Introducing our budding family. We hope you will enjoy watching us grow... and everything else under the sun. ;)

Happy Holidays from 4 V's

It's almost New Year's here and that means Deeana celebrated her first Christmas with us as a family!  Both her and Hayden have been waiting for Santa for weeks - all while Mom was worrying about meltdowns. I am happy to report things went well!

Let's back track to a few weeks before Christmas and update you about how things have been going. Deeana is still doing Theraplay once a week and we all find it to be very beneficial. About 3 weeks ago, Mommy decided to try and "move out" of Deeana's room again. We started a sticker reward chart, and reminded her that sleeping in her bed wasn't scary, but a big 3 year old thing to do. We go through a nightly routine of telling her that we will come and get her in the morning when the alarm rings and such, and minus a few bad dreams (to be expected) and a few stubborn moments, she has slept on her own and Mommy is sleeping soundly back with Daddy. ;)

We are still working on potty training - this still remains to be a struggle. We sometimes wonder if it is a power struggle or a typical kid thing. Is she being a child who is too busy to be bothered with toilet training, and would rather play, etc.. We know she knows when she is wet, when she has to go, and she is physically able to go by herself, but she just won't do it. Oye...

Leading up to the days of Christmas I could sense the anxiety coming from Deeana. She became cranky very fast and easily fell into a tantrum. Then again, my 8 year old was very wound up as well. ;)

Here is what we have found that has worked for us, it was suggested by our Theraplay therapist. We would take Deeana into a quiet room, sometimes dark, and sit her on our lap. We would gently tap her from chest to toe, starting front then back. Similar to the patting of a baby's bottom. Sometimes we would hear a deep sigh and would know she had relaxed. Other times if the house wasn't quiet enough or she was wound to much, I would rub her arms and legs with lotion (I frequently do this before bedtime before she puts on her pajamas). The lotion has helped a lot with bonding as well.

Onto Christmas. We spent Christmas Eve at my mother's, leaving early to open presents just with my mom first before the rest of the family came and the house got full. We V's then spent Christmas Day at home. Deeana was a delight to watch when unwrapping - she would take the smallest bit of paper and hand it off to us or go to throw it away before fully unwrapping. It was bliss to see her and Hayden's wonderful smiles.
We took a small break from opening more gifts with Michael's family and just saw then recently... spacing out the gift giving just enough that the kids had plenty of time to play with their new toys and help with anxiety.

Deeana still thinks Santa's "here" and it's Christmas time, then again, she still talks about Trick-or-Treating. :) In do time she will understand the holidays and really believe in Santa, the Easter bunny, and so forth.

She is growing so much with our family and learning more and more everyday. Just the other day she told us "I kidding!".... and her favorite knock-knock joke.... about a moon, up in the sky.

May you have a blessed New Year!
Till 2012

P.S. Enjoy some pics:


One Day at a Time

It's been almost 3 months since my last posting... and we've been home almost 4 months. I never wanted to be one of those adoption blogs that told people all about our journey and then fell off the face of the Earth. What matters most is that I am here now. I hope to try and come back more often... "try" being the operative word. ;)

No one ever prepared us for what this new beginning was going to be like. No one ever said to me, "Mel, she's going to be like an infant in a toddler's body... don't expect to sleep, pee alone, clean, or get anything done for a long time". Maybe if I would have heard that a few times my expectations wouldn't have been so high. Maybe if I would have done more reading...

On the brighter side, the bonding is MUCH better. Over the past several weeks there has been a big improvement when it comes to Deeana showing love and affection to her Mommy. What's even better is that she shows this love when Daddy is around as well. Now if we can only get her to continue this "love" when friends and family are around. Otherwise she mostly skirts away from me and prefers Daddy. She has a tendency to say hi, etc. to strangers, or even fall into their lap (that is a work in progress, but still hard with a language barrier).

A continuing struggle of ours is her anxiety of Mommy or Daddy leaving the room. Because of this I sleep on an air mattress in her room at night (have tried a zillion other combinations for sleeping, and this seems to be the best one). Though the air mattress is horrible on my back, it gets her to sleep just inches away in her bed. I sneak out when she snores, and then come back when I am tired. We wake up together in the morning. If I try to sneak out and she's awake - she panics - literally.
We have gone back to potty training basics as she has "un-trained" herself. Actually, we have just let it all go out the window. She's wearing a pullup - unless she says she wants to use the potty, we don't force it.
Independent play is almost impossible, though I see it emerging. I'm not surprised she hasn't learned this skill. But it is frustrating when trying to wash dishes, or any other mom jobs.
Her word count is amazing! (as is her memory!) We have lost count at how many words she knows and can now tell us what she wants to eat. (If only she would tell us when she needed to go potty.) She can recite the majority of the ABC's and we even heard her count past 12 one day! Short paragraphs are no problem for her.

