Thursday, January 15, 2009

One Year Home!

Where did the time go? It seems like only yesterday Rachel and I were flying home from Odessa, and yet it will be 1 year next week. It was a great year, full of ups and downs, but mostly ups. It was a while since I posted last time, so I’ll fill you in on Rachel’s achievements in the last several months.

She is a very happy girl, and looks like she’s securely attached to us. We’ve been very lucky (knock on wood) as most of the time we didn’t have the older adopted kids’ issues with her, so we feel very blessed. Rachel is currently repeating 4th grade, and she is thriving at school. She has absolutely awesome teachers – when other parents have to struggle to have an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) in place, I don’t have to do anything – they know what do to with her without IEP. Her classroom teacher somehow finds time to do one-on-one work with her, and to give her assignments based on her abilities. Her ESL teacher spends a lot of time with her working not only on English skills, but helping out with Social Studies, Science, etc. Academic work is not easy for Rachel, and she doesn’t like to read or study, but the fact that she says “I love going to school” very often, speaks for itself – they are doing something right there! She’s currently reading at the mid 1st grade level, which is a huge milestone for her, because a year ago she was reading at a 6-year old level in Russian when she was 10. She mastered multiplication tables, learned long division, and started to do some word problems. But the main thing is – she finally SPEAKS ENGLIGH!!! It took a long time, and I was very worried about it. Then all of a sudden, a month ago I was driving Rachel and her friends, and all of a sudden I heard her speaking with them! It was like a light bulb moment - something clicked, and she started to speak. It’s not correct English yet, but she’s speaking, and that’s what’s important.

What else? Rachel is doing chorus and PE Intramurals at school, and takes hip-hop and cheerleading lessons outside of school. In December we celebrated her 11th birthday (first in America!), so I took her and a couple of friends to the girls’ salon to have their up-dos, manicure and a make-up. They had a blast!

Both girls grew 2.5 inches this year, Rachel gained 12 lbs, and Victoria 5 lbs. They are the best of friends and love each other to pieces. At first I was worried that Rachel plays on the same level as Victoria, with the same toys, coloring books, etc., but then I understood that she needs to experiment everything she missed while being in the orphanage, so going through all childhood stages is a good thing. I think she adjusted very well because we set a routine as soon as we came home a year ago, and she thrives on the discipline and the routine. She’s the only one in her 4th grade class, whose bedtime is 8:00 pm :)

Victoria turned 6 in December. She is in kindergarten this year, and she just loves it. During the holiday break she was counting days until she can go to school again! She reads at the beginning 2nd grade level, can add and subtract over the tens, and her classroom teacher is doing a great job working with her individually and keeping up her reading and math skills. She started piano lessons this year, and now she and I play in 4 hands!

So overall we had a pretty good year with a lot of firsts for Rachel, I can’t complain! Of course, it’s not easy. Even though the girls love each other, they still bicker a lot, and want my attention all the time. It’s like having two 6-year olds instead of 6-year and 11-year olds :) But at the same time it’s a pleasure being their parents, and a lot of fun watching them grow into smart and beautiful young ladies.

Here are a couple of pictures:

Rachel a year ago in Odessa:

In soccer uniform in July:

At the Marineland park in Niagara Falls:

At friend's birthday party:

Another party:

Watching fall folliage

Picking apples at the farm:

Girls showing their up-dos and make-up at Rachel's birthday party:

Victoria turned 6:
At the mall during the holidays:


ArtworkByRuth said...

O WOW! Congratulations on one year! She looks FABULOUS! And I have IEP envy LOL! Welcome back to blogging my friend. We leave in one week to return for O! Please be sure to stop by and encourage us as we go.

AdoptaMama said...

Congratulations on your one year anniversary and welcome back! Looks like life is good and things have fallen into place for your family. Great pictures -- Rachel looks so grown up! Thanks for the update.

Leslie said...

My goodness!!! Has it been a year? Doesn't it seem like another lifetime ago? I'm so glad you were able to post updates and pictures of your beutiful growing girls. We think of you often and our "odessa Connection". Blessings!!!

octoberkan said...

The pictures look great! We are going to have Evan and Diana's 6th and 11th birthdays here next month. It's like we are leading parallel lives:) Very sweet post and how funny about the bedtime! It's exactly the same at our house:) You are doing an excellent job.

Stefanie and Bill said...

