Thursday, May 8, 2014

Celebrating Zhenya's 21st!

I promised in my teaser post earlier this week to share some photos from our celebration of Zhenya's 21st birthday.

Zhenya's actual birthday took place at the end of last week on the final day of CAFO 2014 (the Christian Alliance for Orphans' annual global summit). That evening during the last plenary session, Zhenya got quite a surprise. CAFO's president, Jedd Medefind, called her up on stage to acknowledge her contribution as the designer of this year's Orphan Sunday shirts. Our budding graphic designer had entered a t-shirt design contest a few months before the orphan care summit and won! During the conference many people acquired the t-shirts to promote Orphan Sunday in their home churches around the world. Zhenya was surprised to be recognized in front of the crowd. She was even more surprised when Jedd shared with 3,000 or so seated in the auditorium that it was her 21st birthday! The enormous group then sang happy birthday to our beloved former orphan. (Little birds had whispered to our friend Jedd during the day ~ thanks, Jedd, for making the day so special for the oldest among the Russians we've adopted!)

Now on to our family celebration this week. Our family tradition is to have a formal meal on china and with crystal to celebrate each family member's birthday. Zhenya's pick was shashleek (Russian-spiced shishka-bobs) for her main dish. We lingered over the delicious meal, enjoying relaxed fellowship. Then, John, who is a marketer for the company that makes Blue Bunny Ice Cream, began to offer marketing ideas for morticians ...compelling concepts like, "Die one, get one free."

Our quiet family dinner erupted into convulsive laughing as John offer idea after idea to promote mortuaries.

As a result, when I tried to get a photo of best friends, Zhenya (left) and Sarah, this was what they offered (and, yes, they gave me permission to post their silliness).

As a mother, there are few things so precious to me as a happy family meal, and this evening had been a "10" on a scale of ten. We'd enjoyed fabulous food, fellowship and fun!

When the subject of bonding is brought up in the discussion of adopting older children, the process of attachment is often thought of in the short term. What Jim and I have learned in the 12 years since first stepping into orphan care arena when we adopted biological siblings, Zhenya, Sarah and Matt, is that bonding is a long-term process. Each sweet encounter with older adopted children strengthens the bond that didn't have the chance to develop during a pregnancy or when the child was a baby. Even after 12 years, our bond with our first trio of siblings continues to grow stronger and more beautiful.

After dinner, we proceeded to gift opening.

John's gift came in the largest bag.

Zhenya was delighted when she opened John's generous gift ~ a "pen and pad" that attaches to her computer. The tool will be a big help as she studies graphic design because what she does on the pad is integrated with a key design program  called "Illustrator. "

We usually cap off birthday celebrations with cake, but this time the birthday girl and Kirsten crafted a unique treat: frozen cheesecake coated in chocolate on a stick. Yum!

Faith wearing the t-shirt Zhenya designed

As we all enjoyed the delicious deviation from birthday cake, our oldest Russian adoptee was busy scheming. Zhenya was calculating how sale of the treats could raise money to support families trying to adopt. It was a glorious evening!

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