Tuesday, December 30, 2008

During which I pick up where Dima left off

On Saturday, I woke up with an upset stomach. My first thought was food poisoning, as I didn't have any other symptoms but nausea. Since I didn't have a fever, I was able to mingle with Mark's extended family at the great O-family open house. It was awesome! We were able to see a lot of family that we hadn't seen in years. There were a lot of kids and the boys did great playing with their first- and (I think) second-cousins. I spent the day sitting and talking, as any form of movement amplified the nausea. I almost made it the whole day without tossing any cookies...almost. ;)

Sunday we met up with a good friend of ours from Michigan who is now living in Colorado Springs. She has three kids now so the boys played with some more new friends while we all caught up. The nausea was still in full force but really as long as I didn't move I was okay. I spent a lot of Sunday sitting. :) After lunch with M and her crew, we went back to Mark's parents' house and then the boys all went over to Mark's brother's house while I stayed home. I just didn't see the point in subjecting anyone else to my inability to move--plus they were getting together to eat chili. LOL I was bummed to miss out on a last few hours with family, but it really was for the best.

Monday we headed home. Mark drove almost the entire way (again!) although I did manage about an hour driving, I think. I stayed in the car for all of our meal breaks save dinner, which I braved very briefly. We made it home much later than we had hoped (not my fault, really!) but we did make it home and we all collapsed into bed.

I'm now able to report that all of the nausea is gone and I'm feeling 100% again. I wish it hadn't had to have happened during family time with people we don't get to see all that often, but unfortunately it was just one of those things. I'm just glad it doesn't appear to be anything contagious!

Friday, December 26, 2008

aka The Day We Learn That Dima Gets Altitude Sickness

The boys had really been hoping for snow when we got to Denver, but it was actually warm while we were there. We did have flurries for 10 minutes one day, but it wasn't even enough to coat the ground. So we thought we'd take the opportunity to see some real snow and take the boys up into the mountains.

Mark's brother volunteered to drive so the five of us set out for Loveland Pass (elev. 11,990 ft.). Pretty much as soon as we were at the base of the mountains Dima commented that his tummy hurt. I didn't think much of it--there'd been a lot of excitement (and food!) the day before so it didn't seem too concerning. We made it to the pass and got the boys all outfitted and headed up the steps to the overlook. Dima sat down partway up (it's about 10 steps) and refused to go any further, so we let him rest while we were on the overlook. We grabbed a picture at the sign and then headed back to the car. We had hoped to be able to play in the snow for awhile, but it was really cold and I didn't want the boys out there for more than a few minutes. We got back in the car and got the boys unlayered and Dima had "the look." I asked him if he was going to get sick and he said yes so Mark pulled him out of the car. He changed his mind but by the time he got back in the car I had a bag ready...and it was a good thing I did. He alternated between puking and sleeping all the way down the mountain (through Eisenhower Tunnel). By the time we were back in Denver, he had one more episode where he told me that his "tummy hurt" and he needed "to relax" (his words!) but he never threw up again after we were off of the mountains. And he was fine the entire rest of the trip.

So as for a family ski trip...it'll be awhile. :)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Yesterday we pretty much just hung out and relaxed. The boys got to spend some good quality time with Mark's parents and we just acclimated to being in a different place.

This morning, Mark's parents had laid all of the presents out under the Christmas tree. The boys never even noticed. They walked by them several times and never even saw them--and I'm talking about some big packages. We all got a big kick out of it. We went to Christmas mass and then came home and opened presents with all of Mark's immediate family. It went pretty well all things considered, but due to the amount of stimulation Mark and I opted to wait to give the boys our gifts.

The boys had a great time playing with their aunts, uncle, grandparents, and great-grandma all day!

At bedtime, we got the boys all dressed and ready for bed and then gave them our presents. They each got three presents--and they were most excited about their new watches. Dima's class has been learning to tell time and we get asked the time several times a day, so Mark had the great idea to get them watches. It was truly an inspired idea as the watches were the first thing they asked for the next morning when they woke up. :) Doing our presents at night, when everything was quieter, also allowed us to talk again about the meaning of Christmas and why we give presents. We kept it pretty simple so that hopefully the big part--Jesus' birthday--would stick.

All in all, I think it was a great, memorable Christmas! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A long drive

Yesterday the boys and I went to the Science Center. They really wanted to go to the zoo, but since it was freezing outside and we hadn't been to the SLSC in awhile they decided that would work instead. I am so thankful. It was really cold. ;)

Today we drove to Denver. Yes, we drove the whole way in one day. No, we don't have a DVD player in the car, and (to add insult to injury) I didn't pack any toys in the car for the boys to play with. Yet they are happy just playing and talking with each other and with us. It's a lot of fun. Not that any of us want to do it every day, but it's good family time. :)

Monday, December 22, 2008

A good weekend

It was a good weekend. Again this year we adopted a family through 100 Neediest Cases--a young mother and her 2-year-old son. Her most specific request was for warm clothing for herself and her son. Can you imaging being in a position at Christmas where you would be happy if someone would just help you out with some warm clothing so you can make sure your child isn't cold?

We didn't ask the boys for any input as to what to get the family, and we didn't do much explaining, but the boys did go shopping with us and did ask questions. We simply told them that we were buying things for a mama and her son who didn't have enough money to buy things. They seemed to be okay with that and did help Mark wrap the presents, and then helped me to deliver them to the agency that was coordinating this family's case.

We had fun making sure that this family will have lots of warm clothing plus lots of extras to help them enjoy Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Half day

The boys had a half day of school today so I picked them up early. Dima in particular has been going nuts for the past week or so--all of the schedule changes at school are driving him insane. His teacher actually told me the other day that she had "lots of fun surprises" for the kids the last week of school. My thought was "Have fun dealing with my son!" He just doesn't do well with a lot of change and with the holidays coming on, and school programs, and everything he's a bit on-edge. He's handling it pretty well, I think, all things considered. We're just trying to keep everything consistent at home and deal with stuff as best we can.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dec 18--one year ago

One year ago today, we had court to adopt our boys. This was an extremely traumatic day. While I don't want to share all of the details, there was a family member who was opposed to the boys' adoption. This person was unable to care for the boys but did not want them to leave the country. This person came to court and testified to that effect. Deciding to adopt the boys knowing about this situation was one of the hardest things I've ever done. The judge and all of the other interested parties (regional social worker, orphanage social worker, orphanage staff, etc.) felt that it was in the best interest of the boys to be adopted.

Obviously, there was a lot going on while we were in Ukraine, and some of it I still don't feel comfortable sharing for various reasons. The long and short of it is that this person was very upset during court. The judge called for a recess. During that time, we asked our facilitator if we could show this person some pictures of where the boys would be living if we were allowed to adopt them. We talked for some time (during the recess) and showed pictures of our house, St. Louis, and our extended family. After recess, this person got up and through many many tears stated that the boys should be adopted by us.

I cannot imagine how that person's heart felt at that moment, and the amazing amount of love and trust it required to send two little boys halfway around the world, knowing that this person would never see them again.

We agreed to send updates to this person and we have kept that agreement. We send pictures, letters, and some of the boys' schoolwork so this person can watch them grow from afar. We also receive letters from this person and we keep all of them for the boys when they are older. We were told they had no attachment to this person, and we never saw any evidence of it while we were there, but this person is still family.

This whole situation--while not exactly how I had pictured it!--was a complete answer to prayer.

I had always wanted my children to have some information about their birth family, and so many kids who have been adopted from Ukraine have absolutely no information. We got information and so much more--a living, breathing connection to their family, and to someone who helped care for them when they were little. We have pictures of us with this person and additional family members. This person also gave us additional pictures of Dima and Zhenya from before we met them.

After court (during which our 10 days were waived), we exchanged addresses with the family member and then spent a few hours (literally!) waiting for the court decree. Kostya said if he'd known it was going to take so long we would have left and gotten lunch! We finally got the decree and then spent the next couple of hours running around getting other paperwork started. Although the boys were already legally ours, we didn't want to pick them up until we had most of the paperwork done. No need to run them all over the region too, and we weren't sure how they would do with traveling in the car. Mark and I were talking last night and decided that Dec 19 is probably our official "gotcha" day--the day we actually picked the boys up.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

It could be easier

Sometimes it seems life would be much easier if we would just let things slide. But it's incredible to see changes that occur when we stick with it and enforce what we know will benefit us all in the long run.

Dima's behavior has made remarkable improvements since we tightened his reins a bit over the past couple of weeks. It hasn't been easy, though. Due to some undesirable behavior at school a week ago, he missed Mark's office Christmas party that Friday. Mark and Zhenya went and I stayed home with Dima. He also missed out on a playdate and had to come to band rehearsal with us last weekend (not exactly punishment for him, but he had to sit and he didn't get to play at their friend's house--so close enough). It's all worth it for days like today.

