Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Five weeks home

It's hard to believe we've been home for 5 weeks as of yesterday. That means as of tomorrow the boys will have been with us for 6 weeks. Time certainly is flying! :) The boys truly are doing well. Their English continues to amaze me, as does their attachment. But of course it's not all wine and roses, although we do have our fair share of "whine" and rosy cheeks (all puns intended). So I thought I'd take a little time to share the not-so-rosy parts with you.

Dima has always been our bigger concern in terms of his transition. We're really not concerned about attachment disorders, but since he is older and old enough to remember a lot of what he has been through the past few years it will take him longer to trust and to understand that this new life is permanent. Apparently, his time in the orphanage was well-spent in learning how to be manipulative. He is incredibly good at it--or apparently he was until we got a hold of him. ;) He figured out that if he played dumb, he didn't have to do things he didn't want to. And before anyone suggests that he really might not understand, let me give an example.

Today Dima took a toy away from Zhenya and was disciplined for it. He then threw a big fit (he's really good at those, too) and was put in their bedroom on his bed until he stopped crying. When he had stopped crying, I went in and asked him if he was all done. He replied "da", and I said "say yes, mama". All he would say was "mama"--he refused to say "yes". Now, two things here. One, I know he can say it because he's said it before. Two, as soon as I told him he would stay in his bedroom until he said "yes, mama" and closed the door, he started crying again and wailing "yes, mama, yes, mama" very clearly. When he had stopped crying I went in again and the initial scene repeated itself with him only saying "mama". One additional bit of info: as soon as he sees that someone is starting to cave and is not going to make him do whatever was asked, he gets a sly grin on his face--no joke. This kid knows how things work. And apparently he had convinced the orphanage staff that he was so below mental capacity that they didn't make him do anything! We were told he was the lowest in his groupa, etc. He's really good at giving you a blank stare if you ask him to do something. But if you ask him to do the same thing (same language, words, etc.) in order for him to do something he wants (like go to the playground) he can get whatever it is done in no time.

In other words, we have a lot of control issues. We are spending a lot of time establishing our authority which is one of the reasons that we do not want anyone else having authority over the boys right now (e.g., daycare, classes). And I'm spending a lot of time praying and trying not to second-guess myself, especially because I continue to see that we are correct to have high expectations (compared to what the orphanage expected) of the boys in terms of their behavior.

But to end on a happy note...this evening the boys were playing in the living room. I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but Dima ran into the side of the couch pretty hard. I know it was hard because I saw the end of the fall, and he apparently ran into the couch sideways (hitting his ear) and hit it hard enough that he flipped himself around as he fell. I'm quite sure it hurt, and he thought so too. This is the first time I've seen Dima cry out of pain since we've been with him. Not that I want my boys in pain, but they need to learn to be children and that it's okay to be in pain, and that mama and papa are available to offer comfort as much as possible. I picked Dima up. Now here's the kicker...both boys, when you pick them up, stay ramrod straight. They do not know how to hipsit (like a baby) or how to hold on. When I picked Dima up, it took him a few seconds, but then he laid his head down on my shoulder!! This is huge for him and it was such a great sign of his continuing attachment. We sat down on the couch and I held him like a baby while he cried, and kissed his ear and one finger for good measure. In a few minutes he was fine and went off to play with Zhenya (who, by the way, brought Dima a "nec" [kleenex] while he was crying--so sweet!).

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The other pincushion

Zhenya didn't do quite as well as Dima with the shots. He was pretty unhappy by the 8th one, although he still didn't cry. Both of the boys are low on the growth charts--in fact, Dima (at 5.5 yo) is off the low end of the charts in both weight and height. Zhenya (at 4.5 yo) is at the 25th percentile for height and 10th percentile for weight. Because they are very proportional, the doctor isn't concerned about their physical delays. He felt like their attachment was proceeding very well and desn't anticipate us having any attachment disorders, which was good to hear from someone who has worked with a lot of adoptive parents (with children with delays). We're still working on setting up an appointment with the adoption clinic at St Louis Children's Hospital. They will do a more comprehensive evaluation of the boys' motor skills as well as hearing and behavioral tests.

