>>Sunday, May 28, 2006<<
Our baby girls birthday.....
It is so hard to believe that 6 years ago today, our baby girl was born. I remember it like it was yesterday. The doctors went on lunch break around 11:00am and said it would be that night before she was born. Not even 30 minutes had they gone on break did I have some serious contractions. When they walked back in the room and took one look at me...it was like a scene from ER. Nurses rushed in and equipment flying everywhere. Sophia came out so fast the doctor had to practically have a catcher's mitt to get her. She was like "I don't want to come out at night...i want to come out now!" And that is how she has been everyday of her life since. Very independent and always on the run!!

When the Nurse left me that night with her alone...I was terrified. No one told me how to be a mom. You can read all the books you want. I must have had a look of panic on my face... I asked the nurse "What if she stops breathing...what if she doesn't eat? how do I make her stop crying?"

The Nurse smiled and said...you will know. If I wasn't so tired after having a baby...I would have kicked that nurse in the pants!!. But, 6 years later...I now know what she meant. I did know...somewhere...the instinct kicked in.

S is our little actress, singer, swimmer and now...she loves to catch bugs!!. Just the right mix. Likes to be girlie, but, knows how to be rough and tough. She wants to learn karate. Thats my girl!! ;) When anyone sees her..the always comment on how we look so similar. And if anyone knew me from my childhood...the almost gasp. The reason is she looks identical to me as a child. She is just as chatty as me, independent as me, hyper as me and sometimes those traits drive me up the wall. But, I end up laughing because I was exactly like her!!. My parents laugh all of the time. They just grin and say "Uh huh.... now you know..."

She is the apple of my husbands eye. He adores her like you wouldn't believe and she adores her father like crazy!! All 3 of them do. They worship the ground he walks on. It makes me proud to have a husband like him. He is such a great influence in their lives. I had to go through a lot in life before I met him. And it was so worth it, because now I know what a treasure truly is.

S has an old soul. She can see things and feel things that a child her age doesn't typically see or feel. She is very spiritual. She talks a lot about God and how HE is always protecting us. The things that she says amaze me.

See.....S brought so much Hope into my life. She wasn't a planned baby...like when you use the fertility monitor and stuff like that. She decided that she was going to be in our life. I was on the pill. She was determined to get here. And thank the good lord she did. She changed my life in every way.

Each of our children have taught me valuable lessons. S taught me how to have Hope. M taught me about Life and N has taught me about ME. They may make me want to pull my hair out somedays when they are fighting and screaming. But, I am eternally grateful to have three beautiful gifts from God.

I will never know what I did in life to get so lucky.

Happy Birthday S....You are my sunshine!!
>>Saturday, May 27, 2006<<
Two sides of the coin...
In every case scenerio, there are two sides of the coin. In my life right now that is most definitely true. I don't think anyone can truly prepare you for the life changing event of an adoption. The same being said for having a baby. Or any life changing event. Most people like to sugar coat things. And then when reality hits, we are all ill prepared. Now...in saying that, we go back and forth between having blissful moments to complete "shock and awe" moments. Nikolai has an extreme attachment to B and I. I have to say that is great news. He is very attached to us and is growing attached to his sisters. He even babble talks to Lilly (our bulldog). He is getting so integrated into our home that he is now a finicky eater and knows how to throw a temper tantrum when you don't let him go into a room that he shouldn't (dining room with all of the glasses). The great news is that he loves us and loves where he is.

But, the other side of the coin is... he is horrified of anyone else that comes near him if we are not holding him. And if we are holding him, he will still scream....just not as severe. I can't leave from the TV room to the kitchen without a shrill. Those rooms are connected...I just happened to be out of his eye sight for 2 seconds.

I thought I had the answer today and put him in the Hip Hugger. The one that you put your baby in and your arms are free. He liked it in Russia, but, now that he has had some freedom....can we say TICKED OFF??! He screamed at the top of his lungs to get down in the store today and his sister began taking everything off of the shelves while I was trying to buy our daughter S class gifts. M even layed straight down on the floor and never moved. A full blown temper tantrum. It was a Kodak moment. I must have had that smile on that says "I am trying people"

The other side of the coin is that I haven't felt well since I have been back. Which is soooo frustrating since in Russia, I felt so alive and renewed. Well...I got the call today and I tested positive for H Pylori. Doc says it could have come from Russia (or so he thinks). So, now I am on 2 major antibiotics 2 times a day and a Stomach Acid Reducer. Supposedly, you can pick up H Pylori in contaminated food or water. So, now, i have to call the pediatrician and tell them. They said if I tested positive, that they would have to test Nikolai. I am very upset about it actually. I have been so sick to my stomach for a while and now 2 different sets of antibiotics twice a day...good lord...I will never be able to get right!! At least I won't feel like eating and I definitely can stick to the South Beach Diet. Which by the way, I have lost 8 lbs this week... YEA!!! The doctor ran another test called an ANA (Anti Nucluear Antibody). I have tested Highly positive 4 times now. This is the 4th time. It is a test that can help you determine an autoimmune disorder. I have so much joint pain, but, the other tests come back fine. This doctor wants to do more research on me. He is running even more tests. I feel like a lab rat. And poor Nikolai is the same way, they are running tests on him for various things. It is frustrating...but, I have to say...thank the good lord we live near good doctors!!

And back to the positive side of the coin...B has been so good with the kids (as always) and so good around the house. He is such a supportive and wonderful husband. I love him so much. The kids scream so loud when he walks in the door and they are so excited. Sometimes, I am like "Hello??? I just cleaned your poop all day, and fed you and took care of you". But, I don't mind...because it is the sweetest picture.

And our oldest will be 6 years old in 2 days. And she is graduating from her class next week. I can't believe our little baby is growing so quickly. Soon, it will be graduating from High School before we know it!!!

