We are a married couple who adopted our little Russky, Nikita {aka Nicky, Nicky noodle, little man, Nikoli, the Nickster, crazy dude, goofball, puppy love, etc...you get the picture!} from St Petersburg, Russia four years ago. Join us as we stumble through the joys and perils of parenthood, while our son teaches us a few things along the road...


Nicky's Menagerie

Each morning as we wake Nicky up for the day, we ask who him who will join him. As you can see in the picture above, Nicky has several "babies" from which to choose (and that's just a small sampling). Each has had a trial run - at least one trip outside of the house. Some mornings on the weekend, he'll bring several babies downstairs with him, of which one will be taken out and about with him for the day. He's had several periods where Marley is the favorite (the dog he got after having his enema), and "Pop Lion" (the lion he got after his penit snipping) and a few with "asaur" (dinosaur in Nicky-speak)(dinosaur we gave him for Valentine's Day). However, he always returns to his old faithful: "dog" (aka "Mr Frog"...he has difficulty saying the letter "f"). We're not sure if it's because he's all broken in (he's been washed a few times & is the right shape & size); or if it's because he's familiar (we took Mr Frog to Russia on all 3 trips to give Nicky something in which he could hopefully find comfort); or if it's just because he likes the color green (it was the first color he could correctly identify) or if he simply likes frogs. Whatever the case may be, Momma & Daddy love that we chose a "baby" that Nicky could relate to, even before ever having met him. Kinda like Nicky has been the best fit for us and our family!
(Nicky at the orphanage...trip 2)


Daddy's Birthday

Daddy's birthday was this past Saturday, so we decided to make a bigger-than-usual deal out of it, in preparation of Nicky's birthday party we're having this coming weekend. I got a big slice of cake (figured it was less of a threat than me making a whole cake, which Kris & I would most definitely needlessly consume) and put some candles in it (the tricky, relighting ones). We sang "Happy Birthday", and Nicky was so excited to help Daddy blow out the candles and was so captivated by the "moke" ("smoke" in Nicky-speak) that he didn't even notice that they relit! It was pretty comical once he finally noticed the candle was ready to go again! After cake, Daddy opened his presents, with Nicky's help of course. I still don't think that Nicky realized that it was Daddy's birthday, and not his own, but all in all, it was good practice & Nicky will be fully prepared for his own shindig this weekend!

Nicky Meets the Easter Bunny

This past weekend, we had planned to take Nicky on his first Easter egg hunt, in the neighboring town, which was purported to be the "largest in the state of Texas". (why is it that everything has to be the "biggest" or "best" in this state? just wondering.) I bought a bunch of books that told stories about the Easter Bunny, etc and we read them to Nicky in preparation for the big hunt. Unfortunately, the weather on Saturday was blustery and miserable, thus forcing the Johnson's to remain indoors. Mr Nicky, was so excited to go, that he kept talking about "bunny. eggs. basket." As pictured below, Nicky was thrilled to have his Easter basket - he "wore" it around his neck while watching tv; took it to Target & the mall with us & later in the afternoon used it as a "suitcase" for his "trip" on the "airpene"! (thanks for the basket Nana & Pop!)No amount of explaining that we would not be hunting that day convinced him that we would be spending the day as we do any other Saturday - shopping for groceries at Target. We did have an added bonus however; Daddy was off work since it was his birthday, so he joined us on our jaunt. We felt so badly that we would not be hunting, that we ended up finding the Easter Bunny hanging out at one of our local malls, so at least Nicky got to meet him!
Nicky's 1st Meeting of the Easter Bunny
Hugging it out with the Easter Bunny (this was followed by a kiss on the bunny's nose, which Momma missed!)
After visiting with Mr. E. Bunny (which he thoroughly enjoyed), Nicky became fascinated with the fountain, so we gave him some change to throw in and make a wish (or 4...what can I say? With this economy, I could only spare 4 measly pennies!).
Making a wish
Nicky just had to touch the water & thought it was great fun to lean over each section around the fountain over & over.
Afterwards, we went home, had lunch & then took a nap (Momma sure does enjoy her some nap time!). Nicky woke up, still wondering when we would be leaving for the egg hunt. :( We, of course, plan to hide eggs for him on Easter, but wanted him to experience a "big", organized hunt with other children. We were happy to find out that there will, indeed, be a hunt at our church on Easter morning! And - Nicky will be there with basket on!

