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...


Gotcha Day

OMG! It's already been one full year since Kris and I walked into Baby Home #1 in St Petersburg, Russia as a duo, and walked out with Nicky as a trio! We have done so much in this past year, I'm at a loss of words trying to think of what to say first. Last year when we thought about "gotcha day" we initially thought we would do something really fun with Nicky to commemorate the special day, and would then carry on the tradition for years to come. Well, if this year is any indication as to how the following years will be spent, then I think we might start celebrating the momentous occasion on a different day. Kris is on a boy's trip - that makes #2 for the year - for the ever-so-important Fantasy Football League Draft. As if it takes an entire weekend to choose a few players that will only be discarded in a week or so anyway! This is totally not what I wanted to talk about in this post, but, I'm not the biggest fan of football and I am even less a fan of being a "football widow". But, I do suck it up because it is Kris' only real "hobby", his team typically dominates, and his group of friends play for the big bucks. And when I say big bucks, I mean we've gotten two pretty nice tv's out of the deal as well as a trip to San Francisco...so it's not all bad! Back to gotcha day...Nicky has come so far from the quiet boy who would sit and stare with us and couldn't do anything without our prompting. Living in the orphanage gave him no freedom to just be a kid. While we were there visiting him, it was eerily quiet - except for the sound of a baby crying somewhere inside the building with no one bothering to soothe him or her. We heard more sounds of children at play on the playground for the apartment buildings next to the orphanage...really sad! The other children in Nicky's "gruppa" were scolded for running or playing in an otherwise normal way when outside. Nicky is still learning how to jump to this day. He's pretty well got the hopping part down, but he's still a bit wonky and tends to fall when doing so. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the longer a child is in a stifled environment, the more toll it takes on their personality, behaviors, thinking process, etc. I'd like to think we were pretty well educated as far as what to expect. I did a lot of research; read about all the possibilities of what we could encounter. But until we brought him home, and saw his quirkiness and odd behaviors on a daily basis, we weren't able to really understand what was going on with him. We've since found out that he has what some call Sensory Processing Disorder. I won't drone on about all his symptoms, but I will say this - some schools of thought don't recognize this as an actual "disorder". And although I don't believe fully that his body is "seeking" certain textures and he won't be able to focus on the task at hand unless he is wearing a "weighted vest" or the like, I do believe that by him not experiencing the same things that a typical baby would by having his parents around and tending to his needs, he's missed out on a lot and he doesn't know how to respond in many situations in every day life and he doesn't have the proper coping skills that most children learn. He's immature for his age, he doesn't understand cause and effect, and he doesn't have proper behavior management skills. So - we take him to Occupational Therapy and they work with his fine and gross motor skills - he just thinks he's there to play and color; doesn't see it as work at all thankfully! Hopefully by improving upon these skill areas, he will be less frustrated with minor tasks and will be able to do more on his own without having a complete meltdown! After OT, he has an hour of Speech Therapy to help with his articulation (he's in the 11th percentile and scores less than a 2 year old). He also attends an Early Childhood in our local school district 3 days a week for Communication classes - to help add new words to his vocabulary. He's a busy little guy...we have a spreadsheet to keep track of where he is and when!
Kris and I have definitely grown a lot during this process. We're both a bit more patient, although we still have our occasional grown-up tantrums! We're also a lot less selfish - there's no "I" in parenthood!!! Most of all, we've grown as a family. Nicky knows we're here for him and we're not going to leave him. This time last year Nicky was my biggest shadow - it was like a train around the house everywhere I went...me, Blitzer & Nicky fighting over who would be right behind me, and Bailey bringing up the rear as my caboose. I had to announce my every move, for fear the dreaded meltdown would make an appearance. Now Nicky has his own playroom, tv and all, and he will play in there, all alone, undisturbed, for up to an hour! Kris and I would like to thank you all for your love and support over this past year. It's been the biggest challenge either one of us have ever experienced. We wouldn't have made it through without having you all act as a sounding board, and your wealth of parenting knowledge! 1 year down...infinite fun to go!


Nicky Meets His Johnson Cousins

A few weeks ago, we welcomed our niece (Kayla) and nephew (Seth) on the Johnson side to our house, along with Granny and Poppa. Seth and Kayla had spent some time with Granny and Poppa and they were en route back to their home in Mississippi. (Sidebar - why is it I always have to spell that state with the "crooked letter" and "humpback" reference learned when I was young? Am I the only one that does this?!) Unfortunately, they were only here on a short, few hour, layover, so we didn't get to spend as much time with them as we would have liked, but Nicky enjoyed himself nonetheless and was happy to meet more of his family!

Here's a pic of Nicky, Momma, Daddy, Seth and Kayla...

Nicky loves to pull on his Poppa's earlobes...
Nicky, Seth and Kayla doing a little bonding...Good bye hugs...
Come back and see us soon!