Mark played in TubaChristmas today. This is something like his 20th year participating, so this is an annual tradition for us. This morning, the boys and I dropped him off for rehearsal and then made a Walgreens run. We went home, played, and had lunch and then went to the Galleria for Mark's concert. Dima did so well during the concert, but better than his good behavior were his actions towards me. I spread out the boys' coats on the floor for them to sit on as the marble tile was a little hard, and he figured out he could stretch out and lay his head in my lap. He then asked me to rub his back as he lay there and if I stopped he would ask me to start rubbing his back again.

This from a child that 12 months ago would not touch us, and wasn't sure what to do when we touched him. If we picked him up he was stiff as a board--he wouldn't wrap his arms or legs around us at all. If anything, he would put a death grip on whatever clothing (not us--only our clothing) he could get ahold of out of fear of falling. The changes in his emotional state over the past year are nothing short of miraculous. And I really am serious about that. There have been times over the past year when I really wondered if Dima would ever be able to function normally emotionally. He just had so much baggage and so many survival skills that he had developed. And I wondered too if we were really the right people to be able to help him through this. While he will always carry those early memories for the rest of his life, I hope that he is learning to manage his baggage better, and that eventually he will be able to turn it all over and rest in the One whose yoke is easy, and whose burden is light.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Friday, December 12, 2008

You made me cry!

I don't know who did it, but someone has donated to the girls' adoption fund on Reece's Rainbow. It made me cry when I saw it last night. To think that someone else wants our girls to come home is so precious to me. Thank you, whoever you are!! It may not seem like much to many people, but having done this once before I could lay out many, many expenses that can be covered by small amounts--the notaries in Ukraine, taxis to and from the orphanage, document fees...the list goes on.

As an update to the adoption process, we have received our request to be fingerprinted! All this really means is that we get to go (again) and be fingerprinted for an FBI background check with USCIS. Unfortunately (and as expected), our fingerprint date is a day that Mark cannot be fingerprinted, so he is going to try to get in next Wednesday. If that doesn't work he won't be fingerprinted until after Christmas. I know it seems that Mark should just be able to take off of work, but it's not that easy to reschedule physical therapy patients. Either way I'm trying to just relax and trust in God's timing. If there's anything I learned from the last adoption, it's that God's timing and my timing don't always match up--but His is infinitely better than mine. ;)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Literature quiz

Last night I was making pizza (per Dima's request) and I had the container of vegetable oil sitting out. The boys asked me what it was and I told them it was oil. Zhenya pointed at the bottle and turned to Dima and very seriously said...

"That's for the owl."

I had a really hard time containing my laughter. If you don't get it, don't worry. I'll edit the post later to share the reference.

Edited to add: Yea for Bethany who got the reference!! It's from Dr. Seuss' ABC book, and the line is "O is very useful. You use it when you say Oscar's only ostrich oiled an orange owl today." I'm not quite sure what Zhenya thought I must have been doing with the oil since we don't have an owl. ;)

Dima has been doing much better the past few days. Thanks for all of your prayers! I don't know how school went yesterday, except that I don't have any notes from the teacher(s) and he kept all 3 of his apples (they start each day with 3 apples and lose them if there are issues during the day). He's also been much more affectionate and happy at home. We're just trying to weather some of the "storms" with consistency so that he will know that no matter how he behaves he will have the same consequences and no matter how bad he gets, he's stuck with us. ;) He has also been pulling some of his old "lazy"tricks that he used to use at the orphanage. Funny, they still don't work on us, especially after a year of seeing what he can do. LOL

Monday, December 08, 2008

Help bring home our daughters!

For our first adoption, we did not seek any financial assistance, although we were given gifts by many different people which was a tremendous blessing! God had blessed us with the majority of the resources we needed for our adoption through the sale of our house in Michigan when we moved to Missouri.

Things are a little different this time around. Although we are in a better place financially with both of us working, it is always a challenge to come up with $20K out of pocket--and usually relatively quickly! :) We also would like to be able to keep some savings at home for the girls' medical needs. If you haven't read their profile, Dana is diagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP) and a convergent squint. We are unsure if she will need surgery but she will most likely need a good deal of therapy, and possibly some braces for her legs. Eve is diagnosed with a palate deformity and hip dysplasia. We anticipate needing surgery for her palate. Thankfully, we have very good insurance that will cover a lot of the girls' medical needs, but we would like to be prepared for payments towards our deductible and copays and all of those other "out-of-pocket" medical expenses that seem to arise, so we're trying to leave some money in savings for that. In addition, we will need to purchase a new (to us) vehicle. We currently have a station wagon that seats 5--but there will soon be 6 of us and 4 (FOUR!) in car seats!

All that to say that we would love your help in bringing the girls home. Small amounts add up to become big amounts very quickly. Would you consider foregoing a cup of Starbucks once a week and donating that $5 to the girls? All donations through Reece's Rainbow are tax-deductible and will go ONLY towards the girls' adoption expenses, so if you're looking for a good way to get those end-of-the-year contributions in, this might be it! LOL

I also know that there are many of you who would love to help but are unable to financially. Believe me, we covet your prayers tremendously! And if you have a blog and would be willing, please consider placing the button for the girls on your blog to encourage others to pray for us as well.

The code for the girls' button is below. If you have any questions about how to put it on your blog, please let me know in the comments and I will do my best to help.


The code will produce this on your website:
Dana and Eve
Grab This Button

It's fixed!

Digest version of the last few weeks:

--After many, many hours our laptop is back in business. Hooray!

--We are in the process of working towards closing on the new house. All offers/counteroffers have been accepted and we're waiting on financing paperwork. We're anticipating closing this month but we still don't know when we'll move in. There are a few things (like new plumbing!) that have to happen before we can take occupancy, although we'll have possession at closing.

--We have a Christmas tree! It's got lights on it but no ornaments. The boys love it and think it's quite amazing. I think it's quite amazing that we managed to find one that fit in our house. ;) We went to Eckerts and cut a tree down. The boys even helped with the saw when Mark was cutting it down. Unfortunately, the camera stayed at home.

--We're still gathering paperwork for the adoption. As always with Ukraine, it seems like absolute never-ending paperwork. The nice thing is that it's familiar. I already know where to send off for everything and how to get all of the documents notarized and apostilled, so that's definitely a plus.

--We had our last band concert on Sunday. It was a great concert. The boys were there with Aley (our babysitter) and did really well. They got a little restless by the end, but that's to be expected. Don't worry, we still made them sit through the choir concert afterwards. Nothing like training them to sit for long periods of time. LOL

--Zhenya is going through a rude phase which is hopefully in the process of getting squashed. He has become very demanding and just downright rude. Not a good character trait. I'm not sure if it's happening at school but we're certainly seeing it at home.

--Dima's having a really hard time right now. I'm guessing it's some of that "one-year-home" emotional turmoil that other adoptive parents have seen. He's having a lot of emotional outbursts, which in some ways is really good. When we first got home he would just shut down. It's encouraging now that he is comfortable enough to be able to share his feelings. We just need to work on sharing them appropriately. ;) I've been keeping an eye out to see if any of this is related to Christmas, but it really doesn't seem to be. It seems to be just more of him wrestling with his emotions. We're tightening his reins a bit to give him a little more security and help with consistency for him. Please be in prayer for comfort for him, and strength to deal with the inner turmoil he's got. He's only 6, but he's gone through emotional changes that most people don't deal with until college or later and he just doesn't know how to process all of this.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

SDA appt--one year ago

(Tuesday) Our apartment was located not far from the SDA, but our appointment wasn't until the afternoon. If I remember correctly, this was the day that Kostya walked us all over Kyiv on errands. It was great exercise and a great way to take our minds off of the upcoming appointment. I was so nervous about the appointment that I had basically only eaten one meal a day since leaving the US. Between that and the exercise some of my pants were becoming loose pretty quickly! LOL

Our appointment was in the afternoon. We showed up about 10 minutes early and the outside gate (on the side of the building) was locked. We waited...and waited...and waited--and it was cold! There was another couple and their facilitator waiting as well. Finally a woman came and unlocked the gate and we all filed into the stairwell. A woman came to the top of the stairs and called our names, and all 3 of us headed up the stairs only to have Kostya stopped. After a discussion in Russian, Kostya turned to us and said that the SDA had changed the rules again and he would not be allowed into our appointment with us--that this woman would be our translator. And he said "...make sure she translates everything correctly." ROFL!! When we asked K about it later, he said he meant make sure that she fully answered all of our questions and that we understood everything she was translating, but the way it came out was really funny.

