Efforts

I am REALLY going to try to make an effort to get back into blogging. So, here goes my second post in two weeks. So, what has been going on? Well, you saw last post that we just reached our 3 year family mark. It is still so hard to believe that 3 years has gone by. I haven’t blogged in a long time and well, not much has happened during my absence.

Vera is almost 5 years old. She missed the cut off date for Kindy (Oct 1st) so she is doing preK again. She was at one school 3 days per week for 3 hours over the past two years. LOVED them. They are amazing and she was totally prepared to start kindy. She knows her Upper and Lower case letters, can write and count to 20. Starting to read a little. Knows her shapes, colors, etc. Maybe I could have pushed to have her tested, but I knew one area she needed growth on was emotionally. She is perfectionist. If she doesn’t get it perfect the first time… the tears start. So, I figured another PreK year would build her confidence and I was right. She still has moments. For example last night I introduced Sudoku to her. First, instead of numbers it was fruit to match up. She just didn’t get the point. Then we changed to numbers 1-4 and VIOLA! She loves it. Anyway, I wholeheartedly believe that this year she is growing more confident by the day.

She started a new school this year. This is the school that she will be attending thru 8th. Private and I love it. Of course I am broke and all my house projects that I have in the hopper will take years to get to, but she is so happy at the school. I am happy with the school and it is a great fit.

On that note, you may wonder what I am up to. Well, I am still single and still very happy being single. Still living at the same place and like I said, slowly working on updating the house room by room. You saw the kitchen (that was two years ago and basically where I left off with the blog). Since then I have done Vera’s room, Vera’s bathroom, updated the family room and play area, and I just finished my closet. I have a some little details to finish upstairs (baseboard mostly) that I hope to get done soon. My goal for 2015 is to focus more on my photography. I still do it and LOVE it. I just haven’t committed as much of myself to it as I want to and it is just a matter of balancing my life to fit it in.

I have been working out and have dropped 30 pounds. I still have 40 more to go. I do crossfit and tomorrow I am starting a 6 week challenge to see who can lose the most body fat. A little friendly competition with friends :-) This afternoon I get to get dunked in some water tank to test body fat. NOT looking forward to the reality of those numbers, but it is a must to take it to the next level.

In all honesty, the past two years have been great. Vera is the best daughter I could have asked for. She is happy, kind and caring. She loves spending time me and we often cuddle and read. She has the most amazing spirit and people are always drawn to her. I can count on one hand the amount of times she has been in “trouble”. I am just SOOO blessed and grateful for the life I have. I am excited to get back to blogging and sharing it all with you!

Three Years…….

It’s been a while Blogland. Who knows if I still show up in your reader. If I do, I hope this update brings a smile to your face….

My Dearest Vera,

As we come upon our three year family day and your “gotcha” day I find it hard to put into words how different my life is with you in it. Different in a way that I could ever have imagined. Better than I had ever dreamt. More full then I could have ever hoped.

The day I met you is engrained in my memory. As I sat in the director’s office on the old green plush velvet sofa I listened intently and not all as they told me about the only thing that belonged to you. Your history; your story. The door to the room where we sat kept opening and closing. The translator was speaking quickly and with empathy. The door opened once again and I turned my head, this time in frustration. I was quite surprised when I looked and there you were. In the arms of a caregiver looking terrified but oh so cute. In that single moment the entire world became quiet and began to move in slow motion. As the emotions and the reality that you were in fact a real live little girl overcame me, I was overwhelmed at how tiny your frame was. You were so much smaller than I had imagined you to be. So fragile emotionally and physically.

After some coaxing and reassuring from the caregiver you came to see me and sat in my lap. The adults spoke to me some more and I really can’t remember what they said. But I do remember that the last words were “Do you still want to spend time meeting and getting to know this girl?”. My answer was a resounding “YES!”. We then walked over to your groupa where they were playing in the outside porch play area. You and I played alongside them for an hour or so. I still remember their faces and I often wonder where they are today.

