It's hard to believe that we have been home for almost 2 months now with Allison. We have received our USCIS clearance to return to Latvia to finalize the adoption. Of course, on the same day that we received our I-797 in the mail, we also received an e-mail from Latvia stating that one piece of paperwork had her name spelled wrong and had to be redone before the courts would accept it. They gave us 20 days, which may seem like a long time, but the document has to be notarized, apostilled, mailed to Latvia and then translated into Latvian. Oh, yeah...and Bill was in California all week. So, he got home Thursday night, we had the documents (because you need to send a bazillion copies of everything) notarized Friday morning by a good friend (we owe him big!), I made a flying trip to Augusta so the Secretary of State's office could apostille the documents (a process which basically just states that the notary is indeed a notary certified by the state of Maine-for the soft price of $10 PER DOCUMENT!), back to Auburn to photo copy and scan the documents, then to have them mailed. The documents are now in the hands of DHL! I sent them off with a prayer and a kiss that they would make it swiftly to Latvia. Once our attorney can resubmit to the courts then we will hopefully know when Bill will be returning to Latvia for the final court date.
We are very grateful that Allison has been able to be home with us during this care and supervision period. In most countries, we would have had to leave her in the orphanage while returning home to await the final court date. Latvia and the US have a special agreement to allow the children to stay in the homes of the prospective adoptive parents while the paperwork is being finalized.
She has made some great strides and is definitely part of the family now! She still has some major hurdles to overcome, but I have to keep reminding myself that it's only been 2 months and we have completely disrupted her world as she had known it for the past 5 years of her life. She is doing less rocking and finger sucking. We find that if we put a glove on her right hand at bedtime it is enough of a deterrent that she doesn't suck. Easy fix! She still rocks to comfort herself when she is upset but those episodes are getting much less and she can usually put herself to sleep now without rocking.
She definitely does not like to be disciplined (what kid does, right?). That is one of our most challenging areas right now. She can be quite destructive at times and we have to remind her not to be so rough. If we even think about raising our voice at her she goes into an almost catatonic like trance and it's like she's looking right through you. I then have to wonder if she is hearing anything that I am saying. Somehow I doubt it.
It takes several times for her to grasp a concept, but once she does she finds comfort in knowing what is expected of her. Example, we have a bench at our dining room table. Well, every meal time she would happily come and plant herself right on the end of the bench. It didn't matter that she was always the first one at the table and then everyone else had to climb over her. I tried to explain to her to "scooch" down towards the center so that the other girls didn't have to climb in. I bet we had this "conversation" 20 times (no exaggeration). I had almost given up hope when one night last week I called them to dinner and I heard Allison saying "scooch, scooch, scooch to the middle" while happily moving to the center of the bench. That is now where she happily sits during most meals (as she is always the first one to the table).
The kid loves to eat. Oh my word! Every 5 minutes you will hear, "Eat? Eat?" Oh my stinking word! You'd think we were starving her! When we spoke to the orphanage staff they said that she would overeat if they would let her. We did not see that phenomena when we first had her, but within the past month we can now definitely see what they meant. She routinely asks for seconds and thirds at meals, and is constantly asking for snacks throughout the day. I'm wondering if it is partly due to her language development and her comfort with us as her "caregivers" now. We keep lots of fruit on hand and she is usually happy if we send her off with a banana, so that works for now.
Her speech is a tricky area. We had been told by our dentist that she had relocated her jaw due to her severe finger sucking. We are now wondering if this has impacted her speech as she can be very difficult to understand. Plus, she is very soft spoken so that makes it even harder. It doesn't make much sense to take her to a speech therapist yet as she doesn't have enough of the English language, but I definitely see that in our future. (Not to mention some severe orthodontia!)
The rest of us are settling in as well. The fall school schedule always comes with a bang and we start out running. Add to that a new school curriculum this year and we have barely been muddling our way through, but I think we are now getting into a routine. I am hesitant to say that all is "well" as I am much too keenly aware that the first year is the most difficult. We have just had our 2 year anniversary with Hannah and Anita, and I vividly remember how depressed and miserable I felt for the first 10 months with them. I know that the road ahead is long and hard and paved with many tears. But I also know, from experience, that we will make it through....one step at a time.