Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cold, cold, cold!

Well, as you can see by the title, it is COLD! I am not used to weather this cold in December! Right now, it is about 10 degrees outside! Yikes! While I am tempted to hole up inside the house and stay warm, I know I am going to go crazy in the house. So-I am venturing out to the Women's Bible Study at our church this morning. I know I will enjoy getting out of the house for a while, and Grace loves to go to her "Little Lamb's" class. There's a girl in her class, I. I. is Grace's "Best friend". Last Sunday, I gave her a drawing. It was so cute. I am hoping to have I and her sister N over for a play date during the Christmas break.
Grace has been continuing to do well in School. A couple weeks ago we had Parent Teacher conferences. The teachers said that she is doing great, and that a lot of points on her Progress report that needed work no longer need work. Apparently, they assess the students shortly after school starts, but by the time the parents get the report several more weeks have passed. So, her "Needs work" areas are much less. The teachers did say that at first the other children tended to treat her like a baby (because of her size) and tried to take things away from her. However, now they realize that she can't be taken advantage of and she stands up for herself. This is a relief for me because I wanted to make sure that she didn't become a push-over.
Academically, she's doing well, too. The teachers are impressed with her math skills, and they are also surprised that she knows all her letters. One activity is an outline of a letter, say the letter N. Inside the N are other letters, like M, O, and S with some N's. They children have to use a Bingo marker to find the N's. Grace is always the first done, and she always gets all the letters correct. I explained to the teachers that she knew her alphabet by the time she was 2 1/2. All in all, the conference went well. I decided after the conference not to petition the school district for her to be tested for speech. I think that being around children her own age has really helped. She speaks more clearly, and I think that I will wait until Spring when I would need to register her for Pre-K. If at that time I am still concerned about her speech, then I will consider the school district again.
She continues to love going to dance class. I had to buy her some long-sleeved leotards because the little sleevless ones left her too cold.
Grace absolutely loves the Christmas season. Right around Thanksgiving when all the trees came out, she would just love to walk around the stores and look at the trees. We pulled our tree out and she had so much fun putting the ornaments on it. I also took out her little tree and let her decorate it with all of her little ornaments. I also bought an ornament from the Russian web site and let her put it on our tree. From that same web site I got a little Matryoska doll. It shows the life of Jesus on each of the little pieces. The largest on shows the Nativity, the next shows Jesus and the Triumphal entry, the next is Jesus on the cross, and the last tiny one shows Jesus rising into heaven. The biggest one is only like an inch and a half tall, so this set is really little. However, I always try to get her things from Russia that have a spiritual meaning. It's very beautifully done, and very well-painted.
I am really excited for this Christmas holiday. It is going to be much simpler than other years. Usually, we have a meal with my MIL's family on Christmas Eve, then on Christmas day have a meal with my FIL's family. My MIL makes both meals and it is very stressful for her to have two large meals back-to-back, and it is always frustrating for me, because I have squeeze in time with my family. So, my SIL and I decided that instead of trying to squeeze in an hour with my family, we would celebrate Christmas the day after or the Saturday after. This year, since Christmas is on Saturday, we'd have my family meal on Sunday. This relieved a lot of stress. My MIL also decided (after me mentioning it for several years) that it's not fair that she has to have two seperate meals for the two sides of the family. Although members of my FIL's family don't like my MIL's family, I told my MIL that she should host one meal, and if people choose not to come, that's their issue, not hers. She finally decided to have one meal...but no one can come on Christmas day-so....we get Christmas just with our immediate family on Christmas day and a couple weeks after Christmas we'll have a meal with cousins. AHHHHH!!!! Imagine-Christmas with just the parents and siblings! In the 17 years I've known my husband, that has NEVER happened. I am so excited about this Christmas.
Grace visited with St. Nick and told him she wanted a doll. We had already purchased her a dollhouse. The dollhouse will be from St. Nick. We've decided that instead of buying many gifts from Santa and just a few from parents, that only one would be from St. Nick. We don't want her to have the "gimmies". The trick is keeping the gifts hidden. She's still a little bit naive because she's been in our room several times and seen the gifts but she hasn't asked any questions and she hasn't been tempted to try to play with them. We know have the gifts under the tree, and not once has she asked to open them. Don't know if that will work next year.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Two Years Ago Today!