Over the next 4 days we got to know each other more. I spent a couple of hours each morning and afternoon with you. By the time I left on Friday, you were reaching for me and smiling upon my arrivals and crying when I departed. That last goodbye hurt and your face seemed to know that I wasn’t going to be back that afternoon. You cried and fussed and my heart hurt in a way I had never felt before.

After two months of waiting I received an email the day after Labor Day. It was time to start planning my trip back to Russia for court. On September 21, 2011 I began the trek across the globe. After being away for 2.5 months there you were. You were much better at walking and also once again skeptical of me. You cried big tears of fear when I walked up to you. We went off by ourselves with my translator in tow. It took a minute or two but you stopped crying and we played and you let me love on you. Your smile upon my arrival the next day let me know that that you remembered me. I knew that all the praying I did for God to open your heart to love, to me, to family to our new life was in play. We spent a couple of days together and then I had to head back to Stavropol for court.

Court lasted two days. Monday September 26, 2011 and Tuesday September 27,2011. Day one was about 60 minutes of questions with a few people in the room. Day two was about 2.5 hours long with the room filled with many people who had your welfare in mind. They spoke of watching you and I interact and how you seemed to enjoy the one on one attention. They smiled and mentioned when they spoke how it was quite clear the passion I had when I spoke of you and my desire to adopt you and be your forever mommy. There were Dr.’s, lawyers, social workers, the baby house director and even one of the caregivers from the baby house there to speak on your behalf. They all agreed that they thought we should be a family. The judge excused herself after hearing from us all. Standing in that hallway by myself I was sure I felt the building sway back and forth. I was so scared. I never felt that scared in my life. What if the judge said NO? What if after all this I had to walk away from you and forget you? I knew that was impossible. I began praying. Praying like you do when your life is at stake. Because that is what it felt like to me.

Soon we were asked to enter the room for the judge’s decision. She spoke and I tried so hard to listen to my translator but it all sort of sounded like Charlie Brown’s mom speaking. Until he said “she has said yes and has granted your petition to adopt the girl. Now she is giving her answer on whether she will waive the 10 day waiting period.” In that moment, I wanted to cry and scream at the same time. I wanted to jump up and shout “YES!!!!” and punch my arm to sky! I wanted to pop open a champagne and celebrate with the whole room. But I stood there quietly as she finished. She waived the 10 day waiting period and told the baby house to get Vera ready as I would be there tomorrow to pick her up. Court ended and I thanked the judge and everyone else in the room with a smile and handshake.

I never took the obligatory picture in front of the court house. I wish I did. When I got back to the hotel I walked to the grocery store. I bought myself some champagne, cheese and salami and had a little solo celebration in my hotel room

The next day came we got to your baby house in record time (2.5 hours). It was 5:30 when we arrived. I quickly passed out gifts for everyone. I changed you out of the baby house clothes (which is protocol) and they fed one last bottle. The caregivers took out there cell phones and took some pictures of their own. They oohed and awed over your cute sweater and bow. They wished you luck and happiness. We walked out and you happily left that life and into your new one with me.

You cried a bit when we got into the car but you quickly found comfort in my arms. You laughed a lot while we waited in the airport for our flight to Moscow. You cried again on the bus on the way to the plane but many people spoke words to comfort you and that seemed to help. Several brought you over fruit to share. We arrived to a rainy night in Moscow. The rest of the story…. Well it follows the same line as the story I tell you about how we became a family. We saw Dr. Boris. We went to the embassy. We got your visa and on Saturday morning we got on a plane to the USA. You were the best travel companion. You just snuggled up to me and we cuddled and napped and watched tv on that long flight.

I was prepared for mourning at your end. For lots of tears, for rocking and thumb sucking over the next days and weeks but none of that ever came. Maybe you mourned in silence. If you did, I am sorry you went thru that. You put your trust in my hands when we left that baby house. I felt it there. Slowly your trust turned to love. Those fractures on your heart have healed. Love came in and healed the fear, sadness and need. You healed my heart too.

