Saturday, December 29, 2012

Polar Express Party

After school was out, we had a Polar Express Party at our house.  Let the kids invite who they wanted, all ages.  Even though I knew the teens would probably hang out and play pool.  We had I think 20 or so kids here that day.  So just about ten extra.  Kept it very simple.  Cocoa and cookies and a batch of meatballs.  It was pleasant.  Loud, but pleasant.

Not sure why they're hanging out on the stairs.  Later they all did scatter.  Most played pool upstairs.  Some went for a walk here and there.  All had hot cocoa.

This poor girl on the left.  She is so sweet.  This is the first time she'd ever been to Chaos Manor.  I think we may have overwhelmed here but she came back! 

Everyone checking to see how the meatballs are coming along.

Max.  No idea what he's doing.  Or going for that matter.

Many played board games.  Scattergories was a huge hit.

Summer sharing her Innotab w/ a friend.

Nik doing his own thing.  Trying to put together mousetrap.  Too many missing pieces.  He was actually watching all of Polar Express.  He loves that movie.

More board games later that evening.  This time, Monopoly.

All in all, we all had a good time, despite a call from t he sheriff saying someone dialed 911.  Umm, nope.  NOT this time.  See, NC recently made everyone go to 10 digit dialing.  Well, our area code is 919.  You can see the easy slip up, right?  Took months for all of us to get it right across the state.  During the time the sheriff called us though, literally ALL of us were in the dining room sipping hot cocoa.  No one had the phones at all.  Was just weird.  Other than though, great time was had by all.  Kids all got to hang out w/ friends and was just a relaxing day for all of us.  Way to kick off the school break and we may have to do this again next year.

I am SO mad.  I made an entire post w/ a video and can't find it now.  Was from this summer but posted it tonight and it went to never never land.  Try to find it tomorrow I guess.  Enjoy your Sunday everyone. 

My little 'Santas'

A friend of mine took some pictures of the kiddos one day.  Rebecca is super sweet like that.  I didn't even know she took some till she sent them to me!  So, wanted to share a few with you.

Alyona.  so hard to believe she is 13yo now.

Bojan.  Not hard to believe he is 13yo now.  His attitude says it all!

He'll probably kill me for putting this picture up but oh well, mother's purgative.

Reni is 10 yo.  She too is growing up quickly.  Feels like she's been home longer than a year though.  

Those are some of the Santa shots we got to see.  Thanks for taking the pictures Rebecca.  More to share with you all.  A topic I'd like to discuss more is issues when the kids come home.  Orphanage kids in general.  Not just my kiddos.  For now though, need to just relax a bit.  Meatballs are on.  Cupcakes made.  Need to make a cake next.

Reni, the goalie

Soccer season is over.  I take my camera but many times hard to get any shots b/c I'm usually having to watch more than one game at once.  Or, they are simply moving too fast.  Well, the other day the coach sent me pictures of Reni as goalie!  Too cool, huh?  Thanks a bunch Chris!  Thought I'd share them.

Reni, watching very closely for the ball to come her way.

Don't tell me I'm a girl and can't play soccer!  I'll show you.  For those new, in Bulgaria, they didn't let the girls play on teams in Shumen.  Only the boys.

Reni was very quick and had a good eye on the ball.

Look at her go.  She was such an awesome goalie though she prefers to run the field.  Not sure if she wants to play this year or not.  Need to ask them all again. 

Miscellaneous pictures

I've been on facebook catching up so now time to catch up on here.  Kids are all scattered playing around so now's my chance.  I also have to go make meatballs for tomorrow so I may want to hurry up on here.  LOL.  Ahh, you all know I procrastinate so no big deal anyhow. 

Ahh, sweetness.  When they're asleep, they are most definitely sweet.  Summer was zonked out. 

Do you think Irina liked the stuffed dog Yana got her??  Was really sweet of Yana to think of her sister on her birthday.

