Thursday, March 22, 2007

March 22, 2007 Part 2

My beautiful nieces. They are both such wonderful, Christian, young ladies and are just as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside.












The boys playing. Nicholas likes to sit on the lock box.













My mom bought this toy for the boys, about a year before they actually arrived home. This little box has different kinds of locks on each door. It is great for practicing fine motor skills and also some thinking skills. They also love putting things in the box and taking them out again. We are currently storing a few wooden blocks in the box, as the entire bag of blocks are too many for them (and me) to deal with right now.



I finally took some bathtub pictures. Both boys have always loved playing in the bathtub. When we were in Russia, I got in first, along with all of the toys and they loved it. I could tell that without me and the toys, they might have been scared at first but they are just fine now and they have a ball in the tub. We have also never had an issue getting them out of the tub. By the time the water cools, they are normally ready to get out.




That is my husband, holding up the towel while watching the boys play in the bath. This is our normal watching position, both of us kneeling next to the tub, holding up the towel to keep us and the floor from getting drenched.










The boys playing. Ben in red and Nick in blue.
















Nck playing with Megablocks. He can now put more than two together, although I think he likes taking them apart more than putting them together. I have seen both boys focus on a particular toy/task for longer periods of time lately. Ben spent quite a bit of time last night, trying to figure out some of the locks on the lock box. He had an audience/cheering crowd, which probably encouraged him to stick with it longer.








Nick on the left, approximately 16 months old now, Ben on the right, approximately 17.5 months old now and both boys home just over two months.

March 22, 2007

Aren't families just the most wonderful thing?? Since this week is spring break week around here, two of my nieces, who are juniors in high school, and my sister have been here for a visit. They only live about an hour and a half from us but it is so nice to have them here for overnight visits and get to spend more time with them.

My two nieces came on Sunday afternoon. One stayed through this morning and the other through yesterday afternoon. My sister, who is mother to one of the nieces, came on Tuesday and left this morning. My nieces wanted to do some shopping, so my sister watched the boys while I took the girls shopping. I was also able to use this time to exchange some clothes we had received as shower gifts that were too big for the boys, so that was helpful.

The girls also helped take care of the boys, cook and clean up, as did my sister. I'm afraid they really spoiled me while they were here and I loved every minute of it! They fixed dinner two days in a row and last night they had everything completely cleaned up before I even finished helping the boys. My sister also went with me yesterday to take the boys for their hearing test. Since we were just two or three blocks from the medical clinic, we also took them by there to have another round of shots, which was not fun at all. Benjamin only had to have one but Nicholas had to have four and I was ready to cry with him. The lady is really fast about giving them though, so it is pretty much over before they finish taking the first really big breath to cry. I was so glad my sister was with me though. First of all during the hearing test, she played with one child while I was with the other in the sound booth. And then, during the shots, she took one child into the hall and walked around with him, with the other got the shot(s). Our next shot visit will be at the end of May, when they will each get two more, I think.

As for the hearing test, Nicholas tested out fine but Benjamin was a bit inconsistent in his testing so they want him to come back and do it again with an auditory specialist. One of the tests indicated that both boys have water behind the ear drum in at least one ear, so we need to retest for that also at a later date. We are hopeful this is just due to recent colds.

The boys really enjoyed our company and all of the attention they got. They went down for their morning nap just after my sister and niece left this morning so they won't know what to think when they wake up and it's so quiet around here again.

My husband and I even got to sneak out and go to a movie one night, which was really nice. That's the first time the two of us have gone anywhere without the boys, except for church service, since they came home. We both enjoy going to the movies a lot and did that often before the boys came home so it was a nice treat for us. We saw the movie "Amazing Grace", which was really good. We both enjoyed it a lot. The boys did great when we were gone. I was a little worried about them because it was the first time someone else put them down to bed but they didn't seem to miss a beat.

I am interested to see how they behave now that everyone is gone. I notice when everyone is here the boys gets tons of attention and love but a lot less discipline. On the one hand, they don't require quite as much anyway because they are getting lots of positive attention but, on the other hand, they don't receive as much correction for things, such as throwing toys, when people are here because I may not see the behavior or I am not paying as much attention because I am visiting or something. Hopefully they will respond quickly and we will pick right back up where we left off before we had company. They really are pretty well behaved most of the time but we are still working on consistently handling temper tantrums, throwing, occasional hitting and the new thing that came up yesterday, biting! I was shocked. Nick bit Ben when they were sitting in the stroller, waiting for their turn for shots. Ben had Nick's sandal and Nick wanted it back so he bit Ben on the hand and left teeth marks. He didn't break the skin, thankfully, but I know it hurt and Ben cried. That was a first so I will be watching for that again and making sure I correct that behavior, while teaching the proper response. I was shocked because I had seen both boys "mouthing" each other before, where they put their mouth on the other's arm or head or something and leave slobber but neither of them had ever bitten the other one. So when I saw Nick with his mouth on Ben's hand, I didn't think much about it. And then my sister said, I think Nick is biting Ben and I looked back, just in time to see Nick starting to pull away a little from Ben's hand, with Ben's skin still between his teeth. I was really shocked. And then my sister, who has a twin brother, said "Well, Kenny (her twin) use to bite me all the time when we were little", which is true.

 Our mom has told us that our brother Kenny had a biting issue when he was little and went through a stage where he would bite my sister often. But still, I was so surprised at the behavior. I just wasn't prepared for it at all. Anyway, like I said, it was a first and I will be watching for it in the future.

One evening, while my family was here, we were all eating at the kitchen table and the boys were in their highchairs. My husband was feeding Nick and I was feeding Ben and the boys also had some cheerios handy because we frequently give them a few while we are doing final prep for the meal. It was the end of the meal and Nick was playing with and eating his last few cheerios. He handed one to my husband, who opened his mouth and let Nick put it in his mouth, which Nick enjoyed. But it was the last cheerio, except for the one he was chewing in his mouth. So Nick promptly put his finger in his mouth and dug out the half-eaten cheerio and then wanted to put it in daddy's mouth. It was quite funny and everyone laughed.

