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 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.