Our Vladik (aka Vladchik, Vlad, Sonichko, Lyubime…and on and on) has been home with us for 12 days now and it sorta feels like it’s been forever. He is just the perfect fit for us and we are the perfect fit for him. It’s like it was always meant to be.
After 15 years in institutions, and the last 11 at Romaniv- in one hallway, he is doing AMAZING. It’s actually pretty miraculous. We aren’t sure all what Vladik does and doesn’t understand, but one thing is for sure: He was READY for a family. From the day he left Romaniv with Jed in his new clothes and shoes he has never called us “Jed and Kim” again, only “Papa and Mama”. He knows. It’s a miracle.
Siblings. Vladik is SO SO SOOOOOOOO happy to have siblings!!!! He absolutely loves them all, being especially partial to the boys. He likes to take them to school and walk them to their classrooms. He gets super excited when it’s time to go pick up Hava and Seth (half-day kinders). Like, even if he is on the swing (his most favorite thing), he’ll gladly pause if it means going to pick up the kids. When he sees them standing in line with their class he runs over and gives them big hugs. Vladik and Seth are great friends! Finally Seth has someone who’s interested in cars and balls and all things BOY! When Vladik and Seth are both home they are playing together constantly, joined at the hip. They are truly God’s gift to each other.
Sleep. Bringing home a newly adopted child is a lot like bringing home a newborn from the hospital. Everything changes, the new “baby” requires a lot of mommy and daddy’s attention, you spend a lot of time figuring out eating and pooping habits (not so fun with a 15 year old..hehe..but then, is dealing with another person’s poop ever fun??). But, I gotta say, after 8 straight years of constant newborns (foster and bio), I can fullyappreciate Vladik’s amazing sleep habits. He is a GREAT sleeper!!!
For now, Vladik sleeps in his own bed in the room with Jed and me. It just makes good sense to have him close to us at night, for his own sense of security and our peace of mind, until we feel the time is right to move him in with the other kiddos. He goes to sleep easily and he sleeps all night. The only issue, and it’s a big one, is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a common problem with kiddos with Apert Syndrome, and we have big concerns about it for our Vladik. He snores loud all night long. He can’t really breathe through his nose, so that’s an issue too. He sleeps with his back arched and his head thrown back, which is a common position for kids who are struggling to get air. He stops breathing and hacks and coughs all night long. Making it possible for him to sleep safely is our number one medical priority for Vladik.
We have a great routine of a nightly shower and then massage before bed. The other night he said “Papa, I’m going to sleep with mama tonight. You sleep alone over there.” hahahahahaha! What a sweetie.
Language. Vladik’s language is exploding! He literally does not stop talking. We aren’t speaking English to Vladik at all, we’re just sticking to Ukrainian. If we were going to be living in the US we would start teaching him English, but there’s really no point since we are going back to Ukraine. He is surrounded by English, since our family speaks that to each other all the time at home, so I’m sure he’ll pick it up. But really, it is in everyone’s best interest to keep Vladik speaking Ukrainian. We are improving our skills and he isn’t losing his. Win win. 🙂 Vladik’s speech is super hard to understand, due to all the structural issues with his face, but we are understanding him better all the time. I don’t know if that’s because his speech is improving or because we are just used to “Vladik speech”. Either way, he is able to make his needs and wants understood, and we are able to communicate just fine.
Food. This is the hardest thing at this point. Vladik is used to eating the same 4-5 foods every.single.day. There is not much texture in the Romaniv food because many of the boys have swallowing problems and very few teeth with which to chew. Feeding time at Romaniv is CRAZY town. But, I digress. 🙂 Anyway, Vladik has a hard time with new textures and new flavors. So, the struggle is to find foods he’ll eat without me having to cook two different meals all the time. (Ain’t nobody got time for that!) If I have a pot of mashed potatoes and a pot of soup in the fridge to fall back on, then all is well. But heaven forbid we should run out of mashed potatoes! 😉 We’re just trying to slowly intro new foods and at least make him try them before flat-out rejecting them. It’s hard to know which struggles are sensory and which are structural. Baby steps, baby steps.
Medical. Last week we started Vladik’s medical journey and it’s gonna be a long one, folks. We had an appointment with our primary pediatrician and she basically referred us to every specialist known to man: neurosurgery, genetics, ear-nose-throat, Shriners for hands and feet, craniofacial, dentistry, ophthalmology, radiology (for scoliosis x-rays), occupational therapy, and speech pathology/feeding. The referrals have been made, so now we just wait for everyone to call us to schedule appointments. Let’s get this party started!
