Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Support Mariner's Church

Marisa and Devin's support letter for this year:

Hello Everyone:

Well, I bet you thought you were getting Zac’s usual Russia support letter didn’t you?! Not so, this year Zac is handing off the baton to Devin. Devin has been waiting to go for a few years now, and he is finally old enough, and I feel I can finally return as well (you may remember that Rachael was diagnosed with her leukemia the day after we returned from Russia in 2005). So…Devin and I will be heading off to Russia to play with the kids at the orphanage from Dec. 27th – Jan. 9th.

As you probably remember, we go as a team from Mariner’s Church to the same orphanage in Zarechnyy, Russia every year. We stay at the orphanage and run a winter camp for the kids there who have nothing to do during their two weeks off school. While this will be only my second trip, it is our church’s 7th year going there. It is amazing to hear how the relationships between our team members (most go more than once) and the kids and staff at the orphanage have grown and developed over the years.

On my first trip there, one of the little girls captured my heart (they all did but this one especially). When the organization we run our trips through began a year round sponsorship program at our orphanage our family started sponsoring this girl. Recently I received a letter from her. It was one of those ‘letters to your sponsor’, where they ask the child questions. One of the questions they asked was “What is the best thing that happened to you during the year?” Her response: “When the Americans come at winter camp!” (she doesn’t know that her sponsors are a part of that group). So if that is the best thing that happens to her all year, I want it to keep happening!!

You all know from Zac’s previous letters – the situations and the wretched and abusive backgrounds and families these kids come from. While all of that is truly heart-wrenching, the thing that tugs at my heart the most is the reality, that when we leave, they don’t. This is their life, with no mother or father to comfort them when they need it. No really safe place to be, no privacy, and no place to escape to. Don’t get me wrong, they are well cared for there, the staff is great, but that is what they are, staff, not family. As a parent, I can’t help but look at the children and be stunned by that reality – this is home for them - everyday, all day, holidays, summer, it just doesn’t change. I get to leave and come home to my nice house, my nice family, my nice life – and there they stay. As you can imagine, leaving there is hard.

Why do we do this year after year? We are building lives and hope – letting these kids know that someone out there cares about them enough to get to know them, and loves them enough to keep going back to see them whether they have a family or home or not! For whatever reason and for many reasons, these kids have spoken to our hearts. They are throw away children in their own country, so we have adopted them and we let them know that they – like all of us – have worth and value.

And, we let them know that they aren’t going to be abandoned just because they leave the orphanage either. There is the ministry center (where everything is free to the young person) that has been set up to help the kids when they age out of the orphanage (at 16 or 17). They can go to this center for meals and dental services, as well as to learn computer skills, job skills, and life skills. The center also provides help for those students from the orphanage who want to continue on to college, as well as a place for the kids to gather and stay connected to each other. This goes a long way towards helping keep them from living on the streets of Russia.

However, most important for me is the relationships we build with the kids there: the love that we give to them, and receive from them—they touch our hearts and lives as much, if not more, than we touch theirs, and this year Devin gets to experience all of that too!

I know that things are difficult for everyone everywhere these days. Please don’t feel obligated if this is not your year to give to this endeavor. I also know that some of you feel that you are partners in this with us. That you have taken these kids on as your own as well, and that you welcome this opportunity to help get us there each year and bring some brightness into the kid’s lives.

We ask first for all of your prayers and good thoughts, and appreciate every one of them. The second thing we ask for are monetary gifts to help get us there and put on this camp. The cost of the trip includes our travel expenses, as well as covering the gifts we bring the kids and staff and the cost of all we do while at the orphanage. Everything you send goes to the trip and the kids.

We are coming up on this fast, so if you would like to contribute to our trip, please send your check made out to Mariner’s Church (it will be tax deductible only if it is made out to Mariner’s Church) to:

Mariner’s Church
ATTN: Len Banks
225 S. Cabrillo Hwy.
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

Please note that it is for Russia for Marisa & Devin Atsatt

Please include your name and address – you will be sent a receipt for tax purposes, and an update / thank you at the end of the trip with pictures
See links to last years pictures below

Thank you in advance for your prayers, thoughts, and dollars!

