Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Firsts of Christmas

The First Christmas

There have been a good number of firsts as we watch this year come to a close

Tonight, as I held my “new” little one (and though he is almost six years old, he is still a tiny little boy) and rocked him to sleep with my homespun version of “Katusha,” a Russian national favorite, my eyes welled up and my stomach got tight. My mind began to swirl…

He got left. Ian got left as a baby to fend for himself.

He was left alone. To “grow” up or to not. To be happy or to be terrified. To live or to die. Not a single call, not a single visit. No one inquired. No room at the “IN” side of anyone’s heart for this one little boy, for five years.

Not until God opened ours, to him. On Christmas Eve, the day that Christ was born, is four months home for Ian. 4 months out of 5 years has this child known love, a family, safety, play, needs met, an education, and God. Seems like a grain of sand to me, in all of what he has missed.

The pain inside our hearts and minds for the many little soulds that we had to leave behind, will never, ever leave me. Many times, it makes me feel insane and I do not know where to put it all or how to deal with it. Feeling compelled to act and speak and advocate and fundraise for orphaned children (with special needs or not), was a FIRST for us this year. A BIG first.

People tell us, and we often tell ourselves, that everything is okay now because he is here with us. That is true in some respects and not in others. Effects from the “O” (the orphanage) may never leave him, we just don’t know. I see some fading but then only to be replaced by others. Young children are so very impressionable, and the impressions leave psychological and physiological marks. My biggest prayer this Christmas is that he be able to leave the “O” behind and truly come live with us in this new place we call “home.”

Christmas was a BIG bang start to him leaving the O.

People that have adopted many times over have commented to me that for a “first” adoption, we went buck wild. Meaning that we took on an international special needs rescue (watch this) with zero dollars in the bank and just 8 months to get to Ian before he turned five years old and was taken away to the institution where he could no longer be adopted from. His life there…would not have been one.A good friend Julia has written extensively about the horrors these children face being transferred from their baby houses or preschool type orphanages, to the institutions. If you are in search of truth and understanding, please click HERE to read about Aaron.

Knowing him these 4 months now (Christmas eve marking 4 months home for him exactly), we know that our little man would have been TERRIFIED, and that he would have sunk into himself so far that he would have been lost and broken, and that is how he would have lived until he died.

Thank God for the first time we saw his face, and that there was enough time to save him, and that more than 600 people gave more than 40,000 dollars for his ransom. Just. Thank. God.


Now, for our holidays in review:

I asked Santa for a special Christmas for Ari and Ian, and boy did he deliver!
Love me some Santa baby!


First off, our kids are five. They know the reason for the season, and Reece’s Rainbow Angel Tree ornaments hang on our tree (many, many, more to come for as long as an orphan needs a family). We are confident they are caring little boys, they are humble too, and we did not teach them that per se, I think they are just really special little boys. We are so blessed by them. EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.

This was our first Christmas spent at home. The two week break from school and work opened with a trip to the Georgia Aquarium. Leave it to my two kids to take the stage when no one was invited to do so! Please note the biggest fish in the world swimming over Ari in the largest tank of this kind in the WORLD. There are 4 Whale Sharks at the GA Aquarium.

The first decorations were hung on the tree the weekend before, each child delighting in the process, and each wanting to go higher and higher up the tree each time. Oye, our backs!

I did manage to make one smart move, I abandoned my urge for pretty glass ornaments and went the plastic, shatter proof route for the kids. What a lifesaver! I cannot count how many times those “balls” went flying. I do believe that anything round and hand size, for a small child, is automatically recognized as a ball to be thrown!

On the 19th, we went to see Santa for our annual Christmas picture with Santa. Ari got to ask Santa for a race track, the only thing he wanted for all of Christmas. Ian on the other hand, tried to pull off Santa's real beard.

On the 20th, the boys and I had a nice little meeting with Santa at the Down Syndrome play group…oh so much!...another change for Ari to ask Santa again for a race track! Ian on the other hand, tried again to pull off Santa's real beard. Cool thing about the mind of a child, they have no concept (unless we teach it to them) or race or color or size or shape - Santa is Santa no matter who he is. My kids thought Santa was the same Santa each time we saw him around town these past few weeks. Ahhh, I love these boys!

Later that week, our first winter project! Gingerbread creations that outlasted the astonishing pace at which Ari consumed the candy decorations for the train, and Ian’s attempts to eat the structural cookie walls!

