Saturday, March 29, 2008

Odds and ends

I almost collapsed in a big puddle of tears at the playground this week when BOTH boys were PUMPING on the swings! Woohoo!!! Major milestone around here. ;) Dima actually gets it better than Zhenya, in terms of the rhythm, but I anticipate in a few weeks they both should have the hang of it.

School is going really well, and the boys talk about it a lot. Dima's English has seemed to pick up this past week, probably corresponding to being back in school. Some of his words are becoming much clearer. He starts occupational therapy on April 8. I'm interested to see how that works. I'm sure he'll enjoy it--he loves one-on-one attention and it's at Children's Hospital so for him it will seem like a lot of games. :)

Zhenya started a new "behavior" this week. I'm not sure if it's related to preschool or if he's just testing the waters. When we ask/tell him to do something, he gets a really sad face like he's going to cry and sticks his bottom lip out a little, and then slowly does whatever was asked. But it's still disobedience, because he is delaying his response to get attention or to avoid doing whatever was asked. So he's been disciplined for this behavior and it seems to have subsided.

I think I've mentioned this before, but both boys wet the bed at night. One does it pretty regularly, the other only once in a while (maybe once a month or so). We've been dealing with this by restricting fluids after dinner, waking them up to go to the bathroom when we go to bed, and it still occurs. But recently after reading some other adoptive parents' blogs, I've realized they may have some nighttime fears we aren't aware of. Apparently in many orphanages the caretakers use fear to keep the kids in bed at night. They tell them there is a bad woman who will hurt them if they get out of bed. I know the name they give her, but I don't want to mention it to the boys with my limited Russian for fear of scaring them. So we've been talking a few times at bedtime about getting up in the night to go to the bathroom, and reminding them that the bathroom light is on and that it's okay to get up, go to the bathroom, and go back to bed, and that it's not good to pee in their beds. :) We don't discipline them for wetting the bed since it's not something they can necessarily control, but we want to encourage them to get up and go if they need to.

This weekend Mark's parents are in town. We went to the zoo today and the boys are really starting to love it. They know the names of many of the animals now but their big request was to see the elephants (who happened to comply by being out in their pen!). Tomorrow is their dedication at church, where Mark and I will ask our church family to pray for us as we raise the boys and where we will commit to teaching the boys about God and Jesus.

I have lots of pics but they're not on the computer yet, so I'll try to do a picture post tomorrow!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

A few weeks ago, Julie asked me to share how we are teaching the boys about God and Jesus. Easter seems like an appropriate time to talk about that, and a funny story to go with it.

The day we got home, we took the boys to the Christmas Eve service at church. We snuck in late and hid in the balcony. We started out praying before every meal and now the boys always ask to pray before we eat. They also pray before eating at school, so sometimes we say their school prayer as well. Shortly after arriving home, we started reading at night before bed which includes two books and a Bible story from their preschoolers' Bible. In fact, we finished the Bible this week and the boys were very upset that they weren't going to get to read it anymore. I let them know we were going to start over again. They will understand a lot more the second or third time around since their English is so much better now.

For Easter, we've been talking about Jesus and that He died and came back to life (that's currently the best way I can think of to explain resurrection with their limited English!). Dima brought home an empty egg from school to talk about Easter. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask his teacher exactly what they talked about with it, and he isn't able to tell me. I'm guessing that the empty egg represents the empty tomb. So the boys and I were talking about the egg over dinner, and I was explaining the empty tomb and Jesus not being there and that it was like the empty egg. I had the egg in my hand, and Zhenya looked at it and said "little man", in awe that Jesus fit inside an egg. :) :) I explained that Jesus was a man the same size as Papa, not little. So we're still working on who Jesus is.
We did our neighborhood Easter egg hunt yesterday, and they had a small (indoors--it's been snowing) one at church today. The boys love finding the eggs but they have no clue about the Easter bunny. We left the neighborhood hunt before the Easter bunny showed up, and we didn't have one at church, and we don't celebrate with Easter baskets or anything like that at home, so they haven't heard anything about the Easter bunny.

Friday, March 21, 2008

I love our little tax deductions

I've been spending my evenings trying to finish up our taxes. Thanks to the boys, we should be getting some money back which will go to paying off a student loan and work on the new house. Yes, we're still working on it--or I should say, Mark is still working on it. He's done an amazing amount of work on it in his spare time. We're waiting on the roofers to come out and reroof it (complete tearoff) and then Mark will need to do some framing before the plumber, electrician, and HVAC guys can come do their stuff. Then we'll be to the point when the boys can start helping. :) :)

This week has been good. Dima has been on spring break but we went ahead and sent Zhenya to preschool so we could have some one-on-one time with Dima. I think that's been good for him and something he may never have experienced before. We've been going to the playground on the days it hasn't been raining which the boys love. There's a park with a playground right across the street from their school so we stop there after I pick the boys up.

