Monday, December 24, 2012

Pre-Christmas Part 2

We've talked a lot about the reason for Christmas --the baby Jesus.  Hannah knows the story and it has caused her to ask a lot of questions about babies, real parents, etc.
We have used an advent calendar and read the bible verse each day as we open each little door, lit the candles on the advent wreath each Sunday, and Hannah was in the Christmas pageant at school.  I am happy with how we have kept the religion in the season.

The commercial side is more perplexing to me.  I want her to get excited, have fun, and join in all the things her friends are enjoying but...I don't want her to get materialistic about it.
She had really given me no indication of what she wanted for presents.  She doesn't ask for much or beg me to get her things in the store and I like it that way.  I had friends tell me that they give thier kids the toy catalog and tell them to circle everything they want.  I just didn't want to do that--I don't want to teach her that she should ask for things.

She only ended up asking for two things--a kitten and legos.  Unfortunately mom nixed the kitten idea (She thinks she can get it for her seventh birthday--we'll see).  So that left Legos for Santa to give.  I was on my own to get things from me to her but it wasn't hard.  I got her some new clothes, new shoes, and some things for her barbies, and one game we can play together.
Santa has three Lego sets and a plethora of things for her stocking.
There is no one big ticket item this year and I am ok with that.

I attended a parent's workshop earlier this fall and the speaker sent out a Christmas newsletter.  He talked about free but meaningful gifts we can give our kids and they all helped build the relationship between parent and child.  I took one of those ideas and hope to do it every  year.  So..along with her presents, Hannah will get the following letter from Santa:

Dear Hannah,
I know the song says "You'd better watch out--You better not cry, you better not pout" but I really don't care if you have been naughty or good.  I care about what kind of person you are and I want you to know that I am proud of you.  This past year I have seen you:
--help your friends when they get hurt and I love how you care for others
--help your mom with dishes, laundry, and picking up your toys.  It shows you know what it means to be a responsible family member.
--work hard on your spelling words even when they are hard
--tell your Mom the truth when you have done something wrong.  Good for you for being honest.
--Dance around the living room to your favorite music.  Always keep that joy in your heart.
--Pray to God every night and give him thanks for the good things in your life.  I have even heard you say the Sign of the Cross in French!
--Always ask for treats and eat more sweets than you should but then you ask for some healthy fruit.
--work on your cartwheels until you got good and you keep practicing your handstands, soon you will be very good at them too!  Never give up.
--Get so excited when  you can visit your cousins.  I am glad you know how important family is.
--Give your Mom special hugs and kisses and tell her you Love her.  She really likes that and it makes her feel happy inside.
--tell people you are sorry when you have hurt their feelings or accidently hurt them.
--Use lots of imagination when you play--you can think of the best stories in the car.
--Get so excited when you can play with some one's pet, like Annika's hamster or Mary Lou's animals, or David's horses.  Always keep that love of animals.

I know why your Mom is so so proud of you. 
I am too!
Love, Santa

Pre Christmas Part 1

We have had such a fun Holiday season this year leading up to Christmas.
Many special events have helped us get ready and into the spirit of the season:

Hannah's school had their Christmas concert on 12/12/12.  It was Hannah's first stage debut and she did great.  Despite it being crowded and chaotic, I truly enjoyed watching her.

She had her second stage debut performing in the church pageant of the Christmas Story.  All the first graders were star bearers and each had to make thier own star to carry.  It was another fun night.  She also had her singing debut when she sang "Away in a manger" with two other friends.

We spent a lovely afternoon having tea with the Sugar Plum Fairy and then later went to see "The Nutcracker".  Hannah just loves that story and the ballet.

Our final event was the Lori Line Christmas Concert.  This was somewhat of a tradition for my parents and I.  We went together many years and they both loved it.  Now I am able to pass that down to Hannah.  Somehow on this night she looked like such a grown up girl in her Christmas finery.  She loved the show but slightly more than halfway through I got proof that she was still my little girl as she fell fast asleep and missed the last 45 minutes.  She even slept through a killer drum solo!

Things we did together at home included decorating the tree and making cookies.  We also made santa, a snowman, and a snowlady to adorn our front window.

Christmas is so much fun with a child!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Just catching up

I started this post with nothing profound to write about but realized it has been so long since I've posted and I really should get some of our life down in word.

Summer has just zoomed by. The many hot days of July seemed to slow us down a bit as it was just too hot to go the park or do anything outside other than swim so we had quite a few pool visits.  It is one of Hannah's favorite things and there were always other mom's there so it was all good.

