Broke his arm at gan this week, awwww, baby
The good news is that Matan’s speech is improving, but not quickly enough. He was evaluated to determine the best pre-school special education program he will need next year. In addition to speech and emotional development, he also needs help with fine motor skills and general development. While we believe he was in a “better” orphanage, but he was still one of 12 children who lived in a very small room with almost no stimulation except their interactions with each other. Even today when he is in a new space he likes to go around and touch everything in the room.
During the two years that have flown by since we adopted him he’s been in speech and occupational therapy on a regular basis. But apparently this hasn’t been enough. We don’t have a prognosis of how he’s expected to do next year, with the full support of a special education staff, but I’m sure the small group of only 10 children, and rigorous occupational and speech therapies on site will help him vastly improve on his current delays. At least I hope so.
He continues to be a charming and adorable little boy. Everyone loves him, and he’s friendly and generous. But he can play with his trucks and tractors all day, and dislikes being challenged by other activities. We are so lucky that he has Karen. She plays with him, talks to him, and in general acts as a guide. He adores her and I can’t imagine how much more delayed he would have been without a big sister.
Yes, after drafting the above post, I got a call from Matan’s pre-school that he appears to have injured his arm and should see a doctor right away. Turned out to be a double fracture above the wrist. Poor kid didn’t understand why I wouldn’t remove his cast at night so he could go to sleep. He’s getting used to it now.
Yesterday we had our second school conference with the admin, school psychologist, Karen’s teacher, and her school counselor. All report an improvement in her behavior for the last 2 weeks, but they reminded us that we’ve seen such short term improvements before, and while encouraging her and giving her lots of positive reinforcement, we should also be prepared for the inevitable backslide.
They also pinpointed that most problems occur during breaks and transitions between classes. Their job is to make more of an effort to follow her during these crucial periods. Her teacher also advised that she is an outstanding student, and even perhaps too much of a perfectionist. Apparently she becomes very angry when she makes a mistake or doesn’t write something nicely enough. Her handwriting is very good. She is especially good at math. The entire school team feels that K does not have a problem with ADD/ADHD. They all agreed that her acting out was due to the sensory issues and internal anger rather than any learning disorder.
Karen is thrilled at her success so far, and really wants to maintain the good behavior. She talks about it a lot, reminding us how well she’s doing. Of course we also give her a ton of positive reinforcement. I have also been spending a lot of time alone with her. We’ve been through similar before, but she’s always eventually reverted back to violence. She says that she often remembers things her therapist has told her, and it reminds her to stop herself before lashing out.
She’s now seeing her therapist twice a week, and Moshe Elbaum once a week. This, in addition to her sports activities 4 times a week. Yes, she’s a very busy little girl, but she doesn’t want to give up on any of it. I allow her to skip sports if she’s tired and doesn’t feel like it, but that rarely happens. She’s very dedicated to success.
We are really grateful that she is doing well in school. I think they have a much bigger incentive to work with her because she’s a good student. Had she been a poor student with behavior problems, they would be a lot less inclined to expend extra resources on her. Her homeroom teacher, to whom Karen has become very attached, has put in a lot of extra work and time to work with Karen. She seems very dedicated to proving that Karen can improve. It’s her first year teaching, and we’re very lucky that she sees this as a challenge rather than a problem. That’s the difference between a real teacher, and someone who is just doing their job.
First I teased. But now I am posting the photos of our first few weeks in Ukraine in January/February of 2007, when we first adopted the big K. The second set of photos was posted last year, here. I only just found this set of negatives during our move. We didn’t have a digital camera with us, so the photos were 35mm.
We spent the first three days in Kiev waiting for an appropriate referral. After spending two full, grueling days sitting side by side trying to look like Time’s parents of the year, we were exhausted, depressed, and DH was completely unable to keep anything down. After the inconvenience, we were lucky to have a great facilitator who drove us all the way from Kiev to Kremenchuk, where K’s baby home was located. It’s about a 4-5 hour drive.
The photos show her evolution from a closed and distrusting little girl with a hard face, to a more open and happy look once she began getting used to us. She’s even more open in the second roll of film, which I posted here.
Edited to add: photo of a caretaker holding Karen. What makes it interesting is to notice that there are toys, a television and a transistor radio in the background. Although broken, the toys are mainly for show. Likely the TV as well. Most likely the radio was used to provide music. We noticed that both Karen and Matan really enjoyed music. In fact, it’s one of the first things that could hold their attention when they each first came home. We think they were both exposed to music, and it was probably one of the main sources of sensory stimulation.
I fully intend to post photos of our new home, but meanwhile, our move turned up a roll of film I’ve been hunting for over two years. When we adopted Karen, we didn’t have a digital camera, so I brought my 35mm Olympus. I took two rolls of film. The first I developed in Ukraine, and the second I developed once we were back in Israel. Last year I posted the photos from the second roll. I looked everywhere, but couldn’t find the negatives from the first roll we developed in Kremenchuk, Ukraine while we were still enduring the extensive legal process of getting Karen released.
Well, here it is, the roll of film. Now I just need to get it to the photo store and have them transfer the photos to digital format on a disc. Then, I promise to post them, along with more adventures from Karen’s adoption.
