Saturday, July 10, 2010

Six Months Home

It is hard to believe, but Nina has been with us for six months already. Six months...that is half a year. It is even longer than the time she was inside her biological mother. If feels like she has been with us for a while, yet, our Ukrainian adventure feels like it just happened yesterday. Even now as Andy and I recall all that took place during those seven weeks that our family was separated, we find ourselves being able to feel the raw emotions that we talk about.

It seems like our girls are adjusted to being sisters. Some days more than others. The sibling rivalry increases as Nina is able to communicate better, as well as the sweet moments of play and interaction between the three girls. And every night the girls give each other hugs and kisses.

Nina is doing incredibly well with her language acquisition. She does have dysarthria, which makes it hard to understand her at times. Mostly, Andy, Ellie, Nichole and I understand what she is saying, while others find it a bit more difficult. The crazy thing is that even people that have known us for a while seem to think twice about which little girl with special needs in our family was adopted. I suppose Nina really does look like a Stumbo, while Nichole has the Down syndrome characteristics that might throw people off at first. However, Nichole looks a lot like me. The resemblance has led me to the conclusion that by looking at Nichole I know exactly what I would look like if I had Down syndrome. A conclusion that makes Andy laugh at me while patting my back. I am still trying to decide what that means.

Nina's physical abilities are pretty much the same. We do feel confident that she will walk someday, but this might take a couple of years. Botox has been phenomenal for her braces, and her heels do come closer to the ground. However, braces or no braces, she is used to walking on her toes and we feel like we are hitting the wall when it comes to seeing real progress.

With Nina's increases language and communication, we have seen an increase of tantrums. She also likes to talk back and whines...just to get attention. This is clearly a behavior that worked for her at the orphanage, and we are trying to break it.

On the other hand, it seems like her tantrums are back to those I saw when I first got Nina. Shaking her body, scratching her face, and banging her head against the floor (very disturbing institutionalized behavior.) As she is able to communicate more, we have wondered if she is frustrated that what worked at the orphanage to get her way is not working here, and this is her way to show it.

A while back I blogged about author Jolene Philo and her book "A Different Dream for My Child." In her book she mentions post traumatic stress disorder in children. I have had the privilege to meet Jolene and talk to her about Nina. I do think that Nina exemplifies behavior that is consistent with post traumatic stress.

On a positive note, Nina seems to be gaining weight. Hooray! She has put on 2 pounds. She is also a very sweet little girl and she is always wanting to help and be a "big girl." She often tells us that she loves us and blows kisses to us from afar. And since sweet does not seem enough to describe her, I think I will tell you she is like "candy."

Nina's favorite color is yellow and she has started to play imagination games. Yes friends, she has finally reached this stage of development making her sisters quite happy. And Ellie finally has a playmate to entice with Barbies and Polly Pockets. Nichole is more into the relational games and she likes to play doctor or mommy; games that are played by all three girls. I love it!

Nina is almost potty trained. She wear underwear all day and we use pull ups at night and during nap time. We also recently got the Potty Stool and she is able to get on the toilet on her own. And although she still needs help, it is amazing what a sense of independence and accomplishment this has given her. What is great, is that this has been a great little stool for Nichole too and Nichole has even had a few success moments that are greatly rewarded by giving her toilet paper. Oh the joys of being able to wipe yourself...ahem...actually, with Nichole the joy is to drop the toilet paper in the toilet bowl, there is now wiping involved in the process.

As for Ellie, she continues to craft away and be the greatest big sister. She is so helpful. And now that she loves headbands, she can even do her own hair! It makes life easier for me, but she is especially proud of herself for doing so much on her own. And just for the record, she wants to be an artist ballerina when she grows up.

And here is Nina showing you her greatest accomplishment, standing on her own against the couch.

And here she is showing you the haircut she gave herself.


  1. Oh, oh, oh!!! That picture of Nina standing just brought tears to my eyes!!!! She looks so proud of herself! I can see why you say she's like candy. Sweetness in human form.

  2. Ellen,

    Nina looks so happy and proud to be standing. What a lovely little girl. Thanks for the mention in this post and for getting the word out about PTSD and my book. Half the struggle is figuring out what's causing her erratic behavior, and you've already done that. Now the challenge is locating treatment - but you know what to do, and with God's help will find what she needs!


  3. What a lovely post! And I loved the pics of Nina standing against the couch! She stands just like my Ben.

    And thank you so much for mentioning the Potty Stool! I had never heard of that and I think it'll be perfect for my Ben! And maybe just the thing to motivate him to use the potty.

  4. Wow, looks like Nina is making some wonderful progress! She sure has come a long way in 6 months!! The pictures of her standing are just......PRICELESS!!!
    Seems like you all found your "normal"!! Isn't that the best feeling?!

    I had to laugh at your thoughts of what you would look like if you had Ds.......every time our family goes out and someone says that Landon looks like me, (to break the ice) my husband will jokingly say, "Yeah, my wife kind of looks like she has Ds too"!! Well, we do have to have a sense of humor too!!!

  5. Love the Potty Stool! I think we will be getting one too! The ladies at the orphanage commented on how much Nina had changed in the pictures you sent but I really see it in this one. She truly looks like a different child!

  6. Visiting your blog for the first time. Enjoyed it so much and will be back.

    Wanted to let you know that I was so touched by you article in the March/April 2010 MomSense magazine. Took me a while to get here to tell you, but just had to let you know what a blessing it was to me. It challenged me as I was soon expecting my second child. So thankful for God's unconditional love for me and that His love can flow through me to my matter what!

    As I shared some thoughts from your article at one of our MOPS meetings, another gal said she thought you were also from Iowa. Our group meets over in Saratoga, IA. :) What a small world!

    So glad to see that God is blessing your faithfulness! You have a beautiful family! Keep sharing your heart, you are a being used by God to bless others!


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