Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sweet Sixteen

Mrs. Beaver:

Some things are hard to communicate.

The impact on our hearts of Daria turning 16 has been one of those. Her birthday was more than a month ago, less than a week after Anna's wedding. We haven't shared her big day here because I've been unsure. I can't seem to find the right words. I've typed drafts and deleted them... repeatedly.

You see, I want this post to be extra special because an orphan turning 16 in a home with a family is a really big deal. If Daria had turned 16 while still living in her orphanage, she would have no longer been eligible for immigrating to America as an adoptee. She would have "aged out" of the system.

Now that she's able to communicate in broken English we've learned that she would have had one more year of school and then left the orphanage at age 17. To their credit, the Russians have worked hard to make the transition of the children who "age out" a smooth one.

Daria tells us that some of the kids went on to college. She had the opportunity to go to a "forum" in Moscow with orphans from children's homes all over Russia that helped the teens explore job opportunities and interests.

Still, even if Daria had been able to go on to college and then build a fabulous career, she wouldn't have had parents or siblings to cheer her on. When she married no family would have shed tears of joy as she walked down the aisle. And when she gave birth to her children, there would have been no grandparents to cradle each tiny infant and rave about its beauty.

And that's the best possible scenario. Sadly, the statistics tell a story of suicide and crime that all too often swallows these young people who have no family. For the girls, the fate is all too often prostitution. The very possibility of that hits far too close to home now that we're parenting a beauty whose adoption was completed just four months before she turned 16. The raw reality that she came so close has left us thanking God that He reached down and rescued her. The raw reality that so many of Daria's friends will age out of the system frequently haunts us.

So I share these photos with a heart that is overwhelmingly glad that Daria was in our home... in our family... legally our own... when she turned 16 on March 25, 2011.

Like our other eight Russian adoptees, this was Daria's first birthday celebration.
Oksana gave Daria her first-ever birthday gift.

Daria was so tickled when she discovered her six-year-old sister had given her one of the two dolls she owned at the time. Mr. Beaver and I were touched by Oksana's selfless generosity.

Here are the two sisters who shared the same orphanage. They were grouped by age so they rarely saw each other. We've been pleased and privliged to watch a sisterly bond develop between two girls who are united by love, not blood.

Daria continued opening gifts from her many siblings.
Each time she did she'd hug the gift-giver.
Here Cassandra is in her delighted grasp...

...and here Daria's roommate, Lissie, gets the thank you squeeze.

Then Daria's mom and dad took the family to the local sporting goods store where we surprised Daria with our gift--her very own bike. She'd never had the opportunity to learn to ride a bike, but told us she longed to have the chance. Her dad and a salesman helped her find the right bike while the rest of us watched--cheering her on and relishing her joy.

Once the bike was selected, her dad helped her find the right helmet
 She was good natured about learning how to put on the uncomfortable contraption.

Back home after the bike purchase, the evening finished with silliness. As Cassandra frosted Daria's coconut cream cake, Daria indulged in the last of the Cool Whip...
...who proceeded to decorate herself.
We had a happy former orphan who'd been rescued by the Father of the Fatherless (Ps. 68) just in time.

Anna's Wedding: Black & White...or...Color

Mrs. Beaver:

I haven't yet decided whether I like this picture better in black & while or color. Either way, this photo from Aaron and Anna's wedding day, March, 19, beautifully captures the sweet tenderness of the relationship that developed during Aaron and Anna's courtship.

As they made it a priority to nourish their spiritual similarities, they learned to trust each other, they learned to respect each other, they learned to cherish each other, they learned to delight in one another, and they learned to love one another.

They bring color to each other's world.

Anna and Aaron,

The entire family misses you. We love the two of you deeply. We miss both of you. We also miss getting to watch as you grow into one.

We're counting the days until we get to see you, and it won't be long before we are counting in hours!

With a love-bears-all-things kinda love,

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Her First Birthday Gift--Ever

Mrs. Beaver:

Not only was today the 6th anniversary of our adoption of Tatiana, Natasha and Princess Bink, it was also Oksana's 7th birthday. Firsts with adoptees are very special... and heartbreaking. This was the first birthday gift she had ever received. What joy we witnessed tonight, as a former orphan felt truly special and loved. This is the kind of joy we can all experience when we experience the love of Christ upon our adoption in Him!

I had just finished taking these photos of our youngest daughters and their babies, when the head of Oksana's doll toppled off. We were so surprised because she was being very careful and gentle with her new treasure.

