Thursday, May 23, 2013

Triumphs and Activities

Recent Triumphs:
  • During the past several weeks, we've had a few conversations about Ukraine vs. America, but this week Ruslana noted a very important difference.  She's always said that she likes America best, but its normally for superficial reasons like the weather.  A few days ago she told Mark that she likes America best because in Ukraine there is no family--no mama or papa.  We appreciated hearing these heart-felt words!
  • As I was driving Ruslana to the dentist (which involved two fillings and a tooth extraction...ouch), she saw a billboard with a photo of a baby.  She pointed to it and said baby (although it sounds much more like "Bambi" when she says it, haha) then touched my stomach.  Unprompted, she said "I love my baby brother."  I was really happy seeing her excitement and love for her unborn brother.  I'm also glad that she knows that she is just as much our daughter as he is our son. 
  • Since we arrived home, I've made an effort to tell Ruslana how beautiful she is.  She would mainly respond with "no, mama."  Slowly, "no" progressed to a shoulder shrug.  It makes me sad thinking that no one ever told her these words or affirmed how beautiful she is--inside and out.  Recently, however, I got "yes, mama."  Hopefully she's starting to realize just how special she is! 
  • Over the past month, hearing a police siren would get Ruslana extremely upset.  She would run away, beg to go home, and be on the verge of tears.  It's disconcerting to think about the reason behind her fear of the police.  Every time she's heard a siren I tell her that the police in America are good and that they are going to help someone.  Just this past week, we heard a siren and, while she wasn't comfortable, she seemed much more relaxed. I hope that, with our help, she continues to overcome her fear of the police and appreciate them for all the great work they do.
Recent Activities: 
  • This, along with handstand attempts, has become a common occurrence around our house:
So, we decided to take the hint and sign her up for gymnastics this summer.  She starts in just a few weeks once school gets out.  Her little Eastern European body seems perfect for it and I wouldn't be surprised if she becomes a little olympian!  Along with gymnastics, we've also signed her up for summer swimming lessons.  
  • Mark's parents watched Ruslana on Saturday which allowed us to go see a movie.  They had a great time playing Chutes and Ladders, Uncle Wiggly, and watching some of Alice in Wonderland.  We are so thankful to have our parents close and involved in Ruslana's life. 

  • She's been rocking a computer typing program I downloaded.  She's up to a whopping 12 words per minute! :) 
  • Ruslana got to meet my Aunt Diane, Uncle Tres, and cousins Hilary and Victoria. Victoria was adopted from Russia when she was 10 and Ruslana reminds me so much of her.  Here's a group photo which also includes my grandparents: 

  • We started a chore chart this week and it's been a great motivating tool for Ruslana. If she does all of her chores all week, she gets a set amount of money.  But, for every item she doesn't do, she gets 25 cents taken away.  One of the to-do items is "obey" and I'm happy to report that so far she's on a roll! 
As time goes on, the transition is getting easier for all of us. We still have our moments, but Ruslana genuinely seems happy to be in our family and it is a joy for us to be her parents.  She's constantly laughing and enjoying her new life.  We are so thankful for our wonderful blessing! 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

First Mother's Day

This year was my first Mother's Day as a mom.  My darling hubby presented me with a dozen red roses and breakfast when I woke up.  Now that's something I could get used to!  When Ruslana climbed out of bed I could tell that Mark was trying to get her to wish me a happy Mother's Day. Let's just say my blissful morning didn't pan out how I had imagined.  Was I greeted with a grand Mother's Day wish or a big hug?  Nope.  She literally refused to wish me a happy Mother's Day.  Then she ran away and hid.  Finally, she ran up to me, said "happy Mother's Day" as fast as she possibly could, and ran away from me.  Not quite the heartfelt message I was hoping to hear.

As the day progressed, however, it got better.  We spent lunch at my mom's house and I discovered that the night before she had worked on some goodies for me with grandma.  She had colored a mug and filled it with chocolate, wrote in a Toy Story (currently one of her favorite movies) card, and got a balloon for me.  Unlike earlier in the day, she seemed excited to present me with her gifts and wish me a happy Mother's Day. Here we are with the goods:

Later on in the evening she presented me with a few additional things she had made, including a paper airplane with her photo (yes, that's an original from the orphanage...) and a paper she made at school.  The teacher let her type on a translator for her message so it's written in Ukrainian and English.  I'm still trying to figure out what it means...

