Quote of the Day


and more on the candy theme

Just to clarify, and in response to a few emails and comments:

I started out moving the candy from their bags into a little pile for me, but they decided that I was really just interested in acquiring their candy for personal gain, so I rerouted it into the bag of the sibling.

Prior to the candy incentive, Juliana would 'help' by reminding him, which really didn't help, as it was just another external monitor. Under the new deal, she has a selfish reason to not help him, which, in the long run, actually helps him. He has so radically upped his ability to self-monitor, that he actually loses very few pieces to his sis. She has lost about the same number to him (fingers-in-plate is her pet foible), so it evens out.

I do appreciate your cautions about setting them against each other and I move very carefully in this regard.


The New Deal

So, I know I may be a bit stricter than most, but it is really important to me that our children have decent table manners. Their previous care-giver felt the same apparently, as the children tell us that she constantly reminded them to hold their forks nicely. Well, I am tired of constantly reminding and would like for the kids to remember this -- and a few other things (swallow before talking, keep your fingers out of your plate) -- on their own.

Christmas brought us a lot of candy which has been stashed into labeled ziplock bags and dispensed in wee portions. The bags have joined us at the table and are wonderful. Each time someone slips in one of the three key areas, one of their pieces of candy leaves their bag and arrives in their sibling's bag. It is amazing. Andy used to need umpteen fork reminders per meal; tonight he needed none.

I think that helping Andy build an internal monitor of behavior is one of the hardest parts. He has before never needed internal control, as his previous environment provided plenty of external control. He frankly states that he shouldn't have to remember things as that is my job to remind him. When candy is on the line, however, he gets motivated.


Found Gum

(this is an old post that somehow got saved as a draft rather than actually posted. I'll post it now as I have nothing else to say on this blog. All my energies are with my Dad right now.)

Someone with whom I share a home, the same someone that I usually call my Gift From a Generous God, does have one flaw. He chews gum. I hate gum. I hate finding it in the washer and even more hate finding it in the dryer. I hate finding it on the furniture and I hate finding it on our shoes. I really hate finding it in our son's mouth when I know darn well that no-one has given our son a stick of gum, but that instead he has found it somewhere.

At least I know that today's gum had only been in my hubby's mouth prior to Andy's; unlike the time in the Moscow airport when we both realized that he was chewing, and we had not given. EWWWWwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.


a DIY kind of gal

Chickadee got tired of waiting for me to trim her bangs, so she did it herself. About a quarter inch long.



Thank you all so much for your kind words regarding Dad. I'm going to ask that, if you don't know us face-to-face, you comment only on this blog, as I print the other blog for Dad and it's so confusing to him when I try to explain my e-friends. So we'll treat this a place for messages for Suzanne and the other blog as a place for messages for Dad and Mom and family. Does that work?

He lives. His blood pressure was 50/33 and his core temp 80 degrees. Both of these are indicators of imminent death, yet Dad lives. He is indeed paralyzed, but other than that (and the 8 broken ribs) has no major health issues and is quite strong for a 71 year old. Last night the rehab doc assured him, that other than using a chair and having a rather complicated way of handling waste products, he'll be able to live a relatively normal life: go to church, go to grandkids' sporting events, do many of the things he loves to do. He won't, however, be cutting his own firewood anymore.

related posts: Hard News & What Happened?


Happy for you . . .

We've been working on finding something more pleasant to say when someone gets something we want and we get nothing. We've ruled out saying "ME ME ME ME" and "I want one! I want one!" and decided that saying "I'm happy for you," would be nice. Jamie and I have been role-playing this and the kids have been practicing it in silly ways.

This morning, Juliana showed Andy the very cool mini-flashlight that she acquired yesterday during her big day in Seattle. You have to know that for Andy-The-Gizmo-Kid, there is nothing more attractive than an item that has both buttons and lights. With shaking voice he looked at it and said, "I'm happy for you Juliana." Then he burst into tears.

I'm so proud of him! I buried him in hugs and told him what a good boy he was.

In the orphanage they didn't give things to children unless they had one for everyone, or if it was a shared item. The idea of one child having a private possession and the other child not having is a big new concept. We are so pleased that they are accepting it.

Yesterday we went to Children's to see a doctor who said that Juliana was tiny. We are seeing a series of specialists who are all ruling out bad things, so it is rather good that all the doc has to say is that she is very small. We don't want the doc coming into say that she has some really interesting and unusual condition. But still, driving all that way to hear that she is little seems a bit unproductive.

My mom went with us and we redeemed the drive by going to Bellevue. We stopped in to visit my Father-in-law at work who was very pleased to see us. Then we went to the mall and rode the glass elevator up and down and waved at all the giant snowman and gasped at the flying reindeer and visited the LUSH store. We tried very hard to visit Trader Joe's, but after an hour of driving (slow progress due to street-lights being out), we got there only to find them without power and closed. They couldn't sell anything, as neither their tills nor fridges were working, but they did have a little generator going to keep the lights on; they kindly let us in so that Juliana could use the bathroom. At long last, I finally got into a Trader Joe's, I just didn't get to buy anything.

So that is all the news. Part of my long lull in posting was a case of the blues brought on by the return of Holly's cancer. Surgery is on Friday.


obligatory post

Not much I can report. We are all fine. I'll post more when I'm feeling articulate and interesting.


Trees and More

Last Saturday we went and got our tree at our favorite tiny little tree farm in the foothills. On Sunday, we decorated the tree with all the wooden and cloth kid-friendly ornaments I have been acquiring for years. Andy and Juliana loved decorating the tree and have added 'make the house pretty' to their daily list of that for which they are thankful.

We don't currently have a working audio system in the house (long story) so we were decorating without music. This seems just wrong and I commented upon it. Juliana then started singing "Jesus loves me". What better music could I wish for?

Mrs. Mama School is very popular. Kate asked if we are doing this long-term. We will be more home-school than public school until we are quite sure attachment is solid.

We did the letter "B" last week:

"Ball. Banana. Bunnies. Bread. Breakfast. Baby." I said.
"Mama doesn't like babies," Andy replied.
"Yes I do! Why do you think that?"
"Why did you give me to the detskydom (orphanage)?"

All this time he has thought I parked him there for six years because I didn't like babies. The amazing thing is that he 'welcomed me back' with open arms and heart. After I explained that I was a new Mama on the scene he said it was very sad that we had had to wait so long. "I needed you," he said. "I was a sad baby. I needed you no bolshoy padashdi (big wait)."

I'm sure the school can do a more efficient job of teaching him his letters, but if I let them do it all, I'd miss conversations like that one.


God's Grandeur

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; 5
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things; 10
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89). Poems. 1918.


Singing Children

If you are familiar with LeapPad's alphabet video, you'll know the tune to these lyrics, slightly modified by Andy and Juliana:

The Mama says Obey.
The Mama says Obey.
Everybody makes a sound.
The Mama says Obey.

The Papa says Obey.
The Papa says Obey.
Everybody makes a sound.
The Papa says Obey.

The Detsky say Okay.
The Detsky say Okay.
Everybody makes a sound.
The Detsky say Okay.


Mrs. Mama

We did a trial run of home-school today (alphabet song, day of week, and the number zero). The children decided that since they call their school teachers Mrs. SoAndSo they should do the same with me. I was Mrs. Mama all morning.


We really like it that our cats are mousers. Living in a 1924 farm cottage in open acerage in a cold spell as we are, we are bound to have a mouse in the house, or maybe two or three. So we do appreciate the cats' diligence and we have even come to accept that they will play with their prey. We do wish they wouldn't do so on our bed. While we are still in the bed. Sleeping.


