Saturday, August 30, 2008

Again! Again! Again!

  • I mentioned I was destined to be a mother of boys, and I mean it. Want to know one of the first things I packed this weekend? A stain stick.

    Want to know when I first used it? Last night, as soon as we arrived. LOL

    That would also be why I made Dima wear a dark red shirt yesterday instead of the white one he wanted to wear. I am a smart mama, indeed.

  • I usually leave before the boys are awake (we've got our work schedules arranged so that Mark drops the boys off at school and I pick them up as soon as school is done). Mark usually manages to get a shower before I leave, but one morning I had already left and he was getting out of the shower when he heard a tremendous thud against the bathroom door. He opened the door to find Dima rubbing his head and Zhenya states "Dima head door!". Apparently Dima was still pretty asleep and walked straight into the bathroom door, expecting it to be open. It wasn't. :)

  • We're (I use the term "we" loosely...very loosely) playing lots of base ball this weekend and the boys finally got to meet one of Mark's siblings--his (younger and bigger) brother Paul. They've already determined that Paul makes a fantastic jungle gym. Between base ball and horseplay (and swimming!!), ALL of the boys will sleep well tonight. And I will have time to update my coupons. ;)

  • The title of this post is about all Paul is going to hear this weekend, between flipping the boys over, hoisting them into the air, and launching them in the pool. They've found a new playmate. :) :)

    Thursday, August 28, 2008

    I was destined to be a mother of boys :)

    From Zhenya on the way home from school:

    "Mama, we bath enight?"

    "Yes, why?"

    "Me dirty, dirty, dirty!"

    "Why are you so dirty?"

    "Me founding worms. With Cole."

    Wednesday, August 27, 2008

    First grade might just kill me

    Okay, I realize it's only the first week of school, but I need prayer. And you're going to laugh at me when I tell you why.

    ...I don't think Dima understands the importance of school.

    Okay, so I know he's in kindergarten, but they start getting grades this year. GRADES. Did you hear me?? GRADES. And this neurotic mama who always had excessively high grades is a little worried she's going to be overbearing about this whole grade thing. Heck, I'd be happy if he were getting C's, or at least, I think I should be happy. He hasn't had any grades yet (I'm pre-panicking--like I said, it's the first week of school) so he's not failing, but I think he thinks school is just a fun place to go and see friends.

    Okay, okay, I know. I need to relax. I should be thrilled that he likes school, wants to go, and I know (somewhere deep down) that as soon as he starts learning--especially to read--that there will be no end to his love of school. It's really the other one I should be worrying about. I'll leave that 'til next year.

    Pray for me--I'm a little obsessed with this school thing. I've never been a parent of a kindergartner before. :)

    Tuesday, August 26, 2008

    I can can!

    And I dance well, too! Oh, I jest. :)

    In all seriousness, for the first time ever I decided to try canning. I've always pictured canning as this long, arduous ordeal that involved boiling things for hours and getting very sticky and messy. But after picking 20 lbs of peaches, as well as blackberries, I had to do something--was I ever surprised!

    I've had to improvise a bit since I don't have, um, any canning equipment. Mark bought some quart jars and pectin, but when he got them home I realized that I didn't have a pot big enough to process the jars once they were full. So back the jars went and we got some pint jars. I still didn't have a pot big enough, but I improvised. I haven't used my crockpot in awhile's now a canner. LOL

    Since I'm improvising with most of the equipment (I do have recipes), I've been doing very small batches--usually 2-4 jars at a time, so it goes really fast. I've now put up 2 jars of peach jam, 2 jars of blackberry jam, and 4 jars of canned peaches. We've tried both of the jams and they're both good, although the peach seems really sweet to me. I made the canned peaches in a very light sugar syrup, so I'm hoping they won't be as sweet.

    This is fun! I need more jars... ;)

    Monday, August 25, 2008

    Our family

    Our family is not defined by adoption. We are defined by who we are and what we do. Adoption is a part of our family's history, but it does not define us. When the boys are introduced as "the two little boys who were recently adopted", you have labeled our children and our family. Would you say "this is the little boy who was born after 4 in-vitro fertilization attempts"? No, and in the same way, it is our choice to share how our family has grown. Right now it is our decision, and someday when they are older it will be the boys' decision as to how much of their past they want to share. Please do not share it for them. If you have someone who is interested in adoption, you are welcome to introduce them to us as a family who is interested or has adopted, and we can choose how much of our story to share.

