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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Update on Kristina

Before I update everyone, I thought I would explain the names of our children.

Keith Nikita: Keith is my Grandpa's name, Nikita is our son's given name - so we decided to keep Nikita as his middle name and call him Keith. I really like the name, don't you?

Kristina Louise: We wanted to do "K & K" with our kids. We originally wanted to name our daughter "Katya" but that was when we were going to adopt Nikita's twin sister, Nastya. We grew attached to the name, Katya, and associated that name with the picture of Nastya - and when she was adopted by someone else, it didn't feel right to name Irina "Katya". We looked up several russian names for girls and when we saw "Kristina" - it just fit. My mom's name is Kris and Tyler's Grandma's name is Christine - Kristina was a happy fit and it even sounds like Irina. Kristina is already calling herself by the name Kristina! Louise is my Grandma's middle name, and we had planned to name the children after my grandparents - they are very dear people to me and I'm happy to name our children after them.

As for how Kristina is doing - she is one spunky girl. She has an incredible amount of energy! She has already learned 4 signs ("more", "thank you", "drink" and "play") - she's very smart! She gave her papa and mama a kiss yesterday - first time since we've met her. She can be very affectionate and give long hugs and smiles almost non-stop with her pretty smile.

She is still hitting, though, and pulling hair. I'm trying to prepare myself for dealing with this behavior when returning home. I am hoping that all the stories I have heard will be true in that once the child leaves the orphanage - she becomes a different person - not a product of orphanage behavior, but her own person with her own personality. We took her out yesterday to get her passport picture taken. I was mortified when she hit the photographer on the face. *sigh* Apparantly the idea of her behaving differently outside the orphanage isn't working - at least not yet. Then we took her to a child's clothing store. Once we take her from the orphanage - they literally strip her down and you have to have clothes for her to wear when you leave. So we bought her 2 shirts, 2 pairs of jeans, 3 pairs of underwear, 1 pair of shoes, 1 coat, 1 pair of gloves and 1 scarf, all for $80 US dollars...I am missing my thrift stores here, people!!! More than anything, I was ready to get out of that store. Kristina was overstimulated and pulled my hair - which infuriated me, since she had just slapped the photographer's face 5 minutes beforehand. This behavior certainly tests my patience!

One comforting thing is that we met her "group" yesterday and all 6 of the kids were hitting and pulling each other's hair. A-ha! It's a group thing. Hopefully once she isn't around these other children, it will stop. When we go visit her, we spend time by putting her on one of our laps and we help her rub our hair and face gently, while saying the word "nice". If she rubs them both nicely, she gets a small piece of an animal cracker - which thrills her to no end. However, if she pulls on our hair or slaps our face (which she does occassionally), we say "No", slap her hand and put the crackers away. We were trying time-outs initially - but she thought it was a game and would slap us and pull our hair so we could hold her in time-out. I am not an advocate of spanking/slapping children. HOWEVER, I am pleased to say that this is working and she is responding much more quickly now. Of course, when we send her back to her "group", she returns to the old behavior. But, once she is home with us, I feel optimistic that this behavior should change and that she will learn to control her actions differently.

Kristina LOVES music. She likes to listen to me play the piano and sing. Her group caretaker asked me to sing for her group. I brought some primary songs for children and sang "Whenever I hear the song of a bird" for the kids. I was pleased that Kristina sat still the entire song and was smiling at her Mama. I hope I have another songbird for a daughter, like Anna. :o)

I am really missing the US now. The days can be somewhat dull and repetitious: I get up, shower, go to the orphanage, come back to the hotel, try to fill the time, eat lunch, go back to the orphanage, go shopping at the market, eat dinner, go back to the hotel, etc. Don't get me wrong - I love spending time with our children, but: I'm ready to be BACK HOME with my kids & I'm only about half-way through this trip! Tyler will be heading back to the US in one week. If only we had enough money - I would go with him and then come back with my in-laws. I miss my daughter, Anna, a lot. We talked with her a couple of days ago and she's doing well...but misses us.

Health-wise, I'm doing much better. Thank you all for your prayers!


Leah said...

