Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from the Curran Family! Hope everyone ate too much and spent time thinking about what you are thankful for! We definitely did both here!

Let me lead off by saying Michelle's cooking was fantastic! The "practice" Thanksgiving she made a week ago (see prior blog entries) really paid off. Michelle made a ton of great food, and my sister Carolyn chipped in some tasty dishes as well. We ate a ton and have a ton of leftovers, so that is win-win! My job in all of this was to do the dishes. Now I am not intimidated by much, only by stuff like; small snakes, clowns, crowds, medium sized snakes, Russian airports, hairless cats, Russian bank transactions, large snakes, etc. Okay, maybe I am intimidated by a bunch of stuff, but the mountain of dishes after a Thanksgiving meal is a new phobia of mine as of today! Wow, that was a job! I would do it all over again for the meal we had today though!

Okay, now onto the real update... This weekend is a good test for Jack (and us) as it's the first time since we have been home (4 weeks as of tonight) that we have had anyone over to the house. My sister and Brother-in-Law and beautiful niece are down from Baltimore. We were looking at using this weekend as a yardstick to gauge where Jack was with his attachment to us, as well as see how he interacts with Emily, our 2 1/2 year old niece. Jack has done really well with Emily. There are some issues with sharing of toys, so we need to work with him in this area. Jack tried to take some of Emily's toys away from her, or if she was playing with his toys, he would take them back from her. As the day went on he seemed to make some progress in this area, and Emily is patient with him as well. We knew we would have some work to do in the sharing department as sharing is not something learned in an orphanage. It's survival of the fittest for the most part, and if one kid wants a toy that another kid has, he is going to go take it without any consequences.

The real area we were anxious to see how Jack was doing in was with his attachment to us. We wanted to see if Jack understood that Michelle and I were "Mom and Dad" and that he needed to come to us if he needed things. Unfortunately he really didn't differentiate between the 4 adults in the room today. He came to Michelle and I for most things, but he went to his Aunt and Uncle for some things too, and followed my Brother-in-Law into a different room only minutes after meeting him. Obviously we have some work to do, and we didn't expect things to perfect from the start. At least now we know a few areas we ave to work on before the next round of visitors show up! We are really happy to see Jack playing with one of his cousins, and his Aunt and Uncle are doing a great job of redirecting Jack to us when he comes to them. We appreciate their understanding of the situation.

We hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. We are definitely thankful for Jack and all of the blessings that our family has received over the last year. We wish we could have spent the day with everyone that is special to us, but whether you ate your turkey in Missouri, Florida, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, or any place else tonight, please know that you were all with us here today as you have been all through our journey!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Patch, Surgery, etc....

Today is day 2 of Jack’s eye patch. Day 1 went better than expected. We put it on him right at 6am when we woke him up for the day so he was still groggy and he really didn’t know what was going on. He didn’t start to fight the patch for about 30 minutes. It lasted 1 ½ hrs, so we will take it. Today was the same situation, 6am and he was too groggy to fight it. He realized it was on there about 30 minutes later, but didn’t really fuss too much. I ended up taking it off at 1 hr, 40 minutes because he fell asleep. Tomorrow maybe we can do 1 hr 50 minutes?!? The patches do not stick very well around the nose, and it is tough to make sure that light is not peeking in. We are constantly messing with it to make sure it is as effective as possible.

To clarify my post on the eye surgery, both eyes will be done at the same time. Apparently, there are 6 muscles in each eye that control eye movement. One muscle moves the eye to the right, one moves it to the left, and 4 move it up or down and at an angle. Jack will have 2 of these muscles on each eye “relaxed”. His muscles are not balanced and working together at this point. The surgery is on Dec 22nd, with a pre-op appt on the 21st and a post op appt on Jan 5th.

