Thursday, December 22, 2005
He sang, "Oh Come All Ye Faithful". He sang it so perfectly, with his clear and perfect voice, it brought tears to my eyes. I am so grateful he chose to sing that beautiful song, he thought about lots of songs he could or would sing, Elton John, Bryan Adams, I don't know how he came to a Christmas Hymn, but I'm so glad he did.
I am counting my blessings with my talented, righteous and wonderful boys.
Merry Christmas to All!
Alex has returned from his trip to Vladivostok/Pokrovka. He was able to visit twice with Anastasia and bring her a few gifts. We don't have the report yet (we are going crazy to read it!!), but he sent the photos right away. He took lots of pictures so I will post a few here. Anastasia looks like she's grown several inches. We wish she were here to spend Christmas with us. It is just so hard...
Thursday, December 08, 2005
It should be no surprise to us, but it has totally devastated us. We have decided that she must be told. Our dear collegue Alex is making his trip to Vlad next week, we are hoping to have him convey this information to Anastasia. Thank you everyone who has been praying for us and fasting for us. Many have sent us notes with ideas and suggestions - your thoughts are so valuable and important to us - just that you are thinking about us and our poor daughter.
Please continue to pray for Anastasia - that she will be safe and that she will somehow survive this ordeal.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
These recent catastrophies are just little set backs which we will overcome. Thank you to everyone who cares about us - you are such a blessing in our lives. We have met some pretty cruddy people during these adoptions - people who think mainly about money and don't consider the harm they do. On the other side, we believe this experience has shown us the best in so many people.
Here is the beginning of our story:
My life started on August 12, 1994. I was thirty years old at the time, but thinking back now, I don’t really remember much before that. Looking down into the face of my newborn son, I suddenly realized why I was an important person. None of it had really made sense to me before- the waking up, going to work, going to bed and then waking up and doing it all again. I had always lacked the drive or ambition to be a superwoman, a career woman or a collector of college degrees. But now my life was finally starting and I was so thrilled and grateful.
It was difficult being a single parent, and it wasn’t the way I’d always dreamed of doing it. I always thought I would find the perfect man, get married and have lots of children. As a young woman, I dreamed of a big family and having Christmases and Thanksgivings with lots of children running around and everyone laughing and having a grand time, just like in the movies.
That wasn’t to be my path though. It was okay, I found such joy in raising my son and he brought such light and purpose to my life. It was a struggle financially though and eventually I made the decision to move in with my mother so I could have more time with the sweet little boy, Alexander, who was growing up way too fast.
My mother worked for the U.S. Department of State and when Alexander was four years old, we had the opportunity to join her in Africa. Kenya is beautiful and I was able to find a good job at the U.S. Embassy there and life was good. On the weekends my mother and I took Alexander to the game parks and we spent our time counting how many zebras and lions we saw. Alexander started school, which was great, but it made me sad when he realized that all the other children had daddies and he just had a mommy and grandma. I tried to put it out of my head because I was a 35-year-old single mom living in Nairobi, Kenya, clearly my fate was to live my life out this way.
I was shocked then a year or so later when I met a man who would change everything and bring even more meaning to my life. Robert made me feel special and loved and he also taught me that I am even more than a mother and a potential wife, I am a child of God. I didn’t know any of those things before and that truth often brought me to my knees in joy and gratitude. After three whirlwind months of dating we were married in a beautiful garden ceremony at the Ambassador’s Residence in Nairobi. I was surely the luckiest and most blessed woman alive. I had no idea why these wonderful things were happening to me, but I was just so grateful.
Robert and I set up house with our now 6-year-old son. What a miracle it was to watch Alexander with his new father. He started calling him "Daddy" right away. He had everything now and so did I.. We married on November 25, 2000, the day after Thanksgiving, how appropriate that was to me, I would always remember with gratitude all my blessings.
A few weeks later, after a day of long Christmas preparations, Robert and I lay down exhausted on the bed. I felt a slight pulling in my breast and reached over to brush it away. It hurt though and upon examination I detected a lump. I didn’t pay it too much attention because I’d rushed to the doctor too many times after finding something lumpy and it always turned out to be nothing.
When the lump didn’t go away after 3 or 4 days, Robert insisted that have it looked at. I went to the Embassy doctor, who also happened to be my mother, she decided to send me for an ultra-sound. Since I was so young, she didn’t want to risk exposing me to the radiation from a mammogram. The ultrasound took a long time. I didn’t know whether to be nervous or annoyed. The doctor kept rolling over my breast, back and forth, never speaking, never making eye contact with me. Was he finding something there?
Finally he spoke and said that I should go get a mammogram, tomorrow if possible. That scared me, but I went. It was December 21, my birthday and also Robert’s birthday, it should have been a lucky day, impervious to bad news.
Robert had to take Alexander to a birthday party so my mom went with me to get the mamo-gram done. The doctor said he would have the results after Christmas but my mom was able to convince him to read them right away. He showed me the pictures and said words that had no meaning to me at the time, "micro-calcification", "biopsy", "carcinoma"and "cancer", it wasn’t processing in my head.
We got outside and I was still okay, we got to the car and still I held it together, I remember putting on my seatbelt and then thinking how I had a perfect life. I had waited more than 30 years for my first child, more than 35 years for my husband and I had it all now. From the time we first met, Robert and I were busy planning for more children, finally after all my worrying and hoping, I would have that big family I had always dreamed of. Now those dreams were all gone, I might die and leave behind my loved ones. The lump was large and the doctor didn’t seem that hopeful.
We had a dreary Christmas, though my mom and Robert tried their best to make it special. Alexander had asked for about 10 dollars to go to the school flea market so he could do his Christmas shopping. We opened our presents on Christmas morning and what I remember most are the gifts Alexander got us. I got a candle, Robert got a plastic watch, my mom got a little pink bathroom carpet and then there were five or six gifts left over. Alexander informed us that those were the "babies" gifts and by the way, where was the baby anyway? He assumed that when one gets married one has a baby. He was so excited to have a little brother or sister. He imagined it would be immediate. We unwrapped the little toys with great care and explained that his siblings wouldn’t be coming quite so quickly. I felt such pain in my heart knowing that I would never be able to carry another child and bring another life into our family. It was unbearable.
We ended up leaving Kenya the next day. We came home and had all the tests confirmed and were told we would need to move back home long term. We flew to Kenya and said good-byes to all our dear friends, we took Alexander out of his beloved school, packed up our beautiful home and flew back to Washington, D.C. where we would live in a hotel with Alexander, our two dogs and my mother for the next three months.
