Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Russia Update - OLG visits

Okay, now for the good stuff!

Day #1, visit #2

When we last saw OLG he was outside, a little unsure, and not so lively - partially to blame on the obvious cold he was fighting. We returned to the orphanage after his dinner and our late lunch - this time indoors in a nice, large playroom. As a gift, we got to where attractive blue booties to cover our shoes - this was standard procedure in the orphanage when inside with the children. I quickly scoured the room for good icebreakers and settled on a big stuffed ladybug and a ball - in addition to the musical toys we brought - getting moderate success. Initially, there was more thumb-sucking and long stares that said "Okay, who are you again and why should I give you my time?" Tracy broke the ice with some tickling that drew smiles with thumb still planted in mouth. By the end of the visit, OLG was playing with toys, crawling around, and using stationary objects to stand (and looking like he could stand on his own). He clearly had good strength and coordination in his hands and legs. We were hooked! After saying goodbye, we went to the orphanage director's office and were asked if we accepted our referral. Hmmm, let's think about this - YES!!! Let the paperwork begin...

Day #2

The visit started with a little bad news. Not shockingly OLG had a cold and this meant he couldn't be exposed to us for more than one visit. However, we were told we could only visit for 15 minutes!! Like a good Russian we accepted this news with stoic resignation - and I think that worked to our advantage. We did get the pleasure of feeding him lunch! Tracy and I were a little out of practice in general, and certainly not in orphanage-level shape. More food ended-up on his face and clothes (and everything within 3 feet) than in his mouth. The good news was that he gets way more food than Alexa did and thus doesn't cry like she did if the spoon stopped moving.

(A little background: Alexa's orphanage was terribly underfunded and food rations took the brunt of it. This is not an exaggeration - when feeding Alexa (at 10 months), the caregivers would hold the top of her head back so her mouth opened as wide as possible- and then they moved the spoon between her mouth and the bowl as quickly as possible. Before seeing this demonstration, we had the chance to try feeding Alexa, and she would cry if you hesitated a second between mouthfuls - this was because hesitation meant your turn was probably over! Oh, and the spoon was a large tablespoon that seemed like a shovel. When we first gave Alexa Cheerios, she would stuff her mouth like she was playing Chubby Bunny and then put as many as she could in both hands (and you could see her mind working to figure out where she could put more!)

Anyway, OLG gets basically twice as much food and much more substance to it. Maybe it was done subconsciously, but the feeding alone took 15 minutes- how could they send us away without any playtime? We ended-up getting another 30 minutes to play with him! Another bonus, the feeding did the trick in perking OLG up. He was 100% more animated and interactive - and even made some baby noises telling us he felt more comfortable. A few minutes into playtime we were informed that OLG actually took his first steps in the morning! We tried to recreate them and he took about 2.5 mini-steps that we're going to count (we have the video proof). Needless to say, the rest of the visit went very well. He was completely mesmerized by me - he probably had not interacted with a man since he entered the orphanage at 18 days old! There were periodic coughs and our visit for the next day was in doubt. This made leaving even more difficult...

Day #3

Things were left that our coordinator (actually her assistant) would call us in the morning to let us know if the visit was a go. We got up early and waited for the phone to ring. When the call came, we were informed things would work like the previous day and then we were asked if we wanted to visit. Yet another softball question...

In addition to having two previous days of interaction, OLG received some medicine the night before and the results were obvious. Today he was a downright riot! We didn't make it in time to do lunch, but I'm sure he was well fed. The biggest change was his noise level. He was playing with a couple cups and loved banging them together. We started saying "boom, boom, boom" when he would do this and he was fascinated. He would watch our faces, studying how we were making our noises. Suddenly he made a sound like a "B"! Obviously liking our reaction, he moved on to a full rapid-fire raspberry sound. Later, we held him up to a mirror, which he couldn't get enough of! He would try to climb the sofa to grab the mirror - all the while making his new sound. The only thing slowing him down was the occasional cough or sneeze and Tracy trying to wipe his nose (he hates it but doesn't hold grudges). We got a ton of wonderful video! We really felt like a family today - even if it was only for 30 minutes! We said our goodbyes with him smiling back and melting our hearts...

I'm going to watch some of his videos and try to forget the date. Thanks for following along and come back for more updates soon on Alexa who has had a busy few days!

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