Happy 6th Birthday!

It is almost Christmas here.  There is snow outside.  The Christmas tree has been decorated.  It is a time to be thankful for all of our blessings.  One of my favorite blessings turns six years old today...in Minnesota...in a home with a brother, sisters and parents who love her. 
She has changed so much since we first met our little Russian Princess in 2009!

She has become such a big girl. She is smart and so very sweet. She is also chatty and bossy. Mostly she is very loved.

We had a small piece of cake for her and Lera to eat today but her big cake is for tomorrow when all of our family will be here for Christmas Eve but today she was the center of attention and got her presents and Lera and Caelia even allowed her to choose the movie in honor of her special day.  She seems a bit confused still about the birthday thing, probably because of how close it is to the holiday.  Does anyone else have this problem?


The latest on our adoption.....

After almost a year and half of trying, waiting, wishing and hoping we have been told we cannot adopt Angelina. Our paperwork sat in St. Petersburg for months and was finally sent to be submitted to the MOE. On the first try they refused to accept it with the reasoning that a new judge in the region would not approve us since we already have four special needs kids at home. Frustrated but unwilling to yield we begged our agency to try and convince the judge or the MOE to reconsider, we wrote a long letter explaining all the reasons adding one more child would not be an issue for us, stating how Michael was close to becoming an adult and even with the diagnosis of Asperger's was not a burden and in fact was very helpful with the girls. We also laid out our support network, the services the girls receive at home and at school and the great support we get from our family. Armed with that information our facilitator seeing our commitment met with the judges assistant to try and convince them to reconsider. They balked and wanted some documents that the MOE had, the MOE was unwilling to release the documents as they are convinced the judge will never say yes regardless of our story.

So a long journey is coming to a disappointing end, we're frustrated and heartbroken to say the least and it's taken a lot out of us emotionally, financially and frankly physically. To think that Angelina would be better off in an orphanage than dancing with her sisters is upsetting beyond belief. She should be a part of our family and be loved! So where does that leave us? We're not sure what to do and how to proceed, our documents are so old it would be a significant chunk of money to get everything updated and to start anew. We are weighing our options and hate to give up on bringing another child home, but just don't know if we can swing it. Where does it leave Angelina? Unfortunately it leaves her in a mediocre orphanage in Russia for now. She does have a grant and any monies we raised or collected will stay committed to her. We would encourage any paperwork ready family looking for a beautiful daughter to consider her and ask that her angels who advocated for her previously pick it up again. Please know we tried and tried, we have letter after letter of recommendation from teachers, paras, friends, family and doctors we tried to use to convince them to reconsider us, but stubborn as Sheila and I both are, we just can't figure out anything else to do, but hope another family will consider her.

We haven't blogged a lot lately and obviously with everything going on in Russia couldn't talk publicly about most of this. We hope to get our blogging up to date and let people see the progress Caelia, Valeria and Masha have made. We know there are many people out there who enjoyed hearing about them and Michael. And regardless of whether we adopt another child will remain advocates for the Down syndrome community, international adoption and children's care and well being in these orphanages. A big thank you to Karin and Elaina at HIH for all of their work and effort on our behalf and for trying your best in a very difficult situation. And thanks to everyone for their support through the whole process. Keep Angelina in your thoughts and prayers as well as all the orphans out there.

Better late than never....2011-12 School Pics

I finally got around to scanning the kids photos for this school year, its hard to believe how fast they grow. Michael looks like a man now, Caelia is becoming a young lady, Valeria still hasn't found a camera or mirror she does not love and Masha is just cute as a bug!

The Great Minnesota Get Together 2011

Or End of the Year (part 2)

We continued our streak of 15 years of going to the Minnesota State Fair. We haven't missed one since Michael was born. He won't let us. It is getting to be more of a challenge navigating the crowds with all the kids but it is so much fun and the kids adore going.

Caelia loves the cars.  She is too small to drive by herself, so Daddy took her and Michael took Lera.  I don't think that Lera was so certain about having Michael driving though.

Masha was too small to ride even with an adult but she cheered for them.

Lera was much happier in the horticulture building and became friends with the honey bear.  Actually, we had to pick her up and carry her away because she loved the bear so much.

Grandpa, Uncle Ryan and Christopher came with us this year. This is a really big help. It means that we don't all have to do every activity and it makes eating a bit easier. The State Fair food is incredible! Lots of things on a stick, lots of really fattening, fried, sweet, sugary stuff that is best shared by lots of people so that you don't go into a food coma.

They got to see Sharky from the Mall of America Aquarium.  They love him and once again we had to tug Lera away.

They hung out and rested a bit at the Peanuts statues.

Caelia adores the rides.  So does Masha evidently.  Lera used to be very excited to ride, now she isn't enthusiastic but loves them once they start moving.

Can you believe this picture is of Randy and Caelia on the swings?  No way Mama is taking her on this thing.
All of the kids like the games.  Michael and Caelia make a great team and Caelia takes her shooting very seriously!

Masha rode in the stroller a lot. She has a lot of difficulty walking and tires easily. Lera tires too, so she shares the ride with Masha on occasion. I can tell when it's time to head to the car when Caelia wants to ride too. They actually all fit in this stroller in a pinch.

It was harder this year because Caeli has been diagnosed with anhydrous. This means that she does not effectively regulate her body temperature by sweating. She does sweat just not enough to cool her off and this summer was incredibly hot. Fortunately, we have handicapped parking placards so we parked close and were able to return to the car when the girls got too hot. This is what tired little girls look like resting in the air conditioning in the car. 

Christmas Photos

 Okay, this is kind of cheating but they were so pretty in their dresses, that I had to show them.  Not that they actually wore these Christmas Eve or Christmas Day but they do dance in them sometimes still.

 Caelia was getting irritated because Masha was not following her instructions.  My little Masha loves to be the center of attention (and the boss) but Caelia is Queen of the house.
Doesn't mean that Masha lets that stop her!