We went up the stairs and went into a door on the right side of the hallway. We passed through a small office with a couch and table in one corner and a desk in the other corner, and went through a door on the right into another office. One end of the very small room was filled with a large desk (maybe it just seemed large because the room was small!) and a filing cabinet, and right in front of the desk was a short round table and two couches and a chair. There was a beautiful, tall, thin woman with long brown hair sitting behind the desk. She had a kind face and smiled when we came in. Our translator sat down in the chair and we were asked to sit down on the couches. I don't remember much about the interview. I think the psychologist asked us to tell her about ourselves which we did briefly. Then she explained that there are very few healthy children available for adoption, etc. Then, without showing us any files, she described sibling sets she had available for adoption. The files were on her desk, and she looked through them, but she didn't hand them to us until we expressed interest in one. All told, we only actually saw two files--one for a set of brothers (4 and 5 yo) with a LOT of medical issues and one for a brother/sister sibling set (2 and 8 yo).

The 4 and 5 yo definitely fit our profile the best, but there were really a LOT of medical issues there, and we were particularly concerned about the oldest. We asked repeatedly to see more files and were told again and again "there are no more." We asked about children with hearing loss, and the psychologist said she had one little girl with no ears (Tami?? Is she yours??) but we were set on siblings. So we looked at the file of the 4 and 5yo again. Stalling for time and trying desperately to figure out what to do, I asked the psychologist where the boys were located.

"Donetsk region."

That sealed it--as Mark and I both started laughing. I hope the SDA workers didn't think they were sending crazy people off to see children. :) Our facilitator was from Donetsk, and we had joked early on about how it would be a great Christmas present for him if we could find some children in Donetsk. When the psychologist said the boys were in Donetsk, we knew we had to go see them, even if they didn't turn out to be the right children for us. After we had accepted the referral, the psychologist smiled at us and told us that the orphanage director for the boys was very mean. She said she just wanted to warn us--that the director was very anti-adoption and put lots of really bad, incorrect medical information into her children's files so that they wouldn't be adopted.

We left the appointment and I was feeling excited but discouraged. The boys really had a LOT of medical issues listed on their files and I just wasn't sure we could handle two with this amount of special needs--and we weren't even sure what needs they really had.

We waited outside while Kostya went in to get all of the contact information he needed for the boys' orphanage to be able to go visit them. When Kostya came out, he had additional information for us. The SDA did not believe the boys' medical information was correct. Apparently, not too long before our appointment, the social worker for the boys' region had called the SDA and asked why no families were visiting the boys as they had been available for international adoption since March(!). The SDA explained to her that due to the extreme nature of the boys' medical information that they did not feel that anyone would want to adopt the boys. The social worker stated the boys were in good health--she had seen them and worked with them and that their medical records were incorrect. So the SDA had decided to start showing their file to adoptive parents.

We were the first family to ever see their profile.

While we had hoped to be able to get our referral papers that day, since our appointment was in the afternoon they wouldn't be ready until the next day. We spent the rest of the day (well, Kostya did!) tracking down train tickets to Slaviansk (Donetsk region) on the overnight train for Wednesday night. We also tried repeatedly to post on the blog, but the internet cafe we were using wouldn't allow me to use blogger so we sent a few emails and called it a day.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

In Kyiv (one year ago)

We arrived without incident (other than being a couple of hours late) in Kyiv. We waited for a little while for our bags, and there were a few moments when we wondered if everything had made it, but there were many other people from our flight waiting for bags so we stuck it out and sure enough everything appeared. We went through customs without a problem--no one asked to see anything, although the guys at customs asked us twice if we had brought gifts for anyone. We hadn't--only clothes for our future children and then whatever we couldn't use to be left at the orphanage. The customs agent seemed surprised but waved us through.

We went through the hallway and the double-doors that open into the waiting area, which was filled with people. We didn't see Kostya anywhere, so we went to the windows and tried to call him. His line was busy. After about 15 minutes we finally saw him--he'd been looking for us based on our passport pictures which were 8 years old. :) Kostya had arrived in the train from his home region that morning, and he and our driver had been waiting at the airport for 2 hours. Since he'd been on the train the night before he had no way of knowing our flight was delayed. It was raining, so we quickly found Sasha (our driver) and tossed our bags in the back. He had a REALLY nice car and we enjoyed our ride to our apartment. I think on the way we stopped at the SDA to get our appointment time--Mark and I didn't go in, so I can't remember if Kostya stopped then or later.

That evening we met up with Tami and Shad and Chris and Sue for dinner at O'Panas. We were all on the Ukraine Adoption Yahoo group and had set up a dinner together since we all had appointments the same week. Mark and I walked there from our apartment (Kostya was a little concerned about us going alone but we assured him we'd be fine. ;)) It was a blast getting to meet and talk with people I'd been chatting with for months. Plus the food was delicious!

After dinner (and a long wait for the bill!) we all went our separate ways. Mark and I meandered back to our apartment, enjoying being in Kyiv and the beautiful city at night.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

One year ago

One year ago today we were heading out to fly to Ukraine. We had a really uneventful travel time--we flew from St Louis to New York and then from New York direct to Ukraine. I remember being really happy I'd been reading so many adoption blogs--Aerosvit wasn't listed on the terminals, but someone else had posted which terminal it was in so we hoped on the tram at JFK and started riding around. Sure enough, we found it!

Unfortunately for us, Aerosvit doesn't have online checkin, so you have to stand in line to check in. As we stood there, our flight was delayed several times. We were originally supposed to leave at 6pm...we finally left close to 9pm. Mark and I had a great time waiting in line and people-watching. Nearly everyone else in line spoke Russian, and the outfits...well, we felt like we were already in Ukraine. ;)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving!

I had the best of intentions of posting on Thursday evening with pics of the boys' Thanksgiving feast at school--complete with pictures! But our laptop has decided to have a mid-life crisis (it's 7 years old) and is not being very cooperative. As in, it currently won't access the internet. We do have another computer but I'm not on it very often as it's down in the basement office and I stay upstairs when the boys are awake.

We did have a very nice Thanksgiving. We went to the Masseys' house for Thanksgiving day and spent several fun hours with their family, including their son Garrett who came home from Ukraine a few months ago. Friday after work we headed to my family and spent the weekend there. The boys ate and ate and ate this weekend. We got home last night and they wanted to eat more--I seriously don't know how anything else could fit in their tummies. They are amazing eaters. Hopefully we they gained a few pounds this weekend. :)

The Thanksgiving feast at school went really well last week! Both boys participated and there were some spots where Dima participated more than Zhenya, which is nothing short of amazing. Dima was a little stressed in the morning (his teacher said he spent the entire morning saying "Why?" to everything that was said--another of his stress responses ;)) but did a great job not chewing on his clothing (he did have short sleeves on) and did a great job at the performance. He had a really good weekend although we did have a meltdown on Sunday before we headed home. And due to some other continued disobedience as a result of him being VERY exhausted from the weekend, he went to bed early last night and was out instantly. But both boys had a great time getting to see some extended family and playing with some (first cousins once-removed? second cousins?) cousins that are close in age. Their 5 yo girl cousin was very disappointed that there were only boys to play with. ;) Hopefully next year we'll have some girls for you, Q! :) :)

On that topic, we submitted our I600A last Friday! Hooray! For those of you not familiar with the process, we have to get approval from the US government to adopt internationally. The I600A is a request for approval to adopt internationally. Now we wait for our FBI fingerprinting appointment and then our approval to adopt. As we wait, we'll continue collecting some additional documents for our dossier in the hopes that as soon as we have our 171H (I600A approval) we'll be able to submit our dossier to Ukraine.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Trusting

It looks like we will be getting the house that we put an offer on way back when. It's been a long process. I won't go into all of the boring details, but we are basically getting a move-in ready house for less than $39/sq ft. Move-in ready except for the missing plumbing, that is. ;)

This was all part of what we were trying to work out. The house is livable except the roof needs to be redone and part of the plumbing is missing (darn copper thieves!). So we have found a loan that will build the cost of those two repairs into our mortgage while still keeping us under the monthly payment we wanted. At some point maybe I'll share all of the gory details about why we wanted to do this this way, but for right now let's just say that we're looking into the future.

For the overwhelming part...well, a house and an adoption at the same time just tends to be a little overwhelming. I'm excited about both, and the new house has at least 5 bedrooms so we should be set for another few adoptions. ;) My anal side wants so much to be able to see how all of this is going to work out--this is pretty daunting financially. But then I read this post from Audrey. And it pretty much summed it up.

If I have the abilities to do all of this on my own, or I make it appear that way, no one would glorify God for that. But when we are incapable of doing the things He has called us to do and we trust that if this is His will, He will make it work, the outcome will bring glory to Him for the things that only could have come from Him.

Right now I only see the finite--the things we lack to do what we believe He is calling us to do. But if He has called us, He will also equip us and provide for us. We are choosing to move forward in faith and trust, not fear.

"May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." --Hebrews 13:20-21 (NIV)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Memories

This weekend marked the first thing that we have done to complete the cycle of being home a year. Of course, we haven't actually been home a year yet--only 11 months (as of yesterday!).

