Monday, February 25, 2008

Growing pains

You have to know that after I post we're having great days that there are going to be a few rough ones. But the rough ones now are still much better than the rough ones we had a few weeks ago. Dima and I have been working on the idea of what it means to be a little boy versus a baby--that little boys do not throw temper tantrums like babies do. He seems to understand, and he regularly comes up to me and says "Mama, Dima boy" very seriously. When I smile and say yes, Dima is a boy, he smiles at me and goes off to play. I'm not sure he's ever felt that he could start to grow up--to take responsibility for his actions. And honestly, I'm not sure he's ever felt that taking responsibility for his actions would make any difference because he never had any influence over his environment. Now, his actions have definable consequences and he has the ability to make good and bad choices which affect his environment differently. (Not that I think a 5 yo reasons through it like this, but unconsciously he knows that nothing he does makes a difference so he stops trying to do anything.) It's fun watching him figure out what it means to be a person who has influence (however slight it may be!) in his own life and start the process towards growing up.

This past weekend the boys met Mark's parents, who are the last grandparents to meet the boys. I think it was a really good visit and the boys did great. It takes more to get them overstimulated (it definitely still happens) and they are beginning to learn to control themselves when they are losing control. Very important social skill to have (and one which many adults in our society would do well to work on). LOL

Our kitchen is newly decorated with the boys' artwork from church. Originally it was hanging on the fridge, but that proved to be too big of a temptation. I'm all about removing temptation, so I hung their artwork on the upper cabinets. They did some construction paper cutting and gluing in their class so I decided to throw caution to the wind and try it at home. Amazingly enough, they are fantastic at cutting and gluing. Dima can sit and cut for hours, which is great because it's one of the skills the OT wanted him working on at home. Zhenya has been cutting on and off for hours as he finishes, gets up and plays with something else, then sees Dima cutting and decides he wants to cut some more. :) :) **Okay, they're sitting here cutting while I type at the kitchen table, and I'm having the hardest time not laughing since Zhenya's mouth opens and closes WITH THE SCISSORS! LOL**

This morning I went back to the social security office to fix the boys' status. Painful though it was (we were there for almost 2 hours), the boys' status has supposedly now been corrected. I took snacks, books, and flashcards to pass the time and the boys did really well. I'll call in a couple of weeks to check and make sure they're listed as US citizens. In regards to the incorrect spelling of their last name on the certificate of citizenship, they were so busy that she didn't even notice and I certainly didn't point it out. We weren't supposed to need the CoC for them to be registered as US citizens anyway. So now I need to send back the CoCs for correction and send in for their US passports. We're also going to get them MO birth certificates so I need to send in the forms for that. That should cover every possibly piece of paperwork we could ever need (and yes, that's tongue-in-cheek since I know there'll be more!).

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Two months home

We have had a couple of great days!

Yesterday I opted to test the limits a little bit. We know some of the things that trigger overstimulation in the boys, particularly Dima, and new people and places with lots of people will do it. While we avoid a lot of overstimulation, we need to expose them to situations that will stretch their ability to handle stimulation and help teach them to manage their emotions when they become overstimulated. So on Monday I took them to the Science Center with Tiffany (a friend of ours from church). I wasn't really thinking or I would have realized that the Science Center was going to be packed since it was Presidents' Day and most of the local schools were closed. We were there for about an hour and the boys did really well. I worked with Dima on becoming more comfortable with the animatronic dinosaur exhibit--he's terrified of it. We sat down by the t-rex's tail (away from his moving head and teeth!) and talked about his tail moving up and down. By the end, Dima was talking about the dinosaur and was willing to walk around him. He's still scared of it, but I think beginning to understand that it won't hurt him. A few more visits and I think he'll actually want to go see the dinosaur. :) I wasn't worried about our actual visit--it's the time after the overstimulation that is usually the problem, so I anticipated the afternoon being a bit rough. Happily, it was not bad at all! I had to remind Dima to calm down a few times, but he was able to get himself under control without any external discipline.

