Visit number three!
It is Christmas Eve here, so we showed up with about two hundred cookies, and tried in our broken Russian to communicate to the nannies that the cookies were for all of the children in the facility. We also had boxes of chocolates for the nannies. I hope the message got across! We even wrote the message down, thanks to Google Translate, and they thanked us profusely, so I think it went all right. This language barrier is so frustrating!
We also brought some gifts for our boys: pillows and toy dump trucks. The pillows they were not so impressed with, but then, I wasn't expecting them to be. It just seemed like something soft and cuddly they could take back to their cribs with them after the visit was over. The dump trucks were a huge hit! The trucks came with colorful stacking blocks in the back, and as soon as Gideon was wheeled into the visiting room, he launched himself out of the wheelchair, ran to me, and laughed with glee as he took his dump truck. This kid amazes me more every day. He knew exactly how to play with it! He dumped the blocks out, loaded them back in, drove the truck around, dumped the blocks, stacked the blocks on the table . . . So much like my Josiah. Give the boy a truck and he is in heaven! Those two are going to be quite a pair!
Meanwhile Micah was brought in, crying again. And again, he quieted down as soon as he was laying down on the couch. We handed him his truck and told him, "Ma-sheen-ah," and showed him how it worked. Micah doesn't really play with toys, so he just sort of pushed it away, which is about what I was expecting. Gideon saw Micah push his truck down to the floor, so he came over, picked it up, and gently put it back into Micah's hands. Then he sweetly patted Micah's head before returning to his own truck. Awww! My boys! I can't even tell you what it means to me to see this sweet gesture. Institutional living does not always foster such gentle compassion in children, and I was really not expecting these boys to get along well with each other without a lot of coaching! This is truly a miracle! I am not expecting perfection, and I am guessing there will be moments of less-than-beautiful moments between these two, but I can see that they have a bond and that Gideon looks out for Micah. These boys are meant to be brothers.
For those of you who may not know, these two boys are both five years old, and Micah is actually a month older than Gideon (although he is much smaller and has far fewer skills currently.) They are not related biologically, but they have lived in the same orphanage their entire lives, and they were transferred to this institution together. Their beds are next to each other in their room. They are just as bonded as if they were brothers biologically. We are so grateful that God has led us to Micah, as well as Gideon, and that He has orchestrated this entire adoption in order to keep these boys together!
Because it is Christmas Eve, things seemed to be going a bit differently than normal today. We could hear music playing upstairs, some lively traditional song, and there was a group of children in the hallway, chattering and vocalizing loudly as their nanny led them past. It was really nice to hear the sounds of children surrounding us today. It seemed so eerily quiet the first two times we visited. A children's home ought to have some signs of life, you know?
As soon as Micah saw us, he broke into his huge grin. He was really loving the tickles from Daddy today! And he was so much quicker to respond today! The first two days he wanted to stay close to his nanny and it took a bit of coaxing to get a grin out of him. Today he was all smiles! I just can't get enough of this boy's giggles!
Gideon spied the cookies that we brought, and was reaching for them, so his sweet nanny opened the package and fed him small bites of cookie. Gideon eats wonderfully, and he is not grabby or desperate for food, either. He took each bite and chewed and swallowed, then made a little questioning sound as he looked up at his nanny to ask for more. I was very impressed! And see the boxes of chocolates on the table in front of him? He asked for them, and the nanny told him no, and he left them alone after that. And see that plant behind him? The first day I could not keep him away from that tree. All he wanted to do was rip the leaves off and shove them in his mouth. Today he tried once, and when I said "Nyet," he left it alone and went back to his toys. What a good little boy he is! He does not talk, but he is pretty good at communicating!
Micah has little red sores all over his head today. I have no idea what they are from. I asked the nanny, by pointing, and she shrugged and explained. Hmmm. Still have no idea. She does not seem very alarmed about it. See this thing Micah is doing with his hand on his chin? He does that a lot. We asked the nanny what it means, when our facilitator was here to interpret, and the nanny said it is something that he is trying to communicate. They just don't know what. (Micah does not speak, either.) He does it very intentionally, while smiling and looking right at you, so it is not a random stimming behavior. He closes his fist and hits it against his chin, several times in a row. Sometimes he does both fists, one below the other. Sometimes he takes my finger in his hand and taps my finger against his chin. It seems to be a happy sign.
Today was the first time that Micah let us pick him up. He is used to laying down in his crib, so being picked up and cuddled is a foreign idea to him. The first day when we tried this he immediately panicked, pushed himself off of our laps, positioned himself on the couch next to us, and then smiled up at us once he was back on safer ground. Today he was ready to trust us.
You can see in this picture that he is sort of smiling, but also sort of pushing away from his papa. He was about done with the cuddling and ready to lay down on the couch again. It doesn't take Micah long to become overstimulated.