Oksana's response to this toy tragedy, surprised me. So many children would have fussed or whined or demonstrated anger if this happened to them, especially if the broken toy was their first birthday gift --ever. Not Oksana! Our little 7-year-old giggled and giggled. The event reminded me to thank God for the blessing that her happy, contented spirit is to us all!

Once Oksana got over her giggles, we went to the car where Mr. Beaver and the other kids were waiting. Papa repaired Oksana's gift--once he got over the shock of the headless doll.

Not only did Oksana's dad operate on her broken birthday doll, he also decorated the chocolate sour cream cake Cassandra made for our celebration. The cake says, "What is this?" in Russian. Oksana has been using this phrase for just about everything for the five months we've known here. We think she says it at least a dozen times a day.

Oksana was zealous in her attempts to blow out the trick candles. She eventually won the smoky skirmish.

One of the greatest joys of being able to adopt and parent older children is getting to experience their special "firsts". We had a marvelous, God-blessed day. We think our new seven-year-old did also.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Better Plan

Mrs. Beaver:

Tomorrow, April 28, we will celebrate the adoption of biological sisters Tatiana, Natasha and Princess Bink six years ago.

As integral a part of our family as they now are, we almost missed out on the blessing that they've been.

When we got the referral for the girls, ten months along in the adoption process, we said, "Thank you,"

We'd asked the Russian goverment for a brother and a sister between the ages of five and eight. They wanted us to take three children, not two. This referral was all girls, and it even included a child much younger than we thought we wanted to parent. We prayed (or at least told ourselves we did) and informed our agency we'd pass. We'd wait for another referral.

Two weeks later I got that second call while Mr. Beaver was at work. I held my breath waiting for the info on the new children. What I heard instead was our agency contact, Patricia, saying, "It's the strangest thing, but this referral is for the same children. The difference is that this time they're suggesting you just take the older two girls."

Incredulously, I asked, "Do you mean we'd leave the 2-1/2 year old in her orphanage?" Patricia sounded hesitant, but her answer was, "Yes."

Again I poked and proded at the implication, "We'd be separating the sisters? Forever?" And again, Patricia's answer was a reluctant, "Yes. Since the youngest is in a different orphanage because of her age, they can be separated."

Without even consulting Mr. Beaver, I told Patricia that I didn't think we could tear a family apart. After all, we were in the business of adoption to keep siblings together. I told her I thought we'd have to take all three of the girls or none of them. We'd pray about this second referral of the same sisters and get back to her.

The next day as we were wrestling with what felt like a heavy weight, a CD arrived in the mail that I had ordered about two weeks earlier. It was Steven Curtis Chapman's newest release "All Things New."

Included among the songs was one titled, "What Now?." As we listened, we were amazed at how it seemed to speak to our dilemma. As we played it again and again, our hearts were softened:
"I saw the face of Jesus in a little orphan girl
She was standing in the corner on the other side of the world.
I heard the voice of Jesus
Gently whisper to my heart,
'Didn't you say you wanted to find Me?
Well here I am.
Here you are. So What now?'"
A second song on Chapman's CD, called "Believe Me Now", bolstered our courage as it reminded us that if we said, "Yes," to adding another three children to our family--including a toddler--that God would be with us, just as He always had been.

The Lord used the music of adoption advocate and adoptive father Steven Curtis Chapman to change our minds. Now we wanted to be part of God's glorious plan to allow these sisters to face the rest of their lives shoulder-to-shoulder, friends forever. Now that God had moved in our hearts, we were determined that they'd have each other's support, encouragement and love for the rest of their lives.

We said, "YES!" to the three little girls in early November, and three weeks later we were on a plane headed to Russia to meet our soon-to-be daughters.

The pictures included in this post were taken at the two orphanages that were their homes. We had only 45 minutes to spend at each, but it was enough. Tatiana, Natasha and Princess Bink won our hearts that day. They've held hearts ever since.

Princess Bink never smiled and never spoke during our time together.
We had no idea she what a zest for life she'd shower on all of us.

Unlike their stoic little sister, the older girls were full of life and laughter during our time together.

Tatiana - age 7

Natasha - age 4-1/2

We colored with the girls and showed them pictures of the children who would be their siblings.

We thank God that He channeled our hearts (Proverbs 16:1), His plan was, of course, far better than ours!

