Sleep Tight

For the three and a half months Sweet Girl has been home now, she has slept on a small cot just beside the bed in mama and papa’s room. Having spent her entire life sleeping dormitory style with at least 10 other children in a row of beds, we knew sleeping in her own room, her own bed, would be a big adjustment to overcome. We could not force her to spend those first scary nights alone in her room and we didn’t want to start the habit of her ending up in our bed, so the cot became a familiar extension of the comfortable little pallet on the floor she took to so well to those first couple of unfamiliar nights with us in an Moscow hotel room.
We had fully prepared to begin transitioning her to her own bed when she showed signs of attachment. She had spent some time napping in it during the day, so it wasn’t totally foreign. However, due to many outside circumstances and for a variety of reasons, we have found ourselves selling our house and gearing up to move the family onto a much better situation for everyone. Despite her doing so remarkably well with her adjustment, we have been careful to prepare her for every change and implement them slowly. We knew that moving would be a huge obstacle to her attachment and adjustment. With awareness of that, we decided not to push and not to change the familiar sleeping arrangement she was accustomed to until we were settled in the new house. Of course, this wasn’t an easy decision for us since one of us (9 times out of 10, mama) has been with Sweet Girl every night from her bedtime at 8pm to when she falls asleep, with no break, since picking her up that night in Russia from the orphanage.  Because of this, our available free time together is limited to 7pm-8pm – when the twins go to bed to when Sweet Girl needs to go to bed. It’s hard since we work all day and need time in the evening to reconnect and be still together for a moment without children.
But last night, a break through… rather, a miracle! Sweet Girl, of her own accord, asked to go “nite-nite” in her big girl bed. We were a bit startled and caught off guard, but welcomed any chance. So we quickly gathered the baby monitor and set a trail of ambient light leading from her room downstairs to the open door of our bedroom and said have at it! We talked about the house being quiet and about how she could go to mama and papa’s room if she got scared. After several testing bathroom breaks, she went to sleep in her very own bed by herself! That sleep continued until 3:30am when we were awakened unexpectedly by a toddler bedside in our room. No warning, no noise on the baby monitor, nothing, just a little person whispering “mama!”. We directed her to lay on her cot and all quickly went back to sleep and that was that. When we asked her in the morning what happened, her only answer was “scared”. That however doesn’t seem to deter her as she remains adamant about wanting to go to sleep in her room again. So as I write this, I’m upstairs just outside her room, quiet, watching her on the webcam trying to repeat last night’s brave performance!Morning update: She made it until 5:50am and then came downstairs. She didn’t want to lay in her cot and instead knee’d mama and papa in their kidneys until we were all up for the day at 6:15am.

We have 6 more weeks in our house so we’ll see how she does! She’s very proud of herself and excited so I think she’ll do just fine!

Sweet, precious, spunky, brave girl.

3 months home

Sweet Girl has been home officially 3 months now – we can hardly believe it! Seems like it has been much longer, not only from our perspective of adjusting to being new parents again, but she has been picking up things at a phenomenal pace and I forgot just how little time she’s spent here. Mama got the same stickers we used to chronicle the girls first 12 months of life to chronicle Sweet Girl’s first 12 months home. Unfortunately, life has been so busy, blogging Sweet Girl’s progress has been difficult to say the least. I don’t know if we’ll ever catch up, but we hope to do better in filling everyone in. You might even see a few posts I started from a month or two ago pop up out of chronological order.
Now 3 months home, Sweet Girl is understanding almost 100% of our instructions in English. She is speaking a version of Rusglish.. Russian with English nouns and adjectives scattered in. Its sometimes difficult to decipher whether she’s speaking English or Russian. She is learning more and more everyday and it often only takes her a single time hearing something before she’s repeating it again. She is completely comfortable in our house and with the twins. She continually wants to help with her sisters, whether its with bath time, unbuckling them from their car seats, or giving them food. She sometimes tries to take on a disciplinarian role with them which we try not to encourage.
Words she’s saying in English include:
i love you
Jesus
more
all done
mama
papa
Cranky
Happy
teacher
school
Lollyhop (bunny at school)
french fries
soup
chicken
macaroni and cheese
apple
orange
banana
yogurt
chocolate
ipad
water
juice
milk
please
thank you
car
bath
shampoo
monkey
doggie
kitty cat
shirt
pants
shoes
jammies
icky
oops
mess
baby/babies
hit
house
next
careful
dangerous
one
two
three
four
five (and counts them)
she can spell the letters of her name
and tons more I’m sure I’ll remember later!She’s doing an excellent job of stringing things together including “lollyhop school” and “more apple please”. And when it relates to tattling on her sisters she’s excellent at “mama babies no please” and “papa cranky no my room”In the interest of getting the update out, heres some random pics with no organization! Most are of her first day at school!