"i washin momma car"

Yeah for Momma! Not only did I get a super-clean car (thank you, my wonderful husband), but Nicky and Daddy found a fun way to stay cool in the Texas heat! Nicky had the time of his life spraying himself - er - I mean Daddy - er - the car! Who knew washing a vehicle could be so fun? Oh to be a 3 year old again. I wonder if he'll still think it's tons-o-fun when he's 16...any bets?!


Florida Keys Part 4 - Islamorada & Key Largo

Quite frankly, I'm so over blogging about Florida! That is not to say we didn't thoroughly enjoy ourselves on the trip; it's just that I've been so lazy and haven't felt like posting about it, that now I'd rather move on to more recent topics. So - this last and 4th FL Keys post will be a culmination of our final few days spent in paradise.

Nicky got pretty good at sleeping in the car on this trip...
We stayed at the Ocean View Inn and Sports Pub in Islamorada for our final 3 nights of our Keys adventure. It's very quaint (7 rooms total) and not for those expecting anything fancy, but we highly recommend it to anyone passing through the Keys. We thought it suited our needs quite well, and Nicky enjoyed having a big bed to himself...that is if you don't count his "bunk mates"!
We were pretty knackerd after spending our days running around Key West, so we decided a lazy day around the pool was in order for the 1st day in town.
We managed to drag ourselves away from the pool long enough to take a glass-bottom boat ride from John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo, to view the 3rd largest coral barrier reef in the world. Items of note on this excursion: 1.) Momma got very seasick and spent most of the ride sucking on peppermints - they (surprisingly) help!; 2.) On our way back to shore, we were told the location we ventured to was located within the Bermuda Triangle...kinda cool!; and 3.) Although Nicky has told us he wanted to "go on boat" for several months prior to our trip, the act of being on the boat didn't turn out to be as thrilling as he thought...he did however, get extremely excited to see all the (much) smaller boats pass by!
We stopped off for a bit of souvenir shopping on our way home. Kris found a chair just his size...and his favorite color to boot! tee hee hee!One of Momma's life-long dreams came true on this trip...I got to swim with the Dolphins! Her name was "Castaway", and she was deaf, therefore it was more of a "cuddle" than a "swim"...all the better to me! I got to have her all to myself, as there weren't any other takers for the program that day! Nicky seemed to have a good time watching, and now when he sees a picture of a dolphin, or toy, etc, he will say "i watch Momma dolpin". (No - not a typo - he can't say the "f" sound...Pretty darn cute!)
That about wraps up our trip. Nicky and Momma came back with killer tans...Daddy does have a tan-line, however, I'm not sure that "off-white" really constitutes a "tan"! :) (Sorry, husband - you're just not the tanning type I guess!). Overall, I'd have to say that we had an awesome time and as far as 1st family vacations go, I wouldn't trade it for the world!


Florida Keys Part 3 - Bahia Honda State Park

Ok - I just realized we've been back from Florida for several weeks now and I've yet to finish posting about it! Such a slacker am I! Here goes...

After leaving Key West, we stopped at Bahia Honda State Park for the day on our way to Islamorada. The park has been voted as one of the top 10 beaches in the US several times, so I figured we couldn't pass it by. There are 3 main beaches and some campgrounds perched on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. Let me just say this - while yes, the views were awesome, the beaches were by no means the "most beautiful". I realize I can be a little picky and grossed out by things that otherwise would not bother the average Joe. However, there were massive piles of seaweed covering the 2 more popular (read: less populated) beaches, and there was a smell emanating from them that made me a bit nauseous! Nicky took a look at the big brown piles, wrinkled his nose and yelled "Ew blech! Yucky mud!" (anything that's wet and brown and on the ground is "mud"). Needless to say, we ventured to the other more populated side, where the water was a bit more clear.

There is an old Overseas Railroad bridge, once part of Henry Flagler's railroad, which stretches out over the water. It definitely made for some awesome views of both land and sea. The walk to the top of the bridge was through a small wooded area, and probably would've been better if we started our day at the top, as we were quite hot and sweaty from the jaunt!
As you see in the picture above, Daddy gave a tired Nicky a ride on his shoulders. Well, this didn't bode too well on our descent. Daddy ducked to avoid a low-hanging tree branch, but didn't realize there was another one immediately following and, well, let's just say Nicky had an up-close and personal relationship with one not so forgiving tree! Thank goodness he had on his sunglasses, or we might have been high-tailing it to the hospital!
He never did get a black-eye out of it, but we had quite a few questions from the inquisitive individuals we encountered the rest of the day!
We left Bahia Honda late in the afternoon and made our way to Islamorada and the Ocean View Inn and Sports Pub where we had our final stay in paradise. Although the beach at Bahia Honda was less than stellar (and we had to pay for both the park and the umbrella rental), we had a good day hanging out...Nicky thought it was fun to play "choo choo", while pulling a lazy Momma on his raft and we got some pretty pictures!