You are the bravest person I know. You are best daughter. Strangers tell me all time how polite and kind you are. You really are something special. Everyone who knows you can attest to that. So on this three year anniversary of our family. I want to let you know that I love you so much. At times I think of you and all you have gone thru and how lucky I am to be your mom and I cry. I cry because I am happy and I cry because I am sad you went thru that. Mostly I cry because the love I have for you Vera is something that all moms can understand. It is pure and hopeful and unwavering.

I love you Goosie.
Love,
Mommy

vera rose 3 year home

Getting Back to this Blog

HELLO THERE!!!  I know I know its been months.  I have some good reasons and a lot to share so go grab a snack and get comfy….  Ready ok.

So, last I blogged about our life, I gave you the 3rd Birthday rundown.  At that time we were still at my moms.  Remember, the house had flooded from the busted rubber washer hose??  Well fast forward to December and the house was FINALLY done.  So, what did I have done?  Well the whole house was repainted, the kitchen was gutted and remodeled, the downstairs bath got new tile and the whole downstairs got new floors.  The last things to do now are refinish the Master bath vanity and Vera’s vanity and replace the countertops with leftover granite from the kitchen.  Oh and install those pesky laundry doors :-)  I am sure I will think of a few other things as time goes on, but for now, Vera and I love everything about the house and are VERY happy with the change.  Here are a couple of pix:

Before View

Before View

After View

After View

Before View

Before View

After View

After View

Christmas came and we decided to have my family over Christmas Eve to show everyone the house.  It was fun to have everyone here.  That never happens.  My sister cooked up a storm and we ate, chatted, opened gifts and had it was great.  After everyone left, we headed to my sister’s house to spend the night.  Christmas morning the kids woke up and that was a blast!  Vera was SO excited that Santa brought her exactly what she asked for.  What was that you ask?  Why a pink train and a new blanket of course!

Mommy and Vera Christmas Morning

Mommy and Vera Christmas Morning

Vera with her new blanket from Santa

Vera with her new blanket from Santa

New Years came and my dear friend Julie was turning 40 on NYE.  We normally go to her house and celebrate her bday and NY.  But this year, I just wasn’t feeling good.  I even got dressed, drove there and ended up heading back home before I even entered the party.  So, in lieu of a party, it was Vera, my niece Ava and myself.  The girls made it til 11:50.  They tried :-)  I made it til 12:10!  LOL

The month of January was pretty busy.  I had two weddings to shoot and an engagement session.  In between, just normal life stuff.  Running here and there, dealing with the flu that got me, and making time for naps and snuggles on rainy days.

Vera is doing AMAZING.  She is talking so much and all the time.  Nonstop.  She loves to draw and is presently obsessed with all things princess.  She received a Cinderella costume and glass slippers for her 3rd birthday from Aunt Deb and she would wear those each and every day if she could.  She has learned to write her name and we are working on neatness and fitting it in the space for her Valentine’s cards for friends at school.  We are even having some friends over on the 15th for a Valentines Party as Vera calls it.  My girl loves a party!

She is still doing gymnastics.  She did change gymnastic schools.  Not because the old school was bad or not good enough.  We changed to a school that is owned by a Ukrainian family.  There are lots of Russian families there.  Vera LOVES it.  They love Vera as well.  She walks in and tells everyone “priviet” and when she leaves she says “paka paka”  The moms and grandmothers like to talk to her in Russian and Vera smiles and nods a yes or no.  Who knows if she knows what they are saying but they seem to be satisfied with her response.  She no longer is nervous on the little balance beam and will go across no problem.  She is great on the trampoline and can forward roll all over the place on her own.  Coach Anatoliy (he isn’t her coach yet but he watches her and greets us with a huge smile each week when we get there) even told his wife that Vera is very good and an amazing listener.  And I would have to agree.  Two weeks ago we spoke to one of the grandmothers and I shared with her Vera was adopted and she asked what part of Russia.  I told her and she quickly responded that she LOVES that area of Russia and vacationed there several times.  She then proceeded to tell me, “Your daughter, she is really russian, you must keep her in gymnastics.  It is in her blood to be here”.  LOL!

