December 2011-May 2012

May 26th, 2012

I was shocked to see how long it’s been since I’ve updated the family blog. So, this will be a monster blog post, covering the following main events: (1) Christmas 2011; (2) my NYC trip with Scott in January 2012; (3) the family move to Holly Hill, SC in February 2012; (4) Easter 2012; and (5) my Boston trip with Scott in May 2012.

And, I may go back and revise this post at some point, because I know I have more photos that I haven’t found yet; I remember that I took lots, for example, when we went to the Edventure Childrens’ Museum in Columbia, SC with the Fisks and Owens. Those pictures are, undoubtedly, hiding on a SD card somewhere.

So, for now, I give you Christmas 2011! Each year, we’re lucky to be able to spend the Holiday with my family in McBee and Scott’s family in Charleston. Because this past Christmas was so unseasonably warm, the kids spent their time in McBee playing outside.

We were able to get more traditional Christmas pictures in Charleston, such as this photo of Jack with MeMe’s Christmas tree:

And this photo of Arina, opening presents:

This Christmas I decided to do something new: I bought nearly all of our presents from I spent way too much on Christmas, but I justified it by reminding Scott that a portion of all the money I spent went to charity, and that, in the end, we funded: 650 cups of food for the hungry; 2 books for children in need; 196 bowls of food for animals in shelters; and we helped fund healthcare for 72 children.

So, this will be my new Christmas tradition, I think. One of my favorite gifts was a pair of wooden mice that Arina and Jack got to paint. Scott’s going to tie cords to them, and we’ll hang them on the tree this year:

Admittedly, though, some of the presents were . . . interesting. Example: this Alpaca wool sweater I got for myself that was made and fairly traded in Peru. Even though I ordered a small, my fashionable cousin, Jessi, says it makes me look pregnant. 🙂

BUT, it kept me warm in NYC — and, yes, that’s a Monet behind me, which leads me to event #2: my trip with Scott in January to see Saturday Night Live. We’re circled in red, below.

Scott’s more of a SNL fan than I am, and he entered a lottery for tickets — and won! I’m always up for a road trip, and was even more on board when I found out that Daniel Radcliffe was hosting. I am, after all, a fan of all things Harry Potter and Daniel Radcliffe as host promised lots of Potter references.

And, because we’re not in NYC every day, we made the most of our short time there. We spent a fabulous day that involved eating in Chinatown with friends Matt and Chelsea, double-dating with M&C at MOMA, drinks and dinner with Matt, and then a Broadway show: Wicked!

Thanks to Matt and Chelsea for our best NYC experience yet! — and for this photo, which they took of us at MOMA:

(3) In February 2012, we moved to Holly Hill, SC — which was a bit unexpected, to say the least. But, Scott got a new job opportunity — to run Bill Fisk Machine Shop, the family business. I think he has great potential as a manager, so I suggested we move halfway between Columbia and North Charleston. This halves our work commute, and makes Holly Hill, SC our home base.

I never thought I’d move back to a small town. Holly Hill has more stoplights than McBee, but only barely. However, I was sold on the idea when we had the opportunity to buy this 100-year old Victorian farmhouse for the same price as the (much smaller) one we were living in while in Columbia:

See, below, two of our favorite things about the house: the screened-in side porch, with a swing on which Jack can nap . . .

. . . and a rustic shed in the back yard with attached chicken coop! It looks like a construction site in the photo, but only because we — or, rather, our chickens — had an unfortunate encounter with a raccoon or possum, which prompted Scott to make some revisions to the coop. See Coop Knox, below:

Current residents of Coop Knox include four Orpington hens: Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth (named after Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, of course). And they are little women, indeed. Here are the kids with the chicks, when they were babies:

(4) We always spend the Easter holiday with the Fisks, since Scott’s sister Susan and her family visit from Texas during the Easter holiday. The weekend was beautiful and full of new Spring clothes . . .

trains for Jack,

and Easter eggs for all.

(5) Scott and I are, at this moment, on our way to see friends Sarah and Matt in Virginia, after having spent a fabulous couple of days in Boston. I was in Boston for work — my film debut. 🙂

I was hired as “Talent” for an educational film project for Cengage, produced and directed by Hawkes Media. Working for Cengage/Hawkes Media didn’t feel like “work” at all, though: (1), because they called me “Talent” and had a stylist to take care of my wardrobe, hair and make-up; and (2), because they are such kind, fun, smart and interesting people that I would have chosen to hang out with them after the shoot, just for fun.

Scott and I decided to make a vacation out of it, though, so we walked Quincy Market, went to a Red Sox game, and ate lunch the following day at the best Italian restaurant in town (La Familia), followed by canolis from Modern Pastry. Thanks to Bill, “the sound guy,” for the fabulous recommendation.

And thanks to Michael, Dan, John, Bill, Alex, Tim, Courtney, Sherryn, and my fellow “Talents” (Audrey, Patrick and Adam) for everything. I had a ball!

And, some Anira-isms to close:

1. Scott, opening his Christmas present from Arina: “Socks! Just what I’ve ALWAYS wanted! This is the best Christmas present EVER!”

Arina: “I’ll get them for you next year too then.”

2. One of the younger kids in Arina’s class tugged on my sleeve as I was leaving one morning and said: “I have to tell you something! Arina forgot my dog!”

Me, looking at Arina: “What?”

Arina: “Yesterday, Trey told me that his fish died. I told him not to worry about it — that we’d give him a dog.”

I would have LOVED to give Trey one of our foster dogs. But, I did the grown-up thing and said, “I should probably talk to your mother about that, Sweetheart.”

3. Me to Arina: “Were you good at school today?”

Arina: “Yes.”

Me: “How do you know?”

Arina: “Ms. Julie said so.”

Me, suspicious: “Arina, is that the truth?”

Arina: “No.”

Me, angry: “Then why did you say it?”

Arina: “I heard Ms. Julie say the word ‘good.’ It could have been about me.'”

Somehow, I seriously doubt it . . . but I held my tongue.

4. Science has become Arina’s new bane. An example of a science assignment, with Arina’s answers, is as follows:

Question: “The moon is made of _____ and covered with dust.”

Answer: “cheese.”

Question: “Why can we see both the Moon and the stars in the night sky?”

Answer: “Because they’re the only things in the sky at night.”

Question: “What happens on the other side of the Earth when it is night where you live? How do you know?”

Answer: “It’s day time on the other side. Because I learned that.”

Question: “Why do you need to know about  the weather?”

Answer: “So you won’t get hurt or sick.”

Arina’s response, after I explained that it has more to do with which clothes to wear: “Bet you’d get hurt in a blizzard. And that you wouldn’t care about clothes.”

5. From Arina’s government homework:

Question: “Suppose you could have signed the Constitution. Write a law or a right that you would want to see in the Constitution.”

Answer: “Don’t shoot our President. Or our eagle.”

6. From Arina’s grammar homework:

“Use a sentence with ‘myself.'”

Answer: “I call myself me.”

7. Jack, waving around his toy truck: “I play with school bus!”

Me: “Jack, that’s not a school bus. That’s a big truck.”

Arina: “Let him dream, Mom.”

And, our first Jack-isms!

1. Jack was spending the weekend in McBee, and he actually paused to talk to me on the phone.

Jack: “Got-cha Mommy!” followed by off-the-line squeals.

Me to Mom: “What?”

Mom: “He just squirted the phone with a water gun.”

2. At the change of season, Jack refused to wear short sleeves. He cried, pulled at them, and said, “Broken!”

3. Jack, running: “I so fast!”

4. Jack, crying over his dinner: “I DON’T WANT IT!”

Me, frustrated and holding up an imaginary pill: “Jack, this is a CHILL PILL. You need to take it.”

Jack, after a pause: “I DON’T WANT IT! I DON’T WANT CHILL PILL!”