So, I guess my advice for every new parent or parent again is just to roll with the punches. Because what your normal was before.... is gone. You have a new normal now and trying to find that balance is going to take some time. Have patience, and lean on your support group. You will need them. And also ask your friends for forgiveness if you have been out of touch. Because things will be crazy for a while. :) That goes for my blogger friends too...I will be catching back up on everyone's blogs and commenting. Sorry about that.

But with the bad, comes the good. Although I have been under the weather... I have also been the most active that I have ever been. I held true to my word that I would make changes in that area of my life. I have written 7 more pages to my screenplay in the last week. And trust me, that is a huge accomplishment with everything going on.

One last thing...don't forget to laugh. When things get crazy...just laugh. It helps the soul, it helps your stress....and besides, it is something that I love to do. B and I have done a lot of laughing lately with all the madness. I couldn't imagine it any other way.

Hope you all have an awesome Memorial Day Weekend!!!
>>Wednesday, May 24, 2006<<
It is hard to believe that today is Wednesday. We have been home now from Moscow for 2 1/2 weeks. However, we feel like we have all been a family forever. It is so strange to be experiencing so much of Nikolai's "firsts". The last time he was sick, he was in the orphanage. This time...he is home. It was me going to the ER, then Blake feeling ill, now N has a fever for a couple of days with blisters in his mouth. I keep staring at the girls as if a spot will show up on them or something. As a mother, you can't be sick. I suppose that is why I keep getting sick is because I never recover from the last thing. But I do believe that is what happens to every mother. I am no exception.

But, watching N get so sick from this virus...it was so sad to me to know that all of the times before when he was sick, he had no one to hold him and to tell him it was ok. He had a hard time with being sick and me holding him. It seemed like he didn't want to be touched. But, after a couple of days of this...he has found us as a comfort. You should see him when B comes home!! That little boy is like our girls...they live to see him! The smile on his face even with a fever has been so sweet to see. He is learning how to give kisses. Even though I know he has been sick....I don't care so much because when you see those blue eyes and he puckers his lips to give you a big kiss. How can you not?

The girls still think he is their own personal baby doll. They love on him so much. He has never had this much attention and I do believe that he is overwhelmed. The girls don't understand why they can't squeeze him all the time or pick him up and carry him around like a doll or kiss him until he has been kissed til no end.

I am on the South Beach Diet as of Monday and I am doing the best that I can. I know, it is only day 3. But, this is HUGE for me. I have had no sugar and have not cheated. I found out I ate more than my portions of peanuts. Ooops.....didn't know there was a limit in a given day. I miss my Diet Coke, my sugar....carbs, sugar...did I say sugar?. How my husband is living with me right now...well...that is called love :) I eat when i am stressed or a lot of chaos is going on or I don't feel well. Last night I was so excited to eat tomatoes...I thought I was in heaven. I would have never eaten tomatoes deliberately ;0 But, i have to do this for me to get rid of the weight and feel better. Wish me luck!!

Well...I am off now to peel the girls out of the sprinkler and N is hungry, but, poor guy doesn't feel like eating anything because his throat hurts so bad. It breaks my heart just like it does with any of our children when they are sick. They look so pitiful. But, I do believe in TLC... Tender Loving Care.
>>Sunday, May 21, 2006<<
Just Breathe...it is mind over matter (rant not adoption related)
That is what the nurse told me and then the doctor when I arrived at the Emergency room the night before last. I was crying hysterically as my husband and our three children wheeled me into the ER. I had not been feeling myself since Russia. Mainly it started last weekend...flu like symptoms, headache, nausea...actually..it wasn't a big deal at first. I didn't think too much about it. Until the night before the ER visit, I ended up having a blinding migraine and horrific nausea and just felt awful. The next day (Thursday), I didn't feel much better. But, I started back to work this week and I had to put on my boot straps (as the saying goes) and not let my yukkie feelings get in the way. By the time my shift was over and M and N and I picked up Big Sis S...I was crumpled over. I am not sure how I drove home and thank goodness my husband was there to meet me at home. Because when I drove up in the driveway...I was crying hysterically and just fell out of the car. The pain in my stomach was awful.

B said instead of calling an ambulance, it would be easier for him to drive me. That was how bad the pain was. We thought an ambulance was needed. When I got there and the triage nurse saw me.... her comment to B was " you guys can't all fit in here, you will have to wait in the lobby" He said " she needs my help". The nurse said "she will be fine...she has to". She looked at me and told me to "just breathe, it is just mind over matter". If I was not in as much pain as I was in and if I was not a nice person..I probably would have reached over the desk and pulled all of her hair out!! WHAT????? JUST MIND OVER MATTER?!?! Ok...seriously...I know all of that psycho babble stuff. Yes, your mind has a lot to do with the pain factor. I have done yoga...I know how to breathe...I have taken Qi gong classes that helps you heal your body without medicne. So, I wanted to say "sister...don't sit there all high and mighty telling me to breathe when I feel like I have a two by four going straight through my stomach and through my back!".

I hate the ER. Sorry if you work in the ER out there my friends. But, from my experience...most of the nurses or rather the doctors are JADED. Unless you are dying on their table, they really want you out of there. They seem to automatically assume that nothing is really wrong with you. And I notice that as a woman..I don't get taken too seriously. If I were a man coming in there saying my chest hurt this week and I had severe stomach pain. Trust me, the doc would have been all in my business. Instead when he came in...he half heard me. He just kept saying 'uh huh, uh huh'. I know he was thinking about when his next break was.

