Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I dedicate this post to my BIO friends.

For those of you that have no clue what I'm writing about, I am referring to an extraordinary group of women. Many of us met online around the beginning of 2004 when we were pregnant. I found out I was pregnant with our 2nd child on February 14, 2004 and came across an internet message board of other women pregnant at the same time. I think we were on a Due in October board. We eventually became the Born In October 2004 message board, although some of the children were born in September or November or even others who came later and didn't even have a child born in the same year.

Yes, we have had some weirdos stalk our forum and some drifted away but we have had a few new ones join through friends. Many have had difficult times with a death of a dear one, losing a job, getting divorced, very ill children but we have remained together supporting each other through these times and the joyous times. Learning about the children making friends, going to school, new siblings,etc. I have personally met several of these wonderful ladies and it amazes me how we are instant friends even though it is the first time we met in person. I guess you would say we have developed a special 'cyber' bond! I just wish more of us could meet in person.

I recently met up with 2 of these ladies when we travelled up north. It was so wonderful to spend time together and our husbands even enjoyed each others' company. I can't believe I met up with one of these ladies at the Oakland zoo 6 years ago in 2004 when we were pregnant. We had a few things in common including daughters named 'Olivia'!

BIO 2004 moms, you are the best!

More pictures from fall 2010

Making a volcano.

Local county fair.

Cotillion 2010


Santa Barbara zoo

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fall is flying by!

I just don't seem to have as much time as I used to, gee, I wonder why?! In October we celebrated birthdays of our youngest 2. Nicholas had a My Gym party with a few friends. While it was not a disaster, it was a bit stressful because Nicholas still has a hard time with group structured activities. He did love the free play time and having all the attention. He has been on a gluten free diet since the summer so we ended up ordering a cupcake birthday cake and I made some gluten free cupcakes and was able to use extra frosting to stick one in for him.

Claire celebrated her 6th birthday with a special tea party for several friends. She had been asking for this kind of party for at least 2 years so she thoroughly enjoyed her party, big smiles the whole time!
Halloween 2010

Santa Barbara zoo

The girls are doing great in school, they received glowing remarks from their teachers at the end of the first quarter. Claire needs to improve her handwriting and her talking (too much), but overall, her teacher said she is doing great. Olivia is a model student and growing up too fast. Nicholas is improving so much, we owe much of this to his weekly social skills class and lots of hard work.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

'Meant to be....'

One Year Ago


I have wanted to write so much about the past year but life is so much busier (and richer) now. It's also just so hard to put into words all my thoughts. I came up with the title of this post based on something Claire told me on the way home from Texas. We were somewhere in New Mexico or Arizona staying one night in a hotel. We were swimming in the pool and Claire says to me “Mama, you know, Nicholas and I were meant to be brother and sister. We’re good brother and sister even if he wasn’t in your tummy.” Wow, isn’t that awesome?!

Exactly a year ago, we were arriving in America with one of its newest citizens, Nicholas Roma. I go back and look at those pictures and Nicholas looks so different. He just looks so shell shocked. Now, the first 6 months especially were very challenging with him, but he is doing so well and is so happy. I think he is resilient and a testament to how the human spirit can overcome a difficult start in life.

I will never forget the first day we came together as a family on September 12, 2009. All 3 of us were so jetlagged, but especially Nicholas. We arrived home to an empty house after the drive from LA. Nicholas was amazed at everything in our house and kept saying 'spaseeba' (thank you)over and over. At one point he was searching through the house while asking a question in Russian or Kazakh. He broke down in his room and all I could do was try to rock him and soothe him although we were trying to learn how we could best comfort him. It is so much different with an adopted child than a bio child. I managed to soothe him a bit and it was about this time that our friends arrived with our girls.

Well, when they arrived with their bags, Nicholas ran out to greet them on our walkway and hugged Claire like they were long lost brother and sister. Unfortunately I totally missed this special moment. He was so happy to see the girls, maybe he was worried he would be by himself. I can't imagine what was going through his mind and body when he first arrived. He is just so young to really comprehend what is happening. He started showing all the toys to the girls as if they were arriving for the first time, too, it was the funniest thing to see him say 'smotree' (look) and show all the toys. Claire kept saying 'I know that'!

