Sunday, April 25, 2010

Renewing our Vows

In early March, I was folding laundry in my bedroom, and Anya was looking at one of our wedding photos. She asked if that was Daddy and me getting married, and I said, ‘Yes, it is’. Then she said, “I want to get married too”. Amused, I asked, “To who”? To my surprise she answered, “To you and Daddy”. “Well, as a matter of fact, I can arrange that. Let’s do it!” So, April 12th we got all dressed up and went to court to re-adopt Anya in the state of Georgia. I told her now that she was marrying Daddy and me it is until death do we part, so she wouldn’t be able to marry any boys.

As it turns out, our good friends Matt and Debbie were adopting their son Jacob that same day, so we were able to celebrate their adoption also in the same courtroom!

Our re-adoption of Anya was wonderful because we were able to have her in the courtroom, along with family and friends. Our courtroom experience in Russia was very stressful and of course, we had no one there with us to celebrate besides the adoption agency staff. But it’s just not the same as having your family and friends with you!

Now that Anya has married us, she has stated on a few occasions that she would now like to marry herself. Aw… how sweet. The narcissism of a 3-year old!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

One Year Ago, In a Land Far Away, A Family was Born

“I love you much”. The best hugs ever. Loves her “running shoes”. Eats cherry tomatoes like they’re candy. Poops for chips. Energetic is an understatement. Hates going to sleep. Book lover. Wants to eat at Moe’s several times a week. Sits still so that mommy will paint her toes. Loves being swaddled with a big towel after a bath and completely tucked in from head to toe before going to sleep. Party girl. Center of attention everywhere she goes. Good at ripping lettuce for a salad. Vociferous. Loves to swing at the park. Master manipulator. Unusually well-behaved for a child. Can eat a fully loaded 6” sub at Subway restaurant, with a side of chips. Happy. Bossy. Cell phones and cameras are her favorite “toys”. Doesn’t like being dirty. A good sleeper. Eats most everything. Gregarious. Charming. Lovely. Funny. That’s Peanut, in a nutshell.

My heart leaps for joy when I see her. To say that I love her just doesn’t seem to describe the full sense of the word. The Greeks have several words to distinguish love, and poets have innumerable ways of describing love towards others. The love I feel is more of a melting sensation. I get lost looking into Anya’s eyes these days, those perfectly shaped, sparkling ocean blue eyeballs. She seems to have only pure joy and happiness, and I just want to crawl in there to experience for myself what it is that she finds so magical. She is magnetic and it makes me want to protect her with all of my being from anything or anyone who might extinguish even a little bit of her essence. More profound, is the love that God has for us, and that it remains unearthly imaginable how great his love is. “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” Matt 10:15. There is where her joy and happiness are derived. If I will just simplify my life a little more like a child’s, I’ll be able to spend more time in God’s presence, like Anya does every day.

I’m not as diligent as I’d hope to be in teaching Anya about God, reading her Bible, and especially about praying. I fall miserably short in taking time to pray and study God’s word. So it surprised me last week when I asked Anya what she would like to thank God for, and she said “Jesus”. I’ve never asked her this question before. My first thought at her answer was, ‘Does she understand what she is saying’? Probably like many adults, I don’t give children much credit. She knows things I don’t know she knows. And beyond that, I believe she already has a very spiritually filled life, one that I am completely unaware of, and one that needs to be habitually nurtured. Children are a gift from God, and I’m thankful to be reminded of it and my responsibility to raise her as His child. After all, this is truly the only way God can assure her continued joy and happiness.

Travis and I feel God’s extreme favor in placing Anya into our family, and we feel like we got the best child ever adopted. I laugh, but it’s totally true. She’s all ours, and no one else can have her. All glory to God for the wonderful gift He has graciously placed in our family. Happy Gotcha Day Baby!!

Monday, February 23, 2009


February 1st we celebrated Anya’s second birthday, which was also her 4 month anniversary as a U.S. citizen. It was a small family party, but I went all out on Anya’s cake. As an excuse to purchase Valentine’s decorations, I bought several necessary items and made her the best chocolate cake I’ve ever made in the shape of a big heart. Inspired by a cake I once ate, I made a Devil’s Food Cake filled with seedless raspberry jam, whipped chocolate ganache, and frosted with chocolate buttercream. I decorated it with white, pink and red candied hearts, which was Anya’s favorite part of the cake. Happy Birthday Peanut!

Having a 2-year old scares me. I am acutely aware of how everything I do and say impacts her. So this is how dysfunctional families are born! Changing something about yourself is really hard, but when you have a reason to make a change, accountability and discipline are necessary essentials to make it stick. I have accountability, but I lack discipline. I just can’t seem to stop and think before I act. I’m one of those “in the moment” controlling A-type personalities. For instance, Anya starts a temper tantrum just before we get her into her car seat if we are leaving someplace. Her back arches, she twists herself this way and that, kicking and crying. It bugs the crap out of me every time. A screaming child just begs for attention from anyone within earshot and a video camera. So, I force her into the seat, and moosh her in the stomach with one hand so I can force the harness around her arms with the other. Then I’ll say something like, ‘I’m always gonna win this battle you little brat, so quit fighting it! AND, you’re going to time out as soon as we get home’ (which always adds an additional tantrum upon arrival).

I just started reading a book the pediatrician suggested called Raising Resilient Children. I’m hoping they have a sequel called Raising Resilient Adults. Or, maybe that’s the point at which I seek professional advice! Every parent probably wishes they had a coach. I just don’t want to screw her up. And, by the way she looks at me sometimes, with that confused look and furrowed brow, I sometimes wonder if that’s God looking back at me saying, “Woman! Get control of yourself”!

Well, Anya and I are making progress. She’s learning how to communicate, learning manners, testing her boundaries, attempting independence, and slowly learning to play on her own. I’m learning how to set limits for myself, gain confidence and reading anything I can get my hands on to help me in my current state of delirium.

There’s nothing like change to give you a swift kick out of your comfort zone. Anya received her first free book not long ago in the mail - The Little Engine That Could. It’s always a good message. It reminds me that I have 2 choices: I can say that I won’t or can’t (make a change or difference), or that I can. Choosing to say that I can change doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy, but it’s the attitude in which I do it for the next…18+ years that is going to make the difference in whether I succeed or not. The comforting thing is that I have hope in a verse from the Bible that says, ‘Man alone cannot accomplish anything, but with God, all things are possible’.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


We spent the Christmas holidays with our families in Colorado. I had visions of enrolling Anya in ski school in Breckenridge, but she just isn’t old enough yet darnit! Before we left, we had Christmas here at our house with Grandma Joan, and Peanut got to open her first Christmas presents. In Colorado, Anya finally met all 3 of her uncles. Unfortunately, there are no aunts even in periscope range, so it’s not looking good on that front. We set off on the first day to Breckenridge, excited to play with Anya in the snow. The drive up was pretty clear, so we headed into the Breck Brewery for some lunch, and while we were there, it must have snowed 6 inches. By the time we finished lunch, we thought it was wise to head back towards Denver in case the pass closed to snow conditions - we didn’t want to miss my brother’s graduation the next day! We went to Georgetown on the east side of the pass instead, and took Anya into the park there, where she got a brief chance to play in the snow. She looked at home in the snow, and the rest of us were freezing our tails off, so unfortunately she didn’t get long to play, and it was starting to get dark.

Uncle Chris graduated from the Art Institute of Colorado the next day, and had an amazing display of all his industrial design projects. We were all proud and truly impressed. Anya stayed with Trav’s family for the day, and her Uncle Clay taught her the word “cheese”. We really get a kick out of hearing her say new words!

I made time to take Anya to meet my friends Cara and Becca after the weekend, and Anya spent an hour playing with Cara’s kids Carol Anne, Henry and Shelton, who are all miracle babies themselves. We went to an indoor play place, and after only an hour, Anya wanted to be picked up and carried out of there – she was exhausted and over-stimulated! I really had fun seeing her climb things and slide down the slides, but she was a bit hesitant going without me (sorry honey, I’m a bit too tall for that ride).

On Christmas Eve, Anya tried her first milkshake at Grandpa Ron’s house, Uncle Jeff showed her how to make it rain poker chips, and Anya took her turn rolling the dice at the card table after she opened everyone’s Christmas presents. She would yell “Yay!” every time she launched the dice onto the table. Anya received lots of nice gifts, but she seemed more interested in the bubble wrap and electronics. Where would this world be without electronics?

