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Friday, December 20, 2013

Guess who came to dinner?

So I was puttering around the kitchen on a Thursday afternoon, doing food prep and chores, when the phone rang. It was an old friend, the social worker who wrote all of our home studies for our 4 adoptions and she was calling to invite us to a gala in Boston. Hmm...a gala? On a school night? In the city? Not a chance that was going to fit in the schedule at the last minute so I thanked her and said we couldn't make it. Too bad because it was a concert by an orchestra from Kazakhstan and diplomats from the Kazakh government would be in attendance. Since Kazakhstan is currently closed for international adoption and is once again considering reopening, our friend thought it would be great if we could meet some officials and show off our 4 success stories. Even though we couldn't attend, she asked if she could talk about us with the officials. Sure, why not? Then she asked if she could tell them we would extend a warm welcome to have them come visit the children some time. Why not? I mean, what were the chances that diplomats were going to show up at my door, right?

Well, about 7:00 that evening, she called me back. She said she was standing with the Consul from the Kazakh consulate that is based in New York City and he was wondering if he could come visit us the next day. I said "Ummm...sure!" I thought OMG...seriously? She said he would love to come for dinner and meet the kids. I said, "Oh, we'd be delighted!" while I was thinking, AHHHHHHH! What does one feed a diplomat???

I got off the phone and filled in Craig and the kids on the surprising plans for the next afternoon. The next day was busy. Kate was a gem, she cleaned the house. Tanya helped me to police the kids' bedrooms for tidiness. Craig took off early to be home for the visit. The kids were prepared to meet and greet our guest. I made a pot of borscht at the kids' request and rounded out the meal with roast chicken and salad...no idea if there were any diplomatic faux pas involved but I went with my gut and the advice of my children.

 The consul arrived around 3:00 and we sat down at our dining room table for tea and a discussion of post-placement reporting, the health and history of our children, and dual citizenship rules. The kids were amazingly open and polite; the consul was gracious and kind with them.He turned out to be a laid back guy in his 30's who has kids of his own so the atmosphere was pretty relaxed. Our adoption agency friend joined us and we all shared the story of how each of our kids came to our family. Dinner was served family style around 4:30 since our guest was driving back to NYC that evening. Our guest requested a tour of the house; he took pictures of the kids' rooms (good thing they were tidy, huh?) and asked to take pictures with our brood. I'm pretty sure all of that info was being gathered for a higher reason but we were fine with that; I was actually delighted to show off our kids to a government official. By the end of the visit, he agreed that the kids looked great and thanked us for our good care of them. In turn, we thanked the government of Kazakhstan for entrusting us with them. Our guest left around 6:30, after giving the kids gifts of books and music from Kazakhstan and inviting us all to visit the consulate in NYC. We may just take him up on his offer of a tour...what a treat that would be for our children of Kazakhstan.

The possibility of a visit from the government of Kazakhstan was something we agreed to when we adopted the kids but we never really expected it to happen. Who would have believed it? This was diplomacy at work right in my own home and we were suddenly the poster family for adoption from KZ...what a surreal few hours! Just hope we helped to put a more positive face on allowing Americans to adopt from KZ in the future.

The diplomatic dinner
The official group photo...the consul is the guy in jeans and a sweater
After all the excitement (that's code for stress), I was totally exhausted, fell asleep by nine. Guess I'm not cut out for international relations...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Guess what my youngest can do?

See the platter of French toast on my stove? Looks like it came from the Food Network kitchen, doesn't it? See the disembodied thumbs-up in the pic? That would be the chef...my youngest made breakfast for the family this past weekend...and it was delicious. So proud of my boy!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Five years ago and half a world away...

Our life was different 5 years ago. We only had 3 kids then. We were embroiled in a fight with the government of Kazakhstan to adopt 2 more children and had spent a big chunk of the fall in Kazakhstan, away from our home, our jobs and our children. By Thanksgiving 2008, Craig and I were back home after a series of frustrating delays in our petition process. We were hoping for a court date in early December and a quick second trip back to Kazakhstan to finalize the adoption of our 2 new sons. Didn't work out that way...Here's what I wrote back then:

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving...and fear

We've been back from Kaz for 2 weeks now. If all had gone as we had hoped, we'd be on our way back for our anticipated Dec. 2 court date...but it didn't happen.

