Saturday, April 24, 2010

Fun with Friends

(Yes!  A post NOT about scandals in Russia and adoption!  I am trying to move on!) 

I think I mentioned in an earlier post that the weather in Michigan at this time of year can be VERY unpredictable.  What am I saying?  The weather in Michigan is ALWAYS unpredictable – no matter what time of year it  is.  However, it seems like spring is even more crazy around here.  We’ve been bouncing around temperature wise from 70’s to 40’s which wreaks havoc on a wardrobe, any form of planning for events and sinuses!

Tatiana would LIVE outside if I allowed it.  When she wakes up in the morning her first question is typically “I want to go outside and play, please?”  Doesn’t sound like a question – but what you are missing here in print is her sweet inflection.  So when weather is permitting, we try to get outside for some fresh air.  


Riding her “4 wheeler” (from Aunt Rhonda); playing with her BFF:  Trip, the doggie next door IMG_2992






Last weekend was sunny but COLD.   Tatiana and I were lucky enough to get invited to spend some time with the OTHER Tatiana – aka Tia and her mama, Shannon.  We had a blast!  The two Tatianas played really well together and successfully trashed poor Shannon’s  house!   It’s so nice to have someone close that you can share stories with – and who totally understands all the issues surrounding adoptive kids and their transition.  Any other Michigan mommies want to join us next time? IMG_3003 IMG_3001

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Too Many Orphans

A full week into the latest “Russian Adoption Scandal” and I am still angry. I am frustrated, surprised, nervous and sad all at the same time.

When a case like the Torry Hansen story makes headlines, not only are wrong facts reported, but opinions about adoption as a whole are posted everywhere and anywhere. This past week I read the following:

- Adoption parents aren’t real parents and the bond between adoptive parents and their children can never be as strong as biological parents and kids

- All adoptive Russian children are bad and damaged

- Adoptive parents want to steal biological parents kids (yes. seriously. I read it.)

- Parents who adopt from Russia are shopping for white kids with a clean slate who are perfect

I had to stop myself from reading some of the internet postings and face book pages that were reporting/discussing this story because my blood pressure was climbing and climbing.

I was also surprised that with the exception of a few friends and family, most of the people who wanted to discuss this story were limited to my “adoption circle” of friends. At first I was a little sad that some friends and family didn’t share my passion, but while I was writing my last blog post for “We Are the Truth”, it hit me. I didn’t get what a big deal this is until about 2 years ago myself.

Perhaps unless your life has been touched by adoption, it’s hard to grasp this story and the deep, strong feeling behind it. Similar for me was cancer. I didn’t want to THINK about cancer; it’s not fun OR sexy, so why dwell on it. Until it touched my life through some friends and family, cancer was something I didn’t want to HAVE to think about. I am not trying to put something as horrible as cancer on the same level as adoption, but more relating how when your life is effected by something, it changes your view on that subject.

On Friday I asked a question on face book, hoping to engage some people in this topic. The question was “How many estimated orphans are there in the world”. The answer I received the most was “too many”. That’s for sure. Typically I read 147 million as the official number. According to Wikipedia, the total population for Russia is approximately 142 million. So there are more orphans in the world than the total population of Russia alone.

Specific to Russia, where my daughter spent the first two and a half years of her life in an orphanage, it is estimated that there are 730,000 orphans accounted for. It is also suspected that the true number is over 1 million when all the homeless children living on the streets are added in. For kids in a Russian orphanage, the system ends at the ripe old age of 17. If they haven’t been adopted by then, they are sent to go start their lives – with nothing. Statistics say that within 5 years 90% of these kids are either homeless, in prison, addicted to drugs or acting as prostitutes. Last year 1589 children came home to the US from Russia (a relatively small # compared to years as recent as 2005/2006). If adoptions close to the US from Russia, that’s an additional 1589 kids that could linger in the system, without homes or hope.

When Tatiana and I landed in the United States on March 29th, 2009, more than just an amazing girl came home with me. Along with us came a lasting impression of a beautiful country that impacted me in so many ways. My daughter is Russian. And while she is now an “American” as well, it is important to me that her Russian heritage is a part of her life. Over the last year, I have created 3 picture books from my travels and my adoption story. As she gets older, theses books will be one of the many ways I help show her the beautiful place she was born.

Hope is a good thing. I hope that by sharing some of my story in this blog post and others, more people can understand adoption and why it is so personal to people. I hope that those families whose lives have been turned upside and inside out while waiting for their children to come home from Russia have a peaceful, happy ending and that more children can follow their path. And finally, I hope these pictures can show at least a glimpse of the wonderful country my daughter is from.

