Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Two years ago

I was dejected, sad and certain that Christmas would come and go again with no referral.  I had been in process for almost 2 years with nothing to show for it except a dwindling bank account, growing frustration and battered up heart after having to decline a little boy who wasn't to be my son.  As if on autopilot I dialed the number of my agency for an update and to pose unlikely hypothetical questions like, "what happens if I get a referral while your office is closed for Christmas?  The government offices are closed too, so would it sit in an inbox until early January?"  As usual, I was passed off and placated by being told to call the director at governmental adoption services.  Begrudgingly I did.  I left the office I was at and headed out towards the next, dialing as I exited the parking lot.  I was half way through my speech when she interrupted me to say, "I hope it won't be an issue (the referral over Christmas) since I'm looking at your referral on my desk right now."  Silence... did I hear her right?  Shock.  MY referral?  On your desk?  Why oh why didn't SOMEBODY call me???  Who cares - seems to be moot at this point.  Did I have internet access?  No.  But if I cut this semi off and make a California lane change I can squeal into that Starbucks lot without public injury and be live in about 45 seconds.  There was no fanfare this time.  No call made to anyone to be there to share the moment.  My pounding heart was guarded and afraid of the sadness that followed the first happy email moment.  Alone in the parking lot with the rage of the semi's fog horn still ringing in my ears, I hit "Accept" on the Starbucks home page and send and receive at a rate of 4x / second until the email titled REFERRAL topped the list.  There he was
I had seen this picture a hundred times before as I scoured the photo listing but I never attached the potential words, "My son" to them until that moment.  Numb. He looked as scared as I felt.  I waited.  I contacted Dr. Bledsoe at the Center for Adoption Medicine and held my breath.  Additional photos arrived which were happier "cuter" if you will... I started to let hope creep in.  The call that mattered most came a day later.  Dr. Bledsoe's nurse called, "She can't squeeze you in for a consult right away but it's OK.  She knows you need to have an answer to give your agency quickly and her answer to that is yes... BIG GREEN LIGHT!  You should accept and go meet him".  Exhale... and that was another moment that changed our lives.  My hope grew with the consult discussion on Saturday.  "Resilient little Rascal" over and over - he's got something in his eyes that tells me he'll adapt, adjust, and be fine... He's a good one... All the words of reassurance I needed.  The scramble to pack, get a travel visa and collect my thoughts began. This year as we were driving the song "All I want for Christmas Is YOU" came on my ipod and I told Corbin the story of how it had been on my blog and how I did meet him at Christmas 2 years ago.  The only other song he has ever asked to play over and over is the wheels on the bus... it made my heart smile when he said, "Mama, play that one again... I like it best".
2 years... a blink, a million moments, a million memories, a lifetime of smiles, giggles and laughter.  2.  Wow.  That went fast.   It was a Merry Christmas after all.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Toys for tots

Garbage Truck and Lego - Garbage truck and Lego - Garbage truck and Lego...  Yes rain man  buddy, I know and I promise that I am frantically shopping  Santa is working very hard in his workshop to make the toys to bring on his sleigh Christmas eve!
I have managed to track down pretty much everything I'll need this year and have almost 3 weeks to spare.  I was searching for a particular garbage truck and had settled on one that was cheap not exactly what I had in mind but was a close facsimile.  It had the features but it wasn't the one I had seen but could not find.  One more trip... and what to my wondering eyes did appear but the recycle truck with 3 different bins and sanitation gear!  Aw nutcracker... the receipt for the other one was not to be found.  No worries, I hadn't bought a toy for toy mountain (for kids that go without gifts) yet so this would certainly do the trick.  Unwittingly, this has become a wonderful lesson for Corbin.  I had put the garbage truck into the vehicle and on our next trip Corbin spotted it before the door had even opened all the way.  "MAMA!!!  My GARBAGE TRUCK IS HERE!!!"  Enter sudden panic.  The conversation explained (with some initial tears) that this truck is for us to give to a good little boy who wouldn't get a gift under the tree this year because his family didn't have the money to buy him any.  As I danced around the obvious fact that Santa could still make one for him in his toyshop, Corbin started to ask questions about why the boy wouldn't have presents and talked about not getting presents in Russia except from me and that it would be sad not to have presents.  He finally conceded that he would give HIS garbage truck to the other little boy because Santa could still bring him Lego and maybe even new wheels for his Lego since Lyric (our dog) ate his tires.  What will make me happy is seeing Corbin open HIS recycle truck with a thank you note from Santa saying that "Billy" was SO happy to open his very own truck that Corbin shared and that THAT's what Christmas is all about.  (Well, that and finding a $100 recycle truck (seriously? WHO would pay that?) for under $30 - that's also my sort of Christmas shopping!).

