To Russia (And Back) With Love
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
  Kindergarten, Here I Come!

Friday, July 04, 2008
  Two Years Later...
Every few months, I'll get a message from a random Internetizen asking something like, "Why don't you update your blog?" "Is everything okay?"

Sure, I promised nearly two years ago that there would be more to come. Then I thought about it some more.

This is a blog about our Russian adoption adventure. In the eight months between the time we brought Zoe home and I stopped actively blogging on a regular basis, I realized that more often than not, the blog was reaching for anything to do with Russian adoption. No longer was there a legitimate Russian-specific angle. No longer was there an adoption-specific angle. And I wondered why.

And it came to me. In eight months, our daughter was no longer an adopted Russian child. She was a typical, assimilated American three-year-old, fully bonded with her immediate and extended family. With typical American three-year-old attitude.

Now she's a typical, American five-year-old headed to kindergarten in two short months. With dozens of five-year-old girlfriends filling her calendar with playdates and birthday parties. Ballet, gymnastics, soccer and swimming classes behind her. A trail of broken-hearted boyfriends left behind in pre-school and summer camp. High School Musical 1&2 posters adorning the back of her bedroom door, and parents wishing to drive an icepick through their own skulls as they cater to her demands of repeated listening of the HSM soundtracks in the car.

On America's 232nd birthday, our birthday wish for you is that your dreams come true, just as ours have.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006
  The Endless Summer
Yes, we're still here. I'll be backfilling the last two months over the next week or so. Promise.

Thanks for bearing with me. And call off the dogs, will you?!
Thursday, July 06, 2006
  S dniom razhdjenia, America!
God Bless America (with the apparent exception of Alaska and Hawaii) on Zoe's first Independence Day!

July 4th was marked with the usual food, fun, fireworks, the flag--and a fifth "F," a new friend--another little girl, almost three years old. Born in America, of Russian descent and bilingual. With a natural preference (along with her mother) for speaking Russian.

The Russian language isn't formally taught to children in the orphanages. Upon evaluation by an international adoption professional here shortly after arrival, we learned Zoe's Russian language skills were typical of a three-year-old Russian orphan--that is to say, well below her non-institutionalized three-year-old Russian peers. The Russian she knew was little more than a few basic phrases essential to her care, feeding and playtime in the orphanage.

From the moment the plane took off from Moscow, Zoe jettisoned her Russian vocabulary in favor of English, which she has picked up at a rapid pace. Over the last eight months, we've experimented with feeling out her Russian whenever we happened to find ourselves in the company of someone who speaks the language. Her reactions upon hearing the language seemed to range from fear and contempt in her first days home to confusion and shyness.

On a recent trip to the beach, we enlisted the aid of a few of the summer workers (largely Russian and Eastern European college students) we met at the shops and restaurants to see how she would react. Zoe's reaction was one of shyness, but she seemed to understand what they were saying, even though she didn't respond.

Getting back to July 4th...Zoe and her new friend Sasha hit it off right away and spent the entire time giggling, playing and chasing after each other, which wasn't surprising. But what was surprising was how they were communicating with each Russian.

While the words and phrases coming from Zoe's mouth while playing with Sasha didn't exactly flow like a Dostoyevsky novel, they were familiar from our days in Russia. "Da" (yes), "nyet" (no), "spaseeba" (thank you), "eye-eye-eye!" (don't do that!), "kreseeba" (pretty) to name a few.

We enlisted Sasha's mother, with whom Zoe had also grown comfortable over several hours, to do a more thorough evaluation. Zoe clearly understood the complex things she was saying. Her responses in Russian were short, but appropriate.

Many adoptive parents seek out formal language classes in an effort to maintain their childrens' heritage. We realize the importance of maintaining heritage, but plan to do so emphasizing the Russian culture rather than the language.

Zoe is a huge Dora the Explorer fan, even picking up a few bits of Spanish from the show and accompanying storybooks. Given where America is heading in the not-so-distant future, I'm thinking Spanish will be a lot more practical and am tempted to give that a shot.

But for next few years, English is priority one for Zoe.

Further complicating the language issue in our family is Zoe's cousin, of Hispanic descent, who begins tenth-grade foreign language class this fall. Her language of choice? Russian.

Yo quiero borscht!

Я хочу Taco Bell!

God Bless America.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006
  A Sticky Situation
So you're three years old, you've had your dinner followed by your bath, and you've brushed your teeth. Sounds like the perfect pre-bedtime ritual to me.

I made the mistake of promising Zoe dessert if she ate all her dinner. After leaving the table following completion of her entree for the aforementioned bath and toothbrushing under Mama's supervision, little did I suspect she would return to the kitchen--white t-shirt, wet hair and all--demanding I hold to my dessert promise. And, catching me preparing a highly-radioactive microwave s'more for Jesse, guess what she wanted for herself?

Years of formal legal training extracted from watching Judge Judy told me that Zoe's leaving the table constituted a breach of the dessert contract and I would ultimately prevail in court after a protracted, ugly, expensive legal battle...but how could I say no? Not when one of my favorite musicals is Oliver! and a former orphan is looking me square in the eye to ask, "Please Papa, I want s'more."

