Sunday, July 22, 2007

Good News!

The adoption agency reimbursed us for our last minute tickets! This is such a relief! We talked to the director of the agency last week and she agreed to cut us a check for the full amount! Cashed it yesterday. :)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Sometimes You'll Do Anything

To Entertain a Baby! Halloween came early for Erik this year upon my return from the grocery store. Every time Jack laughed Erik called him a weirdo. Yep,JACK is the weirdo.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Cookie: 99 Cents. Smile: Priceless.

Baba, Nana, Mama, Dada…all words Jack can say now. Mama is still food. Dada is still both of us. Nana and Baba…he can repeat. He’s making more sounds. But the biggest deal this week has to do with his UNDERSTANDING of words. His understanding of English has improved so much! I knew something was missing, but I couldn’t put my finger on it…. We’d talk to Jack and he’d look at us and he’d smile if we DID something goofy…but still I felt like there was something missing. Then Monday it all came together....

We were coming home from the mall and with the forward facing car seat, he now falls asleep during all rides over 15 minutes. This was a 20 minute ride and I’ve learned that falling asleep in a car seat can equal NO NAP and lots of crying the rest of the day. He won’t fall asleep in his crib if he sleeps in the car seat. Even if he just sleeps in the seat for 10 minutes or so - no nap. So in the mall, I kept thinking, “What can I do so he doesn’t fall asleep on the ride home?” Then I thought, “Food! Jack loves food!” And I know this won’t win me any mother of the year awards, but listen, I needed food that would entertain, food that is tasty, food that will keep him awake the whole ride home and would allow him to take his nap that afternoon and allow ME to take a nap that afternoon. He's fallen asleep with goldfish in his mouth. I needed something better than goldfish. Better than Cheerios. So I bought him a cookie. And you know what - the cookie worked! He savored that cookie the entire ride home and never fell asleep. At one point, I turned to the backseat to look at him when stopped at a light. I said, “Jack, isn’t that GOOD?!” Jack gave me the biggest smile. Then it occurred to me, this was the first time he smiled, not because of something I did, but because of something I SAID. He was understanding ENGLISH. And that was the best feeling! So worth the cookie. We’ve said “Isn’t the good?” about everything we’ve fed him. Just a habit, I guess… We’ve said it about peas, bananas, chicken, everything. He finally understands what we're saying and that cookie WAS good - for BOTH of us! :)

The rest of the week we noticed other words he now knows too. For instance, I’d say “look” and his head would turn or I’d say “blah, blah, CLAP, blah, blah” and he’d clap. I didn’t have to demonstrate. Once I said, “Smile for mama.” And he did…I got a giant smile!

We're understanding each other! How awesome! How fun!

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Walking Around with My Oma

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I Love Dada!


This past week Jack has discovered he likes hugs - even sharing one with Elmo.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Friday, July 13, 2007

Now Listen, I Don't Know About You - But I Love Baths

I'm Serious About This, You Know - I Really Do.

It's Over Already? I Could Do This All Night!


The Italian, The Movie

picture: Sony Classic/The Italian Website

Tonight we finally had the opportunity to rent "The Italian". It's a movie about a six year old Russian orphan who is about to be adopted by an Italian couple. The boy, Vanya, runs away from the orphanage after taking papers from his file to go and find his birth mother. He does this after another boy tells Vanya if he ever changes his last name, his mother will never be able to find him.

It's an interesting movie and one we included a link to at the right. The backdrop of the movie is pretty accurate - at least compared to what we saw while there. We watched remembering those minty green walls, the roads full of potholes, the cold, and the women wearing short skirts and tall heels even though it was freezing. Another interesting note is the movie takes place during the same time of year we went to Russia. It looks as if the Italian couple make their first trip in late winter and then return in late spring.

While most of the set of the movie was extremely accurate compared to what we saw while we were in Russia, we are not sure about the actual orphanage. Once children turn four they move out of the 'baby home' which is supposed to be a medical facility and where Jack lived. Once four, children move to an educational facility and this is where Vanya lived. We wonder if this is not unlike the orphanage Jack's birthmother grew up in.

The movie does a good job describing all of the social layers and complexities that exist - all of the orphans...the new mothers who give up their babies every day. In our experience, it is also accurate with regard to how people treat each other in Russia. We noticed while we were there that people are much 'gruffer' with each other than here. There is no mincing of words. Rarely are people polite. It's "an every man for himself" attitude - even getting off an airplane. People don't let the row ahead of them go first. Everyone rushes to the middle. People cut in line like crazy. Towards the end of our second trip, we finally just cut in front of the people who cut in front of us at the food stand or in the grocery store... they didn't seem to's just how it is.

