Saturday, February 20, 2010

Goodbye Kitty

We went to our good friend Morgan's birthday party today, the little beauty turned 2.
It was a Hello Kitty party.
Tons of jumping and fun, lots of good cake and cotton candy and messy fabulous lip gloss in the take-away bags for the girls.

Here's the result:

Please note that I blew this up so you can clearly see her very pink face!!

Oh what a day!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Random Cuteness

Little to say...Everyone is happy, healthy and hilarious. 
I've joined a Boot Camp to kick my butt into gear and start exercising.  It's 4 weeks long and I've just finished the first week.  I'm still walking upright so that's a good sign.

Here are some random cute munchkin pics:

Kara with the Doctor's glasses getting ready to go outside.

Is it Officer Cooper or Dr. Cooper??

Kara and her best fur-sister watching t.v. almost falling asleep.

Just a boy on his basketball

Coop cleaning the pool - he didn't want to get his hands "all messy" fingerpainting with Kara.

Kara fingerpainting outside - or I should say hand painting!

See my beautiful creation?

Big boy with gelled hair

Coop playing with his train in the family room- yes, that's our cocktail table now!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Developments and Dilemmas - Cooper

As I watch the kids grow and develop, I'm amazed at how far they've come in the 16 months that they've been home.

This pic is at a Rockets game - Cooper asked me when the fire was going to come out!
He thought we were there to watch a rocket launch!  Funny boy.

Cooper, 4 1/2 years old, is a bright little guy.  He's clever, observant, witty, caring, loving and sweet.   He colors within the lines and very neatly.  He's starting to spell and read.  He writes his name and all of his letters well. He can cut with a scissors well.  He knows shapes, the alphabet and can recognize numbers written as well as spoken.  His fine motor skills are excellent.  His gross motor skills are excellent. He can run, kick, stand and hop on one foot - he can do everything he needs to do for Kindergarten in August.
Here's a readiness checklist for KG:

Fine Motor Skills
1. Puts a 10- to 12-piece puzzle together  - can put together a 24 piece puzzle together easily
2. Holds scissors correctly - Yes
3. Holds a pencil or crayon properly - Yes
Gross Motor Skills
1. Runs, jumps and skips - Yes
2. Walks backward - Yes
3. Walks up and down stairs - Yes
Social Skills
1. Uses words instead of being physical when angry - Yes
2. Speaks clearly so an adult can understand him/her - Yes
3. Plays with other children - Yes
4. Follows simple directions - Yes
5. Expresses feelings and needs - Yes
6. Goes to the bathroom by him/herself - Yes
7. Waits his/her turn and shares - Yes
8. Talks in sentences - Yes
9. Asks questions about things around him/her - A LOT!
10. Enjoys having books read to him/her  - Yes
11. Can tell a story about a past event - Yes
12. Says "please" and "thank you" - Yes
13. Can spend extended periods away from Mom and Dad - Yes
Academic Skills
1. Recognizes shapes (square, circle, triangle, rectangle) - Yes
2. Can sort items by color, shape and size  - Yes
3. Can identify six parts of his/her body - Yes
4. Understands concept words such as up, down, in, out, behind, over - Yes
5. Counts from 1 to 10 - Counts to 30+
6. Recognizes five colors - Yes, more
7. Tries to write his/her name - Yes, writes it very well
8. Recognizes his/her written name - Yes, LOVES Mini Coopers!
Personal Information
1. Knows his/her full name - Yes
2. Knows how old he/she is  - Yes
3. Knows his/her address and telephone number - Working on it
4. Knows his/her mother and father's first names - Yes

