Thursday, July 21, 2011

Too busy to blog.. (among other things)

I can't believe how fast July seems to be going.  Less than 2 weeks and Anya will be flying home (if you can really call an orphanage home).  We have been trying to make the most of the time she is here.  Every experience is new and fun for her, and of course fun for Tony and Bella, so it's a win win for everyone.  
Part of the requirements for participating in the New Horizons for Children hosting programs, is that you agree to take them to a dentist (dental hygiene and care is basically non-existent in Ukraine) and an eye doctor.  No big deal right?  I found a coupon online through Living Social for a dental exam, cleaning, full x-rays and a flouride treatment for $50.  That seemed like a great deal, so I snatched it up, crossing my fingers that it was a decent dentist.  I have experienced and firmly believe that most often, you get what you pay for, but on the other hand, I am also a sucker for a good deal.  So I bought it, and hoped for the best.  I passed the deal onto my sister who also snatched it up, and luckily got her appointment first.  The report was, it was a very nice dental office and very nice staff.  They also gave Rachael a 50% off rate on the filling that her host son needed, and threw in a free sealant.
The next week was Anya's turn, and she was not thrilled to be going, but the obedient girl she is, went along without a fuss.  My experience was great, for not speaking any English Anya did so good!  The hygienist was a pro at communicating with her, through pantomime, which has taken me weeks to get halfway decent at, and I still feel like an idiot when I am acting things out I don't know how to say.  Her dental exam/report was not so good:  8 cavities, and 2 teeth broken or decayed beyond repair (thankfully back molars that wont affect her smile) that need extraction.  Dr. Mahoney was so kind while in the room examining her mouth. He was asking me all about her, where she was from, why she was here..... the usual line of questioning I get.  After we were done talking and he finished his exam he said to the hygienist, "here is my plan, we are going to fill ...... and extract ..........  It will take 2 more visits at 2 hours per visit to complete the work."   The way he said so matter of fact that this is what would be done, I didn't feel there was any way I was going to be able to say, but what if I can't afford all of that, what has to be done, vs. what should be done? I was just going to have to suck it up and pay for it.  So instead I asked, "how much do you think all of this is going to cost?"  He held up his hand and made a zero with it.  I instantly got tears in my eyes and could barely speak, but he could sense my gratitude.  He said that for all we are doing for her, this was the least he could do.  (By the way, Dr. Mahoney volunteers at a free dental clinic on Fridays, but he did not refer me to the free clinic, he is doing it at his office.)  Oh and later that day, the dental office called my sister, and informed her that there would be no charge for the dental work scheduled for her host son.
There have been similar stories from other host families I keep in touch with.  Bad teeth for the kids, (as I said before, dental care is minimal to non existent for Ukraine orphans) and overwhelming kindness and generosity from their local Dentist.  We have all been overjoyed and overly impressed, especially me, since Dr. Mahoney isn't even my family Dentist.  (But I'm pretty certain he will be in the near future.)

Now for some of the fun....
Last weekend was our local, annual Venetian Festival (aka carnival), which is usually too crowded, too hot, and too expensive for the smart locals, but it draws a lot of crowds from all over Michigan.  With Sunday being the last day, and we had managed to stay far away from it, I considered skipping it all together, no one would know the difference or feel like they were missing out on any fun, if they didn't even know about it.  Right?  So yeah, I may not be one of the smart ones, cause I decided to take them.  Everyone else (all 3 of my sisters) was going.... so you know I had to go.

Other than the extreme heat (mid 90's) and ridiculous prices of food and rides, a good time was had by all.  Tony and Bella are finally 36 inches, (well Bella really isn't quite, but with her wild messy hair, and shoes on, she was close enough, they let her on) so they were able to ride quite a few rides this year.  They of course loved it!  Anya seemed to really like everything too, except the pirate rocking ship, she got a little (okay a lot) scared on that one.  Rachael had to tell them to stop the ride she was so scared.  She especially liked the rock climbing wall.  She is a bit competitive, and was very upset she couldn't make it to the top on her first try, so I bought her a second try, and she made it that time.  Winning a stuffed animal that she now sleeps with every night.  She seemed very interested in wanting to play carnival games, the ones to win a prize for.  Yeah, I'm all about showing her a good time, but I had to say no to that.  I hate those games, the prizes are junk IF you win them, and chances are, YOU WONT.  Total waste of money.

Then we came home and everyone (even Tony and Anya) took a 3.5 hour nap!  That made the whole hot miserable experience worthwhile for me.