The Disappearance of "Da"

When we first returned home from Russia, we had a very quiet child that knew zero English and only spoke a handful of Russian words/phrases. We often wondered how long it would take for Nicky to drop the Russian altogether. "Sabaka" (dog) was the first to go. This, to me, was quite ironic because shortly after we brought him back, Nicky & I had an "argument" over what Blitzer & Bailey were. He said "sabaka" and I agreed & then supplied the English word "dog". Well, he would have none of that and back and forth we went (sabaka. dog. sabaka. dog.) - possibly 20 or so times before I thought to myself "What are you doing? You're arguing with a poor little guy who has no clue what's going on around him!" The next to leave was "nyet" (no). This was disconcerting to Kris and I because it was then that we realized he was beginning to understand things a bit better and was asserting himself as any other toddler would. "No" continues to be a very prevalent answer in our household! The final Russian word to depart, which just happened over the past week or so, much to our dismay, was "da" (yes). We kinda held onto that last little bit of Russian he spoke; it was really cute to hear him say, and it was who he was. We hoped he might keep that one. He is now an all-American boy (at least in his speech) and we have our answer - it took about 7 months for all the Russian to disappear!
(Proof that Nicky is a Russian at heart, as evidenced by his very stoic face. Not to say they're not happy people, it just takes them a bit to warm up!)

A few pictures of Nicky & Sabaka Blitzer...
Blitzer wondering..."can I be done yet?!"


"Nikita Airpene, Too?"

Our friend Riley has come to stay with us again, while his Momma is off enjoying a trip to Sin City. Nicky was so excited to have him at the house, not for his company, but for Riley's fun "fort" that comes with him!
Gina and I went to get Riley's stuff from the car, which was right in front of the house, and I told Nicky to keep an eye on the dogs for me while we were gone. Well...rookie mistake, Momma! During the 3-ish minutes, tops, we were outside, Nicky locked the front door and we weren't able to get in! I had a momentary bout of panic, then started to knock on the door and yell for Nicky to unlock it. Unfortunately, Nicky doesn't know the word "lock" (I have since tried to explain it to him!) so he merely knocked back at me while shouting "Momma!". Luckily I had left both back doors propped open to get a breeze flowing through the house, so I was able to walk around and get in...no broken windows yet! Note to self...need to give our neighbor's a spare key (they had one before, but we changed the locks & never got one to them)!

As Gina was leaving the house, I told Nicky that Gina was going on a trip and that she was gonna fly on an airplane. Nicky immediately said "Nikita airpene, too?!" I told him that we would take a trip this summer and that yes, we would also go on an airplane. Well, Nicky took this to mean that we were going right then and there with Gina and he jumped up off the couch, ran to, and pointed at the DVD player (he had been watching Lion King) and said "bun" (which means button - he knows that's where we turn it off/press pause, etc). He then pointed towards the garage and said "Momma car. Minute.", while running to the basket at the front door where we keep his shoes. As he passed by me on his way, he told me "Momma. Shoes. Airpene.", and proceeded to grab a pair of shoes so he could be on his way! I tried to keep my laughter in check while telling a disappointed, almost three year old, that we weren't going that day, but some day soon. He looked up at me with a sad look on his face & said quite dejectedly, "OK Momma. Minute. Hear me?!" ("hear me"...this is something Kris and I say to Nicky, quite frequently apparently, after telling him something/correcting behavior, in order to incite a response from him. he's recently started saying it to us when doing the same thing...pretty funny to hear it being thrown back at us!) So, yesterday we shopped for plane tickets to visit Nicky's uncle in Florida, and Nicky will be pleased to know that he, too, will soon be traveling on an airpene!

