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progress report

Monday, June 23, 2008

She's doing great...
She fits right in...
Couldn't imagine life without her...
They're all phrases I've been using in the last few weeks to describe how Maddie has made the adjustment to family life in the last four months.
And it's all true...
But it's only half the story.
The full truth is, there are a lot of little things we deal with on a daily basis that may or may not be what we lovingly refer to as 'leftovers.'
All of our kids have leftovers in their little lives.
Alek deals with some auditory processing issues.
Anya at times has sensory troubles.
Nick has fine motor deficits.
But all of these issues are so incredibly minor they are hard to see. Impossible, in fact, unless you work closely with our kids.
But with Maddie things are different.
Many of her issues, while still minor, are much more visible.
Obviously there are the physical issues. Maddie was born with bilaterial microtia...the malformation of her ears. She essentially doesn't have any. But she doesn't let it slow her down.
She was also born with what the Ukranian doctors call a 'big mouth.' This one still baffles her American doctors. Maddie has seen at least four doctors since we returned in February...and none of them could figure it out. Maddie had surgery on her mouth about a year before we brought her home that closed this 'big mouth.' Someday she'll have some corrective plastic surgery done to clean it up a bit.
But these physical problems are so minor we rarely notice them.
Even the hearing problems.
Life in our household has adjusted to living with a child with a hearing impairment...although I have to tell you it has certainly gotten MUCH louder around here. Some days the noise is deafening. (no pun intended ;>) And it's not just because we have four kids in the house! :)
The truth is...Maddie is loud.
REALLY loud.
We are forever telling her to be quiet.
We thought once she got the hearing aid and could hear how loud she was, it would help. It hasn't.
My sister-in-law who also adopted a bi-lateral microtia child (from China) says it takes awhile for them to figure it out. Her daughter (home since last August) is just now starting to quiet down.
Sigh.
I guess we'll be waiting awhile longer.

ROCK 'N ROLL

Maddie is a rocker.
A violent rocker.
It is so hard to watch.
When we brought Alek home nine years ago, we were not prepared for the rocking. Our first night home (he didn't rock in Russia) can only be described as scary, heart-breaking and unnerving.
When we laid him in his crib, he promptly got up on all fours and started rocking forward and back...trying to comfort himself. We picked him up, tried to rock him (which he hated) and then laid him back down.
He rocked on.
He rocked so hard he moved his crib across his bedroom floor and banged it against the wall for a good 30 minutes.
Heart-breaking.
We finally realized he needed to rock in order to get to sleep that night and vowed we would find a way to help stop.
It took five years.
Five years of rocking him in the rocking chair, moving him into our bed to comfort him at night, and teaching him to trust us.
By the time he started first grade the rocking had disappeared.
Now it only shows up when he's bored or disengaged.
Maddie's rocking is worse.
Much, much worse.
She had four years of living in the orphanage to master it.
She rocks violently.
It doesn't matter what position she is laying in, she rocks side to side...banging her head against the side of her bed, wall or whatever else happens to be in the way.
We try putting pillows around her, but by the time the night is over she's rocked herself away from all of them (or knocked them off her bed) and she's back to banging her head. And she doesn't wake up.
As hard as she's hitting her head it's amazing to me that she doesn't have bruises all over her noggin.
But she doesn't.
We've started working with Maddie, just like we did all those years ago with Alek.
We're rocking her, bringing her in with us and helping her learn to trust us.
Thankfully, unlike Alek, she loves to be held and rocked.
I'm hoping it will make it a little easier.

POTTY TIME

We are finally out of pull-ups!
Can I get an Amen?!
We ran out of our night-time supply last week ull-ups and we've been dry ever since.
Hallelujah!
We are still having issues though with the bathroom trip frequency. Maddie seems to need to go all the time. We have tried limiting her liquids and just saying no. Both help but she still goes to the bathroom an awful lot.
Tonight she went in there three times in the first 30 minutes I was home.
I finally told her to make sure she went it all, because I wasn't allowing her to go back in until she got ready for bed.
So far it's worked.
Because of her bi-laterial microtia (birth defect - no ears) we had her kidneys tested when she first came home. They're the normal size and are functioning properly. We had her tested for urinary tract infection - nothing. So we decided to let it go for awhile and see if it was just control issues.
It hasn't gotten any better, so we're headed back to the doctor this next week to get some help. I'm hoping they'll do an ultra sound on her bladder to see if it's the normal size. If we can just find out what the problem is we can deal with it!