What came next was a year of pain, financial drain, illness, exhaustion and uncertainty. It was our "honeymoon" year. Within the first four months of our marriage I had gained 50 pounds (from the steroids I had to take) and lost all my hair on my head and my facial hair too. But we had faith in the Lord and faith in our little family and we were able to get through it and actually draw closer to God and our Savior and to strengthen our family and our marriage. It was a year of great reflection for Robert and me and with each blessing and miracle we dropped to our knees in humble gratitude.
I still hoped and prayed every day and night that somehow we would still be able to have children. The doctors didn’t lead me on in any way, but I dismissed their reluctance to reassure me and I put my faith in the Lord. The Lord didn’t lead me down the path I expected though and He worked through the most unlikely of sources - my father.
It was about three months after I had finished the chemotherapy and radiation treatment. I was feeling very good, I had shed some of the weight I gained and even had some hair that looked like a genuine hairstyle. My father called to tell me of a program he had heard about that morning while listening to the radio. The program was called Project Hope and they had brought 30 children, from Russian orphanages, to the California Bay Area. Their goal was to try to find forever families for these little ones during their three week stay at a "Cultural Camp" organized by a church in Los Altos.
I hung up with my father and my heart began to soar. I knew, with no certainty, that we would and should do this. I called Robert at work and to my total surprise he told me to fly out to California the next day and check it out. He said that he would join us on the weekend if I felt he should. This was a huge leap of faith for my husband who usually has to analyze everything, calculate all the costs and risks and predict all the possible outcomes before finally coming to a decision. I didn’t waste any time getting our tickets.
Alexander and I arrived to find children aged four to 12, but most of them were in the 7-11 age range. They seemed like delightful children who were thrilled to be in America. Each child, or set of siblings, stayed with a host family. Some of the host families were potential parents but some just wanted to help the children find their own homes. It was a very emotional experience and I realized that Robert had to be there with me. I called him that night and asked him to come right away. He arrived the next evening and was also overwhelmed with feelings of amazement at the opportunity we had received.
In the end we couldn’t choose one child and in another leap of faith we signed a contract for two little boys, Maxim aged six and Dmitry, almost six years old. Alexander was seven years old at the time.
They took all the children back to Russia to wait for us as we collected all the paperwork required for an international adoption. We used the adoption agencies, IFS and Crossroads, that were already in place through Project Hope. We had no idea how the process worked and basically just gave them our money and prayed for the best. This wasn’t enough though and we should have done our homework too, because the agencies made a lot of mistakes, actually lost our paperwork at one point and set up back by about six months. This was really frustrating because we knew our boys, had spent time with them in California and they were waiting for us in a Russian orphanage in Vladivostok, about as far away as you could get.
We waited and waited for our court date to go get our boys, but the adoption agency made one excuse after another and about eight months into the process we learned that one of the boys, Maxim, had a sister living with him in the orphanage. Russian law forbids the separation of siblings. We agreed to take the sister too but it wasn’t that easy. They had different fathers and the sister, Anastasia, wasn’t available yet. We signed some promissory notes with the Russian government and they agreed to let us take Max as long as we would come get Anastasia as soon as she was available in the summer.
The next road block came about two months later when our agency informed us that the Russian government had rejected us because of my previous breast cancer. We were now about 10 months into the waiting process and should have already had our children. This was unexpected because before we even started the process or even flew out to California to meet the children, I had told them everything. The agencies assured us that the breast cancer was no problem that they had dealt with it before and that there was ample precedent in Vladivostok with adoptions to cancer survivors.
Would it never end? Our agency was unable to get it straightened out and in another leap of faith, we flew to Vladivostok without a court date. We ended up staying there for three weeks while I got examined by Russian doctors. In the end, they decided I was fine and they gave us a court date to get our boys. During this three weeks, we were able to spend lots of time with Anastasia and we got to know her. She called us Mama and Papa and even though she was sad her brother was leaving, we could tell she was proud to show us off to all her friends.
We drove out to Maxim’s orphanage first. This was going to be the hardest part, but we had to take him away from his beloved sister. They said their tearful good byes and then she walked away, down the hall back into her room with her tiny 10 year old shoulders heaving with the weight of her sobs. We left with lots of promises to see her again very soon. We would do everything in our power to get her in June when she would be off the database which was required by Russian law.
The next stop was to get Dmitry and there would be no tears there, he was about as excited as a little 8-year-old boy could be and still keep his skin on! We got to pick our boys up on February 14, 2003. The best Valentine’s Day the Baxter family would ever celebrate. It was such a long road to that day, a road filled with lots of obstacles but also one filled with prayers and miracles. How grateful we were.
We came home joyful to have our three boys together at last, but also angry when we saw the incompetence of our adoption agencies. We were threatening to sue IFS because of all the paperwork fiascos, also, we ended up giving them about $10,000 more than we had been quoted. In addition, we had to do all the work ourselves - including getting the court date. We were mad because we had to sell our home to cover the costs and also because we left a crying and bereft little 11 year old girl behind and that was something we felt the agency should have known about before they even brought Max to their camping program in California. By Russian law, Max wasn’t even available for adoption, but through lots of hard work and the prayers of many and the sympathy and powers of a very good judge we were able to bring him home. But that wasn’t what we paid IFS more than $40,000 for.
After we came home and made our threats to IFS they handed us over to their parent company Crossroads. Crossroads agreed that they had been negligent and agreed to do the adoption case for Anastasia for no charge if we would forget any legal action. We agreed that the offer was fair and had hopes that Crossroads, as the parent, accredited, company in Russia, would be more able to help us.
When Anastasia came off the Russian database at the end of May 2003, we were ready to go get her. There were more paperwork hassles and we were left in the dark for several months with nothing happening. This was a very difficult time for Max as he waited every day for news of a court date for his sister. We all suffered and all three boys prayed every night that we would be able to bring Anastasia home quickly.
In November after agonizing months of waiting, Crossroads informed us that they had "found" Anastasia’s biological father. He had committed a crime and was sentenced to serve out a short term in a mental hospital. This action must have caused his name to pop up in a central registry somewhere. Russian law protected his parental rights and we were forced to wait. A few months ago in the summer of 2005, the father was released from the mental institution. He refused to sign the parental release forms though, saying that he grew up in an orphanage and that was good enough for him so it was good enough for his daughter.
Crossroads was unable to give us any information about anything that was going on in Russia so we hired an independent person to make phone calls and do research for us in an ongoing manner. He has been wonderful and he keeps in touch with Anastasia’s social worker and it is through her that we have been able to make the case move the little bit that it has.
The social worker initiated court action to have the father’s parental rights terminated. The case is in court now and we sit on the brink of being able to bring our daughter home when, two weeks ago, we received an email from Crossroads informing us that they have lost their accreditation to work in Russia. Sorry, they won’t be able to help us any longer. We have been working two years to bring our daughter home and now when we are so close, we are hit with another road block.
