March 26th, 2007
He walked into the room supported by the caretaker. His walk was stiff and unsteady. He clearly was a child more at ease sitting than walking. The music room with its lights and size overwhelmed him and his eyes darted casting worried glances when they caught the eyes of another. When he spoke, it was with a whisper. The sounds were single syllables, repeated: “dai, dai dai dai”, “pa pa pa pa pa pa”, and “ma ma ma ma ma” were the most identifiable sounds. When he played, it was as if the world around him vanished so focused was he in his activity. This was the Nikolai we met on that first blessed day with the children four months ago.
So remarkable are the changes in him, it is difficult to reconcile that child with the one we were with today. What he does more often than anything else now is laugh. Laugh and chatter. His speech is a combination of Russian nouns and verbs, and sounds of his own. I don’t know if the way in which he strings the sounds together yet qualifies as sentences, but it is clear that if they don’t, the day when he does form a sentence is not far off.
He no longer spends much time sitting at all. He walks everywhere and the walk becomes brisker with each day. On the first day his legs were still a little stiff, but our little lion heart is a master mimicker. We play a “chase” game with him where we run after him using exaggerated leg movement so he can see how we use our knees. We start, cartoon style stomping our legs up and down, faster and faster then run towards him, where we catch him and pick him up over our heads, kissing his cheek on the way up.
He now will stand in place stomping up and down, and then laughing at his accomplishment; then he will burst into movement. His walk now also includes more knee movement and is more on the order of a “trot” then a walk. He also has taken to chasing us around.
His sister is very good toward him and includes him often in her play. She is protective of him and is often helping us explain things to him. Though there are rules. Anything Dascha is playing with, naturally is the toy that most interests Nikolai – that is not something appreciated by Dascha. But she stands her ground, and offers him one of his own toys.
Dascha and I also taught Nikolai the “coo-coo” game (same thing as “peekaboo” in the U.S.). We would hide in the play house, opening windows saying “coo-coo” to her brother. He would sneak up to the house peering in and reply with a “coo-coo” of his own.
And for those of you that have seen the obligatory mushy video to a Disney tune (if you haven’t it’s in the “Happy Birthday, Mom” post), Nikolai has discovered the big rabbit. As of today, it became his favorite toy. He loves climbing up it, sitting on top of it triumphantly and then bouncing up and down.
These are our days now. Laughing and playing with the children during the day. In the evenings we return to the Park Inn; the sounds of their voices, their laughs, their cries never leave us. We are at peace and are grateful.