Friday, January 23, 2009

Another stage least I'm hopeful that's what it is.

Zhenya has been having some serious issues at school with pushing. He doesn't do it particularly maliciously, but he is pushing nonetheless and we want it stop. Today he managed to go the whole day without pushing anyone--that was quite an accomplishment compared to the past few days!

He still had some behavior issues at school, but I think more than anything he's just bored a lot of the time--maybe bored isn't quite the right word...he's just not doing a preferred activity. He would much prefer to be up and running around than sitting at a desk. We joke that he's going to become our engineer, because he loves to be manipulating things with his hands. He's always coming home with paper creations he has "built" and he loves building with anything he can get his hands on.

Unfortunately for him, life involves a lot of non-preferred activities, and he's going to have to learn that in order to do the fun stuff, sometimes you need to wade you way through the not-so-fun stuff!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

More therapy

Today was occupational therapy (OT) for Dima. Once we get speech going, the tentative plan is to stop OT. While OT is great and helpful, he REALLY needs the speech therapy and at this point we feel it would be too much for him to do both on top of school. But until we get speech set up, he'll continue going to OT.

Mark was able to take Zhenya and run some errands, and since Dima had not had a particularly good day at school I went into OT with him. I'm glad I did, as he definitely needed a few reminders about obeying his therapist. It was also good as I got to see several areas that he has improved and several areas where he still needs a lot of work. I also found out that the handwriting program they're using in OT has him forming his letters differently than at school--no wonder he's been having a hard time in OT! His handwriting has been really good at school and at home, but our OT has said his handwriting is not improving much. I couldn't figure out why until I sat in on the session! :) The school uses the A Beka curriculum and OT uses Handwriting Without Tears, and the way they form their letters are very different for several letters. I'm going to bring a copy of Dima's school manuscript chart to our OT and she's going to start working with him on the same methods they're using at school. Hopefully she'll see the same nice letters we've been seeing!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Tuesday Dima had his (second) speech evaluation. The first one was done at a local clinic, out-of-pocket, because our insurance wouldn't cover it. My work has now switched insurance companies and we are tentatively hopeful that we will be able to get speech therapy covered for Dima.

The eval went well and I think the speech therapist is leaning towards Dima having at least some degree of speech apraxia, although she was hesitant to decide that without having scored his tests. Now it's just a matter of convincing the insurance company to cover therapy. The therapist is hopeful that we can convince them it is medically necessary on the basis of his ability to communicate in an emergency. For example, let me relate a story Dima told me on the way home today:

"Dima tag gym. Emma tag/push me stomach. Tummy hurt, I go ambu-see [ambulance]. People watch me wake up."

From initial hearing, while playing tag in gym Dima got tagged in the stomach, fell down and knocked unconscious, was taken in an ambulance, and woke up later to people who were watching him. (Obviously I know this isn't correct because the school didn't call me!)

Now let me translate with Dima's key (wrong) words in quotes: Dima got tagged in the stomach (possibly fell down). His stomach hurt, so he went to the school nurse ("ambulance"). She had him lay down ("wake up") for a little while in the school office where people could see him laying down.

In an emergency situation, there is no way Dima could communicate to anyone who he is (he can tell you his first and last name, but most people wouldn't understand what he was saying), where he needs to be, or how to get in touch with us. It's not a matter of him not knowing the information or even having the vocabulary, it's a matter of him not being able to clearly communicate it.

He has so much to say. There is so much going on in that very smart brain of his. We've just got to find a way to unlock his ability to communicate!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Papa doesn't need pizza

Yesterday, the boys and I were off of school and work but Mark still had to work. After rest time, we had an afternoon snack of hot cocoa and animal crackers. I asked the boys what they wanted for dinner. After deliberating a few minutes, they decided they wanted to go to "the pizza place," aka CiCi's. :) It's one of their favorite places to go because they have so many choices, especially in regards to vegetables. Dima will actually get seconds of vegetables before seconds of pizza (don't worry--he can put away about 8 slices of pizza, too)!

I told them we couldn't go to pizza because papa had to work and wouldn't be able to go with us. They didn't seem to think this was a problem. ;) I reminded them that papa would be very sad if we went to pizza and didn't take him, because he likes pizza too.


