Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Farewell Dear Friends

Today is the one year anniversary of our "family day" - the day we were officially declared in court to be the adoptive parents of sisters Galyna and Anastasia. Like most others, I began blogging to keep family and friends updated on our journey while in Ukraine, but sharing our experience with you has been so rewarding, and blogging became such a habit, that I've continued since our arrival home last July.

I will probably never have the chance to meet you, so let me say how much you've meant to me, and to all my family. Your comments and emails have been such an important part of my life that it's hard to say goodbye. But the time has come for me to spend less time blogging and more time parenting as we become a homeschool family, juggling work and school.

I will continue reading your blogs of course, and may even start up a homeschooling blog later this summer, so perhaps you haven't heard the last of me.

Whether you are pre-adoptive, post-adoptive (or non-adoptive), I pray for all God's blessings on your journey. If you are preparing for a trip to Ukraine, I've listed some links to old posts below that you may find helpful.

The gift of adoption has been an indescribable joy for our family, and I thank you for sharing in our lives the past 13 months.

Grace and Peace - Jim

Memorable postings from our adoption trip to Ukraine:
  • The Scourge of Ukraine - this is why Ukraine's orphan problem is a real humanitarian crisis.
  • Going to Court - it's funny how we all get so wigged out about this. Dana wrote this beautiful post about that unforgettable day in Odessa.
  • A Day in Odessa - for most adoptive families, the craziness doesn't really get started until the last few days. Type-A folks beware, NOTHING is predictable about this!
  • Funky Odessa - this is a soulful city with fascinating people and surprisingly beautiful in places.
  • Life in the Orphanage - nothing beautiful about this!
  • Why Not Me? - a hard lesson learned.
  • The Mysterious Oleg - if you're using the "Oleg team," here's the man behind those cryptic emails!
  • The Ukrainian Holocaust - if your adoptive kids are from the pro-Russian parts of Ukraine (east or south), they need to know about this.
  • Time Warp - I'll never forget this day, traveling back in time to an abandoned Soviet air base.
  • The Permanent Things - as desperately poor as these people are, there remains much to be admired, and there's much for us to learn.
  • Beach Party! - if you go in the Summer, make sure to check out the beaches.
  • More on Odessa - prepare to have fun in this wild town!
  • Homecoming! - the moment we all long for. I'll never forget seeing all our friends waiting for us!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Great Summer Read

Colin Thubron must be one of the finest writers of our time. I came across Among the Russians (formerly titled "Where Nights Are Longest") on the excellent website of Dr. George Grant, a Presbyterian pastor in Franklin, TN, who has this extraordinary book listed among his 25 top "modern non-fiction titles."

If you've ever traveled in Russia or Ukraine (or plan to), you will be blown away by this fascinating story of Thubron's solo travels throughout Western Russia and Ukraine in the early 80's. He is stunningly perceptive while penetrating deeply into the soul of ordinary people, and his descriptions of them will hit home with anyone who's spent time in this mysterious part of the world:

"The whole country is like a requiem. In its consuming maternity, its individual children drown; and all other nations become petty or irrelevant - they are far away. From her own people Russia elicits a helpless worship of belonging. She contains them with the elemental despotism of an earth mother, and they feel for her the supplicant's tormented tenderness."

I love reading travel books in the Summer, and this is easily the finest in the travel genre I've ever read. If your adoption adventure takes you to Siberia, check out Thubron's In Siberia, which also gets rave reviews on Amazon.

Picture of the Week

We had a few moments of excitement recently when a brilliant rainbow appeared late in the evening. Everyone ran outside to take it in and it was made even more special when Galyna said that it was the first time she'd ever seen one!

The Joy of Mud

"...if you was my size the dirt would catch you up faster too."

-Nikki Giovanni

Friday, May 30, 2008

Farewell to Banner

Today was the last full day of school for the girls and we prepare to say goodbye to Banner Christian School with a very heavy heart. Teachers, administrators, fellow students and parents have embraced our daughters with nothing but love from the very first day they arrived.

Anastasia distinguished herself as an outstanding student, receiving awards for highest GPA in art and algebra, and for behavioral excellence. Headmaster Dr. Tom Burkett praised her for work ethic and gave her great encouragement for her academic future, reminding her to make the study of scripture her top priority as she prepares to study for the GED and move onto college.

Both girls were under tremendous pressure this year and we are so proud of what they accomplished. Galyna's Bible teacher says that she "blossomed" in the second half of the year and has shown great wonder and enthusiasm for serious study of the Bible. She made many friends, and this shot shows how sad she is to leave. Galyna's goal is to return after a year or two of getting back to basics in homeschool and we're going to leave that door open.
Choosing a school is probably the most challenging part of adopting older kids, and our family will always be grateful to God for bringing us to Banner Christian School.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Tearful Farewell To TMS

After three wonderful years, we had to say a tearful goodbye today to Tuckahoe Montessori School. It is so fitting that Christian was comforted by his teacher, as he and his classmates marched out. Calling "Miss Shelly" a teacher simply doesn't suffice. She has been such an important part of our son's life and has given him the most precious gift -- a love of learning.

It was an especially emotional day as we bid farewell to a remarkable woman. "Miss Pat" is retiring 28 years after founding this wonderful school, the mission of which is to educate the "whole child." I learned much from her during many long conversations about education, and her devout Roman Catholic faith. I've been enriched by coming to understand how truly Catholic and liturgical a Montessori education is, to reflect the order of God's creation.

Miss Pat has brought great glory to God during a professional career devoted to education. She has been such a blessing to our family. How we will miss her!

I've never seen a more tradition-rich city than Richmond and it is not surprising that Miss Pat's daughter Amanda will take over as Director. It is institutions like TMS that make this a great city, and it is good to know that it is in such excellent hands.

Christian with buddies Caleb and Anton - the "Pups" as Christian calls them.

Sometimes you come across people who you just know are doing what they've been called in life to do and such is the case with Miss Shelly. For three year's, one of the constant refrains in our home has been "Miss Shelly said......" Christian has adored this woman from day one, and after three amazing years, it is so hard to say goodbye. She has made an impact on our family that will last forever, both inside the classroom and out.
We love you Miss Shelly and will miss you greatly!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sharing Our Joy

In light of some of my recent self pitying posts, I've suddenly noticed how much joy we are surrounded by with our children. We are having a spectacularly beautiful Spring in Virginia, and our kids can't wait to go outside every day and play.

Christian has been reluctant to swing, but in the same week that he started riding his bike, he's conquered his fear of the swing! It's amazing to witness how much joy a child can have by simply swinging, and how much joy a parent gets by watching their children make progress.

Galyna is delighted now that watermelon season is here! This girl could easily consume a watermelon a day. We call them "galla-melons" around the house.

My older daughter has proven to be an excellent student, especially when it comes to studying the Bible. She reads and studies daily in her NIV and her Russian Bible, and has scored 100 on all her recent quizzes in Bible class. She actually scored 105 for acing the 91st Psalm - early!

Our daughters are one-quarter Jewish, so I like to imagine that Nastia seems to have an almost instinctive grasp of the Psalms. I think she is also beginning to "get" the gospel, and will soon meet with our Youth Pastor in preparation to become a communicant member of the church.

Witnessing this has provided her parents with a good lesson. We haven't pushed it on her, except to insist that she attends Sunday School, Worship, and Youth Group regularly. She was very unenthusiastic at first, but obviously God had different plans for her!

She has been surrounded by wonderful teachers, mentors, and so many people praying for her.

To God be the glory.