31 December 2009

30 December 2009

i'm just saying

I intend to say twenty-ten

and not two thousand ten
or the even worse two thousand and ten.

Anyone else?

Yes, I do think about these things. Because, you know, I might be called upon to offer my opinion to the world or the blogosphere. It's kateish.

And I still think the last decade ought to be called the oughts.

plates in question

I just e-mailed this to Essie, and thought it might be of interest to other readers new to the car saga:

I have red, diplomatic plates on my car. The head of the consulate motorpool says it's pretty common to have them stolen--that even white plates get stolen often. (Who knew? Not me. I thought it was pretty ballsy for them to steal red plates and that there'd be big trouble if they were caught.)

They're starting the process now--and looking into a temporary plate (unheard of) or a stamped letter of permission to drive (also unheard of) at my request. Both seem like good ideas...

The consulate is open today and tomorrow and then is closed for the next week. So let's hope something gets started or even sorted (a girl can hope) in the next two days.

A friend had his (red) plates stolen over the summer. (It took him 5 weeks to get new ones.) He said someone told him that it might be people trying to get goods across the border--use the dip plates once, leaving immediately after you've taken them so they're not yet reported stolen, and then discard them.

He's been stopped to prove he has dip privileges just while driving around with his new plates, so it must be becoming more of an issue.

29 December 2009

further adventures of car

It's been a while, hasn't it?

I didn't blog about the day-long saga that led to the discovery of a failed ignition coil.

Or the trip to pick it up on a late Saturday morning--by foot and metro--in which Lexi and I were charged by barking dogs (leashed and muzzled, fortunately, but still scary) and saw more staggering drunks than I ever have in one place.

That's all sort of old-hat.

But this. THIS.

Setting the scene: Snow is very, very deep. It's been snowing for a week now and it's over two feet deep. (It's not good for playing as it's too deep and doesn't stick. AND there's no where to sled nearby.)

We went out to go shopping and found that the car handle had been messed with, which left the interior light on, which drained the battery. Not fun, but par for the course. We (consulted with the principal) decided to wait until the roads cleared a bit more (Ploughs aren't running for some reason. Monday a week ago, when it all started, we were shopping. A trip that takes 20 minutes with no traffic, and about an hour with traffic, took THREE AND A HALF hours. So we've been content to stay home and let the snow bury the car.) to call the service to have it jumpstarted.

We called today to schedule a time tomorrow morning. Service is not working until after 5 January. Welcome to Russia.

Another service will come, but you can't book ahead. We planned to call tomorrow.

Ever-helpful principal shoveled my car out.

And discovered I have no license plates.

This is a big headache. BIG. I don't even know how big yet. It will involve trips to the consulate and the local police station. Made, of course, without my car. And it takes AGES to sort out new plates. A colleague's plates were stolen this summer and it was months before he had new ones. Groan.

No, there is no such thing as a temporary tag.

And Lexi and I will have to walk to and from school...or take a taxi every day. I'd guess taxi there and walk home.

But it keeps all of you entertained.

Stay tuned.

28 December 2009

yawn

I have not had a full night's sleep in over three months. Neither have I had a satisfactory nap in that time.

While I'm not nearly as exhausted as I was at four weeks, I. am. tired.

24 December 2009

official joy

*announcement removed*

Wishing you a Christmas filled with joy and wonder.

-Kate and Lexi


21 December 2009

three months

She regularly talks to Mr. Hooper on the phone.

"I can't to-cide." is my current favorite mis-pronounce. Decisions are hard. ;>

Baby Chicken is still with us quite often. She regularly wants to swim in Lexi's drink at mealtimes and is chastised accordingly.

Her doll has gone, in three months, from being Malishka (little one) to Kookla (doll) to Dochka (daughter) back to Kookla to Baby.

I love to hear her pray.

She still considers every decision quite seriously (I want...tak, tak, tak...)and then vehemently chooses (THIS one!).

She thinks Santa will bring her chocolate and a puzzle.

She is currently enjoying her "terrible two's" and is experimenting with all forms of "no". (Another thing for which we can thank her kindergarten.) She has been quick to learn that when Mama tells you do something you say, "Yes, Mama." and obey. The rest of the time she can enjoy being all no-ing.

Our refrain of "This isn't the orphanage, it's OUR home." has come out of retirement in a slightly altered "This isn't kindergarten, it's OUR home."

Our favorite books this week are Piglet and Mama (We quite often have the piglet calling "Mama" around here followed by the refrain, "But Piglet wanted HER Mama." Both the role of Piglet and the role of narrator performed by Lexi. Mama makes a cameo appearance as Mama Pig at the end.) and Loving (which I highly recommend and is better, in our opinions, than the similar book Families. I get a little uncomfortable with the pc nature of Families. It lists foster families and adoptive families as kinds of families...but it sort of creeps me out. And it says that all children everywhere have a family. And we know that's not true. Lexi prefers Loving because it has a picture of a boy's behind as he is bathed. In fact, the subtitle of Lu-vin' for a long time was "The Popochka Book".)

Really and truly, she is a bright spark, a near-constant delight, and a complete joy. And, yes, she really is this cute.

*photos removed--black dress*

I know these are blurry. I didn't want to use a flash, and when Lexi smiles, she smiles with her whole body. Be still and smile? Just can't be done. I just love them--blurs and all. I think the first one is my favorite. Or the first two. Or the first row. Or the first nine...

What prompted these smiles? Christmas, milkshakes, zucchini (which she loves and thinks is the funniest.word.ever), ice cream and Kipper.

(Am very surprised Dior hasn't contacted me about a photo campaign after I sent them her photo. Or Lands End, after the excellent, albeit accidental, product placement in the singing-in-the-park post.)

stats for the record:
height: 112.5 cm (44.3 in)
weight: 40.5 pounds

19 December 2009

quickie

We are sick.

School is hard.

Her teacher is...not ideal. Or even close. Looking at options and weighing the benefits of being in my school with being in a structured, disciplined, learning classroom. The problem is, there really aren't any English-speaking kindergarten options--the Christian school has a K/1 split (which I don't think is what she needs--she needs a solid year of K, but...). The Montessori School is "selective". And then there's our school. That's it.

Continuing to talk to the teacher and the principal. Am not the only unhappy parent. Fortunately, am not the only unhappy parent who is willing to speak to the school and not just grumble.

As a parent, I'm awed anew by the responsibility I have as a teacher.

The students all, grades 2-12, treat her like a rock star. They're so glad she's home! Her time out of the classroom is good.

We are both beyond happy to be spending the day at home in our pajamas. I, the only being in the flat with a concept of time, am luxuriating in the fact that we have three. whole. weeks. at home. Bliss.

That's the extent of my stamina. Back to Sesame Street, Silly Sally, raspberry tea with lemon and honey and a stuffy, phlegmy little girl.

p.s. SW visit was fine. Lex wouldn't speak English and sw was too familiar (kissed her and was all touchy until I took Lexi away and said, "only for Mama"). Lex wasn't best pleased, but is fine. SW will come every three months for the next three years. Or as long as we're here. Must inform her of our travel plans out of the country. Also am expected to take Lex to the doctor every three months to be weighed and measured.

08 December 2009

post-placement visit

My first post-placement visit with my Russian social worker is scheduled for next Tuesday. I will have visits from her every three months.

I have been told to have proof of medical insurance ready and to be prepared to demonstrate how independent Lexi is. One thing in particular we have to demonstrate is that Lexi can eat with a spoon independently.

We also have to register Lexi here in St. P. This is not an easy task. I say "we" but actually think this is a kindness-of-stangers thing. I don't think I can do it at. all.

