Thursday, December 27, 2012

With thanks to Tracy for the cute pajamas!

Night Before Christmas.  Inesa puts on a deserving face and poses with her present from her brother.

Christmas morning.  Inesa opens her gift while Sasha looks on, barely resisting the urge to do it himself.

And it's...a tiara!  With a wand!  He chose it himself, and she was mighty pleased.



Unbeknownst to me, Sasha also wrapped up a gift bag for Jon, complete with an ornament he'd made at school (and kept secret for five days) and a necklace made out of a Hot Wheels car and yarn.


Santa brought both kids a Big Dog.  Sasha named his Tiny, at Jon's suggestion.  Inesa named hers Sparkles, because that's the name of the dog in her current favorite Barbie movie.  Sigh.


Christmas afternoon, playing with their new toys on their new blanket. 



Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve, and one creature is stirring

The other one is laid out flat on the couch with a horrible cold.  I've been mentally preparing myself for a few days of insane energy, rambunctiousness, hysteria, etc.  So of course, instead Inesa is completely wiped out.  She keeps kind of wimpering, "I don't want to lay down all day!"  I tell her, "You can get up for a little bit if you feel up to it, honey," and she answers, "But I'm too sick!"  Her nose is red like Rudolph's, with dark circles under her eyes, and she keeps pulling her blanket over her head because the daylight is too strong.  She's used up most of a large box of kleenex, and refused breakfast.  I coaxed a little homemade mac and cheese down her just now, and she was done after five bites.  She doesn't even want to watch a movie or have me read to her.  Sasha just told her, "If you feel this bad tomorrow, and you don't want to open presents, you can open them another day."  It's a sign of how miserable she is that she didn't panic at this thought, but just said sadly, "Tomorrow is supposed to be a fun day."  Poor baby girl. 

The smartest thing we've done lately is NOT put the presents under the tree.  There are a half dozen there, from friends, the kids' gifts to each other and dad, but not the insane number of presents Jon and I got them, nor the ones my family gave us.  There is a fair amount of excitement around those presents, but because they know what half of them are, and there's only so many times you can shake a box, they are able to not obssess about them. 

With one out of comission, the other one has been slightly easier to keep calm.  He finished his project for Papa this morning, and when I got out the art box, consigned me to cut out a felt seal which he then added a face to.  He used the garlic press to "grate" me some cheese for the mac & cheese, and I brilliantly killed a half hour by telling him to take a bath.  Oh, and he got clean doing that too, I guess, though I tend to think of bath time as a non-electronic way for Mama to get a half hour break.  Now he's outside with his skateboard and his remote control car.  This is probably a combination that should be supervised, but instead I'm sitting with my sick kid and writing this.  He re-watched his video from Santa (Portable North Pole sends amazing, personalized videos for free), and we checked out both Reindeer Cam and NORAD's Santa Tracker. 

This is fun.  Well, not so much for Inesa.  But being a parent at Christmas time--definitely a good thing.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

We believe.

We finally got the tree in the house last night.  I was initially stressed, because years ago when I had a particularly large tree, I bought a big tree stand, and ever since, we need to wedge things between the tree and the stand so it fits, and the whole thing is invariably precarious.  So I wanted to get it set up and strung with lights before the kids got involved, but they saw me too soon, so I was kind of snapping at them to back off.  I didn't have Christmas music on yet, I hadn't poured myself a glass of Baileys, I wasn't ready.

Then I mentally shook myself and adopted a more welcoming tone of voice.  Jon suggested we put the ornaments in piles, so they'd have an equal amount to put on the tree, and the more fragile ones could be in our piles.  There were literal gasps of amazement as they started looking through their piles.  They were thrilled with the whole process.  When I pulled out the pottery manger scene my sister made in the early '70s--the one the artist herself didn't claim from my parents' house because it's so wobbly and the angel is gone and the wise men's crowns are all snapped off--I told them what the figures represented, and that we should put the wise men a little bit away from the manger, because they aren't there yet.  The immediately got into it with the same enthusiasm I had as a kid, putting them over on the piano and deciding to move them a little closer day by day.  Jon showed them how to step back from the tree and eyeball the bare spaces instead of lumping everything together. 

"It's the most beautiful tree ever!" said Inesa.

"I think Santa will like it best," said Sasha.

They each got to pick out their own ornament a few weekends ago.  Sasha's says "Merry Christmas" in silvery script.  He said, "We need to put this so Santa sees it and feels happy to be here!"  We set it up facing the fireplace, so he'll notice it first thing on entering the room. 

One ornament got broken, by a small girl who didn't realize what would happen if you squeezed the shiny glass ball.  She was immediately contrite and became very vigilant about how she was handling them from then on.  I never did get the holiday music going, and we didn't get our festive drink until after the kids were in bed.  But it was perfect.  I keep telling myself to keep my expectations low, that the stimulation and novelty is going to lead to chaos and meltdowns.  All the same, the magic of the season is very much alive.  Writing Santa, choosing their stockings, buying the tree, making cookies, and now decorating the house--to see the joy in their eyes makes it more than worth it. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Maybe we're doing okay

Sasha came home today with a paper crown, which Inesa was wearing when I got home.  She came into the kitchen to help me cook dinner, then asked me to bend down so she could give me the crown.  She gravely said, "You make us food, lotta food, and you keep us safe.  You the queen."  I gave her a big hug, then she yelled, "So I'm the PRINCESS!" 

