Thursday, March 13, 2014

Star made the softball team! There were 3 days of tryouts this week, and I sweated through each and every one of them. Yes, I did. Star was on the middle school team last year, but this year, the 6th graders who moved up are GOOD! (As in, the coach's daughter and her friends that have played together since they were 5!) Only 14 girls could make the team, I counted 26 trying out. The first day, Star said she kept missing the ball because her glove was too small. I went out and bought her a bigger one (she's playing Little League and is on the summer tournament team, so she needed it anyways). The next day she said was awesome, but she really needs softball cleats (mean mom, I've made her wear her soccer cleats for 2 years of softball- what a dork!). I went out and bought her cleats in the school colors and prayed for good news. Either they would be a congratulations prize and "YAY! They're school colors!" or a consolation prize and "School colors? What are you talking about school colors?! They're just black, white and red!" Man, was I relieved when she called for a ride home and announced that she had made the team... I could stop worrying about it. She would have been CRUSHED if she didn't make the team. (She didn't make the basketball team, her first tryout that she didn't make the cut for... it was a really really REALLY rough few days!) Anyways, YAY for Star! And Lala and Monkey are also playing Little League. So basically, we'll live at the ball park from now until August. Hot dogs for dinner, anyone? (yack!)
This kid has GIANT feet!

We Only Have FIVE!

We only have five kids (and they were adopted!!!), but we hear comments all.the.time.
Are they all yours? Two twelve year olds- Which are the twins? What is the age range? (8-13) WOW! You guys were sure busy! Five girls… you were really trying for that boy weren’t you? Give it one more try- you’ll get that boy! Is this a birthday party? Good thing they’re not boys- they’d eat you out of house and home! (If you only knew how much my girls eat!) I’ll bet you wish they were boys- 5 girls… That’s a lot of fighting! (Actually they get along quite well!) I hope you have a gun for when the boyfriends start knocking on the door!
And on… and on… and on…
I thought this video was hysterical!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Time Change

Little Monkey is my sleeper. We call her Sleeping Beauty. On Sunday, she woke up at 8:00 and went to the bathroom. It was really 9:00, so I went into her room while she was not in there. I changed her clock to represent day light savings... She came back, I said good morning to her, and told her it was time to get dressed for church.
"No Mama... I'm going to sleep for one more hour..."
No baby, it's time to get up...
"No, it's only 8:05, I have one more hour..."
No, baby, it's 9:05...
"Wha... wait... huh?"
And then we had a good time leading her to believe that she either spent waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too long in the bathroom, or maybe she fell asleep on the toilet in there... She was so confused!
8 year olds... they are so funny!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

One Year Ago Today

In the wee hours of the morning we were picked up by our driver. The fabulous Karen sent us on our way after several days spent in her cozy apartment. (I swear, many times, I just start thinking about Karen and our friends Tara and Jonathan, and become so overwhelmed by the kindness... I will never forget it! Seriously! They have all seen me at some of my worst moments and still, they opened thier doors to us... amazing!) Our driver was one of the most annoying people I have ever met, and I felt a bit cheated by him. When we arrived at the airport, after being pulled over at 3am, I sighed a sigh of relief. We were on our way. Well, the airport was still technically closed, dark and the ticket booths were closed off. I was content to just wait inside. Our driver takes his job quite seriously, and walked us in and hung out with us until the ticket booths opened. I'm sure he was charging me by the minute. I appreciate his kindness, kind of. I guess people aren't used to independent, stubborn, "I'll do it my way just fine, thanks..." kind of people.
FINALLY, we were on our way! This was the first time I didn't go home during the 10 day waiting period, so I had been away from my kids, my home, everything, for over 5 weeks. I was DONE. When we got through the gates (after quite a long wait and document searching by one of the guards), I felt relief. I was really going HOME.
Lala had gotten this teddy bear from her class at school. It has a robotic voice that says "I love you" in Russian. We hauled that bear around the world.
 Monkey was seated next to an old man, who clearly did not like kids. He barely spoke English (he was German), she did not speak ANY English, and he kept asking her to do things for him. It was an interesting 8 hours across the pond.
 The girls did not sleep at ALL. Nope, no way. We were counting the minutes to America. Every minute brought us 60 seconds closer to "papa and sisters"!
When we finally arrived in America, I was a hot mess. My babies were standing there waiting for us- signs in hand. I got some of the best hugs I have ever had. My world was right. I had all 5 of my babies on the same continent... right in front of me.
I can't believe it has been a year. At the same time, I can't believe it has only been a year! I am in awe of how well the girls have meshed together. A family of 7... together. Forever.
To celebrate, we are off to ski! Always an adventure!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Valentine's Day

