Sunday, November 29, 2009


The girls painted some beautiful pictures this weekend. When they dried I hung them on the wall in the kitchen. Since that time, anything Tess draws she sticks on the wall with little stickers. So funny.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sleepy Girl

Tess falls asleep in the car every afternoon when we pick up the kids from school. I took this picture while we were at a stop light. Two seconds later she was out cold. Couldn't you just kiss that sweet face!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Flipping Around

Now, why in the world do my kids love their daddy so much? Probably because he does crazy-fun airplane flips to them! It hasn't taken Tess long to figure out how much fun it is to be turned upside-down and tossed around.

Tess has the tinest little 4-year-old body. When she came home three weeks ago she weighed 25.5 pounds. Now she weighs 28.5 pounds. In just three weeks!

Laughing hard and upside-down!

Audrey's turn. And, Tess? She's comin' back for more!

I have to follow up on the kids' "Tess show-and-tell day". She did great. For the most part Tess performed well for them. She sang "Jesus Love's Me" with the classes. And Blake, Will and Audrey did a lot of, "Tess, say..." Then they would give her some random Russian word to say. When she repeated them the class would laugh like it was the cutest thing! Sometimes she's like a little puppy dog doing tricks!

I took her to the "Infectious Disease International Adoption Doctor" that is at the Children's Hospital near us. Of course everything checked out great. They did some lab work called "titers" to check the levels of the immunizations they gave her in Russia. Sometimes in Russia they use expired or half-dose medicines that don't really do much. They're also checking to see about her iron level. The Russian doctor told us she was anemic. Of course this is the same doctor that "weighed" Tess by picking her up under her arms. He said in his deep Russian voice, "24 pounds. No less than 23. No more than 25". When we brought her home she weighed 25.5pounds. Oops - should I report him to the Russian authorities? Everything has to be so perfect on the US end. Yet, when it's coming from Russia they just make it up as they go along. Don't get me going on that hypocrisy! I'm sure all you adoptive moms could write a book on that stuff!

Tomorrow we're putting up our Christmas tree! What in the world will Tess think of all the lights? We can't wait!

Burning the Cat-tails

For some reason - every fall my dad burns down the cat-tails that grow along the edge of their pond. There might be a real reason. But, personally, I think he just does it because the kids think it's cool!

Blake really got into the blow-torch thing!

Will's turn. Audrey did not want to try it. And my mom took Tess inside for the whole ordeal. With her personality, she'd probably want to try the torch, too!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

First Family Photo

First family picture! What a shot. I set the camera on the piano bench, clicked on the timer - and got this. I think seeing mommy running like a nut to get into my place before the blinking stops makes everyone smile.

Things get better everyday with our little Tess. We had four great bedtimes, but last night she cried again. It's totally a different story now with the crying. She's crying, "Maaamaaa". Now what do you do with that? Of course you go in and snuggle. Time will work it out.

Sunday night was her first ever outing away from our house. After 16 days I was ready! We went to my nephews 2nd birthday party. She did really good considering all that was going on. There were lots of kids. She pretty much stayed the opposite place the kids were. If they were in the basement, she was upstairs with the adults. If the kids were upstairs, she was in the basement playing with all the toys. I just sort of hung back and watched her. We played together a little bit, but she really couldn't focus on just one thing. Her brain was going a mile and minute.

She freaked out twice. Once when it was time for dinner and everyone else was already in the kitchen ready to pray. I brought her up from the basement and when we came into a room of silent people who turned to look at us, she became a limp noodle, slid to the ground and started screaming. I took her into a different room and she settled down real quick.

The other time was even more sad. Rob went to out heat up the car. Blake and Will ran out into the cold with their boy cousins. I looked down and she was completely panicking trying to get her boots on. She was saying "shoe, zip, shoe, zip". She thought we were leaving her. Poor baby girl.

Today I am taking Tess to the kids school for "show and tell". They are all so excited. I asked them what they were expecting from Tess. They said they want her to talk in Russian and hug their teachers. Hummm, good luck with that. I'll report back on that one.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Four

Here's the four best, sweetest, silliest, craziest, happiest kids in the world! And, I'm serious. I even checked in Russia. These are the best ones. ;)

This is the only decent picture I took for our Christmas Photo Shoot Take #1. None of them truly represented my kids' personalities. Like, take Will for example. That is not the face of Christmas joy. That is the face of strain because Mommy's said 15 times, "just a few more!" Christmas Photo Shoot Take #2 went better. Those are the pics I'm using for my Christmas cards. Tomorrow is Saturday. I'll try to take some better candid shots of the four of them. It is tough getting everyone within the view of the camera lens at the same time!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tess's New Haircut

This is her hair before. Uneven and a little stringy.

The haircut

Is this cute or what?

This is a face Tess makes often. She does this when we don't understand her or she doesn't understand us. It always feel like the scene in Finding Nemo where Marlin is with the sea turtles. The tiny, darling baby turtle explains how to exit the Current. He has that happy, squeeky voice. But, Marlin says, "You're really cute, but I don't understand a word you're saying." Poor Tess.

Tess's 4th Birthday!

The birthday girl!

Getting a closer look at the yummy cake. I have not given her sugar, except for the sucker on the plane and one sucker on Halloween. So, just the smell of the sugar made her smile.

