Thursday, May 06, 2010

Two Weeks In...

Tomorrow, we will have been home for two weeks. Alina and I will celebrate by going to the International Adoption Clinic for her comprehensive check-up :). I have spent the past few days writing out all the important details that we have learned about Alina's health history and development in preparation for the appointment. I will also take along her vaccination record and notes from the head doctor at the orphanage where Alina had been living. I will post a re-cap of her appointment here sometime next week.

It is hard to believe that we met Alina less than a month ago. We feel like we have known her forever.

This little girl is so busy and curious. She is such a bundle of love.

She is very sociable and giggles easily. She has had nothing of her own, yet she willingly shares her food and toys. She is a sturdy little girl who craves affection and gives it right back. When she comes in for a hug, she lunges toward you, grinning with her arms wide open. She rarely cries, but when she does, she is easily consoled.

A few details that several people have asked about:

Alina was confused at first by physical affection. We gave her space to start, and when we first began to hug and kiss her, she looked at us like, what is that? and moved slightly away. Within a few days, though, she realized that having people love her felt pretty nice. One day at the orphanage, she scratched her arm and I came right over to ask if she was hurt. She looked up, appearing to be a bit confused by me kissing her arm. She paused, then smiled, then went right over to Chris and lifted her arm to his mouth so he would kiss her boo-boo, too. She's all about the love now. Instead of leaning away, she leans toward us. Loving a child who has been abandoned and hasn't known love, and having them love you back--it feels like Heaven.

Alina is eating, drinking and sleeping well. She seems to like most everything we have fed her, except Brussels sprouts (not a surprise) and mashed potatoes (a surprise). She does prefer food and drinks to be warm (everything was warmed in the orphanage), but she won't refuse items that are cold. She is drinking apple juice, water and rice milk from a sippy cup. (She can drink from an open cup, but needs supervision because she tends to play in it, or pour some of it if left unattended. She wasn't given milk in the orphanage, as far as we know, so we are introducing dairy slowly.) She naps once a day, for about two hours, and sleeps soundly from about 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Alina doesn't love diaper wipes. Scratch that. She loves diaper wipes, just not when we are wiping her bottom with them :). We don't know what they used in the orphanage (maybe a warm cloth?).

She doesn't mind baths, although we assume she had never had one until she got here. She really likes to splash the water, so her baths are quick :). We also assume she did not have any sort of dental care in the orphanage. She cleans her teeth with her tongue when she lays down to sleep at night. It is sweet and sad. She has let me brush her teeth right from the start, which is crazy. I have no idea why it doesn't bother her. Her gums bled a little at first, even though I was super careful. They are not bleeding anymore. And yes, the pediatric dentist is on our list of visits to make soon.

Alina doesn't watch t.v. (although she likes the remote and knows exactly how to use it--they had a t.v. in her groupa's room), but she does seem to like one show: American Idol. It's true. I have no idea why Dora the Explorer does not hold her attention, but American Idol does. (Dang, I wish I had the whole season recorded!)

The staff at the orphanage was able to tell us two things about Alina (in English): Alina clever.... and Alina messy. Holy cow, were they ever right on both accounts :).

Alina is doing so well developmentally. She is very sharp and able. Her spoken language is her largest delay as far as we can tell, although she is making lots of sounds (like Boo, Woo, Oof, Ha Ha, Huh!), and she has started to say some words in English, too, like HI! and more ("muh"), which she has also learned to sign. Alina understands much of what we say to her in English and is fairly compliant :). She loves to hear Russian words--she smiles when she hears them--and will do everything we ask of her in Russian. She's lucky our Russian-language skills are limited ;).

Bridget and Alina spent about a week sizing each other up :). Bridget realized quickly that Alina tends to stumble and will squash her when she falls, so Bridget would gladly wave and smile at Alina, but kept a safe distance from her "little" sister. For the first week or so, I would say that the girls tolerated one another and were amused by each other. They both seem to know that the other one isn't going anywhere, and they seem to be happy with that :).