Can't argue with that logic.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Best of times, worst of times

Today was kind of  a crappy day, both by parenting standards (I dragged Sasha down the street with no shoes on) and by kid behavior standards (he refused to put shoes on after refusing to stop yelling, "mom, mom, mom" after refusing to fold laundry after popping a bag in Jon's ear after tormenting his sister after...)

We also got a Christmas tree, and that was really exciting and special for both kids, and thus for us.  When we paid, they were giving out free hot cocoa and candy canes, and Inesa blissfully sighed, "I finally get to try a candy cane."  Another little boy looked at us sharply and said, "You've never had a CANDY CANE?!?"  obviously thinking we were the meanest parents ever.  We just grinned at him, to busy with our minty goodness to bother explaining. 

I would also like to point out that all four members of our household are sleeping on clean sheets tonight.  And that I spent about two hours helping both kids actually clean their rooms, as opposed to merely stuffing everything on a shelf so they can vacuum the floor like we do most weeks.  And that Mama and Papa got to go to a raucous holiday party tonight, where Mama scored a bottle of vodka in the white elephant exchange.  The kids were kind of jerks to grandma while we were gone, but hey.  Free bottle of vodka.  A reason to wear eye makeup.  And since grandma got to witness them on their very worst day ever, our first day home, nothing can shock her now.  (Well, I maintain that the trip home was their worst day ever, but when grandma came over to relieve us the next day so we could sleep, the kids still hadn't been to bed, so it was all one stupendously long bad day.)  Plus, I remembered to be Tooth Fairy for Sasha, who had six teeth pulled Friday, so he should wake up happy tomorrow, instead of ticked off like today, when I forgot. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012


This morning, Inesa and I were watching Reindeercam, a live feed of Santa's reindeer.  Santa came out at 8:00 to feed the reindeer (and his black lab!).  Inesa was fascinated.  Then she looked up at me and said, "Julia in my class says Santa isn't real." 

I said, "Well, SHE doesn't know what she's talking about!"

Inesa nodded and said, "We just SAW the real Santa.  Her computer must not show this station."

C'mon, Julia, let my kids have at least ONE year, okay?  Luckily, kindergarteners are aware that their classmates spread misinformation at times.  My real concern is the 2nd grade classroom, and I suspect that if it gets ruined for Sasha, he'll make sure Inesa doesn't get to believe either. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Why yes, I did...

...just put the kids to bed a half hour early, because it seemed like a better option than murder completely losing my temper in a spectacular and regrettable manner.  It's possible that some degree of physical and emotional exhaustion was playing into the whole lovely scene, because the one who swears she's wide awake until she is actually laying down in bed didn't object in the least to that part happening so early, and the one who stalls and stalls still did so, but wound up settled down at the time the stalling usually begins.  I have a feeling this is a trick that will only work if we hardly ever use it, but I think tonight was a good benchmark of when we need to pull it out. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

obligatory cute holiday pictures

But bear with us, there are no actual costume photos.  Yet.  We were at their cousin's, and the kids were posing on top of the stairs, and there were already two photographers on the stairway itself, so I just said, "Send me some of those," forgetting both photographers are Film People. 

I think Jon got some on his phone at the end of the night, so maybe we'll be able to share those.

I also want to light the jack o'lanterns and get some photos of those.  Not because pictures of jack o'lanterns are particularly original or interesting, but because it IS the kids' first year, and they may want the record.  Of course, the VERY first pumpkins rotted by the weekend before, but we carved new ones the day before, and they still look good.  BTW, I always refused to buy those kits, because a) why spend the money when I already own knives and b) it's not like I'm going to be one of those people who carve Dracula's castle, complete with a mob storming the gate, carrying little tiny pitchforks and torches.  But they had the kits at the party where we first carved the pumpkins, and dang if those little saws aren't so much easier to use than a kitchen knife.  Sasha was able to free-hand carve a very cool face on his first try.  So when we did our second ones, we also used the (simple!) patterns, and although it kind of irks me to mechanize the art form, I also have to admit that my standard face isn't particuarly creative either.

The pumpkin carving featured this statement, "Can we play the be-quiet game now, because I want my pumpkin be very pretty and I no can think when everyone blah blah blah."  Given that a more typical version of this request is "AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHH!  WHY YOU ALWAYS BLAH BLAH BLAH TOO MUCH?  OKAY, I COME BLAH BLAH BLAH AT YOU" followed by a completely successful attempt to drive the talking sibling to tears via space invasion, we were more than happy to comply. 

and addendum: jack o'lantern shots:


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

And it felt great.

This morning was the first time since October 10th I didn't have something scheduled for the time both kids are at school.  I mean sure, I can always wash dishes, run a load of laundry, catch up on work email, make boring phone calls to insurance companies, etc., but nobody was expecting me anywhere at a specific time.

So, to quote Jean Auel out of context, I did what any red-blooded American housewife would do.