People, people, people....I know that their might be some people that go to the ER at the drop of a hat. But, I have unfortunately seen it way too many times in the past year. 2 times this week... once with a migraine and the other with migraine and horrible stomach pains. They ran a CT scan and couldn't find anything. I left there in as much pain as I started out with. They were like "bye bye..don't let the door hit you in the rear"

So, yesterday..I went to my primary care and he is running some other tests. He said that I could have H Pylori that I could have picked up in Russia. I think it is a type of parasite or something. It also is a big factor in ulcers. So, I had even more blood tests taken. The sad part about it is, there has been no resolution. Tonight is Saturday night and I am still in a lot of pain. Now Blake is starting to show signs of having abdominal problems. So, I am not so sure we don't have a viral problem going on here.

So far, the kids are fine.

But, I just had to rant about the ER. The nurses are nice enough (sometimes). But, when you say that you are in a lot of pain, especially as a woman, in my experience...it seems as if they don't really believe you. And that really ticks me off. Because I don't have time to be visiting the ER for fun!!! I am not a drug seeker...I hate pain...I am a complete wuss when it comes to pain. I will do whatever I can to avoid it. I hate the ER. But, I find it a necessary evil when things get bad enough.

Anyway, I am just so frustrated that I cannot get my body back since my hysterectomy. Actually, I haven't gotten it back since the birth of our first daughter. My blood sugar is starting to go up...so, I am officially giving the South Beach Diet a try as of Monday. So, if any of you have ever been on it....let me know what you think. A friend from work said that was really helpful for her to control her diabetes ( I don't have that..but, want to avoid it). Her doctor put her on it. And i am officially going to take baby steps in working out. Start slowly in walking. I know that at my age...God could not have intended for me to be in this bad of shape and always getting sick. It drives me nuts!. Besides...when you have kids, you really can't take too much time off. Because they need you. And I want to be able to run and play with them a lot more than I am.

Enough for my rant. Just wanted to tell someone and that would explain my absense for the past couple of days. Hope everyone's weekend is going well!!

>>Wednesday, May 17, 2006<<
What? You have to be kidding me!

At least that is what Nikolai's expression looks like when he is sitting with big sis S. It is as if she just told him "Hey bro..one day, you too are going to have to pick up your own toys around here". And he said "You have got to be kidding me...that was not in my contract!!" ;)

Notice his little surfer shirt. We have about 10 of them. Gotta love it!. I had them listening to Jimmy Buffett in the car today on the way to pick up big sis S. Little M and Nikolai were both moving their heads side to side. M even tried to sing "Cheeseburger in Paradise". Her version was more like "bugers in dice" But, hey....what can I say...I have a Parrot Head baby crew!!

I love that little boy more than words can say. I cannot even imagine him not being in our lives. It is as if he has always been with us. I love to see him in the mornings...he greets us with a big smile and most of the time with a nice big poopie diaper to match. :) I love smelling his hair after his baths that he can splash all of the water out of the tub in an instant! I love watching him look at EVERYTHING with such awe. He is beautiful. He might not have been from my blood originally...but, he sure does have his blood running through my veins now. Right through my heart valves. Just like his sisters. S will be 6 in a few weeks and I still get butterflies everyday when I pick her up from school. Because I can't wait to see her little face. She talks a mile a minute, just like me. She is so much like me that it is scary at times. Then, our little M. Oh my!. She can look at you with those blue eyes and melt your heart in an instant. We have three blue eyed, blonde haired snuggle bunnies.

Now, don't let me paint a picture of perfection. Because there is no such word. For instance, today was N's first visit to the grocery store. He and M rode together in one of those race car looking things. They did great the first five minutes. Then, hands started coming out of the side and items started falling down to the ground. M started hugging N a little too tight, he started to scream. N found M's boo boo on her knee. He kept poking it and she screamed at the top of her lungs in the grocery store "MOMMY.....HE IS TOUCHING ME!!!" and she repeated that 150 times. S had a great day today. Usually, her and her sister get into some sort of brawl every day. "Mom....M just painted on the walls" or one or both of them will come out of the room with makeup on that isn't really makeup....it is magic markers on their face. Yesterday, after searching high and low for any and every kind of bug in the back yard to put in their bug "jar", they each managed to step in to a mile high pile of poo. I am sitting on the back porch with Nikolai and they coming running up with some sort of wiggly worm and both of their shoes are covered in dog poo. They are covered from head to toe in dirt and I prayed to God they hadn't gotten into the poison ivy. Oh, trust me...I was out back with them...this all happens when my back is turned for two seconds! :)

But, they point of all of that is....they are each beautiful to me even if they are covered in dirt, wearing dog poo on their shoes, magic markers on their faces, screaming in the grocery store, painting on the walls and bringing me bugs that make me scream and run and they do it just to see me act like a maniac! My hair may be falling out at the time it is all happening....but, I wouldn't trade them for the world.

Now here is Little M trying to tell Nikolai about the facts of life "Ok bro...big sis already told you about picking up toys. Now it is my turn to tell you about Mom making you eat vegetables....here is the deal....feed it to Lilly (our bulldog)....she'll eat anything"

And here is N's response "Vegetables, picking up toys? Ha! You guys got another thing coming!!"
>>Monday, May 15, 2006<<
Monday Coffee Talk

Good day everyone! Thanks for the well wishes on the migraine. Yes, I have gotten them before. When I do get them...they are a whopper!! Once they get that bad, I have no choice but to get some sort of shot. But, I wait too long..too many things to do and the LAST place that I want to be is in some ER.

Anywho...today is going quite well..thank you!

Do you ever find yourself comparing? Comparing yourself to another mother, to another person? Wishing you were your husband some days...I do....I did. I mentioned that Moscow did something to me. For the good. I realize I am a great mother and I can do only what I can do.

