Monday, July 30, 2007

Our day so far

The boys and I went to Marsh Creek Park this morning. We got there around 10:15 and looked for raspberries - the season must be almost done cause they're hard to find now. We swam in the pool, the boys used their kick boards from Nana and Pop-pop for the first time and had a great time using them. The water park part was out of commission since there was a power surge - or lightning strike over the weekend and they're still trying to fix it. Dima kept going over to try to start the thing and I kept saying, it'll be a while till they fix it, but he tried and tried and just stood there for a long time just waiting. Josh, being his usual gregarious self was playing with older kids as they ran down the ramp to the pool and threw themselves in the water, he copied them and did the same thing and they just let him join in. He also got an older guy to throw a ball around with him. He said that Josh reminds him of - I think it was J.J. from the Incredibles, I'll have to watch it to find out what he meant.

We're pretty far out of the loop on popular characters. I caught on to the Harry Potter craze after my Mom got me the books after the first three had been published. I went to see the new movie and just finished the last book last week, but the kids and I are all kind of out of touch with a lot of the popular characters since I monitor their TV pretty closely.

Since the weather's been nice this summer they haven't had time to watch much. In general, they're allowed to watch TV if they've earned it with good behavior or sometimes when the weather's bad. Yesterday it was rainy in the morning so I let them watch Higglytown Heroes - a 1/2 hour show. At times I'll use the TV to keep them busy while I'm preparing meals (other times they watch me cook and or go through the kitchen utensil drawer going "what's this? what's this?" the funnels and whisks and spatulas can keep their attention for quite a while)

When they do get to watch they it's something like Higgletown or Little Einsteins Josh will sit still for NASCAR or other car-related shows and Dima will watch "How it's Made" if the thing being made is interesting to him. We have a few movies that they've seen again and again, the movie Cars is of course one of Josh's favorites. They've also seen some of the Disney classics, including Sleeping Beauty who had Josh saying "I Wuv Her!" Chris is more tolerant of watching movies than I am, I'd rather have them doing something like Play doh or crayons or scissors but he doesn't mind sitting them down in the evenings, especially when it's cold / dark out early and watching something before bed time. Once Dima's in school every day we'll have to save movie night for special weekend nights cause he'll have to be up and out every day instead of three days a week like in pre-school.

The Game Place

When we go for Dima's therapy appointments in Lancaster I call it "the game place" mostly to make it feel fun for him. He's usually not thrilled about going and neither am I. After we leave I'm exhausted - I guess from being so focused on him and what we're doing. Part of my stress could also be due to the one hour drive to get there.

When we get there I set Josh up with cars and stuff to do in the waiting room then we wait til "Mr. David" comes out to get Dima and me. When we get into his room Dima's supposed to hand me a pillow from a pile of them that they have in the corner of the small room we're in and pick one out for himself. There are times that this whole thing goes smoothly and then there was this past week where once David opened the door it was like a switch had been thrown and Dima started acting out almost immediately - like in throwing a toy tire in the waiting room, like in squealing at me once we sat down, like in tossing the little pillow at me. It's hard in that setting to do anything to stop him since we're physically so close. Last time David suggested a few deep breaths and he did recover once he decided to comply. During the neurotherapy part he is supposed to calm down, and concentrate on the video game. I just kind of sit there and am supposed to be quiet and let him feel what it's like to settle down and get "rewarded" by the game. We do the video games before and after the regular therapy part of the visit. During the therapy part we work on helping him identify feelings and play games that are supposed to help Dima with his attachment and anxiety issues. When we're there I'm usually playing the games with him and I guess I'm always trying to figure out why we're doing what we're doing and what his responses mean. Lots of times we've gone into Laura's office and Dima literally covers his head with a pillow from the sofa and he usually starts getting so wound up that he earns himself a time out then immediately wants me to hug him. So we end up sitting there with him going "I need a hug" and me going "okay, AFTER your time out". There have been times that he's gotten chatty with Laura but mostly he tries to play with the stuff in her room, like a snowglobe, lamp that looks like a puppet and a lava lamp and then he has to be coerced into doing the real activity for the day.