The boys are getting really good at taking turns. We hear "Zhenuh turn" and "Dima turn" (it's adorable--I need to get it on video!) quite often, and they are saying it when it is the other person's turn, not just their own. This is an example of our "delayed" children (notice the more "delayed" one doing the majority of the work) doing one of their puzzles together (it's hard to get video--every time I take out the camera they want to see the pictures on the back!):

Monday, February 18, 2008

It is quiet

The boys are still asleep, Mark has already left for work, and I've actually gotten up, showered, dressed, and started a load of laundry. I have a few precious moments of quiet before the energy in the house is up. :)

We had a really good weekend, so thanks for all of the prayers! LOL Saturday we had lunch with an old college friend of mine and his wife and two children. Their kids are a little younger than ours but we had a great time at lunch and the boys did really well. Afterwards we stopped at the Science Center for a little bit to let the boys run around. They're really starting to grasp the idea of playing there and being able to choose what you want to do. We spent most of our time in the building area where they have puzzles, legos, pattern blocks, and other big building blocks. Saturday night for dinner we had ravioli soup, although we can't call it ravioli soup because Zhenya won't eat soup. So we called it ravioli and he ate it just fine. ;)

Sunday at church Mark left the boys in their classroom almost the entire time and they did great! Depending on who is leading their classroom, they are allowed to do some behaviors that we don't allow at home, but that's going to happen at different times so we just have to reinforce appropriate behavior when we can. Yesterday afternoon the boys were really wound up. Not overstimulated-wound up, just little boy-wound up (it's funny, but you can definitely tell a difference). I spent a good part of the afternoon saying "no, you can't climb on the coffee table", "no, you can't jump on the couch", etc. and providing corrections as necessary. Last night we went for a quick dinner with Micah and Tiffany and the boys did great. They were talking up a storm and ate really well. Which might be why they're still asleep...

Mark has been spending every weekend at our "new" house finishing up the demolition. We're getting bids on plumbing and electric and he's hoping it will be ready to start putting back together by the end of this month. He has worked really hard on this and I haven't been able to help since we got back from Ukraine, so he's been doing all of the work himself. I'll post some new pictures of the progress as soon as we get them--usually when Mark goes over he's too busy working to take pictures. :)

I haven't taken any recent pictures of the boys either, so you'll have to wait for those. :)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Rough week

It was a busy week, and I saw evidence of that in the very bad day Dima had yesterday. Oh, I hope I don't have to go through that again anytime soon. :)

On Wednesday, the boys had their appointment at the International Adoption Clinic at St Louis Children's Hospital. We met with an infectious diseases doctor, an audiologist, a psychologist, and an occupational therapist. Everyone thought that the boys are progressing very well, both with their attachment and with their English. In fact, we had an interpreter for the first part of the morning and she left to go with another patient because she wasn't doing anything with us. :) The boys were very cooperative and most of the things that the medical staff did involved mimicking so they didn't need any verbal instructions, or at least not complicated verbal instructions. And we now know that both of the boys have normal hearing, so no excuses for ignoring us. LOL
Actually, the hearing test and the OT tests were the ones we were most interested in. They confirmed what we already suspected--Dima needs speech therapy starting soon. He has some significant speech issues and we now know they're not related to hearing. He also has coordination issues and is not functioning at the appropriate level for his age. He's more than 2 standard deviations below normal on his development and would definitely benefit from some therapy. Don't get me wrong--Dima is fine, and he would probably catch up eventually even without therapy. But if we can get him some structured help (aka therapy :) ), he should be able to catch up sooner and with less frustration at not being able to do the same things as his peers.

So the boys got up early, were very overstimulated, and we had a rough afternoon as a consequence. Then we had something Friday morning and they were up early again. Yesterday afternoon was terrible for Dima. I'm not going into all of the details, but needless to say he was exhausted and reverted to some behaviors I haven't seen for a few weeks. Once we got past all of that, we had a good rest of the day and we put the boys to bed early last night. By 8am this morning, everyone was up, dressed, and fed and we're having a much better day. :)

We've been doing a phonics program online called Starfall and the boys love it. I now get asked a few times a day "Mama, A B now?". They are learning their letters and can recognize quite a few.