Friday, a divine meeting happened at our home. A little backstory if you will: The boys have had an incredible train set for more than a year. Craig and I built a custom, 6 foot by 6 foot train table for Ari’s 4th birthday. The Geo Trax set had over 800 pieces and it was amazing. It served so well to help us play with our kids.

Alas, the train table began to fall to the wayside recently. The boys wanting us to drive them to Barnes and Nobles everyday so they could play with the wooden Thomas set in the kids book department. Our mission was clear, sell the big train table and devise a smaller, fixed track, under the bed, wood set. Sounds easy right?

RIGHT! At the very first listing of the kids’ train table and massive train set on Craigslist in Atlanta (a metro area of more than 5 million people) a woman named Anna called me. Anna is a special name to us right now, I can’t say why but just know, it has something to do with Ian’s old “O” and a rescue in progress.

Anyway, Anna, who is mom to three (soon to be 4, and then 5 and 6) sent her husband Carl to come for the train table. Mr. Carl and I exchanged friendly conversation as we packed up the train set for his children. He noticed me speaking Russian to Ian. He asked about it. To make a long and wonderful story short, Carl and Anna, complete strangers to us, are right now in the process for a Russian Adoption of one and hopefully TWO children with special needs that they found at….wait for it….Reece’s Rainbow! WOW! No way! The chances of this meeting being by chance carries impossible odds. This meeting marked the first time I met someone that was in the process for RR that we did not already know. Needless to say, this family and us are going to be friends. AMAZING!

Later that Friday night, the new train table was done. Yes, I THINK I am crafty, although I always bite off more than I can chew and have ten projects going and never finish any of them. This week I completed TWO wood projects for the boys. The under the bed train table with fixed track, and an under the bed rolling storage drawer. I love how both turned out and the kids loved the train table. Space being a commodity around here, these two items will go a long way in helping us stay organized and sane!


On Christmas Eve, we had our first ever at home, in front of the fire and tree, mommy and daddy reading of the Night Before Christmas and a new book called the TOYS Night Before Christmas, complete with our caps, santa and gingerbread socks, and wintery attire. So fitting for a long winter’s nap. HA - I wish! The kids wake up at 6:30 am!!

We admired the mantle and our special ornaments

A snow globe of Red Square in Moscow, given to me by my mother more than 20 years ago

Our Reece’s Rainbow Angel Tree Ornaments

Ari’s Trains

Left milk and cookies for Santa (Ian objected vehemently! He truly believed the cookies and milk were for him!)

After the boys were asleep, daddy and I put all the gifts out and watched the fire dwindle on the couch together. No words, just sleep:)

On Christmas morning, a prayer of thanks be to God, and then a mad dash to see if Mr. Claus did indeed brave our chimney for two little boys, to make real on their visions of some special new toys! OH.BOY! just take a look.

Ian's first gift opening

Ari's excitement!


This week began with my FIRST TURKEY EVER! Chosen and cooked by me (not mentioning the pan incident whereby I had NO PAN for the bird and had to run out to buy one wasting precious roasting hours!). I am proud to say it was an organic turkey too! It was the best meal, and shared with family from afar. The boys’ great-grandparents drove 7 hours to be with them for a few days! My near 90 grandmother plays ON THE FLOOR with the kids...hotwheels, reads books, pretend plays – she’s awesome! We opened their gifts and sipped some nog, laughed and had a good old traditional family Christmas dinner together. My mother and grandmother declaring that the torch was successfully passed and that I done good on all the victuals of Turkey, dressing, sour pickles, mashed and yams, rolls….etc. Oh my goodness, does this mean I'm old?

Ari & Ian's great grandparents. Our gift for grandpa Dale,
a military flag with his Marine service inscribed

Tonight, our first official post placement visit will occur and the report will be sent to Russia to be read by the judge that granted our adoption. I hope she feels proud of her choice for Ian, we thinks it was a good one!

Happy Holidays everyone!

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  1. That is SO cool that you met another RR family. I just love how God brings families together. Love you first Christmas with everyone and can hardly wait for our Christmas next year, for a certain special someone to be with us. :)


  2. Found you through Julia, have been reading since you left to go get Ian. Absolutely love your blog and watching the kids grow and learn. You are an excellent story teller.

    Happy New Year from Philly.

  3. Followed a link from RR to your blog - loving the love that shines through your writing. Quick question - your nativity, where is it from? It is a really beautiful one. (hannah_e_dobson@hotmail.com) Godbless as your family really settles in this new year and those to come.