At this point he has gotten better - or we've gotten good advise on how to handle him in different situations - such as doing the monorail at Hersheypark when the more active rides apparently become too much. We've also learned to give him a radio with a headset when we go to games and other big public events to give him something to do and the headset also helps filter out some of the noise that seems to get him wound up. I discovered last winter while going to a therapy appointment that he was better off with no radio on in the car. Now we're investigating "Sensory Integration" issues as a possible problem area for him. I've contacted the guidance department in his school to see if they offer services to help diagnose him to see if that's it. It really is like putting a puzzle together and trying to figure out which parts matter and which ones don't belong. Some of th stuff he does is just typical boy stuff and some is related to his past, but we're just now trying to figure out which piece fits where.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Has it been three years??

We just celebrated Josh's 4th birthday on Sunday. While we were preparing for the party I was thinking back to three years ago when Chris and I were in St. Petersburg and Lomonosov to meet the boys for the first time. We had been prepared with information from a physician who specializes in International Adoption when we went to Russia. We were told that the orphanage they were in was the former summer home of a Soviet Navy captain. You could see that the place was once really nice, huge rooms with beautiful oriental carpets. But by the time we were there in July 2004 it was literally falling apart, walls outside propped up so they wouldn't fall apart. The boys were brought to us in what was used as a music room a big room with a piano lined with mirrors and little chairs for the kids. We played with them for a few hours - hoping to hear Dima speak since the doctor indicated that we should keep an eye out for that. Near the end of our visit we did hear him whisper to some stuffed animals we brought along. Josh kept trying to crawl to the door to get out of the room and while he was sitting with me he actually spoke to me. I said "hallo" and he echoed me right back.

It's amazing to me how fast the time has flown. Things changed for me over night when we came back with two kids and I wasn't working any more but devoting my time to them. But that's nothing compared to how things changed for the boys. They both were totally uprooted from everything they had known up to that point including language and any familiar faces.

Right now Josh is sitting here over breakfast talking about his new birthday toys and how both he and Dima got Spiderman stuff for their birthdays. They're also looking at the blow up waterslide we have here from the party and they keep asking how soon we can blow it up again. I wanted to use it again before we have to give it back but it was chilly yesterday. If it's warmer this afternoon we'll blow it up cause I want to go on it too!!

Later today I'm taking a picnic to go to a playground near where Chris works to meet and social worker who will be doing our final "post-placement" report to Russia. We have to include their current height and weight and a few pictures. I wonder if anyone from the orphanage actually get to see the stuff. They'd probably remember Dima as the one who was taken out of the place kicking and screaming since he disliked cars. (Their previous experience with cars was to go to the doctor.) And Josh would be remembered as the cute, charming one who cried the loudest when he was hungry. I would like to go back sometime when the kids are older. St. Petersburg was beautiful.

Both boys are enjoying their new toys - Dima also got some books and a set of Lincoln Logs. The frustrating thing about the toys is they're all packaged to withstand a nuclear blast. Trying to undo the wires and clips that keeps the stuff in the boxes requires it's own set of instructions. A truck that Josh got actually had screws holding the thing in place! It also doesn't help that the kids want to play with the toy ASAP so they grab at the package while you're trying to get it out and figure out how to use it. I just un-did a set of motorcycles for Josh and it had all kinds of clips to hold it in place. We're heading outside now to play with his new motorcycles, new basketball game and new trash truck.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The water park at Marsh Creek

I just figured out how to add pictures to the blog. Today I took a few at Marsh Creek and they're on there now. I took a few videos too since I think the water park / splash park is really cool. We spent some there today after swim lessons but since it was kind of cloudy in the morning before we went there I wasn't prepared to stay. They have shirts / shoes on in some of my pictures since the water wasn't turned on when the pool officially opened, I asked what was going on and was told that maintenance people had to fix something then turn it on. We waited a while then I told the boys we'd go to the playground at Dima's "new school" then of course by the time they got shirts and shoes on the water park came to life. We stayed there a short time, picked raspberries on the way out and then also went to the school playground. The point of taking them there is to have him be familiar with something when he goes into the new school in the fall. We'll probably go there a few more times during the summer.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Since we didn't have anything else planned for today the boys and I stayed at the pool after swimming lessons this morning. Our neighbors stayed with us yesterday but since Bronte wouldn't swim they left after about an hour and I think Dusti's not thrilled about paying extra money to just sit there. I suggested trying to switch kids - she takes mine and I'll take hers to see if I can convince her daughter to get in the water - maybe next week. Bronte seemed to have a bit of a relapse today where she was crying form the moment they got there - but then she does go off with the teacher when it's time to start the lessons.