We actually bumped into the sw today while we were out fruitlessly searching for plain, brown tights. (Note to all of you who say to go ahead and buy a Christmas dress: If only it were that easy! Dresses here are...not to my taste--and everything is expensive. A Christmas Day dress means I need to make one. But, we were at the fabric store to find something to make Lexi a stocking and, let me just say, no. This, "the best" fabric store has little in the natural fiber category and lots of acrylic and sparkle. I do have some lovely material from India we used for fairy costumes last year...) She's so nice and is always friendly. This is the first time she's seen Lexi. Lexi blanked out at her greeting and "how are you" in Russian. Lex is supposed to answer some interview questions...

One of our Russian speaking friends will be here to translate for both of us!

07 December 2009

do you see what i see?


Do you see what's in Lexi's hand? It's a baby chicken!
She's been carrying it around all. day.
She even carried it the .75 mile to church this morning.


When we went to school for our conference, my middle school drama girls (I love those girls) proclaimed, "She looks just like Pixie from Peter Pan!" and took us down to see--and TOUCH--the baby chicken they'd just hatched.

I'm so glad to know my big girls will be watching out for my little girl in the mornings.

(And how much do I love this dress? SOOooo much! I decided that Christmas dresses should be worn all during advent. But now I sort of want a dress *just* for Christmas day. Hmm...)

04 December 2009

six days to school

Starting school next Thursday.

Did a quick staff orientation last Tuesday.

Meeting with teachers today.

Neither of us is excited--though I'm faking it big time.

(Thought it better to remain in school's good graces and be seen as co-operative just in case I need something in the future. Love and Logic deposit.)

She starts Thursday. Monday they celebrate Santa Lucia. Tuesday is pajama day. Wednesday is the Winter Concert. Friday is a Christmas party. I'm tired already.

Off to watch Sesame Street. La di da di da...What's the name of that song?

03 December 2009

I asked

Lexi, "What are you thinking?"

Without missing a beat she emphatically replied, "Ice cream!"

(This was awhile back but it still makes me giggle. I have no doubt it was true.)

28 November 2009

decorations

We've started decorating for CHRISTMAS!

26 November 2009

giving thanks

Make an on-line slideshow at www.OneTrueMedia.com

When we sit together at the table
and my little girl takes my hands

to say this simple prayer,
either with me or by herself or listening raptly,
I have a thankful and happy heart.

Hoping your heart is the same--today and always.

Happy thanksgiving.

25 November 2009

perfect setting

I thought today's misty walk through the park would be a perfect setting for a photo. It wasn't raining, the light was diffused, the park was empty...

Lexi thought it was a perfect setting to burst into song.
(Well, she is, after all, my daughter.)

Mist-inspired songs about people who were so sad and crying and the sky commenced. And, you know, songs about trees and babies and the tired man sit, sit, sit on the bench because he is tired, tired, tired...and whatever caught her eye and her consciousness.





Fortunately, the artist threw a bone to her fans. (Hmm...that seems to imply that we, her fans, are dogs.)

23 November 2009

FMLA?

Did your employer count your trips prior to custody being granted as part of your FMLA?

If not, tell me how you managed that! If we don't count trip one and court, Lexi and I can stay home until after Christmas vacation.

That would an amazing gift.

And it makes sense to me as there was no child for FMLA to be applied to until I had custody...

But my school has been SO GOOD to me, that I don't want to kick up a fuss.

Cheers! I'm being summoned to "lunch". (Jenga block pies and water served in IKE@ toy dishes on a stool covered in Kookla's blanket. Yummy. Koosna!)

21 November 2009

i confess

i'm a handwashing hypocrite.

daytime:
yes, Yes, YES! Did you wash your hands? With soap? WARM water?

between the hours of going-to-bed and the-first-number-is-seven:
Nooo. It's night. (Don't do anything that might wake you up further!!)

i heard lexi telling her doll (they were playing bedtime, a favorite game) that it was night. we don't need to wash hands at night.

umm...well...

20 November 2009

two months


111 cm., 40 pounds

still just as amazing,
brave,
awe-inspiring,
trusting,
good-natured,
imaginative,
pleasant,
delightful,
and beloved as ever

if not more so

(If only there were some natural light so I could capture her likeness better. Ah, well, March will be here soon enough.)

18 November 2009

i just love

that this is Lexi's favorite shop window.


It's near our house and we pass it often. We stop and check "the girls" every time. Their outfits are changed frequently, and Lexi always chooses an outfit for herself and one for me. We look at the jewelery. We admire the shoes. And we are so glad that these girls, as opposed to many shop-window displays, have heads!

Don't you think Dior should mount a campaign around this photo?

17 November 2009

attachment-regression

So, the top e-mails topics re:blogging are

  1. Good for you for not blogging during this time!
  2. Good for you for not blogging during this time, but could you just post about regression?
  3. Good for you for not blogging during this time, but could you just post about sleeping/eating?

Hmm...well...I can meet you halfway.

I think we all know that regression occurs in individuals in times of stress. But, I wasn't sure that it would work as a verb--that you could regress someone.

Not really time to devote to this, but I can cut and paste. Here are a couple of e-mails I sent people about regression.

Kathy commented:
I can't remember if I asked you this. Anya is 7 (just a little older than Lexi) so a lot of what you are doing is very interesting to me. I have never considered giving her a bottle...help me through that. Is that something Lexi took well? I am just thinking about Anya, and with her it seems everything is "Mommy, I am a big girl". Just wondering....
I replied:

Whole post coming on this, because I think it's fascinating.

I was worried about the same thing. But, I present everything as a game--"You be the little bird." when I feed her. The pacifier was refused the first time I offered it, but I just left it out. Soon it was in her mouth. When I was rocking her to sleep that first night, her little mouth was going just like an infant's, sucking in her sleep. So...it made sense.

I don't offer a bottle, but she asks for one sometimes. I had it out for her to feed her doll with. Then, I asked one time (okay, so I did offer) if she wanted a bottle. Again, indignant refusal. But later she wanted to be my baby (this happens in *short* spurts and then she's off again) and wanted a bottle. She usually wants this when she's sleepy, so it's around nap or bed.

It's interesting that she only does this with me. I took the pacifier on the airplane thinking she'd find it helpful on take-off, landing, and getting to sleep. She wouldn't use it at all. So, don't worry that Anya will be heading to school with a pacifier.

Does that help? While we both know that it's actually more, we treat the feeding and bottles as a game. The paci stays under her pillow. Sometimes we rock with it. But, if she's asked for a bottle, she doesn't need/want the pacifier.

The bottle has been a stress-reliever. I don't think it will last long. I do think it will recur--like when school starts.

I hope this helps!
Kate

(p.s. to Kathy--I think that "I'm a big girl." comes from being told she's a big girl--as in you are capable of doing this so don't bother me with it--in the orphanage. I think she'll take just as much delight in being your baby as she does in being capable and helpful. Lexi doesn't spend all day "regressed". It just happens in spurts. Of course, she was coming from an orphanage where she was among the oldest children there. A is among the youngest now, which could make things radically different. And, A & L have very different histories. So, who knows? I just hope *something* we're doing helps you down the line.)

My friend, Jen, commented about the bottle when I mentioned it in a post:
Did she have a bottle at the orphanage? Because you have done so much preparing, I assume this is something recommended. Is it for attachment? Please enlighten someone who knows nothing about adoption.

I replied:

Hey, Nif! It's an attachment thing. It's not something that I force on her. She has a lot of regression at night. And, when she's under stress, there is more. She asks to be my baby then--and just wants me to cradle her and coo at her. That's often a bottle time--and it's usually before bed.