Marisa and Devin

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Blog Out

I've been thinking it's time to complete the "adoption blog" as we have reached a point of "normalcy" in our little family.  Somewhere down the line a "family" blog may be something fun to do and share but, it does not feel that an adoption blog is really appropriate anymore.  

After pondering this for a while, I decided to sign-in tonight to sign-off and noticed that it was exactly 3 months ago today that I picked the twins up from the orphanage.  I then noticed that I had started the blog exactly 3 months before picking the girls up  -  my first post was exactly 6 months ago today on 7/8/08!   So, it seems a very appropriate time to close this chapter in our lives and enjoy the crazy, happy chapter we have now entered. 

My 3 girls are all doing wonderfully.  The twins vocabulary is exploding with Courtney following about 1 week behind Camryn in the words they're learning/using.  In a month, they'll be caught up I'm sure and, we haven't even begun the speech therapy yet.  They're doing well in their two day per week pre-school and will soon be going more often.  Katy loves having sisters and they love her.  They play together and struggle against each other just like any other siblings.  We're all very normal now which is really a great thing to say and feel and the girls are developing right on target.  We've all been incredibly lucky and a day does not pass that it is not appreciated in this household.    

I really enjoyed keeping this blog and corresponding with many of the people who have been reading it.  I'm going to keep it live in case any of the adoption information is helpful to new families going through this process in Ekaterinburg and will make a posting when and if I start a new "family" blog.  In the meantime, I will keep monitoring those still waiting for their 2nd trips (Laura & Melissa) and those who have been home and are still posting.   I really enjoy keeping up with those home and can't wait to hear good news from those waiting to bring their babies home.  

So, thank you for joining me on this part of our journey and for all the wonderful input and support that I received during the past 6 months!  

Lori, Katy, Camryn & Courtney  

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Winding down at home

I have always been a nighttime homebody but never a daytime one.  I like to be out and busy during the day and tucked in cozy, safe and warm at home after dark!  With my 3 little girls it is pretty difficult doing simple things like grocery shopping, going to the park, or, going anywhere for that matter so we stay home a lot!  During the school weeks, our days are broken up and pretty busy - getting busier every week but, during these holiday breaks, we're home much more than we are not.  

Being home this much has really been good for everyone.  It's hard to overstimulate kids when they are at home with just their little family (and a few visitors), and, since they're only 2 and 4 years old, there's not much for them to do but play together and with me.  Many hours of playing dress-up, playing in the backyard, watching movies (Mamma Mia again and again and again), making cupcakes (Katy got a cupcake maker for Christmas) and just doing homey things.  We have ventured out some ( as shown in my last entry) and did get out in the rain a bit today which was nice but, pretty much we've been in the house with a fire going all cozy and warm enjoying the Christmas break.    I think it has really helped Katy to be able to spend so much time with me and with her sisters without leaving for school everyday.  She plays with them much better, is listening to me and has been very positive and pleasant to be around.  Not that she wasn't before but things have a much more smooth and natural flow about them now.  I think she is very used to having sisters and she really likes having them too!  

I learned last week that the California "Early Start" will work with the girls until they're 3 years old in trying to help catch them up with their development.  They're not that far behind and I'm a little surprised at the amount of time they plan to spend with them, but I think it will be a great opportunity to get them with the "experts".  Each one will get 20 hours per month of in-home combined speech and occupational therapy for a total of 40 hours.     That will be pretty extensive as it will probably be somewhere around 2 hours twice a week so we'll have to squeeze that in somewhere!  Between that and attending pre-school twice a week, I think they'll be caught up very quickly.  Already they're starting to talk ALOT!  And, I can actually understand a good deal of it.  They may not even require the full 3 1/2 months of therapy.  We'll see.

Here are a few pictures from the last couple of days . . . 

We had a visit from "cowboy" Jim today and Katy was very excited to get to spend some time as Jim's little "cowgirl".  She loves sitting up on Dancer and has no fear (but, I do!).  