We went into the big pool for a while and there the boys take turns jumping in while I hold their hands if we're in deeper water, or they stand on their own if they can. We usually start in the two foot section and work our way up to about four feet Josh just jumps and jumps and jumps where Dima jumps then looks around a little. For the past week one of his former class mates comes to the pool too so they were tossing a ball back and forth playing very nicely together. After we played around a while we took a break for lunch then walked around the park with Dima's "fishing net" - he caught lots of grass - and we found lots of raspberries and got in a decent walk.

Both yesterday and today I let the boys go into the splash park while I sat on my towel for a few minutes trying to warm up - the breeze was kind of cold after being in the warm water. When they did it yesterday they both made friends with other kids and for the most part were interacting well. I had to intervene when a girl of maybe one year old - who can't really talk - was being kept from the valve on one of the splashy things by Josh. By the time I got over there to find out what was going on - from what I could see Josh was getting in front of the kid when she wanted to turn the valve. The girl's mom laughingly said that the two of them were "arguing" over the thing with the girl pointing and trying to tell Josh off in babbling words just with her tone of voice, it was kind of funny, but he really needs to learn to be nice to other kids so I convinced Josh to show her how the thing works and they both seemed okay with that. Now today as we got there he was asking if the "little girl" (accompanied by fingers making an inch-wide space) would be there at first I didn't know what he was talking about but figured out that he was talking about her.

They seem to do well in the swim lessons. It's hard to see exactly what's going on since we sit on the other side of a fairly large pool. Today they had some "water safety" instruction. That means they put PFDs on them and had them jumping in and swimming around with them on. You never know when that stuff will come in handy. They also play with things that you can throw into the pool then dive after. Dima did that in class but wouldn't do it when I asked him to show me later on.

Tomorrow will be Saturday which means Papa will take the boys while I get some free time. That probably means I'll go to see the latest Harry Potter movie before I get into errands such as getting groceries and all that stuff. I guess since I've been out of town a lot lately I've been trying to use up what we have around in the pantry. Plus trips to the stores are more complicated when I have to take both of the kids, it's just easier and less distracting to do it without them. Then on Sunday the boys will go to see the Reading Phillies again - they're going to get their own bobble head dolls if they get there early enough. I can picture it now - Josh will be going around doing an imitation of a bobble head.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I Wuv You Mama

For all the times he has spit at me and has been Sassy Boy lately Josh still is usually a very sweet boy. This evening since it was raining I let them watch Cars, Josh's favorite movie and in the middle of watching it he turned to me to tell me that he "Wuvs" me. When we go places he's always saying "hi, hi!" to everyone we see. At the grocery store where I get my organic whole wheat pastas he knows the check out boy by name and when we get there he yells "hi, Sergio!!" Today at the pool he was trying to get the other moms to "watch me! watch me!".

A few weeks ago we had replacement windows put in here at the house and as he was leaving the the guy that was doing the work said he'd never forget Josh. Mostly because each time we saw him Josh would say something to him, "Hi, Buddy!! - What are you doing? - Are you gonna do my room? Can I see the tools in your truck??" It really went on all day for two days and I thought the guy would get annoyed but he took the interruptions the best way possible and really seemed to enjoy it.

Dima on the other hand is affectionate in a spontaneous - hugging or hand - to - his cheek sort of way but only with people that he knows. Especially when we're out somewhere he's usually so busy taking things in and looking for water, fountains, flowers, or something else that he's interested in that people to him are almost secondary, and he's certainly never one to say hi to people on his own. I guess in terms of Stranger Danger he's probably the safer of the two and I've touched on the topic with both of them but really don't want to squash Josh's spirit by telling him not to be so outgoing.
One of the first things Josh said this morning when he woke up was "I'm not gonna be sassy today!" so hopefully he learned his lesson yesterday when we left the pool after he defied me.

Right now -8:30am - we're eating breakfast, eggs, bacon and (leftover) pancakes. Since the kids got up early I decided to have a decent breakfast before we head to the pool. I've already got sammiches ready for lunch and I want to stay a while today since they're expecting thunderstorms this afternoon. I figure we might as well stay outside while we can since after nap we'll probably be house-bound.

