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First Day of School Success and Special Suprises

Mama and Maria are twinsies
We have a lot to celebrate in our little family with these little kiddos, yippeeee!!!
When Maria first got home from Russia, I tried to start some letters and phonics with the English alphabet, but it was kind of disheartening for her since it was all so new, so I put the book away, “No big deal, girly, we just like to hang out around here, let’s talk and play, oh, and eat,” and she dove into family life, eager for love.
To say she has grown in an understatement.  And recently, when I saw so much settling and maturity in a little girl with all her the extra love and activities in her life, I knew we could try again.  And that moment, that one where she heard the word CAT escape her lips after being written on paper, she looked at me shocked, mouth open and silent.  “Cat?” she whispered, confirming.
Wooooow, Maria,” I look at her, proud, and she burst into happy giggles and started jumping.
And from that moment on it was game on.  She sits and does her work books, she excels, she is so motivated, and I flippin love it.  She soaks up the attention, focused on her school work, she is organized and smart–sometimes I think that orphanage just never gave her a shot.  We got her a white board, and now we are working on ‘encoding’ words, figuring out how to write them when I saw them.  I am feeling so thankful that although I taught other grades, I had that one semester student teaching with one amazing and weird kinder teacher.  ” ‘I’ says, i-i-itchy!”
All by her self, I tell you!

Man, I prayed about that whole school thing, it’s such a big influence.  We sought out a school that came highly recommended to us, which is part homeschool, part charter school, and people love it.  I went to the orientation, and was salivating at the mouth hearing about it, so different from the public schools I taught at.  We met the principal who said Maria could be a helper in the Kinder class this semester, which I thought would be a great idea for her since she is starting at the basics, plus less pressure from her peers at this stage in her life.  I honestly couldn’t even believe that could be an option for us!

The day before school this week, we went to the store, and picked out pencils, a notebook and crayons all her own.  “For me?” she beamed.

“Mama come back soon?” she kept asking, worried.

“Oh yes, just a little bit at school.”

“Wow mama!….What is it?”

We got there early, pulled our poor, sick, snot-nosed boys out of the car and tried not to be the crazy kinder parents who take 1 million picks, so we only took 50… 😉

We walked in the room with books and colors and seasons and numbers and pictures all over the walls.  Some boys came in a hung up their back packs, “Hi!” they said, they were so sweet!  Imagine my surprise when our friend’s son Silas walked in, he’s adopted from Russia as well.  “Hey buddy!” I said, so stoked to see him!  “He’s from Russia too!” I told Maria, and she smiled shyly.  “Hey Silas, will you be Maria’s friend today and help her out on her first day of school.”
“Oh yeah!  Um, I didn’t even know she was going to be here today!”
All the kids in the class were so sweet, and although something caused me to feel uncertain at one point, Maria is very aware of any sort of emotional cue, so I chose to remain cool, and told her she’d do great, and that we loved her so, so much, and that we’d be back so soon to pick her up.  When I got home, it was still bugging me, but so I just prayed about it.  “God, I know you wouldn’t have lead us to this amazing school, and even had a sweet Russian friend there if it weren’t the right fit, help her today,” and I knew she would be just fine.
And when Andrew picked her up, she had done great, and her teacher said that she loved her (obvi).  We talked with the principal, who is so devoted to having her in the exact right spot.  Seriosuly, this school is awesome! They’ve both been emailing with me, and we’ve decided next week to move her to a second grade class one day, then an art class with her peers the next day.  I love it.  Seriously, so awesome.
Goodness, we are oh so proud of our sweet girl!
Ok, so do you want to hear the craziest thing, ever??
So last week or so, I went for a run in the morning on a Saturday, and no that’s not the crazy thing, so shhh.  Well, sort of.  But, as I was running, I saw a garage sale sign, and I wanted to go.  But, I knew since it was already 10am, that everything would be picked over, and plus what do we even need?  But I though about Maria, and the stage she is in right now is dolls, she just loves dolls, and taking care of them.  The thought popped into my head all of a sudden of an American Girl doll, cause you know, the doll of all dolls, right? 
But then I thought, but who would be selling one at a garage sale anyways?  And this is kind of embarrassing because I don’t normally pray for stuff, but I did pray for this, that somehow, one day in the future, he could reserve me one for Maria at a garage sale or something, because I know she would just love it, she would so adore a special doll like that.
Anyways, that night, I got an email from someone, “You might think this is weird, but…” 
and said she would love for Maria to pick out an American Girl online and she would love to get it for her.  
And since I am so spiritual, haha, I forgot I had even prayed that prayer, and was just stunned by this offer.  Seriously, what!?  SO nice!  I called Maria over, and she and I browsed all the dolls, and her favorite also happened to be my favorite, Josefina, who happens to look just like Maria.  Maria thought we were just looking as a fun thing to do, and to talk and ooo and ahh over the dolls, and I let her think that.  

