked to return to Vladivostok for adoption #2, but after Torry Hanson, this wasn't an option since I am a single parent.  This case HORRIFIES me.  Outrages me.  Me and ALL the other adoptive parents that I know.  I wish I could say that every system of checks and balances was perfect - but let's face it, it's not.  And that's not OK for Artem/Justin.  But to judge an entire country of people and adoptive parents on a few small cases is not fair, nor is it right.  

Reports vary on statistics, but most quote that 62% of Russian children are adopted by foreigners, and 38% by Russian citizens.  The largest majority of these foreign adoptions are done by US families.  In 2011, the number of US adoptions from Russia was 962 - down as compared to previous years.  Similarly, statistics on the # of orphans in Russia vary as well.  The average shows over 630,000 children in the system, 250,000 of which are living in Russian orphanages.   Another report shows that each year 15,000 children are released from orphanages.  Of that #, 10 percent commit suicide, 30 percent commit crimes and 40 percent are unemployed and homeless.  This leaves only about 20 percent who are able to make it on their own.  I am NOT saying that an abusive US family is better than ending up homeless in Russia.   Again, these cases are the exception, NOT the norm.  

At the end of the day, this is about the children.  Abuse at the hands of ANY parent, Russian or American, should not be tolerated.   But I challenge you, "Stacee" or whatever your name really is, read any of the blogs along the side of my page.  What you'll find are children who are loved, cherished and cared for.  Aim  your hatred somewhere else.  

Friday, February 24, 2012

Time Flies…

This week last year, my dear friend Rhonda and I were tromping through the snow filled streets of St. Petersburg, Russia.  Tromping through the snow to meet this little face!  (You can read all about our adventures here…)


Where has the time gone?  In some ways, it feels like Alex has been home with me forever.  In other ways, this year has FLOWN by and I can’t believe it’s already February again.  Day to day, I don’t see the changes in my little “Baby Soup”, but I know he’s transforming in front of my face from a baby to a big boy… and here’s some proof! 


He’s still got a killer smile, and he continues to amaze me everyday with his flirtatious attitude and spunky nature.  Words are still coming, he desperately wants to talk (and tattle on his sister) and one of these days, I’ll be sorry that he’s finally picked it all up!

Happy Metcha Day, Alex!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Little Girl Lost

I lost my daughter today for approximately 5 minutes.  5 of the worst minutes of my life.  We're all fine, but I hope it never happens again.

This weekend, to escape the dull drums of winter, my mother and I decided to get two hotel rooms down in Port Huron (the nearest big city) at a hotel with a pool.  Tatiana is such a fish and obviously here in the north our swimming opportunities during the winter months are slim to none.  Alex isn't much of a pool fan still, but everything was going well.  

Tatiana and I snuck out on Saturday afternoon to see Beauty and the Beast in 3D.  We had dinner at Red Lobster (Tatiana and my mom's favorite) and generally relaxed during the first snowy weekend of the year.  

After breakfast in the lobby this morning, Alex, Tatiana and I started heading back to my room.  It's important to note that our rooms were on the first floor, 2 rooms off the lobby - so not far.  I asked Tatiana to go back and help Gramma (my mom) who has a fused ankle from a fall years ago and will probably permanently be on crutches.  After a couple of minutes I heard my mom's crutches near my room and so I opened the door to let Tatiana in.  But, she wasn't there with my mom.  

I asked my mom where T was -- and she said, "I don't know, she left".  So while I was annoyed that my mom didn't know where she was, I headed back to the small lobby where breakfast was.   But, she wasn't there.  The people in the lobby said she had been there, but had left.  This is a SMALL hotel.  There's not many places for a child to go.  But yet, she was gone.  

I started yelling her name.  Nothing.  I yelled at my mom.  It didn't help -- she was still missing.  I ran back to my room, had she snuck in without me seeing?  Not possible, but logic wasn't exactly my strong suit at this point.  Full on panic was setting in.  As suspected, she wasn't in my room.  By this time some of the staff had heard my panicked yelling and had come out to help.  I checked the pool area which is just off the lobby and thankfully she wasn't there.  Or not thankfully, as it meant she was still missing.  I think the hyperventilation started about now.  

A staff member went to check another floor and nothing.   I think it was this point that I threw the books I was carrying on the floor and yelled for someone to call 9-11.  All I could think was the someone took her.  She was gone.  I felt like I was living my worst nightmare.  Another guest was telling me that the best thing was to remain calm.  Which surely was the best advice, however, in my full on panic, I could NOT see this.  

I am not sure what prompted her, but my mom went into her room - which I will note she had NOT opened with a key at this point.  And there was Tatiana.  My mom's room door didn't lock properly and could be opened without her key.  Apparently Tatiana when helping my mom ran ahead into Gramma's room and was able to get in because of the key issue.  

I may have squeezed that girl harder than ever before.  Scariest 5 minutes of my life - that felt like 5 hours.  

In other weekend news, the media is reporting that the Foreign Ministry in Russia is again calling for a ban on US Adoptions of Russian children.  I truly hope this is just political posturing for their upcoming March elections and not something that is headed our way.  I would hate for the thousands of future Russian adoptive families and kids to never know the love that caused me such panic and pain this morning.