Nifty resource

In the birthday report, I shared that we purchased a book titled Annie and the Wild Animals. I bought it because I loved the illustrations. Tonight, while searching for some flashcards and coloring sheets to help Juliana with her numbers, I found that the illustrator, Jan Brett, graciously shares her artwork on-line. You can find days of the week coloring sheets, numbers trace alongs, the whole alphabet to color and trace and a lot more.

If you are home-schooling, you want these. Even if you are not home-schooling, these are a delightful way to augment whatever is happening at preschool or kindergarten.

We are officially starting to homeschool on Friday, December 1. We'll start opening the advent calendar and do everything around the number 1 and the letter A on Friday. I just can't resist matching the curriculum to the calendar.

Snow Report

Well the neighborhood is no longer trapped by drifts and Jamie was able to go to work today. We very much enjoyed him being home with us yesterday. The wind blew hard all day and kept us indoors so we amused ourselves by watching bully trucks get stuck in the drifts in front of our house. One truck off-loaded its passengers into our living room while they worked to get unstuck. Imagine our surprise when our unexpected guests spoke Russian! The family immigrated years ago and the children speak English at school and Russian at home. From them I was able to add to my vocabulary the Russian words for "tell the truth" and "don't lie". Very handy words.

My laundry room is a balmy 40 degrees Fahrenheit today, up from the 18 degrees F yesterday.

updated to add that it is snowing again and we are expecting another six inches. Eeeps.


How Snowy Is It?

It's this snowy:

(all you Alaskans can snicker; for us this is a big deal.)

It is so cold in my laundry room that the clothes I left overnight in the washer were frozen. The pipes, however, are not. Yet.



We don't always get snow in the winter, and sometime it is just a thin sheet of sloshy stuff, but today we awoke to a nice thick coating of crunchy snow, the sort that makes snowmen and snowballs.


a word to the wise . . .

Okay, so if you are in a restaurant and they bring you clam chowder and you think," hmmm, it's yummy, but something is wrong here", pursue that thought! Don't let yourself get distracted with portioning out the children's plates or with the conversation at hand. Stop and ask yourself, "what is wrong?" You will then have a chance of noticing that it is clam chowder at room temperature and then your Master Food Preserver and Safety Advisor training will kick in and inform you that a dairy and seafood dish must be kept piping hot for food safety reasons. Once you realize this, you will refrain from eating the soup and save yourself from hours of misery. Trust me on this; I learned it the hard way.


Late last month I commented to my sister that I wasn't even sure we could do Thanksgiving as the children were so wild and Andy's hands were so busy touching everything he saw. I imagined a stress-filled day full of jumpy parents and lots of discipline. Wrong again!

We had a lovely dinner at my Mom and Dad's. We ate off of china on a nice tablecloth. The real silverwear and glasses were used. Andy said grace, thanking God for each and every family member. The children used nice table manners. After dinner they played with their cousins (young adults) and enjoyed the crafty project Aunt Christy and Uncle Grape had brought. On the few times we had to remind them of some boundaries (inside voices), they complied. Other than the fact that my brother was away working and I missed him dreadfully, it was a perfect day.

On the way home we dropped by my Aunt and Uncles where we got to see many of my cousins and their children. I thought we would be able to stay only a little while as my children were tired and already over-stimulated. We ended up staying a couple of hours as the children played nicely with their second cousins, obeyed nicely, and were obviously enjoying the visit greatly. At one point Juliana came running over to me to say "I'm happy." She came back to say "fun fun." On the way home Andy thanked me for "horashow egratz with detsky" (good play with children).

While we were there, one of my cousins called his three children to him. They "hurry-hurry-obeyed" (as we call it) and they all put their hands together in the middle of their circle. Andy watched, transfixed. The papa told the children that they would be leaving in ten minutes and reminded them to tidy up and then to say goodbye to their aunts and uncles and grandparents. The children obeyed. Andy was so impressed; he talked about it all the way home. I think he found it reassuring that other familes follow the same pattern of children obeying parents.

The children were also quite impressed that all these new people were also their family. "Bolshoy family" they exclaimed. Yes, they have a huge family including lots of cousins their ages with which to play. We have so much to be thankful for.



What is a Go-to-Sleep-Seeing, you may ask. It what you see when you go to sleep. We might call it a dream. I love the creative logic of it. It is so fun to watch my children sort out the language.

Has anyone noticed that scary go-to-sleep-seeing seem to happen during spates of leg cramps? Andy has been getting both recently. I think the leg cramps disturb his sleep cycles which open the door to bad dreams. Just my theory.

Stuck in the Truck

In our backyard sits this old red truck which is off-limits to children because the door handles don't work from the inside. Children who disobey are likely to get stuck in the truck. At first they will not mind this, as it is fun to play with the steering wheel and the knobs and buttons. Of course, after awhile, they will want to get out and cannot. There they will sit until Mom comes and a) catches them red-handed and b) reminds them that their good Papa forbade playing in the truck and c) discusses why they think Papa forbade this ("door no open" the children say) and d) sets the timer where the children can see it as they serve their "naughty chair" time in the truck.

After they were freed we had lunch. Andy said grace and added a line to the usual litany. "Thank you for no more truck."

Oh how I love natural consequences.


more lovin'

We are gaining daily. Now when we get to the part about Babushkas and Dedushkas loving her, she will say "Kapecho" (a tiny bit).

We went to Children's Hospital yesterday; my mom came with us to help with the driving as I am so sleep-deprived due to coughing (yeah Mom!). Anyway, we were able to see the x-rays of her legs. You can actually see the bone starting to grow on the inside of curves. The medical team there is very hopeful that her legs will straighten without surgical intervention. We'll be back down there next month for another check-in. It's a lovely hospital; very patient-friendly with easy parking and pleasant spaces.

Across the street from Children's is a very nice shopping center, the sort that I browse but don't purchase from. Mom and I and Juliana had lunch at a white-table-cloth Italian restaurant. We had a really nice time; Mom and I got to visit and Juliana didn't disturb the other diners while she ate all her lunch, thus qualifying for ice cream. It was really lovely. If you had asked me two months ago if I would be able to take do this, I would have said "Maybe in a year". It's nice to be wrong.


Who loves you?

We are enjoying great progress with Juliana recently. She has started to approach me and ask "Please Mama hug." She backed into my mom the other day for a snuggle. She crawled up onto her napping Papa twice for snuggles. None of these last for long, but we are so pleased that she is initiating. She is also better able to give hugs and snuggles when asked, though they are quite brief as she is clearly mistrustful of affection and love.

But it gets better. I've long been asking "who loves Juliana?" and her answer is always "nyeto (no-one)" Then I go through the long list of family members who love her and ignore her disclaimers. Yesterday it went like this.

Mama: Who loves Juliana?
Juliana: Nyeto
M: Mama loves Juliana.
J: Da (yes), Mama loves Juliana. (!)
M: Papa loves Juliana.
J: Da (yes), Papa loves Juliana. (!!)
M: Dedushka loves Juliana.
J: Nyet (No).
and so on . . .

but she has gone from zero to two! That is a lot!

This morning Jamie and the children are at church. I spent the night in the chair trying to sleep. When I lie down I start choking and coughing. I stayed home to rest. Jamie was looking like he wanted to rest too, but the children begged, yes begged, to go to Jesu Christo-dom (church). How could he say no?


