Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Three Years Later

Today marks three years since Alex stepped foot on American soil making her an official US citizen.  How can three years seem so recent, yet so long ago at the same time?  It is amazing the amount of progress she has made in such a short period of time.  And...it also feels like she's been here forever.  Weird.

I couldn't possibly begin to list everything she has overcome/accomplished since March 5, 2011, but here are a few highlights:


  • Speaks English amazing well.  She still sometimes mixes words up here and there, or doesn't know the definition of a word that seems so common, but overall I am stunned at how quickly she picked it up.
  • "Tested out" of ESOL in school after two years.  This is both good and bad.  Good that she did well, bad that she isn't afforded the protection of being an ESOL student.  It means she is just a regular student who doesn't qualify for special help if needed, for example, extra time on tests.
  • Recommended for Honors classes in French and Chemistry.  This is important for the HOPE scholarship, as students must have a certain amount of Honors/AP classes to qualify for HOPE.
  • Maintains an "A" average in school.
  • Learning how to study, do homework, and write original thoughts in an American school.  This is something that was new to her coming here, and it was painfully difficult for her to adjust.
  • Earned her driver's license.  
  • Continues to grow in skill level on her competition dance team.
  • Maintains her language fluency in Russian and Spanish.  She doesn't use Ukrainian as often, so I believe she is a little rusty with it, but I'm sure it wouldn't take much to jog her memory if she had to hold a conversation in Ukrainian.
  • Small group leader for a four year old class AND a 4th grade girls group at church.  
Alex is a wonderful daughter and sister.  She is definitely a typical teenager.  Sometimes we argue.  Sometimes she rolls her eyes at me.  Sometimes I roll my eyes at her.  There has definitely been pouting over the last three years, and tears, and even a little yelling.  Sometimes it feels like one step forward, two steps back.  But it all feels so right.  If you would have asked me on March 5, 2010 if I would have a teenage daughter four years from then, I would have absolutely laughed in your face.  How can it be that four years ago today I had never heard of Olga Baturina, but today she is my wonderfully kind, incredibly smart, outrageously beautiful, adorably sassy, and flat out funny daughter, Alexandria Olga?  I've said it before, but it is worth repeating: God's plan is always way better than what I could plan for myself.  

So here's a thought:  When someone asks you where you see yourself in five years...don't dream small. Dream big.  

Really, really BIG.  

Amazing things can happen.  

Truly.  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Hello...is this thing still on???

I'm not quite sure if anyone will actually still read this, but after a year and a half I thought it was time for an update.

All kinds of normal, run of the mill, life with a teenager stuff has happened since I last posted.  For one thing, Alex completed her Sophomore year of high school. She finished second semester with all A's, for which we are incredibly proud of her.  It certainly wasn't easy, but she is incredibly driven and motivated to do well.  And perhaps a little too stubborn to allow herself to do less than she is capable.  She was part of a competition dance team with a local studio, and while she was limited in the amount of classes she could take, she really enjoyed it and did well in her competitions.  She also earned her learner's permit for driving.  And got braces in the summer of 2012.

We were able to host a foreign exchange student this past summer from France.  Marguerite was here for four weeks.  She and Alex had a lot of fun hanging out and learning more about each other's country.  The opportunity came up through Alex's French class, and it sounded like a fun way for Alex to learn more about French culture.

Alex and Marguerite had birthdays one day apart!

 

Alex has become very involved in attending and serving our church, and accepted Christ and was baptized last fall along with her little sister.  She is a small group leader for both a group of pre-school aged kids as well as a group of 4th grade girls.  She chose 4th grade girls so she could be a leader for Maddox, and plans to lead that group for many years to come.  (Isn't that the sweetest?)  She attends her high school ministry every Wednesday night, which she loves.

Alex signing the "Baptism Board"

Maddox signing the "Baptism Board"

Maddox in prayer

Alex being baptized

Maddox being baptized

After the girls baptism


This year she entered her Junior year of high school.  This seems to be the year where things start to become serious for those students with plans to attend college.  That would be Alex.  She plans to take the SAT's in December of this year and is currently taking an SAT prep class through school to help her prepare.  Test taking has always been her weakest point, so she is taking every opportunity she can to improve her skills.

She was nominated to interview for the Governor's Honors Program in Visual Arts.  This is a pretty big deal, and an incredible opportunity.  She has County level interviews on November 7.  If she makes it to the next level, she will have State level interviews in January.  These are incredibly difficult interviews with a lot of competition.  What does she get if she makes it through both sets of interviews and becomes a finalist?  A four week scholarship to study art at a university in GA during the summer of 2014.  How amazing would that be for her?  She is almost done with her art portfolio that she will need to present during the interviews.  She has two weeks left to prepare for County interviews.

