Thursday, February 19, 2009
We’ve been home for almost 4 weeks now and it’s been a whirlwind of activity around the Risley-Schoelles house. We’ve had physical exams, the start of school, language assessment appointments, and the long awaited adventure of just plain living with 5 kids. The daily living part has included a lot of good, a bit of not so good, and a touch of the ugly. (I’d have to say that trying to train 2 boys who are unaccustomed to toilet seats to lift said toilet seat and not pee all over the bathroom floor gets my vote for the ugly bit!)
OK, here are the lows and highs of our last few weeks:
In the first several days of school, our sweet Aniyar pinched his translator, swore at her, kicked his classmates and told the girl in his class who speaks Russian to shut up….and got sent to the principal’s office.
In the first several days of school, our sweet Madiyar refused to do any work in school, dissed his translator and his teachers, swore at his Art teacher, pushed a girl and called her names at recess…and got sent to the Dean’s office.
Sigh…adjustment to the new culture has commenced and the old and new worlds have collided, sometimes painfully.
On the positive side, I’ve received countless hugs from both boys and my first “I love you”s. I get grumbling regarding rules about bedtime, videogames, and TV but the rules are followed. I get smiles and hugs when I pick the kids up from school, polite behavior at dinner, help with chores, and gifts of swamp grass, pretty rocks, candy, and treats collected from the day’s adventures. A few days ago, I watched the boys climb our old willow tree and explore the frozen wetland behind our house. They happily discovered old tennis and golf balls and brought them home, rode their bikes in spite of the bitter cold wind, and dragged home scrap lumber in hopes of building a tree house.
I’ve also discovered that Madiyar can break dance; he was the star of his first school dance and is a minor celebrity now for his flips and spins. Of course, Madiyar can’t communicate much with his new admirers yet but that’s changing…students and teachers are learning phrases and greetings in Russian and Madiyar is quickly picking up English phrases. The school has also identified several Russian speaking students who are serving as Madiyar’s mentors so he has kids he can communicate with during the day which seems to help him feel a bit more comfortable. He’s also enjoying frequent chats with his friend Borya who was also adopted recently and who now lives in Pennsylvania
Aniyar’s artistic ability is drawing a crowd at the elementary school…the kids are lining up for his drawings and he’s thrilled to see them appreciate his artistic efforts. He’s making friends, many of them kids who knew Max when he first arrived; they don’t find a kid from Kazakhstan who doesn’t speak English all that different. Many of them are greeting Aniyar in Russian each morning.
At home, we’re settling into a more normal routine and the boys are getting more comfortable with life as we know it. They’re getting used to a regular bedtime, are taking baths (more) regularly, and are eating more American type of foods in addition to their own KZ favorites. (They’ve both discovered peanut butter sandwiches and are quite smitten.) They’re enjoying TV, movie, and videogame privileges as long as they follow our limits…and they’ve both earned brand new Nintendo DS systems with improved behavior at school and at home. They’re consuming enough fresh fruit that I wish I owned a produce stand…I’m going through 3-4 pounds of grapes a day, not to mention multiple pounds of bananas, apples, and pears, not to mention 5 dozen eggs and 4 gallons of milk a week…no, eating isn’t a problem. They really like some of our family events like our weekly movie night. This past Sunday, we all settled down in the family room to watch a Jackie Chan movie which had so much action that the language barrier wasn’t a problem. We snuggled under blankets and curled up with the dogs…and it was pretty darn normal. All the kids are playing well together and the language barrier is falling…the boys are trying out more English phrases each day and Kate, Tanya and Max are using more Russian again. We have a lot of dancing, singing, pillow fights, and horseplay and a lot of laughter. (OK, we also have bickering over the TV channels…but that just tells me that all 5 of the kids are really bonding as siblings!) Kate summed it up best when she said that our family now feels complete…and in spite of our minor ups and downs (arrrggghhhh, the toilet seat/missing the toilet completely issues!!!)…I totally agree.
As for Mom and Dad…the past 3 months and 3 trips to Kazakhstan have taken their toll. Craig and I are both mentally and physically exhausted, stressed in many ways, and financially nervous due to the state of the economy. Craig used all of his leave time on our adoption trips and is really busy catching up at work now so he can’t take any time off. I’m at home each day but so busy that I’m desperately trying to figure out how to fit in work on my consulting contract while still being available for all of the kids’ needs. Don’t get me wrong, we’re really OK…but we could sure use a vacation about now…and that just isn’t in the cards before summer. (At the moment, we’d settle for a babysitter so we could go out for dinner some time!)
Oh, and did I mention that it’s winter vacation week here in Massachusetts? The kids are off from school until next Monday…so far, they’ve been to the YMCA for 2 days of camp and we have some other fun activities planned…but it’s raining today and Kate and Max both have orthodontist appointments. I can hear the whining already….no, wait, that’s me…is it Monday yet?
OK, let’s review our current vacation week situation. We have 5 bored kids, Mom going crazy, trips to the orthodontist, non-stop eating, too much laundry, muddy shoes and paw prints from too much rain, teenagers who want to stay up too late and then sleep until 10am and pre-teens who want to be teenagers. Sounds pretty normal, doesn’t it? In spite of our fatigue and our adjustments, we still have to smile…we’ve waited two years for this and it’s finally here. Welcome to real life in our family of 7…more ups than downs, more good than bad…and it’s getting better each day. We’re so lucky to have pulled off this miracle!