Ok - so as I've mentioned before, Kris is NOT a fan of birds. In fact, they completely creep him out and he will go out of his way to avoid them as much as possible. Not that I really enjoy co-mingling with the winged creatures, but I wouldn't wish them any ill-will either. I do, however, very much enjoy teasing my beloved about his phobia! In fact, the first Christmas after we were married, my mom wrapped a picture she painted of a bird and gave it to Kris as a gift - the look on his face was PRICELESS and I cannot believe I do not possess a picture of him holding it!
Anywho...While we were on vacation in the Keys, we visited Robbie's Marina, where we not only fed the monster tarpon fishes, but dined on the most fabulous meal ever! (Sidebar about the food - the place looks like the biggest dive from the, well, outside and inside. But let me assure you - the food was to die for! If you ever find yourself in Islamorada, FL, we highly recommend dining at this spot.) Nicky was so excited to drop the small baitfish to the humongous "silver kings" off the side of the dock! He reached right into the bucket without hesitation - and let me tell you - Kris and I were hesitating.Neither of us fed a single fish - there was NO way we were going to touch the slimy dead fish, much less hold them over the edge of a dock where giant, hungry, tarpon were jumping out of the water for a snack! Before we knew it, we were finished with the first bucket, hearing Nicky squeal "again! more fish please!". Definitely worth the few bucks we shelled out!
Enter the pelicans... Momma had imbibed in a few adult beverages prior to our outing that evening, and was a little unsteady as she snapped shots of her son gleefully enjoying nature. There were several pelicans wandering the dock, looking for a little snack of their own, and one had to be careful to "shoo" them away so they would not steal the baitfish from the buckets. As I tried to both take pictures, and shoo pelicans, I may have lost my footing, and may have possibly fell backwards, putting my hand into something green and mushy. (Thank goodness I didn't fall into the water - I woulda been tarpon dinner for sure!) So - as I steadied myself, and checked out the "present" I picked up from the dock, I quickly realized that I might not be the biggest fan of pelicans after all! There was nowhere to wipe my hand, other than the side of the dock, and it would be another 10-15 minutes before we ventured to the bathroom for a good 3-time wash!!! YUK! At least I had consumed those beverages earlier, or I may have been even more grossed out than I was.
Now - for the kicker of the story. My friend Gina thought it was quite the tale. You see, she's a native Floridian, and quite enjoyed hearing of us Texans and our jaunt to her native-land. So - she bought me a present on her trip back home the week after we returned. (Sidebar - Nicky had to "hold it please" when we showed it to him, and promptly broke it in 2 in less than 5 minutes! Thank you for the gorilla glue, Gina!)
The funniest part is, she completely forgot of Kris' love of birds! So - the gift is even more comical than she originally intended! Oh - and, Kris - does the nightstand look familiar to you?! (btw...this is Kris' first viewing of our new "pet"!) Tee hee hee...I just crack myself up!



This is a phrase we heard shouted with exorbitant amounts of enthusiasm and glee from Nicky throughout our stay in Key West. You see, there are an abundance of "gypsy chickens" in the city, and apparently our son is quite the fan of the critters! (Much to his daddy's chagrin, I might add - Kris is not really one to get excited over birds of any kind.) Our first rooster sighting came about shortly after arriving in town. We had driven from Miami, with our sleeping 3 year old who is not the most joyous upon waking from naps, and needed to stop at the local grocery store. After declaring this to Nicky, he informed us he would "stay in car", which would be great if it were possible! Imagine - a trip to the grocery store sans "inquisition" and with no distractions - complete bliss! But, alas, we would probably have been arrested if we had left him behind, and that would've made for a completely different trip! Back to the story - as I was trying to coax Nicky out of the car (without bribing him with various purchasable items), I looked over and noticed a rooster tearing through the parking lot. After excitedly announcing this, Nicky jumped out of the car to try to spot the little guy for himself, saying "cock-a-la-doo daddy! cock-a-la-doo!" As with "quack quacks" (ducks), saying what the animal says is much more fun than calling the animal by its name!
Anywho - the Key West Chickens are quite controversial, in that some town's folk love 'em, and some hate 'em. I can kinda see the "hate 'em" point. We were on vacation, and yes, we still arose a bit early, as we had to make the most of our time in the city; however, 5am-6am is not really what we had in mind! Those little buggers would crow their hearts out for us every morning, and well, at any time of day really, but the morning announcement was really not necessary! Regardless, Nicky quite enjoyed seeing these indigenous creatures and shouted "cock-a-la-doo" with joy each and every time!
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