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas gift list

In a season over run with line ups, angry shoppers, honking horns and toys that will be broken before the Christmas tree comes down, here's a list of gifts that will last forever.  

An alphabetical list of 35 Gifts Your Children Will Never Forget.
  1. Affirmation. Sometimes one simple word of affirmation can change an entire life. So make sure your children know how much you appreciate them. And then, remind them every chance you get.
  2. Art. With the advent of the Internet, everyone who wants to create… can. The world just needs more people who want to…
  3. Challenge. Encourage your child to dream big dreams. In turn, they will accomplish more than they thought possible… and probably even more than you thought possible.
  4. Compassion/Justice. Life isn’t fair. It never will be – there are just too many variables. But when a wrong has been committed or a playing field can be leveled, I want my child to be active in helping to level it.
  5. Contentment. The need for more is contagious. Therefore, one of the greatest gifts you can give your children is an appreciation for being content with what they have… but not with who they are. (edit: WHOA!? What?  I would hope that my child would grow to be content with who he is!  Do I want him to continue to grow and learn - for sure, but I NEVER want him to feel like he isn't enough just as he is.  Gotta disagree on this one). 
  6. Curiosity. Teach your children to ask questions about who, what, where, how, why, and why not. “Stop asking so many questions” are words that should never leave a parents’ mouth.
  7. Determination. One of the greatest determining factors in one’s success is the size of their will. How can you help grow your child’s today?
  8. Discipline. Children need to learn everything from the ground-up including appropriate behaviors, how to get along with others, how to get results, and how to achieve their dreams. Discipline should not be avoided or withheld. Instead, it should be consistent and positive. 
  9. Encouragement. Words are powerful. They can create or they can destroy. The simple words that you choose to speak today can offer encouragement and positive thoughts to another child. Or your words can send them further into despair. So choose them carefully.
  10. Faithfulness to your Spouse. Faithfulness in marriage includes more than just our bodies. It also includes our eyes, mind, heart, and soul. Guard your sexuality daily and devote it entirely to your spouse. Your children will absolutely take notice. (anyone have an extra brother or neighbor to lend to this cause... I'm as faithful as a labrador...)
  11. Finding Beauty. Help your children find beauty in everything they see… and in everyone they meet.
  12. Generosity. Teach your children to be generous with your stuff so that they will become generous with theirs
  13. Honesty/Integrity. Children who learn the value and importance of honesty at a young age have a far greater opportunity to become honest adults. And honest adults who deal truthfully with others tend to feel better about themselves, enjoy their lives more, and sleep better at night.
  14. Hope. Hope is knowing and believing that things will get better and improve. It creates strength, endurance, and resolve. And in the desperately difficult times of life, it calls us to press onward.
  15. Hugs and Kisses. I once heard the story of a man who told his 7-year old son that he had grown too old for kisses. I tear up every time I think of it. Know that your children are never too old to receive physical affirmation of your love for them.
  16. Imagination. If we’ve learned anything over the past 20 years, it’s that life is changing faster and faster with every passing day. The world tomorrow looks nothing like the world today. And the people with imagination are the ones not just living it, they are creating it.
  17. Intentionality. I believe strongly in intentional living and intentional parenting. Slow down, consider who you are, where you are going, and how to get there. And do the same for each of your children.
  18. Your Lap. It’s the best place in the entire world for a book, story, or conversation. And it’s been right in front of you the whole time.
  19. Lifelong Learning. A passion for learning is different from just studying to earn a grade or please teachers. It begins in the home. So read, ask questions, analyze, and expose. In other words, learn to love learning yourself.
  20. Love. …but the greatest of these is love.
  21. Meals Together. Meals provide unparalleled opportunity for relationship, the likes of which can not be found anywhere else. So much so, that a family that does not eat together does not grow together.
  22. Nature. Children who learn to appreciate the world around them take care of the world around them. As a parent, I am frequently asking my kids to keep their rooms inside the house neat, clean, and orderly. Shouldn’t we also be teaching them to keep their world outside neat, clean, and orderly?
  23. Opportunity. Kids need opportunities to experience new things so they can find out what they enjoy and what they are good at. And contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t have to require much money.
  24. Optimism. Pessimists don’t change the world. Optimists do.
  25. Peace. On a worldwide scale, you may think this is out of our hands. But in relation to the people around you, this is completely within your hands… and that’s a darn good place to start.
  26. Pride. Celebrate the little things in life. After all, it is the little accomplishments in life that become the big accomplishments.
  27. Room to Make mistakes. Kids are kids. That’s what makes them so much fun… and so desperately in need of your patience. Give them room to experiment, explore, and make mistakes.
  28. Self-Esteem. People who learn to value themselves are more likely to have self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth. As a result, they are more likely to become adults who respect their values and stick to them… even when no one else is.
  29. Sense of Humor. Laugh with your children everyday… for your sake and theirs.
  30. Spirituality. Faith elevates our view of the universe, our world, and our lives. We would be wise to instill into our kids that they are more than just flesh and blood taking up space. They are also made of mind, heart, soul, and will. And decisions in their life should be based on more than just what everyone else with flesh and blood is doing.
  31. Stability. A stable home becomes the foundation on which children build the rest of their lives. They need to know their place in the family, who they can trust, and who is going to be there for them. 
  32. Time. The gift of time is the one gift you can never get back or take back. So think carefully about who (or what) is getting yours.
  33. Undivided Attention. Maybe this imagery will be helpful: Disconnect to Connect.
  34. Uniqueness. What makes us different is what makes us special. Uniqueness should not be hidden. It should be proudly displayed for all the world to see, appreciate, and enjoy.
  35. A Welcoming Home. To know that you can always come home is among the sweetest and most life-giving assurances in all the world. Is your home breathing life into your child?
Of course, none of these gifts are on sale at your local department store. But, I think that’s the point.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

