I warn you in advance, this is a really long post. We are deep in the weeds now.
Well, we have 24 hours under our belts. It has been a huge learning curve already! Last night was pretty rough. I am not going to lie. Because of that, I was bracing myself for a difficult train ride today with the kids but it turned out to be wonderful and we praised them a number of times for that. Thank God for technology! I know that it cannot be a babysitter, but it sure comes in handy. Besides, Asher and Annalise have almost no tech experience. Most kids by this age have had something electronic in their hands for many years already. Two words: Leap Frog. At one point in the trip, Asher looked up with his headphones on and Angry Birds on the iPad. He gave a thumbs up and said, "Mom, this train is excellent!'
We got custody of the children around 4:00 yesterday. I got emotional when I asked Annalise if she was ready to go home. We put new clothes on them and walked out of camp. It was strange because our first visit with Asher, we had 10 people in our entourage. This one, it was just us and Sergei waiting at the car.
We went to Green Garden to say goodbye to the orphanage director, made a stop at Slavic's house to thank him for introducing us all, then headed to Kharkiv. The first thing they were intrigued by was the elevator. Then we showed the kids their clothes but they were more interested in the few new toys we brought.
We went to get pizza for dinner (and discovered Annalise doesn't like it). Maybe she'll come around. Restaurants are a new experience for them, obviously. Fortunately, we had a sweet waitress and the place was empty most of the time. That was important because Asher kept yelling for her by name (which he learned by asking). He wanted to know about our train tomorrow, her life, whatever. (I tipped extra).
Next it was bath time. The plan was to bathe one at a time. But as Page was drawing the bath with the first one in it, the second one jumped in. The thing is, this was the first bath they had ever had. They have only known showers. So we let them "swim" for 45 minutes, keeping the mop handy to clean up the splashes. I had to just keep thinking of them as toddlers.
We gave the kids the Williams Family traditional chocolate milk before bed. As we were making it, Asher wasn't listening to our "be careful" warning and he knocked the full glass to the tile floor. Fortunately it didn't break but it was a colossal mess. We weren't happy and he knew it. He asked if we were going to punish him. I said, "No, it was a mistake." He said, "Well, yes."
Another "first" was the taxi we took today. Ahead of time, Asher told me he was really excited about taking one. By the end of this evening's trip to Oleg and Lena's house, he was on a first name basis with the driver. The escalator at the train station with luggage was a scary "first" but the kids handled it great.
This morning when we woke up, I could see Asher through the door. He was self-comforting, thrashing his head back and forth, sometimes with his arms wrapped around himself. It was heart-breaking. I haven't said much about Annalise. She's been a real champ for the most part and surprisingly independent. She's had four meltdowns for various reasons. We were warned ahead of time that crying was her way of getting what she wanted. But in her defense, she's a pretty sensitive sort and this whole thing is hugely stressful.
When I sat down to write this tonight after putting the kids into bed, I was holding my breath, waiting for the disruptions because last night was a circus and not the fun kind. But thank God, not letting the kids nap for 2 hours (which is the routine at camp) and trying to wear them out today, plus consequences, and not having to share a bed, etc, have all contributed to absolutely not one peep! I am shocked and amazed and incredibly thankful to God! Seriously! By the way, if Page were not here to do this with me, I would be in serious trouble. This is an all-hands-on-deck period and I am so thankful that he is the man he is!
I need to give a shout out to Alyosha Vasilevsky, Oleg and Lena's 19 year-old. He met us at the train station, organized a taxi, made our beds at the house, practically forced me to give him a grocery list so he could buy our food, and was very nice to our kids. What a great guy!