LEARNING THE LANGUAGE

She can understand almost everything we say.
If only we could say the same thing.
AUGH.
It's so frustrating...and honestly was something I wasn't quite prepared for.
I was living in a poly-anna world.
I thought once she got her hearing aid, her language skills would explode.
Nope.
We still can't understand much of what she says...and the stuff we have picked up on are not pronounced anywhere near where they should be.
All of this has limited our ability to help her with her preschool skills.
We've worked on her counting (she still gets stuck on four, five, seven and sometimes nine).
We've worked on body parts...she's got the basics down.
But we only started working on colors and the alphabet this week.
I am usually a bit more realistic when it comes to what to expect when we bring home our child. As an experienced international adoption parent, I knew what to expect with bonding, delay and control issues. What I didn't prepare myself for was the special needs stuff.
Don't get me wrong. I wouldn't trade Maddie for anything...and the problems we are running into are soooooo minor.
I just wasn't ready for them.
A reminder that in international adoption...preparation is everything!

BONDING

We're making progress.
But unfortunately the steps we're taking are itsy-bitsy ones.
Maddie is still willing to go to any stranger at any time, which is sooooo incredibly frustrating. I had thought we had made at least a little progress on this in the last few weeks, but she walked right up to a complete stranger the other day and held out her arms to be picked up.
Sigh.
We're trying all of the tricks we know.
No one but Mommy and Daddy get to hold her.
We take care of all of her needs.
We play 'who's the mama and daddy' game all the time. Thankfully she's not calling every woman she comes across 'mama' anymore...but I still don't think she thinks we're anything special yet.
We still hold her hand ALL the time. We don't let her walk ANYWHERE on her own, which is helping. She will automatically reach for our hand now as we get out of the car to go in the store, church, restaurant...and it helps keep her away from other people, but she's still 'mommy shopping.'
Looking for a newer, better model.
I came across this online checklist a few weeks ago and have been wanting to post it - and our results for awhile...waiting to see if the results changed.
They have.
Even if they're minor changes.
Since we've only been home 4 1/2 months, I take a lot of consolation in how far we've come in such a short period of time. Yes, she still has issues (marked in red), but there are so many areas where she has made remarkable improvement (blue) or have no issues at all (green). (Sorry...the list is kind of long).
1. My child teases, hurts, or is cruel to other children. No - thank goodness. She's pretty good with other kids. I was expecting to have some trouble with this after life in the orphanage, but honestly we've only had one incident and that was VERY early on. Since then she has learned how to take care of 'babies' and in general plays pretty well with everyone.
2. My child can't keep friends for an age-appropriate length of time. It depends on 'age appropriate'. Emotionally, she's not a four year old yet. She's more like an early three year old. And at that level she's doing pretty well. She'll play beside other children and with other children for short amounts of time, but she doesn't really seek out playing with other kids unless it's her siblings.
3. My child doesn't do as well in school as my child could do even with a little more effort. Don't know yet. She appears to be a pretty smart little stinker, but we're having trouble with her focusing on things. I believe it's an emotional age thing (which factors into so much of this).
4. My child pushes me away or becomes stiff when I try to hug, unless my child wants something from me, in which case my child can be affectionate and engaging.
No - again, thank goodness. She's been my hugger from the very beginning. She LOVES to climb up in our lap for some quality time. She is constantly bringing us books, pillows and blankets so we can curl up on the couch together. We love it! :)
5. My child argues for long periods of time, often about meaningless or silly things. Not really. This one is hard to judge because the language just isn't there yet, but she doesn't seem to get worked up about silly things...or worked up about much of anything. She's pretty laid back (so unlike the other three! ;>)
6. My child has a large need to control everything. No...again, see number five.
7. My child is hyper-vigilant. At first this was a definite YES, but over the last twelve to sixteen weeks she has slowly let go of a lot of her paranoias and is starting to trust us to take care of her. Do you remember the blanket incident? About eight weeks ago she started letting us put blankets on her at night again, but would quickly kick them off. Now she goes and finds her blanket before she climbs into bed (toddler bed). She's also doing better with animals. She'll walk up to our cat now and pet him and is tolerant of the dog. But any sudden movement by either animal still freaks her out. As far as Shad and I are concerned, she is not worried at all about us leaving her, but is happy to see us when we return.
8. My child acts amazingly innocent, or pretends that things aren't really bad or a problem when caught doing something wrong. Oh no! My child cries with the best of them. But usually the crying doesn't come until after the discipline.
9. My child does dangerous things such as runs away, jumps out of windows, or other potentially harmful actions. My child seems oblivious to the fact that my child may be hurt. No. She definitely feels pain.
10. My child deliberately breaks or ruins his things or other's things. Nope.
11. My child doesn't seem to feel age-appropriate guilt when my child does something wrong. I'm not sure on this one. I can tell when she's been found out to have done something wrong, but there is no general guilt. (althought that is true for all four of my kids...none of them would confess to something without having been found out. I'm still working on this one.)