She is again on the competition dance team.  Competitions start in March so she is currently learning the new dances.  She has really grown as a dancer in these last 2+ years, and it is so fun to watch her.

Maddox and Alex before their recital


Alex earned her driver's license in September.  She has been driving to school, church, and the dance studio without (much) incident.  I won't mention the new tires we had to buy after a run in with a curb.  My hope with her driving was that her first accident would produce no injuries, nobody else would be involved, and it would be a real eye opener for her.  It only took a few weeks for my hope to become a reality.  :)  She is actually a good driver and I'm really proud of how responsible she is in that area.  What happened to her has actually happened to me, so it's easier to laugh about it.

As for my other two monsters sweet, precious, angel children...they are both doing well.  Rhys started middle school this year.  It's such a tough transition year.  He has always been a creature of habit, so change is always difficult for him.  He is handling it better than I had anticipated, although we aren't without struggles in some areas.  All in all, I am very proud of him and how much he has grown in maturity.  Maddox in in fourth grade, and doing well.  She struggles socially so I have her in a few clubs/activities to try to help her learn how to develop friendships.    

Rhys in Florida 
Mermaid Maddox

Ice Cream Break in Gatlinburg, TN

Ripley's Aquarium, Gatlinburg TN

Ripley's Aquarium, Gatlinburg TN

Ripley's Aquarium, Gatlinburg TN

Ripley's Aquarium, Gatlinburg TN

Ripley's Aquarium, Gatlinburg TN

Ripley's Aquarium, Gatlinburg TN

Ripley's Aquarium, Gatlinburg TN

Hiking in Smoky Mountain National Park

Hiking in Smoky Mountain National Park

Gatlinburg, TN

American Heritage Girl

American Heritage Outing
  




Thursday, May 31, 2012

Great Reports


First off, I wanted to write a brief update on Katie John.  She is the young mother I wrote about not long ago who was found by her husband collapsed on the floor of their home not breathing and with no pulse. I don't know if anyone was able to pinpoint exactly how long she had been...well...dead, but the paramedics were able to shock her heart back to life.  Miraculously, Katie not only survived but is doing quite well.  She was diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome.  Other than some short term memory loss, she seems to have made a remarkable recovery.

Now on to some fantastic school reports.  Alex had state mandated End of Course Tests (EOCT's) that she had to pass in order to graduate from high school.  If she failed any of them she would need to retake the failed portion in her junior year.  Her first test was in Algebra which she wasn't worried about at all.  Keep in mind that this is the same girl that had to take mandatory remediation b/c she was failing Algebra at the beginning of the school year.  She passed that one with an 84%.  The next two, in English Lit and Physical Science, she was very worried about and quite certain she would fail.  She ended up passing English Lit with a 70%!  Obviously that is just barely squeaking by, but we are all absolutely *thrilled* that she passed it!  The Science EOCT was the last one and the one I thought she would have the most difficulty passing.  She showed me.  She passed with a 74%.  After it was all said and done she finished the semester with three B's and three A's.  On top of all of that, Little Miss Smarty Pants went from a fourth grade reading level going into the school year and exited testing at a high eighth grade reading level.  Her English Lit teacher, who is also her advocate, called me personally to give me this news and to tell me how proud she is of Alex.  She added that most ESOL students only gain about 2 reading levels per year.  And because all of this isn't enough, Alex also tested so high on the ESOL tests, she is actually able to exit the program and be a "regular" student.  However, if she exited the program that would mean that she would no longer be afforded accommodations such as using a word to word, English to Russian, word translation book.  She also wouldn't be given additional time to take tests if she needed it.  We both agreed that Alex should stay in the ESOL program another year to get her feet planted firmly on the ground.  After next year she will simply be ineligible to remain in ESOL because her test scores will be too high.  I did speak with Alex about it as well, and she was in full agreement.  We are insanely proud of how hard Alex worked this year and how much she was able to accomplish.

Rhys and Maddox both had great school years as well.  Rhys was able to pull his failing spelling grade up to a "B" for the fourth quarter.  He finished with three "B's" and three "A's".  He also earned the science award for his class and the music award from his music teacher.  I must admit, the music award surprised me.  He was really excited that he got it.  He also had state mandated tests which he earned "Meets Expectations" or "Exceeds Expectations".  He did exceptionally well on the Science portion.   Maddox got all "O's" (Outstanding) with the exception of one "S" (Satisfactory) in spelling.  The most exciting part of finishing 2nd grade for Maddox is that her absolutely, fantastically amazing teacher has decided that she isn't ready to let her class from this year move on without her so she is looping with the entire class for 3rd grade!  Maddox is beyond thrilled as am I.  This teacher is the kind of teacher that Maddox will remember and give credit to for her future successes as an adult.

Maddox had a very big morning.  She has been growing her hair for over 2 years with the intention of donating it to Locks of Love  Today was the big day!  A great big shout out to Kelly at Kelly's Salon for the fantastic cut.  Kelly was kind enough to give Maddox a complimentary haircut because she was donating her hair to Locks of Love.

Last few minutes of long hair.

Hair down to her waist
After 10" was cut.

Getting it styled.
Finished!

She loves it!


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Katie John

A young woman that I know of through the Ukraine adoption community was found by her husband yesterday not breathing and with no heartbeat.  Her two young daughters were home alone with her at the time of her collapse.  Paramedics were able to resuscitate her and she is now in a medically induced coma.    The information I am posting below was posted on this young mother's Facebook wall by her father.  Please keep this family in your prayers.


I wanted to provide an update on what is happening and what will happen to Katie in the next 3 days.She was moved from the ER to the ICU last night sometime after 3:00 AM. Brett and I were allowed to see her for about 15 minutes. Since the hour she was admitted, she has been encased in a hyperbaric blanket that cools her core body temperature to 33 degrees C, or about 92 degrees F. This dramatically slows down vital body functions, alleviating her from having to work so hard, but also reduces the amount of oxygen required by the body. She'll be kept in this state until approximately 9:00 PM Tuesday. She is also on a ventilator to assist with her breathing. She is essentially in a medically induced coma using drugs that act as both an anesthetic and an amnesiac so that she will not remember any of the days of her treatment. Sometime on Tuesday night they will begin the process of very slowly warming her core temperature back to normal. This, by necessity, requires anywhere from 24 to 36 hours. Likely sometime on Thursday they will attempt to wake her up and evaluate her neurological condition to determine the degree of injury she may or may not have sustained. For the time being Katie's heart is beating strongly and there does not seem to be any immediate threat. However, it's what we don't know that will determine what happens going forward and we won't have an idea of that for at least 2 or 3 days. For those of you local to Myrtle Beach, the rules in the ICU are necessarily very strict for the next two or three days. We are restricted to very short visits in very short bursts, especially during the period of the induced coma. Even Brett is only allowed a quick visit every hour or so. We tremendously appreciate your expressions of love and concern for Katie and the family, and we are by no means saying you shouldn't come to the hospital if you feel you need to, but you must lower any expectations of visiting directly with Katie until we can get beyond the initial intensive treatment. What we need more than anything at this hour is prayer. It can be cliche to say or request that, but this is no cliche. In the natural there are circumstances about this event that make it difficult to hope. But there is nothing more encouraging than to read texts, emails, Facebook posts, and tweets from people literally all over the world who are praying around the clock in a wall of passionate supplication before God on Katie's behalf. We can't thank you all enough for the way you've reached out to Katie and the family. But now is the time to seek the sovereign will of God and beg for the life of my little girl.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Selflessness

This morning at church, Alex was invited to go with a group of friends to see The Avengers when service let out.  After talking with the mom who was driving the kids and exchanging phone numbers with her I sent Alex on her merry way and told her to call me when I needed to come get her.  Rhys was very upset about being left behind and not getting to see the movie as well.  After Jeff and I got home with Rhys and Maddox we asked some people we knew if it would be inappropriate for Rhys to see the movie.  After weighing the cons (language/violence) against the pros (fun movie, bonding time with Dad, a chance to talk to him about seeing/hearing things that might be inappropriate doesn't make it okay for him to repeat...) we decided it would be okay for Jeff to take him.  When Jeff told him that he could go to the movie he asked if Maddox could come, too.  Jeff told him no and explained that she was still too young.  In an amazing show of selflessness, Rhys said he didn't want Maddox to feel like he did when he didn't get to go with Alex.  He picked out a movie that would be appropriate for both of them to see.  I can't begin to tell you how proud I am of his actions.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Birthdays, Driving, and Houses

So, I wrote a very lengthy and detailed blog post a few weeks ago only to have it eaten by Blogger.  I felt like my dog had just eaten my book report.  It was too traumatizing to re-write.  :)  So this time I shall copy and save this post until I am sure Blogger is going to actually let me share an update here.

