Tag Archives: Bonding

The Post That I Actually Write

I have gotten quite terrible at updating. Honestly, good weather, and I’m busy. I am busy with my Etsy store and my new obsession with the Wii Fit… oh and the two little kids.

I had been thinking that I needed to have an Ilya date sometime. He and I hardly ever spent time alone together and we could just use the bonding time. I was meaning to run this past Aaron. Well, then today, Ilya told Aaron that he did not want to go to the playground, he wanted to stay home and look at books. This is the time when I usually make dinner, but I made some time to read a couple of books with him. I think it’s good for us to have alone time. Especially doing a low-key activity like that. He is still really excelling with learning new things. Today I started to teach him how to write his name.

This is Lena learning how to bat her eyelashes.

Aaron was out of town the other night and I had bathtime and bedtime all to myself. The kids take really long bathes, so we just sit in there on the computer or reading. I was just surfing the web and found this song… it is a new favorite…

And they could not stop singing it…

It’s pretty amazing how much they have grown and how healthy they look since they’ve been home. I notice Lena’s hair today. This is from the orphanage…

This is from a few days ago…

See how long it’s geting and how much healthier it looks?

I’ll try to get better at blogging for you all, but honestly, it’s a bit hard when the sun is shining or my Mii is calling to do another 30 minutes of yoga…

About Lena

I think I blogged a bit more detailed about Ilya, because he is more of a roller coaster ride of both highs and lows. Troubles and dramatic progress. Lena on the other hand, changes a bit slower and it is harder for me to notice.

But, there were a few things yesterday that showed me just how much she is changing, growing and settling in with us. First, I got an email from a friend. I was about something which I had been planning to ask for help with, and boom, before I even asked, this friend was offering exactly what I was hoping for. I hope to share more of that with you when things progress. Anyways, along with this wonderful thing she was sharing, she also sent me this photo…

Honestly, the more I look at that photo and think about it, the more I want to cry.

It just reminds me of all of those photos we saw of her, before we knew her. Like this…

Or this…

Even in one where she is smiling, in our blog header, my aunt commented that she just didn’t seem as happy as Ilya did… that she looked a bit sad underneath that smile.

Who is Lena now?

She is joyful.

Full of life.

And personality.

Another thing which reminded me of how smart and silly she is was when we were skype-ing with my mom and nephews today. My computer was about to run out of juice, so I asked her to sing to them until I came back. And she did, just smiling and singing about wanting an apple. Then, I asked her to sing about Puppytown and then the ABCs. Yes, she sang them all. Putting on a good show for her Babushka Lola’s birthday. Did she get beyond a couple lines of each song? “Mooo”, as she’d tell you, but she understood what I asked her and she sang.

My sister emailed me a few months ago, when we were having trouble with Lena screaming and throwing tantrums. My sister knew how totally miserable it was for everyone and her insight was simply that Lena was alive and fighting. That she was one tough little girl and that would serve her well in life.

Looking back, I can see how true that is. But, now, she is alive, strong and joyful. She is happy and silly. She laughs and will make others laugh to no end. Given the choice to walk or be carried, she usually says “ca weh”. Watch out if you tickle her or play with her hair, she will quickly return the favor. She is just a goofball. Smart, funny, happy and ALIVE.

One Month

We’ve been home for one month. Kind of hard to believe and kind of feels like longer. Like really, Miss Lena was such a little terror just one month ago? All of her behavior has improved so much with routine and time.

Like I mentioned, Lena is really adjusting. She rarely gets upset at all anymore. And when she does, it usually because a need needs to be met… sleep, food, too hot, too cold, scared, etc. It is no longer out of grief or for attention. She is thriving. Every night, she sits on my lap and cuddles with me and asks for kisses from me and her papa. Throughout the day, she frequently climbs on my lap. When it is just the two of us, she is often content to just sit on my lap and watch me work through emails. Or like she did tonight, just sit on a chair waiting me while I screenprinted a t-shirt. One of her challenges is that she hates being left out. So even if she is happy playing with me one minute, if papa and Ilya are taking the dogs out, she wants to go too.