Well, we all had a fun time with our family and it will be quiet around here now. We are very thankful they are so close by and the boys enjoy their company so much. I am also very thankful that the boys are so comfortable with my sister taking care of them and babysitting for us. She is really wonderful with children and she really knows how to entertain them well and keep them laughing. It is a joy to watch her with them and I always learn a lot from her.

It was also very comforting to see the boys want to be with my husband and I, while all of the company was here. Everyone thought they were very well attached, which is nice to see...at least so far.

Friday, March 16, 2007

March 16, 2007

This coming Sunday, two days from now, will be two months since we picked up our sons from the orphanage in Volgograd Russia (1/18/07). At that time, Nicholas was 14 months old and Benjamin was 15.5 months old. They are now approximately 16 months and 17.5 months old, respectively. It is amazing at how much they have changed in just two months.


Here is Ben on our first visit to Volgograd in November of 2006. He was 13.5 months old in this picture.











And here is a picture of Nick during our first visit to Volgograd in November of 2006. He was 12 months old in this picture.

















Here they are in the hotel room in Volgograd on 1/18/2007. This is the day we really became a family, although we legally became a family the day before in court.

In this picture, Ben was 15.5 months old and Nick was 14 months old.







Here is a picture of Ben today, almost two months later. This is the best picture I could get of him today but, I'm telling you, this kid has one of the most charming smiles you will ever see. Everyone comments on it, in addition to his big, beautiful, brown eyes. He has a beautiful smile and he is a beautiful child.

Two months ago, he would hardly play with a toy and would be more likely to throw it down or drop it quickly if you handed him something. He immediately pushed any food that was placed on his highchair tray to the floor and could not feed himself at all. In fact, he never, ever brought anything to his mouth to chew on, except for his finger sometimes. Anytime he was frustrated or angry about something, he would hit himself and sometimes he would try to hit us. He could crawl but he could not walk. He could pull up but was not very good at cruising and didn't show much interest in it. When he did pull up, he did not stand for very long. He did not babble a whole lot and could not say any words.

He can now feed himself finger food very well and he also chews on toys. He hardly ever throws anything in the floor when he is eating in his highchair and he never hits anyone anymore, including himself. He is now walking pretty well and spends a good part of his waking hours walking all around the house. He has become more assertive and he no longer lets Nick take away his toys. He now babbles all the time and he says momma, dada, kitty, all done and he tries to say many other words. He is still behind with his communication but catching up quickly.

And here is an up to date picture of Nick. He has an adorable smile too...maybe a bit impish...he is a little imp. He is also a beautiful child...do you think I might be just a bit biased?

Two months ago, Nick was pretty much on track developmentally and was actually ahead in some areas. He is still pretty much on track developmentally but also behind with his receptive communication skills. His latest interest is talking on the phone. He was holding a block to his ear the other day and saying something that sounded much like "hello". When the phone rings he also says something that sounds much like "hello". If I am busy and don't answer the phone, they both look at me expectantly, like I should be answering it. They both love to listen as someone talks to them over the phone, especially when daddy calls. Nick is also now starting to run a little bit and loves climbing all over the furniture. He can say quite a few words and tries to say many more that are hard to recognize. He understands so much more of what we say as each week goes by, it is amazing. He knows where we keep the drinks and snacks and will point to the fridge or cabinet when he wants something.

They are both pretty smart little guys and we are enjoying this time of learning about their developing personalities. I was looking at some of the old pictures and it is amazing at how much they have filled out since they have been home. Their faces were so much thinner in the earlier pictures and I can really tell a difference in their little thighs. They have a bit of meat there now, almost a little bit of a chub....much more normal looking. Two months ago they were skin and bone.


They are interacting with each more and more each day and it is obvious they enjoy being with each other. They follow each other around and mimic each other a lot.










Sometimes they are pretty good about sharing and they enjoy playing together or near each other.











...sometimes not:). Actually, times like this are pretty rare, for now anyway. This type of behavior is more likely to happen when they are playing very close to each other and they accidentally fall into or onto each other and/or they are wanting to play with the same toy. They normally stop before I have to intervene but sometimes I have to firmly tell them to stop. Nick tends to enjoy sitting on or rolling on top of Ben and Ben doesn't care for that too much.






They both love pushing everything around, including cups that are turned upside down or anything that is not suppose to be pushed and may ruin the wood floors. We try to keep them interested in pushing around the things that are made to be pushed around.

They keep me very busy but I love it. Nick woke up an hour before Ben did yesterday and so it was just the two of us for a little while. This happens at times and I relish the individual time with each of them when it does, although it seems so quiet when one is awake and the other is still sleeping and the one who is awake seems a little lost without his brother around. They will each come to me at different times during play time and want to be held and cuddled. It is obvious they really enjoy it and they seek it out often. They both know how to "give mommy a kiss" and also "give mommy a hug" now and it simply warms my heart. They think it is so funny. They are so sweet and cute and hugable!

They are both still eating well, although Nick is a bit pickier than Ben and Ben definitely eats more. They are both still sleeping well, although I think they really might be ready to go to one nap soon. I am very torn on this. On days when they only have one nap, they are so cranky. There are some days when they sleep very well during both of their naps but then there are other days when Ben does not...like today. I really think that Nick needs a bit more sleep than Ben does right now but, selfishly, I really want to keep them on the same schedule. When they don't get enough sleep, they tend to misbehave more, which none of us enjoys. At night, they both sleep very well. We have never had to go to them at night, other than one night. I think it was the second night they were home and N woke up screaming that scared cry around 10:00pm or 10:30pm. I went to him that night but we have never had to go to them other than that. Yes, this is a miracle and we are very blessed with good sleepers, for now.

