Sunday, June 30, 2013

Cava & The Ocean

On the first morning we were at Myrtle Beach, we got up and took Cava for his first time to experience an ocean. Everyone was excited to see how he'd react, especially since Cava gets enthusiastic over seeing lakes and rivers. As we walked from the car and trudged along carrying our beach chairs, coolers, umbrella, boogie boards, sand buckets, towels, and other necessities (I truly believe it took less equipment to storm the beach at Normandy on D-Day than it did our few hours at the beach), Cava heard the sounds of the surf and exclaimed, "WOW!"

As we made our way up the path amidst all the sea grass, all of us were waiting until that moment that instead of the dunes, Cava saw the ocean for the very first time. And then it happened and Cava's eyes got as big as most children's get on Christmas morning. "Whoa, that's really big," he declared and he was raring to go, which is why we put on sunscreen before we go there.

Just like he was with his first time at a pool, Cava showed no fear and got right in.

Even more than playing in the ocean, Cava absolutely loved riding the waves on a boogie board. The boogie board was almost as big as he is.

He was a natural and we nicknamed him Cava "Boogie Board" Blackwell. 

Benjamin also got in on the action.

But when they both got tired of playing in the water, the boys grabbed their buckets and shovels and began to work on building sandcastles.

Cava was glad when we informed him that he only had to wear his life vest in the water and not on the beach itself. Soon their cousin Bethany joined in the building. First with Cava . . . 

And then with Benjamin . . .

Benjamin returned to the ocean with his Aunt Kristen, Uncle Amir, and his cousins.

When he'd finished making his sand castles, Cava joined his Granddad Bob in feeding the seagulls. I would have enjoyed that more had they not decided to do it right where we had set all our beach chairs.

Even when they weren't feeding the seagulls, Cava loved spending time with his Granddad Bob.

We left sometime after 2 pm and, despite the fact that most of the time we were there it had been overcast and we generously applied sunscreen to ourselves, three out of four of us got sunburns. Wouldn't you know our little Ukrainian didn't. 

Does that smile tell you how much fun he had?

Friday, June 28, 2013


In the 80's the band The Go Go's sang, "Vacation all I ever wanted. Vacation had to get away." That last line was all too true for our family, so we were thrilled to be spending a week in Myrtle Beach away from home. We had planned this so that our family left the same time as my sister's, so that we could have our first family vacation with all of my family (since we would be staying with my Dad at his beach house). Everyone wanted to be there to see Cava's first time ever not only seeing but going into the ocean.

We left on Sunday and drove 4 hours. The boys got along due to the threat that if either argued, fussed, or fought they would not get to swim in either the pool or the ocean when we got there. It's amazing how well a threat like that works - hey, whatever works!

Since we arrived before my sister's family, we took the boys to the pool first (as it's only a short walk from my Dad's house). As anyone can see from the photo above, Cava was prepared, although he looked more like he was preparing to go scuba diving than to swim in a pool. The photo also shows how overcast it was the day we arrived and Cava kept telling the dark clouds, "Dosvedanya rain clouds! Dosvedanya!"

Once in the pool, however, he forgot all about the clouds and just focused on the fun at hand.

When my sister's family arrived later that day, we cooked out and enjoyed hamburgers, hot dogs, and each other's company.

As part of my vacation, I also did something I had not done since I started this blog - did not write a single blog entry. I promised my family and myself that I would take time to simply enjoy our time together without documenting it on a daily basis. I did, however, continue to take lots and lots of pictures (much to my family's chagrin).

Now that we're back, I'll write my accounts of our first vacation as a new and improved family and all that such a trip entailed. So, more to come!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Gold Mining!

One thing I'm always trying to find is things for the boys to do that is both fun and inexpensive this summer. So I went online to research places in our area that meet that criteria and discovered one that I had not been to since elementary school: Reeds Gold Mine. It's one of the North Carolina Historic Sites since it was here that gold was first documented gold find in the United States.

On our way to the actual mine, Cava caught a lizard and, naturally, wanted to bring it home as a pet.

Here we are (Megan, Benjamin, and Cava) before we went down in the mine:

Inside it was much cooler than the 83 degrees it was outside.

This was at the drill and vein 5. Miners used hammer and chisels or star-bit drills to drill blasting holes 10 - 12" deep. The holes were then filled with black powder for blasting, which was done at the end of the day in order that the dust and debris could settle over night.

Back outside the mine, the kids posed beside Morgan's Shaft where the headframe and kibble are suspended over the shaft to the mine below. 

Down the path, we headed to the Stamp Mill. They were excited that there was a man here to operate the machinery and explain what all of it was used for.

But then it was time for some serious business: panning for gold! 

While no one found any gold in their pan, they all enjoyed the experience. And Cava brought home a handful of rocks for his new collection.

This was followed by a picnic by a stream.

On the way home, we had to stop by one of our favorite sculptures: Metalmorphosis! How could we not stop to see a giant metallic head that spins and spurts out water into a fountain?

The kids all liked running around him with their hands in the water.

And, of course, no outing is complete without someone getting soaking wet!