The kids love Monopoly!  Still playing it.  Though they're banking skills have much to be desired.  Bojan was trying to set them straight.  Logan's cheating habits from his old orphanage life are still so hard to break sometimes even in a game.

Yes, this one is going to be trouble!

Summer being silly for sure.  Love the pig tails now.  She is growing up way to fast for me though.

Warren trying to calm Reni down.  Sometimes her emotions just get the best of her still.  She broke down b/c I told her to try not to do that fake smile.  Just give me a real smile.  Her and Nik do the same thing when taking pictures.  Drives me nuts.  ALL My kids went through this funky smile stage.  I wasn't yelling at her but some times, some things will just break her.  Doesn't take long to get back to normal any more but at times I forget she's only been home a year.

More pics and posts to come.  But first, need to go put on some meatballs. 

Yana's gift

I'm slow doing posts, I know.  I am so tired today.  Not sure why but my guess is the whole week is catching up with me.  So, trying to get a few posts in.  Thought I'd share the gift Yana gave Warren and I. 

Thought it was very, very sweet of her to do that for us.  I'd love to get it framed. 

She put this poem with it.  Not sure where she got it from but very lovely poem.  Very grateful for the gift she gave us.  A sample of a 'healed' child.   Have to go it it framed somehow.  Don't want to have it ruined.  

Today is Saturday.  We had a late start.  Trying to sell a bunch on Craigslist to clear the clutter.  And to make a few extra dollars.  Gas is going up.  Got to love it.  Max fixed some screens today and tightened the dining room chairs.  Bojan and Yana painted some trim work.  We got a part to fix Nik's bike.  Had to drive to a bike shop in Cary.  We took just Nik.  Every once in awhile, nice to do....take one kid.  Had to go to Wally World and pick up a few items.  Got Wendy's chilli for the kids and came home.  Nice night for chilli.  Already had other fixings at home.  Now, cleaning up and watching a movie.  Tomorrow, we'll be going to Warren's parents to celebrate Christmas.  Kids are excited to go.  More posts to come.  Just wanted to start off with this great gift from Yana. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Russian adoption ban

Okay, unless you've been living under a rock lately, this will be old news but thought I'd share how I feel on it.  We've been in the adoption world now for well over 13 years.  We've seen quite a bit including many, many, many threats to shut down Russian adoptions.  Happens every so often.  Typically, it ends in stricter rules, more trips and much more paperwork for ever determined families to bring their children home. This time though, it seems to be sounding more like what happened in Romania.  Years ago, it all just stopped.  Families left w/ no children, children left w/ no future.  Sad, but true.  What will happen this time?  No one knows for sure.  I do know there was a bilateral treaty signed last year.  So I do believe there may be hope for those that are in process and would be grandfathered in.  Read it somewhere on the Joint Council of Adoption website I think.  Can't remember.

All I know is this.  There are well over 700,000 orphans in Russia.  I think it is actually closer to 800,000.  The Russian mentality to adopt orphans is different than Americans.  Think America in the 50's & 60's or older when we as Americans would also send the disabled away.  I know many don't talk about it now but it did happen in the US.  The thinking is the same over there still.  The bottom line is the Russian people are not going to adopt these children.  Shoot, they didn't do it even when there was monetary incentive.  Yes, the Russians offered their citizens money to adopt the children.  Someone on here remembers the #, I'm sure.  Can't remember if it was around 10K rubles a child or what.  Honestly, can't remember.  But even with incentive such as money, they did not really flock to adopt.  Yet foreigners kept adopting.  Though Russian adoptions have gone down dramatically in years.