Before, I would always judge myself against the other mothers in my neighborhood, at our pool and most definitely at my oldest daughters school (S). Those mothers are my friends and I love them dearly. But, I was so envious of each and every one of them. They are all beautiful...runway model beautiful. Most look like they threw their hair up in a ponytail with no effort and still look like rays of sunshine follow them everywhere. They all seem to have it together. They have their kids at school on time, everything looks so put together. They make cupcakes, homemade dinners, homemade crafts and they do it all with multiple children. Then, there was me. We would all wake up at the last minute. No one in our house is in favor of the morning. It was like a fire alarm went off "Hurry, hurry...we have 15 minutes to get dressed, eat and be out of this house". And that meant everyone. Sometimes Little M would have her socks on backwards, sometimes S might even be mismatched. Sometimes, they even ate breakfast in the car. I would put my makeup on at stoplights. Of course, I got those nasty looks of "what are you doing putting on makeup when you are supposed to drive?" I wasn't driving, I was at a stoplight...thank you very much. Then, we would get to school and it would be like the pit stop of an Indy 500. We would fly into a spot, slam on brakes, all doors would open and all of us were running out the door. The second that I saw another Mom, I was like "Hi..how are you?" trying to be all calm cool and collected. And if the truth be known, i was looking for the nearest oxygen mask so that I could breathe. If it was our cupcake day...our local supermarket was the baker. But, no one was the wiser. I felt like a fraud.

Now that it has gotten warmer, most of the moms show up with their shorts and tank tops after working out. Several look as if they walked off of FIT magazine with their muscles and sleek legs and tanned. Most drive up in their brand new Cadillac SUV or another nice fancy car. I drive up with our 150,000 mile Toyota Sienna that now clanks at times when the motor wants to act up. We sold our "smooth car" to pay for the adoption. (and I make no apologies for that)

Somedays, I would wish that I was my husband. I wished I could be at work having breaks, going to the break room to chat with friends or to go out to lunch and have conversations with adults, with friends. Instead, I would find whatever peanut butter and jelly sandwich I could find.

What is the difference now? Nothing. They are all still drop dead gorgeous, have everything together and make it to school on time. I still run like I am racing for the 50 year dash to make it to ANYPLACE on time. I still look like this picture:

Our air condition is now wanting to go on the blink. There is a hole that came through on our back porch the other day. B still has great lunches. I could cry, but, instead...all the moms comment on how happy I look. Because I am.

Wanna know why? Because I have a plan. I am no longer going to look at myself through those glasses anymore. I might still hate the morning and we may always rush to places. But, I love our kids, I chose to stay home and do freelance writing and work at the Y. We chose to sell our cars to pay for the adoption. So, I am going to start taking care of myself and look at the positive things that I have going on for me. Instead of checking out everyone elses backyard. I am going to start going to Weight Watchers, do the walking like I was in Moscow and I am for sure going to finish my writing come Hell or High Water. I think we all at times wish we were other people or envy others. Maybe not, maybe I am the only one. But, I am not going to live that way anymore.

I have decided to buy a pair of earplugs though :) Having three can get pretty loud when they are all hungry and screaming at one time. Other than that...I am glad to be me.
>>Sunday, May 14, 2006<<
Happy Mothers Day!!
I want to wish everyone a Happy mothers day!! Today is actually hard for me. I have had a migraine for 3 days now. It is not your average headache...it is like a thousand men in my head doing massive construction. I prayed that it would go away last night so that I could wake up and enjoy Mothers Day. Unfortunately, instead of taking my Mom out for breakfast, she is coming over now to babysit while I go to the ER to get a shot. This has happened a couple of times. I get them so bad that it is terrible. That is why this post is so short. Just asking for some prayers that I can get back on my feet quickly. I have a lot of people depending on me. And I am very upset that I can't take my own Mother out.

Anyway....Hope everyone else is having a great Mothers Day!!. Remember...all women are Mothers!!!

>>Friday, May 12, 2006<<
What do Mothers look like?
My daughter's class is having a "Mother/Grandmother" Luncheon today to honor Mother's Day. She told me that everything was going to be a big surprise. Although she began to start leaking details, I had to put my fingers over my ears and tell her "Nope...I don't want to know". She said "Why?" I said that a surprise is when you don't tell anyone the secret. She said "Ok...I will just tell Dad" and started talking to him about our day :) Funny girl.

The whole Mother Day thing got me thinking though. I have several friends that have lost their mother over the course of the years and Mothers Day is a very painful time for them. Then, I have friends who are trying to concieve that are depressed when Mothers Day rolls around. Then, there are my friends who choose not to have children and feel left out of these Hallmark holidays. Then, there are my single friends who this day comes and goes for them.

The more that I thought about it, the more that I thought....we are all Mothers. Think about the time when you "mothered" your friend when they were going through a crisis. Or the time you "mothered" your significant other when they were going through an illness. OR the time when you stayed up all night on the phone with your close friend consoling them and "mothering" them after a bad break up. Or when you "mother" your pets. Some of us, more than most people consider their pet a child. Our Lilly (bulldog) is one of the kids. (Well, sort of..only on the days she is not snoring ;) And when you are pregnant...you are already "mothering" that baby inside of you. Or when you are preparing for an adoption...that child is growing in your heart. You may not even know where they are or how long it will be until you meet them. But, your heart is already a mother.

In saying all of this....this weekend...honor your mother, honor yourself, and honor your "inner mother". We are all Mothers, it just may look different to different people.

And to my own mother...I am so grateful for her. She has been there for me through thick and thin. She was sitting with Nikolai yesterday and told him that she wished she would be there when he grew up to see how he turned out. I told her not to talk like that, that she could easily live into her 90's. She said that would be doubtful. I said "Mom, then if you feel that way...would you please look out for us in heaven". She reached out her hand to me and said "Always". I had a heavy heart to think that my Mom might not be around one day. But, I refuse to look at it that way and enjoy what we do have right now.

