Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Head Bobbing Outside the Castle Walls

In general, things are going well.  Ruslan (seven year old) is still making slow but sure progress.  I noticed the other day during homework time that he is writing with his hand, using his hand muscles to move the pencil instead of keeping his wrist and elbow raised and moving his whole arm.  This is huge progress since I was certain he would never have that kind of hand dexterity (such a blessing to be a pessimist, because when you’re wrong, it’s a pleasant surprise and when you’re right, well, you’re right.)

He also sat on the floor yesterday criss-cross (Indian style) unsupported, and was able to keep himself up long enough to eat his breakfast.  We have endless debates over his sitting because when we got him, he could only sit in a “w” with his knees on the floor and his feet on either side of his butt.  On the one hand, he has been doing this all his life.  Our Orthopedist is a laid back, gentle sort of doctor and he basically said, “Don’t worry about it.”  He is of the camp that Ruslan’s body was made this way and if “w” sitting works for him, then let it go.   He is also the least ambitious about Ruslan walking, but that may just be because of his general personality.

Everyone else that we come in contact with is in the other camp—“w” sitting will stretch Ruslan’s tendons, making it hard for him to walk, causing him to rely on his tendons rather than his muscles to hold his torso upright, flat out ruin his knees which will become knobby and bend outward and if he EVER sits in a “W” again, we might as well just put in him a wheelchair and forget walking forever!! 

I fall in the second camp and I hate myself for this. “W” sitting is Ruslan’s favorite way to sit and no wonder, since it is really the only way for him to be on the floor upright.  When he first came, he could not get his knees in the criss-cross position at all.  He was so tight.  We could cross his feet, but his knees were at his chin and he would fall straight backward.  After a few weeks of butterfly stretching, he could sit criss-cross, but he still couldn’t hold his torso up.  If he didn’t have a pillow under his butt or something behind his back he would fall right on his back.  This made it hard for him to sit and play since we were always moving the pillow or back support.  We have been working on sitting faithfully, and as I said, yesterday, he ate his banana breakfast on the floor sitting criss-cross without the pillow and without back support.  

As you can see, he looks about to fall backwards, however, he managed to sit through the entire banana.  This is a small miracle in our world.  The kids were going nuts for him, clapping and telling him what a great job he was doing.  I didn't tell the kids this, but when I thought of all the work that went into that banana and how far we had to go, I couldn't help thinking of Wesley in The Princess Bride.  If you remember, although he had been mostly dead all day, he needed to storm the castle in order to save Buttercup and help Indigo fight the six fingered man.  While they were staking out the castle, he told Fezzik, "My brains, his skill and your strength against 60 men and you think a little head-jiggle is going to cheer me?"

However, perhaps there is more reason to hope because this morning, I put him in the criss-cross position again and he changed his legs himself to a side sitting position and, again, kept it long enough to finish his breakfast. 

The other kids were all over him, so we got a photo of the whole crew (minus Matt, 13, who was still asleep).

That's about where we are.  The draw back is that criss-cross/side sitting is only possible when Ruslan’s braces are off.  So, my solution when his braces are on is to keep him playing at tables so he is standing up, but it’s a long haul.  We have a few small tables for playing and I got a coke crate for him to stand on at dinner.  It puts the table just below “elbow level.”  His therapist said to keep the tables higher rather than lower, because that way he can’t lean as much and keeps the weight on his legs.  I won’t do this to him forever, but he really needs the exercise and he seems happy with it. 

Will (five year old) is also making huge strides.  We had a breakthrough with potty-training.  About a month ago, he had pooped in his diaper so I told him we had to change it.  He can dress himself, so I have him take off  his own shoes, braces and pants alone and then call me to get his diaper off and wipe his butt.  When he didn't call me after about five minutes I went in to check on him.  He had taken the diaper off himself and played in his poop.  He got it ALL OVER the bathroom; on his shoes, on his braces, on his clothes, in his hair, on the floor, on the toilet, on the walls, all over his body etc. etc. etc.  It was everywhere.  

There was NO WAY I wanted this to become part of our lives.  So, I yelled and spanked him with my hand on his bare butt.  The spanking was horrible for both of us, but I’m telling you this for your benefit (O Mothers Everywhere) because that was the LAST time he pooped in his diaper.  EVER. Thank You God!!!   It’s been over a month and he hasn’t had a single accident since then.  I mentioned this to my father, who said in his compassionate way, “Ah yes.  Pain is a marvelous teacher.” 

Lovely.  However, I have to admit, it worked.  He’s been so good that yesterday morning I sent him to pre-school in underwear.  He asked for the underwear and he’s been dry for about a week, so it seemed worth the try.  Thankfully, he made it.  ....phew.

Will has also been much more pleasant to be around.  He’s actually gotten really cute.  He loves to sit on the counter when I am cooking and he loves to sit in laps.  He follows the other kids around, trying to imitate what they are doing.  He likes to play in the sand box.  He’s still water obsessed, but the kids have been much better about keeping the bathroom locked.  He used to wail whenever we told him, “no.”  He still cries, but not nearly as often and he is easily distracted now so it doesn’t disrupt the whole house. 

His English is coming along as well.  Yesterday I gave him the wrong cup and he said, “actually, this is mine,” taking the other cup.  He also spilled his cheerios this morning, then looked at me and said, “darn it.”  Totally void of emotion, but the words were appropriate.    

When we do his morning or evening routine, I’ve started asking him, “what’s next?” and he will tell me what is next in the routine, only one or two words, but the steps are there.  After we wash his hands at bedtime, he’ll smile, look up at me and say, “Kisses!”  because getting in bed and kisses are the next step.  This is quite a change from the boy who didn’t know what kisses were and used to fight all attempts at hugging. 

So, we are making progress, which is good because Bill is still not too sure about this whole thing.  He usually gets overwhelmed with work every February so I was expecting a little relapse, but it was hard.  He’s been traveling so much and sleeping so little, he hasn’t seen the progress the kids have made.  Construction projects are beginning and he has a huge load of work on his head getting them planned, getting them manned, getting equipment/materials, getting the digging started and then keeping things running.  This year is all the worse because there is more work than normal and a deadline involved.  He barely has time to think, which only makes things worse. 

I have faith that his perspective on the boys will get better as his work load lightens, but he said over the weekend that if he could go back in time, he’d talk himself out of it.  UGH!!


  1. These are miracles when you think that these boys were almost sent to an institution, locked behind walls with no way out! They look great!!!

  2. Great job, Marnie! I wish that spanking worked for us. We caught Ivan doing some very yucky things with his poop the other day. We bought an alarm for his pull-ups for when he poos/pees, I am hoping that this will help. I am so glad that you are keeping up with your blog. I love hearing about the progress, it makes me feel like I am not alone! Now, if only we lived closer to each other!