We're in our 3rd day with the boys and we've had a few challenges, nothing horrible but when you're suffering from jet lag, even the little things can seem big. First, we didn't get to Almaty after all yesterday. Alma stopped by our apartment just 2 hours before we were supposed to be picked up to tell us that there was a problem with processing the boys' travel visas. It seems that the only person who can approve the visa applications is in Moscow until Monday and without his stamp of approval, we can't move forward with the registration of the adoption and passports in Astana either...so we're looking at a possibility of Craig going home on Sunday as planned and me remaining behind with the boys for 3 or 4 more days to finish the rest of the processing in Almaty once the paperwork is completed . (Sigh...this news triggered a flashback to the stress of my time alone with Max in KZ in 2005 while we waited weeks for his passport and travel visa, not a happy memory.) OK, no point in rushing to Almaty to wait since everything is much more expensive there so we changed our airline tickets. Now we're flying out on Thursday, will do the medical exams on Friday and then see what happens. There's a small chance that another official may be able to stamp the visa application and we'll still get out on Sunday as planned so keep your fingers crossed. Lack of control over this type of change is a part of the deal when you're adopting in Kazakhstan...accepting it is a survival skill.
We're trying to keep busy in the meantime and we're all adjusting to being together. We went to the pre-school orphanage yesterday; we had promised to take the boys to visit their former caregivers. They were excited to see their old home and to show everyone how they've grown. After our visit, we went to Arzan for groceries and that's where we ran into some limit testing with our oldest son. We should have seen the effects of overstimulation coming after all of our experience with Tanya and Max...but Tanya and Max have come so far that we're finding it hard to remember back to what the first few days of their time with us was like. It's all coming back to us, though...read on and you'll see what I mean.
The boys were overwhelmed by the big warehouse type store and ran slightly amok, begging for movies and toys. We let them pick some movies in Russian to watch on our computer but said no to toys, then we started to shop for groceries. This was OK with Aniyar who was easily redirected with a chance to push the shopping cart but it didn't please Madiyar. He kept wandering farther away from us, playing a 13 year old version of hide and seek to see what we would do...when we had our translator, Arman, remind him that we needed to all stay together for safety reasons, he got mad and walked away from us, leading Arman and Craig on a not-so-merry chase after him. It all turned out OK in the end but the drama resulted in Madiyar receiving his first consequence for not listening to his parents; he lost GameBoy and TV privileges back at the apartment until we talked about what happened and he apologized. (Our kids at home know all too well that the loss of videogame/TV privileges is a standard consequence for behavior issues, right, guys?) The good news is that Madiyar and I were able to communicate; I was able to tell him that we loved him and we wanted him to be safe; he was able to tell us he was sorry and earn his privileges back. Lesson one in adjustment to life in a family has been learned, I think.
Madiyar was a model citizen for the rest of the day and we all had fun. We went to Ice Town with Yulia's family for sledding and sliding in the evening; the boys had a blast running and playing on the ice slides. They needed the exercise and the chance to blow off some steam and this was the perfect place. They played for a long time and we had other fun as well. Aniyar was brave and rode a Kazakhstan horse, we ate shashlik, (Kate, are you jealous yet?) and we all laughed a lot. On the way back to the apartment, Madiyar asked if the boys could watch a movie until bedtime...and I was happy to tell him yes since they had been good, listening to us and staying near us all evening. They watched Clone Wars in Russian; they really liked the movie but were tired so when it ended, they didn't resist getting for bed. We had about 20 minutes of giggling and whispering before they settled down...and Aniyar was asleep first. Madiyar was still playing the “I'm not tired, I need a drink, it's too hot in here” game that kids all over the world seem to be fond of. We turned a Deaf ear to his pleas, and after another 10 minutes with no audience, he gave up and fell asleep.
Today we went into town for a little shopping and some lunch. Before we left, I explained to the boys exactly what we would be doing and where we would go; we also talked about listening and staying together. With our expectations and the plan for the day clearly mapped out, the boys knew what to expect and didn't get overwhelmed. We had a good trip and both kids were well behaved. Madiyar responded well when we praised him for listening and staying close to us; we rewarded both boys with letting them pick out some gum, a huge treat for them. The boys are now happily playing videogames and watching TV as a further reward for their good behavior.
Tonight, we're going to Olga's house for dinner so we'll have a change of scenery. Even the boys tire of videogames and TV after a while so it's good to get them out of the apartment. Tomorrow we're off to Almaty (at least we hope so!); it's also Aniyar's 11th birthday so we'll do something to celebrate there.
Most of all, we need structure...it's hard to establish a clear routine in limbo (no school, not much of a schedule, a lot of down time) but we're trying. The boys do pretty well in the apartment and they quickly adjusted to the routine here; they help set the table and clean up after meals, they know what their bedtime is and they get ready when we ask them to. They even make their bed in the morning without being asked. They're polite and their table manners are pretty good. They're not thrilled with bathing and they don't love brushing their teeth (neither of these things come as a surprise to us) but we're making progress. Being in an apartment really helps because I can cook familiar foods; the boys have enough changes to deal with right now without screwing up their diet so I'm trying to keep the menu to their version of comfort food. We're eating a lot of pelmeni, salami, hard boiled eggs, and fried potatoes, but not too many veggies (that's a fight for another day!). They're inhaling everything I put on the table, no problems with food. We'll have an apartment in Almaty, too, so we hope we can maintain the routine we've established here.
I'll close this post with an observation...these are great kids! They're funny and smart and interesting and I think they'll fit right in with our other 3 funny, smart and interesting kids. These boys have very different personalities and both of them will challenge us, I'm sure, especially as they get acclimated to their new life...but we're looking forward to their transition and ours as we become a family of 7.