12. My child is impulsive, either unable or unwilling to stop doing something she wants to do. No. She'll stop if told to.
13. My child teases, hurts, or is cruel to animals. Are you kidding me? She won't go near them! :)
14. My child steals, or shows up with things that belong to others with unbelievable, unusual, or suspicious reasons for how my child got these things. No.
15. My child likes to sneak things without permission, even though my child could have had these things if my child had asked. Oh yea! Food especially. She is constantly sneaking bananas, cookies or anything that looks half-way yummy. This is where the language barrier becomes huge. She can't understand the food will always be there and that we'll give her food (as long as it's not too close to dinner.) And she can't understand that she just needs to ask. I hope as we get further along that she'll start to pick up on these kinds of things. She's not hording food...just sneaking it.
16. My child doesn't seem to learn from mistakes, consequences, or punishments (my child continues the behavior despite the consequences). Some days I wonder...although she does much better at this than the boys. For instance, the other day I caught her ripping wallpaper in the upstairs hallway - yea, I about blew a gasket. However...after a stern talking to, she hasn't done it again. It's been two weeks. The boys got in trouble twice within 15 minutes yesterday for playing ball in the house! :)
17. My child makes false reports of abuse or neglect. My child tries to get sympathy from others, or tries to get us in trouble, by telling others that I abuse, don't feed, or don't provide the basic necessities. No.
18. My child seems not to experience pain when hurt, refusing to let anyone provide comfort. She defintely feels pain and seeks comfort. Thank goodness. The first week we had Alek home from Russia he ran into the corner of our kitchen table, split his head open, fell down, popped back up and kept playing. (He now feels pain too.) I am SO thankful she can feel pain.
19. My child does not usually ask for things. My child demands things. She asks, without asking. She hasn't mastered the art of asking a question, but she still gets the point across. We're working on using please (peeeee) and forming a complete question.
20. My child lies, often about obvious or ridiculous things, or when it would have been easier to tell the truth. We can't understand anything she says, so how can we tell if she's lying?
21. My child is quite bossy with other children and adults. No. She does pretty good.
22. My child hoards, sneaks food, or has other unusual eating habits (eats paper, raw sugar, non-food items, package mixes, baker's chocolate, etc.) Oh yea! See number 15!
23. My child often does not make eye contact when adults want to make eye contract with my child. She does a pretty good job of initial eye contact but looks away after a few seconds. We're working on this one.
24. My child has extended temper tantrums. I may be jinxing myself with this one, but Maddie is the only one of our children NOT to have a meltdown in the first few months at home. All three of the other ones did it. Especially Anya. Oy, her's were doozies!!!!! Maddie is incredibly laid back. She takes EVERYTHING in stride. Don't get me wrong. She crosses her arms and pouts when she doesn't get her way...and remember the fainting spells?! :) But she's never had a tantrum. (Sigh. I've just doomed myself haven't I?!)
25. My child chatters non-stop, asks repeated questions about things that make no sense, mutters, or is hard to understand when talking. HAHAHAHAH! Uh, yea. The question is...is it because of the hearing impairment (which I believe it is) or because there are some deeper issues? I'm leaning toward the former.
26. My child is accident-prone (gets hurt a lot), or complains a lot about every little ache and pain (needs constant attention). She is definitely accident prone and does complain a lot about every little injury. For now, I'm giving her some attention (with the little owies), but generally telling her, 'Oh, I'm so sorry you got an owie, let me kiss it,' and then sending her on her way. I'm not making a huge deal out of it, but she needs to know she can come to me with her owies...no matter how big.
27. My child acts cute or charming to get others to do what my child wants. Yea. A little bit. She doesn't go out of her way to attrack their attention, but if she has it, she uses it. It is unnerving to watch - especially as an introvert. But I do think she's improving a bit. The other night, for the first time, she looked ot me for what I can only assume was permission, before she did something. That's a start.
28. My child is overly friendly with strangers. Where do I begin? Oh. My. Word. YES! She still will walk away with absolutely anyone...without looking back. I worry about what it's going to take to help this. She is improving in that she doesn't fight me anymore to get to strangers. She will stay with me, but you can tell she'd rather go with the lady in the next checkout aisle, or the guy working in his flower garden next door. The one area where this is not true is with children. Maddie doesn't care to go anywhere with a new child. If it's a child she's never met before, she is incredibly stand-offish, which explains her first reaction to Anya.
29. My child has set fires, or is preoccupied with fire. No.
30. My child prefers to watch violent cartoons and/or TV shows or horror movie (regardless of whether or not you allow your child to do this). She doesn't watch TV at all. 31. My child was abused/neglected during the first year of life, or had several changes of primary caretaker during the first several years of life. Several caretakers...an orphanage will do that to you.
32. My child was in an orphanage for more than the first year of life. 35 months to be exact.
33. My child was adopted after the age of twelve month.
35 months to be exact.


Looking back on this list, it's not so bad. Sure there are some red areas, but the majority of it is green and blue. Not too bad for the four month mark.
I'll take it.
And I'll take Maddie.
For all of the headaches and heartaches, there is even more joy.
Joy I could only have imagined before we met Maddie.
Before we met Maddie I never would have considered adopting a special needs child. I didn't think I had it in me.
Now I know if I take it a day at a time and add a huge dose of faith, I'll be just fine.
And so will Maddie.

14 salty messages:

DoveFamily June 24, 2008 at 6:07 AM  

Sounds like she's making remarkable progress. While William's speech is improving dramatically, we're still considering starting some speech therapy for him in the fall. Guess we'll wait and see what the kindergarten teacher thinks!

Rachael June 24, 2008 at 7:28 AM  

Sounds like you and she are doing well together! It's nice to hear an update. Sounds like maybe some speech therapy in your future...

The rocking sounds rough. Somehow, we managed to avoid the whole rocking/self-soothing thing, although I have no idea how, since our K~ was in the orphanage 6 years. I wonder why some kids do that and not others. ??

She looks so cute in the picture.

I don't get the "big mouth" thing either. Strange. And they operated on her for this? Scratching my head on that one.

Tina in CT June 24, 2008 at 9:37 AM  

You and Shad are pros now that you have your 4th child from Eastern Europe and I'm sure with each that you were able to apply your experience. You both have lots of love to give your children and time will help Maddie adjust more and more. I was not aware of the reaching out to strangers until you started to blog about it. I'm sure as she is feels more secure in her family that it will stop (but it must be very hard for you to see it). Just think how far you've come in such a short time!

