Yesterday was H.'s 11th birthday. She had a good day and enjoyed her celebration.
Blowing out the candles
Sisters... can you tell I haven't turned the heat on yet?
TM reading H. the card he made for her
I thought this would also be a good time to give a brief update on how H. is doing.
Overall, she is doing well and making progress. It's slow progress, with a back and forth motion, but it's progress. Health-wise, she is currently fighting on infection in her eye and on her face where one of the sutures was. Since she began antibiotics, it is looking better. We are still trying to get her seizures under control as well. We have an appointment with the neurologist at the end of her month and I'm sure we will be tweaking her medication once again. No seizures would be great. Her weak eye has been making progress with the patching. It started out at 20/200 (with glasses) and at her most recent visit earlier this month, it is now at 20/60. Pretty good, huh? We'll be continuing with the patching. The wandering and nystagmus seem to be getting better as well.
Self-awareness is also growing. It was virtually non-existent when she joined our family and I'm not sure I've mentioned about her extreme passiveness. I have never met someone who was so firmly entrenched in the idea of being merely an observer to her own life with no ability to change what is happening to her. I know that it is a defense mechanism for dealing with past neglect (or worse), but it is not a self-image that is easy to change. I was particularly struck by this when I realized that she wasn't even forming conscious memories of what she had done. I could ask her what we did yesterday and she would look at me blankly and shrug her shoulders as if to say, "How on earth should I know?" This has been a significant part of our school work together... working on remembering what has happened. I am happy to say that it is working. (I was a little concerned that it was something having to do with her brain abnormalities that was causing the lack of memory formation.) Each day she gets a little better at being able to recall what we did the day before. I decided this is where we needed to begin, because if you aren't used to forming memories, how are you going to remember something such as school work?
Reading has struck her fancy enough that she wants to remember it, though. She has moved from reading rule following three letter words and is now working on four+ letter blends. She can even read some words that do not exactly sound out as you think they would, such as 'farm'. Even more important to me is that she is remembering the sight words that I've taught her. The list is still small, but she can get them every time.
Physically, she is starting to gain more mobility and muscle. The highlight of the recent past is that she has learned how to run with a real running gait. Before, her running was, well, unique. I can't even really describe it except that it was like watching a marionette run. Nothing really seemed connected or under control. A. was coaching her the other day and by the end, she was able to really run up and down the block two full times. I really wasn't sure that would actually ever happen.
H. has been home a year and half now and feels so much more integrated into the family than she did this time last year. Adopting a child and making them a part of your family just takes time and for an older child it takes even more time. I also find I think of her more as just a part of the family as well, and spend a lot less time worrying about her ever fitting in or being aware of her. Boy, that sounds bad as I write it, but it's not what I mean. Being aware in the sense that when she first came home I was hyper-aware of her presence. I knew she was new; I wasn't used to her being there. It was sort of the same feeling when you have a small cut or bruise or blister and you are aware of that part of your body in a way you are not when it is not in pain. The newness, the differentness is gone. I know she is there, but in the same way I know my other children are there. It takes time. If you have felt those same feelings towards your adopted children, give yourself some grace... and more time. (It doesn't let you off the hook for actively working for a good relationship, but change your timeline.)
So, Happy Birthday, H.! Your joy and good nature never ceases to amaze and humble me. I love having the privilege of watching you grow and blossom into the girl you were meant to be. I love you.