Thursday, April 12, 2012

Starting First Grade

Just shy of six months home from Ukraine, we decided that we were all settled enough from the adoption, the move, the doctor's appointments and life in general to get Julia enrolled in school.  It took us a couple of weeks to meet up with the school district, get all of the assessments done and start our Individualized Education Plan.
As a team, we decided that it'll be best to start her straight into 1st grade.  She will be attending a regular elementary school, but will be in a Special Education Cluster Unit with 8 other students grades 1-3.  There is a great student-adult ratio in the class and her speech therapist will come to her three times a week.  Since we got her in at such a late point of the year, she will also attend classes a bit throughout the summer to keep the routine aspect going.  It's also a school outside of our regular boundaries since they were best able to meet her needs, so starting next week, she will also be bused there and back with a special seat to keep her in a safe position!  She's also going to be going full time, so she'll be there for 7 hours a day, with a short day of Fridays.
After all of the meeting and testing and all of that, as of April 11th, Julia is now a first grader!

Her teacher said she did great on her first day and was just taking it all in.  She sent home a cute little behavior chart on which Julia got all smiley faces.  She even sent home her very first school work!
Even though it's great to see progress, the 'freestyle' "writing" still makes me smile.  It all does! After almost 7 years of having no words to express herself, six months after we checked tags on her shirt at the orphanage to see a size '18 months' and nearly 5 1/2 years after another mom and dad gave up on her. Now, here she is--well fed, dressed appropriately, happy, and ready to learn! The changes in her life still astonish me sometimes.  So much potential in there just begging to be let out!  So here we go on another leg of the journey.  I am so excited to see where this one brings us and can't wait to see the real Julia unfold more and more each day!

A Colorful Easter

We had a wonderful extended Easter this year.  We started by coloring Easter eggs on Thursday night when both Robert and I would be home from work.

Watching the egg go down...
Checking sister's technique
Yep, coloring like a pro!
Very proud that she did it and super excited to see the results!
Hard at work
Crayons add some great artistic touches
One of the other reasons we used Kool Aid to dye them!
Stirring, just in case it helps
Checking the color
Where did it go?!? 
Hooray!  Stirring green water is just as fun!
That would be the 'something naughty is happening' smile
Yep, the eggs go crunch AND squish.

Then on Friday, Robert took the girls up to dinner at his grandparents where they each got a basket of goodies.  On Saturday, there was another visit with Easter baskets from grandparents and finally on Sunday, after I got off of work, we got our family's celebration underway with an egg hunt in the backyard, more baskets and a small dinner with Robert's mom and step-dad and my sister and her family.  Everyone had quite a lot of fun and Lily and her cousin are inseparable whenever they get to play!

Dinner was over by mid-afternoon and it was a beautiful day, so the girls ended their Easter Sunday the way they spend most of their warm afternoons, getting dirty in the yard and scrubbing up afterwards.

All that and the fun isn't over because my parents were out of town so we'll be planning another dinner coming up soon!  Nothing beats a great holiday celebration like celebrating for an entire weekend!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Oh yeah, the blog...

Okay, so I didn't actually forget that I had a blog.  As a matter of fact, I've thought about and wanted to write many times since my last post.  What it comes down to is that a lot has changed for us.  Julia was experiencing so much for the first time.  Lily is taking on a new role and a sister (sometimes the big sister, sometimes the little sister).  We are all learning how to be a family of four.

In January, we bought a house and made the move.
We all pitched in and worked hard...
and packed everything and everyone into boxes!

It is much larger and the girls especially are loving the extra room to play.  The size is perfect for us and the price was right so we jumped on it!  Both girls handled the move well beyond our expectations.  Much to our relief, there wasn't any particular increase in being scared at night or loss of sleep.  We even gave them separate rooms since their bedtime routines didn't seem to effect each other either way.  Julia can even tackle the stairs with ease now if she goes up and down by herself.
Now that the weather is cooperating a bit here and there, the girls' favorite attribute of the house is the backyard.