People talk a lot about regressing a child for attachment. I've been amazed at how much she wants it--there's no making her do this. She likes to be fed like my little bird, to be my baby, to have me take care of all her dressing and...wiping. I thought at six there might be some resistance to this. I was so wrong!

I've tried to write a post on attachment, but it's just too big! I think I might to a series on it. (Like I'm some real writer or something...but whatever.) It will bore some people to tears, but I think it's important and interesting.

Thanks for asking!!

Love,
Kate

So, quick wrap-up on regression (feel free to ask me to elaborate... and I'll try to later): I think if you're ready for it, it will just happen. If you're open to it and present the opportunity for it, you child will lead the way. If they think you're crazy, and refuse, then don't push it. But, if they want to "play baby" and get in those developmental activities, (All of these activities teach important things and help an infant to bond with his parent. It shows that a parent is not only loving and responsive, but is capable and provides. Rocking with a bottle, and cooing and snuggling while you do it, is provides more than sustenance. Remember Harlowe's experiment with the monkeys? Levine and Meany's experiments with rats who were separated from their mothers? I'm pretty sure those were gen psych and not further into the degree...) I think it can only be for good.

Hmm...there are times, actually, when she's over-tired and I know that a bottle or some rocking would help things and she's *said* she doesn't want to, but I do it anyway. I just tell her that I want to rock. I scoop her up and rock her, holding the bottle with my chin so I can snuggle her with one arm and stroke her cheek with the other hand.

So, I guess I do push it a little. But, it's something that's already started. There's precedence. And, there are times when I need to say, "You cannot push me away. You ARE my baby, forever, and I am going to take care of you." It's hard to explain the difference, but so easy to feel it. And her "I-don't-want" disappears immediately.

You'll know.

13 November 2009

fair warning

I have a month left of staying home with Lexi.

You may get some quips and snaps in the next month.

But I'm not even promising that.

It might be really quiet here on the blog, but rest assured it's not at our house. And I want to savor that--without thinking about anything else.

Mwah!

12 November 2009

gourmet

A few nights ago I was asking Lex what she wanted for dinner. She'd had a late snack and was not interested in the leftovers in the 'fridge. I was not interested in cooking. So I went to the failsafe...

"Kasha? And yogurt?"

"Yes! Kasha. Kasha apple."

And she began rooting around in the different oatmeal boxes. Since I happen to like the apple kasha, it's gone. I was explaining that we didn't have any, but we had a million others when she pulled out a box of cereal. (Fitness. Do you have it in the US? It's just flakes, but they're a *little* sweetened.)

Explaining that although it looked like the apple kasha box, it wasn't, I pulled out a piece of cereal and gave it to her.

Her face lit up. "Chips!" she said rapturously. (Mama has said repeatedly that we don't need chips when shopping. Now Lexi understands why. We have chips!)

So Lexi had chips for dinner. And apple slices.

She pronounced this dinner, "Koosna, Mama!" unasked and all my pride in recent, colorful, well-balanced meals flew out the window. Forget the chicken chili with tomatoes and corn muffins we had last night. (And forget how precious the corn muffins are since you can't buy cornmeal or muffin liners here.) Just give her dry cereal.

(Actually, don't forget it. Just leave the tomatoes off it and save it for me!)

11 November 2009

attachment-routine

(This post is boring me, but I've already typed it. If you just read the first few paragraphs and skip our routine, I won't hold it against you.)

Routine


This is one that is oft-touted, and very important, for the same reason that a small world is. Routine makes life predictable and safe. It relieves some of the hypervigilence. If you know what is coming next, you don't have to worry. And you don't have to have as many contingency plans.

Children living in an orphanage have a fairly rigid routine. They're not often given choices. So, by keeping a routine in place for a child newly home, you're providing comfort, familiarity and relieving stress. All good.

I'm a planner. (Big surprise.) And in this case, I'm so glad I'd thought about routine before I had Lexi with me. Because, on that first night, when you've got this little person looking up at you, you're not going to have time to stop and plan things out. And the orphanage schedule, while it *may* prove helpful for mealtimes and sleeptimes in the beginning, is not going to help you figure out what you do at bedtime. Do you bathe at night? Do you brush your teeth before or after your bath? Do you read stories/sing songs/whatever? Where? What about morning? Do you get dressed and make your bed before breakfast? After? At all? (kidding)

Some routines and rituals get set without you even knowing it-so be careful. ;> We brushed teeth together that first night, eye to eye, Lexi mimicking my body language. Since then, she feels incredibly shut out if I don't brush teeth with her (If, say I was planning to eat the last brownie after she's asleep and so I told her I'll wait and brush later. Hypothetically.). And she still does it with a hand on her hip.

We had to change some things. We started out bathing at night and found that was too overstimulating. We didn't have a rocking chair until we got home and so we rocked on the bed. Changing these things (and changing bathtime back to evening in preparation for school) was HARD.

While I'm not good at doing everything the same, even in my classroom, we do have a structure to our days. It's just a flexible structure.

Stay in *a* bed (sleep post coming, too) until 7:00.

We get up and eat in our pajamas.

We clear the table, tidy up the kitchen and put away clean dishes (she does all the lower cabinets and silverware).

Then she gets dressed (after I explain again that now we take a bath at night). I take a shower while she watches Kipper. Or, I explain again that now we take a bath at night, she watches Kipper and gets dressed after I shower. It depends on how much I want a shower and how much she wants clothes.

Then, whatever. We play.

Lunch is at 11:45 ish (the time they eat at school). We clear the table together. Depending on how long lunch takes, we either play a bit or go right to rest/nap.

12:45/1:00-2:00 Ask Lexi if she want to rest or sleep. Have rest time.

Whatever. Usually something big and messy and fun after rest, because I'm rested, too. This is when we do school things some days. Sometimes this is when we go for a walk. The weather is generally better in the morning, and she's a morning bug, but somehow we don't get out then (except for Thursdays when the cleaner comes and we have to be out). I think it's because I'd have to blow-dry my hair.

5:45ish dinner I've played with this time a little and can't quite get it right.

We clean up the dinner mess and she plays for a bit.

6:45 on shampoo nights, by 7:00 if it's not, we start getting ready for bed. There are routines within our daily routine, and this may be as good a place as any to explain...

  • She chooses pajamas, underwear and socks if she wants them while I run the bath.
  • Bath with bubbles--play with cups, pretend to make food, swim, say, "You're my little fish!", count down the fish times, *or* "No fish today. Tomorrow you can be a fish." before she gets in the bath (She can be a fish on shampoo nights. That's every other night--with its own script about chin up and the shampoo being American and won't hurt her eyes, etc.)
  • Lotion--lavender at night, aveeno in the morning warmed in my hands. The first lotion dollop is my handprint on her tummy, name body parts as you lotion, "discover" all the food from the day in her tummy.
  • Get dressed in underwear, pajamas, debate socks (since her toes are polished) with herself.
  • (Bottle here if she wants one. Regression post coming!)
  • Brush teeth--I do hers first and then we brush together. We fluoride rinse- me holding her, humming a song to time it.
  • (Blow dry goes here if it's a shampoo night--her on my lap)
  • Lexi chooses books.
  • Melatonin, books, lights out, review the day, plan tomorrow, pray, sing one song, say goodnight to everything, sing some more
Actually, our singing and good-nighting depends on her. If she starts processing, I process with her. If she needs to talk, we say "good night" to everyone and everything in the world, if she asks or if she's contented and quiet, I sing.

She's usually asleep around 8:00. Usually.

That's kind of what we do. It's working for us.

I'll post about rituals next as this is long...and they're a little different from routines in my mind.

lera update

Amazing. Just amazing.

