My Family

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Life can be strange and not always predictable and just when I had given up the idea
of ever being a mother, I felt disappointed and empty when my fertility treatment
did not work. We had gone through many rounds with no success, and I had given up
all hope of ever having a child. I felt like there were no other alternatives left
for me. My husband was not interested in adopting. What could I do?

Then, I went to a picnic hosted Cradle of Hope Adoption Center. I found out about a
program called "Bridge of Hope" which brings Russian orphans to the United States
during the summer, to spend five weeks with an American family. The goal of the
program is to find permanent adoptive families for the children. This gives both the
children and the prospective adoptive parent/parents the chance to get to know each
other. This part really appealed to us! After months of planning, we finally saw a
picture of Anya. As soon as I saw her picture, I knew that Anya was the little girl
I had been waiting for.

June 27, 1998 was the day we met Anya. It was love at first sight; she was a dream
come true! She immediately sat on my lap and bravely held our hands and walked out
to our car and came home. Anya bonded to us immediately and I fell in love within
the first few days. Right away, she was calling us mama and papa. She seemed to be a
part of our family right from the start and we truly fell deeply in love with her
the more we knew her. In fact, people often commented when they saw us together on
how much Anya looked like both of us. Most importantly, we knew we could give her a
loving and nurturing home!

One day, toward the end of the summer, we took Anya to a family picnic. On the way
home she told us that she wanted to be our daughter. This was truly a special
moment for my husband and me. The night before she returned to Russia, Anya wrote a
make believe letter: "I'm in the desky dom and I am writing to you," "I love you
mama and I love you papa, please bring me home soon." August 1st was Anya's last
day and it was a very sad one for all of us. The five months we had to wait to get
all our paper work done were very difficult for all of us.

We traveled to Russia in December. The trip was one I will never forget. The
customs, the economy and the cities we visited kept my husband and me intrigued as
we waded through the final stages of the adoption. Seeing Anya again was everything
we had hoped it would be. She certainly was ready to come home and greeted with
open arms. We returned in time for the holidays, a family at last!

No one especially me, ever expected that we would be adopting another child through
the Bridge of Hope Program. When we met Anya, it was a miracle of a lifetime. We
were very fortunate to have gotten to know and love Anya for five weeks during the
summer when she lived in our home. My very reluctant husband agreed to have a child
in our home over that summer, probably never, thinking that he would fall madly in
love with her. However, that is what happened in the summer of 1998, when Anya came
to live with us. I think God had a hand in bringing Anya into our lives.

Three years hence...Anya speaks perfect English. She has an excellent understanding
of the English vocabulary. Anya has matured into a lovely and poised young lady.
She has come a long way psychologically from the needy little girl she was at six
years of age. Anya is well liked and has many friends. She continues to see her
Russian friends, outside of school. People have often commented that Anya seems
mature beyond her years. Anya is a very exceptional child. She is kind to the sick
and elderly and goes out of her way to help those in need. Anya has not forgotten
her past or her roots. We will be traveling to Russia soon and we believe this will
be a very positive experience for Anya.

Anya's temperament is sweet and loving. Not a day goes by without Anya telling us
how much she loves us. Anya is very at home now and seems much more secure and self-
confident. Anya no longer feels the urgency to control her environment and is not
the stubborn headstrong child she was. She no longer gets mad if she really wants
something and we tell her no. She may try to negotiate a deal, but she now knows how
to discuss situations and understands logic and reason. Anya is very affectionate.
She likes to be hugged, and be close to her me. She is totally a part of the family
and has been accepted with open arms by everyone. She is the special little Russian
princess to grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Anya now weighs 115 pounds and is almost 5 feet tall. She is growing into a pre
teenager and is enrolled in fourth grade at school. When she comes home after
school, her dad or I am there at home to talk with her about her day. She is now
reading close to grade level. Math is now the area she needs to focus her
concentration. She is still learning her basic facts, but has learned to tell time
and count money. Music and art are her favorite subjects. Anya recently took voice
lessons and performed in a recital. Anya is a very capable child, comes home from
school, and does not have to be told to do her homework. She is motivated and is a
self-starter. She is also very organized with her school assignments and tools..

Our lives have certainly changed since we adopted Anya three years ago. We have
decided to adopt another child because of our experience with Anya. We love Anya so
much that want her to have a companion in this world. Soon we will travel back along
the same path to Russia to complete our family with our new daughter. Our new
daughter, Yana, was Anya's best friend in Russia. When we went to Russia in
December '98 to adopt Anya, we met Yana. We promised Anya that we would try to find
Yana a family in the United States. In the subsequent three years since Anya has
lived with us, she talked about Yana on a regular basis. She said she misses Yana,
she has written letters to Yana, and she has reminded me of my commitment to try to
find Yana a home.

In December 2001, I found out that Bridge of Hope was going back to the same region
and asked immediately if there was a chance of bringing Yana to the U.S. It turned
out that Yana was available, and we agreed to host her, in hopes of finding her a
home in America.

I had an old picture of Yana, and I sent it to everybody that I knew, hoping to try
to find a family who would be interested in adopting her. Then, the day arrived,
when we went to the Cradle of Hope office to meet Yana, and I must say the reunion
was like a movie. The two girls embraced, and told each other in English and
Russian, "I love you, I love you." Tears were in everyone's eyes, as Olga the
coordinator took a beautiful video of their reunion.

As a teacher of many years, I can say that Yana really turned out to be one of the
most well adjusted 11-year-olds I have ever met. She fit in our family just like an
old shoe. She was just terrific. Nevertheless, I still was firm the first few days
saying, "We'll find her a home here, we'll find her a home here. My very reluctant
husband was extremely captivated and impressed with Yana and thought she was a
terrific child, and kept saying to me, "We have to adopt her." I kept saying to
myself, "Well, let's see how it goes, let's see how the five weeks go." In my heart
of hearts, of course, I wanted to adopt her, but I was concerned about how the
adjustment would be for Anya.

To make a long story short, our paperwork is done, and in Russia. We hope to bring
Yana home to our family very soon. That is how my family was formed, maybe not in
the conventional way, but hey I have always done things differently.
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