Spring break was the first week in April and relatively uneventful.  We didn't go anywhere, which might be boring to some people, (like my kids) but to me it was nice to not be on the go all the time.  Before spring break began all the kids got their report cards for third quarter.  Maddox is doing phenomenally well, as is Alex.  Rhys is doing pretty good with the exception of spelling.  He failed it.  I'll be honest here...I let him.  I didn't hand hold him all quarter to make sure he was doing his homework or studying for his tests.  He's in fourth grade so I really feel like he should be able to do the work and ask for help when he needs it.  Instead he just didn't do the work or study.  When he found out he failed the class he was devastated.  I am truly hoping this will be enough to motivate him to put a little effort into his studies.

We celebrated Rhys' 10th birthday this weekend.  We started Saturday with Rhys' soccer game (his team won) and then came home for lunch, cupcakes, and ice-cream.  Then Jeff took him, a friend, and Alex to play Laser Tag and they had a blast!  (Maddox chose to spend the afternoon with Grandmom, so she wasn't left out.)  Rhys' friend stayed the night which is the first time Rhys has had a sleepover here.  Today was church and dinner at the restaurant of Rhys' choice.  Red Robin...(say it with me...)  YUMMMMM...  Of course the staff sang Happy Birthday to him and he got a hot fudge sundae of which he ate every last bit.

Happy 10th Birthday, Rhys!




I can't believe I am about to write this, but, Alex got her driver's permit on Friday.  She is sooooo excited, and we are excited for her.  And a little nervous.  We have had two practice sessions so far and she is doing well.  Today we went to her high school parking lot which is huge, but as an added bonus they have a road going all the way around the school and various sports fields so she was able to drive on a "street" without actually getting out on a real street.  I asked her if she ever thought she would be able to learn to drive when she was in Ukraine and she seemed certain that this was an opportunity that she would have never had there.  We will have many more parking lot practice drives before we attempt getting on a real street.  Do they sell flashing magnetic signs for the back of your car that say, "Student Driver"?  Seriously.  And before anyone yells at me because Alex isn't wearing her seatbelt here, the keys weren't even in the ignition!  I just wanted a photo of her behind the wheel before she could think twice about it.

Ready to drive!


About a week and a half ago I was rear ended at a stop light.  Nothing serious, but the corner of my back bumper is all pushed in.  I really need to take it in to get fixed, but the last week has been crazy busy and I just haven't had the energy to deal with it.  I'm very grateful it was a low impact collision, nobody was hurt and none of the kids were in the car, but I really don't want to have to deal with getting this fixed!

Annnndddd...we put our house on the market a few weeks ago.  I know, great time, right?  We are building a new house not far from our current home.  It should be ready to close on late summer/early fall.  If we are unable to sell our current home I am confident we can rent it.  We live in a great neighborhood with amazing amenities and rentals here usually go fairly quickly.  It took me a very, very long time to get this house ready to go on the market and that was with the help of my mother.  Honestly, if it wasn't for her help I would probably STILL be trying to get closets cleaned out!  I do absolutely love being in a clean and de-cluttered house, but keeping it clean and ready to be shown on a moments notice is hard work! 

And that's about it for us.  The kids have six weeks of school left and they are counting down the days!  We don't have any big plans for the summer with the exception of a week of camp for each kid and trip down to Florida to visit my mother-in-law.  In addition to getting to see Grammy, we get to spend a lot of time at a beautiful beach that is only about 10 minutes from her house.

 

  

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Life in General

I'm not sure what happened to the month of February.  I'm in a little bit of shock here that there are only three weeks of school left until Spring Break, and then only another seven weeks until school is out for summer.

Anyway...Alex continues to do well in school.  She still struggles with tests in some cases, but even when she fails one she fails it much better than she did seven months ago.  :)  At the beginning of the school year her average science test score was around 35-40%.  Now it's around 70% which is 1% shy of passing.  She has made great strides in this area and we are amazed and so proud of her progress.  Her homework, classroom work, and projects always earn very high marks and because of that her averages in ALL classes right now are ABOVE 85%!  She has her schedule for next year and is very excited to be taking French.  Ooh La La...  Because, you know, being fluent in four languages isn't quite enough.

Dance team at school ended and she plans to try out again for next years squad.  She also plans to audition for the competition dance team at her dance studio this summer.  She is doing great in her recreational dance classes and learning a lot.  She has a lot of natural talent for dance, but until this past year had been limited to mostly Ukrainian folk dancing.

Speaking of this past year...we celebrated Alex' one year anniversary of arriving HOME on March 5.  We were able to hang out with our friends who were in Ukraine with us last year while they were adopting their son.  It was really amazing to look back at this past year.