IMG_6932 IMG_6952 IMG_6975 IMG_6976 IMG_6995IMG_6977

A teaser for the next post… TWO Tatiana’s, together!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

We Are The Truth

Today is Adoption Blogger Day – part of the Joint Council on International Children's Services Call to Action – We Are the Truth.  Here is our story…



In the spring of 2008, there were three events that changed my life, without affecting me at all. First, a Texas polygamist sect compound was raided, temporarily removing 416 children from their homes; shortly thereafter, a cyclone hit the country known as Burma/Myanmar, killing hundreds of thousands, leaving many more homeless and orphaned. And finally, during the same time period a horrible earthquake in China resulted in even more children left without parents and homes. Each time, I remarked to a close friend of mine, “I could adopt a child from there, I should help”. After hearing this comment 3 times, she finally asked, “You keep commenting on this, why don’t you look into it?”. And so started my quest to adopt.

I never thought at 37, I would have been single, with no children. Honestly, a couple years before these events, I had written my chances of having a family off. Suddenly, with the prospect of adoption, it all made sense.

The process started in late May, 2008. I instantly felt a connection with the owner of my adoption agency, Lighthouse Adoptions in Ann Arbor, MI. We discussed the available options and it looked like my path would likely lead me to Moscow City, Russia. Since I was open to either gender child, I knew that I would likely be bringing home a son, since there seemed to be a high demand for little girls.

Fate being what it is, I ended up in Vladivostok, Russia with the referral of a little girl. While waiting to go inside the Artem Baby Home, suddenly the nerves hit me. It was late October, 2008, and a few children were playing outside with the caretaker. As we were walking into the baby home, I saw a little girl with big brown curls tumbling out of a red hat, laughing and smiling, smelling a late blooming flower. I said to myself, “I wish I could have a daughter just like her”, trying not to think such things, so as not to be disappointed.

Inside, we waited for the Director to come and meet us. My translator leaned to me and said, “Look, here she comes now…”, referring to my referral. It was the little girl with the red hat. It took every ounce of energy to not burst out crying. I knew from that second that it was meant to be.

The staff at her baby home were wonderful. You could genuinely tell they cared about the children and did everything they could with the resources they received. They were open and honest about her background. I knew the challenges and risks – her mother had a drinking problem.

On March 20, 2009, the court decision was finalized and Tatiana Elizabeth was my daughter.  She is, single handedly, the best thing that ever happened to me.  In the past year, she has grown in so many ways.  Not only is she 5 inches taller and 5 pounds heavier, but abilities have increased 5 fold!  She is a great eater – in fact she’s less picky than her mama.  She would stay outside 24/7 if allowed:  the girl LOVES to draw with chalk, swing on swings and ride bikes.  She also loves animals – her cats, anyone’s dog – you name it.  You pick an animal and she will tell you what that animal says.  (Did YOU know that a giraffe bleats?  SHE DOES!)  Singing is another favorite, and she runs through her day, via song, every night before going to bed.

I will never claim to be a perfect parent, with a perfect child – she’s 3 after all: temper tantrums, tears, silliness and laughter are always a heart-beat away.  However, she’s perfect for me. 

Saturday, April 10, 2010


A majority of the people (all 5 of you!) who read my blog are adoptive parents – many who have adopted from Eastern Europe.  The current adoption situation/story that has been plastered in the headlines lately is no longer new news.  It has been firmly in my mind and heart for the last 36 ours.  News articles have reported that in 2009 alone, 1600 children came home to the US from Russia as adoptive children.  My daughter is one of those 1600 kids. 

I don’t need to belabor the story.  It’s bad.  It’s ugly.  Essentially, a 33 year single mom from TN (Torry-Ann Hansen) had her mother send her 8 year old adopted son back to Russia because of behavioral problems. 

I don’t know what happened inside the house.  The chances of a boy adopted at the age of 7, whose background included an alcoholic, abusive birth-mother and time spent in a Russian orphanage, having some adjustment issues are high.  And expected.  Any person using a reputable Adoption Agency/Home-Study agency will have completed some education classes on the risks involved in adoption.  Many of the articles claim that the mother submitted a required PPR (Post Placement Report – required for newly adoptive children from Russia @ 6 months, 1 year, 2 years and 3 years) in January claiming that all was fine.  The Grandmother is on record in many interviews as stating that only AFTER this PPR did things start to go badly.   I have a hard time stomaching this. 

The disruption of any adoption is a sad and stressful thing.  I am NOT opposed to disruption.  In many cases, it is the best possible scenario for all involved.  The disruption of this adoption is not what upsets me so much.  It’s the method in which the mother chose to go about doing it.  To put a child of 8 years old on a plane ride from Washington DC to Moscow – ALONE, with a stranger arranged to meet him and simply drop him off at a government office is completely and 100% inexcusable.  Compare this to a birth mother in Alaska putting her 8 year old child on a plane headed to DC with a note to the Secretary of Social Services – basically stating “I don’t want this child any longer.  I can’t handle him”.   Added to the fact that this child was from Vladivostok, Russia – NOT Moscow, the mother was sending him to what equates to a place he’s never seen before in his life.  Imagine the fear that child must have had. 