It was an extremely unusual morning as the twins were up long before Katy who didn't wake up until 8 AM!  She normally wakes up at 5:30 and the twins about an hour later but today I had to ask them to play in their room for a while so as not to wake their sister up.  I went in to check on them and this is how I found them - just sitting patiently together waiting for me.  

Everybody had to have a turn being a puppy and having a sister walk them around.   They made the green ribbon into a leash (completely on their own) and I'm not sure where the pink ears came from!   It is amazing how much the imagination is exercised when they are left "on their own".  

More Mamma Mia . . . Katy picked out the clothes for her sisters for our little New Year's Eve outing and she dressed everyone as a Mamma Mia character.  She really only listens and watches the songs (the story is way above her head and boring to her - thankfully!) so I was a little confused by the characters.  She is Sophie and is carrying Sophie's diary.  She was reading it to her sisters telling them "they danced on the beach, they kissed on the beach and dot dot dot - yikes!).  Her sisters were then picking up the diary and saying "dot dot dot"!  She dressed them up as the "bad boys" of which there are none in the movie.  I had her point them out to me in the movie and it turns out that they were two of the potential fathers.   Like some of the other music she has discovered, it's not exactly appropriate for a 4 year old but I'm finding it difficult to keep up with her "thirst" for song & dance with Disney or age appropriate material.  I am searching though!   

I'm sure tomorrow will hold many more memorable and entertaining moments!  

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Break and more . . .

I'm sorry to admit that I didn't get any pictures of the girls opening their Christmas morning presents.  I know -  it's terrible, I didn't get any "first" Christmas photos.  I did get some video but nothing really worth posting.  At least they'll have that to see but I am sad that I missed the opportunity for some memorable shots.  It just got too crazy and everything went very fast.  Santa brought the girls a new indoor trampoline along with stockings full of socks, shoes, and dress up clothes.  Ever since, they've pretty much been alternating between bouncing and dancing. 

The trampoline has turned out to be a great addition to our playroom.  The twins' coordination has improved drastically just in the few days since Christmas.  They've gone from not being able to get their feet up at all and falling down to jumping pretty high and being able to maintain it.  It is great to see Courtney who probably is jumping a foot high now and landing on her feet!   It was only meant for fun but has turned out to be a great "therapy" tool for the twins.  In addition to the coordination benefits, it's also been teaching some valuable sharing lessons and counting as they each get 30 seconds when they're all wanting on it.  Camryn now looks for someone to start counting when it's her turn even if no one is waiting!  

The girls did very well with all of the exciting activity.  We haven't been venturing out too much because it is still difficult to keep everyone "contained" wherever we go but, we did enjoy a great dinner and evening with family on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning brunch.  After that, we had friends over Christmas day who cooked for us and played with the girls all day.  That turned out to be a great present for me!   Santa left me a copy of "Mama Mia" in my stocking and we had it going most of the day Christmas day.  By the end of the day, I think Katy pretty much had every scene memorized!  It's been on at least twice daily until loaning it out to a friend last night, so we did get a break from it today!   

In addition to venturing out to our family gatherings, we went to one friend's Christmas party which all the girls enjoyed and made a quick visit to the park to feed the ducks.  The girls all were very quiet and tried hard not to scare the ducks away.  I think it's more because when the flock flees it's a pretty scary sound and sight for them!  

Here are a few pictures of the activities I was able to capture . . . (By the way, for those who have asked about "bigger" pictures, you can click on the pictures and they should enlarge for you.)

Our visit to the park . . . 

Here come the hungry ducks . . . 

At our friends Christmas party . . . 

The best present of all was in this big green bag (it's Courtney!). . . 

Courtney and Braxton  who was very attentive to her all evening!

Courtney trying out Braxton's new scooter

Courtney demonstrating one of the many uses of diapers . . . 

Camryn's reaction to Courtney's clowning around  . . . 

Camryn telling her sisters to quiet down   . . . 

After spending a few minutes with Katy in her room, Camryn emerged as a new, cool dancer . . . 

Katy showing her little sisters how to twirl . . . 

and, how to be hip . . . 

how to slow dance . . . 

followed by a little "thank you" kiss

Katy playing a scene from "Mama Mia".   Camryn sings along too.