And with Hayden, yes there is some jealousy there. They fight over silly things, and yell "YES!", "NO!" over who knows what. Hayden has become a great help though, and is happy to have a little sister.

A few milestones I have failed to mention. Deeana thoroughly enjoyed Halloween. She loved dressing up in her "Bat-arina" costume. It was chilly weather here for trick-or-treating, but we V's still managed.

Deeana also had her first Thanksgiving. We decided to have it at home and invited some friends to celebrate. Hayden and Deeana enjoyed playing with my girlfriends children and us adults got to relax. I made my first turkey and I heard rave reviews (that or they didn't want to hurt a woman's feelings). Deeana chose her outfit for the day, and as usual... the girl likes to look fancy.

And most recently, we decorated the tree and the house for Christmas. She was tickled pink that she got to "help Mama" with such a beautiful task. Hayden and Deeana had some kid ornaments set aside and loved looking at the ornaments and finding just the right spot for them. The following day Hayden set up the train around the tree and Deeana was mesmerized. It was a very stimulating couple of days and we had a bedtime meltdown.

Now my weeks are spent taking Deeana to occupational therapy (for some minor concerns) and physical therapy, also minor. We also participate in Theraplay. I have nothing but rave reviews for Theraplay - as they specialize in helping children form a bond and attach to their family. A great part about our therapist is she is able to come to our home and she was once a developmental therapist for a short time when Hayden was young.

I know I need to remember to take each day as it comes, one day at a time. Things are a lot harder than I imagined... I think we are all still adjusting. ;)

Please be patient with my lack of blogging. I hope to get back into the swing of things as Deeana becomes more independent - or enjoys TV more. YAY! for TV!

Lastly, please view our Daily V's page for a bunch of pics. Hope you enjoy!!! *EDITED 9:04PM - sorry, hasn't been working all day. I will try to get the pics online when the site is back up and working.
Happy Holidays!

~Mel 2 comments

Roughin' It...

D getting into the recycling - but what the heck - it was just too darn cute!
It's been one month... and it will probably take just as long to type this.

We have been on a rollar coaster here at the V house. When we came home from Russia, we had no idea what was in store for us. We did absolutely no research on how to raise a toddler that came from an orphanage... and we were hit with a culture shock. No one told us otherwise, and I just assumed life would change because we would be adjusting from a 3 person family to a 4 person family. And we would also have to deal with some jealousy issues with the kids... but I had no idea that my daughter would barely show me any love and affection. I didn't think at her slight age of 3 that we would hear her cry wolf when she "needed" to go potty. I never thought she would bite, hit, bang her head, etc.... and throw monster fits when she didn't get her way. I never thought I would have to baby-proof everything at this stage of her life. I never thought she would shun me a million times a day - and just when my heart couldn't break into any more pieces, she would turn around and stomp on it once more.

Deeana prefers her father. Not because he is a kind gentle man. But because... it happens. No one knows why some children turn on their mothers. They could be infants and not realize they are bonding and attaching to their "new" mom... or they could be older and have been institutionalized longer and traumatized emotionally. We have come to assume (through research) that Deeana is putting me through a kind of test, she is showing me the emotions she feels. She is scared and powerless. And she is trying with all her might to see if she can break me down and make me leave.

When you meet Deeana, she presents herself as a timid and shy girl. She may quickly warm up to you, either by playing peek-a-boo, or smiles from the other side of the room. Eventually, she will stray from my lap or Michael's (yes in this case she will sit on my lap, when strangers are near). She will then become very cherry and hyper and engaged with strangers, leaving mom behind in the dust - shunning me as usual. This is probably an attachment disorder behavior and I see Deeana behave this way at the store, with my girlfriends, with therapists, etc.

Deeana is also a fighter, a strong-willed, and a very persistent little girl. If you tell her no - to her it means, "let's try that a couple more times and see if they REALLY mean no". In the adult world we know these are great traits to have, but to get her mommy to break through that hard shell and let me in - is like knocking down the Great Wall all over again.

So, now Michael is back in school teaching. I have more of an opportunity to spend time and bond with Deeana. Little by little I see improvement. She can now speak over 25 words and she said her first English sentence just the other day... "Hayden, no close the door!" - Hayden had closed himself in the office to play a game for quiet time. She still prefers to be Hayden's shadow by day and Papa's companion at night. During the day I struggle with her to eat and play by herself - all of which are almost impossible.

Come bed time, we are utterly sleep deprived. Hayden sleeps in our finished basement and finds it "Cool!". This is to avoid being woken up a dozen times a night. We feel like we have brought in a newborn who has no idea what sleep is! We "nap" in her room until she falls asleep, which until we get the air mattress (tomorrow) is the best scenario. She can then wake up either 20 mins after we leave the room or every hour or 2 hours. She has a hard time soothing herself to sleep when she is alone.