He passes this test with flying colors and he's not starting until August.  
Our dilemma?   
Well, his maturity level is a little lower than the other kids.  Sometimes he gets too silly and has a hard time settling down when he's in 'that' mode.  He's especially silly when he gets excited - like when we have company (of course, right?).  It's really not excessive so that's not my main concern - I think he'll mature out of it.  The main concern is that he's so small for his age.  He's 37" tall and weighs 33 lbs.  YES, he eats!  He is growing at a normal rate, on the normal curve, just below where he should be. 
We've had him examined by the Pediatrician who had us take an x-ray of his hand.  Their determination was that he has Constitutional Growth Delay.  His bone age is delayed and it's due to genetics not disease.  According to them, he will catch up in puberty.
Since his birthday is in July, he could either be the oldest in the class or the youngest.  We are leaning towards sending him to KG twice so that he'll be one of the older kids.  That will at least give him an extra year to grow. 
The school he's in now only goes up to KG, so we would put him in another private school that starts from PreK to 8th grade for his second KG.  He'll be with different kids, different teacher, different everything.  I think it will be a good transition year to get to know the new school since he'll already know the academics.
Jim and I have talked about this at length - 
What do you think?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Attachment: Version 397.2

It's an ongoing thing.  Now that the kids have been with us for over a year, sometimes we tend to treat them just like 'home grown' kids.  They're not. 
We must continue to remember that they have come from an insecure, unstable background. 
They have had many major changes in their short lives.
They love us and we love them, but is the trust 100%?  That's what must we strive to achieve, daily.

I made a little book for Cooper and Kara to read whenever they want.  It's on the bookshelf along with the other thousand or so books.  It's a short story with actual pictures of how we became a family - in toddler terms - it's very basic.  They've looked at it many times and it has always sparked questions (as it's intended to do).
About 2 weeks ago I was reading it to Cooper and he cried when I got to the part where the kids were in the baby home and we were visiting them for the first time.  I gently asked why he was crying.  How did he feel? Angry? Sad? Mad at Mommy and Daddy?  He said he was mad. 
My stomach was in knots. 
I had made this book for them to know the truth about their history - I don't want there to be a big "reveal" when they're older. 
I told him it was ok to be mad and to tell me about why he was mad.
He said he wanted to go back to Russia. 
Now I was about to cry.
Then he said he wanted to go back to get his things - his hat, his clothes. But he wanted all of us to come with him.  Yay, I thought - he does love us!
Then, "Why did you leave?"  Ugh, there goes my stomach again.  I told him that we had to come back to Texas to get their rooms ready before we picked them up from Russia.
I explained to him that he has a lot of clothes here and that he will always have many clothes to choose from and they're all his, no one else can wear his clothes.  And we will go back to Russia one day, just to visit. 

We've read the book a few times since then and seems ok.
I don't know if I think he was trying to say he has a hole in his past and he needs to fill it or if he was just feeling sad and tired at that moment - or he simply wanted to go get his things...  OR if he thinks that we were his biological parents and have now come back. 
As he grows older, their story will unfold and get clearer but I don't want to muddle thier minds yet with too much information.

Whatever he was feeling, I know he needs to know the truth (vaguely at this age) about his past and that we need to continue to reassure him that we will always be there for him, even when he's older and has children of his own. Obviously - the same goes for Kara who is walking around with the book 24/7 these days.  When she looks at her crib in the baby home, she says Kara's!! and gets very excited. I don't think it's from memory, but from us showing her that that was where she slept.   I think she was too young to remember anything about the orphanage (not to say she wasn't affected by it, but doesn't actually remember it).

I came across an article I had seen a long time ago and I love this analogy. 
It's from the book Adoption Parenting - Creating a Toolbox, Building Connections.

A Different Perspective

Immense Loss; Walk a Mile in Baby’s Booties

Imagine for a moment…

You have met the person you've dreamed about all your life. He has every quality that you desire in a spouse. You plan for the wedding, enjoying every free moment with your fiancée. You love his touch, his smell, the way he looks into your eyes. For the first time in your life, you understand what is meant by "soul mate," for this person understands you in a way that no one else does. Your heart beats in rhythm with his. Your emotions are intimately tied to his every joy, his every sorrow.

The wedding comes. It is a happy celebration, but the best part is that you are finally the wife of this wonderful man. You fall asleep that night, exhausted from the day's events, but relaxed and joyful in the knowledge that you are next to the person who loves you more than anyone in the world…the person who will be with you for the rest of your life.

The next morning you wake up, nestled in your partner's arms. You open your eyes and immediately look for his face.

But IT'S NOT HIM! You are in the arms of another man. You recoil in horror. Who is this man? Where is your beloved?