It wasn’t even until after I emailed her back that I remembered that prayer.  The same exact day??  I am not as smart as I look 😉  This whole darn adoption process, God has provided each of our needs as he lovingly guided us in ways that I still can’t believe, and when I think back and remember them all, I’m like, what the heck!?!?  This was one of those moments that made me remember.  I also made me  remember not to seek for ourselves, but to keep giving.  We have been learning a lot recently about giving, living wide open lives, that I hope I can put into words sometime.

Before she left for school, I showed her the box, and told her after dinner she could open it.  She was so excited, she didn’t even know what was in the box, but with giving her that little hope, if at school she felt lonely or scared, she could remember her special surprise.  
That night, after dinner and after we tucked the boys into their beds, we told her to get all ready for bed, to clean up her room and get ready for her big, big surprise.  The surprise that her mama and papa could never give her on our own, but thanks to a special friend was made possible for our hard working school girl.
She carefully opened the corners of the box, barely even able to contain her excitement of the fact that this, whatever it was, was for her.

She looked and gazed at the brown eyes staring back at her, and touched her little soft cheek.  “Josefina…” she whispered.  Then it was all done, and only laughing and uncontrollable giggles from here on out.

*Mom nerd alert* This doll is amazing.  We played, looked up her videos on line, brushed her hair…and it was really fun… “She speaks Spanish just like mama!” I told her.


 She had a great first day of school.  She is such a little gift to her family.  She is smart and hard working.  While in the orphanage, if we had to talk to someone else, sometimes we noticed her retreating into her mind, her safe place in this big building filled with kids to the brim, and when we talked to her, she came back.   And since being home, she hasn’t needed that place.  This is her happy place.  
Bits and Pieces
1. Thank you Shaw family, we love you!
2.  Our heater broke recently, and Andrew had to fix it at night, and the entrance is in Maria’s room.  The power went out, so Maria and I got a lantern, and she and I snuggled in mama’s bed, with Josefina and read her Josefina book together by lantern light.  It was so fun.
3.  We won a giveaway recently, and picked Estelle to receive the grant money.  Isn’t she gorgeous.  I wish I could read Josefina with her too, or that someone would.
4.  Maria and I have been all over pinterest recently making stuff.  Like Maria’s infinity scarf… then taking 30 model shots to show it off, haha!  Next up, braided head scarfs!

5.  We have been working on Elijah’s sensory input, more on that later, loving the outcomes.

6.  Maria loves babies.  The feeling is mutual.

7.  Finley went to work with daddy one day.  I asked him if he was secretly auditioning for One Direction.  He said yes.

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{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Beth Lang January 18, 2013, 10:58 pm

    I love your blog! It makes me happy every time I read it. Your kiddos are so lucky and so are you! Maria is such a beautiful young lady. I look forward to watching her continue to grow and mature. All my best, Beth

    • The Tiny Team January 21, 2013, 9:57 pm

      Thank you so much! Yes, we are all blessed, all 5 of us, each day

  • pat January 19, 2013, 1:25 am

    Wow so excited to hear about Maria’s week. My daughter goes to a charter school and we have had the best experience as well. She has FAS and is a inclusion room and when she is pulled out for reading and math etc she has only 4 in her class. Remarkable! I can see when she holds the babies in her arms the love she has for them. So glad to see her and Elijah doing well.

