Sunday, November 23, 2014

GenerationsOn Tuesday, Nov 18, Rob's mom, Sheila, passed away.  She had been ill, so it was not a shock, but it was still very hard.  Calling hours were today.  The funeral is tomorrow.

We are very grateful for the seven years we have lived here.  We've had birthday parties, holidays, weekend visits, kid sleepovers, and hundreds of other visits and get-togethers.  The kids know and love her dearly.

Please keep us all in your prayers--especially the kids.

From one of my favorite early posts about Rob and his mom.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Notes from an angry food allergy person

The most exhausting thing about traveling for me is food.  I hate food.  Today's entire list of available foods for me: a scrambled egg, bacon, and very questionable potatoes around 10:30 this morning from a diner I found.  It's now 7pm.  I have found nothing else safe to eat today except to drink a ton of water.

Yesterdays finds: Ben & Jerry's for breakfast, a steak with baked potato at lunch (whoohoo!), and then some popcorn and candy from the gift shop for dinner.

Literally want to just cry I'm so frustrated with food.

Sunday?  The sandwich I packed for the plane, a bag of chips and a cruddy salad from a Subway (why do they practically puree them now?  yuck).

I'm hungry.

Surrounding my hotel are a huge collection of Thai, Chinese, Indian, and other restaurants.  Nothing that's likely to be reasonably safe.  I don't want to walk around a strange city by myself looking for something that might have food I can eat.  I really don't want to sit and deal with the menu process alone, but don't want to subject anyone else to it, either.

Looks like another pint of Ben & Jerrys from the gift shop.

And of the 5 flavors they have there, the only one that doesn't contain bits of brownie, cookie, or other wheat-containing product is Cherry Garcia.  I don't particularly like it, but it's literally my healthiest option.  It's that or Doritos.

Sorry, just venting.  3 days of near-fasting makes a girl extra whiney.

Sunday, November 02, 2014


So, missed the first day of NaBloPoMo which, is that even a thing anymore?  Does anyone really need another thing to do in November?  I mean, I'm swamped, aren't you?

I did get a nice kick-in-the-pants motivation for getting more writing done at my actual pays-the-bills job, though, and think I'll use NaNoWriMo to inspire me.  NaPaWriMo (Paper Writing Month) works for me.

Things here?  Good.  Sometimes great, sometimes tolerable, occasionally overwhelmingly hard enough for a good cry and a Klondike bar (Thank you, Klondike bars, for making the closest thing I can get to a gluten free ice cream sandwich.  Sometimes a girl just needs her comfort foods.).  Right now?  Daunting but in the "better get moving, or it won't get done" and not in the "might as well go to bed because there's no way this can get done" way.

Pip Pip, cheerio (but make mine corn chex.  They're gluten free, but less rhyme-y.)

Oh, pics of the kids?  Fine.

Halloween, and then fun hair extensions from Claire's (also known as "cheap-y enough to not be really seriously usable but cute enough to want to buy really expensive ones" -- the gateway extensions)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Adoption US style

Today we went to the court house downtown for Maryna's "re-adoption".  This is an optional step which basically just files her Ukrainian documents into the US system and recreates them in their US formats.  So she now has a US decree of adoption and a New York State "certificate of birth" (not quite a birth certificate) which will also be on file in the local county clerk's office.   This means that when she applies for a driver's license, or a job, or a college and needs a copy of these things, she can get and submit something from our local county.  We have a few spare copies in a safe place here, but if they were to go missing she'd be stuck requesting a copy from her home region in Ukraine, having it officially translated, and then dealing with the guaranteed confusion that would come from that.  Not to mention how much all of that would cost!  

We had the same judge that did Jorge's in 2009.  He's actually first generation Ukrainian-American and greeted Maryna in Ukrainian.  After the short signature portion of the morning, his assistant (also Ukrainian) took Maryna for a tour of the court house while Judge H talked informally with me and Rob about the Ukrainian community here, the churches, some upcoming events, and a few key contacts we'll be following up with.  

Our Family
As with Jorge's process, we were welcome to stay and play a bit.  The staff took lots of photos with my camera and played with the kids.  Sadly, these days are a rare happy treat in a family court setting.  Most of their days are spent dealing with families in crisis and coming apart.  So the whole staff was smiling as they listened to the younger 3 rattle on about school and books and their extended family while Maryna, Rob, and I chatted with the Russian and Ukrainian speaking court crew.

Afterwards we went to the Polish restaurant which has food pretty similar to Ukrainian.  The kids all rattled around the house all afternoon, Maryna made dinner (Wednesday!), and bedtimes are done.