We are looking forward to the surgery being completed for several reasons. First and foremost for attachment. Jack makes below average eye contact at this point, but it is nearly impossible to determine what he is looking at. Sometimes I think he is looking at me, but then realize he is just zoning out and looking out into space. Eye contact is an important aspect of bonding and we feel the surgery will at least help us determine if we are making improvements in this area. Another reason is due to his constant falling. All toddlers fall, but since Jackson sees double, he falls ALL the time. I have no idea how his head isn’t always black and blue. We are concerned he is going to get a head injury. Eventually, the brain will just shut off his other eye if he isn’t treated for the Strabismus, which will affect a variety of things, including learning.

As far as attachment goes, we are doing okay overall. We have kept him in the house with both parents for the most part for the last month. We have gone out just a handful of times. When we were at the eye appointment, Jack walked right up to a man and grabbed him. Of course, this isn’t good for attachment reasons, but to make matters worse – this particular man was very angry and had been pestering the staff for the entire time we had been there. Jack not only went to a stranger, he went to an angry stranger. At first, he did stay with us, but continued to get further and further away from us with very little hesitation. Bill would get up from the chair and separate him from the others, but Jack still wanted to go over to where the other adults were (and have nothing to do with us). Needless to say, we have a lot of work to do. We don’t expect him to become attached to us overnight, but we do want to keep a close eye on this and other types of behaviors and need to make sure that he doesn’t continue indiscriminate friendliness.

Here is a short video of Jackson trying out his new scooter! He loves it!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Doctor's appointment

We visited the Opthalmogist today just after 2pm and didn't leave the office until 5pm. Jackson has Congenital Esotropia Intermittent Strabismus. This is where both of his eyes turn inward intermittently and he cannot use them together. He does however, have full use of both eyes, even though he is a little farsighted.

We scheduled surgery for December 22nd with a Physician that specializes in Strabismus and this should realign his eyes. Until then, we will patch his right eye everyday with an Orthopedic Eye Patch for 2 hours to strengthen his left eye (the weaker of the two).

We were aware of this diagnosis and researched this condition prior to adopting Jack. The news today was what we were expecting.

We have not posted any pictures that shows the severity of Jackson's inward turning eye, but plan to do so after the surgery.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Magic Word!

Today as we were finishing up lunch, Jack shocked us both when he said the magic word we have been waiting to hear.... MAMA! Michelle and I were cleaning up our lunch stuff when Jack just started repeating MAMA over and over out of the blue. We had been working on this with him, but up until today he had just stared at us like we were asking him to recite Tolstoy or something. Mommy had a smile on her face that was powered by her heart. She looked so proud of our little guy! For about the next 10 minutes, the three of us just kept saying "MAMA, MAMA , MAMA..." to each other. This was a great day for us, and especially for Mommy. She had been wanting to hear this, and for it to come out of the blue like that was great. We still aren't quite sure that Jack really knows who "Mama" is yet, but tonight while I was reading to him, he reached out his arms towards Michelle who was in the kitchen and said "Mama" once. We are making strides!

Tomorrow we meet with an opthamologist who will advise us about Jack's Strabismus. Jack is not a fan of doctors, so we expect him to be in full throat for the appointment.

We usually don't let Jack run around in his diaper, but we were getting a kick out of his excitement after lunch....

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thanksgiving (take one)

Michelle is a perfectionist. That is a good thing because when she sets her mind to something, she gets it done no matter what the task. The staff at our adoption agency often commented on how thorough we were with our paperwork and how timely we were at getting things done. This is all a credit to Michelle because she took the reigns on that and just told me to what to do and when to do it. She is like this with everything. Sometimes I groan when we have a task to do because I know that no matter what the task is, we will be working on it ASAP no matter how tough or tedious the task is (or what football games happen to be on at that moment). But, every once in awhile Michelle's perfectionism works out in my favor (actually, it pretty much always works out in my favor in the end, but I am a procrastinator by nature so I like to put off stuff but that doesn't happen with Michelle). The other day she decided she wanted to do a practice Thanksgiving Dinner since my sister, brother-in-law and niece are coming in town for the real Thanksgiving weekend. So, today we had our dry run on Thanksgiving dinner. Everything was great, and I happily devoured this practice meal. We even have leftovers for dinner tomorrow. So, between the practice Thanksgiving and the real Thanksgiving, I plan on getting between 4-6 turkey dinners over the next two weeks when you factor in leftovers. I am a lucky man!