My friend sent an e-mail that said...

the director told me they think they have a family who is ready to commit to adopt lera. that's all it takes to keep her out of the institution!
Thank you for your prayers for Lera!

Reece's Rainbow says:
Lera is a gorgeous little girl with blonde hair and blue eyes. She is 4 years old. She is quite high functioning, and doing very well. She has flat feet and a systolic heart murmur, but no major heart conditions. She is able to walk and climb, she eats by herself, dances, and understands and follows directions. She has also been transferred to the regular class, so she living and learning with her typical peers.



Now, amazing prayer warriors, I've got sisters ages 11 and 13 who really need a home. They're part of my 3.10 girls...

09 November 2009

praying for lera


For the past year, a good friend of mine has been praying for a little girl in Russia. She was assigned to be her "prayer warrior" through the wonderful ministry, Reece's Rainbow, which specializes in placing children with Down Syndrome from various countries.
She was thrilled when she received Lera as her little girl to pray for, as Lera is Russian, and was born the very week that her girls were born.

In Russia, if a Down Syndrome child is not adopted by the age of 4, they go into an institution and can never be adopted.

Since Lera turned 4 in August, my friend was afraid bad news was coming. Sure enough, yesterday afternoon, she received the email below. Would you please stop, today, (which, ironically is Orphan Sunday), and pray specifically that God would work a miracle and prompt a family to start the process to adopt little lera?
Dear S,
I know you are the Reece's Rainbow prayer warrior for Lera in Russia. We just received word that Lera will be transferred to an institution in the next few days or weeks at most. She will not be able to be adopted (ever) once transferred as Russia's institutions are closed. If a family comes forward in the next few days and commits to her then she won't be transferred. I am letting you know so that you can send up some urgent prayers for her. She is a beautiful little girl and is located in St. Petersburg.

08 November 2009

attachment-keeping it small

"Keep their world small."

This is the advice, the decree given to adoptive parents. But how do you do that? And for how long? I have another month until we're both in school. I'm so grateful for as long as I've had with her, but wish it were longer. I think I could easily spend a year easing her in to life. Or longer. But I am very thankful we've been able to have our own small world for as long as we do. It is precious beyond measure.

What does it really mean to keep their world small? I think it means different things to different families. First children have a much greater opportunity to experience this "smallness" than children do who are coming in to a family that has children--and all their activities and things. It must be hard to shrink a world for a child who is getting a new sibling, and likely needs the comfort of his usual activities.

Okay. About us:

I think the time spent in Russia, as crazy as it is running around from place to place collecting pieces of stamped paper, is an easy place to build that "smallness". It was just Lexi and I. We had few responsibilities and obligations. We had few clothing choices. We had two dvd's. We had three books. We had her bear, her doll, (really wish I hadn't brought the doll), a coloring book, stacking cups, and some wooden animal beads that I'd brought on an earlier visit.

I think that it's as important to limit the number of things as it is to limit the number of people and places. As tired as I was of those clothes and those things, we didn't pitch them when we came home. We slept in those same pajamas. The same toys, books, and dvd's that we watched for two weeks on the road we all we played with and watched for about the first week home. I had taken all the toys out of her room. They're still gone, but some books have migrated there. In the living room, where her toys are, they are mostly out of sight.

Slowly, over the last month, we've explored most of the toy bins. She knows what is in them. But, generally, she doesn't need an abundance of things from which to choose. She has her favorite activities (reading books, playing with her baby, playing shopping, painting, doing puzzles) and plays them over and over. I will introduce a new game or toy or will add an accessory to her "plays" (like the bath tub or dishes for her doll), but it is often much later that she wants to do it again. (Or, she wants it every. single. day.)

We really do stick to only-one-toy most of the time. Most of the time. And, sometimes a play gets very involved and needs many accessories. No problem! But when we're done with that play, they get picked up. Every other night before bed with do a quick pick-up of the flat, one room at a time. She actually enjoys this, because she enjoys helping, and it keeps things away. If we did it every night, neither one of us would enjoy it.

In Moscow, were in an apartment roughly the size of our own. Being in an apartment was wonderful. It meant that we didn't have to go out for meals. We could go out if we needed to, but we didn't have to. We had different spaces for sleep and play.

While many families have needed to gate off sections of their house, we didn't. Our flat is not huge. She knows that we play in either her room (very rare, but I'd love for it to happen more) or the living room. We don't play in Mama's room, the kitchen or the bathroom. And that's our entire flat.

Lexi is very good at respecting boundaries, which is not always the case with pi kids. Granted, I'd made my house much like my classroom--nearly everything accessible is fair game. But, not everything. I live here, too. My desk and the bookshelves are off-limits. But, all I had to do was tell her was the desk was only for Mama. She just doesn't touch it or anything on it. I didn't even mention the bookshelves. Perhaps having her own, and the "dullness" of the books on mine, makes it less tempting.

All this is old news to most adoptive and pre-adoptive parents. Limit the people you come in contact with and allow no one else to provide (food, gifts, affection, etc.) for your child. Keep the physical space limited and sparse. Stay home as much as is humanly possible. Eat the same things, wear the same things, do same things. All of this prevents over-stimulation. It doesn't take much to rock the world of these little people.

Keeping things small keeps things safe. It's predictable. It helps a child to relax and let down their guard. Hypervigilent children in particular, those that are constantly on the lookout for what danger may possibly occur and planning how to handle it, benefit from this. And, I think all children coming out of an orphanage have some hypervigilence. They have to. It's self-preservation. Until they know that you'll keep them safe, they have to be prepared to keep themselves safe.

One thing I did instinctively as a teacher of esl students, that I haven't heard discussed elsewhere, is keep her vocabulary small. I used the exact same words over and over to describe an action. (i.e. always, "Please take this to the trash can." and not the occasional "Please throw this away." Always saying "Please take this to xxx" means that she only has one new word in the sentence to figure out. She quickly learned the sink, the trash, your room, the table, the bathroom, Mama's room...) She can follow two- and three-step directions now, which is amazing.

I didn't use synonyms. (Things were little, not small.) I didn't use contractions. As her vocabulary grows, I am incorporating these. I am still avoiding homophones as much as possible (ie, since we rock each night, there are stones and not rocks on the street).

Specific feedback is important! "Good job!" is great, but general. I realized, as I listened to Lexi play, that I often include the command after it. I must be saying, "Good job, chew and swallow!" "Good job, be careful!" "Good job, watch what you're doing!" I found myself today saying, "Good job, be careful. You were very careful while you were cutting." I think that's the transition from survival English, just being able to communicate, to speaking English. (Hmm...not really part of keeping her world small...but will leave it as I think it's interesting.)

Small world--few people, few places, few things, consistent vocabulary. Variety is not the spice of life. Or, if it is, pi kids need a very bland diet for a long time!

planning to do, in a sketchy sort of way, shorter posts on: routine and rituals, sleeping/co-sleeping, belonging together, a single mom copes, common pi issues (maybe)... any requests?

07 November 2009

Orphan Sunday


"On November 8th from 4:oo to 6:00 pm CST, join voices with Steven Curtis Chapman, Jim Daly, and Dennis Rainey to reach the nation with God’s call to care for orphans. Through excellent music and the sharing of the heart of God, we hope to give a megaphone to the cries of the millions of orphans around the world. Other guests include Geoff Moore and the Children of the World Choir.


The concert will be broadcast LIVE via webcast and satellite. Locations with high speed internet access will be able to view the concert remotely via the web."

spot the reason

Why is this photo blogworthy?



Look closer. But not at the cluttered counter or the pile of orphanage donations in the window, please. Look at the table.