The menu

Jamie and I leapt out of bed this morning and after slaying a few housekeeping dragons, whipped together the following:
  • 17 lbs of rosemary turkey
  • yams glazed in apple-pepper jelly
  • mashed potatoes
  • perfect gravy
  • cornbread dressing with pecans, currants, and apples
  • baby herb salad
  • biscuits
  • apple pie with ice-cream and caramel sauce
Three of the items came either ready-made or from a kit; I'll let you guess which ones.

We had a lovely visit with Grandma Carol and the children are still engaged in imaginative play with the cool toys she brought.

We got the power!

Bom bom bomabity bom bom.

The lights came back on around 3ish on Thursday and there was much rejoicing around our house. There was also quite a bit of laundry, dishes, and bathing going on.

Andy's school news:

  • He got up in front of the class and shared about his family, human and critter. Apparently he spoke English, as his teacher understood and asked me about the housebunnies.
  • We packed for him a sack lunch and, as this if the first time he has had access to a food stash, he kept getting into his bag for a snack. We had to talk about eating only in the lunch room.
  • He learned to write his name in English! He practices every night.
  • He came home with a book called Whose Mouse Are You? in which all the family members of the lead character (a young mouse) die or are captured or disappear. What a nice choice for a former orphan! But it gets better. Because this mouse truly loves his family, through his own hard-work and diligence, he gets them all back. So if you are a good enough kid, you can regain those lost relatives. The book has mysteriously disappeared.
  • Do you know the story Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? My sister read this to the children once, and I have read it 2-3 times. Last night Andy came over with the book and asked for a few of the names of animals and colors. Then he, with the book to guide him, read (recited) us the whole book. A few minutes later he came back without the book and recited the whole thing from memory. We are quite impressed.

Today Jamie and I are sharing an early Thanksgiving meal with Grandma Carol -- Jamie's Mom. Grandpa will not be with us as he is at the side of his recently bereaved brother. Jamie is wrestling with the turkey as I type and the children will help me make pies after breakfast. My sister gave us a darling Thanksgiving sticker book which we read and stickered this morning. The children have now some clue of what Thanksgiving is: "bolshoy chicken and pie".


boom BOOM and out go the lights

What is even more fun than being sick with kids? Being sick with kids without power, which means
  • no lights
  • no central heat
  • no water (showers, laundry, dishes, hand-washing to prevent spread of illness)
  • no vcr/tv
  • no oven
  • no phones
  • no nightlights for kiddos
  • no bedtime/naptime music
We lost power yesterday at 12:15 and have been camping ever since. How am I posting? We charge the laptop in the truck last night and I have a nifty gadget that acts like a cell-phone for dial-up access.

We have a nice woodstove in the living room and a gas stove, so I can cook, as long as the menu is boiled or fried. We are reading lots of books by the fire; this is cozy and fun.


Not quite dead . . .

. . . but not quite living either. Today was Andy's first day of school and I have been too sick to even find out how it went. Many thanks to my Dad who came over and kept the children safe and entertained as I collapsed on arrival.

Thank you all for your ideas. I think I had neglected to mention that we don't have television channels here. We have a TV that is connected to the DVD player and that is it. Alas, no Sesame Street for us. But wait! I have an idea (runs off to Google something). Why yes, we do have Sesame Street.



Okay all you experienced Moms, I need you.

I need a list of menus and activities that will keep my kids happy and pleasant and that will take the least amount of energy from me as I am completely busy coughing and hacking and sneezing and collapsing onto horizontal surfaces.



This evening we had a wonderful first. Juliana and I were in the kitchen, from whence we could see Jamie relaxing by the fire in the living room. Papa, ya tebya lu-blue, I-love-you, she called out. As far as I know, this is the first time that she has initiated an I-love-you.

As I sat and stroked her cheek to help her fall asleep this evening I realized that both kids seem to be attaching well. I reflected for awhile on the reasons for this. The first and foremost is of course the Grace and Mercy of God. We've also done a lot of little things that I am sure have helped; I'll share some with you and I hope you will share some with me.

I try to touch their cheeks and palms and the soles of their feet as often as I can. We just work it into the daily routines.

  • After sending the children to wash their hands, we check for the smell of soap. This of course puts our faces near their hands which is perfect for kissing the palms of their clean pink upstreached hands. They love this; I love this. Considering that they eat four meals a day, this is a lot of kisses. Kisses are good. (Have to mention here that they announce that they are ready for their kisses by saying "mama, I washed my hands." Today is the two month anniversary of our final decree and they are uttering grammatically correct sentences in the past tense. But I digress . . .)
  • Whenever I put lotion on my hands I put it on their hands and cheeks. I rub it in.
  • Any time a child seems to be heading towards trouble (whiny, or pesky, or naughty) I tell them that I can see that they need a snuggle and we have one. I hold them sideways, like a baby and cup their face in my hand and coo at them. Juliana can only handle a little bit of this, Andy lots more.

When I need to discipline them by putting them in the malinky-stuhl (little chair), I present it as a whole-family sadness. I'm sad for them, their sibling is sad, he or she is sad. We are all sad that he or she has to sit in the malinky stuhl . As a family, we empathize with each other about how un-fun it is to sit there. After the required number of minutes, I arrive at the chair and sit down and ask him or her why they are in the chair. They tell me. I ask them if it is nice or happy or fun to be in the chair. They say no, of course. I ask them which is better: not obeying and sitting in the chair or obeying and not sitting in the chair. Of course, they pick obeying. Then their chair time is over and we are all happy for them. Even though I am the enforcer of chair time, and the one who determines the duration, they focus on the fact that I am sad with them and that I too hope for no chair time. After chair time, no matter how small, we have a very big snuggle. We just recently went out and bought a very big chair expressly for snuggling in.

In a couple of other posts (this one and this one) I mentioned that Juliana has trouble with being scared at night. The minute we would leave the room she would start to whimper and it would work up to a full wail. We tried lots of thing and nothing really worked but I do think we have stumbled on the path to peaceful bedtimes.

The first thing we did was stop trying to talk her out of being scared. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it took us awhile. We had been trying to focus her attention on the big papa, barky dogs, fenced yard, etc. This helped a teeny tiny bit. Then we figured out how to use what she wanted (for us to stay) to get what we wanted (for us to be able to leave and go to bed ourselves). I taught her how to make hand puppets out of her fingers. One finger is Scared Juliana. She says "I'm scared." The other finger is Mama y Papa's Juliana. She says "Wait, good mama (or papa) will come." We tuck them in and remind her that, if after a short interval we hear no whimpering or crying, I will come back and pat her until she falls asleep. The first few times I just sat in the hall and waited to hear her breathing change and then returned so that she could feel as if she had been successful. I didn't want her to break into a cry and have to do without us.

Anyway, we have been stretching the interval so that she is settled for about 15 minutes now and when I do come back, she can fall asleep very quickly. I think hearing herself affirm that she is in a good place and that we will not disappear -- hearing herself affirm this, not hearing it from us -- is settling her, and of course is super for attachment as she is practicing the ability to believe in us.

The other trick is that when I am there to pat her, I only pat if her eyes are closed. If her eyes are open we exchange I love you-s. After a few of these, she gets a bit uncomfortable. I think it is a bit too intimate for her, so she closes her eyes again. Every night though, she can take a few more I love you-s before she closes her eyes. With her eyes closed, the pats resume and soon she is asleep, nestled into the covers and layers of physical love, visual love, and auditory love.