Okay, enough about me and onto the real reason you read this blog, stories about Jack! Yesterday we took our first trip to the beach. Well, technically we went to the beach in Vladivostok, but this was our first trip to an American beach. We took a long walk and collected some pretty cool shells. There had been a big storm in this area last week, so there were some really cool shells on the beach. I had never seen fully intact conch and hermit crab shells on any beach before in my life but there were lots of them where we went yesterday (a place called Sandbridge Beach in VA). We would have taken some home with us, but the problem was that there were hermit crabs and other creatures living in these shells. So we took a few empty ones home with us and left the rest to return to the ocean. Jack did really well and even liked to walk on the sand. He wasn't too crazy about the sand at that beach in Vlad. We saw lots of dogs playing at the beach which Jack really enjoyed seeing. We saw some huge birds and some guys catching some decent sized fish too. What a great day at the beach.

The beach trip was a nice thing to do on a Sunday afternoon but for the most part we have been hanging around the house letting Jack get used to things on is own terms. He is doing really well with most of his routines, though he is not the best napper in the world. Sometimes he naps well, sometimes he doesn't. This is the one area where he hasn't quite found consistency. He took 2 naps a day at the baby home, and that is what we have been doing here but we may need to eventually tweak that into one longer nap rather than 2 short ones. The naps or lack of naps don't really seem to have much bearing on the rest of his waking hours though (meaning he isn't overly cranky if he doesn't nap well in a particular day) so there isn't a real urgency to make a change to the routine yet.

That's all for now. Stop on in if you want a turkey sandwich tomorrow!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Update from Curranland

Well we finally collected the last of the stool samples today. Michelle, Jack and I have agreed never to discuss that process again. We did not get back to the doctor today because our area is having pretty bad storms and the news people are advising everyone to stay at home. So Jack, Michelle and I (and the samples) will load up (no pun intended) tomorrow and head back to the doctor.

Other than the unpleasantries mentioned above (and they weren't that unpleasant), we are having a great time together. Michelle found a music channel on our cable called "Toddler Tunes" so we listened to music today and Jack showed off his dancing skills. He cracks us up, and his favorite tune is the "heads, shoulders, knees and toes" tune. When we start singing that he laughs and points to his head. He also does this funny wrist shake thing and hops from one foot to the other when he dances. He seems to love music. Tonight we heard a Rolling Stones song on that channel and the album it came from was something like "lullabies to the music of the Rolling Stones". Very cool!

In addition to dancing, Jack likes helping us do things. He helped Mommy make brownies the other day and he helped us vacuum last night too. He was fascinated with the vacuum and at one point he stood in front of it and stared at it so I couldn't get around him. We must have looked like the famous picture of the student standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square. He is more brave with the vacuum than our pets are!

Speaking of the pets, he LOVES our two dogs, Gracie and Copper. We thought they would be overbearing to him, but it might be the other way around. He follows Copper around and loves to pet her. She is so good with him and doesn't care when he steps on her tail or trips over her feet. Gracie, the smaller dog pictured on our blog is great with him too. She was used to being the baby before Jack came into the picture but has adjusted nicely to being a big sister.

Right now Jack is asleep for the night, but the wind is howling and the rain is pounding against the house. Hopefully he can sleep through the night despite the noise!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Time goes too quickly

Jackson woke up this morning at 5am to start the day. He actually slept through the night other than waking up once around 10pm, and quickly falling back asleep. His naps are much shorter than they were at one time, 1 hr in the morning and 40 minutes in the afternoon, but given a choice - we would choose sleeping through the night.

Since he isn't on the chart for his age on weight, we attempted to increase his food intake today. 3 diaper blowouts later, and I think we were successful. I sometimes wonder that more comes out than goes in?!?

He was still cranky today, not sure if this residual effects of the inoculations or if he was just cranky. Tomorrow we take in three days of stool samples (ahhh, the joys of parenthood), and they will also read his TB results. His arm looks good, so hopefully all is well with that.

I have kept the washer/dryer super busy since we have arrived home. How can a family of 3 make so much dirty laundry? I have no idea how a family of 4 or more do it! Not sure how we will keep up when we go back to work, but just like most families - we will make it.

As far as the never ending paperwork I contacted an Attorney that is familiar with re-adoption in our state. We were referred to him by a local family that used him as well to re-adopt their son, and they were happy with him. Anyway, he was low on personality, but is familiar with the process so that works for us. We need to wait 6 months from our adoption date to file for the adoption due to how the courts work in our state. Looks like we will be putting this on our to do list for late April.

We have yet to apply for a SS#, I have to admit I am a bit confused on how and when to do this. I have heard so many different things, we aren't sure what to do. I emailed our agency a couple days back and again today for direction but no response. This will have to wait another day!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Drs Appt and Russian Consulate Registration

Today Jack had his first Pediatrician appointment. It wasn't an overly fun experience, but it is done and over. Doctors scare our little guy, but after 6 shots and several tubes of blood taken from my arm - I would be crying too.

It appears things are as we thought - he is either below the curve or in a low percentile, but is making progress. Physically, he is pretty healthy. The blood work will come back in a few days and we can then confirm the remainder of his vaccinations. We follow up in 1 month.

We also scheduled an appointment with an Opthamologist to address the Strabismus. This is scheduled for next week with a doctor who specializes in eye disorders for toddlers. We will either patch his eye, wear glasses or have surgery to correct the issue.

As part of our adoption process, we are required to register Jackson with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Russian Consulate in Washington, DC. It is due within 3 months of when we arrive home.

We had to send in an application, passport photo of Jack, original passport, new birth certificate (in Russian and English), and new Adoption Certificate (in Russian and English). We went out yesterday to copy these items and get them notarized and sent them on via UPS. Mark this one off our 'to do' list!

Tonight Jack is cranky after his shots. Bill has been carrying him around for about an hour now to calm him. Hopefully he will sleep through the night and feel better tomorrow!!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

All the furry animals are home!

Bill made the drive to Nana and Papa's to pick up our 2 dogs this week (THANK YOU NANA AND PAPA FOR TAKING CARE OF THE DOGS!!!), they finally made it home last night. When Bill left, Jackson didn't seem to care, look in the direction of the door, whine or anything. Of course we have only had him for about 2 1/2 weeks, but he is such a Daddy's boy I was hoping for a response to show he was bonding. While Bill was gone for 2 days, Jack began to get very clingy. He didn't want me to put him down and I literally carried him around for 2 days. If I put him down, he cried. The reason I think that this is pertinent, is because I feel this was the response he was giving us for Bill's absence. Bill would call on occasion, and I would put him on speaker phone. Jackson was thrilled! He said 'da da' a lot and kept examining the phone trying to find Daddy in the phone. He loved it. When Bill got home last night, Jack couldn't not have been any more happy. High pitched squeals, lots of hugs, huge smiles and he was literally jumping up and down. The best homecoming ever (and an awesome response too)!!!

I frequent other blogs, FRUA, online chats, etc to see what other parents are saying about Russian adoptions (and adoptions in general). Since I am up at 3am today (guess who got me up at 3am), I thought it was a good time to do some reading. Below is a comment that an adoptive parent made about Orphanages in Russia. The topic was "spoiled children".

One thing I saw at the orphanage - there were six children in a playpen. One of them bumped his chin on the edge and started crying. The very kind caregiver was standing right there and did not comfort him, although she had time, and she saw it happen. After a minute or two she explained to me that she could not comfort him, because if the other children saw that he was comforted, they would all bang their chins on the edge and really hurt themselves. How sad is that¸ that this child in pain couldn't be comforted? And how sad that these kids have to learn survival techniques from an impossibly young age, just to receive a tiny bit of affection and comfort from an adult? This is the world our children lived in.

I thought that was worth sharing. It helps remind us what our children have been through.