Russian adoption is so much more paper intensive and so much more expensive than it was years ago.  Put it this way.  In 1999, we paid $19,700 for BOTH the adoption of Irina and Max.  That was every penny counted such as travel, gifts, fees, lodging, stamps, etc.  All.  It was ONE trip back then.  We had a judge crack jokes in Orenburg and had the worst heat wave on record.  Compare that to 2004 when we went to Stavropol.  And I won't even get into the corruption with that region on here.  It was one trip ONLY b/c we had hosted them and they let us do that.  Nearly $40K for both Yana and Alex.  Crazy!  Our dossier alone for them was $4,000!  The Russians kept changing what they needed.  Compare it to our adoptions of Alyona and Nik in 2006.  TWO trips.  And now, people have to do 3 and 4 trips.  Airfare alone for a Russian adoption is about as much as our first set of adoptions for 2 kids!  Yet, parents keep doing it.  Why?  Because they love the kids.  It is NOT about the money.  It is about the kids.  Period.

Our Russian kiddos would most likely not be alive today.  Max and Irina's orphanage let them out at 13yo.  No family, no money, no job skills at 13yo.  Alex would not have survived.  Without medication, he is not the same.  He needs his medication and that would not have come about at the orphanage.  Nik, was headed to a Russian mental institution.  We were told that.  All b/c he couldn't talk.  4yo and headed to a mental institution for being...DEAF.  Why?!  We were told they kept Alyona at the childrens' home and didn't send her to the internat b/c they were afraid of what would happen to her.  She was fragile and they were afraid she'd get beat up and die.  Yes, they told us that. Life is not a bed of roses for orphanage kids.  Max used to get picked up by his ears.  He had bread taken away from him.  Think that's why we call him bread boy still to this day.  He loves bread.  Yana got in trouble at her orphanage.  Why?  Because she tried to snag real toilet paper.  At her orphanage, they used newspaper.  True.  Max wore girls' tights b/c they all shared clothes.  No clothes of their own.  None.  I won't even discuss what happened at Alex's orphanage while we were there.  Put it this way, even our translator at the time said " we have to get him the **ll out of there."  When you adopt older children, you get to listen to the stories.  Some will rip your heart out.  They all share beds.  And not big beds.  Think two to three kids to a small twin/ toddler type sized bed.  No wonder why my kids want to be star fish in bed now.  LOL.  The stories though are hard to hear.  But true.

I've never gone into adoption thinking "I'm rescuing these kids."  Or "I'm saving this child."  That is NOT what it's about.  I'm forming my family.  That's it.  Plain and simple.  I have Russian heritage in my family.  Russian Orthodox faith as well.  My kids know they came from Russia.  They've spoken at school about the culture, showed them things that came from there, etc.  I've never been ashamed of where they came from and neither have they.  But lately, I don't think they're all too proud of what the Russians are doing in regards to adoption.  My six Russian kids would have had a much different fate had they not been adopted.  That is a fact.  They are in a family now.  They have proper medical care.  Proper housing.  Proper clothing.  But it is what you can't see that they have now that they did NOT have in a Russian orphanage.  They have determination, motivation, hope, joy, and above all else, love.  They were given these things because they were given a family.  We did nothing special.  We adopted kids from Russia b/c we love the kids.  Give other parents this chance as well.  Give the kids a chance at a life.  We may not be the best parents in the world.  I know that.  We make mistakes.  We learn from them and press on.  We love our kids.  We don't care where they came from.  Whether it's Russia, Bulgaria or Serbia.  We don't care.  We just love our kids.  Plain and simple.  Putting a ban on adoptions would be detrimental to so many kids in the Russian orphanage system.  I look at my kids and always think of the ones left behind.  Many can have a future but only if the Russian people can see the good in adoption.  Have your older Russian adoptees write letters.  Sign petitions.  Contact the media to share your story.  Anything to try to help these kids.  Please.  I can not imagine my life without them as I'm sure it is the same for other parents. 

