Monday, July 7, 2008

Recent photos of the kids

Here are some photos taken of the kids in the last week. You can see how happy they are. They really enjoyed their first July 4th holiday (America's Happy Birthday - is how we explained it), doing sparklers and little fireworks in the neighborhood, then joining friends in Grand Lake, Colorado for boating and fireworks over the lake. Today was their first day for the new school year. Logan is now in 4th grade, and Daria in 2nd.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

3 months and counting

I don't know if anyone is still checking this out occassionally, but for those of you in the midst of the adoption process, I want to post to let you know how things are going after 3 months with the kids home.

It's actually been an amazing experience and has gone much better than Scott & I could've imagined over a year ago when we started the paperwork. To recap for those of you new to our blog, we originally had applied to adopt a sibling group up to 6 yo. We ended up accepting a referral of a brother and sister, ages 9.5 and 8 yo. I was hesitant when we first received the referral to see kids this old, thinking they'd have so many more issues. But, we fell in love with them immediately when we met them, and knew instantly that they were our kids. Really, it was the best decision we've ever made.

I really cannot say enough good things about Logan and Daria. They are amazing, in every way. When we brought them home, they started school a week and a half later. They knew about 10 words of English, and did not even know the alphabet. 3 months later, they are reading and talking in complete sentences (not the best grammar however, but it beats the hand signals we had to use when they came home!). It is truly amazing to see how their language skills are developing every day. They are really bright, smart and very eager to learn. They are fun, laugh a lot, and are really genuinely happy.

They are in a year-round school, so after 2 weeks off they start back next week for the new school year. Logan will be in 4th grade, and Daria in 2nd. They have made many new friends in the neighborhood (we have the most wonderful neighbors who have welcomed the kids with open arms) and at school. They are really opening up and gaining lots of confidence. Logan is very athletic, and picks up on everything immediately. He has transformed from a reserved little boy who always took care of his younger sister into a funny, silly, happy little boy who totally enjoys life (except for broccoli and the occassional chore).

Daria was very shy with others when she came home, but now goes and knocks on the neighbors' doors, looking for her friends to play with. She struggles a bit with school work, but she is smart and determined and completely cute and charming, loving and giving.

Not only have they had to adjust to a new country, language, school, friends, and home, but also our crazy work schedules. I was only able to take 1.5 weeks off when the kids came home, and Scott had to go back to work immediately. After a week in school, they "off-tracked" for 3 weeks and went to day care. Then they were back in school for the last 6 weeks of school. They didn't blink an eye and took it all in stride. We both work long hours which we've adjusted to maximize our time with them.

Honestly, I struggled for the first couple of months figuring out how to juggle everything, and feeling guilty when I was at work and not with them, and feeling guilty when I was with them and not at work. I struggled with depression for about a month, but I've had tremendous support from my boss, co-workers and friends, and am finally feeling like we have a good groove, and that I'm able to be a good mom and still do a good job at work.

Other than typical kid stuff, we haven't had any issues with the kids at all. We have a translator that we use every month or so, but we've never really been dependent on her to communicate with the kids. We read varying views about when to put the kids in school, introduce them to friends, get them involved in team sports, etc. We decided what would work best for us - and hopefully for them- would be to just throw them into the deep end of the pool and be there to support them. It's worked tremendously well. We immediately set expectations of proper behavior, what we expect in school, etc, and 95% of the time, they meet our expectations.

The kids still speak Russian to each other, which we're happy about. We want them to remain bi-lingual, but for now we're focusing their studies on English. In a couple of years,we'll get them back into Russian studies.

For those of you looking into the process, or right in the midst of it, know that it is a big leap of faith and trust that it will all work out. We love and treat the kids as though they've been with us forever. And, it works for us. We realize we are extremely lucky with our situation, and are so lucky to have gotten such awesome kids.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The dentist wasn't so bad...

At least not for Logan. Actually, both kids did very well sitting for the dentist, having their teeth cleaned, etc. The hygenists demo'd everything on me first so the kids knew what to expect. They especially liked the cleaning instrument - she put it on their fingers so they could feel it vibrate and they both laughed at that.

We knew Daria's mouth was a wreck, and it is. The dentist took one look in a referred us to a pediatric dentist would could help us evaluate and determine which of the issues should be tackled first. Logan has a bunch of cavities in his permanent molars, but other than that, his mouth is looking pretty good. Phew! We were expecting to have to shell out big bucks for both kids, but right now, it's looking like it won't be quite as much.