And that's the end of that show!

Other notables from this Christmas Break . . . Since we've been "cooped" up in the house all together much more than usual, Katy and Camryn have begun playing together a lot.  It's really cute to see them interact and they're very well suited to each other.  Katy has been allowed to join the 5 to 7 year olds in their "hip hop" class (a whole year early - I'm so proud!) which is a perfect fit for her.  She doesn't fool around at all in this class because she's completely enthralled with it and she is usually the best listener there.  She follows the instructor and then practices everything at home with Camryn.   Camryn holds her own with Katy but really enjoys the constant activity.  They play in the mud and dirt outside together and then come inside and play dress up and dance.  Courtney also loves to dance but she doesn't interact with the two of them quite as much.  She's always busy playing and doing something but I don't think she enjoys Katy's bossiness much (or the mud)!  But, she's never excluded and if she approaches the other two, they're quick to include her in their antics.  It's very heartwarming to watch and their interaction has grown substantially since Katy has been home with us every day.   

And, last but not least, I was finally able to get the girls assessed as far as development and speech goes.  Early Start called me back after I complained and said that there really is not rule that says they have to wait 6 months for internationally adopted children and made an appointment for me to bring them in today.  It went very well and they estimated the girls to be 50% behind in language and 25% behind developmentally.  Not bad at all considering they've only been exposed to English for 2 1/2 months!  Tomorrow I go back without the girls and listen to the recommendations made on helping them catch up before their 3rd birthday.  Both girls did great and really showed how far they have come - especially Courtney.  She actually was a little more advanced then Camryn in a couple of areas and wasn't really behind in any.  All of her "autistic" type behavior seems to be gone except in the bath tub and in the pool where she tends to get very "spastic".  But, that will eventually go away too I'm sure.  Even her eye doesn't wander anymore - it's just amazing to see.  So, even though I'm confident that the girls will catch up on their own I will get the help recommended to try to get them on target in the next 4 months.  After that they're turned over to the school district, however, I think the Montessori school will be more helpful so I'll stick with them.  

So, that's been our week in a nutshell.  Always busy and always happy.  It's such fun watching all of these things happening but, a little tiring at times too!  So, I'm done for the day and will start again in 7 1/2 hours when my early bird Katy wakes me up!  

Happy New Year to all!  So many families will be built and added to in the New Year - I can't wait to hear about some of them!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

And the answer is . . .

"The analysis of the DNA indicates that Camryn and Courtney are monozygotic, or more commonly referred to as identical twins.  The highly variable DNA markers were the same for both twins.  Thus, there is greater than a 99% probability that the twins are monozygotic".   

Surprised?  I am and, am not.  It's strange how I can look at each individual feature and, yes, they do look identical but, when you are looking at their entire faces then no, they don't look the same at all!  It will be interesting to see if they begin to look more alike when Courtney's hair grows out and she catches up weight-wise or, if their personalities (they're very different) will always make them look so differently.  I wonder if they'll try to trick people when they get older, even mom (ha, not a chance)!  

How fun this is!  

Monday, December 15, 2008

"Oh What Fun it is!"

I am so grateful to have the girls home and to be able to share the Holidays with all 3 of them.  Katy is really enjoying all the Christmas festivities this year - much more then years past.  She was still fearful of Santa but I was able to get her to let me put a little distance between me and her long enough to get a photo done with her sisters.  The twins were a little dazed by the whole Santa thing but they did fine.   We've also really been enjoying driving around the neighborhood to see all the lights which are plentiful in our neighborhood!  Katy wants our house to look like all of the elaborately decorated ones - pressure!  I'm going to try to get something done out there but I did get the inside done and we're all enjoying that!

In addition to seeing Santa this weekend, we also held our 2nd Annual Gingerbread House Decorating party which was a lot of fun.   I'm usually pretty strict about sweets intake around here but, when it comes to decorating our gingerbread houses, it's a free for all.  Katy doesn't have much of a sweet tooth so she didn't eat too much.  Courtney started out by trying a spicy jelly bean so she didn't eat much after that with the exception of the frosting.  But, Camryn who would rather eat sweets then anything else, pretty much ate the whole exterior of her house.   I'll have to watch her - I think she'll be the one trying to sneak sweets when I'm not looking!  