Sweetness, Smencils, and Santa's helpers

Oh, still so, so many pictures to share and so many more posts to write.  I will get there.  Doing a couple posts a day in between other things happening around here.  Today, we went out for Irina's birthday for Chinese.  Went to the bank to make a deposit and then to Wally World to pick up Logan's new glasses.  And to of course find a few odds and ends.  Nothing fancy.  Yana is staying at a friend's house this evening.  Everyone else is just chilling out.  Nik is watching Madagascar upstairs, some of the kids are playing pool, some playing Monopoly (thanks again Dee!...huge hit), and some watching the Mummy downstairs.  We were going to go to the movies this evening but some children were being not so nice in the car so I said forget.  And, once you say something here, you must, must stick w/ it or it has no effect.  Bummed b/c I wanted to see the movie at the cheap seats too.  Maybe tomorrow.  So, up here doing a few posts.

Bojan opening up a package we received in the mail.  Notice the donuts?  Those were given to us by a neighbor for Summer's birthday.  Thank you Tonya!

Everyone anxiously awaiting to see what's inside.

Bojan reading the note inside from our dear friends Craig and Viviene.


Can you guess what was inside that my children are shovelling in their mouths?

You guessed it!  Homemade fudge.  It was our very first of the season.  In fact, it was the only fudge we got all Christmas season long!  Bojan kept commenting how come we don't make fudge.  It was delicious fudge and gone in less than five minutes.  Kid you not.  We loved it!  Thank you so much for that sweet treat.

Another box was also there that evening.  Alyona & Irina were opening this one.

Kids were stunned by what was inside.

An entire box of candy!  Being that we were practically already in a sugar coma, I took this one to my room for them to eat over the next couple of days.

Also in the box were a bunch of pencils called Smencils.  I had never heard of them before.  They are pencils that are scented and boy do they smell good.  Really cool thing.  

Nik was smelling them all and picking out his favorite flavors.  LOL.  Thanks to Katherine and Maria for making cool candy sleds and the Smencils.  Definitely went to great use.  

A picture of one my helpers.....elf Reni.

Elf Summer is a cutie for sure.

And, here's the angry elf!  Max.  Really wanting to say thanks mom for making me wear this stupid hat.  Hey could have been worse.  Could have been elf ears.

For some reason, Alex decided to sweep on his own.  Was really happy about that.  Usually though when he does these things, he has an ulterior motive.  LOL.  This time though, he just wanted to help out.

Alex, sweeping off the front porch.  Cute elf too.  

Going to go try and get a few things organized this evening.  We'll see if that actually happens.  Tomorrow, it's clean up time, take down some Christmas decorations and prep for homeschool stuff.  Took this week off.  Enjoy your weekend and much more to come.  Slowly but surely, I'll get more posts done.

Birthday Girl-- Irina

Can you believe it is her birthday today?!  Yes, my first baby turned 20 years old.  Truly, I am not old enough to have a 20 yo daughter.  Just keep that in mind.  Irina came to us at 6.5yo.  She and Max have been home the longest.  She was our first adopted little girl.  6.5yo and weighing 25 lbs.  Grew 12" the first year we had her.  Amazing.  She is now entering young adulthood which is unreal to me.  Really, you always see them as so fragile, so innocent and so dependent.  Not any more.  A lot has changed over the years.

This was Irina's referral picture.  I don't really have any other photos as they'd have to be scanned in.  Blogs really weren't around back then.  LOL.  This was taken in Ireland where she was being hosted.  We brought her home at 6.5.  She wore a size 2T.  Tiny little thing.  Was so...far....behind.  Incredibly behind.  So much so that the head of special ed of Johnston County looked me in the face and said "she'll never pass a second grade level."  I will never forget that b/c that was the day I would swear to prove them wrong that there was something inside her.  Determination, motivation, and joy.  Stuff that you couldn't measure of how far life could take you.  No, no measure for it and the special education system needs to be very aware of that fact.  We would become her advocate and push her.  Show her she'd be able to do more than she ever imagined.  But, she'd need help with that.

Irina grew up in the orphanage as a big sister it seemed and fell into the role naturally.  See, at age 5 & 6 in the orphanage, she was responsible for the 2yo group.  Can you imagine?!  We brought her and Max home together.  Had to de-program her mother role.  Then, we brought Yana and Alex home.  She became the big sister all over again & did just fine helping keep them in line. 