On November 20th, we were notified by our agency that our judge had decided that our adoption dossier was out of date and we needed to redo it. For many, this would have been the death knell of the adoption. Never mind all the updated docs that we had given to the judge in Kaz while we were there...she wanted the full dossier, 30+ docs, all approved by the Kaz Embassy. She gave us until Dec. 9 to accomplish the near impossible...assembling an adoption dossier generally takes 2-3 months, then another 2-3 months to get it approved at the Kaz embassy in Washington, DC. If we can meet her goal, then she says we can have a court date of either Dec. 17, 18, or 19. Sigh...I did a lot of whining and not sleeping for the first few days, then I kicked it into high gear and started assembling a dossier...for the fourth time. Our adoption friends have been a great help...our home study agency and social worker have moved the world for us to update our docs; our friend and personal notary even showed up at our house in her bathrobe late one night to notarize docs for us. Our international agency arranged for emergency translation services so that each document could be translated as I completed the notarization and apostille process, even over Thanksgiving weekend. People we don't even know have hand-carried docs for us from Kaz to the US which they will send to our agency tomorrow to complete our dossier...and yes, after I finished whining and complaining, I did manage to assemble a 25+ document dossier in a week's time. Craig and I sent it via Expressmail yesterday to our international agency. Our new docs and the updated docs that were returned to us from Kaz will be married up, checked for accuracy, and sent to the Kaz embassy this week. We have been told that the person who reviews dossiers there understands our special circumstances and will review our paperwork on an emergency basis. We can only hope...

Yep, Thanksgiving 2008 was a real nail biter. and the weeks that followed were equally filled with drama and intrigue. Suffice it it say that we survived and prevailed....that which doesn't kill us really does make us stronger, I guess.

Fast forward 5 years. The highlights of Thanksgiving 2013 are as follows:

  • TADA!! we have 5 kids, all teenagers who alternately delight us and drive us a little batty not just on Thanksgiving but every day
  • there was no drama in our house other than the adolescent kind
  • there were no trips half way around the world; the closest we got to Kazakhstan was the giant vat of Russian winter borscht I made for Thanksgiving lunch
  • we watched the Macy's parade, cooked all day, and ate too much
  • we counted our blessings

    • Our blessings included a very special dinner guest; Craig's nephew David is working in Boston for a few months and he joined us for the holiday...sooo nice to have extended family at our holiday table, a rare treat for us.
    •  Did I mention that David is my favorite relative right now??? He gave up an afternoon of his time to hang wallpaper in my dining room and I'm ecstatic with the results. Talk about something to be thankful for!
    • Then there's my DH who took the week off from work and installed copper back splash tiles in my kitchen. Gorgeous! 
All in all, it was a pretty normal kind of Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving with some Black Friday shopping thrown in on the side. Five years ago, I was afraid we'd never get the chance to be a family of 7, to celebrate holidays together that were just traditional and maybe even a little mundane. Grateful doesn't begin to describe how I feel about that.

Friday, November 15, 2013

A poem and a post

It’s been a while since my last post. It’s been a tough Fall, lots of ups and downs and teenage angst. Lots of housework to be done, bills to pay, homework support to be provided. Driving lessons have been given and an additional car has been procured for a certain teenage driver. Said teenage driver now has a part time job to pay for insurance and gas and is also learning to drive a stick shift…guess who is driving him to work and teaching him to clutch and not grind gears? As if that isn’t enough, let’s throw in a minor surgery, medical and dental appointments, and a fight with the school district over accommodations for our youngest under his IEP and Mom has a pretty full plate. And did I mention that I’ve increased my hours as a freelance interpreter? Yes, well…Christmas is coming, tuition is due for Ms. College Student, and Mr. HS Senior isn’t far behind.

So where am I going with this? Well, the other day, one of my kids came across this poem while preparing for an English assignment. She was supposed to analyze the poem and relate it to her own feelings. She did a great job; she wrote about how this poem is totally about being a teenager, about peer pressure, first love found and lost, the stress of school and social issues, friendship and Facebook drama. I’m proud of her and can see her perspective…but the poem isn’t really about the teenage years at all.  It’s obviously about motherhood and multi-tasking and surviving 5 teens. It’s clear as a bell to me!