    It is our story. The story of our family. And ours to share, not yours.

    This post is the result of a few incidents that have happened over the past few weeks. Please do not feel that you cannot tell people about our adoption if they have a valid reason for knowing. But if you are introducing us as "the family who adopted", please carefully consider your reasons behind that and be considerate of our family's privacy.

    Saturday, August 23, 2008

    They're only a little excited...

    And I really wish Dima would learn that he's not shorter than Zhenya and that he would look taller if he didn't stick his rear end out. Sigh. It's hard to believe they weigh exactly the same. Zhenya looks heavier, but it's just because his face is so much rounder. Can you believe that they haven't gained any weight--none--since we got home? Maybe with winter and colder weather we'll be able to get some meat on their bones. They certainly eat well--they can put away more than me at any meal! :)

    I'm really feeling like I need to ask for some prayers. For those of you who have prayer lists, could you add us to them? I can't specify a request at this point, so we really need prayers for wisdom and whatever else God puts on your heart to pray for us. ;) Oh, and I should mention that nothing's wrong. LOL We just need to make some decisions in several different areas over the next few weeks and we could use some prayer.

    Thursday, August 21, 2008

    First day of school!

    Today is the boys' first day of school--sort of. :)

    They both have orientation today and will have a half day tomorrow. They like to start the Kindergarteners and AE kids (pre-K class) out with short days to help them adjust, since many of them have never done full-day school before. Last night the boys and I put their backpacks together and labeled their things. They are SOOOO excited about school, and I am excited for them.

    We've been talking about who their teachers will be and who will be in their class, and practicing the "school prayer" at dinner (they have a rote prayer that they say before lunch at school). I hope they will continue to love school for many years!

    Tuesday, August 19, 2008

    Sticker charts

    I mentioned in a previous post that I would post again talking about Dima's wailing fits. It's hard to understand unless you've seen them, but they're not pretty and verrryyy frustrating. There are no tears--he just stands and wails. It doesn't start out particularly loud, but it gets louder as you let him continue, and he doesn't seem to be able to knock himself out of it once he gets going, which is the bigger problem.

    So a few weeks ago, we started a sticker chart for him. Mark and I aren't fond of rewards charts in general because most people tend to use them to reward behaviors that should be expected. Here, we are more comfortable with it since we are trying to modify a behavior--break an old habit. Since we can't leave Zhenya out, we started a sticker chart for him as well for a different behavior we'd like to modify. So far, Dima is loving his sticker chart. When they get x amount of stickers (fill up their chart) they get ice cream! The first chart was only 5 stickers, the next one 8, and now Dima is up to 12 stickers. He has to go the whole day without wailing at school or at home to get his sticker at night. If you ask him, he will tell you why he gets stickers and what he gets when he gets all of his stickers. He's very excited about it. I'm more excited than he is to try to knock this behavior out. The real point for me was to break him of the habit and help him learn how to express his emotions appropriately. He has had a couple of days where he wailed since we started his sticker chart, which was nice because he got to see the direct consequences of that action (not getting a sticker that day). Since we started this, I've noticed that he has actually been more weepy than before--the littlest things make him want to start crying. But I think what's happening is he is allowing himself to express his emotions as they happen, instead of shutting down and going into wail mode. I am MUCH happier with this behavior. And he is learning that he can control his emotions--that when he sad or upset he has the ability to stop himself from crying.**

    We had an incident the other night at the dinner table. The boys are supposed to ask to be excused, and they know the correct way to ask but sometimes they "choose" a power struggle and try to get away with not saying it correctly. This happened with Dima (last night it was Zhenya so don't think he's the innocent one ;)), and he sat at the dinner table for about 10 minutes after Zhenya had gotten up since he wouldn't say the phrase correctly. I was washing the dishes, and he got so frustrated that he started quietly crying. I could hear him but I didn't say anything, hoping he would be able to gain control without leading into a wailing fit. Then...he stopped himself. HUGE, HUGE step for him!! Not only did he stop himself, but he then proceeded to ask to be excused correctly and was immediately excused from the table. He was fine the rest of the night.

    **I think I should mention here that we aren't trying to prevent our boys from crying. They know they can cry if they are hurt and so on. We are trying to help them learn that they have control over their emotions and how to use that control appropriately.