 

1 Month Home

(posted by him)
Its been 4 weeks… almost a full month… since Sweet Girl came home. This past week was the first of a new month, meaning busy time for mama at work, the first one we’ve encountered since she’s been home. As so, with the exception of Monday, the rest of the week was mine to spend with Sweet GIrl and I would say this week was slightly different than those previous… more so characterized by testing of boundaries.Monday was the only day I went to work. The act of me leaving with the twins is perhaps the most difficult thing for her to deal with. When she sees her sisters getting ready and going down to the car with papa, the tears are inevitable. She will throw her arms around my waist and beg me not to go. After prying her off, mama is left with a 30-45 minute unconsolable sobbing. We have learned that this can be eased by allowing her to get fully dressed alongside her sisters and sometimes going for a short car ride just to get out the house. While we think she is mostly upset by me leaving and not being sure when/if I’ll return, there seems to be part of her that simply wants to get out of the house.

The remainder of the week was my turn. Since the twins normally accompany me to work, on days where I don’t work, we’ve worked out the arrangement where mama leaves early and drives an hour and half out of her way to drop them off at school and in the afternoon, Sweet GIrl and I load up in the car and do the same drive to fetch her sisters. While very inconvenient for everyone, we feel it is necessary for the girls to see their friends at school and us be able to focus our attention on Sweet GIrl during the day. She does struggle the same with her mama leaving in the morning, but to a lesser degree than papa. By the time the afternoon gets here, I get several questions that infer as “where is mama?” And by the time the afternoon gets here, she is very excited and rides very well to go get her sisters. She becomes instantly excited when we pull up to their school but is still very shy inside around all their friends and teachers. On the ride home, since she sits forward facing in between her two sisters who are still rear facing, she’s constantly talking to them and passing things to them. When we finally get home, there is a made dash of children excited to see their mama… Cranky is now competing with Sweet Girl on who gets to be held/hugged until the table is set for dinner.

I started this post off with this week was different, characterized by more testing of boundaries, and that has come in the form of sleep. This week, I have instantly become unsuccessful in getting her to take her afternoon nap. We’ll get changed into our pj’s and into the bed and I’ll settle down on the floor of her room like I always do, but she now instantly tries to sit up/stand up, talk, and whatever else to remain awake. When I lay her back down and place the covers over her, she becomes upset and latches on with a tight bear hug. Breaking this bear hug causes instant sobbing. No longer will remaining in her room within line of sight eventually result into napping. We sat in total darkness for over an hour sobbing before eventually giving up. We haven’t been too worried as at 4.5yrs old, she is really at an age where naps are becoming optional, and since we’ve spent so much time in the car, she usually gets a solid 45 minutes there anyway, but she was such a good napper just a week ago, its like the switch just flipped. But this may also do with her attachment to papa, as mama was able to make her nap this weekend where I haven’t been. But her bedtime routine has also suffered from more sobbing and extended time trying to get to sleep, but mama is always able to work her magic and once asleep, she has remained pretty steady in staying asleep until around 7:00am, so for that, we are thankful.

We also concentrated on having our 2nd and 3rd sessions with our student translator. The first visit was characterized by head down, almost sobbing, these recent visits she has become accustomed to him in the room where she will play and resume her normal business largely ignoring him. But while she doesn’t typically respond, she does understand and acknowledge what he says to her. Also, he’s been able to catch some of her chatter and while not in direct response to his questions, he is able to understand most of what she is saying. One misconception I’ve witnessed is just putting someone who speaks and understands Russian in front of her, doesn’t immediately establish communication. Just like with any unfamiliar English speaking person, she is shy, reserved, and closed off first… just because they know her language, doesn’t change her reaction to new people. However, I’ve found if we’re able to spend time and take the focus away from her, she’ll eventually start to open up. But we feel no one outside our home gets to witness her true rambunctious, chatty nature that we experience every night… but this will only come with time.

