December 6, 2008 - A very long week

It has been a very long week. Just a warning - this post is about icky things. Caelia, Lera and Michael all got sick - really sick. Vomitting, diarrhea, headaches and general yuck. This was my first experience with Lera being really sick. She threw up everywhere in her sleep and never woke up. She actually got mad at me and Randy for waking her to give her a bath and clean up her bed. Caelia woke up and sat watching Lera saying " poor nina". She tried to hug and kiss her but we wouldn't let her. It's amazing how a little bit (or a lot) of puke between sisters is negligiable. Caelia is sweet that way - she was less affectionate when Lera got diarrhea. Just as Lera quit throwing up, I heard Michael run for the bathroom, where he spent a better portion of the night. Caelia waited for morning to join the party.

Of course, as soon as the kids were on the road to recovery - Mama got sick. Mama got really sick. Randy stayed home because Mama was so sick. He went back to work for one day and the spent the next night being ill. He got much sicker than the rest and all of us spent 6 hours in the emergency room on Friday so that he could get rehydrated. I spent all day Sunday washing clothes and trying to set my house back to rights.

The goal this week is to get the house spruced up for the holidays and spend some time with the kids. We are going to make cookies and treats on Friday. Caelia loves to cook. She loves to help. So does Lera. Lera looks at the different utensils with a great deal of curiosity. Food was brought to her at the orphanage. She understands what the knives and forks are and even the spoons but rolling pins, cookie cutters and cookie presses are a mystery. She is also a bit mystified by plastic disposable spoons. I send yogurt, fruit snacks and a drink with them for snacktime at school - I also include a napkin and a plastic spoon. Well, since she throws them away at school, Lera has decided that we throw all spoons away. I have been trying to find my teaspoons all week and finally found a stash of them in my garbage can. I wonder how long she has been doing this?

November 27, 2008 - Thanksgiving through Lera's eyes...

Most of the time, I kind of forget that life was different for Lera before she came to live with us. I can't really imagine life without her and she fits so well with us that I go along in kind of an euphoria - happy with my life and very happy with my family - for the most part, blissfully unaware that we are different. Thanksgiving reminded me of how much her life has changed.

She tends to come running when supper comes out of the oven or when I am fixing omlettes and sneaks little bites before anyone else gets a nibble. She gets such a happy grin when she scores these little treats that I don't have the heart to tell her no. My husband and other kids are just as bad for doing this, so I don't think about it. Thanksgiving made me think. I started cooking at 8am and I didn't notice at first but as the morning progressed I noticed that Lera was watching everything very intently. She exclaimed over the turkey as I was getting it ready for the oven. She stood on a chair and her and Caelia handed me potatoes to peel and then put them in the pot to boil. She talked very animatedly when she saw the BIG PLATE (turkey platter) and was in awe of the shiny dishes and silver.

Caelia came and went but Lera stayed right at my side. She clapped when the whipping creme became whipped cream like it was some special magic. She ate an enormous dinner followed by birthday cake (Happy Birthday, Randy!) and then came to sit by my side. She doesn't really like to hang around with the crowd, even though she knows them all. I asked her if she had enough to eat and she smiled and said YAH, rested her head against my side and patted my leg. She looked so very happy and content - I was left with the feeling that I had granted her some cherished dream.

It makes you think about the many things that we take for granted and may only remember on those special occasions. I like Thanksgiving day as much as anyone but I realized that there is so much that we obsess about (i.e. will the turkey be dry, will the stuffing turnout, how will I fit so many people at the table, etc.) that we forget what a true blessing it is just to have a full tummy, a house full of love and a place to sleep with someone to tuck you in. The little pink doll blanket was Caelia's attempt to make sure Lera was covered.

Another raffle - not ours but a good one...

See this little cutie?
His name will be Ean Jones and he is waiting for his Mama and Daddy to come get him.
Could you help them - and maybe snag yourself a great prize? They are giving away two gift cards - $100 Toys-R-Us and $200 Visa - every $5 donation gets you entered into BOTH drawings. The Toys-R-Us gift card can be used online or in stores and the Visa gift card can be used ANYWHERE Visa is accepted. Please see the chip-in at the bottom of this post to enter.