    I know many people see the boys and think they are so well adjusted, and they are. They have truly made amazing progress in the last 8 months. But there are still many emotional issues that we deal with, habits that they have developed over the last few years to cope with the things they have gone through. And while they are doing wonderfully, we as their parents still have to work on teaching them appropriate ways to handle their emotions and things that happen in life. So if we do things that sometimes seem a little odd, or a little strict, please understand that everything we do is done with our boys' best interests at heart, and is done with lots of prayers for wisdom and guidance from the One who knows our boys even better than we do.

    Sunday, August 17, 2008

    Blackberries, monsters, and mountains

    Saturday was a really fun day!

    In the morning, we went to Eckerts to pick some blackberries and peaches. We came home with probably way more fruit than we can possibly eat, but we had a great time doing it and got to reinforce for the boys where food comes from.

    When you get to the farm, you ride a tractor wagon to get to the picking spots. As soon as we got on the tractor, it became apparent that Dima was totally stressed out. He bites his nails anyway, but it gets much worse when he's worried, and it was obvious he was distracted and plain out of it. My solution? I tickled him. Seriously. I tickled him until he was laughing so hard he could hardly breathe. It knocked him out of his worrying stage and allowed him to refocus on all of us there as a family--that he was with mama and papa and Zhenya and he was safe, we weren't going to take him anywhere bad. As soon as I'd stopped tickling him, he perked up and enjoyed watching the tractor pull us and looking at all of the fruit we passed going out to the blackberries. It sounds like a bizarre solution, but it really does seem to help him refocus when I tickle him. I don't know if it's the close physical contact or just breaking up whatever worrying thoughts he's got, but I've also used it to stop his wailing fits (more on those in another post!).

    We had lunch at Eckerts after picking blackberries but before picking peaches. I have some great pictures from the peach-picking I think, but they haven't made it onto the computer yet so I'm not sure. :) After peaches we went home and put the boys down for a two hour nap so we could go to the Science Center at night. My work sponsored a company night at the Science Center and we thought it would be a great opportunity to take the boys and let them experience a few of the extras we don't usually splurge for. It was also a great opportunity for us to see how they would do!

    We got there about 15 minutes before everything was scheduled to start, but there was already a line snaking around the building. We had planned on starting with an IMAX movie, but with getting in late we thought it best to start with food. :) Then we wandered through the Monsters exhibit (not scary at all, which was good). Next up was the planetarium show, where the highlight was the laser pointer they used to point out the stars. ;) Then we thought we'd really push our luck and go see an IMAX movie on Mt. Everest. We were the last four they let in the theatre, so of course we didn't get seats together which probably worked out for the best. I was with Dima and he did great!! He loved the movie and seeing all of the snow and mountains, but I think the highlight for him was the yaks. I was a little worried about the movie format making him dizzy--he doesn't tolerate spinning as well as Zhenya and I wasn't sure if he would get disoriented in the IMAX, but he didn't seem to have any problems at all. Zhenya did well also, but got a little squirmy towards the end from what Mark said. We headed home after that to put the boys to bed way too late, but unlike previous schedule changes where we've had some repercussions in the days following they seem to have been fine with the late night (they did, after all, get a two hour nap during the day). They were tired on Sunday, but not excessively so.

    I have some pictures from the weekend but it takes a while to get them loaded--especially when they're still on the camera--so those will have to wait for another day!

    Friday, August 15, 2008

    Identity crisis

    I get so frustrated with the many things that we need to catch the boys up on. How do you instill 5 or 6 years worth of knowledge in a few months?

    One of the things the boys have really struggled with in their language acquisition is understanding questions. The simplest questions are difficult for them to answer. They don't have enough basis in the language to be able to understand subtle differences in questions. The other day I spent 20 minutes with them going over "What is you name?" and "How old are you?" which they can both answer. But if you ask the questions out of order, or ask them how they're doing first, they are completely thrown off. They still only know the questions as rote answers, not with a solid understanding of what they are being asked. It frustrates me to no end.
    But we continue to work on it, and I know one day it will click as so many other things have.

    Oh, and thank you to all of you for the birthday wishes! I had a wonderful birthday, probably one of my best ever! :)

    Thursday, August 14, 2008

    Happy birthday to me!

