A Visit From Some 🍀Leprechauns☘️

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

We’ve never really celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day before, but this morning, I woke up to Charlie yelling “Mommy, Mommy!”

In instant protect the kid mode, I dashed out, ready to cause damage to anyone or anything, and saw chaos.

The chairs were upside down, pillows were thrown across the room, pots and pans hung from clothing hangers, coats and mittens were in random places, crayons and glitter covered the floor and little chocolate coins  were scattered across the room, not to mention all four kids looking shocked.

“It’s the leprechauns!” Ava yelled, and all of them dove for candy and began cleaning up.

“Look!” Kai cried. All three pets were wearing mini green T-Shirts and boots.

Even Natalia looked stunned, and very excited. She helped Charlie turn the chairs right side up, and they swept the glitter up.

I ran back into the bedroom and shook awake Boady.

“What did you do?!” I asked.

“Are they happy?”


“Then I have fulfilled my purpose.”

How he managed to do that without waking up anyone else, I have no clue. But whatever.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Happy Pi Day!

Happy Pi Day! Pi Day is great! Practically every store is selling pie for $3.14 and it’s the one day of year when knowing multiple digits of Pi isn’t awkward.

Kai loves Pi Day. He woke us at at 1:59 am to show us the clocks. He cut out little paper pie symbols and taped them around the apartment. He and Natalia competed to list Pi digits.

“It’s destiny!” He says. “Kai and Pi rhyme!”

Boady brought home pizza from Blaze because it was only $3.14 and we have discovered that Charlie doesn’t like pepperoni, but she likes cheese. That works. Kai is a vegetarian and Ava and I can’t stand pepperoni.

I think one of the reasons Kai likes Pi Day so much is because there is no Pi Day in Russia. Well, technically there is. March 14th is still the digits of Pi, but pie and Pi in Russian have no similarities. No one associates 3.14 with food. It just isn’t a thing. I think only English speakers get that benefit.

One of my coworkers brought pies in, so we enjoyed them. I brought a couple slices home. Apple for Ava and Kai, chocolate for Boady, peach for Natalia, and strawberry for Charlie. I hope Charlie doesn’t think we eat pizza and pies and Mac’n’Cheese everyday.

The kids spent most of the night doing willingly math. Can Pi Day be everyday? All of their teachers had replaced normal numbers with Pi, so they were doing calculus, algebra and geometry with Pi.

Kai taught Charlie her numbers, only in the wrong order. So now she thinks the numbers are 3,1,4,1,5,9 and whatever else.

Even this post is 314 words long.

I would tell a couple Pi jokes, but as Google once famously said, “The problem with math puns is that calculus jokes are derivative, trig jokes are too graphic, algebra jokes are formulaic, and arithmetic jokes are just basic.”



First Night

In a perfect world, our first night with Charlie would’ve been perfect. We would’ve surprised the other three by being home early, ate Mac’n’Cheese and watched Frozen with popcorn and cuddled up on the couch.

But this is obviously not a perfect world.

Instead, our first night together was literally filled with blood, sweat and tears.

I could not move without Charlie clinging onto my leg. I could not go to the bathroom without Charlie holding my hand. Have you ever tried to pee single handed? Really? Well, you haven’t lived until you’ve emptied yourself under the watchful eye of a three year old.

I had to draw the line at cooking. I couldn’t hold her, and not burn the apartment down. And since Mac’n’Cheese is the one good thing Mommy makes, I was going to cook it.

Charlie screamed bloody murder as I handed her to Boady. C’mon Charlie, that’s Daddy! But no, she banged her little fists on his back and cried. Poor Boady tried to comfort her, but she wouldn’t let up. Eventually, she was crying so hard, she was gasping for air, and Boady and I switched roles. Charlie immediately calmed down.

Charlie has severe separation anxiety. She was abandoned by her parents, multiple foster parents, and orphanages. She’s three years old. Most three year olds don’t have panic attacks. I promised her that we’d never abandon her, but it doesn’t matter. Anxiety is always there.

The kids came home about ten minutes after Charlie had finally gone to sleep, just as Boady and I were doing Mommy and Daddy things.

The first thing we heard was “EW, STOP KISSING!”

That woke up our personal siren, and we heard “Mommy? Mommy?MOMMY?!”

The kids started freaking out. I don’t think they realized that when I said Charlie was coming home today, I meant that Charlie was coming home today.