I'd love to hear your attachment and parenting tricks and tips.

and more thanks

er uhm . . . thank you to Aunt Ruby (she who must be obeyed) for the lovely card and books. We are quite delayed in our thank you notes; I think I just sent out the ones from early October. We haven't yet opened the books as we are saving them for the Christmas Tree, but knowing Aunt Ruby, they will be awesome books.


I love Jenny!

Have I ever told you how awesome and clever and good-looking my cousin Jenny is? And she has excellent taste in gifts, bringing both this (which the children love) and a lovely LUSH facial (ayesha) which is the key to looking fresh and perky when one is actually weary and bedraggled. It is one of my favorite things, and cannot be acquired in the US through mail order. Yeah Jenny!


Calming My Wild Child

One of the adoptive parenting groups that I belong to shared this helpful article by Debbie Jeffrey on how to help my busy boy settle down. I've cut-and-pasted it here, as the webpage version printed very strangely. If you want to print it, you can cut-and-paste from here into your word-processing program. I hope I've put in enough links that will direct enough traffic to Debbie Jeffrey's pages that she will overlook my copyright liberties.

My sons have always been the kinds of kids who everyone called hyperactive. Just watching them would give you a headache. When they were going especially hyper and crazy, we used to always send them for a run around the block. We figured they needed to blow off some steam and it'd tire them out.

"Everybody" used to tell us that all boys go wild, and that's what they needed.

I must admit, it didn't work too well for our kids - they'd come back still chomping at the bit, and with enough energy for another hundred blocks. It got them out of the house and away from a mother who was about to blow her stack, and that was useful. But that's about all.

Sometimes "everybody" gets it wrong.

We suffered their hyperactive behaviour for years, managing it by dosing ourselves with large quantities of bourbon and paracetamol (sorry), until my reading finally helped me to figure out what was going on for them, and what we, as parents, could do about it.

In my article on hyperactivity, I wrote about how the brains of young children who've experienced trauma or disruption actually get stuck in the fear response. As a result, their brains shift very easily into a "fight or flight" mode. So they get aroused and "hyper" very quickly, and sometimes in response to things that you or I wouldn't normally think of as stressful. These children sometimes look like they have ADHD. What they have is actually more like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

This understanding is relevant to adoptive families because disruption early on in life - like separation from birth mother and changes in caregivers - can be quite traumatic. We expect adopted babies to cope with it; however some children seem more sensitive to it than others. Added to this initial trauma that all adopted children experience, many of the children who we adopt at an older age have experienced abuse and neglect. This typically causes the changes to brain and behaviour of which I'm writing.

Thus, I came to realise that my kids, adopted at an older age and who do have problems related to early trauma and attachment difficulties, were hyperaroused. What they needed was quiet and calm to help their brains settle down - not more physical exertion. Asking my kids to go for a run was revving them up, not settling them.

In the last few years, I've developed a different attitude and learned some calming strategies, based on this understanding.

So how does a parent develop a calming attitude?

When your child is being hyperactive, fidgety, argumentative, loud and silly, even overly anxious, think of his brain as being hyperaroused and out of control. He lacks the ability to self-soothe. His environment needs, ideally, to be low on stress and stimulation and high on parental contact and calm.

I find myself using these principles, to a lesser extent, even with my relatively well-balanced biological child. When she's overanxious or tantrumming, I can see that, from another perspective, she's stressed and out-of-control. Her brain has reverted to a more immature level of thinking - she can't calm herself down, she can't problem-solve, her behaviour is escalating, and she needs the soothing influence of a parent to get it together. So the strategies I'm about to explain can be helpful for all kids.

I like to think of two guiding principles.

(1)Lower the stimulation level.
(2)Time-In (keeping your child close).

Let me explain.

(1)Lowering the stimulation level.

It keeps your child aroused and stressed. Loud music, screaming and yelling are pretty obvious examples (don't you find that you get on edge when people are screaming at each other?). Less obvious ones are lots of unstructured physical exercise, TV (especially cartoons), video games, incessant talking, and crowds of people. I mention video games and cartoons because they contain lots of fast-changing images, and sometimes violent themes.

When your child is hyped up or anxious, keep those things to a minimum. This is not the time to take her for a visit to a theme park or send him out for a water fight with the neighbourhood kids.

How? What can you do instead?

First, when she flies off the handle over something trivial, don't argue with her. You can't reason with someone who's stressed, frightened, hyperactive - do that later, when she's settled. Be sympathetic but firm, and stay calm. Say to her, quite directly, "You're hyped up, and you need to calm down. I know what you need."

Find some quiet activities, preferably some that involve sitting and concentrating. Simple craft activities are great. If hyperactivity is a frequent problem with your child, it's worth having a box of stuff that you've pre-prepared to bring out at these times.

Some practical suggestions: drawing and colouring; jigsaws; playing with playdough (even my teenagers still love this); stringing beads; knitting; Lego; cutting and pasting (collage for older kids); chalk drawing on the driveway; playing with toys in the bath; puzzles such as word searches and simple crosswords; Hama beads (for older kids); finger-knitting. Your child should be doing these things alone or in your company only.

If your child is really hyped up, of course, it'll be hard to get him to concentrate on anything, so before you try these things, you might need to start with some of the "time-in" strategies suggested in the next section. However if you learn to read the signs that he's getting out of control, you may be able to stop his behaviour escalating - "nip it in the bud" - by trying some of the above ideas.


Time-in means keeping kids close to you when they're anxious or being troublesome.

Why? For healthy, well-attached children, it's very comforting to have mum or dad close when they're stressed. (And if your child doesn't feel comforted by having you close, then you need to actively encourage her to stay close - it'll help the attachment process). Remember, when they're stressed and aroused, their brains have reverted to an immature level of functioning. Babies need to be close to their parents. Research is showing us that, for a young child, just being physically close to a parent will increase the levels of calming hormones in her brain, and decrease the stress hormones. Physical contact is even better.

I know that it goes against the grain, in our culture, to keep our kids close when they're misbehaving, so this may require a significant shift in your thinking. Typically we like to send them away - to their rooms, to time-out - because we think this will decrease stimulation (which it kind of does), give them "thinking time", and get them out of our hair (which is sometimes, after all, necessary). We like to think our kids should calm themselves down independently of us.

But the trouble with time-out is that because it is so isolating, it actually increases the child's stress. It raises levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and adds to a child's sense of aloneness. It rarely works as "thinking time", because when a child is feeling stressed and upset, he's not very good at problem-solving.

Let's be realistic, sometimes parents need to do it when they're really at their wit's end and going spare. But I've come to realise that keeping your child close is a much better way, when you can manage it, of calming him down, de-stressing him, helping him to think rationally once again.

Your child needs you to be stronger, wiser, calmer and more in control than she. Keeping her close when she's hyperactive or stressed won't make her dependent on you. It increases her feelings of security and trust and, in so doing, actually builds connections in her brain. When she feels calm and secure she'll be confident enough to break away, to explore and develop independence.

I know that being around hyperactive, stressed out kids makes you, as a parent, feel on edge and stressed out. But I found that, when I started to make a habit of time-in rather than time-out, I started to feel more in control myself, and it was easier for me to stay calm. It probably won't happen at first, so "fake it 'til you make it". And when you do have the occasional bust-out and blow your stack, forgive yourself.

