Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas 2009

The day began with many squeals of delight as the kids discovered all the goodies Santa left for them, including a letter thanking them for the cookies and milk. The kids loved everything they received from friends, family and 'Santa'. Nicholas really got into the knack of opening presents and was impatient to take turns opening gifts. It was a busy day because I was trying to cook a nice Christmas meal, but the kids needed help with some of the new toys or games. The day ended in tears and tantrums though as everyone became tired and overstimulated from the excitement of it all. It was still a wonderful Christmas, one we will not forget!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Here Comes Santa Claus...

Wednesday evening I heard about a boys baseball team having a fundraiser in which we could have pictures taken with Santa Claus. I thought about taking Nicholas to the Santa in the mall, but I really wanted to get a picture with all the kids. So Wednesday evening after dinner we headed over to a local shopping center. We walk up and Nicholas is so excited he can hardly contain himself. When it's our turn, he runs up to Santa, while shouting, 'Santa' and literally jumps into his lap. I was about to bawl right there to see Nicholas so excited. Olivia and Claire, on the other hand, nonchalantly walk up to Santa Claus and we get pictures with Santa. Nicholas starts talking very excitedly to the surprised Santa and I hear words like helicopter, toys, cars from Nicholas.

It was a wonderful moment and afterward the kids bought hot chocolate and cookies.

More pictures of the apartment in Almaty

Pictures of the inside of the apartment. As we open the door, the bathroom is directly in front. To the right was the kitchen, eating nook and continuing past that was the bedroom where we slept. If we made a left from the entrance, there was an extra room which is where Nicholas slept and played. There was a TV which offered a wide variety of shows in Russian. Occasionally we came across American cartoons in English or the discovery channel.

Extra room (a.k.a Nicholas' bedroom and playroom)
Our bedroom:
Eating nook:
The apartment was comfortable enough. The kitchen was fairly equipped with a handful of pots and pans and utensils, plates, cups. There was a small but adequate refrigerator. There was a microwave, stove and oven. I wish we had brought more tupperware type containers. I ended up buying a set there and it was pricey. I never could figure out the oven, so I just cooked everything on the stove or in the microwave. There was no washer and dryer so one night I washed some things in the tub and we used a clothing line and clothespins (which I brought) to hang the clothes. We also used plastic hangers, these actually came in handy on all our trips as there wasn't enough in the hotel to hang everything and we used these to dry clothes, too. All the things I had read about the towels were true, they were a bit rough and worn. I don't remember the sheets as too uncomfortable despite everything I read about the sheets .

Our apartment was in a really great location near most everything. It was close to the Silkway mall, there was a small grocery store nearby and the Green Market was about a 20 minute walk. The walk to Panfilov park was about 20 minutes but it seemed longer when we had Nicholas with us. The Mamma Mia restaurant was around the corner from the apartment. It was also pretty close to TSUM otherwise called The Central Department Store which has a great selection of souvenirs on the very top floor.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Entering our apartment in Almaty

Notice the difference in the various height between steps? We saw that all over the city and forget being accessible to people with wheelchairs, etc. We were on the top floor, no elevator, I think it was the 4th or 5th floor.

Our Gotcha Day

So I'm a little behind in posting about our last trip to Kazakhstan. I guess I was reminiscing after Skyping with a friend of mine who is in Almaty in the process of adopting a little boy.

Our last flight from LAX on our way to Kazakhstan.
Getting dressed and ready to go:

Posing with Mommy and Maigul at Almaty Babyhouse 2:

Posing with our coordinator, Tatyana, and the Babyhouse Director/Doctor.
Happy to be leaving the baby house FOREVER!

I thought I would post a picture of these picture magnets I made for Nicholas, I think the most important ones were the ones showing emotion and pictures of everyone in our family. They helped a little with the language barrier. I brought these and a magnetic board to Kazakhstan to try to help him understand day to day activities.

Nutcracker 2009

Olivia was a Bon Bon again this year in the Nutcracker and so she was thankfully only in 1 cast (out of 2). Like last year, she had a lot of fun performing and being backstage. I took Nicholas to see the Young People Concert where they only show a few of the scenes and bus kids in from schools and he enjoyed watching it, especially the battle scene with the mice and soldiers. Later, I took a picture of him by the cannon as this was one of his favorite parts!

We got tickets for the last afternoon show and Nicholas did pretty well. He stayed interested throughout Act I, but was squirmy. Act II was harder as it's a bit slower for kids and we had to wait towards the end of Act II to see Olivia dance in the Mother Ginger scene.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Wow! 3 months have gone by so fast...