Monday, January 19, 2009

All is quiet

Mark is still at a church meeting and the boys are in bed so the house is blissfully quiet. I should be organizing my adoption documents (which I mostly did earlier today, but I want to get a spreadsheet set up) but I though you all needed an update. :)

Yesterday we didn't visit the house, but I forgot to mention in my previous post that when we were there on Saturday we had dumpsters in the yard. That meant the roofers would be starting soon; as in, today! Not only that, but I got a call from our roofer this afternoon that they had finished(!) the roof. This was a total tear-off and replacement of a flat roof, ~1300 sq ft of roof. I was in shock that they had finished so quickly (they had estimated 2 days) but he said "well, there was a chance of snow flurries tonight so I thought we better just get it done." Is that an amazing work ethic or what??

Also, Mark had his adoption physical today. Prospective adoptive parents, take note: Our doctor is wonderful, and she's done these forms for us before, but I still take no chances. I typed in all of the information necessary on the forms so that all that needed to be done was for them to be signed and notarized. Signed and notarized! I also (*sly grin*) sent two copies of the form for each of us. We only need one, but I figured it couldn't hurt to have two. While the doctor was going over Mark's form, she started to write a number somewhere and then crossed it out, initialed it, and said "they should be okay with that." OH NO THEY WILL NOT! I don't know about other countries, but Ukraine is notoriously picky about their medical forms--there are to be no whiteouts, no cross-outs, no anything-that-looks-like-a-mistake. But...we've done this before, which is why I sent two forms. She only messed up one of Mark's forms; the other one is fine. The dossier is nearly complete.


Minus the one document from the new law that went into effect in the beginning of December. We have to have some kind of legal document in regards to our house. Problem is, we rent our house (and won't be in any other house until after our dossier is submitted). And we don't have a rental agreement. So we're still working out this one last document in terms of what exactly we need and how we need to go about getting it.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Electricity does not equal heat

We spent yesterday over at the house for several hours. Thankfully, we were working outside. Because although it was only in the upper 30's outside, it was a blistering 27!! degrees in the house. Yikes. With the electricity on the thermostats are also on, which is where the low temp reading came from. It definitely felt like 27 in there. Mark and I had to discuss some more bathroom renovation issues and I was only in the house a few minutes (with gloves on) before my hands started to hurt.

Zhenya seems to have settled down since we've stopped talking about moving into the house. We just go over there and work on it, and he's fine with that. The boys spent most of the afternoon playing with sticks and their football and soccer ball. They had a great time and Mark and I were able to get some demolition done on the deck.

Friday night I attended a bunco night with a bunch of women from our church. I've never played bunco before, but it's pretty straightforward. It's not the most exciting of games, since you don't need to think at all to play, but I was able to have some great conversations with lots of women that I don't regularly get to talk with so that was nice. I stayed out way too late and ate way too much food, so all-in-all I'd say it was a great night. ;)

Friday, January 16, 2009

News flash!

We have electricity at our new house!

I'm not sure if I shared all of the details with this, but because the house had been vacant for so long (with the power off) the city required an inspection before the electric company could turn the power on. I had to call the electric company and get some numbers, go downtown and pay for the inspection, and then we had to pray there weren't any major problems which would prevent them from allowing the power to be turned on.

The complication ('cause there has to be one, right?) is that we have two electric meters. Apparently at some point in time the house was used as a two-family house, so there is a meter for the first floor and a separate one for the second floor. The electric company said we had the option of converting them to one meter; otherwise we could just receive two bills each month, one for each floor. We were fine with that--our electric bill would be a little higher since there is a base charge for each meter, but it wasn't enough to justify paying to convert the two meters to one.

Monday I went and paid for the inspection--excuse me, inspections--one for each meter. Tuesday the city inspector came out. Apparently, we are not allowed to have two meters for a one-family house. So that justification for converting the two meters into one? We were given it, in the form can have two meters but we're only turning one on so you'll only have power on one floor of your house. That's pretty good justification. ;)

Thursday, our electrician came out. We had two options: the really fancy, expensive fix to the two-meter problem, or the 1/3 as much, still-legal and perfectly acceptable fix to the two-meter problem. Which do you think we chose?