October 31, 2008 - Happy Halloween!

I actually got a few pictures of my girls in their costumes. They didn't last very long trick or treating. Lera tires really easily. She has a very inefficient (although adorable) way of walking and running. She looks kind of like she is speedwalking when she is running. I suppose that is the "neuropathway issue" that she has. Caelia could keep going for miles but she was happy to be spending time with Grandpa watching Over the Hedge.

Lera really liked handing out candy and glow necklaces. She was very talkative and animated. I seriously doubt that any of the kids understood that she was chastising them but I have heard her give Caeli a talking to.

This was our house this year. The slow shutter speed makes it look like we have an angel coming to visit us or a ghost...
I have decided that after we are done with the adoption we really need a faster camera that also works for night shots. Caeli and Lera both change expression so quickly that it takes a fast camera or luck or both to catch them smiling. That should give you an idea on how many pictures we take - I love digital!

October 27, 2008 - Love handles...

Ok - so everyone in my family has them - it doesn't mean we don't try to get rid of them. Caelia has a lot of problems with her tummy muscles so this is a common sight at our house. Lera has awful posture too but mostly she just likes to help Caeli with her exercises.Caelia and Randy have a lot of fun together - I wonder who burns the most calories, though? Just one more picture - the last warm one you are likely to see on this blog for some time. The temperature will dip into the teens tonight with 40mph wind gusts so here is a favorite warm weather photo. Can you believe that it was taken a week ago?

October 25, 2008 - A beautiful night for a party...

We had a wonderful group turnout for our annual Halloween party. We saw friends and relatives that we haven't seen in much too long. Everyone had fun and ate lots of treats. We had some very adventurous kids and a few that were a bit put off by the spooky creatures inhabiting our yard - by the end of their stay, they were quite at ease with everything though.

I love seeing the kids in costumes! We don't dress in costume ourselves - not because we don't want to join in the festivities but because some children would be too scared if we were scary looking. I think that having us look normal helps them relax a bit.

We have a couple of structured activities and then we let the kids be kids. Running around in the darkened yard, playing tag and socializing. The first thing we do is hand out treat bags and let the kids explore the house and yard, then we make caramel apples.

Randy is in charge of activities - I spend my time getting things ready for the Pinatas. We have 2 pinatas - one for the little kids and one for the big kids. I love watching Randy with the kids - he is so patient with them and so much quicker than I am! I have failed to get out of the way of the swinging pinata stick in previous years so I get to take pictures now. This year we had some really excellent batters. Caelia and Lera both enjoyed this activity but Lera looked confused when all the kids descended on the scattered candy. She figured it out quick though!

Another favorite game is our Bite a Bat game. This was my answer to replace the bobbing for apples game. Disgusting game - not to mention too cold for Minnesota. Our game involves hanging a row of sugar cookies (shaped like bats) from strings suspended from the ceiling. The kids attempt to eat the cookie without using their hands. Whoever finishes their cookie first, gets to pick a prize.

I will post more photos of the house later this week. We need to use a special camera to take the pictures of the house in the dark. I may get a few of the girls in their costumes (fingers crossed). They refused to wear them for the party. I didn't want to push it too much because I think this was a bit overwhelming for Lera especially. She disappeared for into her room, popping out occasionally to swipe grapes from the bowl on the treat table but became more socialable when the kids had thinned out a bit. Caelia waited for the end of the evening to liberate an apple for herself

October 22nd - Get a strep test!

I wanted to share this story with everyone I know and stress the importance of getting a strep test if you have a sore throat. It's truely unbelievable what happened to a friend of ours:

Rick's wife Jill was my boss when Caelia was born and I will never forget the things she did for us. We didn't know Caelia had DS and weren't prepared for it, it terrified us and was a confusing time. Jill told me to take as much time off as I needed and to not worry about using my vacation up, she made sure I got paid, even when we had to take Caelia back in to the hospital when she had jaundice.