In July we did vacation in Northern WI and stayed at a cabin on the lake with my sister and her family.  My brother's seven year old daughter came with Hannah and I and the girls had a blast.  We lucked out with the best weather that week and truly enjoyed every minute of it.  It was interesting having another girl along with us.  I was worried about my niece getting lonely for her mom and dad and she did a few nights but overall did very well with it.  Hannah's reaction was interesting also--at one point she reminded me, "I am your only daughter, right Mom?".  Another time I called my niece sweetheart and Hannah said, "You can call her Mary Lou--you can only call me all those other names."  Made me smile inside.

We also had a great McNab campout weekend in August.  Our biggest turn out ever with 63 people there.  Kids running around having fun for three days.  My cousin's wife added a new feature this year by planning a very elaborate three hour scavenger hunt that has us running all over town.  48 of us participated and were divided into 8 teams--it was really the highlight of the weekend.

If you look back two posts ago, you will recall that I struggled some with the decision of what grade Hannah should attend this year. 
She started first grade and is quite cute in her uniform if I say so myself.

The first week was the honeymoon.  On the first day of school the teacher sent home a puzzle piece and asked the parents to write their wish for what they want their child to get out of 1st grade.  I had many wishes in mind like learn to read, understand math, etc. but had to think about what my one primary wish was and I wrote "to learn the love of learning".   She had already asked the children to fill out the same thing. When we went to school the teacher had the parents puzzle pieces up on a board next to their child's.  Hannah's puzzle piece said "To love school".  I was so thrilled to see that Hannah and I had the same wish for her at school.
Then the adjustment started and it was quite an adjustment.  When the homework started, the tantrums started and it was hard for about a week.   She practically begged to go back to Kindergarten and said she wanted a different teacher because "I just want a fun one, not a learning one".  School has not come easy and she needs to work hard.
Fortunately she has a great teacher who sees her for who she is, enjoys her, works with her, and reassures me that she is working very hard in school so don't get to worried about grades.  She also qualified for Title One reading and has begun that which is a very good thing.  Spelling words every night were such a struggle that first week. 
I have talked with her teacher and listened in on a webinair about adoption and school.  It made so much sense and gives me some good info and ideas.
We seem to have made it over the worst part--she does homework willingly most of the time, she tells me she loves her spelling words, and I am seeing improvement in understanding and study habits.  She is working hard and is so happy when she does well.
Yesterday in the car she started writing in a little notebook she has and she told me--"I am practicing my numbers because I want to keep my brain thinking".  When we got home I saw she had written 1 through 65 and had them all in correct order.
I know we will have to keep working hard this whole year and probably many more to come but I think we are on the right track and I know Hannah can do it--she is a very bright girl.  Hopefully we are headed towards that love of learning we both desire for her.  Although she still says her favorite part of school is when it ends.
In this past week we have added activities also--I have kept the school nights free but on weekends Hannah has lessons for ice skating, ballet, and swimming.  I heard her tell my mom that she likes them all allot but swimming is her most favorite.  We got to keep some fun in our lives and Hannah has already learned that she likes Saturdays best--no school and no church--ha!

When I in the middle of the adoption process I found a small group of women that were all adopting also and had formed an adoption support group.  It was and still is an invaluable group to me.  All the women have children now but we still enjoy getting together and now include our children some of the times.  The woman who started and organized the group has a very busy life and stepped down from the organization of the group so I volunteered to take that on.  We always take the summer off and are now starting back up in October.  I have kept in pretty close touch with some of them but  I am excited to reconnect with all of them.

On a closing note--we are both loving this fall weather.  Hannah can't wait for winter and snow but I hope it holds off for quite a while.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Life is good

So often I get caught up in my busy life--it's not so busy compared to a lot of other people but working full time and being a single mom sure seems busy to me.
I feel the pressure of rushing in the mornings because I can't be late for work and then being so tired by the time we get home.  After dinner is made and eaten, it seems like we have very little time for fun and often my patience is barely hanging on. I have been known to lose it when Hannah can't decide what she wants to wear that day or when she stops to look at every little thing on the way to the car or when she just decides not to listen to me and keeps doing her own thing.  I also get quite disgusted with myself for doing things like forgetting her swimsuit on sprinkler day, forgetting to take her to her tutor session, misplacing some important papers from work, and all the other stupid things I do that I blame on not having enough time.  Somedays I feel completely overwhelmed when I look at how behind I am on laundry, how dirty the bathroom has gotten, how full my closets are, or how dirty my car is. was a beautiful summer day that made me forget all that and just enjoy my life.
I did spend the morning cleaning.  Hannah alternated between watching a movie and playing when she was not helping me clean--which she did happily so it was very peaceful.
After lunch we went off to the pool with good friends--two other single moms and their girls.  We swam most of the afternoon, ate at subway together, and then went back to swim most of the evening.  Weather was perfect, the kids were great, and the company was good.  We had a great combination of kids playing nicely so we could have time to have adult talk and kids playing with us.  I even overheard  Hannah tell some one else, "My mom's the best".
On the way home we stopped at Dairy Queen and shared an oreo brownie sundae-- totally awesome treat and we had such fun sharing it.
At home we showered, put on our pajamas and then Hannah asked me if she could snuggle with me and watch a movie for a little while.  How could I say no to that so...I said yes.  We found an American Girl movie on TV and snuggled into the couch.  She leaned up against me and enjoyed what she saw of the movie.  It felt so wonderful to have her fall asleep in my arms and to carry her into bed like a baby.  I remember the first night I had her at the hotel in Russia--my heart feeling so full as I watched her sleeping in my bed and could hardly believe she was mine.  I relived that feeling tonight.

I don't care about any of that stuff in the first paragraph---I  love my life!!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

On to 1st Grade

If you remember, last year we were debating if Hannah should start Kindergarten or not and decided to challenge her and go ahead and move onto Kindergarten.
She has done well socially and with most subjects however, reading basics have come hard for her.  When meeting with her teacher mid way through the year, she recommended that we consider Hannah repeating Kindergarten as she was behind the other kids in reading basics.
So began the conflict in my mind--send her to 1st grade or repeat Kindergarten.  Of course I wanted to do what would be the best for Hannah but what would that be? On the one hand, it is better to hold a child back at a younger age because self esteem issues come later in years.  I have also heard people say that no one regrets holding thier child back.  But..on the other hand, I want her to move ahead with her friends, and I believe that she is still catching up and will get there eventually so is it better to challenge her?
I started working a little more with her at home and developed our own "homework" based on what they were learning at school and I could see first hand where her difficulties were.  I will admit that sometimes I was frustrated because I did not know how to teach her.  However we plugged away and I started to see some improvment but always wondered if it was enough.
Standardized testing at Hannah's current school showed that she was improving throughout the year but still lagged behind in some areas.
Her current school is a private kindergarten and does not have any higher grades so I planned on switching schools either way--that way, even if she repeated it would be new to her.
Again I researched schools and wanted to find the one that was the best fit for her and for our life.  I found a great school and am excited to be sending her there.  I started working with the principal there and we did the standard testing that they do for their own students at the end of kindergarten.  Again Hannah tested in the average range but had some areas that were lower.  The principal felt that all the deficits showing up on the testing could be handled in first grade.  I also met with her current teacher who felt that Hannah had made great strides during the second half of the year and she was confident with her going to first grade also soo.........I have a first grader.
Her new school worked with me already and I am hapy with our plan.  Hannah will receive tutoring in reading this summer from her new 1st grade teacher.  I think this is great for many reasons--it will help her reading skills, she will get to know her new teacher before the first day of school, and the sessions are conducted in her new school so the environment will be familiar to her before the first day of school.  She will then have this teacher next year and this teacher is the special reading teacher for the school so she will know Hannah's abilities and be able to help her right at her level.
Everyone at her current school and her new school have been so wonderful to work with.  I am very happy and confident with our plan for her education.
Still..there is a part of me that wonders if we will face this discussion every year and as she gets older it will be more difficult to hold her back for other reasons but I guess we will cross that bridge if we have to.
For now, we are getting ready to celebrate Kindergarten graduation.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day 2012

Celebrating Mother's Day is very special to me--maybe because I waited 49 years to do it but maybe because I have a great Mother and a great daughter.

This year we spent the weekend at my Mom's house.
Well---Saturday we took my Mom to my brother's house and spent the day with them.  We watched Mary Lou's soccer games in the morning--they won both games and she was quite good.  One of Hannah's many highlights was getting donuts after the game.

We spent the rest of the day at Mike and Connie's place in the country.  They have Mary Lou (who is one year older than Hannah) and horses so it is one of Hannah's favorite places.  We grilled out for lunch--yum yum and Hannah got a horse back ride.  And the weather was unbelievably nice.  What a great day. At one point Hannah sat down next to me and sighed and said "I am having so much fun"

Mom had other plans Saturday evening so the rest of us went out to eat Sat. night and just had a good time being together.

Sunday was spent at Mom's.  We gave Mom a corsage to wear to church and Hannah was with us when we bought it so she picked one out for me as well.  It was my first time with a corsage on Mother's Day!
We made a great Lasagna meal for lunch and all of Steve's and Mike's families was there.  I just love being around family and Hannah does too.

