Monday, February 21, 2011

Help, I have a teenager!

Wow! I cannot believe how much time has passed since my last post. Much has changed since that time. Natasha is maturing into a typical teenager. I will do my best to record it in this blog. Mostly it will be for my own benefit, since I doubt anyone is following this blog any longer.

We really are blessed to have a beautiful, smart, wise, confident daughter. That being said, she is hardly the shy little girl we brought home 2 years ago!

The last time I posted, she still wanted lots of mommy time, cuddling and the security of her parents. I knew that would be short-lived as she developed into a teenager, but I was grateful that we had that time to bond and to give her the things that were lacking in her childhood. Honestly, at age 12, she still wanted the closeness that a 8-9 year old would want. I was happy to give it. Both because it helped the two of us bond and because she needed to get those things that she did not get as a child. It was probably a good year and a half of a regular night-time cuddling ritual before she began to no longer need or want it. Probably about 6 months ago, around her 13th birthday, I noticed her not needing our nightly ritual as much. She got more interested in her friends,boys, music and texting! Now she is a typical, boy crazy teen girl, complete with the Justin Bieber crush.

I know we were able to help her grow in her emotional development so that she is now a typical boy crazy teenage girl. I know that it was the environment we provided that allowed her to get those earlier needs met and complete her development to the next level of maturity. (see aforementioned crazy teenage girl). Still, I can't help feeling a little bit wistful and sad, wishing we had more of that time to spend together. I find myself wondering if that year and a half of really close mommy time was enough to develop a strong mother-daughter bond that will last our lifetimes. Most mothers and daughters have so much more time together before the daughter begins to pull away. That year and a half I had is so precious to me. I hope it was enough.

I am a bit envious of more conventional families that had more time together before the eye-rolling and "embarrassed to be seen with your parents" stage begins.

As I type, she is in her bedroom talking up a storm with her best friend about the latest" who likes who" saga from school.

I have notices some behaviors, which for some may look like typical, frusrating teenage behavior, that I know are really more about her lingering attachement issues. She still has some anger and control and trust issues, but they are pretty minor and we are still talking them through. For the most part, they manifiest like typical, frustrating teenage behavior, but I know they stem from her attachment.

Til next time!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Time has flown by

My intentions were to update this blog frequently, but life sure gets busy. I can't believe nearly 5 months have passed since my last entry. So much has happened that it will be difficult, or impossible to describe it all. Natasha has adjusted well, beyond my expectations. She is a happy, well-adjusted pre-teen girl. Not that we did not have our moments in the beginning. I re-read my last post and remember the temper tantrums the first few months. They were averaging about 2 a week until about June 1st. Looking back, I think Natasha was frustrated from not being able to communicate well and she was also testing the boundaries. She was thinking she could call the shots in the family. In early June there were a couple of big incidents were Mark and I really had to let her know that she was not going to get her way. It was not particularly fun, but she got the message and the tantums pretty much ceased. She still gets pouty and whiny, but that is the extent of it. She knows now that she cannot win.

Her English is just great. She has no trouble talking up a storm. Just a minute ago she was looking over my shoulder, wanting to type the blog!
Her reading and and writing skills are still way behind, but considering how far she has come, I have no doubt she will catch up soon.
She has made lots of friends at school and she invited them this summer for her birthday party. At the end of the day, she said it was the best party she had every had. That just made me so
happy inside! She's 12 now. In many ways she acts like a typical 12 year old girl, but in many other ways she still seems very young. Emotionally, she is probably 2-3 years behind. I think she acts like a 9 year old. In some ways she is even younger than that. She needs her mom in ways that a young child does. But I know that is because she missed so much bonding a closeness with a mom in those earlier years. She recognizes that too, and is able to verbalize it. We have worked out daily routine that helps her get those needs met. Socially she seems to keep up with her peers, which I am grateful for.
She starts middle school next week. It is a much bigger school, with older kids. She is a little nervous, but she will be fine. One good thing about this school is they have put her in ESL classes for all her subject. I think that should help.
We took a 2 week family vacation which was awesome. We were up near Glacier National Park. She caught her first fish, and saw lost of wildlife she has never seen before. For her it was quite an adventure, for me it is the start of some wonderful family traditions and great memories. She is just an awesome kid with a great heart. I feel so very, very lucky!

She is taking swimming lessons right now. It was a fight to get her to agree to take them, but now she loves it. We are trying to get her involved in hobbies, or sports on anything that interests her. She does not want to take lessons of any kind. We have asked her about every interest under the sun and she has said "no" to all. But while on vacation she said she wanted to try golf. Yeah! We don't golf, but I am just so happy to see her finally have a desire to learn a sport or hobby.
We'll that's all for now, but I will really try to post more often. The truth is . . . I am having so much fun being with Natasha that I hate to break away!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Home One Month!