While normally we are all about fix-it-right (completely!) the first time because it's cheaper in the long run, with the pending adoption we just can't justify the expense. Shortly after the electrician was out yesterday, Mark heard some banging on the side of the house. Lo and behold, the electric company was out turning the (one!) meter on. We now have power to the first floor and basement of our house!

Today the electrician will be out to convert the two meters into one. By the end of the day today, we should have power to the whole house. Of course, we still don't have heat, but at least now we can plug space heaters in!

Thursday, January 15, 2009


The upcoming move is completely stressing Zhenya out. It's funny, because I would have expected it to affect Dima more, since he remembers more from their earlier years. He's actually doing pretty well.

Zhenya, on the other hand, is not doing so well. His behavior at school has been atrocious in terms of listening and obeying. I got a chance to talk to his teacher yesterday after school and her comment was "If I didn't know you guys, I'd think he was eating too much sugar." She said he's overly anxious and it seems like extreme nervousness--he can't sit still or settle down. What's weird about the whole thing is that we are NOT seeing this behavior when he's with us. We have had some behavior issues, but I think they are more related to him being 5 than anything else. ;) But his behavior at school and any time he is out of our sight is really bizarre, and I think he is absolutely terrified of the upcoming move.

The boys have never moved to a new place with a family. Every time they've moved, they've lost whoever was taking care of them. Can you imagine the terror he's feeling? He's 5, and whether it's a conscious thought or not, he thinks he's about to lose the first real mama and papa he's ever had. I think he's really trying to hang on to Mark--he keeps making things for him at school and bringing them home. "Mama, I made a watch for Papa...and these are some tools for Papa..." (they're all made of paper). It breaks my heart to think that he might think he's going to lose his papa.

Unfortunately, there's not much we can do other than reassure him. We're not going to talk any more about the move or the new house with the boys until we get much closer to actually moving in. I may try to do some structured play with the boys (or at least Zhenya) in the afternoons to help reinforce the idea that where we go, they go.

In the meantime, we've talked to the boys' teachers and they know what's going on. They are trying to be as consistent as possible and reinforce appropriate behavior. And we're just hanging on for the ride... :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

We got it!

Our 171H arrived yesterday, meaning we have been cleared by the US government to adopt from Ukraine!

What does that really mean? It means our dossier could be in Ukraine in 2 weeks!!

Mark has his physical on Monday and will get our medical forms then. Those are the last two pieces of paper we need from other people. Then we'll take everything to be notarized and apostilled (the Secretary of State office will notarize documents for free if they are going to be apostilled!) and then we'll ship the whole packet to Ukraine.

And then we wait. :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The goal

I want to extend a sincere thank you to all of you who have donated to our girls' adoption fund. We don't have any way of knowing who has given, so unless you tell us (or someone tells us for you!) we don't have any way of knowing that we need to thank you. I do want to extend a special thank you to another adoptive family who has given to the girls, and especially to their teenage daughter A who gave of her own money to help bring the girls home. So, so sweet, and very appreciated.

Since I'm sure many of you have no idea what that money is going towards, I thought I'd share a little bit about the girls' adoption fund.

We are not allowed to donate to the girls. Since it is tax-deductible, we cannot donate towards something we would benefit from. My goal is to raise $10,000 for the girls through their Reece's Rainbow account. I know it's a lot of money--sadly, that's a little less than half of what we will need. We've already paid over $2000 out of pocket for the adoption, and we anticipate needing about another $10,000 on top of that. If we were to raise $10,000 for the girls through Reece's Rainbow, that would completely cover our facilitator's fees, which covers translations and notarizations of all adoption-related documents, submission of our dossier, interpreting as necessary through the whole process, travel in Kyiv, the girls' passports, and any expediting fees necessary. This is actually a very reasonable fee for the amount of work that is done. However, we will still be responsible for all travel to and from Ukraine, travel to and within the girls' region, lodging in the girls' region, and their visas and medicals (required for US immigration).