I went back to bed.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A little of this, a little of that

As of today, we're on Kaiser Dental.  I've never been a Kaiser patient before, although Jon was raised as one.  We took the kids to the dentist this summer, a very nice pediatric place literally up the street.  They got x-rays and cleaning, and then we were told that their teeth are in such bad shape that they would need to be knocked out for the work that needs to be done, because otherwise there would be such a long series of coming in for novacaine shots to work on them piecemeal that they were guaranteed a dental phobia for life.  So that would be, oh, five million dollars.  Per kid.  I may be off by a factor of 10 or so, but suffice it to say, the estimate was more than I've spent on dental care in my lifetime.  With our current dental plan--the one I've been on since I started teaching in '98--you start at 70% coverage.  It goes up 10% each year you have checkups until you're at 100%.  The kids can't wait 3 years for their dental work.  Kaiser's plan starts at 100% coverage.  Ergo, we'll be calling a Kaiser dentist tomorrow to make appointments.

Several times this summer, Jon took the kids to feed the ducks at a pond near Fred Meyers.  They usually rode their bikes.  Today Jon and Inesa went there while Sasha and I were at his swim lessons, which are across the street, so we all met up afterwards to distribute cracked corn.  Inesa exclaimed, "I like this.  The whole family is here."  Incidentally, the kids called both corn on the cob and popcorn "cracked corn" for awhile, because that was the 'corn' phrase they heard the most. 

Sasha's had behavior issues in various places lately.  We were embarrassed, because he overstepped some boundaries while at a neighbor's yesterday.  I talked to the dad after all our kids got on the bus this morning, and he said, "Hey, this stuff was how he got by for the last eight years.  You can't expect to fix it in three months."  I about hugged the guy.  What an empathetic perspective. 

Jon started a harvest job today.  This isn't directly kid related, but it's a Yay.  Both for the money and for the experience. 

After dinner, Jon tried suggesting that we give hugs for dessert.  Inesa and I, knowing there was chocolate cake in the kitchen, vehemently rejected this idea.  Sasha got up and gave Jon a big hug.  It was pretty dang cute.  He also gave Jon the last bite of his slice of cake. Somebody likes Papa. 

Our therapist told us that people adopt because they think having kids will be fun.  "But raising them won't be fun," she warned us.  "The fun part comes later."  I hear her, and appreciate her bluntness, but we do get a lot of fun parts now too.  I honestly think our kids are doing really well compared to how they COULD be doing. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cute Pictures (in case that last post was too grim)

 Playing goalie at a scrimmage.  He got to be goalie for half of the next game.  Being physically fearless and liking to kick the ball as far as possible seem to be desirable characteristics for a goalie.
 Posing with a bear at the zoo.  For some reason, she wanted her picture taken every two minutes that day.  Be grateful I'm not including all of them.  I would also like to state for the record that she chose the dress.  Not my taste at all, but oh well. 
 Hanging with Papa at the Audubon Society trail.  They actually have really cool rehab birds to visit there.  Lived here my whole life, never knew that. 
 Summer's last hurrah. Front row again, baby!
 We were leaving OMSI, and she ran over to the sculpture/sign and demanded I take her photo. 
This is actually kind of old.  He's in the next round of lessons already.  Inesa got waitlisted and is taking ballet instead right now.  I love seeing both his skill and confidence grow.  I keep saying I'm going to start doing laps again...hasn't happened yet. 

In Which I Attempt to Share One Challenge of Adoptive Parenting

I'm going to try to straddle that line between "honesty" and "oversharing."  (My husband is already wincing reading that, right?  Hi, honey!)  I just bumped up against the tip of an iceberg, and it reminded me of how much we didn't know about adoption when we started all this.  Even reading up on it didn't really get through to me until I started experiencing it.  I read somewhere that adoptive families are more like traditionally formed families than they are different, and I wholeheartedly agree. But just as with culture clashes, or like the difference between second language learners and native speakers who struggle in school (to use two examples from my life) those areas of difference are important to acknowledge and address.  So I'm going to offer up one difference for you to ponder: we have to make guesses about our children's past.

We quickly realized that Inesa gets carsick a lot.  Pretty much any time she's in a car, she gets a headache.  After about half an hour, she also gets nauseous.  We resort to medication for longer trips, because otherwise she throws up. 

When she started school, she wasn't on an afternoon bus, because she's in ESL after kindergarten gets out, and there's a separate bus for that, and it took them awhile to add her stop to the list.  She found this highly frustrating.  I don't know if all the cool kids were in the bus line or what, but more than once she got downright snitty with us when we came to pick her up, because she wanted to be on the bus, dammit.  When they did finally add her two weeks ago, she was last on the route.  Since all the kids in the program take that one bus, it must go all over.  Even though we live literally 1.1 mile from the school, she was going to be on the bus 45 minutes.  We were worried, but she insisted it was fine--the bus doesn't make her sick, just cars, she said.  The first few days we asked how she felt, and she said she felt just great.  So we stopped asking.

Today, however, the driver called out at her stop, "She says she has a headache and her tummy hurts."  Sure enough, she was wan and miserable when she got off, and wanted some water and some down time when she got home.  She also asked us to start picking her up again.   Somehow I wasn't surprised.  Yesterday she got a headache in the car.  The car was not moving at the time.  The car had not been moving.  We were sitting in the car in a parking lot on a pleasant day.  This was not a motion sickness event.