Monday, February 11, 2008


It was an on-again, off-again throwing up weekend. So much fun. Or not. :)

It wasn't too bad, since Zhenya stopped throwing up Saturday morning. Then we only had one to deal with. Sunday was terrible with Dima and the throwing up and the not going to the bathroom to do it. He would throw up (wherever he happened to be) and just stand there and wait for someone to do something. Very frustrating. We worked through some of that on Sunday and had some great breakthroughs today. Dima woke up at 8:30 and pretty much threw up from then until noon. BUT...he did not throw up on himself once(!) and by the end was saying "mama, toilet" and going to the bathroom by himself to throw up. He still goes toward the bathroom slowly, so we're definitely going to have some things to work on if he ever gets the flu, but it was great progress. Even better...

This morning, when Dima would go to the bathroom to throw up he got lots of positive reinforcement. Once early in the morning, he had said he was done but I wanted him to wait in the bathroom to make sure. Our bathroom's pretty small, so I sit on the edge of the tub while the boys are throwing up. I pulled him into my lap to wait for a few minutes and he sat there, stiff as a board. The next time, I pulled him into my lap and pulled him up against my chest. It took a few minutes but he finally relaxed into me, although he wouldn't make eye contact. Then the next time, he wrapped one arm around behind me and snuggled up against me, and every once in a while would turn around to look up at me. Huge steps in bonding and attachment for him!! It makes the puking worthwhile...I think. :)

And we're done with the medicine. Woohoo!!

Friday, February 08, 2008

I like it better when they're not throwing up

Yesterday the boys started some medicine to treat giardia. One of their stool samples came back positive even though we hadn't seen any symptoms, and their pediatrician decided to go ahead and treat both of them (don't worry, it's only contagious by coming into contact with infected feces for those of you who've been around us lately). Unfortunately, one of the side effects of the medicine is nausea and vomiting. They started the meds yesterday, and Zhenya woke up in the middle of the night crying. Nothing seemed to be wrong and he didn't want to go to the bathroom, so I comforted him and he went back to sleep. While I was in there, I thought I heard Dima gagging, but when I left the room he was asleep and had his comforter pulled up around him so I didn't disturb him. Flash forward to this morning...Zhenya woke up crying again and Dima had thrown up all over himself at some point in the night. This morning was a few hours of puking and teaching the boys to go to the bathroom to throw up. I'm still not sure Dima gets it--the last time he threw up he pointed at the bathroom, didn't move, and threw up into his hands as I was running him to the bathroom. Sigh. Dima's gone through a lot of clothes today.

After a few hours everyone seemed to be okay. We had breakfast and lunch but I've been letting the boys eat as much or little as they like. After lunch we hung out for awhile to make sure no one was going to get sick, then headed to the playground. On the way home (about a 5 minute drive), Zhenya fell asleep in the car. I'm guessing he didn't sleep very well last night. He was complaining about his stomach a few minutes ago but is now curled up on my lap, asleep. I'm guessing we're not through with the puking yet. I'm hoping after the first 24 hours or so that the medicine won't make them so sick. The good news is that it's only a 5-day treatment, so today we're 2/5 done. :) And at least we're getting the chance to teach them to go to the bathroom to throw up before we get any stomach flu.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Social security update

We received the boys' social security cards a few days ago. On the advice of another adoptive mom, I called to check on the boys' status. Apparently even though they are supposed to be registered as US citizens with the documentation we took, often they are registered as resident aliens instead. Sure enough, the boys were listed as resident aliens. To fix their status, we need to take in their certificates of citizenship. No problem, since those also arrived a few days ago...with our last name spelled wrong! Yes, no joke, the people who are responsible for checking all of the documentation of every person that comes in the country spelled our last name wrong for both of the boys. Sigh.