We got home the afternoon of Christmas Eve last year. Because of circumstances surrounding our travel, we had a quiet homecoming all to ourselves which I really think was best. That night, we went to the Christmas Eve service at our church. We snuck in late and sat in the balcony so as not to see too many people. We continued to keep the first few weeks very low-key, but one thing we did do was go see the Christmas lights at Our Lady of the Snows Shrine in Belleville, IL. The boys loved Christmas lights and the Shrine has it set up where you drive through the story of Christmas, so there weren't crowds or loud music or anything else to contend with. They thought the lights were cool but I don't think they had any idea what they were really looking at. ;)

This past Saturday, we went to the Shrine lights again. This time, they got it. :) They knew what they were looking at and for, and they had a lot of fun pointing out all of the different things they saw--camels, angels, stars. I must confess to getting a little misty-eyed as we drove in. We're coming full circle with their first year home. I'm pretty sure the boys don't remember going to the Shrine last year--they'd been home a week and there'd been an awful lot of changes happening in the month previous. But it doesn't matter. I'm so happy to be establishing positive patterns for them, building a foundation of trust and faith that this is real, and this is permanent.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Oh, how they make me laugh

Lest you think Dima's the only one with speech issues, follow along with this conversation:

All 4 of us in the car, and we go over a bump.

Z: What was that bump?
M: A manhole cover.
Z: A mancover?

Muffled laughter from the front.

M: No, a manhole cover.
Z: A animal cover?

Not-so-muffled laughter from the front.

M: No, a manhole cover.
Z: I not know what you saying!

Flat out peals of laughter from the front. :)

Just for the record, we did then go on and explain it to him. :) :)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Making connections

Dima had a really bad day on Tuesday. He had some instances of deliberate, intentional disobendience at school towards both his teacher and his principal, he was misbehaving whenever his teacher would turn his back, he refused to participate in class activities, he did some other inappropriate things--it was just generally an all-out bad day.

When Dima is anxious, he chews--on his fingernails, on whatever he's holding (pen, marker, etc.), and on his clothes...usually the cuffs of his sleeves if he's wearing long sleeves. Tuesday, he chewed a hole in the sleeve of his shirt. When I saw that, I knew something was up.

The boys are in preparation for a Thanksgiving feast that their two classes are putting on next week. Parents are invited to come participate in the feast and watch a little program that the classes have been practicing. The program is a few songs with hand motions and I think a couple of poems. On Monday, Dima's teacher had told me that Dima wouldn't participate in the rehearsals--he stands on stage with the classes and laughs along but doesn't actually do the songs. She wasn't sure if he didn't understand or was just being goofy.But Monday night at dinner, he sang the songs to me, complete with hand motions! Then came Tuesday. And a lot of thought on my part.

For those of you not familiar, the orphanages put on programs at various times during the year. Dima was never in school in Ukraine, so his only experience with a program like this was in the orphanage. And I think it was completely freaking him out.

Tuesday after school, Zhenya went with Mark over to work on the house, and Dima and I sat down and talked. I gave him the option of not participating in the singing--not as punishment, just as an option if he didn't want to do it. He initially said he didn't want to sing, but later in the conversation changed his mind. I told him that Mark and I would be coming next week to watch him and Zhenya sing, and he got really excited about that. He decided he did want to sing, and even got up and sang some more for me including the hand motions. ;) We talked a little more about it at bedtime, and I told him again how excited Mark and I are to get to come watch them.

Yesterday, Dima had the best day he's ever had at school.

He obeyed, he participated in the rehearsal for the program--he did everything right. As a reward, he got to go to another class to see their gerbils (he LOVES animals) and he got a little certificate sent home saying what a great day he had. The best part? He was so excited to have had such a good day.

Was all of his stress due to the program? I don't know. It's a trigger that never would have occurred to me, but it helps me remember that I need to be vigilant about paying attention to his stress cues (namely the chewing) and trying to ferret out what's going on. It also emphasizes to me how important it is that Mark and I be involved in the new things he does, to help reassure him that it's all okay. And I continue praying that God would help heal their minds. I don't want them to forget, but I don't want all of their experiences now to be tainted with the fear and bitterness of the past. I want them to be able to remember, but also to know that that was then, and this is now, and then and now are different.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Answers to your questions

Thanks for all the comments and questions--I love those! :) I'm going to summarize some of the questions so if I don't answer exactly what you wanted to know, please leave me another comment and I'll try again.

Do the boys know?
Not exactly. We've talked about bringing more kids into the family and they are very excited about that, but they won't know about the girls until we get a travel date (at the earliest). Too many things can change with Ukraine. :)

Have the girls been available for adoption for very long?
I don't know how long they've been registered, but I know they are registered as there have been 2 or 3 families who have been referred to them and then opted not to adopt them. You might very well have seen their profile, Diana!

What other information do you have on the girls?
I do know what region and orphanage they are in, but I will not share any of that publicly until we have actually had our appointment and are in the process of adopting them. Other than that, we pretty much know only what is listed on Reece's Rainbow. We have, however, talked with another family that adopted from the same groupa as one of the girls so we have a little more information there.

Do you think Ukraine does bait-and-switch on prospective adoptive parents?
No, because Ukraine does not advocate for its children internationally. Do agencies do bait-and-switch...most definitely! Any agency that has photolistings for Ukraine is acting illegally, as Ukraine does not allow for children to be pre-selected for cost. The exceptions to pre-selection are learning about children through hosting programs, mission trips, and through other families that have adopted. Even in all of those cases, the SDA will not necessarily hold a child for you (particularly a young, healthy child). Reece's Rainbow gets all of their information from families who are adopting--so the information on the girls comes from families who have adopted from their orphanage. There is no money exchanged for any information and RR does not act as an agency. They simply advocate for children who need homes. Any family, working with any agency or independent facilitator, can adopt a child on RR.

How do you think your sons will respond to you returning to Ukraine?
This is an interesting question, because right now I don't think they "get" Ukraine. In the US, we learn about where we live (our country) when we start school. Even in kindergarten and first grade it can be difficult for children to grasp the concept of a whole country. Geography is normally taught starting at "neighborhood" and moving outward. Our boys had not started school when we brought them home, so they had never had any teaching on Ukraine as the country where they lived. And from their perspective, they never left (stay with me here LOL).
Mark and I were talking about this the other day, because the boys don't know that they ever flew in an airplane. Why would they? From the orphanage, they got in a car, got on a train (saw the train and got to look out the window as it was moving), got in another car, went into a building (airport), walked down a long hallway (gate to plane), and then sat down in some chairs for a long time (plane flight from KBP to JFK). On the plane we were not next to the window, so they never saw out. The plane had food, bathrooms, room to walk around--they have no clue that was an airplane. From their perspective, we took them somewhere else, but they don't recognize it as another country, just somewhere different than where we were before. The good thing is that we wouldn't be going back to the boys' orphanage, but I am concerned about the effect being somewhere where everyone speaks Russian would have on the boys. They have not responded well to Russian-speaking people here in the States.

Are you taking the boys with you?
This is something we're still discussing, and some of it will depend on when the adoption actually happens. If this one takes as long as the last one (almost 3 years!) we would definitely take them. If it happens this spring...we aren't sure. We don't really want to leave them for 3 weeks (initial trip) as we think that might be traumatic for them (just them personally, not all kids). But taking them with us brings a whole other set of challenges. We don't want them at the SDA meeting or at court--certain things are sometimes said in those places that the boys don't need to hear. Plus, we'd like to have time to bond with the girls before bringing them home. We're still looking at options with all of this so I'll keep you posted as the adoption progresses.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

We can't stay away

We're heading back to Ukraine! :) :)

Yep, you read it right. We are going back to Ukraine to pursue two little girls with special needs. And yes, we are very well aware that these little girls are NOT being held for us--Ukraine does not allow for preselection which means they do not give hold children for families or give referrals until your SDA appointment. However, since they are a sibling set and they BOTH have medical needs, it is highly unlikely that they will be adopted. We are choosing to trust that God is leading us in this direction and we will follow Him. :)

Here they are:


Dana (blonde) is 4 years old. Eve (brunette) is 3 years old.

These girls are being advocated for by Reece's Rainbow, a 501(c)3 organization that advocates for the adoption of children with special needs, particularly Down Syndrome. I've been a follower of RR for quite a while and they do amazing work. If you are interested in helping to support our adoption financially, you can make a tax-deductible donation towards Dana and Eve's adoption. We will never see the money--it will go directly towards our adoption expenses. I'm hoping to have a button up on our blog linking to them sometime today, so stay tuned! :)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Following the boxes

Zhenya's class at school also did a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child and had a little packing party (all 9 kids in the class) to celebrate sending this box to a little girl. At dinner on Friday, Zhenya asked me where she is--the little girl who will receive the box. I said I didn't know and he said "we need to found her." I explained to him that we didn't know where she lived, so he decided he would go with Mrs. H (his teacher) to give the girl the box so he would know where she lived. So cute.

