Archive | May, 2013

The last few weeks

28 May

I’ve been quiet for a couple weeks now, which is usually a sign that a) we’ve had a lot going on and b) I’ve had things on my mind that I’ve been processing into words. I’ll be posting some of those thoughts very soon, but I wanted to post some pics of all the things we’ve been up to!

021Playing with the kitty–they will go in circles through N’s play tent, baby chasing kitty. I think Simon likes the attention ūüėČ044Finally eating healthy foods again. N seems to be moving away from the all-white-foods phase, thank god.001¬†¬†One fun night N woke at 2am ready to ‘party’ except he really didn’t have the energy for it. But he certainly didn’t want to sleep or lay with us. So he stood at the end of the bed and screamed. It was fun for all ūüôā052089N loves physical play wherever he can find it: playgrounds, climbing, obstacles, rolling the¬†stroller . . .034¬†046¬†¬†084¬†We’ve spent a lot of time at various parks over the last few weeks getting fresh air and enjoying spring. We can’t wait to see what summer holds!!

Early Intervention

27 May

I’m not sure how much I’ve alluded to it here, but N isn’t talking.

By 18 months, kiddos should have approx 10 words, increasing monthly. N doesn’t say anything (except a rare mama or a begrudging papa). I’ve been worried about his speech development, but I can see him trying to communicate in action (bringing me shoes when he wants to go outside, for example). I got the name of a developmental center from a mama in our future preschool where her son went for speech therapy. I called them and set up an evaluation.

Monday two nice ladies came over along with a Russian interpreter. They introduced themselves and got on the ground to play with N. They brought out toys and had him do specific things – put coins in a piggy bank, bang blocks together, play with a wind-up toy, comb a doll’s hair, play with a little car, throw a ball. They asked him to point to pictures on a page. It lasted about an hour. As usual, N was pretty chill–whenever he meets new people or does new things he’s pretty quiet and observant. He played with them and repeated a lot of activities. He seemed to know some language, but didn’t talk at all. He was on good behavior and didn’t get frustrated at all. At the end of the evaluation, they indicated that he definitely knows Russian better than English, and he has ok receptive language. There is a delay but it rates only a few months behind. His spoken language is almost non-existent. He didn’t verbalize AT ALL. He did have a “no” gesture–a pretty funny pointed finger that he swished across his body to say NO.

I wasn’t surprised by this part of the evaluation: that’s why I called. I was shocked, however, by the concern they had for his social and cognitive development. They marked him as 50% behind — i.e. on par with a 10-month old! They were concerned by his hesitation to engage, by not bringing difficult things to me to either ask for help/show off (in this case, with the wind-up car), and they were concerned by him not doing a lot more active play (crashing cars together, etc). He also does a few funny things like spin in circles or close his eyes while walking, which are a warning sign that something else might be going on. He also likes to have an object in his hand, which could be another sign.

I was surprised and upset to hear this on Monday — I have never questioned his development! I never questioned that there might be some kind of underlying factor that is affecting his speech. If anything, I chalk it up to not giving him enough attention, not being around people more, and not socializing him with other kids. But their assessment really worried me!!

It’s been a week now that I’ve been letting it all sink in.

I found this in my drafts folder, and I’m retroactively publishing it (11-20-13) especially as it is relevant to the speech therapy we’re now setting up.

Counting calories

9 May

I’ve never been a dieter–I tend to be quite comfortable in my own skin. But with a family history of weight-related health issues (diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure), I knew I needed to keep wight gain in check. I do have a tendency to be overweight, but with a bit of attention (and a trip abroad) I can usually keep myself at healthy weight. However, since getting pregnant and having a baby, my weight had crept up into an unhealthy range.

This week, I decided to do something about it. I don’t like the way clothes fit. I don’t like feeling winded after climbing 4 flights of stairs. I hate the feeling of being addicted to sweets (the cravings for sweets & the high and low from sugar intake). So I’ve decided to put more physical activity into my life and control portion sizes better. I want to think more consciously about my health, rather than an abstract ‘I wanna eat better.’

I found this really cool app for my iPhone called MyFitnessPal that helps me track the calories in what I eat and the physical activity I do. Based on my current weight, goal weight, and target weight loss rate, it gives me a net calorie goal for the day.20130509-152007.jpgThere are thousands of foods already entered so it is super easy to enter what I eat & most physical activities are already in there too. It has become almost a game to stay at or under my calorie goal–if I wanna indulge, I need to get active. I’ve started taking the bus more (saving money) and getting off several stops early so I can walk. I’m adding physical activity wherever I can so that its sustainable and not a big hassle I can talk myself out of.