Vera has been home now 16 months.  She and I are mother and daughter and have a special bond that is so much stronger than I ever would have imagined.  When she crawls in my arms for hugs and love or we snuggle to watch a little TV, it is in those moments that I realize how lucky I am.  Part of why I was so quiet these past months is the adoption ban really did a number on me.  It made me so sad yet so grateful that I have my daughter.  It was all I could do to get thru each day without being overwhelmed at the thought of the children still there, waiting for their family.  A few weeks ago, Vera was taking a bath and randomly said, “I sad at baby house.  I wait for my mommy at baby house and you come back for me.  I get happy”.  When she said that my heart hurt and broke for all the children and families that will never be.  I am still praying that those that met their babies will be allowed court so that they can bring their babies home.

So, that is the latest and greatest in a summary overview on us.  I promise to be more regular.  I have a list of all things Vera coming up!  Have a great day everyone!!

Fundraiser for Candice Nadine and MercyFound Ministries

OK Peeps….  If there are any mommies out there who are looking for holiday cards and want to support a GREAT cause, I have something for you!

I designed a few holiday card templates with Matroshka’s on them.  Two options here.  You can Purchase a template and I will create the jpg for you using any image you send me.  I will also adjust the text to read how you would like it.  Then, you can take to print on your own.  OR  You can purchase a template and I will also print up your cards for you.  Now, these are professional cardstock cards!  I sell these to my clients for $2.50 each and they don’t blink an eye as the quality is that good.  But for you all, I will print up the cards at $1.25 each.  ALL OF THE PROCEEDS will go to Candice and MercyFound Ministries.

Check out the site here and get your cards for a cause now :-)

http://www.etsy.com/shop/HeartsHope

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Hey Look, Its ME!

OK,  I owe you a blog about the happenings as of late!  Lets see…. On October 11th I got a call saying there was water pouring out of my house.  I rushed home and sure enough there was.  The living area is above my garage and well, long story short, the washing machine hose busted and water shot out for HOURS!  The whole second level was dust.  So, after the cleanup, I was left to repair the damage.  The house was needing a new kitchen anyway, so she is getting one.  Along with new paint, floors, counters, etc…

In the meantime, Vera and I have been staying at my moms.  It is hard not being in out own space, but luckily, for Vera and I, so long as we have each other we make do :-)  The house should be all put back together December 1.  That is my target date and I am pushing hard to keep it!

So, besides the flooding, Vera celebrated a 3rd birthday!  She continues to blossom at an unbelievable rate!  She talks so much now.  I don’t know how I was ever worried.  She is happy to tell you she is THREE now and loved celebrating her birthday.

Aunt Tessie and Nana with the Birthday Girl

Trike Races!!

Birthday Singing

Blowing out the candles. Well Nyah’s candle since she already blew out her 3!

Mommy and her Princess!

Tomorrow I will be posting a little something for the holidays.  Stay tuned, you won’t want to miss it!

And a little video of my brave confident and super STRONG daughter….

One Year Home Pictures

Well, I had to take some special one year home pictures of my sweet Vera.  She enjoys the camera most of the time.  Though some days, she will stop, look at me and say, “no pictures Mommy” while shaking her hands.  So, in those moments I stop and give her the space she needs.

I made a pretty big deal over her one year family day.  I think for me (I don’t know if it is like this for others) the day is so meaningful because that day it all became real.  For me, it was more like her birth day.  Of course we will celebrate her actual birthday in October, but this day just means more to me.  I wasn’t there the day she was born in October 2009.  Anyway, we made a pretty big deal of it and Vera loved every minute of it. She even insisted on candles for her cake.

Leading up to our one year, there was a lot of reminiscing and she seemed to express more talk about Russia.  Repeating her story of how mommy came to get her (which I tell her).  And adding things like “I sad Russia”, “Babies cry Russia”.  She can look at pictures and distinguish those that were in Russia, and those that were not.  She doesn’t seem to remember the caretakers as she will look at them and ask, who that is.  OR maybe she does and there is confusion with referring to them previously as Mama and now she has me?  I don’t know.