Ilya is still adjusting, yet he is also flourishing. As the rest of us sink back into life, he is still figuring out his place. He is still learning what we expect of him. His vocabulary continues to grow like crazy as he repeats everything we say. He talks or sings non-stop, in a crazy mix of Russian and English. He is so creative too. He sometimes calls us “Mommy” “Poppy” and “Lainey”. Other times, she is just “Len”. He adores his Papa so much that when Papa comes home from work, we girls are deafened by ear drum pounding screams of “Papa’s home! Papa’s home!” He asks his Papa to carry him constantly, which led Papa to ask me one day, “when do kids no longer want to be carried?” He can really be fun or really wear us out or both.

One of the biggest challenges for us, adopting two child who are very different, is how we treat them when they are together. Despite just 11 months apart between them, they almost always have very different reactions to situations. The way we treat them needs to adapt for each of them, but that does not always go over so well. For example, Lena needs to be carried more often, which makes Ilya jealous. With Ilya, he will take the time to play with toys like puzzles by himself and Lena likes to copy this behavior, but gets frustrated when she cannot do them without one of us helping her. And sometimes resorts to trying to get in the way of Ilya doing his puzzle.

Photo on 2011-01-22 at 17.02
Just another example. One photo of the three of us, but when I gently pulled his hand down, trying to get a better photo, he got angry and started pouting.

Photo on 2011-01-22 at 17.03 #3
So back to just the two of us.

We’re still just chugging along, trying to figure out what makes each other tick…


Last week, I got a very encouraging email from a fellow blogger who has been home just a couple weeks longer than us with her 3 year old daughter. She wanted to let me know how she struggled at first and now things were now improving, right around the one month mark.

I was thinking about this last night, as yesterday was one full month we’ve had custody of Ilya and Lena. And as I reflected on yesterday last night, I was thinking “wow, that wasn’t so bad.” Lena barely cried or screamed at naptime two days ago and not at all yesterday. That makes my day so much better. Three days ago, she was doing her 20-minute crying and screaming routine.

I’ve learned that Ilya really does better with just one adult around. Even if the second adult is not a disciplinarian with him, he really just does better if it is just me. Since my mom is home, and Aaron is back at work, he has been behaving a lot better this week. Wayyy fewer tantrums. He constantly amazes me with his English. Today, we were joking around. I was pretending to eat his play-doh food he was making me and then I told him to eat, ’cause this was his lunch. He said to me, “Ne cashow(don’t want), ne play-doh. I’ll take ummm… pasta.” He sings the ABC song ALL THE TIME. This morning, he asked me if there was milk on his cereal. He is a very “with it” kid. Always paying attention, asking questions, repeating things. One of the funniest things about his speech is that he cannot say “h”. It always comes out as a “c” sound. So hands are cands, hurt is curt.

Lena has really, really improved. I mentioned the no-screaming at naptime thing. I think we could make it through the whole day without her screaming now. If she takes a decent nap, she is way better behaved in the evening. Lena has such a great sense of humor. This morning, the dogs started barking when Aaron let them outside and Lena started crying. This was 5am. Instead of getting up and sitting with her until she calmed down I just brought her into bed with me. We both fell back to sleep and then I woke up to her tickling me. She has developed a good bond with me. Every night when we watch a movie, I settle in, then turn to her and ask if she wants to sit on my lap. Without fail, every time, she gets so excited.

We’ve also added a nightly bath to our routine. Both of them get SO excited about it. BUBBLES. We have no bath toys, but last week, my mom suggested giving them cups to play with. Huge hit. They love pouring the water with their cups. Both of them had been throwing fits about getting out of the tub, but yesterday, I told Lena it was time to get out and she stood right up. As I got her ready for bed, Ilya picked up all of the toys and put them in the basket next to the tub. He asks me every night for his train pajamas. Too bad the shirt is so small on him that it comes unbuttoned within a few minutes. I may have to be on the lookout for different train pajamas!

Here are their weekly photos, which I forgot one week. Ilya finally decided to have fun with it!

The Good and the Bad

I’ll start you off with the bad. Both kids had huge meltdowns today. Ilya’s came in the morning. He was in the kitchen with Aaron, he ran into the living room where I was, threw a piece of cardboard and a few papers on the ground and ran back into the kitchen. I went to go get him to pick up the papers and he just started screaming and crying. I think he knew what he was doing was not okay to begin with and I wonder if he was expecting a far worse punishment. His “punishment” was sitting with me until he calmed down. It took awhile. He cried for at least twenty minutes. I think the whole situation over the past two days may have just hit him right then.

