Tuesday, October 13, 2015

HOME - Teeth

Teeth.  Chompers.  Pearly whites.  We take them for granted.  When they are solid and strong, we can bite, chew, talk.  When they are brittle and brown/black and broken or worn away, it causes pain, difficulty eating, infections.  Gianna has had quite a journey with her teeth.  When she was found, she had very poor dentition.  When we met her, she had a few adult teeth poking through.  Since we've known her, she's grown two nice healthy front teeth and a few molars are coming in nicely.  I'm going to be perfectly honest - up until 5 months ago - I'm not sure how she chewed.  Her mouth was always crusted with yellow on the edges - signs of the infections dwelling within.  I have decided not to post pictures of her teeth before revision for her sake.  We love everything about Gianna, and we love her just as she is.  Even when we first met her and her teeth were at their worst - we loved her beautiful smile and knew it was just part of her and how she looked.  We got used to them so quickly and much of the time didn't even give them a thought.  But we also talked to her about it and used a line from the book "Corduroy".  "We love you just as you are.  But you'll probably be more comfortable with strong healthy teeth."  It was apparent from the start that they caused her pain and difficulty eating - even though when we would ask if her teeth hurt she would say "no".  She seemed self-conscious about them and we tried hard to present an air of gentle acceptance.  She was very proud of the few white teeth she had on the bottom, and the two on top that were growing in quickly.

The first dental visit was scary, but Gianna did great and made faces for the dentist so that she could see all her teeth.  As promised, she collected some treasured dolls with every visit.

She had 12 rotten baby teeth that needed removed, and four 6-year molars that had come in in the orphanage and needed filled.

The first tooth fell out in the playground.  The second day of school, she fell and landed directly on her mouth.  Sure enough, on the way home in the van she pulled out one of her baby teeth.  On the top on the right side, it came out root and all.  Under the pillow it went and the next day she got a necklace!  She was very excited about that.

The next 3 teeth came out a week before her surgery.  They treated her for 3 abscesses the first visit, and then it was almost 3 months until her surgery.  I suspected that the abscesses would either come back, or she would need to be treated prophylactically.  I was ready to call about this issue before her surgery, but sure enough 2 1/2 weeks before her surgery she started complaining about a painful tooth.  I looked in there and even though I have limited knowledge, I was pretty sure it was an abscess.  The dentist office got her in the next day.  Not surprising, there were three more abscesses.
They pulled three teeth in the office that day.  She got to take them home in a little box.

The next tooth was pulled out by Gianna again.  One of the rotten front baby teeth was being pushed up in front of the growing adult tooth.  It was broken and sharp.  This probably was terribly uncomfortable scraping on her lip all the time.  She pulled at that thing quite a lot - she was determined to remove it.  Eventually she was successful!  Another visit from the tooth fairy!  She was coming to our house a lot there for a while!

Now there were only 7 teeth left to remove in surgery.  The surgery day came and Gianna did great!  The dentist doing the surgery removed 8 teeth (my math didn't work out, not sure where the 8th one was hiding) and filled the four molars.  Finally all her baby teeth were gone.  Her smile looked different immediately, and then the difference was even more profound when the swelling went down.  All of a sudden, she was left with an adorable gap-toothed but healthy set of teeth!  Four molars are all coming in quite quickly, so soon she will have biting AND chewing power!  And we are excited that she can be finally free from all that pain and difficulty eating.  Thank you God for talented and dedicated dentists!  They were all wonderful at Canton Pediatric Dental and at Akron Children's Hospital.  Thank you!
surgery day, recovering and eating a popsicle