How? How do you practise time-in? Here are some ideas:

- Have him do some of the activities suggested above, while close to you, e.g. sitting on the floor or at the table next to you.
- Get her to help you with the housework, alongside you. e.g. wiping walls, hanging out the washing.
- Have him help with cooking. Baking biscuits (cookies)is great - grab some pre-prepared dough from the fridge section of the supermarket, which makes it easy to bake on the spur of the moment.
- Have her just sit on the floor next to you.
- Sit and read to him.
- Play some finger games (e.g. "Where is thumbkin?") or singing games with you.
- When he's up to it - hugs and cuddles and rocking. Hold your child like you would a baby, across your lap with his head in your left arm, get him looking in your eyes and talk or sing to her. Holding like this, especially with eye contact, engages the right side of the brain, which is the part that regulates emotion. It's what mothers automatically do with their babies, and scientists have only recently begun to figure out why. It's very soothing, and it helps to develop the parts of the brain that regulate emotion. You can be quite direct in how you explain it to your child: "Here's what we're going to do. Some kids find this very relaxing." With an adopted or foster child, you might even say, "We didn't get to do this when you were a baby. So we're going to do it now."
- Strong Sitting. This is another very powerful tool for settling kids. I consider it about as close as you can get to meditation for children. I've been told that you can teach children to meditate, but I've never been able to teach my wild kids to do so (funny ...)I have, however, been able to get them to strong sit. It seems to help the brain shift gears, to engage the rational, thinking side that moderates strong emotions. Here's what you do.

The child sits quietly, cross-legged, on the floor, with her back unsupported, eyes open, mouth closed, hands comfortably in her lap, nothing to fiddle with. The aim is for her to eventually sit for one minute for every year of his life (i.e. a 5 year old would sit for 5 minutes).

You need to build up the length of time the child can do it, so start with just a small amount of time - even 30 seconds is good. Try to do it 2 to 3 times a day, and make sure your child is with you when he does it. While you're cooking dinner is a good time, or sitting doing paperwork. I set the timer on the stove for my son, and if he breaks the silence, or starts moving and fidgeting, he has to start again. He's learned (eventually) not to break it, which also makes it a good exercise in self-discipline. Surprisingly, he now does it with a minimum of fuss when I ask him, which tells me that he must recognise, at some level, that it helps him.

In conclusion: If you have a wild child, start by limiting the time she spends in stimulating activities. Monitor the amount of time he has with TV and video games. Recognise the signs that she's becoming hyperaroused, and redirect her attention to quiet, calming activities before she really starts losing it. This is helpful even for the not-so-wild distressed child. Make sure he spends plenty of time in close proximity to you and has plenty of physical contact with you. Do your best to stay cool and, in time, your wild child will be calmer, and you'll both be more in control.

- Debbie Jeffrey



Birthday Report

Andy had a great birthday weekend. After birthday lunch and cake and his cool present (kid's digital camera), we headed for town.

We visited MindPort and were very happy that we did not have to leave early (this time) as no one fiddled with the lightswitches nor turned off all the displays.

From there we visted The Fairhaven Toy Garden from whence we had been blessed with gift certificate. They have lovely toys including HABA toys, which are the coolest ever. We've recently received several generous gift-checks which we plan to spend on Christmas gifts at the toy garden. We were absolutely thrilled that our obedient children sweetly asked if they could touch stuff and accepted with grace when we had to say no, though we said yes as often as we could.

We then visited our local independent bookstore and with another blessing of a gift certificate, bought Brown Bear Brown Bear, What do you see? and Annie and the Wild Animals and Olivia. I was super happy that we ran into two of my colleagues and that they could meet the children.

We had dinner out and then home for bubble baths and a Mr. Bean movie and one more round of presents . Each child got a costume thanks to the Old Navy post-Halloween sale. These have become the official television-watching garb. Not that we watch any TV, just videos, and not even many of those, but the children don their official grab on the mere whisper of a hope.

On Sunday we went to church and then to my parent's home for Birthday Brunch with Aunt Christy, Uncle Grape, Uncle Tim, and my Uncle Chuck. He received several nice gifts (books and cupcakes of his very own). We took lots of pictures to share with you until we misplaced the camera. Whoops.


and the winner is . . .

Option C, which arrived after the voting but resolves the problems of the first too. I didn't like the eye-hole in Option A nor the blockiness of Option B.

Happy Birthday Andy!

It's a rainy day - Andy loves rain.
Papa is home - Andy love Papa.
We are serving everything with whipping cream on top (Cheerios, juice, etc.) - Andy loves whipping cream.
Later we will have an outing - Andy loves outings.

We love Andy.


and more

Today when I went to pick up Andy, his little face lit up with joy when he saw me. This has never happened before. Usually, when reunited, he looks a bit peeved. I can't tell you how encouraging this is, that he rejoices to see his mama.

Over lunch, we were counting who loves him. We did Mama and Papa and Juliana and the two sets of Grandparents and the Aunt and Uncles (10 thus far) and then moved onto the pets, who are mostly paired. To my utter shock Andy said 12, 14, 16!! Counting by twos? We didn't teach this. All we have taught is the names of numbers, not even the shapes of the written number. Andy: boy genius.

In other news, we received the children's certs of citizenship in the mail this week, so know I can apply for social security cards and then passports and then, at last, make the trip to IKEA! My nearest IKEA is in Canada, just north of us.


A Happy Day

Today was the "trial" day at preschool and I am happy to say that we were indeed invited back. Juliana is invited back for the group we were in today, and Andy is invited back for an other day that has older kids. We all agree that he is a bit old for today's group. We are also looking into one-day-a-week kindergarten for him.

The preschool is FOUR minutes from our home at the local community Baptist church and meets on Tuesday and Thursday mornings for Juliana and Friday mornings for Andy. Juliana didn't actually make any friends, but she and two other little girls moved en masse from play station to play station today: sort of a side-by-side group play dynamic.

In other happy news, the children seem to have absorbed the relationship between being very quiet in the morning and having a jolly good-natured Mom. Yesterday I only heard one loud plonk and a loud SHHHHHHH; today I heard nothing. Their clock radio goes on at 8:00 and that is the cue for coming downstairs and making noise. In addition to me getting my much needed last hour of sleep, Juliana also gets a bit more, as Andy wakes up around 7 and had been in the habit of waking her up too.

In even more happy news, we found the Russian word for "obey" and were able to have a long conversation about children's jobs (obeying) and parent's jobs (earning money and buying grapes, according to Andy). Today my parents did the second half of pre-school trial and then brought the children home; they were happy to be able to report that the children obeyed. This has not always been the case. I am feeling hopeful again.

I found a useful website that has some good advice about sensible parenting, specifically about training in obedience and then most of the other training is done. While reading the website, I realized that has been my worry: if we can't instill obedience, there is no end to the troubles and anxieties ahead. When we get obedience in place, we can enjoy more and fret less.


Other happy families

Very happy to move families from the Families in Waiting blogroll to the Kids are Home! blogroll.

  • Bethee and DH
  • Brian and Rhonda (I presume)
  • Dave and Anna
  • Tina
  • Young Family
and SoFlaDad and SoFlaMom have drifted over to the China blogroll.


Announcement Proofs

option A

option B

We are about to order our adoption announcements and here are our most recent renditions. What do you think?

Edited to draw your attention to the nifty poll widget in the upper right corner. Please cast your vote!


Don't you just love it when, on a balmy and pleasant Saturday afternoon you or your husband take the screens off, wash the windows, and put the storm windows up and then the very next day a cold front blows in and there is fresh snow in the foothills and the temperature drops to 34 degrees and you are inside all snug and smug 'cause your storms are up? Oh, this has never happened to you? Well it has never happened to us either, until now. Yes, Jamie beat the first deep chill of winter. Yeah Jamie!!