I have been trying to think of any behaviors they display that might be indicative of orphanage behavior or results of having been in an orphanage for the first year of their lives and I honestly can't think of anything right now. Maybe I am blind to it because I am so close to them but they really seem to behave as any biological child would, as far as I can tell. They do still have some catching up to do, Ben with some developmental milestones and both of them with receptive communication. I am not concerned about either of them catching up though. They are obviously bright children and I know they will catch up with time.

We are so very very blessed. I believe these two little guys are both miracles and blessings from God. That they have done so very well with this major transition in their short lives is just a miracle. I thank God for them and for how well they are adjusting to us and also us to them. I think my husband and I both have adjusted pretty well. It will be interesting to see how we are doing a year from now, when the newness of our new family has worn off. Right now, we both relish the time we spend with them and are so excited to see them when we are away from them for any length of time. I do need breaks and I look forward to nap times and also to a short period of rest after dinner, before we put the boys to bed and my husband is wonderful about giving me a break and he enjoys his time with the boys.

As I have mentioned before, my husband and I have only been married for a little over two years. We were each single for many years before we met each other and fell in love. We have a wonderful marriage for many reasons. The main reason is that we both are of the same faith and place the same value on having God at the center of our marriage. We are also a lot alike and enjoy a lot of the same things. We have the same goals in life and share the same values and morals. We are best friends and we are pretty good about discussing our differences without putting each other down or yelling. We had pre-marital counseling, which really helped a lot too. But, another thing is that because we were single for so long, we really appreciate having each other.

I think there are a lot of similarities in waiting so long to have children. I hope and pray that we never forget how much we wanted to find the right person to marry and I hope and pray that we never forget how much we ached for children. I don't think we ever will forget. God will help us to always remember.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

March 14, 2007

Today started at around 4:00am. My husband and I both happened to wake up around that time and couldn't go back to sleep, so we got up:). I started cleaning up a bit and ate breakfast very early, in preparation of sweeping and mopping the floors, which takes/took hours. Whew, I am so so glad it is done. It was way past due but I had been sick so things fell behind.

I also did some laundry and took the boys to the grocery store for a major shopping run. They did very well, thankfully. I almost took too long. The natives were starting to get restless there towards the end. I also bought some play dough, a coloring book, some large, washable crayons and some WriteStart Pencils (thanks for the advice - Walmart had them). And, I picked up two little Easter baskets and some empty, colorful, plastic eggs. In addition to getting the boys used to walking on the grass (mostly Nicholas; Benjamin loves it), I want to teach them how to hunt for Easter eggs. This might be fun. Yesterday I was trying to find the cow that goes with the little barn toy we have. The cow is Nick's favorite and he was missing it so I was looking for it all over the house, including under the furniture. I finally found it in the bottom of the toy basket. Today Nick was looking for it and I saw him imitate what I did yesterday. He got down on his hands and knees and was looking under the furniture. It was really cute. So, they might get the hang of looking for eggs pretty quickly. I kind of think they will.

Tomorrow my mom and sister, SIL and niece are all coming over for a visit. My SIL has not met the boys yet so it will be nice for them to get to meet her and they always enjoy playing with my mom, sister and nieces. So tomorrow will be a fun, relaxing day. Next week will also be a fun time because my two nieces will be coming to stay for a few days, during their spring break from high school. They are both Juniors this year and they are great with kids so it will be fun for all of us to have them here for a few days. My husband and I are also planning to sneak in an evening out, which will be our first since the boys have come home. I am saving several fun things to do with the boys for the visit from the nieces, including the Easter egg hunting, playing outside with a soft baseball bat and balls that the boys received as a gift and playing outside with a lawnmower bubble blower (also a gift). I also want to get the two tricycles put together so we can teach the boys how to ride, or probably push them around, since their legs probably won't be long enough to reach the pedals. We can also take the boys to the park, which I have not been able to do by myself yet, so that will be fun.

Benjamin and Nicholas continue to learn so much so quickly it amazes me. After teaching them at one meal to say "all done" and hold their hands up, when they are finish eating, Benjamin started doing it at every meal. It is really cute. Nicholas copies also when Benjamin does it. Today, Benjamin started saying "all done" and waving, when we were going to go bye bye. So he may be a bit confused about when to do this. We will have to keep working on it, but it is cute and funny anytime he does it and I was amazed at how quickly he picked it up. He really is catching up with Nicholas so quickly, which is great. He is walking really well now and he walks all over, all the time. He does circles around the kitchen island, while playing with a toy in his hands. The bad thing is he is not real good at watching where he is going and ends up tripping over things every once in a while.

They are both doing very well with listening and obeying Mommy. We add new things as they get the things we had been working on. I took down the baby gate that goes to our bedroom and they are quickly learning to stay with Mommy. I only had to fetch Benjamin out of our bathroom one time. The other times I have seen him head that way and I tell him to stay with Mommy and he turns around and comes back. Nicholas has considered it maybe once or twice but he is really good about moving on to something else when I remind him to stay with me. I figured this would be a pretty easy thing to teach, since they would really rather be with me or with us anyway. And they really like the fact that they can now follow us into our room, when we go in to change clothes or something, which they couldn't always do with the gate up. I like them to be with me so I really want to get rid of all of the gates asap. I'm thinking it might not take very long but we'll see.

Now that Benjamin is walking, he started to have more of the typical temper tantrums, which is interesting. We are working on them though and hopefully he will respond as Nicholas has. Nicholas does not have very many of them and is usually pretty good about stopping when I tell him to, unless he is overly tired or hungry. They are also learning to be more patient when I am fixing them something to eat. I will normally give them some cheerios and a sippy cup of milk to keep them busy and give them a bite to eat while I am preparing their food but, even then, sometimes they would complain a lot that their meal was not prepared immediately when they wanted it. I think it was getting to the point it was more a learned behavior than the fact that they were starving, so I started working on this with them and they are improving, which is nice.

