Tuesday, February 16, 2010

One Year Anniversary

I can't believe it but Feb. 15 was our first anniversary of arriving home with Valya and Sergey. Thanks to those who have emailed us and remembered our anniversary. I haven't updated you on how things are going since last Fall. It's going well. We have the literal daily drama of three teenagers in the house. But probably not more than any other typical American household with three teens.

Teens can be so funny. The smallest thing can be a crisis or a flash point for some kind of blowup. All three of them are testing their wings and pushing limits (and out patience sometimes). It can be exhausting. It's been said that God lets you go through this so that you'll be ready to push them out of the nest when the time comes. Well some days we're ready now!

The past year has brought incredibly low times, to the point where we questioned if we ever should have adopted. Defiance can be absolutely frustrating. Nothing makes my blood boil like a 14 year old who looks straight at me and says "No" or "I'm not going to do that" in response to something I've asked. But thankfully we're seeing less of that as time goes on.

We have had incredibly high times as well. I think I've gotten a thousand kisses and hugs from Valya over the last year. Sergey is affectionate as well. The other night he had a nightmare and crawled into bed with Nancy and me, shaking like a leaf. I was glad we could be there for him. There would have been no one for him at the orphanage.

I'll say more with pictures.

We got Sergey into Boy Scouts right away. In fact, he went along on a Boy Scout campout during the summer of 2008 when he had hosted him for a couple of weeks. Mark has been involved in Scouts from the beginning, Tiger Scouts in 1st grade. Mark has been kind of dawdling in his progress though and Sergey thinks he can make Eagle before him! I am the Scoutmaster of Troop 75 and I get to give them their awards.

Last Fall, we had a family Christmas get-together with Nancy's three sisters and their families at the farm. It's good for our new kids to be a part of an extended family. Since we mostly live far apart, they enjoy seeing their cousins once in a while. Our day was spent visiting, eating, doing crafts, basketball, kickball, paintball, eating, trampoline, reading the Christmas story from the Bible, opening gifts, and eating. We even managed to get a picture with everyone in it. Nancy's parents would have been pleased. It was Nancy's inheritance money that allowed us to go to Ukraine and adopt our kids.

Valya loves to climb trees. She says that trees are her best friends. When she was at the orphanage she says that she used to jump from tree to tree. One time a branch broke and cut her face. She says she had a tree that everyone knew was "hers" and she would push anyone out that climbed in it. One time she pushed a boy off and he fell out and broke his leg. Such a sweet princess. The countryside where Nancy grew up is very much like the countryside in Ukraine where Valya is from. If you didn't know any different you could easily mistake one for the other.

If you follow news in Ukraine, you know that they had bad winter weather this year. Recently the news was saying that all states except Hawaii have snow on the ground right now. Our winter so far in Mitchell is on track for being in the top-10 of the snowiest. In these pictures Sergey and Valya are helping to clear snow. You know Valya is Ukrainian when you see her shoveling snow in high heels!

I would like to say that we had a good Thanksgiving meal together, and I guess in the end, we did. But this was one of those times when we battled with teenagers. It was a time of broken expectations for Nancy and I. We were expecting a special time together but it was not all that rewarding. I had requested that the boys wear a button-down shirt to the table, since it was not just any meal, but Thanksgiving. You would think that I had made the most demanding impossible request ever. First it was the shirt itself, then it was that it had to be actually buttoned, and then that it needed to be tucked in. Brother. We had long drawn out arguments beforehand and very poor attitudes during the meal. And then our adopted kids disliked almost everything we prepared. It was very disappointing. One thing that did go OK was that we had also asked everyone to write 5 things to share about everyone else in the family that they were thankful for. I was pleased that they actually did it and had put some thought into it. We have a couple of pictures from before the meal when we were carving the turkey, but it was impossible to take one around the table as the boys were in a bad mood.

We made gingerbread bears during the Christmas season. Teenagers have their own way of doing things. We got one-eyed cyclops, pirates, bleeding, and other unusual cookies.

In September, I had posted about how our black cat, Bootsie, had passed away. In December we had to give away our other cat, Patches, because Valya seemed to be allergic to cats. Patches was always Mark's cat, the one that he would usually be with when he was younger. This picture was the last one with Mark as we were about to take him to his new home. The cat I mean.

In December, Sergey got to do something that he had always wanted to do but was never able. We took him skiing for the first time. He enjoyed it and would like to do more of it.

The kids helped with some of the Christmas decorating. There is a story behind most of our tree ornaments. Here Sergey is looking at some.

Our Ukies are making good progress in school. Valya is in 7th grade, while Sergey is in 6th grade. We are working hard at increasing their English and reading skills. Here, Valya is working on a science experiment with sand, gravel, and soil suspended in water.

All of the kids had to sing in their school's Christmas concert. It is definitely not their favorite thing to do.

While the kids were somewhat dressed up for the concert, we took a family picture that we included in all of our Christmas cards we sent out.

I played my classical guitar at our church's Christmas program. Here I am practicing before we left for church, and Valya posed in front of the tree.

We didn't put any presents under the Christmas tree until Christmas eve. We put a few under earlier but they were getting too much attention from our Ukies so we changed our mind. This is what our tree looked like on Christmas morning. Last year at this time they had no presents at all.

Our Ukies were up bright and early to open presents. Mark was more interested in sleeping.

Mark the goof. He wrapped up Sergey's iTunes card with tape, and in the 2nd picture Sergey is about to get beaned.

We had a pretty low-key New Year's Eve, with a few of Mark's friends over. Valya giving her brother a big hug.

Valya always livens up the place.

We will celebrate our Gotcha Day every year on Jan. 19, the day that we had court in Odessa and the judge ruled that we could have the kids. Many people choose Gotcha Day as the day they take their kids from the orphanage. We didn't take them out at the same time so court day works better for us. Gotcha Day was a school day for us, but we were able to prepare a borsch meal. It was delicious.

In January, we had to say goodbye to our friends, the Tolly family. They adopted their two Ukrainian daughters, Lena and Tanya, from the Andreyevo orphanage. It was on that very computer in these pictures in the summer of 2007 where Jon and Janell showed us pictures from their trip. They were the ones who suggested Valya as a possibility for us to adopt. And through other people they introduced us to, we were able to learn about and adopt Sergey. So we have a lot to thank them for. They have moved to the Minneapolis area where Jon has joined the pastoral staff at Friendship Church.

One day, I found this note on our refrigerator. It was from Valya, and it said, "I love my family except my Dad". She is quite a teaser. Actually, both of our new kids are very affectionate and often let us know how glad they are to be a part of our family.