Life seems pretty normal, if there is such a thing.  :)  I am really, really, really enjoying all three of my kids right now.  It seems like with kids that there is always one who is a little out of sync, but right now all three of mine are so much fun to be around.  My soon to be ten year old son had his first soccer game this morning and his team won 7-0.  My seven year old daughter auditioned for a play last week.  It was her first audition ever and I was so proud of how well she handled herself in front of a very large audience.  She didn't get a part, but she took it in stride and said she would try again next time.  She was such a big girl about it.

I've been thinking about this blog a lot lately even though I've not been writing on it.  When I originally started it my intention was to keep a record of our adoption journey and keep people up to date at the same time.  It had been an amazing outlet throughout the entire process and I am so glad I did it.  Even after we first arrived home a year ago it seemed like there was still a lot to write about because everything was new and there were so many changes for all of us.  Now...well, as I said earlier...life seems pretty normal.  I feel a bit odd only writing about Alex.  Even she asked me why I have a blog just for her and not her brother and sister.  Not sure where I'm going with this right now, but I think I want to make some changes in what I write about.  (Pretty sure I just lost half my audience with that, if anyone is even still reading this!)

I am going to keep the blog address the same, but I am going to change the title from "Adopting Olga" to........ well, I have no idea right now!  Suggestions are welcome!  For those of you who have followed this blog all along, don't worry!  Of course I will still be writing about Alex.  I'm just going to broaden the subject scope a bit.  I'm kinda winging it here.




Monday, January 16, 2012

I'm no videographer...

Alex had her first performance as part of the high school dance team.  Please keep in mind that my spectacularly bad video taking skills completely detract from the performance as a whole!  Jeff was out of town and missed her performance, but he will be there for this weeks performance and will be able to get better footage.  Until then you can chose to suffer through my video, or wait a week for Jeff's!  I think one of my biggest mistakes was trying to zero in on Alex because if you can't see the team as a whole then you miss the big picture.  All of that being said...Alex did GREAT!!!  Now...if I can just convince her to smile through the performance!

IF I uploaded this correctly, Alex is on the far right:


video







Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas...quick update

The school semester ended for my three kids on December 16.  M is only in 2nd grade, so it was basically a week long fun fest for her that last week of school.  R is a 4th grader and he did actually have a few tests.  Alex on the other hand had a full week of finals which she was very stressed about.  She studied very hard with her good friend that happens to be in four classes with Alex.  Her tests scores were anywhere from failing to passing with flying colors, but the important thing is that she finished her first semester of high school with one C, three B's and two A's.  We are so, so, sooooooo proud of her!  They return to school on January 3.  Alex will have all the same classes/teachers so she will not have to readjust to new teachers.

Christmas was absolutely wonderful.  Our younger two were up at 4AM, but played together in R's room until 6AM when we let them start opening gifts.  Since we were able to host Alex last year for Christmas, this was actually her 2nd one here so she knew what to expect as far as the excitement level would go.  Just like last year she received a new outfit as well as new products from Bath & Body Works so as soon as gifts were opened she hightailed it to the shower so she could try out and put on her new stuff.  The big gift, compliments of Jeff's mom, was a 14' trampoline.  Jeff finished putting it together today and it is a blast!  The kids love it, and honestly, I love it, too.  So much fun!  Also for Christmas I always host Christmas dinner for our family, my parents, my sister's family and friends.  We had 17 people here for beef tenderloin, ham, green beans w/bacon, butternut squash soufflĂ©, pineapple casserole (I know that one sounds funny, but it really is good...I promise!), mac & cheese, mashed potatoes, rosemary bread & rolls and, of course, desserts.  I had made butterscotch blondies and a coconut cream pie, and Alex made a cheesecake.  It is a full day of work but I wouldn't have it any other way.  It is one of my most favorite Christmas traditions.

All in all Alex is doing quite well.  She is really enjoying her dance classes, as well as learning dances for her school dance team.  The dance team hasn't been able to perform at a game yet, but will be doing so when they return to school in January.  I can't wait to see their performance!


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Family Photos

When Alex was our "host child" for Summer 2010 one of the things she really wanted done was have family photos taken.  She had no idea at that point that we were planning to adopt her, so it was really special for us to be able to have portraits taken at a studio with her as a family before she was even our daughter.  Unfortunately, that was really the last time we made it a point to take family photos.  Yesterday afternoon we headed off to a local park with camera and tripod in hand to capture our complete family.  Here are a few of my favorites...