But it did open up another opportunity to talk about the boxes, so I put together one of the boxes from church (folded it up to make a shoebox) and then showed the boys one of the videos showing children receiving the shoeboxes. They were able to make the connection between the box sitting on our coffee table and the exact same boxes that they could see children opening in the video. Both boys noted how happy the children were to be getting the boxes, and we talked about how excited they were to be getting presents.

On Saturday, we went shopping for our shoebox items. Mark and I did all of the deciding as to what went into the boxes. We didn't even ask the boys for their opinion more because they didn't have any clue as to what would fit in the box or be appropriate. But the boys did go with us and we talked about the things we were buying that would go into the boxes for some other little boys and girls--and we left it at that.

Mark and I packed the boxes Saturday night after the boys were in bed. The boys were very happy and proud to be carrying their boxes into church on Sunday, but I think that was more related to being able to help carry them than anything actually associated with the shoeboxes. ;)

Next year, this will all be familiar, and perhaps they will be able to understand a little bit more about what is happening. But for now, I'm very happy with the way it turned out. Thanks for all of your thoughts and opinions!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Response

A comment from my last post:

Play therapy is fine, but I think you should come right out and tell the kids that they are staying with you permantly. It sounds do simple, but have you done that? At this age they need information presented at a very concrete level.Regarding the gifts for children in need, I understand your derire to involve them and have family traditions, but you have time. Don't oush the issue. They may just be too you and at this stage the world revolves around them so it is hard to understand the needs of others. Also Dima's antsy response to mentioning the detksy dom is understandable even without knowing his complete background. It is a reminder to you as parents that their lives at the demsky dom we vere poor at best. Why would Dima want to remember that place? It's is like an adult recalling a terrible experience, you would rather not think about it or relive it.

Anon,
YES, we have definitely told them many times that they are with us forever. In fact, that was something we talked about EVERY NIGHT for several months. I've used lots of different language to explain that--since time is not a concept that kids this age fully understand, the idea of "forever" is not something they "get."

Last night Dima and I went over it again, albeit slightly differently. I want him to understand that no matter where I go, he's going too. So I told him (again) that he is going to live with Mama forever (stay with me on this one--I'm hoping I'm not prepping myself for a still-at-home 35yo son LOL). Then I asked him: If Mama moves to another house, where does Dima go? He looked at me and smiled, and I said "with Mama!" Then we repeated this several times with him telling me where he goes if I move somewhere. It's a lot of fun to do this, because when we have these conversations you can see him relax and he just starts smiling and giggling. The problem is it hasn't made it from his heart to his head (or vice versa depending on your perspective). He knows in his heart that we are his parents and he is with us always, but it's hard to convince that pesky mind with all of those memories that it's really true.

It's not so much that their lives at the detsky dom were bad. In fact, their lives were better there than they had been before that, and their orphanage was actually very nice in comparison to many that Mark and I have seen in Ukraine. It's that he doesn't want to go back. I don't think he's against remembering the detsky dom, but he thinks when we talk about it that it means he's going to go back there someday. So for us, I think it's important that when we are in safe situations and everyone is feeling comfortable, that we bring it up occasionally to help them understand that yes, it is okay to talk about it, and no, I'm never going back. Believe me, it's not a subject I push on them at all. I bring it up, see how they respond, and go from there. It's not like you can push meaningful dialogue and discussion with a 5 and 6 yo, especially when they don't have a great command of the English language. ;)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Preparing the heart

Every year since we've been married, Mark and I have "adopted" a child for Christmas, either through an Angel Tree opportunity, through Operation Christmas Child, or through the Hundred Neediest Cases here in St. Louis. Our church is acting as a collection site this year for Operation Christmas Child and we have picked up our boxes to put together and bring back to church.

I picked 4 boxes--2 boys and 2 girls. ;) Just planning ahead, you know.

The problem (and why I need advice) is this: How do I explain this to the boys? I have tried talking to them about there being other children who do not have many toys or gifts--no interest. I tried mentioning the detsky dom, and how when they were there they didn't have many toys and had to share everything, but when I bring this up I'm losing Dima. He gets very antsy and starts trying to change the subject or go do something else (Zhenya sort of listens politely and then asks if he can go play. LOL). My guess is that Dima remembers the detsky dom and thinks there's a chance he may have to go back there--that I'm bringing it up to prepare them to be sent back. Which breaks my heart, by the way.

So do Mark and I just prepare the boxes ourselves and not involve the boys? I had really hoped to make this a family thing, but maybe they're not ready emotionally to grasp this idea. And I still think they (at least Dima) don't understand that this home and family is permanent. I know they've been home almost a year, but if you knew their complete background it would make perfect sense why he would be expecting to leave--and most of his transitions in the past have happened during winter.

I'm thinking maybe I need to have a heart-to-heart with Dima, and maybe a little play therapy to reinforce this idea of family. I'll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts on how to help them understand what we're doing with Operation Christmas Child, I'd appreciate it. :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Flashback

I've started having flashbacks to our time in Ukraine. I don't mean I'm remembering it--I mean I'll be somewhere and something will happen and I'll feel like I'm back in Ukraine again. It's quite a bizarre feeling, although not unpleasant.

I happen to know what some of the triggers are...one day I heard some music that sounded very similar to the Ukrainian discotheque music we listened to every day on the taxi ride to the boys' orphanage. It was about an hour and a half ride each way (which is why we only went once a day) so we listened to A LOT of music. LOL

The biggest trigger has been the weather. It's finally gotten colder here, and I've pulled out my winter coat--the same one I bought for Ukraine and wore every day while we were there. I'll soon be wearing my winter boots that I bought in Ukraine. It's just a little bizarre--like part of me is still there. Of course, I felt this way after the first time we went to Ukraine in 2003. I missed it so much and wanted to go back, but I don't remember having flashbacks.

It makes me wonder if the boys ever have flashbacks. They were there a lot longer than Mark and I--are there things here that trigger memories for them? Is that why so many parents report seeing a change in behavior around the one-year anniversary mark? (We haven't yet, but we've still got a month and a half.)

In the meantime, I'm enjoying my flashbacks and thinking I need to go make some borscht. ;)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A little vent

I vented to Mark about this last night but I'm going to put it on here as well. Maybe some teachers can share some insight. ;)

I've shared previously that we implemented doing homework immediately after school. That seems to be the easiest for both boys and gives them an incentive to get it done since they get to go play when it's finished. Dima's class is working on letters/sounds/phonics right now, so we get a lot of phonics worksheets as well as handwriting. Handwriting is still a struggle (Dima's motor skills are delayed for a 6yo so that makes handwriting more difficult for him) but he's been working hard and is really improving. But I have a beef with the phonics worksheets...

A lot of the phonics worksheets relate to looking at a picture and then identifying the sounds of that word. So, for example, there might be a picture of a hat and the worksheet would want them to circle the initial consonant ("h") or the vowel sound they hear ("a").

Yesterday, his worksheet came home with a picture like this:


Now, what is the first single word that comes to mind when you see this? For me (and Dima), it was "bear." So he knows bear starts with "b" and goes to circle the intial consonant. But wait! His choices are "t", "g", or "m"...

Yeah, it's a "teddy bear". Nevermind that the worksheet last week that had a similar picture wanted him to circle "b" for "bear". Sigh.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The speech evaluation

I just realized that I've forgotten to update you all on the speech eval--sorry about that! :)

Dima had his speech eval on Friday. It was a long 2 hours of focusing on words, and he did a really great job. It was also painfully clear (to me) that he really needs some speech and language help. They also did a hearing test and once again he passed that (his last one was done in January) so I think we're confident that he doesn't have any hearing loss. The summary at the end of the session was "we think he needs speech therapy." Yeah, me too. They have to score all of the tests and then Mark and I will go in and get their complete breakdown of which specific areas Dima needs to work on.

Observations from the eval: We used a center through a local university, and while the testing went fine I don't think we'll be doing therapy there. They use graduate students for the testing and therapy (all supervised by licensed therapists, of course) which was okay for the tests but Dima is really going to need someone with a lot of experience because of the extent of his delays. If we just needed to work on a couple of sounds it would be one thing, but this is going to need to be some pretty comprehensive language therapy. It was really hard for me to sit and watch this, and realize how delayed Dima's language is. Yes, I know he's only been hearing English for 11 months, but some of the tests he should have been able to do without English--they were picture association tests that test comprehension. Those tests were towards the end, so he may have just been tired by that point, but it didn't go well.

It is discouraging to me to know how far behind he is, but it just means I'll rejoice even more in the small steps of progress!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

"For fun"

The boys (Dima in particular) ask "why?" a lot. A LOT. ;) Oftentimes, it's in reference to something that has just happened...

Why did Papa tickle Zhenya? Why did we go to the Harvest party at church? Why are those people being silly?