You ask questions of the new man, but it quickly becomes apparent that he doesn't understand you. You search every room in the house, calling and calling for your husband. The new guy follows you around, trying to hug you, pat you on the back,...even trying to stroke your arm, acting like everything is okay.

But you know that nothing is okay. Your beloved is gone. Where is he? Will he return? When? What has happened to him?

Weeks pass. You cry and cry over the loss of your beloved. Sometimes you ache silently, in shock over what has happened. The new guy tries to comfort you. You appreciate his attempts, but he doesn't speak your language-either verbally or emotionally. He doesn't seem to realize the terrible thing that has happened...that your sweetheart is gone.

You find it difficult to sleep. The new guy tries to comfort you at bedtime with soft words and gentle touches, but you avoid him, preferring to sleep alone, away from him and any intimate words or contact.

Months later, you still ache for your beloved, but gradually you are learning to trust this new guy. He's finally learned that you like your coffee black, not doctored up with cream and sugar. Although you still don't understand his bedtime songs, you like the lilt of his voice and take some comfort in it.

More time passes. One morning, you wake up to find a full suitcase sitting next to the front door. You try to ask him about it, but he just takes you by the hand and leads you to the car. You drive and drive and drive. Nothing is familiar. Where are you? Where is he taking you?

You pull up to a large building. He leads you to an elevator and up to a room filled with people. Many are crying. Some are ecstatic with joy. You are confused. And worried.

The man leads you over to the corner. Another man opens his arms and sweeps you up in an embrace. He rubs your back and kisses your cheeks, obviously thrilled to see you.

You are anything but thrilled to see him. Who in the world is he? Where is your beloved? You reach for the man who brought you, but he just smiles (although he seems to be tearing up, which concerns you), pats you on the back, and puts your hand in the hands of the new guy. The new guy picks up your suitcase and leads you to the door. The familiar face starts openly crying, waving and waving as the elevator doors close on you and the new guy.

The new guy drives you to an airport and you follow him, not knowing what else to do. Sometimes you cry, but then the new guy tries to make you smile, so you grin back, wanting to "get along." You board a plane. The flight is long. You sleep a lot, wanting to mentally escape from the situation.

Hours later, the plane touches down. The new guy is very excited and leads you into the airport where dozens of people are there to greet you. Light bulbs flash as your photo is taken again and again. The new guy takes you to another guy who hugs you. Who is this one? You smile at him. Then you are taken to another man who pats your back and kisses your cheek. Then yet another fellow gives you a big hug and messes your hair.

Finally, someone (which guy is this?) pulls you into his arms with the biggest hug you've ever had. He kisses you all over your cheeks and croons to you in some language you've never heard before.

He leads you to a car and drives you to another location. Everything here looks different. The climate is not what you're used to. The smells are strange. Nothing tastes familiar, except for the black coffee. You wonder if someone told him that you like your coffee black.

You find it nearly impossible to sleep. Sometimes you lie in bed for hours, staring into the blackness, furious with your husband for leaving you, yet aching from the loss. The new guy checks on you. He seems concerned and tries to comfort you with soft words and a mug of warm milk. You turn away, pretending to go to asleep.

People come to the house. You can feel the anxiety start to bubble over as you look into the faces of all the new people. You tightly grasp the new guy's hand. He pulls you closer. People smile and nudge one other, marveling at how quickly you've fallen in love. Strangers reach for you, wanting to be a part of the happiness.

Each time a man hugs you, you wonder if he will be the one to take you away. Just in case, you keep your suitcase packed and ready. Although the man at this house is nice and you're hanging on for dear life, you've learned from experience that men come and go, so you just wait in expectation for the next one to come along.

Each morning, the new guy hands you a cup of coffee and looks at you expectantly. A couple of times the pain and anger for your husband is so great that you lash out, sending hot coffee across the room, causing the new guy to yelp in pain. He just looks at you, bewildered. But most of the time you calmly take the cup. You give him a smile. And wait. And wait. And wait.

--Written by Cynthia Hockman-Chupp, analogy courtesy of Dr. Kali Miller