As for everything else, our expectations are exceeded on a daily basis. She has become completely comfortable with Cranky and Happy and we have not had a single fallout between them as I was prepared for. She loves to do things for her sisters, hand them their bottles, help with bath time, even tries to instruct them to do things in Russian. Happy loves having someone to chase around and Cranky remains fascinated by what her big sister is up to. Bath time continues to be an all time favorite and potty time is no trouble. Eating continues to be hit or miss depending on the food choices, but largely we have no problem getting food into her. We’ve had no more breakdowns over communication or lack of understanding each other for several weeks now. She’s picked up a handful of English words, even used her first English word “hot” in context last week. She is also intrigued by learning the alphabet and the alphabet song and will sing and pronounce the letters along with her various toys that do so. Her favorite letters are the beginning of her name “C” and “A” and she struggles the most with “W”. Perhaps what I’m most amazed with is her ability to soak of new things so easily. She only needs to see you try something once before she’s repeating it, and thats without language involved. It just further reiterates how amazing and smart she is and only needs to be given the opportunity and she will flourish.

2 Weeks Home

Now that Sweet Girl is home we can be a little more open about the procedure. For all those coming here as a resource about adoption, Sweet Girl is from Vladimir, Russia. All posts about being in region reference Vladimir and all posts about the capital reference Moscow.

I hope to keep the blog up but transition it into a journal of our family and Sweet Girl’s place in our lives! So with that, here’s an update on what we’ve been up to!

Ten things I didn’t expect in our first two weeks home:

1. Cranky and Happy to not bat an eye as Sweet Girl has seamlessly taken her place as the big sister. The interactions between all three girls are genuinely sweet and caring. There has been very little issue over toys, attention, etc.

2. In Moscow, Sweet Girl slept on a pallet next to the bed with us. Here, we have her on a little cot next to our bed. In Moscow, Sweet Girl slept 8p – 8a without issues. At home, when she wakes, she’s up. This has been from 3a – 8a. Our hopes of getting her into her own room at night after a couple of days have turned into we hope we can get her into her own room by Christmas.

3. All 3 girls at once is still pretty overwhelming for he and I individually. It’s our issue though, not theirs, as we learn to split our attentions well enough to fulfill all three girls need for affection, attention, and positive reinforcement. I feel exhausted 99% of the time. I try to not let my frequent frustration show, but I am human and I fail. He is super dad and is continually patient and present with them.

4. While deep down I am not surprised, Sweet Girl is modeling all the twins behavior. They throw food on the floor, she wants to see what happens when she throws food on the floor. They want a book read, she wants a book read. She watches their behavior as a model on how to act in our family. Thankfully, the twins are surrounded by a village of people who have helped us model good behavior for them so they can now model good behavior for Sweet Girl… except for that throwing food thing 🙂

5. Sweet Girl has attached very quickly to he and I – moreso him. She comes to me and loves me and needs me, its when her Papa is at work, her little world breaks down. It is getting better as she realizes when Papa leaves he will always come back. Overall, when not at home, her anxiety about being forgotten, being left, or all of us not going home is palpable. The shocking degree to which she “needs” us has been slightly overwhelming, but we’re managing.

6. Eating is harder than I thought it would be. In Moscow, Sweet Girl was pretty picky about what she ate and that has continued at home. It is a little bit her controlling her completely uncontrollable surroundings and a little bit that she thinks we are crazy Americans for eating all this food out of boxes. We are learning her and she is rewarding us by trying and liking new things occasionally. She has no pressure with food. She can eat as much or as little of whatever she wants whenever she wants.

7. Sweet Girl loves going. As a way to avoid the insanity that comes from being inside all day every day, we try to go out for little trips every day. She loves to crawl into her carseat and get buckled. She loves going into stores and looking at all the stuff. In the grocery, she just wanted to touch all these things she’s only seen in pictures.

8. She is SMART. She prefers to teach us the Russian word than learn the English word, but she is learning new concepts so quickly. She can bead patterns, sort, color, trace and overall learns so fast. She tries to mimic words we say and already understands lots of basic things we tell her. We taught her A and C this week and now she can consistently say, find and write those letters. And I don’t even need to get into her expertise at what she’s now taken as HER iPhone and HER iPad.