Charlie came toddling out of her little bed, and the older kids squealed like she was a puppy.

I admit, she is adorable.

Things finally died down for a bit. We ate dinner without a problem, minus the fact that Charlie will not sit in a chair and switches between my lap and Boady’s lap. Every five minutes.

Ava put Frozen on the TV, and Charlie watched, mesmerized, even though she couldn’t understand it. Which meant she wasn’t focused on whether or not I was in a five foot radius of her.

I had time to pack lunches and iron my clothes, and now Charlie’s. Before I knew it, it was 8:00pm. I had planned to have Charlie asleep by 8:00.

Bathtime was, um, an experience. I think by the time Charlie was finished, we were both equally waterlogged. She cried because I got a bit of soap in her eyes, and flailed her arms around blindly and managed to hit me in the face multiple times.

Bedtime was worse. Charlie cried and cried as Boady tucked her in. She climbed out of bed, wimpering “Daddy, come back!” in Chinese, which Boady doesn’t understand. She climbed into my lap, and it took forever, but she fell asleep.

I tucked her in, and she didn’t even stir. I guess the crying wore her out.

Also, don’t forget! Life didn’t stop because we had another kid. Nope. Ava had a calculus test coming up, which Boady was helping her study for, Kai needed to test and glucose shots for the night, and Natalia is on her girl time and extremely moody.

Everyone finally went to sleep around 11, and about twenty minutes later, guess who woke up? Charlie decided that her bed that Boady spent two hours putting together wasn’t a good place to sleep, and climbed in the bed with us. At this point, I was too tired to even argue, so I moved over and Charlie slept with us.

Not even ten minutes later, my alarm went off to test Kai, and his glucose shot wasn’t the right dose apparently. I woke him up, made him eat a small bag of Sour Patch Kids, and gave him another glucose shot.

I think I was out the second my head hit the pillow.

Charlie woke us up at 5:37 am. Boady reluctantly poured her some cereal, then tried to get fifthteen more minutes of sleep by putting her on her bed to eat. She was quiet for a bit, but when I woke up to test Kai, she followed dutifully.

She cried as I took a shower, and we struggled through the morning. I’ll try not to sound to proud of myself, but the older kids all left for school on time and Boady successfully got Charlie in her car seat.

Charlie is not going to pre-school currently. Our goal for her is mainstream school by fall, and mainstream without an aid by kindergarten. She goes to a “school” at our job where immigrant children learn English and get therapy if needed.

I used every technique I could think of to say goodbye to Charlie. We explained that we’d be back, but she clung tenaciously onto Boady’s leg until a therapist had to pull her off.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy 7 hours of peace. But I worried about how long Charlie could scream, if Natalia needed Advil, if Kai was feeling okay and how Ava did on her test.

7 hours later, Boady brought a watery eyed, lollipop sucking Charlie to my office. She had a really rough day, and the therapist said that she cried most of the day.

I think we have some getting used to, to put things simply.


When Your Little Brother Is Smarter Than You…


I can’t keep up anymore. I legitimately cannot keep him entertained any longer. My five feet tall, thirteen and a half year old brother is smarter than me.

Okay, I totally already knew that. My point is, I didn’t realize how ahead he was. I know most thirteen year olds don’t sit around, calling proofs easy, but seriously kid, slow your roll!

I had him tested about a month and a half ago. The test was supposed to be for him to get into his school’s advanced placement program, or APP. He definitely made it in. But he doesn’t know. I mean, he knows that he takes APP. But he doesn’t realize how ahead he is. I want to keep it like that.

Why? Because I don’t want him to be disappointed.

Now, why would he be disappointed? Because he didn’t do as well as he wanted to. He wanted to get into Mensa, or be able to test in. The requirement for Mensa is an IQ of 130+. Compare that to the average American adult’s 100. Anything over 115 is considered above average. None of that matters to Kai.

Our brother told him that he could get into Mensa if he really wanted to. Kai idolised our brother. Whatever Alex said was written in stone. And when Alex died about a year ago, instead of grieving like most people, Kai started studying like crazy. He worked extremely hard, determined to make Alex proud.

We received the results only about five hours after he took the test. His IQ came back at 124. Boady and I were extremely proud of him, but we both knew he would be absolutely devastated if he found out. I know he would work himself way too much. I want him to push himself and have high expectations, but I also want him to have a life.