Lodged by Robert Frost

The rain to the wind said,
'You push and I'll pelt.'
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged--though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.

I don’t know, maybe my girl and I are both right. At least we agree on one thing…we may be a bit battered by the elements but we’re both survivors.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

He's not a boy any more...

I fell in love with this boy when he wasn't quite 8 years old. He stole my heart and brought me half way around the world to finally bring him home to us at age 13. One of the little gifts we brought him then were temporary tattoos that he and his friends put across his back...so cool! No big surprise then that when he celebrated his 18th birthday recently, he wanted the real thing.

Temporary at age 13...who knew where this was headed?
The 18th bday tattoo...real deal.
The birthday man and his mom.

My son, know that you are still one of my very favorite people on the planet...and I'm so very proud to be your mom!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Summer's end and new beginnings

July and August flew by in a blink and here we are already into September. Just like in summers past, I'm left wondering where the days went and how it all got by us so quickly. This year the feeling is even more pronounced due to the marking of a couple of significant milestones.

First of all, our oldest turned 18 at the end of August. The babe I held in my arms is now legally an adult. She's a bit nervous about all the new responsibilities being legal bestows upon her but she's also excited. The future is now...our baby is all grown up and off to college...another big milestone.
 Here is how our girl celebrated her newly minted adult status. Gotta love her spirit!

Ride 'em, KT!!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Another 16 year old in the house

Last week, we celebrated our boy's birthday. We partied a bit early this year because he was leaving for summer camp on his actual b-day. This didn't bother our boy a bit as it meant he got a special dinner on Sunday (Chinese take-out, one of his favorites), another special dinner on Monday (I made a Thai beef salad at his request). He opened presents and we sang over his ice cream cake on Monday, then he got a special b-day breakfast (everything bagel with lox spread and red onion) on Tuesday before we drove him to camp.

You might ask why I'm focusing on the food aspect here and the answer is simple. Our boy lives for food. It soothes him, comforts him, fills a void in him like nothing else. Yes, I know that's not the best case scenario and his food issues are on our radar screen...but considering where we were a year ago, we're looking at this as a work in progress and are satisfied for the time being.

Let's review. Last year, our boy was hospitalized in a locked psychiatric unit four times. He was aggressive at times; he was delusional and paranoid at times. He was not very functional. He was ingesting strange foods and foreign objects. He was unable to focus on the simplest tasks. We worried about whether he'd even be able to return to his regular school placement in the fall. He celebrated his 15th. birthday with us on a pass which allowed him to come home for a few hours for dinner and presents. He was pretty unstable and we just weren't sure what to expect.

Fast forward a year and we have a different story. No, it hasn't been an easy year but we have seen steady progress. We haven't seen aggression or violence. He isn't ingesting foreign objects and his food consumption has moderated. He was able to return to school and complete the year successfully, passing all classes. He is able to participate in social groups and go to sleep away camp. He's even able to laugh at himself and act a little silly. Not something I could have envisioned a year ago...we're so grateful!

Note the birthday crown...see what I mean about silly?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Summer silliness

One of my favorite things about summer is the chance to just goof off at times with the kids. For example, this morning, Kate decided to imitate our upside down greyhound just for fun. See the resemblance?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

School's out for the summer!

We've had a lot of rain in NH but we've also had awesome rainbows!

The lake has been perfect despite the rain.

The kids FINALLY got out of school last Friday. (Extended year at our charter school, gotta love it most of the time but I was really ready for the last bell this year.) We wasted no time starting the summer fun, we packed up the van and were on the road within an hour after dismissal. We've run away to NH...are currently swimming, hiking, catching up on movies, and NOT doing essays, projects, or anything else that resembles school work. Love it...seriously.

In addition to our newly minted college student, we now have an 8th grader and 3 high school students: a freshman, a sophomore, and a senior. So proud of all of them and I'll post pics and stories soon...but for this week, we're taking a break from academic anything and are just BEING. It feels good.