So, overall, I am feeling pretty good about the way the boys are responding to our discipline approach. They are very happy little boys, they continue to sleep and eat very well and they love to be held, cuddled, hugged and kissed. They are learning to return kisses and we are still working on learning to return hugs. They love to be tickled, which is funny. They will wait for me to do it again and again, although I only do a little at a time...enough to make them laugh. They have also learned the "Eskimo kiss", rubbing noses with me (or at least that's what we called it when I was little). They think that is really funny and they laugh and laugh and want to do it over and over. We do that sometimes when they are sitting in their high chair and almost finished with eating.

Benjamin has been pretty whiny the past couple of days so I am wondering what this is all about. He seems like he feels OK, he is over his cold, so I am thinking it may be that he is cutting teeth. They both are. Nicholas is already getting a couple of his molars in and now has four teeth on top and four on bottom in front. I think Benjamin is a bit behind him on the teeth. Benjamin is also very good about self-feeding now and he really loves to feed himself. Neither of the boys are using spoons and forks yet but they are interested in trying or helping at times. I am OK with them waiting a couple more months. I read that when they are able to hold a pencil or crayon well enough to be able to make a scribble mark on a piece of paper, then they are probably ready to start trying to use forks and spoons so I'm sure they will be there before too long.

I love being a mom. I love being a stay at home mom. I enjoy having a routine, most of the time anyway. I love introducing the boys to new things and watching the delight in their eyes as they see and learn new things. They are so sweet and cute, most of the time. Our cat probably wouldn't agree with that though. We are still working on getting them to be consistently nice and gentle with the cat but they are getting it sometimes. There are times when I worry about the poor cat though, although I don't know why he keeps getting down in the floor, right in the middle of them for more torture. I guess he must like it somewhat. He is a sweet cat.

The other cat ended up getting locked up in the boys room again last night. This is the second time this has happened. I must be better about checking on her. I didn't miss her and I should have because she usually hangs out with me before bed and first thing in the morning. I heard her on the baby monitor around 7:00 or 7:30 this morning, meowing at the top of her lungs. She can meow very very loudly. It is somewhat surprising really. I ran up stairs very quickly and cracked their door to let her out and N started half-crying that wake-up kind of cry. I couldn't believe how loud she was. They ended up sleeping until around 8:00, which worked out perfectly with my cleaning of the floors.

I am very tired. I have accomplished a lot today but I also ended up feeling like I was not giving enough quality attention to the boys and I felt I was too short with them twice and raised my voice too much one of those times. They were shocked because I never raise my voice like that with them but I was across the room preparing their snack and I was fearful that they were really hurting the cat. I felt bad about being short with them and raising my voice. I hate that feeling. It makes me feel very guilty. Next time I will have to try to plan things where I am not trying to do so many big chores in one day. It is easy to get busy and forget that my top priority is being their mom. This is a very challenging job sometimes but it is so very very rewarding. I love them so much and I know my husband does too....and, of course, we love each other very much so our little guys are in a house full of love. Time to fix dinner:).

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

March 13, 2007

We made our trip to OKC yesterday, me and the boys, and they did very well...surprisingly well. My husband and I bought a portable DVD player at Sam's, actually we bought two. They came as a set, specifically for the car and they hang on the back of the head rests. It is a great system for the price, which I can't remember but I know it was less than $200. They can be hooked together, where one becomes the master and they both show the same DVD, or they can be two completely separate DVD players. Pretty cool.

I had to get the paperwork notarized before we left our city. I went to one bank and they didn't have a notary that day so I had to go to another bank and then I called the Secretary of State's office in OKC to make sure the notary I used was bonded, since I have made that trip a couple of times, only to find the person was not bonded and I had to go back home and redo everything. So, by the time we actually headed out towards OKC, it was nap time for the boys and the DVD system was in the trunk. They both fell asleep right as we were leaving town and they woke up about 2 miles from the capitol building in OKC, so they had almost an hour and a half nap, which was not too bad for a nap in the car.

We parked and walked the long distance to the capitol building, where we had to go through security. I told them I had brought a knife to cut an apple for the boys' lunch and they made me take it back out to the car. I should have known that would happen. Oh well. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed the walk. We took the paperwork to the right office and then sat in the hallway, on the bench, and I fed the boys their lunch PB&J sandwiches, apple slices (I sliced it at the car and then left the knife - should have done that in the first place) and water. As soon as we finished lunch, we picked up our paperwork and headed back out to the parking lot.

I put the boys in their car seats and then hooked up the DVD system, hoping I was doing it right and that it would work. I was actually surprised that the boys didn't throw a fit at being put back into their car seats but I guess since they slept the whole way there, they didn't realize how long they had been in them. The DVD system started right up and worked perfectly. I could even reach back and hit the play button when the DVD came to an end. They watched the same DVD about three times over on the trip home and didn't seem to mind it at all. They found some parts of it more entertaining than others. Sometimes they were looking around and trying to take off their sandals and at other times they were like zombies, totally engrossed...it was kind of scary really. But it worked and nobody cried, which was great.

When we got back into our town, I had to stop off to FedEx the documents to our agency and I thought for sure the boys would have a melt down. I went to this little place where the parking is right in front of the big window and I could see them the whole time, so I could leave them in the car. I knew if I took them out, they would throw a fit when I tried to put them back in but I was not sure if they would throw a fit at being left for a few minutes without the DVD playing. I had one last trick left. I had a couple of those snack cups, one with goldfish and one with cheerios so I gave them each one as I got out of the car. They were so engrossed with trying to get the snacks out of the snack cups, they didn't even seem to notice I was gone. It probably helps that there are two of them though. It's obvious that they really like each other a lot and enjoy being together. They have also stopped hitting each other, which is nice.

It didn't take me very long to do the FedEx and then we were home in a flash. Nicholas had a melt down when I was trying to get him into the house, but that was the first one for the day and considering they had ridden in the car for 3 hours and spent probably another hour in their stroller in the capitol building and they had not gotten to play and stretch their legs since morning, they really did very well.