My Russian adoptive daughter is ALSO from Vladivostok, Russia.  So this case hits me on so many levels.  I have spent much too much time over the last 36 hours reading various news reports about this situation.  One of my “favorite” articles is this one: "Murky Laws"

One glaringly WRONG statement is the following:  “Bob Tuke, a Nashville attorney and member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, said abandonment charges against the family could depend on whether the boy was a U.S. citizen”.  Now surely, an Attorney specializing in adoption would have done SOME research on current USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) laws/policies.   It took me 3 minutes to find this clip from the USCIS website. 

“Children with IR-3 and IH-3 visas automatically acquire citizenship if:

  • they enter the United States prior to their 18th birthday.
  • they are under 18 years old, they are automatically U.S. citizens upon admission to the United States.
  • they reside in the United States with their parents (U.S. government or military personnel assigned overseas may qualify as residing in the United States)”

Therefore, it seems obvious to me that this mother should immediately face abandonment charges. 

I find articles like this exceedingly frustrating for many of the mis-leading facts that are often spread.  However, the most frustrating part of reading many of these articles online are the “comments” from other readers.  While I fully believe and support everyone’s constitutional freedom of speech, there ought to be a law against out right ignorance. 

The very best comments that I have read so far are:

- People are adopting only for the social security implications.  Really?  So the average $50K plus that people spend in both domestic and international adoptions is Monopoly $ and most of my adoptive counterparts are secretly draining our welfare system? 

- The adoption wasn’t final so this is no big deal.  Again, I have to say really?  The court proceeding that I went through in Vladivostok, Russia sure looked and felt real.  I guess I should have asked the judge if Ashton Kutcher was there and if I was being punked.  And I also guess then the adoption certificate I have and the Russian birth certificate listing me as the mother of my child are both fakes.  I should have known.  Silly me!

- Adoptive children are this decades most fashionable accessory.  While I would like to say that all parents enter adoption with the purest of heart, I can’t speak for all people.  However, a majority of the people I have met through this process truly want to help a child and expand the love in their family.

- There should be stricter criteria for adoptions/this wouldn’t happen if there were stronger rules.  HA!  I invite anyone who thinks that adoption is a simple, painless process with no requirements to come along for the ride sometime.  I have been fingerprinted more than the average criminal for my adoption!   I have seen my doctor more for tests and medical clearances more times than I care to remember!  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

I know for the usual crowd that typically reads my blog, I am fully preaching to the choir.  I have shared in your shock, amazement and fury on blogs and face book while the facts of this story continue to pour out.  I hope that maybe other’s will read this and gain a greater understanding of the situation and process. 

To my fellow adoptive families - I embrace you and love talking with you all – it’s almost like our own special sorority.  Perfect example was another Vladivostok graduate mom who left a note on my blog yesterday.  She recognized my daughter’s picture from some pictures that were taken in her son’s room at the baby home on the day he left with her.  Yup!  They were in the same room.  Here’s the picture that she shared with me. 


If she would have not cared enough, I would never have had this picture of my daughter that was taken a full 4-5 months BEFORE I even met her.  I have precious few “baby” pictures of my baby.   Thanks, Jody!  You rock!

Finally, I ask you to look at these faces.  Could you look them in the eye and say, sorry, I won’t help you because you aren’t from the US?  I don’t know many who could.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Weekend Wonders

I hate to actually put this in print – but MAN, the weather has been fabulous for the last 4 days or so.  April in Michigan is very iffy.  I remember one year as a child that one day I was dressed in shorts having a water balloon fight with the neighbors and literally the very next day we had a foot of snow.  This weekend has been 70 degrees plus, sunny and wonderful.  Last summer we had such cruddy weather that we would have loved 70 degrees!

With Good Friday and Easter, plus the aforementioned beautiful weather, we have been busy busy busy!  Here’s a quick weekend (some of it spills into last week) wrap up:

BIG GIRL BED:  At 3 and almost a half years old, it is time to start moving out of the crib.  I can hear the shocks of amazement.  Yes, she’s been sleeping in her crib.  Still.  She’s never once tried to climb out.  Shocking – I know!  Her brand new toddler bed arrived this week and mama is proud to say I assembled it all by my very self!  There was only minor swearing.  Tati was very excited at first – but when push came to shove, she really wanted back in her crib for bedtime.  She powered through that first night and made it until 3am(ish).  She woke up fussing and was ok, but basically laid in bed talking for an hour before I gave up and let her sleep the rest of the night in her crib.  The next day (Good Friday) she napped in the bed and hasn’t looked back since.  The crib is still up in her room – I wanted the out in case she really fought the transition.  And now I just need to have the energy to tackle taking it apart to get it out the door. 