I am very close to my MIL too. I always thank her and Bruce (his dad before he died) for being such a wonderful mother to my husband. Because she turned out the most amazing man. I will forever be thankful for that.

So....I ask the question...what do Mothers look like? Every woman.

>>Wednesday, May 10, 2006<<
Balancing Act..
No, I am not suggesting that I am the elephant on top of the ball :) I am merely trying to portray that life is definitely a balancing act these days.

Tonight, at dinner...I could have sworn that I was at the Wacky Kids Fun House. Our daughters were at the table singing at the top of their lungs these various Christmas songs. I don't think they were songs that I had heard of before. But, the girls seemed to be trying to exercise their lungs and goodness knows...who wants to get in the way of exercise, right? Nikolai has now realized that he can be selective in his meal choices. So, amongst the singing....he begins to throw his food. Directly in my face. It was a good throw too. It was square in my eye and between my eye brows. He didn't miss a beat..he started shaking his head from side to side so that he could dance along to the beat of his sisters.

Meanwhile..B doesn't know whether or not to laugh or what while all of this was going on. I couldn't find a paper towel in sight. I just threw caution to the wind and wiped my face off with my hands. As only a good husband would do...he handed me a nice glass of an adult beverage.

We looked at each other and started laughing....not only was the noise level so loud in the house that dogs from Mexico could hear it..but, N really loved throwing down his sippy cup and laughing while it spilled on the dog. Food was flying... it was a moment that either could send you to the funny farm or a moment where you just have to laugh. I decided to laugh.

We haven't found the right balancing act with N's sleep yet. Nor our girls. They still want to come into our room everynight and sleep with us. "Nightmares" is what they keep telling us. We believe that while the family bed might work for some...it makes us irritable. With toes and elbows in our back and up our nose, we aren't getting much sleep either. Meanwhile...N sleeps through the night now because he has screamed his way through the day whenever I try to put him down for a nap.

I have to smile and laugh because if it were quiet and normal around here...then, I would know something was wrong. And that would not be good! And I was reminded today (not that I don't already know this) that I am a very lucky Mom.

We were at a restaurant for lunch and these women passed our table and saw our children and she smiled at them and looked at me and said "You are a very lucky Mom".

Indeed I am.
>>Tuesday, May 09, 2006<<
What day is it? What time? Who am I?
I am assuming that today is Tuesday. Although, I have not confirmed it as of yet. That is how upside down we are on the time change from Russia to here. Sunday, I could have slept walked all day. Yesterday, I was up at 5:30 am acting like a cheerleader "Rise and shine everyone". I could have slapped my own face. Today, well...the above picture explains today.

I know that everyone is different. But, truthfully, if someone tells you that they were on the plane with 2 little ones, one being the adopted child and you flew for 12 hours and they tell you that they are doing great. You best call a doctor for them. Because they need to be seriously evaluated :).

When we landed around 11:30pm Saturday night, my sister flew in from Orlando to greet us, my other sister was there and brother in law, my brother came in from out of town and my parents and my sweet little angel...our 2 1/2 year old. We came down the stairs and all I saw was balloons and a banner and a little voice scream "Mommmmmmmmmmyyyyy". I couldn't get down the escalator fast enough. Little M and I hugged each other and it seemed like forever before we let go. We still are stuck together like glue. Nikolai did great with all of the fanfare. He actually was a little show off. I think he might be a bit of a flirt ;)

It was so great for me to be in my own bed, to see my house. Nikolai loved everything. EXCEPT his bed. He has not loved going to bed here. I had told you about the rocking thing. Well, it has gotten even worse here. He has caused a couple of bruises on his head. He is so upset about going to bed. We are trying everything under the sun. I know it is going to take time for him to adjust. But, other than that and changing his diapers. He loves the girls, the house, playing with our dog. And he absolutely loves the bath. He lets me know immediately that he is mad at me when I take him out of the water! :)

As for B and our daughter S. They are walking in Zombie mode like me. And Little M is having trouble adjusting because she was shuffled around so much. She doesn't want to leave my side. I think she thinks that I am leaving her again. So, it is an adjustment.

It reminds me when people would tell me that birthing a baby was the most beautiful experience in the world and so was breastfeeding. They would tell me that it was like angels singing and coming down. Well for me, the angels forgot to show up. IT HURT!. And I was tired and the baby cried! Don't get me wrong, I was in love with our girls. But, society seems to want to paint a picture of bliss and "kumbaya". And the same thing again. We were told how magical the experience of coming home would be. What people forget to tell you is reality. They forget to tell you not to worry if your baby thrashes on the plane and screams and your 5 year old cries if you look at her the wrong way. They forget to tell you that the man in front of you will lay his chair all the way in your lap and the baby has no where to rest but on top of your boobs. Comfortable for Nikolai, not for Mom.

They forget to tell you that you are so confused and so tired when you get home. They forget to tell you that bills are still due and life starts back up again and you have to get hustling on that laundry. And that you and your hubby still have to be 100% because the children, especially your new baby are counting on you to provide their every need.

I think people are afraid to tell that part, because it doesn't sound glamorous. Well...I guess I am not glamorous then and I lost the popularity vote. I do have to clarify and say that in no way am I saying that I wished things were different. Nikolai is the love of our lives as are our girls. Russia was still a life changing experience for me. We are already starting to implement some of those changes.