In addition to celebrating the day with Ruslana, baby boy helped me feel special by giving me some extra kicks.  He's growing like crazy and I can hardly believe we are going to meet him soon. Here he is cookin' at 30 weeks:
Later on in the week we celebrated with Mark's mom, who was out of town on Mother's Day Sunday.  We had a fun time eating Ruslana's favorite food, pizza!

Here's to the worlds most important, and challenging job--motherhood!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Summer Hosting

The agency we used to adopt Ruslana, God's Waiting Children, is bringing a group of Ukrainian orphans to California this summer (July 14-August 15) and are looking for families to host the children.  The kids listed below are from Ruslana's orphanage and, having met them first hand, I can say that they are all wonderful! They would thrive in a family setting.  
Denis--Age 7

Besides being cute, Denis is brilliant.  He recites long poems from memory with passion & emotion.  He also steals the show during orphanage recitals.  Such a cute, spirited, and sweet boy.  Denis dreams of having a small pet turtle when he finally has a home.
Alonya--age 11
Alonya does all the hair for the girls (she was the one who cut Ruslana's hair!) in the orphanage.  At 8 she won a local competition as "Youngest Best Hairdresser" in the region.  She's a very clever, polite, and creative girl.  All the other kids love and respect her as an older sister, and she assists the caregivers and helps her classmates with homework.  Her dream is to become famous in the arts and have her own hair salon.  She would love to come to the U.S. and visit Disneyland.  This humble and sweet girl would be a lot of fun to host over the summer!
Andrew--age 10

One of the brightest kids we met!  He has excellent English and conversation skills.  He dreams of becoming the president, or at the very least owning his own restaurant.  He likes to spend his free time playing on the computer and enjoys taking care of flowers.  He dreams of having an American family, traveling the world, and owning a dog.  He is a great boy with big dreams, just waiting on someone to choose him. 
Myroslav--age 9

Myroslav is smart, considerate, and thoughtful.  He likes books, especially ones in the sci-fi genre.  His favorite subjects are math and English.  His dream is to build a house and live there with parents.  He was one of Ruslana's best friends.  How I'd love for the two of them to be reunited on American soil! 
Here are some frequently asked questions and answers provided by God's Waiting Children:

Why does God's Waiting Children bring kids to the US? 
The hosting program is designed to give the children the experience of a lifetime and a break from the orphanage setting.  The goal of bringing them to the U.S. is to instill hope in these children and inspire them to stay in school and persevere, knowing there are opportunities in this world for him or her.  It will also let the child know that a family here in the U.S. cares about them.  For some of these children,  this hosting experience will be the first time they have experienced a "normal" family life.  The host families are encouraged to stay in contact with the child they host once the child returns to Ukraine via letters, phone calls, and care packages. 

What is the cost to host or sponsor a child?
Host families will pay the travel expenses for the child they host. Each family will complete an application, pass a fingerprint background check, have a quick home visit by a social worker (approximately $200). Families with a recent or current home study, or families who have hosted/adopted through God’s Waiting Children in the past may be able to waive this requirement. When a family decides to host and selects a child, they pay the first $1,500. This covers the cost of the child’s passport, insurance, travel expenses for facilitator to gather the documents needed, medical exam, background check, US visa, travel to Kyiv from orphanage, cost to prepare and translate travel documents, and transportation from Kyiv back to orphanage. A second donation is made at the time the tickets are purchased. The families divide the cost of the escort. The average cost of tickets is about $1,500. The total cost to host a child is estimated to be approximately $3,000. 

Is the expense a tax write-off?
Yes, the monies paid into God’s Waiting Children are tax deductible. We are a registered 501(c)(3) in the state of California. Donors are sent a tax receipt prior to the end of the fiscal year.

What dates will the children be here?
We think the group will arrive July 14th and leave somewhere around August 15th. We’ll know the exact dates as soon as the tickets are purchased. We think the children will fly into LAX. 

Is this an adoption program?
God’s Waiting Children does facilitate Ukraine adoptions but host families DO NOT have to have any intentions of adopting a child. This hosting program is not an adoption program. Host families play a big role in building awareness of international adoption by introducing their host child to family, friends, coworkers, and their church congregation through normal activities while the child is with the family. If the host family decides to pursue an adoption in Ukraine, the family may request to adopt the child they hosted. Our purpose is to give these children a fabulous experience surrounded by love and attention and the knowledge that a family in the U.S. loves him or her. It is also our hope that meeting these fabulous children will help many people to overcome the stigma about older children in orphanages and open many hearts to adopting orphans in the future.