Nicholas is just such a different child than the child we met in the orphanage. He is still a very active, rambunctious boy, but sweeter and even more loving than when we first met him. He is developing very well in all areas but still needs work in socializing and in discipline.

We are so lucky that I have been able to stay home with him, I think that has been the best for him so he could get used to family life. Lately, he keeps asking to go to school, especially when I drop Claire off at daycare. In January, he will start going to preschool. I think we found a good fit for him, although it is not the Montessori school where I expected to send him and where the girls attended. This particular school has much smaller classes and the teacher for his class has been there for 13 years. The director adopted a 4 year old girl from Russia about 6 years ago, so they are familiar with language issues, etc.

This past summer when we met Nicholas, one thing that struck me was the way he hung his head down. Now, he holds his head up high. He is still a very active boy, but is able to focus on some activities, too, especially with his TRIO blocks. He is better at obeying his mom and dad and is really loving. Yesterday and today, he has been giving hugs. He was also telling me 'mama happy' and 'Nicholas happy'.

This summer we notice Nicholas was barely able to make a scribble with a crayon, and now he can draw bats, spiders, sun, sharks on our driveway with sidewalk chalk. He rides his tricycle like a maniac and I *think* Santa might be bringing him a bicycle for Christmas...he is going to love it!

I've asked the girls what they think about having a little brother and Claire says 'good', Olivia says 'good' with a little more hesitation. Claire and Nicholas fight a lot as siblings do, but I really think Claire loves having him as a brother, she asked that he start coming to church because they would be in the same Sunday School class. Olivia is like a little mommy to Nicholas, she rushes to him anytime he gets hurt. I think her hesitation has more to do with her just being older and wanting to have some privacy and space.

All in all, I think everything is going very well, I can't believe it has only been 3 months.

Decorating a gingerbread house:

Fun at our church's Christmas workshop:

First haircut, before picture, during and after:

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thankful for so much....

This Thanksgiving, Nicholas and I spent at home together, it was nice and quiet. Hubby took the girls to the family Thanksgiving so they could spend time with extended family. I ended up cooking our Thanksgiving meal on Wednesday so we could enjoy it together before the girls and their dad left on Thursday. The kids ate all their food without a single complaint...a major accomplishment in our house!

While the rest of the family was gone, Nicholas and I played outside with a neighbor, went to the park and played at home. I was also able to get some laundry and cleaning done around the house. Some firsts for Nicholas, we played Candyland together...Nicholas won fair and square. He also drew pictures of bats and spiders on our driveway with our Neighbor's 3rd grade son. This is so amazing in that this summer, he could barely even make a scribble with a crayon.

Yesterday, I managed what I thought was an impossible feat...I was able to get Nicholas to take a nap! Both Nicholas and I have minor colds and he got up at 5:30 in the morning yesterday. So after a big lunch, we settled down on the twin bed in his room for a book, then we laid down with the blanket over us and after about 30 minutes, he fell asleep. I feel like Super Mom after this. He napped for about 2 hours, but then it took him a long time to go to sleep at bedtime. We aren't completely sure if this was due to the nap or the vaporizer we put in his room. I think he was worried about the vaporizer because of the noise and steam coming from it.

As I reflect on Thanksgiving, I can't help but be thankful for my family. My husband, who works so hard to provide us all the extras we enjoy, our kids who give us such joy and all of our friends for their support over the last year.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

First Dentist visit

Nicholas did very well at the dentist and he received an 'A' for taking such good care of his teeth. The dentist saw one spot that he will check again in 6 months. He did great throughout the entire visit and only had difficulty with 2 of the xray for his back teeth.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What a difference 2 months makes!

Wow, it's 2 months already?! It's amazing how much things change with some love, nutrition and time. To the girls, he is their little brother. To us, his parents, he is our son.

Nicholas is starting to call himself Nicholas sometimes or Nicholas Roma. We are getting used to his new name, too. His English is coming along and I even hear him spouting off some of our letters and sounds (thank you Leap Frog Letter Factory!!). He is really into counting things, constantly pointing things out to me and showing me how he can count. He is very much a boy, but has been playing in the play kitchen and occasionally with dolls (gasp!!). I think it's great he has a variety of things to play with, from trains, to building blocks, to Dora figures. He loves play doh and can play with it for at least 30 minutes at a time. Same thing with some of the building blocks we have. His brain is like a sponge and he is just so eager to learn everything that he has missed out on.

