Archive for August 2014

Happy Birthday, Arturo!

Today is Arturo’s 38th birthday. To my husband and best friend,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

 

I am so honored and privileged to call you my own. You’re an incredible father, and Shanti and I both love you very very much. You are the best partner any mother and wife could ask for. I thank the Lord every day for the incredible blessing you are in my life. I love you. May this year be even better than the last!

(Making this year better than last, to to be honest, is going to be kind of hard to do. Our last year was pretty wonderful and will be quite hard to beat! But I have a feeling that what God has in store for us this year will give this year a run for it’s money …. :) )

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Welcome Home, Nastya!

As promised, over the next few weeks I will catch up on some of the significant happenings in our life since I last posted regularly on this blog in February. I won’t post about everything that happened — that would be impossible! — but I will hit some of the highlights. Enjoy!

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Shant’s group at her orphanage contained 15 children, but only five of the children were girls. As a result, these five girls were a band of sisters with bonds stronger than you could ever imagine. During our time in Ukraine, Arturo and I spent four hours every day with Shanti and all of her group-mates. We grew to love each and every one of her friends, especially those four other girls. They are such beautiful, sweet children.

By God’s grace, two of these girls have also been adopted by American families. The first weekend of March, we were honored to be able to surprise Nastya, one of Shanti’s closest friends. We arrived at her house while she was at the park with her father and her two brothers during her first full day in America. When she opened the front door to her new house, we were there to welcome her home.

Jammin' in the car (and literally jumping up and down with excitement) on the way to Nastya's house

Jammin’ in the car (and literally jumping up and down with excitement) on the way to Nastya’s house

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Nastya was known as “Stella” on Reece’s Rainbow.

This visit was also the first time Arturo and I were able to meet Nastya’s parents, Rebecca and Luke. Thanks to information from orphanage workers and small anecdotes about the girls, we knew before our travel to Eastern Europe that Shanti and Nastya were close friends. As a result, Rebecca, Luke, Arturo, and I walked the pre-adoption journey side-by-side (along with another family who adopted two children from Shanti’s orphanage, but more about them in another post).

The Adams Family: Micah, Luke, Nastya, Rebecca, and Levi

The Adams Family: Micah, Luke, Nastya, Rebecca, and Levi

Meeting Rebecca was a joy. I now consider her one of my closest friends. The experiences we shared together (and continue to share!) are ones that are quite specific to our situation: the special relationship of our daughters and our adoption journeys walked together. I treasure Rebecca’s friendship and am so glad adoption brought us together.

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Shanti and Nastya were beyond excited to be together again. While they are not related, their shared time in the orphanage forged a relationship closer than that of most biological sisters. Arturo and I were overjoyed to see them together.

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We wanted to get a good photo of them together to record their first visit in America, but they were just too excited to stand still for a photo. Finally, we asked for a “serious” picture. I guess we deserved what we got.

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And even that silliness only lasted for approximately 1.2 seconds before devolving into giggling once again. Girls will be girls, after all. :)

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After hours of laughter and giggling, their cheeks began to hurt from too much smiling. It was time for the pufferfish.

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While this first visit in March was wonderful, our second visit with the Adams a few weeks later, at the end of March, was even better. The first trip was a last-minute decision to travel to see Nastya. The second trip was a long-planned weekend together, coupled with a fabulous visit with Arturo’s parents, who live just over an hour from the Adams.

Shanti and Dedushka Kurt (“Grandpa Kurt” in Russian) made bagels for our breakfast. Yum! Shanti had perhaps a bit too much fun punching down the dough, and I didn’t know bagels could taste so good.

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Taking a break from the heat of the kitchen to enjoy his parents' cat

Taking a break from the heat of the kitchen to enjoy his parents’ cat

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Babushka Monica (“Grandma Monica” in Russian) definitely won the “cool pet” award with her chickens.

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We then went bowling and enjoyed an afternoon at the park near Kurt and Monica’s home.

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The adults' scoreboard. Luke, Arturo, and I are all tied! If I remember correctly, Rebecca pulled ahead after this frame.

The adults’ scoreboard. Luke, Arturo, and I are all tied! If I remember correctly, Rebecca pulled ahead after this frame.

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Saturday night, Rebecca and Luke took Shanti home with them for a sleepover, and Shanti was over-the-moon excited. Kurt, Monica, Arturo, and I had a fabulous night in playing Book Lover’s Scrabble, during which I managed to earn 162 points in a single turn. Score! :)

In the car on the way to the Adams' house for a sleepover

In the car on the way to the Adams’ house for a sleepover

In church the next morning

In church the next morning

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While amazing and wonderful and absolutely precious, the aftermath of the visits with Nastya were both difficult for Shanti. Much of the grief she has faced upon coming home has been grief for the loss of her orphanage siblings. After saying goodbye to Nastya on both visits, the pain of separation from her friends seemed to hit Shanti full-force once again. Watching your child grieve is one of the the most difficult experiences any parent must go through. But the experience also showed glimmers of hope. After the first visit in early March, Shanti closed herself off from Arturo and I, keeping her grief private, blocking us off, and rejecting any attempt we made to comfort her. But four weeks later, when we visited again the final week of March, Shanti’s trust of us had grown enough that she felt comfortable coming to me in her grief, letting me hold her and rock her like a small child, accepting my comfort, and allowing me to cry with her as she mourned for those she left behind when she chose to say “yes” to a family.

Step by step, day by day, our bonds as a family have grown. Now, four-and-a-half months after that second visit with Nastya and the Adams, our bonds are yet again that much stronger. God has worked (and continues to work) a beautiful miracle in our family, pulling us together from three different continents and three different languages to form an exquisite whole.

Our family is nothing less than a miracle.

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Icy Evening in the Park

As promised, over the next few weeks I will catch up on some of the significant happenings in our life since I last posted regularly on this blog in February. I won’t post about everything that happened — that would be impossible! — but I will hit some of the highlights. Enjoy!

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Hiking is something Arturo and I have always loved to do. Long evening walks in the park, afternoon hikes through the wood, morning treks in the fields — we love it all. We’ve shared that love with Shanti, and if possible, she seems to have even more fun than we do. This late February evening outing was notable only because I happened to bring along my camera.

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Brief sidenote: The shoes Shanti is wearing in these photos are now much too small for her. They are currently sitting in our garage waiting for a yard sale in a few weeks. The sweater dress she is wearing is now too small for daily wear, so it’s been relegated to use as pajamas. She is growing so fast!

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Family bonds are built and strengthened by time spent and experiences shared. Our commitment to each other and to our daughter is that we will build and strengthen those bonds at every available opportunity.

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First Day of School

Yesterday was Shanti’s first day of 7th grade! It was both a nerve-wracking and an exciting day for all of us, and we are so very proud of her. Arturo got up early to make her a (decaf) cappuccino before school, and we all drove together to drop her off.

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It’s hard to believe that the timid 11-year-old we met in November of last year is now a confident, English-speaking 7th grader. On days like yesterday, we truly feel the pang of the years we did not spend with our daughter. We missed so many of her firsts — her first words, her first steps, her first laugh. And so we savor every first we do have the privilege of sharing together.

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Shanti, we pray you have a wonderful school year full of learning, growth, friendship, and laughter!

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Mama’s Wedding Dress

As promised, over the next few weeks I will catch up on some of the significant happenings in our life since I last posted regularly on this blog in February. I won’t post about everything that happened — that would be impossible! — but I will hit some of the highlights. Enjoy!

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During our first few months home, Shanti loved exploring all the nooks and crannies of our house. Everything was new to her, and she considered her finds to be such exciting treasures. From Arturo’s boxes of computer supplies to my fabric stash, each closet and cupboard potentially held a surprise worth uncovering.

My favorite of Shanti’s finds is the day she found my wedding dress, where it had been safely and neatly stored since our wedding day six years ago. She immediately requested that I try it on. While the zipper is a bit sticky, I still fit in it just fine. She then asked to try it on herself. Of course, I said yes.

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The joy of having a daughter has never been clearer to me than it was on that snowy afternoon in late February when my precious daughter tried on her mama’s wedding dress.

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The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is sweeping the nation. If you’ve somehow missed it, click here or here for the details (or to donate), but I presume most of you have heard about it. The point is to raise money for ALS research by doing something silly — dumping a bucket of ice water on your head — and then nominating others to do the same. The brother of one of our close friends died from ALS just over a year ago. While we didn’t know him personally, we know from our friend’s experience just how awful this disease is.

I was nominated for the challenge by one of my students earlier this week, and the next day Arturo and Shanti were both nominated by a close friend. We had fun making our videos together. It provided yet another shared family experience we will laugh about for years to come, and this particular shared family experience even benefits a good cause. :) We’ll each be donating in support of ALS research. The people and families afflicted by ALS are worthy of our support, and I pray that the momentum from the Ice Bucket Challenge will bring researchers closer to a cure.

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Jennifer’s Ice Bucket Challenge

Arturo’s Ice Bucket Challenge

Shanti’s Ice Bucket Challenge

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