We are trying now to find a new agency to help us. So far we haven’t had any luck, it is just too difficult and Anastasia is in an orphanage far away - about three hours outside of Vladivostok in a little town called Pokrovka on the border of Russia and China. Also, it is difficult for agencies to take over a case that another agency has started. If we do find someone who will take our case, we will have to start all over again. We are told that if the parental rights are terminated as we expect, Anastasia will probably have to go back on the database for six more months to be displayed as available to the Russian people before foreigners are allowed to adopt her.
The person we hired to help us in Russia was able to send someone out to Anastasia’s orphanage for a visit. We desperately want her to know that we love her and haven’t forgotten her, we still work everyday trying to bring her home. We wanted this person to carry the message for us, to bring her some small gifts, just some chocolates or something. But she was not allowed to see Anastasia. However, the orphanage director told her a story about an incident that happened recently. Apparently a new boy showed up at the orphanage and his last name was the same as Anastasia’s. Somehow one of the children got wind of this and assumed it was her brother who had finally come back. Anastasia rushed to find him only to learn it was a stranger with her last name. We are told she spent the rest of the day sobbing mournfully. We have been fortunate enough to call the orphanage twice and to be able to get through to her. These occasions were so sad though that we have stopped trying to get through. She cannot understand anything about judges and laws that affect her life, she still calls us Mama and Papa and says she wants to come home.
Our friend in Russia is planning a trip to Vladivostok in December. He will carry with him a letter we have written her and also some more little gifts and some pictures of Max and our whole family. He has a journalist’s pass that should afford him access to Anastasia and we pray that he in his kindness will be able to make her understand that we are still trying to come.
We have nothing left to sell to make this happen but we make once again a huge leap of faith and know that the Lord will sustain us if we just do our part.
This is my story, but it is only part of the story really. There are so many people who have been omitted from these pages, people who are helping us, who fast and pray for us, who have supported us in these endeavors. It is for these people and for my children that I write this story down. I want them to see how far they’ve helped us come and how important they are in making good things happen.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
It is unbelievable - no one will take our case. It is complicated, of course, aren't all things Russian? Each agency is allowed to work at certain orphanages, our problem is that Anastasia is in an orphanage that agencies don't work with - we were the first ever to adopt from there (Max was there). It is a home for older children and it is way out on the Chinese border in the middle of nowhere.
I finally spoke with a large international adoption agency (they asked not to be identified) last night, they are about the biggest agency in Russia these days - and one of the few still working in the Vladivostok region. They are considering our case. I sent them an email last night with all the details and they are going to forward that to their Russia office and have that office try to make some phone calls or whatever and see if they can help us. In any case, they are really, really nice and helpful. All of the other agencies refused to even think about our case, or, even tried to talk us out of adopting another older child - can you imagine??
We are all praying that this new agency will agree to help us because they are our last shot. Even at the best case scenario though, it is a dreary scene - we have to start all over. It means another $20,000+ and we are going to have to make 2 trips to Russia. We have no idea how to come up with this kind of money, we are working on pure faith here. Robert says we will have to take out loans and just go back home in July about $40,000 in debt and rent a small apartment for a few years (with 5 kids and 2 dogs!!), until we can dig out. Still, that isn't so bad - not when you consider what we are doing. Anyway, last night Robert said he was feeling a slight glimmer of hope about Anastasia - his first one in over a year or so. I listened real hard and felt a glimmer myself - so it can't be all bad!!!
The boys remain positive and continue to pray for Anastasia. They are aware of the impending sacrifices and are ready to face them. Well, as long as Alexander has his own room!
Sunday, November 27, 2005
The orphange director wouldn't let her see Anastasia which is so sad, but did tell her that the trial for termination of parental rights is nearly finished and in her view (the director's) the trial is going very well and parental rights will definately be terminated. We don't dare to hope too too much but we pray this is the news we are waiting for.
Of course, this leads us to another dilemma - our dossier is still in Russia in the hands of our now impotent adoption agency. We have to get it back so we can try to start over with another agency. We have no idea how we will possibly come up with the funds for this - again. What will we do? But, we must be ready, just in case they "trial" is over and they say we can take her.
In the report that Alex's friend sent us she told of a sad story. Apparently, recently, a young boy arrived at the orphanage and it somehow got to Anastasia that her brother was there. I can't imagine how this happened but she rushed to go see him and of course it wasn't him. We are told she cried in despair all day. I can't possibly convey what this does to my heart, I could weep right now just imagining it.
On the good news side, Alex is going out to Vladivostok for us next week. He is going to take some little gifts and a letter and some photos to Anastasia for us. We are hoping he can get in to see her because he has a special reporters pass that should allow him access. He leaves beginning of December. He will try to meet with the social worker too and verify the story about the "trial" and see where we stand. Our greatest fear is that the court will insist that Anastasia go back on the "registry" where she is to be advertised to Russian families for 6 months before being released to foreigners.
We are praying and praying that somehow we can conquer all of these obstacles.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Happy Thanksgiving to all from the Vienna Baxters!
We have some sad news. After two years of struggling, trying to get our daughter and Max's sister home we got a bomb dropped in our laps. The agency that we were working with has lost it's accreditation to work in Russia. We don't know what this means to us, we don't know where we will go from here. It is quite upsetting and we haven't really broken the news to Max yet. We understand that other agencies don't want to take over clients who have already started the process. In addition, it means we lose the financial investment that we've already made and we have to start that over again.
We don't understand why this has been so hard for us and for Anastasia, who is just a little girl who needs a home. We are praying and fasting and looking for the direction the Lord wants us to go. It is confusing though. If we don't get her before we leave Vienna, we don't have high hopes.
Don't want to be a big downer as things here are wonderful with our three boys and life is really good. We got our first snow today and everything looks so beautiful.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Language Arts B+
Social Studies B
Health A (Yes, mom, I guess he gets that from you!)
Since his classes are pretty hard, we think he did well. He also got "Above expectations" on his Optional Class, which was as a journalist for the Middle School Newspaper. Each of his classes is 75 minutes long! That is just unbelievable to me, I don't think I could have sat in Math or Science for 75 minutes - it is tough!
Max and Dima seem to be doing well, but we haven't received their report cards yet.
Friday, November 04, 2005
Robert has been in the States for the last two weeks getting testing done on the boys. The doctor here recommended it and it has been pretty helpful. Looks like one of them has ADHD and both of them have some attachment issues (we knew that already). However, mostly, they are coming back with high praise from all the doctors who tested them. They are both really smart boys and have really impressed everyone with how much they have learned in the last 20 months since they have been with us. Wow. You can barely even hear an accent on them anymore.