Here is a couple pictures from trip 1 (my favorites). He has grown a lot since these pics were taken. Here is also the FIRST time that we met Jack and the Caregiver placed him in my arms. Bill loves this video because he quit crying when he put his head down, then when he looked back up at me, he started crying again. Bill thinks he thought that I went away because he didn't see me!! Ha!!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Still getting adjusted but change seems to be coming!

Well, things here are pretty much the same as the last post though we are seeing signs that the tide is turning! The daylight hours are pretty much going off without a hitch. Feeding times, nap times, bathing, play times, etc are all going very well. It's the overnight hours that we haven't figured out yet. Jack is still getting up at 1am each day but the last two nights he has actually gone back to sleep around 4am, so the three of us have gotten at least a few hours of sleep the last couple of nights. Today, Michelle and I decided that we needed to tag team the little guy so one of us could rest while the other took care of Jack. This worked out very well and for the first time in about a week we weren't total zombies tonight. We figured we needed to take turns resting because we were so tired that we didn't really have the energy to give Jack the full attention he needs and deserves. So, this may be our strategy until he starts resting through the night. It worked today, and Jack was able to play with one of us or both of us at full strength rather than both of us at about 10% energy. How can a 15 month old have way more energy than two adults combined? One of life's funny mysteries I guess.

In addition to the normal routines, we made our first trip out of the house yesterday. We needed to go grocery shopping, so we headed to Sams. Jack did outstanding for the 45 minutes or so we were there. Sams is a an overstimulating place for adults, so for Jack to do well there was saying something. Anyway, he handled the car rides and shopping like a pro. He is such a happy little guy and seems to take anything we throw at him in stride.

Tonight we went through the normal routines and Michelle just read Jack a good book about a bear that was adopted. I wonder if they had to call it a "cave study" instead of a "home study". These are the questions a tired person comes up with.

That's all for now. Hopefully Jack will continue to make strides tonight!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Zombies for Halloween?

Last night made it two nights in a row where Jack was up all night from about 1am on. We are doing pretty well with the routines from about 9am all the way through until 1am, then he wakes up and is up for the rest of the night. We are working really hard to get him acclimated to the 15 hour time difference from Vladivostok, and we are determined to make it work! Jack is still doing very well in the eating and bathing departments, and with most nap times, it's just those tricky overnight hours that we haven't yet mastered. So, between still getting over the trip and travel along with staying up all night, all three of us walk around like zombies sometimes. I guess we fit right in though seeing how it is Halloween weekend and all. When we are awake during the day, we don't want Jack to nap before his designated nap times because like I said, we are determined to get back into healthy routines. So, when it's not nap time and one of the three of us seems tired, we joke that we are like concussion victims who need to be kept awake no matter what! No worries, we'll get this routine thing down pat in time. Last night we listened to a windy rain storm while we rocked Jack and tried to get him back to sleep. It was actually kind of cool to sit there and listen to that. Ideally we don't want to be up at 4am, but we make the best of it!
Despite the altered sleep schedules, Jack is absolutely thriving in his new environment. He is laughing hysterically and playing with stuff and just enjoying his new surroundings. I think I mentioned earlier that he loves his black cat Mike. Mike is really good with him, and it's funny to see the two of them hanging out together. Jacks two dogs are still living with Nana and Papa for another few days, then we'll have that big introduction. We hope Jack loves the dogs as much as he loves cats!
Today Michelle made a "welcome home" cake for Jack. He liked the cake a lot and ate his whole piece (we ate it in mid afternoon so the sugar will hopefully not affect bedtime too much!). While we were gone, some of Michelle's coworkers made food and stocked our freezer with some dinners to help us out during these first few days home. We have a homemade lasagna in the oven right now that smells great! Thank you to everyone who chipped in with the food drive for us. That was really thoughtful and we really appreciate your kindness!
On a totally unrelated note, we read in another couples blog today that Vladivostok got 10 inches of snow yesterday. We are glad we got out of there when we did! We love snow, but we are so glad to be home!

Guess that is all for now. Wish us luck with bedtime tonight!