Join Angela, Axel, Abel and Asher as they welcome their new sibling home.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Day 3: Pt 2

Today, as we stood in the entry of the institution, Dean and I prayed. We prayed for insight into what B was needing when he displayed various behaviors. We prayed to see things from his perspective. We prayed for our own patience. We prayed for wisdom. We prayed that B would feel our love.

And then we went in.

We arrived about 30 minutes before snack time. The kids were already agitated and hungry. As we predicted he cried when he saw us, worried that he would not get to eat.

I hate that these kids are so obsessed with food. The kind of obsession that comes with chronic hunger. When you see the children you know why. They are stick thin. B feels quite solid, but he's also wearing several layers of clothes. This time I will remember to take pictures when we get custody of him. I didn't with Asher, and he was so painfully thin.

I signed "eat" to him, and tapped the bag we had along. He immediately lunged for the bag, signing "eat" just like he did yesterday. Then he cried, sobbing tears, when this caregiver told him to change to his outside shoes. Oh how he cried. I understood, he was so hungry and so worried he would not get food. I signed "eat" again, and pointed to the elevator. Finally he changed his shoes and put on his jacket. He got on the elevator nicely, and walked so nicely outside with us. I turned to say something to Dean and B tugged on my hand, pointing anxiously at the picnic table where we sat yesterday while he snacked.

"Yes!" I said, signing "eat" and pointing to the table as we continued to walk. B ran ahead and sat in the same place as yesterday. This will be our routine now. Predictable for him. Safe.

Today's snack was watered down juice ( the kids here are chronically dehydrated. Fewer diapers that way.) a fruit pouch and a banana. I've been told he doesn't chew so wanted to see what he did with small bites of soft food. He'll probably have more fruit this week than he's had in his entire life and I realize we may suffer some gastrointestinal consequences of this. I posted video in my previous post. He did SO WELL with his signing. Laughing excitedly when it got him what he wanted. Later the caregivers told us he's signing for them now too, and they seem both proud and amazed he is learning so quickly. The caregivers we have met so far are encouraging him as well. As I suspected he is not able to take bites of the banana, at least not safely. This is partly because he's starving and wants to just shove it all in. We can work on bite size later when he's not so hungry. After a few bites I just broke pieces off and put them into his teeth to see he he would chew. Like Asher, he very quickly moved it to his palate and swallowed. (but it didn't pack in his palate like Asher would do.)

When snack with us was done we went back inside for THEIR snack. It sure wasn't going to hurt him to have two snacks, and I wanted to see what he did with their food. When we arrived on his floor we were greeting by the social worker who would observe our visit and submit her report tomorrow.

B couldn't believe he was getting to eat again! Again, he cried sobbing tears as the caregiver put his bib on. He was given a cup of clear broth with very large (whole) crackers dropped into the cup. He sat down with his food, but this time didn't inhale it. He lifted the cup to drink the broth, expertly using the spoon to hold the crackers out of the way. When the broth was gone he put the cup down, using the spoon to smash up the mushy crackers into paste, then eating them. He was the last one done because he wasn't rushing like everyone else. ;-) Then he was given a couple of wafer cookies. The caregiver handed it to him, which I thought was interesting since he doesn't chew. Yeah, well he's pretty smart. He handed to me and indicated I should break it up. I broke a piece off and put it in his molars and he chewed a tiny bit. The next bite I put BARELY in his front teeth. He used his lips to pull it into his mouth, chewing a little bit with his front teeth before swallowing.

By the time his snack was done, he was FULL! I bet he's never felt full in his entire life. Now much more calm, we decided to go back outside. He walked with us nicely! He went down one of the little kid slides, again using the sign for "more" each time he was going to climb up the ladder. I did something else today. Whenever he showed attention seeking behavior, like licking the slide, or the ground, or the basketball hoop, I just didn't respond. But, when he did what was appropriate, he got lots of "Bravo!" for praise. He stopped doing those things.

The social worker was still observing all of this, so I spent a lot of time thanking God under my breath that today was not a repeat of yesterday. When he looked like he was going to throw a giant toy (again, attention seeking) I showed him how to put it down "nice" (signing it) and he didn't throw anything. He tried lots of different ride-on toys, testing us to see what we would/would not allow him to play with or sit on, but he wasn't inappropriate.

When it was time to go back inside I told him "come" (signed while saying it in Serbia) He took my hand and walked nicely until he realized WHERE we were going. He sat himself down on the ground, refusing to move. That's ok! Out came my canine-training techniques. He was not allowed to let go of my hand, but as long as he was sitting on the ground we would  not move forward NOR would he get any attention from me. No eye contact, no pulling on him or begging. After a few seconds he stood up and started walking with me. We went about 10 feet and he sat back down. This is the lather, rinse, repeat part of retraining. He has to try each thing several times to see if I respond the same way I did the time before. Consistency. Consistency makes thins predictable so he will know what my response will be. We repeated this little exchange three times before he had it figured out. He walked the rest of the way inside, up the elevator and back to his group without anymore problems.

He changed his shoes, put his jacket away, then went in to wash his hands...and took a bite out of the bar of soap. Why? Because that is what gets him attention from the caregivers, and yes they come running! Hands all over him to get the soap out of his mouth, etc. Attention, attention, attention. This is one of those "maladaptive" behaviors that isn't really maladaptive in my eyes. It's a survival skill. Something he has developed to get attention he is so severely lacking. Now I will just have to figure out how to act proactively with this at home. I think the brothers and sister will be helping me with some role play. That and we use liquid soap at home. Yes, he will lick it off his hand. No, it won't kill him in small quantities. No, he won't get ANY reaction from me when he does it, but HIGH PRAISE when he washes his hands nicely.

We left this visit feeling so much better than we did yesterday. He was able to sit with us for quite some time (as long as we kept the food coming!) and he did calm down once his tummy was full. We're praying tomorrow goes just as well, but are also prepared for a backlash. It might have gone too well, and B might try some new tricks. ;-)


  1. oh yay! So glad it was a good day for you both, and B.

  2. BRAVO LEAH!! As always so proud of you! It's amazing how those canine training techniques help in so many different aspects of life :) Best of luck with your next visit, praying you all make giant leaps toward going home.

  3. So happy for all of you. It's amazing to see how happy children are with full bellies. Makes you appreciate what you have that much more. Oh, and thanks for the tips. May have to try these ourselves! ;-)