A video about our family

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

9th visit


Calvin is doing really well with us. I think we are communicating rather well for the large language barrier between us. It was a typical visit of play and snack. Nothing of particular note. We looked at the scar on his abdomen. It has healed up nicely since the surgery last May. To see his abdomen we had to take off a fleece sweater, a t-shirt, and a tank top. It’s no wonder the boy is sweating whenever we play together.

There are some similarities between Ukraine and Russia. One would be that the taxi drivers consider it a real insult if you try to put a seat belt on when they are driving you. Another would be seeing not only women but men wearing coats with fur trim on the edges. It just doesn't seem manly if you have fur on your coat. Am I right? Speaking of fur, Sveta said that it is outdated here now. The new style is to wear a beanie cap, instead, so Tyler is quite stylish here with his. I am not crazy about this hat:


But I like the women's hats:


If they weren't so expensive, I would get one for myself. 

Tomorrow we will visit Calvin one more time before heading back to NN. Sveta is going to explain to Calvin where we are going and that we WILL be back for him. I only hope it will be in 2 weeks instead of 5. I am not looking forward to the difficult and bumpy 3 hour drive to Nizhny Novgorod, but I am looking forward to having more of a social life with the church there. It seems a bit mundane to only see your boy for one hour and then spend the rest of the time cooped up in the apartment. I love the cold weather (it's -6 degrees today) but it prevents me from getting outside and walking around. I am nervous to slip on the ice which is everywhere. I don't know how the people walk on it here, other than they must be accustomed to doing it. I have seen one girl fall down, but it seemed like she may have been asking for it by wearing super high stilettos and practically running down the street which was covered in ice. She was okay - probably more embarrassed than anything. At least I was for her. 

Fanta grape soda - very carbonated here in Russia, Coke, and ketchup in a bag. I love these cute orange salt and pepper shakers here in the apartment. I make fried potatoes and eggs at least every other day. They are simple and delicious.

Look at that smile! Isn't he cute?

We are proud parents!

The winding stairs down from the playroom. These are pictures of two pictures we saw on the wall in the hallway. I guess they do celebrate Christmas here?

Calvin's scars from his heart surgeries. His heart is barely bulging in the middle of his chest - much unlike how it was prior to surgery in May 2011. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Having a ball


We had a great visit today. We played with all the usual things and added in throwing some balls into the tube and also building things with big foam blocks. Papa built one around Calvin and he laughed so hard when it tumbled down. He ate his banana and looked at family pictures. He has the names of most of our family learned. At one point, Calvin fell down on the floor and started crying. He snuggled into his Papa and his Mama and felt comforted by us. This is great in regards to attachment. We have high hopes for his transitioning well into our family. Calvin is beginning to test us. We were throwing balls into the tube and then Calvin started throwing balls really hard at Papa. Papa asked him to stop but Calvin continued to throw the balls at him. Papa then put Calvin on a chair and faced it towards the wall. Clearly Calvin was not happy about this, but he stayed there for the most part and when he was allowed to get up he didn't throw any more balls at Papa.

On the drive back to the apartment, we stopped at the SPAR grocery store. I stayed out in the taxi with the driver. I was able to ask him (in my very limited Russian) if he had any children. He showed me a picture of his son, Daniel. I asked if was married and then he showed me a picture on his cell phone. I was shocked to see a woman wearing ONLY very skimpy lingerie. The taxi driver seemed very proud of this picture. I, on the other hand, was embarrassed by it. But I told him that she was pretty and handed it back. ::blush::

For breakfast we usually have yogurt, oatmeal (I brought instant oatmeal from home), and a cup of Choffy. For lunch we have any leftovers from previous meals or sliced bread with butter and sliced cheese or fried potatoes and scrambled eggs. Tonight for dinner I am making blini - a Russian crepe. We have nutella, bananas, and jam to go in the middle. For snacks we eat protein snack bars, fruit leather (I love the strawberry kind, Diana!), pringles, whey protein shakes, and the wafer cookies. 

This morning I woke up to see that it had snowed some more. I wish it would snow during the day - I love to see the snow falling. It's so peaceful. We are leaving on Wednesday to go back to Nizhny Novgorod. Sveta will be here for our last visit. I am glad that she will be there to help explain to Calvin where we are going and when we will be back. 

I have a question for those of you with children. We are thinking of adding in the given names for the boys as part of their legal names, such as Calvin Robert Dennis Pierce and Silas Richard Elijah Pierce. Anyone have two middle names for their children? I am wondering if that would be too much of a hassle...thoughts?

My favorite juice, block of cheese, bagged milk and then garlic bouillons, and our pile of water bottles. 



I think he will enjoy learning to play the piano.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Swinging good time


We looked at pictures of family members today and Calvin knew Keith by sight – which is exciting! We played with the big tube, the piano, the blanket, and watched some more DVDs of sign language. Calvin likes the bubble breaker game on the iPad. We had a great visit in bonding with each other. The hour is going by faster with each visit. Calvin likes our routine of changing things up every 5 minutes. He loves eating a banana each day, too. My favorite thing was Calvin calling Tyler "Papka" - dear little dad. SO CUTE!

We came home and had some lunch. I took a 2 (yes, 2!) hour nap and then started on dinner. Sveta asked me to teach her to make Chicken Parmigiana (my favorite dish) and I thought it would be good to do a test run here in the apartment. It turned out really well. I even made the breadcrumbs! It turns out that drying out bread isn't that hard to do...who knew?

There isn't a branch of ward here in Vyksa, so we watched this talk by President Eyring online. It was very inspiring and made me want to be a better person. I am so grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ and for the revelation that I receive. I wouldn't be here in Russia adopting if I didn't know that this is where God wants for me to be. 

The tube game.

The Russian cup-of-noodles and Chicken Parmigiana.

Calvin giving me a kiss on the cheek and Papa swinging him.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Shoes for Calvin


We introduced the blanket that I brought for Calvin to him today. I was surprised at how much he enjoyed playing with it, as he is 5 years old now. He liked wrapping his Papa up in the blanket and having Papa lay on the floor while he draped the blanket over him. One time he draped the blanket over his Papa with half of it hanging over the side of him. Then Calvin laid down right next to Papa and put the blanket over him as well. It was really sweet. He is warming up to us really well. We went over pictures of his siblings and worked on their names. We brought some shoes for Calvin to try on and they fit him perfectly. In fact, he wore them the whole hour. However, when it was time to go we asked for him to put his sandals back on. Calvin was very sad to do that – it just ripped my heart out to see him want the new shoes so much. He didn’t cry, but his sad face showed his disappointment. And I cannot explain to him that he will have the shoes when we bring him home. I am ready to bring him home and be able to take care of him.

Everyday we take a taxi to and from the orphanage. We pay 100 rubles each way - about $3. The taxi driver seems nice enough. I know when I first got here I was nervous about being robbed, but that may have been influenced from reading THE HUNGER GAMES, which is very intense about survival. I finished the first book but won't read the other two until I am literally safe and sound back in the US. I feel more safe now that I'm not reading the book anymore. 

I enjoy seeing the various people out and about the town.  I have seen parents not pushing their young babies in a stroller but pulling them behind them in a small sled. It makes me smile. I am hoping to get a picture of one before we leave Vyksa. Tyler walked to the SPAR grocery store yesterday and a nice old woman smiled back at him as he was walking - he said it made his day. Most people here look very unhappy. I often wonder how I would be if this was my life here in Vyksa. It's hard to know how I would truly be. I would like to imagine myself still being a positive person. 

On top is pomegranate/chocolate and coconut/multi fruit yogurt. On the bottom is some juice. It's funny - I don't drink juice much in the US but I always drink it here. Perhaps it tastes better? I love all the fruit combinations.

Working on learning the names of his family members. Look at how he is so comfortable with me - I love it.

Calvin wrapping Papa up!


The top picture is the front door to our apartment building. We have a key with a small metal circle that you rub on the a space on the door and it unlocks it. It is very unique.

Who wants raspberry scented toilet paper? I guess we do! The bottom picture is an apartment complex similar to ours.

There is a small praying church around the corner from us. Here is a picture of what is inside of it. I confess that I do not know very much about the Russian Orthodox Religion.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Dancing the days away


We are definitely in a routine with Calvin. He came in and greeted us the same as past days. He likes playing on the piano and today he told Tyler and I to dance while he played the piano. We did that 3 times. We also introduced him to pictures of our family members, including our dog and cat. We practiced saying their names and familiarizing him with the faces of his brothers and sisters waiting for him at home + Silas who isn’t as far away. We also showed him the Bubble Breaker game, where he pops colored bubbles on the iPad screen. He REALLY liked that and asked to play it later. We brought him another banana and gave him a few raisinets – he was excited about the chocolate. I think we are definitely bonding with Calvin and he with us. 

Some wafers with soft white chocolate fillings. Tyler eats them like crazy.







Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mama lubit Dennis


We had a great visit with Calvin today. He started off acting quite silly, but calmed down once we started playing. We try to work in 5 minute intervals. Work on one thing and then switch after 5 minutes. When he starts breathing pretty heavy, we watch the DVD to calm down. We have brought him one thing to eat each visit. Today it was a banana. He wolfed it down in no time. He is a good eater, which isn’t surprising because he looks very tall and healthy – other than his heart condition. We haven’t seen his lips turn very blue this trip – perhaps that is due to his recent heart surgery? When his lips turn a little blue, we slow down our playing for him to relax. Today we introduced “Mama lubit Dennis” and “Papa lubit Dennis” to our limited vocabulary. (Mama loves Dennis, Papa loves Dennis). He repeats what we say. He is doing well with the sign language, too. He signed for “eat” all on his own. Amazing. I also started counting with him using the hand signs for up to the number 5. He did well with that and seems very eager to learn. He is becoming more accustomed to the affection that we give him. Today he was actually rubbing his Papa’s neck/hair. I attacked him with kisses and he tolerated it quite well. I have a feeling that he will transition well to ouro family. (Knock on wood). This time we prepped him before we left by each hugging him and saying Paka while looking him in the eye. He went back to the groupa just fine.

Today I started working on our family scrapbook for 2011. I am up to August of last year. It would be nice to finish it while I am here and have the time to do so. Tyler went to the grocery store and bought us a few supplies. I have observed that when I take a few days off on vacation that I feel a bit relaxed, but this trip has shown me that after a few more days I start to look at my life and see what changes that I need to make. I guess I don't relax enough during the hustle and bustle of my day-to-day life to to take a look at where I am in life. Tyler and I shared some spiritual goals that we are working on right now. He wants to watch his thoughts and to make sure that they are positive thoughts. I want to work on judging other people and to increase in charity. One day I decided I wasn't going to judge anyone and it was HARD. From the rude checkout person at the store to person who took my parking space - I realized that I wasn't thinking positive thoughts about other people. And I want to improve on that. I am grateful for all this time here in Russia if it makes me a better person when I leave.

And here are some pictures:

Playing with Papa

Getting some lovin' from Mama

2 random buildings here in Vyksa.

The cheapest pasta here is very wide with a hole down the middle. After you cook it, the noodles are seriously the size of worms with a hole. So odd, but CHEAP! And this apartment may not have a whisk, but I am super grateful for the potato peeler. We cook potatoes a lot and I am not skilled in peeling with a knife. The potatoes here look like they just came from the ground - very dirty.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Another day, another visit


Calvin came in and greeted us in the usual way of hugging his Papa and giving me a kiss on the cheek and a hug. We played with the various toys in the playroom, adding in a slide that kind of worked with Papa holding it up. Calvin was comfortable sitting on my lap and would even try to get on my lap when playing the piano. He didn’t spit today, but he stuck his tongue out at me. I asked him to come over to me and instead he just went into the tube to play. I pulled him out and looked at him in the eyes and repeated what I had said. He did not like it, but he listened to everything else I said after that. We watched some of the DVD when he needed to calm down. He certainly doesn’t act like a boy with heart problems – he is very energetic and likes to play.

There was another boy that came into the play room today. There were two caretakers working with him. I think he was 2 or 3 years old and has cerebral palsy. His name is Sasha and such a sweet little boy. They put him in an inflatable suit and worked with him on learning to walk. Calvin was excited to tell the caretakers everything that we were doing: the slide, the piano, the DVD, etc. Before we knew it, it was time to go. Once we told him we were going, he just walked right into the groupa room. We didn’t get to hug or say goodbye, but Calvin didn’t seem upset over it – so I guess he’s getting used to our coming for an hour and leaving each day. I can’t wait to pick him up and actually TAKE him home. Not to mention dress him in some nice clothes and give him a haircut! His outfit today was quite comical. You will see in the pictures.

Tyler bought me a blow dryer today! And there was much rejoicing. I spent a good chunk of time reading THE HUNGER GAMES while Tyler read the third book in the series. We had sliced bread with butter and Russian cheese for lunch. For dinner, I made pasta with a homemade cheese sauce, corn, and fried chicken chunks in it with some garlic cheese bread that we bought at the store. I am very satisfied with how well I can cook even in meager situations such as this one. With no whisk, I used a fork to make the white sauce. We boiled the noodles in bottled water (the tap is light brown in color and smells of sulfur). There is mold growing in the bathroom (I’m quite allergic) so Tyler bought some bleach and cleaned it out. I am amazed at how good Tyler is to me. I am so blessed to be his wife.

We were able to Skype with Anna today. It was lovely to hear her voice. Iryna is recovering from her sickness, but Anna is now having headaches and Keith is having trouble with his bowels (having accidents at school). Iryna is also misbehaving a lot. I know that they all miss us. I wish I could be there to help them feel comfortable. But I know I need to be here for our new children. I am honored to be able to mother so many children. Soon I will have 5 children. FIVE!

My friend, Sarah, said that she hasn't seen any pictures of all the snow - so this is for her! These pictures are taken outside of Calvin's orphanage. Those two ladies are caretakers there.

I could not believe Calvin's getup today. Some sort of plaid shirt, black short shorts, khaki tights and blue sandals. Wow. OH - and his hair had this sort of wave thing going on - not sure if that was intentional or just his hair naturally.



Sasha in this inflatable suit. I've never seen anything like it - anyone else? Does the air just support him and his muscles?

My new (and travel size!) blow dryer which cost about $12. The fabulous meal that I made for dinner. Yum.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

2nd visit pictures of Calvin


The velco toys - can't think of a better name.


Calvin loved being rolled and rolling Papa in the tube.


More velcro toys


Another adoptive Dad took this picture of us three together and I snapped this awesome picture of Calvin smiling on the piano. Isn't he adorable?


This is the view outside our kitchen window. It is so peaceful. 

2nd visit with Calvin


This morning a taxi driver picked us up at 9:45am and we went to see Calvin. He was very excited to see us. He gave Papa a hug and me a kiss on the cheek/hug. He is a very sweet boy. When we came in the playroom, a woman told Calvin to tell us something – he recited a cute little poem, of sorts (we think). We wish we could have gotten it on video. He showed more of his personality today. He laughed a lot and was always on the go. We had to redirect him a couple of times when he did the opposite of what we asked him to do. He spit at us once, which we didn’t like, of course. I hope it won’t be a permanent habit. We did many activities such as play on the piano, roll a ball back and forth, and stack some blocks. We watched a little bit of Baby Einstein and some Signing Times. We brought a birthday cake for him – his birthday was two weeks ago – and thought he could enjoy it with his groupa. He was more comfortable with us holding him on our lap. It was a good visit.

Towards the end of our visit with Calvin, a Russian couple came in to meet with a sweet little girl. It is nice to see someone local wanting to adopt – I hear that it isn’t very common. The girl was very quiet and didn’t say much – complete opposite of Calvin! We brought in an outfit and coat that we brought for Calvin to wear home, in case he does get to come home this trip. He was very excited about it and was showing the clothing to some of the women in the playroom – they were taking down winter/New Year decorations. The 3T jeans fit in the waist, but he needs longer pants. I have some 4T jeans at home with adjustable waists, which should work just fine. It’s too bad I only brought 3T this trip. Oh well, a couple days of high waters won’t hurt him, right? The shirt and coat fit him really well. I am eager to see him in a shirt other than the purple turtleneck which he has worn the past 2 days…

Sveta told us to let her know what we think of the taxi driver. He was recommended to Sveta by the realtor of this apartment. One thing that I didn’t care for was that he announced on his radio that he was taking the Americans home…I’m already paranoid as it is to be staying in an apartment when we were told of how some people in Vyksa react to Americans being here. I pray daily to be protected and kept safe.

Today I cooked my first hot meal since we came to Russia one week ago: scrambled eggs and fried potatoes. It was nice to have something simple, but hot, and a meal where I knew exactly what was in it – unlike the wiener wraps we got from the grocery store last night.

Tyler has been reading THE HUNGER GAMES series. We borrowed the first book before we left and he finished it in a couple of days. Then we downloaded the other two books onto our iPad so he could continue reading. I think I will start reading the series today. Tyler said he is eager to talk with me about it. I also downloaded the TWILIGHT series so he could read that afterwards. Tyler only reads non-fiction, so this is all very new for him. I downloaded THE OBAMA’S to read.  I enjoy political books. I read one several years ago about the “real” Hillary Clinton. (I am a republican, just so you know).

Things are pretty low key here in Vyksa. I am hoping to gain some relaxation and renew myself before beginning this journey of 5 kids at home. Tyler found an ESPN tv station with college basketball. If he turns up the volume, he can barely hear the English announcers in addition to the very loud Russian ones.

We have a beautiful view outside our kitchen window. I love looking out into the trees and snow – it’s very picturesque. One thing I am lacking here in Vyksa is a blow dryer. Today I just washed it and dried it as much as possible with a towel. For someone with very thin, flat hair – a blow dryer makes a big difference. However, I suppose that I can survive without one until we go back to Nizhny Novgorod. It’s just weird letting my hair air dry…

I am missing the ability to Skype with Anna every morning. The internet connection isn’t good enough to do audio, but I think we’re going to try to type/chat with each other over Skype. I hope that will work. I miss my little kids back home. :*(