But, I expected the trumpets and cherubs to be waiting for me and to be drifting around with the angels when I got home. I just wasn't prepared to be faced down on my computer. And to think, hubby is back at work. He can't lie down on his computer :)

Don't worry this is not a discouraging post. Just our reality right this second. And I imagine, half of other adopters experience when they get home. Just some people leave out this part and tell you about how the whole world was singing "kumbaya". ;)
>>Friday, May 05, 2006<<
Good Night Mother Russia, Hello Sweet Liberty!!!

As we close our last night here in Russia, it is with a lot of reflective thoughts. There are so many things that I have personally learned. We could have done this adoption process a totally different way. We could have broken this out into 3 trips. We gave a lot of thought to it. In the end, staying with a host family seemed like it would be more cost effective. And the other reason was…our newly found friends that were adopting from the same orphanage were going to be several floors below me while I stayed here on my own. I talked to our other newly found friend Malena (sorry Brent…I know I spelled your wifes name wrongL) did the 3 trip process. She did not regret going back for the 10 day wait. She and her new daughter seem to be bonding just as well as Nikolai is to us. SO, I can’t advise anyone on whether a home stay for 21 days is better or 1 partner coming for some of the time, and the other partner going home. I just know, that for me….I am glad that it worked out this way.

I would not have experienced the things that I did had it not been for my 3 week stay here. I promised myself that I would open up my mind and spirit and let it all pour in. I wanted to hear all of the sounds, see all of the sights, and smell all of the smells. I wanted to ingrain myself into the Russian culture. I just wanted to understand where our son came from. I felt like he didn’t have a chance to have a baby book when he was born. He doesn’t have the stories about when he was born in the hospital, or what it was like where he lived. He needed us to provide that for him. So, I decided to put aside any frustration that I had for having to deal with the political and at times ever changing process of adopting a Russian child. I wanted to be able to tell our son about the food in Moscow, where he was born. What the people were like, what did they wear. Where were the most popular points of interests, what do they eat. I wanted to understand their history and listen with an open mind.

Our son’s last name prior to us adoption him was Romanov. Romanov in Russia is a very powerful name here. The lineage is of the Romanov Czars. I wanted to immerse myself into understand that history so that I can put together a book for him.

I have always believed in life that if you don’t know where you have been in life, you will never know where you are going.

And selfishly, this trip did more for me than just all of that. It was beyond my wildest imagination that we would have a son anyway, especially from Russia. And here we are. I have loved my experience…albeit there have been trying times, and stress sessions and all of that. But, I found more than our son. I found me.

What? Yes, I said, I found me. I realized that I could step outside of my world in Cary, NC where I put myself into a box and believed that I couldn’t do anything else. My mind was racing. I just had the hysterectomy surgery and I was having a real fun pity party. Then, I stepped out into this whole other world. I woke up. I realized that I can do things. I am not afraid to do stuff. I can be alone in a big city on a big metro. I can finally walk for miles on end and have a peaceful mind. I like living in a minimalistic apartment where my host lives.

What I take away from all of this for me is…. I ended up loving to walk. I am going to get to walking when I get home. I have become unhealthy and overweight. I felt alive, and pretty and healthy while I was here. I am taking that home with me.

I am taking away that we are the ones that put ourselves into our own box. Not anyone else. So, even though I will have 3 children now, a part time job and a full time home…. I am going to find ways to step outside of the box. I will make myself get out enjoy some of the things that I used to. I am not "just a Mom". I am a woman that can do many things, even when i didn't think I could.

I am taking away a very valuable lesson that being good to yourself is not a sin. I allowed myself to sleep, to read, to meditate, to pray, to explore and to hold my shoulders up. I was more than a mom, a wife, a daugther, a super uber Mom. I found time to just be with me in silence. Either by reading in the quiet, or with jazz music on. Or writing, which is my true passion. Granted, I won’t have that find of free time at home. But, there are ways to make sure that I have a full tank to take care of myself and my family.

I have learned that I want to get healthy, physically and lose all of this excess so that I can keep up with my children. I want to get rid of the Junk we have in our house. No more clutter (or at least minimalize it). I want to enjoy the kids without beng stressed.

In have thoroughly enjoyed my experience here. Because I allowed myself to open up and to experience the good, the bad, and the ugly. And I was too afraid to try to experience that before. Thank you Nikolai for being born and for calling out our name to be your parents. Not only are we proud to be your parents, but, you also gave me a chance at a new beginning.

This is not goodbye for this blog by any stretch of the imagination. Consider this an Iron Man contest, where we just finished the first marathon and there are many, many other triathalons to do. We have so much we want to share with everyone and this is only the beginning. As our blog states "The Longest Journey is the Journey Inward" My theory always has been...it is not in the destination...but, the journey.

Signing out from Moscow, will be chatting with you this weekend in the good ole' USA!!!!


>>Wednesday, May 03, 2006<<
Special Needs....

Yes, I know I have written 3 posts back to back. But hey....Nikolai is asleep. S and B are supposed to be in the other room watching a movie. But, with all due respect to my husband...it sounds like our bulldog is in there. She snores so loud that the foundation to our home rumbles. That is the sound coming out of the family room in the Host families apartment. So, now you can see why I am catching up on my blogging time. All is quiet in the house....well, for the exception of the snoring in the other room ;)

This week is what I affectionately like to call the last 6 miles of the 26 mile marathon. We have our sweet son with us, but, he has no passport, no visa, no medical clearance. So, no going home until we have all of that. If I stay here much longer, I can figure out how to ride the train to Siberia and back. (Actually, it isn't that hard ;)

So, today was his Medical Clearance for the United States. He needs to be cleared before we go to the US Embassy to get his Visa to enter the US to state that he is not carrying some crazy disease and that he checks out ok.