IMG_2929 Testing out my new big girl bed…

Potty Training:  Much progress here… we’ve been trying hard!  Last week at a cousin’s birthday party, Tatiana saw her first Zuzu pet.  Needless to say, she WANTS a Zuzu pet.   So this was our motivation for a prize.   She understands what she’s supposed to do, she just doesn’t always do it.  We’re getting there. 

Easter:  Last year this was our first holiday home.  We had only been home from Russia for two weeks when Easter fell, so it was a little lost in concept.  This year was MUCH different.  She was excited for the Easter Bunny and looking forward to the big day (until we went to see him at the mall – then all bets were off).  We had an egg hunt last weekend and she had a blast.  Even though she wanted to have NOTHING to do with him at the mall (think scream bloody murder, cling to mama), the Easter Bunny was VERY good to Tati this year.  She got a new wagon filled with lots of goodies – a little candy, but mostly fun stuff.  After all, the bunny knows his audience, and T is not a huge candy fan. 

IMG_2956 IMG_2935  IMG_2975

Hope you had a wonderful Easter! 

Friday, April 2, 2010

Fast Forward – One Year

Last Monday marked one year ago that Tatiana and I arrived safely at home in the United States with our trustful escort “Aunt Whonda”.  I know, I know – I’m just writing about it 4 full days later?   Well, that’s life as a parent, right?

I cannot believe it’s been a year.  I can remember all the details from that crazy trip, as if it happened last week.  I remember the Russian woman who thought she’d talk to Tati on the flight from Seoul to Chicago – and Tatiana screaming bloody murder.  I remember desperately wanting to sleep, but Tatiana was too keyed up to want to sleep.  And I also remember finally getting her to sleep in a home made tent of airline blankets on the floor in our bulkhead row, only to have to wake her up (much to my dismay) 40 minutes later when we hit turbulence. 

DSCN0163 Listening to music on the flight home

I also remember wondering during our first couple weeks home how long it would take until she was as comfortable in the US as some of the other kids of bloggers that I followed.  I knew I COULDN’T compare – every child is different – but I couldn’t help it! 

Back in Russia during my 10 day wait I was told that the doctor thought she “cried for no reason – out of the blue – often”, and that she likely had ADD.  Looking back, she fully understood the Russian language and everything that was being said to her, but she was really only speaking about 5-10 words max (and one of them was English!).   She was scared of the dogs and the cats on the playground at the baby home (and eventually around the Vlad Inn).   And when she came to stay with me at the hotel she was very scared at night.  In order for her to go to bed, she had to cry.  And cry.  And cry.  Oh.  And rock.  Not violently, but pretty steady.   And if I tried to hold her and comfort her, it would only make her cry harder. 

So where are we now?  WOW… where do I start?  As far as crying – sure, she cries now and then, but no more than any toddler trying to get her point across.  Typically, when she’s crying there is a REASON.   She’s also a very sensitive little girl.  She doesn’t like to be “yelled” at – and if you yell too sharply to get her to stop doing something (say that might hurt her, etc), she’ll probably get her feelings hurt and cry.  She also doesn’t like seeing other kids cry.  It’s very sweet.

ADD?  Who knows.  She doesn’t seem any more hyper than any other typical 3 year old.  She likes to jump and dance and run around, but she’ll sit for hours and color (“do crayons” as she would say), and if Dora or Yo Gabba Gabba are on – all bets are off.  She’s GLUED.

Language?  You can’t stop this girl from talking!  She’s quite the motor mouth (unless she’s being shy).  Each night when she goes to sleep (no crying, not for a long time, unless there is something wrong), she still rocks a little bit – but she says good night to everything under the sun.  The best way to describe it is she’s running through her day in her head and saying good night to all the highlights.  It’s a great way to tell what she really enjoyed!  Horribly cute.   She knows all her ABCs – saying and recognizing and is counting up to 15 or so.  She’ll tell you what ANY animal will say - with the exception of the Giraffe.  If you ask her what a Giraffe SAYS – she’ll promptly tell you “ he doesn’t talk”.  But if you ask her what NOISE he makes – she’ll tell you he bleats.  Like a sheep.  Hysterical. 

Speaking of animals – she LOVES her kitties.  She has a specific “sound” for all 3 when asked what they say.  She’s also fascinated by dogs, but yet still scared.  Her relationship with the 3 dogs next door to us is close to stalker-ville, she talks about them 24/7.   However, when it comes time to pet/touch them.  NO WAY.

I don’t know what it is about the wait BEFORE you meet your child and the wait between trip #1 and trip #2 (horrid), but man does time FLY when you get home.  I was so impatient during my process to adopt her.   I didn’t know then – but I had a reason to be – she’s incredibly cool and my life is so much better with her in it!

s42482ca113015_23One Year Home – March 2010