Today marks our two year anniversary! Time truly is flying by. Grace has changed so much in the two years we've had her home. Some things that have changed since last October- 1) completely potty trained. 2) knows all her colors and all her letters. 3) speech is coming along very nicely. We can pretty much understand everything she says. Of course, not all her words are pronounced all that clearly, but she's able to communicate quite nicely. 4) she is now over 20 pounds!!!! Huge success there. 5) She has grown another 6 inches. She is now up to 35 inches and 22 pounds. She wears 4t tops and 2t bottoms. 7) her gross motor skills have greatly improved.

She is very smart and very active. Right now we are working on memory verses for the Awana Cubbie year. Not only will she say the verse (I only give her the first word, and she says the whole verse)-she will remember all the previous verses! So far, she knows 8 verses. I don't make her memorize the chapter or book, though. I'm actually just happy she can say the verses.

This year for "Family Day" or "Gotcha Day", we went to the Morton Arboretum. It was a great day to be together. Although it was October, we actually had 80 degree weather. The trees are starting to turn, and it was great just to walk together, see the different trees turning colors and see the many plants still blooming. We walked in the Children's Garden, where Grace was able to do some crafts and paint a small pumpkin. We walked around one of the paths that goes around the lake and saw all the scarecrows the local Girl Scouts made. They were cute. Grace would run up to each one and say how pretty it was. Then she'd say "What's her name?" Each one was given a name by the troop girls that made her. She had a great time.

One thing I would like to say is that I finally found more information about a diagnoses that was in her medical records when we brought her home. The Russians call it "perinatal affection of the central nervous system". For two long years I have been trying to find out what it is. My doctor even showed it to a Russian-born doctor, but she didn't even know what it was supposed to mean. Finally, I found a post on-line this morning. Here is what I understand. Perinatal affection of the central nervous system is a very common diagnoses for orphaned children-particularly in Russia. Basically, it means that something happened to the child while in the mother's womb that could cause neurological issues. For instance; alcohol abuse or drug use while pregnant, poor prenatal care, poor social situation (poor nutrition) while pregnant, or prematurity are all indicators that they use to suggest this condition. They are concerned that any one of these situations could cause neurological problems (seizures, learning disabilities, or other neurological problems). From what I understand, most children in orphanages diagnosed whith this fully "recover" (or-never show any signs of this issue). With Grace-she was premature, her mother MAY have used alcohol, and she had no prenatal care-which is why Grace was "diagnosed" with this. There were no "symptoms" and her records indicate that she "recovered" (showed no signs of neurological problems). I am relieved to finally have found more information about this "condition". My purpose in mentioning this is that if you have found this blog by doing a search that you will be comforted to know that most children diagnosed with this really don't have any problems.

My final thought today: here are my goals for Grace for next year: 1) to get up to 26 pounds (or more), to be completely caught up in her speech, and for her to continue learning the Cubbie verses. It challenges me to know the verses, too. Enjoy the pictures! Some are of Grace's fall pictures I took at a local park, and some are from the Family Day at the Arboretum.

Friday, October 8, 2010

School Days

Grace absolutely loves school. She attends on MWF from 9:15-11:30. The teachers set up a routine for the coming in time. We enter, hang up her coat and backpack, wash hands and choose a job. I think choosing a job is the best part of her day. Perhaps it's time to set up a job chart at home...
She loves talking about school. There are a number of girls in her class that were in her playschool class, so she likes talking about her friends. She loves the days she goes to school.
The building she goes to is a community center, and they also have adult activities. One is a little room with gym equipment. For $20 a month, you have unlimited access to this room. Today I used the room for about 45 minutes. Seeing that this was my first "work out" in many years, I think that was pretty good! Eventually I would like to build up and work out the whole two hours she's in class. That would be ideal, but probably not very realistic at this point.
Anyway, our fall is in full swing. Next week we celebrate 2 years home with Grace! I can't believe it's been two years already. The time is flying by so quickly! This weekend, we will celebrate our Family Day by going to Morton Arboretum (if everything works out...). It's has great nature trails and lots of oportunities to see all kinds of trees and plants. I hope we will enjoy walking the trails together.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Gettin' Ready for School

Well, as August comes to a close, we are looking forward to the new school year. Grace will start Preschool after Labor Day. She is so excited, and I'm excited too. What can I get done in 6 extra hours a week? August was pretty busy. We had birthdays, celebrations, floods to clean up...I took some time out to take some photos of Grace. I hung a white sheet over an empty wall and then put another white sheet on the floor. I then let her play "dress up" and let her play while I took pictures. I also let her dress in her Christmas dress to practice taking pictures for Christmas. I can get much better smiles out of her than professionals can, so I decided to do our own family pictures this year. I'll have to see if it's worth it!