Meanwhile, Gideon continued to play with his toys and impress me with his cleverness. Did you notice that the kids are less bundled up today? A couple of people asked me in the comments about why the children wear hats and coats inside. Well, I'm not sure why, but I am told that is the way they do things here! They believe that children get sick if they are not bundled up like cabbage in the winter months. The building is heated, and I did not feel cold at all inside, and we are also in the warmest region of this country, where it rarely snows. The weather right now is blue skies and sunshine, and on the walk to the Children's Home I felt too warm even in my sweater today. I was so glad that they did not make the boys wear those silly hats and coats today! It really freed them up to play!
Here is another amazing moment of the day: Micah was playing with the ball! The nanny told us that he will not play with toys. And the first two days, we saw that this was true. He does not seem to have any idea what to do with a toy. We did get him to hold a ball on our last visit (you may remember that from Day Two's video?) but he just sort of threw it away from him without even looking where it went or seeming to care. Well, today, I kept working at it, and trying to encourage him to throw the ball to me, and after a little bit, he actually was seeming to enjoy the game! This is a look of concentration on his face, by the way, not unhappiness. We have a long way to go on this, but it was a ray of hope. We will teach this boy to play!
I tried to teach Micah to clap his hands today, and he liked it when I clapped his hands, but he did not try to do it by himself yet. He did sit up a lot during our visit, much more than we have seen the other two days. He was sitting upright over half of the time we were there, and a lot of that was sitting unsupported, without leaning back against the back of the couch. We had no idea he could hold his head up for so long! It is amazing what a little boy can do if somebody gives him a reason to try!
I am your mama, Micah! I'm sorry it took me so long to get here. But I am here now! Look! He is letting me hold him!
My beautiful little boy!
The nanny offered to take our picture in front of the Christmas tree, but you can see that this was a bit too much for my sweet Micah. He was trying to deal with it, but by the time she took the picture he was begging us to let him lay down. Oh well. First picture with mommy and daddy! And where is Gideon, you may ask? Well, about an hour into the visit, before this picture was taken, the nanny announced that it was time for lunch, and she promptly shooed Gideon into his wheelchair and told him his visit was over. The visits are supposed to be two hours long, but maybe this is different because of the holiday? Without knowing how to ask, I have no idea if this will always happen or if it was a one-time occurrence. Gideon was howling with indignation as his toys were taken out of his hands and he was wheeled away. Poor boy! He was having so much fun, and then all too suddenly, it was all over. I did manage to convince the nanny to let him take his pillow and stuffed puppy with him, at least.
They came back and took Micah a few minutes later, and he also got his pillow and puppy, and he was also royally ticked off to be taken away from the visit. Micah does not eat with the other children, because he does not eat solid foods. He still uses a bottle. He also has a long list of foods he is supposedly allergic to, including dairy, tomatoes, beets, "anything red," and "sweets." They blend up his soup and put it in a bottle for him (porridge for breakfast, soup for lunch and dinner. They make him a special soup without beets or tomatoes, since the rest of the children eat borscht. That shows some level of thoughtfulness and individualized care, at least, right?) They do not know why, and they apparently do not have the resources to take him to a specialist and find out why he cannot eat and why he is not growing or gaining weight. Obviously, that and a neurosurgeon are our first two priorities when we get him home. (Micah has a shunt, but whether or not it is working properly is unknown.) We are going to be working on setting things up for him between now and his homecoming. Right now I am making inquiries by email to find the nearest and best facilities for his treatment.
So I did not get very many pictures of Gideon today, because I thought we would have longer than we would. But I did get some very sweet cuddles with my Gideon. I don't think he is very familiar with the art of a good cuddle. At first he just seemed a little stiff, and sort of ignoring me, but he is getting now to where he will climb onto our laps and lean in to us a bit. He will give us a couple of minutes, maybe playing with our ears or our hair or our shirt buttons, just generally checking us over, getting to know these strange people who chatter in a non-sense language and have lots of cool toys and keep wanting to touch his hair and look into his eyes. Then he decides it is time to go play again.
Gideon has a much longer attention span than I expected. He can play with one activity for ten to twenty minutes before he starts acting bored. Then he goes over to the backpack and looks up at me, as if to ask, "What else do you have in there, lady?"
He obeys his nanny very well, from what I can tell. If he is doing something he shouldn't be doing, she just has to say a few words to him and he stops what he was doing and comes back to playing. He loves to put toys in his mouth, but we have learned how to say, "Not in your mouth," and he always takes it right out as soon as we remind him. Now, five seconds later he might put another toy in his mouth, but still . . . he is a very good little boy! He does have an adorable, albeit naughty, little giggle when he knows he is doing something wrong, but he also seems easy to redirect.
I think we heard Gideon say one word today, or maybe it was just a sound. He was mad because we were making him wait for Derek to blow up a balloon before he could play with it, and I was holding him on my lap and he was reaching out his hands for the balloon, and he said something. No idea what it was, though. I was so surprised to hear his little voice that I forgot to remember what the sound was! (The nanny told us the first day that he does not talk unless something is very important to him, and then he will if he has to. I guess the balloon was important to him!) But then he wouldn't play with his balloon until he made sure that Micah had one, too.
And now we will not see them again until Tuesday. We don't get visits on weekends, and then Monday is their day off for Christmas. Sigh. Take good care of my boys, please, nannies!