Tuesday, May 22, 2007

1 year

I can't believe it's been a year already. We feel so blessed & so lucky to have Natasha part of our family. I wanted to say a few things, some thank yous & then tell everyone a bit about Natasha. It's a little bit of a read, so take you time. There are pictures at the end. But, in my opinion, it's worth it. :) And, hey, Dad Ray did ask for a book. LOL.

We can't even imagine our life without Natasha. I told Bob that it was just like having a baby. Once they are born, you can't imagine things being any other way. Our 5 weeks in Ukraine (as I look back on it now. LOL) were well worth it just to get Natasha home. It gave us some one on one time with her, that was nice, and also some time to start on some English lessons.

We missed our other kids that were left at home so much, our family, our friends, even our dog & cats. We cannot thank everyone enough. Anyone that had a part in bringing Natasha home, we know that it couldn't have been done it without all of you.

To all of our girls that we had to leave at home. Shauna, Sammy, Cailin, Kim, Sabrina, and Kelly. Thank you for being good while we were gone and putting up with us being in Ukraine for so long. We missed you all so very much and we were sooo glad to get back home. You have welcomed another sister into our family so well. We know that you guys all love Natasha and that she loves you back. We can't thank you enough. We are so proud of all you girls.

Shauna my love. You were the one who wrote to us the most. Blogging helped us get through the long days over there & we were always glad to hear from you. Your silliness & jokes and just everyday things you did always brought a smile and a laugh to our faces. Thank you.

Sammy. I think I talked to you and Sabrina the most on the phone. It was always wonderful to hear your voices. I am kinda glad you were so busy with your "2007 Showcase". I think it gave you something else to think about. If it was anything like this years Showcase, then we know you did a great job. We are so glad we got to see it this year. It was great !! Thanks for your understanding darling.

My Sabrina. Our selfless little girl. Since I was over in Ukraine for Mothers Day last year. When I got home Sabrina had made a beautiful card for me. Inside the card along with all my Mothers day words she put that she couldn't think of a better couple to be able to have Natasha as our daughter. I of course cried. My Sabrina has a way of doing that to me. She loves to make cards and do scrap booking. She always does a great job. We love you Sabrina and are always in awe of your selfless heart. You are growing into a most wonderful young lady.

Cailin, Kim, & Kelly. I know that you guys went "MIA" for a bit and we are sorry about that, but we are glad you got to read the blog sometimes. I think Kim & Kelly both made a few comments. We were always glad to hear from you. We love you guys and were so happy to see you at the airport. Thanks girls !!!

Mom and dad.
Thank you for being there with Shauna, Sammy, and Sabrina while we were gone. I know they appreciated it and so did we. They do like their schedule and we were so glad when we were able to get back on it. So you being there helped them stay on their schedule as much as possible. We thank you for that. I believe that you were busier than you thought you would be. Things can get quite busy back at our house sometimes. But, you did it & we thank you so much for that. You got everyone where they needed to be, when they needed to be there, and you even went to the events that we missed. Thank you so much. We couldn't have done it without you. Thanks for taking care of my yard dad. I know it's a little bit bigger than yours, but thanks for keeping it nice. I have even heard stories from some neighbors of you taking your lawn mower to my house in the bucket of your big tractor. Oh my goodness Dad. Only you. How funny. We love you both.

John & Lucia. Thank you also for taking care of the girls while we were gone. We appreciate it so much. I know it wasn't real easy for you guys. Lucia, Thanks for everything you did with decorating "It's a girl" all over our car etc.. I love that. It was so cool.

Krista & Bret. I don't know if you read this blog or not but I just wanted to thank you for taking good care of Cailin, Kim and Kelly while we were in Ukraine. I know you would have done it no matter what, but we just wanted to say thanks. We are so glad that everything is fine from Kelly's hospital stay.It was not fun being over there while she was here in the hospital. We could tell by talking to her and from the pictures that Lucia sent us that she was a pretty sick little girl there for a couple of days. Thanks for being there when we couldn't.

Grandma Plummer. We know that you were one of our biggest supporters from the very beginning. We thank you for that. You are probably our biggest prayer warrior. You are an inspiration to us. I hope that when I am your age I am at least as half as strong, half as wise, and half as stubborn (LOL) as you are. If someone ever asks me how I got to be so strong, wise, or stubborn. I am going to proudly hold my head up and say "I got it all from my Grandma Plummer." We love you Grandma. We are so glad that Natasha's middle name "Rose" was Grandpa Plummer's mom's name. We were looking for a family name, but Rose was the only one we could agree on. Turns out, it is a family name after all. We are so happy about that. (It is also Brianna's middle name. Bob's sister, Trina's youngest daughter) See how God works !!!!!!!!!!