And, it's hard to pinpoint exactly what the causes are. If it's poor nutrition, lack of fluoride, improper brushing, no toothpaste, etc. Scott actually had to show the kids how to properly brush their teeth when he took custody of them in Ukraine. I suppose the orphanages don't have enough manpower to pay attention to everything. At least we're catching it now. I feel bad for Daria because I have a feeling that the work that will need to be done in her mouth will be quite painful for her. And, she definitely does not need to lose any more weight by not being able to eat solid foods for a few days.

The kids are still enjoying school, and have done well on their homework so far. We have to push Daria much harder than Logan with school work, but hopefully by the time the next school year starts in July she'll have the hang of things and be a bit more interested in learning. She seems to do well with a lot of encouragement and positive reinforcement about the work she's done, so we're doing a lot of that. Logan still has a tendency to jump in and answer things for her, so we're working on stopping that as well.

Monday, April 7, 2008

First Day of School

The kids braved their first day of school today. They've been so excited, everyday asking how many more "zafthras" (sp?? tomorrows) until school. Last week we bought lunch boxes (Spiderman and Princesses) and school supplies, which they kept looking at every day. I think reality kicked in a bit this morning when they finally realized they really were going - it wasn't a theoretical thing. You'll notice in their "deer caught in headlights" photo, very top :)

But, when I came back to school this afternoon to pick them up, they both had huge smiles on their faces. They really enjoyed themselves. Logan's 3rd grade teacher even found a computer site ( - for those interested) in which she could type an English phrase, it would convert it to Russian, then actually say the phrase out loud. We'll start using that at home! She had asked the class last week who wanted to be Logan's buddies, and sit by his desk. Apparently there were lots of volunteers. Our neighbor's son Zane is in Daria's class, and he is looking out for her.

We have actually found a translator, who has been super, and we spent half an hour on the phone with her this evening asking the kids how things went today. They really did have a great day and said that school is much better here.

We had a fun weekend with the kids. My office mates threw them a wonderful party on Friday, and they enjoyed pizza and cupcakes, as well as many wonderful gifts. We took advantage of one of the gifts, and took the kids to the Denver Zoo on Saturday. We had taken them swimming for the first time at the local rec center in the morning, and between the two (swimming and zoo), they were (very happily!) worn out.

But not too worn out to go pick out their first bikes in the afternoon! They were so excited to get them. Sunday morning we took them out for their first lesson. It was a good reminder of how difficult it is to learn to ride. It was really hard to explain to them. I've been biking forever, but I've never had to explain it to anyone. They did good for their first outing (balance is the trickiest piece), and before we know it, they will be wheeling around on their own without our help.

The kids really seem settled in and very well adjusted. They told the translator that they're very happy here. Tomorrow when I take them to the dentist they may change their minds :)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Trip to Copper Mountain

Yesterday morning I made the call to postpone our tubing trip until today, because of the winter storm warnings for the ski resort areas. Thank goodness I did. There was a 60-car pileup on I-70 that had the interstate closed for most of the day. I'm really glad we didn't have to sit in that, or worse yet, be one of the cars involved in the collision. As you can see from the photos, the storm cleared out and we had a perfect day at Copper Mountain - sunny and 40 degrees. Unfortunately, I forgot to put sunblock on the kids and forgot sunglasses. I did remember to pack their lunch though :) I guess I'll eventually remember everything that I'm supposed to do for them.
The kids had a great time tubing, though I had a hard time explaining to them beforehand that we were going tubing. I think they thought we were going to ski. The 5 tube chutes ran from easy to steep and fast. They liked doing them all, especially the one in the middle with the big bump that put them airborne for a couple of seconds. There was lots of giggling today. The good news (for me, as I'm an avid skier) is that they were really excited to see the skiers and boarders as well. Logan wanted to know if we could go tomorrow. I couldn't figure out how to tell him "next season", so I had to tell him "180 zahfstra (sp??) - which to him means in 180 days (tomorrows).
We stopped at school on the way home for their ESL testing. We will hear from the school later this week, but we discussed - and the ESL teacher said she's going to recommend - that Logan go into 3rd grade, instead of being in 2nd grade, which he was in at the orphange. He is super-smart and catches on to things really quickly. Hopefully within another year or so, we can bump him up one more grade level so he'll be with kids his age. Daria will probably remain in 1st grade, which is fine. We think that is appropriate for now, and hopefully in a couple of years we can bump her up as well. We think they'll be starting school on Monday, as they already have most of their vaccinations, which was surprising to us, but in a nice way.