We have had a few "play dates", my best friend and her son is about the gist of it. We really haven't had much family over - not because we don't want to, just because of people's schedule. She does love shopping though - ooops! :) If we go out somewhere, she always yells "SHOPPING!". She is going to be broke when she gets birthday money or an allowance.

Right now we are just riding the waves. I know things take time... when given the choice of Mama or Papa, who knows when she will run into my arms and give me a kiss or a hug. These days, those chances are slim. But I know the possibility is out there... making it there is the hard part. It's not easy.

~Mel 4 comments

The Adjustment Period

A logo from the NEDC, an ad found in
the Adoption Families magazine.

I can't tell you how long I have been holding onto the above picture. I knew someday it would happen... someday this long pregnancy would end and everyone would be sending us their congrats. I am glad that that day is finally here and I can finally wipe the dust off this dear ol' magazine, and show you how proud I am to be a pack rat. Now, I can throw it away. ;)

We have been quite busy to say the least. We arrived home on Friday the 12th from Moscow in the early evening and was greeted by a beautifully decorated front yard (Thank you to my bestie Laura) and the wonderful posters in the front window made by my mom and Hayden. My brother picked us up at the airport and though Deeana had never been in a carseat before, only gave me a mild issue and was fine. She was happy to be off the plane (as were we).

The first night was interesting. Deeana enjoyed the company of her new Babushka and uncle Paul and family friend Laura - but most importantly, her big brother. We finally got her to eat - with the help of everyone else eating. She was starting to worry us a bit about the not eating - but since then, those worries has ceased.

First nights bedtime - it wasn't easy. We knew Deeana would have to sleep with us. But we only have a queen bed... and she's still getting used to Papa sleeping with her and Mama. She woke frequently and cried multiple times for her group at the orphanage.

Day 2 - Deeana couldn't have been more excited to see her big brother when she woke up! She calls him by his name frequently. They ate breakfast together, had their morning snack together... poor Hayden was even dressing dolls with her. He's being a good sport though. He thinks it's cute (for now, anyway) that she follows him around or puts out her hand and wants to take him somewhere.
Since the afternoon was going well, we decided to venture out into our backyard. Both kids went on the swings and Mama eventually figured out that Deeana was telling her to push her. They also played in the sand box.
Later in the day, Michael and I took a break and let the kids play by themselves.... Hayden called out to us telling us that Deeana had one of his church papers and wouldn't give it back. When I looked up, he was chasing her around the kitchen - around and around in circles. She was laughing and he was laughing... and then both Michael and I started to laugh. I told Hayden - this is only the beginning. ;)

We woke up this morning, and realized Deeana slept through the night last night! Either we wore her out the day before or she is becoming acclimated fast. Today, she handled Michael going out to mow the lawn and Hayden playing outside with his friends very well. She only whimpered a tiny bit and then let Mama play with her. Before she was becoming a bit too much attached to Hayden and we were concerned how much that would impact her once school starts.

After lunch today, we decided to be brave. I couldn't stand being house bound. Either Mama was good for playing dolls or for potty duty and that was it. I couldn't leave. So we called our social worker and asked her what she thought about us taking a short trip to the store - and she thought it was fine as long as we kept it local and limit it to one store.
We ended up heading to Target (they don't have Targets or anything remotely close in Russia, least not to my standards) and Deeana did well sitting in the shopping cart. Though when Hayden ventured off or she didn't see him, she tugged on the strap and wanted out. Good thing I snapped her in.
We bought her and Hayden some gym shoes. Got some sippy cups... cuz Mama is tired of cleaning up spills. Got some kiddy toilet seats and more. On the drive home, Hayden and Deeana enjoyed some hip-hop music and did some back seat dancing. I took video of it on my phone, but unfortunately my phone doesn't allow my to upload it to the computer... or at least I haven't had time to figure it out yet.

Deeana seems to be eating better. We need to get her off juice and onto milk, which might prove to be a challenge if she has never drunken it before. She likes her fruit and we have moved onto grapes. She is a very VERY curious little girl and loves to check things out, push buttons, and get into trouble. We definitely have our hands full with her being around, and even though she keeps us on our toes - we wouldn't have it any other way.

Kitties - Deeana is getting better with them everyday. Earlier today she was sitting on one side of the couch, Hayden on the other. Mints, our oldest and most docile cat was sitting in between them. Deeana leaned over and bravely touched Mints tail, but because the tail moved slightly... it startled her a bit. She still let out a happy squeal. Tonight her and I were sitting on the bed and Carmel our more skittish cat hopped on up. I put out my hand to him and started petting him. He jumped down when he heard his food being made, but Deeana called him back in Russian, saying "Cat come here" and patting the bed.

Laughter - if you call or come over during the day I would say there is so much more laughter in our lives. Deeana brings so much joy. Seeing her and Hayden play makes us giggle and warms our heart and makes all the hardship that we endured over the last several years melt away.