Last night, we watched the movie "Warm Bodies" and ate too much popcorn. Today, Craig golfed and the kids and I played. My oldest girl and I rowed our inflatable boat in circles and laughed at ourselves because we stink at rowing. My oldest boy towed some of us on a raft into the middle of the lake  and we touched the shark!! (OK, it's just a big rock painted like a shark but we still all get a kick out of achieving the goal.) Tomorrow, we'll do a little tubing, a little swimming, some grilling, and some oohing and ahhing over fireworks. Friday, we'll head home and think about summer jobs, bills, the future, and more...but for now, we'll just enjoy the moment. Love these mountains and the way they soothe my soul.
Late evening walks in the mist are restorative.

Monday, June 17, 2013

So many milestones!

Headed to Senior prom with her besties

We've been awash in important events this past week and emotions have been running high. Our Kate attended her senior prom, participated in Senior Week activities at her school, went on a Senior class trip to Six Flags, and then celebrated her graduation from High School this past Friday night. At one point during the ceremonies, my DH leaned over and whispered to me, "I just saw it...she's not a girl anymore. She looks like a young woman now." Yes, Dad...she went and grew up on us while we weren't looking. Where did the years go? Lots of smiles and tears, lots of memories...and now it's on to the next chapter in our girl's young woman's life.

This morning, when all the other kids headed out the door to school, Kate headed off to work. She has a part time job nannying for one of her former teachers, will be working 5-6 hours a day for the next few weeks. Welcome to adulthood, my KT!

Friday evening---our high school graduate

Saturday morning--our college freshman/working girl

Allow me to brag...this girl of mine graduated second in her class. The gold stole around her neck shows her membership in National Honor Society. She also received a $500.00 scholarship from the parent-teacher organization at her school in recognition of her academic success, her service to school and community, and her character. We couldn't be more proud!!!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Happy birthday to me!

I celebrated a milestone birthday this past week...not thrilled about the getting old(er) thing but it beats the alternative. In any case, my fab family made my day special and I want to thank them all. There were sweet presents and cards. The table was set and the dining area decorated by Aniyar and Max with Dad's help. Tanya sang me a special birthday song. Dinner was Risotto with Shrimp and Asparagus prepared by Kate. Madiyar took me out to lunch and is also taking me to a movie this weekend. My kitchen will be glammed up as a gift, too...Craig has ordered the copper backsplash tiles I've been dreaming of for the past 2 years. The tiles will be installed behind my stove by my DH...so exciting! Our dear friends came in to help me blow out my candles and brought me a wonderful gift basket filled with some of my favorite goodies. I'm a lucky woman!

Of course, we all have our shortcomings and the fact that I hate having my picture taken is one of mine. I prefer to be the one wielding the camera at family events and my family knows it. On this birthday, they all were complaining that I never let them take pictures of me...something about when I die, they won't have any photos to remember me by. Sigh...OK, here's my birthday selfie taken for my kids. I hope you always remember Mom's silly side...now no more photos until next year.

All my love, Mom

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

How to celebrate 20 years of marriage...

Gone are the days of romantic dinners, gazing into each others' eyes, and murmuring sweet nothings as we reflect on the day we were wed. Forget that second honeymoon, too. Let's be real, folks. We have 5 teenagers and a boatload of too much to do every day. On our actual wedding anniversary, we were both so flat out busy that we were lucky to manage an exchange of greeting cards at bedtime shortly before falling into a coma. The closest we got to a romantic dinner was a casserole of pork chops and sauerkraut that we ate in shifts as we took turns taxiing the kids from one activity to another. Not like the old days when Craig would make homemade pasta for his honey or I would spend hours making Thai recipes for my sweetheart....you know, the days before kids. Ah, well, we wouldn't trade any of them for a million candlelit dinners!

We have to be a little creative these days to get quality time alone together and that's what we did this past weekend. We ran away from home for a blissful 6 hours! What deliciously decadent thing did we do with our time? First, we ate lunch...in a real restaurant...one that didn't have a drive thru window. Then we went someplace dark and cozy...the IMAX movie theater. We saw the perfect anniversary film: the new Star Trek movie. (After all, our life is one epic adventure with aliens. Don't we boldly go where no man has gone before almost every day???). After that, we rounded out our romantic getaway with a trip to Costco and BJ's...just the two of us...heaven.