Some photos from the first few days

Here are a couple of photos from the kids' first few days home.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A few whirlwind days!

So far so good with the kids! Though they've only been home since Wednesday, it actually feels like they've always been with us. The kids are really settling in well and enjoying things, though they have been jetlagged. The first couple of days, they woke up pretty early - 4 and 5 am. Today was the first day they've been in bed until 7 am - a semi-normal time (we'd prefer 9 am on Sundays!! :) We have noticed that they get tired easily. I'm not sure if it's the altitude (we're at 6000+ feet here) or if they just don't have the energy because they're so thin. We've been getting them outside everyday to do a little something - a walk, playing soccer, etc - to build up their energy.

Their appetite has been great, they want to eat often, but they don't eat alot at a particular setting. They mostly want fruits and veggies, so we're having to force protein and carbs into them. Though, they do love eggs, so breakfast time is easy. Knock on wood, but we are having a really great experience so far. They are really well-behaved kids. Scott set the line early while he had them in Odessa for appropriate behavior, and they really do listen well. I'm amazed at the communication that we're able to do with them, without us able to understand each other's language. They may not understand what we're saying, but they "get" what we're saying. Whether we're telling them to make their beds or brush their teeth, to asking them if they're cold or hungry or want to play, somehow it's all been working out. There has been only a few times that they weren't able to tell us something or vice versa.

We had a busy day yesterday. Scott's family came over yesterday to meet them, and I think that was a bit overwhelming for them. Later, they met a few of the kids in the neighborhood, who have all been very excited to meet their new friends. I think yesterday was a bit overwhelming for them, but they handled it very well. We've had no blowups or tantrums, or really even any fights. Every now and then they'll squabble over something (usually over choice of movie to watch), but otherwise, they're great together, and we think, really good for each other. They will chatter on and on to each other in Russian, and I really wish we knew what they're saying. I'm half tempted to tape them and take the tapes to an interpreter. Right now, I'd love to be inside their heads to understand how they're viewing everything so far.

They do only like to go out for a bit at a time - one or two stores, then they ask to go home. We think they just want to make sure that home is still really there for them. Tomorrow I'm going to take them for their first day trip (to go tubing at one of the ski resorts), but so far we've just kept them around the house or neighborhood, except to go to a few stores. We think it's helping them with their comfort level - this is "our house", "our bedrooms", "our clothes". Neither one is particularly clingy, though Daria gives me lots of hugs and kisses and keeps saying "my mama" in Russian.

This week, I'll take them to school for testing and enrollment. They've actually had a lot of their vaccinations done at the orphange, so I think we'll be able to start them in school in a week from tomorrow. Logan is really looking forward to going, Daria not as much. Once she's made some friends though, that will change.

I will admit to being a little overwhelmed (mostly because I haven't had as much sleep as usual) with the suddenness of everything. But I know we'll get into our family groove here very soon. The good news is that the kids are completely comfortable with us, and seem to trust us. That will really help.

I still haven't had time to pull photos off my camera, but promise to do so very soon!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

They're Home!!

It feels so great to finally be able to write that! Scott, Logan and Daria arrived in Denver at 1pm this afternoon. I'm so happy to have everyone together! Scott said all last night they kept saying "America" - they couldn't wait to come. On the flight home, they kept asking him how many more hours to go.

I got tons of hugs and Daria held my hand almost the whole way home (I was NOT driving :). I'm sure not having mama around while Logan had papa was hard for her. It was fun seeing their reactions to our house and their rooms - their very own rooms! They kept saying "wow!". Not that our house is very big or anything, but I think they just can't believe they actually have their own rooms. Especially after sharing a bed for so long after getting out of the orphanage and waiting for the passports.

I think our dogs were a bit overwhelming for Daria, but I kind of expected that. They're both young - 2 and 1 - and are very "enthusiastic" (as one friend graciously put it). Meaning, they jump and lick A LOT. Logan really liked it, but not so much Daria. In a few days, they'll all be best of buds, and I predict that Dozer will be sleeping with Daria and Tasi with Logan.