In the movie children smoke - we did not see that, but we did see a child who looked to be about 9 pull a pint of vodka out of his coat pocket while playing soccer in Moscow.

What the movie DID do is make us think about Jack's mom. In the beginning there is a birthmother who longs for her child that she abandoned a few years before. She arrives too late - after he has been adopted. For the first time, I really thought about Jack's birthmother and what she could be going through. I wonder if she thinks of him. I wonder if she longs for him. I wonder if she'll ever try to get him back - she can't, but I wonder if she'll ever try. What would she think if she knew her son is living in America?

The orphanage in the movie made us wonder if that was what her life was like for 18 years. She was four when the Soviet Union was dissolved. I don't know if foreign adoptions took place before that. We think it was probably unlikely and people aren't as likely to adopt a child that is four, five, six, ten - an older child. Did she ever really have a chance? We were told she lived in a clean apartment, but the apartments in the movie are nothing like what we have here. And the older teenage kids at the orphanage - what kind of life will they have when they get out? Perhaps it was very brave for her to give up Jack. Perhaps that's just me making excuses to make myself feel better. Who knows what the situation really was for her. I can't imagine how she feels, but I bet she thought about him on his birthday and then again on the 28th of the June - the day she decided to put him up for adoption. I thought of her on those days. For the first time, I see how important it is to include Jack's birthmother in his lifestory. He needs to know what we know. It's part of his identity. I haven't shared it all here (for his privacy) and we are lucky to know so much. If he wants to contact her, he can try. If he wants a picture, we have that too.

The movie also made us wonder about his birthfather for the first time. For the first time, I also COMPLETELY understood why the doctor in the U.S. was SO positive about Jack's health when she found out his birthmother was young and he was her first. I can totally see how being the second, third, fourth pregnancy may cause issue for health concerns. How depressing to have to keep giving up your children. Why would you even care what you do when you are pregnant if you know they are not yours to keep? I don't think I would be in my right mind thinking of long term effects and what not.

As the credits rolled, we looked at each other and said, "Five minutes ago we thought this was a good movie." The ending was contrived for the Russian public and was clearly a statement regarding foreign adoptions, but that didn't really matter - again it was the middle that mattered....the struggle of the people in Russia, the attitudes, the landscape, that allowed us to really think about things - in the comfort of our own also made us feel really lucky to have Jack and to have had so few problems in our own lives, in our country....

Thursday, July 12, 2007

So Happy the Cats Came to Say Hi!

Getting Closer to Both

Almost Friends?

It's the Little Things that Make a Difference

Like a forward facing car seat....having a whole month go by to get to know each other....

A month ago today we came home. Things are good. Jack is still doing really well. We're letting him bond with grandparents now - we feel like he knows who we are. Yesterday I put him down for nap and I heard him saying, "Da Daa! Da Daaa!" So I went over to see what he was looking at and he had his little album that we left the first time we met him at the orphanage. He was looking at a picture of Erik. :) We both get big smiles when he hasn't seen us for a little while...when I'm at the gym or Erik is at work....something he doesn't do for everyone. He's happy to see us. He sighs a "happy sigh" whenever we pull in the driveway.

There are so many little things that he's learned this month and that we've learned about him. A few minutes ago he held his own bottle for the first time, he helps get himself out of the straps of the car seat, can stand for a few seconds, and he's familiar with so many new foods that aren't so new anymore. I think back to a month ago and it's through all of the little things that we've learned about him that have helped us bond to him. I used to get anxiety whenever I'd hear him cry. Now I know the difference between the "I'm annoyed" cry and "I'm tired" cry versus him being really hurt. Now when I hear the "eh eh ehh" over the monitor I just think, "just wait two minutes -he'll be back asleep." And he does. Moms know these things about their kids. :) Also, he doesn't wake up in the middle of the night anymore either - he really seems to know where he is. He's doing great sleeping by himself. I went to wake him up yesterday from a nap and found him just sitting up in his crib smiling looking around his new room.