Other noteworthy things about Jack at 2 1/2:

He has quite the temper. Favorite phrases include: BE QUIET!; CHILL OUT!; THAT’S ENOUGH! (which he announced to the entire Fisk family after posing for too many Easter photos with his cousins); I DON’T LIKE/WANT IT!; THAT’S MINE!; and THIS NEEDS BATTERIES! (which he says whenever anything doesn’t work like he thinks it’s supposed to).

He tries to boss all of us (me, Scott and Arina) at home, although at school he is apparently a quiet, mild-mannered and polite (“please” and “thank you”) introvert. So, yes, we have a Jekyell and Hyde on our hands.

We’ve initiated time-out for “Hyde,” who then cries for whoever didn’t put him in time-out. Example: “I want Mommy!” or Rina or Nana or Pop or MaMa Shirley.

Yes, most of the time, Scott is the disciplinarian — with Jack.

What can we say? Arina and I are suckers — way too easily charmed by the baby “big boy” of the house:

Thanksgiving 2011

November 23rd, 2011

Dedicated to Oksana Vasilyevna Oksanich, 11-24-1974 to 2009

Between Thanksgiving 2010 and Thanksgiving 2011, we hired an investigator to search for Arina’s birthmother in Kazakhstan. I never imagined that she would have passed away, and I remember weeping when I got the email. I made my way up to Arina’s room, because I felt that the information was hers to know. I crawled into her bed and woke her up to tell her.

“We’ve found your grandmother and your aunt and your sister,” I said, starting with the good news. I followed up with the bad, telling her that her birthmother had passed away. Arina yawned, said “Oh no! That’s so sad!” and then announced that she was “very happy” to have another Nana, aunt, and (most of all) a sister before falling asleep again. Just like that.

I don’t know what I expected from a six-year-old, but I kissed her cheek, whispered that I loved her, and slunk away to grieve in private.

When I tried to define my grief, I decided:

(1) that I, an only child, had been imagining Arina’s birthmother as a sister. I dreamed of exchanging letters and phone calls with her, of finding someone as invested in Arina as I am and being able to get advice, and occasional commiseration;

and (2) that learning she had died both saddened me and struck me with an odd feeling of terror. I imagined that she, as spirit and a type of guardian angel for her lost child, had seen all those moments in the last two years that I’m not proud of . . . all those times I lost my patience and my temper. I realized, then, that I’ve always wanted, above all, her approval, her confirmation that I’m doing a good job.

Because I’m unable to get that approval from her, I’ve decided instead that on her birthday, which is appropriately Thanksgiving this year, I’ll list the top three reasons I’m thankful for Oksana:

1) The first and most obvious: Thank you, Oksana, not only for making me a mother but also for making me the mother of such a girl!

How to describe Arina? Anglophile that I am, I’ll give Emily BrontĂ« the honor:

“Certainly she had ways with her such as I never saw a child take up before; and she put all of us past our patience fifty times and oftener in a day: from the hour she came down-stairs till the hour she went to bed, we had not a minute’s security that she wouldn’t be in mischief. Her spirits were always at high-water mark, her tongue always going – singing, laughing, and plaguing everybody who would not do the same. A wild, wicked slip she was – but she had the bonniest eye, the sweetest smile, and lightest foot in the parish.”

Your mother, Granny Valentina, described you as “kind” and “joyful,” though I suspect that you may have put her past her patience “fifty times and oftener in a day” as well. But, I think I speak with Granny when I say that we love you, and Arina, for it.

2) Thank you, Oksana, for teaching me compassion.

I have to admit that I was both saddened and a little frightened to hear that you died at the young age of 35 of cirrhosis of the liver. I responded to this information in the same way I respond to everything. I got a new book: Bonnie Buxton’s Damaged Angels: An Adoptive Mother Discovers the Tragic Toll of Alcohol in Pregnancy, the kind that is unfortunately only picked up by those who have the most practical need of it.

All my life, I’ve heard criminals dubbed “evil,” and those homeless or on welfare dubbed “lazy.”

Reading Buxton’s book, however, has opened my eyes to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder as an “invisible disability,” one that affects an unknowable number of victims — unknowable because, for the most part, alcohol-damaged people are “seemingly healthy children and adults with relatively normal intelligence . . The facial characteristics . . . [are] minimal, and . . . often vanish by the midteens” (44). In fact, Buxton explains that “Mother Nature,” to “compensate” for damaged brain receptors, often gives “many alcohol-affected people . . . an engaging personality, excellent verbal skills that mask their disabilities, and a seemingly spiritual connection with animals” (42).

Yet, as clinical psychologist and FASD expert, Ann Streissguth explains, “teratogens, like alcohol, can . . . cause brain damage, and that’s birth defects of the brain. And the brain is what mainly influences behavior, and that’s where we get the behavioral disabilities that are associated with fetal alcohol syndrome, and the whole spectrum of disorders that alcohol causes” (qtd. in Buxton 40).

A study Streissguth published in the late 90s reveals that a disproportionate number (60%) of her FASD clients had been imprisoned, and even more of them (80%) “had problems with both employment and independent living” (47-48). As FASD Advocate, Margaret Sprenger writes, “Put on your fetal alcohol glasses. You’ll see that every time you read the newspaper, cases will jump out that are pure fetal alcohol. The welfare mother who starves her baby to death, the kid who shoots his brother, the sex offender, the repeat offender who hangs herself in prison — most of them are suffering brain damage caused by a mother who drank” (qtd. in Buxton 54).

In short, I’ve realized exactly what Bonnie Buxton articulates below:

“I realized that in the industrialized world, a large proportion of those countless people living on the fringes of society are not there because they have inferior genes. They are not inherently lazy, stupid, or evil — although their learning and behavior problems make them appear that way. The root of the problem is not childhood neglect or abuse, although for many, disruptive families have compounded their problems. They live in self-perpetuating ignorance, poverty, and crime because they came into the world with permanent neurological damage that could have been prevented. Most are never diagnosed” (59); and, those who are diagnosed are still “not being well cared for through medical, educational, or social service systems” (xii).

Because of you, Oksana, I will be an advocate for the homeless (I know you brought Arina to the orphanage, because you had a “small income” and “no place to live”), and an advocate for all who live on the fringes, too often through no fault of their own. I have a new found appreciation for Christ’s injunction in Matthew 7:1: “Do not judge.”

For that, I’m thankful.

You must have loved your daughter very much to have fought so valiantly against addiction while you were carrying her. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been, but for Arina to have so few effects (none, according to her pediatrician), you must have tried to refrain as much as possible. For that, I’m thankful too.

3) Thank you, Oksana, for redefining family for me.

I’ve always known that family has more to do with the loving connections you make in life than genetic makeup. I grew up watching Anne of Green Gables after all.

Still, I could never have imagined that I’d feel so connected to people I’ve never met before, that I’d feel as connected to them (moreso in some cases) than I do to members of my biological family.

When I get a letter from Granny, written to “her children Scott and Nicole, and her grandchildren Arina and Jack,” I realize that I am intimately bound to this woman, as I am to you. And I realize what an honored part of the family you are, since you’re among those who have influenced me to the degree that it’s literally shaped who I am as a person, in the way that only the closest friends and family members do.

And I’m thankful.

All my love.

August-November 2011

November 12th, 2011

Happy birthday to our big boy 2-year old! Two years, we’ve decided, is our favorite age. We enjoyed Arina so much at this age and are similarly enjoying our Jack-Jack:

See, above, how much he looks like his mother. — well, the eyes and troubled expression, according to Scott. He gets his height, of course, from his father.

He’s still a fan of trains, like his namesake, but he’s expanded his interests to tools, cars, and, especially, dump trucks.

And he’s a fan, above all, of his sister. Because he’s such a big boy now, he sometimes spends a few days in McBee sans parents or sister, as a special treat. When it’s time for him to come back home to Columbia, Nana and he have the following ritual conversation.

Nana: “Do you want to go see Mommy?”

Jack: “No!”

Nana: “Do you want to go see Daddy?”

Jack: “No!”

Nana: “Do you want to go see Rina?”

Jack, lovingly: “Rina.”

