Sunday, September 14, 2008

Playtime! (Official Bonding Days 11, 12 & 13)

Visits with Alia
Our first visits with Alia revolved around holding and feeding her. She smiled at us the first day we met her, but the only other activity that made her smile was lifting her in the air. Her arms and legs were stiff and curled up close to her body. She didn't even know to reach out and grab anything that was in front of her. The only thing she showed interest in was the books we read to her. Alia sat with a lot of assistance. One of us had to sit behind her and brace her on either side because if she was left to her own devices, she would tip over in no time. There wasn't a lot of "conversation" either - it was nonexistent actually.

Here we are a couple of weeks later and she grabs practically everything we put in front of her. For a while I thought that we were going to be the only family to come to Kazakhstan who found no use for the stacking cups. I took them with us one of the first days and she didn't so much as look at them. Instead the little boy who came to visit us a few times played with them. Now she grabs them - usually the smaller ones, but sometimes the large red one - and knocks over the towers that we set up over and over. I think Luca may like to build those towers for her. Today she did this while SHE SAT UP UNASSISTED. Yes, I realize that I wrote that she has a long way to go with her sitting skills in the last post. Perhaps she knew I wrote that and saw it as a challenge. She has gone from wobbling back & forth and falling over to sitting for a few minutes on her own in one day.

Yesterday, Alia also crawled a tiny bit. She is trying to get all the parts in the right places. She has gone beyond the swimming motion which keeps her in place to the beginnings of a military crawl. Her hand/eye coordination and motor skills are improving every day. She is turning book pages without any help. It is like she is discovering she has a body that can move. She puts her arms out on the air like the Karate Kid and pumps her legs vigorously. Scott does some simple exercises with her every day first thing. They appear to be making a huge difference.

Alia smiles easily. If we look at her from across the room and smile, she giggles and smiles back. She has gotten more and more vocal. Yesterday she emoted, laughed and gurgled practically the whole time.

Hygiene is not high on Alia's list :). Scott tried to clean her neck with a baby wipe yesterday and she went into a full blown cry. Bath time will be interesting. I don't think she has had a lot of them. The wipe is cold . . . that might be part of it.

I have read a lot about the rapid development that occurs when PAPs start visiting their kids, but it still seemed unreal to me. It is amazing to see this little girl begin to discover herself and respond to the world around her. I once told a friend that watching a child develop is similar to what happens with the patients in the movie Awakenings. Watching Alia these last few days has been like Awakenings fast forwarded.

Life in Kokshetau
A couple of days ago, our housemates and I walked to the Green Market to shop for a dinner party we had last night. Their interpreter and her family (husband, daughter & niece) joined us for dinner. We were very proud of ourselves for finding the Green Market, purchasing everything we needed and carrying about 15 pounds worth of produce, 3 pork chops (not for us!), 20 eggs in a sack, 3 loaves of bread and a small container of the best honey I have ever tasted home. Not many people here speak English that we have found. So, when any of us does anything like this - such as normal, everyday shopping - without incident, the feeling of accomplishment is amazing. Then we tell our interpreters and they smile at us like we are little children.

Our experience has been unusual in many ways - most significant is that we have housemates. We were here on our own for a week, which was nice, but I was starting to feel really isolated. We kept hearing that another family would be here and we wondered if we would get along. How would we share this space with another couple who are complete strangers? We have a large house, but it isn't that large - ~1200 square feet. There is only one full bath. Our bedrooms are right across the hall from one another. We also spend a lot of time here . . . and we didn't know who the heck these people are.

I think if we did know who they were I would have been even more worried. On paper we are about as different as night and day in all areas - politics, religion, you name it. Imagine McCain & Obama rooming together. In the unlikely event that our paths crossed in the States we all would have nodded and smiled politely and kept on walking.

But, guess what? We get along GREAT! I have not laughed so much in a long, long time. C & M are warm, funny (hilarious, actually), generous, kind and easy going. Our schedules work well together. They leave an hour before we do, so we all get enough time in the bathroom. All of us share food without worrying about who's eating or drinking what. We eat meals together - heck, we entertained together last night. We share our computers and Pepcid and vitamins. We both sneak in the occasional load of forbidden laundry. We talk endlessly about practically anything - kids, marriage, politics, religion, books, education, friends, family. All of this without a hint of animosity or trepidation.

I am very grateful for our housemates. I could not have picked two better people to share this experience with. I will really miss them when we go back home.

And, home . . . in just a few days we are headed back (4 hour car ride through the northern plains of Kazakhstan, 2 international flights and 1 domestic). I both intensely dread and look forward to going back home. How can that be?

P.S. Luca went to Chuck E. Cheese with his cousins and grandparents for the first time last night. While playing a driving video game, Chuck E. himself laid his hand on Luca's shoulder. Later Luca said, "Grandma, I don't want that mouse to touch me ever again" to my mom. So much for friendly, plush, oversized mice.


Susan said...

what a WONDERFUL POST! you sound so happy and full of joy! In love with your daughter, and really enjoying yourselves and your roomies! That is so great!!
When you said that you thought you had a long way to go with her sitting unassited the otehr day, I thought to myself..."i bet she surprises, them, and soon"
I am glad Alia did not fail me!