Aunt Norma, Aunt Guyda & Uncle Tracy. I know you guys were right there along with Grandma Plummer praying. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

I must mention my Aunt Orpha who suddenly passed away while we were in Ukraine. I know she was one of my great prayer warriors also. Rest in peace Aunt Orpha. We love you and will see you again someday. I am so sorry you didn't get to see my beautiful Natasha before you had to go.

Barb, Debbie, Uncle Roy. Thank you also for all your prayers while we were in Ukraine. Barb, thanks for printing everything out for Aunt Guyda & Uncle Tracy who are computerless. LOL. I know that was greatly appreciated.

Dad Ray. Thank you for all your comments, compliments, prayers and suggestions of things to do while in Ukraine. Although I don't think I got any more scriptures memorized. Memorizing is so very hard for me to do. I did get a lot of cross stitching done and a whole book read. (For me to read a book takes a lot. LOL.) As you know, it has been a wait for us & we are so glad Natasha is finally here forever. We have not had to wait as long as others we know and met while we were there. God has always been good to us & maybe you and Randa being pastors and all helped put a good word in for us. LOL. Randa. You are so funny. I don't think we heard from you until Bob wrote the blog "like an engineer". Too funny. He does very good on the "facts" though, in his behalf. Sometimes he would write the "facts" and then go to bed & I would get on and write the warm, fuzzy, emotional stuff. Thanks for everything you two.

Craig & Jerry, Trina & Jeff. We know you were there praying for us also. A big hug and thank you to all of you.

Uncle Bob. What can I say. Your the greatest. The only one who got up at 2:30am and sent us a text message prayer. That was really great. You have no idea how much that meant to us. I can't believe it took us going to Ukraine for you to go to church & pray. (Out loud). You are the best friend and Uncle anyone can ever have. We love you and so do the girls. I do believe "The force was truly with us" while we were there and "with you also" back here. We are all so proud of you !! I did a good job at getting there and back and I didn't even need any oxygen on the airplane. And, you did a good job while we were gone. You didn't need any oxygen either. Maybe a little mouth to mouth, but no oxygen. Ha Ha.

Dr. McClain. We just want to thank you again for checking in on Kelly while she was in the hospital. That helped us feel better. We owe you one.

A big thank you to everyone in "Born in our hearts". We couldn't have done it without all of your support. And, thanks for the basket of muffins. They were delicious !!!

A word of thanks to some of our best friends. Steve & Michelle, Pat & Carla, Katie & Jerry. Thanks for everything, your prayers, your friendship, and for coming to the airport. Dave & Bonnie also. That was just the greatest & so much fun. We love you guys !!!

More friends to mention. Aunt Connie, Mike & Jan, Tom & Maria, Rich & Jill,Theresa, Rick. I'm running out of words to say. We are so glad you are all our friends.

Dan & Sandy. You guys are wonderful. We are so blessed to have met you & we are so glad we became friends in the process. Sandy, We are happy we finally got to meet you. Now we know the person that keeps Dan in line. LOL. Dan, your great, ornery, but great also. LOL. Please call or come visit anytime. A great big thanks for everything you did for us.

Angelina. I hardly know what to say to you. Thank You seems to be so little for all that you did. You are one Awesome Lady. I have never met anyone like you. You should be so proud of yourself. You have a great gift for all this adoption stuff and a wonderful love for all these children. I can't even imaging how many of them you have saved. May God Bless you always. If your ever in the States and want to visit, please know that you are welcome anytime.

If we have forgotten to thank anyone, we apologise. There were just so very many people involved in making this happen.

As far as Natasha is concerned. She is doing great !!! We couldn't ask for a better girl. We love her so very much and as I said earlier, we can't imagine our life without her. She had a great summer last year and is really looking forward to this summer. She loves to swim at grandma & grandpa's (Gail's Parents) house. She is just like a "fish". It's hard to get her out of the water sometimes. She likes to ride bikes & even had a big wipe-out racing Kim. She "rug burned" her face, elbow, her bottom, her knee & foot. Thank goodness she had her helmet on. Helmets are a rule at our house. But, I believe Kim won that race. LOL. She likes to ride scooters, jumping on the trampoline, flashlight tag, bon-fires, & just plain playing. She gets along great with our little neighbor Mallory. They love to play together, and have sleep overs at each other's houses. She is adjusting very well & it seems like she did it so quickly. We often laugh at how quick she became "Americanized". LOL We have had some "meltdowns" and some "testing the boundaries". But nothing we haven't already been through with all the other girls. LOL. Gosh, they all still test us. LOL. She knows the rules around our house and abides by them as good as any of the other girls.