Also the app shows nutritional information so I can see how (un)healthy my diet is. I still have too much sugar in my diet, as well as too much salt and cholesterol. I do well on protein and keeping carbs under control. I need more vegetables to increase other vitamins.

I’ve only been using it a few days, but I can already see it becoming a habit. If all goes well, I’ll be back in the single-digit clothing sizes (and can go back into some cute clothes I’ve saved) and more importantly, I can build new sustainable health habits for my little family.

Heatwave

6 May

This weekend we had quite the heatwave–it was in the upper 70s and today it broke 80 degrees. Quite the feat for a Pacific Northwest spring!

Because of the heat (and a toddler who wakes at 9am on the dot) we spent a lot of time outside at the park.

Here’s a little bit from our weekend:20130506-193756.jpg20130506-193816.jpg20130506-193840.jpg20130506-193851.jpg20130506-193905.jpg20130506-193916.jpg20130506-193927.jpg20130506-193955.jpgit was Orthodox Easter Sunday so we celebrated that with eggs and Russian BBQ 20130506-194017.jpg20130506-194031.jpg

The path to citizenship

5 May

002This week my dear husband became an American citizen!

It has been a process 6+ years in the making. We still can’t quite believe we’re done with all the bureaucracy and we officially are an American family! Since much of our history isn’t on this blog, I figured I’d fill in a bit of the back-story here…

We met in January 2005 while I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine. Our dating quickly became serious, enjoying a wonderful vacation to the Black Sea that summer. He did try to break up with me once, but I wouldn’t let him because his only reason was that he was busy with ‘work.’ ¬†When my Peace Corps time was up in December, I went home, which left our relationship up in the air. Hubs wouldn’t commit, but after losing me he was quick to miss me and beg me to come back.

By the end of¬†February¬†2006 I was back in Ukraine and together we were trying to figure out his future. I had applied to grad schools in the US and in Hungary (there’s a great international university in Budapest). I was admitted to my two best options, so we really needed to decide whether we would stay together, or end it for good.

We got married in August ūüôā

Planning a Ukrainian wedding was quite the process. It wasn’t filled with table settings, floral decor, and guest lists. . .instead it was getting legal approval to marry, finding a dress that wasn’t too tacky, and choosing a location at the last minute that we didn’t hate. Ukrainians don’t plan weddings too far ahead of time–things just dont’ work that way. We did¬†virtually¬†all of our planning in the last 2 months, once we had official approval from the US Embassy and¬†Ukrainian¬†civil¬†registry to marry. I also got baptized Russian Orthodox in May so we could marry in the church.My christeningHubs’s parents, sister Ruslana, and her (ex-) boyfriend, Vasya. Vasya and Ruslana are my Godparents.¬†Orthodox wedding¬†Our Orthodox wedding.

During the wedding planning, I decided to begin my Masters degree at Central European University in Budapest. I would be heading to Budapest one month after our wedding to study Political Science for a year. I knew it would be hard, but it was my way to balance my own future and my independence with keeping this relationship that was so important to me. From day one, hubs had no interest in moving to America. He had his own career (first¬†lieutenant¬†in the police department, legal degree, ten years already spent there). He always said he fell in love not¬†because¬†I was American, but¬†in spite of me being American. When we married, we planned to stay in Europe. We didn’t have a specific plan, but my studying in Budapest was in part to advance my education and make connections that could maybe lead to a job at an NGO or embassy or something somewhere near Ukraine.

As the months passed, a few things happened. Hubs’ job got worse–he was always under-paid, over-worked, and under-appreciated (as in, $100/month, sometimes working shifts 24-hrs on, 24hrs off, and all kinds of bribes, scandals, etc). The final straw was having to guard several prisoners with active¬†tuberculosis¬†without any kind of protective precautions. The last thing anyone needs is to deal with TB!

SO, we decided to move to the US. It would have been a huge hassle for hubs to join me in Budapest (though that would have been a dream! I love that city!). Money was tight, visas would have been necessary, and I didn’t love my program–I loved CEU just not political science. I finished out the semester and moved back to Ukraine in December when I applied for permission for Hubs to apply for a visa. It’s a slightly¬†convoluted¬†process, but that’s how it works if you’re married and living abroad. I apply and have an interview. Then hubs was granted permission to apply for a green card. He was scheduled for an interview in January and we set up the medical screening the day before in Kyiv. He needed to have a general medical exam and a screening for communicable diseases (like TB!). He HATES needles, so it was quite the nerve-wracking day for him. As we were awaiting the results, the embassy called. The Department of Homeland Security changed its procedures that day and his application would need to be re-screened at the regional office in Moscow. The interview was off, it would be sometime in the future.