In the very beginning, he was like a wild thing just getting into everything, throwing toys, overflowing the toilet, burning his fingers on the hot stove, exploding in tantrums, biting/kicking/spitting while I was trying to restrain him but at the same time he was amazed at new things like toys, airplanes in the sky, so much food, new foods like strawberries, tacos, sandwiches, fun parks, etc. At first he was stubborn about learning English and insisted on calling an airplane 'samolyot'. Of course, he had to learn English and he did learn so quickly!

Physically, Nicholas is very healthy. He has had some digestive issues as well as some other symptoms, though. This summer he went to an allergist who determined through a blood test that he is either allergic or has an intolerance to gluten. The doctor recommended a gluten/lactose free diet and since then he has not had the runny nose he used to have. In the past year he has grown at least 7 inches and put on about 4-5 pounds.

He has changed so much over the year he has been here, not just physically but also emotionally. More of his true personality emerges with time. Deep down we can see he is a caring and sweet boy. He truly wants to please us and is willing to learn. Every morning he is happy for another day and he enjoys going to preschool. He usually greets his teacher with big hugs and starts his day at school at full speed.

I am so glad we made the decision to send him to preK again this year as opposed to Kindergarten (in CA he would be eligible for Kindergarten since he turns 5 before December 1st). He is learning lots of social skills and enjoying more play time. I know he will not be as stressed to start Kindergarten in 2011 and will not have to struggle to catch up.

He has learned so much about living in America, a new language, living in a family, etc. He is not the only one to learn, as I feel like I have learned so much. I've learned about unconditional love, I've learned about real parenting, I've learned about dysregulation and regulation and I've learned about the resiliency of children. And I've learned how, oh, how different boys are from girls. It's a whole other world!

During our challenges, I have tried to access all the resources I could find. I've relied on other adoptive parents, adoption and parenting books, our pastor, counselors and friends. We are lucky Nicholas qualified for the 0-5 years program at a local guidance clinic. He just began a weekly social skills class based on 'The Incredible Years' curriculum for early intervention. I think we have also been fortunate that he has had 2 really great teachers at his preschool. Nothing can completely prepare you for this journey but for adoptive parents out there, keep an open mind, read different types of adoption books, learn about attachment parenting, talk to other adoptive parents.

We are definitely settling into our new normal and can't imagine our lives any different!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Summer Fun 2010

Wow, the summer flew by. We had a busy and fun summer. Nicholas started summer school at his preschool, the girls finished off the academic year with performances in their ballet school’s Gala, the girls also did some summer day camps with friends and the girls attended VBS at a friend’s church. For the 4th of July holiday, we made our usual trip up to Sacramento to spend time with extended family. We also had the pleasure of meeting another adoptive family who had adopted 3 children from Asia including an older boy about Nicholas’ age. We met at a park and it was so nice for the kids to have kids to play with and it felt like we had that instant bond that adoptive families have, especially those that adopt ‘older’ kids.

The summer started off well with lots of activity and lots of swimming. Swimming lessons were in order for Nicholas but it turned out he is half fish and he learned to swim really quickly. We did have some challenges with Nicholas when he started back to summer school. He had a really hard time with the transitions of one teacher leaving, changing classrooms, new class, etc. Also, hubby and I took a much needed weekend away to the coast while Grandma and Grandpa stayed with the kids. This was also the first week for Nicholas to meet Grandma and Grandpa in person. We thought he might be expelled from preschool due to some aggression, fortunately the school staff was patient and understanding of our situation and Nicholas was able to attend 2 sessions as we planned.

By mid July we were packing our bags and getting ready for our ‘annual’ trek across the Southwest so we could spend 3 weeks in Texas. We had a great time and Nicholas did better than I ever expected. We spent one night in Amarillo with my dear friend, D, then headed for the Big ‘D’ to spend some quality time with hubby’s family. Some of his family had never met Nicholas in person. It was so much fun to see all the little cousins playing together. One morning all the girls made a special shopping trip to the American Girl store while the boys went the airplane museum near Love Field. While in Dallas, we spent time with family and a few friends. We also had the pleasure of meeting a family who had just brought their almost 5 year old home from Kazakhstan. I’m sure it was confusing for him but he was a sweet boy and I hope we get to see them the next time we travel to Texas. We also visited Houston and Austin; we enjoyed time with dear friends, swimming, and museums. On the way home, we stopped at Carlsbad Caverns and enjoyed a long hike into the dark caverns.