Blowing out the candles like a pro! We blow dandelions outside, so maybe that's why she did so well? They told us at the orphanage that she had never had a cake with candles. At any rate, Rob is very happy that I taught her to blow by spreading weed seeds all over the yard.

Tess with Mommy and Daddy

Tess had a very fun 4th birthday! We didn't know for sure if we should have a house full for the celebration. But, with Miss Spunky-pants, we decided she'd love it. So we had some of the cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents over. About 20 people including us.

I want to give a quick update. I haven't posted in a while. Tess and I have been getting to know each other better. I have only left this house two times in the past 13 days! She has only been in the car once to go to a neighbors house to take Christmas pics. (We had to take advantage of these warms days!) I'm so glad we have been together non-stop. She really loves to snuggle up with me. She says, "Hold you." when she wants me to pick her up. Something I LOVE to hear!

Anyway, our little Tess...
~dressed up for Halloween, by her choice! She wore Audrey's pink bunny costume from when she was three.
~Loves to wrestle with her bros and sis. They have taught her to do somersaults, sword fight, go off the slide backwards and spin around until she's dizzy and falls over, then play like she's dead. You know - important things for a 4-year-old to know.
~Still cries at night. Last night was the best night ever. The night before was the worst. You just never know.
~Has fewer and fewer fits. She's starting to understand that if I'm trying to help her turn a puzzle piece the right way I really don't want to take it from her.
~LOVES to sing! Sings Russian songs, makes up songs and sings song I've taught her. Wheels on the Bus, Jesus Love Me, Away in a Manger and a ton of others
~Finally has let her guard down and will go around the house without shoes on. She was even wearing them with her jammies!
~likes to ride a bike with training wheels
~could swing on the swing set all day! She says, "swing outside".
~loves taking baths with Audrey. They play for an hour. I have to refresh the water with warm because they're in so long it gets old.
~is awesome at puzzles! 80 piece puzzles. Not baby puzzles.
~takes her turn very well when we play games. Likes Animal Bingo, Oh Rats, Duck duck goose...
~loves playdough! She got an "ice cream shop" for her bday. We "eat" pretend ice cream cones for hours!
~loves to play in our little play kitchen. Likes to bake pizzas the best. :)
~likes sidewalk chalk
~recognizes her name spelled out. We're working on "T"
~Can name most of her body parts. eyes, ears, neck, foot, etc

That's all I can think of right now. I could write forever, but that gives a rough idea of what we've been doing the past 13 days! I am having so much fun with her. She's a little love-bug. I have to say though - it's all on her terms. But, that's getting better, too.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Red Square and Adjusting in the USA

So much to tell...

Tess and Daddy. Doesn't get better than this.

Traditional Red Square, St. Basil's Cathedral pictures taken by a fellow tourist.

Just taking it all in.

Tess's angry face. Pretty cute, but watch out. She ain't kidding!

Running to Daddy with a huge smile! (Blast those wretched yellow lines!)

Prepare to be amazed...Tess has gone to bed the past two nights without one tear! I have a discovered that (like my other kids) Tess likes routine. If we follow the schedule, things go great. So we brush teeth, read same Bible, point and name same animals, sing same song, and she falls asleep and I leave. Is that a miracle child or what? Praise God!

Our main struggle is that she absolutely cannot accept the word "no". If she wants to do (or not do) something she has the biggest screaming fit. I'm telling you, mouth open wide, shaking her head, rolling on the floor, kicking and screaming at the top of her voice. It has been hard to know what to do. I definitely cannot reason with her. I don't want to yell or get angry, that just makes things worse. So, what I have done the past two days has worked incredibly. I pick up her writhing little self, set her on the toilet on the bathroom (somehow she doesn't fall off with all the fitting she's putting on), squat down and say in a deep authoritative voice "No screaming. Are you done?" I put out my hands, she shakes her head, I leave for about 1 minute. I come back, with my hands out, "Are you done?". It takes about 3 or 4 times. Then she snaps out of it puts her arms up and says, "Done". And, we go back to whatever we were doing. Today it was a puzzle that had a piece that "wouldn't fit". Because I tried to help her turn the piece the spaz-out happened. After the Jeckle and Hyde routine, we returned to the puzzle and finished with a smile.

Language - Keep in mind she has only been in the United States of America for 4 days! She just gobbles up anything I say. Her re-call is incredible. She can sing (more like mumble the tune and throw in various words) Jesus Loves Me, Away in a Manger, Father I Adore You, Wheels on the Bus...just to name a few. When she wants something I tell her what it is, she repeats me, and she remembers. She can say "drink, eat, outside, swing, more, all done, help, shoes on, brush teeth, coat on/off, Amen." She says all the kids names, Grammy, Grampa, May (our dog). I'm sure there's more I'm not thinking of right now.

Before we left Russia, a woman came up to us and started talking with Tess. We asked her what she said. The lady told us that Tess said, "I like your beautiful red coat." So, we know she has a major grasp on words. I think that's why she's moving at record speed. It's so sad. If she jabbers to us and we just stare at her blankly she shrugs her shoulders. She's probably thinking, "poor fools".

All in all, she's doing amazing! She hugs me, sits on my lap, holds my face and kisses me. It just completely blows me away. Thank you, Jesus - right, Ana?
God has brought this little girl into our family. Everyday she fits just a bit tighter in.