Zen arrived in the United States on 11.11.11. Lucky us! Here’s how we celebrated her Family Day – 2 years home.
Here she is on November 11, 2013 – 2 years home
We snuggled in bed in the morning for about an hour reading books about California, Russia and adoption.
Then we snuggled on the couch for about an hour watching slide shows of all of Zen’s photos and videos from when she lived in Russia, her traveling from RU to US and her first week home. I told them lots of stories about my memories from April – November 2011 (from the time we all met until those early days home as a family). Lots of memories from Russia, talking about the orphanage, what it means to be adopted, etc.
Ali & Zen tried on about 6 outfits before choosing matching outfits and hair bows for the occasion.
Then they watched Snow White in Russian.
They just love being together. We have so many different places they could sit, but they often want to sit right close together.
After that, we went to Whole Fo*ds so she could choose a special cake. They have shopping carts with little cars under them that the kids can steer, so they love that as much as going on an amusement park ride.
Zen took a nap while Ali and I made beef stroganoff so that we could have some Russian food for dinner. (The only thing I would do different next time is to chop the mushrooms finely to disguise them). Ali set the table with some ‘special glasses’ for their juice so we could have toast to Zen. You’ll notice that Ali has changed her outfit into “holiday clothes” for the occasion.
We put a tablecloth on and lit some candles
Then they changed their outfits again and were doing a performance which reminded me of rhythmic gymnastics, so we watched the Russian Olympic Rhythmic Gymnastics on YouT*be for a while. Then their dear Papa came in from work bearing two dozen balloons. So we played and ate cake and celebrated some more.
Real learning is learning that truly means something to an individual. Learning has nothing to do with passing or failing, dividing the world up into subjects or taking a standardized test. That’s not learning.
Education is not telling students that it’s June 1 and today is the day you need to learn about dolphins. Also, when you’re done “learning”, you’re going to be tested to see if you can regurgitate all the facts back. And if you do, bingo!…you’ve learned!
…Seeing the learning in everything and not dividing the world up into ‘educational’ and ‘not educational’ has been very helpful. In Guerrilla Learning, by Grace Llewellyn she says;
“Real learning requires meaning. Meaningless information can be memorized and repeated, but it’s not learning. For information to have meaning, there must be meaningful context for the information. That’s why most people, unless they are really good at absorbing and retaining meaningless data, forget most of what they learned in school. In school, subjects are artificially separated from each other. It’s as if schools believe that if you give kids one tree at a time, year after year, they will save them up and make a forest out of them. School can sap kids interest in learning, confuse them with so many meaningless “trees” that it may take years to recover and begin to see the “forest” again. School can simply eat up so much of their time that there’s none left for the real learning, for spontaneous exploration or free play. Instead of discovering their unique gifts and talents, many learn to see themselves as ‘disabled’ if they don’t keep up with the traditional school systems standards of measurement.”
I started this post March 29, 2010, more than a year before I became a parent. This is when I was forming my own educational philosophies and researching different types of education for my future child(ren). For some reason, I did not publish the post at that time, and I just came across it again now three and a half years later. I’ve been a parent for 2+ years now and have an elementary aged child. I still could not define ‘real learning’ better than this myself, so I’m finally publishing this wonderful description of ‘real learning’.
Some people might say we are lucky, but I don’t really believe in luck. Maybe we have good karma or maybe it’s because we believe in the Law of Attraction, so we make things happen by believing that our wishes are our reality. Whatever the case may be, we had the great fortune to visit Maui for 3+ weeks at only the cost of flights. We didn’t need to pay for accommodations nor a car rental because we did a home & vehicle swap! Here is a recap of our adventure…
Sunset Pacific Ocean view from our lanai
Our first hike was to see a blowhole in West Maui
Seen while hiking in west Maui near the northernmost point of the island.
We happened upon a random stone maze on one of our hikes in west Maui
Zen is in a ‘dresses’ phase and her idea of dressing for a hike is wearing shorts under a dress. At least she chose appropriate footwear.
We went to Po’olenalena Beach for the off-shore snorkeling which did not disappoint. We saw enormous sea turtles! Ali and Zen saw some fish – their first time snorkeling.
Iao Valley botanical garden
This was a perfect family-friendly hike.
We loved Iao Valley State Park!
Iao Valley Stream
8th Annual Maui Ukulele Festival
Collage at Maui Arts & Cultur*l Center, where the Ukul*le Festival was being hosted
Look who won a thousand dollar koa ukul*le! Not only was the festival free to attend, but there was also a free raffle. I entered each of our names one time. There were probably about 1,000 people in attendance and they gave away 8 ukulel*s. Ali’s name was called last and now she is a proud new owner!
Another South Maui Beach
The Fifteen Dollar Coconut
The house we stayed at had a beautiful pool so we did Lots of Swimming
Pool Time with Papa
Haleakala National Park
Above the clouds at Haleakala National Park
We also had a wonderful evening at a luau. I was skeptical, but it turned out to be a really great family event. I’m hoping to add pictures of the children dancing…they loved every minute of it. There were crafts, games, pig roast and wonderful entertainment.
On to our next adventure. Oliv*ne Pools in West Maui with friends. The drive was beyond harrowing (thankfully I was in the passenger seat and thankfully my dear husband is an excellent driver!) However, absolutely stunning and totally worth it.