See Arina and Jack, below, in their Halloween costumes as Little Miss Muffet and her spider.

Here are some other Halloween favorites. We couldn’t resist letting Jack wear Arina’s first-ever Halloween costume to a party. So, here’s Jack as a scary dragon. And, hit the nostalgia button . . . now:

When Arina was two, she loved this costume so much that she refused to take it off after trying it on. The cashier at Old Navy had to pick her up and scan her. And here’s a photo of Mommy and Daddy in their Halloween costumes, political activists we’ve become:

As for Arina, she turned 7-years in August. She enjoyed celebrating her birthday in the photo, below, with her Fisk cousins at MeMe and Papa’s house.

(Best birthday present: a phone call to her sister, Ira. Poor Granny was so emotional that she had to pass the phone to Aunt Elena almost immediately. Love to our beautiful family in Kazakhstan . . . )

We also had a small get-together at our house, on her actual birthday. I found the note she slipped through our backyard fence to her boyfriend next door:

So, she’s as much to handle as ever. Maybe more. And the teenage years are just around the bend. /shudder.

She’s doing much better now, school-wise, since moving to a different one. — not that she wasn’t doing well enough academically in public school. The teacher said that she was excelling in reading and getting by in math. — just like I always did. BUT, she got a note home nearly every day for “talking too much.” With less people to distract her at a smaller school, she comes home with fewer notes. This makes for happier parents, and an especially happy Nana.

New challenges, though, include the 7-year old desire to “be cool,” as Arina says. Apparently, that means no dresses, and definitely NO BOWS. I miss my Fancy Nancy girl.

Still, another thing that she and I continue to have very much in common is our love for animals. Here she is below, with one of the many foster dogs we’ve entertained at our house since April.

And even Jack, and occasionally Scott, will participate in the fostering fun. Here are brother and sister, in awe over newborn pups (note the especially well-made whelping box, something that has become a Scott Fisk specialty):

There are lots more photos in the gallery. I’ll close with one of my favorite recent photos of the birthday boy, and, as always, some Arina-isms.

Happy birthday, Jack!


1) I overheard Arina call the slightly older boy she met on the beach “Labrador Retriever.” — b/c she didn’t know his name and wanted to play dog.

2) In response to Note #4 from Arina’s 2nd grade teacher (“Not listening! Too much talking!”), Arina said: “You know you’re supposed to SIGN my bad notes, right Mom? Just say ‘We’re working on it. Blah blah blah.'”

3) Arina did not receive a perfect score on her “Watch a Hurricane Form” worksheet, because of the following question: 4. What is the purpose of the diagram? (A) to teach how wind is harmful; (B) to explain how a hurricane forms; or (C) to teach people how to fly into a storm (on broomsticks, a la Harry Potter, A. assumed).

Clearly, C is the “best answer” to the question, because it’s the “coolest.” I agree.

4) Arina’s homework: Solve the riddles. Write a word from the box on each line.

Someone gives you something. You _____ it. (should be “take”)

Arina writes, Someone gives you something. You BRAKE it.

5) Another bad note, this time for elbowing a classmate. Me: “Arina! WHY did you ELBOW a classmate?” A.: “BECAUSE I NEEDED TO GET HER ATTENTION AND KNEW THAT IF I SAID HER NAME, I’D GET IN TROUBLE FOR TALKING!”

6) Arina failed her first math worksheet. Normally, she makes As and Bs, so she refuses to believe she failed it, arguing that the 36 is out of 38 rather than 100, and that the F is for “Fantastic.”

7) Note home for “excessive talking” at school, during Ben Tanner’s presentation. — as in Ben Tanner, the weatherman for WIS.

A. says that we have no idea how “boring” Ben Tanner is, that she can’t imagine why anyone would watch him on tv, and that she couldn’t help herself.

If any of you are friends with Ben Tanner, please send our apologies.

8 ) A. declared that a boy in her class is her “dream husband.” He calls her “Flower,” and she says “it’s nice to be called Flower.” PLUS, he has a dollar for dessert every day, and he always buys one .50 dessert for himself, and one for A.

9) A. told her Sunday School teachers that her Dad is a scientist, who can shrink pumpkins.

10) When I was cleaning out A.’s desk, I found the following note addressed to her teacher [I’ve corrected the misspellings]: “Dear Mrs. Cantey, I am very, very sorry I was talking. I know I talk too much. I know you are trying to teach me. I will do better tomorrow. I really will. Love, Arina. P.S. I will bring you a flower tomorrow. And a box of valium.”

A. spelled it “valum.” I don’t think she knows what it is, but I guess she overheard Mrs. C say that she needs some.

11) A. said that several of her classmates had to skip recess today, b/c of talking during class. She wasn’t one of them. Her response: “That’s CRAZY.”

12) On the way home from picking up A., we were listening to a story on NPR about the Marine Corps’s Dark Horse unit, which had the highest number of causalities in the Afghan war. The veteran being interviewed said that he doesn’t know what he’s going to do, since losing a leg and an eye in a roadside bomb explosion.

A.: “He could be a pirate. You know, with an eye patch. And a peg leg.”

S.: “You know: you’re right.”


May-July 10, 2011

July 10th, 2011

Happy Adoption Day, Arina! I was almost too tired to write a post tonight. We had such a full, wonderful day. But, because it was so wonderful, I wanted to go ahead and record it. We spent the fifth anniversary of Arina’s A-Day in Charlotte, with friends Alec and Michael.

We met them for church at Caldwell Memorial Presbyterian, where Arina had fun with new friend Beatrice, and Jack had fun with Thomas the train toys. Then, we had lunch at Zoe’s with Alec, Michael, and church friends Craig and Perry. — complete with chocolate cake and a full-table rendition of “Happy Adoption Day to You!” for Arina. Finally, we toured Alec’s and Michael’s fabulous new condo, and there is nothing more fun for a kid than to be able to run, unchecked, in a large, empty space.

And, as if all of that weren’t enough, we picked up a fish tank for A. when we got home. Animal lover that she is, a fish tank was the only thing she really, really, really wanted for her A-Day.

Scott and I, in typical Scott-and-Nicole fashion, took our camera to Charlotte and left it in the car. Every time. So, the photo for today is not from today, unfortunately, though it is Arina, near enough to the fifth anniversary of her Adoption Day.

This A-Day seems more special than most, because Jack, at 18 months, is only a few months younger than A. was when we met her. So, right now, we look at him and remember her, the way she was.

18-months is such a fun age. Jack repeats nearly everything we say in a baby voice, and every word is phrased as a question, with a high note at the end: “Ju-Ju?” (juice); “Go-ge?” (pacifier, dubbed “go-ge” after Jack, in a moment of panic, said “Mommy! Go-ge, go-ge, go-ge,” as in “go get my pacifier”); and “tadpole?” since Arina plays with tadpoles in my parents’ goldfish pond all the time. And . . .

1) Like the toddler Arina, the toddler Jack LOVES his mother. I remember that Scott had to win A. over with M&Ms before she’d even sit on his lap. Jack does not like to be left with Scott, and, if I leave, will stretch out on the floor by the door and cry. Scott snapped the photo, below, when Jack fell asleep after one such crying fit. Perhaps M&Ms would help? Scott should try that.

2) Also, like the toddler Arina, the toddler Jack LOVES his Pop Plyler and Papa Fisk. They also love their Nanas and MeMes, of course, but there is something about grandfathers . . . Jack will tell Nana “No!” if she tries to take him from Pop. See, below, Jack having fun with Pop at Tweetsie Railroad. More photos of the kids at Tweetsie are in the gallery.

3) And, finally, like the toddler Arina, the toddler Jack has a surprising attention span for his age, and is PASSIONATE about the things he likes. With Arina, it was always animals. — stuffed animals, cartoons with animals, games with animals, animal shaped food, etc. Whatever “it” was, as long as it was animal-related, it could entertain A. all day.