No worries, honey. I'm sure by our 25th anniversary, we'll have another shot at a second honeymoon!

The monkey turns 16...

The 16 year old

The monkey cake
It's been busy as usual around here...Tanya's birthday, our 20th. anniversary, Memorial Day weekend, end of year academic craziness, preparing for senior prom and an upcoming graduation are just a few highlights.

Our NOLA crew (Kate, Madiyar,and Dad) returned to us safe and sound the day after Tanya's 16th. birthday so she got a two day celebration out of the deal. We did pizza and small gifts on Tanya's actual birthday, then did our traditional family dinner and the rest of her gifts the next evening when the whole family was home. Tanya requested steak for her b-day dinner...so Dad grilled coffee-rubbed London broil and we had roasted potatoes and a Caesar salad...a hit with everyone to be sure. Our girl also wanted a monkey themed cake so that's what I made for her. I think she liked having two days of birthday fun...we may have set a dangerous precedent here because the other kids are now asking if they can have two birthdays. (Ummm...the answer is no, kids.)
Isn't she beautiful in her birthday crown?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

NOLA update: Hard work in the Big Easy

Here's what happening in New Orleans...
The intrepid 2013 SACS volunteers at United Saints Recovery Project.

Dad's on the left in the back, my kids are (of course) front and center petting the fawn colored pup.

My boy has been stripping off rotten siding...
and pulling nails...
and unloading new siding.
My girl didn't just supervise, either...
she got into the siding business, too.
Hot work deserves a break...but still smiling.
Dad got to work hanging siding...
and measuring and cutting.
So proud of all of my family! The ones in NOLA and the ones here at home. It takes effort to keep the home fires burning when almost half of us are away from the nest but we're making it happen. Everyone is working hard, doing their part, and making a difference. Love it!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

We're separated...

Yesterday, my husband left me...and he took my two oldest kids with him, leaving me with our three 15 year olds. Oh, don't worry, our marriage is just fine and he'll return to me just in time to celebrate our 20th anniversary at the end of this month. So where are Dad and the 17 year olds off to? Well, they've headed to the Big Easy for a little service learning adventure.

The awesome charter school that our kids attend does a lot of community service work both here and in other communities. The school has done trips to New Orleans the past couple of years where the students have worked with a group called United Saints Recovery Project. A group of 15-20 students and staff spend a week repairing homes that were damaged in Hurricane Katrina in 2005...and yes, there's still an appalling amount of work to be done even 8 years later.

This year Ms. Senior wanted to make a difference by joining the service trip to NOLA before she graduates. Her brother was motivated both by service and the tempting prospect of a week away from school when he signed up for the trip. Craig was also interested in the service work and sharing the experience with his kids and volunteered to go along as a chaperone/skilled laborer. They flew down yesterday afternoon, spent today touring the hardest hit areas and becoming familiar with the work ahead of them. Tomorrow they'll be up at 7:00 AM and headed to the work site. They could be painting, cleaning, renovating, or planting a community garden. Whatever they do, it will be hot and dirty...and appreciated by the folks they're serving. I'm so proud of them!

So what about the rest of us?  Well, I have to report that I'm equally proud of my other 3 kids. While I was at the airport yesterday, my youngest mopped the floor and washed the windows at home...totally unsolicited help that was a lovely surprise. Then my girl helped with dinner and we all watched a movie together. This morning, my first boy had to have blood work done, not his favorite thing but he did it without complaint and was very brave. After that, Tanya and I headed to the mall for some early birthday shopping...she turns 16 next weekend! It was a real treat to spend one on one time with her today. Everyone managed to complete homework, do chores, and catch up on laundry and it's not even dark yet...gasp!...and I taught Tanya how to make Asian Fried Rice for dinner so we're all well fed. It's still daylight and I have downtime, a rare occurrence. I'm planning an early bedtime, some extra rest for my poor weary body...but my heart is happy and full of gratitude for the kids who have been trying so hard to be good to Mom. Service is happening here at home, too.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

When I was 3...almost 4...