We had the opportunity to meet Rick a few times and he is a great guy and a wonderful dad. You can read more about Rick and everything that happened to him at this site:

They are having a benefit for him to help pay for prostetic legs this Saturday, I wish we could go and give them support in person, but our annual Halloween party is scheduled at the same day and time. Please read Rick's story and think about sending a donation. Keep him and his amazing family in your prayers.

Thanks, Randy

October 10, 2008 - Have you seen this?

This is the bag that I carried all through Ukraine. It can hold amazing amounts of stuff. It held my medication, passport, some money, a bottle of water, cell phone, camera, makeup and Russian phrase book. It straps across the front so it was always safe from pickpockets but easy for me to grab what I needed without digging. I love this bag and now that I have my new laptop - I love it more. My laptop fits in this bag. It pushes the flap up a bit but it fits and so does all the stuff from before except the bottle of water. Yes, the laptop is in this bag in this picture.Oh- this will make airport security go so much quicker and I don't have to carry Randy's impossibly heavy (after 22 hours) backpack around like some beleagured turtle. The laptop in the raffle is exactly like this one. The keyboard works great for me but I did have to get used to having a smaller control keys.

And that is a Curious George standard DVD (One of Lera's favorite!) just to give you a reference to the size.

October 9, 2008 - An unusual holiday

Those of you who know us well are aware that we like Halloween. I mean really like Halloween. I like any holiday that I get to spend celebrating with my family. I love Christmas, adore Thanksgiving, rejoice on Easter and celebrate with the best of them on Independence Day. Halloween, however, has a special place in my heart.

I was 6 years old the first time I went trick or treating. It was wonderful. I was out at night (well past my usual curfew), I got to go door to door and collect candy and treats. I was Tinkerbell. I had the little green dress and wings and one of those awful plastic masks and a bright orange pumpkin to carry my loot home in. I remember walking up to one house that I had visited before and the guy at the door (not scary looking) reached out with a huge stash of candy in a (gloved) gory looking hand. He made one of those monster/villain laughs as he dropped it in my pumpkin. YAAA HA HAAAA! I said thank you and ran for the street where my dad was waiting and SMACK INTO A PARKED CAR! I have been hooked ever since. I was 6 years old and decided that good things aren't always easy to recognise, that my Dad was always there to dust me off and that the things that go thump in the night aren't always something to fear (trust me - a lot of people who witnessed my flight, laughed themselves silly once they realised I wasn't hurt).

Moon Pies are a great motivator for a 6 year old but you would think that I would have outgrown this love for Halloween. Not so! Every year we throw a Halloween party for all the children we know. We have lots of kids and adults that come to the party. Anyone can dress in costume who wants to - but its not mandatory. There is lots of food and games - even a pinata. The children run about with glow bracelets and drink Dragon's Blood Punch (a putrid looking mixture or grape juice, orange juice and Sprite that tastes pretty good) All food HAS to have a disgusting name to be Halloween party worthy. Most of all, I like that it is not at all solemn - it is a night when everyone is a kid and acts like a kid and no one thinks twice about it.
These are our Halloween Party invitations for this year. I made them from a photo we took of our house a few years back.

October 7, 2008 - Our walkway

Randy and I spent a large amount of effort and time repairing our front walk. It was in pretty rough shape and we decided that it was better to do it ourselves and use the money for Masha than have someone else do it. We still believe that this was a good use of our time but if you had asked us mid-way through we might have given you another answer!

We decided that pavers were a better look for our house and I have to say that I am thrilled with the results (and no, we have no plans to do this with our driveway - 22ft was long enough)

This is the almost finished project. I forgot to take a picture of the finished version before we started decorating for Halloween (more on that next post)but what do you think? Does it look better than a concrete sidewalk with our house?

September 2, 2008 - Guess who's 6?!