Anyway, they will all be home tomorrow and though my house won't be clean anymore, I sure am excited to see them. They had lots of adventures in the States, including a short trip to Knoxville where they got to meet an Aunt, Uncle , 2 cousins, brother, sister-in-law and two nephews that they hadn't met yet. They also got to spend lots of time with their brother Scott-- they really love all their family and are soo excited to spend time with Scott and Stewart and his family. Thanks to all of you for being so kind to my boys.
Alexander and I had some adventures of our own when Shasta got ahold of a bag of chocolate chips. She had explosive diahhrea and vomitting for two days. Well, okay, maybe that isn't quite as exciting as going to Knoxville.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
Robert, Max and Dima got on the plane this morning and they are off to good old VA. We are so fortunate that Robert's work has decided to send the boys back for some testing. This should involve a whole work up for them - Educational, Psycological and Neurological.
We are hoping to get some answers to our questions and also find out the best ways to help our boys. They are both doing really well but Max definately has some learning issues and Dima definately has some emotional issues. This opportunity is a real blessing for us.
Alexander and I are sooo bummed that we couldn't join them, but I am so busy right now I couldn't get away, also, now that Alexander is in middle school, we were afraid for him to miss so much school. Anyway, Alexander has some vacation days next week so we are going to Germany to visit a friend and also so I can take a quick trip to the Temple.
It sure is quiet around here.
Sunday, October 16, 2005
Dear Mrs. Social Worker with copies to, Chief Judge and Pokrovsky Children’s Home Director.
We thank you so much for all the work you are doing on the case of our daughter, Anastasia. Our friend, Alexander X has been in contact with you on several occasions and has told us of all the work you do to help Anastasia. Also, our agency, Crossroads, who is working through Olga in Vladivostok, has recently informed us that you have submitted to the court the paperwork to have Oleg’s parental rights terminated.
We thank you for your tireless efforts on our behalf and also on the behalf of our daughter. We wish to inform you of the progress being made by our son and her brother, Baxter, Max, formerly known as Suhar, Maxim.
Max is doing very well in our family. He now speaks fluent English and is getting good grades in school. His favorite class is computers and he shows a natural ability to learn about anything electronic, he is able to fix things around the house which break from time to time. He also enjoys reading and math. Max is very athletic and a popular player on the school’s soccer (football) team. Max and his two brothers all won trophies and awards last year for their outstanding efforts in baseball, a favorite American sport.
When Max first came to us, he had many behavior problems but that has all worked itself out now. Max has many friends at school and is a good brother to Dmitry (adopted at the same time from Ussuriisk) and Alexander (our biological son). Also, Max was very small for his age and quite sickly when he first came to us, but we are happy to tell you that he is now of average size and his health is now excellent.
Unfortunately, Max suffers terribly from the loss of his sister, Anastasia. These two children were very close as I’m sure you have learned. Anastasia was almost like a mother to him because she is the older child and she took care of him and protected him. He is bonded to her very strongly and he often has nightmares and crying spurts because he misses her so much. We have had a room and clothes and toys waiting in our home for Anastasia for the last 18 months. We walk by her empty bedroom everyday and it is a constant reminder to our whole family that she is missing and she should be here.
We spent three weeks with her in February of 2004. We promised her that we would be back in the summer 2004 to get her, as we were led to believe would be the case. We have had occasion to call her and talk to her at the Pokrovsky Home for Children without Parents. She becomes very upset because she can not understand why we don’t come for her. She cries and tells me she wants to come “home” to her brother and to mama and papa. She always inquires about all three of her brothers and wants to talk to “papa” even though he speaks no Russian at all. We have stopped making these calls because they seem more painful than helpful.
We share this information with you because we hope you will understand that two children are being torn apart and that it is hurting them terribly. Our family also suffers as we think and pray about Nastia constantly and everyday are trying to find a way to bring her home. We are helpless and can only wait for the Russian legal system to repair this damage to our family. We wish to humbly tell our story to the court and to you that we may beg for assistance in bringing our case to the forefront of your attentions so that it may be resolved quickly.
We understand that once the court determines to terminate parental rights that it is possible that Anastasia will have to go back onto the database. She was already on the database and no one wanted her. If we look online at http://www.usynovite.ru, we find that Anastasia has been displayed on this database for the last year and a half and that no one has come forward to adopt her. The Russian people have been given every opportunity to take this child into their homes and hearts but she is left for us. We are her family and if you will only speak to her you will see that she suffers now because she is not with us.
Each month that passes, Anastasia and Max become further apart. Max is growing so much. He is changing so much, he has become a new boy and now wants to go by the name of “Max” and not “Maxim”. He says that Maxim is the old boy who did bad things and got in trouble a lot. He says that Maxim is the old boy who didn’t have a mommy and daddy. He wants to be the new boy, Max. He wants to learn and be very smart and very good at sports, but last night he told me he is still Maxim inside his heart and he told me that Maxim cries everyday for his sister but Max has to be very brave and not cry. This boy can not finish healing until he has his sister here with him. We know that Anastasia will have a long road too and the sooner we start the journey, the better off we all will be.
We had to put both Max and Dmitry back one grade earlier in school. They were very far behind their American counterparts and of course, they also didn’t speak English. They are both now in the 3rd grade by our American system. Anastasia needs to get started in the American system as soon as possible. Otherwise, Max will soon pass her up and it will be very difficult for her if her little brother is in a higher grade than she is. Max’s education has now come quite far and he can do things that she won’t be able to do or understand. We hope that you, as our representative, can make this important point to the court.
We are Americans and we don’t understand how the Russian system works. In America, we could hire an advocate to speak for us before the court. We don’t know how to do this in Russia but we are certainly willing to if that will help. We will do whatever we need to to bring Anastasia home. We understand that perhaps her biological father has some fears or concerns. We would like to do whatever we can to assure him that Anastasia will have a wonderful life. If he desires it, we are willing to send him copies of the post placement reports and also pictures if he would like. I am willing to fly to Vladivostok now, today, to speak to the court or to the father if you would recommend that route. Our agency is trying to help us, but they too seem to have their hands tied. Too much time has now passed though and we feel we must take extraordinary measures.
We are asking our friend, Alexander X or one of his representatives to fly to Vladivostok so that he can talk with Anastasia. We would like him to bring some gifts for her. We would ask permission that our friend be permitted contact with Anastasia. We need her to know that we are still working and that we will bring her home, we just don’t know when. We would also ask that you speak to him as our representative. We can no longer wait for our adoption agency, but must find out what steps are being taken now. We must answer to our son and tell him what is happening.
We are sending a copy of this letter to our judge who decided the case of Maxim and Dmitry:
xxxx, Chief Judge
and also to the Pokrovsky Children’s Home Director:
If you would like to see more pictures of our family, please look at either of our two websites:
Please scroll down to see the pictures on this site.
We also beg your response to the following questions:
How long will it take for the case of parental rights termination of Oleg Rahimova to come before the court?