Here are some pictures from Gotcha Day! and beyond... Enjoy!!!

Leaving the orphanage on Gotcha Day!

Andrey, our driver. We'll miss him dearly!

Playing ball (or balloon) in Moscow.

Getting ahold of Mama's notebook, silly girl.

Welcome Home Deeana!!!

Showing Deeana her room!

Giggling with big brother! :)

Morning nap with big brother :)

Chill out time with big brother.

Dragging big brother EVERYWHERE!

Faux nap

Gotcha Day!!!

Such a busy day - how did we manage to sleep a wink?
We quickly eat a light breakfast, and Andrey was downstairs waiting for us at 8:40 AM as I was throwing out some garbage.  We pack everything in his van... gifts, luggage, Deeana's backpack, etc in 20 minutes. Irina once again meets us with all the documents and to reiterate all that we have to do today. An hour later, we are at the Orphanage, dropping off the gifts in the Director's office, shaking hands and hugging her, she congratulating us once again. As we leave, we meet Deeana in the hallway with a caregiver...she starts to whimper and is a bit hesitant. Irina picks her up and we walk to a room, by the time we are there she has calmed down (for the most part this seems to be her manner, calms down fairly quickly, usually). Deeana loves her new clothes, and is swimming in her pink rain jacket (Weather: high 60s, and rainy...BTW: Moscow's weather high 80s and overcast).

About a half hour later, Melissa walks out carrying Deeana who is clutched tightly to her (a bit scared understandably). They walk out front as Irina goes back inside to retrieve Deeana's toys we bought for her.  Deeana came out with her miniature doll (actually she had it the whole time), and a small soft backpack with her My Little Pony, a soft doll (not the one we gave her in March, but understandably that one was no longer in her sole possession), and a small soft mushka (mouse, apparently Deeana asked her caregivers if she could bring it with her and they said "yes"). Irina suggested she hold Deeana for the car ride as most children are crying and screaming, but typical Deeana, she whimpered for a few minutes, then settled down and just observed all she could out the windows.  About halfway through, Irina handed Deeana off to Melissa.

We arrive at 11:30 for our train which leaves at 1:00 PM. Andrey heads out to wait on the platform for the train to arrive, typically they board a half hour early. This gave us some time to play with Deeana in the car and she was able to have a banana for snack and take a potty break. Around 12:15, Andrey returns, and he and I take some luggage to the platform where I wait for him to return with the rest of the luggage and Deeana and mommy. So much easier then getting on a plane, where we had 3 security checks and had to pay for extra luggage...the train whereas had one quick conveyor belt for luggage and poof done!

Andrey kindly placed all our luggage on the train, and unfortunately realized my ticket was one cabin behind Mel and Deeana. Fortunately, in Deeana's cabin was another family with a 3 or 4 year old daughter as well. They enjoyed playing with each other and talking up a storm.

The unfortunate part was when the family's stop came up -  Deeana was starting to get anxious and wanting to leave - she would pack up her belongings into her little backpack and want to get down off the seat or our laps and head for the cabin door. This would make tears run for a few minutes and then she would be fine.

Once we hit Moscow, we were glad to get off the train and stretch our legs. Oleg, our Moscow coordinator, met us on the platform, and he too helped us with our luggage. Deeana sat quietly in the stroller once again and observed the fast traffic and vast amount of people walk by us. We had to make a quick pit stop to get a picture taken for Deeana's visa... she did well.

We got to the hotel late (Mel is sooo glad to see a Starbucks across the street!) and Oleg had some paperwork for us to fill out. Deeana and Mel "settled in" while Michael filled out most of the papers and Mel got the computer ready for Hayden's first one on one live Skype session with his new sister.

The Skype session was a success!  Deeana and Hayden "played" with each other.  Deeana pretended to mix up some food and "feed" it to Hayden through the computer monitor.  At one point, she stood up, walked to the computer and touched him. She even said his name a time or two, they were very happy to finally see each other! She's been looking at her photo book since she's gotten back, saying "mama", "papa", and "Hayzen".

You may ask how things are holding up between the three of us. With Deeana being 3, there is a language barrier. Though we are doing relatively well, we think, when it comes to asking her if she is hungry, thirsty, needs to use the bathroom, etc. However... bedtime and nap time is another issue. She clings to Mel, constantly wants to be picked up by her, or sit on her lap... and won't fall asleep unless laying on top of her. She seems to prefer Mel (though we know she will come around eventually). We understand the reasons why... but it can be quite taxing.

This morning we woke up VERY EARLY to have the Moscow adoption doctor visit Deeana. He was very warm and friendly and calmed Deeana down quickly, we were impressed. He gave us some instructions for when we get home, and wished us Good Luck. Next, Michael met with Oleg for some paperwork while Mommy and Deeana played. After that we ordered lunch and struggled to get Deeana to eat "meal" food rather than snacks. The orphanage told us that she will eat almost anything, but she has been giving us trouble. We think she might have had a tummy ache and hasn't used the washroom in a while... so we will see what tomorrow holds.

