Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Home Life

Well we have been home for 5 weeks, thought I'd give you an update on how it's going around here with the kids.

The kids, I think, have been adjusting well to life in America and our family. They are well-behaved so far and are doing well in school, or as well as we can expect.

We enrolled Valya and Sergey at Mitchell Christian School, which is where Mark has attended since he was in preschool. Wow, now we have $1,000 per month tuition. That is painful, but worth it as I can't imagine our kids in a government school.

Valya is in 6th grade here, while Sergey is in 5th. They are both 2 years below where their ages say they should be, but neither child is able to be one grade up, let alone two. It will be interesting to see if they will be able to make up time during the coming years or if they will always be two years behind. I don't like the thought of them graduating from high school at 20 years old, but I suppose it is possible. We plan to enroll Valya in summer school this year, not sure about Sergey yet. Overall, they both enjoy school and their teachers say they don't get into trouble. Valya spends 2 hours a day using Rosetta Stone to learn English. One of those hours, she has a female high school student with her as well to help tutor. Valya is now on the 2nd of the 3 Rosetta Stone disks. At home, her English is getting better. We haven't reached that point yet where she has really taken off, but we can tell she understands MUCH more than she is willing to speak. She is quite a drama queen so it should be interesting when she starts REALLY talking to us!

The kids have the week off this week as it is Spring Break. The school shuts down because the Juniors go on a mission trip every Spring. They went to Jamaica.

Mark and Valya are both in track. Valya will be running jr. high, while Mark will be competing at the high school level. They have workouts every day after school for at least an hour. Valya's coach is trying to teach her to pace herself. As far as I know, she has never participated in an organized sport. She loves volleyball and is anxious for that to start in the Fall.

Sergey is now in Boy Scouts, and his new patrol was just inducted into the troop last Tuesday. He will be going to Boy Scout camp this summer for a week.

Both of the kids have made some good friends. In fact, Valya stayed overnight last night at a friend's house. Sergey has had a friend stay overnight with him here.

Gradually, the kids' taste in food has been adapting to ours. Initially, it was challenging to find things that Valya would eat but that has been getting easier. Valya usually won't eat the school lunches, so we have to give her something to take to school. She especially loves fruit. Valya would eat 10 bananas a day if we let her. When we first got home she would hide them in her room! We have gone through a case of Clementines a week since we've been home, and untold grapes, plums, pears, and apples.

We have the kids attending Sunday School and youth group at our church. They have been enjoying that. Both of the children were baptized into the Christian faith, Valya as a baby, and Sergey about 5 years ago. I posted Sergey's story before. Speaking of which, Sergey recently wrote a letter to his Godmother in Russian, which I scanned in and emailed to her. She was wondering how it was going for him and was glad to hear from him.

We have had very nice Spring weather since we have been home, even with temps up into the 70's, but today we are having a blizzard. Seems like that happens every Spring in South Dakota. Mark and Valya's first track meet of the season was supposed to be today but was canceled.

Here are some pictures.

A couple of days after we got back, Nancy took Valya over to see the Tolly's. Lienna and Tanya were from Valya's orphanage, and it was through the Tolly's that we learned of Valya. She doesn't realize it yet, but she owes a lot to them for their part in finding her a family. This picture shows 2 of the 4 Tolly girls, Tanya and Morgan.

Here is Valya with one of her friends, Ellie. We painted her room bright colors and she loves it. We ordered the bedroom set from JCPenney catalog, but the night stand was backordered and now has been discontinued. Figures. Now we are looking for one for her that will match her new pieces so that she can have a clock and lamp next to her bed. We ordered the pieces while we were home between our two adoption trips in January. That red bag on the bed is the one that I got her at the Privoz market in Odessa the day that I took her from her orphanage. It still has the Lufthansa ID tag attached.

Playing Uno a couple of days after coming home.

The weekend after we got back home, Mark had an 8th grade basketball tournament that lasted a good part of a Saturday. Valya and Sergey came and watched. Valya especially enjoyed the snack bar. Here is Mark in a shootout.

Nancy's sister, Karen, was not able to meet us at the airport when we arrived. She and 3 of her 5 children did come down to Mitchell from northern Minnesota to stay with us for a couple of days. Valya and Sergey got to meet yet three more of their new cousins, Britta, Sophie, and Isaac. They adopted their little boy a year ago, and are in the process of adopting another little one.

Valya with our dog, Sparkle.

Valya with some more of her friends, Kelsey and Kaitlyn.

Valya at home, and on the trampoline. When we first arrived, Energy Girl would get up in the morning and jump on the trampoline before school. Now, she will come home after track practice and jump for a 1/2 hour. And jump vigorously, kicking her legs, throwing her arms, doing flips, running circles. I don't know how she does it.

Sergey at Lake Mitchell.

On one of the nicer Saturday's recently, Sergey and I went on a bike trek to the James River and had a picnic. I showed Sergey some trees damaged and killed by beavers.

Nancy's sister, Valerie, and some of her family stopped in as they were passing through the area, and got to spend some time with the kids.

Here is Sergey working on a Merit Badge for Boy Scouts. He was inducted into Troop 75 recently.

Valya discovered Mark's old scooter in the garage and likes to ride it. I have offered several times to teach her how to ride a bike but she refuses. One time when I wasn't home she got on it by herself and crashed and banged up her leg and foot bad enough that she couldn't run track.

It's never dull when Valentina's around.

Last week, our school had their Fine Arts festival. Mark is in 8th grade and gave his last ever speech for this. He has been doing them since 1st grade. He spoke on his "Spiritual Benchmarks". One of the points in his speech was how he saw God move for us during our adoption trip in December. Sergey read a piece called, "Where is Heaven?" and received a Superior rating. He did a very nice job. I told him that if I had to read Russian I would have received an Inferior rating!

Valya didn't participate with her classmates because she can't speak or read English yet. Here she is with her 6th grade teacher, Miss Fenske.

Here's a picture of all of us together at the school. The week after we got here, we posed for a professional portrait. Our church delayed the church directory until we could get back to have our portrait taken. That was very nice of them.


Carrie said...

What sweet children, and what a beautiful family you have. After reading all about your trials and tribultions, it is so nice to see you all together as a family. I am AMAZED that Sergey would give a speech in English already. Good for him.

Matthew Nasekos said...

Thanks for the update. We have been wondering how you all were doing. Glad to hear that things are transitioning smoothly. Keep us updated.

Conethia and Jim Bob said...

You have such a great family photo! Glad to hear things are going well for you guys.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update! Valya's room is adorable. Is the fam pass through Lake Norden for Easter?


Debbie said...

It's great to hear how you're all doing! :-)

David, Donna, Amber & Dasha said...

Glad to see and hear that the kids are doing so well and that Mon and Dad have gotten back into the swing of things. We're getting Rosetta Stone this week so I can take it with me. You guys having a good experience with it? Dasha says hello to sergey

Ashley said...

Thanks for this great update on the children. Love all the pics and Valya's room is adorable. :)