Wow! You're getting so close! As for the hitting and pulling hair stuff, here's my thoughts. Keep in mind I've never adopted a child, but I DO have a child with Down Syndrome who has EXTREME behavioral issues and used to be a hair puller/slapper type of kid. What ALL of our behavioral specialists have told us is if you have a child who slaps or pulls hair on a regular basis, slapping back (even a tap on the hand) is not going to teach them that slapping isn't ok. Also, how you word things is important. With a child who may have language delays, or differences in comprehension, the last words she hears are what she's going to focus on. If you say, "No hitting!" in the heat of the moment all she's going to hear is the hitting. We learned from behavior specialists to first say her name to get her attention so there's no question who we're talking to, then turn it around. So at our house it would sound like, "Angela, hitting is NO!" That way we got her attention first, the operative word was the last thing she heard, and there were no extra words to confuse her. As for the behavior, what she's doing is attention seeking behavior, so you want to give her ZERO attention for it. Even eye contact is attention. Lets say she's sitting on your lap when she slaps or pulls hair. Remove all eye contact, all emotion, and set her on the floor AWAY from you with a firm, "Kristina, hitting is NO!" If she wasn't an orphanage child, I would say to do what the rest of the plan is, which is to walk away and give her ZERO attention (remembering that even eye contact is attention) for two minutes. But I don't know if that would affect attachment issues that she may have or you're trying to establish. She's learned from her groupa that this is the way to interact, so I wouldn't let it get you too upset. To her this is normal. That doesn't make it any easier to deal with though! I hope these suggestions help you. It has to be hard given the circumstances when she's yours but not yours all at the same time, and you feel like you're being watched, while at the same time remembering that given she's an orphanage child makes her not typical in all ways. (and I can't remember if she has developmental issues. Sounds like she just has a really high activity level and will take some time to learn impulse control.)
All that said, I'm having a great time reading your blog. I'm glad that God gave you this opportunity.

glittersmama said...

My comment was going to be that trying to teach a child not to hit by hitting them could be confusing for them, but leah already covered that.

Congratulations on finally getting your kids!

Pamela said...

I really enjoy reading your blog and following your journey. Hang in there with the behavioral concerns. It's like your in a fishbowl right now with everyone watching and you can't really work on the behaviors like you will at home since she goes back to "group" and they're reinforced. But, what is a few more weeks compared to eternity? Think of it that way. :) It will eventually pass and you will be home in no time and bonding as a new family. She sounds so smart and will catch on to the appropriate behavior once she's home! Soon you will be singing around the piano with your 2 daughters and I can just see Keith's precious smile looking up at you as he hears the beautiful music. God bless you as you wait to bring them home and may you have many opportunities to be a witness for Him.

MamaPoRuski said...

Again,it is difficult to parent the child at the orphange and can only use positive reinforcement and redirection. I had the need to slap my son's hand only once while in Ukraine and living in an apartment waiting for his passport for over three weeks. (It was gently but firmly of course)It was a willful defiance when he picked up his breakfast and smeared the plate's contents on the wall (he was almost 7). He and I had been living alone and his behavior was out of control. I tried every parenting trick and then some before I resorted to this, and you know, things improved dramatically after that. He still pushed buttons, but he understood there were limits. Once we were home these behaviors disappeared except the spitting on his siblings. Hang in there, this will improve with love and consistency!

Tami said...

You're going to get a lot of different opinions on the hand-slapping question. After adopting four children internationally, I can tell you my opinion is training your children as you would a biological child is the best way to go. I have used hand slapping, when appropriate - when they are trying to do something dangerous or direct disobedience. Other tactics can work as well. Use whatever you are most comfortable with, but I would encourage you to be as consistent as possible. THAT is the most important thing.

Charissa said...

Oh Jill. I remember how awful I felt being away from my kids for so long. Everything negative was magnified times 10, just because I wanted us to all be together so badly. Hang in there, I believe you'll see a big difference when you get her home. Just look how smart she is! She'll catch on....

Jeri said...