All in all, we had a wonderful trip, we wanted to go home yet 3 weeks was not enough time to enjoy all the swimming, fun times with friends, Blue Bell ice cream, Tex Mex food, etc. Nicholas did really well during the trip and had a good time and can't wait to go to Grandpa and Grandma's again.

More pictures to come later...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Little Brother

Nicholas did well during Olivia's party, I even got him a special gluten free, lactose free cupcake from Whole Foods that he gobbled up. He got so worn out by the excitement, he crashed on the floor after his bath!

Our Baby turned 8!

Olivia turned 8 on July 1st, time goes by so fast! We had her birthday party in June and it was decided she would have a Swim/Spa/Sleepover party with some of her friends. I wanted to keep it small so 5 of her friends were able to attend. Claire was allowed to invite a friend, too, to the party in the hopes they would occupy themselves. My thoughts were that the swimming would wear the girls out, the spa treatment would calm and soothe them, and they would fall asleep during the movie....WRONG! I guess they were so excited by everything, it was hard to settle them down. Everything went really well through the spa treatment (after pizza, cake and gifts), the girls just loved all the special treatment. I had a couple of young women home from college help out with the pedicure/manicure station. The girls were all a bit too tired which probably contributed to their mood as I was trying to settle them down. Fortunately no one ended up going home early and everyone woke up happy. If I did this again, I would send them home after the spa treatment!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

One Year Ago Today


I can't believe it was a year ago that my hubby and I were celebrating our 10 year anniversary in Almaty, Kazakhstan. It is the day we also started bonding with our son, Nicholas (then called Roma). He has been home 9 months and it has been filled with many challenges and many joys. He is teaching us about how the human spirit can overcome challenges and he continues to teach us about parenting! Some days and weeks can be rough when he is dysregulated and angry, then he can turn around and become so sweet and loving and joyful about life. I hope with time that we will see his sweet and funny personality more and more.

He is so bright! His speech and vocabulary amazes everyone when they find out he has only been here 9 months. Some people do not realize he was adopted internationally. He is always trying to figure out how things work. He will study a toy car's tire to see how it spins or as last night at Olivia's ballet recital, he was trying to figure out which lights were pointed to different points on stage. He is interested in books and words and is definitely pre-reading, although, he would rather build with blocks, or play a video game, or build guns or watch a movie. He is still very active, although I'm not sure he is hyperactive as he was diagnosed in Kazakhstan. Rather he is hypervigilent, especially in new situations and around new people.

The girls really love Nicholas and for Claire he has become a playmate. I have noticed recently that Nicholas wants to stay near me. When we went to the beach, he and Claire would play near the water for awhile while I watched and kept calling them to stay nearby. Then Nicholas wanted to dig in the sand but near me. He also comes to find me in the house to show me something or to see what I'm doing, I know this is a sign of him 'checking in' with me. We have developed a deep level of trust and I can tell he has bonded well with all of us. I think we are fortunate that he only spent about 10 months in the babyhouse, he must have bonded closely with his birthmother sometime before that.

He is a great little traveler. When we go on trips, he gets so excited and he is getting better about staying close to us when we go to places where there are crowds. Although he has gotten better, he is not at a place where he can go to Disneyland yet. The girls miss it since we used to go a lot, but maybe one of us can take the girls just for one day. We know Nicholas will love Disneyland, but it would be too much for him and too stressful for him (well, us, too) at this point. Hopefully within the next year we will see more improvement.

He has been in summer preschool at his same preschool but he had some difficulty with this transition. I think it was especially hard that his teacher left on vacation as he became attached to her. She was so good with him, but he will see her when school starts again. Although she is a fabulous preschool teacher, I think it will be good for him to have a different teacher. He needs to learn that he will have different people in his life and he will move on when he goes off to Kindergarten after another year of preschool.

With the end of the school year, hubby and I took a much needed weekend away together while his parents stayed with the kids. With that and the transition to summer preschool, Nicholas had a really hard time. The grandparents stayed for a few days and then left, but came back about a week later with the kids' cousin who stayed for several days. Nicholas got into trouble a lot at school for biting and hitting and one incident of spitting. We focused on what he can do when he gets mad and that he absolutely has to share and take turns. Maybe this was a step back, but things have gotten better again after our visitors left and he continues to move forward.

We are looking forward to having a fun summer of camps, trips and of just enjoying our backyard pool and playdates.


Monday, April 05, 2010

Spring Break 2010

During part of spring break, we made a trip to the San Francisco Bay area. We had a great time at Pier 39 watching the sea lions that have returned. We also took a tour of the USS Jeremiah O'Brien Liberty Ship, something we may never have done if Nicholas wasn't with us. It was really interesting and we had fun exploring the working ship. After visiting the Bay area, we headed toward Monterey.

We all thoroughly enjoyed the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We would have gone to the beach, too, if it hadn't started raining in the afternoon.

Friday, March 12, 2010

6 months later

I'll be honest, the last 6 months have been very stressful for all of us as would be expected when bringing a new child into our family. I feel like we are all adjusting well though. Nicholas has been in preschool since the beginning of January and is loving it (me too :p). The girls have been keeping up with school, ballet, friends and Olivia started piano lessons again. It seems like we are all settling into our new life.

I think one of the biggest adjustments is just having 3 kids instead of 2, I'm just stretched more thin these days and I'm spending most of my time in a car driving here and there. Olivia is growing up fast and has had moments of extreme upset, and I know this will happen more often each year as she creeps up towards puberty.

Claire loves having a little brother...most of the time. He loves his sisters and it is wonderful to see him give them big hugs when we have to pick them up from school. Claire and Nicholas fight a lot, but when they are playing nicely together, it is really nice. She loves that he can go to the same Sunday school class. And Nicholas is learning a lot from everyone. What we can see so far is that he is bright and eager to learn, he is always asking 'Why?' these days...I mean all day. He wants to know how things work and why we do things or why we can't do things. He just has a lot to catch up on the emotional side of things. He sometimes acts like an infant, sometimes, like a toddler and sometimes his chronological age.

One of the things that has helped me is that I am learning to shift my way of thinking in parenting Nicholas. Giving consequences and threatening punishment does not work with Nicholas so I've been trying to follow Heather Forbes' Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control method of parenting. It takes a lot of work to shift my way of thinking but I think I have been successful with it. Her method is backed up by research of stress on the brain.

When I look at Nicholas, I am just amazed at his progress. He has a large vocabulary for someone only learning English for 6 months. He is happy and nowadays when he gets angry, he usually gets over it rather quickly especially when I can distract him. I am so glad we ended up telling our coordinator we were open to older children. When I think back to when we first met him in that first stressful week in Kazakhstan, I remember meeting him and feeling a connection with him. His smile was so cute and I could see he had the ability to be happy and I had the feeling he was a resilient little boy.

He is a really sweet boy and at school, I'm told he'll go check on a friend if he sees someone is hurt. He also readily apologizes if he accidentally (or on purpose) hurts someone while playing. Now, with his sisters....not so much... He is eager to please, especially with me. Sometimes it takes a little more work to get him to help clean up, but sometimes he jumps at the opportunity to help out. He is a really active little boy and seems a bit hyper to me, but it could just be his age and circumstances and he might calm down some more.

He still doesn't understand where he came from or what has happened to him. I try to talk about it and show him pictures from Kazakhstan when he is open to it. I want him to know where he is from and how he became a part of our family, I don't want him to think we were the ones that left him in an orphanage. One of my favorite children's book about adoption is called "A Mother for Choco". It really fits our situation. I highly recommend it to other Adoptive families, it would be good for a multi-ethnic family, single mom, or family.

Some of his favorites things include: cars, helicopters, airplanes, bouncing, sea animals, swimming, the park, play doh, a bit of drawing, digging, treasure hunts, watching tv (especially Mickey Mouse clubhouse and Little Einsteins) or dvds (Finding Nemo, Cars, Barbie Three Musketeers). That last might crack you up, but I think he likes the swashbuckling aspect of that movie, I don't think he cares about Barbie!

Monday, March 01, 2010

The Beach-February 2010

Valentine's weekend, we decided to make a trip down to L.A. I signed Nicholas up for a research study at UCLA, so my hubby decided to take advantage of this time and take the girls to the American Girl store for lunch and shopping. We also decided to hit the beach first and go to the La Brea tar pits on the last day. We first ended up in Malibu at Paradise Cove...a friend of mine recommended it. There's a cafe right on the beach, so you can play in the sand and surf while you wait for your table. It was fun! This was our first trip to the beach this year. Nicholas wanted to get right in and swim, the kid has no fear. He kept getting wetter and wetter as time passed on. Thankfully we had lots of extra clothes. We had so much fun!