Christmas morning was spent opening gifts at Grandpa Dean and Grandma Dianne’s house, and by then, Anya was an expert at ripping paper. We later had our Who Feast and Roast Beast which made it easy to drift asleep by the end of the evening.

Unfortunately I became sick on Christmas Eve, so we weren’t able to visit more friends before we left, but we had a great time while we were there, and Anya really enjoyed being around everyone. It was a time of spoiling, constant activity and many a nap time missed. We feared there would be no going back! Although Anya doesn’t understand Santa yet, I think 2009 will prove to be as exciting a Christmas as 2008. I’m glad we didn’t have to go another Christmas without Anya. Although I feel guilty saying this, having a child really brings the magic back into Christmas. It brings me back to some of my favorite memories as a child, and there’s nothing wrong with that!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Family Get Togethers

A lot has happened in just 2 short months, and there’s been little time to write!

A few short weeks after we arrived home, the grandparents started to visit. Three and a half weeks later, we were back to being just the 3 of us. A week and a half later, it was Thanksgiving Day, which we spent in North Carolina at Grandma Joan’s house. The following night, we went to the Grove Park Inn in Asheville to kick off the Christmas season. The Grove Park Inn is one of America’s most beautiful hotels. The main building is built of stone and has a roof which reminds me of those in the Cotswold area of England. I love the 2 enormous fireplaces inside, the Arts and Crafts style furniture, and the view overlooking the city of Asheville. Every year, The Grove Park Inn is host to a gingerbread competition where children and adults all over the country bring their amazing culinary creations to compete in winning the $3000 grand prize. The hotel decorates tons of trees down the same halls, each one different than the next. We took Anya into the very crowded main lobby at 8 pm to see the hotel’s largest tree be lit, preceded by Santa’s arrival. Anya immediately knew that Santa Clause was very special, and ever since then she’s been to pointing him, and Christmas trees, in the books we read.

In the days following, we began a new family tradition of baking and decorating to get into the spirit of Christmas as a family. Anya really enjoys watching us cook and bake, so she put on two potholders that made her look like a small lobster with oversized claws and helped us keep watch on the cookies baking in the oven, with the light on, of course.

Decorating the tree was done while Anya was napping, so that when she came in, the tree was ready to be admired. And touched. Ornaments were grabbed. The word ‘no’ was used regularly. A small fist punched the tree in objection. Since then, we have been learning the ‘touch with one finger’ rule, which I learned second hand from my aunt. And, it satisfies everyone, most of the time.

In keeping with the season of miracles, Anya herself has given us gifts of hope and joy. Two days ago, she started going to the bathroom in the toilet. She is making amazing strides in her language skills. We understand her saying ‘all gone’, ‘baby’ (second word), ‘up’, ‘down’, ‘b-bye’ (first word), and ‘dog’. It amazes us how much of what we say she understands. She responds with words and actions. I also have a little helper now. Anya helps by bringing the laundry into the laundry room, sweeping the floor (she is very adept at holding the dustpan without anything falling out), setting the table, and putting things where they belong.

What do we get a kick out of most with Anya? Probably mealtime. When the food comes, she squeals loudly in excitement and does a little jump in her chair. Somewhere in Russia, there was an immaculate conception on our behalf, because that is exactly how Trav and I react when we see good food too.

We’ve been celebrating ever since we brought Anya home, and it’s a great gift to spend all our holidays together, as a family. We couldn’t ask for anything more.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Trav and I keep commenting on what lucky parents we are. We have the funniest, happiest, cutest kid, AND she has dimples. Anya is doing amazingly well for only being home a month. When we first met her, she was shy, would barely look us in the eye, wasn’t smiling much, hardly peeped a sound, and was hesitant about being around us. Now, she acts like a normal toddler, getting into everything and babbling constantly. She is completely attached to Trav and me (I used to ask her on occasion if she was attached yet), and we love seeing her smile and hearing her laugh. Her favorite things are being outside, playing in the bath, and eating. She eats at least as much as I do, sometimes more, and she is a very neat eater for the most part.

