Sunday, December 30, 2012

Winter is back!

Santa Claus was nice enough to bring the kids sleds last year for Christmas and then the darnest thing happened, winter decided to skip by us leaving us without an opportunity to put the sleds to good use.  Thankfully, winter looks like it is going to make it presence felt this year, and yesterday we took full advantage of the conditions and bundled the kids up from head to toe and hit the local sledding hill.  Can you guess which kid was the most daring of all?

This guy was a mad man.  Time and time again flying down the hill without a care in the world.

 
That's not to say his two older brothers weren't doing the same, because they were.  Each of the kids had a blast.
 
 






 
At the end of the adventure, they each seemed a bit too eager to take a shot at me with a snowball.
 
 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Russian Officials Must Reconsider


Much of the last week has been spent celebrating Christmas with our family, and over the course of the next week or so we have other celebrations including our annual visit from Grandfather Frost.  For those that may not know, Grandfather Frost is to Russians, what Santa Claus is to us. 

Grandfather Frost never misses our house.  He knows there is a young Russian born boy that was one of the lucky ones and was taken out of a Russian orphanage and welcomed into a family that loves him beyond comprehension and he never fails to pay us a visit reminding us of the land where Lleyton was born. 

Lleyton came into our lives late in 2007.  It was this time 5 years ago that Sara and I were between our 2nd and 3rd visits to Russia, eagerly anticipating getting back there and bringing home the boy of our dreams.  That boy is just like the thousands of other children currently living in orphanages in Russia who did nothing wrong and deserve a shot at joining a family like ours.  The needs of those thousands of children just like Lleyton have been disregarded now that Russian officials have banned Americans from adopting from their country. 

I don’t feel like I can adequately describe the feelings Sara and I are having in wake of this news.  It physically pains me to think of those children, to think of those families just like Sara and I five years ago that are not going to be able to bring their children home, to think of the people that have dedicated their lives to the making a difference in the lives of children in orphanages throughout Russia.  Each of those thoughts are weighing on me. 

To say I am upset about this ban would be an incredible understatement.  

When I get home from work this evening my children will run and give me a hug as I walk through the door, each of them having joined Sara and I to form our family through international adoption.  If this ban remains in place, the likelihood that a child like Lleyton in Russia right now will ever have a dad to run to when he walks through the door is extremely slim. 

Something needs to happen.  

Join me in hoping that those children in Russia who yearn to be part of a family, rather than being sentenced to live in institutions, get that chance again. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Family Traditions

It’s a busy, yet really enjoyable time of year around our house thanks to the holidays. We set out over the past few years to establish traditions during this time of year that the kids could both look forward to and hopefully look back fondly on. In the past we had hoped to make the jaunt to a Christmas tree farm so that I could show off my muscles and cut down a tree for the family. Well, this year we made that happen, but my vision of it was a bit skewed. After searching through rows of trees, one better than the next while the kids did their best to stay within eyesight, we found the ONE.  It was like a scene out of Christmas Vacation as a light shone down upon the tree that was meant for our living room.

Thus, it was my time to shine.

I wielded the saw that was provided when we arrived at the farm and took the ground as the kids looked on in amazement (I didn’t actually see those looks, but I am certain they were there). I slowly but surely began bringing down the mighty pine. The slowly soon outweighed the surely, at which time I let Sara take over as I looked on in amazement. Thankfully, for my psyche, she allowed me to the be the one that made the final few passes before exclaiming “TIMBER!”. 

These two jumped in and were willing to help bring down the perfect tree as well.

 
As one tradition began, another one continued, as we took to decorating the tree together while I did my best to sing over the very talented Michael Buble. The kids love my singing.
 
 

After all of the decorating had taken place, and the tree was adorned with pictures and lights and ornaments, things settled down a bit before a new friend showed up. That friend being our newest Christmas tradition, The Elf on the Shelf, or better known in our house as Fisbee. Santa’s little helper has been closely watching over the kids each day and flying back to the North Pole by night to report to the big guy himself on the kids’ behavior. By the looks of what’s on the other side of the locked door in our basement, Santa has been pleased with what he has seen.

Here’s some of the things Fisbee has been up to around house.
 
 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Anatomy of a Good Family Picture

As I was scrolling through dozens of pictures looking for blog worthy ones for an upcoming post about our Christmas tree I came across these three that I felt exemplified how I go about getting decent pictures of our little ones. 

Behind every blog worthy pic, there are many more non-blog worthy pics. 

Trying to get the group together.

 
Parker looks like he has about enough while Lleyton tries to corral the his very active younger brother.

 
The one we were hoping for!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Look who's 6!

Six years ago today on what was almost assuredly a bitterly cold day in Samara, Russia Georgiy Valeryavich Ivanov was born.  You probably know him better as Lleyton. 