Here's the thing:  I don't know if she gets carsick for all the reasons any kid gets carsick, or if she gets carsick because her body is remembering something bad about cars.  I don't even know what "something bad" might be.  It could be completely innocuous.  Or it could be the result of trauma.  I DO NOT KNOW.  This is where parenting adopted kids, especially older adopted kids, really is different.  I will never know their full past.  If something awful happened to her in a car, or if she witnessed something awful while in a car, or if she associates car rides with being removed from her home, we may eventually find out.  Or we may not.  Maybe she really just gets carsick.  But what else is going on that is influenced by pieces of her past that we are unaware of? 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Problem solved.

Problem one:the leak between one of the upstairs bathrooms and the living room ceiling, which makes us unwilling to let the kids take a bath.  It could be our shower leaking, but it seems suspicious that the leak developed after people started taking somewhat enthusiastic baths.

Problem two: only Sasha got into the next sessions of swimming lessons. Inesa got waitlisted.

Two in one solution: Aloha swim center has open swim in the afternoon. I took Inesa over and we practiced for 40 minutes, then we both took long showers.


Monday, September 10, 2012

School Stuff, part 2

The kids brought home homework for the first time today.   Up until now, they've brought home some classwork to show us and some 'homework' for us to do (forms and such).  I find myself unnaturally excited, and had to force myself to let them unwind first, instead of diving right in.

I'm worried that I'm going to be one of those parents I've been specifically warned not to be, one who places so much academic pressure on their kids that even if they're perfectly capable of excelling, they refuse to even try.  As I think about it, I'm trying to figure out where this intense desire for them to do well at school comes from.  Yes, there's the expected culprits--how will it look if the teacher's kids flunk out, what will their future be like if they don't do well in school, blah blah blah.  But I can get over all of those (she says after one week).  I think my real issue is--I just want them to like school. 

They are going to be there a lot over the next 12 or more years.  As a teacher, I've seen how miserable that is for kids who aren't happy at school.  The kids who are happy fall into one of two categories--those with naturally sunny personalities, who would be chipper in a coal mine, and those who find learning truly interesting.  I was more of the latter, and even in the darkest days of Mordor middle school, I still remember enjoying several classes.  I was a geek, and picked on, and I somehow thought it was okay to pick on other people who I deemed even geekier than myself, so I also had a lot of self-loathing because I knew that wasn't really okay.  Kids that age can be seriously mean, and they also don't have the armor to handle it, or at least I didn't.  And I don't know why people think "social bullying" is just a girl thing--some of the most painful things that were ever said to me or about me were by boys with half-changed voices. 

But I liked my science class okay.  And I adored my English teacher.  And social studies was great fun, leading me into a history major in college.  I remember the Time Man of the Year (because that's what it was called then!) cover I made for Sir Francis Drake.  I remember tracking John Anderson's failed 3rd party bid in the 1980 election.  I remember reading Shakespeare, and learning public speaking, and spelling bees, and astronomy.  (I hated math, which is unfortunate, and led to a math phobia I'm just now getting over.)  I remember the computer lab that was installed my 8th grade year, and how we'd race for the chair in front of the Apple 11E (because there was only one computer per two kids). 

My point is that even when the social aspect of school was so miserable that I wrote in my (gag) 8th grade diary, "I have cried every single day this month," I still liked school.  Come to think of it, the same could be said of my college experience.  So that's what I really want for my kids--to like school, to feel like they're getting something out of it, to wonder what they'll get to learn next.  I want to pull out their homework and see if I can contribute to the sense of--look at this!  Look what you can do now!  What will you do next?  Wow!

Friday, September 7, 2012

School Stuff. Part one?

We just got the letters from the Beaverton School District with the kids' ELD test scores.  Not surprisingly, they've both been identified as non-native speakers and will be receiving ELD services.  I noticed that Sasha's testing says he is a beginner, as we expected, but Inesa's says she is intermediate--two levels up.  I wrote it off as a) Kindergarteners aren't expected to know much and b) she might have been more engaged in the test.

I put the letters down and came outside to enjoy the evening.  Inesa had been playing with the two neighborhood 11-year olds in the common area.  I realized they were playing "What time is it, Mr. Fox?" a game she's played and loved at soccer practice.  She taught the neighbor kids how to play a game.  One was trying to circumnavigate the rules, and she hollered, "Stop!  No hands!  Only feet!  Is more fun!" 

Maybe 'intermediate' is the correct description of her language level.

In further back-to-school news, Sasha got on the wrong bus coming home on the first day, and Inesa wasn't able to get on today due to some SNAFU.  They seem to like school, but it is still a major change in our routine, and I know how hard it is to spend the day having to listen and respond in a still-new language.  Inesa comes home quiet and prickly, and takes awhile to relax and warm up again, but is still prone to melt down later in the evening.  Sasha has been revved up and unpredictable.  We've been taking a lot of walks around the neighborhood to refocus, and we've gotten a handful of odd jobs done, as "make a repair" is our response to bad choices.  But it was only the first week, and a short one at that, so I'm still optimistic that we will settle into our new routine.

But what a bait and switch, eh?  For weeks and weeks, it's all sunny weather and playing in the park, and then all of a sudden, BOOM!  Get to work!  At least the weather is still fooling them lovely.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

It Wasn't the Onions

It wasn't the onions that had me misting up as I cooked dinner tonight.  Nor was it shame at the fact I had to work around the dirty breakfast dishes to do so.  No, those were tears of sheer joy.