I was a bit stressed about how they would do and how I would handle everything we had to get done so I was exhausted when we got home. I think they did much better than I did actually.

Today we are having a hard time getting back on their normal schedule. Part of this is because of the time change, which I am having a hard time with. I just don't want to wake up in the morning at a decent time, which throws them off too because they are also sleeping in, which throws off their nap schedule. I really need to make myself get up on time tomorrow and wake them up so that we can all get back on our regular schedule.

Sooner Start has not called us back yet, which is surprising. I may need to call them. I thought our coordinator said he would call us back in a day or two and that our first appointment would be within a week or two. Hmmm. Maybe I misunderstood him. They were giving me a lot of information all at once so I'm sure I probably missed some of it.

I tried something new with the boys today. I brought their little table and chairs into the living room today because I want to start having a little structured time with them each day. Today we spent about 10 minutes working some puzzles. My intention is to start out at 10 to 15 minutes and then start extending it as time goes on, until they can sit at the table and play there for 30 minutes or so. Is that too long for this age? N is now 16 months and B is 17.5 months old. Some of you child development experts or teachers tell me what I should expect from children of this age. I was thinking of trying play dough and maybe starting to show them how to hold a crayon and scribble on a page and then play with the puzzles and stuff like that. Is starting at 10 or 15 minutes and working up to 30 minutes a good goal for this age? Is thirty minutes too long or not long enough? I would appreciate any feedback / advice you experienced parents, teachers or child development experts have to offer.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

March 11, 2007

The boys are napping and I am having a lazy Sunday afternoon, at least for an hour or two. I have some things to get done today but I need some down time first, so here I am.

So, yesterday the boys finally woke up at 9:30am!! Can you believe it?? I couldn't. Not sure what was up with that but I guess they needed some extra sleep. Right now, they are very good sleepers and I am so thankful for that. However, I know it may not last but I appreciate it for now.

They have both had a cold but seem to be on the upside of it. I didn't have to wipe runny noses yesterday, which is the first time in many days. My nose, on the other hand, is another story...or actually my sinuses. I have another sinus infection, although this one is much worse than I have had in a long time. I'm wondering if I ever really got over the one I had a couple of weeks ago. I had been in a lot of pain with it but today I woke up feeling much better, no pain. I misunderstood the script I was taking and was only taking it once a day, rather than the required twice a day. My husband realized that yesterday and corrected me and by this morning, it had already made a world of difference. I am very happy to be back in the no-pain world, as I was miserable for the past couple of days. I am so ready to be healthy again. Since we have been home from our trip to Russia to bring our sons home, I have had two colds, two sinus infections (or maybe one long one not sure) and one stomach virus. Yuck. The boys have had two colds but everyone else in my house avoided the stomach virus, which was probably a miracle in itself. Hopefully the upcoming week will find us all back in good health.

We took the boys to church today. The boys and I missed last Sunday because of illnesses so this makes their third Sunday to be in the nursery. They were a bit more clingy than they had been the other two Sunday's. I think they have it figured out now and were wary, knowing that we might leave them there for a while. I stayed with them the first hour, while my husband went to our Bible study class. We tried to leave them the second hour but Nicholas started crying and did not seem inclined to stop any time soon. We stood outside the door for a while, where he couldn't see us, while the caregivers gave him his lovey and some snacks. He gladly took everything offered but still kept crying the whole time. I think both the boys were really tired because of the time change. We had to wake them up an hour earlier than they are used to so I'm sure that didn't help the situation. I figure we'll just play it by ear and see how things go. Today, after waiting outside of their room for a while, my husband went back in and stayed, while I went to church service. We'll play it by ear and stay with them if they are upset, at least for another month or two.

Tomorrow I will be driving to OKC (about an hour and a half drive one way) with both of the boys in tow. Fun huh? Aren't you jealous of that?? My husband is currently looking at Consumer Reports to see what they recommend for portable DVD players. I'm really not sure how much this is going to help. The boys don't watch TV at our house but they have seen TV at the doctors office. We went to the pediatric cardiologist on Friday for an ECCO for Nicholas. The technician said she didn't see anything, which is good, but we won't hear the official report from the doctor until Tuesday. Anyway, they had Curious George on so the boys were watching it in the waiting room. Benjamin lost interest pretty quickly. Nicholas watched it a bit longer. I guess if they are locked up in a car seat for 3 hours and that is the only thing to do, they might watch it longer. We'll see. I'm not really looking forward to the trip much....although, the last time I was there (before we made our second trip to Russia to bring the boys home), I promised the people who do the apostille's that I would bring the boys to meet them, so at least I will be able to fulfill that promise. There are a number of others that helped with our process that I need to take the boys to meet also. We took them to the bank to meet the lady who notarized most of our documents but she had moved to another state. We needed another document notarized so it wasn't a wasted trip but I was sorry she didn't get to meet the boys.

If it rains tomorrow, I might not be able to go. There is no way I am going to push these two little guys in a stroller from the parking lot up to the capitol building in the pouring rain. It is a hike from the parking lot to the capitol building.

Friday, March 09, 2007

March 9, 2007 Part 2

It's just after 9:00am and I'm still sitting around, waiting for my two little guys to wake up. I went up to check on them and they were sound asleep. It's rainy and cloudy today so maybe that's part of it. I opened the blinds in their room, thinking that might help but, so far, no go.

I don't like waking them up though. It seems that Benjamin wakes up with a smile on his face, no matter what. On the other hand, Nicholas wakes up in a bad mood that does not go away quickly, if he is awakened before his little body decides it's time to wake up. If I hear them waking, which usually includes some whiny-type of stuff, and I wait a little longer, Nicholas ends up in a good mood. If I go up and get them as soon as I hear the whiny-wakeup-type of noise, he will cry when he sees me and be in a clingy, bad mood for a while. I think he is kind of like his mamma; he is a slow-waker-upper and likes to take his time. I'm OK with that and have learned that we all have a happier morning if I don't rush up to get them as soon as I hear them stir.

