I was wondering how are they doing with language-learning English, speaking it and how often are the times when they say something in Russian and don't know the word for it in English?
Both their language acquisition and language attrition are astonishing. They understand only a tiny little bit of Russian now; I speak it more than they do. They have lots of vocabulary gaps, places where they just don't know the word in any language. I just supply the word, have them repeat it in a sentence, and on we go.
Chickadee does use some Russian words instead of English, for example, dolly, coat hanger, baby carriage, remember and can are always spoken in Russian.
Neither child likes to hear Russian spoken. They began to feel sad at the sound of it. I think, for them, it is the language of loneliness.
. . . how has Dandy done in school as far as communicating with his peers?
No trouble at all with communicating. Lots of trouble with winning friends as his survival-skills background does not transition well to being liked. Peers are, for orphanage kids, resource competition. Dandy charms the grown-ups and bull-dozes his peers.
What are your biggest challenges with them? And your sweetest moments?
Biggest challenges: convincing Dandy that he is not, in fact, the Emperor of the World; coming up with discipline strategies that work.
Sweetest moments: any moment that includes snuggling is pretty sweet; hearing them say table grace; watching them with their grandparents and/or cousins.
Do they ever talk about their life in Russia?
Yes. Often. I can't share their stories, but some of them would curl your toes. I can share that Chickadee views the orphanage as a very good place and was happy to live there.
Now that they've been home for a year, how is attachment going? Better or worse than you thought? Any more or less challenging than you anticipated?
When they first came home, I thought Dandy was going to be our easily attached child and Chickadee the worrisome one; she was very distant and inaccessible and interacted mainly with her brother. Sending her to morning pre-school and him to afternoon kindergarten -- essentially separating them for most of the day -- helped a lot.
At this point, it is reversed. Looking back, I can see that Dandy made a strategic alliance right away with us, the bringers of never-ending food. But now, a year in, he is still struggling to deeply care about family. On the other hand, Chickadee held us at arms' length as she checked us out. Once she decided we were for real, she gave herself to us. To him, we are part parents, part resources. To her, we are the world.
Dandy prefers to snuggle with his back to our front, no eye-contact, ready to escape at a moment's notice. We hold him so we can see him eye-to-eye and he is stiff and uncomfortable. It takes awhile for him to relax into the snuggle.
Chickadee cuddles up like a sleepy puppy.
What would you say are the biggest challenges you see ahead of you?
Socializing our bright and good-looking boy so that he can start to see people as, well, people, not as resources.
I guess I'm wondering what you wished you knew before they were home.
I'm glad I didn't know how hard it would be, as I would have chickened-out. I wish I had, even more severely than we did, limited their number of toys and clothes. I wish I had more dinners brought over.
Was there anything you could have done to make things easier/better?
Yes. When all those people were making glib sentences about "let us know how we can help" I would have whipped out my calendar and said, "which night are you bringing dinner?" For months. Even though I stayed home from work, my kids needed me, my gaze, my touch, my presence, my attention 18 hours a day, every day. Housework, cooking, paying bills, etc., all the ordinary things of life had to be carved out. It was as if I was a teen, sneaking off for a smoke, but instead I was sneaking off to pee. For real. Showering was a treat.
And, if I had read Parenting with Love and Logic earlier, that would have been helpful.
Separating their bedrooms earlier would have eased the bedtime routine, though we couldn't have pulled that off without Bear. When Dad got hurt, his border collie came to live at our house. We thought we were doing a favor for my folks, but they were doing one for us, as our little "I'm terrified of going to sleep" girl can do all things if Bear is at her side.
How different are the two?
Very. He is confident, self-reliant, bossy, and tends to sulk. She is needy, gives up easily, and mostly cheerful.
Was it crazy to adopt two?
Hard? Yes. Crazy. No. For our kids, as they already knew each other, making this transition together really helped.
What milestones do you use to mark your progress?
You've probably seen the growth posts; that's the most concrete marker we have. For attachment, I am real encouraged when they look sad when scolded and when Dandy will give himself to a real snuggle, I know we are coming along. I can now shower at will.
Why does Chickadee have so few teeth? Did the others decay and have to be pulled? I would think that would have affected her speech and ability to eat.
Exactly. Most of her baby teeth were pulled in Russia. The one that remain are quite funky. They have divots at the gum line and interesting colors. Definitely this affects her speech. In addition to pronunciation concerns, she does have odd syntax. The closest thing I can compare it to is in a narrative of ASL where key concepts are circled back to over and over again.
And there is nothing wrong with being tiny. The best things come in small packages!
Agreed. But at some point, being very very tiny can be difficult for an adult. We'd like her to reach at least 5 feet tall so as to "fit" into a world of counter-tops and cupboards and steering wheels.