IQ’s do tend to change over time, going up at about 3 points per decade on average. I know none of that will matter to Kai.

I’ve talked to his future high school, and they’re very excited. Our plans are to have him test into any math course, take AP classes and take normal band. But I am nervous. He would definitely be the youngest in his classes, and as small as he is, the other kids would probably squish him. But he loves to learn and push himself, so, with limitations, I let him do that.

Smarts runs in the family. My parents were both heads of labs. Alex skipped 7th grade, and had a full scholarship to the University of Michigan. I myself graduated from Harvard. {Class of 2012, Go Crimsons!} Even though Ava, Boady and Natalia aren’t biologically related to us, Ava is on her way to University Of Michigan this fall, Natalia is ahead a year in math, and Boady is also a Harvard Grad. {Class of 2015} Also, we’re Russian. быть умным и сильным. It means, be smart and be strong. Yeah, well, we can definitely do that.

But seriously kid, let me catch up!


Adoption takes forever. It’s a long and treacherous journey that makes for many sleepless nights.

Fostering is a bit different. You can foster a child while in the process of adopting that same child. That’s what we’re doing with Natalia, and tomorrow, Charlie will also join us! Sometimes, when you sign up to be a foster parent [and do all the paperwork and house visits and all that jazz], social workers just come, usually calling ahead, with a child. You get such little notice.

If you’ve ever seen the hit show This Is Us, you know that when Randall’s family was fostering a child, they had about three hours to prepare. They simply were the best fit, and had to adapt.

Charlie was different. We chose Charlie. We are preparing in advance for her arrival. Boady and I already have three teenagers, all of which have been fostered and Ava and Kai have been adopted by us. We’re in the process of adopting Natalia. But Natalia was a surprise. She knew us before she ran away, and when she ran away, she ran to our apartment. We knew she needed to be with familiar faces, and eventually she just settled into our dynamic, and we knew it would be devastating for her to live with someone else. With a bit of discussion with a couple social workers, Natalia was allowed to be our foster child.

But there is an enormous difference between bringing in a potty trained, educated, English speaking fourteen year old than a diaper wearing [not Pull-Ups. Diapers], no schooling, Mandarin speaking three year old. Lucky for her, Kai and I speak Mandarin.

But Charlie is coming home! Sofia, her social worker, dropped by to visit today and do a house check. She knows that we’re moving, so she ignored all the boxes. She watched Boady building the toddler bed that he’s been working on all day. We had gone to IKEA with the kids, including Charlie earlier in the week and bought tons of little girl stuff. Charlie picked most out herself, and fell asleep on my shoulder. She’s too cute!

Then she completely surprised us by telling us that after work, we should stop by to pick up Charlie. She must have seen our faces because she explained that when fostering children, especially if you are currently fostering children through them, or have adopted a child with them before, all you have to do is pass a house inspection. They have all the other information.

“You actually have taken a long time to bring her home.” She said.

It hit me. After work, we’d be bringing home a three year child. I started crying like a big baby. Boady squeezed me, and I could see tears in his eyes as well.

The kids were absolutely elated when we told them. Ava also started crying. Boady finished up the toddler bed, and we moved the boxes into closets so little knees wouldn’t run into them. I went on a late night Target run because even though Sofia said our apartment was safe, I still wanted more safety. Ava and Natalia organized the little Charlie clothes and Boady wound up going to Target to get Mac’n’Cheese, Charlie’s favorite. Kai mostly ran around, helping with odd jobs like setting up the toddler potty [we want her potty trained ASAP] and fixing her toys and blankies. Boady set up the toddler car seat [Thanks Goodwill!] and Kai put the boosters on her dinner chair.

Bring it on Charlie! We’re ready!

A Metaphorical Walk In The Woods

You know how you finally think that you’re out of the woods, and then some random bear or fox or something reminds you that you’re still trapped?

Well, Kai’s been doing this new thing with his hands. It’s really hard to describe, but basically, he has nothing to do with them. So he counts on his fingers. Constantly. All day, everyday.

He’s been doing it for some time, usually every once in a while, and only for a short period. But now? It’s like he can’t stop. He will stop eating or doing whatever he was doing to start counting. He numbers are big. I asked him once what he was counting to. He said a really long number. I made him write down. 2,380,528,000. Two billion, three hundred and eighty million, five hundred and twenty eight thousand. It takes him at least a half hour to finish. And then he starts up again.