The doctor is Russian and we understood her just fine. She had a very thick accent. She began to read off his medical charts. All of which we knew prior to this. We knew that he was considered "special needs". He has a malformation of his right hand. It is called Amniotic Band Syndrome. His birth mother's sac broke before he was born and the fluid caused this banding syndrome to malform his hands. In some children, their whole hands or arms are amputated. To give you and idea of what I am talking about...we don't mind sharing Nikolai's picture. It might help someone if they ever saw this diagnosis...

Basically, 2 of his fingers are functional and he uses the 3 that are banded together as one limb. In Russian orphanages, you are really "marked" if you are considered "special needs" We were told by our tour guide here that although things are getting better...it is still hard for Russian men to want to adopt Russian orphan boys. They do not want to raise another man's baby. And she said, he is unheard pretty much for a Russian to adopt a special needs boy. So, I don't know what would have happened to Nikolai. But, I am not going to go there.

The doctor kept on talking about his medicals. She said he had hip dysplasia, a heart murmur, the list went on. She said he will have to have a lot of tests and ultrasounds done. I felt a little sad for him knowing that he was going to have to have surgeries for his hand and pokes and prods for all of the other tests. He was a premature baby like our second child. So, he is prone to a lot of bronchial issues.

We knew what we were getting into when we accepted Sasha (Nikolai) as our referral. There can never be enough words to describe how "led" we felt to adopt him. I think I have talked about this before. We didn't want to adopt him because we felt sorry for him or because we could save him or anything like that. There was something about him.....something deep down that kept nagging at us, pulling at us...letting us know that he was meant to be our son.

When we are with him now... we know why we were led. He is our son. I totally believe that God has a plan for each of us. There are no mistakes. We might have been able to have 2 children on our own. Some think that is enough...why more? Now, we can't have more. I had to have a hysterectomy because of cysts which turned into a tumor (fortunately benign). Even before that, we decided to adopt because I had gotten so sick with our second. We didn't think we would ever have a third. But, life has a way of changing your mind sometimes. I also believe the word "never" should be deleted out of everyone's vocabulary. As soon as you say "never"...it will happen. :)

Had those events not happened....I would not have been standing on Red Square holding our sons hand looking over at the Kremlin or looking at Saint Basil's Cathedral.

What is special needs? Does that make Nikolai different because of his hand? People sure do look at it on the Metro. They smile at us as if to say "oh, what nice people to be taking care of this boy" Nikolai is like everyone of us on this planet. We are all special needs. We all need special attention. We are all longing to have someone to love us. We all want someone to just say "I will take care of you, I will be there for you".

We might be changing Nikolai's life forever, but, trust me when I say this...he is changing ours forever too. Love doesn't look at deformities. Love looks at the heart. When he smiles at me, my heart melts. When I look at him, his eyes brighten. Just like our two daughters. He may not be from my flesh...but, he is surely from my heart.

Hey Mom....do we take the green line or the blue line?

Our daughter S asked us that today as we went back to Arbat Street on the Metro today in Moscow. I shook my head as if I had water in my ears. It sounded so bizarre to me to hear our almost 6 year old with her little kids "sunglasses" on and her looking at me so serious. She said it again "Mom...I said...which line are we taking today?". Excuse me...when did our daughter grow up? :) She has been here for 5 days and has the people around here eating out of her hands. Actually, her and Nikolai could corner the market on that. She goes around saying "Spasiba" (not spelled correctly...I know) which means "thank you" and she always tells everyone goodbye "das vi dahn ya".

Here she is posing in front of the Kremlin. She wants to go into acting. Hmmm....wonder who wrote their Academy Award Speech at age 6? Mom maybe.... My poor husband...he has 3 drama queens and prince on his hands :)

Now Nikolai is in on the act and he waves goodbye. We have the babushka's smiling at us on the Metro. Now that my friends....is a miracle.

Speaking of babushka's (the grandmothers)....we walked out of the apartment door on Sunday and it was a little breezy and within a millisecond...a babushka came up to us and said something that resembled yelling and spitting. But, we figured it out because she kept pointing to Nikolai's pants....near the bottom of his pants leg, his skin was showing. NOTE TO SELF: In the winter (obvious), but also in the spring...now, I am wondering about the summer...the little ones have to be covered from head to toe or you could have a "Karate Kid" show on your hands. They (babushka's) scare the ever living daylights out of me. There are crack addicts around here and I am no where near afraid of them as much as I am of some of the grandmothers. You just wait :)

Nikolai now completely walks on his own. He still likes to walk alongside the furniture, but, I was so excited that I saw his first few steps only a few short weeks ago. Now that he is here with us, he walks everywhere. We took him to Red Square and he wanted out of the stroller. He wanted to walk that Square that has so much history to it. It is crazy, I know...but, I swear he was checking out all of the scenery and was like "you mean to tell me, this is where I have been living the whole time and all I have seen is those 4 walls?"

So, no one told me...
about what to do with boys. We have two girls. I know how to dress them in pink. They play with barbies, they take bubble baths and they like glitter. We make sure that we throw some sports in there to balance things out. Can't have a tooooo girlie girl on our hands, now can we? ;)

Now, here is this adorable little baby in our midst. We found some cool clothes to put on him. Of course they are 20 sizes too big for him. Ok, I exaggerate. But, they are a size 12 month and frankly, he can fit into a 6-9 month outfit and have room. He will be 16 months at the end of this month. Anywho...he is a munchin (in the cutest way). But, it isn't clothes that I am so worried about. Enough friends gave us some boy clothes and he will be stylin' with those bahama shirts and shorts. His pale skin might blind the world, but, that is ok....so does his mom and 2 sisters. Dad leads the pack with a little bit darker skin (that could possibly be because he has dark hair on his body and we are all blonde). TMI..i know (too much information)

BUT...what I was trying to get too was... bathtime. Or actually, the first time I changed his diapers. You would have thought B and I went back to 2nd grade. Here is me going "B, get in here...I don't know what to do" He came in saying "what do you mean you don't know what to do". I pointed to Nikolai's boy parts and said "that...I don't know how to clean THAT". B was a little bit concerned that I couldn't call it by it's correct name. :) But, out of all the diapers I have changed in the world...I totally wigged out on this one. B also was trying to figure out what to do. He was like "I know I am a guy and all, but, I have never had to clean a boys diaper before". So back and forth this poor baby was lying there with a look on his face that if he could talk it would say "if you two don't wipe my hiney in about 2 seconds...I will make sure that I give you something to talk about for the rest of your lives".