We are seeing more and more of his personality come out. He is a sweet, loving boy with occasional stubborn streaks. Just today he was giving me hugs while he was riding in the shopping cart at the store and saying 'I love you' amazingly sweet moment! We have been trying different things for discipline and are finally able to use timeouts at the moment. Most of the time he likes to please us and he is compliant and even says 'okay dokey' when asked to do things, sometimes, he shouts out 'No!' and is stubborn. It is all a learning process as we get to know each other and figure out what will work.

Some of his favorite things:
Being tickled, riding his tricycle, drawing outside with chalk, going to the park, playing soccer, playing with Trio blocks, playing with toy airplanes and helicopters, watching tv (mostly Disney and Dora), riding in the car, going to the gym (Kids Zone while I work out), shopping at Costco (eating their samples).

He says he wants to go to school but he's not quite ready. I'm hoping to get him in after the holidays. He has come so far from when we first met him. I remember him trying to play in the visiting room and he would pound on the electronic toys trying to figure them out. Now he knows how to play with toys and he just built a robot by himself for the first time with the Trio blocks! I am so proud of him. He has also learned to use scissors. He is learning to color and the other day, he traced a ball and colored it in...amazing!

We are so blessed to have him in our family, we are teaching him a lot, but I think he has a lot to teach us, too, about love, acceptance and trust.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Holiday Dilemma

So normally we travel by car several hours away to stay with extended family a few days for the Thanksgiving holiday. The girls love seeing their teenage girl cousins and we enjoy spending time with relatives and doing fun things with the girls. But the girls are used to this and they enjoy all our travels. Now, Nicholas is acclimating very well to our immediate family and to short outings, but we just don't know how he would do on a trip where everything will be different and his routine will be disrupted.

Dad wants to stay at relative's house for 1-2 nights and maybe another relative's house. I've thought about just the girls going with their dad (they are his family) but they don't want to go without me or Nicholas. So here are our options:
A. Forget about it, stay home
B. Go for one day, stay one night at relatives house and come back
C. Go for it, it will be good practice, just high tail it out of there if it is too stressful

Now, I don't know if this is an option, but I think staying in a hotel would be better as there are less things for Nicholas to 'get into'. And if things are stressful, we can take him back to the hotel, and do calming things, like swimming, watching favorite dvds, etc.

Oh and I should add he sleeps pretty well at home in his bed in his own room and we have his night time routine down well. We do still give him an herbal supplement to help him relax for bedtime though and I think he is a light sleeper. I can't even think how we would do sleeping arrangements...

So, I would love to hear some feedback from some other adoptive parents of older children. Please tell me what your experience is or what you think about this.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

A field trip with a friend

We've been having playdates with my friend and her son, L, a couple of times a month. Last week, we took a trip to watch trains come through an area which has been named as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. Unfortunately, no trains came through. At least the boys had some snacks in the car while we waited the 20-30 minutes.

After this we headed to the town with the apple orchards and headed to an orchard for a picnic and apple picking. We found one that still had apples, unfortunately, this orchard didn't do 'u-pick'. I guess the worker told the owner and the owner let the boys pick a couple of apples from a tree near their shed. They also had lots of samples of the different apples and different ciders. They had some small apples, I think they were Pink Lady. Although they were green and red, they reminded me a bit of the apples growing in the courtyard of the babyhouse. Nicholas loved grabbing these and eating these, they are a great size for snacks.

On the way back to town, we ended up at a popular farm that has a farmstand and small petting zoo. We never made it to the petting zoo as the boys just loved playing in the bucket of corn (kind of like a sandbox, only with corn).

Halloween pictures

We ended up taking Nicholas just to our neighbors in our cul-de-sac. At first we thought he would be Tigger as he put on the Tigger costume I found and bounced around like Tigger. I put out 3 costumes, Buzz Lightyear, Tigger and the train hat and he chose to be a train engineer. The funny thing is, then next couple of nights before bed, he asked 'trick or treating?' and was so sad when I told him 'no' and that Halloween was only once a year. He really got the hang of trick or treating and loved getting the candy. We dropped him off with Daddy, and I took the girls with friends for trick or treating.

He really enjoyed seeing all the decorations. At the gym where I work out, they had some fantastic Halloween display. He would always point out in wonder at all the spiders and bats. I think he was surprised when all the decorations disappeared.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Happy 5th Birthday Claire Bear!

We had a big bash for Claire's 5th birthday. It was a lot of fun and I didn't have to do too much work for it. Everyone seemed to have a great time at the place we had her party. She is growing up so fast!