Hi Nataliya,
Seems like I have not been searching blogs in forever, but I happened to check yours! Sooooo great to get the girls update and I am so happy for all of you.
Check our our blog, as we have many additions (3!) that we brought home with us in October. Life is good, busier than I could have imagined, but we are all blessed beyond our wildest imaginations!
Great to catch up with your family. The girls are beautiful!

Unknown said...

Hi Nataliya, I check your blog every so often and it is nice to see an update! The girls have grown so much!! They are beautiful! We, like, MamaPoRuski, leave in a week to return for Krystina. It is hard to believe that a year has passed for many of our families but it has been a year of many blessings!
Hope to see more updates!!

Brian, Pamela, Angelina said...

God bless you and your family. It's been awhile since we checked in but everyone looks great and better yet happy!
Brian, Pamela & Angelina

Anonymous said...

I am so glad to see an update. And what a great report it is!! How wonderful to hear that English is really beginning to click with her.
I am glad that you are so wise to be understanding as she goes through so many of the childhood stages that she has missed. We have to do the same with our boys.
You were also wise to start right out with a routine. It makes everyone's lives easier!
What a difference a year makes. She has certainly blossomed into a lovely young lady. What beautiful girls you have. Truly treasures.
Congratulations on your one-year anniversary!

Tina in CT said...

I haven't checked lately but clicked on your blog tonight and was pleasantly surprised to see your blog. I am so happy that you gave us all an update and that all is going along so well. The girls are beautiful. Hopefully you are back to blogging as we've all missed you.

Tina in CT said...

Thanks for the supportive comment on Smiles & Trials.

Courtney said...

I can't believe how much she's grown up over the past year! It's so good to hear she is transitioning so well.

Tami said...

Wow! Its been a year my friend, since I last saw you on the streets of Odessa! You were getting ready to pick up one last piece of paper and then head to the airport! :)
How I've missed you...and your posts! :)
Rachel and Victoria are growing up so quickly. Glad to hear she's making the transition into English. You're doing a great job of helping her! CONGRAULATIONS on one year home! :)

Kathy and Matt said...

I loved seeing this post!!!

Congrats on one year home. Can you believe it??

It sounds like Rachel is doing wonderfully and she looks fantastic. I think she's grown up a lot, but I can totally understand her need to go through some of the younger age play.

It's exciting to hear how well she's doing with school and it does sound like she's got an awesome teacher.

Both girls look so happy.

I think of your family often and recall the fun of meeting in Kiev. Please post when you can (I know I'm way behind) as it is so fun to read/see how your family is doing.

All the best to you in 2009!

Anonymous said...

Hi Natasha! Great job - both girls are so cute and happy. You must be doing something right :)

Marina M

Debora Hoffmann said...

I'm so glad Rachel is doing so well! It's nice to hear and update and see photos of your beautiful girls. :-) Big hugs to you!

Unknown said...

Congratulations on one year!
It's good to hear for you again. It's have been a long time.

The girls are beautiful!
God bless you my friends!

junglemama said...

COngrats! One year home and the girls look awesome!

Mike & Tara said...

I'm so glad to see you post!! Your girls are beautiful!

Annie said...

They are lovely! I'm so glad you are "back in business" so to speak. We missed your blogging.

Your daughters are both just darling looking girls, and it sounds like you are doing everything just right.

Ilya is also very slow in learning English...but suddenly he seems to be "taking off". Thank heaven. I hope he can eventually be fluent in both languages.

I also think your instincts are just right - about "making up" for lost time.

Tanya said...

What a beautiful family you have, such a blessing. I found your blog through Annie, I am also from Odessa and living in NY (Westchester county). Congratulations on the one year, she looks like a great kid.

junglemama said...

How are you doing? :)

Pam DeFrees said...

Pryvyet! I just wanted to say hi because I just came across your blog as I was catching up with Kristina's blog. I was happy to find it because I see your picture on other blogs that I keep up with and I never knew who you were. I just read this post and thought it was really awesome that you are from Odessa, living in America, and that you adopted from Odessa. I LOVE Odessa and I have many friends there who I consider family. I have gone to Odessa the last 5 years on mission trips and we minister to orphans there. I love the kids and it's been so awesome watching them grow up. It is very hard for me to leave them. I keep up with many of the families who have adopted kids that I know. Now my family is going to be starting down this road very soon. Our boy, Kostya, is not registered yet but we will start the process as soon as we are advised to. I've wanted to adopt Kostya since I met him 4 years ago; he's precious!
Just wanted to say hi (even though it was a very long hi) and I may be asking adoption advice soon. : )
For His children, Pam

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