Anyway, we were on the horn back to the States to talk to my sister..his mom, my mom. "MOM...how do you clean a boys part that is uncircumcised?" She told us and B's mom told him and I think we both almost passed out. After picking each other off of the floor, we finally gave Nikolai a bath and acted like grown ups. For goodness sake...how hard could it be, right? He is a baby!. Well...the first bath was very comical. Nikolai loved the bath until it came time to wash his privates. (I think he may actually harm us physically in life for writing this about him) B and I were both going back and forth "You do it...no you do it....I don't know how...what if he gets hurt...what if he breaks...what if he pee's on us.....what if we don't do it right..should we call the doctor or something?" Needless to say....our few minutes of hysteria, and grade school dorkiness was soon over. We grew up and we grew up quickly. Nikolai got his bath and now, it is no big deal.

It was no different when I had our first child. When the nurse came in and left the baby with me, I was like "NO....you can't leave me...what I am supposed to do with her?!?!". There are a million and one books. But, no one really prepares you for the real deal. I don't think that nurse ever came back. I think I was released that day. They were like "Here...here is your baby...have a nice life". No different at the orphanage.... He came to us naked and handed him over just like the nurses did in the hospital with both of our girls.

But, for goodness sake people...warn your friends how to diaper and wash a baby boy. I might have to go to therapy now. :)
>>Monday, May 01, 2006<<
Life is good...real good...
Before I even touch on the most bizarre sites that I have seen here referring that what B said in his last blog...that will have to wait for another time. ;) Because, I need to say a few things about Nikolai.

When we first picked him up at the orphanage, I was so anxious about how it would be saying goodbye to everyone there. I know it sounds strange. But, I got used to seeing the caregivers and the children for the past 2 weeks. It might not seem long to you, but, to me..it was long. And then, there was saying goodbye to H.D. (Handsome Devil). My nerves were shot. Then, when they opened the door for us to see Nikolai. I knew that things were going to be alright. Everything happened so fast though. I really had no time to ask about his schedule, what his normal routine was. Note to self: ask that before you actually take your child home that particular day. It was such a whirlwind, by the time I could feel myself getting emotional, it was time to leave. My eyes did start to water and my heart starting beating fast when I went over to hug H.D. and he smiled that smile of his at me. I kissed him goodbye and whispered in his ear "don't worry, many people are praying for you...you are going to be just fine and I love you". Because I do and he know holds a special place just like Alyona does. She is the little girl that we hosted over Christmas that is an orphan in Ukraine. I am totally understanding what ChrisAnn said that we have room in our hearts to love more than just one.

Then, it was time to get in the car and Nikolai freaked out and started screaming and threw his head back. So, the first few minutes he knocked his head. That wasn't so good. BUT, then, we broke out the Fruit Puffs (similar to Cheerios) and that worked like a charm. With big sis sitting in the middle and Papa on the other side and me holding him...he was fine for the rest of the ride and even started to laugh. And from that moment on, you would have thought that he has been in our family forever. He laughs, and giggles and is now completely walking, whereas 2 weeks ago...he was crawling. You have to guard your own food though...he could eat the refrigirator if you are not careful! Put a little salt on the couch and he would start eating the sides :) ha! Seriously though.... we are trying to balance when too much is too much.

The other sweet/sad thing is.... is his sleep. I know that I didn't do the standard/book/American Pediatric/blah, blah, blah thing correctly the first night. But, I couldn't help it. I read about this, but, I never had seen it and it broke my heart. We were told to just hug him goodnight and put him in his bed and walk out and let him cry. He is not used to being held. He lost his braincells. He screamed and then crawled to the corner of the crib and just rocked for a minute and was quiet and tears just quietly fell and he sucked his thumb (because you know that I had to peek in on him). But, the saddest thing was that in order for him to go to sleep he gets on all fours and pushes himself backwards and forwards rather swiftly...so much so that he hits his head on the end of the pack n play and then boom...he falls asleep. He did this several times in the middle of the night. I realized this is how he rocks himself to sleep and how he comforts himself. Because, there was no one to pick him up to rock him and to hold him when he was scared. He had to do it himself. Well, he woke up crying and then started doing that rocking on his hands and knees back and forth so forcefully...I had to pick him up. He held on to me as if he were hanging on to dear life.

I said to him "You will never have to rock yourself to sleep anymore...we are here now" and I held him against my chest and he immediately fell into position like a newborn baby and fell asleep into my arms. So what if that rocking is what he is used to. I can't watch it. He is not alone anymore. I had to hold him, right or wrong. And in Red Square yesterday, when he got upset...I held him that same position, he fell asleep in my arms.

Our boy has arms to hold him and love to surround him. My heart aches for the others who rock themselves every night because there is no one to comfort them. But, I know that God can hold them in that same position. I know He can until it is their time for their Mommy's and Daddy's to come and tell them that they don't have to be alone anymore.

I feel blessed to have birthed 2 beautiful girls and now, i feel like in some strange way...I am a part of watching the birthing experience of our son. Everything is so new. Life is good. Real good. Now, it will be complete when we are with our other child M. Then, the circle is united.