"Daddy Downstairs"

Well, I'm happy to announce that Momma finally got her day (or at least evening) of being the favorite parent!!! Of course, it took Nicky having a tummy ache to get to that point, but hey...I'll take it! Usually the day after Kris works at the fire station, Nicky is all about him...so happy to see him after Kris' 24 hour absence. Last night, after dinner, I took Nicky upstairs to start his bath while Daddy did the dishes (such a good boy!). Daddy came up to finish the bath, giving Momma some quiet time. During the nightly ritual, Nicky started full-on crying (not just his typical whining that is oh so enjoyable), and said his belly was "owie". Kris put him on the potty, however, he still continued to cry & actually asked for Momma! So, I went upstairs and Nicky was all over me - hugs, kisses, more hugs. I proceeded to help him put on his jammies and then told him he could get some books for Daddy to read. To this, Nicky replied "Momma books." He further expanded on this by telling Kris "Daddy downstairs!", and pushed Kris out the door! Kris and I were both amazed & Kris finally got a taste of the secondhand parent syndrome I usually feel! Don't get me wrong, I don't want Kris to have his feelings hurt, but it's nice to be on the favorite list for a change. I guess what everyone has told me is true - kids always want their Momma's when they're hurt or not feeling well!


Cold Outside?

The day we met Nicky (July 3, 2008), it was a sunny 77 degrees outside, and he was wearing a long-sleeve undershirt with a long-sleeve t-shirt over it; long-john pants with corduroy pants over them; thick socks and (what looked like little girl's) buckle shoes. All the other kids at the orphanage were wearing the same, with the added bonus of a jacket and hat combo. Somehow we managed to get him outside without the bonus garments.
It's no wonder that we've now been home 7 months and as we ventured out this past (beautiful) Saturday, Nicky felt a breeze and asked me "cold outside momma?" It continues to surprise me at how many things have had such an impact on our little guy. You wouldn't think that being in an orphanage for a mere 2 1/2 years would have had such a lasting effect, but I suppose I take for granted the importance of the early formative years. He constantly wants to wear a jacket when we go outside (even when it's 80+ degrees) and has the need to wear a hat if we're going out to play (just a ball cap type). When we came home last September, there were still plenty of days to enjoy wearing shorts, as the temps in Texas are quite high that time of year. It took Nicky quite some time to get used to wearing said shorts, and still balks at the idea to this day. He tries to pull them down longer to cover more of his legs, and continually asks me/Kris "no pants?" or "no socks?" (if wearing sandal-type shoes). It's such a foreign concept to him that his little brain just can't conceptualize the change in "costume" as the weather changes. Even if Kris and I are wearing shorts/short-sleeves, and try to coax Nicky into it, he still gets upset and insists on being hot. And that's the case - he is a little heat box! He's constantly warm & sweats like a banshee, but refuses to do anything to make himself more comfortable. It's as if keeping with the same behavior (in this case wearing the layers of clothes) is exactly what makes him comfortable. These are only a few of the OCD tendencies he has; he doesn't like a lot of change and definitely knows when things are done a different way. There have been so many times he's called us out on things, some quite funny (like in the AM when I put him at the table with his cereal & tell him "I'll be right back", he knows I'm going to have my "morning constitutional", for which he tells me I get 2 treats!). However, the sad thing is, he's such a creature of habit, that it can be quite debilitating to him and his nature (tantrums can ensue if he doesn't have things his way).

I really don't know where I'm going with this post, except maybe to say that I'm often saddened by the thought that we have given him (what we consider!) a good home and a "better life", and yet he's still so afflicted by random things such as these. I just wonder how our story will unfold and what new peccadillo's our journey will bring. And most importantly, (I hope) that we're doing the right things by him as parents! I suppose all new parents (no matter the child's age) wonder this at times - "am I gonna break him?" "am I feeding him the right things?" "am I a bad parent?" "are we being too hard/soft on him?". Too bad each child doesn't come with a manual! :)


Happy St Patrick's Day!!!

Hope you all had a wonderful day! Nicky celebrated his first St Pat's with corned beef and cabbage at school and a trip to the park with Momma & Daddy!