How do we communicate with the child?
The children speak primarily Russian and Ukrainian languages, but will likely know some English. Surprisingly, communication during a hosting experience is usually not a problem. The children are very intelligent and they learn very quickly. Host families will be given brief language guides and tips for communicating. There will also be local translators available by phone 24 hours per day.

How do we prepare for the hosting experience?
God’s Waiting Children, Inc. will help prepare the host families for their experience and facilitate all of the details. We will provide a training manual and a telephone conference training prior to the kids arriving. Host families can also rely on other families who have hosted previously to assist them if desired.

Hosting a Ukrainian orphan is a true blessing for everyone involved. Please join our mission to help these kids – pray for them, sponsor a child, or host a child! For more information please contact Laurel Boylan at (559) 316-4823 or (866) 468-3089 or 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Room Tour

I've had some inquiries about Ruslana's room, so I thought I'd open it up for a tour today.  Since she's waited ten years for a room of her own, I've tried to make it special for her.
Door Sign
Rug: Anthropologie; bed: World Market; duvet cover: Urban Outfitters;
Barbie illustrations: calendar pages; nightstand: my mom's from childhood
Desk: World Market (originally a dining table); couch: Marshalls (best find of the century)
artwork: Etsy, World Market
Dollhouse: mine growing up 
Her bed normally has at least one animal on it :)
The wall color is Silver Sage by Restoration Hardware.  I painted it on a whim a few months back (as in I didn't even try a sample first).  Mark came home from work and (surprise!) the room was done! It's a peaceful color that goes with everything and I love how it turned out. 

Hopefully Ruslana likes her room as much as I do and it holds a special, memorable place in her heart.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Successful Week

We've had a pretty good week.  Ruslana's behavior has been improving and she's made it a week without being put in time out.  That's a big accomplishment for us! We hope and pray this improving behavior continues.

Recently, we went to the dentist where she had two fillings done.  Last time we visited the dentist, she said "no" to putting on a bib, "no" to putting anything in her mouth, and "no" to leaning back in the chair.  So prior to this visit I told her that she needed to obey the dentist and do what he said.  Thankfully she took the talk to heart because she did great!  I was worried about how she'd react to the fillings, but she took them like a champ.  In fact, she did so well that the dentist plans on doing more than two fillings at our next visit.  Which is a good thing because she actually has 10 cavities, not 9 like I originally thought.
Our awesome dentist who wears a Laker Jersey and a backwards hat while filling cavities.
Thank you, Dr. Chu!
In addition to her dental triumph, she had a successful report from school.  She got 100% on her very first spelling test.  Woohoo!  I'm so proud of her.  She also got an award for perfect attendance for the month of April.  I thought this was pretty funny because 1) she started school after April began and 2) they gave her the award before the month was even over.  Regardless, I'll take it! Don't tell her, but perfect attendance was something her mama never achieved!
And the third successful event of the week? Mark and I were able to go out on a date and it rocked!  It was nice being able to spend time together and focus on each other.  I saw a cheesy photo booth and knew we had to get our pictures taken.  The second photo still makes me smile:
Fingers crossed this week will bring more triumphs!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

San Diego

We spent the weekend in San Diego with my mom and sister to celebrate my mom's birthday.  We had a lot of fun on our little getaway and were able to expose Ruslana to a lot of new things. She went on her first vacation, saw and swam in the ocean, went in the "hot pool" (jacuzzi), rode in a four person bike, ate at Old Town Mexican CafĂ©, and went to the zoo.

Right outside of our hotel "bungalow"--not bad!

Pool Time
Ruslana, myself, my mom, and my sister
Floating in an intertube
Playing with a beach ball with grandma and aunt Laura
First time in the ocean (in her PJ's!)
Riding a bike around the hotel property
Hanging with a camel at the San Diego Zoo
Ruslana and Papa looking at the lions
Riding the bus...poor lonely me
Looking at the giraffes from the bus                                          
Riding the sky 10 year old is braver than me
Family shot at the zoo
I feel so blessed to have a family to celebrate with and look forward to the next getaway!