The weekend was great with some warmer weather, and one of the boys' babushkas (grandmothers) came up to visit. They enjoyed the time with her, and I think she enjoyed watching their first attempts at baseball. I wish I could have videotaped, but I was pitching (which would have been worth videotaping as well). Let's just say the boys aren't necessarily naturals, but they certainly had a lot of fun!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Our little pincushion

Yesterday's doctor visit went very well. The doctor thought that both of the boys are doing really well. Dima is in the 3 percentile for his height (meaning 3% of children his age are smaller than him), and I didn't hear where he was on weight but I'm sure it's right around there if not lower. He had to get eight shots. And no, he didn't cry. This is one of the issues with neglect. Children who have been neglected or have attachment disorders often have a very high pain tolerance, because they've learned that crying does not bring comfort or relief. In other words, when they were little and would cry, no one would come to ease their pain and comfort them. He did flinch on the shot in his thigh which was the 8th one. He did great overall and we'll keep working on teaching him to come to us for comfort. It will take some time. :)

Here's a picture of Dima the pincushion:

Zhenya's visit is this afternoon. He got to watch Dima yesterday, so we'll see how he does with the shots. :)

Thursday, January 24, 2008


The boys have started giving spontaneous hugs. :) By that I mean that they give us hugs, not just respond when we hug them. We haven't pushed them to respond with physical affection, knowing that as they learn to trust and love us they will respond at their own pace. Zhenya tends to be much more affectionate than Dima, and has been giving hugs at bedtime for quite a while now. But Dima would just lay there and let you hug him (smiling) and not hug back. Until a few days ago... :)
We were at the park last week and Zhenya came down a slide, and then for whatever reason ran over and gave me a big hug. It turned into a game, and Dima decided to participate. Since then, Dima has been giving hugs much more freely, and will stretch out his arms at night for his bedtime hug. I'm so encouraged to see this emotional opening in him. For our boys, they are old enough to know and remember a lot about their past, Dima in particular. And I think Dima's personality being what it is, he has taken a lot of what has happened to heart, in terms of being sent to the orphanage and more or less abandoned. It's still going to take a long time for him to accept that he is really home--that we are not a temporary stop on the way to somewhere else or that we are not going to send him away. Both of the boys are really doing well with attachment and I'm excited to see the progress. It's slow, but it's definitely progress and based on a lot of research I've done I think they're doing great.

Yesterday the boys and I went and applied for their social security numbers. It was sort of a last minute decision, but I decided to try it and see which documents our local office wanted. Some people have had a hard time getting their local offices to accept the documentation that is required, but we had no problems. I took--well, I took ALL of the documentation I had, but it wasn't all required--the boys' passports, their Ukraine birth certificates with us listed as parents, and the court decree from Ukraine. The worker also asked for any "normal" documents with their names on them, like insurance cards, which I had. They took all of our documents and after about 20 minutes gave me a receipt and said we would have the new SS cards within 2 weeks! Wow! That was a lot easier than I expected, but I'm certainly happy it went so well. The boys' certificate of citizenship should be arriving in the next couple of weeks as well, and then we'll go ahead and get them US passports. They've got Ukrainian passports, but depending on where we travel they might need visas as citizens of Ukraine, so it's easier to go ahead and get US passports.

One of the boys (I can't remember which one--it's too early this morning) has his first pediatrician appointment this afternoon, and the other has an appointment tomorrow afternoon. I'm really excited to meet the pediatrician we've found. He specializes in children with developmental delays, so he should be well-prepared for our boys' delays and be able to help us decide what needs to be done, if anything. I'm hoping if the boys need any shots that I can wait and have both of them done tomorrow, otherwise I'm not sure I'll be able to drag them back to the doctor's office tomorrow afternoon. :) :) :)

Friday, January 18, 2008

A video!

**I started this post this morning but couldn't get blogger to load the video I wanted, so...**

I would love to sit down and write you all a nice long post about everything that's going on, but I'm a bit short on uninterrupted time (right now I'm being serenaded by a very loud duo who are accompanying their singing with drumbeats using Lincoln logs). So instead here's a video, taken a few days ago, of one of Zhenya and Mark's English lessons. ;) If I'm not mistaken, when Zhenya throws his little "fit", he's saying "where, Papa?!?" in reference to the red button. :) :) By the way, this video clip cracks me up, especially the very end...

**Now to this evening...**

The boys are doing well, I just haven't had much time to post. I've spent the evenings trying to get other things done and blogging and emailing just haven't been happening, but we're all well for those of you who might have been concerned. :) :)

Today we went to the playground for the first time in a few days. It's been cold here but today was pretty nice--i.e., about 34 deg when we went to the playground. Tomorrow it's supposed to be a high of 17 deg. Yikes! I bundled the boys up bigtime (for those of you who've been to the UA orphanages, it wasn't that bundled, but close! ;) ) and we played for about an hour. I didn't take the camera and (of course) in hindsight I wish I would have had it. The boys have figured out a new part of the playground--a slide made of two parallel bars--and it was a lot of fun watching them play on it. And...Zhenya has figured out (after much coaching) how to pump on the swings!! He doesn't do it hard enough to keep himself going, but it's a step in the right direction. Dima still hasn't quite gotten the pumping down yet, but he is at least attempting to use his legs. ;) We do lots of puzzles and flash cards during the day, and we've taught the boys how to play memory (trying to make pairs from cards that are upside-down). We do it with our flashcards and with pairs from the actual "Memory" game. They're really good at matching, just not so good with the names of the actual colors yet (as evidenced in the above video).