Thursday's light schedule consists of a very simple US Embassy Visa appointment for the three of us. And then we leave in the weeee early hours of Friday morning to come home.
We couldn't be happier!

Michael and Mel


Back to the Future - Monday, Aug 8th.

Where does the time go so quickly these last few days?

Let's see Mel left off with our previous weekend, which brings me (Michael) to attempt to rehash Monday through today (Wednesday). Here is Monday, August 8th.

Sunday night we received a call informing us we were going to be picked up at 2:00 PM to pick up Deeana's passport.  So we spent Monday morning packing, and actually managed to go from 6 pieces of luggage to 5 (one was full of clothes for the orphanage). Despite adding some souvenirs and clothes and toys for Deeana, Mel is a packing queen and still managed to pack it into 5. Also, worked on cleaning the apartment and doing laundry for the next family.

Before we knew it, 2:00 was upon us. Andrey met us outside as did our coordinator Irina. Traffic was its usual congestion and about 45 minutes later we were back at the Passport Offices. Once again we took a number and another 45 minutes and Irina and I approached the desk. This time the ladies were a bit more friendly, I quickly signed a few documents and a short discussion about something took place between two ladies behind the counter. When she returned I was handed Deeana's passport! On our way out we picked up some dinner at a cafeteria and got it "subway", which is Russian for "take out".

And we were off to pick up the treats for the orphanage and flowers for the Orphanage Director. We passed numerous grocery stores wondering if they had forgotten. I guess the one we chose is one the coordinator likes to go to.  They had numerous cakes, Irina chose one for the administrators and one for the kids. Next we moved on to the fruit, picking up some peaches, apples, and grapes (big and tiny)...their banana selection was not very tasty looking. As it turned out they didn't have a flower section either.  But we spent over 800 rubles, so we got to pick a prize. Our winning ticket was from bin 1, where we wisely chose tissues.

Next stop a flower shop near our apartment, Irina chose a pot of orchids for the Director.  We were wondering where we were going to put all this, our fridge is fairly small plus it would be even more stuff to pack in Andrey's van the next morning. Andrey kindly took it and left it in his van since it was going to be a chilly evening.

That night we finished packing, cleaning, and putting away the laundry, ate our "subway" dinner from the aforementioned cafeteria.  We skyped Hayden, who is clearly anxious to meet Deeana and for us to come home. And off to bed we went.

Michael and Melissa 0 comments

Taking it All In

On Wednesday, we went to the passport office to file for Deeana's passport. We met Irina, who was already standing in line in front of one of the kiosks. Shortly after getting a ticket, she told us what number in line we were. Since we arrived early in the morning, she was hoping we wouldn't have to wait the 5 hours she had waited the last time she was here.

We headed to the front row of seats and she quickly told us what to do, how the system works and when to give her a ring when our number gets close. Michael and I sat and chatted and practiced our "kid Russian" and before we knew it, it was time to call Irina! The numbers flew by and we were in and out in less than an hour and a half.

Michael and Irina were in the office a bit, but once they were out, we were told that Deeana's passport will be ready for pickup on Monday.
Afterwards, we headed downstairs where Andrey, our wonderful driver, found a copy center for us. We had a previous issue with paperwork for Moscow, and not knowing that we needed to bring such copies. So we emailed coordinators and had files emailed to us and saved them to a flash drive. We were freaking out. But things worked itself out quickly, and the copy center was awesome.

Next stop, Andrey took us to purchase our train tickets to Moscow. We ultimately had the choice on how to travel - but since there was construction at the St. Pete airport, and people were missing flights because of it, we chose the train. It was a good thing we chose train. Andrey's smooth talking got us 3 tickets and Deeana was half off. We only paid about $200!

And that brings us to our break. We've had a few days to explore the city, start packing, and clean up our apartment.
We have visited many sites over the past couple days. We walked through Petrograd and saw a beautiful mosque decorated in mosaic tiles. We walked along the the Neva River and saw a pectopah (restaurant) sailboat. We took pictures of the Peter and Paul Fortress from afar - at that point, our feet were very tired!

On a quick side note, I have been having trouble with shoes. I tripped earlier in the trip and needed bigger sandals to compensate. Then recently sliced my flip flops on the escalators on the Metro. To top things off, I forgot my gym shoes. LOL. So we headed to the mall (several times)... in search of shoes. We found a great store called Ecco, and I quickly tried on a pair and was out the door in time for our next excursion. So glad they were half off!