It's not that kookla got sick and needed a hot water bottle. It's not that Mouse forgot to clear her plate. It's not the cute penguin slippers that don't stay on under the table. It's this:


Lexi decided to not finish her muffin at breakfast but to save it for later!

Mama is now keeping a see-through container at every meal so we can put in what we want to save for later. If it doesn't need to be refrigerated, it stays at Lexi's place. If it does, she will put it in the 'fridge.

We had a great day!

05 November 2009

attachment preamble

I am not an attachment expert.

I've read a lot of experts and talked to many in-the-trenches experts. I guess now it's my turn to share my view from the trenches.

I've tried to write this post several times, but it's just too big. So, dear viewers (as one of my second grade bloggers was wont to say), there's a whole lot of attachment and coping stuff coming. A whole series, I think. Which seems presumptuous. I mean, who am I to be writing a post on this, much less "a series"? (Although you already know I'm wordy, so the fact that it takes more than one post to manage this shouldn't be too shocking--unless you've only been reading since Lexi came home. Many of those posts have been...brief.) But many people have asked--especially those waiting for an "older" child.

So...here goes. There is a lot that is out of one's control as far as attachment goes. But here's what I've done, single mom adopting this particular six-year-old, that, hopefully, has helped.

It's been six weeks and things are going remarkably well. Really, it's amazing. Ann Marie is going to chime in on the comments and straighten this quote out. Basically, she was seeing signs of attachment in Lexi and I (attachment is a two-way street) after two weeks that she wasn't seeing in Alexander for months. (I'll fix that when you tell me what it really way, AM. I was too tired to remember. Hey--you can even have a guest post!)

I prayed for three-and-a-half years that my children's hearts would be prepared for me and my heart for them. And that's the biggest thing AM saw when we were in the US. Her quote, "Kate, she was just ready." And for that I am so grateful!

So, now that the preamble, disclaimers and celebrity endorsements are out of the way, here's my first gem:

If you can tell that it's going to be a hard day
, and I can tell, because the state of the day depends mostly upon me and how tired I am, then put your child in your favorite outfit. It's much easier to attach to a clean, sweet-smelling, darling child.

Okay, none of the experts told me that. But I think it's true. It may not be as conventional as the other things I did, but I am sharing this with you first, so that you can skip the rest of the attachment stuff if you're sick of reading about it.

04 November 2009

discrepancy

time* from books to bed

Monday: 12 minutes (wow)
Tuesday: 1 hour 15 minutes**


*this time includes prayers, good nights, and lullabyes/rocking

**on Tuesday, it also included a bottle--those 15 minutes may be subtracted from the total time listed as the bottle, if needed, usually precedes books

03 November 2009

joyful jumping

This is from about a week and a half ago...I think. The date stamp is when I uploaded it and not when it was taken. Helpful. Just love the video camera.

(so not.)


02 November 2009

a (good) day in the life

6:35 (This is late and may very well be a contributing factor to our good day.) Lexi needs to use the bathroom. She has to stay in *a* bed until 7:00 and takes the option of moving from Mama's bed to her bed for the remaining half hour. (This may also have been a contributing factor to the good day.)

7:10 Mama, having dozed until now, tells Lexi, "Good morning! It's seven." All excited, Lexi scrambles up, climbs into Mama's arms chirping, "It's seven!! Good MORNing!" in both Russian and English. We go to Mama's room to verify that the first number on the clock is, indeed, a seven.

Lexi heads out to play. Mama makes breakfast, of a sort--instant oatmeal, toast (me) and yogurt (Lex). Juice and vitamins for all.

Lexi forgets that we now take a bath at night and wants one in the morning. Instead, she chooses her clothes (we're staying home today), washes hands and face, and we brush teeth together.

Mama and Lexi head out for Kipper--Mama's answer to a solo shower. But, Mama feels lazy and doesn't want to shower. She e-mails and futzes on the computer, simultaneously commenting on the essential parts of Kipper. Then, with two stories left, Mama kisses Lexi and promises a quick shower.

We put clean sheets on both beds (L@ur@ Ashely fairies on Lexi's, my favorite grey ones on mine), put away my laundry (we did hers last night), gave Beazy a bath (she was not thrilled, but Lex was quietly cooing our standard encouragements to her, and she coped well) played airplane (We sit on the couch and play whatever she's packed in her little pink backpack. There is much pretend seat buckling and tray opening and closing.), watched a few minutes of a Sesame Street shape dvd but it wasn't for us, fingerpainted (a first), washed placemats, played in the water, mopped up all the water that spilled when Lex tried to dump the basin herself, and had lunch around noon (leftover mac & veg& cheese--and yes, she had to eat the broccoli and carrots, which she has decided she doesn't like. She still loves zucchini.)

We loaded lunch dishes and started the dishwasher.

12:45 quiet time (Lexi gets to choose to sleep or rest. This is a great illustration of predestination and free will. ;> ) I watch iTunes tv. ;> I even read a few pages and doze for a few minutes.

2:00 Lexi is sprung! I try to explain that it is two and not seven, that it's not morning. I'll do it again tomorrow.

Declines a snack.

Started working on writing numbers, played with wooden mosaic tiles, put flowered vinyl tablecloth on her window (that sounds horrible but it isn't that bad), and another on her wall (because I'm so sad I'm not allowed to paint), took the one on her wall off the wall because it wouldn't stay without nails and I'm not ready to commit, replaced framed photos on her wall with paper copies (since she keeps taking and knocking the frames down), watched Josh and the Big Wall for the second time (Neechevo rookye! Neechevo feet! Tolka tomato. Nada jump, jump, jump! She thinks Larry is a zucchini and the squashes are pears. Close enough. She has no idea about the asparagus family.) and painted her toenails (I think her feet are overly sensitive because they're never exposed--and that pretty toenails *might* encourage more exposure.), jumped on the mini tramp ($92--but the only one I found and already proving a good outlet for St. P's inclement weather), colored--GREAT coloring advances today-- and did a sticker book, put on our cloud and rain and watched "A Flower Grows", watched her singing Feed the Birds. Lexi was inspired to rock her doll while I make dinner--Lexi's requested meal of "meekaballs". (Didn't really cook anything today and only did one load of laundry. Also contributing factors to the good day, I suspect.)

Her doll joined us for dinner. This is always a treat because I get to hear myself, my words, in Lexi's voice. And I like what I heard. That is extremely gratifying! It makes me feel relieved. I loved hearing her prompt her doll to say, "Yes, please, Mama." She gently stroked her cheek as she murmured endearments and good job's. And she laughed when the doll's head got covered in tomato goo. ;>

After dinner, we had a bath (this is only day three of evening bath...but we're doing okay), lotioned, pajama-ed, brushed teeth, read stories, had a bottle (at her request) and rocked, and went to the bathroom again. We sat on the bed, me cradling her, in the dark and reviewed our day. We talked about what we will/might do tomorrow. We prayed. Lexi decided to plan tomorrow in greater detail--TRAIN, puzzle, number 1-2-3, paint, airplane, Kipper, shop (in Russian), book.

It was a quick night--Feed the Birds, saying good night to everyone and everything, and then she wanted to go to bed. Sometimes we rock to sleep, sometimes she wants to be put down sleepy. When I put her down, I can immediately tell if she's ready to sleep or stalling. Ready to sleep--stays curled up on her side. Not--flips to her back. When I put her down, she stayed on her side so I sang two more songs and rubbed her back, limbs, and head before leaving.

Tonight it was 7:50 when I left. When I went back at 8:00, she was asleep, exactly in the position I'd left her.

It was a good day in the life. Six weeks tomorrow...and I think we're both feeling settled.