One of the most fun parts for me has been watching Erik learn about babies. Erik has only held one baby (my nephew) and that was because we made him hold him. :) Erik was always afraid of babies. He said he dropped a video camera once and has been afraid to hold valuable things since! Erik has gotten so comfortable with Jack. It's fun to watch the Daddy-Jack time they have whenever Erik comes home from work. Jack gets to fly around the house (with the help of Erik) and really have a chance at catching Archie or he gets to go on the "Demon Drop" (like Cedar Point). Jack loves to bounce and fall and fly and have his stomach drop. He's really attaching to Erik. It's good to see. He's also testing Erik which is funny for me to watch. It's interesting because he doesn't do this with me yet. When Erik feeds him there's a lot of dropping of food on the floor and then watching for dad's reaction and then when dad picks it up, Jack throws more food at Erik. It's hard for me not to laugh, I have to go in the other room. I'm letting them work out that power struggle by themselves.

It's amazing how a baby can make everything seem better. Even when things are tough, he can lighten everyone's mood just by being here. Today has been a sad day - Erik's grandma is not doing so well. She told me a couple of years ago that she would be around until Erik had a baby. I took Jack to meet his great grandma, perhaps for the only time and to help his grandma get through today. She lit up when she saw Jack. Erik lit up when he saw Jack. Something about just watching a baby play that makes things a little better.

And things continue to get easier and better...:)I finally feel relaxed around him this week and I finally feel like it's really summer and realize that I'm not working. I'm hoping we sell our house soon so that I can stay home an extra month in the fall and have some extra time to just be a "normal" family who didn't just get home from Russia. Just a normal family having fun in the summer...with one house...

Lastly, we're still waiting to actually speak with someone at the Adoption Associates who can actually reimburse us for those last minute tickets we had to purchase in Moscow. The director of the agency called us at the end of the day on Friday to tell us she could speak with us on the 17th. She wants us to go all the way to Jenison to meet, but we don't want to do that. Erik started his job about two weeks before we left for Russia and has used much of his vacation time. In addition we'd have to leave Jack with somebody for the day. The director won't come to Farmington Hills where we initally had a consultant. We'll see what happens with the phone call next week. We've had to talk a lawyer and we've written the news stations. We had one of the stations write us back and ask for more information so we sent them more detail of what happened...we are determined to get that money back.

I Don't Mind My Car Seat So Much This Way

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Push me, Dada!

Immunizations make babies crabby, right? Really crabby, right? I think I heard that somewhere... For the next 33 hours (yep, we counted the hours) after the doctor he was like a different kid. An EXTREMELY ornary kid. At the grocery store Erik was looking for us and when he found us all he could say was, "My God! You mean THAT NOISE was OUR baby?" Yep. Our Baby. It was the shots though, right??

Today, Happy Jack was back. (phew) And he REACHED for Erik to pick him up when my parents stopped over. I know. I know - that doesn't seem like a big deal, but in the world of attachment, it is a very good sign! :)

Congratulations, month ago today!

Article about Kotlas

Just wanted to quickly share an interesting article about Jack's birth city, Kotlas.
Also I've included some links (on the right side) to other information regarding different subjects such as: adopting from Russia, the process, how much it costs, bonding, attachment, lifebooks, etc. Some of the links answer questions you've asked, some are just links that we are personally finding helpful right now.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Good News!

The good news for the day is we went to the doctor and all of Jack's tests have come back as normal! We are seeing a pediatrician that is very familiar with international adoptions. Poor Jack had to get three vials of blood drawn last week....poor mom had to collect 6 vials for a stool collected some urine....:) Anyway, he needed to be tested for lead, TB, STDs, proteins, parasites, etc. and it all came back good! That is a weight lifted off! :)

The doctor also asked how he was doing with regards to bonding and I told her that I think he's doing well. (Erik and I finally did go see that movie btw, and I know he had fun at Oma's, but was happy to see us when we got back. He only wanted us to hold him once we came back - good sign - maybe there's another movie in our future?) She also said that she was impressed with his eye contact and that he liked to be touched. She said that she's worked with quite a few children adopted from Russia and that many of them have sensory issues. We are lucky that Jack doesn't seem to have any problems so far. He's cautious at first, yet very social.

He's also gained a pound putting him at about 15% on the growth chart. He loves all the food we've introduced so far (except peaches) and we've found that none of the allergies they told us he had in Russia hold true. (or else he grew out of them) You may remember they said he's allergic to milk, chicken but not turkey, juice from green apples but not red, etc. Because of all of his allergies, they were only feeding him porridge, ground beef mixed with instant potatoes and water, one bottle of formula a day, and drinkable yogurt 3-4 times per week at the orphanage. The pediatrician said that this is also common for children she's treated from Russia - the allergies just aren't there or else they've grown out of them.

Anyway, he's doing so well developmentally for being institutionalized his first year of life that she was wondering if he is perhaps a month or two older than they said. We have his birth certificate, but I guess it's possible. Any of my friends and my sister who have seen him, say he is doing what their boys have done at the same age.

