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    Twelve years ago today, I was in a freezing cold courtroom in the village of Karakastek, Kazakhstan asking a judge to grant my request to adopt a little girl then known as Maigul in the village orphanage.  Although I had been waiting for her since right around the day she was born, I had only received the package with two pictures, a short video and sketchy medical records six weeks earlier.

    I flew to Kazakhstan a few days earlier, and met the little girl who would soon be my daughter just three days before  - but fell in love with her immediately.

    I won’t rewrite our adoption story; it’s here if you care to read it.

    But here we are, twelve years later.  Alison is a beautiful 13 year-old young woman.  She’s funny, smart, strong-willed, obstinate, stubborn, independent, tough … I could go on and on.  She brings me incredible joy while, at the same time, is the source of lots of frustration.  I guess that’s what being a mother is all about.

    To my darling daughter:  I love you more and more with each passing day.  As I wrote in the letter I sent to you from the apartment in Kazakhstan where we spent 15 days getting to know each other before returning home to our real life here in America:

    Nov. 30, 2000

    Dear Alison, my daughter,

    I’m writing this letter to you from Almaty, Kazhakstan- where I traveled to find you and make you my daughter! …

    Though I had already fallen in love with you from two pictures and two videos I had been sent of you, I knew when they handed you to me at the orphanage that first time that you were my daughter.

    We visited together at the orphanage for the next two days – each day you seemed a little more comfortable with me.

    On the fourth day – Thursday, Nov. 23, 2000 – Thanksgiving Day! – I went to court to request that they grant me the privilege of being your mother.  It was the happiest day of my life – surpassed only by the following day, Friday, Nov. 24, when I got to take you out of the orphanage.

    We have to wait 15 days, by Kazakhstani law, until we can leave the country. Then we get your new birth certificate, adoption certificate, passport and exit visa, and go to Moscow to the US Embassy for your Immigrant Visa. ….

    We’ll head to Miami before we go home to Los Angeles so you can meet your grandfather, who has been very ill, and your aunt & uncle and cousins.

    Then we’ll go home on Dec 20.  Our dog Sandy is there waiting for us.  I hope you’re not scared of her, because she’ll love you as much as I do, and will be your best friend and protector.

    Tomorrow will mark our first week together, and you’ve come so far already.  From barely crawling in the orphanage, you’re now pulling up yourself to standing and walking around holding on to the furniture.  I’m sure you’ll be walking by the time we leave!

    I’ve already bought you a lot of things to remind you of your homeland, and will always make sure you have as much info as I can give you.

    I promise to always love and cherish you, support you, learn from and with you, teach and guide you.

    Coming here is the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life- and now you are my life.  I promise we’ll have a good one together.

    I will love you always,

    Mom

    I can’t wait to see what the next 12 years brings as you grow into the amazing potential you have.  I love you, my heart, my daughter.  Happy Forever Day!

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