I had chicken pox. I don't remember much about it, just some itching and an image of me in my parents' 1950 something Pontiac, watching our small town Memorial Day Parade from the car while I scratched my spots. Fast forward a decade or 5 and here we are...this week, I was diagnosed with shingles. This is a blast from the past I could do without but I'm actually wicked lucky. I sought treatment early and am maintaining as long as I stay on my anti-virals and pain meds. Not lovin' it but we'll cope. Better living through chemistry... the pain is manageable and I'm still upright.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day and accomplishments

Eighteen years ago today, I celebrated my first Mother's Day. I wasn't officially a mom yet, I was 6 months pregnant with our first child and my DH and I were pretty excited. My sweet husband bought me a lovely rocking chair as my first "mom" gift and it got plenty of use over the years. The baby I used to rock to sleep in that chair will graduate from high school next month...and over the years, we've been blessed with 4 other kids who make Mother's day one of my favorite occasions.

Why is this day special to me? Yes, I love the breakfast in bed that my kids serve me annually with their Dad's help. I love the flowers that Dad snuck in the house and arranged for me last evening. I love the cards and hugs and carefully chosen gifts...but what I love best of all is looking back over the years, seeing how far my kids have come, and knowing I had a part in their journey. Their gifts reflect their love and their accomplishments and that's the very best reward any mom could ask for! Here's what I mean:

My oldest gave me victories. She worked in secret. She swiped my tablet, downloaded pictures of her siblings and herself to her own computer, and formatted them onto one page into a photo collage of milestones. There's a pic of one sib learning to ride a bike, another sib proudly showing off his driving permit, a pic of a sib reading to a class of pre-schoolers, a pic of herself in front of her college's admissions office on acceptance day. Probably my most cherished pic of all is of our boy grinning broadly as he celebrated his 15th birthday at home...the smile on his face says it all. I now have a framed reminder of the hard won accomplishments of my kids...thank you, Miss Senior!

My youngest grew me a flower...and grew so much himself! He gave me a snapdragon in a wee little pot that he decorated himself. He wrote a Mother's Day message on it...and he is justifiably proud of his ability to read and write on his own these days. Thank you, sweet boy, I love the flower you grew and am so proud of what you wrote just for me!

My monkey gave me her heart! I got a lovely floating heart necklace that says "Every day is better with you by my side", also a note from my girl that said, "I'm glad that I'm yours." Me too, baby, every day...even on your sassy teenage days...thanks for letting me be your mom!

My first boy gave me a hug and that's huge....because this boy spent last Mother's Day in a locked pediatric psychiatric unit but this year, he's home where he belongs. He also gave me a pretty reed diffuser and a sweet card, helped make breakfast, and is being so kind today...so much progress from a year ago! Thanks, squirrel, for making my day extra special!

My oldest boy is giving me his time. This past week, he sold some of his favorite videogames to get some extra cash, then told me he wanted to take me out for Mother's Day. He offered to take me to lunch or to a movie, my choice. I picked a movie....then he offered to take me to see "The Great Gatsby". For a 17 year old boy who would rather have a root canal than see "The Great Gatsby", I figured that was a gift in and of itself...but I told him I'd rather go to a film we would both like. This afternoon, he'll be taking me to see "Ironman 3" with his own money. Thanks, my wonderful son...I am truly honored that you want to hang out with Mom!

Best Mother's Day gift of all? My kids....my awesome, wonderful, maddening, funny, frustrating, hormone-soaked, courageous, challenging, awe-inspiring teens who are growing into such interesting young adults. Love you all...thanks for another amazing year as your mom. The adventure continues!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Glitzy Girly Day

It's time to shop for Senior Prom and Freshman Semi-Formal...so my best girls and I went to a fancy store called Glitterati where they played dress-up. Lots of fun....and don't they look fabulous?

Friday, April 12, 2013

The definition of bravery

Recently, my youngest boy had to compose an essay at school. Since he struggles with writing due to his FASD, he dictated his essay to his teacher who acted as his scribe. His teacher sent me a copy of the essay with this note:

This is a copy of an essay A. dictated to me. I felt you needed a copy of it.