Natasha started school a few days after we got back last year. There were only about 2 weeks left & we wanted her to get use to what school was all about here versus Ukraine. She started out in 4th grade. Not at 4th grade level, but age appropriate. Her first day was May 22nd, and she went for 3 hours. Then full days where we would drive her there and pick her up. The last week of school last year she took the school bus. She squawked about it at first, but quickly it became no problem. We believe she truly likes school, but that's not what she would say if you asked her. LOL. We were so very blessed in that Natasha's ESL (English as a second language) teacher just happens to speak Russian. That was a really big help.

Natasha, of course graduated to 5th grade & is about to finish that up this year. She will be leaving the Elementary and going to the Middle school next. I could just cry !!! My babies grow up so very fast. Natasha has made her own group of friends at school and is doing very good with them. Bob and I were just talking about how much we like Natasha's school friends. They, of course, play together whenever possible and have sleep overs as well. Natasha is doing very good in school. She was in the 3rd grade in Ukraine, and the bottom of 3rd grade at that. As far as we can tell she didn't even start school until she got to the Orphanage. So she is doing very well in school considering all she has had to go through. She is dealing with 5th grade math very well without even knowing her basic math facts. We do math facts as extra "homework" for her at home, as well as reading out loud to us. She is reading at about a 1st grade level right now, which is excellent for having to learn English.

As much as we tried to help Natasha keep her Russian by having her call and talk to her friend Helena about every week, she seems to be loosing it. She refuses to talk to her ESL teacher at school in Russian and when she talks to Helena she speaks in English & Helena speaks in Russian. Helena does know some English. It's my opinion that Natasha still knows some Russian, but just refuses to speak it or admit that it is still there. That is OK though. It's an adoption thing. We just want Natasha to be the 11 year old girl that she is. We plan on bringing Helena over this summer for a few weeks. Natasha is thrilled & Helena is thrilled. We planned this while we were staying in Ukraine & everything still seems to be on track for her coming over. We very much look forward to it. Helena is a great girl. She too was adopted by Slavik & Oksanna.

Natasha has already figured out that she can get a lot more things from daddy than she would if she asks Mommy. She also just looks at him & says "please." But all our other girls will say the same thing also. They openly speak about Bob as being a pushover. LOL. Funny sometimes, other times, not so funny.

Natasha has also figured out that grandma (Gail's mom) loves to go shopping. She uses this to her advantage as much as possible, as do all the other girls. The other day she asked Bob & I. "Can I call Grandma?" we said "yes, but why." She said "something." So off she went to call grandma & Bob and I heard, "Hello Grandma, shopping, yes, Justice." (Justice is a new store here with really cute & sometimes expensive girls clothes. They all love it there.) We laughed, but then I had to tell her that she has to get our permission first before she asks grandma to go shopping. She didn't like that very much. But, hey, neither do all the other girls. LOL.

It is wonderful to be able to communicate with Natasha. She knows most of what we are saying & is starting to talk in sentences now. She is starting to ask us questions about things or words she doesn't know. This is a good thing but can be very funny at times. Natasha will sometimes answer a question about herself if you ask her one, but we still sometimes get the shoulder shrug with an "I don't know." She seems to want nothing to do with remembering anything connected with Ukraine right now. That is fine though. We want her to just be a kid while she is one & we figure that she will talk when she is ready. It's no problem. She gets mad when we might say something that we already know about her from her past. Like what grade she was in & the kind of grades she got. What town she was born in. Just little things like that. We don't bring up any big issues.

Here are some pictures of Natasha and some "firsts" for her.

The pictures are in no special order. I had a hard enough time figuring out how to put them on the Blog again. LOL.