They are really beginning to enjoy each other. They will wave to each other and smile. They like to hold hands, or touch their index fingers together. They "share" food items and cups (which is lovely, in truth as well as in sarcasm). Bridget tries to help Alina by making sure we are aware of her apparent needs and status on a moment-to-moment basis.

Bridget calls Alina sissy and nuh-nuh, but it is usually uh-nuh-nuh. Things I hear often: uh-nuh-nuh...mess; uh-nuh-nuh...cup; uh-nuh-nuh cryin'; uh-nuh-nuh, cracker.

There have been some very funny moments already with the two of them. On the way home from dance class last night, Alina and Bridget were in their carseats, both double fist-pumping to AC/DC "You Shook Me All Night Long". It was classic.

Bridget and Alina are very similar in some ways: they both like dolls and books and food and being around people. Despite very different body types, they are also almost exactly the same height and weight and wear the same size shoe.

Our three-year-olds are also polar opposites in some ways. Bridget tends to be very dainty and gentle. When she falls or drops something she says Oopsie in a sweet little voice. Alina is a bit of a bull in a china closet. She is not the most gentle creature, but then again--neither am I :). When she falls or drops something, she says OOF! It is hilarious.

Bridget likes to be clean and gets grossed-out easily (she is often heard saying Ewww! for one reason or another). Alina is a disaster half the time. Bridget keeps a napkin beside her yogurt in the morning and wipes her mouth throughout. She isn't always clean, but she tries.

Alina, on the other hand, eats her yogurt with wild abandon--just how she does most other things :). She has it everywhere from her eyebrows to her elbows.

Yesterday, Bridget looked over at Alina (right when I took the above picture) and whispered, mess. Yep, she's a mess alright :). A beautiful, busy mess, who we are lucky enough to call our own.


  1. oh man, i'm crying. i have no idea why. maybe it's the feeling of happiness or maybe it's relief or maybe it's because my hearts about to explode with love! lisa, you are awesome.

  2. Oh Lisa...I have chills and tears and I am so amazed at this wonderful bundle of love...and your family!

    You guys are amazing!

  3. Oh Lis, this cracked me up and gave me goose bumps and brought tears to my eyes all at the same time! I'm so happy to hear that God's plan is always perfect and He is an excellent match-maker. Who knew that by happen chance this little love would steal hearts all the way across the other side of the world?!?! What a perfect family God placed her in. I'm so happy for you all.


  4. I'm so thrilled that everything is going so well! As for the cold diaper wipes hitting Alina's warm little bottom, might I suggest an inexpensive wipes warmer like this one I found on eBay:
    This type worked well for us!

    As for her affinity for American Idol, I believe that music is an international language. If she likes that, try all the shows with tons of music like Imagination Movers (on Disney) and the Fresh Beat Band (on NICK) :o)

    I also have to suggest the Your Baby Can Read DVD set - we got ours pretty cheap on eBay. It will not only teach them to read certain words, but will teach Alina the English words for a lot of things.

    Does it work? Here is a YouTube video of my daughter at age 3 years 3 months, reading. She now reads over 250 words :o)

    Of course these are just silly suggestions of things we have used or tried in the past. I'm not trying to peddle anything, and goodness knows Alina will get used to cold wipes sooner or later - LOL!
    Again - I'm so very happy for you and Alina!!

  5. I just want to say that your two girls are beyond gorgeous..I have really enjoyed following your story, and enjoy it even now more, with the happy non-ending.
    Thanks for letting us all witness your triumph! I look forward to reading more and seeing more pictures!

  6. This is SO great to read... love to hear that Alina has transitioned well and so has Bridget! They are awesome!

  7. You have done such a great job assimilating Alina into your home and family. She has a wonderful Mama who is patient and knows a lot about looking for clues as to what will help her be successful. Good job my friend!