Hmm...with an intro like that, I couldn't wait to read what my son had to say. His teacher was right; I did need a copy of the essay. With A's permission, I'm printing his essay here for anyone who has ever wondered about the challenges of international adoption from the child's perspective. I'm also sharing it for those who have been touched by FASD...my boy may struggle with writing but that doesn't stop him from sharing the wisdom of his heart.


I had bravery to come to America. I came to the US to have a new mother to be nice to me. I wanted to learn more language and to be a good man. When Mom was speaking to me in American language she said to me can you give me the cup. I didn't know what she said. So my brother tell me in Russian the cup and I bring it to her. She said good job.

I asked Mom I didn't want to go to school. Mom said I had to go to school. I didn't know what people were talking about in school. Then there were a Russian teacher and she was telling me what they were saying to me. Then there were kids saying in English and I didn't know what they were saying to me. So I say something in Russian to them. I told the Russian teacher and she said in English say nice stuff.

When you get bullied you have to tell the teacher who is swearing at you and being mean to you. Because people won't bully you if you stand up for yourself and talk nice to them and they will be nice to you.

Bravery helps you make friends. Helps you stand up for yourself. In war you have to be brave to be a soldier. Your mother will be so proud of you for being brave.

Yes, son....your mother will be proud of you for being brave...and I am, every single day!!!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Another FASD victory!

See this boy? He's my youngest son. He's sweet, kind, funny, and helpful. He's good with animals and little kids. He's also 15 years old, going on 10. Due to his Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, he is younger than his years. In the 4 years he's been with us, he has faced many challenges. He's come to a new country, adapted to a new language and culture, and learned to live in a family. He has also struggled to regulate his emotions. He has struggled with all things academic. Once a few years back, he was even hospitalized for his own safety when he just couldn't handle all the changes...but the other day, a miracle happened.

The other day, I got a call from this boy's school. It wasn't to tell me he was sick or in trouble or needed help. It was to tell me that he had volunteered to read to a group of preschoolers. Why is this noteworthy? Because until just a few short months ago, this boy couldn't read even the simplest book and we wondered if literacy would ever be within his reach. Thankfully, we've seen progress in this most important area thanks to his hard work and the persistence of his teachers. To be honest, his reading skills are still far below his grade level...but that didn't stop him from trying to read a book to younger kids...and succeeding!! To me, this is the definition of courage...and hope.

Feeling grateful and proud...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My baby is all grown up and going to college!

Seventeen years and some months ago, my DH and I were sitting at the breakfast table, bleary eyed and sleep deprived because we had a wee newborn babe who was just a few days old. I noticed my sweet husband was a bit emotional and asked him what was wrong..and he said (with a tear in his eye) that he just knew we'd blink and this precious babe would be 18 and going off to college. I told him to breathe and enjoy the next 17+ years before he sweated the next phase.

Well..today his prophecy came true. Today our little girl was accepted at the college of her choice. Dear God in Heaven, where have the years gone? In a few short months, the babe who used to fit in the crook of my arm will graduate from high school, turn 18, and move on to major in education in college. She wants to teach kids to read; she wants to touch the lives of kids the way her teachers have touched her.  So proud of my girl!!!

Congratulations, sweet Kate...you rock!

Monday, March 11, 2013

What's special about today?

Nine years ago today, a judge in the far off land of Kazakhstan gave us a precious gift. Here's what I said in an email to family and friends back then:


At 10:35am on Thursday, March 11, the judge announced his decision re: our petition to adopt Tatyana, a child of the Republic of Kazakhstan and we became parents once again!

It's hard to imagine how we could be any happier...the day we've dreamed of is here and we are so grateful.  The journey was long but worth every step; Kate has her little sister and we have a second bright and beautiful child (strong-willed, too...but we like that in our house!)  We'll be home soon....

Much love, 
            Dee, Craig, Kate, and Tanya

2004: Two of Tanya’s caregivers posed with us on adoption day.
2013: Is Kate sad because Tanya is taller than her now?

Happy adoption anniversary, monkey!!! Everything I said back then is still true...the journey to you was worth every step and then some. You're even more bright and beautiful...and still strong-willed too, Miss Sassy pants...grin.

All my love, Mom