ready to go home, still dazed and tired

eating more soup and pudding than I though was humanly possible

Thursday, September 17, 2015

HOME - School

Gianna has been in school for a month!  What a journey it's been!  She is doing REMARKABLE as per usual, and I'm able to relax a bit and reflect.  I praise God for the choices we made - I'm optimistic about them.  I can't say enough about our school district - they have been amazing.  That first meeting - I didn't know what to expect.  I basically went to tell them a bit about her background, my concerns about her social anxiety, and ask their advice.  I was ready to fight for special services and did not need to.  They were happy to accommodate my every wish for her socially, and are giving her all the support they can in reading, English vocabulary and math.  They recommended we wait to get her officially evaluated (like for an IEP) until she knows more English - maybe later in the winter.  This is supposedly what schools always say and it's not supposed to be this way.  They're by law supposed to get a translator and do an evaluation as soon as it can be done.  However, I had no problem with this plan for several reasons.  Firstly, they were giving her a lot of academic support anyway (my expectations for her academically are rock bottom this year, though, just because - you know - everything).  Secondly, they are accommodating my every request to make sure that school is first and foremost a pleasant environment and she is not a slave to her anxiety.  Thirdly, at that point in her journey, she was withdrawing when she heard the Russian language and was not responding at. all. to any directives given by a stranger.  So an evaluation at that time would have been not only traumatic, but simply inaccurate information.  This is my belief.
So, what did we do to ease her into an American school system?  We took every single piece of advice given to us by our support team and did it all.  And I'm glad we did it.  I would not change a thing.  She was just ready enough for every turn we led her on.  Here is a run-down:

Prior to school: 3 school tours to see her room, bathrooms, cafeteria, playground etc; met with the teacher once (nothing fancy or long - just a hello); got to see her desk once before Open House; I had a lengthy meeting with the teacher giving her articles, a letter I had written, explaining Gianna and her behaviors, and answering her questions.

Open House: got there half an hour early to talk to the teacher and leisurely put her things in her desk.  As soon as more kids showed up and I was getting signs from her that she was about to shut down, we left.

First day of school: I prepped her on the course of the day, where I would be sitting, and that I couldn't hold or carry her.  We left at noon.

Second day of school: I went with her, sat in the back of the class again, but took an hour to have a meeting and make myself scarce until I rejoined her before lunch.  Left at noon again.

Third and fourth days of school to complete the first week:  I dropped her off, explained and gave her a clock and a picture schedule, picked her up after lunch.

Second week of school: Dropped her off and picked her up at 2:30 every day (after special classes like art and music)

Third and fourth weeks of school: Dropped her off and picked her up every day at the end of the day.

She responded well with each change - a day or two of controlling behaviors with each adjustment including the day she had a substitute teacher unexpectedly - and then she was content and responsive again.  She needed a lot of assistance for a while even with writing anything (her anxiety would make her pretty frozen in performing tasks).  Now she does things pretty willingly and each week gets more and more relaxed.  Earlier this week the teacher mentioned how she smiled at something another child said.  That was a first, and I hope a first of many.

Gianna on her first day of school.

My big girl.

Friday, August 14, 2015

HOME - 3 months

This last few weeks has been very challenging, but we are seeing some positive progress and the majority of the days are "good" now.  The kids are all getting along better and tolerating each other better.  Gianna is finally on our dental insurance! The school is being so accommodating with Gianna's special circumstances and needs.  We're in a really good place right now.  Our next hurdle is getting school started.  Then we can start getting into the school groove and figuring out how that will work.  Gianna is very excited to go and has seen the building already.  After much deliberation and conversations, she will be in 1st grade.  We are going to work hard to ensure that first of all, it's a positive experience, and second, that she can get the academic help she needs to fill in gaps.  Kian will start preschool a week or so later, and he is very excited as well!  He's excited to have little friends who don't mind him roaring at them!

Some pictures of our summer:

Playing together at the park

looking at the dead moth that Gianna found


my adorable Viking children

Gianna found this baby gym in the give-away pile and she played in it for a few days, even slept in it for a few nights!

She had her first dental visit and was so brave.  I told her beforehand that no matter how it went, she would get Anna and Elsa dolls.  She did great and let the dentist poke around her teeth like a champ.

playing hospital


Gianna on a carousel!  I think she even loved it!

A little nervous to ride the horses but did great

We spend a lot of time in the van going to appointments.

releasing her little tree frog friend

this girl is my shining star

another hospital patient. this hospital really cares about creating a pleasantly decorated environment for their patients :)

She went to her developmental appointment dressed as Belle per her request.  I think she actually had less anxiety because of it!