    I cracked up at the differences between dainty Bridget and bulldog Alina. I LOVE it! They are going to be so much fun as they get closer and more comfortable with each other--more than they are already that is! :)

    Hope the appointment goes well tomorrow. How fortunate that you have that clinic so nearby!


  8. Thanks, friends :).

    I might break down and get a diaper wipes warmer for Alina. She deserves it :)!

    Bridget has always LOVED Hi-5 on Discovery Kids, probably because of the music. We thought that was a good bet for Alina. She seems to be more interested in that than any of the other kids shows (we did try Fresh Beat Band with her, too), but that isn't saying much. The strange thing is that her reaction to music is almost like she's never heard it before...she seems sort of confused. She can hear very well, or at least she picks up quiet sounds with ease. Maybe her hearing is not clear? Or maybe she has not really been exposed to music. Is that possible?

    She was very confused when I sang to her in the orphanage and right after we got home. We have one CD of Ukrainian language lullabies that seems to soothe her, but otherwise she hasn't shown much interest...except for last night when she saw Sara and Bridget rocking out the AD/DC song in the car. They were having so much fun that she decided to join in :)!

    I think it will be interesting to see if Alina becomes more aware of music and begins to enjoy it.

    I am going to check into the Your Baby Can Read program. Bridget is three, and is working with a woman for supplemental learning. She has a "word ring" of words that she is beginning to read as well. I think they would both benefit from continued focus on words, written and spoken :).

  9. So sweet! I love the last photo of Alina!

  10. You have made me cry reading your special post on your lovely children. The part where you talked about the girls holding hands and touching fingers-it just felt as though these two sister have always been connected. Always.

    Blessings to you and your husband. and a VERY special Happy Mother's Day wish coming from our gang to yours.

  11. I loved reading this update! The girls are just precious. Like Alina, Lucas is SO messy! He cleans up only when I request it (repeatedly) or chase him with a napkin.

    Your family is amazing and a great source of inspiration. It's fun to be a part of your journey.


  12. Lisa, so happy Alina's settling into her new family & showing so much of her lively personality already! You are all so blessed to be part of such a loving family.

    The orphanage may have just used cloth wipes with oil or warm water, which is actually common here in Europe. Wipes are gaining popularity among parents, but hospitals & other institutions seem to prefer sticking with the less expensive cloth option.

    We first noticed the nurses using cloth and pure almond oil on our daughter's bottom in the NICU. When we asked about it, they said they avoided any kind of wipes or soaps on the babies there to protect their sensitive skin. By the time we got home, we were so used to the cloth wipe and oil routine that we kept it up - & our little one is the first of our 4 kids never to develop diaper rash. Thank goodness for those clever NICU nurses! :-)

  13. I am in tears! I really can't believe how quickly Alina has adapted. I think it is so great that she is already "at home". What a beautiful life! :)

  14. what an awesome update!

    wipes are just now gaining popularity here in saudi too. most women clean their babies with water and dry with a towel. it's interesting the differences we find in cultures throughout the world.

    btw, when bridget calls alina "uh-nuh-nuh" is that her trying to sound out her name (a-li-na)? same amt of syllables. :)

  15. Yes, uh-nuh-nuh is "A-li-na" :).

    The cultural differences are fascinating. We can always learn things from each other!

    We have had two babies in the NICU here in the States, and the nurses there use a cloth, not wipes, on the babies as well. It is much more soothing, I am sure...and more cost effective!

  16. I have so much to say! LOL! Nika never fought me brushing her teeth either ... and her gums bled too at first. She wasn't much on affection/touch either, well ... she was cuddly, but it took awhile for us to get a good full belly laugh out of her ... it was like she didn't want to let it all out. I want to meet Alina! Are ya'll going to Orlando in July?

  17. Alina sounds so much like our Tatiana - a lovable, wild, crazy mess!!! It also looks like Alina is an absolute perfect fit for your family and is thriving in your home. Hope your transition continues to go well...and I can totally relate to your mid day exhaustion - somedays I look at the clock expecting it to be mid afternoon, only to find it's 10 am!!! ;)