    A year ago, I wouldn't have been celebrating too much, as I was a 31-year-old without kids. There's nothing wrong with not having kids, but it's rough when you want to have kids and all of your friends have kids! Birthdays just remind you (as do Mothers Days) that you aren't where you want to be. At that point in our process, I was wondering if we would ever have kids. Now I'm the proud 32-year-old mom of a 5 and 6 yo. I feel so young. :) :)

    I got a great birthday present yesterday when one of my coworkers pointed out that I can go home for lunch! The thought hadn't even occurred to me--I've never worked close enough to go home for lunch (working on campus in college doesn't count). So today, on my birthday, I am having lunch AND dinner with my wonderful husband. Since my love language is quality time, today should absolutely fill up my tank! I'm picking up lunch and meeting Mark at the house (he has Thursdays off) and then we're going out to dinner tonight at a Japanese steakhouse in Illinois. Some wonderful friends have volunteered to babysit and the boys will already be in bed before we go.

    Wednesday, August 13, 2008


    I haven't felt like posting much, although things are going well. The boys' language continues to develop and I get a kick out of some of their sayings. I try to help them understand how to pronounce things by using words they already know. But when they get things a little mixed up it leads to some interesting comments. For example:

    "May I have some more tummy-foot?"
    "May I have some more tummy-foot?" (pointing at the appropriate body parts)
    "Ohhh...yes, you may have some more tomato."

    For some reason, they had a hard time picking up on how to say tomato--they had a really hard time repeating it back to me. So I told them to say "tummy-toe", because as they run it together they will get the correct sounds. Dima got a little confused on which parts of the body he was supposed to be using. ;)

    Zhenya's new favorite phrase is "I don't know too!", usually said because he asks bizarre questions to which I have to answer "I don't know"--questions like "Why is the man driving that way?" "Why is the flower purple?" "Why is August hot?" (Okay, I do know the answer to that one. ;))

    Dima loves to read to himself. Of course, he can't read just yet so he makes up the stories. They involve a lot of "you obey, good job! no obey...obey teacher...yes, yes, yes...good job!". You can tell what we've been focusing on. ;)

    Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    Prayer, please

    A friend of mine, Ginny, just called me to let me know that her dad had a stroke about 7:15pm. As of 7:45 he was still unresponsive. Please pray for her dad, Sam, and for safe travels for her as she goes to Oklahoma to be with him.

    Thursday, August 07, 2008

    Great week

    This has been a really great week.

    I started my new job, and even if there wasn't anything else to love I would be LOVING my drive--because it's very short. :) Thankfully, I also like many other things about my new job. People are really friendly (even random people just out walking around!) and I'm having a lot of fun getting to know everyone. I've got a lot to learn but I'm really excited about it.

    Last night I went out to Bailey's Chocolate Bar with a very good friend and had an absolute blast! We talked for nearly 2 hours while drinking our chocolate martinis and devouring a cheese plate. It was a great evening. :) :)

    The boys have had a good week as well which has made my week even better.

    Wednesday, August 06, 2008

    This weekend

    Some of my favorite pics from last Saturday at the Botanical Garden Children's Garden:

    Yeah, so that cast? Not slowing Zhenya down so much. ;) But the bright orange arm does make him easy to find!

    Tuesday, August 05, 2008

    Dima's learned how to write!

    I haven't shared much about Dima's delays, other than to say that he is in OT. He has a lot of fine and gross motor skill delays due to his background. One of the things he really struggled with when we first got home was anything having to do with writing--coloring, tracing...he couldn't do any of it. And he was 5 and a half years old. So here's a picture of some of his work from March 2008 (4 months ago):
    The paper on the right is representative of his independent coloring skills at that time. The paper on the left was done with significant help (i.e., holding his hand) while coloring.

    And here's some coloring from the end of July, done entirely independently:

    We have several pre-school and kindergarten workbooks at home that the boys like to do. They're great for rainy or cold days when we can't go outside. Monday night after dinner we did some work in the workbooks, and Dima was finally starting to get the idea of writing letters independently. He's been doing really well at tracing for quite a while, but I've had a hard time convincing him to try the letters on his own on blank lines. So Monday we were working on "A", and he did really well (and got LOTS of praise for it!). Today at OT, this is what he did:

    Notice the note from his OT at the top--he did these independently with verbal cues as to the letters and how to form them! "Boy" "Dima" is making some great progress. :)