This was Monkey and Lala's first American Valentine's Day. They thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Monkey was the only one doing class Valentine's. Sigh, my bigs are just getting TOO big! We were told that because of allergies we could not send in candy or treats. We opted for pencils.
Taking great care in spelling everyone's name correctly with her puppy dog and kitty cat cards and pencils.

That whole "no treat" thing went right out the window! Look at the loot she came home from school with! We were lame with our pencils. Oh well, I still probably wouldn't have sent in candy. My kid already has teeth that have rotted out of her head (thank you, orphanage life) I hardly think I need to give more sugard to these kids!

 For 2 days, she took each Valentine out and showed them to me, telling me who they were from. Over, and over, and over. She is so stinking cute!
And that bag of Valentine's remains on my dining room table at her seat for day 5 now, nearly untouched. She doesn't want to eat the candy. She just likes knowing that it's there.

Monday, February 10, 2014

First Day of 6th Grade 2/10/14

Back at the end of first term, we had parent teacher conferences. We discussed Miss Bolshoy and her age. She's 12.5 in fifth grade. She will graduate high school when she is almost 20. She will be able to drive her first month of high school. She's bored. Her friends are 1-2 years younger than her.
When she came to America, we kept her in the same grade she was in in Ukraine. She and Ali are 5 days apart, but they were a grade apart in school. Why? "Because I'm short and Ali is tall." Makes perfect sense, right? No. But when you think that their school grades were the kids that they lived with, the kids that they shared every stitch of clothing they had with, it kind of does make sense. They sorted by size so she had clothes to wear. She was still the smallest in her class. Well, we had so many educational issues with Ali, we kind of thought it was because she had received an orphanage education. We didn't dare move Miss Bolshoy up when she came to America. Skipping a grade would be CRAZY! So, she went right to 3rd grade at almost 10 years old. Miss Bolshoy and Star proved our Ukraine education theory wrong. Ali's education issues are totally personal to her and her past, not a result of orphanage education.
SO, with all of that being said, we went back and forth. I thought maybe she could double up on classes in high school and get out a year early. But, her teachers said "sooner than later". The principal had never done such a thing. We all went back and forth and decided she would start after February vacation in 2 weeks. On Friday, the principal called and said "How about on Monday?" It felt rushed, but "Why wait?". And so, today, my little 4'2" shorty started 6th grade. She's in the top section, in a class with some of Star's sports friends (so she knows their names, but doesn't really know them). The only thing she said she would miss was "Being with my sister in 5th grade). She and Lala have been a great pair in school together. In different classes, but always hang out at recess, lunch and PE together. Sigh, I will miss that too. She didn't get to tell any of her friends (since she didn't know about this until after school on Friday) so I'm sure there will be some chatter going on.
Miss Bolshoy, she is so wee, but mighty. I know she will rise up and do an amazing job in 6th grade. I'm the only one who is a hot mess about this, so I guess I just need to relax, she will be fine... 6th 2 (2) 6th grade

Friday, January 31, 2014

One Year Ago...

365 days ago, a judge in Khmelnitsky, Ukraine approved us to be the parents of these two awesome girls.