Last night I gave Josh an old computer keyboard to play with and he's just fascinated with it. We told him that if he didn't poop in his diaper last night we'd give him a mouse too. That might not have been the smartest thing to do considering that he was still awake at 10pm going back and forth to the potty - I think cause he was scared he wouldn't earn the mouse. So this morning he has his mouse but now he hasn't pooped in a day and a half where he's usually pretty predictable with that stuff. I'm hoping he saves it for sometime other than when we're in the pool !! Or at least gives me enough notice to get him into a bathroom first. I'm planning to take our camera to the pool one of these days so I can get some pictures of the splash park - it really is cool.

We'll be out of here soon so we can go pick some raspberries before lessons start and then take our time getting in to the pool. It's kind of hazy / cloudy already I hope that the rain holds off til later so we can burn up some energy first.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Let the swimming lessons begin

Our visit to Maryland went well, the time there was very nice including a surprise of several dozen crabs for me to pick for dinners and a few to bring home as well. The drive is long and the boys got antsy - Dima on the way down " I wanna get out of this car!!" and Josh spitting and being bratty on the way back. Each way we had something to do other than just the straight - through drive. On the way there we went to Lancaster for Dima's therapy and on the way back we stopped in to visit a former neighbor at a cool playground that opened since we moved away.

Today we started swim lessons for this year. They were supposed to start yesterday but the state had budget issues to work out so the park was closed since non-essential workers were furloughed. We'll have an extra 15 minutes added to our lessons both Thursday and Friday this week so we'll make up the day and still have next Friday for a rain date if need be. Our contingency plan for today was to go to Whitehall to visit my Mom + Dad if the parks were still closed.

Both of my boys do pretty well with going along with their teachers and co-operating with them. Dima was splashing around a little so after the lesson I told him to knock that off so he's not disturbing the rest of the kids. At least neither of them were wailing like our little neighbor. She's terrified of the water and really just cried the whole time, though she was proud of herself that she put her head under the water when asked to. It'll take a few days for her to be happy to be there, but her mom is just tortured by listening to it.

I've got a membership to the pool so after lessons we can stay there and play in the pool and "splash park". Dima likes to get splashed in the splash park which is okay with me, as long as there aren't too many people there that it's hard for me to keep track of him. For a while today we all stuck together in the shallow end with them jumping off the pool walls to me. New Rule: When jumping they have to be sure I'm paying attention first Josh jumped once and head butted me cause I was talking to Dima at the time and didn't see him coming.

Then after playing in the splash park - which has a dozen ways to get squirted by water and valves to control the flow on some for the squirting things - Josh kept insisting that we go to deeper water for him to jump in to me and I told him I needed to stay where I could keep an eye on Dima. When Josh got out of the pool to walk over to the deeper part, that was it, I told him that since he wasn't listening to me that we were leaving. I ended up picking him up face out - cause he was spitting and trying to hit me - and sitting him on the towel for a time out. Then we got our stuff together and headed out. It was too bad cause it's really really hot out there and cause I actually had a lunch packed and had planned to stay a few hours. We left by 12:30 cause I think it's really important that he listen to me especially in that situation and I wanted to get that point across to him.

We got our act together early today so we could pick raspberries in the park before we had to be there for lessons. I like to try to be early for stuff anyway since I never know when something will come up that causes a delay in getting ready or leaving to go someplace. Dima has a little "fishing net" that he made in school before their field trip to the park that we'll have to take with us on a day that it's not 100 degrees - so we can walk to the lake and play around there.

We're scheduled for the next 2 weeks for lessons so we'll probably do pretty much what we did today each time we're there. I like to pack a lunch ahead of time then have the kids eat by 12:30, swim a little longer then get out of there before all the camps and buses of people get in for the day. Someone said that 1-3 is their busiest time so I try to get out once the crowds arrive.

Monday, July 2, 2007

plan for tomorrow.

My plan for tomorrow is to get the boys up and out of here by 8:45 to head to Lancaster for Dima's therapy appointment at 10:00. I'll go into what the therapy appointments entail later on.

Once we're done, we'll hit the road- so we're talking 11:30 if the schedule permits possibly later if the office is running late. I'm planning to eat somewhere along the way so we can stop for a restroom break and take our time. The drive should take maybe four hours, more if we include more breaks.

