Wednesday, June 13, 2007

So Happy to Be Sisters (Most of the Time)

The past week the girls have gotten along so, so well. It has been a real joy to watch them play together and resolve differences as they arise. After the difficulties with their behavior the last two years, it's such a relief to ENJOY them again. Natalia had ear tubes put in this winter that have improved her hearing, speech and health. She still works with a speech therapist two times a week, though, and with an American-trained child psychologist 12 hours a week at our home. The therapist comes to our apartment and does all kinds of fun dramatic play, speech therapy-type activities, school-readiness activities and games--all while actually helping Natalia to identify her emotions and express them properly. The improvement is unbelievable--Natalia is so much happier, more peaceful and more in control of herself. She used to have uncontrollable anger that stemmed from her inability to articulate what she was thinking--and that lead to a lot of conflict with Katya (and with me and Chris). Funny, though--outside of the home, she has always been a perfect angel!

Katya has a had a rough time, too, as she adjusted to being a foreigner among mainly native-speaking Russian peers... This winter she was diagnosed with reflex anoxic seizures, basically seizures when unable to cope with stress. She's working with the therapist Natalia sees, now, too, and she is also doing much better. This past year I've spent my time pretty much driving the kids to and from all the extra appointments and school; it hasn't been easy to say the least (especially because Moscow traffic is among the most dense and dangerous in the world--I'm sure I'll post more on driving here later!)... It's such a relief to now see the extra help paying off in happier and healthier kids--and a happier and healthier me as a result.

This week Natalia has sensed how sad Katya is about losing her best friend (see post below) and she has made a conscious effort to be kind to her sister. While Katya needs alone time when upset, she has been wanting her sister's company more and more. Here they are enjoying a real treat--bath crayons. Such crayons are very hard to find in Moscow. No Walmart... And the brand you can find does NOT wash out easily. That's why I only bring out these babies on special occasions... Chris came up with the idea of writing the girls a message on the wall when he showers in the a.m.--they then have something to look forward to when they get home from school and head for the bath. If I can find more easily removable crayons, we'll make that a regular tradition.

The girls are now very good at playing games together--in large part because of all the time that the therapist has spent with them doing so. In the past, playing games always lead to fighting or tears, since invariably someone would win--and someone wouldn't. Now they just enjoy the process of playing--and encourage one another. Favorite games are Princess Monopoly, Cranium Bumparena, Cranium Cadoo, Mind Your Manners, I Spy Bingo, Go Fish, Zingo, Cranium Balloon Lagoon, Pretty Pretty Princess, What's Gnu, Kids on Stage, Chutes and Ladders, Kerplunk, Diego's 1-2-3 Animal Rescue and Dora Dominoes. Then this weekend they discovered the joy of playing a word game together! They really, really like Hexamania! I help them to find words, but Katya can do some of her own and they both write down their own words on their score pads. Talia begged to join in and I was so surprised by how well she writes! I hadn't realized how much she had been working on her penmanship (in both languages) at school. I think she'll be an early reader; she's eager to copy her sister.

Then there's their favorite sisterly activity: putting on shows. This weekend they put on a veritable extravaganza using songs from the current and past historical American Girl musicals. They worked together to plan costumes, organize the stage, pick scenes and perform. For past shows, they've also drawn tickets that we've been expected to buy--with real money--and they've even wanted flowers at the end. Here they are as Felicity and Elizabeth in Colonial Williamsburg, 1774. They're at their etiquette lessons, learning the proper way to serve and take tea. They both had a WONDERFUL time putting on the show; so much so that they did an encore the next morning. Here you can see Natalia putting on Molly's "Victory" tap dance in 1945. Next you'll see Katya as Felicity, caring for her horse, and as Kit, 1934, during a misunderstanding with her friend.

And for a final snapshot of sisterly love....


Rachael said...

OK, sorry to bombard you with comments, hope you don't mind (I love getting comments on my makes me feel like I'm not talking to myself, even though the primary purpose of my blog was supposed to be to record memories for my kids)...

Anyway, I showed this picture (of the girls in the tub) to Katya and she knew right away that it was Katya and Natalia, and she thought it was quite funny.

Annie said...

The last photo is priceless. My older kids would also spend hours putting on "shows" forus, I remember they did one all leading up to presenting me with a new hot water bottle (which memorably, had burst in my bed the night before)...another time there was a circus, and all the dresser drawers were opened and filled with stuffed animals, which really did give the impression of a huge audience. What fun!