365 days of Barone life. They are the easiest kids ever! Lala has been corrected once or twice IN A YEAR. Honestly, the only time I remember really having to correct her is when she made a stink face about dinner at Frank and Marie's house, and quite frankly, I was making a similar face haha! She moved in almost seamlessly with the older 3. She is tidy, cooperative, loving, and so genuine. Unlike my loud and assertive older 3, Lala is very quiet (outside of the home), almost to a fault. She is learning to speak up for herself and venture out of her comfort zone to experience all that life has to offer. First sleepovers, field trips, and things like that sometimes bring anxious thoughts. But she goes, and is always glad that she did. She thanks us often "for everything" but I try and tell her every day how blessed we are to have her in our lives. She was such a mama to her little sister, and now, she will tell you, "I LOVE BEING A KID!" Little Monkey, she's had two time outs... once for stepping on Miss Bolshoy's stomach when she was laying down, and the other for being sassy. I've never seen her throw a tantrum, even after being awake for hours and hours while we traveled. She is NOT your typical 8 year old. In many ways (looks, schooling, and speech) she is about 6 years old, but in other ways, she is so much older. She fits right in with the big girls. She's here, there and everywhere, excited to try anything and everything. She literally dances through life, singing and climbing up people to her monkey position. Ray says quite often "It's gross how cute she is..." or "How can one child be so stinking cute?!" Her personality is so awesome, she makes us giggle along with her every day. Thank you, judge for granting us these blessings. Thank you, husband of mine for saying yes 2 more times. Thank you daughters for moving over and opening your home to 2 more sisters. Thank you newest daughters for trusting us and letting us into your hearts. Your presence has brought so much joy and peace into our lives.