The fall/winter is going to be busy for us, and I'm grateful. On MWF she will have school. On Tuesday nights she will have dance class, and on Wednesday nights will be Cubbies (AWANA) at church. I am hoping that the schedule will help the cold days pass quickly. I'm sure she is going to have a blast in Preschool, and I can't wait to photograph her first day of school!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

August, already?

Can it really be August?
More than half the year is gone already! Grace is growing so fast. I know, I say that in almost every post. She's not just growing taller, she's growing in her speech as well. She has a great vocabulary, but recently we've noticed that she's using a lot more sentences and is very much aware of what is happening around her. She is very independent. Now when we go to the store, she doesn't want me to put her in the cart. She wants to be a big girl and walk. So, I always tell her two rules. Today she said she wanted to walk at the store so I said "What are the two rules?" (this was the first time I have asked her to say them to me without me saying them first) She said "No running" and "I have to obey my mommy". She can be so funny. We are having a great summer. We've been going to the zoo a lot and enjoying the nice weather.

We had a flood a couple weeks ago. It rained like seven inches in one night, and our village's sewer system just couldn't keep up. We ended up with a soaked carpet and tons of sewage on the floor. We hired a team to come out and clean up and remove the carpet. We now need to put new flooring down. This is a long process for us, and so we have very little living space. Our Family room was in the basement: our TV and most of Grace's toys, our computer and my sewing/craft area. A lot of our belongings are currently in our diningroom/living room, so now Grace has very little room to play. Our TV is just connected for DVD and VHS since we don't have an antennae up here. I go stir crazy spending so much time in such little space.

We went camping on the last weekend of July. I was glad to get out of the house and get away for a couple days. It was fun, but a lot of work. We arrived on Friday evening and left Sunday morning. The minute we stepped out of the car on Friday, we were swarmed with mosquitoes. I have probably more than 100 mosquito bites on my body. I'm not kidding. Grace didn't sleep well. She kept waking up. She woke up at 6am and wouldn't go back to sleep and wouldn't leave me alone. I had a restless night sleep because I kept waking up when she woke up. On Saturday we went to Castle Rock State Park in Wisconsin. We went swimming at the beach. It was Grace's first time at a beach and she loved it. She was so worn out from swimming, playing and not enough sleep that she fell asleep on her towel. That night she slept a little better. Sunday morning we broke camp. I went witout Brian, so I had to do all the packing and such myself. It was harder than I thought since Grace was so tired, hot, crabby, and getting eaten alive by mosquitos. I left as soon as I got everything packed in the car. I felt bad leaving our friends there, but Grace couldn't stand being bitten by mosquitos any longer, and I didn't have a spouse there to pack the car while I comforted Grace or to comfort Grace while I packed the car...so...we left.