We were devastated! We hadn’t yet¬†bought¬†tickets to the US, but we were ready to go. I only had a few more weeks on my time in Ukraine (they have a 90-day visa free policy for Americans. At that time, you could do 90-days in country, cross the border, and have another 90 days. That has since changed: you can have 90 days in, 90 days out, 90 days in, and so on). So, we planned a trip to Poland. Hubs had never been out of the country and we needed a vacation. So we got him a visa to Poland and we headed to Krakow for a long weekend in February.

KrakowIn Krakow

Just after getting back from Poland, we got the news: Hubs was scheduled for an interview at the end of March! ¬†It was a shockingly easy interview. The consular officer¬†apologized¬†for the delay, had Hubs swear that his application was the truth. . . and that was it. No questions about our relationship, what we’d be doing in the US. He said that Peace Corps marriages were pretty legit and wished us well.

We stayed for Ukrainian Easter and headed to America on April 12th. Hubs had a green card in his hands a month later.

From then on, we built our American life. Hubs opened his business. I had a job and then went back to school. We renewed his green card once (after the first 2 years of a ‘conditional’ permanent residency via spouse, you need to confirm your relationship and¬†renew¬†the green card for a proper full permanent residency). We had a baby. . . and finally we got around to¬†applying¬†for citizenship. Since he got his green card via marriage, he was eligible to apply after only 3 years (2 years temporary green card, 1 year permanent). But at first we were busy, then pregnant and busy, and then very busy with a newborn. And, we didn’t have the extra money (it’s $680 in fees to apply). While pregnant, I applied for medicaid and WIC to help with baby costs, and it turns out that if you’re¬†receiving¬†means-based government support, you can get a fee waiver. I simply sent a copy of our most recent WIC update and a fee waiver form along with his citizenship application and we were able to process it for free. One less worry!

We applied at the end of February. At the end of March, he had his fingerprints & picture taken for a background check. And May 1st was his interview. Super fast processing!

We spent about a month practicing the civics questions for the exam (there’s 100 of them, from which the interviewer will ask 10). We practiced the reading and writing part the¬†weekend¬†before. Hubs was really nervous and I was too–I worried about having all our paperwork in order while he worried about his performance.

On Wednesday, we got there nice and early. Instead of being on the first floor where they do the fingerprinting and visa interviews, the citizenship stuff was on the second floor. We were shocked when we got up there–there were so many people!! He was scheduled for 9:55 am, and we probably got up there at 9:40. He was finally called at 10:30. So it was a fair amount of waiting. Babe was really good, though ūüôā

The interview itself took about 20 minutes, and hubs passed with flying colors! The only complication was that he had hoped to change his first name from the Ukrainian spelling to a more widely accepted Russian/American spelling. I guess they couldn’t change it, so he’s stuck. But it meant that he would be naturalized that day.

088

We went outside to get some fresh air, get out of the building, and let N run. After an hour we went back in for the naturalization ceremony, but N had had it. He was at that last hour before he needed a nap and he was tired of that place. So when I brought him into the auditorium, he went crazy. He didn’t want to sit and eat, he didn’t want to play in the accepted area. He wanted to explore and if I intervened in his exploration, he shrieked! So I went out the nearest door to let him calm down a bit, and it led outside. Outside of the security area. And my ID was inside ūüė¶ ¬†After N ran around for 10 minutes, he wanted back inside. It was really cute–he kept running up to the doors to go back in. I asked the security guard if he’d let me pass, and he said no–ID is required ūüė¶ I was SO¬†disappointed¬†that I wouldn’t be able to see hubs take his oath!! I called my mommy to cry, but after a couple minutes I saw a couple police officers and asked them for help. They asked the main security guy to let me in and he happily did. I didn’t go back into the auditorium, but I was able to look through a window and see everyone go up to get their certificates while N ran around. So it all worked out.

We’re so happy this bureaucratic hurdle is over and that our little family is now all-American. Hubs is relieved to finally, really, belong here. I still can’t believe it that my husband is an American citizen ūüôā

104 106We celebrated by having a BBQ in the backyard and enjoying the weather. It was a wonderful day!!!

001 The funny thing about citizenship is that it just re-affirms our relationship. When we married, we took a big risk on our relationship since we had only known each other for 1 1/2 years and hubs had never met my family, never been to the US. When we immigrated, he took a leap of faith. Year by year our relationship has grown and deepened as we have built a life and built a family together. It has been a huge transition for hubs and I am so proud of him!!