Is it necessary for Anastasia to go onto the database again after the parental rights are terminated?
Is it possible for us to “host” Anastasia in our home while we await the outcome of all the legal proceedings? That is, we would come get her and keep her now and then later fly back to Vladivostok to formalize her adoption when the paperwork is ready.
Should we make inquiries to hire an advocate or lawyer in Vladivostok to help us?
It is our strongest desire that none of these questions be offensive. Again, we do not understand your system and it is different from ours. However, we have tried to be patient and we have waited a very long time to get answers and to get our child through the traditional route. Please be assured that we are only trying to find any other paths we might be able to take to get our daughter home as quickly as possible.
We look forward to working with you and hope that we will meet you very soon.
Most sincerely yours,
Robert and Holly Baxter
Robert Armstrong Baxter Holly Wendy Baxter
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Now, we have the waiting, waiting part. We have to wait 7 months from our LID date to get our "referral". The referral is when they (China) send us a picture of our baby along with her health info etc. We expect to get our referral in Aprilish and go get our daughter in June-ish.
Still no decision on the name, but we have lots of time. The waiting is the hardest part. At least when you are pregnant, you have the baby with you while you are waiting - somehow that seems easier!
One of the sisters at church had a baby about 2 weeks ago and she still hasn't named her - all of her children and her husband have strong opinions and they haven't resolved it yet. Boy, I can see that happening around my home.
We went to the Prater last Friday night. The Prater is an amusement park here in Vienna. It was Max and Dima's first time to go and they were so excited. My mom came for the weekend and her birthday present to Max was this fun filled evening. We had a great time and decided to top it off with this photo. The boys loved dressing up and I think (with the exception of me) all of my family looks wonderful!
From L to R it is:
Alexander, Max, Robert, Dmitry
Sunday, October 02, 2005
All orphans must be "adverstised" for six months on the database. This is to give Russian families a fair shot at adopting them. Nevermind that she has been in the orphanage for 6+ years. Sigh. It is the law. When we started this process two years ago, she got put on the database and she then "came off the database" as an eligible child. It was after this that they found her bio father. This is highly unusual, I guess. Anyway, now they are saying that the whole process must start over again.
I have written a letter to the court and to the social worker making an appeal against this. It is a pretty long, emotional letter though. I hope it will inspire someone to say, Enough of this Nonsense! We have some dear friends who are helping us (thank you Mary and Alex) and Alex has just completed the translation of the letter. I intend to fedex it off next week along with some pictures of Max and our family. I will publish the letter here next week, in case you are interested in reading it.
We are just trying to use every avenue we can possibly think of. We will fast this Sunday if anyone would like to join us. That is Sunday the 9th of October. We have been fasting and praying all along of course, but this time we are asking our loved ones to join us if they like. If you can't fast, please include us in your prayers. We are fasting and praying for the following:
1) A quick resolution to any legal issues holding up Anastasia's adoption
2) Guidance on what exactly we should be doing to further the process
3)That the Spirit be with Anastasia to comfort her
4)That the Lord intervene at any point necessary to make the things happen that need to happen to bring our daugther home.
In short, we ask for more miracles. We don't deserve them and the Lord has given us so much allready, it is hard to keep asking. It is our hope and our prayer that He will see fit to bless our little girl though as she only asks to have a family.
Love to everyone and thank you for your prayers.
Friday, September 30, 2005
Robert was out last night attending to church business so I thought the boys and I would have a quiet dinner and get to bed early. I put on a new cd that I just received. It is gospel music and so relaxing and pretty! Dima and Alexander were telling me of the weird dreams they have been having recently. Max started to tell me about a dream he had about Anastasia but before he could get the first sentence out he started crying uncontrollably.
I couldn't calm him down and eventually he gave up on dinner and laid on the couch until he could stop sobbing. We joined together for our evening scripture study and Max said he would like to talk to me privately at bedtime. His breath was still catching and with each word he sounded like he would break into tears again.
Later, as I tucked him in, he said that the calm music had made him relax for a minute (this made me wonder how wound up his mind must be if he actually made this connection) and he remembered something really bad that had happened at the orphanage nearly three years ago when he was 7 yrs old.
They had a beat up old bicycle at the orphanage, it was an adult sized one, but all the children could use it as they wished. Anastasia could ride it a little and she took Max out for a ride. He was sitting on the seat and she was standing up pedalling.
Both Max and Dima have told us many stories of the drunken men who would hang out around the orphanage, especially around the playground. The children were all terrified of these men who apparently were always threatening to steal the orphans. We heard a story about one of these men even breaking into the orphanage in a drunken stupor and trying to get into the boy's room late at night. We don't know if these are accurate memories because they don't make much sense but both boys are adament about it. It occurs to us that perhaps these men wanted children to work as their "slaves" (like with cooking, cleaning etc) or perhaps they even had children in the orphanage that they wanted to get back. Who knows? It is also possible that the orphanage workers played these stories up to encourage the kids not to leave the premises.
In any case, as Anastasia and Max were careening down the road, one of these drunken men walked into their path. Anastasia was not very skilled with the bike and didn't know how to stop, Max anticipated what would happen and he jumped off the bike. He said he was terrified that the drunken man would get him and he ran back to the orphanage and ran inside as fast as he could. He saw his sister fall, nearly at the feet of the drunk and he saw that she was hurt, crying and scared. He kept looking back but was so scared himself he could only run away.
He said that when he bacame a Baxter and started to learn about God, he knew that he should have helped his sister that day. He said the thought wouldn't go away from him. He asked me if Heavenly Father knew about the incident with Anastasia and the bicycle and I said that yes, Heavenly Father knows everything and he said, but you promised that when I got baptized Heavenly Father would forget all the bad things that I did before. I assured him that Heavenly Father remembered that incident not because He is mad at Max but because He is sad that Max was scared and sad that Max felt bad about not helping his sister.
He just kept saying over and over, "I should have helped her", "What if I never get to tell her I'm sorry?", "What if I never get to help her?". It was hard to console him because I was torn between my own tears and wanting to lash out at all the imbiciles out there who would hurt children and all the injustices that our keeping our daughter away from our family.
Through his tears though, the ever ingenious Max developed a plan. He wants to write a letter to Ty. Ty is his favorite person because he helps people and he doesn't care about money or anything, he just wants to help people. Ty is a t.v. guy, he is on the show, Extreme Home MakeOvers -- the favorite show of all three of our boys. If you haven't seen this show it is great. They find worthy recipients (truly worthy) and makeover their home in 7 days. Recently, we watched a double header where Ty and his team totally built a new home (in 7 days) for a family whose 8 yr. old daughter had cancer. We all cried through the whole 2 hour show. Robert came home from a basketball game to find us all sniffling and all three boys still up at 9:00 pm!