Our beautiful Valeria is 6 years old today! She got to celebrate with new classmates, friends and a family that loves her. Instead of being a day to fear and dread, her birthday found her standing in front of her first birthday cake, grinning from ear to ear while everyone sang "Happy Birthday". And yes, in the end she ended up with 3 birthday cakes, just like her sister Caelia.
You are probably reading this well after her birthday. I am terribly sorry but my girls love the camera and anytime mama is forgetful and leaves it within reach, they try their own pictures. I am certain they are wonderful photos - except that Caelia insists on pointing the camera at her own face (afterall - that is the part she sees most frequently) and all I get is a lovely pink blur. After they are finished with their photo session, they hide the camera and I spend days hunting it down. I found it!

August 24, 2008 - The Great Minnesota Get Together

Otherwise known as the Minnesota State Fair. The Fair is an annual event in our house with extra importance because of Michael. Michael has proudly proclaimed that he has never missed a Fair in his life. He was barely a month old when we took him the first time. He also insists that he NEVER will miss a Fair. We are getting close enough to finished with our paperwork that it was a concern that we might miss this one. We are still waiting for our I171h to arrive. It always seems to be the sticking point in our adoptions. It is very frustrating - but I digress. The point of this post is the Fair.

There is about 2 hours of preparation that goes into an outing like this. First, there is the cooler and diaper bag. Caelia needs electrolytes - she dehydrates fast and most things upset her tummy and one of the best parts of the Fair is the food. So, water, ice, electrolytes. Medications, sunscreen, diapers and 3 changes of clothes for each girl (and a clean shirt for Mama and Daddy in case one of the princesses - probably Caeli - chucks up her cheese curds. The girls are really trying on the whole potty training thing - but they haven't quite got it down yet and the Fair is the last place to try to practice. Lines for the womens' room is always long.

Everything needs to fit into the stroller. We currently have a double jogging stroller. You wouldn't think that a stroller was a necessity for a 6 and an almost 6 yr old but Caelia does evenutally tire and Lera seems to tire easily. The stroller serves a couple of purposes. It is handy for containment purposes. You don't want to have to chase 2 girls running in opposite directions. It is a safety device. Not only does it keep them from wandering, it protects them from people who plow blindly through crowds and never mind the child that is tottering along in front of them (a personal pet-peeve - especially if they are walking with a lit cigarette at little face level). It saves Daddy's back. It saves Mama's back and shoulders. Shoulders because of how heavy the diaper bag with supplies gets to be. There are problems with the one we have - like we will soon need a stroller for 3 or 2 strollers.

We are thinking of getting the same stroller that Meredith has ( It is practically impossible to find a stroller to accomodate 2 bigger kids but this one looks like it might do but anyone with another suggestion, please let us know. The Valco Baby stroller has a great feature - a toddler seat that can attach in the front for a third child to ride. Sounds like a plan to me - if it can accomodate my big girls.

Anyway, our current stroller will do while we have only two riders. It just requires a bit more effort. It is designed for a taller person (which I am not) and it has a fixed wheel in front so you need to pop a wheelie to make turns. This is a bit tough to do with over 100 pounds of precious cargo.

Grandpa and Uncle Ryan went with us. The girls were very excited. They were aware of going somewhere special but I don't think Caelia remembers it clearly and nothing in Lera's memories are like the Fair. As soon as we drove onto the fairgrounds, the girls were pointing and trying to get loose. Lera saw the Midway (where all the rides are) and started shrieking. We took her to a small carnival around Independence Day and had to carry her back to the car kicking and protesting when it was time to leave because she so wanted to go back to the games.

It was a beautiful day. Sunny, pleasant and very busy. Our first stop was the animal barns. Not a favorite of Michael or Ryan or Randy for that matter but the girls really like the animals. A very nice boy asked if the girls wanted to be his calf. She was very sweet and mostly stayed asleep. Lera was thrilled! Then we went to see the sheep and a wonderful lady introduced her to a lovely nanny goat. We saw bunnies and chickens and turkeys. We discovered that turkeys and chickens really hate Ryan. All he had to do was walk past one and it would get all ruffled and noisy. Lera had to touch everyone of the animals they had out to be petted. So much food. Pronto pups, turkey legs, milkshakes, caramel apples in a dish, pulled pork sandwiches, deep fried cheese curds, mini donuts, porkchop on a stick, pickle dogs and of course, the footlong hotdogs were great! Two ends - no waiting! Michael is such an anomally. In the midst of all of the noise and crowds, he finds a small garden and while the girls scarf down a "meatball sundae" he spent his time trying to coax a butterfly onto his finger to show his sisters. In addition to food and animals there are also rides. Oh, boy, the RIDES! Pictures discribe these better than I can.

