January-March 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.

watch?v=eTC015IztSU

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.

 

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