But, this morning, they have not even stirred yet! Maybe they are getting ready for the time change. At this rate, we are probably looking at just one nap today, because they are sleeping too long for a morning nap. That might work out well, since we have the afternoon doctor appointment though.

Still no peep from upstairs. 9:10am and counting. This is the latest they have ever slept.

March 9, 2007

Today we have a ped cardiologist appointment for Nicholas. His orphanage medical records included some sort of diagnosis about his heart, from an ECCO they did, and docs here don't recognize the diagnosis so we thought we would just go ahead and do the ECCO and make sure everything is OK.

Yesterday we FINALLY received the boys Russian passports back with the Russian Embassy stamp. We have to send a fax of the picture and stamp pages to our agency ASAP, so they can fax them on to Volgograd to let them know that we are doing this as quickly as we can. I think I will have to drive to OKC, with two very unhappy little boys in the back seat, on Monday to get the apostille's so we can get the official papers sent off to our agency on Monday afternoon. That will be a fun day. I think I'll talk to my husband about possibly buying a portable DVD player for the car. Otherwise, I will have to listen to some very unhappy children for 3 hours on Monday. Watching a children's DVD would probably keep them pretty happy for a while, since they have not seen TV or DVD's since they have been with us, except for maybe at a doctor's office.

Nick has not eaten well for the past two days and yesterday he was real cranky and cried easily. This is the same behavior he displayed just before he got really sick with a fever and we found out he had pneumonia. I know he has at least one molar coming in, so not sure if that's what is causing this or not. I hope he is not getting sick again.

We all still have some runny noses and the way I'm feeling, I'm thinking that I have a sinus infection again, which is very surprising and a big bummer. I have a terrible sinus headache that just does not seem to stop, even when I take stuff for it.

The boys have been invited to an Easter egg hunt at a friend's house in April. Since they have only actually stepped foot on grass once, for a very short period of time, I thought I should probably get them out in the yard a little before the Easter egg hunt. So yesterday we went into the yard. Benjamin was a crack up, crawling and walking everywhere, not caring if his hands were dirty or what he was crawling through (I'm so glad we don't have a dog). Nicholas was just the opposite. He fell, while walking on the grass (not used to the uneven surface) and sat there with his hands in the air, not wanting to touch the grass and kind of unhappy about his situation, wanting me to pick him up. I think some of this probably is because he is not feeling well right now but I was a bit surprised about his response.

We received a bubble machine at the lovely shower that was given for us last weekend, so I took that outside and let them play with it. They both liked it a lot, although Nicholas kept putting his finger on the little hole where the bubbles are suppose to come out. They had fun with it though. We really have to get out in the yard more though and I think I may need to hide some eggs for them and teach them how to hunt for Easter eggs, so they will have more fun in April.

Other than this, they are both doing great. They are really learning what is allowed and not allowed, although they still test at times...I'm sure that won't be going away anytime soon. They are sleeping great still and are normally eating very well, except for Nick the last couple of days. They are saying more and more words. Ben was hardly even babbling when we first took custody of him and now he babbles all the time, although he is more quiet around people he doesn't know. Ben is a bit more friendly with our family members than Nick is but he is quick to run to mom or dad, when strangers are around. People at the shower were impressed at how attached to us they seem.

I am thinking about starting a very short amount of time each day, maybe once or twice a day, when we have some structured time, so I can teach them to sit at their little table for a few minutes and play with something. I may start that in the next week or two and see how they do. I am guessing that Nick might do a little better at this than Ben, because Nick seems to be able to stay with a task a little longer than Ben.

Our adoption was finalized on January 17th, 2005, we took custody of the boys on January 18th and we arrived home on January 23rd. Approximate ages of the boys now: B is approximately 17 months old and Nick is now around 15.5 months old.

I have wondered how long it would take before it seemed like they have always been with us and I can barely remember our lives without them. I think we are almost there:). They are both so sweet and cute and funny...most of the time:). They love love love taking a bath and have since the very first bath we gave them in Volgograd. They are really doing much much better than I had ever hoped, at least for now.

Right now, we are working on learning not to throw toys. They really learn the rules very quickly, although they normally will test for a while. It's funny because when we introduce a rule, such as "don't throw toys", they have to test everything about it so they know exactly where the boundaries are, which is totally normal of course. I can just see their little minds trying to figure it out...is it OK to drop the toy?, is it OK to roll the toy, is it OK to throw it just a little way?, what happens if I throw it like this, what happens if I throw it again, even though you made me pick it up and set it down nicely the first time, etc. The fact that it is OK to throw a ball may make learning this rule a little more confusing but they seem to be getting it. They are quick learners. They hardly ever hit anymore. Nick hit Ben yesterday but he immediately stopped when I told him to. Other than that, I can't remember when the last time either of them hit anyone, which is great considering they were both hitting everyone many times a day at first. They hardly ever try to open one of the cabinet doors anymore, which they had been doing many times a day at first. They hardly ever throw any food or sippy cup on the floor on purpose (accidents happen and that's OK). They really are quick at learning and they thrive at knowing the rules are consistently enforced. I am hopeful that we are well on our way of having two nicely behaved little toddlers.

It is now 8:30am and they are still not awake. Wow. I must start preparing for when they do wake up, probably any minute.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

March 7, 2007

Yesterday I mentioned that I was working on my prayer life. The more I pray about it and think about it, the more I remember to pray when things are challenging.

My husband and I are praying together at night, just before we go to sleep. We pray for our boys and for us and we pray for family and friends. It doesn't take long but I know it makes such a difference in our lives and the lives of those for whom we pray.

I woke up and prayed this morning and I remembered to pray several times, when I was tempted to be less than I should be with one of the boys. I still was not perfect and I never will be but I can see it makes a huge difference in how I interact with them.