147 million - could you make a difference?

First off I hate the word "orphan" but sadly, it is descriptive of 147 MILLION children in the world today.  November is Adoption awareness month and tomorrow is Orphan Sunday.  For a moment, as a result of a news article, Facebook post, Church presentation or blog, more people might consider what it would be like to be one of those little people who go to bed alone; many not only without a good night kiss but without being spoken to, held, fed, encouraged, celebrated or acknowledged in any way.  No food, no love,and  nothing to call their own.  Maybe, just maybe those same people might be moved to do more than feel bad for a moment.  Likely they (YOU) won't adopt but is there something - just a little something that you could do to help?
Now before I stumble off my pedestal, this isn't about me.  It's no secret that I adopted to fill MY desire to be a Mother.  There was no pretense of making the world a better place or doing something noble.  My decision to adopt came directly from the fact that at 25 years old I became a widow and lost not only my young husband but also the children we planned together but this isn't about me... it's about them.  These faces will stay with me forever.
Anna - sweet, gentle, content.  Corbin still talks about you.

Zhenya - you STOLE my heart.  You have a zest for life and a gregariousness that I hope you never lose. I think of you  and with a heavy heart I smile.

Karina (just a peek), Zhenya, Grisha, Anna, Sasha - May you know the love of a family.

Karina, Anna, Zhenya and my little buddy Alosha reaching for the camera, thank you for being my Grisha's friend.  He named the buddies he sleeps with after you and tells stories of your playground adventures. You are not forgotten. 
Unloved... isnt' that a powerful word?  These faces of the children in Corbin's detsky-dom are with me always.  Their spirit, laughter, hope and potential still haunts me as they remain unloved by a Mother or Father.  I check the databank and my heart sinks when I see their faces still there.

Perhaps our story helps to debunk a myth or two about adoption:
1.  Singles make good parents.
2.  Single mom's can parent a boy (so far so good.)
3.  You don't have to be a celebrity to adopt.  You do however need a plan, a steady job and a whole lot of determination.  Having been a girl scout will help if you remember the motto, "be prepared".
4. Adopting a 3 year old is every bit as amazing and exciting as adopting a tiny baby.  Corbin came home full of wonder and excitement to explore his new world and it continues to amaze me every day how lucky I am to be his Mama.  I also got to skip the wonder of sleepless nights, diapers, poop up the back and potty training.  Toddlers rock.
5.  It is however not "easier" to adopt a toddler than an infant because they come with a whole new set of rules and challenges.  There are things you need to research and prepare for - in fact, that goes for any child in any adoption.  Don't go in blind - do your homework.
6.  Adoption works.  I have had the privilege to meet with many adoptive families and speak at our home study adoption education seminars to hopeful parents and can happily say that the children are loved, cherished, nurtured and adored by their parents.  There have been challenging times and adjustments for all but overwhelmingly adoption makes dreams comes true.

Perhaps the quote by Mahatma Ghandi says it best of all, 
"The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problems."

What could you do for a child who goes without?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Reaching our potential

"By adopting a child and helping them reach their potential they help us reach ours.  An adopted child is not an unwanted child; to the contrary.  They are a child who was searched for, prayed for, cried for, begged for; received by arms that ached making empty hearts full. Love is meant to be shared"  Author Unknown. 

Not sure why I've never seen this quote until now but, I love it and it belongs on my blog.  

Monday, October 10, 2011

Life is good in the woods

They were searching for "captain thunder" under the bridge
Fall colors make for the best hikes and when you do it with friends they're even better. 

Tree huggers unite

the road less traveled is so beautiful

Not sure why this makes me think of, "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil... 


Then and now.  Good food + Good lovin' + Sunshine + Runnin' = an inordinate amount of growth. Thankful doesn't even begin to describe the 2000 words these photos are said to be worth.

