I know I have been absent from the blogging world. My apologies. I have actually written a lot, and just not published them. I wrote a long blog post on Grace, but it disappeared, lol. I just haven't had the time to re-do it until now. So here goes. I hope I don't lose this one.
I have thought a lot about how to update on Grace. Since I haven't posted much since we got home (I'd rather interact with them, than try to tell you all how they are doing-sorry!), but that leaves a lot of changes to catch you up on. I think my best approach will be to try to tell you what we saw when she first got home, and the many changes (improvements!) we have seen in our little gypsy, but also to be real, I want to tell you the issues we continue to work on now.
First of all, I know I just write Grace, but I call her Gracie (or Gracie-bear, lol). For a time we were calling her by the name she was used to-Ira and Grace, but over time, she started referring to herself as only Gracie, and so that is the name that has stuck. Actually, at the orphanage, she was most often called by her old last name, and that just doesn't work so, Gracie it is. She loves to say her full name with her Ukrainian name, then Gracie, then our last name. So much pride on her face!
Anyway, my little lively one was the leader in her groupa. The nannies warned us repeatedly that she would get her way everytime, lol. We were also warned that she was a gypsy (to which I replied cool!), but that along with that would come sneakiness and manipulation (so, you are saying she is a kid?! yeah, I got that). We saw some of the behaviors they jokingly warned us about visiting her in Ukraine. She would simply raise her hand to Malachi and he would instantly hand her whatever it is that she wanted. When we first arrived home, she would pitch the most impressive fits. Unfortanately (fortunately?) for her, being the 6th child I have brought into my home, a fit, no matter how impressive, doesn't bother me one little bit. I would simply remove her from the situation, let her lay on her bed and get it out while I stood in the doorway. After a time, she would tell me she was all done (with signs at first and words to come). It was loud for a time in our house, but it didn't take her long to figure out things didn't work here the way she was used to, lol. She is also not one of the oldest here, so that has been a little bit of an adjustment for her, but we are getting there. I would honestly say those fits and the demanding have been the biggest issue we have faced with her and the most ongoing of issues we are still dealing with today. In the beginning, I was dealing with 6-7 fits a day and now, it is more like one a week. Big improvement, and not outside of the realm of normal for a 4 year old.
Our other big adjustment issue with Grace was language. She is and has always been very verbal. In the process of learning a new language, little ones go through a period of losing their original language before they learn the new one enough to be fluent. For Grace, this period was difficult. She would actually talk in a baby babble to try to get herself understood. We tried to help her with her frustration with a mix of charades, itranslate, Russian, and English. Now, she is very fluent in English and her language skills are almost to age level. That time in between came at the same time that she was experiencing some heavy grief over losing her caregivers and the only life she had ever known. I don't think at any point she wasn't happy to be here. I expected her to be, I would completely understand if she was, but I don't think she was. She was always willing to find comfort from me, even would seek me out for comfort, but that loss is still a loss. I do know too much about dealing with grief in children, and her grief looked a lot like the grief my other children have been living with. I see less and less of it daily, although we do still talk about her friends, and look at pictures. They will always be part of her life, as will her Ukrainian culture.
There are a couple of physical issues Grace has had to deal with upon coming home. The first issue we had to deal with is that her hip was out of place. It had probably always been. Because it was so out of place, she couldn't pick that leg up off the ground, march, or walk up stairs properly. Our chiropractor has been amazing at helping get it in the right place, and we are working now on practicing using her leg the right way and strengthening those muscles. The second issue is that Grace didn't know how to chew properly. We noticed that she would either hold the food in her mouth till it dissovled, or would just roll the food around in her mouth with her tongue. She never chewed with her teeth. After seeing the dentist and ruling out dental problems, aside from a really bad thumb-sucking bite, and seeing the chiropractor to make sure her jaw was in alignment, we have been working with her on chewing. At first we manually moved the food to her teeth with our fingers and demonstrated how to chew with her teeth. Now, she does need reminding on occasion, but she can move the food over with her own tongue and knows how to chew with her back teeth.
Grace is tiny. She seems younger than her 4 years in a large part because of her size. She is shorter than Malachi and everything about her is tiny--hands, feet, everthing but her grin. That girl could charm anyone with her smile. The problem is that she knows it. Initially, we were dealing with a lot of indiscriminate friendliness, to use an adoption term. She would go to anyone, talk to anyone, hug anyone, and give that huge fake grin to charm anyone-to get what she wanted or to get out of trouble. We have worked with her these past 6 months on understanding who mommy and daddy are, who her siblings are, and who it is appropriate to hug or not. She is doing great. I was worried in the beginning that this problem would last a long time. I mostly kept her very close to me and turned her affection toward me at all opportunities when I saw her heading toward someone else. I also made sure all care for her needs came from Michael or I and that we didn't leave her. I have only left her now to attend my nephew's funeral, to take Anna Faith for surgery, and one night of Christmas shopping. She now clearly prefers me and will actually move away from strangers trying to touch her. I am blown away at how quickly this little girl has adapted. She is very affectionate and loves to touch my face gently and give me hugs and kisses. She will stretch her arms out wide and say "Gimme love Momma!" Oh, she has my heart.
With her siblings, our biggest concern was how the newbies would treat Eli. We had nothing to worry about. Grace mommas him like she raised him. She follows him around, gives him everything he wants, and tells him constantly how much she loves him. Abigail, my love, she is doing you proud in her care of your baby. She butts heads most thoroughly with Anna Faith, but they are finding common ground. She adores Malachi and Samuel, although she of course prefers to be in charge. With Nathan, she warmed up slowly. This was painful for Nathan, but now they are good buddies. If he is sitting on the ground, she will pounce on him and expect to be tickled and carried and swung around--all the things that big brothers are so good for.
When I think back to how new the world was for this little one, I am blown away at how well she is doing and has always done. She had not seen outside of her orphanage walls. She had not ridden in a car, eaten at a restaurant, slept in a big bed, been in a crowd. She has taken to life with all the spunkiness she was born with and that carried her through those first 4 years. We are working to not tame her, but redirect her liveliness. I love her fire and her will. I love her enthusiasm and her passion. She reminds me of my Abigail in many ways--and that brings a smile to my face and pain to my heart at the same time. But despite the fits and the screaming and the demanding, we adore her. We are all so totally in love with this little girl that pulled us across the ocean. Grace, we are so thankful you are home.
And, I will post pictures, but I'm making a separate post so that I can publish this one and hopefully not lose it.