Something about having the storms up makes me feel secure and cozy. I want to make soup and bake apple treats and pull out the woolie sweaters.

I'll try to take a picture of Mt Baker for y'all today. He is wearing his new clean coat of snow and twinkling in the sun. Here's a bit of local lore for you:
The Lummi, who live near the Canadian border, cast Rainer as the jealous wife of Mount Baker. Rainer was the favorite of Baker’s two wives, but she had an awful temper. After a while the younger wife, Mount Shuksan, with her kind disposition, became the shine of Baker’s eye. Furious, Rainer threatened to leave unless Baker showed her more attention. When Baker ignored her, she made good her threat and traveled south, alone and slow. After a distance she looked back,expecting Baker to call her home. He did not. A little farther, she looked again. Still nothing. With a heavy heart she continued on and camped for the night on the highest hill in the land. She stretched and stretched to see Baker and her children, until she stood higher than all the mountains around. But Baker did not call her home. “Often on a clear day or clear night,” says the narrator, “the mountain dresses in sparkling white and looks with longing at Baker and the mountain children near him” (p. 22-23).

Barcott, Bruce. The Measure of a Mountain. Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 1997.

btw, I found that link of ways to support an adoptive family.



We have been so busy living our new lives that we’ve not had time to document it. So many things to report, so little time. Here then is a random selection from our last nine days, no particular order.

Children’s Hospital, Everett Clinic is quite nice. They provide valet parking and there is a nice coffee shop and free internet. We learned that Juliana’s bent leg is from Vitamin D deficiency which is needed for proper calcium absorption. Wait. We already knew that. We learned that Orthopedics only documents changes, and that we need to see Endocrinology to get her on high doses of vitamin supplements. Wait, we are already doing that. We learned that the Outlet Centers in Burlington are a really fun place to take a little girl.

Andy had a wonderful day while Juliana and I were at the clinic. Dedushka took him to Secret Beach where they tromped about and built a campfire and an old Russian-speaking man sat down and chatted with Andy. I would love to know what they spoke of. Later, Dad and brother Tim and Andy made cider at my parent’s home. We’ve been making cider in the fall as long as I can remember.

Juliana got her glasses last week. She wears them without being reminded and they apparently help a lot. We are very glad that we got a back-up pair, as we have already had a breakage.

The children and I had lunch at Costco last week. They gleefully adorned their cheese pizzas with sauerkraut and pronounced it “bolshoy num-num”.

We had a lovely dinner at my sister’s home. Her dear husband cooked us an awesome meal and gave me an acupressure treatment. Sister took the children for a walk and sang them silly songs. We left feeling blessed and fortified.

The dryer died. In the last three years we have replaced the water heater, the washer, the dryer, the fridge, and the dishwasher. It’s as if the appliances are in cahoots. Bank account low? Time for an appliance to die.

We have had a rather rough week. Two steps forward, three steps back. We knew that post-institutional children often regress in their toilet habits. On paper, we accepted this as part of the package. Living it out, on the other hand, is a whole different thing. I stood in the diaper aisle of Walmart absolutely dazzled by the array of diaper choices and absolutely amazed that I was about to buy some. I thought we had cleverly side-stepped the whole diaper thing. Alas.

Let’s see, what else have we been doing? We go to the doctor/dentist/vet/specialist at least once a week. I have meeting for school at least once a week. We try to have outings, but they are often aborted.

It’s not been a particularly happy period. We are tired. I think the children are tired. Everything is so hard, for us, and for them.

Hoping for a perkier posting next time,


Baby Slugs

The children just presented me with a baby slug. They wanted to know if it was safe to pet, or if it would bite them. I am so pleased that they thought to inquire. I told them they could pet it, but they had to do so outside. They then asked if they could keep it as a pet. No, we are not accepting new pets, particularly not slugs. EWWWWwwww.


Snuggly Jesus

Instead of climbing into her high-chair (yes she is 5, but physically, she is 3, so we need a high-chair) this morning, Juliana crawled into my arms for a long snuggle. So, I taught the word snuggle. "Mama likes to snuggle; Papa likes to snuggle; Babushka y Dadadushka like to snuggle," the children recited their list of known snugglers. "Jesu Christo likes to snuggle." I apparently looked a bit surprised. "Da, destsky scared, Jesu Christo snuggles." (Yes, when children are scared, Jesus Christ snuggles them.)

When I was a child, I knew this about Jesus. I had forgotten.


Our day

8:30 am - the children's clock radio goes off which is the signal to come downstairs. The three of us cuddle and giggle in the big bed. This is good.

8:45 -- Juliana commences a royal whine-and-cry because she doesn't like the socks that her brother sweetly went to fetch for her. This earns her a spell in the WhineAndCry chair. She does not like this.

9:00 am -- I go upstairs to check the children's rooms. Children are dressed. Beds are made. Clothes are put away. This is good. I go back downstairs.

10:30 am -- I go back upstairs to find the children pouring water over one another. They are fully dressed and fully soaked, as is the rest of the bathroom. This is not good. I ask them if this is okay behavior at the orphanage. They say no. I ask them if this is okay behavior at Mama and Papa's home. They say no. We all agree that this is not okay behavior.

12:00 -- we head out to do errands. The trip to the park and the ice-cream are cancelled due to soggy bathroom. During our drive, Andy asks, in his nice voice, Please Mama, Detsky Dom. I have never heard him ask for the orphanage except for when he is angry. I ask him if we wants Mama and Papa and Juliana and Andy at the orphanage, or just Andy and Juliana. He says he wants Mama y Papa Dom Y DetskyDom. I ask him if he is sad. He is. We talk about all the people he liked and is sad for. He is sad because he thinks the caregivers are sad because they miss Andy and Juliana. We all agree that there is sadness. We also agree that we are not sad about Child X who regularly beat up Andy. We are happy that he is PacaPaca (bye-bye). This whole interval is very sweet.

4:30 -- Jamie and I hear "If you would like to make a call, please hang up and dial again" on speaker phone from a phone upstairs where Andy is allegedly napping in his bed. I go up. Andy feigns shock and amazement at the strange behavior from the phone which is mysteriously wrapped in a (damp) towel and hidden in the bathroom cabinet. He denys touching it. I place both his hands over his heart and require eye-contact. He confesses. I thank him. This is the first time he has been truthful with me during a bust. This is encouraging.

5:30 -- Andy learns that the incident of the phone in the nap has cost him his "good nap" sticker. He then loses his yogurt for standing on his chair and trying to eat his yogurt whilst holding it aloft. I think he was envisioning a ceiling-height yogurt dispenser that dispenses yogurt into his awaiting mouth. Whatever. We don't stand on our chairs and hold our food up over our heads. In his frustration over these back-to-back losses, Andy kicks his sister, hard. This is not good. Andy spends quite awhile in the WhiningAndCrying chair, which dual functions as a Naughty Chair.

6:30 -- We find a window open and a screen popped out upstairs. Andy denys everything. I put both hands over his heart again and require eye-contact. His voice shakes as he answers "da" (yes) when I ask if he did this. I thank him for telling me. He is very puzzled. Two truthful admissions in one day. This is very good.

7:00 -- the children race downstairs to show me two important pictures they have found as they looked through the books upstairs. One is of baby Jesus, one is of Christ on the cross. Jesu Christo!! Jesu Christo!! they proclaim. Yes, yes, Jesus Christ, I answer. Christ. Andy stares at me. The light goes on. Christ Amen? he asks. Our children have just now figured out our prayers.