I think, overall, the day was good.  Maryna seemed nervous or annoyed or otherwise out of sorts this morning.  In retrospect, I realized I had not actually given her breakfast.  We're working on the "help yourself" thing but she's not quite comfortable with it yet, so we tend to make her a breakfast plate and hand it to her.  I was trying to get a little work done this morning and Rob was out of the house until 10, so I dropped the ball there.  She was far happier after court and lunch.

Oh, the eye roll.  She takes her responsibilities as a teenager very seriously.

On that note, I find myself struggling with how much and what to write here these days.  I want to share all the ups and downs of integrating the newest member of our family and that dominates most of our energy and attention these days.  But I am also plunging into the world of teen parenting and teen boundaries.  With a baby or even a little kid, the goofy things are as much or more about the parent as the kid.  Babies aren't doing things intentionally, and so sharing their hard days isn't about privacy and respect, it's about the parents venting.  With a teen?  Yea, I'm not going to vent.  Whatever difficult parts of a day I have, I'm sure it's a cake walk compared to the average stress level in her day.

I love this girl so much.  I mean, just... this gets the "I can't even..." trail off.  We went to an event last week with a bunch of people that do speak her language and are from her culture, and they immediately started speaking to me in Ukrainian and Russian, too.  I quickly answered that I don't speak either language and they were visibly confused: how do you talk to your daughter? How could you possibly communicate and know each other?

And I looked at this beautiful girl that I have come to love with my whole heart, who I can exchange weak conversations with through a few gestures and carefully chosen nouns and verbs, but meaningful conversations via texts and translate software.  I thought of how much we love tiny babies before they know how to talk to us, and I didn't know how to explain it.  I just do.  I love my daughter.

Difficult days?  Of course.  Misunderstandings?  That's our life.  And Love?  Speechless.

Judge Maryna

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Life continues to roll on. Maryna and Rob have been home for just over 2 weeks and things are going as well as can be expected.  There are days of homesickness, frustration, and general overwhelmedness on everyone's parts, but especially for her.  She's working hard to learn English.  I'm impressed every single day by the bravery and optimism she finds to tackle the day.  The kids are including her more in their invitations to go for walks or play games.  August is finally doing his charming self and giving her hugs and kisses which no one can resist.  He was "shy of her" until about last week.

School is still not started, a topic which causes Maryna and me endless frustration and anxiety.  Every single day she asks when school will start, with increasing dread and fear on her face.

We called the school district about enrollment the day after they got home and left un-returned messages on Thurs and Friday (Oct 2 and 3).  We left voice mails and emails on Monday and Tuesday the 6th and 7th before finally reaching someone on the afternoon of Tuesday the 7th.  They told us where to get the forms and where to take them.  On Wednesday  the 8th, before 9AM, we'd filled out and submitted the forms to the necessary location and were told to wait 3-5 days.   We heard nothing else that week.

Monday the 13th was no school, and then Tuesday afternoon we got a call saying the medical stuff was ok'd and we'd finally have her papers fowarded to the guidance counselors.  Later that afternoon, we got a call saying we needed to bring her in within the next 30 minutes for her English test or we'd probably have to wait another week for that step.

Frustration, thy name is public school.   We're used to private schools.  They will bend over backwards and drive to your house and email you on the weekend to make sure you're happy and settled in.  Public school apparently sees us as one more hassle with nothing to gain (they already get our tax dollars for zero services provided, so now that we actually want services we're a net loss to them).  I am extremely annoyed by their "service" thus far.  So Tuesday afternoon at the least convenient possible time (little kid school pick-up), we rushed to get the English test. Afterwards, we were told to "call and schedule a tour tomorrow".  So, yesterday, Wednesday the 15th I worked at home all morning so we could go do the tour with Maryna.  By 11 AM with no word from them, we called them and were told they could squeeze us in Friday morning the 17th.  Oh, so you mean "Call tomorrow to schedule for eventually".  I see.  I went back to work for a 12 hour day.

So today we're staring at walls for the 16th day in a row.  Tomorrow morning we'll get a tour (guess how much I actually expect that they'll arrange for a translator?) and then maybe Monday we can start school?  Super convenient considering we have an adoption court appointment on Wednesday.  When we scheduled that, I assumed she'd be two weeks deep into school routine before we disrupted a day, but two days is about the same, right?  ANNOYED.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Kids














All 4 of them.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Maryna loves to cook, and she isn't particularly fond of much American food yet, so she really loves to cook traditional Ukrainian and Russian foods.  So we all win.  And we all gain weight.

Tonight: fried potato piroshki and an apple sharlotka.   August ate himself to sleep.  He fell asleep dreaming of how many he'd eat in the morning.

And there were leftover mashed potatoes, which means when we finally finished gorging, there was the first stage of the secret family recipe for cinnamon rolls.  There's a step that involves letting the dough rise for 11 hours, so it's over-nighting.  Tomorrow morning we'll prep the rolls.

You'd better believe she's part of the family, now.