I'm going to post a breakdown of our costs on the sidebar of our blog so that people will have a better idea of where the money is going. We do not receive one penny of what goes to Reece's Rainbow, so please don't worry that the money will get redirected. All of it goes directly towards the girls' adoption, not to us. Regardless of how much money we raise, we are committed to adopting the girls and will bring them home one way or another. :)

Thank you for helping us bring our daughters home. It is overwhelming at times to think of the amount of money involved, but your generous gifts have already gotten us nearly 10% to our goal!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Just call me "She-Ra"

Yesterday, we moved the washer.

At Lowe's it took 2 men (plus Mark) to load it into our truck.

Mark and I unloaded it off of the truck onto our deck, off of our deck, down the exterior (and might I add, very narrow) basement steps, and into the basement.

And then I found the coupon for free delivery for major appliances from Lowe's.

I have a lovely scrape and bruise on my shin from sliding down the homemade ramp (see the benefit to taking the fence out first? Boards to use for a ramp!) with the washer and nearly crushing Mark. :) But we did get it in the house without a scratch on it. Of course, we can't see if it works because we don't have electric or water yet.

I think the boys were highly entertained. ;)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Working outside keeps us warm, right?

Yesterday, cold as it was, we spent a few hours at the new house. The important thing to understand with this is that we have no heat--and we won't have heat until the plumbing is replaced. All of the heating in the house is with radiators, and without plumbing we can't turn the water on...thus, no heat.

Still, we had a great time taking down the back fence and deck. The fence was falling down anyway, but it needed to come out so that the roofer can get a dumpster in the backyard. After the roof is finished Mark will rebuild the back fence. I worked on taking the deck out, and I got a good portion of it out before Mark had to come in with a bit more muscle. ;) The boys helped here and there, carrying tools around and collecting nails, screws, and bolts for Mark. The rest of the time they spent playing with the HUGE tree in the backyard.

We worked inside for a little while as well, replacing door locks, putting some new smoke detectors in, and replacing outlet and switch covers. There's a lot to be done, but almost all of it needs to wait until we have heat--i.e., we can't paint or repair cracks until the house is warmer than freezing. ;) I'm impatient and I want to get started on that now, but I know anything we do with it this cold would just need to be redone later. I have no desire to do the work twice, so I'm (im)patiently waiting.

We also bought a washer today. This has been quite the search for us. We were given a very nice, very expensive dryer by a church friend over a year ago. Since it is a very nice dryer, we wanted to get the matching washer, but it was so expensive it just wasn't practical. We've scoured craigslist and every time we go to Lowe's we check their clearance washers, but they've never had the right one. Until yesterday. It was about $300 cheaper than buying it new, and it is the exact washer we've been looking for. It was a customer return due to it not working in the area they had planned, so it's supposed to work perfectly. We'll be moving it later today after we borrow a friend's truck.

Friday, January 09, 2009


The view when you first walk in

Looking at the front doors from the stairs

One of the three antique mantels (for the three non-working fireplaces)

Looking from the dining room into the living room

One of the two built-in butler's pantries

A lot of the work that we want to do (probably pretty obviously!) is cosmetic. Painting, cleaning, etc., so we'll be putting a lot of sweat equity in over the next several months (and possibly years!). But it really is a great house for lots of kids and being able to have lots of people over. We'll finally have a house again where we can host a Bible study! There are approximately 7 rooms that can be used as bedrooms--guess how many kids that is?! LOL

Thursday, January 08, 2009

It's ours!

We finally closed on our new house yesterday. It has been a very long process, and it was made longer by the fact that we didn't have our final number (the amount we needed to bring) for closing until after closing was supposed to have started. The funny thing was that we were told to plan on a certain amount to be due at closing. Then a couple of weeks ago that number dropped by about 20%. Then yesterday, when we got the "final" number it had dropped another 25%. And now that it's all said and done, we're getting a check back for $330 since we overpaid at closing! We still had to pay money, but about half of what we were originally planning which was really nice.

We'll be working at the new house this weekend to get things ready for the contractors (plumbing and roof) to come in in the next couple of weeks. We're planning on being in the house by the end of February, and there are a few things that we need to get done in that time as well. It's a little crazy, but better to do it now than after the girls get home. It would have been really crazy to have 6 of us and 2 dogs living in our tiny little house we're in now. God has truly given us a wonderful gift in this house, and I'm hoping we can use every square inch of it for His glory!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Oral fixations

Zhenya's behavior has improved greatly over the past few days. He has only lost one clothespin each day and for minor issues. I love routine and I know my boys do too!

However, today I got a phone call from Dima's teacher. Sigh. He actually wasn't exactly in trouble (although I think he should have been). She had noticed him chewing on something, and when she asked him to open his mouth she saw something which he quickly swallowed. He refused to tell her what it was, although he told her it wasn't gum and it wasn't candy. She was just concerned because she didn't know what it was and she was afraid he would get sick.

Fast forward to home. I sit down and have a talk with Dima about the "something-in-your-mouth" episode at school. Talks like this are always a challenge, because his expressive skills are so limited that he may actually not be able to tell me what he put in his mouth (because he doesn't actually know the word for whatever it was). I asked a lot of yes/no questions, partly to try and figure out what had happened and also to help give him some words he might have been lacking. No luck. So he had to go sit in his room until he was ready to tell me what he had put in his mouth.

I went into his room a couple of times to see if he was ready to 'fess up and he finally caved. ;) He said he had gotten something "sticky" off of Ms. B's desk. Want to know what it was? Sticky tack. Sigh. My son ate sticky tack yesterday. This was absolutely no surprise to me, as pretty much whatever is in Dima's hands ends up in his mouth. He doesn't usually actually chew on things, just sticks them there (like the end of his pencil when he's working on homework). We had an extensive discussion about not putting things in his mouth that are not food, particularly because they can make you sick (I made sure to throw in a reference to the throwing-up incident in Colorado to remind him of what happens when your stomach gets sick!). I know why it happened--they had indoor recess in their classroom yesterday, which they've never done before, and the chaos and confusion was more than the boy could take. Chewing his fingernails (or whatever else happens to be in his mouth) is his self-comfort. Still, we can't have him eating sticky tack.

I also spent a very long time on the phone with a speech therapist at Children's Hospital. We've scheduled a brief speech eval (yes, another one) for insurance purposes next week. Hopefully as soon as that is done we can get him started on some therapy!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Back to school

Whew. We made it through the weekend--just barely. Zhenya didn't even get to stay in his Sunday school class...he went to Mark's class because he refused to listen and obey. He did pretty well there with nothing to do but listen. ;)

Because we had been having so many issues, I sent a note to Zhenya's teacher today explaining that we had been having obedience issues. I wanted her to know that we were aware of the situation and that she was free to discipline him as necessary in the classroom. I was afraid she would give a little more leeway since it was the day after vacation and he doesn't need ANY leeway right now! :) I also told Zhenya that I was sending a note to Mrs. H.

I talked to Mrs. H after school. Her comment was "This is the most energy I have ever seen him have" which is pretty significant since he was pretty high-energy at the start of school. He lost two of his clothepins at school today so he had to sit when he got home. I know--making a high-energy kid sit is just going to make things worse, right? Except it doesn't. It gives him a chance to unwind and refocus, instead of just letting his energy and disobedience feed and cycle. He did great this afternoon and evening and I anticipate that tomorrow will be a much better day at school.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Back in the saddle

We're now back and readjusting to life at home:

"Mama! Mama!"
"I LOVE our house!"
"Me too, Zhenya."

While the boys are glad to be home, Zhenya's had a really tough time adjusting. He's our little ham and he loved having so many people to pay attention to him. He has been, quite frankly, a pain in the rear ever since we got back. I'm hoping once we get back into the routine of school and normal life that he'll settle back down. We're trying to stay pretty close to home for right now to let the boys decompress a little bit. They got lots of new toys for Christmas but those are coming out slowly, one or two at a time.

We didn't celebrate the New Year at all--Mark and I both went to bed well before midnight. We've never been big into celebrating the new year (Mark almost always falls asleep before midnight) and knowing the boys would be up early the next morning was extra incentive to go to bed. I don't feel like I missed anything by not being awake when the ball dropped--we still managed to make it into 2009. ;)