Well we've surpassed the one week mark, and things have been going remarkably well (my own personal tragedies notwithstanding). We've had our issues, to be sure, but so far nothing I can't handle:
I guess it's a girl/boy thing. Julia (now going by Julie) is very attuned to facial expressions, body language, gestures, and just picking up context in general. She is remarkably savvy about knowing what we're talking about. James (Borya has decided to go by James as his nickname), typical for boys, needs more of a literal word-to-word translation and seems completely incapable of inferring meaning from gestures. There have been times I've actually gotten Julie to "translate" for me, as I can gesture something to her (combined with a few words in Russian) and she'll tell James what it is I need him to do. Kind of like some bizarre game of "Operator". In English comprehension, I'd say Julie is leaps and bounds ahead of her brother. In terms of speaking the language, they are both catching on about equally. They can say, hello and goodbye, I love you, how are you, they can sing some of the ABC song, dog, cat, friend, soup, cereal, school, bus, sleeping, thank you, you're welcome and a few others.
The first couple days they were here, they ate very little, just picking at their food. Now there's no stopping them. They eat everything I put in front of them with relish (gusto, not the condiment), and usually ask for more. Typically they have hot or cold cereal for breakfast, soup and crackers for lunch, and whatever I cook for dinner. Plus they snack throughout the day on apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, strawberries, yogurt. The first time Julie had ice cream for dessert her eyes just opened so wide with her first bite it was comical. So far I have not seen any hordeing of food, and they seem to be asking before they take anything, which is how I'd like to keep it, at least for the time-being.
At first they were afraid of the dogs, Julie more so than James. But by showing how to make the dogs do tricks, how to give them treats, and how to brush them, they are now the dogs' biggest fans. I quickly learned they were going through dozens of treats in a day, b/c they thought it such fun to see Sunny leap up to catch them mid-air, so we had a lesson in asking me if they could give them out, and then ony giving one at a time to each. Of course, Julie was needed in translating this lesson to James. They have fun feeeding our guinea pig Daisy veggie scraps, they were amazed at how soft the bunnies' fur is, and they are intimidated but awed by the horses, especially big ol' Jasper. The goats they think are hysterical, and love feeding them table scraps from the deck.
We learned after the first day that these kids needed a course in Bathroom 101. They needed to be taught to use TP. To put TP in toilet instead of trash can. To flush, and of course to wash hands. Luckily for us they were pretty quick learners. The shower thing they picked up pretty quickly and as long as I remind them every couple days they will happily comply, though Julie still wants me nearby when she's showering. No problems when it comes time to pacheesty zoobie (brush your teeth).
They are fantastic when I take them out. I mean fantastic! I've never seen the like. Bella, when she first came home, had to touch everything she saw in the store. Wait, what am I talking about, she's still doing that 5 1/2 years later! All of my "early kids" are horrible to take to the store, wanting everything and not above whining to get it. These two are gems. They stay by me, they don't touch anything, they don't ask for anything. Not even in the candy-laden check-out aisle! I've taken them to the grocery store several times and it's always the same. The other night we had a girls' night out and I took the three girls to the movies and then to the mall b/c they all three needed pants. Julie passed the test with flying colors! A couple times she saw something she wanted that I thought she didn't need and she would whine just a bit. But I would tell her no whining and that would pretty much be the end of it and we would move on. I don't know why and I don't care. I just love their behavior and I'm not gonna question it!
Family and Friends
So far so good. Daniel's had a little trouble with personal stuff boundaries, ie James has played with Daniel's toys w/o asking first. This one can be a little hard to deal with in a household with so many kids and soooooo many toys, but it hasn't been too bad. Most of the toys and games fall in the category of "everyone's junk" anyway. But for the things that do belong to just one kid, they feel stongly about being asked first. For kids coming from orphanages of 200 kids where everything is community property, this can be a puzzling concept. James and Julie have played very well with friends that have come over and everyone seems to like them. James can play kinda rough with Patrick and I have to watch this. But since Patrick has had trouble restraining himslf from playing too roughly with others all his life, it's actually good for him to be on the receiving end of things for a change. Obviously, I will keep a close eye to keep anyone from getting badly hurt, but I really think this could finally help drive my point home with Patrick. It's shameful, I know. They had their first meeting with extended family a couple days ago. My sister and her soon-to-be-husband came for a visit and the kids enjoyed "Tatia and Dodia" immensely. Aunt Ronnie painted dozens of nails, blew bubbles, and took them shopping for small treats. Uncle Jamie played football and basketball and arm-wrestled. There were big hugs and kisses when it was time for them to say goodbye.
Those of you in the adoption world will be familiar with this term. It's kind of like bonding, but attachment speaks to the parent-child connection. With adopted children, especially older ones, attachment issues are always of utmost concern. So far what I'm seeing is all good. Great eye contact. Loving demonstrations of affection. Good respect of my boundaries and rules. Appropriate display of both positive and negative emotions. And most importantly, wonderful ability to bond with new family members (that do not live close by), but then be able to say goodbye and resume life-as-normal immediately.
So life is good. The kids are adjusting extremely well. They are learning English and learning the ins and outs of their new home and family. They enjoy ping-pong and Pixter, basketball and bunnies, soup and skating. They've cuddled on the couch with us to laugh at the American Idol auditions. And they've started each new day in America with a hug and a "Good morning-how are you-I love you!" proclamation. They are suiting up as I write this to go ice skating on our pond again, along with the rest of our brood and a couple friends who slept over last night.
I think they're having a good time.