Jack, true to his namesake (my grandfather), is similarly enthralled by TRAINS. At Tweetsie, he ran from store to store, playing with every train table he could find. If we said, “Jack, we have to go. Say goodbye,” he’d scream “No, no, no,” run from us, and finally cry. — the loudest, most distressed cry he could muster.

So, below, is Jack’s early birthday present. — a train table and set, bought as a Craigslist bargain. I expect to be able to get lots of work done, thanks to Thomas and his friends.

So, how is the school-age, nearly seven-year-old Arina different? She’s more of a Daddy’s and Nana’s girl now, although she says that she favors whomever she’s with at the time. But she still adores animals, so much so that I started fostering dogs on her behalf. We’ve had so many at this point — we’re on our ninth — that I’ve devoted a separate blog to it: Still, there are photos of the kids with several of our fosters in the gallery.

And, I think a photo of Arina with our second foster, Chester Berkeley, is appropriate here:

And, now, for some Arina-isms, starting with some end-of-school ones:

1) A. admitted that she got in trouble at school but insisted it wasn’t that bad, because she didn’t have to “do laps” like she normally does. Drama, on the other hand, was even more of a success, because she didn’t have to “sit on the white floor,” like she normally does. I’m beginning to regret my new habit of asking at the end of every school day for three details. Arina’s #3? — that Anson DID have to “do laps.”

2) A.’s gymnastics teacher said that she was “preoccupied” in class. — apparently, with saying the word “butt.” Me, in the car: “Arina! Why did you keep saying the word ‘butt?'” A: “I was trying to be funny, so I said the word ‘butt,’ and nobody laughed. So, I tried again and again and again. Because you say to never give up.”

3) I got a call from A.’s teacher. Apparently, A. hit Benjamin Tanner (yes, the weatherman’s son) so hard on the back that she left her handprint. B. asked A. to sign his yearbook. She not only signed it (ARINA!) but also drew a picture of herself. B. snatched it back. A. said, “Give it back! Give it back!” B. did not give it back. She explained, “I was trying to make the picture beautiful for him, and he wouldn’t let me! So, I had to hit him.”

4) A. overheard something I said to Scott about her suitcase. She asked me about it. I said, “how did you know?” She said, “Because I heard you tell Daddy blah, blah, blah.” Scott said, “That’s all I hear too.”

5) For Mother’s Day, A. gave me the following homemade card: “I love you Mommy. You are the best mom ever! You are a good cook! You are loved by me! You are great!!! relly great!!!!! You are speclie! to: Mom!!! by: Arina!” I asked her about the “good cook” part, since I don’t cook. She said, “Once you did. And it was good.” Scott explained, “She thinks making PB&J is the same as cooking.”

She also gave me the class cookbook for M’s Day, at which point S. and I realized that we didn’t send in a recipe for her like we were supposed to. Oops. So, she had written one herself, for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

6) A. was playing doctor, and she told her friend to pull down her pants, so that she could give her a shot. Me: “Not appropriate, Arina.” A., rolling her eyes: “Well, it isn’t a REAL shot.”

7) Scott sent A. to school with a shirt and no pants. Apparently, their conversation went as follows. S.: “You can’t wear that with no pants.” A.: “I have black tights.” S.: “Oh. Okay.” I was mortified.

8 ) A. announced the she was the only good girl in Music class. Me: “How did it feel to be the only girl who wasn’t misbehaving?” A.: “Really weird.”

9) I heard A. telling J. “No!” Me: “Arina! It’s not your job to discipline Jack.” A: “Well, he’s about to hit the dog with a frying pan then.”

10) I looked at Arina expecting to see blue eyes and saw green. Me, shocked: “Arina! Your eyes look green this morning!” A., nonplussed: “Didn’t you know that my eyes change color? You forget that I’m a pretty special little girl.”

11) I thought I’d be kind to my parents at Carowinds, so I volunteered to take A. on the log flume ride. When it was over, A. said “I’m riding this again with Pop!” Me: “What if Pop doesn’t want to get wet?” A: “That’s okay.” Me: “That’s okay; he doesn’t have to ride?” A: “No. That’s okay; he can ride anyway.”

12) Arina asked Nana to make her a ham sandwich, and then decided that she wanted a PB&J after the former was already made and delivered. Nana: “Eat your sandwich.” A.: “I don’t want to, Nana.” Nana: “Well, you’re sitting there until you do.” A., cheerily: “Well, I guess I’ll be sitting here all day then.”

Happy Adoption Day, Arina! We love you!

April 2011

April 25th, 2011

Happy Easter! We had a fabulous Easter holiday in Charleston, visiting with all of the Fisks: MeMe and PaPa; Aunt Kelly, Uncle Danny, Marley and Parker; and Aunt Susie, Uncle Steve, Lauren, Andrew and Ryan. Arina and Jack played and played, laughed and laughed. — illustrated best, perhaps, in the photo below.

Jack enjoyed dying Easter eggs for the first time. We knew this would be a hit, since he’s had a fascination with liquids — and dropping things into them — for some time now. Example: tonight, he managed to get the parsley open and to shake the entire container into the dogs’ water bowl. He didn’t enjoy hunting eggs as much, while Arina excelled (see the Rina action shot, below).

All in all, a fun time. — although March-April 2011 has had a number of highlights.

1) Arina had her hair cut. We’ve always favored short hair on her, but this is the shortest cut yet. She told her hair stylist, Jill, that she wanted a “rock star” cut. Jill obliged. And Aunt Nat made it a true “rock star” look with a bottle of hot pink (temporary) hair dye. See the photo in the gallery.

2) Arina was in her third ballet recital. She played a lilac fairy in the Koger Center production of Sleeping Beauty. Her aunties came to see her (Tracy from here; Rachel from Florida; Nat from California; and Stacey from New Mexico), and she couldn’t have been happier with her adoring fans.

3) Jack, now 17-months, is a toddling terror. He has a FIERCE temper. When he’s angry, he’ll scream “ACK” and shake his hands at us. Scott calls them “angry hands.”

Jack’s very much the little man, with all kinds of quirks. He must eat all food with utensils. He must brush his teeth several times a day. He loves to blow his nose. And he must be able to go up the stairs whenever he wants. We tried to do the baby-gate-thing, but after one too many “ACKS,” we gave up and took it down. He’s actually quite good at navigating the stairs.

We did, however, put a stop to his short-lived, favorite game of throwing stuff over the second-floor balcony. It was funny the first few times he did it. He would throw a toy over the banister, we’d throw it back, and he’d laugh maniacally. Because Jack has always been more prone to seriousness (a contemplative — dare I say brooding? — rather than a laughing baby), we were delighted to hear him giggle and encouraged the game. Then, a snow globe came over the banister.

Despite everything that’s difficult about a 17-month old, though, Jack is overall a delight. He loves his mommy so much that “mommy” has become the word for anything he wants. He’ll point at something and say, “Mommy, mommy, mommy!” whether I’m in the room or not. Scott has actually started using “mommy” as a verb, as in, “What do you mommy, Jack?”

He also loves his sister, who he calls “Ina.” And his Daddy? Well . . . they definitely have a more tempestuous relationship. I think it’s because Scott doesn’t interact with him enough, because he’d rather play on his computer than do so. One night, Scott kept the kids so that I could go to dinner and movie with a friend.

Scott was on the computer. Jack took off his pants and diaper, toddled over to Scott, and peed on him.

But, seriously: how could you stay mad at this face?

And now for some Arina-isms:

1) I was working at the computer in my home office, and A. came and stood silently beside my chair. Me, impatiently: “Arina, what did you come in here to tell me?” A.: “A lie.”

2) A. had a bathroom “accident” at school. Her conversation with Scott went as follows. S.: Why wouldn’t you go to the bathroom? A: Well, we were watching Word Girl, and I knew if I went to the bathroom, I’d miss the ending. So, I decided to go in my pants. S.: YOU DO NOT MAKE THE CHOICE TO GO IN YOUR PANTS! A.: THEN HOW AM I GOING TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED AT THE BREAD FACTORY!

3) We are not looking forward to hearing A.’s math placement for next year. She announced that she ran out of time on the standardized test. Me: “Were the problems too hard?” A.: “No. But I don’t like math. So I stopped doing it, turned the test over, and started drawing instead.”

4) A. blew me a kiss and said that it tasted like “strawberries, blueberries, and love.” She also made all A’s for the first time. This made her so cocky that she said she went ahead and gave herself 100 on her spelling test, so that Mrs. Carrington wouldn’t have to.

5) I asked A. if she got nervous as her hair got shorter and shorter. Her reply: “Nope. I always knew it was going to look GOOD.”

6) A. asked why she had to do something that she didn’t want to do. Scott explained that doing so would make her a better person. Her reply: “I don’t need to be a better person. I’m a better person already.”

7) And, finally, we’ve decided to start fostering dogs. — one at a time. I went to the City of Columbia Animal Shelter and rescued a sweet lab mix. We’ve found a wonderful adoptive home for him (special thanks to my friend Julia McKinney), and he’ll go there this week. I’ve been worried about A. getting attached, but she told me that she understands that we’re the “Baby House” and that we have to find Chester’s “forever home.” Too cute.

And speaking of cute, I’ve included some more photos we’ve received from Arina’s birth family in Kazakhstan. They sent us a baby picture, so now we know what a 4 month old Arina looks like. Visit the gallery to see.

January-March 2011

March 12th, 2011

I asked Scott how I should begin this post, the first of 2011. He said that I should say we’re in a good place. Scott and I both like our jobs. I’m still Assoc. Dir. of First-Year English at USC; he works for Performance Medical Supply, making houses handicap-accessible for people in need, mostly wounded/disabled vets and the elderly. Arina is in first grade, and Jack is toddling around, content with his 16-month old life/routine.

So, life is good, though busy. Here are some highlights:

1) On my birthday, January 11th, we had a snow day! Since, Scott and I missed the snow-pocalypse of 2010, when Columbia got 6-8 inches, we were happy to be in town on the 11th. We had a delightful snowball fight, girls against Daddy, while Jack crawled around like a snow caterpillar. I don’t remember who won the fight, but I know that good times were had by all, including Ja Ja, the snow bear.

2) Scott and I took a trip before the Spring 2011 semester started. Our anniversary/Christmas/my birthday/Valentine’s Day present to each other was a trip to The Cloister, in Sea Island, GA. We’ve never been anywhere so fancy. When our battered Corolla saw the other cars (BMWs, corvettes, etc.), it *and we* knew that we were out of our league. And we weren’t the only ones. The guy at the gate told us that he could tell we were used to “doing for ourselves,” but that we should let the people at The Cloister spoil us, that we should ask for chocolate-covered strawberries at 2:00 in the morning, if we have a craving.

We did not order chocolate covered strawberries at 2:00am. We did, however, have delicious food, wine, and a couples massage. When Scott stressed about how much money we were spending, I just reminded him that The Cloister is Disney World for adults.

My facebook status report for January 8, 2011 reads as follows: “Scott and I are spending way too much money on a vacation weekend at a luxury spa. When we were walking up the marble staircase last night, S. turned to me and said, ‘This is the shit.'”

The featured photo is the view from our room. Serenity.

3) Jack is a walking boy! He took his first few steps on January 3rd, then decided that he’d rather crawl and spent the month of February doing just that. By the first week of March, though, he was on two legs, again, rather than four. He walked back and forth, from one wall in the living room to another, laughing wildly. And now that he’s twice as tall by being on 2-legs rather than 4, he’s a force to be reckoned with. One morning, he managed to call Tracy and turn on Billy Elliot, all by himself and all before 8:00.

He tries to “help” by unloading and reloading the dishwasher, reorganizing the spice drawer, and unrolling the toilet paper. One of his favorite things is to throw objects in the bathtub. — while I’m taking a bath. He’ll yell “GAH” and throw make-up, shampoo/conditioner bottles, and whatever else he can get his little hands on. Smart girl that I am, I hide the electronics.

But, all in all, he is a wonderfully fun and loving boy. He’s at his sweetest when he wakes up in the morning. Scott will bring him downstairs to  me, late riser that I am, and Jack is content to nuzzle my face, smile and coo for as long as I’ll let him.

Another fun facebook status report, featuring Jack, includes:

“Jack LOVES to blow his nose, and he actually threw his dirty tissue in the trash today, without prompting. Hurrah! Then he pulled a dirty diaper out of the trash and ran away with it, laughing wildly. I’m glad that, as out of shape as I am, I’m still faster than the toddler-version of running.”

So, here’s a featured video of Jack blowing his nose. And cleaning.


And, here’s a featured photo of Jack meeting his Uncle Joe, Mom’s newest baby. Enjoy more photos of sweet Joe in the gallery.

4) As for Arina. She’s as much of a feisty goofball as ever.

Some Arina-isms are as follows:

Dec. 2010: A. showed up for the drive home from Charleston to Columbia in wet pants, socks and shoes, and said that Marley paid her 25 cents to run through a ditch full of water/melted snow and ice. She was excited, until I told her I would have paid her $1.00 NOT to do it.

Jan. 2011: A. decided to get a New Year’s Eve makeover: hair cut and ears pierced. When we got home, I told her to go look in the mirror, but she said, “I already know how cute I am. SO cute.”

Jan. 2011: A.’s teacher sent home the journal A. has been writing in since August. Sample entries include: “Tyson is nice. We like the same video games. But he pulls his pants all the way down when he uses the urinal” and “I am six years old. I like my dogs. And I like to be top banana.” Note: at least 3 other entries reference being “top banana.”

Jan. 2011: A just announced that the new toothpaste I bought from Earthfare tastes like “mud and sand.” Before I had a chance to respond, Scott said, “That’s b/c it’s healthy toothpaste. I don’t like it either.”

Jan. 2011: Annoyed, I asked A. why she didn’t do something I told her to do. A.’s reply: “Sometimes I forget. Just like you and Daddy.”

Jan. 2011: I asked A. if she got in trouble for talking today. Her reply: “No, but I punched someone. Mrs. Carrington is going to call you. I hope you won’t be home.”

Feb. 2011: A. got in trouble for talking on the bus today. She responded by telling her bus driver, Mr. Dukes, that he’s been grumpy all year. Note: The other kids in the neighborhood have told us that Mr. D. is grumpy too. Mom got him banana bread for Christmas, from McLeod’s, and they all hoped he’d soften up a bit after that.

And, in true A. fashion, after she got in trouble today and accused him of being grumpy, she added “. . . and I brought you banana bread.”

Feb. 2011: A. asked me to dye her hair red this morning, in honor of Valentine’s Day.

Feb. 2011: Must teach A. NOT to invite herself over to other kids’ houses. She just popped in and said that Caleb’s mother invited her over. “Is that true?” I asked. A.’s response: “Well, I said, ‘can I come over?’ and she said YES!” Note: Ugh. It’s even worse. I just talked to Caleb’s mother. A. said, “So, my Mom doesn’t like me to invite myself over, but I can come over if you invite me.” Note, 2:  Just had a serious talk with A., and she admitted that she *knew* she was in the wrong. When I asked, “Why would you disobey your mother?” she said, “Well, Caleb does have a REALLY cool trampoline.”

Feb. 2011: A. was disappointed to hear that today is a “church” day. She insisted that the wedding we went to yesterday should count for our weekend church day. Me: “Don’t you want to learn about God?” A.: “I already know that God’s our Father. And that’s enough.” Note: Scott and I decided that A. wasn’t entirely wrong and skipped the 11:00 service to visit at a nursing home. She announced afterward that she likes “doing” church rather than “going” to church.

We thought this was quite profound, until she announced that she enjoyed the nursing home so much because everyone loved her and told her she was pretty. So, now she’s even more of a vain little peacock than she was before.

Feb. 2011: We’re trying to figure out how to explain to A. that it’s NOT okay to stomp on a lizard three times, even if it bites you. We’re also trying to convince her that it’s dead. She has it in a hamster cage with water and told the babysitter, “He’s not doing too well.” Note: I could never stomp on a lizard! I have actually trapped and released cockroaches rather than kill them. A., on the other hand, killed the lizard and pretended it wasn’t dead. Finally, in frustration, I said, “A., it’s dead!” Her reply: “Well, just a little.” Note, 2: As penance, I made her give me all of the dollars in her piggy bank, and we made a donation to Animal Welfare Institute, an organization dedicated to “alleviating suffering inflicted upon animals by humans.” We talked about what that means. She told Scott it’s the organization for lizards that have been stepped on by humans. Note, 3: I tend to overreact in these situations and asked Scott if lizard stomping = future serial killer. He rolled his eyes at me and said “no,” because “she didn’t pull off the lizard’s legs.” Ugh.

March 2011: A. came to see me this morning before school and said that I’m the “beautifulest” when I’m asleep. I think that’s b/c it’s the one time during the day that I’m not scolding her.

All humor aside, the next featured photo of Arina is the most special one yet. In December 2010, we hired a private investigator in Kazakhstan to search for A.’s birthfamily. His search was successful, though her birthmother, Oksana, died two years ago. Heartbreaking. I cried like a baby when I found out; in a way, I feel like I’ve lost a sister. My friend, Kara, said it best:

“How heartbreaking, Nicole — I’m so, so sorry. To have lost family before you ever had a chance to know her — what a blow to the hopes and possibilities you had imagined. I hope you’re giving yourself the room to mourn however you need to. What a blessing, in the wake of this sad news, to connect with her mother and sister to begin to learn about her and to restore that connection for A and you all. Hopeful that it will fill in some empty spaces and bring some peace and joy to your far-flung family. /hugs”

So, yes, we’ve connected with A.’s Granny Valentina, as well as her aunts, uncle, and cousins. And, perhaps most importantly, her 14-year-old sister, Ira. More info is on its way, but, for now, here’s a photo. Arina’s  birthmother, Oksana, is in the pink sweater. Her sister, Ira, is in the purple, holding the puppy. And the baby is Arina! — the only infant photo we have of her. Thanks and love to our beautiful Kazak family.


December 2010

December 29th, 2010

Happy holidays to all! I know I’ve been amiss about blogging. Poor Jack will have an abysmal amount of journal entries about his babyhood compared to his big sister. Two kids and a full time job, though, are not conducive to leisurely writing time. And, as Jack is getting into mischief as I type this by pulling who-knows-what out of his sister’s backpack, here are the Fisk family updates in list form.

1) Oct. 24: Scott and I took the kids to Boo at the Zoo and loved it so much that it will be our new Halloween tradition, I think. For those of you who don’t know, Riverbanks Zoo opens its doors after hours to celebrate Halloween with music, bonfires on which you can roast marshmallows, and a trick-or-treating trail. My favorite part was seeing the sleepy (or sleeping) animals, many of whom took no interest in the festivities. Even the goats at the petting zoo, who normally are always begging for food, were curled up in their hay beds. The elephants, however, were partying hard. I swear I saw one moving its legs in rhythm to “The Monster Mash.” Below, the featured photo is of Little Bo Peep and her lost sheep. Thanks to Kayla Wilkes for these fabulous Halloween photos at the Horseshoe.

2) Scott and I spent Halloween weekend in Washington, DC at Jon Stewart’s Rally for Sanity. — which was why we took the kids trick-or-treating a week early, and good thing too. Arina and Jack were sick Halloween weekend and missed the trick-or-treating they were planning to do with Nana and Pop. Scott and I had tons of fun, though, and were very proud of our signs.

3) Jack turned one on November 12! Yay for growing boys! At one, Jack is into everything. As I’m typing, he is in the kitchen with me, pulling out my baking pans (having moved on from his big sister’s backpack). Although we thought he’d skip crawling and go straight to walking, he has decided that tall as he is (95th percentile in height), crawling is safer. He only walks when he can hold onto something. If there is too big of a gap between whatever he is holding onto and the next thing, he’ll drop on his butt, crawl at lightening speed, and pull up again. He babbles constanting (ma ma ma ma, da da da da, and a boo) and has perfected “uh oh.” — even using it correctly in “uh oh” situations.

He’s a curious boy, wanting to hold anything and everything, which he’ll point to. The first time Scott took him shopping after he’d learned to point: he used both hands, would swing them around wildly, and say “Ehh! Ehh! Ehh! Ehh!” with enthusiasm.

He’s also passionate, like his mama. When he’s upset, he’ll literally wring his hands and wail. When he’s angry, he’ll scream and throw things (this, incidentally, is like his daddy). But, when he’s happy, he’s a delight, cooing and laughing and loving. He “loves” by nuzzling our faces.

And he’s a Mama’s boy. The perfect illustration of this: when he woke up in the middle of the night one night (which is rare, thankfully), he turned away from Scott, who was in a fury, cuddled up to me in the bed, reached out for my hand, and fell asleep holding it.

Below, the featured photo is Jack with a dirty face, after playing with his daddy in the garage.

4) And, now, for the holidays. As usual, we neglected to take photos at Thanksgiving (sigh) but made up for it at Christmas. Arina continues to surprise us with her awesomeness. She woke up on Christmas morning, squealed with delight over the presents that Santa left (and the fact that he and the reindeer ate their treats), and then begged us to open our presents from her first. She even fed Jack his bottle for us while we did so. Incidentally, she loves her baby brother so much that she asked Santa for more presents for him than for her.

And here’s a photo of the boy on Christmas morning. Scott offered to edit out the Mr. Knightley dog hair that’s on his face, but as photographer-friend Shannon says, that’s what makes it real, because life is messy.

5) And now for some Arina-isms: Arina walked in on Jack’s bath, started laughing, and claimed that she was laughing at his “wiener.” Me: “His what? It’s called a penis. Who calls it a wiener?” A: “No one. I just think it looks like a hot dog.” I was offended on Jack’s behalf.

I have decided that Arina could not be more like me. Latest report card: all top marks, except in Math and PE.

Arina was completely stressed out by Tacky Day at school. She said the clothes I picked out for her were “crazy” and asked three times, “Are you SURE today is Tacky Day?” She came home in a huff, since not all of the kids were tacky. She said they “forgot” and grumbled that we should have forgotten too.

Arina’s take on why she and another girl were fighting: “She was wanting my silly band, and I accidentally didn’t want to share.”

6) Finally, visit the gallery for more photos. Highlights include Aunt Susie’s visit in October and our fabulous Kiawah weekend in December. Until Scott finishes his web site revisions, you’ll need to go back to the homepage to access the photo gallery.

Happiest of New Years from the Fisks! xo.

October 2010

October 5th, 2010

My, how the time has flown since May! Arina has celebrated another Adoption Day, as well as her 6th birthday. At 10 months, Jack is crawling around the house, pulling up on the furniture, and trying his darnedest to walk like his big sister, whom he adores.

And, speaking of big “Sissy,” here’s a recent photo of Arina, minus her two front teeth:

Arina had her first dentist appointment in August. After the dental hygienist pointed out that Arina’s two front teeth were loose, A. promptly replied, “Well, pull them!” She was very excited to show off her new smile.

Arina is losing teeth, and Jack’s are coming in. He has his bottom two, and his top two are starting to peek through. I’ve yet to get the perfect photo that shows all that’s going on in his mouth, though. He’s such a pensive little boy sometimes. He does smile and laugh, but he makes you work for it! Arina, clown that she is, is probably best at getting him to grin. But even Arina had trouble getting him to grin for our first professional photo shoot at USC’s horseshoe. Mom went with me, and we decided that Jack doesn’t like to be outside yet. He didn’t like the way the grass feels, the heat, or the bugs. As soon as we left the shoot and were in the air-conditioned car, he started laughing and cooing, and he laughed and cooed all the way home.