I'm sure we'll have lots of Holiday pictures to share but here are a few from our fun filled weekend . . . 

Group shot trying to build Katy's courage . . .  

Success - Camryn was so fed up by this point that she looks like she's ready to tackle someone and Courtney and Katy are holding her back.

Katy hard at work getting the place in shape . . . 

Ready for the party to begin with favorite friends Gabby and Arianna.  Katy LOVES Gabby and tells him so all the time.  She dressed to impress him for the party and even put her earrings on (stick-on) for him!  I think they all looked pretty cute myself!  (I overdid it on the candy a bit but it was so fun picking it all out I couldn't help myself!)

Katy concentrating (note the tongue)  hard at work 

And, her beautiful house . . . 

Courtney after trying her "spicy bean".  Poor Baby, she always seems to be the one to get the "spicy bean" around here and it breaks my heart every time.  We're going to really have to work on that.

And, showing off her sweet accomplishment (while looking pretty sweet herself)

Happy go Lucky Camryn playing "Rudolph"

and, hard at work

after eating the exterior of her house!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Medical Updates

No more bugs in this house!  All parasites have been eradicated including any sign of scabies it seems.  And, Katy's TB test also was negative which is great news!  I was always under the impression that she would get a false positive if she was required to be tested and then she would have to go through the chest xray, etc.   So, this was good news.

Developmental assessment is seeming to be more difficult to come by.  First I contacted the State's Early Start program who told me that they had to wait 6 months before meeting with internationally adopted children as they tend to catch up so quickly.  But, they don't see children after they turn 3 which, at the time of the call, was just about 6 months!   They were not helpful at all so I then contacted the school district who referred me to our "Head Start" pre-school.  Turns out that they won't see kids until 3 and, unless they are "special needs" kids (from birth) the family has to qualify to be in need of financial aid.  Again, not helpful.  The pediatrician then referred me back to the Regional Center and said if that didn't work to try Children's Hospital.  So, I tried Regional Center who told me because the children are under 3 that I need to speak to Early Start.  I told them that they were telling me they couldn't see my children for 6 months (4 now) and that they would then be turning 3.  Circles.  I then tried Children's Hospital who told me that my insurance company would only pay $25 per hour and they charge $248 per hour and that each assessment would cost $1,500.00 out of pocket - a total of $3,000!  Then after that the cost would be completed on an hourly basis for any kind of therapy. Ridiculous! The pediatrician said I could get by with only having Courtney assessed and then practice what I learn on Camryn but still - it's too much money to get any kind of regular therapy going.  So, now I'm going to try a non-profit group that was started by an adoptive mother (Russian child) and am really hoping that I get somewhere with them.  At this rate, the girls will be 3 before I get anywhere with this but, I think that they're both going to catch up on their own just by attending the pre-school.

Both girls have started two days a week at Katy's school and they are doing great there.  Courtney needs a little extra help with her fine motor skills (she has already improved drastically) so she is getting some needed attention in that area.  Other than that the girls are doing well socially, with listening and following direction.  Not really too many worries although Courtney still tends to get over excited and a little silly at times.    She is comfortable enough at school though to take naps with all the other kids which was a concern of mine.  Both she and Camryn have no problem laying down and sleeping so they're not overly excited by being there.  I think it probably helps that Angela who they know so well is there.  They're fine when I get them home and fall right into our regular routine.  All good there.  

So, life is moving forward fast.  We have a house full of Christmas decorations - Katy and I spent the evening making ornaments for the tree tonight which was really fun (with some help from Angela).  Camryn walked around all night singing along with a little Santa Claus that, when she pushes on his hand, sings that he is "coming to town".  She pretty much has all the words down but they still sound a bit jumbled.  Very cute though and she's very possessive of this particular Santa.   Courtney was very very dramatic about expressing her hunger before dinnertime - to the point where I was a little concerned that she may have caught the flu from her cousins - and, then after dinner, was all smiles and ready to play with whoever would play with her.  Happy as could be.  She can be very dramatic at times and, so can Camryn when it comes to being locked out of the pantry (she loves her snacks!) which happened to her tonight.