Then - he's hardly taller than Lyric
Now - he towers over her.

Soccer is wrapped up for another season.  We were off to Nationals in Vancouver where we fought it out to the gold medal.  I promised to leave nothing on the field and had a great time and tournament.  After overhearing one of the most talented players on my team lament that she finally had won a National Gold, I was humbled to know I've been a part of 4 teams who have come out with Gold or Silver at this level.  2 Gold and 3 silver - how thankful I am to have had the opportunity to be part of greatness.  This is what it was all about.  Thanks to my team.
And these... they need no explanation or reminder of why I am thankful.

Giving thanks... for all that you are and all that you allow me to be. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Waking up full of AWESOME

The idea for this post comes from another blog post  "Waking up full of AWESOME" that asked us to remember back to being 5 years old.  Remember when it didn't matter what you wore, if your hair was messy, how many teeth you were missing, if you had lunch on your face or what brand of jeans you had on?  Remember how you danced at weddings?  Remember how you hugged and meant it with every ounce of your little body?  Remember how your smile and your giggle made other people light up?  Think back to how it felt to give everything you had to the day and could fall asleep exhausted and content in the car?  There was a time when you were little and the only measure of success was your own gleeful announcement of "LOOK MOM!" or "I DID IT!".  Inevitably, time and the pressure to grow up and achieve kicks in and the innocence of childhood begins to slip away.  I hate to think of the day that Corbin comes home and is sad because someone called him slow because he wasn't first in the race or dummy because he spelled words wrong on a test.  I dread the day that  a child makes him feel unloved with a naive or derogatory comment about being adopted.   It's with those thoughts in mind that I celebrate my son's awesomeness in the small moments that we are weaving together as a family.  Some people cluck and tsk at hearing a parent tell their child "you're awesome!" as they think it will result in a child who is arrogant, boastful or who won't feel good enough if they don't succeed.  Well, for me, as competitive as I am, "awesome" is loosely associated with winning and tightly associated with being an amazing person.  Awesome is sharing, cheering, being graceful, modest, encouraging, full of try, finding desire to do better or sometimes even knowing when to quit.
To me, my boy is awesome because he is him and because he makes my world better every morning he walks into my room.  Your awesome kid doesn't make mine any less awesome so please don't be offended if you over hear me telling him he rocks or is smart or is handsome or any other derivative of Wow... I'm lucky to be your Mama.  Here's a little of the awesome he's been up to lately.
Blueberry picking in MA with Misha & Steph

Russian Bathtime complete with bubbles
Hanging out in CapeCod

Swingin' by the dock of the bay 

D-O-N-E done
Ring Bearer at Auntie Karen & Uncle Rod's "special day" 
Corbin & his "princesses"

Corbin and Ty - the boys I love
This picture means a million words to me...

Dressed for the ceremony... Mama's don't let your babies grow up to be Cowboy's

Dance with Auntie Karen

He had them moves like Jagger ALL NIGHT LONG (notice the wearing in the knee region!)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Massachusetts, New England, Maine

This is the stuff that life is made of.  For Corbin, it's seeing and doing things for the first time and for me, it's watching him with a smile and renewed excitement.  I remember back to the days that a vacation was enough to keep me counting down days or an airplane ride would put butterflies in my stomach.  Interestingly, as my life gathers sunsets, stamps in my passport, and sand from various beaches, the butterflies wings barely make a flutter that hits my Richter scale but this... this is the new stuff that wiggles my world .  As I walked over a bridge in Kennebunk Maine with Corbin I looked across the bay to a fancy restaurant where the patio was covered in elegant looking navy and white umbrellas where people were having beautiful dinners where a jacket might have been required.  I began to think of the things I've traded in life: Fancy dinners for hotdogs with extra ketchup... with the best date ever - no jacket and not even shoes are required.  I no longer just walk through the shops on the sides of the street, partly because I don't want to have to say, "look with your eyes NOT your fingers" over and over and partly because I've allocated that $5 for an icecream at the end of the block.  I don't miss the kitschy trinket but these memories won't gather dust and end up in the junk drawer.  These are days one through three of our East Coast adventures... my memories are piling up on the pages of my life.  Hanging with Steph, Misha and his little twin friends has played him out and kept him sleeping late.   My water baby loves the ocean and after being introduced to "boogie boarding" now thinks he needs to surf.  I suspect given the opportunity... he just might.  Next stop, Cape Cod... stay tuned - there may be surfing.

Corbin, Misha and the twins. Khabarovsk & Vladimir - Canada & Massachusetts: home 

He just picked up his board and headed out like a surfer whose done this for years

After this he thought he would teach me how... his coaching was 

Watching for good waves

My lil' surfer boy