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: