Another week has gone by and we are continuing to make baby steps every day. Some days those steps go forward, and some days they go backwards. The good news is that there seems to be more forward steps than backward steps. Dasha is opening up more and more to us every day. She continues to amaze with her command of the English language already. She really seems to understand almost every thing we say, though I am sure much is lost in translation. This makes it especially difficult when we are trying to say things to comfort her at night when she is most scared and anxious. Nights continue to be very tough for her (and us, as we are not sleeping much these days). I try to keep reminding myself that at the three week point with all of my other children, I was totally sleep-deprived too. Actually, I don't remember ever sleeping much for at least the first six weeks with the other three kids, so I really shouldn't expect this to be much different. This will just take time. All we can do is continue to comfort her and reassure her that she is very safe here. We have developed a pretty elaborate bedtime routine for both Dasha and Jacob that we try to follow to a tee each night. There is comfort in routine. Some nights it works, and some nights not so much, but we will remain consistent.
My "velcro kid", as I sometimes refer to Dasha, is getting a little more courage to venture from my side each day. I have now been able to be out of the house 3 times, once with Jeff home and twice with my mom here. There is definitely anxiety as I leave the house (for her and for me), and actually now she feels comfortable enough with her family to be able to express her displeasure with the situation in a tantrum. Believe it or not, tantrums are a positive first step. She has to trust us enough to show her emotion in order to have a tantrum. Though she is chronologically older, emotionally Dasha is pretty close to the age that she was when she was left at the orphanage, around 2 or 3. Unfortunately for us, we can't treat the tantrums the way we did for the other kids. We can't just have her tantrum it out in her room alone until she is ready to be calm. She has never learned to do that on her own, so for now, we have to stay with her so that she doesn't hurt herself or break something. She has never learned to go to a parent for comfort when she is hurt or mad, so we have to hold her during these times and give praise as soon as she is finished and in control. I have learned to pick up on the clues that a tantrum is just about to start, and have started to just pick her up right then and tell her that I love her - tantrum averted most times!
Enough of the difficult stuff - though we have really rough parts of each day, most of the day is spent with great stuff. Dasha is developing her English vocabulary, and can be heard throughout the house all day long singing, talking and laughing. She is developing a great self esteem, and about 100 times a day I hear "Mommy look me!". She loves to show me whatever she is doing and get praise. This, too, is a very positive step. She is no longer afraid of the dogs, and runs to let them in each morning and evening when they get fed. She has a tiara that came with a cute nightgown that she wears each and every day. She doesn't feel completely dressed until she has her clip in her hair, her pretend silver earrings, her silver-glitter high heeled sandals, and of course, the tiara. We are quite sight in the grocery store. She eats pretty much constantly, and her palate changes about every three days. She is off the fruit hording phase, but still eats at least two tangerines a day and one apple. Now her favorite staple foods are hot dogs and pancakes. I stopped trying to keep up with homemade pancakes and happily go to the store every other day to stock up on frozen ones.
She is also getting pretty good at telling time. I have been working with her with a paper plate and construction paper clock that we move to different times of the day to talk about what happens at different hours. She knows that at 7:45 we take Amber and Mitchell to school, followed by Jacob to preschool. She knows that we get back in the car at 11:40 to pick up Jacob, and she knows that the front door will open at 2:20 and Amber and Mitchell will walk in after school. A few times this week, she came running to me to say "Mommy, 7 now, when 8 then go get Jacob" - translation, the big hand is on the 7, so in five minutes when the big hand is on the 8 (11:40) it will be time to go get Jacob. She does the same thing before Amber and Mitchell get home. Predictability and knowing what is going to happen and at what time has really helped with her fear and anxiety. I have been working on this pretty diligently because tomorrow I have to go back to work part time. I know that this is going to be immensely difficult for her. She will have to experience my going and, most importantly, coming back many, many times before she will start letting herself believe that I am not going to go away for good. This morning I gave her one of my watches, and then we sat down at the table and did a small chart for her. I put clocks in chronological order of the day, starting with the time that Dasha wakes up, including times for breakfast, Mommy going to work, taking kids to school, playing with kids after school, and Mommy coming home. We did a picture of what the clock will look like at each time, and a picture for each activity. She has been reassured over and over that Babushka Granny will stay with her until Mommy comes home. She took the paper with our chart, and we went over it many times. She pointed to each time in order and told me what would happen at each of the events. Then I worked with her a little bit on learning to take deep breaths when she gets scared, mad, and anxious - I am a psych nurse, so I figure I can at least teach her a few techniques for dealing with her feelings. She seemed comfortable with this, and carefully folded the chart and put it in her front pocket. We'll see how it goes tomorrow.
Dasha also had extensive dental work on Friday. This little girly has had more dental work already than any adult I know. I think we mentioned that we found out that most of her baby teeth had already been pulled. Unfortunately, three more teeth were so badly infected that they had to be pulled, too. She also got a cool silver crown on another tooth. We were able to have the work done in the dentist's office with an anesthesiologist. Lucky for Dasha, she doesn't remember a thing. The anesthesiologist was awesome. He came out to the waiting room to talk to us, and then had Dasha show him how big her muscles were and grip his hands. He used this opportunity to slyly check her veins. Then her had her turn to me and give me a huge hug. She never even felt the small needle that he used to inject her with an anesthetic right there in the waiting room. She was sound asleep within 3 minutes - a site that is easy to watch as a nurse on other patients, but terribly unnerving to watch happen to your child. The anesthesiologist then carried her into the procedure room and had us come back to stay with her, even though she was out. He waited until then to start the IV. The whole process took about an hour, and just before they stopped the anesthesia, they had us come back in the room and placed her on my lap. She woke up on my lap never knowing what happened, and most importantly NOT in pain. That evening she was still a little groggy, so it was a tough night, but she was so cute when whe would go into the bathroom and open her mouth up wide to look in. When she saw the silver crown for the first time, she said "ohhhhh" and showed me. I told her she had a new princess tooth, and she got a huge grin. Turns out her tooth matches her tiara and earrings - good thing! This should be the end of big time dental work for the time being. Now we wait about 6 months for her adult molars to start coming in so she has some teeth in the back of her mouth to chew with. Good thing she likes soft foods - she won't be eating steak any time soon.
We are so fortunate that the issues we are dealing with are really not that big of a deal. Of course, at 2:00 am each night, it feels like our world has exploded and Jeff and I have tried to just put our worries and fears on God, instead of taking them on ourselves. Many children adopted out of orphanages have such severe difficulties attaching to their parents. That is not the case here. Dasha tells us regularly that she is in our family. She gives us hugs and kisses, and loves to draw pictures of her whole family together. Those pictures inevitably have her sweet writing on them with the labels of her family: Mama, Papa, Dasha, Amber, Mitchell, Jacob - all written in Russian. Then she adds a line at the bottom that says "Semye harosho", which means "my family is good".