The answer to a lot of the questions is "for fun." And Dima just doesn't get it. It's sad to me that his early life was so messed up that he has no idea of what it means to do things for fun. For him, everything is about living. There is no fun involved. And while he knows how to have fun now, it still baffles him that people would do things just "for fun."

This is a continual learning experience for him, and probably his biggest struggle with school because he hasn't figured out when it's okay to be silly and have fun and when it's time to settle down and work. When he's working at school, he does really well.

Academically, his teacher says he is doing great. We're still working on behavior and social skills. And it's just going to take him a little while to catch up. Right now (just over 10 months home), his biggest issue is misbehaving behind his teacher's back. Fortunately (unfortunately for him!), he always tells the truth. So if another kid tells on him and Miss B asks him if he did something, if he did he will say yes. We're working on trying to help him understand that someone is always watching him--us, teachers, other kids--and that he can't get away with things. Thankfully (very, very thankfully), he doesn't do anything malicious or mean. He gets out of his chair when his teacher isn't looking, he pulls out toys he's not supposed to play with, etc., so these are very minor behaviors to work on. And, as his teacher says, he's not the only one. It is kindergarten, after all. ;)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Home sick

Me, not the boys. Thank goodness. ;)

I have a head cold. It's nothing too severe, but I didn't have anything critical going on at work today so instead of spreading my cold germs to the entire building I opted to stay home. I'm sure my coworkers are thanking me for not sneezing and blowing my nose all around them.

I have a hard time staying at home and resting when I'm sick. I feel like I should be doing things if I'm home, but the whole idea of staying home is to take it easy. I'm hoping to catch up on my coupons (I don't cut them out but enter them all into an excel spreadsheet--it's fantastic and saves me a lot of time) and relax on the couch. Maybe fit in a nap or two. :)

Tagged

This is the first time I've been tagged and I got it twice--from Jennifer at http://littleboydove.blogspot.com/ and from Christy at http://lifeafterukraine.blogspot.com/!

Seven random or weird things about me:

1--I've eaten a chocolate-covered cricket (my husband would say this goes to show I'll eat ANYTHING with chocolate! LOL)

2--My least favorite job as a parent is brushing teeth. I prefer dealing with vomit to brushing my boys' teeth. Neverless, I do it every night (unless Mark's home) because I know it's important.

3--I bite my nails when I'm excited or anxious, but usually only the ones on my left hand. Why? Well, my right hand is usually using the mouse. ;)

4--I have a lifetime certification as a canoeing instructor.

5--I only like crispy french fries and crispy bacon. I pass the soggy ones to Mark (who likes them--we're a perfect match!).

6--I don't wear makeup. Every once in a while I try it out again (usually for an evening event), but it just takes too long and I'd rather be sleeping in the morning. ;)

7--My favorite beverages are Dr. Pepper and Kahlua (not together--and Dr. Pepper will win out over Kahlua 9 times out of 10).

And now, to tag 7 others:

Julie
Katie
Meghan
Debbie
Missy
Thuy
Monica (private blog)

If you've already participated or don't do tags, please don't feel you need to participate. I just tagged people I'd like to hear some random things about. :)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Moving on

We have confirmation that another family is adopting the two little girls we were hoping to adopt. They are 4 yo twins located in Estonia and we found them through Reece's Rainbow (as many of you already know since our name was linked to them!).

I have to confess that my heart is a little heavier than I anticipated over this. But at the same time I am very glad they will have a family. They've been in the orphanage basically since birth and it's high time they get a home and family to love them and care for them. Losing an adoption referral (even though we never actually had it) is not unlike a miscarriage to me. This is the third time we have had a potential adoption fall through over the past 5 years, and it's painful every time. Before I get any nasty comments, yes, I've experienced miscarriage too. In both cases you start to look towards the future, towards what might be changing in your life, and then all of those musings and hopings are gone in an instant.

So where do we go from here? Not sure, but I'll do my best to keep you posted (still waiting on news on the house ;)).

Vote

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Cruise recap

The boys really did have a great time on the cruise, as did Mark and I. By the end, we were ready to go home and I think a 7-day cruise was just about perfect. We had increased incidences of bedwetting on the cruise due to increased water intake, and for future cruises I will invest in the "unlimited laundry" option (you pay a set fee and the cruise staff will do unlimited laundry for you for the week). That would have been much better than washing clothes out in the sink 4 days in a row. I did take detergent packets for the sink, so I was prepared, but it would have saved me a lot of time and frustration to not be washing things while on vacation. :)

The boys ate...and ate...and ate. And we weighed them the last day of the cruise and they had maybe each gained 2 lbs. I need to somehow get them to sit still for several days and load them up with food. Dima ate waffles with chocolate syrup nearly every morning (and no, they don't get anything near that at home) and they both had soup, fruit, an entree, and dessert every night. They are definitely good eaters--they're just also good metabolizers! LOL

We left from Ft. Lauderdale and visited Grand Turk, Tortola, St. Maarten, and Half Moon Cay. We ended up not doing any shore excursions and just spent LOTS of time on the beach, which we all loved. The boys have, however, decided they don't like the taste of saltwater. ;) I was really impressed with their swimming abilities and their confidence with their water wings--they were comfortable in the water even when they couldn't touch at all. Take the water wings off, though, and watch them sink! That lack of body fat means they don't float. ;)

The boys took 2- to 3-hour naps each day to enable them to stay up at night and see the evening show. Since we had the early dinner seating our shows didn't start until 9pm and there is no way I would let them stay up that late without a nap. Dima liked the singing and Zhenya LOVED the dancing. During one of the shows, after every song he would turn to Mark and ask "more dancing?".

All in all it was a really great trip and I would definitely do it again!

The cruise in pictures

These pictures are post-Club HAL, the kids' area with lots of fun activities (aka free babysitting ;)). After this first night, the boys were begging to go up there every day. My little pirates:


We tried really hard to fatten the boys up on this trip. Absolutely unlimited food, and we encouraged ice cream after lunch AND dinner every day (provided their behavior during the day was acceptable--they both lost ice cream one meal). I think they're ready to go on a cruise again just for the ice cream!


The cruise in pictures II

First time in the ocean...
They LOVED it!!
Learning to play pingpong with Papa and Grandpa (Papa had some interesting expressions during the lessons):



The cruise in pictures III

No sensory issues here...
Swimming in the ocean some more: The beach bums

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Third time's the charm

In the past couple of months, I've had two near-misses in regards to car accidents. The first was on the highway driving to work when someone decided it would be a good idea to go from the entrance ramp to the express lane, crossing 4 lanes of rush-hour traffic, without looking to see if there were any other cars in the way. Yeah, mine was in the way! I slammed on the brakes and swerved slightly to avoid hitting the guy (who never even noticed!!) but I couldn't move too far because there was a big suburban just behind me on the left (who, thankfully, was paying attention and also braked to avoid hitting me).

Later that same week, I was driving in the city and a parallel-parked car put on their blinker to move out into traffic. I moved over a lane so they could get over whenever they had the opportunity. But, no--they didn't want to move into traffic--they chose to turn across traffic and nearly t-boned me. Again, being the alert driver I am, I swerved and avoided a collision.

From the title, I'm guessing you've figured out that I can only avoid so many people before one of them decides to hit me. ;) Driving back from Florida this past weekend, a guy sideswiped my mom's car while I was driving. From reading the above, I'm sure you're thinking that at least some part of all of the near-misses and the accident must be my fault, but indeed I was in my lane and driving just like I was supposed to be--and I have 4 witnesses (although I wouldn't consider two of them to be reliable ;)) to back me up.

Good things: no one was hurt, my mom's car was still drivable--after Mark spent two hours trying to reattach the bumper (which he did--yea for Mark and Walmart and zip ties!!), and the other driver was insured

So what does Dima decide he's going to tell his teacher when he gets back to school? "Mama hit truck." Nevermind that we just spent 7 days on a boat!! LOL (And I did correct him that the truck hit mama, not the other way around. ;))

Thursday, October 23, 2008

At my wit's end (not anymore)

**This is the post I started a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to go ahead and post it for other adoptive parents who might run into the same thing, and also for myself to see how Dima has progressed and gone through different stages. All of this happened at the end of September/beginning of October.**

In the past couple of weeks, Dima has been exhibiting some new behaviors at school. Namely, I was called once because he bit a boy and then this past Monday he spit on a teacher--his former teacher that he likes!


What's baffling about this is that we have NEVER seen these behaviors before. Not towards us, not towards Zhenya--not even to other kids when we were at the orphanage with them. In regards to the spitting, we found out that there are a couple of other boys in Dima's class who have been spitting. The problem is they haven't been caught, so Dima sees them doing it and not getting in trouble and thinks that's the way kindergartners are supposed to behave. The biting incident is still a little puzzling. The kid he bit (on the forearm) only had 3 teeth marks on one side of his arm. My suspicion is that the boys were playing and he grabbed Dima around the head and caught him in the mouth. The boy who was bitten told the teachers and the principal that it was an accident, so...who knows. And Dima's English isn't good enough to explain it in detail (although he does now know "no eat people, Mama" LOL), he can tell us what he did, who he bit, and what the consequences were.