The next day we headed out to explore the Geological Museum. Michael and I enjoyed oohing and ahhing over gems, stones and even a meteorite! We took home a cool souvenir - amazonite. The museum was so large, we could have been there all day. Afterwards we took a trolley and walked to find the Dancing Fountain, but unfortunately... it didn't happen while we were there. Instead we saw lots of brides and grooms coming to the Strelka to "get hitched", take pictures, and celebrate. It was a very beautiful spot to sit and rest our tired feet, and take in a beautiful view of the city.

Monday we head out to pick up Deeana's passport and pick up some last minute gifts. Where we will put all this stuff, we don't know ;) . Then, Tuesday is out big day - Gotcha Day. We will head to the orphanage early we assume (times will come later) and pick up Deeana. Then we head to the train station.

Here are a few pics that we have taken over the several days, we hope you enjoy!

M&M in front of a mosque
A Mosque

Pectopah Sailboat

Geological Museum:  Russia - Map made entirely out of gems & stones.

Geo. Museum - wonderful place to stroll!

Meteorite - called "Seymchan" found in 1967

Taken at the Strelka

Officially... A Great Day!

Hello faithful followers, hubby writing today about yesterday and today.

First, yesterday (Monday) we were warned that was going to be a LONG day with lots of running around - collecting paperwork, signing paperwork, dropping off paperwork...supposedly could take up to 8 hours to complete.  But our wonderfully efficient in country coordinator had it done in less than 2 hours (despite Russia's propensity for working on road construction out of the blue)!  We picked up the official court decision, the 10 day waiting period for any objections has passed, and it is OFFICIAL (again).

Next up a drive to Deeana's birthplace to pick up copies of her birth certificate and adoption certificate, including signing the official registrar's book declaring ourselves the adopted parents of Deeana! And finally driving to the orphanage to drop off copies of paperwork, but it was naptime so no playtime with Deeana.  The orphanage knows what is best to right now - to limit the amount of time with Deeana, to reduce stress, take complete medical and dietary care of Deena to ensure she is healthy for the long trips she is about to embark on with us.

This gave us time to go shopping with our driver to a new grocery store. When a new grocery store opens they always have the cheapest prices. So we bought gifts for the caregivers, doctor, and speech therapist at the orphanage. Everyone will receive coffee (instant of course), tea, and some chocolate candy. The doctor and speech therapist will receive a bottle of wine.  And the orphanage director loves flowers, so we will pick her up a nice bouquet of flowers the morning we return to pick up Deeana.

As a quick aside, speaking of flowers, Russians love their flowers.  A day doesn't go by that we don't see a guy carrying a rose or two to give to his girlfriend or wife at the Metro stop or just walking down the sidewalks.  Funny story from our driver, he has seen on a few occasions, guys park illegally to run in to buy flowers only to have the police quickly have their cars towed...oops...then you either spend 2 to 3 hours getting your car back or grab a taxi to meet up with your loved one.

The best part of the quickness of the day meant Mel and I could talk with Hayden, we were a little fearful we were going to miss talking to him.  (HI HAYDEN!) Then we made some meatballs and veggies for dinner that we bought at the grocery store and relaxed watching some shows we brought with us from home.

As the passport office is not open on Tuesday, Mel and I had a free day before another possible long day tomorrow. We decided to take a boat tour of the canals that our driver recommended to us and it isn't that expensive.  Looking in the Lonely Planet book I found an English speaking tour place.  Fortunately, I checked the website on-line and it turns out they moved their location from where the book claimed they were.  A quick ride on the Metro and another stop at our favorite street, Nevsky Prospekt and we were on our way.

It appeared to be a long walk, so we stopped for lunch at Sbarro (yes Sbarro, just like in the States), but here you pick up your food and they weigh it to see how much you owe. Plus (no offense to those who love Sbarro's), much better here in Russia.  Fortunately, while we were eating there appeared to be a downpour that we missed. That long walk, ended up to be quite a bit shorter than I expected as Mel saw the 4 bronze Horsemen that adorn the bridge where the boat tour is located.  We were early enough to take some pics of the amazing architecture and the bridge before purchasing our tickets.

As our tour guide was walking towards us, she informed us we were the only ones on the cruise... Cool! We had the whole boat to ourselves, most cruises like that cost 4 times as much as we paid!  The weather had cooled off considerable from the past few days, it was chilly but comfortable, plus we had blankets to drape over our legs.  I took as many pictures as I could, and Mel filmed brief videos of various locations.

After the hour-long cruise, we snapped some pics of more architecture and Catherine the Great's statue before heading into Gostiny Dvor for some quick souvenir shopping.

Us on the boat as we head out to sea. ;)
The Peter & Paul Fortress

This neat boat is actually a restaurant!

And now we prepare to head to bed early as we must wake up early to get a ticket to wait in line at the Passport Office (it can take up to 5 hours of waiting in line).  Afterwards, we will purchase our train tickets to Moscow, once again with the help of our driver (really, truly a terrific person!).

Michael and Mel 2 comments

A Few Pics...

