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Writer's Strike Ends
Monday, March 10, 2008
Well after flipping back and forth and then finally committing to my original decision to no longer blog, Stef has decided to pick up where I leave off. She is going to try out blogging about our new life with our little man.

Please take a minute and check out the new site...

posted by Steveg @ 11:52 PM   3 comments
The end
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Well in the words of Jim Morrison, this is the end. Of course Jim sang it much better than I could. On the other hand he died of an overdose at 27, so I feel like I've done a bit better than the Doors great.

The point of this blog was my (a man's) view of our journey through international adoption to get our first child. And to that end we successfully achieved our goal. It took longer than expected (nearly 19 months) but exceeded our expectations. As we are now the parents of the cutest kid in the world (yea, as always I'm biased). But just take a look at this face.

And so the main issue I have with maintaining this blog is that it really changes that stated purpose and that's not something I want to do. Being the wannabe writer I am, I have a desire to stick, at least somewhat, to my objective. And as a result this blog ends here.

But the blogging experience has been a great one for me. It allowed me to put down my feelings, both good and bad, and as the readers have perhaps regrettably found out, allowed me to express some pretty strong personal opinions. I do feel or at least hope that this blog has been both enjoyable for the reader as well as informative and hopefully that excuses my rants which I seem to go on every now and then.

For those who are new or relatively new to this blog and are going through the process of an adoption, you may wish to look back at some of the posts in order to get a feel for what you have in store for yourself. Upon reflection nearly everyone who has undertook the adoption journey and been successful (i.e., gotten the kid, and that's like 99.999999% of the stories) are tra-la-la happy. And why not? We've gotten our son(s)/daughter(s) and our living the life of the family we wanted.

However dear reader it is important to remember that nothing in life is easy. And the adoption process (both domestically and internationally) is extremely difficult emotionally and taxing on ones mental health. My advice to anyone getting into the process is simple:

1. Do massive amounts of research on anything and everything to do with adoption

2. Be level headed (if that's not your norm, learn how to be that way)

3. Really really really try to have other things going on in your life to divert your attention away from the adoption

4. Remember that nothing is ever as bad (or as good) as it seems

I'm a Mac guy and just like Steve Jobs in every speech he gives on Apple always says "just one more thing..." I did a video while we were waiting for our referral that sort of summed up the adoption process at the time for us. Ironically, the day after I posted this video we got "the call". Anyway, I'm working on a final video that will cram the 19 month journey into a 3 min. display. Because of course Andrei keeps me pretty busy, this video won't be done for at least a week. But I will post it along with a url to a new blog that I've decided to start showing the day to day experiences of being a stay-at-home-dad. It's mainly going to be for friends and family to see how Andrei is doing and will as such have a much different tone than this one had.
posted by Steveg @ 3:11 PM   15 comments
A couple more shots
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
So I just have to show a couple more photos.

The first is Andrei doing a party trick. Yes, we're teaching him how to show Loser! with a big "L" on his forehead. Well, you should know by now that we're pretty twisted people.

And the second is my homeboy hangin' out in his pimped out ride (a Honda minivan).
posted by Steveg @ 9:23 PM   3 comments
Our dinner with Andrei
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Well, I'm having a really hard time posting even with my self imposed closing of the blog in a couple of days. Partly it's because I'm busy but also because this blog was more about what the adoption journey was like for me and not what my life with my son is like.

But I noticed I don't post any pictures with the posts I have had the time to write, so I've decided to just make this post a mini picture fest.

First a great shot of Andrei having Christmas dinner. Those are sweet potatoes, one of the very few vegetable he likes.

Here's a big kiss from Mom on Christmas morning while we were opening presents.

Here's one of his favorite toys he got for Christmas a Tickle-Me-Ernie (sorry, we went for the Ernie rather than Elmo because both Stef and I like Ernie more).

Andrei loves to laugh and make others laugh. Here he is getting a major round of tickles from Mom. Next to him is his lovie which is a GlowWorm.

I think I mentioned before that contrary to what everyone tells you about orphanage kids hating baths, our guy loves them. We literally have to wait until he is done with the bath before it ends. If we try to take him out before he feels it's over we'll get a major temper tantrum. Anyway, here he is getting a bit too excited (yes, telling him to sit down is almost a nightly occurrence).

Of course next to bath time, eating is best.

We have subsequently given him a real play cell phone. But before we did that we have him an old solar calculator and told him it was a phone (So what, he thought it was real, and besides it was available). Anyway, so here he is with the "phone" sort of telling us he's busy with a call.