On the drive back home, I asked her "What was your favorite part about this weekend and she said "Being with Mary Lou".  At night when getting ready for bed, I told Hannah that I had a great weekend with her at Grandma's.  She said, "Me too....You are the best Mommy in the whole dress pretty".  Oh my heart--I asked, "Why do you make me so happy?" and she replied, "Because I love you so much and I will stay with you forever!"

It was an awesome Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My new favorite song

Hannah loves to sing...but she does not sing songs that she has learned...she just sings...whatever is in her head..sometimes it makes sense..sometimes it doesn't..and usually I just love what she sings.
This morning driving to school, she was pretending that she was a Princess horse that could talk and sing and she was putting on a show for all the other talking horses..and this is the song she sang at her show....
"When I was a baby, I dropped out of my family..
and no-one saw me.
Then one day a new person came...
She was a beautiful Mommy and...
She picked me up to be in her family"
I had smiles and tears all at the same time but couldn't let on to Hannah because I wanted her to keep singing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I know my place!

Nothing is as humbling or puts you in place like a child. All of these examples happened in the last week so I am feeling very humbled and on occasion, slightly miffed!

riding home in the car I started singing along with the radio and Hannah says, "Mom, can you just stop singing? I just want to listen to them." "Really Mom, I mean it." When I explained to her that I really liked singing along to the music that was playing she said, "Well, just turn it off then" Ouch!

While walking in the park "I don't care if you are fat Mom, really I don't". Gee, thanks Honey.

We were at a big park with a cool playground that is so fun to run around on--even for adults. I was following Hannah around on it and she stops and says "Can you go off here and just watch me? I don't want you to follow me" which really means--"Go sit by the other parent on the sidelines--you are cramping my style".

I asked Hannah to do something for me and she looked at me, put her hands on her hips, and said "remember Mom, we have a magic word. What is the magic word Mom?" I said "Please" and she replied, "Good job, I will be happy to....".

When leaving for work and school in the morning, Hannah wanted to stop and do something she thought was fun. I told her we needed to go and she could do that when we got home after school. She just hung her head and said, "But you will forget". Yes, honey I usually do.

when she was sitting on my lap snuggling before bed she covered her head with her blanket (as she often does to go to sleep). I said -- you know I don't like it when you cover up your face and she replied "But I don't want to smell your breath"

When I got up from eating our dinner (Hannah was already done and had been dismissed)I walked into the next room. Hannah followed me, "Umm--Mom, did you forget something?" I didn't have any idea what she was talking about until she pointed to the table--I hadn't picked up my dishes and put them in the sink. That is the rule in our house--you put your dishes in the sink when you are done.

Man--I can't get away with anything around this girl!!!

Then one moment like this makes all those others worth it--
Hannah--"Mom--even if I get angry at you or you get angry at me, you still love me and I still love you." I said "Yes that is right, We always love each other" and she replied "That's why we are family together forever!" with a big smile, hug, and even a kiss!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

6 years old!!

Hannah's birthday fell on Easter this year--April 8th. I had the great idea to have my family come here to celebrate with us. I only have a 2 bedroom townhome but they could all stay at a hotel--we could celebrate Hannah's birthday Sat. night at the hotel with swimming and then have Easter dinner at my house. I ran it by my family and they all jumped on board--25 people coming to my house.
I worried about how it would all turn out--would I get the house cleaning done on time, could I fit everyone in for dinner, would I have enough food--too much food, etc. Everyone got here and with help from all of them the weekend was so good-- my brothers fixed up some things in my house that needed fixing, we had a great time at the hotel Saturday--good food, fun birthday party, fun swimming, we all made it to church on time, food got done on time, we had just the right amount, good weather so we could eat in the garage and have the egg hunt outside, and we had a great time. In Hannah's words "Easter is so fun".

We celebrated two major events--
Most important--the rising of our Savior Jesus Christ.
It was just a wonderful feeling to be sitting with so much family at church and sharing our faith together. The music was amazing and just seemed to fill my soul. Hannah was catching so much of what they were saying and singing and she asked me alot of questions about it. We had a few more whispered conversations than I usually like during church but it was all to help explain the meaning to her and answer her questions so I didn't mind. She was engaged. I always feel the awesomeness of Easter on this day and I wish I could keep that awareness all the time, every day.