Monday and Tuesday I had to work, so they were stay home with the babysitter days for the kids.  Francie came over on Monday and brought a stack of movies with her.  Asked if Anya could watch any of them.  I told her that she could, but not sure she would want to, since they are all in English.  I was wrong.  She watched 3 movies that night.  Legally Blonde, Miss Congeniality, and Savanah Smiles (my pick).  She seemed to like them all.  I can't believe she has gone 3 weeks without any TV and then sat down and watched 3 movies in English.  I wonder how much she picks up about what's going on in the movies.  I typed into the translator when she was watching Miss Congeniality "Do you even know what's going on?"  She typed back something that didn't translate properly, and all I got out of her answer was "police".  So who knows, but she obviously enjoyed them.

Wednesday, (yesterday) we got up and drove 2.5 to my sister Natalie's house for a day of boating.  I knew Anya would love it, but was pleasantly surprised to see that Tony and Bella loved it too.  Tony was my dream child for the day, Bella showed her naughty side for a good part of the day.  I told my sisters at one point, Bella is they type of girl that gives 2 year olds a bad rep.  She can be pure naughtiness and she does it with a smile on her face, like she knows exactly what she is doing.  I think there were several times I thought to myself yesterday, "I'm sure glad I'm having another boy." Not that I don't love Bella to pieces, but she is a handful, and I'm not sure I could handle another one like her.  Thankfully she is adorable and that seems to help.  If you ask her "Bella, why are you naughty?" she will say, "I don't know", then she will turn to Tony and say, "Tony, why am I naughty?" and Tony will say, "because you __________________, why did you do that?" (fill in the blank with whatever naughty behavior she just displayed.)  And Bella will say, "I don't know."  It's really kind of funny to hear them talking between themselves.  
While boating I saw a side of Anya come out that I had only suspected from small things I'd seen over the past few weeks here and there, but this girl has a fierce competitive streak to her.  She loved being pulled on the tube, and hated being told to give someone else a turn.  She never fell off, she held on with a death grip.  She decided a rule should be made, that whenever you fall off, someone else gets a turn, of course she said this while she was stuck on the boat watching others tube.   I think she was on the tube about 90% of the day.  She got the title of "tube hog"by all the kids.
All set with our new life jackets, ready for a fun day on the boat.

Sergeiy and Mason

Kristen, Anya and Katya

Our Boat Captain, Natalie

Sergiey (Rach's host son)

Rachael and Mason

It was SO hot, I had to get in the water.  Shockingly kids wanted in too.  That was a bit challenging.

Katya, Anya and Kristen

Ben, Sergey, and Jack


Rachael's boys  (I love this picture)

a whole bunch of kids

Tony loved the boat!!  

Bella not too thrilled with life jacket she picked out.

Anya was made to come in off the tube to give someone else a turn, and she was pouty about it, until Natalie told her she could drive the boat.  

The Ukrainians (Sergeiy and Anya) battling it out.  Adam whipped them around the lake for a good 20 minutes until Sergeiy finally fell off. They were tough though, Adam gave them a pretty tough ride, we were all impressed.  

Of course Anya won!  She wouldn't have it any other way.

We boated till the sun went down! 

The last ride of the day and she fell off ruining her perfect record.  She was begging for one more time, she didn't want to leave with a fall as her last ride.

Me and Bella

Annie and Rachael  (Annie is Rachaels friend from Lansing, who came up for the day with 4 boys.)
Annie, it was so great meeting you and your kids.  I'm really glad you made the trip.  The boys seemed to have a great time, and Oleg is so sweet, glad he was able to join us for the day.
my perfect in their own special way kids. 

A bunch of bummed kids that it's time to go home.
On my way home from boating yesterday, I got a call from the local newspaper, (The Herald Palladium), they responded to my letter I sent them, asking them if they had any interest in writing a story on these kids from Ukraine, and yes they do!!!  I'm so excited, I have no idea what I will say, or what they will write, so I'm kinda nervous about that, but I am excited to get these kids and the program, New Horizon's for Children, some media attention.  Maybe the article will get others in the area involved, and if it results in just one kid, beating the odds, and finding a forever family, then it will be a good thing.  