Of course after all this fun and play and action it's time for bed. Here's our cute little man on New Year's Eve. Unfortunately he had to hit the hay at his regular bedtime and missed out on the champagne.
posted by Steveg @ 10:38 PM   9 comments
Some signs of growth
Saturday, January 05, 2008
The cool thing yesterday was our first visual sign of Andrei's growth. He has these jeans that we were rolling up the legs because they were too long (basically that's the situation with all his pants). Anyway, yesterday I noticed that I didn't have to roll them up! We also had bought one of those wall growth charts in Russia so it's in centimeters with some writing on it in Cyrillic of course. When we got home he was at 77 1/4 centimeters and now (3 weeks later) he's grown a little over 1 centimeter. We know it really takes a few months for the little ones to get that major growth spurt assuming their size was reduced due to institutional issues (nutrition, exercise, etc.). So we're not expecting anything major just yet.

However, there are some other signs of his growth. His hair is looking and feeling much better. It was really coarse and thin which his IA doctor calls "orphanage hair" (a term both Stef and I, sorry to say, think is really funny). It's yet another thing caused by the lack of nutrition in their diet. And yes, we first just tried baby hair conditioner which doesn't really help. But that stuff is good for his scalp and new hair so we use it.

On the development side there are just so many things he's doing it's too much list. His comprehension is continuing to go at an unbelievable pace. He can point out his eyes, ears, nose, and mouth when asked. But we're still waiting for the speech to get going. Another great thing is his attitude is getting better as he seems to understand that there are going to be some things he doesn't get to do (usually because of some safety issue). Naturally this new found understanding has not eliminated the temper tantrums as he still gives us plenty of those. But clearly the less interest we show in his tantrums the shorter the duration.

The food front is the one area where things are getting worse. I suppose worse is the way we view it while Andrei would say he's just trying to be more assertive. And assertive is a euphemism for fussy eater. He was never big on vegetables (although we get him to eat them by hiding them in other food). But now he'll eat something (like sliced turkey) for a a few bites and then decline it five minutes later. Of course this is just typical toddler eating behavior, but boy is it annoying.

The spitting out of food he doesn't like is also annoying but is so funny to watch that we have to literally turn away because he was noticing us laughing so he thinks he's doing something good. Yes, there are plenty of things that as new parents we have to show poker faces to avoid teaching negative behavior. And since both Stef and I have some pretty dark senses of humor, we have to do a lot of poker faces.
posted by Steveg @ 8:28 AM   3 comments
Finally some kids my age!
Thursday, January 03, 2008
We took Andrei to a Gymboree class today. Yes, that's the clothing store folks. They actually started as a "play center" chain nearly 30 years ago and didn't get into clothing until the late 80's. Anyway with the foul weather during the winter here in Northern California (cold and very rainy), we can't really head to the park.

So we took the opportunity of their free class, sort of a try before you buy, and took Andrei there this morning. It was a big hit for him. He must have felt it was the American equivalent to an orphanage since there were about 15 toddlers all his age (16-22 months) roaming around. It was also cool for us because we could get a good feel for truly how on par with his age group he really is. Of course we're biased but he really was in all ways (motor skills, speech, etc.) right with the other kids. Which sort of surprised us a little, even though we've been telling ourselves (based on reading books) how on track he is.

But much more importantly, he just plain had fun. And that's really why we were there. He had a blast going over the climbing stuff they had (often going on the same one, oh about 5 times in row). And that physical play is what we really wanted him to get. Thanks to all our friends and family we have tons of educational toys at home but of course you just don't have the room in a house to put 8 huge climbing/activity gym equipment, thankfully Gymboree does.

It was also a great way to meet other parents with kids Andrei's age. Bottom line, it was great for all concerned. So we knew at once this was something we wanted to continue for at least the winter season. Their classes are pretty reasonable (under $20 for a 45 minute class). Well, it really works out to about an hour since the kids are toddlers and that means some running around and playing before and after the actual class. And the class is extremely well done. Just the right amount of structure but with an attitude of Hey, you don't want structure and just run around and play, that's cool kid, go for it.

So we signed up for some more classes (just once a week) for the next couple of months. I'm going to take him there next week by myself since once Stef heads back to work that's the way it's going to be. Not to mention that Stef has been spending a lot of time with Andrei these first couple of weeks and needs some "Mommy alone" time.
posted by Steveg @ 8:02 PM   5 comments
New Year some new stuff
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Well it's a new year and we're working on some new things for Andrei. It actually started on New Year's Eve (or more precisely the day). We had our friend Gillian over with her two boys, J who is 5 and R who is 2 1/2. It was very cool because it was Andrei's first taste of kids outside of his orphanage experience.

He was a bit gun-shy at first but eventually got into the swing of a playing and even though the other boys were older he had a good time. Of course he doesn't understand sharing yet (or even playing with others), but because they were older he did a bit more watching at first. Of course the one activity that all the boys enjoyed was the Mac and Cheese lunch!

