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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
- 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
- apple pie with ice-cream and caramel sauce
We had a lovely visit with Grandma Carol and the children are still engaged in imaginative play with the cool toys she brought.
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".
- 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.