But first you need to understand something.  Jon has severe allergies to both pets and dust mites.  These allergies make it hard for him to breathe, which is mildly important, but even more importantly for a winemaker, they kill his sense of smell.  This is why despite our love of animals, we don't have pets, and it's why, at the request of his doctor, I do all the vacuuming.

Not so onerous, right?  He still picks up his fair share of the chores.  But the thing is, I HATE VACUUMING.  I once wrote on one of those "20 things about me" that were all the rage when folks my age started using Facebook that I would rather clean toilets than vacuum, and I was half hoping someone would offer to swap jobs with me.  And yes, we joked a lot during the weary journey towards adoption that it would all be worth it once I had someone to do the vacuuming for me.  However, when we first introduced the vacuum cleaner, the kids decided to use it as a weapon, and it wound up in lockdown.  I've been furtively vacuuming when Jon takes both kids out, then re-hiding the machine before they got home. 

Then a few days ago, I pulled it out to help Sasha vacuum up the cup of dry cereal he'd spilled in his room.  That went fine.  A night or two later, Jon got it out to clean up the mess after he'd changed and cleaned the lightbulbs from our dining room chandelier.  Tonight, as I started dinner, Sasha noticed the vacuum cleaner and asked, "Mama, can I do that?"  So while I chopped potatoes and breaded fish, it was to the sweet sound of someone else vacuuming the living room.  I couldn't help but to shed tears of joy. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Sort of.  There were beds.  And for three nights, a flush toilet and running water.  But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

Our two annual outings wound up scheduled back-to-back, which has happened once or twice before, and is fine with us.  The scheduling all happened back when we thought we'd be adopting in, oh, 2015 or so.  So when we learned how soon we'd be adding to our family, we notified both groups that we'd play it by ear.  During the first few weeks we were with the kids, if we'd had to make a firm committment, we would have said no to both trips.  But by the time August rolled around, we decided we'd pack for the duration but take it day by day.

Friday morning we got up early for their first local doctor's appointment, and from there we headed up the Gorge towards Lost Lake.  We stopped at Multnomah Falls, where the boys made it all the way to the top.  Inesa and I made it past the the first switchback.  Luckily, they've added a pretty cool interpretive room to the lodge, so we were able to entertain ourselves for an hour without going near the gift shop. 
 at the base of the falls
with the real deer horns

on top of the falls

We made it to Lost Lake and spent two great days with our friends.  For the first time, we stayed in cabins instead of tents, and there were definite advantages.   Mainly in the "not having to set up and take down a tent" category, and for Jon, the ever popular "being able to sleep because you're on a mattress" category.  Since we already had four people packed for five nights in our 2-door Civic, not having the tents or pads was really helpful. 

Hanging out in the water

  Bonding with Lola.  The beatific smile says it all.  Luckily, Lola got stressed out and nipped her immediately before we left, so we don't have to steal her from her family after all.

Our friends' daughter reading a book of Greek myths aloud to our kids.  They didn't get much of the story, but found the pictures fascinating and were remarkably intent on listening anyway.

Is this beautiful?  Yes, it is.

Are we silly?  Yes, we are.

The only ways we could get the kids to be okay with leaving were that a) everyone else left and b) we promised they'd see Sally on our next stop.  (Sally is my sister's black lab.)  We forgot our camera, and our phones died after 3 days despite careful battery conservation, so I have NO PICTURES of my kids' first trip to Cloud Cap.  Sigh.  I was a little worried that the lack of lake would bother them once the thrill of Sally died down, but the two 13 year old boys who were there were super nice about hanging out with our kids, my sisters also rose to the occasion and spent some time being delightful aunties, I had actually planned ahead and brought some mildly craftsy supplies to dole out, and, best of all there were CHIPMUNKS and CAMPFIRES.  Plus, as Inesa pointed out after a night up there, "This place is even better, because the bathroom is right there and it doesn't smell bad." 

We made it.  Five nights away from home, with lots of new people thrown into the mix, and we did fine.  There were lots of cuts and scrapes, and none of us were perfect angels the whole time, but we all had a good time.  I was surprised to find that I actually got some breaks, as there were both other kids to play with and other awesome adults to benignly look on.  I didn't expect it to be a relaxing trip, and although it wasn't as lazily so as it would have been before, I did still get to kick back and to catch up with my friends and family.  I think we also all bonded a little more as a family.  Sasha in particular showed both Jon and I some spontaneous affection, rubbing our backs and leaning up against us.  Coming home was also a sweet moment, when they started calling out "Our street!  Our street!" then "Our house!  Our house!"  I'm really glad they enjoy the outdoors, and that not once in the six days away did either one notice the lack of TV, computer, and phone.  I'm looking forward to many summers to come, and wondering if we could maybe sneak in one overnight in a tent before the weather turns...

Monday, July 30, 2012

Coffee Break. Now with extra exclamation points!

Jon took the kids to the zoo today.  We got a membership on our last visit, since it turns out that if you visit twice a year, it's cheaper that way.  I said I would stay home and vacuum.  And I will, I will!  But first I had to make a latte!  And check my email! And read everyone's posts on facebook!  And put on some music! 

