Thursday, August 27, 2009


I have enjoyed the month off of work with my two beautiful children. I teach on a year round schedule, so every three months I have a month off. No big summer break, but I really do like my schedule like this. I will be going back to work tomorrow for meetings and prep., starting with students returning on Monday. My next chunk of time off will begin the week of Thanksgiving and I will return to work after the New Year, 6 weeks because of the holidays…NICE =)

Dylan went to Oklahoma for 12 days this past month to visit family. He really had such a great time and came home exhausted. I know this for sure because when he is over-tired he walks, talks, and does very strange things in his sleep! This month took the award of weirdness so far in his life. He had a really bad dream and decided to take on his furniture while sleeping. Furniture won, he ended up with a black eye! We spent some time the next day researching bad dreams, mostly because he needed some reassurance that he is not psychotic. Sometimes these dreams happen and we really are unsure why. He does feel there might be a relation to some of the things recently in the news that occurred her in CA. Happy to report we have all been sleeping fairly well since.

Tori is done with Dr. appointments for a while, I hope! She does have a follow up eye appointment in a two weeks. I guess I should say at least a huge bulk of Dr. appointments are done with. I attended an IEP for Tori yesterday through the school district. It went really well. I had gone to the school district shortly after arriving home, requesting a speech and language assessment for her. Her medical information from Russia indicated she was speech delayed. I felt I wanted to tackle this right away and not wait for her to begin school. I gave the district some information on Tori’s background and the decision was made to do a full assessment on her; which includes speech, language, cognitive, health, etc…..They came to my home to do the assessment and hired someone that speaks Russian to assist. In a nutshell, she has no qualifying conditions for Special Education services. The conclusion, she is doing really well and has learned so much for just being her a short time. I agree wholeheartedly. After reviewing the paperwork I had given them from Russian doctors, they were not sure what to expect when they arrived at my home. Upon leaving my home and at the IEP, they were very complementary about what an amazing little girl she is and as to how well she is doing! She really is pretty amazing!!!! =)

Along those same lines, Tori has started preschool. This is her second week of attending. I was fortunate to find a lady about a mile from my home that runs a preschool out of her home in the mornings and offers daycare as well. For now, Tori has just been attending a few hours in the morning to get her used to it. Starting Monday, while I am at work, she will be going all day. She is really enjoying it and continues to learn so much!!!! =)

Ready for her first day of preschool!

All the fun stuff Tori made the first week of preschool, learning about the farm!

Dylan and Tori, Oklahoma style!

Tori, unsure about this stuff on the chip.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


All is well! We have just been BUSY! Tori has been home for 2 and a half months now and continues to learn and grow in every way....well almost. I weighed her yesterday and much to my dismay she weighs the same as see did with her first Dr. visit....a whopping 22 pounds! I do wish she would have gained some weight by now. I am feeding her, I promise =)

I have to admit, she is very active, so I am trying not to be very concerned about the weight. She goes all day long. No naps, but does sleep about 12 hours each night.

My mom is a member of a Red Hat group. Those wonderful women had an amazing "Princess Party" for Tori! It was absolute fun! I have never met some of these women, they just wanted to celebrate Tori's homecoming. Tori enjoyed tearing through all her gifts and showed her appreciation through her verbal gestures!!! The ladies absolutely enjoyed her!!! We all had a great time!

We have been to a BBQ and the beach. She is a fish! She loved the pool at the BBQ. She would go under water and just laugh while under with her eyes wide open. There really was no chance of keeping her out of the water. She really loved the waves at the beach too and it was awesome to watch her having so much fun.

Before I left for my second trip, I was participating in a cardio boot camp in the mornings, sometimes 5-6am and sometimes 6-7am depending on the month. Shortly after I came home, I thought it was going to be difficult to get back into a work-out at that time of the morning. Dylan had been begging me for a while now to get him a gym yes, much to his pleasure that is what we did and it has worked out really well. Dylan and I will work out for about an hour or so and Tori will go to the Kids Klub for an hour. It did take a few visits for her to get comfortable and understand that we won't be away from her for long. Now she enjoys going most of the time. When we start getting ready to go she recognizes our change of cloths and says, "Go play!" When I drop her off she says, "See you in a little bit!" and, "I love you!" at least 4 or 5 times before we depart from each other.

Lots of Dr. appts. going on here, lots! So far I have a very healthy little girl, tiny, but healthy. We have another cardio appt. this week for an ultra-sound. On my first trip to Russia I was told Tori had a murmur. The second trip I was told she had another abnormality besides the murmur. The Dr. visit for the embassy stuff, I was even told she would need surgery in a couple of years. Not the same findings here at all, interesting....possibly a slight murmur and that is it. We will know more this week, after the ultra-sound. Tori does have a chest deformity due to rickets. Her Dr. feels that because her chest cavity has a different shape, the heart beat would have a different sound. Suggesting that possibly Dr.'s in Russia thought there were some issues because the beat sounded abnormal due to the shape of her chest cavity. All blood work came back just fine. She did get two shots, no big deal. I suppose I thought the list would be long medically. I am happy to report all is well. She has an ophthalmology appt. the end of the month. She also has a home assessment from the school district at the end of the month. I do hope to get her qualified for a preschool program offered through the district.

She is not comfortable getting in a car besides mine, I am fine with that and it is just something we will work on so she can feel safe. She honestly just continues to really enjoy life. Still singing and talking all the time. Babbles still at times, but also lots of English going on. She loves to say, "I love you" and "kisses" to both me and her brother. We love her so much too!!! Her birthday is the end of the month. We are looking forward to that and also, I will have all of August off to play with my kids all day long. =)

At Princess Party.

Swimming to our friend Michelle.

Sliding into pool.

At the beach.

Tori and her friend Bryan in a towel fort.

By the bonfire with Michelle.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lil' Miss America!!!!

The weather has been really nice here. Tori continues to enjoy the yard, wading pool and playing with her dogs. We all seem to be settling in well. It is hard to believe she has legally been mine for only a month. It does seem much longer, as she is really a true part of our family.

I did have to go back to work this past Tues. I felt like I was just really ready, but knew she may not be ready for that just yet. I found that as the week progressed I, of course, really missed her and was not as ready as I thought. I really could not wait for the day to be over with so I could get home to my kids! Also, I was exhausted by the time Friday came around. I kept thinking to myself that I was grateful to go back to work during a short week. Next week will be a full one, but all will go well!

My first day of returning, a staff meeting was being held in the library. I have been out of the loop and clueless about a meeting. I did figure it out when I did not see any other teachers in classrooms. I quickly headed to the library, late. As I walked in, my boss announced to the staff that a new mommy had just entered the room. The staff erupted in applause, it was really awesome! It was great to hear how many had been checking my updates and asking those I work closely with how things were going and when I was returning. I work with an amazing group of people. For that I am so grateful!

Babushka has been here during the week staying with Tori. I think it has really helped with the transition of me going back to work. Tori wakes up after Dylan and I leave in the morning and she is in her own home, with her familiar things. Also, Babushka was with us in Russia, so they are both very comfortable with each other. Tori asks about Dylan and me throughout the day, but so far has been ok with it. She is sooooo excited when I walk in the door upon returning home. I get an amazing amount of hugs and kisses, and she just wants me to hold her and cuddle her. Of course, I gladly oblige. My mom will be watching Tori for another two weeks here and then we will work on another transition. To be honest, I don’t have that totally figured out yet, but have some things in the works.

Last Sunday when we went to church, Dylan was with his dad, so it was just Tori and me. I stayed with her in Sunday School. Today her brother decided he wanted to stay with her and I could attend the service. That did not work so well…….almost though, almost. They both showed up next to me in church about 10 minutes before the service was over. Apparently, it did not go as well has her brother planned. She told him she had to use the bathroom several times during the 45 minutes they were away from me. And of course, once they joined me, she forgot all about going to the bathroom!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sunny Days

We are enjoying our time together this week and have managed to stay pretty busy. Last weekend we had a welcome home party for Tori. It was tons of fun and she had an amazing time meeting new family and friends. We had a bounce house with an attached slide and climbing area, which she loved. The party started at 1:00 and was over at about 8:00 in the evening. Long day!