Andy says Grace

Dee HeveEE Father,

Thank you SOOO much.

Aunt Christy,


Okay, so I'm going to have to enunciate better, especially the In Christ's Name (Aunt Christy) part.

We made it to church again today. The teacher for their group usually alternates every week, so we were surprised to find the nice lady from last week there today. She came in just in case our kids were there, so that they would have continuity. Isn't that sweet?

To answer a few questions from the Remarks Box:
  • BTDT is Been There Done That.
  • I think having two will increase our hiberation period, as they each only get half of me, so to speak, so it will take twice as long.
  • We took a phone cord, but didn't need it. The phone jack at the Markuel was just like the ones at home. The thing we really needed, and D&L kindly brought for us, was a power strip, so that we could plug in our one outlet adaptor and then plug in our many necessary things (camera battery charger, computer, modem, hot curlers for court-day etc.).



Well, we certainly have learned the hard way why the advice from folks that have BTDT is to limit visitors. We actually thought we were limiting! Every visit triggers a complete rebuilding of the rule-book. The children imagine that the new person is the next shift and are eager to abandon all the rules and regulations of the old shift.

So, we are now realizing that we are not going to be able to add "new" people to their repertoire for awhile. So, we thank you for your patience as we know you want to meet the kiddos, but it really works best for us to hold off for awhile longer.



I've found a way to share pretty music with you. This piece, The Lark Ascending, by Vaughan Williams was inspired in part by the English poet George Meredith (1828-1909). The composer included this portion of Meredith's poem on the flyleaf of the published work:

He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound,
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake.

For singing till his heaven fills,
‘Tis love of earth that he instils,
And ever winging up and up,
Our valley is his golden cup

And he the wine which overflows
to lift us with him as he goes.
Till lost on his aerial rings
In light, and then the fancy sings.


Nine Cavities!


In addition we learned that she has had a bunch of teeth pulled and some fillings. Who knew? We couldn't see the fillings under the stains (which polished off) and I didn't realize that the "lost tooth gaps" were atypical.

We picked out her lavender glasses at Costco today. She is quite sad that we have to wait a week.


No Cavities!

Yesterday we visited the eye doctor for both kids (Juliana needs glasses: no surprise) and Andy saw the dentist. They polished off all the stains and declared that he had a perfect mouth. No cavities, no alignment problems, no worries. Juliana sees the same dentist tomorrow morning. We don't expect such a good report for her, but are very willing to be surprised.



We attended church yesterday for the first time since the children came to us. We bravely dropped them off at Children's Lessons, which run during the first half of the service. Right before communion all the children rejoin their families via a processional into the sanctuary. Our children looked quite relieved to see us again. Andy was baptised in Russia, so he was able to take communion along with us.

I was very happy to be back at church.


"Please Mama, books"

Yes, this was Juliana's request last night during our after dinner quiet snuggle.

When the children first came to us, we tried books and they were clearly not interested. Andy gets a few books with his naptime routine, but other than that, we haven't pushed books and they haven't pursued them. This of course was quiet worrisome to me, Ms. Book-Eater.

Juliana and I went through three books together last night and she asked for words in English. She has been rather resistent to English, prefering to teach us the Russia rather than learn a new word. So, happy steps forward on two fronts.


October Moonrise

Taken from our front steps as the children ooooed and awed.



O hushed October morning mild,

Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;

Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,

Should waste them all.

The crows above the forest call;

Tomorrow they may form and go.

O hushed October morning mild,

Begin the hours of this day slow.

Make the day seem to us less brief.

Hearts not averse to being beguiled,

Beguile us in the way you know.

Release one leaf at break of day;

At noon release another leaf;

One from our trees, one far away.

Retard the sun with gentle mist;

Enchant the land with amethyst.

Slow, slow!

For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,

Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,

Whose clustered fruit must else be lost –

For the grape’s sake along the wall.

-- Robert Frost


God’s World

God’s World

O World, I cannot hold thee close enough

Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!

Thy mists that roll and rise.

Thy wood, this autumn day, that ache and sag.

And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag

To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff.

World, World, I cannot get thee close enough.

Long have I known a glory in it all,

But never knew I this:

Here such a passion is

As stretcheth me apart – Lord I do fear

Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year;

My soul is all but out of me – let fall

No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.

-- Edna St. Vincent Millay

I'm not teaching this quarter, alas, but if I were, we would be reading some autumn poems. I'll share them with you instead. My Mom first shared this poem with me and it has become one of my favorites. We are having mornings just like this these days.

Right now the children are picking up by hand each and every yard leaf and putting them in the trash. I didn't set them to this task, but it is keeping them busy and happy, so I'll not intervene.


Busy busy busy

I must say that I have never ever multi-tasked more than I did last night when I was cooking dinner (okay, heating up the dinner my girlfriend J brought over), corralling three joyfully loose goats, and consoling a small girl with a high fever and a broken heart because she had misplaced her footie pajamas. Jamie was toiling away at work saving small cities from refinery mishaps. Okay, maybe his work is not quite that dramatic, but I like to tell myself so when I have to do without him – makes our struggle seem more meaningful I suppose.

For goat details, see The Great Goat Escape – different day, same caper.

Fever? The children have had to redo all their shots, and have both reacted strongly with fevers and malaise and serious crankiness.

So, a general update is in order. We saw Dr. Julian Davies at the adoption clinic at UW who ordered gallons of blood and a zillion x-rays and sent all the findings to our local doctor whom we saw on Tuesday. We very much like him and Nurse Christina. Juliana has brought home some unwanted guests in her GI tract, so we are looking forward to getting rid of them. In addition we have started working towards a diagnosis for why she is so teeny. We are very happy to have gotten an appointment a good pediatric dentist for Juliana next week, as she is in dire need.

On the school side, we are getting closer to getting on the same page with our school personnel in terms of getting the children assessed in Russia asap. We have to officially enroll them which we are doing through the MP3 program. The MP3 program is the vehicle whereby home-schooling families access some classes. We need a district teacher to recommend that the children be assessed, so we’ll go to class and demonstrate our remarkable melt-down capacity. Our children have the emotional fortitude of much younger children.

Why are we pushing for assessment you may ask? On one hand, they are clearly bright. On the other hand, their background is statistically risky for learning troubles. If we wait and see, we will lose our window for accurate assessment. We either need to assess in Russian now or in English about four years from now. If we don’t assess now and do enroll them in school next year and do run into trouble, we will have limited our options for determining the nature and possible resolution of the troubles.

So, between scheduling and keeping doctor appointments, and talking with and meeting the various staff members of the school team, we have been busy busy.

How can I help?

An anonymous poster has asked how they can help a newly formed family.


Before I crashed my old blog I had a link to a site that had a list of 10-12 ways to support an new family. I've lost the link and the luxury of time for searching, but I am sure someone out there has it.

We've been home two weeks and I have especially appreciated food, short visits (especially ones in which I get to shower), practical household help (dishes, floors, beds changed etc.), helping with doctor visits, and people accepting our "weird" parenting. People have called before visiting to ask what we need: a quart of milk, warm playclothes for cool weather, a prescription picked up -- all these things help a lot. We've also been really grateful that people are following our requests of "no cuddling, no sweets". We are realizing daily how important this is, so if your new family has made explicit requests, honor them - there are reasons.