I'm just amazed and happy that things have turned out okay. Last October we had to go to a "Risks" meeting to go over the risks of adopting internationally. What a scary meeting. I couldn't sleep after that meeting. They talked about the strong possibility of fetal alcohol, various diseases, delays, kids not attaching, major behavior issues, all kinds of things. It almost scared us away from going forward...

Glad we followed our guts and took the plunge! :)Maybe we'll do it again...:)

Having Fun With My Cousin!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Lunch with Mom at the Gym

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Someone Else Has Been Craving Attention Since Jack Arrived

First Birthday


So, Why is it Cool to Gel My Hair on My Birthday, Dad?

Jack had his first birthday party yesterday. Jen made two cakes for him (one just for him to mess up) and he ate most of the frosting and bit into the cake like a dog. It was pretty funny and he needed a bath because he had frosting everywhere. It was nice having the family there to help him celebrate. Even in the short time that we’ve had him, I think I’ve noticed him get bigger. I feed him breakfast and he can take down about 360 calories. That’s pretty impressive. He’s really good in the morning and I enjoy this time with him. I think he has gotten stronger as well. Erik

Time to Baby Proof!

It's the Middle that Counts

We’re all still getting to know each other and every day things get better. We are learning his personality and that makes things much easier. We understand the different cries and what he needs. Jack is making eye contact with everyone and is such a social baby. He watches everything.

There are also more signs that he is attaching to us. I needed to go the dentist on Thursday and so needed to drop him off his grandma and grandpa's for about a half hour. He was fine while I was gone, but after I got back, he'd get fussy if I left the room to get something to drink or go to the bathroom. He didn't want me to go anywhere again. That's a good sign. He also loves playing with Erik and sitting with him. Things have been going so well, that Erik and I are going to try and see a movie on Sunday afternoon. He's going to hang out with his other Oma. (Grandma in German)

Also, I appreciate everyone who wrote to us regarding the “attaching” post. It was good to see that I was normal about the attachment process and that it's hard even for people who actually give birth. At times, it’s been difficult, especially at the end of last week - hence no posts. We’ve wanted a baby for so long and just kind of figured that once we brought him home it would all be good. We’d be happy. Truth is it’s a huge adjustment, even with the best baby. I found myself feeling bad wishing I had more time with Erik or by myself. I know it’s not a politically correct thing to say that I didn’t just instantly feel like a mother, but it's true. It takes time. The good news is Erik and I are so much further ahead (in our minds) than we were that night in Moscow when Jack was screaming. I remember Erik and I asking each other, "Is this really what we're supposed to do forever?" But that was just a bad day. Things are much better now. Erik and I are starting to call dibs on who gets to wake him up now, stuff like that…we're excited to wake him up in the morning and spend time with him, but there are still moments. Erik keeps reminding me that we are still just beginning. He keeps saying, "Beginnings are always scary. Endings are always sad. It's the middle that counts. Just relax and take things day by day."

Jack's presence has also drawn attention to Fritz's absence (Erik's dad). Another sad ending that is still too new. That has made us sad these past couple of days. Having his first birthday without Fritz was hard. But when we're sad about that we just have to look up at Jack who is usually doing something cute or funny and that makes things easier. Last night we went out to dinner for sushi and as we left we noticed that Jack has one grain of rice perfectly placed half in and half out of his nose. That made us laugh...and the waitress laugh. Wish I had my camera...


One of the interesting things with International adoption is all of the things you need to do once you get home. We’ve spent the last few days gathering documents to get a U.S. birth certificate, U.S. passport (proof of citizenship – currently he has a Green Card – which isn’t green btw, it looks like a driver’s license.  ), and going from doctor to doctor. Next week, we go back to the doctor to see if he’s gained any weight. He feels like he has and he looks longer…. He got his blood drawn Thursday and did awesome. Three vials and didn’t seem to care!  He’s also being tested for parasites because he drank water in a foreign country and his blood is being tested for lead levels, etc. Poor kid has been poked and prodded a lot lately. Yesterday he is has circumcision consult. (Ironically the doctor is Dr. Richard which makes us laugh.)

Jack has been adjusting quite well. He’s a happy little guy. Since he’s moved to his new room, he’s woken up twice during the night. It was a different kind of cry and so I went up after a few minutes. He just needed to be held for a couple of minutes and look around the room and see where he was and then he fell back asleep. I wonder if he’s waking up and expecting to see the other babies from the orphanage.