But first, the thing everyone has been waiting for, the news that CNN, CBS, NBC, and others have pulled their top reporters from Iowa and sent them to our house to hear about, yes it's Andrei's stool sample results.

We sort of knew he was going to have giardia and sure enough he does. Not really a big issue for us since we did all the investigation about this parasite before and knew it was both very common throughout Russia and very easy to cure. So we're picking up his prescription tomorrow and after just a couple of days he should be all cleared of his unwanted guests.
posted by Steveg @ 10:55 PM   1 comments
Communication flowing
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Andrei continues to grasp the English language much faster than I thought he would. When I say grasp I mean that he's understanding us and responds correctly. For example if we ask him if he wants more juice and he does, he'll shake his head "Yes" and open his mouth (hey, he's a toddler). If he doesn't he'll shake his head "No". He's not yet hitting English words perfectly (except for his famous "Bye-bye"). But you can tell he's right at that cusp before an explosion of words. He does baby sign language for "More" and says "Mo-Mo" which is pretty darn good. He also will make the sounds of a few animals when asked "What sound does a ______ make?" Stef's favorite is a sheep in which he gives a very good "Baaa".

The other interesting thing is that he loves to watch the garage door shut. And quickly figured out the button we press to close it. So now when we come in from an outing, he asks to press the button himself (by lifting up his arm with his forefinger extended). We lift him up and he presses the button and then immediately (almost to the point of giving himself whiplash) flips his head around so he can watch the door shut. Ahh, the things that entertain a toddler.

His most negative thing is when he doesn't get his way he now gives a nice "ARRRGH" sound. Followed by flailing arms which invariably hit himself in the face. Of course he use to throw a temper tantrum so I consider this an upgrade.

However, we've discussed that fact that we may be giving him too many strong "No's" and are going to try to bend down to his height (some eye to eye stuff) and just explain... "we can't do that now" or whatever and give him an alternative. I've been trying to also replace his all too often desires to be picked up with just kneeling down and hugging him and kissing him. Mostly this works but he tries to squirm onto my bent knees. It's not that we don't like to hold him, it's just that he's kinda heavy and his needs for being held are way too often.

But overall he's doing extremely well and is making some of the obvious bonding connections. His enjoyment being held and baby-ed is great and loves checking to see our reaction when he does something good. He'll also look to us when we takes a spill to see if he's okay. And we're getting better at recognizing just a normal toddler wipeout versus a fall that actually hurts. But it's cute when he looks at me after falling (usually when running to throw the ball to the dog). He'll have this sort of concerned/unhappy face on as if to say "Is that a bad one?" Normally I'll shoot out the "You're okay, hop up." And he then proceeds to get up with now a massive smile on his face.
posted by Steveg @ 7:52 PM   3 comments
Good Sleep, Bad Sleep
Friday, December 28, 2007
Good Sleep

So last night Stef and I were talking about what happened the day before on his nap, which by the way are getting better, that I wanted to blog about. First let me say that his first English word is "bye". Which he uses at every possible time you can use the word "bye". When we leave a store Andrei says and waves "bye" to everyone. And of course most people think it's cute to see a little one wave so they wave too, which naturally makes him wave and say "bye" even more. I must admit it is very cute, but as I always say, I'm a bit biased.

He said bye to his grandparents when he left the room, he said bye to them when they left the room. He loves watching the garage door shut and says bye to it when it shuts. "Bye" is obviously a very popular word.

So the Good Sleep story happened during nap time when Stef was putting him down for the nap. He's still a little restless and tosses and turns a bit and then finally gets ready to dose off. Well just before he makes his final rotation in the crib he reaches out his little arm and touches Stefanie with his tiny hand patting her on the shoulder and says "Bye-bye" and then rolls over and falls asleep.

As Stef was retelling me the story it was hard for her not to shed a tear. It clearly was the cutest thing he's done in the three weeks since he's been with us.

Bad Sleep

Well, just after we discussed this cute episode we got, by far, the most terrifying thing we've run across with Andrei. About 45 minutes after he fell asleep at night he woke up with a horrendous wailing. He was almost screaming so, of course, one of us (it was Stef) went in to comfort him. But the wailing continued. I went into his room to see what was wrong, after all he always calms down when Stef holds him.

But he was crying away (and loudly). I said, "Maybe he's sick." So we check his temperature and it's fine. But the crying is continuing. Stef hands him to me (sometimes he just likes being comforted by the other person). But no, that does no good. We set him back into the crib and rub his back (which also helps most of the time). But still no success. He doesn't seem to even know we're there and won't respond to us.