Troy and Rachel June 24, 2008 at 10:45 AM  

It was nice to see your progress report and lets others know that life isn't always perfect but you keep trying and you see progress. Maddies is just beautiful and I know you'll overcome her rocking! She's so lucky to have you and you to have her!!

kate June 24, 2008 at 11:01 AM  

Thanks for such a nice, thorough update! I'm going to remember where this list is posted for the future.

teresa June 24, 2008 at 6:13 PM  

Hey Tami-great list. Where did you find it? We are dealing with some of these same issues 10 years later and after years of working on them. Therapist says some of them will need to be revisited for a lifetime, because they resurface in certain degrees with change and age. Not trying to be discouraging; you are doing great! It is just a little wearying to be at this again with many of the attachment things we've been working on for a long time. Teresa

Kathy & Matt June 24, 2008 at 8:50 PM  

Maddie sounds like she's doing well and the picture you posted is adorable.

We have not had any rocking, so I can only imagine the challenges of helping them overcome that behavior.

The list of questions you posted is great. I need to re-read them to think through any issues Leeza is having. So far, we feel very fortunate, but I may be overlooking something.

Hang in there with all the transition stuff. Based on your experience with the other kids, you are a pro at this. Please keep sharing this type of update as it is really helpful for all the rest of us adoptive parents.

Also, glad to hear that Shad's mom continues to improve. We'll keep praying for her.

jessy June 24, 2008 at 11:43 PM  

I just love you.
I may have to post that list for Marina one day, but I will have to wait until we are in a good, good place.

Irina June 25, 2008 at 9:01 AM  

Interesting list :). Such different descriptions, and it is possible to notice, what work coming. Some problems of Maddie are related to orphanhood, but some things are incident to the children with ordinary biography. For example, my Ksusha of 4 years 7 months, and only one month we have a dry bed in the morning. She speaks loudly, she even whispers loudly :). She masters colors hardness, she mixes up colors, in spite of very good general development. So, Maddie normal child also. Loosening is a not pleasant thing :(. Your loving heart will remedy it :).

The Hinshaws June 25, 2008 at 9:39 PM  

Wow! That picture of Maddie is stunning. I can't get over how much she's changed. Her hair is so cute, too! What a difference good love and nutrition make. :)

Thanks for the "real-deal" update. I can't wait to see how much progess she'll make after being with you for a year. What a strong little girl she is!
Blessings,
Julie

Anonymous,  June 25, 2008 at 11:27 PM  

My nephew has had hearing aids since he was 9 months old and a coclear implant since he was 4. Now at almost 7 and at least 5 years of very intensive speech thereapy (as in 4 or 5 hours a week) he has all his sounds but is still a bit delayed. I hope Ellie is in speech.

Anonymous,  June 26, 2008 at 12:07 PM  

Maddie is so cute! I love her little "cooking up mischief" expression...

I'm sorry that clear speech seems to be slow in coming to her, though - that must be so frustrating for her, as well as for you and the rest of your family. I wonder if total communication might be advisable right now - it's a combination of sign language plus lip reading plus spoken language (speech). That way, Maddie could make her wishes and thoughts known, even if her spoken language is difficult to understand at present, while still learning to formulate her spoken words more clearly...a speech therapist could advise you about this.

Best wishes,
Susan in Ky, cousin to two from Ukraine

Melissa E. June 26, 2008 at 9:24 PM  

I am so glad Maddie has you!

Misha seems well-bonded now but for the longest time it appeared as though he was keeping his options open! He always had an eye open to sense the prospective alternatives! It seems strange, but I think that for him it was more of an insecurity thing. You know, never quite sure if we were really going to keep him. Just in case, he was ready to charm anyone who looked promising. And not so much like he was shopping.

Hang in there! The checklist was pretty interesting. It's nice to be able to measure progress too.

jeneflower June 26, 2008 at 10:54 PM  

Do you find that she asks for water more than is normal? Our daughter drank like their was no tomorrow. It made me wonder if she was deprived of water in the orphanage. She still drinks a lot of water after being home 1.5 ys. and this translates into a lot of bathroom breaks.

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