29 October 2009

where?

Yesterday I called, "Lex, it's Bert and Ernie!" to my little butterfly-dancer


(We had to trade the blue wings for smaller, pink ones but the tantsivaya skirt is still going strong. We had 3 1/2 days in these.)

who was getting something from her room.

She shouted, "Where?! WHERE?!??" and came running.

Um, on the television.

(Seriously, where did she think they'd be?)

27 October 2009

feeding the birds

Here's a minute or two of sweetness from last week. Please excuse the drier noise.

This is the end of The Going to Bed Book, asking her baby to choose a lullaby, and part of Feed the Birds. (I promise it gets intelligible. Just give it a verse.)

*video removed*

Early each day to the steps of Saint Paul's
The tired old bird woman comes
In her own special way to the people she calls,
"Come, buy my bags full of crumbs;

Come feed the little ones,
Show them you care
And you'll be glad if you do
The young ones are hungry
Their nests are so bare
All it takes is tuppence from you

Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag
Feed the birds," that's what she cries
While overhead, her birds fill the skies

All around the cathedral the saints and apostles
Look down as she sells her wares
Although you can't see them,
You know they are smiling
Each time someone shows that he cares

She got distracted and didn't sing this verse this time, but usually "Listen. Listen!" is my favorite part:
Though her words are simple and few
Listen. Listen! She's calling to you
"Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag"
It amazes me how well she manages this--especially words like "apostles"--when she has almost no idea what she's singing. Of course, she's heard it often. Very often. More often than I'd like...

And, on one of our marathon going-to-sleeps, when I couldn't get another song out I did start reciting to her...and The Apostle's Creed was one of the recitations... (Ha! That's a joke people. She doesn't know The Apostle's Creed. Yet.)

After this, she let her baby choose another song, another book, another song and finally put her to bed.

24 October 2009

color me clever

Or persistent. Or stubborn. Bull-headed. Single-minded. Subversive...

Remember they wouldn't give me any pictures of Lexi's groupmates? (Okay, if you didn't, they wouldn't. And I wasn't best pleased. To put it very nicely.)

Lexi loves, needs her photo albums. She pours over them. They didn't give her back her photo album when we left, but I had copies of pictures and made her a new one in Moscow. She still looks at it just about every day and talks about what we played. (Mama puuuush. Bubbles!)

She spends more time on the crying pictures than any other. We talk each time about how sad Mama was and how sad Sasha was. We talk about how it is normal to cry. It is good to cry when we are sad. We say that it was time to say goodbye, but that Mama said she would come back. And Mama came back!

Duh, Kate. Last week (that's the duh--it took until last week) I made her another album of photos from the time we left the orphanage. She looks through this one daily, too, commenting on her flag, my flag and how little Alexander is. She talks about the airplane and her new passport. She talks about the big angel in the square outside the Hermitage.

So, you know what I did today? Color me clever --I went on the database and found pictures of children from her orphanage! (I could tell from the way the photos were staged.) Although I only found about six, two of them were the people she was asking about. At least now I have something to show her!

Just btw, her picture has been off the database for at least two weeks.

23 October 2009

something's clean

For the Russian speakers out there:

I thought I heard Lexi talking about something clean today.

Cheeste minna.

"Clean" was clear as a bell, but minna? What's a minna?

Then I heard my exact, sing-song inflection in her voice as she told her doll,

Kookla, cheeste minna.
and I understood.

Just a minute. ;>

this is BIG

Well, it is to us. Or at least it is to me. She was unfazed and denied it even happened.

Today, during rest time (looking at books, playing with doll or magnets on bed) Lexi SLEPT.

This is the first time she's done this on her own. Usually, no matter how tired she is, she'll fight hard to stay awake--singing or reading louder and louder. If she naps these days, it's because I've decided that she is soooo tired that she has to "sleep a little" instead of resting. Sleep, big or little, means our usual books/talking/praying/rocking & singing.

The fact that she let herself sleep, all on her own, trusting that I'd be there when she woke up, is BIG!

22 October 2009

just plain nothing

all i want to do is buy some tv shows on iTunes to watch. that's all. WHY do i first have to update both iTunes *and* safari (which I never use as am loyal to firefox)? and you know i'll have to shut my computer down once i do that.

surely it should not be taking days to do this.

okay. fine. so you don't care that i'm tv deprived. or that the cold i nipped in the bud last week is mounting a re-attack. (there is a better word for that...) or that i am so *happy* that the cleaner came today and it wasn't me. (i canceled last week because we were in the throes of insecurity and i didn't want to take lex out of the flat while the cleaner cleaned. and i can't be here and just, you know, watch.) that's not why you're here.

in lexi news, she was talking about airplanes yesterday and the day before. and, it makes sense because in our life together we haven't spent this long in one place. it was time for us to hop an international flight.

i kept explaining we weren't going anywhere. we looked at the put-away suitcases. we talked about the cats. we talked about how we were home.

but every time we had this conversation the final word was always hers:

Mamu, I need an airplane.

21 October 2009

"a flower grows"

(Look closely. It's blue. And has rain. The artist had a light touch.)





20 October 2009

four weeks together

Well, I'm discounting 'most all of you from my research since you've skewed the results. ;>

I didn't, of course, expect that pi issues would be cleared up at six weeks. That's...insane, naive and just...ridiculous to imagine. But I have heard (though not from most of you) that at six weeks things just kind of settle into life, that "new normal" that is so often mentioned.

And, I am declaring that is together that counts--no matter how long.

Today is four weeks together! We left the orphanage a month ago. Lexi is bigger. I can tell when I pick her up and by the way she fits in my lap. Her little tummy is no longer concave. She weighs 17.4 kg and is 111 cm tall. That's a gain of at least .8 kg and a centimeter (I didn't measure anything until I got back to Russia, but the doctor in Moscow said she was 110 cm. The .8 kg has been added in two weeks!)

Her eating is better, her sleeping is better, she is more confident. She dances and sings and tells stories and pretends. She skips and turns somersaults. She paints and colors. She loves to go for a walk, to swing, to slide and to jump. She is much more compassionate with her doll. (This is the result of her receiving better care and of my fostering attachment with her doll. Seriously. I've worked to get her to attach to her doll, her bear, her blanket...) Her drawings are maturing. She is taking more risks (though still very few) and making choices between two options. She is almost always obedient--with a very few testing behaviours. She easily observes physical boundaries--not touching anything on Mama's desk, only playing in the living room or her room, etc. She always "stays with Mama" when we go out. She has "sleeping equipment" like Mary Helen Miller and receives kisses (cheek, lips, cheek, lips, cheek) like Samantha Pelican (shout out to two amazing young women I knew way back when they were Lexi's age).

Every word we come upon, like the FBI warning on a dvd, says, "Lexi" except for the few that say, "Mama".

She loves "Burton Ernie" (yes, she's added a syllable) but has a real soft spot for Bert. She loves Kipper, but only the first dvd we watched. (Part of my keeping her world small is limiting not only contact with other people, but also limiting the toys she plays with, the dvd's she watches, the books she read and the lullabyes and vocabulary she hears. The repetition can be mind-numbing to me, but she is thriving on it--singing the lullabyes and "reading" the books. Slowly we're increasing it, but she still has a strong preference to the first things. So we're sticking with those.)

She likes to eat just about everything except raisins and corn (no surprise on the corn).

And if you ask her, "Who loves you?" Her answer is a confident and immediate, "Mama!" The question"Big or little?" gets the same confident response, "BIG!"