As for me, I’ve got a new respect for moms. I fight everyday to keep up the house, take care of my family and make sure we’re getting our exercise in and eating healthy. Finding balance is a challenge!

I am a self-confessed control-freak, so letting go has been a struggle. But, with prayer and work, as well as some insightful words from my mom, I let Anya control most things, except when she goes down for naps and to bed for the night. One of the things I’ve learned is that children make progress quickly, but they also have days or a week here or there where it seems their brains are overloaded, and they take a break. My dad mentioned today that I should beware that at age 13, the brain fairy will come take her brain away for about a decade. But, I digress. Regarding this week’s brain vacation, Anya isn’t using any of her baby signs, and she isn’t really eating anything by herself, preferring instead that we feed her. I haven’t summed up what I think about the job of mothering, other than that it’s really confusing and insightful, stressful and fun. There’s something amazing about having a child that makes you want to change yourself for the better. When you screw up and your own child gives you grace, it makes you work hard to be a better parent, and give that grace back in abundance.

I think Anya has had a lot of fun with all the new experiences she’s had, visiting the apple orchards, the pumpkin patch, the zoo, and tomorrow, experiencing Halloween as a cute little pig with some new friends. We are having a lot of fun with her, and although she keeps us busy, we always enjoy the funny moments she brings to our lives. She fits right in, and I told Anya today that I was definitely attached.

Monday, October 6, 2008

It is great to be back in the good ‘ol USA. We missed our king size bed and our dog, Daisy. We missed English and home cooked food. We missed friends and family. We missed warm days and sunshine.

While we were gone, our friends and my mom helped finish Anya’s room, left us home cooked meals in the freezer, cleaned our house, mowed our yard, babysat Daisy, brought toys and playthings for Anya, filled our fruit bowl and fridge, and decorated our house. We were so overwhelmed by everyone’s efforts in welcoming us home, we felt like we were on a toned-down version of ABC’s Extreme Home Makeover show. Welcome Home, Raish Family, Welcome Home!

Cheri Beckman is a talented muralist and painted the ladybugs and dragonflies in Anya’s room, as well as the polka-dots that matched the bedding set. Beth Blanc is a talented jewelry designer with a former profession in interior design who dressed the windows, and her husband Bob finished off the trim around the room and helped with the finishing touches. Anya’s bedroom is the best looking room in the house without a doubt, so you know who holds the highest honor in our home.


I’m coming up for air! Today was Anya’s first good day since we arrived home. She was crying a lot; she is going through the grieving process. We immediately initiated a routine when we arrived home. She is still having a hard time with naps. At first, she would cry for 5-10 minutes when we’d put her down. Lately, she has cried for 2 hours or more. The first 2 days, we went in several times to soothe her, but to no avail. She was also jet lagged. Then, we tried 2 days of leaving the room completely, which didn’t work either. Today, I stayed in her room for 20 minutes without talking to her, and she cried for only 20 minutes more, so maybe we’re making progress.

We were feeding her, but she would throw a fit after every bite or two of food that we would put in. So, we decided to let her feed herself, which she can do anyway, and the tantrums have decreased. This also occurs with putting on shoes. She wants to choose her shoes and put them on herself, so we let her do what she can and help her when she “asks” for it. It’s hard not to want to help her, because she was left to do for herself at the orphanage. When she eats, she uses her spoon to catch food that doesn’t make it in her mouth. She’ll scoop it off her face for instance, like a parent would do for a baby. Anything that drops on the floor, she shows immediate concern. She doesn’t understand the concept of “all gone”. So, when there is no more applesauce for instance, she gets very upset.

Do all moms feel sorrow at their loss of freedom once they have the child they’ve wanted for so long? I’m feeling a bit of that now, but not too badly. I feel fortunate that Anya has bonded so well with me. She follows me everywhere and wants to be held a lot. She holds onto my legs while I’m cooking. I get hugs that melt my heart, and I’ve gotten a couple kisses too. The last week has been hard for all of us, but today was a great welcome. A recent bible study I read taught me that God is working through me to be the mother He wants me to be, and honestly, that is a great comfort. Thank you God, for our daughter, and for the gift of parenthood, no matter how hard things get.