I had no problem with it at first. Some people bite their nails, or something. He’s counting. But now, he just cannot stop. I’ve asked him to stop to finish his meal, but he refuses to. He has to count.

It’s not just me. His math teacher and a close friend of mine expressed her concerns. Other teachers have called saying that he refuses to work in class, and he just counts on his fingers.

He has “talked” to his therapist about it, and talked is in quotation marks because he shuts down the second it’s mentioned. The only thing he told her is that he isn’t counting to 2,380,528,000, he’s counting down from 2,380,528,000. He also said that the numbers change.

One night as we were getting ready to eat, Kai his started counting. I held his hand to prevent it so he could wait quietly, and he absolutely lost it. He told me to stop, that he had to do it, and that he was sorry. Which leads me to believe that it might be compulsive.

I’ve asked him about it, I’ve told him to wait, and I am at my wits end with this obsession. I don’t understand this fascination with counting. He doesn’t necessarily like math, he doesn’t enjoy counting, so why is he counting for fun?

His therapist also thinks that it might be compulsive and suggested Fluvoxamine. It worked, but the side effects were almost as annoying as the counting. He was constantly drowsy and dizzy. He often felt slightly nauseous. We pulled him off after only two weeks.

Yesterday, his sisters revealed that he had been setting alarms at midnight to wake up and count. This is getting out of control. He needs to sleep. He needs to rest.

He came to me crying because “he wanted to take a break, but couldn’t.” I don’t know what’s happening. I can’t do anything. I just want him to focus on school and playing with his sisters and just being a kid. He’s thirteen years old. He should be playing video games or hanging out with friends, or awkwardly talking to girls.

But until we can figure out why he is obsessed with numbers, he has to persevere through. I just wish I could do more. Does anyone have any ideas? Anyone?

New House, New Friends

Charlie might be coming home sooner than expected. We met with the owners of the house today. They brought their kids, we brought ours, except for Charlie, who is legally not even a foster kid yet.

The couple’s names were Madeline and Joseph. They have four kids, Hayley, who is Ava’s age, Cory, who’s fifteen, just a year older than Natalia, Jackson who is eleven, and Daisy, who is Kai’s age. Looking at his face when he met Daisy, I think someone might have a little crush.

Madeline and Joseph were extremely nice, and were eager to hear, once again, about Charlie. I proudly showed off pictures of Charlie playing dress up and eating ice cream.

Madeline told Boady that Charlie had his eyes. That surprised us. Charlie is in no way related to us. How could she look like him? He thanked Madeline politely, and we started talking about the house. They gave us a tour, and it’s everything that we could’ve imagined. The bedrooms are big. The bathrooms are big. The kitchen is big. The yard is big. And, it’s BELOW OUR PRICE RANGE!

After the tour, we began comparing stories about our experiences with adoption and foster care. Joseph had been a foster kid, and that’s why they chose to adopt Jackson. I told them about Kai’s experiences in group homes and foster homes, and Charlie’s experiences in China.

On the hour, my phone buzzed with it’s hourly reminders to test Kai. I excused myself, and found Kai in the family room (which was also huge) watching a movie with Daisy.

It hurt to pull him away, knowing that he was making a friend, but it would hurt more if he was at risk for a seizure.

He rushed me, saying “Hurry, Natasha!” and hopping around. I couldn’t resist teasing him a bit, and said “I’m hurrying, buddy. I know how much you want to get back on your date!”

He looked horrified for a moment, then turned bright red. Caught.

He was a bit low, so I gave him some fruit snacks, (gelatin free, since we have a little vegetarian) and told him to share with his “girlfriend”, and open it for her to be polite. Instead of turning red this time, he simply asked, “Is that what Boady did to you to get you to fall for him? Or were you attracted to him because you saw that he had Welch’s instead of Mott’s?”

This kid has been learning from Natalia. I thought I only had one smart ass teenager.

I told Boady and the owners what he had said, and they cracked up.

We left later than expected, with promises to call and an invitation to dinner next month.

As we put our shoes on, I saw Boady whispering something to Kai. Kai nodded, and received a high five.

Ava and Hayley have declared themselves best friends and Ava cried as we left. Natalia rolled her eyes. And Kai left with a big hug from Daisy.

Later, I asked Boady what he had told Kai.

“I asked him if he got Daisy’s number.” Then he grinned. “He did.”

I laughed. To think, my baby brother is a little girl magnet. Where does time go?