Things I Love... A Mama Brag

Things I love…
Today, Miss Bolshoy told me that she was “buying” an ice cream party at lunch. They have a behavior plan at her school where they earn tickets and can “buy” various privileges or rewards. She earned enough for an ice cream party for herself and 4 friends. I asked who she was going to invite to her party and she said “Well, Lala of course, Megan, Emma, and Kailey…” Lala said “Awwww, I love you!” and they broke out into a long hug right in the car. I love that they love eachother. I love that they love to be with eachother. I love that they are best friends AND sisters.
Yesterday Lala and I went to pick Star up from school. We dropped her off at home with Ray and continued on our way to Lala’s dance class. As Star exited the car, she said “Bye Mom, love you! Love you, Lala have fun at dance class!” and Lala replied “Love you too! Good night, sister!” Now, I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, my sister might have pushed me out of the car and not said a word to me (Kidding!). Love.
Little Monkey is the youngest. The girls are 11, 12, 12, and 13. Four kids born within about 20 months. And then Monkey is 3 years younger than the next oldest. But that does not stop them from including her. Miss Bolshoy coaches Monkey in gymnastics almost every night. She wants her to be the best gymnast in her level. “Point your toes. I’ve got you. I won’t drop you. Great job! That looks wonderful!” Encouragement from her older sister.  When I came home from picking Ali up from swimming 2 nights ago, Monkey was seated on the floor while her sister braided her hair. Last night, Monkey sat with Ali while she ate dinner (early because of dance) “so she won’t be all by herself”. She served her sister dinner and said “For you, sister dearest…”
I’m not sure if you remember 11 months ago when we got home. There was some jealousy with the first 3 because Monkey only listened to Lala. They had been together forever, it made sense. But now, I truly do not see a difference between biological sister and Barone sisters. They are a 5-pack. Together forever. And love eachother all the same. It took work. There were tears shed. But Lala was receptive to the change, Monkey learned to trust, and they made it work.
This week Star got in my car after school. She said “Mom, I have a problem.” Uh oh. “Today at school my friend give me a Sharpie while she get something out of her backpack.” Ok, what’s wrong with that? “We can’t have Sharpies at school. It’s illegal. And my teacher see me, and say ‘Star, you have a Sharpie, now you have to come sit up front.” Ok, so did you do it? “Yes, I go up front and I don’t say nothing. But then she ask me ‘Do you know you're not allowed to have Sharpie at school?’ and I say yes and den she say I’m being disrespectful. So I just sat dare because I don’t want to cry in class, but now I didn’t say to her I’m sorry…” Well, what do you need to do about this? “Tomorrow I’m going to ask to her for forgiveness.” Fast forward to the next day. I asked if she handled her business. “Yes, Mom. I asked to her for forgiveness. I said ‘Mrs. Teacher, I’m sorry for being rude and talking back to you yesterday. It’s not good for kids to talk to teachers like dat, especially since I was wrong because I had a Sharpie and I know we’re not allowed to have dose. Will you please forgive me, because I was talking before I was thinking about my words. I’m working on dat because I sometimes sound very rude and don’t mean to….”
I was telling another mom about this situation. Her daughters are in school with Star. She said “And you see, that’s what separates Star from other kids… all kids screw up sometimes. But Star made it a point to fix the problem and gave a genuine apology. AND she told you about it, instead of trying to hide it.”
Something is clicking with Ali these days. “If I behave, I get the privileges that I want!” Since Christmas, we have had about 4 incidents. This is down from about 4 a day between October-December. She’s learning. We have had some rough days, but little by little, she seems to be maturing. She is gaining friends at school and at swimming. This is boosting her confidence. She is at private school, working SO hard, and her work is HARD, and she is pulling off A’s and B’s. Maybe one C+. She’s figuring out time management. Some days, she is able to prioritize. We’re working on learning how to “be a duck” (letting things roll off of you instead of reacting right away). It’s working. Most days.
Miss Bolshoy is moving up. I mentioned it a month or so ago. She’s going from 5th grade to 6th grade after February vacation. I’m sad about it, but it makes sense. We asked her if she wanted to move up and she was very excited. I asked if she would miss her friends, miss being on Student Council, which she had been excited to be elected into. She said “I will only miss Lala. I like having my sister in my grade!” I  think she is being very brave about the whole situation. She doesn’t really have any 6th grade friends, but that’s not holding her back. She is excited. I laughed out loud when she said “Mom, I don’t really have to SKIP everything do I? Like, will they give me the books early so I can read everything I missed? Because I don’t want to just skip it… there might be interesting stuff in there!” And the next day she asked the principal for the 6th grade books. She’s my little book worm. I love it.
Today at lunch, Ray and I were talking about our kids. We have our moments, for sure with them. There are times that you just can’t believe some of the things they say or do. But 95% of the time, our kids are simply amazing. There is no other word for them. We are so beyond blessed.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What A Difference A Year Makes

On 2/18/13, my youngest babies stood in Independence Square while we waited for their visas to be issued. Today, a friend was in the same square, and this is what she saw- signs of a revolution. What a difference.
Pray for Ukraine.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Feeling Mushy.... One Year Ago Today...

A year ago today, Ray and I returned to our girls' city in Ukraine and reunited with our youngest daughters. We arrived on the train, and went to various city official offices while in a fog of sleep deprevation. With our translator and city inspector, we traveled to the orphanage. Monkey and Lala were dismissed from school (next door to the orphanage) and were brought into the director's office to write their letters of consent to be adopted by us. (Require by children old enough to write in Ukraine) This was the first time we have been in the room during this process, and it was quite emotional. They wrote formal letters to the court, "I (state your name) want to be adopted by (our names here), citizens of the United States of America...." Lala was SO nervous that Monkey would mess her letter up. She had only been in school for 3 months, and was not yet perfect at writing or spelling (obviously). Lala took on much of the responsibility and watched every letter that Monkey wrote to make sure there would be no problems with what she desired for their future. At 7 and 10, I cannot imagine ever doing something so life changing on my own. I will never forget the bravery that each step of this process took.