It's incredible the progress they make with lots of love and attention! Leeza is a different kiddo than the scared sweet lil girl we met 6 weeks ago.
Joe came today, and joined us in visitation. She looked at him, and grabbed on to her mommy tight. I smiled and hugged him, and so did Sean. She was eyeing him with trepidation. She kept looking to me for reassurance. Within 5-10 minutes, they were best buddies again and he had her cracking up.

It was really neat! So, I know you hate to leave, but Alia will readjust to you quickly!!!
Leeza LOVES her stacking cups. Sean never had them, now i feel bad. I had no idea how many things you can do with stacking cups. Luca will have fun building towers. Sean does all kinds of fun things with the cups that Leeza loves to emulate. Luca will be such a rockstar to Alia..she will look up to him with adoring eyes just as Leeza does with Sean!
It's soooooooo precious to behold and I can't wait until we hear about them meeting.
Congrats on your dinner party!
That sounds fun! I would feel ok going to the market by ourselves, but, cooking-nah, not so much. :)

I am already asking for help on what to fix Leeza once we get her in the apt!

Glad you had a wonderful visit and Alia continues to impress and amaze you. It warms my heart to hear about her (and your!) progress!

I'm so happy Joe is here, but already sad they're leaving on 4 days!

Hugs to that sweet girl of yours!

Susan said...

ps. I do not blame Luca. I didn't like Chuck E cheese much. If I can avoid it with Leeza, I will do so!
There is a way fun place called Celebration Station, that has bumper boats, go carts, etc that I like much that lil place called Disneyworld that is only 90 minutes away...but not until she's at least 3. :)

leevanschaik said...

I am laughing out loud about Chuckecheese.....hilarious. What a smart boy! Love the last post about Alia....I can't wait to meet her!

Chris and Tricia said...

The progress Alia is making with you sounds so wonderful. How great that you and your roommates get along so well and are having fun together. I am laughing at the Chuck E. Cheese incident because I don't know one child that has not been afraid of him!

Alysa said...

The Chuck E Cheese comment is hilarious! Luca has the right idea. That weird looking mouse is downright creepy!

Isn't it amazing how quickly these kids come out of their shells and progress physically in leaps and bounds? Congrats on the sitting up! My little guy has regressed some from my first visit (6 weeks ago), but I know that once I have him full time, and with some work, he will be doing great. I'm glad (well not glad, but comforted) to know that Alia kept her arms curled close to her body too. That is what Kairat was doing, and is doing again, so I now know this is probably just the lack of exercise and stimulation.

I'm also laughing at the hygiene comment. Kairat wails when I wipe his nose, or his mouth, or his neck, or any other part of him that needs it. I have yet had to change a diaper, but I imagine that might bring the loudest and most plaintiff wails of all!

So happy you are having such a wonderful time with your housemates. Makes the trip that much more enjoyable and memorable.

Can't believe you are nearly through with your bonding period already! Leaving soon after is definitely bittersweet, but must be endured in this crazy adoption process.

Diana and Bob said...

I'm seeing it AGAIN woo hoo!! Like I've read on blogs soooo many times. Baby girl is a changin!! I love it!! Sitting on her own ALREADY!! You go girl!

Carla said...

I'm so excited for you guys! You're really taking me back to my days in Latvia when you talk about the surroundings, food, and people! I can't wait to meet little Ms. Alia, she sounds wonderful! Take care!

Chris and Heather said...

That is wonderful that Alia has made so much progress - and is sitting up! Our little guy was active from the moment we met him, but he is still nowhere close to sitting up.

Chris and Heather said...

That is wonderful that Alia has made so much progress - and is sitting up! Our little guy was active from the moment we met him, but he is still nowhere close to sitting up.

Patrick & Eileen said...

Hi Angela,
I can't recall if you mentioned this before...what age is Alia? Forgive me if I've forgotten.

I think it's wonderful that she tries to reach and grab the books & stacking cups. She seems to be coming along. I will have to remember that if our child seems a little stiff what we need to do.

Well it really sounds like you're getting along very well with the other couple. That's a good thing considering you're in such close quarters.

I think you'd be surprised at how different we are too :) But after writing to you (privately, getting to know each other, I think that Pat & I would get along great with you two as well.

Can't wait to hear more!!


Thad and Ann said...

I am laughing so hard at Luca's "don't let that mouse touch me" comment. Too funny!! :) The commercials of Chuck E Cheese are enough to send me over the edge. ;)

I'm so glad you are liking your house guests, It sure helps time go faster.

Wow, Alia has made some huge strides! It's so amzaing to watch the kiddos catch up once they get a parents love & 1 on 1 care.

babsinatl said...

OMG. I laughed OUT LOUD after reading Luca's comment. And I had to spell that out because LOL wouldn't do justice to the belly laugh. And what an amazing thing - how lucky you are - to get to see this little girl blossoming. Oh how I love these posts.

Jennifer M said...

Wow! Alia is AMAZING!! I can't believe she's sitting up already! That is so great. What a huge accomplishment for her!

I imagine it will be so hard to leave her knowing she won't get that same level of stimulation. She seems like a pretty smart cookie though, so maybe by the time you get back, she'll be doing the baby run down the halls. :-)

I'm so glad you enjoy your housemates so much. I've heard that some of the very best friendships are formed while in Kaz.

Luca sounds so grown up! I love it.