I feel so fortunate to have all 3 girls here for the Holidays and, this year is especially fun for Katy as she really is enjoying the season and all the celebratory side of it and, she's also really enjoying having her sisters here.  Makes a mom's heart smile!  

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Monozygotic or Dizygotic, and other fun things

Courtney got her shirt stuck on her head today and seemed to enjoy it so I tied the arms in back and she walked around like that for at least an hour.  Camryn, naturally, wanted hers done too so we copied the style and she was quite pleased.  I took a few pictures and found it interesting that with the shirts on, they do look like they could be identical twins (monozygotic) but I don't know.  So, I have ordered a DNA test and should be able to find out soon and then we will all know!  

What I find interesting however is that they look so different to me and I figured out in the picture above that one big difference really is in the eyes.  Courtney's eyes often have worry in them while Camryn's, normally,  have glee.   Camryn has been Courtney's big sister and protector for 2 1/2 years and it is really cute to watch but, I think, needs to be tempered a bit for both girls.  Courtney's confidence needs to become based on her "self" and, Camryn needs to be released from the responsibility.  I think Camryn's strong survival instincts have helped get them through their difficulties but, I also think it has left Courtney a little like a wounded bird. 

Seeing Camryn take Courtneys hand and lead her places and watch her do so many things for her has been very revealing into the way they must have felt (and are still feeling).   It is very good that now when Camryn does take Courtney by the hand, she leads her to me and then tells me a long (babbling) story of what the situation is before handing Courtney's hand over to me. It is cute no matter what but I think it is also Camryn making it clear that she is happy to be able to turn Courtney's care over to me now so she can relax a little!  Here's to getting them both to relaxing a lot!  It's amazing what a picture can reveal!  

Now with the secret knowledge of the worry in Courtney's eyes, I bet you can all tell them apart in most pictures (there is also some glee in Courtney's eyes which, hopefully, will become much more regular). 

Katy and I have taken to calling Courtney "Coco" (Chanel) or "Coco Bean" - here's why . . . 

Katy has been working on her modeling poses lately and when I grab the camera she gets this very serious look on her face and freezes until the picture is done.  I must say at least 3 times a day "I don't know where she got that" because she's always coming up with statements or doing things that are so beyond her years.  I think a lot of it is hanging out with her older cousins and being so interested in them and all that they do.   She talks about how stylish she is and asks me to come and help her get one of her "fashion" shirts.  She called a friend of ours (Denise) and told her she needed to come over and be a "fashionista" with her and that she was receiving an invitation.   No matter what she puts her hands on, she does pull the look off whether it be a cowgirl or a rapper (where did she get that?) . . . as shown below:

Always something to laugh about around here!  

Friday, December 5, 2008

3 Check-ups and a new car

3 years ago, after returning home with Katy, I decided I needed a bigger car (SUV) that would safely transport a baby, all our things and, a horse trailer if need be.  The second day I had the car, Katy got sick from the topsy turvy ride which was only the first of many many times.  We suffered through this for about 2 years on trips over 30 minutes which were many.  I had to always be prepared with extra clothes, towels, buckets, etc.  She seemed to grow out of it a year or so ago but I knew that it might be an issue for the twins.  Last Summer I had planned to trade the car in for something a little lower to the ground and a little more passenger friendly but didn't do it - I didn't want to "jinx" the already delayed adoption.  