When the kids first got home, they couldn't stop themselves from pushing buttons.  I don't mean that they were purposefully annoying us--although that's somewhat true as well--I mean that the coffeepot, the dishwasher, the Kitchenaid, the lights, remote controls, EVERYTHING with a button, a  switch, or on/off button had to be repeatedly tested.  For example, it took about 10 days before I was successfully able to run the dishwasher, because they couldn't stop themselves from pressing the buttons again while it was running, which would cause it to cycle off.  And after Sasha's first encounter with the vacuum cleaner (it makes noise!  it has attachments that can be swung at one's sister! it can grab shoelaces!), we hid it, and I only bring it out when they're gone.  As for the latte maker, they keep asking what it is, and I keep saying, "Nothing."  Or, "It's broken."  Or, my personal favorite, "I don't know.  Hey! Who wants some yogurt?"  And since the first morning home, Inesa was trying to help me make regular coffee, and dropped the pot, which shattered, we've not been making coffee at home at all.  Today is the first time I had the presence of mind to actually USE the latte maker while they were out.  I am happy.  And peppy!  Turns out when you go from having several cups of coffee daily to having it a few times a week, the whole "caffeine is a drug" thing becomes more obvious.  But hey!  I will vacuum faster! 

Let's add a few photos, shall we? These will be repeats from facebook, but I know not everyone is addicted to is on there. On my birthday last week, we took a hike on the Salmon River Trail, then drove up to Timberline and walked uphill to play in the snow. And then we had dinner in Government Camp with our friends who live up on the mountain. It was a great day. I am so glad they enjoy the outdoors. And while not perfect, their listening was good enough that we feel comfortable taking them out again. As I told Jon, I've taken middle schoolers hiking who struggled more with following directions and being responsible.

I can't even tell you how happy this photo makes me.

They both like to ride on Daddy's shoulders.

After dipping our toes in the river.

He likes to climb.

Friday, July 20, 2012

photographic evidence that Jon is the better parent

Jon and Sasha making me a birthday present.

In the meantime, Inesa is playing games on my phone.

MIldly Brutal Honesty

Okay, we've posted here and on FB about the cute things the kids do (and their photos--they really are adorable, am I right?) and the fun activities we've been up to.  But it's not all like that, as any parent knows, then imagine the added complications of not being able to communicate, not knowing what "family" means, etc.  So I'm just going to share a few of the "other" truths about our lives right now.  Not all of them, because we value our privacy around here.  But for example...

Our kids have too much screen time.  Because it gives us a break.  I think this is true of many families I know, but it BUGS me, having been raised without a TV and having aspirations to not fall back on that so much.  The first thing they want in the morning is not breakfast, but our smart phones.

The only forms of meat they eat are hotdogs and Tyson breaded chicken.  Both of these are disgusting in their own right, of questionable healthiness, and completely ignore any values we have regarding how meat is raised.  However, I serve one or both of these daily, because otherwise all they'll eat is fruit and ice cream and yogurt. 

I'll spare you the random peeing stories, but just be aware that we have random peeing stories.

Oh, and other than the kids' two forms of meat, Jon and I are living on food our AMAZING friends have given us.  It is so wonderful to have heat and serve meals ready that are tasty and healthy and made with love, without actually having to make them with love.  Basically, I have no idea how single parents do it.  Right now we have two adults at home full time, and we are barely keeping ourselves in clean clothes and dishes, the house is a mess, we're not really cooking, we're not socializing (except for play dates, where our kids start out shy and cute and wind up kind of wild and overwhelming), and the only time we have to ourselves is during our weekly therapy appointments, while our kids terrorize whatever family member we've persuaded to babysit. 

Next: back to our regularly scheduled reports on our cute kids and the fun times we're having with them.  It's true too, just wanted to pull back the curtain a bit on "the rest of the story." 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Appreciating the huge leaves at Tualatin Nature Park.

Noticing that dogs give kisses with their tongues!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Starting to begin to think about possibly starting to begin to settle in.

Just to let you know how we're doing now...

The first day home was really rough.  We got in at 1:30 in the morning and got home close to 3:00, I think.  The kids did not go to bed until 3:45 the next afternoon.  We were completely wiped out and they were completely out of control.  My saint of a mother-in-law came and stood guard for a few hours so we could get to sleep, but I'm afraid it was not the best introduction to her new grandchildren.  The jet lag is way too slow in ending for them--the slept 12 hours that first night, which means, yes, they woke up at 3:45 am.  Yesterday they went to sleep at 5:30, then got restless around 2:30 am and got up at 4:30 am.  Today Inesa fell asleep at 6:30 and Sasha at 7:00, so I'm hoping we'll actually get to sleep until dawn tomorrow.  In the meantime, Jon has some sort of vicious stomach thing going on and has been confined to bed the last two days. 

Nonetheless, the past two days have been better than that first.  We've taken walks on the nearby nature trail, and it's clear that once they are more able to follow directions like "Don't get too close to that steep dropoff" and "Don't push your sister into the fire," they will LOVE hiking and camping.  They've met their (same-age) cousin twice and are thrilled with her.  Yesterday we all got together at a playground and had lunch, and today I took the kids to meet their cousin and her dad at Gabriel Park's kid pool.  They practiced their little bits of English, and in the car on the way home asked me a few questions about vocabulary.  We made cookies today, and Inesa said, "Mama, you know how to make soup AND pancakes AND cookies!"  Inesa went to Winco with Jon yesterday, and Sasha went to Fred Meyers with me today.  They both do well in the store, lobbying for items that catch their eye, but not whining or trying to grab things.  We went to the library yesterday, where they were thrilled to check out a stack of books.  They each checked out a pre-school kit, and today realized that Sasha's contains 3 magnifying glasses.  They invented a game where I hid both of their new stuffed dogs (presents from their cousin) in different places in the living room, then led out a series of real and false trails to them, using our stash of corks we keep meaning to recycle.  Then the kids would come in with their magnifying glasses and use them to follow the trail.  Later, they both took their dogs up to Papa, to guard him and keep him company while he was feeling sick.