She doesn't repeat English words right after she hears them, but they come popping out of her mouth days later correctly. I'm not including words like giraffe, lemon, puzzle, etc. which are similar in both languages. English words/phrases she uses often (so we know it's not a fluke):

beautiful
good girl
good job
push
please push the button
push your foot
help
okay, no
let's go
bubbles, clay
flag, America flag
milk, pasta, juice, muffin, peas, zuchinni
more
honey (as an endearment--the first time was when I conked her foot on the doorjamb and said, "Oh, I'm so sorry!" she added, "Honey!")
cow, duck, pig, horse, kitty cat, snake, sheep, bunny
(she knows "dog" but doesn't use it)
baby
to the sink, to the trash can, to the table
all done, all gone
little, big
up, down, fast
kick, (playing ball) spit (brushing teeth) jump
snort & snuff (from Moo, Baa which she endearingly used to get confused with "That's enough". Now it's just a name for rhinos.)
that's enough
tummy, teeth, hand, back
chew and swallow, put it in your tummy
socks, pajamas, shoes
stop, stop it
hello, good-bye, hi, good morning
almost home
just a minute
bleh, bleck--which she thinks are real words
blue, pink, purple
tissues
counts to ten (usually with one-to-one correspondence)
Beazy, Mia
Kipper, Bert, Ernie, Oscar, Cookie Monster, Grover, (Big Bird is still in Russian)

Mama and Lexi!
Amen!

I'm sure there's more. And, as I said yesterday, her receptive vocabulary is much larger than her expressive vocabulary. And, she uses them together. "Oh no! Bert's nose! Ernie (took) Bert's nose (and put it on the) clay."

It's interesting for me to see what is missing here. There are phrases we use all the time, and I've started using them in English, but like "dog" she just prefers the Russian for now. Things like, Do you/I need, Do you/I want, please, thank you, stay with Mama, tired, rest, sleep, eat, why, because

Oh--she sings a verse of her lullabyes when she's tired:
Feed the birds, tuppence a bag. Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag.
Sleep, oh, my child, now sleep. Mama her vigil dosh keep. (It's really "my darling" but I must've sung it this way once, 'cause that's how it is every time she sings it. So I've changed mine. I like the part of this one that says Soft be thy slumbers and deep)
One supona time, long ago (I love that this one says, My child, my very own, don't be afraid, you're not alone. Sleep until the dawn for all is well. but she doesn't know that part yet.)
Sweet little baby...(from An American Lullabye)
She doesn't sing Stay Awake. I guess she doesn't appreciate the reverse psychology.

She also sings Ladybug Picnic (which is only recognizable by the counting and the tune--her pitch is great, btw) Two Little Girls, J, Jump, Joyful and Three of these Things from Sesame Street.

I'll do attachment post later. Yesterday was a hard day simply because *I* was having a hard day. A change of scene, a call from a friend and thinking about an attachment post, and all the things that are going well (I won't say That we're doing right because I'm not convince there is a right. But, I will share what has been working for us. A lot has. A. lot.) helped.

Here. See for yourself:


The first two are from today--official one-month photos (I may steal Barb's sidebar idea.)

Displaying her amazing bedtime fashion sense--note top tucked into bottoms and bottoms tucked into socks; socks she was delighted to find in her drawer exclaiming, "I love black!" She gets very concerned that the animals in The Going to Bed Book have pajamas but no socks. I have declared socks, for almost all occasions, to be something that she can have complete control over. You laugh, but there are many days when I cringe at the choice and have to remind myself that socks.don't.matter. (even when they can be seen through her cute, brown mary janes)

This is how "Bunny Xychik" was talking last night--in a very deep voice.

And all ready to go out yesterday! We've moved from fall coats to winter ones already. Wish that little pink one could be worn by Lexi more...Maybe...
If not, I know it will be well-worn by someone.

19 October 2009

six weeks when?

I've read a lot of personal accounts of adoption. A. Lot. Talked to friends, read books, read blogs, been on forums...

"Six weeks" seems to be everyone's turning point.

Just wondering...is that six weeks together or six weeks home?

Tomorrow will be four weeks together. But it's only a week and a half home.

(It's rest time and I have decided to NOT do any work during rest times or nap times. I also try not to sleep. As much as I need it, I need time alone more. I used look forward to watching a tv show during rest times or nap times, but all my stored tv shows are now inaccessible. I need to go find them all on iTunes... Don't talk tv to me until I'm caught up, please! ;> Fortunately for you, I'm too spent to wrestle with iTunes and the calendar right now, so you get a blog post.)

Really, we're just working on post-institutional behaviours. And, very likely, pre-institutional issues. All of which (at least, all that I see now), very predictably, are related to eating (just manners) and sleeping.

Fortunately, she is attaching very, very well. (That's too big to be a part of this post. It should have a post of its own.) Given the choice I'd choose pi issues over attachment issues any day. So, for that, I am extremely grateful.

A note on language since I'm not sure I'll do the one-month post I'd planned to do and you're all interested: I started out, during our orphanage visits, speaking exclusively Russian to her. Once she was with me, I slowly added English. Now, I speak English and Russian to her--more and more English and less and less Russian.

She will lose her Russian, just as most other adopted-by-Americans-who-don't-speak-Russian do. (I can communicate in Russian, but I don't speak it.) And, really, I think the sooner that happens the better. We've got seven weeks (I think) until we go back to school. (I remind myself daily to just live today, to enjoy being home and not worry about working on things to make going to school easier. I may start working on those in another months, though...) Especially when we're out in a world that speaks Russian, Lexi speaking English will help her attachment to me. She will have Russian classes in school and may choose to re-learn it (easily) later in life. But, I'm not going to try to keep her bilingual.

I have a running list of words and phrases she uses in English, but no time to post that for you. Her receptive language is, of course, much better than her spoken language. Last night I said, "Your pajama top is under the pillow on the bed in Mama's room. Please go and get it." She did with no problem. Yes, she had context clues--we were getting ready for bed and there were only pajama bottoms. But, who says you can't use context cues? Use 'em!

Right now she has very strong, very negative reactions to people speaking Russian to her. She also has very strong, negative reactions to what is normal in this culture--the immediate, familiar endearment of "Sashenka" and people touching her--taking her hand, touching her head. Frankly, even if she didn't have a hard time with it, I would. To this American, it's too familiar. It feels invasive and presumptuous. It invades my personal space bubble--physically and emotionally.

Yes, it's the culture we're living in and we need to find a way to change us and not it while we're here. For now, when we're meeting new people I pick her up. That way, she feels more secure and they're less likely to touch her. I can turn her away from them. I introduce her only as Lexi (which perplexes many people who hear it as "Alexei", but I've decided that it's okay to perplex them) and not Alexandra. And, with friends we happen upon while out, my greeting is "Hi-please-speak-English-and-don't-touch-her." So far, friends have been responsive to that.

We also just. stay. home. as much as is possible. We do have to grocery shop, but we do it early in the mornings when the stores are empty every two weeks or so. We do need to go to the playground, but we did it on a Sunday afternoon when no one was on our school playground. We need to get out and walk and breathe--but we do it rarely, when and where we can be anonymous. It's not forever. It's just for now.

And, when I didn't do this, when a nice, nice, nice babushka who is one of our concierges was overjoyed to finally meet her and called her "Sashenka" and took her hand...that's when the sleeping issues re-surfaced. They're getting better. But, they're not as good as they were.

But whether it's around six weeks together (oh, I hope, I hope) or six weeks home that things feel more normal, I know that each day we're getting better. And really, what more could I ask?

15 October 2009

family in need

Have you read this post about a family in need of a new family for their son? If you've held harsh opinions on disruption, this may be the post that changes your heart.



I haven't read this blog before, but I will be following their story. She asked that everyone who could link to this post and put this picture on their blog, would. And I'm happy to do that.