I tried to explain to Max that Ty is a carpenter not an adoption attorney, but to no avail. He is insistant, so even though we don't even own a home, or even live in the states right now, I guess I will be helping Max write a letter to Ty this weekend! Maybe next time you tune in you will be seeing a team of American carpenters rebuilding the Russian courthouses. Anything to get our daughter home!
Thank you all for your prayers. It is what we need and it keeps me afloat through evenings like last night.
Monday, September 12, 2005
She will continue working with him and hope she can find a way to get him to agree. I am going to send her some pictures of our life here and hope that can help her to persuade him. We are praying and praying that he will sign the papers - this would be our best option. If he agrees to sign, we can get back on track with the process and could have her home in just a few short months. Keep her in your prayers.
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Journey of Love
It was 5:00 in the morning. I was sleeping. I completely forgot to set my alarm clock to five. It was a Friday so I knew that I only had about an hour until I had to start my morning affairs.
“Wake up” my father boomed.
“Oh man, what time is it?” I asked blankly.
“Its 5:15” he replied “and we’re running late.”
It was then that I remembered that we were going to Russia. I threw my cloths on, brushed my teeth, gulped down some cereal, and ran outside to the airport-van. I was tiered, but having what I was about to get was worth it.
It was about 6:00 by the time we got to the airport. I could smell all the food at the bakery and restraints. I was hungry, and wanted to eat. But there was so much to choose from. There was pizza, Burger King, McDonalds, and anything else a tiered and hungry person could want.
“Mom, I’m hungry.” I whined.
“Well, lets check these bags in and then we can go and get something to eat” she replied.
I wanted something to eat really badly, and I was about to complain, but I stopped myself. I knew that it was trouble to mess with mom in the morning. So, I waited patently for our father to check in the bags.
It seemed like an hour before he got back.
“Now can we go get some food?” I whined.
When we finally got some food it was 7:30. We were all ready to get on the plane. We got some breadsticks from pizza hut.
“How much more longer until we go?” I complained.
“You sure are whiney. Why don’t you take a nap?” offered dad.
I considered it, but quickly decided that I would not want to miss a second of any action.
When we got onto the plane (at 8:00) I wanted to play game boy. Mom had got me to new games, and I wanted to play them. Nether the less I waited an extra 15 minutes for the flight attendant to do her little presentation, for the plane to take off, and for the plane to get to a high enough altitude.
“Would you like anything to drink?” asked the flight attendant.
I took advantage of sitting in front of my mom, instead of right next to her
“I’ll have some sprite please.”
After I drank my sprite, I was able to play my Game Boy. It had been 4 hours before I asked how long it would be before we got there. I knew I shouldn’t wake mom up, but I did so any way. “At least 4 more hours.” Said mom.
I didn’t want to run out of batteries on my Game Boy, so I listened to music and fell asleep.
When I woke up we had landed in Moscow. Now was the long flight. But we had some time to kill so we got some lunch. By the time we had eaten and got to our terminal, it was time to get on the plane.
I fell asleep as soon as we got on the plane. When I woke up we still had 7 hours left on the plane. So I watched a movie, listened to some music and played some game boy. We only had 2 hours left, so I figured I’d take a nap.
When I woke from my second nap of the (long) day, we had landed. We picked up our luggage, took at took a taxi to our hotel, and went to bed. But we couldn’t sleep in to long, because we had to take a taxi to visit the orphanage where Dima was.
I was excited because I hadn’t seen Dima for over a year and a half when we saw them in California (but that’s a different story). So after we ate breakfast and crammed in the car. It took 2 ours to get there (did I mention that it was in the middle of winter, and winter in Russia is so cold it feels like Knifes stabbing you in the face whenever the wind blows). When we got there it was heartbreaking. We were greeted by the director (who had pink hair), who led us in and told us to sit down on the bench while she went to get Dima. As we waited for Dima we heard these little voices.
“Is that my mommy? Is that my mommy?” chimed little orphans.
“Nyet. No Edo, Edo (No. Now go) she snapped.
“What are they saying?” I whispered.
“They’re saying, “Is that my mommy?”” whispered mom (she could speak Russian).
“How sad,” added in Dad.
“Own thama (he’s in there).”
“Let’s go,” said Mom.
Once we were in the room we saw Dima. He was a lot smaller than I remembered him. We hugged and kissed for a couple of minutes. Then the director left.
I got out some toy cars to play with. Dima acted as if they were the most precious things he had ever got (they where). I played and played and played with him for hours. But then he said one of the only English words he knew. It gave my dad a nervous look.
“Shoulders daddy, shoulders!” he yelled.
Dad was about to deny the little orphan his wish when Mom gave him a strong look. Half-heartedly he lifted him up and onto his shoulders. Dima kept on covering Dad’s eyes. Dad said, “I can’t see” and then Dima said, “I can’t see” mimicking him. This continued for a long time.
Unfortunately, we had to leave. But it wasn’t so bad. We told him we’d come back. But tomorrow, we were going to visit max, because we would se his sister, Nastia (her real name was Anastasia.).
The next day we crammed into the taxi. I was extra excited, because of how well yesterday went. I fell asleep the second the car moved though. My mom woke me up when we got there. I ran inside, with my parent’s right behind me. But then I stopped dead in my tracks.
“What’s wrong?” asked mom.
“They're old.” I whispered.
“Well what did you expect?” she asked.
“Well I didn’t expect them to be old.” I said
It wasn’t so bad when I got used to it. We waited for 10 minutes again. Then we got to see max and Anastasia. I was so happy to see her. I got out a Barbie, but she was too old. So then I got out a coloring book, which seemed to interest both her and max. So I colored with them for a couple of minutes.
But then Mom said that we were going to eat lunch, with the director. The director here seemed a lot more mean then the one at Dima’s orphanage. But never the less I ate lunch with her. The food wasn’t so bad, but everybody staring at us was.
We then went to get Max’s passport picture taken. As soon as we got back we found all the kids crowding around my mom. So we played with them for an hour.
But we had to go eventually, so we did. But like Dima, we assured them that we would come back.
We continued visiting the orphanages for when we could, but when we couldn’t we would drive around town and find something to do like go the aquarium, or go to a museum, or walk on the on the frozen ocean. This continued for about two weeks, but then we got our court date.
I could hardly sleep the night before the court date. I stayed up until 2 in the morning reading. Then I finally fell asleep.
We woke up nervous, but excided. We got ready in silence. We drove to the court in silence. We went to court in silence. But after an hour of debating, the judge asked us to step out side. We did so in silence.
I hoped and prayed for the answer I wanted. And then, They asked us to step inside. They told us the answer, and It was ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… YES!!!!!!!!!!
We ran outside, crying with joy. And, we got to pick Max and Dima up tomorrow. It was a happy day for the Baxter family.