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Yesterday we had a large group that headed to Chicago for a day of sightseeing.   There was 6 adults and 8 kids in our group, which made for an interesting day.  I decided, after much debate, to leave Tony and Bella at home with a sitter.  So while in the city with only one person to keep track of, and that one person being 14 years old, my day was pretty easy.  Not only did I not have a ton of stuff to carry, the one bag (purse/camera bag combo) I did bring, Anya carried all day for me.  So with no kids to keep track of and no bags to carry, I had a constant feeling that someone was missing or I was forgetting something.  
The whole group (minus me, the photographer)

Anya and I

Once in Chicago we headed for Willis Tower (which I will always think of as Sears Tower, why would they change the name of such a famous building?)  We all headed up to the observation deck.  It was kind of cloudy and overcast, so the views were not as spectacular as I imagine they are on a clear sunny day, but it was still a great sight from 103 stories up.  We had fun taking pictures on the glass floor.  Anya was so scared, which I found funny, because she weighs far less than what most people standing on that glass floor weigh, and they weren't afraid.  
Willis Tower

Willis tower is 103 stories up
Francie and Lilia
Chicago from the top of Willis Tower

My niece Katya and I


Lilia (Chaparone staying with Francie)

Lilia teaches at Anya's boarding school.  They have had some good bonding time here in Michigan.  I hope Lilia will take extra care and pay special attention to Anya when back in Ukraine.

Francie and Mason in the gift store
After Willis Tower, we all piled into a few cabs and headed to Portillo's for lunch, where we would be meeting up with Serafina and her 3 boys plus Anijia (her host daughter from Latvia).  The food there is so good, we all had too much to eat, Anya's belly was protruding she was so full, well truthfully all of ours were, but it really showed on her cause she is such a skinny girl.  She ate a whole bowl of pasta and 2 big meatballs.  I think pasta is her favorite food she has had so far.  She always seems to eat a lot whenever we have it.  (another sign that she is a good fit for our family :))

We then decided to walk to Navy Pier (about a mile), stopping for pictures along the way.  The sun was shining and the day was getting hot.  Poor Serafina had to carry her 4 year old on her back most of the way.  I really felt for her, I know that would have been me if I'd brought Tony and Bella.  At one point she had one kid on her back, and one kid she was trying to carry in front of her.  Francie came to her rescue and carried one.  Once we got to Navy Pier, we rested for a bit in the gardens and took some pictures before heading over to the rides.  The swings were a big hit with the kids, we even got the 2 Ukraine chaparones to go on them.  

Me discovering that I didn't pic the most flattering shift to wear.  

Anya showing off her big belly after eating a BIG lunch

Irina, one of the Ukraine chaparones
Rachael and her 5
Francie and Mason
Natalie with her cute boy Mason 

At Navy Pier in the gardens

Sasha (our translator for the day) with Anya

Sergey and Ben

Everyone loved the swings at Navy Pier

Irina on the Ferris Wheel

Lilia on the Ferris Wheel

Katya playing in the fountains

Chicago from the top of the Ferris Wheel
After Navy Pier, we headed back to the parking garage (another mile back) so Serafina could get her van.  Before heading for the train station we all had some frozen yogurt which was a self serve (fill your cup as full as you want with whatever yogurt and toppings you want) and the kids really piled their glasses full.  Even knowing everything cost more in Chicago, we were all shocked at the cost of this yogurt.  For just Anya and I it was $15, and I just got a small amount for myself.  I'm not gonna say how much Rachael's was, but lets just say, she could have taken the family out to dinner back here in Michigan for what she spent on yogurt!!  
Anya enjoying her yogurt (she ate the whole thing!)

Then it was a mad dash to get 14 people to the train station, we had to take the Chicago Subway first, just to get us to the train station, we managed to get there 30 seconds before the train left.  

In Chicago we did all things that would have been fun for Tony and Bella, it was just the long day that worried me, with all the walking, or riding in the stroller for them, or worse, me pushing an empty stroller and trying to carry 2 kids that had me worried.  I promised Tony I would bring him a surprise if he would stay home with Micayla our babysitter.  He bargained for a green tractor with a chisel plow, and a cupcake.  Deal.  On our way home from Chicago, I remembered about the promised surprise, and since the farm store was closed, we swung by walmart and I got him a Cars race-track and a little toy doll for Bella.  When we got home, kids were happy and playing outside with Micayla.  Micayla gave me a big hug when she saw me and said she missed me and was so glad to see me!  (I translate that to, I made the right decision leaving them home.)  After I gave Tony his surprise, which he loved, he said, "but where is my tractor and chisel plow?"  I had to explain that they don't sell tractors in Chicago.  I'm sure by weeks end, he will have talked me into that tractor and chisel plow from the local farm store.  

PS in case your wondering, yes I did try to get Anya to wear something a little cuter and less comfy looking, but she was pretty adamant that was what she wanted to wear!