The blossoming

This morning we had our second post-placement visit for our adoption agency. Also this weekend I've finally been working on printing pictures from the last year and getting them in an album. It has been a day full of reflection and I have been amazed as I think about how Arie has blossomed.
In all our pre-adoption preparation we read a lot about the negative impact of neglect, institutionalization, and loss on young children. Between the harsh realities, however, almost every article contained one hopeful line with the same message. Over and over again we read it: children are incredibly resilient.

There are always scars, to be sure, but the vast majority of children who are adopted after being institutionalized will go on to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. I once heard an adoptive mother say, "I know my children will have issues stemming from their adoption, but hey- we all have issues and at least my kids will know where to start with theirs."

We went through the what ifs in our adoption too. When you adopt a child with an unknown health history- historically, prenatally, and developmentally- there are so may things to worry about. At the end of the day we came to rest on two truths:

1. God will equip us to deal with whatever issues come our way.
2. Children are resilient.

We keep Arie's health history private and while I don't want to give the impression that we came home with a little boy completely unscathed by his past, I do want to share that both have been true: God has equipped us to deal with issues that have come our way and Arie has proven himself to be incredibly resilient.
He is learning more and more words every day and has begun to string three words together in a sentence. After 4 months of reminding him about manners, just this week he began saying "Thank you!" on his own. Everytime I offer him a snack or snap the plastic barnyard door on the Little People set (an hourly occurrence over here), he smiles and sings, "Ta-ku Mama!"  You're welcome baby. 

A lot of people ask me if he still speaks any Russian and the answer is no, he doesn't. He did not speak that much even when he was in Russia, so he has not really had to replace Russian with English as much as he just learned to speak (in English). I've tried asking him some simple questions in Russian- using phrases I know he used to understand- and he does not show any signs that he knows what I am saying. Sometimes when children as adopted from other countries they will reject their former language as a way of clinging to their new life, so it is hard to discern whether he is ignoring my Russian questions or whether he legitimately does not understand. In either case, he only uses one Russian word now: mishka which means little brown bear. He uses it for all his stuffed bears.
Some of you have commented that he seems taller and yes you are correct! When dressed him in Moscow we had him in 18-24 month size clothing and we had to cuff his pants. Now he's perfectly in 2T sizing and still shooting up! His weight has stayed about the same (I think he's gained a half pound?) so he looks a lot slimmer. As much as I hate to say goodbye to his chubby belly and baby thighs, it is a true gift to see him growing and thriving at home so I praise God for it! Every once and a while he stands in a mature way or makes an adult-like gesture and I feel like I am catching a glimpse of the man he's growing into. It takes my breath away and motivates me to do whatever it takes to teach him to be a good man, kind, strong, romantic, hard working, loyal. Just like his father.
In terms of his attachment to us, it continues to strengthen and grow.  While he was pretty affectionate during every day life from the beginning, we really worked hard to get him to enjoy our affection when was upset about something (either after falling or after being disciplined for example). Our tactic was simple: when he was upset, we would just ask him, "Do you need a hug?" At first he would shake his head no, but we gave him a quick one anyway. Sometimes he would be stiff and other times he would squirm away. After a while he wouldn't say yes or no, he would just stand there and we would hug him for longer. Eventually he would nod his head yes and he would give him a long hug, rub his back and kiss his cheeks.  Now he says yes and wraps his little arms tightly around us for comfort. A true sign of attachment! For a little boy who spent two and a half years comforting himself, this is a big deal.

More and more of his little personality is coming to light as well, which is probably a combination of both his being more at home with us and him just maturing as he approaches his third birthday in June. We are so happy to finally have someone musical in our family! John and I cannot sing, dance, or play an instrument with any kind of grace. We both appreciate music and dance deeply we just can't do it ourselves. John signed himself up for piano lessons in college but on the third lesson his teacher told him- and I'm not making this up- that she didn't think he could teach him because he was so tone deaf! Ha! Anyway, Arie loves to sing and he spends half his day dancing around the house.  When we eat dinner John usually has background music playing and Arie loves to sit in his booster and "sit-dance" to the tune.  Here's a little clip of his skillz (he also likes to make his face dance as you will see):

Despite John's comment to the contrary, he did not learn those moves from me. His orphanage had a "music class" so I think he's showing us what he learned there. Adorable.

It is fitting that he is blossoming so beautifully in the springtime because watching for signs of his attachment has been just like watching a flower bloom. You see the green stem poking out of the ground and then wait for what seems like an eternity as it grows taller and forms a tiny bud. You check it day after day and it remains green until one day- there it is. A beautiful bloom open to the world! It's been like that with Arie too. Small, steady growth for a long period of time and then suddenly something just clicks and he bursts into bloom! He is a resilient little guy.
All this and we're only (nearly) five months in. I can't wait to see how God continues to bless our son as we enter spring and summer!



  1. Stephanie4/13/2013

    The video of Arie dancing is beyond adorable! So cute!!!

  2. Oh, Jillian, I love this post! Arie is so precious and simply thriving! While all he truly has ever needed was love, you all are giving him that and so, so much more. And it shows . . .

  3. Anonymous4/13/2013

    I. Cant. Even. Hande. This!

    I have been having the worst weekend and have been in a hole of depression until I read this post. I have been following your blog since pre-adoption and know your story quite well so getting a glimps into how things are going now has nearly broken me of my pain. I forgot how much I wanted this for myself and realizing that now is .... way beyond a blessing could be. Thank you for being who you are and listing to the Spirit in you. Thank you. I needed this.

  4. I love how his eyebrows even dance! And that he can't even quite stop his body from dancing even to take a bite at times :) He is such a character!

  5. I love your adoption story, and Arie is adorable!
    There are Orthodox Christian churches in America branched off from The Russian Orthodox churches. There are probably some in your area. Maybe you could take him to one sometime. It would be a fun experience I'm sure!

  6. I love your adoption story, and Arie is just adorable!!!
    There are Orthodox Christian churches in America branched off from the Russian Orthodox Church. There are probably some in your area. Maybe you could take Arie to a service sometime. I'm sure it'd be a fun experience.
    Here's the Orthodox Church in America website, just in case you would like to explore. :)


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