  • ~CCC January 19, 2013, 6:57 am

    love it! Goosebumps girl! our God is crazy amazing… even in the trivial he hears us. and that brings me hope.. one day i’ll be there. one day. 😉

    so so happy for you guys! You are am amazing mama with a heart of gold and you are gonna raise kids the same.

  • Karly January 19, 2013, 10:27 pm

    Love your posts! So proud of your sweet girl!

  • 78891acc-6311-11e2-96d7-000f20980440 January 20, 2013, 2:55 pm

    Thank you for continuing to share your journey. I am always tickled to pull up your page and find an update. I re-read your blog from your trips last summer to visit Maria and Elijah. Unreal. Their stories are amazing in 7 months time and the changes we as readers can only see are remarkable. I share your joy and humor from afar and somewhere down deep I ache for the parents who wouldn’t or couldn’t see these children become themselves in God’s love or share the adventures of their lives. I imagine Maria will revel in Art class and cannot wait to hear more!

    As an aside – We live near NYC and celebrated my daughter’s 3rd bday at American Girl store. If the opportunity presents itself be sure you all take Josephina to lunch there. (They have extra dolls on hand so Finley and Elijah can join in) and each doll has his/her own chair. Lots of fun and so very girly and kid-friendly. If you find yourself near NYC we would love to join you as my daughter reads your blog alongside me. Be sure not to miss the park in Central Park just north of the zoo on the east side. There is a fantastic slide built into the hill where they will play for hours. Literally. The photo ops are endless as they fly down the slide. (Just be sure to take 3 small squares of cardboard along. Such a simple thing but they are like rocket boosters!)

    • The Tiny Team January 21, 2013, 10:00 pm

      Oooo, New York! Gotta get that one in the calendar! 🙂 My kids would love it.

      That’s a great idea about the American girl store, we may need to look into it for her birthday a few months away!

  • kate January 20, 2013, 2:58 pm

    Josefina, with her gentle spirit and love for family is just perfect for your little bird.

    I’m so proud of her! School, being back in an institution, is hard on my little bunny. So glad you found a wonderful place for Maria.

    • The Tiny Team January 21, 2013, 10:02 pm

      I think she’d rather be home, but we know it’s good for her! 🙂

  • Sherry January 20, 2013, 11:04 pm

    Such as beautiful story and a wonderfully blessed little girl to have a spirit like that!

  • Katie January 21, 2013, 6:41 pm

    LOVE LOVE LOVE Maria! she is darling! SO happy for her! and yes, finley is totally a rock star! love that shot of him! and can’t wait to hear about mr elijah 🙂

  • squigglyrainbow January 21, 2013, 10:59 pm

    Praise God, love that story! I have a similar one about praying for a photographer for one of my best friends weddings…. the very next day – a professional photographer contacted us and said they wanted to shoot the wedding for FREE.

    I dreamed I visited you guys! xx

  • Wendy Talley, Portsmouth, VA January 22, 2013, 3:45 pm

    You have such a beautiful family. Thank you for sharing it with the world. It has been awesome to read of your adventures and your love for your children. I continue to pray for the children of Russia and all orphans worldwide to be allowed the opportunity to have a family. Reading these stories of our special needs children (I have a son age 10 with Autism) who are given a chance and how they blossom in just a short period of time with the love of a family and of Christ. It’s amazing.

  • Sally January 23, 2013, 4:47 am

    I look forward to reading your blog so much! I wish I lived next door to enjoy your sweet family in person! Hugs and kisses to those sweet babies of yours and a huge congratulations to Maria on all of her achievements! Way to go!

  • Andrea January 24, 2013, 4:06 am

    I love reading all about your sweet family! I actually helped out in my daughter’s kindergarten class last week and when I walked her out to snack Maria was sitting at the table my daughter sat down at. I smiled at her and smiled back the sweetest smile. You can tell how much she is loved! Thank you for sharing your life with us.-andrea

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