A new flower is blooming at Conner home in Niles
By By MARCIA STEFFENS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- This little girl is extremely lucky. Not only does she have a new mother who loves her to pieces, her grandfather can hardly wait to buy her a pony.
Alexandria Azalia-Rose Conner is a long name for such a tiny girl, but she came a long way to find her new loving home in Niles.
The trip across the ocean was for many years simply in the thought process for Dawn Conner, 39, who felt her biological clock starting to tick and still no prospective love interest eager to marry and start a family.
The woman, most recently principal at Lincoln School in Dowagiac and curriculum director for K-6, studied all the aspects of single parent adoption.
Looking into possible countries, rules and regulations and also agencies, she did a lot of research before making what she feels now was a wonderful choice.
Dawn is still overwhelmed by the response of her friends, co-workers and the community. "I wrote 130 thank you cards," she said. The staff at Lincoln had given her a luncheon and shower and had all of the children put their fingerprints on fabric, which was turned into a beautiful quilt for the baby.
Apparently her parents are also thrilled with their new granddaughter. Dawn's mother, Rosemary, from whom one of the baby's names come, runs the post office in Union. The baby is also named for Dawn's grandmother, Rosetta.
Frank Sr. is a retired Captain from the Cass County Sheriff's posse. "He still rides and ropes in rodeos," said his daughter. "He has bought her a wooden pony and is already looking for the perfect real pony for her."
The couple come to visit her home on Lake St. and Huntly in Niles from Union nearly every day, Dawn said.
Dawn's brother Frank Jr., a professor, went with her to Russia the third week of June to bring Allie home. He and his wife Raenell live in Grand Rapids with their sons Dylan and Spencer, who are also excited about their new cousin.
The court date of June 24, when Allie became hers and also a citizen of the United States, was not Dawn's first trip to Russia or her first meeting with her daughter.
After much paperwork, with Adoption Associates, the agency she used, in Jenison, she was first informed of a two-year-old girl who was available, Dawn said.
The country doesn't allow the children to leave before the age of six months, Dawn explained. This girl would not be allowed to leave until this fall, after all medical conditions were checked and paperwork was completed.
So Dawn passed on her, as she hoped to adopt while she had part of the summer off to bond with her child before she returned to Dowagiac for the school year as the K-12 curriculum director.
As it turned out, though, she called Sherrie, a new friend she met through the adoption agency and told her about the little girl. She will become start her role as that baby's mother in September in Grand Rapids.
Maybe Azalia, as she was called by her caretakers in the orphanage, was meant to come to Michigan. At the very same time Dawn made her decision to adopt a child from Russia and sent in paperwork, Azalia was born -- Nov. 20, 2002.
She first met her daughter the last week of April on her initial trip to Russia and received an immediate smile as though her daughter knew they were meant to be together.
Her friend Kay Tularak, the principal at McKinley School in Dowagiac went along. She lives with Dawn in her six-bedroom four-year-old house in Niles with her own 17-year-old son Phillip. Another son is older and lives in Jenison.
An interpreter stayed with the women, as few spoke English. Dawn was also required to meet the Minister of Education and social workers. "They were wonderful people," she said.
It was interesting that it was while the war on Iraq was being seen on television, she added. It was shown in a much different way than we saw in America. "It was interesting as we discussed the information and it didn't seem the same," she observed.
She took lots of pictures and then came home to go through much more paperwork and home visits.
The baby was from Tyumen, near Omsk, which is in the western part of Siberia, near Mongolia. Her helper from the Michigan agency, Alla, had been from the same town and it was her parents who helped Dawn and Kay during their Russian visit.
She had read about Russia's rich history and how well children acclimate to our culture, both socially and academically. She plans on telling her daughter of her heritage and even brought home some traditional story books, toys and Russian dresses for her to wear when she is older and a carpet made in her town. She even has a Winnie the Pooh book -- in Russian.
Should she take her daughter back to Russia on the over 16 hour trip, that country requires she surrender her Russian passport, as she is to choose, while in the United States she can have dual citizenship.
The $30,000 it took to adopt doesn't bother Dawn, and besides, she added she will get $10,000 back on her federal return and $1,200 from the state. She will continue to be monitored for the next few years, as there are post placement reports.
This week Dawn took her to Dr. Andrew Rutherford in Niles for three shots. From a little over five pounds at birth and 18 inches long, she is now 18 pounds and 27 inches. The new mother also did what she called the "first big motherhood responsibility." She secured a day-care provider for her daughter.
When she goes back to Dowagiac, so will Allie, at the Apostolic Lighthouse Church on M-62. It gave her "good feeling," on her visit to the day care.
Taking Alexandria Azalia-Rose out into the sunshine on her front porch, she added, "Motherhood is everything I hoped it to be."