Most importantly, we can finally relax from this roller coaster of a trip and settle in to being a family. We'll take some pix tomorrow of the kids in their new home and post them.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Passports Finally Arrive!

Hi everyone (if anyone is still following this). I'm sorry it's been so long since the last posting. Scott applied for the passports on March 13th, and it has taken this long to get them. They finally arrived this morning, but apparently it took about twice as long as most people's. Needless to say, by Friday of this past week, Scott was really worn down mentally and panicking because his time off comes to an end this week. We thought that I might have to go back over so that he could come home and go back to work. Fortunately, everything worked out just in the nick of time!

Scott has been keeping the kids busy and entertained as best he can. He's my hero - staying over there by himself and taking care of our kids. It sounds like they've figured out how to communicate back and forth pretty well, and he says they are just awesome and very well behaved. They even make their beds in the morning without being asked!

We had purchased a Leap Frog system for each of them before we embarked on this journey. We were going to save it for the plane ride home, but Scott finally had to break down and give it to them this weekend. He says they absolutely love it (hint hint to those of you adopting kids old enough to understand them). He said they caught on and figured things out pretty quickly, and there are plenty of learning games that come with the base system in addition to the add-on games. We got a good deal on ours at Costco in the fall, but maybe they still have some.

Scott has been taking the kids with him every day for the last week to check to see if the passports arrived. The kids know what the passports mean - they can finally come home to America. On Friday when they went, the lady told him the passports had arrived. He got so excited, but apparently they were for some other kids. Today when they got there, the lady told him the passports had come, but he didn't want to get too excited in case they weren't his again. Finally she had the kids come back around and Scott said they went crazy when they saw them. They are so excited to finally be coming home!

I have to be honest - I've been worried that they'd forget me after I left. After all, I was only with them for 2 weeks before I came home, and it's already been over 3 weeks since I've been back. Scott said our translator today had a long conversation with Daria, and that she really misses me. She was able to describe what I look like: "mama has red hair and a nice smile", which made me very happy. I cannot wait to see my kids again. I've really been missing them since coming home.

We're hoping that they can finish up everything that they need to do at the Embassy tomorrow, and then fly home on Wednesday. It's sometimes possible, and easier with one child than two. But, I know the Embassy people will do they're very best to get everything finished tomorrow. If not, the worst case is that they will be home on Thursday. I will know in the morning when I wake up. Finally, something worth getting up at 5am for!!

Meanwhile, our friends Peter and Charlene have finished their 10-day wait. They adopted 2 children from the same orphanage that we did, and their daughter and Daria are friends from the same class. We are looking forward to keeping the kids in touch when we're all back home and settled in.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Picked up Cout Decree

Today we completed our ten day wait period and was able to pick up the court decree, which was big step in finalizing the adoption. We were hoping to get the children's birth certificates changed today as well; however, the orphanage director was not in town and we will have to spend one more night in Balta and hopefully pick them up tomorrow.

From there, we are off to Odessa to apply for their new passports. We still have not made up our minds if we are going to stay in Odessa while the passports are developed. It could take up to ten days and the hotels are much more expensive their than in Balta. We should know tomorrow exactly how long the passports will take and will make the decision then.

Either way, the children will need to travel to Odessa to get their photos taken for the passports. They (Odessa Region) have re-organized how they give out passports and the children from the Odessa Region now have to be in Odessa to have their pictures taken, rather than have their photos brought into the agency. The good news is that if all goes well tomorrow morning, the children should be able to leave the orphanage for the last time tomorrow. Which will make tonight their last night.

Even though we were not as productive today as we wanted to be, we still feel very fortunate to be in the position we are in and have high hopes that we will be back home within two weeks.

Several lessons learned over the past week have been;
If only one spouse is going to remain in country to finalize the adoption after the court hearing, ensure that a Power of Attorney is left with the remaining spouse.

Confirm with orphanage officials that the paper work (birth certs, etc...) needed to complete the adoption process is available on the day after the ten day wait and that an official will be able to access and give you that paper work on that day.

Bring plenty of medicine. If you thought you brought enough, take some more. I ran out and it made for a very uncomfortable week unnecessarily. The majority of the children and people we have come in contact with have colds, respiratory infections, etc... and the chance of catching multiple colds, etc.. is high. If at all possible get with your doctors and see if they can prescribe some antibiotics in case you need them.

Fingers crossed, tomorrow will be a productive day and we will be one step closer to coming home.