Today, finally, I was on the phone most of the day finding the car and setting up the purchase.   Unfortunately I was a day too late.    The girls' doctor appointment was an hour drive - Courtney had her first bout of carsickness on the way down the hill and Camryn experienced hers on the way back.  I was looking in the rear view mirror just before Camryn got sick and was saying how sad she looked thinking it was because of the shots she had just had.  After looking away, Katy said "MOM, YOU NEED TO STOP . . . MY SISTER JUST THROWED UP!".   Luckily Anna, who never seems to mind this kind of stuff,  had volunteered to come help with the appointments (along with Angela who was all the way in the back and "couldn't get out").    Anna did most of the clean up but that didn't entirely save me from having to deal with it too.   I'll be dealing with it for at least another day as I try to get the car seats cleaned and put back together - very messy and unpleasant to say the least.  But, it was actually pretty comical that while I'm negotiating the purchase of the new car this happened - a lucky break for the salesman because it just made me seal the deal a little quicker.

The check-ups went well.  All the lab work had come back in on the twins and everything is fine.  We got all the information on the vaccines that they have had (I didn't get this info from the orphanage like I did with Katy) and I learned that their lead poisoning level is very low at 1.5.  Weight and height did not change with the exception of Courtney gaining 1/2 a pound which was a little surprising but nothing to worry about right now.   We left a few more samples (stool) to make sure all the little parasites are gone - Katy, who didn't have them but is being tested just to make sure, told everyone that she was going to the doctor to see if she had "bugs in her tummy"!   Both girls needed a couple of shots and Katy, at long last, is being tested to see if she was ever exposed to TB now that we can get around the "false" positive readings due to the vaccines.  The twins had their second flu (nose) spray and Katy had one today too.  So much nicer then the flu shot and, no preservatives (mercury) to boot.  

Other notables for the day.  Camryn says "thank you" almost every time I give her something in such a cute little voice.  I thought I recognized it the other day but today it became much more noticeable.  I think she's actually been saying it for quite a while.   And, while waiting for the doctor, Angela was playing with Courtney's "piggy toes" (went to market . . . ) and, when done, Courtney said "do it again".  I think the girls are really saying a lot of words, and sentences, and little by little they are becoming more recognizable.  Lots of fun!   Language is going to be a very welcome and great addition to our little family!  

All in all, a very good day with 3 very healthy girls.  

Monday, December 1, 2008

Growing Girls and Growing Attachments

Everyday the visible difference between the twins and any other 2 1/2 year old in our neighborhood is less noticeable.  They're obviously behind in speech but they're both trying new words daily and, I think, they're actually speaking a lot more than any of us realize.  They were actually 25 and 35 percentile in their height but they don't look small in comparison to other 2 year olds.  Still a little on the thin side for sure (they were 6 and 8 percentile) but not pale and pasty like they were.  The main difference between them and others their age is their lack of speech and, of course, Courtney's hair!  Everyone thinks she is a boy and, at those times, I'm glad that she's not the one I gave the name Camryn to since everywhere we go there seems to be a boy named Cameron!    They've got their follow up appointments this Friday so we'll see how much their weight and height has changed.  

I've been taking the twins to Katy's pre-school on Wednesdays so I can spend the day with Katy and the girls have been doing very well interacting with the other kids (as expected) and also with following directions and participating in activities.  When I drop them off we exchange hugs and kisses and they head straight to the table to begin their activities always seeming to be very excited to get started.  When I pick them up, they're usually out playing with the other kids and I stand there until they notice me which is usually only a few seconds.  I'm very happy to say that once they do notice me they come running and squealing and jump into my arms and give me big squeezes.  Camryn has always been much more demonstrative then Courtney and usually sees me first but once Courtney sees me she comes running too and jumps into my arms.  She is such a copy cat that I'm not sure if she would come running on her own if she were to spot me first but I really think she would.    Things at school are going so well and they're gaining so much from their time there that I'm going to start taking them on Mondays too for a few hours.    

Both girls are very affectionate - they love to be held and will lay down on me for long periods of time.  Camryn can lay there for a long time while Courtney gets a little fidgety after a while but still likes it.   Courtney's a little monkey and likes to climb up on me and wrap her legs very tightly around me.  She's so light that it's no effort on my part to hold her!  This is a kid who didn't know what to do with her legs or arms while being held just a couple of months ago.  They both just mold into me now when they lay down and they're always considerate of each other and make room.  They don't make room for Katy however and, in fact, if Katy is laying with me then Camryn gets a little jealous and tries to squeeze in between.   They both like kisses - they like getting them, they like giving them, they like blowing them and they like mimic-ing them.  Courtney is so cute and puckers up her little lips while Camryn doesn't bother with the puckering a lot and often just gives teeth kisses!  They're both so sweet and loving that it's a boggling to me how they managed to survive the institutional environment without losing that desire.  