As a mom whose son has had extreme behavior issues and who slapped me while in the orphanage, I'm going to say this:

Seeing her groupa slap and pull hair should be a concern. It tells me that the caregivers there have used that method, a lot. Alex slapped me in the face and then laughed. I immediately walked him back to his groupa and pantomimed for his caregiver and I don't know what she said to him but he was sobbing. (Now that I know what I know, probably she was telling him we would not adopt him and then she would beat him!)
My strong suggestion to you is that you heed what Leah said, make everything verbal and with strong eye contact. I also strongly recommend that once home, try to find a play therapist for your daughter. Play is the language of children and I do believe if we had gotten Alex into play therapy at four years old instead of ten that our family would not be dealing with such issues as we are now, almost eight years later. I say this not to alarm you but to share information that can change the outlook. Sorry, I wish our experience had been all sweetness and light but an informed parent is an armed parent in my book. If you have any questions:

and Alex is our fourth child, but only son.

adopting2fromUkraine said...

When she hurts you, say 'boh-la' that means hurt. She may not realize that it hurts you since it happens to her all the time. Even though she's 4, she is emotionally much younger. Hopefully, since she seems so quick to learn, she will realize she's hurting her mama and will want to stop.


Diana said...

Oh, Jill...where to even start?? I've so been where you are. My heart aches for you as I remember well the frightening agony of trying to work through stuff, knowing this was the right thing to do, but wondering if I was going to be up to the challenge and what I was really going to be in for once I got these kids home. I hope you were able to find some Sabbath respite today!

Infuriating, scary and frustrating as these behaviors are, hitting, hair pulling, etc are all typical fear/stress responses of hurt children. Although Kristina may indeed look happy and calm, she is very likely terrified out of her brains and really has no idea what is about to happen to her. You're also still, relatively speaking, strangers to her.

She may indeed heal on her own after she comes home, or she may not. She may need some professional help. It all just depends on so many different things...some of which you'll never know about, and many of which you can't judge for certain until after you've been home for awhile.

While my kids are light years away from where they were when we first adopted them, the healing process has not been easy or fast or cheap and it has definately changed our entire family. But, my kids are healing and they are working hard at it. In the process of them healing, I've had to learn completely re-learn how to be a parent, I'm still learning patience even 15 months later, and most importantly, I've learned that my kids are teaching me how to "be the kind of person I know I'd like to be if I could see the Savior standing nigh watching over me."

I've also learned in some very powerful ways that the Lord has reasons for my kids to be adopted and to heal. As such, He has not left us alone. Sometimes the whole picture still looks scary, but as we trust in the Lord, I am amazed at the miracles He as provided - including the means to help them heal.

What I can recommmend for you in the short run, though, is to do some research (new research now that you've met your kids) on the common adoption issues, especially PTSD and Attachment. I posted a high-level overview of the big issues on my blog a few days ago. You may have to copy and paste the URL, but you can find that post here:

You are also welcome to email me offline any time you want - either for support or questions or just to chat with someone who TOTALLY gets what you're going through. I don't like publicly posting my address for spam reasons, but there is a link to it on the sidebar of my blog (and a link to my blog in my profile.) We're not only dealing with PTSD and RAD, but one of my sons also has CP as well.

I'm praying you'll be blessed with wisdom and peace as you proceed with the adoption...and after you come home.

Queen Mother said...

Kristina is an awesome name ;)

shannon said...

Hey Jill---How wonderful that you will have people to fly home with you and the kids. I was wondering how you were going to do it alone since the flight is so crazy long!

I know that my kids have all gone through the hitting phaze. The best thing I ever did was to give them a warning, stick to my guns and follow through on the warning whenever they broke the rules. We put them in time out, since we feel like it's confusing to tell kids not to hit and then do it to them. I'm not perfect and didn't always do it with patience, but after the time out we talk to them and say, "Mommy is for loving". They say sorry when prompted and we hope for a good result. Sometimes I'd get slapped again as soon as they said sorry. The less I reacted, the less fun it became for them. Consistency is key.

I feel so sad for those kids, cause their not born with that kind of behavior! Thank goodness Kristina will be outta there and into your loving home soon! Just have faith---it'll be a huge adjustment and that's sure to take time!