That's right, our little guy is 6!

Time flies. 
 
As usual, Sara worked her magic and created a fantastic birthday cake, and this guy loved it. 

 
  
 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thawing out.

A week or so ago, the weather was in the 70's and 80's around these parts, at which time we pieced together a plan to meet some friends at a local farm for some good old fashioned fall fun this past Sunday.  A hayride, a barn full of animals that may or may not like being petted, a hay bale playground, pumpkins, a corn maze, this place has it all.  Then the weather took a quick turn for the worst and temps dropped 40 degrees and the winds came too. 

Did that hamper our good time?  I think not. 

And we have pictures to prove it...

The very good looking crew

 
Addy and her best friend from school Jack


 
The incredibly large cows were quite happy to see we made it out on such a cold day.


 

 


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Keeping our streets safe.

Our Justice League was out in full force this evening. 
 
Rain or Shine, we knew they'd be out there, and they didn't disappoint. 
 
 



 

The phone call I will never forget.

Five years ago this week I recieved a phone call that I will never in my life forget.  Sara and I had yearned to start a family since the day we tied the knot and that dream became one HUGE step closer to reality on October 29, 2007. 

We had started the adoption process 10 long months earlier and had pretty much come to the conclusion that we wouldn't be getting that phone call we so wanted from our adoption agency until after the new year.  Hence when the phone rang with a 317 number and it was our agency director on the other line I was in a bit of shock.  As she spoke in her very thick Russian accent I feverishly jotted down any and all info I could decipher.  The magnitude of the fact that she was describing the boy that we had dreamt of was lost in that moment as I did everything I could to write down anything she could share.  I can't adequately describe the feelings I was having when on the phone with her, but I will certainly never forget how it felt. 

After hanging up I gathered myself for about a second and called Sara.  The only problem was that she was in the middle of a conference and was unreachable.  If I called her phone twice I called her a thousand times until she was finally able to pick up.  I can remember exactly where I was on the interstate as I pulled over to make sure that I relayed everything I knew about the boy that would soon become our son. 

His name was Georgiy Valeryavich Ivanov.
They called him Gorsha.
He was tiny.
He was born on December 4, 2006.
He lived in an orphanage in a city named Samara.
He had been diagnosed with many issues (which we found is common in Russia)
He spent the first couple months of his life in a hospital.
He was in good health now.

I rolled through each of these things with Sara on the phone as we each were in disbelief this was happening.  After hanging up with her I drove the rest of the way home in quiet, trying to digest the fact that we would be leaving for Russia very soon to meet a boy that we had never seen a picture of, yet who would undoubtedly become the Lleyton of our dreams. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

He said what?

As we were driving home from Parker's basketball practice this evening he said something that both floored me and didn't surprise me.

It went like this...

Parker: "I can't wait until next year."
Me: "Why so?"
Parker: "I get to do more homework.  I want to think."

Someone please remind me of this very brief conversation next year when Parker is entrenched in 4th grade homework.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Call me a late bloomer.

As I mentioned the other day while updating how the kids were doing, Lleyton has a little admirer at school.  By admirer I mean a little girl who has told him she wants to date him, kiss him, and marry him.  Knowing how much she likes him and how he describes the way they interact, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised this evening when he told me that he gave her his phone number. 

You read that right, my 5 year old son gave his number to a girl.  When I say his number, I mean my number.  So I am both dreading and excited about the prospect of this young lady calling.  I can only imagine how entertaining it would  be to watch our little guy converse over the phone with anyone, let alone a little admirer. 

I'm pretty sure I was 15 when a girl was interested enough to pick up the phone and call me, and my son has me beat by a decade.  Dare I say he's growing up a bit too fast, but it's easy to see what his friend sees. 

This little guy is the total package...

He's funny

 
He's very smart

 
He's helpful to a fault
 
 
 He's adventerous

 
And he's got some really cool siblings

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Look who's back!

The blog hiatus is coming to an end.  As was the case during the last long layoff from the blog, our absence wasn't attributable to lack of possible blog content, as we have had plenty going on, it was more about having too much happening to sit down and adequately write about it. 

Since coming home in July, Camden has struggled, mightily at times, with attachment issues.  To say these struggles were a surprise to us would be incorrect.  We knew that based on his situation in Korea that we were most likely in for a difficult adjustment...and we were right.  He has been home with us since July and I think we can now say that things are settling down a bit.  Does he still communicate with his fists more often than we would like to see?  Yes, but not as often as he did this time last month or the month before.  Does he sleep in his bed each night?  No, but there has been a night or two here or there where he does start and finish the night in his bed, rather than ours.  Helping make things a bit easier now is his continualy improvement when it comes to speaking English.  His ability to communicate in English is coming along ever so slightely. His first word was Parker, and now he has added Addy, Elmo, I wanna, Where's it at?, and a few other phrases to his repitoire.