9. She doesn’t like warm Krispy Kremes. I know it’s a travesty, we are working on it.

10. She has maintained lots of orphanage habits, but others she has dropped quickly. While she can dress herself, she prefers to let us dress her. She knows she is supposed to sit for meals but sometimes, her curiosity about the cat causes her to get up and investigate. She shares well and is tolerant of twins being in her room and riffling through her stuff. She is opinionated about what she wears. She is learning what happens when she doesn’t respond to “Nyet!”

I won’t lie. This is HARD. Adding another child to your home who already has so many life experiences is not roses and daisies. But God said to follow Him. He didn’t tell us it would be easy and not fraught with heartache, but He did tell us that the reward would be worth it. Seeing the light in her eyes the first time she saw fruit at the grocery store made every document we chased worth it.

 

So, here’s our first two weeks in PICTURES!

Journey Home (Trip 4, Day 7)

On Sunday, after our marathon sightseeing Saturday, we got up and had breakfast while we waited for Boris to come pick us up. We had a few logistical issues fitting the luggage in the car, but we finally got to the airport with plenty of time to spare. Through all this adoption travel, we made “status” on Delta and got to bypass the hour line to check in and went to the express desk. No issues checking in and no issues going through passport control. She is petrified and crying in this picture because she thought Mama and Papa were leaving and she was staying with Boris and Irina.
It took a few minutes for the KGB (okay, they aren’t KGB, but I don’t know what they call their passport people and KGB sounds fun  🙂 ) to approve all the paperwork. We were travelling with some medications for Sweet Girl and we had no issues on that end getting them through for others who might be in the same boat.
We sat at a little coffee shop and had our last meal in Sweet Girl’s home soil. She gobbled it right up. Good thing too because two cokes, a water and 2 apple danishes cost me $20.
We went on a last minute trip to the “toy-o-let”, looked at the planes out the window and then we were boarding!
So far so good!
Then the fun began. She didn’t mind the plane at all, but she was too overwhelmed to sleep. She knew that as soon as she said “toy-o-let” that we’d let her get up and walk to the bathroom. So about every 20 minutes she’d do this. Then about every hour after the first 3 hours, she’d get upset and start repeating something. One time, I took her to the back and tried to get her to say it for the flight attendant, but she just conned them into giving her a juice. (I have learned since then, she was saying something like “I want to get up”)
Overall, on the 9.5 hours flight, she drank an entire milk, 2 cans of orange juice, 2 cans of apple juice and an entire bottle of water. She ate the carrots in her salad and half of her bread. Then she ate tomatoes off a sandwich and the little snack size candy bar that came with it. And lastly, she ate an entire bag of trail mix. She refused to watch a movie, cartoons, the ipad, or anything that might give either He or I two seconds of peace. She constantly tried to stand up and kick the seat of the guy in front of her. All of her behaviors were normal 4 year old things or testing boundaries things. We were firm and consistent on some things (kicking the seat) but tried to be very relaxed on others (bathroom every 20 minutes). At about halfway He and I looked at each other and I think we were both thinking that we wouldn’t be taking another plane trip anytime soon.
FINALLY, we landed in JFK. The landing immediately made Sweet Girl a US Citizen. She celebrated by choosing that moment to lean over and fall asleep. Perhaps, somehow she knew – this long road is finally done, now I can enjoy the fruits of my labor 🙂

We went through US Customs and Immigration with no issues whatsoever, they didn’t even take us to a secondary screening! He just flipped through the pages of the sealed envelope and said, “Welcome to America, you’re done!” US security was no problem with the medications either and we were on our way!

We found a nice little corner spot to wait the 30 minutes for our next flight where Sweet Girl could look out the windows at the planes and run around a little bit. The minute we boarded that plane, she gave up very quickly again and went to sleep and didn’t wake up until we landed in RDU.

She was very impressed with Mama and Papa’s machina and her seat. She had no problems getting buckled. She stayed awake until we made a quick drive through stop (which she was facinated with!) and then fell asleep with her juicebox in her hands.

Once we got home, we made her a little pallet on the floor of our room and we all slept perfectly soundly…
.. until 3am when she was bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready for the day. ::YAWN::