Our photographer, Sarah Bothwell, was amazing, because she somehow managed to get some of him smiling. Mom and I really didn’t remember him smiling at all, but good photographers are somehow able to find those in-between moments. Check out the photo gallery for more shots from the day. (And, Mom, don’t panic when you see only the October album. Scott is revising the site and will be putting back all the other albums shortly).

What else about Jack? He is tactile, like his Daddy. He loves to see and to feel. We got him his first “work bench” complete with a hammer, drill press, and vice, and he loves it! He’s so much more responsive at 10 (nearly 11!) months. He waves his arms and bounces and says “Ha ha ha!” when I pick him up at nursery school, and he thinks it’s tons of fun to “bounce” in his saucer when we tell him to. And his new favorite game? Throwing stuff on the floor from his high chair and watching as we scramble to catch it all. — or laughing when the dogs beat us to it.

His favorite foods include pumpkin, sweet potatos, and almost any kind of fruit. Oh, and ice cream. Are you even supposed to give ice cream to such a young baby? I guess that’s what Nanas are for. She shared some of her vanilla ice cream with Jack, and he cried when she’d take a spoonful for herself, convinced that he was being deprived of the cold, creamy goodness.

And he’s such a cuddle bug. He’s in a nuzzling phase, where he’ll grab my face with his little hands, pull me towards him, and nuzzle me like animals do, cooing all the while. He also says “Ma ma ma ma ma ma,” which I think should count as his first word. 🙂 And he likes to give french kisses. — to everyone, including the dogs. Yuck. He’s also fascinated with the dog bowl of water, which we’ve had to move upstairs. To start with, we could move him to a different room and distract him with baby toys, but then he started crawling at lightening speed and is dogged (no pun intended) in his pursuits. Scott thinks it’s interesting that he loves splashing his hands in the dog bowl of water, since he hates having anything else on his hands (food, lotion, etc.). I explained that he’s like his Mama. As a child, I loved washing my hands so much that I carried around a washcloth. Scott says we’re both weird.

If Arina were to hear Scott call Jack “weird,” she’d be up in arms. Scott told Jack “NO!” when Jack was splashing around in the dog bowl, popped his hand (not hard, though he still got an earful from me for doing so), and moved him to another room. Jack cried, of course, because (like his Dad) he wants to do what he wants to do. Arina thought Scott had “spanked” Jack and started bawling. Such a sweet, protective big sister.

And now for some Arina-isms:

My facebook post on Arina’s Adoption Day: “Arina celebrated her Adoption Day and her cousin’s birthday at Wannamaker Waterpark today. One of the highlights: A random little boy stole her watergun, and before anyone could intervene, Arina snatched it back, grabbed his water bottle, threw it, and ran away. Happy Adoption Day, Arina! You make life interesting and fun.”

I was trying to sell Arina on her new pediatrician. A. was indeed impressed by the waiting room, both the mural on the walls and (especially) the tv set to the Cartoon Network. Me, enthusiastically: “Isn’t this the best doctor ever?” Arina, dryly: “No. It’s the best waiting room ever.”

One morning, Mom was complaining about the fact that Jack peed all over her. Arina’s response: “Oh, well. We’ll still love him, Nana.”

Jack started crying one night as soon as Arina and I sat down to eat. Arina: “So, Mom, what do you do? — eat or take care of the baby? I say eat, because it’s a hard life.”

Arina’s response to her after-school snack (fruit roll-up and juice box): “Wow, Mom! Thanks for the not-healthy snack!”

I scolded Arina for not being friendly when I introduced her to a friend. A’s response: “Oh well, Mom. You know how kids are. Sometimes they just don’t want to talk to grown-ups.”

I’ll try to post again soon. We’re very much looking forward to Halloween this year. Arina will be Little Bo Peep. Jack will be her sheep.

May 2010

May 16th, 2010

Jack turned 6 months old this past Wednesday, and he’s such fun. He’s a bouncing, laughing baby boy. Since my last post, it seems like he’s made a new discovery each week: first it was his ears, then his hands. He learned to go “bam bam” with his legs, slamming them against the crib mattress; then he learned to go “bam bam” with his “keys,” one of his favorite toys. He loves toys that light up and play music and can listen to the same tune over and over again.

He’s such a good baby, although the first few weeks of teething were challenging. We bought teething toys galore, but nothing seemed to help. Finally, he seemed to accept the fact that he was going to be in pain and stopped wailing. I preferred the wailing. His quiet teary-eyed suffering was so much more heartbreaking. I submit the following as evidence:

Still no teeth, but he seems to be feeling better. We’ve been able to take lots of good pictures lately, as seen below. Each year, Scott uses our tax return money to get something nice. Last year, it was a new bedspread and Egyptian cotton sheets. This year it’s a new camera.

As you can see, like his sister, Jack is fond of hats. And, speaking of Arina, she has had a whirlwind of activity since March. She was in two weddings. For Sarah and Matt, she was a miniature bride. For Julie and John, she was a flower girl. We’re still waiting on photos from Julie’s wedding, but we have lots of photos from Sarah’s. In the first, Arina is . . . well, being Arina. She loved going to a hotel and getting dressed with Sarah and her bridesmaids.

And, as soon as the ceremony was over, she plopped down beside her miniature groomsman, Ryan, and enjoyed a lollipop. Then she and her flower girl friend danced the night away. That’s our girl.

Other March-to-May highlights include Easter, Mother’s Day, and a weekend get-away to Jacksonville, NC, courtesy of my cousin Bobby and his family. There are tons of photos in the gallery, but I’ve included, below, a photo commemorating my first Mother’s Day with my boy and my girl, and a photo commemorating Jack’s first trip to the beach. Thanks to Bobby, Jenn, and Alyssa for a wonderfully relaxing beach weekend that was actually full of firsts! Jack rolled over for the first time. Of course, Scott blames me for the fact that he hasn’t rolled over before now. Basically, Jack hates to be on his belly, and I hate to hear him cry. And Arina jumped on the trampoline (or, as she calls it, the jumpaline) for the first time. Fun!

And, now, for some Arina-isms:

On whether Scott and I should have more kids: “Two kids are enough. Babies are hard.”

Arina wanted to wear one of her Dad’s t-shirts as pajamas one night. When she put it on, she twirled around and said, “I look like God.”

Arina has been excited about her kindergarten class project, which involves pooling money to build a much-needed well for an African village. She took her dollar to school, gave it to her teacher for “the poor children who need clean water,” and then promptly asked for it back when she found out that she could buy ice cream at lunchtime.

Arina went to the zoo with her kindergarten class. The night before, I asked what she most looked forward to seeing. Her response: “The ice cream.”

One night at dinner, I asked Arina to tell me her favorite part of the day. “Having a mom,” she said.

I received a phone call from Arina’s kindergarten teacher. A little boy in Arina’s room didn’t believe that Arina could pull her loose-fitting pants down without unbuttoning them. So she showed him that she could.

Conversations regarding the baby weight I haven’t lost are as follows:
Arina: “Mom, let me help you. You’re pregnant.” Me: “No, I’m not!” Arina, as she pats my belly: “Well, just a little.”

Arina: “So, are you losing your weight, Mom?” Me: “What do you think, Arina?” Arina: “Maybe a little. You just have to make yourself stop eating the cookies. Like I do.” Note: Arina does NOT make herself stop eating “the cookies.” Humph.

March 2010

March 4th, 2010

Well, my valiant effort to post once a week has failed abysmally. Jack does not have the web site coverage that Arina had at nearly four months as a Fisk. I’m so very sorry, my poor darling boy. And I can’t say it’s because he’s a difficult baby. He certainly has his melt-downs, but, on the whole, we really couldn’t ask for a better baby. He slept through the night a few times at 6 weeks old (before getting RSV and getting off schedule), and he sleeps through most nights now. So, my excuse for not posting? Scott and I are just busy with life, which includes hectic jobs, two kids, and two very high-maintenance dogs.

