Yana

The Sims family is ever increasing. Marriages followed by new baby Sims have left the mantel at Christmas overflowing with stockings. This year we will be adding two stockings, one for baby Brynnley and one for Yana. As thrilled as I am about the newest baby in the family, I’m even more excited about the newest addition, Yana.

Yana is a beautiful 14 year old who grew up in Russia. She lived in an orphanage in Zhytomyr, which is closing. Her only living relative is an older sister, who is 18 and just barely able to support herself.

My nephew, Bryan, and his wife, Kim, already have 3 children. Yet something was missing. They felt called to explore options for international adoption. This summer they learned of the orphanage in Zyhytomyr and asked to host a child for a three week visit this summer. Other families in the area were also hosting children from the same orphanage.

Yana traveled from Russia to the US with her friends and a guardian. Her first night in the US was spent at our family lakehouse with 20+ Sims and she didn’t speak a word of English! I could only imagine how overwhelming it must have been for her. But despite the language barrier, she played, swam, fished and couldn’t get enough of the jet skis. By the end of her visit, there was no doubt, we had fallen in love with her (and she had fallen in love with us).

Kim and Bryan began the formal process of adopting Yana, which included two trips to Russia, tons of paperwork and required an endless amount of resilience and patience. Then on November 8, 2011, Yana became one of us. As exciting as it is to get to be a Sims, I can only imagine what it must be like to start life over in a new country, half a globe away from your sister. And as if learning a new language isn’t challenging enough, the Russian and English alphabet are different. But Yana is a brave girl…and I believe that hope, love, family and friends can give her the strength to make this transition with grace.

Over Thanksgiving, the Sims family gathered at the lakehouse again. We were blessed with an abundance of turkey, the best mashed potatoes, amazing pumpkin and apple pies and love. We played ping pong, cards and farkle. We cheered for the Longhorns and made our annual trek to Fredericksburg to tour a winery and have a delicious lunch at the Fredericksburg Brewery. And…Kim, Kat, Syndey and I created an iMovie of Yana’s journey to becoming a Sims.

Kim wanted to create the video for Yana, so she would know how much we love her and how happy we are to have her in the family. The video is also for us to remember all the things that Yana holds dear, her language, her sister and all her close friends. And we are very sensitive to the fact that while this is a wonderful opportunity for Yana, it is also incredibly hard to leave all that you have known and cherished behind.

As I worked with the photos of Yana and her sister…and Yana saying good-bye to her friends…my eyes filled up with tears. I hope, with all my heart…that her transition is a smooth as possible, that she knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she is loved, and that she is able to reach her full potential that honors her past as well as her present.

For me, some of the most touching parts of the video are:

  • Picture of Yana with her sister – starting at 3:27
  • Friends saying Goodbye – starting at 5:47
  • Yana arriving at the airport to a Texas size welcome – Starting at 7:20

This Thanksgiving was incredibly meaningful for me. I’ve never been so grateful for my family and friends.