Hoping to someday find M's brother adopted in the U.S. -
Myckola Oleksandrovych Markov - 8/26/2003

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Vacation and...Education?

The principal at the kids' school asked us to please photograph or journal the kids doing something educational every day during our vacation because we are taking them out of school for 4 days.  Since I already blog, I'm sending the link to the teachers so my posts this week will be a little different than usual.  

We didn't go on vacation last summer, and we promised the kids as we prepared to leave for Ukraine that, "Next year we will go to the beach together.  
All of us.  "Next year your brothers will be here and we can all go."  
It was a promise made to give them (and us) something to look forward to while they had to spend 45 days last fall without their mom and dad.  Since we're now a much larger family, we need a large place to stay when we travel.  Larger places are less expensive later in the summer, therefore here we are taking vacation during a school week.  
This week I will talk about all the things we don't always get to work on during a typical week that we see improvements in during our vacations.  There is nothing like a week with just the 8 of us together 24/7 in many unfamiliar environments and social situations to work on things like:

Social Skills
Life Skills
Building Trust
Overcoming anxiety
Sensory Play
Occupational Therapy 
Physical Therapy
Speech Therapy
Language Skills
Marine Life
Southern Culture

We will also be celebrating M's birthday this week.  This year is a BIG deal.  She spent 4 birthdays in Ukraine, sitting in an orphanage.  Alone.  No cake.  No party.  No presents.  No family.  

This year will be her fourth birthday with us.  She will finally have experienced as many birthdays with us as she experienced without us.  I don't know why this is a big deal for me, but it is.  She has begged to go to the beach for her birthday and well... it worked out.  She is beyond excited to be turning 8!  Birthdays tend to bring up a lot of memories for her every year.  She remembers Ukraine vividly and life events trigger her memories, often making what should be happy times difficult for her to navigate emotionally.  Being able to devote time to M this week leading up to her birthday I think will be very helpful to her. 

So far today I've already seen D laugh and giggle in the waves like the happy child he should be.  So much of his childhood was stolen from him and here he is, almost a teenager.  He missed so much.  He deserves happy memories so we try very hard to just let him be a kid whenever we can and let him have something to smile about.  
He recently told me that he gets carsick on long drives so I gave him dramamine for the ride down.  (building trust - he trusts me with a need and I meet it)  

W overcame his fear of sharks, crabs, fish, and all.the.biting.things. to get out beyond pinkie toe deep water and boogie board.  He kept saying "I'm surviving!" which totally cracked me up. (overcoming anxiety) 

M said she wanted to boogie board, then became terrified as the waves kept smacking her in the face.  She started crying and said she wanted to go back in.  I said, "No way!  You said that you wanted to swim in the ocean and you will.  You can do this!"  And I stood there with her in the waves, telling her how to relax, put her feet down, push off the bottom, dive under the wave, breathe, open her eyes, watch the waves, see the water hits everyone in the face!  She's so little that I put her on the boogie board with me and rode a few waves in, to the sound of her squealing laughter.  She kept saying "I'm gonna have nightmares about this!"  I told her "No you won't!  Because you did it and had fun!"  (overcoming anxiety and a massive amount of PT)

E had to skip the first dip in the ocean for randomly running up to a lady he didn't know and blurting out something rather personal about M.  (Social skills and attachment.  We just do.not. allow. things like this)  He later got to come out and had a great time in the water.  He's a sensory seeking kid so all of this sand and water sends him to his happy place immediately.

We showed the boys how to make their own beds at our beach house, complete with a fitted and flat sheet.  (Life Skills)

As we stopped for dinner at Cracker Barrel we let the children look at the menus and choose their food.  Some of them practiced their English ordering their own meal. (Life Skills)

M had lots of tummy time on the beach as she dug for shells in the sand with both of her hands.  (PT & OT)

V has handled this very exciting trip with a new sense of (relative) calm and maturity.  He has a long way to go in these areas some days, but I can see progress.  He has had a very good day!

Stay tuned for the rest of my posts this week!

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We witness a miracle every time a child enters into life; but those who make their journey home across time and miles, growing within the hearts of those who wait to love them,are carried on the wings of destiny; and placed among us by God's very own hands. --Kristi Larson