While we sit through some dreary weather, I thought we would post some pictures that we have sitting on our computer. Even though we may not post a lot on the weekends, we are still thinking of all our family and friends.
On a side note, we truly appreciate all the comments that have been posted and thank you for all your support - they mean a lot to us! ;)

Taken at the Peterhof Fountains

Armenian Church of St. Catherine

Home of the American Consulate during WWI,
& of the Singer Sewing Machine, now it's a cafe & book store

Just one of several garden sculptures,
Divo Ostrov Park on the island of Krestovsky Island

A Learning Curve

A picture from July 15, 2011
On the ride home from the orphanage today, I had a lot of thoughts going through my head. I'm sure everyone knew I was stressing about the visit we had just had. Deeana "performed" better than her previous car visit, much thanks to favorite care taker. But Deeana didn't really want to leave her side - not even for a second. In the car, Andrey our driver, was kind enough to translate some questions we had about Deeana. And the care taker had no problem answering them.

Because the trip took up most of our visit, we only had 15 minutes of alone time with Deeana today (a little glitch about how many photos were actually needed, required us to turn back around and do some retakes). Once we got back... Deeana was again, very hesitant to play with Me or Michael. Though we brought her a new doll and a banana (it was too late for snack at this point)... she didn't want us to play with her with it. She clung onto it with the toughest grip.

Eventually Andrey came in and saved the day... and well... that was hard for me. To see him being able to communicate so easily, her speaking to him (barely though). And telling him that she needed to go potty. They quickly took care of business and she seemed to perk up a bit - but she wasn't the Deeana we had been seeing in the weeks past.

Once we said our goodbyes... we hopped into the car, and I held back my tears. Andrey eventually received a phone call from our in-country coordinator and I later found out they were talking about Deeana and us. Apparently, her behavior towards us is normal. She saw us as cool people who brought her new toys all the time, and played with her. But then we kept coming and coming. She became anxious.

They call her smart in Russia - we would call her mature in the States. She needs to be aware of her surroundings and what is happening. Because she is being adopted at an older age they say is partly the reason. We all think she knows change is happening, and is nervous. I guess if I were in her shoes, I would be nervous about 2 people trying to play with me all the time who I don't understand, and don't understand me.

So after chatting with Andrey, we arrived back at the apartment and I hopped out of his van. He, like the gentleman his always is, let out his hand to help me down. But this time he held on and told me not to worry.

Once inside, I pulled up all my Russian adoption resources online and made a list. A list of translations to help us better communicate with Deeana when our time comes to bring her to Moscow. "Are you hungry?" Are you tired?" Do you need to go to the bathroom?", etc... one page long... so far.

I know this will be hard, but we are prepared. No one ever said learning was easy.

Monday, we go and receive our court decision. It will be a busy day.

Paka! 1 comments

The Road to Change

Today with Deeana was rougher than yesterday - and even without trying the car!

We met her in the playground out back again and when she saw Michael and I she started to whimper immediately. I knelt down to her, put my arms out and she let me pick her up. But she started to cry. Andrey, our driver, suggested we go find a playground, but a quiet one. So we walked around to the front of the orphanage and we headed to our usual spot. However, we quickly got shooed out because there was a small group of toddlers playing in there with the flu and we couldn't be near them.

So our driver said how about this spot here under the trees. Well that spot was buggy and had uneven ground and lots of low tree branches with a low bench that would have broke if Deeana sat on it. Meanwhile we did our best to console her, but nothing was working. Nothing! She wouldn't really stay in Michael's arms for long, poor Papa. So eventually I took her for a walk. She started crying when I brought her back. So I ended up picking her up again. Finally, I said enough and we went to sit on some stairs. She didn't like that either because she thought she was going inside the door at the top of the stairs. OYE!.

So we tried everything, again. But this time we added a snack. It helped a tiny bit, but tears still trickled. Eventually our driver came and said we could go back to the playground. NOW? Not that it will help much - We only had 15 minutes left.

So we tried a 3rd time to calm her down and make her happy, but all Deeana wanted was to be held. Our driver tried talking to her. He asked her if she was sick, he asked... he got nothing. He asked if she felt hot... it's 85 degrees... we're all hot.

And once again it was time to go. He talked to her again. Andrey found out she was hungry, and wanted to play with her friends. She wanted a banana, and a new toy (he suggested a small doll).We walked her back inside, down the hall, and up the stairs. She seemed happier to be back with her familiar surroundings. She even let Michael pick her up, give her a kiss and then onto me.

It's heartbreaking to see her cry and not be able to help her, communicate with her, or know her needs and wants. But it's something we will all have to come to terms with in the coming weeks.

Tomorrow we will be doing passport pictures, as Deeana's favorite caretaker is available to join us for the trip. We are crossing our fingers our little darling is able to relax better in the arms of a more familiar face... for what is supposed to be a short trip.

