1 year home!

Time has really flown! May 16 recently marked the 1 year anniversary of Jonathan, Hannah, and Ruth arriving on US soil and being home. It’s been a long journey through paperwork, 3 separate trips to Ukraine, picking up the kids from behind orphanage walls in Dolyna, and finally having them acquaint to life in America as new US citizens.

This adoption has honestly been more of a challenge for us in various ways. While Elizabeth and Daniel had more orphanage support and were favorites in many ways, our newest 3 did not have that and came home with more trauma-based behaviors to work through. Jonathan still stims, but it’s less than we saw in Ukraine in Kiev. Hannah has had difficulty picking up English. Ruth has been our biggest challenge and we strongly suspect FASD. I think we were adequately prepared for all 3, but that doesn’t necessarily lessen the challenge. The toughest for us with both adoptions has been the time spent in Kiev after picking up the kids. I jokingly refer to it as hell week (actually 3.5 weeks for us) because it can be really difficult. We’re thankful to have not encountered some of the situations other families experience, although I’d say all families deal with the various effects of how children deal with being newly outside orphanage walls. There is often a lot of anxiety, controlling behaviors, and disrespect. I remember feeling completely embarrassed on a subway ride when the kids were talking about us in Ukrainian and some of the other passengers were chuckling. The children often think they can do anything they want and aren’t used to new environments, family structure, or rules. Those things all need to be learned and taught.

Thinking back to the anxiety I personally felt on trip 3, especially prior to pick up, the kids have come a long way. It’s really been amazing, actually. It’s hard to think about what life would still likely be like for them within the orphanage where they simply wouldn’t gain the life skills needed to succeed after being released at age 16-18. And every year that passes behind orphanage walls is yet more delayed time to work through upon adoption. They say a child loses 3 months of development for every 1 year spent in an orphanage. That’s really alarming. An orphanage is no place for a child to grow up.

I think families often tend to post mainly positive updates, and it’s probably seemed that way with us too because we’re excited when things go well and want to share on progress. But in reality most families also go through some challenging times. It’s often termed “being in the trenches”. Adoption is a very positive and worthwhile thing. It’s also a lot of work. If asked whether we’d proceed all over again if we could go back in time, it’d be a wholehearted YES. 🙂

So here are updates on our 3 newest additions, now home 1 year:

Jonathan

I’d say Jonathan has been our biggest surprise with how far he’s come. Once aggressive, defiant, and controlling, he is now helpful, docile, and fairly attached. He and I have really bonded and you can see the need for a father in his life. Jonathan still stims at night and sometimes makes sounds during the day, but that’s been better too. He and Daniel have really gotten along well, probably due to similar cultural and orphanage experiences. The downside is that Aaron (bio) and Daniel aren’t as close as before.

Jonathan’s English is now fairly good and he’s great at wanting to follow along at church in the hymnal. He can’t read much yet, but has learned the various parts of the church service. He’s carried over his love of singing and public performances to his church life. He also enjoys sports and playing basketball with me at the local gym. He loves doing things together and I’ll soon bring him with me to work for a half day prior to our home closing. Yes, we’re excited to have found a new house in Burnsville that better accommodates our larger family! For his birthday, we spent the day together and he bought Legos with his own money. It’s something he had been looking forward to for months. Our boys have all really enjoyed those.

Hannah

Hannah has always been easier and more mellow and that has carried through to home life too. She was our easier one in Ukraine and didn’t have some of the behavioral issues the other 2 had. She’s more of an introvert and still struggles with English some. She can speak it and understand it, but isn’t fluent yet like the other 2. Her and Daniel get along pretty well it seems. I’ve tried spending time with each of our kids individually and a real turning point for Hannah was a recent daddy/daughter dance put on in New Prague where we currently live. That event seems to have really helped with attachment. Some adopted kids “parent shop” due to lack of attachment and Hannah has done that in the past. I was happy that at the event she specifically came looking for me after a line dance with other girls.

She’s one of our girly girls and also somewhat of a perfectionist. She enjoys barbies and dolls and enjoys time spent playing with her sisters. I recently painted her nails since she had been asking about it. You may remember she was a bit of an outsider to the other 2 in Ukraine, but has since immersed a lot better and integrated in play with the other kids.

Ruth

Ruth has been our biggest challenge, but I think she also carries the most trauma and delays due to past abuse/neglect. She’s had ups and downs and it seems to relate to time of year and more recently to our move (leaving something behind). They say the brain never forgets and our first encounter with that was late October 2018 when things suddenly turned. But it turns out that date was also her admittance to the orphanage originally. She is still working around food issues, and so we have to limit her at meals, but her enthusiastic coaching when I make supper is always encouraging. I think the kitchen is her favorite room in the house. 🙂 She has the most need and really loves her mommy. She had tears in her eyes and bags from crying the day Sara was gone for passport paperwork while in Ukraine still. She is also our huggiest. We’re pretty positive she has FASD and potentially some other things too which we have not yet identified. It’s been slower with her, but she is gradually learning.

Ruth likes to be with people, music/singing, and talking loudly. She absolutely loves food and often wants to watch me cook supper. She’s a real sweetheart, but does tend to get on her siblings’ nerves and “bother” them through various behaviors. She is working on learning positive attention vs any kind of attention which we’ve struggled with in the past. Her mindset is often one of simply making her own decisions vs seeking counsel or input first and she tends to forget prior rules put in place. Although it’s been hard to know whether true forgetfulness (FASD or other related mental issue), simply taking charge, defiance, or all three.

She loved the Little People play set I picked up from Goodwill for her birthday and played with it quite a bit. She’s also been our most talented with picking up language and thus knows English the best. We actually have to watch what we say around her because she’s very quick to repeat and begin use. Not that we use foul language, but so much is situational and she gets confused.

So that’s it in a nutshell. A lot of work, but also a lot of reward. I haven’t found kids who are more thankful for a family and home with toys to call their own. It’s been a whirlwind and I think with our move, things will hopefully finally settle down if we can get settled in. We could certainly use some more stability with 2 adoptions and a home move under our belts. But we wouldn’t change it for the world.

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