She watched some baby birds in our hanging basket for a couple days, until they flew away.  She brought them little nuts and grasses as gifts.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

HOME - 9 weeks

Still no internet, but here’s an update.  The medical appointments have only increased for Gianna.  She’s a trooper and does just great even though they are scary for her.  She grew half an inch, grew out of three pairs of pants, and has commented at how pink her lips look in the mirror.  The dark circles under her eyes are better, and she looks generally so much healthier.  Now if we could only get some meat on those “sad arms”. J  The biggest appt recently was a week ago when Gianna had her developmental exam done.  This was to determine her cognitive, fine motor, gross motor abilities as well as start her measure in English language and social abilities. They said she would be a great kindergartener cognitively, as long as the school will accommodate for her anxieties socially.  I’ve been in contact with them and they are helpful so far and we will be working to form a plan. 
We are all working hard to learn how to be a functional family group.  No one is working harder than Gianna.  She is learning what to do when she is mad, learning it is ok to be sad, and learning how excited mom gets when she is happy.  She is eating way way better, and I’m finding what foods she consistently likes and eats.  She ate all her food again yesterday!  I about threw a party.  She still sleeps really well, too.  Our bedtime routine is my favorite of the day.  We end up in giggling fits.  She knows all the motions to Let it Go and she tries to sing along.  Spoiler alert – it’s freaking adorable.

Kian is really getting the hang of listening to his sister.  I’ve tried to recognize him and make him feel special in little ways.  We talk a lot about preschool and he’s super excited.  Logan is still 2 years old.   I don’t love his tantrums.  Something that I love, though, is watching him try to say a super long sentence.  He stutters and deliberates and starts over and it’s hilarious.   I love my kids to pieces.  They are the bees’ knees.



new best buddy Bella

the poor kitty got bit on the nose by a dragon.  she was nursed back to health by Gianna and made a miraculous recovery.

learning about feelings

Gianna in her room

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

HOME - excuse the absence!!!

So, we moved!  Turns out, it's a difficulty to get internet to our house.  They had to run a new line, and it's delayed in getting us internet.  Hence, the silence on this blog.  But worry not!  I have not forgotten about this blog, nor do I intend to quit posting.  I have a few minutes at my parent's house after an hour-long email checking session.  So... in the meantime... some pictures!  We are six weeks in and can I just say - what a journey it's been!  Gianna is adjusting remarkably considering all the changes she is experiencing.  There have been bumps and trials, but all are manageable with some late-night ice cream eating, some mommy time-outs, a few bubble baths, and only a pinch of crying in the bathroom.  It's really been good overall.  Our move was smooth and didn't phase the kids any more than the adoption did - maybe just prolonged the transition phase. :)

each "kitty" had their own box

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

HOME - the first week

So here we are, one week in!  What a week it's been!  Our first few days were chaos but we managed, then the days got easier for a little where everyone played a little better, then it got hard again with everyone feeling the stress.  It wasn't "fun" anymore, and the last few days have been more difficult with whining and tantrums and grumpiness and sadness.  Gianna has had only a few outbursts, mostly just attitude.  She is generally sunny and compliant.  Logan has been the most vocal with lots of crying at night and temper tantrums.  Kian has been sad and felt ignored a lot.  We are honeymooning but everyone is adjusting in their own ways, too.  It's a strange vortex phase.  One huge praise - we hardly had ANY problems with jet lag.  It seriously was a non-deal.  The language barrier is obvious and difficult.  She is already picking up words like; stand, sit, please, hey wait, Logan/Kian don't, blue, kitty, puppy, "come here".  Those are the ones I can think of now.  Those are the ones she uses unprompted from memory.  She repeats a lot of words we say.  I'll be perfectly honest, I can't wait for her to speak English.  I ache so often to communicate with her.  There are times that she is telling me about her previous life with wide eyes and I just have to stare and pray that she tells me again later when I have a video recorder running.  Someday we'll be able to talk and think through things together and I can tell her about how God loves her - all of her, her difficult parts and her lovely parts.  Someday.  Sooner rather than later from what I'm hearing!  We're managing, learning, getting to know one another, figuring this whole thing out.  Day by day, little by little.  Next on the agenda - move to the new house!
the first morning - toys!

my bed!

this bunny!


whatever this is!

the first breakfast

the first day.  it felt like babysitting.  "let's get every toy and every costume out and take it back and forth inside and outside and inside and outside!"

our schedule, helps me relay what the plan is for the day

finding things she likes to do

"quiet time".  lol.  welcome to America kiddo!

"Masha and the Bear" is a Russian cartoon and it has given her a welcome break from all the English.  I think it makes her feel comfort in stressful days.

helping Daddy cut strawberries

umbrellas are like the coolest thing apparently, even when it's not raining

learning to play together