Natasha has been home over a month now and things are starting to settle into somewhat of a routine. We are still learning so much about one another, every day is an adventure. She still is having trouble going to school for a full day and completing her assignments. She can sure throw a big fat fit! But today she really enjoyed both school and homework, so who knows maybe we have turned a corner. But it is too early to tell.

Natasha really loves my brother's horses and has quickly become comfortable around them. Saturday we saddled up for the first time. She showed no fear and was soon trotting around the arena. She seemed pretty natural up there . . . I am looking forward to the two of us riding together. We also took her on a little 4 Wheeling trip in the Jeep. She didn't like that so much. I don't thinks she saw the point of boucing around the back seat. Oh well! She did enjoy posing for pictures and taking them once we got to our destination.

Natasha's English is improving each week, and I think that will help with being able to hang in there for a full day of school. Hearing a language you do not understand all day is exhausting.
I am still trying to figure out how to best help her with English. I have looked at some on-line tutoring through Skype, as well as some more traditional private tutors. Today I met with a retired ESL teacher who is a friend of a friend. She was very kind and provided me all kinds of ideas and materials for us. I still don't know what is the best way to help her . . . I think I will rely on this retired teacher to guide me.

But we can carry on simple conversations and her vocabulary is growing all the time. She is so funny with some of the things she comes up with like "one puppy, daddy please".
The next day " Mommy, no puppy, one cat" , Now it is "okay, no dog, no cat, but one horse"
When I tell her the horses are Mario's, but we can ride them, she says " Mario give me horse for my happy birthday". Well, I don't think so . . . .

Thursday, March 19, 2009

We've started school . . with some ups and downs . . .

We met with the principal of our public elementary school prinicpal shortly after Natasha arrived to talk about how to get her started in school. This small school has never had an older international adoptee, so we were all new to this. We decided to let her stay home a few weeks before she started school to get her acclimated a bit before introducing a whole school full of new kids and new experiences. After a couple of weeks it was clear that she was comfortable with us, our home, our community and with our extended family. So it was time to start school this past Monday. The weekend before we started reminding her that she was going to schoool on Monday. She certainly had a lot of fears (understandably so) and had one meltdown that lasted a couple of hours. But by the time Monday morning rolled around she had picked out her outfit, organized her bookbag and was ready to go. We decided to start her out with just a couple hours a day to see how it would go. We walked her to class, met the principal, her teacher and a few students.We told the teaher to call if she seemed overwhelmed. We all agreed that Natasha would let the teacher know when she had enough for the day and we would come get her. Monday morning there was an assembly, so we stayed for that too. By the time we left she seemed pretty comfortable and didn't even notice when we left. I felt just like we had dropped our kindergartener off for their first ever day of school.

Her first day of school went just fine. It was a minimum day because of school conferences, which was good. She made friends with the girls in the class, and even got invited for a play date already. She gave us a big thumbs up when we picked her up. We thought all was good. Tuesday and Wednesday was more of the same, although when we asked how school went she crinkled her nose up a little. Not quite the big "high five" from Monday. But she got more phone numbers from her classmates so it still all seemed good. She did her math homework and seems to be at the same math level. We thought we were in the clear.

Then Wednesday night hit. All was good until it was time to go to bed. She started out with "No School!" in kind of a joking manner. We laughed and assured her that, yes indeed she was going to school. Then it kinda escalated to where she was insisting. We held firm. Soon she starting wailing and sobbing nearly hysterically. We couldn't figure out what was wrong. She refused to talk to the translators so we could figure out what was going on. We tried the on-line translator but we couldnt find out what was truly bothering her. We finally got her to sleep after about 1 1/2 hours of crying. We hoped that in the morning she would feel better about it all.

Thursday morning she started in with saying "No School" before she even opened her eyes. Again it escalated into hysterics. We were pretty firm that she was going to go back to school. After about a hour of this she was still in her PJs and it was clear we were not winning the battle. We tried the on-line translator again. We got a clue it was something about the kids in class. Were they being mean? "No". Was the work too difficult? "No". By this time she had crawled up into the fetal position on her bed. Mark went to the school to talk to the teacher and I stayed home to console her. Oh Boy, this was not starting out to be a good day

Anyways, the teacher was able to shed some light. She had noticed by the end of the day Natasha looked exhausted and overwhelmed. The kids were being nice to her, too nice. Apparently she had become somewhat of a celebrity. All the kids loved her and were curious about her and wanted to be her best friend. She had too much attention from too many kids who were all speaking English too her way too fast. Ok, now I get it! I went back to the on-line translator and the gist of it was "too many friends".
So the rest of the day we stayed together quietly and did a few fun things. She settled down and agreed to go to school tomorrow, at least part of the day. I think we will try it out at 2-3 hours and see where that leads us. Whew!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Our first week home!!