I am looking forward to a change of scenery even though I'm not looking forward to all the driving to get there and back. Hopefully any holiday traffic shouldn't effect us, If at all maybe the Friday get-out-of towners might. We'll probably hit the road early that day just in case it's a factor.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

early Sunday morning

So far this has been a typical too- busy weekend. Especially in the summer there are always too many things going on. Yesterday we went to a birthday picnic for a neighborhood friend who turned 4 last week. Then during the afternoon we moved on to another picnic with Chris's hockey team. At both places there was plenty for the kids to do so it's nice for me to have a chance to sit back for a while and talk to some adults while keeping an eye on the boys to be sure they're not getting too wild or doing anything unacceptable.

Josh was his typical sociable self at both parties, he found a 9 year old girl to play with a little racetrack with him at the first event even dictating when the sound on the thing should be turned on and off. At the second party when a group of girls from the neighborhood came over my boys were eating and Josh saw them coming and started yelling "hi, hi!" He found one of them later on and was holding her hands while jumping in the trampoline. In general he was all over the place watching people play volleyball , horseshoes and "hillbilly golf" and sitting on a little "tractor" that they had there to do some landscaping work. We had several trips to the powder room with his saying that he had to go but then he changed his mind once we got there.

There was a Slip and Slide and a huge water slide at the second place which kept Dima busy pretty much from the time we got there until it was time to light a fire to roast marshmallows. Then I think he was torn between the fire and the water. I ended up keeping them away from the water cause Josh's lips were turning blue cause he was so cold. Dima shied away from the older kids and the ones his age at first but warmed up to them after a while especially once the older ones started building the fire.

Differences in the boy's personalities. While eating the s'mores Dima managed to do so pretty neatly with very little getting on his face. Josh, on the other hand, took the things apart and grabbed the marshmallows and pulled them like taffy and ended up with marshmallow and chocolate everywhere - this plus the ketchup on his back from his earlier hotdog.... Later on when the sparklers came out Dima was nervous about them - watching a few before he would even consider touching one but when Josh saw them he jumped right in and was making circles in the air and having a grand old time. Well, that was until he touched the hot part of one of them after several warnings of: "don't touch it it's hot!!" and then I put an end to that. By that point it was pretty late anyway and with no nap for the day I knew they'd be exhausted. Josh fell asleep on the drive home and I'm sure they'll sleep in today and that we'll be making up for the lost rest on Monday.

Today the boys - big and small - Josh, Dima, Chris and Uncle Jon are going to a Reading Phillies game. It'll be another day with no nap and lots of activity.

I usually sit out this sort of thing cause it gives me a change of scenery from what I do every day and because the one or two times I went to the Reading Royals hockey games with them I found it totally un-relaxing. Today I get to go to German American Day with my German dance group. Doing that kind of stuff gives me a chance to hang out with some adults without having to worry about what the boys are doing. During my kid-free time I can actually stop and shop somewhere if I want to without having to make a big ordeal of getting them through a store without incident or without having to stop in the toy car department (only to look, they rarely get to buy anything when I'm shopping with them) and even though I often have to drive a while to get to these events I don't mind it cause I can make calls to friends along the way. Something as simple as just to listen to whatever I want on the radio is refreshing for me.

When I went along to the games I wasn't a fan of trying to keep track of the kids in a huge crowd like that and it's an environment where Dima doesn't have a lot of outlets for his energy so he gets wound up and it's hard for him to calm down then he can physically get wound up (like swinging his arms around like at Hershey Park 0 and it's hard to get him to focus and to listen to what you're trying to tell him). I think one thing they've found that works is giving him radio to use the headphones on so that he has something to do and so that it filters out some of the noise that gets him wound up. At Hershey park a break from the exciting rides by doing the monorail seemed to help him out at the games I think they go for walks around the stadium to take a breather.

The games do have the mascots to keep the kids' attention. The "funny guys" as Josh has taken to calling them are usually the highlights of the games for them. There are fireworks when the home team scores - and sometimes after the games as well, so that's something they look forward to.

I'm sure we'll have a low-key relaxing day around here tomorrow since we'll be heading out to Southern Maryland on Tuesday. I'll have to get stuff together and I'd like to start off with us all at least somewhat rested if at all possible.