We also thank God for Steven and Mary Beth Chapman's love for the fatherless. They don't know it, but they've impacted the lives of three Russian princesses--and the girls' entire family. (Learn more about the Chapman's orphan care efforts HERE.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mrs. Beaver:

Yesterday Tatiana and Natasha asked if they could move their bedroom furniture. They wanted to surprise their roommate, Princess Bink, with a new arrangement. Little did I know when I said yes that the project would result in a visit to the local urgent care.

During the afternoon Daria asked Tatiana and Natasha if she could help. They were delighted to have her assistance. In her short five months as a family member, Daria has become deeply loved; she's fun, funny, kind and a hard worker--a perfect partner in a project.

All was going well until the two younger girls were out of the room and Daria tried to move a bookshelf by herself. As she eased it into a new position, it began to sway. She thought she had the piece steadied and removed her left hand which was holding it. Before she could react, the bookshelf swayed again, toppled and landed on her right hand which was resting on the desk.

Mr. Beaver arrived home just as the girls were showing me her surprisingly swollen hand. As parents of twelve, we've seen enough broken bones to be suspicious so off we went to an urgent care facility. We took Natasha with us because I'd planned to take her to our doctor the this morning. She'd stubbed a toe on Sunday and it too was sweling suspicously.

As soon as we arrived, the physician's assistant on call sent Daria for x-rays. She also told us that Natasha toe was not broken but infected. It would require an antibiotic. (Guess these parents of twelve don't know all there is to know about diagnosing broken bones!) 

Natalya and Dad waiting for Daria while her hand is being x-rayed
Daria exiting radiology
When the P.A. looked at Daria's x-ray, she found a fracture right away and called us to come look.

Next, the P.A. and two nurses set to work building a custom "half-cast" splint to get her through the night. 

Today Daria saw an orthopeadic surgeon who gave us the good news that the type of break Daria has experienced heals quickly. She'll need to wear a removable splint for about a week. After that she just has tape two of her fingers together for a few weeks. We were all happy and relieved for our lovely furniture mover!

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Wonderfully Full Weekend

Mrs. Beaver:

Since we were in Omaha on Friday for Daria's swearing-in ceremony, we visited the Henry Doorly Zoo. This was our first time to go to a zoo with our three new kiddos. We had a blast watching their reactions.

In a mixture of Russian and English, Oksana clearly told Lissie that the turtles we saw were her favorites.

We felt a bit off balance without Anna along, but the Lord is helping us adjust to our "new normal."

Then on Saturday, we dyed eggs. Again, this was a first for Daria, Alexander and Oksana.

Alexander got creative with the wire egg-dippers...

...while others got creative with their eggs. 

Then yesterday, after a glorious celebration of our risen Saviour at church, the Nordstrom family came over to celebrate Easter with us.

In the picture below, Jaynie is reading a picture book about Easter to the Nordstrom's new daughter from Ethiopia, Meddie Grace, and our Russian, Oksana. This was both adoptees' first Easter in America.

Princess Bink introduced Meddie to her beloved birthday doll, Grace.

I love watching the signs of budding friendship that Oksana and Meddie Grace are demonstrating. What a precious gift from the Lord that these two little ones who don't speak English are finding comfort in each other's company! As soon as Meddie Grace arrived, Oksana was at her side.

While carving ham, Mr. Beaver took time out for a Skype call from Anna and Aaron.

Daria was happy to get the chance to say hello to her oldest sister.

The pleasure on Daria's face in the photo above as she talks to Anna captures the impact that the love and support of older siblings can have in the adoption of an older child.

Meddie has three wonderful older siblings who are playing a critical role in her adjustment. While my kids were talking to Anna and Aaron, I took the photo below of Sunshine, Rye Bread and T-Bird.

After the meal, the younger kids went outside. Our little Russian and the Nordstrom's little Ethiopian tried their hand at American baseball for the first time on this warm spring day. Meddie had donned Oksana's helmet to try bike riding also.

Before long the "older" kids from the two families came to cheer on their little sisters and give the baseball bat a swing.

Those of us who have surrendered our lives to Jesus have so much to celebrate on Easter; Christ's sacrificial death on the cross has purchased our adoption by God the Father. We're no longer orphans. We have a Father who loves us, and a purpose in life--to glorify Him.

This year our families had four additional reasons to rejoice on this holiday. Daria, Alexander, Oksana and Meddie Grace are home. Last year at Easter both our familes were longing for our children to be set free from their status as orphans. This Easter we were able to celebrate their completed adoptions as we relish our own. For us, Christ has paid the price and risen again.