An example of what our day is like: Scott wakes up at 5:00am to be at work at 6:00am; I wake up between 6:00am and 6:30am to feed and change Jack; I get Arina ready for school, load both kids in the car, and drop off Arina at Brennen Elementary by 7:30am; at home, I shower, bathe Jack, and get both of us packed up for our respective “schools”; I drop Jack off at nursery school and go to my office at USC; I pick up Jack at either 12:30 or 1:00, and bring him home to feed and change him; Jack and I pick up Arina at 2:40; Scott gets home at 3:30; I either go back to the office or work from home until dinnertime; then dinner, bath for Arina, and bed for all (unless I still have work stuff to finish).

I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

Still, we’ve had a wonderful time as a family of four. Arina adores being a big sister, and Jack thinks his big sister is as entertaining as we do. Nana captured a sweet brother/sister moment during Jack’s first spend-the-night in McBee:

At nearly four months old, Jack coos and laughs and wants to see everything. — although he’s been an alert baby from the very beginning. Scott was holding him in the hospital when he heard my voice and turned his head around to look at me. And, we figured out soon that sometimes he cries not because he’s hungry or needs changing, but because he wants to be held up so that he can see. Nana calls that spoiled, but Scott thinks that he just gets bored.

So, how do I begin to chronicle the first four months of Jack’s life and still manage to get to bed before 12:00am? I’ve decided to list five memorable moments, starting with labor and delivery. I hate that I’ve waited so long to tell this story, because I find that some of the memories have already started to fade. But, here it goes:

5) I longed for the adoption experience throughout much of my pregnancy, because I felt alone. Scott and I were very much a team in Kazakhstan, but we couldn’t share pregnancy in the same way. However, I felt like we were very much a team in the labor and delivery room. I couldn’t have asked for a stronger, encouraging, and more protective partner. I have to say that I was very proud of how I handled labor and delivery — at one point, I overheard the nurse tell my doctor that I had “the most amazing control” (patting myself on the back now, thank you very much) — but Scott said that I looked at him for help two times. One of those was during the transition phase of labor when I was being beleaguered by a nurse and the second was immediately after labor when another nurse found it necessary to pummel my uterus. Scott spoke up for me both times, when I couldn’t do it myself. Our wonderful doula, Judy, told my parents that she could tell how much Scott and I love each other, which I thought was sweet.

Oh, Scott thought it was funny that the nurses and my doctor bragged about my “control,” because he thinks they meant that I’m “controlling.” He swears that I completely ignored a contraction that he was watching on a monitor, because I was so “into” telling my mother, who I was talking to on the phone, where to find my Harry Potter books-on-cd. In my naivete, I thought that it would be “fun” to listen to a Harry Potter novel during labor. So, Mom brought one to the hospital for me. Needless to say, I lost interest in that quickly.

4) Another favorite moment was the doula telling Mom, Dad and Arina about how “tough” I was during labor, and Arina telling the doula that she’s “tough like my Mommy.” For the record, I had a completely drug-free labor (patting myself on the back again). I asked for drugs at one point, during the transition phase, but my wonderful nurse Cindy told me that I could do it and offered to turn off my pitocin drip. From what I had read about pitocin and the unnaturally strong contractions that come along with it, I imagined that having the pitocin drip turned off was like receiving a dose of pain medication. I don’t know how big of a difference it made in the pain since I was on such a low dose, but placebo effect or not, I felt like I could do it at that point. As a 19th-century Brit lit specialist, I feel good about having experienced childbirth the way the women writers I read experienced it.

3) There were a couple of scary moments. My oxygen level dropped during the transition phase of labor, so I had to be administered oxygen. Also, the cord was wrapped around Jack’s neck and his heartbeat rate was dropping, so I had to have an episiotomy to hurry things along. Ouch. — but totally worth it. And, once I got home, I fainted (*or nearly so) a couple of times in the shower. Scott literally had to help me off the floor. I had a low hemoglobin level, which I’m assuming was the cause, and got on iron supplements. *By nearly so, I mean that things started fading to black, so I slid to the floor.

2) Jack ate well, and, as I mentioned earlier, was alert from the start. And I felt AMAZING after the delivery, other than the low hemoglobin level. I feasted on chicken tenders and curly fries as soon as I got back to the labor and delivery room and showered first thing the next morning. When we came home on Sunday, I had more energy than I had throughout my entire pregnancy. I cleaned the house. I taught my Harry Potter class on Tuesday. And I laughed, and laughed, and laughed. It must have been the “happy hormones” that your body produces to get you through labor, but I have to admit that I was sad when they wore off, because I’ve never laughed so hard in my life.

1) So, what’s the favorite Jack moment so far? The first time he cooed. I was nursing him in the middle of the night when he was only a few weeks old, and he looked at me with wide eyes, pursed his lips, and said, “Ooohhh.” He looked so pleased with himself, like he had been practicing and was waiting for the perfect moment to impress his mother. It took my breath away.

And, now, photos. Here’s the most recent photo of the little man. There are many more in the photo gallery!

And, now, here’s one of Arina, along with a more Rina-centered update and some Arina-isms:

Arina still averages a note home a week from school. Most of the time she’s being reprimanded for talking too much, although she’s been known to spit in the face of anyone who “bothers” her. In that respect, she and I couldn’t be more different. I cried whenever anyone bothered me, whereas Arina turns around and spits in faces. Mom says that she prefers Arina’s way, but that’s a doting grandmother for you.

I’ve decided that Arina is like Catherine Earnshaw, at least the way she’s described as a child in my favorite novel, Wuthering Heights:

“Certainly she had ways with her such as I never saw a child take up before; and she put all of us past our patience fifty times and oftener in a day: from the hour she came down-stairs till the hour she went to bed, we had not a minute’s security that she wouldn’t be in mischief. Her spirits were always at high-water mark, her tongue always going – singing, laughing, and plaguing everybody who would not do the same. A wild, wicked slip she was – but she had the bonniest eye, the sweetest smile, and lightest foot in the parish.”

She’s a “wild, wicked slip” of a girl indeed, but we love her to pieces.

Here are some past and present Arina-isms:

1) For the first week of Baby Jack’s life, Arina believed that our baby sound monitor was her personal two-way communication system with her brother. Before she left for school, she would pat the monitor and said “Bye, bye Buddy.”

2) Arina’s response to breastfeeding: “Eww! I don’t want to have babies! I’ll adopt mine!”

3) After listening to Les Miserables, Arina composed and sang the following: “My name is Cosette. My mother sold her locket. And her hair. And then she died.”

4) One of Arina’s bedtime prayers: “Dear God, thank you for bathrooms, so that I can go potty. And thank you for boogers, so that I can blow them out.”

5) Arina gave Scott a pencil. Scott asked, “Why are you giving me this?” to which Arina replied, “I just knew I was going to draw on the table with it and didn’t want to get in trouble.”

6) I suggested that Arina make a classmate, on whom she spat, a necklace as a gesture of apology and goodwill. Arina said that she didn’t know how big the girl’s neck was, though she guessed “10 pounds.” Nevertheless, she made a necklace for the girl, because I told her that being kind would make her feel warm on the inside. When I picked her up from school the following day, she said that she was “hot” from “all that loving.”

7) The toothfairy forgot to visit Arina one night. Thankfully, Arina didn’t think the toothfairy forgot her. She said that we shouldn’t have put the tooth in a tiny ziplock bag, because clearly fairies can’t open ziplock bags.

I’ve decided that Arina takes after her father, because I have a couple of Scott-isms to record as well:

1) During those last few days of pregnancy, I was trying to clean the house from top to bottom and was trying to talk Scott into helping me finish one night. My rationale: “What if I go into labor tonight and it’s almost but not quite finished?” His response: “If you go into labor tonight, Sweetheart, you won’t give a damn.”

2) After Jack’s birth, Scott was bemoaning the fact that he seems to have the same dark circles that Scott has under his eyes. He then said, “Let’s hope he doesn’t also have your bags.” I told Scott that I didn’t know I had bags under my eyes (dark circles, yes, but bags?), to which he replied “oops.”

Like father, like daughter.