But lately we're just seeing a lot more disobedience at school. He's still an angel (more or less ;)) at home so I'm baffled. Is he testing something? Is he testing us? or his teacher? Is he trying to see if school is the same as the orphanage (in terms of how they respond to his inappropriate behaviors)?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

If you've ever wondered...

...this describes me pretty well. ;)

What Courtney Means

You are very open. You communicate well, and you connect with other people easily.
You are a naturally creative person. Ideas just flow from your mind.
A true chameleon, you are many things at different points in your life. You are very adaptable.

You are well rounded, with a complete perspective on life.
You are solid and dependable. You are loyal, and people can count on you.
At times, you can be a bit too serious. You tend to put too much pressure on yourself.

You are a very lucky person. Things just always seem to go your way.
And because you're so lucky, you don't really have a lot of worries. You just hope for the best in life.
You're sometimes a little guilty of being greedy. Spread your luck around a little to people who need it.

You are wild, crazy, and a huge rebel. You're always up to something.
You have a ton of energy, and most people can't handle you. You're very intense.
You definitely are a handful, and you're likely to get in trouble. But your kind of trouble is a lot of fun.

You are a seeker. You often find yourself restless - and you have a lot of questions about life.
You tend to travel often, to fairly random locations. You're most comfortable when you're far away from home.
You are quite passionate and easily tempted. Your impulses sometimes get you into trouble.

You are very intuitive and wise. You understand the world better than most people.
You also have a very active imagination. You often get carried away with your thoughts.
You are prone to a little paranoia and jealousy. You sometimes go overboard in interpreting signals.

You are friendly, charming, and warm. You get along with almost everyone.
You work hard not to rock the boat. Your easy going attitude brings people together.
At times, you can be a little flaky and irresponsible. But for the important things, you pull it together.

You are a free spirit, and you resent anyone who tries to fence you in.
You are unpredictable, adventurous, and always a little surprising.
You may miss out by not settling down, but you're too busy having fun to care.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Missing the pictures

No, MamaP, you didn't miss the pictures. ;)

I've been posting from one computer and the pictures are on another, so I've having a hard time getting pics posted. And...we're still having issues with our camera. Not the same issue, which is good, but we're having problems with taking video--as in, the video and audio don't match up. If you've ever seen "Singing in the Rain" and the part where they're screening the movie and the audio and video get off, you'll know pretty much what we're seeing. Kodak wants us to send the camera back to them for repairs. Um, no, thank you. We're returning it to Sam's and exchanging it for another one of the same model. I'm not asking for a perfect camera, but I would at least like all of the functions I use to work. There's a whole lot of other functions that could not work and I'd be fine with that, but general pictures and video are critical. ;)

We had a great day yesterday. Dima didn't lose any apples at school (they start the day with three apples and lose them for poor choices) and Zhenya wasn't so incredibly tired and whiny at the end of the day. We had impromptu chili for dinner (seriously, I started browning ground beef with no idea what I was going to do with it, and then threw it together with a can of beans, a can of tomatoes, and some spices) and the boys ate really well. Since it was pretty rainy and cold last night we couldn't go outside, so the boys asked if they could watch a video on the computer. I agreed and suggested they change into their pajamas and bring their blankets out to snuggle up on the couch. They did and Mark got home in time to watch the end of the video with us. It was really nice family time and the boys did a great job going to bed afterwards (with the appropriate warning that if they got out of hand and played around instead of going to sleep it would tell us they weren't ready for things like staying up a few minutes later to watch a video and we wouldn't be able to do that again--we didn't hear a peep out of them. LOL).

Dima's behavior has really been improving at school. I think consistency between his teacher and us in communicating appropriate behavior to him has been crucial, and I'm glad we have such a good relationship with the boys' teachers.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Dima the gigglebox

I spend more time posting about Dima because there's simply more to talk about. Zhenya is usually the one to make us laugh, but Dima requires a lot more...in all kinds of ways.

Emotionally, Dima is still working on processing a lot of things. Yesterday, the boys went in for more shots. For the first time ever, Zhenya didn't make a peep (he usually cries), and Dima was saying "Ow! Ow! Ow!" before the nurse ever got near him with the needle. It was really funny since this is a complete reversal for the two of them as compared to every other time they've gotten shots.

After they get shots, that night they always want me to take pictures of their bandaids. We had baths last night, so I got Zhenya's pictures while he was getting ready for bed and Dima was still in the bath. Then Zhenya went to go finish his homework (coloring). He wanted to know what color his hair was so he could color the boy's hair the same color in his picture. I told him it was brown, the same as my hair. Dima wanted to know what color his hair was, so I told him "blonde, the same as Papa's when he was a little boy." His face lit up like he'd just been given the best present ever. It was amazing to watch. One more emotional connection for our little boy to his papa, and to his forever family.

Then after Dima got out of the bath it was his turn for bandaid pictures. He became the goofiest little boy I've ever seen! He wanted his picture taken "strong" (like a muscle man), and then acting like a monkey. He got so tickled and was giggling so hard he couldn't stand up and had to leave the room! It was hysterical to watch! But the best part was what happened afterward...he stopped. He didn't stop being silly (per se) but he got himself under control and put his pajamas on and brushed his teeth without a problem.

With Dima, once he gets going and loses control of his emotions (happy or sad), it is so hard for him to stop and get himself under control again. But he did it last night, and I was so proud of him. While at times it is VERY trying (tiring, exasperating, frustrating, sad), I love being able to watch him mature before my eyes. Very rarely does a day go by that I don't hear him use a new word or phrase or see him overcome something that was giving him problems mere weeks ago. Zhenya does it too, but it seems to go so easily for him that the milestones pass a little less noticed.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

House and boys

We got a counteroffer on the house, which was great since they didn't outright reject our offer, but they also didn't come anywhere near where we want to be. So...we're countering back. :) They also moved closing up 3 weeks and all of our expert advice (several realtors and mortgage people) are telling us they must really want to dump the house. Did I mention it's bank-owned? Lots of things stacked in our favor, but the biggest is that we're willing to walk away if we don't get it for the price we want. It's up to them as to how badly they want to get rid of it.

The boys are so excited about the cruise. They've been talking for months (yes, months!) about getting to go on the "big boat" and Zhenya is most excited about getting to ride on the "little boats" (aka lifeboats). We'll be tendering (using the lifeboats to get into the post) in at least one of our ports so everybody will be happy.

Dima has a speech evaluation on November 7. I'm really happy about having the evaluation done. There are a few things that just don't sit right with me in regards to his speech and hearing, and I'm looking forward to having some answers. Both boys' hearing was tested back in February when we did their full post-adoption evaluations at a local pediatric hospital and both came back normal, but I question some of Dima's results--not because of the testers, but because he didn't cooperate fully (he was playing around) and I'm not sure they got the best data. This evaluation will do a full audiology screening again, but since he's more comfortable with...well, everything...I think it will be easier on him and the testers. His speech is improving by leaps and bounds, but it's still nowhere near where it should be, and it's even WAY behind Zhenya. That's a bigger concern for me than anything else.

Part of Dima's issues stem from the institutionalization. He figured out he could use minimal words to get what he wanted (sort of point-and-grunt mentality) and that's turned into habit for him. We spend a lot of time encouraging him to use more words, especially when I know he knows the words for what he's trying to describe. Thus, the conversation in the backseat yesterday on the way home from school went like this:

D: Red! (pointing out the window)
Z: What?
D: Red. (still pointing out the window)
Z: I don't understand you! I need some mo' words, Dima.

I'm glad Zhenya is starting to correct him too. In the past when they would play Dima would ask for a car or something and Zhenya would go get it for him and hold up several different ones until Dima finally nodded that Zhenya had the one he wanted, instead of asking for the red car, or the blue truck, or something. It was a LOT of grunt-and-point. Zhenya's figured out that you get a lot more out of being able to use words. Dima's getting there, but he's not there yet. Not being able to get Zhenya to do what he wants without words may be an additional push that he could really use.

Dima HAS figured out that it helps him be able to pronounce new words if he looks at me when I'm repeating it to him. With new words, I would have him look at me while I said it and then have him repeat it back. Now he makes sure I'm looking at him when we're working on new words which is great since it means he wants to say them correctly.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

In the tide

I ebb and flow between nervousness and peace. This week there is a family visiting the referral we are interested in. More than anything, I want this referral to find a family, and I have been praying that this referral would be placed in a Christian home. I don't yet know if that would be ours or not. ;) And I will be so happy when I can stop saying "this referral" and give you real information. Even if this referral is accepted by another family, I will post the details and explain everything on here at that point.