Zhenya's English is really coming along. Not so much for Dima. We're really thinking he's going to need speech therapy. I've already called the insurance to find out what's covered so now we just need the referral and a place to go. If anyone has any speech therapists in the St Louis area to recommend, please leave me a comment! :)

Tomorrow we're participating in our neighborhood Easter egg hunt at the community garden a few blocks from our house. As far as we know, this will be the boys' first Easter egg hunt. In preparation, we played a game tonight where I sent the boys to their room and then hid a white plastic egg in the living room. They would then come in and find it. They obviously haven't done much "hunting" before. :) :) But they quickly got the hang of it and hopefully it will help them be prepared for tomorrow.

Friday, March 14, 2008

I'm feeling much better, thank you

I caught a nice little cold that's kept me feeling less than 100% for the past week or so. Last weekend was really the worst, and I'm just so happy it wasn't the flu since we've had several friends come down with that. Here's the week in recap:

My mom was up last weekend which was an incredible blessing since I was not in top form to be watching the boys. At least this way there was another pair of eyes on them and I didn't feel like I needed to be quite so focused, which was great since my head was really fuzzy. My mom put the boys to bed Thursday night as Mark and I had a band concert. With the way that went, we won't be having anyone else put them to bed for awhile. :) It went fine, and they were asleep by the time we got home, but I think my mom was questioning her sanity in volunteering to put them to bed. :) :) The funny part is the next night Mark and I put them to bed, and as usual, they went to bed and were completely quiet. That wasn't exactly the experience my mom had, but she did a great job and I think if she had to do it again she'd have them out in 10 minutes.

I can't tell you much about the rest of the weekend or the first of the week because it's all a little blurry. ;) The boys were in school again this week, although Dima's going to think school is only every once in a while. He went one day last week, then 2 days off, then 2 days on, then 2 days off, then 4 days on, and he was off today for conferences. Next week is spring break and he's off the Monday after that for Easter. The conference with Dima's teacher went well and we were able to discuss a few questions she had as well as talk about where she thinks he'll be for next year. All of us feel at this point that he will not be ready for KG in the fall. If that's the case, he and Zhenya will be in the AE (pre-K) class next fall. We'll see how the summer goes and reevaluate before school starts. Right now I'm very happy we have the boys in school. Their English is improving and Dima now knows several more letters of the alphabet. Yes, he would have learned them at home, but at school he is getting a lot more repetition and focused learning as well as peers who encourage him. He really likes his classmates and on Friday I heard about Isaac for about an hour (I still don't know why he was talking about Isaac, but Isaac certainly did something noteworthy!).

It would be really nice not to need to tell people that the boys are adopted and just let them have the same expectations for them as other kids their age. But because of the language barrier, it becomes necessary to explain. Consequently, both of the boys' teachers have been going too easy on them with what they require them to do. We've talked with both of their teachers now and I hope that they will begin expecting the same things of the boys as they do the other students.

I have a few other things I want to share in posts but it just hasn't happened yet! :) I'll try to get to them this weekend (and yes, I know you're all rolling your eyes!). :) :)

Friday, March 07, 2008

More school

The last two days of school went really well. Zhenya's still a little nervous about going into his classroom (it's pretty overwhelming since he walks in and gets bombarded by little boys wanting to play with him!) but he's made a new friend (Cole). Today when I picked Zhenya up, Cole was out in the hall (in trouble) and as we were leaving he told me that Zhenya talked to him in class today. So I know Zhenya's becoming more comfortable and when we started talking about school tonight I mentioned Cole and his face brightened.

Today, Dima had a field trip and got to ride a BUS!! If you know the boys, you would understand that this is HUGE. It'd be something like getting to ride in the space shuttle for the rest of us. In fact, when he went to bed tonight he asked me if he was going on a bus again at school. Sadly, I had to tell him no, but that is he going on a field trip to the library on Monday. :) Both of the boys are excited to go to school again and I think as Zhenya gets to know the other kids better he'll be more comfortable. Dima's class is smaller than Zhenya's so he is already getting to know the other kids pretty well. Of course, being able to speak English would help both of them. ;)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

School went great!