Then all of the sudden he stops and quiets down and falls back asleep in like 2 seconds. So we sit there for a minute or two and then leave. He's fine for about 40 more minutes when all of the sudden he wakes up again screaming away. Again not even acknowledging our presence and trying to squirm away from us holding and comforting him.

Okay, now we're really panicking. I'm thinking maybe we should call the pediatrician's emergency number. Both Stef and I are getting scared and asking each other what to do.

He finally calms down again (after about 10 more minutes of screaming). And Stef says, "Maybe it's Night Terrors". We grab the "Caring For Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5" by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Side note: If you have a kid under 5 and don't yet have this book, BUY IT!!! It is without a doubt the best most complete source of information (medical, physiological, etc.) about little ones out there.

In the book on the bottom of page 375 I read about Night Terrors (which I had heard about but did not understand what they were). The book says "...Occasionally your preschooler will be in bed, appearing to be awake and desperately upset...but he won't respond to you."

Ahh, YEA that's what's happened.

It goes on to say we've witnessed something called a Night Terror which is both mysterious and to parents extremely distressing.

Well, YEA again, so what do we do????

It turns out nothing. We just have to watch that he doesn't hurt himself. The good news is that is ends as quickly as it began. And even better, he won't remember the episode the next day.

I HIGHLY recommend (almost to the point of insisting) that if you adopt a young child that you read up and fully understand Night Terrors. They are more common for adopted children and although not something that needs to be addressed (by therapy or anything like that), they are very scary for the parents. And as such it's a good idea you are well grounded in how to recognize them and what to do (which again is basically nothing since even holding and comforting the child usually makes them worse).

But just as the pediatricians say, he didn't have any issues the next morning and was his happy cheerful self when he woke. Of course I'd prefer not to go through that again and our hearts hurt for our little man, but we are feeling okay knowing it was something normal (if not a bit rare) and that there were no long term effects.
posted by Steveg @ 1:21 PM   9 comments
Ahh the holidays
Thursday, December 27, 2007
The holidays for us were I guess typical for most people: lots of fun and a bit of "work" too (or any other word you may choose to substitute). It's nice to have family around but when entertaining guests it's also quite a bit of work. And with only having Andrei with us for about a week before extended family arrived (and that week we were all sick) it was especially a challenge for both Stef and myself. But we made it through Christmas and now can get back to the routine we had started to set up.

I will say that Andrei did extremely well with one set of grandparents and we had gone out to restaurants left and right and he performed like a champ. We've tried to establish some ground rules around eating (i.e, being well behaved) at the house and that seems to translate quite well when he's out on the town.

We still let him do his thing and eat the way he wants to eat and be as messy as he wants to be. After all he's a toddler! Interestingly enough he's a bit of a neat freak. Well, perhaps neat freak is too strong a label. But he does as he gets close to finishing with his meal reach out his hands for us to wipe them off. It's pretty amazing. He doesn't like his face cleaned though, but, hey, who does?

His eating habits are also quite funny. He'll try just about anything but if the taste (or texture) isn't to his liking he starts to spit it out and continues to do so until every little bit is out of his mouth. This is about the only time when he actually will allow us to clean his face with a baby wipe. I guess he figures we're helping the cause of "evil food" removal.

His first set of grandparents left today and as I said it will be nice to settle down and get comfortable and back onto a normal routine. But we did work hard to at least try to maintain the pattern we'd like him to be on even throughout the holidays. And he's really settling into that. I'm really sort of shocked at how fast he is settling in.

His bonding to us was extremely apparent with the arrival of the grandparents. He really was pretty apprehensive with them and only allowed to be picked up by them on the last day of the week long visit (and even then only briefly). Sounds kind of rough but Stef was pretty pleased (as I was) that he was that way because of course our first job is to establish that special bond of Mommy and Daddy. And clearly we are on the way toward that goal. However, I'm not quite sure we are there yet since this was only our first visit with other people in the house.

But over the next month we're going to have another set of grandparents and various close friends (most with little ones themselves) so we should get a good sense for how he's doing. Health wise he's fine. He's a bit shy on the iron side so his pediatrician is having him take some iron additives just for a month and with his improved diet we're hoping he'll be fine. We also need to provide a stool sample which I'm like 99.9999% sure will show a nice case of Giardia infection. But that's pretty common in Russia and very easy to treat so I'm not concerned.

I'm going to try to catch up with some of the developmental things we are seeing Andrei do (literally on a daily basis). With the holidays over my goal is to get back to daily posts or at a minimum every other day. So stay tuned.
posted by Steveg @ 7:16 PM   3 comments
About Us




Our Story:

I'm Steve and this is my wife Stefanie. This is our story, mostly seen through my eyes, of the journey to create our family by adopting a child from Russia.

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