I am looking forward to this last month of summer vacation. Here are a few pictures from the past month.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Wow! The summer is flying by very quickly. We have been very busy here, and before I know it, the fall will be here. Last year was a dud. The weather was pretty bad all summer. I remember only taking her swimming two or three times last year. This year has been awesome! Despite the mega rain the last few weeks, we've actually been very busy outside. Because I have a zoo membership, we go to the zoo about once a week. I know for some that sounds like a lot, but Grace loves it, and it really stimulates her language skills. She knows a lot of the animals, and I really try to get her to talk about what's happening. I remember last summer, she went through another period of language growth. I don't know if it's the increased activities outside that helps, or just the way her body works, but she is doing amazing.
Fourth of July was great. We had friends over on Saturday as well and spent the whole weekend in Indiana with family and friends and pool party! Grace is doing great with the pool. We tried to put her in a suit that has floaties in it, but she didn't like it. We then put her in a regular suit and put her in a floatie ring. She swims like a fish in it! Her favorite thing to do is to stand on the steps of the pool and jump in. The floatie keeps her head above water, and she can swim anywhere she wants in that thing.
We plan to go camping at the end of July, and I am really looking forward to it. We went last year, but I was too obsessed with keeping her bed times. It was miserable to hear her crying in the tent as I attempted to make her go to sleep at a somewhat normal time. This year, I will not make that mistake. I will let her stay up until the other kids go to bed and perhaps it won't be as miserable. I will also be sharing a bed with her this year, as my husband cannot join us. He has a back injury, and sleeping on an air mattress hurts his back too much. Last year, we tried to get her to sleep on the other side of the tent on her own mattress. It would probably work better this year, but since my husband won't be there, why bother trying? This way if she wakes up really early, I can attempt to keep her quiet longer. We'll see.....
I am also going to have her tested by our school district. Our district is more lenient about testing than other areas are. We have very high testing scores, and our elementary school is one of the top schools in Illinois. I think she will qualify for speech and perhaps physical therapy. Don't get me wrong, she's doing a great job catching up, but she is still having problems with some sounds- Like "f" she says like "P" like instead of "fireworks" she says "pireworks" or "bireworks" When a word starts with the "l" sound, she says "m". " I want to sit in your map".
While most districts would say that she wouldn't qualify, our district would probably get her into therapy. If she qualifies, she would be eligible for free preschool. It's worth a shot!
Well, I have the rest of the summer to look forward to. I'll post more as the summer comes to a close.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Spring is here-and turning into summer fast!
These are some of my favorite pictures of Grace that I've taken this spring. At the end of May, Grace graduated from her Playschool class. I also signed her up for a ballet/tap class. She was having some separation anxiety issues, so I decided to put her in a summer school program. The summer class is taught by the same teacher as the Playschool, but it is a drop-off class and is meant to prepare them for Preschool in the fall. It is six weeks. She loves it. She is now very good in the ballet/tap class. She has two weeks off of class due to the performance (which she missed because she joined too late to buy a costume). However, I'm glad she wasn't at that performance since she had only been taking the class for about five weeks. This summer is going to be great. She gets to go to summer school, and VBS at our church. We will go to the zoo often, and the sting rays and dolphins are back! Yay! Lots of trips to the park-walking, of course. She is doing very well, and we are tickled pink with her progress. I have some concerns about her gross motor skills and I'm unsure whether I should have her see a physical therapist or not. I'll see how she does over the summer. If I see that she's still having problems at the end of the summer (after all those chances to run and play, jump and climb) then i'll make an appointment.
otherwise, she is doing great!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Grace is three!!

Wow, time goes by fast. Our angel is now three! Her birthday is on March 11, so on the 6th we went to Indiana to have her birthday party with our families. It was a nice, small party, and Grace had a lot of fun. We had a Princess theme, so she dressed like Cinderella with her cousins and her male cousin had a sword and shield to be a knight. I made her a Cinderella cake, and used fondant icing to make the skirt. It turned out cute for my first one, but the cake itself didn't cook well, so I'm glad I made a smaller cake to go with it...unfortunately, the doll was too tall for the cake, so her legs got amputated. Grace doesn't seem to mind...

On her birthday we had school, and I took snacks and cake to celebrate. She had a lot of fun and enjoyed everyone singing "Happy Birthday" to her.

As I was up in the attic, I found my Barbie collection I wanted to hand down to her. I also found my collection on Barbie clothes: ones from when my mom was a child, and ones from my Barbies. I brought them down, but the ones my mom had are hand-made and are falling apart. I decided as I read some blogs that I can use the clothes for a pattern and make new ones. So, I started with probablly the hardest one. I ripped all the seams out and used new material to make a dress. I didn't do so bad. I think I will enjoy picking out fabrics and making new clothes. The best think is I don't think I'll need more than a fat quarter to make any of them. A quarter of a yard is pretty cheap.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


I can't believe how much Grace has changed in just the last couple of weeks. We noticed at Thanksgiving that she was really using a lot more words and increasing her vocabulary every day. However, since the new year, she's really amazed us. She is now using complete sentences. "I want to play with something else". Of course, her speech isn't quite that clear, but that's what she's saying. "I want to go to school, Mommy!"