Lena’s meltdown came in the evening, walking back from a fun night out. She just started crying and screaming and would not stop. Meredith Cornish tried to comfort her in her sling and gave her some hand warmers. But Lena just cried and cried and cried. She was cold, tired, and had to go to the bathroom. Meanwhile, Ilya kept telling us he had to go to the bathroom and Aaron and I argued over walking or taking a cab. Not our family’s finest moment.

But, the good. Apart from the meltdowns, we had a good day. We decided to go out for lunch, to TGI Friday’s. Not the greatest or cheapest restaurant, but Aaron and I have both been homesick for America food. Taking Ilya and Lena into TGI Fridays was so worth it too. Ilya was so excited about all of the food. It was like a scene out of a movie. I took this video when we were about halfway through the meal. I wish I had taken one when the waitress first brought out all of the food… total awe on Ilya’s face.

After we ate lunch, we took the kids to the underground mall. That was fascinating for them. Of course, they liked the toys the best. Here they are, faces pressed up against the glass.



We still had some time to kill before meeting up with Meredith & co. so we got ice cream. They may have never had ice cream before, especially not chocolate. Oh boy. Another movie moment, this time with both of them. The sweetest part? We just got one cup and they shared it. Ilya would take a few bites, Lena would ask for it, and he’d hand it over. She’d take a couple of bites and hand it right back. I have to say that this surprised me a bit. I expected them to be more possessive of something so yummy, but nope. I love how they enjoy these experiences, but also are so good at sharing and taking care of each other.



We met up with Meredith, her newest daughter Aleksa, and her friend Chris. We walked to see all of the Christmas lights. The kids seemed a bit bored until we got to the huge Christmas tree and tons of characters dressed up. Santa everywhere. Ilya would hardly budge, he just wanted to stare at Santa. We walked along, down to this underground mall to get some dinner for Meredith and co. We were not hungry yet, but Meredith shared some of her fries with the kids. When we walked home was when Lena’s meltdown began.



As I said before, she calmed down once we got home. We skyped with some family. First Aaron’s sister, her husband and sobaka (dog). The kids enjoyed that. And when we were done, we skyped with my family- mom, sister and sister’s kids minus one. That was fun too. The kids seem to have fun with each through skype, feeding each other crackers. Lena loves my sister’s baby, too.

Bedtime with Lena seems to be getting a bit better every night. Tonight she still cried, but she fought me less. She eventually laid down on the pillow with a big smile on her face.

Ilya, wow, he impressed me tonight. We decided to wait to put him to bed until Lena was asleep and the screaming was over. We had the door to the bedroom open, where Lena and I were sitting. Aaron was folding laundry in the bathroom. Without being asked, Ilya picked up all of the toys, the computer, etc. and piled them neatly on the desk in the bedroom. He put the clothes on the bedroom floor in the suitcase. When he was done, he asked me if I wanted him to turn off the light, and I told him yes and thank you. He got a big smile on his face, obviously pleased to know that I was pleased, and shut the door. I have to say, sometimes I am shocked that he is only 3. He has his meltdowns and some bad behavior, but then he does something exceptional like that.

Meredith commented tonight that it is hard to believe they’re just 11 months apart. I would have to agree! Lena is so small. People often refer to her as a baby and she can act like an older baby, crying to get her needs met and mimicking everything that the three of us do. Her behavior all seems normal if I think of her as 18 months old, instead of 3. Ilya on the other hand sometimes acts like a typical 3 year old, but he has moments like the one I described above, behavior which seem to be beyond his age. He also talks so much, and is happy to teach me Russian. We have a book with mostly just pictures and I will point to a photo and he will tell me what it is, I’ll repeat the word back and if I say it right, he’ll say “da” (“yes”) and if I say it wrong, he’ll repeat it again. Today when we were at the mall, someone’s McDonalds bag fell off of their table and he picked it up and handed it back to them, without any kind of request. He seems to have a strong desire to have things orderly and to help others.