The boys did great at school on Monday! We went to Dima's class first and Zhenya and I stayed there for a little bit while Dima got oriented. Then I took Zhenya to his class. Then I went to the office for the preschool and the office for the school and paid everyone lots of money. Okay, it's not really LOTS of money, but it feels that way. :) Before I left, I checked back in on the boys. I peeked in on Zhenya but they have one-way glass in the classrooms so he couldn't see me. They were having storytime and he was sitting and listening to the story (actively, trying to see the pictures as she turned the pages) so I went on upstairs to Dima's room. I stepped into the classroom and his face just lit up like you wouldn't believe. His teacher gave me two thumbs up so I stayed for a few minutes just to see how he was doing and then I left. He was interacting and participating and talking so I knew he was okay, at least at that point. I went to the grocery store, home, and then back to school to check in on everyone. Dima's class was working at their tables on a coloring page. He saw me, so I came in and talked to him about what he was doing and asked him if he wanted to stay. His response was an emphatic "da", so I went downstairs to see Zhenya in the lunchroom. He didn't see me until I was standing right next to him. When he saw me, he just stared at me like he couldn't believe I was really there. As soon as he got over his shock, he threw his arms around me in a big hug. I think he was probably ready to go home by that point, but they were sitting down to lunch so I told him I would be back in a little while. I went home again and left an hour later to check in again (I spent a lot of time driving 2 miles back and forth on Monday LOL). I stopped in at Zhenya's room but they were napping so I went on upstairs to Dima. They were at recess so I waited for a few minutes for them to come upstairs. I could tell when I saw Dima that he was getting overwhelmed, but he was still talking and looking me in the eye and he still wanted to stay. So he stayed--for the whole day! I went downstairs and Zhenya had just woken up. He was pretty groggy and out of it so I went ahead and took him home so he could process at home alone for a little while. We picked Dima up at 3:30 and went home. I was surprised to find that their behavior was good for the rest of the day, and Dima actually seemed to be behaving close to age-appropriate.

Of course, that was before the blizzard. :) :) It snowed Monday night into Tuesday and school was closed yesterday and today. Their behavior has been pretty standard the past two days, although we have had a couple of tantrums from Dima. I'm not sure if it's due to overstimulation from Monday (it doesn't really seem like it) or just from being stuck inside. They'll be at school tomorrow and Friday so we'll see how they do with going two days in a row. In some respects, I think the school thing may actually be good for their attachment. They see us leave them with other kids, same as has happened to them in the past, but we come back. This is a new experience for them. So we'll see how the rest of the week goes, but so far so good. They both want to go back to school! :)

The blizzard:

The boys at "school" (at home):

Focusing on cutting (Dima) and tearing (Zhenya):

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Lots of good news

It's been another busy week but full of lots of great things!

...Wednesday: Dima threw up in the toilet!! Yeah, I know I'm not supposed to be excited about that. For whatever reason, Dima got up Wed morning and threw up (just a small amount). He went into the bathroom and threw up in the toilet just like he was supposed to. You can't imagine how happy that made me. I don't think I explained very well what happened when he was sick before. He would throw up wherever he happened to be and then wait for someone to notice--it wasn't a matter of not making it to the bathroom in time. He simply had no idea what to do when he threw up. He does now. :) :) Oh, and he's been fine ever since, so no idea what triggered the puking.

And, for the really big news...the boys start school on Monday. This has been a big decision for us, and not one we've taken lightly. We feel like the boys' English would develop much better with an environment where they are forced to use English. Right now, when they are home with one of us, they are still speaking a lot of Russian to each other, although there are English words thrown in. We looked into a few preschool options and found a Christian preschool a mile from our house. More importantly, the preschool is in the same building as a Christian school and the school has a pre-K program for children who are old enough to attend kindergarten but are not developmentally ready (sound like anyone we know??). It is a very small class--currently only 6 students--and the teacher is wonderful. Dima is starting in that class on Monday. We will try it for a half day on Monday and play it by ear from there. Zhenya will be going into the preschool in the 4's class. Believe me when I say we have been spending a lot of thought, discussion, and prayer on this decision, and we truly believe this is right for the boys at this time. Of course, that could change come Monday. :)

Dima's attachment continues to progress in wonderful ways. He has been giving hugs for several weeks if he asked for them, but he wouldn't give hugs spontaneously or request them. On Friday, Zhenya and I were playing and he stopped and gave me a big hug. Dima came over and wanted in on the action, but he sort of slung one arm around me. I asked him where his other arm was and said that wasn't a hug. So when he put his other arm around me and squeezed, I made a big deal about it being a big hug and hugged him back. He spent the rest of the day coming up and asking for hugs! I think he's finally starting to understand the concept of giving and receiving affection. There are still parts that are hard for him--he sometimes still has a hard time maintaining eye contact during cuddling, but he's getting there. And one of his new favorite games is a tickle war, which I love because it's very one-sided. :) :)

Some pics of the boys at the playground: