Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What's Going On?

These days life around here just doesn't seem to slow down. I sound like a broken record, but that's the reality.  Even so, it's a happy time, a growing time, and learning time (esp. for Mom and Dad).

Oldest daughter Eva turned 8 recently and I broke down and booked a party at Jungle Java.  Overpriced, chaotic, totally not something I'm in to, but it's within walking distance from our house and required almost no preparation on my part. I think the kids had fun, though, so I guess that's what matters.

Vika loved this little crawly thing. She laid on it for a long time like this.  Once again, we are amazed at how adaptable she is. She kind of liked the chaotic atmosphere.

So, being the mature 8-year old she is, Eva requested to get her ears pierced. Well, I got my ears pierced in 2nd grade, so I figured it was okay.  So, off to the mall we go. Turns out, it was a popular day for ear piercing, so we had to wait awhile. It didn't help that there was a newborn (5-7 weeks, maybe) right in front of us getting hers done and wailing at the top of her lungs.  Eva's not the bravest when it comes to pain, but of course I used the old "do you know how much pain I went through to have you? and I survived" bit. I like to think it helped.

Ice packs - her idea.  Smart girl.

She went with the timeless "Hello Kitty" design. Very chic, don't ya' think?

In other big kid news, only son, Eli is looking a bit snaggle-toothed these days.

I'm so glad the tooth-fairy is back at work, the last time she failed to come 2 nights in a row, forcing the parents to pay double her rate out of guilt.  But really, the whole jig is up at this point, especially after oldest daughter found several baby teeth in my jewelry drawer. They're just playing along now for the dough.

And in big people news, I (mom) have been doing too much of this lately. It's just that time of year, I guess,when some desperate choir director will beg me to play for them when their accompanist bails out at the last minute, so of course, I do.

Sightread Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons?" No problem! As long as you don't mind a few (a lot) wrong notes along the way.

That's really not that impressive, let me show you the most genius thing I've done lately.

A humble list, but oh, what magical results! I got tired of getting  upset in the morning as I tried to get Eva and Eli ready for school on time while they dawdled, enjoying how stressed Mom was getting. Now, they know exactly what they have to do without a thousand reminders and what time it has to be done by. If they get it all done on time, they get 30 mins. of computer game time in the evening plus a checkmark. 10 checkmarks = a special treat.  We are so much happier in the mornings. I don't have to get upset and feel bad the rest of the day. They like having something to work for and knowing exactly what the expectations are.  They are even working together.

It's a beautiful thing.

Lastly, in newest American news, we visited the ear/nose/throat doctor and I'm so glad we did. Vika has had almost continuous nasal discharge and congestion since we've had her. It gets worse, then it gets better, but it's always there. The dr. put her on an antiobitic and nasal spray and within a few days, the drainage is almost completely gone.  I love a clean nose!

They also did a hearing test. She has a hearing loss probably due to the fluid built up in her ear. She can't hear quieter sounds. Her right ear drum did not vibrate one little bit and her left just a little. It's usually kind of noisy in our house so she's probably been missing a lot. So glad we found that out. Once the fluid is gone, hopefully her hearing will come back and her speech will begin to develop.  So thankful we are able to get her help with that.

Next up - the cardiologist and opthamologist. Also looking into a feeding study.

Vika is absolutely blossoming. She has a rosy color to her cheeks and the dark circles under her eyes (probably due to dehydration) are almost gone. (Gabe does a great job making sure she stays hydrated).

She now gives the best hugs and is just the most affectionate little thing. She has done so well. We are so thankful the Lord knew just which child to place in our family and has blessed in this transition time. It's all because of His great mercy.

Until next time, Merry Christmas! Which reminds me, I should probably go shopping sometime soon.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Welcome to the Jungle

Busy, much?  Yup, you might say that. Here's a sampling:

Musical rehearsals.

Making time for physical fitness

Thanksgiving - Gabe makes a mean bird, for which I-cant-cook-huge-portions-of-meat-Melanie am so grateful.

Lots of cuddling

Thanksgiving leftovers - you've got to give them credit, at least they went for the good stuff.

Mommy-Eva date at the Bee's Knees in Northville.  I went for my standard dot design, extremely good and fail-proof for non-artistic people like me.

Plenty of general cuteness

And still more

Sisterly love

Extremely cool-Ninja-guy scariness (He really did scare me with this by suddenly appearing in the kitchen - a fact that pleases him immensely.)

Sharing of snacks - "orange you glad we're sisters?!"  Yay, I finally got to work that one in - I've been looking for an opportunity to use a bad pun.

And naughty little children. No lie, as I'm typing this, Millie and Vika are supposed to be napping, instead who do I see coming down the stairs in this get-up? I think I will be mourning the loss of the afternoon nap very soon.

Lastly, further evidence of the crazy things that happen around here.  During my shower this morning, I was chagrined to notice that my new bar of soap had disappeared. I was forced to make due with Gabe's which consisted of 2 measly little scraps pressed together to form a slightly larger scrap. I knew I had just put in a brand new bar, but it was nowhere in sight. Well, as I was putting the girls down for their nap, this is what I saw:

At least it doesn't have teeth marks in it. 

Something else weird I found today.

A parting shot (Millie forgive me) "Could someone grab those buns out of the refrigerator?"

Yes, we do clothe our children daily, but sometimes things happen. In this case, Millie is starting to think she wants to use the potty, so sometimes she will pull her diaper off, sit on her potty for about 2 seconds, and then walk around for a while like this. You can't deny the cuteness factor.

As you can see, Mom and Dad need lots of prayer for the stamina to keep up with these wee ones.  In the midst of it all, I often forget to be thankful for all my treasures, because that's what they are. Have you thanked God for yours lately?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

4 weeks home!

4 weeks ago today our little lady stepped off the plane in D.C. and became an American citizen.  To say time has moved swiftly since then is putting it mildly. It's really hard for me to believe it's been that long. We all were extremely tired and emotionally overwhelmed by everything, I think. But after the jet lag and the newness has worn off, I think we've all adjusted rather nicely.  Let's see, in those four weeks, little miss V. has:

Learned to LOVE the bath  (please excuse the duplicate videos. you know my computer skills are very limited and the other part of my brain - Gabe- is not here to fix it).

Exhibited her amazing flexibility

Been showered with sibling affection and attention. My kids all love her. We are so blessed. I just love seeing what adopting a special-needs kid brings out in our other kids.

Tried lots of new foods ("This shoe is delicious"). Her favorites: yogurt, applesauce, oatmeal, anything with meat.  She's slowly getting used to bananas, berries, citrus. She still can't really chew, so her food has to be very soft and easily swallowed.

Mastered the sippy cup ("yeah, I've got skills.") And she's learning to like water and milk.

Had lots of parties with my BFF Millie in our room

Really honed her wrestling skills

Been to church, a Mexican restaurant, the mall, and the zoo

Helped my siblings makes LOTS of messes.  See that cabinet full of pots and pans?  She and her sister (in the proud tradition of children of all generations) have twice pulled them all out to use as noisemakers. 

And completely stolen our hearts with her extreme cuddliness and sweetness

She also had a 2-hour! doctor's appt. with the international adoption specialist.  Really helpful for us and Vika looks good. She also has to see a cardiologist, an ear/nose/throat specialist, opthamologist and an occupational therapist for a chewing/swalloing study. After the 2-hour appt., she had to have her blood drawn. Poor thing, her veins look non-existent to me. So after the vein in her arm dried up, they had to stick her in the hand. I couldn't watch. But they finally did get all the blood they needed.  The blood will tell the doctor lots of things. One of the things they will check for is what's called "tighters"(spelling?). This will let us know if the vaccinations she received in her country need to be repeated.

The doctor also told me it's best for us to feed her at this time. It's part of that whole attachment/bonding process that's the most important work right now. And I thought I was empowering her by encouraging her to feed herself! Vika missed all those things we all do with our infants so the idea is to make up for as much of that as we can now. It's also important for Vika to be with me or Gabe pretty much all the time. Although at times, we've had to briefly hand her off to someone, it's something we're trying not to do now. All she's known are paid caregivers, not mama and papa. She's got to get used to that whole concept and know that we're the ones who will meet her needs. just so you know.

And here's that crazy video again. Reruns are good, right?

One more thing that Vika is doing more and more of is looking in our eyes.  VERY good thing.  As I mentioned before, previously her eyes would just dart around the room, particularly at the ceiling. She had a hard time focusing on us very long. Now when we sit together she makes good eye contact and really seems engaged with us. She is a little bit difficult to get to sleep, so often after everyone else is asleep, I will get her from her bed and rock her for awhile. It's such a sweet time for us both. I think she's starting to expect it a little bit. I don't mind for now, she's got a lot of catching up to do. What else can I say? We love her! Crazy? Hectic? Stressful at times? Oh, yes! Next time I'll do a post about those things, but for now, I don't have too much to complain about.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Zoo Day

We are enjoying some wonderful fall weather here in SE Michigan so we decided to take advantage of it and head to Toledo, Ohio! What's the big attraction in Toledo?  Well, there are several noteworthy ones, but the only one we really care about is the Chick-fil-a. It's the closest one to us, unless you count the one in the Student Union at Oakland University and I don't. 

We all enjoyed our chicken and waffle fries, except for Vika who sampled their yummy chicken noodle soup, and Millie, who mostly dined on their yummy ketchup. I think some of the potatoes ended up in her belly, but not much.  We love that place! It doesn't take much to excite us.

The other main attraction in Toledo is their wonderful zoo.  We've gone there many times with our three and thought it would be a great day to let Vika experience it. 

Here are Eva and Eli in the parking lot demonstrating how they can walk backwards. 

Here are the two little ones securely fastened in the stroller - for now. They will soon break free.

Vika enjoying her walk.  She really didn't pay much attention to the animals.  She did really like the whole atmosphere, though, the sunshine, the breeze, the leaves. Lots of smiles from her today.

I just love the ensemble Eva put together for going to the zoo.  I had nothing to do with this, just so you know.

I think Eli is occupying the Bird House here.

That's just sweet, that's all I can say.

I just like this picture.

Vika enjoying the bird house. The aquarium was also a big hit with her and I got to use the russian word for fish, even big fish - "arriba balshiah". I'm sure people standing near us were so impressed at my fluency.

Here we are at the playground. Millie's getting ready to throw this big pile of leaves on this kid.  Fortunately for him, he's quick and got away just in time.

My silly boy sticking his head in a fish's (arriba!) mouth.

Vika chilling outside the reptile house. If I could only have someone push me around the zoo, life would be so wonderful.

This photo has no relevance. We just saw this sign on the way out and it made us giggle. We're not above potty humor in our family.

How do you define a successful family outing? 3 out of 4 children sleep on the way home! Yes! Eli, meanwhile, was playing some kind of game that looked like to me, "Kill the big stuffed chicken."  Yes, there was a stuffed chicken in the backseat. Doesn't everyone carry one in the car?

Yay! We all survived and dare I say, enjoyed, our first big outing since Vika came home! Happy Fall everyone!