Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Happy Birthday Victoria!

My little girl is 5 years old!

I will start with the stats: Victoria is weighing in at 27 lbs and she is 36 inches tall. She has grown! Since this time last year, she has gained 5 lbs and grown 3 inches. Victoria continues to love life and people. She really does find joy in just about everything she encounters. She is curious about everything that crosses her path or comes her way.

We traveled to Oklahoma in March, which was an awesome trip visiting family for Easter. She also had her first trip to the snow in March, which she loved. We have had many visits to the beach. She is unsure of the waves, which I am just fine with. She continues to love her dogs and play with them daily. My son, Dylan, who is now 16 has an amazing bond with Tori. He truly is her protector and at times I marvel at the patience he has with her. I am blessed with two amazing children.

Victoria has done unbelievably well with acquiring the language. She knows several sight words, all her letters, sounds, colors, shapes, writes her name, along with letters and numbers. She is beginning to spell words. She sings and chatters nonstop. Her intellectual growth has been amazing. She is truly a sponge when it comes to learning, as most young children are. I share this mainly because the child I met in the orphanage and the child I have home with me now are completely different. She was quiet, subdued, trembled when she tried to manipulate things, seemed so frail, I suppose I will also add medicated, which I am sure caused some of this behavior. Now, she is thriving, full of life, free spirited, strong willed, compassionate, affectionate, and continues to bring me joy and amaze me daily!

Minor hiccup......Victoria started Kindergarten the beginning of July. She has struggled with the separation in the morning from me. I work full time, so being away from me during the day is not new. I realize there is a lot a newness in the whole Kindergarten experience and that has caused alarm for her. It has been a rough transition for her and has really put things into check for me. I say this because at times I feel the bonding and trust that has grown between us has been exceptional, and I do believe it has been. With this rough transition, I am reminded once again of her past and the importance of me to continually step back, look at things through her eyes, from her perspective, taking her first 3 1/2 years of her life (which I don't know much about, but what I do know is heart-wrenching) into consideration, and internalizing that her past is what she bases some of her thoughts, fears, and insecurities off of. Reality check for this mom, and admittedly knowing I need to check into that reality more often! Every day is a new day and we continue to work through this together and make progress.

Family is coming into town in August. I am sure we will have an action packed week while they are here. We are also heading back to Oklahoma in October for my nieces wedding. Tori will be the flower girl. Again, it will be more fun times and new explorations ahead. I plan to get her in swimming lessons in August, though she is already doing an amazing job with it. She loves the water; swimming, bath, hose, sprinklers, water parks, etc. She will have no trouble with formal lessons. Just Victoria, Dylan and myself will celebrate her birthday on the actual day (July 29th). We will have a family celebration when family comes. All is well in our home and we continue to enjoy life as a family. In a nutshell, life is good!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

We Are The Truth!

We Are The Truth
Today is Adoption Blogger Day-part of the Joint Council of International Children's Services Call to Action- We are the Truth. Here is my story...

One year ago, on April 17th 2009, Victoria Irina Rae Elbe became a member of my family. The judge ruled in my favor to adopt this beautiful little girl. I met Victoria in Sept. 2008. I had to wait 6 month to return to court because her birth mother never filed appropriate paper work for her citizenship in Russia. Prior to meeting Victoria, I had been given photos and medical information. Her eyes in her photos are what initially captured my attention and my heart. I was drawn to her.
I accepted the invitation to travel and meet her. I was ready to go in three weeks time. I met her and I was, in all honesty, scared. What if I could not meet her needs? Those thoughts just kept going over and over in my mind. Additionally, I criticized myself about being a single parent, and am I being fair to her…..maybe there was a couple that would be a better placement for her. As the week went on, I fell in love with her and knew that I wanted to give her all of my heart and offer her a chance at a life outside of growing up in an orphanage. When the children turn 4 in Russia their placement changes and their chances of being adopted diminishes. Four for her was not that far off.