Nicky's 1st St Pat's Celebration

We got up bright and early this morning to go to the Lochrann's Pub St Pat's celebration in Frisco Square. The weather was not the best, but we got all bundled up and figured it would be a fun outing.
Nicky with his gloves on...apparently they inhibit the functioning of his hands...
The celebration began with a fun run, that the Johnson's definitely did not participate in, and was followed by a short parade, which lasted about 10 minutes. There were a few bounce houses set up, which Nicky attempted, but quickly decided was not his cup of tea. I had read there would be the prospect of face painting and a petting zoo, however, I guess the miserable weather kept them away. No matter, we made the most of it and had a nice morning listening to bagpipe music and drinking Irish Coffee and Bailey's Coffee (don't worry...Nicky had a Capri Sun!).
Here's a pic of Nicky giving the Chik-fil-A Cow a high-five...
Nicky waiting for his pint...
Nicky honking the clown's horn...
We left the pub in search of food for the parents, however, we got sidetracked and ended up taking a trip to the McKinney 3rd Monday Trade Days. We love going there to find quality junk (one man's trash and all), and have found quite a few items with which to decorate our eclectic beach cottage house (yes, I know we're nowhere near the ocean, but I'm obsessed!). This trip was no different; we found a few old windows (from an old Army base built in the 30's in Arkansas) and an antique tool box. Nicky found the train that tours the grounds...

Nicky loves him some trains, so he was thrilled when we took a quick ride. We soon left in pursuit of lunch...at Panera Bread...yummy! We all went home and took a much needed nap, then spent the rest of the day hanging out and watching Shrek...again. We have waited so long for the day that Nicky would actually watch tv...and now that we have reached that day, we're wishing for the day we can have variety in the shows he'll watch! Oh well...pick your battles I guess!

Here's a pic of Nicky & Daddy with the monkey Daddy brought Nicky from New Orleans...

Although St Patrick's Day is a few days away, we enjoyed our celebration, and hope you all have a nice green day too! I have to say, this was quite a different way to celebrate than in year's past (you know what I'm talking about Caroline!), but it was definitely one I will cherish.

Get In My Belly!

The other night when driving home from dinner, Daddy said "Get In My Belly", a la Fat B from Austin Powers. Not sure why, he just says it's fun to say sometimes. Well, Nicky agreed and now says it at random times (he busted out with it on the way home from church last night for the first time & Daddy & Momma about peed their pants from the laughter that ensued!). Here is a sampling of Nicky's new favorite phrase...


"Daddy Airpene!"

Nicky is always very curious as to the whereabouts of the parent that is not within his sights. Usually when Daddy is not around and the question "daddy go?" is posed, the answer is "Daddy is at work." However, this week, Daddy is on a mancation in New Orleans for a friend's bachelor party. (sidebar - why is it that boys always seem to need to celebrate the bachelor party accompanied by a trip somewhere and girls tend to just have a one-time hen night? just curious...). Anyway - on our way home from school the other day, Nicky asked me where Daddy was and I told him "Daddy went on a trip. He'll be back on Sunday." Nicky then replied with "oh. daddy car?"; to which I replied "No, Daddy flew on an airplane." After a moment thinking about this, Nicky said "airpene. in sky." I agreed and then Nicky told me he wanted to go in an airpene and that Momma would go too. He told me he wanted to go on a trip and when we got home, he went straight to his airpene to play and pretend to go on a trip! Ever since our discussion of Daddy's trip, when Nicky either hears or sees an airplane he shouts "daddy airpene!".


No Socks?

Nicky is very much a creature of habit. Like his momma, he enjoys routines and having things in some type of general order. He'll be the first to remind you of something you've left out of the morning routine (vitamin); he'll make sure he has a jacket on before leaving the house (even when it's 80 outside); and will ensure you give him a napkin at every meal before he is able to eat. Last night was no exception. Nicky usually sleeps with socks on because he's been known to kick the covers off during the night and by morning, his little feet are freezing. Well, it has been very warm here in north Texas (mid-upper 80s!) and given that hot air rises and Nicky's room is upstairs, his room was pretty hot last night. We went through our nightly routine and just as we were getting ready to read books (and I thought we were in the clear - I knew we would not be putting socks on), he stops dead in his tracks and just looks at me with his "um - you forgot something, Momma" face. I asked him what was wrong and he pointed to his feet and said "socks?". I told him that he didn't need them tonight because it was too hot and it would be ok, don't worry about it, etc. He wrinkled his brow, thought about it for a moment then as if it was his idea, he says "no socks.". So I agreed and we started to read books. About half way through the first book he grabs his "piggy" and says "no socks" while shaking his head no. So we played "this little piggy", then finished the book. Second book - more of the same - "no socks", and was completely obsessed with his feet. Third book - Nicky couldn't concentrate at all! He was consumed with staring at his feet, touching his toes, and talking about his feet/toes! As we finished reading and I was telling him good night, he was giving me lots of hugs and kisses (and keeping an eye on his feet all the while). The last thing he said to me before drifting off was "no socks. ok."!

