29 October 2009


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):

good girl
good job
please push the button
push your foot
okay, no
let's go
bubbles, clay
flag, America flag
milk, pasta, juice, muffin, peas, zuchinni
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)
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
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!

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


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


(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.


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...)

08 October 2009

we're ba-aaack

we're safely home in st. p!

real post--with pix--tomorrow if time allows. (i'm pretty sure it will.)