1. First day of school
2. Just playing around
*Note - D has become our son's middle name, and his first name now starts with N. We have chosen not to use our children's names on this blog for their privacy and safety.
Well, it is clear that neither of us has a future in blogging. Somehow it was a little easier to find the time to blog, when we were sitting around our apartment in Ukraine. When Matt and N arrived home, we became busy with life, and adjusting to a new little boy in the home. N is doing really well, and MOST of the time he is a delightful and happy five year old boy who is speaking mostly in English. We had a few temper tantrums in the beginning, but as the weeks have passed, those have disappeared. I will attempt to go back and give the highlights of the last few weeks.
Matt and N arrived at the airport around 10 pm, and even though they were happy to see us, they both looked exhausted. They had been traveling close to 24 hours. Fortunately, they were upgraded to first class from Kiev to New York, which was wonderful, but N did not sleep a wink on that leg of the flight. They did sleep some on the flight from NY, so at least they were a little bit rested. We buckled N into his car seat, and told him we were now going to his new house. When he arrived, he spent a little time looking around, and we showed him his new room. He walked around his room pointing to every single toy and piece of clothing and asked, "Is this mine?" over and over. This is a child who has really never owned much of anything, and he seemed a little overwhelmed to have a room of his own, full of clothes and toys. We let him play with his toys, and eventually he settled down and went to sleep. When he woke up, it became clear that we had a son who was very used to a strict routine. He asked for his clothes, and slippers. I laid out his clothes for him, but I had failed to buy him any slippers, so I grabbed a pair of flip-flops, and he happily put those on. He then got dressed, washed his face, brushed his teeth, folded his pajamas and put them under his pillow, and made his bed. Then he asked for permission to play with his toys. After playing for about 30 minutes, he asked for breakfast. When I told him yes, we could have breakfast, he immediately started cleaning up all of his toys without being asked. He and I snuck into the kitchen, because everyone else was still asleep, and I made him some oatmeal. He still continues to be a pretty orderly child, and never complains when I ask him to clean up his toys, or his room. Most of the time, he is eager to please and is really cooperative.
For the first couple of weeks, we stayed home as much as possible. The hardest part was just keeping N entertained. He was used to having a very structured routine in the orphanage, and he really did not have the ability to play independently because, I am sure, he never had to in the orphanage. I did my best to structure his day, and provide different activities, and toys to play with throughout the day. During those first few days, we swam a lot (he had no fear of the pool), rode bikes, played soccer, played with play-doh, watercolors, and a variety of toys. The girls were a big help that first week, because they weren't back in school yet, but after they went back to school, it was much harder to keep N entertained. He really wanted mama to play with him all day long, and he would follow me EVERYWHERE I went in the house those first few weeks.
He has been very affectionate with us both from the beginning. He loves to sit in our laps and just be held and cuddled. When we first came home I would tell him "I love you" in Russian, and he would just giggle. Then he started saying it back in Russian. I still tell him "I love you" in Russian, and he says it back in English now. When "papa" leaves the house, N stand on the porch yelling "love you pop...love you popi" as he drives down the street, and when he comes home from work, he is usually tackled at the front door, and then there is a 30 minute nightly wrestling session in our family room. He also used to repeat "maiya (my) mama" over and over dozens of times throughout the day...now it's just a couple times a day. He loves to play with his sisters, and they love him too. B likes to mother him and take care of him, and K is just a really good playmate most of the time. They did have a few, short-lived moments during those first weeks when they wanted to send him back, and there are times even now when they need to go to their rooms to get away from their rambunctious brother, but most of the time, they love to be with him, and they all play well together. During the first few weeks, he did drive us crazy by constantly playing with the light switches, TV buttons, cabinets, and doors. I think everything was just so new to him, and he was extremely curious, and wanted to explore.
We have been to the both the pediatrician, and the pediatric ophthalmologist, and the dentist. His health is good although he is definitely on the lower end of the height and weight charts. He was a little bit anemic, and is on iron supplements. He is very far-sighted, and he has new glasses, which he is very happy to wear. The ophthalmologist said the crossed-eyes should correct on their own, with the glasses, and after just a few weeks in the glasses, we can see a big difference already. And the dentist said he had reasonably good dental care, and he only has one cavity.
N is now in preschool. He attends preschool in English 3 mornings each week, and we found a wonderful Russian preschool that he attends 2 mornings a week. He really enjoys them both, and loves to go to school, and his teachers say he is doing well. He has had lots of opportunities to play with friends and family. He is very social, and so far he has done really well in social situations, and is usually well behaved in restaurants.
We feel really blessed to have N in our family. In many ways having him home with us has been much easier than I imagined, but it has still been really hard at times. He is an early riser, and I am not getting enough sleep. He is busy, busy, busy, and if I don't remember to provide constant activities, or even just remind him to play with his toys, he is still likely to get into something that he is not supposed to. But the joys far outweigh the trials. He is happy, and loving, and grateful most of the time. He loves my cooking, and raves about "oozhen" (dinner) every night. He eats all of his vegetables, and he wants to eat everyone else's. The only foods that he doesn't like are those that are particularly "American" - peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, hamburgers (unless it's loaded with veggies), hot dogs, and especially chicken nuggets. He looked at the chicken nuggets at a fast food restaurant and asked, "Is this food?" Who can blame him for that!
He has a world map up on his wall, and every night before he goes to bed, he asks to look at "Oookrieena" (Ukraine). Then he goes through the whole story. He starts with the train noises, and runs his finger on the map from Mariupol to Kiev. Then he puts his arms out like a plane, and runs his finger from Kiev to New York, and then New York to LA. Then he pretends to drive a car until he gets home. We are grateful that N was well cared for at the orphanage. After having him in our home for 12 weeks, it is clear to us that he was loved and taught well there. Although sometimes when the three kids are playing together, I look at him and I can't believe that he hasn't been here his whole life.