09 August, 2012
I learned something today regarding the can opener that we had at our last apartment that redeemed my honor as a manipulator of all things mechanical …but I digress. We started the morning off as usual with a trip to the market to get some fruit. We decided to be a bit creative today and bought plums instead of peaches. We also picked up some soft toys in hope that we could give them to Caleb’s groupa. We arrived at the orphanage and went through the usual food check. The nurse was quite approving of the fact that we had found such large, good quality plums (I think she likes plums herself). Jessa was brought in first so we spent a little time just sitting with her and talking to her. Caleb came in a few minutes later and … he was dressed in Boy Clothes!! He did still have his blue socks, and shoes with dragons on the toes, but we are making progress. Well today was picture day. Once Luda had the permission slip we walked the kids out of the orphanage and over to the car. Jessa was a little nervous but trusts Erika enough to get in. As soon as Caleb saw the car he was trying to get away from me so he could climb inside. The ride to the photo shop was rather short but the whole way Caleb was trying to position himself so that he could see well. When we arrived Jessa was quite happy to get out but I had to hand Caleb over to Erika because he wanted to stay in the car. There were several steps leading up to the photo shop which was a challenge for Jessa. She doesn’t seem to have any mobility challenges, but steps seem to spook her. I had one hand and Luda took the other and we “stomped” our way up one step at a time. The photo shop was empty except for us, which I think was coordinated, so Caleb and I had a seat while Jessa had her picture taken. We suspected she was a bit of a camera hog since every picture we have seen of her has a big smile, but this confirmed it. The girl likes to have her picture taken, except for the flash which seemed to disorient her and caused her to recoil physically. Then it was Caleb’s turn. It wasn’t nearly as difficult as I imagined it would be, the biggest challenge being in getting him to look at the camera. After a quick drive back to the orphanage it was time to play outside. We had picked up some bubbles at the market this morning and it was rather breezy so things worked out well. The kids thought that it was great! It was also another new sensation for Caleb to have bubbles pop on his skin. We played on the playground equipment for a bit longer, Jessa deciding on her own that she wanted to go down the slide today, and Caleb taking a short ride with Mom on the merry-go-round. 11:30 rolled around and Caleb started to exhibit his normal “I’m done” behavior so we went inside for Banana Time. While I broke pieces off for Jessa, Erika worked with Caleb. Today she was not only putting pieces deep in his cheeks, but also pressing pieces gently against his palate so that he had to use his tongue to move the food in two directions before he could swallow. After eating his banana, he settled down in Erika’s arms almost as if he was planning on taking a nap. Jessa and I looked at a magazine and she was back to “brat” and “sistra” for the pictures of men and women, however, she did resume “man” and “lady” after only one reminder from me. It was time for the kids to go back so we brought Jessa back to her room and then went upstairs with Caleb and the soft toys we had brought. Luda let the caregivers know that we would like to give the toys to the groupa and we were invited into the common area. Now we had seen the common area before from the door, but this was the first really good look that we had. In the middle of the room is a large (12ft X 12ft?) play pen which, in typical Ukrainian practicality, is made from welded steel and painted a bright white. There was a large rug on the floor inside of it and several children were playing with each other. The room itself is bright, clean, and well ordered. The caregivers took one look at the soft blocks that Erika was holding and very enthusiastically told her it was ok to give them to the children. One of the caregivers even asked if it would be ok for her to take some to the back so the children could have some toys in their cribs. All of the caregivers that we have interacted with since we started visiting the orphanage have seemed to genuinely care for the children in their charge. We have heard that there are a few who, because so many families are coming so quickly, are afraid all the children will be adopted and that they will be out of a job, but those appear to be the minority. Unfortunately, it seems that due to a lack of knowledge, training, or because of social norms, there is no expectation that these children can develop any further. However they show up is believed to be the status they will have for the rest of their lives. If they make gains on their own, this new level of ability is accepted as their new “normal”, but no effort is made to help them achieve. There isn’t anything intentionally sinister or malicious going on, it is just the way their culture has taught them to view these children. I think once we can begin to send pictures and reports of how well these children are doing and the advances that they are making once they are given expectations to meet, that we may see a change in attitude among many of the caregivers. There is a need for developmental toys here. It would make a huge difference if we could get at least a crib toy for each crib. After leaving for the day, we began getting ready for the trip to our old orphanage. We have a day-long train ride ahead of us so I’m not sure when I’ll be posting this update. Oh, and the opener … was for bottles, not cans. Reputation intact!