The lawn is mowed, our dear friend dropped off a stack of freezer meals this evening, and the general level of mess and grime in the house is high, but livable.  The kids fell asleep on the couch, and then Sasha slid off.  I left them their portable nightlights, so when they inevitably wake in the night, they can light their way up to our bed, and clamber in and elbow and kick us, and we will be glad to let them. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Heading home

Our original tickets were for July 3rd.  Monday we were told we could leave as soon as this Friday, June 29, but the travel agent could only find two tickets for that date and over the weekend.  We didn't really want to just give the kids 20 bucks and send them ahead of us, so we agreed to travel on July 3rd.  Yesterday we went all over town taking care of business--the visa office, the doctor's office, the American embassy.  Elona, the representative from the Family Law Centre, who has taken very good care of us this entire time, said we should get all the paperwork back from the embassy today, so maybe we could ask about leaving on June 28th?  We didn't have much faith with such short notice, but Golden Rule Travel came through for us.  So around 7 pm last night we found out that today would be our last day in country, as we leave at 6 am Thursday.

We are really excited to be getting home, where we can say things like "Take the ball outside to play!"  I love being in Lithuania, and this apartment has a really nice location, near a grocery store and two playgrounds.  But we are so focused on the kids, and establishing a connection while establishing boundaries, that we aren't able to take in much of the country.  Also, it will make more sense for us to set up routines and patterns in our own home. 

I'm not sure if it was because we spent such a big chunk of the day out and about or what, but yesterday was probably the most peaceful day we've had with the kids.  They were generally pretty cooperative, and I generally handled it when they weren't, so it didn't escalate.  We played a lot of Go Fish, they took baths, they experiemented with freezing ice cream and with making tea...

Now Inesa is awake and wants to play, so let's let her choose some pictures.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Midnight Post

We just had our first ever non-tantruming bedtime.  Either last night's was so unpleasant that they didn't want to repeat it either, or it helped that this morning I drew pictures of each stage of getting ready for bed and then we talked about it a few times during the day.  Baths--snacks--tooth brushing--books--bed.  Possibly to keep our karma balanced, we also had our first bedwetting about an hour later, and I'm afraid in my sleepy efforts to get wet sheets removed and a dry sheet on, I may have lost the 2 litas that the tooth fairy left Sasha.  But if my choices are damp sheets or miserable bedtime, I'll sleep in the wet spot.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Good News!

Sasha is experimenting with the TV, cable box, and dvd system to try to get it all to work.  This has provided mom and dad 20 minutes to update our blog.   Today we heard the judges decision on our adoption.  The judge approved our adoption of Inesa and Aleksandr and has waived the 40 day appeal period.  This means that we can come home to Portland earlier than expected.  We still have to tie up some loose ends with medical and immigration appointments.

The kids, especially Sasha, really enjoy playing in the local park.  There are playsets, a slide, merry-go-round, and swings.  Sasha spends a lot of time swinging high on the swingset, and Inesa enjoys the slide.  Inesa runs over to mommy for a hug about once every ten minutes.

 Both kids are also good at sharing.  Today we shared tic-tacs and carrots (morku) with the other kids in the playground.  In the morning, Inesa fed dad her last french fry from the previous nights dinner.  Both Inesa and Sasha help younger kids with the play equipment, but are more mischievous with older kids.

Dad, Inesa, and Sasha played tag on the playground.  Dad was "it" most of the time, and couldn't quite catch up to Inesa or Sasha.  I ran more than I have in months.  Unfortunately, this led to me injuring my calf muscle and so I'm now icing it in bed.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Let's See How Long I Can Type

before my attention is urgently required. 

Today's game is "Let's pile all the furniture in the room in front of the doorway, challenge Mama and Papa to get in, then unpile it all and straighten up the room, and invite them in to admire how neat it is."  I can think of worse games to play.

It hasn't been all sunshine and roses*, but the occasional tantrums and world-class pouting sessions have been followed up by a return to cheerfulness and attempts to make amends in their own way.  I just took the two of them out on my own (scary!) to try to get their visa photos taken.  Either the photo shop has moved, or I am a foreign idiot who can't recognize a photo shop.  Both seem equally likely.  Anyway, they held my hand the whole time (which they kind of love and kind of hate), and the looked at all the souvenires for sale without whining for them, even when the crafty sales guy handed them a kaleidescope to try.  I bought them each a postcard, and they were perfectly happy with that. 

Jon is worried that the steady diet of sausage, sweetened yogurt, and cheese will give them heart attacks by the age of twelve, but at least they are eating.  Actually, they eat a LOT.  Not sure if they are truly hungry, or if the novelty of being able to demand and receive food at all hours is the motivation.  Neither have eaten themselves sick, so that's good too. 