I'm going to try taking in their CoCs with the wrong name to the SS office just to see if I can get that part finished up. If that doesn't work, I need to make sure that I can file our taxes with their SSNs even with the status wrong. Either way, I have to send their CoCs back and wait for the new ones to arrive before we can apply for US passports. Not a big deal--we're not planning on leaving the country anytime soon ;), it would just be nice to go ahead and get those and get everything out of the way.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

"Let it snow", "Heat wave", and "Singin' in the Rain"

I feel like I have so much to catch you up on!

Thursday afternoon and night it snowed--I think our total was about 8". The boys didn't go out on Friday since it was so cold, but it warmed up enough on Saturday so all of us went to the park. The boys (all 3 of them) had a GREAT time. They built a snowman, had a snowball fight, and were just in general silly with the snow. The little ones loved throwing snowballs at us, although being typical little boys they would scoop up the biggest pile of snow they could find and in the process of trying to throw it managed to drop most of it on themselves. Hilarious to watch.

On Sunday we had a big breakthrough when both of the boys were playing with other kids at church. Woohoo! They're finally getting socialized. :) They've been in the classroom for several weeks but usually just play by themselves (individually, not even together).

By Monday it was 70 degrees. Unreal. So we went to the playground at the park for two hours. I met another adoptive mom there who came home from China a few days after we came home from Ukraine. And there was another 4 yo little girl there who speaks English and German. The kids all played together which was fantastic to watch (and kind of funny since none of them could understand each other).

Yesterday it rained and rained and rained. But we did get the opportunity to find out that the boys are not afraid of thunder and lightning, so that was good. **As I was writing this, Dima came up and crawled next to me with a book. He then took my left arm and wrapped it around himself to snuggle with me. :)**

Today we had a play date with one of our friends from church, her two children, and the woman and her daughter that we met at the playground. Lots of fun, and the kids actually played together again so that was good. Slow and steady progress!

Friday, February 01, 2008

"Two" cute

We've been working on numbers a lot lately.

We had hot chocolate today for afternoon snack, and when I gave it to the boys it was still pretty hot. I told them it was still hot and they waited a little while for it to cool. When Zhenya finally took a sip, he made a face and I said "Too hot?" He stuck two fingers in the air and said "two", then changed his mind and put three fingers up. :) :) :)

Not to mislead you

That last post may have led some of you to believe that we don't have any issues with Zhenya. Wouldn't that be nice. ;) Zhenya is our outright disobedient one. He's not manipulative; he just tests all of the limits. He's the kind of child where once he has some more English, I anticipate an encounter along the lines of "I'm painting on the walls--you said we couldn't draw on the walls". He's also our whiner, and very good at it. He does get disciplined for whining and we are seeing a decrease in that. If I had to guess, in the orphanage the squeaky wheel got the attention so we are retraining the boys away from some of those behaviors. If I don't mention our issues with Zhenya as often it's simply because he is more straightforward. Dima is a little more complicated to figure out. ;)

The boys' English is coming along so well. Many people feel that we should allow them to watch TV to help their English or put them in a group setting like a daycare. However, seeing their behaviors and knowing their histories, we are not doing either of those. And go figure, they're still learning English. :) We are getting to the point where they will use their English with us first, and then fill in with Russian. The problem right now is they simply don't have enough vocabulary to express everything they want to say in English. We have lots of picture books and their voculary of nouns continues to grow, but they are lacking in being able to describe feelings, desires, and questions in English. It will come, and it's encouraging (and humorous!) to hear their progress. I was cooking dinner the other night with "icken bot", known to most of us as chicken broth. :) :)

We have an appointment with the St Louis Children's Hospital Adoption Clinic on Feb 13. The boys will get a full screening by a doctor, audiologist, psychologist, occupational therapist, and a social worker. We will have a translator with us the whole time which should be interesting. The boys have not responded well to anyone speaking Russian to them outside of the limited Russian we speak at home. Our guess is that they associate anyone speaking Russian with Ukraine, and possibly the orphanage, and aren't sure that that person isn't going to take them back.

And of course I can't close without some pictures. :) They LOVE baths (please forgive the stained grout--it came that way with the rental house).
The boys' first 1000-piece puzzle (we didn't let them help for too long).