Awhile back, sometime last year during our long wait for Camden to join our family, Sara and I listened one evening to a web cast put on by our adoption agency talking about what to expect after bringing your child home.  I admit that having been through it three times before I kind of figured I knew what it was going to be like.  I remember during the talk that we were told to expect the child to sleep in your bed for months after arriving home, as that is what the children are accustomed to in Korea.  Be it that our other kids haven''t slept in our beds very often, I just figured that would be the case for Cam.  I was wrong.   Many more nights than not our little winds up in our bed at some point during the night. 

All that being true, we have noted some marked improvement out of our little guy in last couple of weeks.

As for the other kids, they are doing great. 

Lleyton is settling into Kindergarten.  I would like to be able to report that he doesn't have a girlfriend, but I'm afraid I'd be mistaken.  Since about day 1 of school, he has come home telling us about one particular young lady.  This particular little lady must have older sisters or watch alot of TV, as Lleyton has reported to us that she tells him that she wants to date him and kiss him and marry him.  Never a dull moment.

Parker is as inquisitive as ever.  He's doing great in school and I couldn't be more happy, proud, and/or relieved to report that the major issues we were facing at the beginning of this year with our big guy have ceased.  He's wrapping another baseball season in the next couple of weeks just before embarking on another basketball season. 

Addy is Addy.  She's as cute as ever, all while mixing in some of her now trademark diva moments.  To say she's pretty and she knows it would be quite accurate.  She loves Dora, shoes, and anything purple...and her brothers. 

For those surprised to see us active again on the blog and checking in in hopes of seeing how big our crew is getting, here you go...




Tuesday, September 25, 2012

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ADDY!

Look who turned 3 today...


 
This little guy was laying in wait, just waiting for his chance to dive into the cake that Sara made special for Dora's biggest fan, Addy.

 
 
 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Just what the doctor ordered.

To say that it hasn't been stressful in our house over the last four weeks would be a lie.

This parenting four kids thing can be tough, and tough is an understatement at times.  Yesterday evening, like many previous evenings was filled with kids in time-out, a whole lot of "ah-ni-dah" ("no" in Korean), plenty of tears to go around between the little ones, and generally not too much fun.  That being true, by the time the kids hit the sack I was about at my wits end, simply trying to find my way through my foggy thoughts for ideas on how to make things easier around the house.  Ideas on how to give the the children the time and attention that they each need.  Ideas on things we can do after work and on the weekends to make those times enjoyable.  That's about the time that Sara called down the steps telling me I had to look at something.

Little did  I know that something was going to make my day, my month, and my year.  It was only eight or nine months ago that Sara and I, and the rest of the family for that matter, where in what seemed like a fight for our family versus Reactive Attachment Disorder.

Such was the diagnosis given to Parker as he fought (literally) his way through some excruciatingly tough times.  Not a day would go by for a long period of time back then when I wasn't fearful of what he might do next.

He was lost.

We were lost.

We didn't know how it was going to end.  Our attempts to resolve the issues he was having seemed futile and the lack of explanation he could give us for his actions was torture.

Very long story short, I couldn't be happier to be able to type that those days are behind us now.  Yet, I never have been completely sure how far behind us, but the paper that Sara shared with me last night went a long way towards illustrating just that...


What is that you might ask.  That is a paper that Parker had to complete for school.  One that listed his favorite book, his favorite food, his favorite movie, etc. and then the pièce de résistance, his proudest accomplishment...

 
 
All it took was a 3rd grader's homework to help me put everything in perspective.

Thanks Parker!


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Check out our Back to School Boys





Littlest guy made the trip with Sara and I to see Lleyton off to his first day of school, and he took full advantage of the opportunity to allow me to snap this classic pic!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Smooth transition...with one exception.


If you thought my blogging was a little sporadic with only 3 kids, I am guessing you might think we have disappeared off the face of the earth in between posts with 4 kids.  That being said I wanted to respond to the many of you that have reached out to see how things are going, and I am thrilled to report that Camden is doing wonderfully.  He is awesome!  His transition to this point has been so easy, which I think we were due for.  The kid is a blast.  He is animated.  He is funny.  He is wildly smart.  He is a tad bit crazy.  He is everything we could have hoped he would be, other than calm of course, but we have come to terms with that. 