Paka, until tomorrow! 1 comments

No Photo Today... :(

It was a rough day for Deeana today. We met her at the playground, which is unusual. But only because we detoured around construction, got stuck in traffic, got stuck in more traffic because of construction. Huh... it was a mess. But we were only 15 minutes late.

Anyway, she was already sad when we met her outside. Maybe it was because she knew she was going in a car, or they had put her in a diaper, which she normally isn't. Maybe it was because we were late... or maybe all 3 threw her into a funk. Who knows... but still, the caregiver took her inside for a quick outfit change (as she needs to wear white for the passport photo) and brought her back, she was a bit reluctant to come me. Me - Mommy, ouch!

So, we head outside to our driver's van. As I set her down on the bench seat in the back, she starts crying, slowly turning to a wail. I climbed in, but her reaching arms and her scooting bottom meant Daddy needed to grab her - fast! By then we were both in the car, and it didn't look good. We were doing everything we could think of, her ball, Goldfish crackers. Nothing worked. And then we got word that a caregiver would NOT be joining us today as they were too busy. Ummm... time to reschedule. Crying toddlers do not make good passport pictures.

A little background info on why she didn't like the car. Most children in orphanages don't like cars (from our driver's perspective). Reason being because usually the only reason they are being put in a car is to go visit a doctor. And what happens at the doctor? Kids don't like to be poked and prodded.

So we are hoping to try again tomorrow if a caregiver is available. But we have a few days, so we aren't in too much of a hurry.

After that, we headed to the park. But Deeana was in no mood to play. She didn't want to be consoled, tickled, shown her favorite toys... nothing! Eventually we went to sit on the bench (immediately before this Deeana had let me pick her up and hold her, she started to snuggle. Once at the bench, she molded her body into mine) and we tried again. Ball? No. Magna-doodle, No. Photo Album... Eh, Let's practice saying Hayden again... She is getting better, she is starting to say "Hay" in a quiet whisper.
We then moved onto snack. Michael held the snack bowl there for a few minutes and then she slowly stuck her hand out and ate. And ate and ate and ate. Then we took out her sippy cup. And drank and drank and drank. This is when she perked up. She eventually sat up and she said "thank you" in Russian - nice and loud. Well, hello! Nice to hear your beautiful voice!!! All we've heard before were whispers.

Later on we played bubbles, and before we knew it, it was time to go. Unfortunately, because our hands were so busy with Deeana - we didn't get a chance to pull out our camera. Not even once. :(

Paka, until tomorrow! 0 comments

One Week, One Day

We had another fun and exciting day with Deeana. It's amazing to think we have been here a week and a day. We have gone through so much and done so much since we got here. And now we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Deeana was brought down the stairs and taken outside by a caregiver in a very pretty yellow dress today. We, meaning all three of us, made sure we kept it clean or brushed it off.

We started our playtime in a quiet mode. We aren't sure if they wake Deeana up for our visits, or if she is just naturally sleepy in the morning. But she is quiet and timid... and we have never ever heard her get loud. Anyway, we sat on the bench in the playground in the front of the orphanage and started to read her a Care Bear book. She is learning from Daddy to follow the words with her finger when you read, and when we are finished with the book, we count stars or hearts or bears. We kept things simple and relaxing since it is a very hot day here today.

Eventually we moved onto something else (we have many toys in our bag and by now, I can't even remember what came next!). We figured she was thirsty, sitting on Daddy's lap and playing in the hot weather. So we pulled out an apple juice box. Her eyes light up brighter than the morning sun. She must have remembered this from our earlier visit and was eager for me to open it. She guzzled and guzzled while we talked to her and read more books.

We are learning that Deeana is very aware of her surroundings. At first I thought it was her having trouble concentrating, or being easily distracted. Don't get me wrong, she still plays with us, she's happy and content. But every once and awhile, she will turn her head and "poof" she's not paying attention anymore. But we now think she is just watching the strangers that are around - being overly cautious. Sometimes it's hard to get her attention when we are playing with her outside if other children are out as well. She is on constant watch, and we are always calling her name. We hope that once she comes home, we will have a calmer environment and she can relax and let her guard down.

Once all the children went in, we had about 30 minutes of Deeana all to ourselves (this is common). We played more sandbox. She almost rode the Cozy Coupe again, etc. We got a lot more hugs today and she realized that Mommy will pick her up if she puts her arms up in the air - Mommy has to be careful about that one as we don't want to spoil her. ;)
We also confirmed that she doesn't like heights - as Daddy tried to put her on his shoulders, she had a fearful look on her face. I had to lift Deeana off very fast and calm her down with hugs. She got over it quickly.

Anyway, we have a 4 day break and have to put up with a little Russian heatwave ourselves. We go back to the orphanage on Tuesday, and Deeana will most likely take her first car trip with her Mommy and Daddy to get her passport pictures taken. That should be interesting.

Until then, here is a little something to hold you over:

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