I pray that I will be patient, kind, gentle, loving and fun and that God will guide me on when and how to discipline. At one point, when I had told one of the boys "no" to something and he immediately started to do it again, while looking at me (don't you just love when that happens), I was tempted to become irritated and I could hear God telling me to stay calm and be gentle. I so needed to hear that at that very moment and I did stay calm and I think I disciplined appropriately.

He (God) also helped me to remember that my sons are my top priority; not cleaning up the kitchen or anything else. When I was cleaning up the dishes and one of the boys came to me, wanting to be held, I remembered that he is most important and I dried my hands and held him close.

Don't get me wrong. I have been doing some of these things up to now and been doing them OK I suppose. But, with God by my side, I do them much much better, with a better attitude, a sweeter disposition and more understanding heart I think. I have more patience and I don't get irritated by misbehavior nearly as much, when I am living a life that is closer to God. I think I treat them more like He wants them to be treated.

Another thing that I realized...and I have realized this in the past but had forgotten it over time, is that when my prayer life is in order, I WANT to read God's Word. Too many times I have gotten the cart before the horse on this. I will think "I have not been reading my Bible like I should" and I will make an effort to start a regular routine of doing this. But I inevitably end up focusing on making sure I read something from the Bible everyday, rather than focusing on my relationship with God, which first comes through prayer (at least for me it does). Praying brings me closer to God and it gives me the desire to want to read His Word. He wants a relationship with me, not just for me to read His Word each day and then move on after a quick prayer that maybe was not as heartfelt as it should have been. When I take this approach, I end up feeling like "I'm done" after I finish my quiet time, like I have accomplished my goal, my conscience feels a little better and I can say I had my quiet time today when, in reality, I never connected to God at all.

I hope I remember this in the future. Prayer life comes first and foremost. Without a meaningful prayer life, reading the Bible and other Christian books is just reading for entertainment or to meet a goal.

In other news, the boys and I still have our colds but we are back on our schedule today, which is wonderful. It is so much more relaxing around here today.

Yesterday evening, after dinner, my husband and I decided to take the boys with us and run a couple of errands. I knew the boys would be in a cranky mood, since they had not had good naps yesterday but, when we go out somewhere, it is still so new to them that they behave very well. So we went to Bed Bath and Beyond to pick up this percussion massager thing for my birthday. My husband had given me a one hour massage for my birthday, meaning I could go someplace and have a one hour massage. But I have a friend in Houston who had this percussion massager and I tried it and it felt so great on my back that I decided I would rather buy that for my birthday instead of getting the one hour massage. The one hour massage would have probably been pretty good but it would have been over in one hour. This thing is awesome and I can use it for years to come. I told my husband I will let him give me a back massage with it every night if he wants:).

After that we also went to Babies R Us to exchange a gift that we had two of. We got two summer one-piece outfits for each boy for the exchange, which was really nice. They actually have some really good deals right now. You can get a one-piece outfit for $8, which I think is really good although we are buying two of everything so it adds up fast....but it would add up even faster if it wasn't such a good deal! I will need to go back and get more of these one-piece outfits because our little guys definitely do not have enough clothes to get through the summer. Right now, they only have about 5 changes of clothes for summer days. One of our issues is that the boys are still so thin that pants and shorts don't fit them. I think they are probably wearing about a size 9 months in pants and shorts. We have several pairs of jeans and pants and a couple of pairs of shorts that are size 12 and 18 month and they just fall off. This is my fault because I thought they would grow faster than they are growing. They might be wearing the 12 month size by the end of the summer but I will be very surprised if they are wearing size 18 month bottoms this summer.

I've rattled on enough today. I must get a few things done before the boys wake from morning nap. We sure have a beautiful beautiful day here today. I think spring has arrived, which makes me very happy, and I am really looking forward to the time change.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

March 6, 2007

The Sooner Start folks were here again today, this time to evaluate Nicholas. Once again, it went very well, the people who were here were great and the boys were very comfortable with them. The boys were a bit more cranky today though, due to missing a nap yesterday and then a delayed nap this morning. They really don't do well at all on just one nap a day and it's double trouble if it happens two days in a row.

Nick was evaluated on all of the same criteria that Ben was evaluated on (see yesterday's post). His results were just as I suspected they would be. He is behind on his verbal skills and pretty much on track for everything else. I wasn't sure if he was behind far enough to qualify for services but today we found out that he is.

They will be calling us in the next day or two to set up the first meeting with the therapist. We have already met her, as she was one of the people who came out to evaluate Ben yesterday. I really liked her a lot so I am happy they picked her to be our therapist. They said the first appointment is normally within one to two weeks of the evaluation so we should be seeing her soon, which is great.

I am relieved that we will have help and guidance on how best to bring the boys up to speed on their verbal skills and also the adaptive and social skills for Ben. I was more concerned about their verbal skills than anything else really because I have seen Ben catching up so quickly on many of the other skills. But when I would sit around and think about all of the words and phrases that they boys did not recognize, it was a bit overwhelming to think about how we were going to teach them everything and get them caught up on our own. I have to remember that it doesn't happen overnight. The boys will be able to have services until the day before their third birthday, as long as they qualify. They will re-evaluate them once a year to see if they still need services. I am very pleased with how our state handled this and relieved that they offer these services to families and they are so easy to obtain.

In other news, I am working on my prayer life. We have had so many things going on since the boys came home, along with just trying to get used to our new kind of family life and all of the demands, that I have not been good about my prayer life and also my quiet time, reading God's Word.

Today, I really needed the help that only He can give. The boys and I all have colds and then add to that two days with interrupted naps; it makes for a tired, stressed out momma and cranky children who want a lot of attention. So today I really started praying and it is amazing how quickly God answers, even His wayward children. I am so thankful. He gave me the peace to handle today with a calm voice, even when things were crazy. He gave me the patience and energy I needed, just when I needed it. Thank you Lord; please help me remember to turn to you and pray all throughout my day.