In the meantime...I can't believe I'm even posting this...we're making an offer on a house today. I told you we had a lot of things going forward right now. ;) The house is just a couple of miles from where we are now, but only a couple of blocks from the boys' school. We aren't planning on selling our current house right away--we still have some things to finish up and we won't be in any kind of financial bind by keeping both of them. And I am so grateful that Mark's parents and my parents both taught us to handle money wisely. With all of the excitement in the economy right now, it's nice to be on somewhat firm footing (I do recognize that if the world economy were to collapse that our firm footing would be gone too). It's also nice to recognize that whatever we have, and whatever we will have, has been entrusted to us by God to care for for a little while. Knowing it's not really ours, and it's not permanent, gives me a lot more peace.

I'll share more details about the house once we know where that is headed too. I've got to use something to keep you guys coming back, right? :)

UPDATE: We submitted our offer for the house. Now we wait. :) I think that's the story of our lives. LOL Seriously, though, it will be interesting to see what happens as we offered about 60% of the original asking price. If it's God's will, He'll make it happen!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

More than a week

...since I posted. And no, I haven't been that busy. ;) I actually started a post last week (that I may finish at some point) talking about Dima. We had a rough few days last week behavior-wise, but the day that I started that post things started to turn around and I never finished it.

Dima's definitely doing some testing at school, probing boundaries. What he hasn't completely figured out yet is that I am keeping in very close contact with his teacher, so when she says he did/didn't do xx today I can tell her whether that's behavior that we've seen at home, where I think it's coming from, and give her suggestions on how to handle it. Unfortunately, she can't handle it quite the same way we would at home, but his behavior is improving. The biggest problems seem to stem from the behavior of the other kids. Dima sees them doing things and thinks it's a good idea, but he doesn't always know the appropriate time or place for all behaviors. He's going through a behavior-learning process that most kids go through around age 3-4 but he hasn't had the opportunity to go through it before so it's happening now. He's getting there, but it's going to take awhile. One of the areas he struggles with (which I think relates directly to a background in the orphanage) is understanding that he cannot touch or play with other people's things. In the orphanage everything was communal, so it's hard for him to grasp that coats, hats, pencils, toys, etc., actually belong to people and that he cannot touch them. I'm not really sure of the best way to reinforce that concept, so if anyone has any ideas feel free to throw them our way. :) We do talk about things that the boys bring home belonging to them and that the other one cannot play with those objects without asking, i.e., "this is Zhenya's from school", "this is Dima's from church", but the boys pretty much share everything equally at home (their choice).

I am very pleased to report that his wailing fits have greatly decreased. I think this is due to a combination of the sticker charts as well as realizing that they don't get him what he wants--in fact, just the opposite. They tend to show up when he's had a busy day and is really tired, so it's directly related to him being too tired to control his emotions. But I think he's learning that that is not an appropriate way to show emotions and he does try hard not to let it get going when he's not tired. This is a hard habit for him to break (and it truly is a habit) and I'll be so excited when he can go an entire month without having one of these fits. We've gotten close but we're not there yet. :)

We've been looking into speech therapy for Dima. And every time I start looking into it he has a massive improvement in his speech and I wonder if we should just give him more time. But I think we're doing him a disservice by not helping him in this area. We send him to OT for his motor skills--why would we not send him to speech therapy for such a crucial component of interacting with other people? For one thing, it's not covered by insurance. We also feel that it would be too much for Dima to have both speech and OT during school. So we're waiting on some information from a couple of speech clinics and continuing OT in the meantime.

And Zhenya? Well, Zhenya is Zhenya. ;) He's currently going through a baby-talk phase, which we are highly discouraging. I think this is coming from some of the other kids in his class who are quite a bit younger than he is. Again, we see this predominately when he's tired (read: overstimulated) but this is not a behavior we had seen before he started school.

And...we're going on a cruise soon! :) :) I'm not posting the exact dates for safety reasons, but it's soon and I'm super excited, as are the boys. They can't wait to go on the "big boat." Boy, aren't they going to be surprised when they see just how big it is! Zhenya also wants to go on the "little boats" (aka lifeboats) and lucky for him we've got a couple of ports where we'll be tendering and using the lifeboats.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New camera

We got a new camera! Of course, I haven't taken any pictures of note with it yet, but soon...soon.

We bought our old camera last January. Yes, less than a year ago. And recently something just was not right with the batteries. We tried a variety of fixes but basically we could only take about 6 pictures before the battery would die. That's not really conducive to taking a lot of pictures. So we called customer service and they told us to return it. On Monday, Mark returned it and got the camera that's the next step up, but while he was there he saw our same camera being sold (new) for nearly 1/3 of what we paid for it 9 months ago. Obviously there is a problem with that camera!

The new one we got is a Kodak Z1012 IS (the old one was the Kodak Z712 IS). And yes, we know Kodak is not top of the line, because we don't need a top of the line camera. The pictures on our old one were great (barring user error) and it more than met our needs other than the battery issues. We debated getting a Kodak again, but have liked our past two so much that we decided to go for it. Plus we already had the right memory card and a new battery. :)

I've played with the new one a little bit and I like it. The big difference between the two is the MP per picture--the old one was a 7MP camera and the new one is a 10MP camera. They both have a 12X optical zoom and image stabilization, which were the two important features we wanted. Now I have no excuse for not posting more pictures, right?

Adoption update

I'm sure there are many of you waiting for an adoption update, but it's not October yet, see? ;)

Well, here's a little bit to tide you over. :) We finished all of our home study visits, got fingerprinted (it's a good thing they do digital prints now or my fingers might be permanently ink-stained from the number of times we've done this) to make sure we haven't committed any felonies since December, got employment letters, proof of insurance letters, state background DFS checks, and copies of all of the boys' paperwork from their adoption. Our social worker is waiting on our fingerprints (we should have those this week) and our references (which she will hopefully have this week as well). Next step would be a referral (keep in mind this is all different for Ukraine, but we're not looking at Ukraine right now)...

But since it is an international adoption and we can't have those without snags, we recently found out that the referral we were hoping to get may no longer be available. This most likely means that someone from another country (not the US) has gone to do a preview visit of this referral. We are supposed to know in the next couple of weeks where everything stands. Please pray that we will have patience and wisdom for this. It is a little bit (okay, that's a total lie--it's a lot) frustrating to be starting all of this again with no where to go. But we recognize that God brought us to this point and had us start again now, so we're running with it strictly on faith. Quite frankly, God has given us several things right now (adoption and otherwise) that He seems to be wanting us to move forward with, and we're a little overwhelmed! But if God has given it, He will provide. And if He hasn't, we continue to pray that the doors will be shut quickly and soundly. ;) We have found God to be very faithful in closing doors when we request that as a sign of direction. :) :)

I'll do my best to keep you posted, but I don't know when we'll know anything so you may not hear anything on the adoption front for awhile.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Life in the fast lane

Yesterday was my company "Day at the Zoo." We had free passes to everything at the zoo, and you can bet we took advantage of that!

We went to church in the morning and then went to the company-provided lunch at the zoo. We didn't really see many animals this time (although we did get to see the baby Amur tiger cubs and watch them play!) but we spent all of our time doing the things we normally don't do because there's a charge. We went on the train (many, many times), rode the carousel, saw the sea lion show, and went on two simulators.

That's where the day was interesting.

The boys have never been on any rides of any sort with us. We had talked about taking them to Six Flags this summer but it just didn't work out. They're still too little for a lot of the rides so it wasn't a big deal not to go, and they don't know what they're missing. :) But our passes to the zoo yesterday included rides in two simulators, and we thought this would be a great opportunity to try the boys out on them. I'm laughing just thinking about it.

I was mainly nervous not for the "ride" part but because we didn't know the content of the movies; i.e., how scary they would be. And while most 5 and 6 year olds might not be scared, our boys have been exposed to a lot less Western culture (unlike the 4 year old in Zhenya's preschool class who has seen "Hellboy." Don't these children have parents?!?) and since they haven't seen much TV I'm not sure how well they distinguish between fantasy and reality. But we opted to go for it and since the chairs are set up in pairs Mark rode with Dima and Zhenya rode with me. The first one we went on was an "Extreme Log Ride."

They loved it. LOVED it.

The second simulator was a dinosaur movie--sort of. It had dinosaurs in it, for all of maybe one minute of the 5 minutes in the simulator. The boys also liked that one, but it was 3D and I don't think they liked the dinosaurs coming at them as much as they liked the log ride. :) But neither of them seemed to think it was scary. We were careful not to prep them to think it was scary. I did prep them before the log ride and reminded them that everything in the movie was pretend, but I didn't mention anything about "not being afraid" because we didn't want them to think there was something to be afraid of. Did you follow that circular reasoning? ;)

Both of them slept well last night and got plenty of sleep but we'll see how they do today. It was a long day yesterday and that tends to mean we start the week off rough.

Oh, and it may be awhile before I post more pictures. Our camera's been having issues for several weeks and we're returning it this week and hopefully getting a new one.