Natasha has been home for a little over a week now. What a week it has been. Things have been going just great. She had a hard time the day of the flight, but fortunately we met a family on the plane who had just adopted 2 boys. They were going back to California too. Natasha quickly warmed up to the boys and they chatted away. And the 2 moms were able to compare notes.
This really helped over the 3 hour layover, which would have been a killer without the pleasant diversion. Still, she was very tired by the time we landed in SF. Mark picked us up at the airport and Natasha's whole demeanor changed instantly. She had big hugs and smiles for him. I think Mark got just a little teary eyed. We collected our bags and drove home. Natasha clung to Mark the whole drive. It was good to see. Once we got home and Natasha took in the surroundings, her whole attitude changed. She was smiling and affectionate. I think she was relieved to be able to see and touch and feel the home that she had only been able to imagine up to that point. It was no longer a scary thing, but a real, warm home. Even though we were totally exhausted, she now found the energy to play with the dogs and proudly show Mark a few items before we went to bed. She was a totally different girl than in Ukraine! I was happy and relieved to see it.

As the days clicked by, Natasha became more and more comfortable. At first she was onlu comfortable and happy at home with us, but grew reserved anytime we left the house and took a drive. After a few days she realized that taking a drive usually meant we were going somewhere fun, and her attitude changed. Now she is happily taking int he surroundings and playing with the sunroof and windows. She even got a pair of sunglasses so she can look like a real California girl!

She was and still is reluctant to meet people. I am sure it is hard to meet strangers when you cannot speak their language. She has met her grandparents. She quickly became comfortable with Marks parents. Our first visit was only about 10 minutes, but we visited them nearly every day and by the 2nd or 3rd visit she loved spending time with them. She now calls them "Babuska" and "Daduska". When Babuska made Pelmini for lunch, Natasha was in heaven. That, along with the fact that they have a swimming pool in the backyard sealed the deal! We have not had the opportunity to spend as much time with my parents, so she is not as comfortable with them yet, but I am confident it will come. They live on a ranch with horses, so she is now eager visit them too!

She is even relucant to meet kids who have recently been adopted by some local families. I know these children can be a huge support for her, and a way to be able to communicate with someone in her own language. I know these connections will benefit her, so I gently continue to push. She is shy by nature, but I know she will value these friendships once they are formed.

The best part is what an affectionate, loving child she is now that we are home. Her personality did not really shine until we came home. She loves, loves, loves the dogs and could play with them for hours. She is very affectionate with both Mark and I. She calls us Mommy and Daddy. She showers us with hugs and kisses and tells us that she loves us. She is also very funny and mischevious. She makes us laugh all the time. Here English is improving every day. She amazes us when she speaks full (short) sentences. Our favorite right now is "One cat daddy, please!" Once she rode a horse, that changed to "No cat, horse!"

We plan on starting her in school in 2 weeks. She is not excited about starting school either, but she knows it is coming and we are preparing her for it. I bought her a book back the other day, and she was excited to get it. She knows it is for school She is passionate about "High School Musical" and we are going to decorate her room in that theme.
Things are going so well right now. She can get a bit of a stubborn attitude, but it is nothing we can't handle and she usually responds once she realizes we mean business. I am sure there will be some rough roads ahead, but for now I can say I am totally in heaven!!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

We have the passport in hand!

Yesterday we recieved word that the passport would be ready today. Our facilitator made arrangements to pick us up at 7:00 am this morning to go for Natasha's medical exam and then to the US Embassy for the last step in this adoption process.

Natasha is NOT a morning person and I had a very hard time getting her up this morning. She had a meltdown and starting crying as I was pressing her to get up and get dressed. Our facilitator had to come up to the apartment and speak to her in Ukrainian.

The medical exam was not a big deal. After that I finally got her passport. We went off to the embassy to finish off the final paperwork. We have to return there at 2 pm for her Visa so we can fly home tomorrow. Horray!

We fly out of her at noon and will arrive in San Francisco somewhere after 11 pm Thursday night PST. While I have enjoyed the Ukraine, this has been a trying experience and I am ready to come home!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, February 23, 2009

I digress . . . .

My new Russian cookbook to learn to make some of Natasha's favorite dishes

Eating MacDonalds (again!) at the mall foodcourt, complete with skating rink (just like America!)

With our new friends at marketplace near the SDA office in downtown Kiev

Today we got out and about quite a bit. I was able to pick up some souviners, we got Natasha a purse, she played more games at the arcade, yada yada yada. BUT, check out the photo above. This was the most interesting part of my day!A unique cultural photo op! We were driving into downtown Kiev when I noticed this gathering in a plaza. As we approached, our facilitator explained what was going on. Today was the Ukriainian president's birthday. I guess this was a kind of a protest. The flags are of the Communist Party. They had a stage and who knows what blaring over the PA system. The airplane says something to the effect of telling him to "Go to America". I guess they are not very pleased with him :)