(Thanks, Bex, for the heads up.)

14 October 2009

a pretending

When I was acting professionally and had to go to an audition or a job, I'd tell my little friend Faith (who always wanted me to come and hang out) that it was a pretending day for me. (I have to say, pretending is a great job.) She even came and saw some of my pretendings.

We were making breakfast the other morning and I asked Lexi if she was a cook. "No," she replied indignantly. "I'm a babushka. You're a cook." So we tied a (clean) dishtowel around her head, tossed another one over my shoulder, and away pretending we went.

Babushka was grumbling all the time that we made French toast that it ought to be kasha. But, Lexi happily ate it once it was through. She called me "povar" the entire time the dishtowel was on my shoulder.

A couple times since then babushka has showed up to sweep the floor and wash dishes. She's handy to have around! (Of course, she always wears a dishtowel.) Although she's a little stern, babushka (not capitalized) is one of the nicer people Lexi pretends to be. (Nana, you can take comfort in that!)

13 October 2009

"feline" better

Thanks for your concern for our feline friends.

Beazy is, indeed alive and mostly well. She was still pretty sick when we got home. She has some new food and she seems much better.

Actually, as both Lexi and Mia are a little skittish (Mia's never been around children), Lexi and Beazy have a better understanding. I've told her that Beazy is Mama's cat, so Lexi's less likely to act proprietarily with her than she does with "my cat!" aka Mia. And, Beazy will stand her ground. Beazy is a wonderful cat--liking to be with me, inquisitive, and a fan of Sesame Street. She also tends to move slowly and sleep a lot. ;>So, she and Lexi are getting along pretty well.


(I knew Lexi was a big "BertErnie" fan, but didn't know Beazy was as well. Who can resist "Doing the Pigeon"? Not these two!)


(After covertly watching this activity from the couch for days, Mia joined in the last round of trainspotting, too. I just didn't photograph it.)

Lexi tries to play with Mia by throwing things (cat toys, books, shoes) at her rather than for her. We're working on it. She also won't let Mia hunt the thrown object, but retrieves it herself. This has made Mia a little wary. And, when she rubs up against Lexi wanting to be pet, it startles Lexi.

I'm sure the two of them will work it out soon.

12 October 2009

yawn

I have spent 9 hours of the last 24 (and 11.5 of the last 30) hours
rocking and singing.

I. am. tired.

10 October 2009

ketchup

(I was going to call this "mustard" because I know I've explained "ketchup" in the second-grade-sense earlier...but didn't want to confuse new readers. Those of you in the know, please change the title in your heads.)

Okay, sports fans. We didn't have internet access while we were in the US. Here are loads of pix...fewer than usual words.

We left Moscow successfully. I didn't even have to show an adoption decree. I think it's because I was saying to Lexi (who was looking at herself in the mirror behind us) "What a beautiful girl!" and the girl at the desk, thought I was talking about HER. She gave Lexi a little smile and wave and handed me our passports.


These may look like darling pictures of my darling daughter...but really what they are is what she looks like just before the crazies set in. She did a great job on the flight...but it was nine hours long. She could handle about six (and I was amazed at how well she did that).


We arrived at JFK (the guy at the counter was nice. The people in the little room WERE NOT. They barked at us, were uninformed, and generally tried to make everyone's time there as unpleasant as possible. Really. And they enjoyed it. Another adopting family and I waited an hour while our papers sat untouched.

But, we made it! Think we look a little tired? Yeah.

We didn't even try to get on US time. So, we went to sleep between 3:30-6:00 p.m. every day and were up between 2-3 a.m. What can you do in a hotel room in the wee hours to entertain yourself if you're six?


You can copy the artwork on the wall (This is by far the best drawing she's ever done.)...


or spell your name with cookies and a little help.


When the sun comes up you can run the hill in the parking lot (with great attachment narration by Mama)...


or you can play with clay...


...or try to convince Mama you're not tired and in need of a nap at 7 a.m.

We spent a day getting her US passport--driving in to Manhattan for our appointment. There were a few moments of held breath when they wanted a COC (note: The stamp in your adopted child's passport next to their visa is proof of citizenship and all that is needed to get a US passport.) and a notarized translation of the birth certificate and adoption certificate (the embassy said they'd given us all we needed--they'd also given us an old passport application copied front and back which wasn't valid). They found a Russian speaker and verified that the translation was correct and we were good to go. That was good because the crazies were setting in. But, even the crazies have their purpose. It encouraged the agent to Fed Ex the passport to us instead of having us come to the city again.

The next day was very exciting.


because...



Lexi got new glasses!

And, two complete strangers complimented me on her adorable haircut. ;> I can't imagine anyone looking at this little pixie-face and thinking she was anything other than a girlie-girl.

After a long morning of trying to be good, the little people needed to run off some steam. We went to the Bronx Zoo--which is essentially a huge park that happens to have some animals in it. I was surprised at how few people we saw. It was like we owned the zoo! (I was very disappointed in the Moscow Zoo--and the St. P Zoo has such a poor reputation that I've never been there. So, I was looking forward to seeing this zoo.)

When we saw a new animal (this was a snake) Lexi would say, "Hi (animal)! I have new glasses! Look how beautiful!" Talk about a full-heart moment for Mama. Lexi was just giddy with delight!


She wouldn't even take them off to nap.


Her passport finally arrived!




The nice thing (very, very NICE thing, AM) about Ann Marie's zoo membership was not having any pressure to "do the zoo". We popped over again when we needed a little space to run. As you can see, we spent more time climbing fences, throwing rocks and looking through sewer grates than looking at animals on this trip. And they loved it. By this day, we'd convinced Lexi that Alexander was "little" and she was being more tolerant (umm...she was pretty mean earlier in the week) and playing big sister. She even asked him, very gently and sisterly, (because we both say often "Stay with Mama." whenever we go out) where his mama was when he wasn't holding her hand.

(Ann Marie will just tell me to shut up if I try to tell you how graciously she hosted us--and drove us ev-ry-where--so I won't. I won't tell you how incredibly grateful we are for all her help. 'Cause I don't want to be told to shut up.)


After a whirlwind trip, we headed back to Russia. This was a night flight, and it was great! She slept much of the way home. Thanks again, Espe, for your supreme generosity! We are looking forward to seeing you on our next trip to the US. Here Lexi's showing you her beautiful sweater and reading a story from her passport. Who knew they now came with fairy tales inside?

We made our airport change with time to spare. She was a trouper on both flights.


We came home to find this cheerful sign, lamps burning and overheads off (my lighting preference always) and the 'fridge stocked. Kat, you are a lifesaver! Thank you for your amazing, thoughtful welcome home.


Lexi's had a rough time with jet lag. She'd had a little tummy trouble in the US, but this was different. She was sick (please read that euphemism as it is intended) much of yesterday. Here, "my cat!" is doing her duty and is curled up nearby. The blue bowl is just out of camera. It only got more pitiful from here. I did a lot of laundry yesterday. A. lot.

Today she's bright and chipper and back to her sunny self. We went to Palace Square this morning, but it wasn't as satisfactory for running as the parking lot hill.



Here's an obligatory shot in front of the Hermitage. (Where else do you go on your first walk in St. Petersburg?)



And here's what Lexi looks like most of the time. She's saying "Oh, how beautiful!" This is how she describes everything from bouquets of flowers to road construction in Yonkers. Gotta love that outlook!

(No, she's not wearing her glasses here. The doctor said to never make her wear them. So, I ask but if she says no we don't bother. I think she slept on them funny on the airplane and they need to be adjusted. I guess that means I need to adjust them...)