That being said, there happens to be another 2 year old that lives in our house that may not be doing quite as well with this transition.  This happens to be the stunning little beauty that I speak of…



Addy is struggling a bit.  As I told someone the other day, she is a basket case.  Her tear ducts have to be almost dry, the girl is crying all of the time.  She just doesn’t quite have her arms around the fact that Sara and I’s attention is now being divided by 4 children rather than 3.  She’ll get there.  The girl has always had a flair for the dramatic, but she is now taking that to a new level, just for the time being we hope.  That’s not to say she doesn’t adore her little brother, because she certainly does, as do Lleyton and Parker.  Her struggle seems to be more about yearning for attention than anything else. 

Back to Cam and how he’s doing.  The boy is eating us out of house and home.  All he does is eat, which we really aren’t used to, be it that we are typically used to having to bribe one or two of the others to eat anything.  I venture to say our little guy could be a competitive eater if there was such a thing for two year olds.  We had read that some children cope with change, and stress, and transition with overeating and I’m here to tell you it’s true.  We need to find a way to lock the fridge, the pantry, the fruit bowl, anything in or around the kitchen.  WE are used to being at the grocery store, pretty often, but not every day.  It’s not often you will see this guy without some sort of food or drink in his hand...


It shouldn't be a surprise that one of the best pics of have of our little guy was taken while he was sitting down for lunch, as that is about the only time when he stays in one place.  All of the other pictures I have of him are blurry because the kids never stops moving.  Somehow we adopted Lleyton’s clone.  

We may have some explaining to do when our social worker comes over this weekend, as the boy has bruises and scabs seemingly everywhere, including a doozy of scab on his lower lip where his two bottom teeth went all the way through his lip the other day during what was one of the more spectacular crashes he has had since coming home.  Thankfully he did cry after that one, but now for long.  The kid’s pain tolerance is through the roof, which is scary.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Whatever it takes."

"Whatever it takes."  - Our motto regarding how to make it through 28 hours of travel from Korea to Kentucky.

So yesterday was a long day.  Today was a long day as well, but in a different sort of way.  But let's revisit our last day in Korea prior to letting you on how life is here in the Ritzmann household at this minute (it's ever changing).

After a rather emotionally taxing Monday, Tuesday arrived and we were greeted by a different little boy.  I'm not going to say that he was running into our arms professing his love, but he was pretty happy.  We started our day with a stop at Dunkin Donuts and a trip to the park across from our hotel. 

What we learned that morning?

Camden doesn't love donuts and he is very territorial on the playground. These discoveries were evidenced by throwing up on the table at donut capital of Seoul and the two hands to the chest shove of an unsuspecting little man at the park that happened to attempt to ascend the same set of steps our bruiser was climbing.

After the park, which was exceptionally nice of course, we took off back to our hotel for a brief respite from the humidity.  Following our break we took to the subway bound for Seoul's most recognizable place, Gyeonbokgung Palace.  After all, how could we be in Seoul with our little guy without taking the time and dealing with the never ending looks on the subway in order to get some pics of him at the palace.  Sounds great right?  Well, it would have have been had the palace been open on Tuesdays.  It's not.  But the trip wasn't for not...we did get a few great pics of the very handsome Camden in front of the incredible palace. 





After getting back to the hotel and ditching the clothes that were now soaking wet thanks to the humidity again, we rode the elevator down to what we thought might be Camden's favorite spot on Earth...Pororo Park.  Pororo is a wildly popular children's cartoon in Korea (I would liken it to Cars or Toy Story here). 

Have I mentioned Camden is pretty energetic?  He is off the wall, and at Pororo Park that was on full display. 


The rest of the day was fairly uneventful, Camden ate fish on a stick, he stepped in Sara's fried rice, he ate a tiny bit of rice wrapped in seaweed, he got what may or may not been his first mohawk in the bathtub, he confirmed his love for Sara's high heels, and he went to sleep much later that we had hoped without having any idea that the wake up call was coming at 4am.



This is the part where the "Whatever is Takes" motto came into play.  It was going to the longest day of our lives, literally and most likely figuratively, hence we decided whatever it takes to keep the young man happy, we were going to do it.  After all, it was guaranteed to pay huge dividends if we could make it work.  Did it work?  I would have to say so.  He traveled really well considering the circumstances.  There were no meltdowns, there was relatively little crying, their was quite a bit of sleep and more Pororo than I knew existed.  I would venture to say he traveled the best out of all three of us, and that's saying something because Sara was quite the trooper as well.  She is the one that had him strapped to her chest more often that not it seemed. 

Without boring you with the details, I would advise any international adoptive families out there who are wondering what airport to fly into to avoid Detroit like the plague.  Immigration single handedly caused us to miss our flight to Cincinnati, which didn't sit very well with me, but I think I handled it well.  Ask Sara for a more unbiased opinion. 

The gist of this post is that we made it. We made it through the longest day ever and we are here to tell about it. 

Now the adjusting begins.