She’s ready for her hike down to the Oliv*ne Pools. This is proper hiking attire, right?
Made it down to the rocky coastline – stunning scenery all around us!
Helping Zen into the water. Lovely shallow and deep natural saltwater pools. It wasn’t too cold. Natural deep salt water pools. Divine!
We did the drive to Hana (and beyond). We got to see and experience LOTS along the way.
We found some wonderful kid-friendly hiking trails
This is proper hiking attire, right?
Bamboo grove at the end of the trail
We had heard that if you climb about 800 feet up the dry river bed that there is a waterfall and pool, but rocks falling the cliffs turned us back for obvious safety reasons
Testing the vines to see if they are swingable. (Nope)
The road to Hana has many wonderful views
Posing at yet another lovely waterfall.
Such beautiful tropical flowers. This one is ‘torch ginger’
My dear husband got to do harder hikes without us
We had a sunset picnic at this fantastic diversion to Naihiku
Even though this happy girl is somewhat timid, she is always up for an adventure
Stunning coast line
We got to see this wonderful black sand beach at dusk.
Most people turn around once they get to Hana, but we stayed one night and then continued on through Southeast Mauiand Upcountry and took the long way home. That was a great decision and one incredibly scenic drive.
We started day 2 with a tropical fruit breakfast
Two kids enjoy the beach while one has a tantrum in the car which included throwing everything out of the car including the car seats
Rainforest hike on the wrong trail
No, we did not adopt another child ;) That is our friend who joined us for one week
This photo was taken from the inside of an old Portuguese bread oven
That is one massive waterfall that my dear husband hiked to
And here he is under it!
Banyan Tree – my official favorite
The drive home beyond the coastal section of the national park
The landscape changes dramatically
We ended our travels with a boat trip. We sailed for about an hour to Molok*ni, snorkeled, swam and slid down the water slide for a couple of hours, then headed back stopping to see some sea turtles along the way. Breakfast and lunch was provided and it was an absolutely perfect day! I didn’t get many photos because we unfortunately did not have a waterproof camera. Ali did real snorkeling for about an hour! She was amazed. Zen got in the water but wanted nothing to do with the snorkeling gear nor the awesome see boards they had. She did reluctantly stay in the water swimming around with me while I snorkeled for about half an hour…I was impressed! The boat also had a glass bottom viewing area, so she did get to see some fish and coral.
Guess she likes sailing
If you look closely, you’ll see a sea turtle popping her head up
The captain let Ali and her friend steer the yacht for A Long Time! They loved it. He did have to give them one warning though when they were doing zig-zags
Most of our summer was spent on our 5 week RV road trip. Other than that, here’s what we were up to:
We learned lots about the life cycle of butterflies at this exhibit.
Getting geared up for bike riding & roller skating. They choose whatever they want to wear 95% of the time.
We went on a wonderful field trip to Point Vicente Lighthouse. There are also 2 museums there and tide pools nearby.
The art installation also hosted a couple of arts and crafts projects including this collage fan.
These two share a lot of laughs together.
They decided to turn cardboard boxes into beds for movie night.
Of course we got quite a few beach days in
Taking their babies for a walk to the park
Building stuff with magnetic blocks.
Business trip to Florida
The hotel had a great kiddie pool with splash pad and waterslide
Zen’s first movie theater experience
Zen saw her first movie in a real theater. PLANES.
At 3.5, she did make it all the way through the movies, but it was borderline. There were a couple of times she wanted to leave but Ali convinced her to stay to the end.
We also attended the L.A. County Fair. We saw lots including a mermaid show, a shark show, lots and lots of rides, touch tank for stingrays, milked a goat, checked out the historic steam train and visited the huge petting zoo.
Checking out the caboose on the historical steam train on display. It looks like a ‘break room’ of sorts with sitting, sleeping and eating areas. We also got to see the engine room with they fired the coal and lots more.
5/15 Started Documents
5/17 Signed with Indy Lawyer
5/21 1st Homestudy Visit
5/27 2nd Homestudy Visit
6/29 Homestudy Finalized
6/30 Submit I600A
7/20 USCIS Fingerprints
7/23 Requested HS Update
7/28 Switched to Agency
8/11 USCIS Needs Addt'l Info
8/13 Homestudy Update Done
8/14 Addt'l Info Sent to USCIS
8/14 Sent 1st Dossier to Lawyer
8/26 Sent 1st Dossier to Agency
8/26 Received I-171H
9/7 Sent 2nd Dossier to Agency
9/8 Hubby Needs 'More Time'
11/18 Canceled with Agency
2/6 Hubby is Ready Again
2/7 Decided to Proceed Indy
2/27 Updated 1st Dossier Sent
4/1 Travel 1st Trip
4/7 Referral for Ali our Oldest
4/15 Referral for Zen our Youngest
4/20 Home from 1st Trip
4/28 Court Dossiers Sent
6/15 Travel 2nd Trip
6/22 Court - 1st Adoption Finalized
7/5 Pick up Ali
7/8 Home with Ali
10/12 Travel 3rd Trip
10/18 & 19 Court - 2nd Adoption Finalized
11/8 Pick up Zen
11/11 Home with Zen