Monday, March 05, 2007

March 5, 2007

The Sooner Start team came out today to evaluate Benjamin. They were here at 10:00am and left around 11:30am, I think. I was thinking that our sons might be ready to go to one nap a day and I now know that this is definitely not the case. They aren't ready for this yet. They could barely eat lunch today because they were so tired and cranky.

Back to the Sooner Start evaluation, the following information is from their documentation:

"Infants and toddlers from birth to thirty-six months of age who have developmental delays are eligible for services. Developmental delay in Oklahoma means:
1) The child has a diagnosed physical or mental condition that has a high chance of resulting in a delay, or
2) The child's developmental age is 50% below the child's actual age in one area or 25% below in two or more areas of development.

The areas of development assessed are:
adaptive (self-care, personal responsibility),
cognitive (attention and memory, reasoning and academic skills, perception and concepts),
communication (receptive, expressive),
physical (gross motor, fine motor, perceptual motor), and
social (adult interaction, peer interaction, self-concept and social role).

Cognition includes skills that help the child to solve problems and increase memory. Communication development includes learning skills that help the child to understand others and share thoughts, needs and feelings. Physical development involves skills used for movement, vision and hearing. Social development includes skills used to interact with others."

There were three people who came out. Two of them did the evaluation and the third is our resource coordinator, who is our point of contact for everything. He came alone for the initial visit a couple of weeks ago and gathered all of our information. He will be back tomorrow for Nick's evaluation, along with one of the ladies who was here today. The other lady who was here today won't be here tomorrow but someone else will be.

They did a great job and the boys felt very comfortable with them. Ben and Nick behaved very normally, for the most part. Many times when unknown people are around, the boys are clingy and stay close to me. These folks came in and sat down on the floor, unpacked their unique toys and the boys felt very comfortable playing with them and around them. It was great.

They gathered some information from interacting directly with Ben and some information they gather from asking me questions. I think they were here for about an hour and a half. After they finished gathering their info, they showed me the forms and results, along with a standard deviations curve, showing the typical range and various above and below ranges where scores can fall.

As expected, since he has only been around English speakers for a short time, Ben is farthest behind in his communications skills and this score alone was enough to qualify him for services, which means he has at least a 50% delay in this area. He also has at least a 25% delay in both adaptive and social skills, which also would have qualified him for services.

He scored better than I thought he would in his physical/motor skills. They said he is right on track with his fine motor skills and that children normally develop their pincer grip between 15 and 18 months of age. We thought he was behind on this, since Nick had this skill at 12 months of age. I definitely need to read up more on this stuff. Ben is at least 25% delayed in his gross motor skills but they really aren't worried about that since he is catching up so quickly, his muscle tone is great and his over all score for motor skills was decent.

He scored higher than they expected in his cognitive skills. I guess because he is so far behind in his communication skills and because of his background, they were surprised at his cognitive skills, so that is good news.

Tomorrow they will come back to evaluate Nick and see if he qualifies for any services. My best guess is that he will be furthest behind in his communication skills also. I will be surprised if he is very far behind in anything else but we'll see.

Once they finish evaluation Nick, they will have a staff meeting to decide which therapists will be best to meet our needs and then they will work with us on scheduling. They will work with us on goals and also teach us how to best help and teach in the areas where we have delays.

So far, so good. I really like these people a lot.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

March 4, 2007

Yep, we've been sick again:). I ended up getting some sort of stomach virus that made me so sick that I couldn't hardly stand up or move without being sick. My husband had to hurry home from work to help with the boys because there was no way I could take care of them when I was like this. My sister rushed to our aid on Thursday night and she spent the night with us and helped care for the boys on Friday until my husband could get home from work. The throwing up part ended on Thursday night but I was very weak and could hardly eat anything on Friday. Saturday was a bit better but definitely not 100% yet but today I am 100% better. Yeah!

So far, nobody else here has gotten this stomach bug, thankfully. I was so worried that they would end up with it and am so happy that, so far, nobody has gotten it. I hear it is really going around. On the other hand, the boys now have some sort of cold virus again and we suspect they might have picked it up in the nursery at church last Sunday. So the boys and I have stayed home today, with hopes that we can all get well quickly.

Some dear friends gave us a baby (toddler:) shower yesterday and it was just amazing. Everything was so sweet and cute and there were probably about 18 or 20 people there. The boys received so many wonderful presents, it was just so nice. Before opening the gifts, I spent a little time telling our story and especially about the second trip when we brought our sons home. My husband brought the boys over for a visit, just as I was finishing up opening up the gifts so everyone got to meet them. They were a little shy at first but they warmed up pretty quick and had a good time. It was really a very special time for us all.

Tomorrow is a big day too, since Sooner Start will be coming by from 10:00 to noon to evaluate Benjamin on his physical, verbal and occupational abilities. They will be here again on Tuesday to evaluate Nicholas. At this point, I would not be surprised for it to go either way really (they need some therapy or they don't) because we have seen them both developing so quickly, it really is just amazing. At first, I was sure that Ben would need some therapy but now I'm just not that sure about either of them. So I will be very interested in hearing what they think.

The boys certainly have enough educational toys to help them along these days. We are going to start working on a sandbox for them, as soon as the weather warms up again. It got pretty cold here again just recently but I don't think it will last long and I am hoping it does not damage any of my new little plants that are just starting to spring up out of the ground. I am really looking forward to having the sandbox so that we have something fun to play with outside when the weather is warm. We also have the swingset that we refurbished for them but they are still a little young for it. It's really hard to get them in and out of the swings if there is only one person...actually, the time we tried it they were wearing snowsuits so we'll have to try it again when the weather is warmer and then I can probably do it by myself. One of the gifts from the shower yesterday was a little wagon full of sandbox toys, shovels, rakes, molds, buckets, etc. so they will have a lot of fun with that once they have a sandbox.

Well, the little guys are waking up so I must run.