Great day! We finally met with the school psychologist who decides if Karen is ready for first grade. She got 2 thumbs up both for her cognitive abilities, as well as significantly improved behavior. Her teacher told us that she doesn’t have attention problems, except once she gets bored with something, or has it figured out in her head. Sometimes she doesn’t complete her work if she feels she already “gets it”. We also heard that on Family Day, when children discuss their home life, she proudly told the entire class that she was born in Ukraine and that she didn’t come out of her mother’s tummy. According to the teacher, she shared her family story with confidence and in a positive light. I’m really, really proud of her! The teacher told me how she made a big deal about how Karen was “chosen” by her parents. Nice try, but today, adoption professionals advise against this “chosen” concept because it leads the child to question whether we would still love her and have chosen her is she wasn’t so special, cute, pretty, smart, or whatever. In addition, it isn’t true. Truth is crucial to maintaining trust with children who only began to learn to trust after we adopted them. Our story to the children is that we were looking for our daughter/son, and that there were people who helped us locate them so we could adopt them. Which is all true.
Today Matan had an occupational therapy session combined with a speech therapist. The occupational therapist has great chemistry with Matan. It’s been two weeks since she saw him, and she was really impressed with his significantly improved level of play and speech. The slow increase in Matan’s repertoire of words is no thanks to the speech therapist, and mostly due to work I do with him or stuff he learns from other kids at preschool. I’m trying to get us transferred to a different speech therapist since this one has zero chemistry with Matan. I’m thrilled to hear him say new words almost every day now, but he still seems to lack motivation to speak. The occupational therapist is absolutely wonderful, and has had a great influence on Matan, and on how I play with both children.
We met a tiny little boy who could barely walk 2 steps without tipping over. At 21 months, he weighed in at 8.45 kg/18.6 lbs. and his height was only 75 cm/29.5 inches. Our doctor examined him and found him in good health except for his size and development, which were under the bell curve. We’ve spent the last 12 months feeding him the most nutritious food possible, with meals as frequent as every 2 hours, at times.
I’m happy to update that today he weighs in at 12.5 kg/27.5 lbs and 90 cm/35.4 inches. He is now in at least the 15th percentile on the charts I was given. His developmental delays continue to close the gap as well. He’s now climbing stairs by switching feet, right then left, instead of relying on only one foot to ascend the incline each time. I know, it doesn’t sound like much to non parents, but I, like most, get so excited by the change.
Karen will soon be six, and she’s very tall and muscular. She and I now wear the same sock size….and she’ll be up to my shoe size in no time. I expect to start losing boots shortly…She’s now weighs 25 kg/55 lbs and is 4 feet tall!
I related our first vist with Matan on Dec. 27, 2009, here.
After 10 days in Kiev, we took the overnight train to Lugansk exactly one year ago, on Christmas Eve. Ukrainians celebrate Orthodox Christmas, so nothing was special about this day. In fact, we lost track of time, and I don’t think were even aware that it was actually Christmas Eve. We booked a private bunk and spent the first few hours playing with Karen and getting excited about spending our first night ever on a train. I took a romantic approach, and after going to the samovar lady for tea, sat back and thought of Anna Karenina.
Things started off well enough, but the overheated cabin soon had me go from giggly, to uncomfortable, to raging headache. We finally figured out how to open the window sometime after midnight. I managed a few hours of sleep. Photos are from the first 1-2 hours, when it still seemed like a good idea.
On Christmas Day, we arrived in Lugansk, and went directly to the baby home to meet Matan. Here are his first photos. I originally posted this last year Rakevet Laila L’Lugansk.
Yes, Karen photographed the one of DH and I. She went on to photograph each detail of both apartments we stayed in during our 45 day incarceration.
For Ukraine adoption information, this blog is a treasure trove. But I’m not sure it’s easy to find the information adoptive parents may be seeking here.
Yesterday a visitor spent a good amount of time researching adoption via various searches on this blog. My goal in starting a blog was to provide information, in the form of our personal story, for couples seeking to adopt from Eastern Europe. My original blog, www.ukrmom.wordpress.com covers the time period of the adoption. Of course, you can also read the story by going back to Dec. 2009 on this blog as well. The blog starts here. To make things easier, I’ve been considering creating an ebook out of the wordpress.com blog that can be downloaded and read by anyone who wants to know what it was really like spending 45 days in Ukraine, with Karen, during a very cold winter and never knowing from one day to the next, what new obstacle would rear it’s ugly feet.
The final days in Ukraine felt like a military operation. We had to obtain a passport for Matan during a time when Ukraine had run out of passport covers, and new ones would only be available several months later. Many Ukrainians were stuck abroad and unable to obtain replacement passports during this time as well. Then we had to remove a very tiny and frail Matan from the baby home, get him from southern Ukraine to Kiev, get a visa for him to come to Israel, and then get the hell out of dodge.
I’m very happy to answer questions about international adoption, and our experiences if there are couples out there who are looking for information to help them plan their trip, or who may be stuck in Ukraine and wondering if the “problems” will never end. “Problems” refers to our facilitator, who seemed to have a new administrative problem to relay to us each morning. Please, if you have question, you can contact me directly via the contact form here I will not publish any contact forms without your express approval.