Next month, Zoe returns to the pediatric dentist for a checkup. Surprisingly, the dentist found her teeth to be in in remarkably good shape compared to what we were expecting to hear on her first visit shortly after bringing her home.

Six months later on a highly sugar-laden diet? Hmmmmm....

Saturday, June 10, 2006
  Going For The Gold
Just in case the WNBA doesn't come-a-callin', there's always the balance beam and parallel bars. In a moving ceremony following the completion of another session of gymnastics, Zoe received another medal for the family trophy case while standing against a backdrop of an officially-licensed U.S. Olympic Committee beach towel. (Okay, so technically all the kids got medals...but Zoe really was the best.)

But as good as she is, she's no Vera Sessina, another native Yekaterinburger and rhythmic gymnastics champ.

Well, not yet anyway.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
  Hoop Dreams
What could make a Papa prouder than to find out his child is a star athlete in training? The thought that she might one day discover a cure for cancer or bring world peace suddenly goes out the window when she picks up a basketball and displays a natural talent for the game.

I've harbored a lot of resentment towards Russians and basketball, going back to the 1972 Olympics, when the gold medal dreams of a nine-year-old American boy were shattered by the most blatantly biased refereeing ever witnessed on the hardwood.

Paybacks are hell. You'll get yours in 2024.

Sunday, June 04, 2006
  Reading...well, sort of...
Reading is now part of Zoe's bedtime ritual. At her insistence, Mama reads to her every night, sometimes two or three books. Jesse and I are also allowed to read to her on occasion. And now, she also reads to herself.
No, the words aren't really leaping out at her yet at age 3-1/2, but the letters are mastered and she has been exposed to the stories enough times that she will talk through a fairly close synopsis of each page.
Monday, May 29, 2006
  A Memorable Memorial Day Weekend
The nice thing about blogging is I can be incredibly lazy for a few weeks, then date a post I should have done weeks earlier with a timestamp of, say, May 29 at 11:28 p.m. so that it looks like I've been doing my job. Those who stumble onto the blog in the future are impressed that I'm always so timely, while regular readers are left scratching their heads wondering "Now how the hell did I miss that for two weeks?" Let's not forget to clear your cache every now and then, folks!

That having been said, we just wrapped up a great Memorial Day weekend!

Zoe got a major taste of family all weekend as all branches of Papa's Scherlis clan descended upon Baltimore for the first Family Reunion of the new millenium. Zoe met cousins from all parts of the country as we honored our ancestors who came from Russia to begin a new life new life in America over 100 years ago. So in addition to charming the crowd of 60, her presence was especially meaningful.

The weekend continued with a barbecue at Cousin Sharon's. In addition to meeting more new cousins (this time from Mom's family), Zoe--somewhat exhausted by 48 hours of Scherlis shenanigans, was content to just kick back and kibitz with Pop-Pop.

Zoe and Jesse took time out to enjoy the spacious grounds of Chateau Rabinoroll, the San Simeon of Reisterstown.

The "art shot"

For Aunt Har and Cousin Sharon, who've never made the blog.

Sunday, May 21, 2006
  Where you been?
No, I haven't forgotten about the loyal legion of fans out there. We've just been mired down in the typical routine with the kids around here. Preschool all week, gymnastics and birthday parties on the weekends. And chicken pox.

Last weekend, Jesse had a few spots on his upper body. I thought to myself...couldn't be. Dr. Mom, of course, had the gut instinct that we were looking at chicken pox. Wait a minute, not possible...he had the varicella vaccine years ago. At the doctor's the next morning, we learned that the vaccine isn't fullproof (85% success rate) and we were looking at a mild, but very real case of chicken pox. So we scrambled to arrange coverage for Jesse all week since school wasn't an option. So where did this put Zoe? As longtime readers may remember, Zoe had the real deal when we first met her, almost jeopardizing that first trip to Russia. So she wasn't about to catch them again. I had them when I was about Jesse's age. And Sari had the varicella vaccine, which seemed to hold up to do its job for one of us anyway.

What does all this have to do with anything? Not much, but it's the only lame excuse I have for a lack of vigilence to blogging detail.
So we've been somewhat homebound without many photo ops of late. But we finally got out today to celebrate cousin Lila's birthday at a brunch thrown by Grandma & Grandpa. Pancakes are now near the top of Zoe's dietary staples--she craves them for breakfast, lunch & dinner and is eating a lot of them. I suspect it's not so much the pancakes as it is the syrup, just the latest in a long line of sweets that have fallen into favor. We'd probably get the same enthusiasm if we offered corrugated cardboard topped with a little Log Cabin.

Uncle Gary taught Zoe some of the finer points of the game of cribbage. And she put them to good use by hammering the birthday girl.

Rest assured, we're still out here working for you. Look for more bloggable material in the days to come.
Our Russian adoption adventure bringing home Zoe Elena, and the first year back home.

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