She is also beginning to tell us when she has to go potty. This is a huge relief. Up until this point, I've been taking her to the bathroom every hour or so and that has kept her dry for several months. However, this week I've noticed that she's starting to tell me when she needs to go. The girl is a camel! She hasn't gone since about one in the afternoon, and she's still claiming she doesn't have to go...and she's been drinking lots of water, too!

Tomorrow (Monday, Feb. 8th) I register her for Preschool! I am so very excited about that. I am going to try to get her into the Community Center class. It's fairly inexpensive. It has two choices-twice a week (T and TH) or three times a week (MWF). I am hoping to get her in the MWF class. The following Monday she has her physical with the doctor to get all her documents filled out. She's never had a hearing or vision test, so this ought to be interesting. She will also need her vaccine form filled out. When we arrived with Grace, the Dr. decided to test her when she's 5 to see if she needs any re-dos on her vaccines. I wonder if he's just going to put the dates that Russia "claims" she had her vaccines. Of course, the records are all in Russian, and the translator only noted the vaccines given, not the date. We will have to assume they were actually given when they were needed. When she's 5 (starting Kindergarten) we'll know for sure if any actually took. Grace will be so excited to be in Preschool next year!

I am also looking forward to planning her third birthday party. Last year, we kept it really small with just our immediate family members present. This year, I think we'll do the same. On her birthday, we have Playschool, so I will take snacks and have a little "party" at school. We will also be celebrating a close friend's birthday (he'll be two) that weekend, and the only people I would have invited to Grace's party will be at his party, so we're combining parties. So, that just leaves our families. She's met my husband's extended family (aunts, cousins, second cousins...) but I have a HUGE family, and she's actually not met many of my cousins, aunts and uncles. A birthday party is no time to freak her out with all kinds of strangers. So, we're having a Princess party. Only problem is my nephew. I guess I'll buy him a plastic sword and let him be the king for the day. Oh, did I forget that we're having a princess party?

So, February and March are going to be busy. Today (Superbowl Sunday), my husband is off watching the game, so Grace and I are having a movie party. She gets to watch as many movies she wants, and we get to skip dinner and eat chips, cookies, and popcorn. Grace keeps bringing me cheetos and feeds them to me-even though I'm stuffed! She's having a great time, though, and each time she eats a cheeto she says "we're having a party!"

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Starting a new year!

I can't believe it's already 2010! Where does the time go?
I don't know how many people read this blog, but I would like to take a moment to write about some families that need our prayers. First in my thoughts is K. K adopted a daughter from Russia a couple of years ago. She found out that her daughter has a sister, and has been trying since to adopt the sister. Needless to say, the agency couldn't help her, and a private adoption wasn't fast enough. The sister is now too old to come to the States as an orphan. They tried getting her hear on a student visa, but the Embassy in Moscow denied her visa because she would have no reason to go back. (no home, no family)
Second in my thoughs are a family I just read about. These women both used the same agency we used, and I am just sick that these cases had to happen. This adoption was in Pakistan, and it too failed. Turns out (long story short) that the girl had been trafficked and the Embassy found that the documents were forged. She returned home childless-and the agency refuses to refund her money or to help her untangle this web. Please pray for these families!

Grace is doing very well. She absolutely loves Playschool, and I am looking forward to registering her for Preschool. She will be three in a few short weeks. I am excited about planning a party-decorations, cake, etc...She continues to learn at an amazing pace. She now knows all her letters and is showing an interest in learning the sound each letter makes. She is also almost done with potty training. She will not tell us if she has to go potty, but I make sure she goes throughout the day, and if we forget, she starts to cry when she starts to go in her pants. She has now learned to "stop and wait" until she gets to the potty. Number two is similar. I try to get her to the potty when I know she needs to go. However, sometimes it's a "surprise" later in the day. Same thing now-my husband reported today that she started to cry and said "potty" and when he got her upstairs he found that she was just starting to go and was able to get her on the potty...she had been holding it until she got there. Progress! By September she needs to be completely trained-including being able to pull her pants up and down by herself. We're working on it.
No other news, really. It's been cold so we've been staying in. Can't wait for Spring!
Again, please keep the above families in your prayers (or thoughts!). It grieves me that they used the same agency we did. We had such a hard journey-but it's nothing compared to what they are going through!