I woke up the next morning bright and early, but mom and dad were already up. I poured my self some cereal, thinking that this would be the last breakfast I would have as an only child. When I finished, we set off.
First we had to get some cakes for all the people that were in this adoption (don’t ask me why, but I think its Russian custom). Like the social workers, the directors, and all those other people. So we did, and then we went to get them.
We got Max first. He was really happy to go, but someone else felt pain. It was his sister. He never wanted to come with us unless Anastasia was coming with him. But he changed his mind when she told him she would be alright. When he left she was crying and holding on to him. When she finally let go of him she stormed off, with her friends behind her.
Then we got Dima. It wasn’t as hard on him to leave as it was on Max. while we were giving the director her cake we told Dima to go and get anything he wanted to take with him. He came back with a rubber ball. Oh well, like they say “One mans garbage is another mans treasure.”.
It was a long car ride home, but Max and Dima found stuff to do. Dima played game boy and max listened to The Beach Boys.
I wish we could say we lived happily ever after, but we didn’t. We encountered unexpected difficulties. For example, temper tantrums, misbehavior, waking us up at nighttime. It was like they were 2 year olds in an 8 year old body. But we survived, and with every tantrum we learned how to counter it.
About 2 days latter we were boarding a plain back home. Max and Dima had never been on an airplane of course. Dima stayed in his seat with his game boy. But max was allover the place. He was talking to people, sitting on there lap, shining flashlights in other people’s eyes, that kind of stuff. But we got him under control.
When we got home we got a taxi back home. Max was more excited than Dima was about having a dog. When we picked our dog up he was also excited to see to new boys.
It was funny to see the boys saying it was summer when it was winter! Apparently our winter feels like there summer.
Well this is my brothers' story.
Friday, September 02, 2005
Last year the boys were home from school on a holiday and we all were vegging out watching Oprah. It happened to be a show about adoption of all things. We followed Lisa Ling to China as we watched American families adopt these precious babies. They also had a segment on the orphanages. This struck my boys very deeply. They showed inside the orphanages and they also showed some footage of the so called "dying rooms" where the sick babies are left alone until they leave this world.
This struck us all heavily, especially Max and Dima. All three boys wanted to leave for China and bring all those unwanted babies home. Sigh. If only we could save the world.
The boys didn't drop it though. They kept hounding us - for months. Of course, we already don't know where the money is going to come from for Anastasia's adoption so we can't afford another one, can we? Children don't understand about money though - they told us it would work out somehow. Robert and I even started to talk about it since it was quite unusual that all three of our boys could keep on track for that long!
Eventually I felt compelled to pray about it. It is not like I was ever opposed to the idea it just seemed so impossible financially. I felt very good about it though after my prayer and then I started to bug Robert about it too. Finally, he prayed about it too and was comforted and felt assured that it is the right thing for us to do. We still haven't figured out all the financial aspects of it (I may start a mail order chocolate cookie business - place your orders now!), but we know it is the right thing for us, for our family, for God, and also, most definately for that little girl who will be spoiled rotten by her doting siblings.
We have submitted our paperwork and will know soon if we are approved. We are so excited, the boys are all thinking of names and every time we see an Asian baby or toddler, everyone asks, "OOoo is that what our sister is going to look like?". What a wonderful family we have. I can think of no greater gift than to have righteous children who want to help other children.
I'm getting a little girl!!!!!!!!!!! Yiipppeeee!!
Here is our "short list" for names - I've provided the meaning too:
Carmen: means crimson
Celeste: gentle and heavenly
Sylvia or Sylvy: girl of the forest
Ruth: loyal friend
Rose: rose, blushing
Judy: woman worthy of praise
Rachael: peaceful as a lamb
Edith: a blessed girl who is a gift to mankind
Ivy: easy going
Cast your votes now and THINK PINK. We are sooo excited.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
- The mental hospital and the court commision have determined Anastasia's father (Oleg) to be mentally competent. They can therefore, not move forward with an attempt to terminate his parental rights as they have no grounds for it. This doesn't make sense to us since he has never, in 5 years, made any attempt to visit his children in the orphanage.
- He was put in the mental hospital for a minor crime he commited. He had a one year sentence and was supposed to get out last spring but the hospital extended it 6 months and now he should get out in September.
- The social services office will observe him after he gets released. They will watch to see if he makes any attempt to visit his daughter. If not, this may be grounds to try to get his parental rights terminated.
- The ss office will also check to see if he has ever been registered as a drug or alocohol abuser. If so, this may also be grounds to request his parental rights be terminated.
- Happily, Alex reports that the judge who decided Max's adoption case is on our side. She said she will try to help us. Unfortunately, she is in a different jurisdiction and can't try the case, but maybe she will use her influence to help us?? Also, the social worker appears to genuinely want to help us. That is a huge relief.
Please pray for us and for those small people scattered across Russia who are using whatever means they have to help bring our daughter home. And, please pray for Anastasia. She must be so confused. We continue to hope and pray that we will be able to bring her home sooner rather then later. We have no right to ask for more miracles for our family, but we need this one and so does Anastasia.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Here is Baby Dima. He immediately wanted to copy this a put it on his wall. He was so excited to see a baby picture of himself. Dima spent hours and hours, the first few months he came, pouring over Alexander's baby pictures. Darla really captured his eyes and nose and hairline in this. Those features make it uniquely Dima.
Here is Baby Alexander. This one is a copy from a photo I sent Darla. It came out so beautifully though. Even Alexander likes it!
Monday, August 22, 2005
Our living room in Vienna. We have a really nice house here, even though it is a mess most of the time!
Baby Shasta -- see what I mean about adorable?
Alexander working on his science project for the 5th grade science show. He invented a way to enclose and insulate all the windows in the car so that dogs could be left in the car during shopping.
October 2004. Max and Dima make the decision to get baptized. We were so proud. They made this decision after lots of thought, scripture reading, and prayer. This was something they wanted to do and were ready to do on their own. This is the beautiful baptismal font in our church in Vienna, Austria.
Seems he is always alone during the summers and has quite a burden to bear. He did manage to go visit Scott, Liz, and Erin and Stewart at the beginning of the summer but he also had to do a lot of traveling for work. Not always to exotic locations either. For this reason we are all glad the summer is drawing to a close and that he will be home now more than being gone.
He loved getting to spend time with his children and was thrilled to be called grandpa and get to know his grandchildren a little bit. This has been the hardest part of being overseas-- missing out on those times, especially for him - he misses his children so much. We were able to take two long weekends this summer. One to Garmish, Germany and one to Lake Balaton, Hungary. As always we had lots of fun. All of our boys are troopers when it comes to long road trips and Robert is happy to drive 5, 6, 11 hours to go see something new.