By far, however, the best thing about the Fair is the MUSIC. Both Caelia and Lera seem to live for music and to dance. This is a bit tough when Mama has you buckled into the stroller but when you gotta gotta dance.

August 23,2008 - You could save a life!

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August 19, 2008- Mission accomplished!

I managed to clean the girls' room before they could destroy it again. I took pictures just to prove it. Lera is very happy about the new arrangement. She likes where we moved her bed. She is so cute when she goes running to get into bed. She has come so far since we brought her home. She always went to sleep easy, really too easily. She didn't protest, she didn't dawdle - just into bed and fall asleep. She seemed somewhat baffled by our insistance of hugging and kissing her goodnight. Flash ahead six months and bedtime is a whole different story. She bounds into bed, wriggles around under the covers waiting for us to notice the giggling lump, then she pops up and tucks Mishka in next to her and waits (usually giggling) for us to say the official goodnights. Now we must say goodnight to Mishka, kiss Mishka, rub Mishka's nose and then we can move on the Lera's goodnight. Hug Lera, kiss Lera, rub Lera's nose...she manages to drag out goodnights a good ten minutes now. She still falls asleep within minutes.

Caelia has changed in six months too. She has gone from sleeping with us, to going to sleep in her own bed without anyone snuggling with her until she goes to sleep. She started out sleeping with us because she would choke during the night and we would have to get her upright. We tried this with her in her crib but it took so long to negotiate to her bedside that I thought it made her choking so much worse. As she grew out of the choking, we never could convince her that the big girl bed was as comfy as Mama and Daddy's bed. When Lera arrived, Caelia seemed to want to stay with her friend. She now goes to sleep on her own. I miss her but I do like having the ability to turn over at night. Still, she occasionally requests one of us to snuggle with her until she falls asleep.And in the time that I typed this short post, the two little storms have swept a path through their rooms again...oh, well, I know what I will be doing while they are at school tomorrow.

August 18, 2008 - Time for a little work

As you can tell by the last video clip with the girls dancing- my living room is a mess. All those papers that were dumped out in the floor were part of my mad search for more documents that I needed to send to Russia. Yes, we are getting that close. Still waiting for the USCIS to send us our approval but that is about all we need. The paper I was looking for was a tiny receipt that had our fingerrprint ID's for our local Police clearance. Our fingerprints are still good so all I needed was to have them pull the records and re-run the background check - this would save Randy from leaving work during the fragile 2 hour window that they give you on Fridays to be fingerprinted. It is a mountain of paperwork and a lot of effort to complete an international adoption but I think these are worth it.
However, my livingroom is nothing compared to the girls' room. Michael very aptly calls the girls Hurricane Caelia and Tsunami Lera. Today we will be working on making their room sparkle. We also need to think about arranging their room to accomodate a new arrival. The room is plenty big enough - if you remove all the excess toys. We are working on the outside of the house, so the familyroom in the basement is on hold. In Minnesota the season for home improvement to the outside of the house is pretty short - especially if you are trying to pack as much playing in the warm summer sunshine as possible!

I will be posting at least every other day as we approach our travel. At least, that is the goal - blogging is hard to do with 110 pounds of squirming, giggling girls on your lap.

August 17, 2008 - A little bit of fun

First, there was swimming: Then there was playing outside: There was even time for a little artwork by Caelia. She chose a bright pink nail polish as her medium and added her artwork to herself, the sofa and the livingroom carpet:)

And then it was time for some dancing. Lera throws herself into this with great enthusiasm. Caelia was very tired but still determined to dance the night away.

If you listen to the last clip with sound you can hear Lera excitedly saying "Lera!" over and over. That was not: "its Lera's turn" but her looking at the camera as I was taking the clip of Caelia. Even she gets confused...