Nonetheless, we enjoyed our day and spent it with family and close friends. Fall is here (though it has been in the high 90’s the past few days) and pumpkin patches are open.  Vera is excited to go to the two we pass each day.  Birthday Party Plans are in the works and I need to get invites out this week.  Better get busy!

In the meantime, here are some pictures I took of Vera to celebrate her One Year Family Day…

My sweet Verochka…..

Dearest Vera,

It is hard to believe that it has been one year since you and I began our forever.  I remember so clearly the details of that day.  I remember waking from the little sleep I got knowing that today was the day I got to be your mommy in person and not just in dreams or on paper.  As the van drove those bumpy 2.5 hours to your orphanage, I prayed for you and for the sadness you would be feeling.  I wondered how the next days, weeks and months would be.  When we pulled up to the entrance I walked to the directors office. I went thru the formality of “signing you out” of Mashuk Baby House.  It had been your home since that day in February 2010.  It was the only home in your memory and they cared greatly for you for the past 19 months.  You were 23 months old.  You spent 19 months there and sadly, you had no possessions.  That broke my heart.  I walked thru the gardens of the orphanage to your room.  There you waited with the caregivers working that shift. We were late and it was dinnertime.  Your groupa was in the front room and the caregivers wanted to say goodbye and feed you one last bottle of porridge.  I came to know these women and in ways I would miss their faces, their russian chat and even smiles as we played charades to communicate during my visits.  They were kind enough to show me things like what kind of food you were used to eating, what you didn’t like to eat or drink and how to dress you warm enough.  If they only knew you we were headed to California in a couple of days.  A place where we hardly wear socks and we swim in the ocean and run wildly thru parks chasing birds and ducks without hats and sweatshirts.

I dressed you in your new clothes and the caregivers oohed and awed.  It really made them happy to see you in a big bow.  I passed out bracelets to them with your name in Cyrillic and then the english translation “Faith” for them to have and remember you by.  Some pictures were taken and it was time to go.  You hugged them, not really knowing what a hug was. I put you down and you wanted to hold hands.  We walked to the door and you never once cried or looked back.  You were eager to go with me and on toward your new life.

That drive to the airport was a little tough.  You were frightened of the car.  But you snuggled into my chest and found your spot.  I knew it was going to be okay that moment.  I knew you trusted me.  It was like that moment our hearts touched and fused together.

My sweet daughter.  I had imagined the first year would be tough and full of tantrums and adjustments.  As I look back, for me, the hardest part was the jet lag and the tired I felt that first month home.  The lack of sleep for 10 days in Russia, actually MONTHS of lack of sleep, because the time leading up to court was not very restful and it all finally hit me.  I can count your tantrums over the past year on one hand.  You have slept peacefully and soundly in your bed each night since that first night home.  You try new foods and like most things.  You have embraced being loved and your new life and family.  Watching you learn and grow has been the most amazing experience.  I look at you that day September 28, 2011 and I look at you today and so much has happened.  All for the good.

I hope one day when you are old enough to read this blog, you will see how much you mean to me.  This has been the most amazing year of my life.  Being your mommy was the greatest gift I was ever given.  It feels like you have always been here.  My heart has expanded in size with love in a way that I never imagined was possible.  When you smile at me my whole world lights up.  When you run to hug me I melt to moosh.  You make me a better person.  When I get tired from work or when I stay up late editing pictures for clients, I simply look over at a picture of you and I am inspired to press on.  We  have so many more family days to celebrate and memories to make.  I can’t wait.

Vera Rose.  Vera meaning Faith.  Rose for the resilient nature of the rose-bush.  Forget to water it and it often sits dormant, not dead.  Feed it and it grows beautiful flowers.  I promise to keep watering you my sweet daughter.  Tonight we will clink clink our glasses, eat macaroni and cheese and have cake to celebrate this special day.  But not before we hit the park to run, play and ride the merry-go-round 100 times.