This week, we were on-the-go quite a bit with doctor’s appointments and therapies, so there wasn’t as much time to play at home. Nasko loves going new places, so this is good for him, but not as good for some of his play skills. However, Friday was a calm, at-home day, and Nasko shocked me by playing independently (and appropriately) for around 30 minutes! He has two different toy buses (buses are his current favorite in the transportation category) and a fire truck that are similar in size. Nasko brought all three to our front entryway and played with them in the sun. As I watched (from afar!) I saw Nasko load and unload the little people on the buses. He parked the vehicles into perpendicular parking places when he wasn’t gathering children. Playing this way, for such an extended period of time is HUGE for Nasko’s play ability. I started to feel guilty for not interacting with him during the play, but I also realize the importance of letting him learn to play independently.
I read quite a few books and blogs about adoption before Nasko came home. Most of them state that children immersed in a new language will really begin to understand it at around one month and speak it at around three months. So far, this statistic holds true for Nasko. I can’t believe the number of complex phrases he now understands.
This week, I moved his bookbag from my desk chair to his closet. When we were preparing to leave for a therapy appointment, I said to Nasko “Go put on your bookbag.” He’s been responding appropriately to this statement for about a week. He then arrived at my desk chair with a confused look. (Nasko likes everything to have its place and be in its place. His toys are an exception, but it’s fortunate that Chance and I are pretty organized. It seems to be helping Nasko’s sense of permanence.) I said, “Oh! I moved it to your closet. Go get your bookbag from your closet.” I was pretty certain that Nasko didn’t know “closet”, so I fully intended to escort him there. I got distracted (No way!) and next thing I hear, Nasko was opening his closet door. He was also distracted (No way!) and emerged with a car toy, but I was proud of the listening skills that were demonstrated!
We’ve tried to cut down on the number of Bulgarian words we use since Nasko will probably be starting preschool next week. We’ve replaced “lecko” with “easy” and “pish” with “potty.” He has made the switch very easily. If only Mama and Taty weren’t still shouting “Nay” unconsciously, we could probably completely switch to English!
Nasko hadn’t added too many new expressive words verbally (he has added quite a few signs), but he’s beginning to put together the expressive words that he already has. Nasko now uses many two-word phrases: “Light on/off.” “Shoes on/off.” “Mama help.”
He’s also combining signs and spoken word: “More (word) animals (sign).” “Where (sign) shoes (word)?”
Nasko had a renewed interest in his trampoline this week after he and Chance built an obstacle course. He loves to jump on it while holding our hands, so Chance and I have started adding the singing of the ABCs to the routine. Nasko can now sing his ABCs! He doesn’t enunciate every letter, but he does sing the tune very, very well!
In the orphanage, Nasko only used a spoon. We’ve struggled to get him to use a fork, but we are making great progress. Many meals, we don’t even give him the option of a spoon.
Also, in the orphanage, Nasko was allowed to drink his soup, rather than spoon it out. He has attempted this here, but since we are focused on making his fingers stronger, we don’t let that fly!
Nasko has done remarkably well this week, despite a crazy schedule. We completely missed nap one day and had him up late one night. Overall though, he’s done well. He even took a four-hour nap one afternoon. I got lots of house cleaning done!
Last night, we had a cookout and bonfire with our closest friends and their children. There were six adults and four children in our house (or yard). This proved to be a lot for Nasko to handle, as the night went on. I took Nasko into his room a few times in order to calm him down. He cried more and desired to be held. These experiences are hard, but I think they are necessary in small doses. We cannot keep Nasko from all overwhelming situations, so we have to teach him to deal with these encounters. Thank goodness we have forgiving friends who don’t stress out when our son tries to poke their kids’ eyes and pick up their baby by the neck. We’ll get there eventually!
When the school’s social worker called this week, she asked if Nasko could dress himself and use the restroom independently. I responded with, “Yes, but for attachment sake, we don’t let him.” I went on to explain our philosophy in this domain. She said, “Wow. You seem to know a lot about attachment and adoption.” I laughed and told her, “You don’t agree to adopt a crazy Bulgarian five-year-old without some tools in your tool belt!”
Nasko is beginning to understand when to use the toilet seat! Yay! In the orphanage, the toilet seats had been broken off, long before we were there. No matter if a child had to sit or stand, there was no toilet seat to use. After many times of, “Oh, you have to sit, let Mama move the seat then…” Nasko is using the seat independently. It’s the little things, really!
Nasko’s occupational therapist had some interesting things to say this week, so I thought I would share them here:
She has been able to get Nasko to a “state of calm” a few times in therapy (on the swing or rolling in a large tube, etc.) but she said that Nasko resists the calm state. Many children who have experienced trauma (orphanage life, abuse, neglect, accidents, etc.) rely on a fight-or-flight defense. These children are constantly on high-alert and do not allow themselves to calm down until they absolutely crash at bedtime. They are constantly watching for danger and looking for things to meet their basic needs (food, drink, etc.) Nasko appears to have much of this fight-or-flight defense. For example, he rarely sits to play, but plays in a squat in order to evacuate quickly, if needed. Also, even if food is not cooked, if he sees it, he thinks he needs to shove it all in his mouth before anyone can take it away.
Arina, our OT, wants to continually present Nasko with this state of calm, and encourage him to stay in it. As Nasko played with his bus independently this week, he sat down on the floor and seemed to relax and slow down a bit. I’m hoping this is the beginning of his ability to remain in the calm state.
The other interesting thing from our OT session was that Arina told us that it’s time to deal with Nasko’s infatuation with his right hand. I’ve mentioned before that he moves it in a repetitive way and then focuses his attention on it. Many times in public, Nasko wants to hold Chance and I’s right hands, so that his hand is free. It is believed that Nasko began this practice when he was a toddler in his first orphanage. I believe that he spent most of his days lying on his back in the crib, so he probably began entertaining and stimulating himself with his hand. Because Nasko is getting (more than) enough stimulation in his new life, Arina said it’s time to break Nasko’s stimulation habit. She suggested a command like “Hold” when he’s supposed to have two hands on something (swing, bike, plate, etc.) and “Hand down” when he is just sitting or standing while focusing on his hand. Nasko has quickly learned these phrases, and I think they will be subtle reminders of what he is supposed to be doing. Experts say that habits take 21 days to break, but since this is more of a reflex than a habit at this point, I’m thinking this will be a long road. We’ve got time!