So, why am I telling you about this story, other than the fact that it's pretty cute? Well, he's now been home with us for 6 months (as of yesterday), and it reminds me that living in the orphanage for even a few years has had quite the impact on the little guy. He likes things routine and structured because that's all he's ever known. And although this is great when it comes to picking up his toys without being asked and wanting to keep things in their place, some habits/routines are ok to break. It would have been so easy to give into his want of putting the socks on, but it's important for him to learn that the world won't end because he doesn't wear socks one night! I want him to know that it's ok if everything doesn't go according to plan, and that there are other methods of getting from A to B (plus it helps Momma loosen up too!). Granted, he is only nearly 3 years old, but I figure baby stepping to this goal couldn't hurt!

This is a picture of Nicky at the orphanage...thought it was appropriate for this post. He looks so sad because they had just told him he would be leaving to live with his new American "Mama & Papa". Quite the different little boy!


Speech Therapy

Nicky still seems to be about 6 months behind in the language department, which is completely understandable. He came from a situation where he was to only be seen, not heard, and was then thrust into a world where a different language was spoken altogether! Has to be weird for a 2 3/4 year old - not only does he have to learn to say different words, but he has to learn how to hear them first!

Anyway - Nicky had his evaluation with the Plano Independent School District's (PISD) Early Childhood School on Monday & I'm happy to announce that he was accepted and will begin speech therapy classes on his birthday (April 6, in case you're wondering)! I guess most parents aren't too open to the diagnosis (speech delay/impairment) from the manner in which they deliver the news - they're very sensitive. Kinda feels funny to be excited about my child having an impairment. Although, what I'm really excited about is the fact that we might one day understand what the little guy is telling us!!! He has several words in his vocabulary now, however, they're all nouns, with a handful of verbs thrown in. So everything is "_____ did it" or "_____ coming", or just "bird. school. Nikita. home." Hmmmm...we figure that translates as "Nikita is going to school and will see the bird then we'll go home." But - maybe he's telling us "I want a bird like the one at school." And our answer is "Yes - a bird at school." And maybe he thinks we're agreeing to purchase said bird, which would send Kris into a tizzy - he's not a big fan of birds you see. So - we have to be really careful in our answers! I try to acknowledge what Nicky says with a "uh huh" or "ok" or "oh"; I try to stay away from solid "yes" or "no" answers unless I'm positive I know what he's saying...who knows what I could be agreeing with!

Nicky has such a big thirst for knowing what the things are around him. I occasionally take him on a tour of the house, going from room to room, asking him what the name of each room is and what some of the items in the room are called. Last night we were in the kitchen & I asked him what the oven was called & without hesitation he excitedly said "chicken!" Yup - that's where we cook the chicken...good job buddy! :) It must be so weird to be in a world surrounded by all these strange objects and not have a name for them!

Anyway - we're not exactly sure on his new schedule yet, it could be 2 or 3 days each week, we'll find out in a week or so. The "short bus" (tee hee hee) will pick him up at his current preschool, then take him to the PISD school, where he'll have 2 hours of communication class, play for another 45 minutes, then will return to his preschool. The school itself would be $280/month without the impairment, but since he has a delay - bonus for us...it's all free of charge! We're actually getting to take advantage of our tax dollars! Yeah for that! We are so thrilled for him to benefit from such a great program & can't wait for him to get started.


"Penit Happy!"

This is what Nicky reported to us this evening just after having his shower (he can't take a bath until tomorrow at the earliest). We made it through the weekend and although there were a few tense moments, Nicky has handled this whole ordeal like a champ! He refused to go "pisca" on the potty all day Friday, for fear it would sting. We finally got him to go that evening and he realized that the worst was over. He did try to pull the "penit owie" when he was getting in trouble on Saturday afternoon...he's no dummy! Guess he figured I'd go easier on him if he was in pain! Not that I doubt he hasn't suffered, mind you, but he's a master at getting attention! Nicky & Daddy went to the playground and rode the carousel at the mall on Friday. Here are a few pictures...

No one is more glad to have this behind us than Nicky I'm sure, and I'm quite certain he's thinking "what the heck is wrong with these people?!". We're so thankful that things went well and can now move onto the next challenge!

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