First 4th of July

Natasha with her friends Lisa & Jenna at her 5th grade Musical.
Natasha helping out building the barn with Uncle Craig Easter Egg hunt at church. (That's Sabrina under the bunny costume)

Natasha (11) & Sabrina (13) Visiting Shauna at Calvin College. (You can see Sabrina, Natasha, Shauna, & Cailin. Kelly & Kim are in there also, you just can't see them). First pumpkin carving. (Natasha,Sabrina, Kim, Sammy, Kelly, Shauna & Aaron, Cailin). Christmas 2007 All of us with Grandma Plummer. (Cailin - 14, Sammy - 16, Kim - 14, Shauna - 20, Sabrina - 13, Natasha - 11, Gail, Bob, Kelly - 12 and Grandma Plummer).
First day of school, 2007 Halloween/Trick-or-Treat with Uncle Bob. (And, yes for those of you that know. Natasha is wearing my old Majorette outfit from High School) Can you believe I use to fit into that. LOL. One of Natasha & Kelly's Christmas presents was to go to a Hannah Montana concert. (With Dad, of course). About 2 weeks after we got home we decided to adopt 2 orphaned foals. (Because we didn't have enough to do). LOL That's Grandpa Ray in the background. Ice skating with friends and Family. Natasha got her ears pierced. Natasha waiting on the School Bus with our neighbor & Natasha's friend Mallory. Swimming at Grandma & Grandpa's house. Were going to the Football Game. Natasha & Mallory building a snowman. Natasha & Jenna. Natasha's 11th Birthday party. (Mallory on the left Kelly on the right) Natasha and Daddy on their way to the Father/Daughter dance. Happy New Year 2008.(Dad, Matthew, & Mallory also in the picture). Guitar Hero with Jon from next door. Playing cards at the Cleveland Airport waiting for Shauna to come back from Ukraine. Yes, you heard me right. Shauna went to Ukraine July of 2007 for 5 weeks herself to help teach English at Donetsk University. She loved it. (Sammy, Kim, Natasha, Sabrina, Cailin. You can't see Kelly) And, last, but not least, Natasha's FIRST hair cut. Isn't she beautiful !!!! I suppose that about sums up our first year. It has been the most wonderful experience in the world. We wouldn't change a thing.
God Bless,
Bob & Gail Ray


John & Lucia said...

Hey, Gail! Thanks for the update!

WOW! What a year, huh? I just wanted to say that Natasha is a great young lady. She has done SO well and everyone is SO proud of her. I am amazed at her English and how she has "adapted" - )especially with her clothes and bling-bling! LOL) Without such loving parents and siblings, she would not have come so far so fast. My hats off to you all!
Shauna, Sammy, Sabrina, Kim, Cailin and Kelly - You have all just blown us away with how you have opened your hearts to Natasha. She is VERY lucky to have all of you as her sisters!

Katie and Jerry said...

We are so happy for your family. What a great blessing. It was very nice to read and see the pictures too figuring how we haven't been in touch alot lately due to our hectic lives.

It is so beautiful to see so much love and warmth in a blended family, but seeing how great the parents are it comes as no suprise.

Your whole family is wonderful and we feel blessed to be your friends!
Much love and hugs
Katie and Jerry and Family

mlaposa said...

Hey guys!

It's wonderful to see how well Natasha has done in just one year. And doesn't it seem like it just hasn't been that long yet?? It's amazing how quickly these kids can adapt to their new situation -- family, school, culture, food, friends, everything. Our two (Alyona and Elena) are well on their way in just 4 months as well, speaking English and into shopping. ;^)

I wouldn't worry too much about the seeming "rejection" of Russian or her past. We saw the same thing with Luda and Olga when they first got here as well. Eventually they open up about it all, and both Luda and Olga are speaking Russian again thanks to having both our two new daughters here as well as our two Belarussian "nieces" who will be coming this summer again. So, it will get better.

Have fun, and John & Lucia, we want to hear how your trip went as well!

Happy Memorial Day Weekend,
Mike, Jan and the Girls

Jody said...

Hi Bob and Gail. Gail, I'm the missionary who works with the projects in Crimea that Bob helped out on the work team.

I am so excited for you family. It was very interesting for me to catch up! time really does fly, doesn't it?!

I thank God for your family and families like yours who become forever families for the forgotten children of Ukraine.

God bless you as you raise all your girls in a godly home.

Be blessed, Jody

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yeahhbuddy said...

Hi guys, I doubt u ever visit this site anymore. but i was adopted the same year in June as Natasha.I new her and she new me she also new my sister Aya Temonin. You should ask Natasha about us and I hope I hear back from you. It would be so cool to talk to someone whom I used to know. I havent told Aya yet about you guys because I found this just now. I can give you my email sergeypister@yahoo.com. I hope i hear back from you.