While in Russia, I learned that a family had come to meet her and considered adopting her, but declined due to her health issues. On my second trip, I did find out it was more than just one family, actually there were a few that declined embracing her and bringing her into their families. Victoria had not had much stability as it was. She was with her birth mother until she was two. At that time she was removed from the home and placed in a hospital for 5 month. Yes, 5 months, due to severe neglect. She had all kinds of things going on. Furthermore, the day she was removed, she was wrapped in plastic and handled with gloves because of the filth and parasite infestations on her body. She had some other serious health issues going on and was gravely ill. After leaving the hospital, she was in the baby home for a year and then I met her. Just after I met her, actually the day I left, she was again placed in a sanatorium (health facility) to assist with her health issues. I am not kidding, if you met this child today you would ask yourself, “What health issues?” Home, here with me, she is a completely different little girl than the one I met in Russia. She was shy, timid, and quiet. She is now full of life, affectionate, carefree, and strong willed (which I have decided was what gave her the ability to survive). I love my daughter, she is my own. She is my family.

There is much talk, concern, and controversy about the psychological problems institutionalized children face; head banging, rocking, self soothing, food hoarding, etc…… along with adjustment and attachment problems. I have experienced some problems that could very well be related to the fact that she was institutionalized; sleeping, adjustment issues, food hoarding (terribly in the beginning), defiance, testing boundaries, etc….some of these we still work on, on a daily basis. Of course some are normal 4 year old behaviors.

I know that my love for her must be unyielding, the same as any other parent with a child. I can honestly say that Victoria is a very happy, loving, affectionate little girl. She loves life! We love her tremendously. My family and I all feel truly blessed to have her here, home, where she belongs. She really is amazing!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

Have I been bad about blogging, or what? Life is good! It is so hard to believe Tori has been home for almost 8 months now. So much has happened since my last post. I will just give brief updates.....

Tori loved "trick-or-treating". It did not take long for her to figure out there would be candy given at each door. I had to remind her as she approached the door to not just walk into the house like it was her home!

She finally had surgery on both of her eyes the beginning of November. We just had a follow up appointment a few days ago and both eyes are aligned and look great. She told us for almost a week about how the doctor made her go goodnight and made ouies in her eyes. Though he made ouies, she loves that man. Even when we went for her most recent check up, she very loudly yelled, "Bye, I love you!" and of course blew him kisses as we were leaving the office.

We had our six month post adoption visit from our social worker. I really like him. He is so laid back and always makes me feel at ease. His report was glowing and I was proud to send it off to Russia. He commented on how well Tori has adjusted and on how outgoing her personality is.

Thanksgiving was very fun for Tori. We spent it with Grandpa and Grandma Jones. It was the first time family on their side had met Tori. She is not one to give others an option about interacting with her. She is usually open to interacting and playing with just about everyone she comes in contact with.

The holiday season has been fun, to say the least. She really did not understand Christmas presents and such until Christmas Eve. She opened a gift she really liked that night, a laptop. I knew this would be great for her because she is always trying to use mine. It did not occur to me that she would not understand the gifts were for her to keep. She kept telling me she wanted to take it home, I mean telling me repeatedly! I continued to remind her that it was hers and we would take it home. A couple of times she came over to me holding her laptop and saying that she wanted to go home now! She was very concerned! After more presents the next morning and afternoon, she quickly realized that it was okay to attach to a few other gifts. It really was a very fun time for all.

I am finishing up a 6 week break from work and have enjoyed spending time with my beautiful children during this holiday season. I am off again all of April, in time for Easter and hopefully a trip to Oklahoma to visit family. I pray you all have a wonderful year and 2010 is awesome for you and your families.

I think I have finally conquered obtaining a social security number for her after 3 visits to the office. I am expecting it any day now, really need it for taxes! If any of you have adopted your child again when you returned from Russia and have info about how to do that, please let me know. I do feel at this point it might be the best option for me, considering the issues I have had just getting her a ss#.

It has been nice to log on here and see updates from my friends that I have encountered along the way, great to see pictures on families and wonderful updates of lifetime memories. Those of you still waiting, I am thinking and praying for you. I know it is hard. I was reading a friends post that ironically lives about a mile from me, and whose older daughter attends the same school that I teach at. We connected here and found out we are practically neighbors! They have had their first trip and are having a tough wait for the court return. I am familiar with the wait. I had to wait six months before I could hold Tori again and finally bring her home. It does make the holidays tough, which I really just plowed through last year. Hang in there Shelly! All of the sudden you will get the call, you are in my thoughts friend! Love and best wishes to you all!

San Manuel Indian Pow Wow

First pony ride



Boat ride to see Christmas lights.

Christmas Eve