Shortly after, we brought Bojan home.  At first, her and Bojan didn't quite hit it off.  LOL.  She still had a tad bit of that Russian mentality and their thinking on physical disabilities.  She quickly over came that.  Irina loved exploring new places with us.  

Irina was very comfortable with her big sister role and played it well.  She was a second mother to them and took care of them.  She still does to this day.  Though now her brothers are teens and she can easily tell them off.  It wasn't too long after Bojan came home, that we were off to Russia again for 2 more siblings for Irina and the rest of the bunch.  Irina was always the one helping me look at pictures of new kids and bios.  Oh, why can't we bring 2 home?  Or 3?  She always had such a tender heart and wanted to help as many orphans as possible.  She was always the one wanting to organize our fundraisers to help bring her siblings home.

For years, Irina was content being the big sister to all 6 of her brothers and sisters.

A redneck snow man.  Irina would find ways to make things work no matter what.  She wanted something bad enough, she'd find a way to make it happen.  Even a snowman in the dusting.

Though sometimes she'd ask for help.  She's signing help here at Tweetsie Railroad at the mock jail.  Irina picked up sign very quickly once Nik came home.  So much so, that this coming semester, she is the assistant at the homeschool academy ASL class.  Beginning class but this was the daughter that we were told would never learn and now she's teaching others sign!  

Irina always embraced any new children that were brought home.  She was accepting of the changes.  Even when  we added Alyona and Nik who in the beginning had a lot of challenges facing them till we figured it all out.  But Irina was right there beside us willing to help.

Irina has always been athletic when she was younger.  Loved the water no matter what.  Flipped in the pool and could out swim many.  She also loved gymnastics that we had her in when she was younger.  Another outdoor kiddo we have here.

Irina running her heart out at the Special Olympics.  That determination again.

She took first t hat day and we were SO proud of her.  Was wonderful to experience together.  

And when we wanted to add yet another 3 kids?  Do you think Irina would say NO WAY!  Nope.  She welcomed them w/ open arms.  This was like the second week home at Meadow Lights last year.  I think Irina was taking well to them.  And Summer was soaking up big sis' love.

So now, Irina is big sister to 9 brothers and sisters.  Would she be someone they look up to?  Would she be able to help them out despite the FAS and other dx's?  Would she be able to be a leader of the bunch?

Yes, she would.  No, they don't always get along this well, we're not kidding ourselves.  They are in fact brothers and sisters and they will indeed fight.  It's not all roses.  But, Irina remains strong in her role as leader of the bunch.  Though sometimes she can be just as childish as they are.  They do have fun together.  Not all the time, but definitely a lot of the time.

Irina has a few friends.  Unfortunately, some have moved away over the years and she misses them dearly.  This is a friend though that has been around for quite a few years.  We call her our "11th child."  She's been our "6th" child, 8th child and now 11th over the years.  LOL. 

This is a picture of Irina just the other day.  She is now 20 years old.  Nervous about being an adult but at a good place in her life.  She has so much potential and I'm sure will do fine in life.  She does very well as the big sister.  Can clean a house like nobody's business.  Can bake goodies for everyone and really enjoys doing it.  Takes care of the younger kids with me.  Is learning many important life skills.  Is currently looking for a job.  She had one last year and did love to work.  This is all coming from the child that we were given very little hope for.  And look at her now!  A young adult today.  Have a very Happy Birthday Irina Taylor!  We love you.  

If anyone sees her or feels like calling today, please feel free.  We're going out for Chinese today per her request.  She loves Chinese food.   Irina is also our animal lover.  Still can't convince her to get rid of that guinea pig.  Adores the dogs and was heartbroken to let go of our Aspen, Bear and King Kota.  Irina has a very good heart and I'm positive will do well in life.  Happy Birthday Irina.