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Just for grins

Last night, Mark went to a meeting. He was talking with someone when another guy asked him a question. Without a pause, he turned and said "Nyet" and continued his conversation. Since we've been speaking a mixture of Russian and English with the boys, it sort of carries over, much to the confusion of other people. :) :)

Apparently I'm in for it with 3 boys in the house. Mark and the boys were on the couch the other day and all of a sudden Zhenya wrinkled up his nose and started waving his hand in front of his face. Mark looked at him and said "Was it you?" and Zhenya said "nyet!" and pointed at Dima. To which Dima said "nyet!" and pointed at Mark. At which point all three of them were laughing. Ahhh, boy humor.

The boys have been learning lots of new English words, including "but" (bus) which makes us crack up because as we drive down the road we hear "Mama, but! Papa, but!" :) :)

We finally broke down and got a new camera. We had talked about it before we went to Ukraine but we didn't want to buy a new one and then have something happen to it on the trip. The new one isn't anything particularly fancy, but it has a much better zoom than our old one so we've been playing. In the second picture, Dima walked up to me wanting to take his picture. He held his face like this until I took his picture, looked at the back of the camera, and then went off to play again. Mark laughed and laughed at his expression here.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

To nap or not to nap?

This post was supposed to happen a few days ago, when we were actually considering this question. We've pretty much now decided. No.

When we first got home, we were trying to keep the boys on the same schedule they had in the orphanage, which included a nap from about 1 to 3pm. However, we were finding the boys were having a hard time going to sleep at night. Once they got to sleep, they would sleep for about 11 hours, but the getting there was hard even with lots of playing outside. If I had to guess, the boys weren't getting enough nutrition in the orphanage to have much energy so it wasn't a big deal to take a nap during the day and then sleep all night. But here they're being fed a little differently. ;) So after some consideration, we have stopped the nap during the day and the boys go to bed earlier at night and get up a little later in the morning. It seems to be working pretty well although the boys are whinier in the late afternoon. But bedtime at night is MUCH easier. They're still getting more sleep than they "need"--they get about 12-13 hours at night and they're supposed to only need 11. But if their development is delayed and they are closer to 3yo physically, I'm not sure how that would affect their sleep needs. Point being, we let them sleep as long as they need to.

Our usual schedule is something like this: 7:30-8am wake up, get dressed, breakfast by 8:30. Brush teeth then play for an hour or so (cars, blocks, etc.). Do puzzles and work on flash cards. If we go someplace like the Science Center we try to do that in the morning since it is less crowded. Lunch around noon or 12:30. By 1:30 we try to be outside--either in the backyard or at a playground close by. We play for about an hour or so then head home for a snack. More playtime and usually some more puzzles. Dinner is about 5:30 and we start getting ready for bed at 6:30. They're in bed by 7 and usually asleep by 7:30pm. I try to run errands in the morning if we need to do that, as they get pretty wound up in the afternoon and it's harder for them to control themselves. While I think it's important that they learn self-control, I don't see the need to force them into situations where it will be difficult. :)

The boys do not yet know we own a TV as they have never seen it on or the entertainment center open. :) We're not interested at this point in using TV to help with their language skills as they tend to zone out when they're in front of the TV (we see it even when they see TVs when we're out and about). We are open to them using the computer for learning, since it is usually more interactive. I tried a Blues Clues interactive DVD with them the other day, but after about 10 minutes they just lost interest. I think the lack of language skills prevents them from becoming really engaged. So we'll wait a while and try things like that again. I think some of the interactive children's learning programs will be really good for their logic and problem-solving skills.

We're continuing to see their English language skills develop. There are a few words now where the English word has completely replaced the Russian, and several others where they will use the Russian and English interchangeably. They still talk to each other and to us in Russian, I guess hoping one of these days we'll "get it". :) :)

Friday, January 04, 2008

How the days do fly

Not much time to post...must sleep. :) But here are a few pics from the last few days. Those of you who know us will agree that these were definitely meant to be our boys--they're just as weird as we are. :) :)

Searching for "machinas" (cars) under the couch...since they somehow seem to end up there.

Doing puzzles with papa. We do puzzles every day, sometimes twice a day.

What can I say? This is what happens when you're home with mama all day. ;)