So, other families who have BTDT, what do you recommend? and who can provide that missing link? (tee hee)


Sticks and Nettles

We live on five acres shaped like a long skinny chocolate bar. On the back acres are trees and a meadow. This portion adjoins all the neighbors' trees and meadows. No one lives back there, but someone (we are still trying to figure out who) comes through all the parcels now-and-then with a brush hog. A brush hog, for you city-folk, is the Papa of all Lawn Mowers and easily cuts blackberries, shrubs and small trees. The brush hog path makes for a lovely walking trail that covers several acres, including a cedar grove full of mossy logs to walk on and slip off of, mushrooms to whack, birds to spot, and many secret nooks.

Today we took the children, the dogs, and our one adventuresome cat (the other kitty was doing her nails) on an outing to the back acres. We learned the joys and cautions of whacking branches with a stick, what nettles look like, and why one should pay close attention when Mama and Papa are warning one about nettles.

Yesterday we bought Juliana her first own dolly. She chose a soft pink newborn and it has been very fun to watch her coo and cuddle with it. Also yesterday, Andy climbed (with my help) his first tree. I boosted him up once and then set him to it. He was not able to get back in by himself, though he tried hard. He has good leg muscles, but no upper body strength. I am hoping to keep him trying the tree on a daily basis until he makes it.

We skipped naps yesterday and put them to bed a bit early and they awoke a bit late. It is nice to have this option, though I don't think I want to try it two days in a row.

The children are asleep and I have to choose between napping, showering, and blogging. Bye.


Conversations at our house

transcribed from the English/Russia/Sign Language which has become our household norm

Andy: "Can I do the dishes now?"
Papa: "We are still eating, please wait."
Andy: "Can I vacuum then?"
Mama: "Too noisey, please wait."
(Andy then clears the table and wipes down all the parts that he can reach -- Jamie and Suzanne are lingering over coffee.)
Andy: "Dishes now?"
(Jamie and Suzanne notice the rain clouds rolling in.)
Mama: "No you may not do the dishes or vacuum; you must go outside and play."
Andy: "Please?"
Mama: "Outside. Play. Now."
Andy: (tearing up) "Please please Mama? I don't understand."
(Suzanne points the clouds and draws raindrops.)
Mama: "Hurry if you want to play outside."
Andy: "If I play outside now can I vacuum and do the dishes later?"
Mama: "Maybe."
Andy makes a very long and passionate speech in Russia which results in them frantically assembling themselves for outdoor play and racing out the front door.

Did I mention that they make their beds in the morning and love to sort laundry and neaten their drawers?


still here!

It is very hard to type on one's laptop on one's lap when the lap is also occupied by five plates and a teapot and two teacups, a LUSH tub, and a small mug each full of playdough. Playdough tea, playdough fish, playdough applecrisp, playdough zuup, playdough milk etc.

First, thank you for your supportive and thoughtful and encouraging posts and emails and telephone calls. We are doing so much better. I didn't know that missing naps made kids more awake at night. We were skipping naps in the hope that they would be tired enough to sleep through jet lag, but it wasn't working. We reinstated naps and everything got better.

Second, flip through the older posts - I've added a lot of pictures.

Yesterday, we visited the International Adoption Clinic at the University of Washington. We got to meet with our doctor and a translator and it was very helpful. Juliana shared that she was afraid of the window at night, that something bad would come in. We talked about how the windows lock and that she has a bolshoy papa and barky dogs and a big brother in the room and that mama and papa's room is right below them and that she and Andy could switch beds so that she was far from the window. This all seems to have helped, as we had no crying at bedtime last night nor at naptime today. The doctor asked Andy if he had any concerns or problems at his new home and he proclaimed that he liked everything and that the food was good.

The children did really well at the clinic. Juliana patiently and cooperatively sat through 13 x-rays and they both visited the vampires without flinching, though Andy's eyes watered. We got ice cream on the way home and they chanted, "Da Mama y Papa dom; Nyet detsky dom." I'm sure the ice-cream helped.

Sometime this week -- it's all a fuzzy blur to me -- my dear cousin and two of her children visited. Julie got to meet her namesake and the second cousins got to play.Andy lost a tooth this week and was just delighted with his toothfairy haul. He got ten pennies andthree candies and promptly gave one to his sister and one to his parents. He's such a nice boy.

Last night they got to pet one of the kitties for the first time. The kitties have been very scarce up until now. We've taught the children to sit when they see a kitty and it finally paid off as kitty became comfortable enough to approach them. Yeah. Today they got to meet the bunnies whom they petted gently.

We were all set to welcome Jamie's folks tomorrow for their first long visit (they got to meet the children at the airport, but that was just a tiny visit), but Jamie has to work graveyard tonight (11-7) so we will be on an odd schedule tomorrow.

In closing, big big thanks to
  • my parents who have been here (one or the other or both) nearly every day with casseroles and warm playclothes and practical help
  • Diana for dinner and applecrisp
  • Jody for a yummy yummy lasagna and a clean kitchen floor
  • Aunt Christy & Uncle Grape for the dried apple slices with which I can buy most any behavior I want.
  • all of you who have taken the time to write long emails full of very useful and appreciated advice.
  • you! for coming back to read the blog even though I've been so boring this week.


All I want for Christmas is a full night's sleep

This is really hard. We have wonderful support and we are finally home and we are so weary. We did not baby-proof our home sufficiently, imagining that our children would be reliably obedient about forbidden zones from the get-go: very naïve of us.

As it is, it is as if we are baby-sitting in that we can never have them out of our sight. Having lived in a world where everything was a.) safe for children and b.) existed expressly for children, Andy and Juliana can not hang onto the thought that some things are truly and permanently off-limits. In the orphanage, things that were not appropriate for children were kept in other rooms – rooms the children didn’t even know existed – so anything that was in the three rooms in which they lived truly was for them, if not now, then later.

We will say that something is off-limits and they hear that it is off-limits for now. It is all very reasonable considering what they are familiar with. It is also wearing us out as they keep checking to see if something is still off-limits. It is a bit like living with toddlers, but they are tall and have excellent fine motor skills and can open latches etc. Yes, it is exactly like that. Imagine you have an inquisitive toddler who hasn’t learned boundaries yet. You put everything up high or behind a baby-proof latch. Now imagine that your toddler is tall and can easily manipulate your latch and there are two of them. What do you do?

So, you experienced adoptive parents, how do you handle this? Oh right, you don’t have time to read blogs, you are busy parenting. Hmmmm . . .

Just in case you are reading, here is our other dilemma. Juliana has night terrors which of course wake Andy up as they share a room. Juliana gets cuddled and rocked back to sleep as she is icy cold and sweating and is, well, terrified. Andy does not get rocked back to sleep as he is merely grouchy from being awakened. Of course the “I want what she has” reflex kicks in and then he cries because she is being rocked and he is not. This keeps her from going back to sleep. Obviously, we could deal with this by giving them separate rooms, except that in general, Andy is frightened of being alone at all. They are used to having an adult sleep in the same room, but we really don’t want to start that. Ack. Our current lousy plan is to take turns staying up late waiting for the terrors (they happen in her first cycle of sleep) so that we can get her out of the room before Andy really gets going. This of course will only work until Jamie goes back to work on Monday as the parent who did the night shift gets to sleep in the morning. Or I’ll be doing the night shift as well as getting up with the kids at 7:00 and I’ll be grouchy and crying.

What I wouldn’t give for 24 hours of our old life back, just so we could get the house straightened out and a solid night of sleep so that we could handle this better. I don’t want our old life back for keeps, but it would sure be nice to have it back for just for enough time to get properly ready for the new life.