Social/Attachment. Our Vladik is one smart cookie. He understands that we are his family and he belongs with us. He is appropriately shy with new people and there is no danger of him wanting to walk off with some random person. He’s a naturally cautious kiddo, so he’s also not really a “wanderer”. During the adoption process, we prayed that God would prepare Vladik’s heart for a family and He has totally answered that prayer. The boys at Romaniv have absolutely ZERO concept of what a family is. They had never seen family modeled to them. They have no books about families. They are completely isolated from society and most have never experienced family life. So Vladik’s entry into our family is something we were super curious about. But he gets it. He really does. We have been building this bond for a couple of years now, so that has made everything a whole heck of a lot easier. He already knew us and we were already the “good guys” in his life. He accepts affection and is starting to be the one to initiate affection more every day.
As far as Vladik being 15 years old, coming from a really horrible environment, and being in the home with our little kids, we are not worried. He is definitely the youngest, developmentally, and does not at all take on a dominating role. That’s just not his personality. We are taking appropriate precautions though, and we know we need to be wise. We have seen where he came from. 🙁 For instance, for now, Vladik sleeps in our room. We always have the kids in earshot or in our line of sight when they are playing. We are trying to teach our other kids a bit more modesty (they’re not very good about that here at home) 🙂 and explaining to them why it’s important that we be modest in front of Vladik: “To teach him how he should behave in a family…” But all in all, we have no big concerns. He is appropriate and very much still a little boy. We knew that about him before we ever decided to bring him into our family.
Emotional/Spiritual. Vladik is absolutely amazing. He is a miracle. How in the world did he keep his joy throughout all he endured? He is ALWAYS happy. He is the light of our family’s lives. He is thoughtful and obedient (most of the time) and pure sunshine. He brings us immense joy.
The only time he has really acted out was at the doctor’s office. He was very nervous and stressed. He wouldn’t listen and was acting so crazy- as in, I’ve never ever seen him like that before. Then he started talking. He spoke of Romaniv and people there, things they did. To each other. To him. Our hearts were broken. To the average person, it’s hard to imagine, by looking at our boy, how immensely he has suffered. I can almost forget it myself. And then he talks. Then we remember that one month of freedom doesn’t erase 11 years in hell on earth. His journey to complete healing will be a long one, but he is already well on his way.
Many people have asked us if Vladik misses Romaniv or his friends there. It’s a good question, especially when so many people love our Boys there so deeply and associate that love with “Romaniv” as a whole. But I have to tell you, that to ask that question is to not understand what Romaniv truly is. I don’t say that to look down my nose at you, or to shame the askers, I’m just saying that if you spent 10 minutes just observing Romaniv life, not playing there, but just observing, you would never even wonder about that question. Life at Romaniv consists of fences, walls, benches, neglect, abuse, survival of the fittest, and horrors most of us would never imagine even exist in this present time. NO person, let alone a child, should have to stay even one night there.
You all know how deeply committed we are to Romaniv. You know that we have hope for change and we are committed to change there. You know we love the boys, and we also love the staff and administration. We do! God has called us there- to give our lives to these boys, these nannies, these directors. And because of that deep love and commitment, I feel I can speak honestly and frankly about the reality. I hope you understand.
This morning Vladik was looking at the pictures on our fridge of some of the boys and he saw the Isolation Hall, his home for 11 years, in the picture. He pointed to the window that he used to spend hours staring out of and said “My bedroom.” I said, “Yes, you used to sleep there, but not now!” He just looked at the picture and said “I don’t like that room. I don’t want that room. Foo! (Ukrainian for ‘yuck!’) It’s bad! I don’t want that picture.” Then with a glance at me for permission, he took the picture off the fridge and handed it to me. “All done!” He said. Then I asked him to show me his bedroom. We ran into our room and flopped down on the comfy bed, all giggles and cuddles.
That’s right. All done, sweet boy. You’ve got your whole life in front of you. 🙂
Did you know several other boys at Romaniv are available for adoption? They can have the same future as Vladik if only a few brave families will step up and say yes. Could you be one of the rescuers? You can read about the boys here and here. Please, read about them with an open heart and see what God might say. Thank you!