The other big event of the weekend was Hannah's sixth birthday. I was really surprised at how emotional this birthday was for me. For some reason it just seemed like my little girl is getting too old. I couldn't stop looking at her. It was hard to say good-night on Saturday because I knew it was her last night as a five year old. I almost cried.
In the morning I woke up next to a six year old--it just sounds so grown up. The first thing I said to her was "Happy Birthday my big girl". I got a huge smile, a "Thank you Mama" and then a big hug. All was right with the world again.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Future Plans

Over the last week Hannah has told me at least four times that when she grows up she will be painting fingernails for other people--only girls, not boys. The boys can just sit and watch.
I have often thought of what Hannah could do in the future--be a nurse like me, be a doctor, teach school, run a company, design buildings, write stories, etc. but being a Manicurist never entered my mind. Just as long as she's happy.....

Monday, March 5, 2012

My Daughter and my Dad

Hannah seems to have this great love for my Dad. She talks about him a lot and has made up songs about him that usually are a variation of the following lyrics:
I Love my Grandpa
I really miss him
He is so nice
He is so good

She has frequently told me that she misses him and wishes she could see him.

Before I go farther, let me tell you that my Father passed away before I met Hannah. I did most of my preadoption education at his bedside in the hospital. We talked about the adoption and he was happy for me but he died before I got my homestudy done. Hannah knows that he lives in Heaven with God and that we can't see him but can talk to him whenever we want.

I was especially touched tonight.
Hannah was very talkative when I picked her up today but on the ride home she suddenly became silent for a long time. I turned around expecting to find her asleep but instead I saw a very sad looking girl with misty eyes and she said very quietly "I want my Grandpa". Choked me right up and I nearly cried myself but after a little silence we had a good conversation about my Dad.

The timing of my Dad's illnes and death was very hard for me and I knew that I would always wish that he and my daughter could have met. seems that they have on some level and that makes me happy.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Long overdue post

So long since I have last many milestones in that time.

Fun times with friends--
A fancy tea with the Sugar Plum Fairy was a highlight of Hannah's. While there, she said "I feel just like a princess" and "Mom, can I come here again."
On the same weekend we attended "The Nutcracker" ballet on Friday night and "Disney Live--a tale of three princesses" with good friends Fiona and Julie. The girls absolutely loved both.

Our second Christmas together--
we had such a fun filled weekend at my brother's house with the whole family and then a quiet morning with just the two of us and Santa presents. What a joyful time. Prior to Christmas I took her to see Santa at the mall but she would not even walk close to him--just looked from afar (very far). I forgot to take her beautiful Christmas Dress on the trip to my brother's so what did mom do?--go shopping of course!
Favorite gift--a pink unicorn from Santa. "Just what I wanted". It is still her most played with toy.

Two Years as a family--
Adoption brings so many dates to remember.
Jan. 19th marked what I call family Day--the day a Russian judge said, "Da, you are the child's mother now". We celebrated with dinner and a movie. I gave Hannah a gift from Russia. We had a very special day.
Jan. 30th was the day I got custody.
Feb. 6th was the day we got home together.
Everyday makes me so thankful to be Hannah's mother.

Loosing teeth--
Hannah lost both of her top front teeth within a couple days of each other. She has been sporting a toothless grin for quite some time now.

Lots of sports---
jumped up into school age swimming lessons so she is in the big pool now and loving it. She will be taking the same class for the third time but is learning and getting better each time. Her teacher says she needs to work on her strokes but her confidence level is quite high!
Started tennis lessons during school and started ice skating lessons this winter. Both are sports to her liking and it is fun for Mom to watch.
Very little snow for cross country skiing this winter but Mom did get her out twice in our yard. She skated the 1K Barnebirkie in Hayward, WI again this year. Tradition is not lost on her as she remembered it from last year and wanted it to be just the same. It is such a fun time--one of my favorite days.

Many daily moments that make my heart swell with love, joy, and pride--
Hannah making up a song "I love my Mama. She is so beautiful. She is so nice. She is the best mommy in the whole universe. She is as pretty as me....."
Helping her to learn and learning from her in the process. She asks me why her forearm can't move and as I try to explain how the bones are put together she says "Oh--because that is the way God made me".
Hannah informing me that she needs to get married when she is six or seven but doesn't know who she will marry yet.
Running to me and throwing her arms around my neck every day when I pick her up at daycare.
Using the tone of a teenager and an eyeroll to tell me "Maaaaaahm--I make my own decisions".
Looking up at me out of the blue and asking for a hug.

I just love being this girl's mom. She is the best thing to happen to me. Everyday I look at her and wonder how I am so blessed to have this perfect little person in my life. Every night I pray that I can be a good Mama to her and that I can guide and teach her to be the best she can be.
All I can conclude is that God is so good. There is no other way to explain how this turned out so perfectly.