Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Weekend in Texas

We drove to Dallas / Ft. Worth last Thursday for my uncle's BBQ / family reunion. We weren't sure how Katie would do because the 4-hour drive to Branson got pretty tough at the end, and this was 9 1/2 hours! She did pretty well until just before 10:00, and then she fussed off and on until we arrived at midnight. I would love it if she could sleep in the car, but she only dozed off for about 30 minutes twice. Needless to say, she was pretty grumpy when we arrived, but she did alot better than we expected, so we were happy.
Due to people's schedules and preferences, we all got down there different ways. I drove with my mom, Maddy (my niece), Derek, and Katie. My dad flew down on Friday with Drew (my nephew) and Alex. Steve was at a conference in Orlando that week, so he just arranged for his flight to go to DFW instead of back to KC, and I picked him up from the airport around 5:30 on Friday. My brother and sister-in-law left after work on Friday and got in Saturday morning, and my oldest brother and his family already live in the Dallas / Ft. Worth area.
Friday morning, I took the kids to see my friend, Nanette, and her family in northern Ft. Worth. Spencer was in school, but the rest of us went to McDonalds for lunch. Nanette and I had a lovely visit while the kids played. Here's Derek, Maddy, Katie, and Serena.
Next, we drove north of Dallas to see my friend, Jennifer, and her family. I got to hold her new baby, Olivia, who was just born last Tuesday, and Derek loved holding George, her Guinea pig. Katie was "resting," and was not particularly happy about the arrangement.
After picking up Steve at the airport, we drove to my uncle's house, which is north of Fort Worth, for a family dinner. It is always wonderful seeing family again each year. I finally got reunited with Alex who had been with one or both of my parents for the previous 26 hours, Derek got lots of snuggles, and Katie did very well meeting all these new people. She clung to Maddy quite a bit, but she also allowed others to hold her, too. With all the time Katie and Maddy spent together, they developed a beautiful bond. As much as Katie thinks I hung the moon, she started preferring Maddy on this trip. I told Maddy that if she ever needs a self-esteem boost to just hang out with Katie for awhile! The way Katie looks at Maddy with such sheer adoration is so heart-warming.

Saturday morning, we went to see my friend, Arian, and her family just north of Ft. Worth. Alex and Logan are 2 peas in a pod, and had a great time together. Katie played with Emme's toys, and Derek entertained himself with a roaring dinosaur. It was a lovely visit. Here's Derek, Katie, Alex, Logan, and Emme.

Now that the whole family had arrived, we all had lunch together before getting a new family photo taken - there's 14 of us now. We spent the evening at Uncle Cecil's BBQ, and we all had a great time. Katie was no longer shy around all the new family, and just made herself at home with everybody. I didn't get a lot of pictures, but I know my cousins did. During the BBQ different people get up and sing. Derek sang "Jesus Loves Me" and "Happy Birthday" to Nana, whose birthday is Thursday. Here's some video of "Happy Birthday." The picture isn't very good because it was dark, and the mike was going in and out a little bit, but you get the idea.
video

Alex played on a rock pile for hours with other little boys (surprise, surprise), and Katie made the rounds, dancing and playing with just about anybody.
Sunday morning we all met for brunch before driving home. All I can say is portable DVD players make traveling so much easier! We pulled in our garage at around 8:00, relieved it was a decent hour. It was a hectic trip with many late nights and very few naps, but the kids did great, and I was thrilled to be able to see 3 of my college friends.
On another note, we had Katie's pictures taken several days ago, and they're now available online. I thought you might like to see them. She was a little hesitant at first, but then she warmed up to the camera and had a good time. Just click on the link below, and enter KAREN TRISCHLER for the customer name. I hope you enjoy them.
https://www.smilesbywire.com/home.asp?AC=LTPP0395102135JCP

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Date Night!

We had our first date night since bringing Katie home, and it was nice. We've been practicing with her to teach her that when we leave, we always return, and she's been doing really well with that. About 10 days ago, we went to our first MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting, and she was in a room with about 10 other kids and 2 adults. She cried when I left (as I knew she would), but it only lasted a few minutes and then she did great the rest of the time. Last Wednesday, Steve's parents came over and watched the kids while we took a walk around the neighborhood with our cell phone. She did very well, and the weather was absolutely gorgeous for our walk! Then, on Saturday night, we went to Starlight Theater to see Les Miserables. For those of you who don't know, Starlight is an outdoor theater, which plays 5 Broadway shows and countless concerts each summer. We've had season tickets for the Broadway shows for about 10 years, and we love going there. We missed Fiddler on the Roof in August, because we were in Russia, and we were hoping to get to see Les Mis. Well, Katie did great! She didn't have any tears, and went to bed just fine with Grandma and Grandpa, and Steve and I thoroughly enjoyed Les Mis. The only bad part was the weather. It rained the entire show. Starlight doesn't cancel for rain, so we were all outfitted in our ponchos and ball caps. There are very few shows for which I will sit in the rain for 3 hours, and Les Mis is one of them. It was nice having a date night again, and nicer still that Katie did so well.

Today, we had kind of a "date afternoon" as we went to the Chiefs game. My mom kept the kids at her house, and once again, Katie did great. My dad, Steve, and I went to the game, which was less than memorable. Neither the Raiders nor the Chiefs are very good this year, and we lost 23-8. The most exciting part for me was the singing of the national anthem, which was done by David Cook (this year's American Idol winner) and his brother, Andrew. It was a beautiful rendition, and their voices just soared. I'm also a sucker for a good male singing voice. The most exciting part for Steve was waiting for my dad and me to return with the brats and cokes!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Russglish

Well, Katie is keeping us on our toes. Since she was speaking all sorts of Russian, we learned what many of her phrases meant. There were still some that we couldn't figure out, but we did the best we could. Now, she's sprinkling in some English words just to keep us off balance. At first I was puzzled at the new phrases and words I was hearing and was at a loss as to their meaning when I realized that she was speaking English! So now when she speaks we have to first decipher if it's Russian or English, and then determine her meaning. Even though she is speaking some English, she doesn't always pronounce the words correctly, thus adding to the confusion. We're muddling our way through, though, and enjoying this once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

Her sleeping is coming along nicely. Now she's just mad about having to go to bed instead of being sad or scared. Her naps are sporadic - some days she sleeps, and others she just lays there singing to herself. However, she's sleeping about 10-11 hours at night! She's often fussy during the day, which may indicate sleepiness, but really it's because she doesn't like to be told "no." Steve and I actually chuckle to ourselves sometimes at her drama, because she's usually not even in trouble. She'll ask for something (my shoes, my cell phone, Alex's Leapster, etc.), I'll tell her "no" or "not now," and she'll either sulk, cry, scream, or throw herself on the floor in a tantrum. You see, in the orphanages, everything was community property. If she saw it, she could have it (as could any of the children). She doesn't understand yet that some things belong to certain people. She'll get there, of course, but it will take some time.

We are having a come-and-go party this Saturday the 13th from 3:00-5:00 so that anyone who wants to meet Katie can. If you are in the KC area and did not get my email invitation, then I either don't have your email address or it was an oversight. We would love to see you on Saturday!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Where Do I Fit In?

Katie got her first haircut with Auntie J about 10 days ago so now it's much more even than before. Katie did great, and just sat there as still as a statue until she was finished. Auntie J even styled it for her and Katie loved that!
Katie and Derek are getting along very well. Whenever Derek asks where Katie is, she is pretty good about responding (when prompted). One night, Steve was reading a bedtime story to all the kids, and Katie stood up, walked over to Derek, and sat in his lap. The amazing part is that Derek actually let her stay and didn't push her off! He generally doesn't like to have people in his "space," but he made an exception for Katie.
Alex and Katie are getting along more like a typical brother and sister do. Katie pretty much loves Alex all the time, but Alex is sometimes bothered by his little sister. Some days he loves playing with her, other days he wants to be alone, and still other days he is somewhat mean to her. He is learning to adjust to our new family dynamic as much as the rest of us are. We've had some good talks with him, and he's been open and honest with us. We told him how much Derek struggled when we brought Alex home almost 3 1/2 years ago, but now they are wonderful brothers and friends. I think that helped Alex. Alex was a little more emotional and clingy for awhile, but he seems to be doing better in the last few days. We are also trying to make sure that we don't expect too much from him. He's still 6, and we are trying to make sure that we don't suddenly ask him to become an assistant parent. Also, there are many things that Alex can do independently that neither Derek nor Katie can do due to age and development. Therefore, Derek and Katie naturally get attention as we help them with these tasks. We are making a concerted effort to give Alex just as much attention, if not more so, and that seems to be working as well. All this being said, I wouldn't even say that Alex is struggling. It's probably more accurate to say that he is just trying to figure out our new family dynamic, and we are so proud of him.

Weekend at the Lake

We went to Table Rock Lake for Labor Day Weekend, and all the kids had a wonderful time. We went with my parents and my brother and his family. Katie got her first taste at swimming / floating in the lake, and once she got over her initial trepidation, she enjoyed it for short periods of time. Here she is with 2 of her cousins, Maddy and Drew.
Derek knows how to go boating in style. All he needs is a fruity drink with an umbrella in it!!
Grandaddy, Alex, and Drew enjoying an evening boat ride with Uncle Andy at the helm.
Katie really took to the boat, and didn't seem to be afraid at all. In fact, on Monday morning before we left to come home, we took one last boat ride, and she fell asleep lying down in the front of the boat. She stayed asleep despite all the crashing we did on the waves.
Katie, Alex, Maddy, Drew, and Derek. What a great group of cousins who love each other very much.
Katie even rode the innertube with me (twice!), but I didn't have my camera with me that time. She was really a trooper and hung in there even when we went airborne a couple of times. After one pretty big set of waves she let us know that she had had enough, though.

The kids always have such a great time when we go to the lake, and they even got to play with some neighbor kids on Monday morning. The neighbor boy and Alex are "lake best friends," and the big sister was like a mom to Katie, carrying her everywhere. The fact that Katie was okay being without Steve or me for awhile was a big step for her. She also went on a golf cart ride with Grandaddy - without Steve or me. These are big steps for her.

Last week on Monday I left the house for an errand, leaving the kids with Steve. The fit and tantrum that Katie pitched was worse than anything I had ever seen from any child anywhere! Katie had been fine when Steve had left, but she clearly was not fine with me leaving. I paused at the door, wondering if I should leave when Steve looked at me (holding a kicking and screaming child) and said, "Just Go!" We wanted her to learn that it's okay for mom to leave, because mom will return. She calmed down after awhile and was fine the rest of the time I was gone, so the next 3 evenings I left for an errand. On Tuesday she cried (but no fit), on Wednesday she was sad (but no tears), and on Thursday she blew me kisses, waved, and said, "Bye-bye." Whew. We haven't tried both of us leaving yet. At the lake it was different because she was the one walking out the door - not us. Each day we are building more trust, a stronger bond, and a greater attachment. She is doing great!