We don't know how is able to work so hard, travel so much and still be a good husband and father. He is now worrying about 8 children (That includes Erin!)! Wow. Who would have thought? He looks pretty good for a grandpa, doesn't he??
He continues to be the spiritual leader and strength of our family and we do miss that so much when he has to travel. He is a counselor to the Bishop at church and he has been able to bless and help many people here in Vienna through his Priesthood and also just through his good heart and compassion.
This is our most recent adoption.
When my mom came to visit at Christmas we were at the mall together when we spotted this little beauty. She was only a handful then and about the sweetest thing on 4 legs. My mom and I decided that this was just the creature she needed. I hate thinking about my mom being alone all the time and coming home to an empty place every night. Unfortunately, it didn't take long for her to realize that she didn't have the heart to leave this little one all by herself for ten hours per day. Anyway, that is how we ended up with this energetic little addition.
Shasta is still a puppy but now 10 months old. She has grown a lot and is now capable of knocking over 6 year old children with a single leap. At the moment she is sort of the center of the house as she dominates most of the space. She loves to play with the boys and if they refuse, she can amuse herself by throwing her ball for herself and then running after it. She can also hold an amazing amount of items in her mouth. A stuffed animal, a shoe, a sock and a tennis ball all at once is not uncommon!
Unfortunately, with 3 boys at her beck and call she has developed some bad habits. We just started her with dog obedience lessons and hope to be able to report soon that our house is once again being run by humans!
Hercules -- my little old man. He is doing pretty well. He has finally adjusted to life with Shasta - it was quite an adjustment for him. As he ages, his back legs get weaker and that has been really hard for him. His mind is still that of a puppy's but his body just can't keep up. Still, he continues to play and pick up a tennis ball from time to time. He can't hop up on the bed anymore but sometimes Robert will put him up there and he is so happy. He is such a character and like no other dog I've known. He has a special place in this family and in this home and we all love him so much.
Anastasia. This picture is from our visit in February of 2004 to the orphanage in Vladivostok. Anastasia is Max's sister. They were in the orphange together since the time she was 4 and he was 3. They were very, very close. When we adopted Max, Anastasia was not yet available. Russia has lots of complicated laws and we were assured it was just a matter of paperwork and beauracracy until she would be available. Anastasia made the decision to let Max go while we waited for the paperwork to be complete so we could go get her. It has now been 18 months since we last saw her.
It has been a fight the whole 18 months and it has just been one thing after another. Her father has been discovered in a mental institution and he refuses to give his permission for her adoption. Aparently he grew up in an orphanage and it was good enough for him so it is good enough for his daughter. We are currently trying to get the courts to declare him mentally incapable, but it has been a long battle and we still aren't there yet. Our greatest weapon at this time has been prayer and fasting and we are now resolved to do even more fasting with prayer. We have recently found a secret weapon named Mary Kirkpatrick, she runs an organization called Russian Family Finders and she has good contacts in Russia. She has been helping us and that is how we have the little information that we do have.
We have been able to contact Anastasia a few times but she cries the whole time and can not understand anything about judges and government regulations etc. She only understands that we promised we would be back and we haven't been back. Even now as I write this, my stomach is contracting and I feel ill with anger and frustration. It is our prayer that all of these complications will fall away and we will have our daughter, our son's sister, home with us soon.
Anastasia is going to be 11 on September 20th. She is one month younger than Alexander. A friend just pointed out to me that we will have 4 children in high school, going on missions and going to college all at the same time. We are going to need lots of blessings and miracles. I have asked Max what Anastasia likes to do, what her favorite color is, what kinds of things she likes, but he doesn't know. He just says she loves to eat. How I wish she were home with us now.
Dmitry (we call him Dima, pronounced Deema) dressed as a "Russian". Last year the children had an international day at school and one of the Russian families lent him a costume from Russia. However, since that time he has tried harder and harder to distance himself from his Russian heritage. We can understand this and just want to go with whatever feels most comfortable to him right now. Dima has a perfect memory of his early childhood and remembers lots of sad and disturbing things so we understand his need for distance.
He has grown so much the last 18 months that he barely resembles the little, screaming, self-harming, angry little boy we brought home.
He is a rather obsessive child but this has really paid off for him in school. In one year he went from not knowing a word of English to being at the top of his class in reading. He loves to read and can often be found with a book under his nose. He also loves electronics, which we try to limit or keep him away from altogether!
Dima loves to swim and Alexander has taught both him and Max how to swim quite well. Dima also loves church and has absorbed the gospel like a sponge. He has an astonishing memory for scripture stories and details and an amazing ability to understand the deeper meaning behind those stories. We are so proud of how far he has come socially. It is very difficult for him to keep his emotions in check, but he is so smart that he is aware of this and with the help of a little medication, he can catch himself much of the time, take a deep breath and stop before he spins too far out of control. He wants to be just like any other American boy and that is what he constantly strives for. He refuses to admit he speaks Russian and claims he can't understand it at all. Again, we think this will pass.
Max will be 10 in October. We are stunned at the progress he has made the last 18 months since we brought him home. His English is now wonderful. He is still exploring to find what his talents and hobbies are. He gets bored easily and is always busy looking for new things to get into. He spent a lot of time this summer helping me around the house. He is a good worker and seems to have limitless energy.
He is finally starting to grow. We really worried the first year as his growth was minimal but he has added about 3 inches now and almost 20 pounds! He is full of charm, humor and .....mischief. You can see it in his big, blue eyes. His great love is dogs and the two we have don't seem to be enough to keep him busy. He continues to miss his sister and worrys that he won't be able to speak Russian to her by the time we finally get her home. Max continues to struggle with reading but we had him working with a tutor this summer and are excited to get him started with a computer program which the school recommends. He enters 3rd grade on Wednesday and he, of all the boys, is the most excited to get back to work and play. He has been bored this summer and needs constant structure or he ends up in trouble. He has really shown a natural ability toward music and can pound out lovely tunes on the keyboard even though he has had no lessons. He is a sweet and cuddly little boy and we have been so proud of how hard he works.
Here is Alexander -- looking tan and happy! We didn't get much sun this summer but somehow the boys managed to absorb the rays that peeked out. Alexander is doing well. He is as tall as my shoulder now. He just turned 11 on August 12. He will start middle school on Wednesday -- yikes. Just a few minutes ago I was holding him in my arms and rocking him to sleep.
He continues to amaze us with his insight and perception - so uncommon at his age (um and with his gender!). He is such a good big brother. He spends lots of time teaching new things to his little brothers and he is a very patient teacher. He has his days when he doesn't want to see them at all, but for the most part they get along well.
Alexander was really doing well with the flute last year but he took a break this summer - hopefully he will be back at it this year. The sixth grade! It came so fast. Alexander has really shown growth this year and we are so proud of the mature young man he has become.