While the pictures are fun and cute, the last one in particular catches a glimpse of something very exciting for us--playing together.  Back at the orphanage and since we've got her home, Julia was always content and even usually preferred to be left to her own at playtime.  It made sense in the fact that she's delayed in her social progress and overall development.  People with young children can remember that playtime slowly moves from independent to side-by-side to interactive.
On most levels, Julia is testing around the age of 2 or 3, which again made sense not just in the orphanage and FAS delays, but the fact that they kept her in the groupa of 2-3 year olds so she wouldn't have witnessed development whether she would have been considered capable of it or not.  Anyways, the fact that she is 'growing up' and showing advancing social skills like occasionally playing interactively is very exciting!

Our little Ukrainian import actually continues to grow in all sorts of areas.  One being her physical growth.  While she's stopped putting on weight at a rapid rate, this little gal is most definitely growing!  This girly is going to be tall!  In five months she's grown a full clothing size as her 4T stuff is becoming 3/4 length sleeves and just about capri pants.  Good thing she is still such a skinny little lady, so we can just trim up the legs and keep them as shorts! :)

She's also got a ton of hair!  Thankfully, we don't hold the orphanage belief that summer is too hot for hair and won't whack it all off!  (That one still makes us roll our eyes!)

There is no other way to put it, but Julia simply continues to just amaze me.  The little girl that they said learned no words in her over 6 years in Ukraine can now say 'hi', 'bye', 'yeah', 'no' (I'm counting it even though it sounds more like 'nah' because there is no mistaking her meaning no when she says it!), 'shoes', 'chair' and is pretty dang close to saying her name and knowing that it means her.  She can sign for help and sign to let you know she is all done.  And even though her reciprocation of English is limited, I cannot even describe how much she understands!  It marvels me how I can tell her just about anything and she pretty well gets it.  Once we break through the language a bit, this little cookie is going to be unstoppable!
And speaking of cookie, I just couldn't help but add these pictures too...

Yes, the first one was cake batter and the last one is Java Chip ice cream...which she loved.  And tried to dig out of the garbage after it was gone, refusing to believe it could be totally empty.  What can I say?  She's got momma's sweet tooth!

As for what the near future holds for us, we are meeting with our school district tomorrow to see about starting her in some classes and/or therapies.  After that, we are just excited for Julia's first Easter at home and we'll see where things take us from there.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A beautiful game of 'Where's Waldo'

Were you able to find Julia's picture from back when she was known as 'Melissa' and known to so many as a statistic among thousands of children waiting for homes. 

Now she is home, as are 195 others just like her thanks to Reece's Rainbow!  All this in just one year!  Thanks to so many people involved in adoption both directly and indirectly.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Very New Year

I'll admit, I barely remember how we rang in 2011.  I think we went to a friend's house for a bit and then probably came home not too long afterwards.  I am almost certain I made some resolutions that were quickly forgotten and likely not acted towards achieving.  
I probably vowed once again to lose some weight or get more organized.  
The biggest change in myself last year didn't come from my list made on January 1st.  

It came from her--

We decided that 2011 would be the year we would add another little one to our family.  
We had no idea it would be this little girl from 6,000 miles away.

Our journey started with Foster Care training courses, took a detour through a women's prison ministry and 10 months later, found us on our first international flight to a country we knew very little about to adopt a little girl we knew even less about.  It was a year of anxiety, faith, anticipation and finding strength in unknown and unforeseen places.

Her year was filled with the same room, very few articles of clothing and some as small as 12 month, frequently changing caregivers paying very little attention beyond basic needs, and interactions filled with rules.  For the most part, it was a year exactly like the 5 years prior to it.

Then came this day--
And after that came this--
A family.  Friends.  Love.  Care.  A future. 
All so remarkably new to a child who's been on this earth for 6 1/2 years already.  
And also a new outlook on those exact same things for all of us.

It's amazing to look back on what the past year has held for our family and I can hardly wait to see what is in store for us in 2012. 

Happy New Year from our family to yours.