Bedtime is a difficult transition.  They don't want to sleep alone, but if we put them down together, they want to play.  Then they get naughty and rude if we try to stop them, and then we escalate to the meltdown stage.  When I say "we"--I try not to visibly tantrum, but I sure don't enjoy myself.  So them we separate them, one kid per adult, until we've reached calm again, and then they usually are all clingy and huggy and we all wind up going to bed together at the same time in the same bed.  So, not much time on our own.

And now I am needed to play...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Super delayed update

So, hopefully the last few points on the previous list explain why we've been radio silence since.  It's been jam packed with doing kid stuff, which in this case means since they won't settle down and go to sleep unless we lay down with them, we have not had any time to ourselves.  Well, that's not quite true.  We both have used the bathroom several times now, and I think there was a shower in there somewhere.  They are starting to warm up to Papa (accent on the second syllable) and he is making them their fifth meal of the day, a pre-bedtime snack of cheese and salami on bread, which they microwave for frightening amounts of time.  Cool Dad just says, "Okay, if you're going to eat it like that."  So I had a chance to sneak off and write this.  They are super intruiged by the computer, which is the other reason we haven't been on it. 

The main point of today is we went to court, and will get the judge's decision on both the adoption and waiving the 40 day waiting period on Thursday.  We had a very nice lawyer and a very nice translater, and on the other side of the very official table were the directress of the children's orphanage and representatives from the municipal  and national child welfare offices.  The judge and his secretary sat up front, he above the rest of us and a bit intimidating in his black robes and serious face.  I had to stand at a podium facing him and give a brief speech about why we want to adopt, why from Lithuania, why these children, and why waive the waiting period.  He asked several questions, like were we prepared to settle down and not travel for awhile, and what was my plan for future work, etc.  We were told it is unusual to have a judge get into so many details, but that he is new to adoption cases, and is known overall for being detail oriented.  Jon was asked to give a shorter speech supporting what I'd said.  The representatives spoke very strongly in favor of both the adoption and the speed.  The directress told him that we had dropped the children back at the orphanage that morning, as we were told to, and that after we left, at lunch time, they both started crying and asking for mama and papa.  The judge had the children brought to the courthouse, which the lawyer had thought was not necessary, and in a closed room, talked to them.  When we re-entered, he said the children spoke very strongly about their wish to join our family.  Yes, it was all very emotional, but I managed to neither faint, throw up, or burst into tears. 

The children have started leaping off the windsill onto pillows, and their bath is ready, so I need to go.  We'll try to check in a bit better from here--they do seem to be less needy of constant dual attention today after being returned to us at the end of the court session.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Ten Main Points

1.  We're here.
2.  We actually got fed twice on our trip; a dinner and a light breakfast on the overseas flight.  No free booze, however.
3.  We're in a refurbished apartment in an older building on a main street in the old town.  We're in the back of a courtyard, so it's quiet enough.  There are windows on both sides of the apartment, and a kitchen plus two main rooms, one which is divided into a living room and bedroom.
4.  We just did our grocery shopping a block away. 
5.  We will meet the kids tomorrow morning.
6.  They will come back to the apartment with us until Monday.
7.  We've been instructed to do fun things with them over the weekend so they'll say they want to come home with us.
8.  They don't come to court with us after all.  So now they both have a fancy outfit and nowhere to wear it.
9.  Did I mention, we get the kids tomorrow?
10.  Oh, and also we get the kids starting tomorrow. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

3 Hours until Wheels Up

Got a whopping 2 1/2 hours of "sleep."  One of those nights where you swear you don't sleep, yet are surprised that the alarm wakes you up anyway.  Our bags are packed--each big suitcase has a small wheeled suitcase inside for the kids to use on our return.  We think it's all going to make the airline guidelines for size and weight.  The luggage is all on loan from other sources, so it better all make it.

Yesterday was full of last minute errands, including another trip to the hardware store, another trip to the photocopy store, and another trip to Fred Meyers to get them to remove the anti-shoplifting tag from our girl's Court Dress.  I did not shoplift the dress, by the way.  Then ANOTHER trip to Fred Meyers by me, this time mostly to kill time after dinner, but I wound up getting some children's meds and a bathmat. And a toothbrush holder.  And some jelly beans, because we realized that the airlines will only be feeding us once on this whole trip there and back.  Crazy--not even on the overseas flight coming home. 

The house is reasonably clean, the things that didn't get done will wait.  The front porch light is on, and we're ready for our ride.  It takes some serious heroism to volunteer to get up early enough to pick up travelers at 4 am.  As with so many steps along the way, we have a lot to thank our friends and family for. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Words to ponder

Here's a nice blog post I stumbled across today...because, you know, I had so much free time today.

We are trying to convince ourselves to go to bed, because David is picking us up in five hours.  But it's hard to sleep.  We get into Vilnius Thursday afternoon, and will be picked up and taken to the apartment we'll be staying in, which is in the Old Town area.  I suspect we won't get to meet the kids until Friday, but the way the timeline has gone on everything, maybe they'll take us straight there. 

This is really happening.

How to Elicit a Weird Look from a Shoe Salesman

Two unaccompanied adults walk into the shoe store and say, "Where's the children's section?"

Jon and Wendy's adoption news

Wendy and I are keeping this blog to update friends and family on our family building journey.  We hope that you will follow us along the way.