The weather has been really nice here. I bought Tori a little pool for in the yard. She loves it.! I put her in her suit and took her out to the yard. She immediately started taking off her suit, I suppose thinking she was having a bath. I showed her that it was ok to get in with her suit on. She loved the water and so did Lucky (big dog). Charm (little dog) just loves getting her toys and taking off to a place he might be able to chew away in private. We have been pretty good about catching him. Charm usually takes off at any sign of water. Even if I am just hosing down the patio, I usually have Lucky joining in and getting as wet as she can, now Tori is just as eager to compete for the hose spray. While enjoying her pool, she makes sure many of the plants in the yard get some water and Lucky gets her fair share too! When swimming is over for the day and it is time to go in, she is very disappointed and let’s me know. =)

Tori continues to learn and soak up so much in her environment. It really amazes me at times. She enjoys learning. She now gets her picture/site word cards and asks me “what is this?” in Russian. She is learning her letters, singing lots, counting and learning more and more English every day! Yesterday, she was even counting backwards! I didn't realize it until later that one of her Dora videos about school has a section that counts backwards.

Dylan continues to be amazing and adore his sister. Every day he asks me if I am sure I have given Tori a vitamin. When he arrives home from school, they have lots of hugs and kisses for each other.

Me? I have had the flu or something most of this week. Tori had a horrible cold in Russia. I suppose I could have caught something from her. Never really a cold for me though, just a sore throat. I have also developed a new addiction to animal crackers. I guess it could be worse as far as addictions go! I know the Dora theme song by heart and the Leap Frog letter song….”every letter makes a sound….” I have also forgotten just how therapeutic coloring can be! Haha!

Today we are having lunch and swimming at a friends house! That will be fun!

My beautiful children!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Visit from Auntie

My sister came into town on Thursday night, straight to my house from the airport. She and Babushka visited until about 10:00 pm. Auntie brought lots of clothing items for Tori, along with a wonderful pair of red cowgirl boots! Very cute! She did wear them for a while, as Karen had to try every bit of clothing on her possible. For some reason we never got a picture of Tori with the boots on. Aunt Bridgette and Uncle Eric sent some things for Tori too! It was great fun and Tori did not have much choice, but to bare and enjoy it all. It was a nice visit, Aunt Karen and Babushka were back again today at about noon and stayed until 8:30. They will be back tomorrow too! Tomorrow we are having a welcome home party for Tori.

Today, after Auntie and Babushka arrived, we had lunch and did some things around the house to prepare for tomorrow. Aunt Karen decided to water some plants out front and of course Tori and Dylan got involved in what quickly became play and no more plant watering. Tori loves the water. I figured this out when she swam on Mother’s Day. I could not really keep her out of the pool. No, she does not swim, but jumps off the side to her brother. Also, I cleaned up the yard yesterday and hosed down the patio. Usually, I can’t keep Lucky away from me and the water, Charm hides. Well, this time I had Tori and Lucky in front of me trying their hardest to get sprayed by the hose. She had a very fun time slopping around in the water, wet from head to toe.

This evening we went for frozen yogurt and a drive near the dairy farms. There are a few dairy farms close to my house and I thought Tori might enjoy seeing the cows. Did she ever! She certainly has a love for animals, or at least a very strong curiosity about them. Again, wanted to touch, talk, and try to kiss (nope, not this time). It was very cute!

Going to bed at night is becoming much better for us all. I am hoping she is feeling loved, safer and secure knowing that we will be here in the morning too! She slept well at the hotel, but once we got home things were not so great there for a couple of days when it came to bedtime. It honestly just gets better every day.

She is saying so many new words and phrases, it is hard to believe she has only been home with me for a little over a week. Mama is pretty smitten and so is brother!!!

When I sing to her “Old McDonald had a Farm” I tell her that on his farm he had a Tori…..“with a Mama here and a Mama there, here a Mama, there a Mama, everywhere a Mama Mama”…just teasing her about saying “Mama” all day….she laughs and thinks it is the funniest thing. =)

I think she was done playing dress-up with her Auntie!