I think things are going well as far as our attachment and bonding is going and with the "catch up" in their development.  I was concerned about the amount of time they were forced to spend in the orphanage and the difficulties in adopting "older" children.  I, by no means, feel that we're totally "out of the woods" but I do not think that attachment difficulties are going to be a big issue for us with the exception of allowing it to grow normally.  Both girls are open and willing to participate in a loving relationship which is a great relief to me.  

Other notable improvements:  

Both girls had a wandering eye although Courtney's was much more noticeable then Camryn's.   Camryn's has pretty much been gone since getting home except for when she's tired.  Courtney's was still pretty noticeable up until last week when after doing prescribed exercises for a couple of weeks it seems to have pretty much disappeared.  She looks straight at you now and both eyes seem equally strong.  I thought we might have to put a patch on her but she actually has very good vision and the eye doctor doesn't see any problems there.  

Courtney is not exhibiting much of the autistic behavior that she was earlier.  The only real hand flapping that I see now is in my rear view mirror when the music is on.  She's conducting back there and when I start snapping my fingers I can see her doing it too!  She loves music and her favorites right now are "itsy-bitsy spider" and "twinkle twinkle little star".  She pretty much is singing during all of her down time.  

Both girls have very good appetites and seem to have adapted quickly to the eating habits around here.   Courtney seems to be a bigger eater than Camryn although they both vary day to day which is just as they should be doing.  I don't worry anymore if one doesn't eat much of a meal as I know now that they're not starving or malnourished any longer.  

I feel all is going well here for now and everybody has settled in.  Everyday I think things get a little better and, at times, a little easier.  Things aren't so new anymore and we're all in enough of a routine that life is seeming to be a lot more calm and relaxed.  No more stress and unexpected surprises - the twins know what to expect now as do Katy and I which makes a big difference in the ease and enjoyment of our days.   

Katy is doing great as well and loves having sisters.  She's really mellowed out a lot with them and has learned how to temper her advances - she's not such a "bull" around them now (usually) and is actually very sweet with them at times.   She misses them on our days without them but I know she actually likes our special days as well.   She loves being the "big" sister  (she's actually quite small!) and tells me daily of some of the benefits of being the big sister.  She also has really gotten into helping me with dinner, helping get her sisters dressed in the morning, etc. which has changed her a lot.  

So, I'm pretty happy with the way things are going and, now that I'm feeling better (had a bad head cold that sapped every ounce of energy I had, or so it seemed), I feel very optimistic and excited about our days ahead.  It's such a joy to watch all 3 girls grow and learn while our relationships get stronger every day.   Can't really think of anything that beats it!  

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dinnertime entertainment!

(turn your sound on - the twins carry this little toy piano around and love to play with it)

 Is this cute or what!?  This is the show I got while cooking dinner last night!   Yes, Camryn did follow and go down too but she outlasted my battery!  I'm getting 3 lessons for the price of 1 by just sending big sister to ballet!  

Gotcha Day!

Today is Katy's three year "Gotcha Day" anniversary (successful day in court)!  We don't celebrate that day here as we have too many other special days to celebrate but it is still a very important date for us!!

Trying clothes on Katy for the big day!  

Katy's database picture.  I was never given a picture of her but months after our return home I asked for this one out of her file and was lucky enough to get it!  

Who is Who ???

Can you guess?

The twins database picture.  My guess is Camryn on the left and Courtney on the right but, who really knows???

I was not given a referral picture but a friend in Russia did a search of the database for twin girls in Ekaterinburg after I received the referral and found this.  I then saw the same photo in their file at the Department of Ministry!

Again, I think, Camryn on the left and Courtney on the right but ????

This is their two year birthday picture.  The only picture I received between trips with the exception of pictures taken by another adoptive parent in July when she was picking her son up.