But who cares? We all had a blast!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Cava's Mural

I had written in a previous blog about how Cava had decided to paint a mural of Ukraine for school (murals-mourning-moving-toward-acceptance). This was a huge step for him coming to terms with being able to love where he lives now and grieve the loss of where he came from and to have a love for Ukraine. For those who've followed our blog know, he didn't get to finish out the school year and one of the biggest disappointments for us was that he didn't get to complete the mural that was so monumentally important to him.

Since we were able to visit his school and say goodbye to his teachers, Cava got the unfinished mural. I then bought him some paints so that he could complete it and we checked out the same book from the library, Ukraine: Enchantment of the World by Patricia Kummer, that he used to get ideas from.

We also went online to look up photos of Shabo, the town where he was born, so that he could incorporate images from there as well. As we were researching Ukraine for the mural, Cava's attitude changed from thinking of his home country as bad to seeing the beauty of his homeland. While waiting to pick up Benjamin from school, Cava normally plays on my iPod, but the day we checked out the book on Ukraine, that's all he wanted to look at and every few seconds he would say, "Papa, look," and point out something new he'd discovered about where he was from. I loved his excitement and his desire to now see a country he really saw very little of.

I know I've learned that Shabo, where he was born, was originally founded as a Tartar village in the 1500's. The village was originally called Acha-abag, which means "lower vineyards," as this was and continues to be a region that is famous for its wines. 

It is part of the Oblast, Odessa region in Ukraine. Below are some photos of Shabo:

When Cava saw these photos, he said, "Wow, Papa. It's beautiful." I don't think he'd ever seen or thought of where he was from like that before and I kissed his head, "Yes, Cava, it is. And it's even more so to us because that's where you're from."

So I was thrilled that Cava picked up his paintbrush and began working on his mural again.

He was so proud of his work that every time he would paint something new on it, he would come and get me and say, "Papa, come, see."

Cava would paint for awhile and then come and tell me, "Papa, I'm tired."

"So you're done painting for today?"


We'd let the mural dry before putting it up before the next time he was inspired to return to working on it.

And each time he returned to it, Cava would add something new: another hryvnia (pronounced grivna), a pysanky (one of their elaborately decorated Easter eggs), and the Ukrainian flag. What I loved about all of this was Cava was expressing himself. He was thinking about what he wanted to paint from his homeland. This mural was thought out and he didn't just rush to get it finished.    

Each time he began to paint his mural also gave me another opportunity to talk with him about his past, his memories, and about his country and to see the beauty in it.

When he was almost done, he called me in to look at his mural and I stood there a moment and studied his work and studied it more closely. Finally, I said, "It can't be done. You've left off my favorite thing from Ukraine."

Cava looked at me puzzled. 

"Don't you know what my favorite thing from Ukraine is?"

I knew when he understood what I meant when that smile of his came across his face and he pointed at himself, "Cava."

Giving him a big hug, I replied, "Of course it's Cava. None of the rest would matter to me without a Cava. To me, you're the most important thing about Ukraine." 

It was such a huge step for him to have not only started this mural but to bring it to completion. I love how he is opening up a little more to talk about his past and his time there. 

This past weekend, when Danelle was playing a game with Benjamin, I was sitting on the couch talking with Cava. I don't know how the topic came up, but we got around to the subject of when we first met Cava. It was interesting hearing Cava tell me about it, as opposed to my usually being the one to talk about meeting him for the first time. He spoke of how they had told him a family was coming to visit him and how excited this family was to get to meet him. Cava said he was excited because no one had ever come to visit him before. When they brought him to the lawyer's office to meet us, he said he was very scared that we would not like him and that we would want to leave. He was very happy when Benjamin gave him the toys (Legos and a truck) and how Benjamin played with him on the floor of the office. No one had ever given him anything before, he said and he told me how all of this made him feel special for the first time. 

Hearing him tell about what it meant that we wanted him and loved him made me tear up. Of course I had to give him a hug, kiss him, and tell him as I have so many times before and will tell him so many, many, many times to come, "I love you, Cava, and I am very thankful that you are my son."

So now when I look at that mural, I will see the huge journey that my son has taken and continues to take in his new life as a child who's loved by his family.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day!

"It is not flesh and blood
but the heart which
makes us fathers and sons."
- Johann Schille

Happy Papa's Day, Papa.
We love you so much.
You are the best Papa ever.
You helped Cava when he had a nightmare about Masha.
You always help me with school projects.
We love you Papa

Your Loving Sons
Cava and Benjamin

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Water Fun

Last time we went to our local park, I let the kids (Benjamin, Cava and two of their friends) play in the water in their clothes. They all got soaked but had a great time.

This time I was prepared. Cava went in a swimsuit and I brought a towel to dry him off and to keep my car seats from getting soaked. Unlike the pool, Cava didn't just rush into the water but edged into it backwards.

But once he did . . . 

And, of course, Cava found a way to climb on something.

At one point, he was even doing flips on those bars. Wish I'd gotten that on film. 

It's funny but whenever we take him places now, his immediate question afterwards is, "Where are we going next?"