Saturday, May 9, 2009


I was so worried about the dogs and now I just can’t keep Victoria away from them. She has been slowly introduced to them each day, but today she had a big dose and that was still not enough. When she woke this morning, she just started her day saying and looking for the sebaka’s. Tonight when she went to bed I could hear her talking to herself and of course talking about the sebaka’s and Lucky. She says Lucky’s name really well, some trouble with Charm still. She really enjoys them though. I had to put them outside today (a lot of the day), just to give them and myself a break. They are very tolerant to say the least. Especially Charm, he is just the right size for her. She loves for them to kiss her and really it is kind of gross. I am working on getting her to tone down her requests for kisses from them.

Coming home, the plane ride was really just fine. She was not afraid at all, just got a little cranky. I totally understand that because so did I. I still don’t feel caught up on my sleep yet and am ashamed to report, finally did the last of the unpacking tonight.

She adores her brother! I mean adores him! And he adores her just the same! He can’t stand for her to be upset or denied anything….ugh! I have been reminding him a lot today that she needs limits, everything can’t be her way, she is exploring, everything is new, etc….. He is understanding. I am really proud of him and the adoration he shows her.

Wednesday, when we arrived home, it was a very long day for us. Tori had a difficult time that night sleeping, which means we all did. You would think she would have been exhausted and that would have worked in her favor…apparently not. Also, Thursday night she fell asleep, but woke in the middle of the night and was up for about 2 hours…..ugh! I told Dylan the only thing I was interested in for Mother’s Day was a good nights sleep. Last night I did get that. It went really well and tonight (so far) even better, she is tired and snoring away. Yep, she has a little snore going on! Also, she bites her nails…hmmmmm…

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Heading Home!!

I am very much ready to go home, that is for sure! On this trip to Russia my life has changed forever! I now am not only the proud mother of a wonderful son, but equally a proud mother of a beautiful daughter. It has been a long road to finally get here to this point of bringing my daughter home with me. I have truly been blessed! I am excited to get home and for Tori to meet her brother and her pets! I am happy for her to become part of my family and enjoy all of our traditions and celebrations as a family. I pray that I am a wonderful mother to Tori and God gives me wisdom and guidance in raising her and meeting her needs.

Tomorrow we leave Vladivostok at 5:30. We have a 2 and a half hour flight to Souel, Korea. A two hour lay-over there and finally an 11 hour flight to LA. By our clocks here, we will be flying at night. On the longer flight hopefully Victoria will think it is bedtime and sleep for the duration. That will be good for her, as it is a long time for a little person to sit and ride. It sure would be a lot easier if I could just wiggle my nose or click my heels together three time and we are home!

When I return, I will not post every day. I will post updates though! Thank you all for your thoughts, prayers, e-mails, comments and support. That has meant so much to me! I truly appreciate my family, I have an amazing family that Tori will now be a part of. She has been blessed. Families that are in the process, no matter what stage, don’t give up, keep moving forward, stay motivated, and stay positive. There is a child that needs you! Remember your sacrifices of moving through the process are minor, truly minor, in comparison to the life of a child.

Paka (bye) for now!

Just going to post a few pictures that I took today, our last day here….WOOOHOOO!

We have been trying to befriend this dog since we have been here. We even brought it food one day. Finally on the last day here, it decided to come over to us. Tori was fine at first, but then was a little overwhelmed, unsure, and wanted me to carry her.

Of course after we became friends, we had some trouble getting it to go on it's way!

Big oyster! She threw it back in the water. There was still something in it, not sure if throwing back in helps....

Head first, on stomach, down the slide!

Not a small slide either...little daredevil!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Almost Time.....

Tomorrow will be our last full day in Vladivostok. I am looking forward to getting home. Today we walked, of course, to the beach and store twice. The weather was nice again, in the low 70’s. It is amazing how much the tree growth has changed just since we have been here. When we first arrived everything was just brown and dead, also some sporadic ice patches around. Now, the trees are budding and blooming and we are beginning to see lots of green. There was more thunder and lightning tonight and it rained for about 10 minutes.

Today we met another couple here from Long Beach. They were able to bring their son back to the hotel this afternoon. He was not able to be with them for the 10 day wait. Also, Heather and Fred (from Canada) were finally able to get their daughter from the orphanage. They came by and visited our suite tonight. Nadya is 14 months old (I think) and a very happy little girl. She will be meeting her 6 year old brother when she finally arrives home. Tomorrow Ken and Gloria will be arriving. I have not met them yet, but they got in touch with me through this blog.

As you can see, my list of blogs I am following has expanded. When I left home, I had one family on the list that I met on my first trip. Now I have added a few more to my list, just from meeting people here or from people getting in touch with me because they have either already been through this process or are currently going through it. It really is pretty amazing to learn about other peoples experiences, journeys and to see how their children are developing and progressing after they arrive home. I welcome the friendships.

I may have shown Tori a YouTube clip of “Five Little Monkeys” today and yesterday one too many times! She is now jumpin’, jumpin’ jumpin’ all the time! Also, after reading the Overstreet blog and learning that Blake had an ice cream, I thought I might dare give Tori ice-cream today…

OK, so here is the deal… child (as with everyone else's) came with instructions when she was handed over into my care. Part of these instructions included that children must not have anything cold. “Cold is just bad for their glands!” Seriously, milk is served at room temperature, no ice, no cold water, no cold food (ice-cream) and so forth…strange, I know. In the room we have been giving her cold stuff. In public, the Russians don’t have a problem with letting you know what they might think you should and should not do with your child so, I have been following “the rules” while in public. Not today though. We walked to the store and ate an ice cream on the way home. =)

Jumpin' jumpin' jumpin'......Ok I will even admit it...yes, she has also been jumpin' on the bed! =)

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Today was really just a beautiful day in Vladivostok! The sun was shining, lots of people out and about. We walked to the beach this morning after saying goodbye to Amy, Randy (Amy’s dad) and Walker. Amy is a second grade teacher in North Carolina. She is also a foster parent of a little boy back home, that we enjoyed hearing so much about.  She in now the parent of Walker, a 20 month old. They are now headed to Moscow to finish paperwork and then finally head home next Saturday. The people I have met and connected with on this trip have been amazing and I am grateful for that.

We walked down to the beach, parked the stroller and walked. We had a pretty long walk for a little pair of short skinny legs, but of course she was an active participant. We came back, had lunch, played for a bit at the hotel and walked again. This time to the beach and the store. Victoria certainly has no fear of dogs at all! This is good, as I have two. I was a bit worried about the dog thing. Now I am just worried about her approaching a dog that I know nothing about. At the beach, a girl was throwing a stick to her dog and of course joining in was Victoria, chasing the dog. The dog was lucky enough to just miss her grasp each time she reached for it….Ugh!! Sounds cute, but for the rest of the walk, I made sure when we were approaching a dog she was holding my hand or I was holding her. I guess I did not expect her to go after them. Lots of people bring dogs to the beach here, which is great! Honestly though, no leashes and such. They all seem pretty well behaved, but that is observing them without the threat of a 3 year old yanking on a tail. Trust me, she has no fear and really goes after them. I just felt I did not want her to develop any sort of fear, if possibly one (dog) decided they did not like the attention she wanted to give, before she even got home to meet Lucky and Charm. Oh yes, and meeting all the other dogs in the family!

We had 10 or 15 minutes of thunder and lightening tonight. No rain as of yet though. Victoria was already asleep when this happened. She sleeps very well. I cut out the nap altogether and she seems to be doing just fine without one. She goes to bed around 8:30 or 9:00 and gets up at 8:00 or so. She usually wants to have a big drink of milk or water in the morning and then has been crawling in bed with me cuddling. =)

I pray all goes well tomorrow (Monday here) at the US Embassy with my paperwork. I am really eager to get home and don’t want anything to hold that up. I miss Dylan, my dogs, my bed and just want to get Victoria home too! Oh and by the way, I call her Tori when I speak to her, just Victoria when writing here….I suppose I can change that….

She loves having a bath!
Oooops! Right on the "living room" floor.

Hotel playground, yesterday...