It is hard to believe that we met Alina less than a month ago. We feel like we have known her forever.
This little girl is so busy and curious. She is such a bundle of love.
She is very sociable and giggles easily. She has had nothing of her own, yet she willingly shares her food and toys. She is a sturdy little girl who craves affection and gives it right back. When she comes in for a hug, she lunges toward you, grinning with her arms wide open. She rarely cries, but when she does, she is easily consoled.
A few details that several people have asked about:
Alina was confused at first by physical affection. We gave her space to start, and when we first began to hug and kiss her, she looked at us like, what is that? and moved slightly away. Within a few days, though, she realized that having people love her felt pretty nice. One day at the orphanage, she scratched her arm and I came right over to ask if she was hurt. She looked up, appearing to be a bit confused by me kissing her arm. She paused, then smiled, then went right over to Chris and lifted her arm to his mouth so he would kiss her boo-boo, too. She's all about the love now. Instead of leaning away, she leans toward us. Loving a child who has been abandoned and hasn't known love, and having them love you back--it feels like Heaven.
Alina is eating, drinking and sleeping well. She seems to like most everything we have fed her, except Brussels sprouts (not a surprise) and mashed potatoes (a surprise). She does prefer food and drinks to be warm (everything was warmed in the orphanage), but she won't refuse items that are cold. She is drinking apple juice, water and rice milk from a sippy cup. (She can drink from an open cup, but needs supervision because she tends to play in it, or pour some of it if left unattended. She wasn't given milk in the orphanage, as far as we know, so we are introducing dairy slowly.) She naps once a day, for about two hours, and sleeps soundly from about 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Alina doesn't love diaper wipes. Scratch that. She loves diaper wipes, just not when we are wiping her bottom with them :). We don't know what they used in the orphanage (maybe a warm cloth?).
She doesn't mind baths, although we assume she had never had one until she got here. She really likes to splash the water, so her baths are quick :). We also assume she did not have any sort of dental care in the orphanage. She cleans her teeth with her tongue when she lays down to sleep at night. It is sweet and sad. She has let me brush her teeth right from the start, which is crazy. I have no idea why it doesn't bother her. Her gums bled a little at first, even though I was super careful. They are not bleeding anymore. And yes, the pediatric dentist is on our list of visits to make soon.
Alina doesn't watch t.v. (although she likes the remote and knows exactly how to use it--they had a t.v. in her groupa's room), but she does seem to like one show: American Idol. It's true. I have no idea why Dora the Explorer does not hold her attention, but American Idol does. (Dang, I wish I had the whole season recorded!)
The staff at the orphanage was able to tell us two things about Alina (in English): Alina clever.... and Alina messy. Holy cow, were they ever right on both accounts :).
Alina is doing so well developmentally. She is very sharp and able. Her spoken language is her largest delay as far as we can tell, although she is making lots of sounds (like Boo, Woo, Oof, Ha Ha, Huh!), and she has started to say some words in English, too, like HI! and more ("muh"), which she has also learned to sign. Alina understands much of what we say to her in English and is fairly compliant :). She loves to hear Russian words--she smiles when she hears them--and will do everything we ask of her in Russian. She's lucky our Russian-language skills are limited ;).
Bridget and Alina spent about a week sizing each other up :). Bridget realized quickly that Alina tends to stumble and will squash her when she falls, so Bridget would gladly wave and smile at Alina, but kept a safe distance from her "little" sister. For the first week or so, I would say that the girls tolerated one another and were amused by each other. They both seem to know that the other one isn't going anywhere, and they seem to be happy with that :).
They are really beginning to enjoy each other. They will wave to each other and smile. They like to hold hands, or touch their index fingers together. They "share" food items and cups (which is lovely, in truth as well as in sarcasm). Bridget tries to help Alina by making sure we are aware of her apparent needs and status on a moment-to-moment basis.
Bridget calls Alina sissy and nuh-nuh, but it is usually uh-nuh-nuh. Things I hear often: uh-nuh-nuh...mess; uh-nuh-nuh...cup; uh-nuh-nuh cryin'; uh-nuh-nuh cracker...me, cracker.
There have been some very funny moments already with the two of them. On the way home from dance class last night, Alina and Bridget were in their carseats, both double fist-pumping to AC/DC "You Shook Me All Night Long". It was classic.
Bridget and Alina are very similar in some ways: they both like dolls and books and food and being around people. Despite very different body types, they are also almost exactly the same height and weight and wear the same size shoe.
Our three-year-olds are also polar opposites in some ways. Bridget tends to be very dainty and gentle. When she falls or drops something she says Oopsie in a sweet little voice. Alina is a bit of a bull in a china closet. She is not the most gentle creature, but then again--neither am I :). When she falls or drops something, she says OOF! It is hilarious.
Bridget likes to be clean and gets grossed-out easily (she is often heard saying Ewww! for one reason or another). Alina is a disaster half the time. Bridget keeps a napkin beside her yogurt in the morning and wipes her mouth throughout. She isn't always clean, but she tries.
Alina, on the other hand, eats her yogurt with wild abandon--just how she does most other things :). She has it everywhere from her eyebrows to her elbows.
Yesterday, Bridget looked over at Alina (right when I took the above picture) and whispered, mess. Yep, she's a mess alright :). A beautiful, busy mess, who we are lucky enough to call our own.