|The first picture we saw of her|
A year ago (on August 9th, 2011) we were sitting in the SDA office in Kiev, receiving referrals for two children. Up until that point, we thought Lena, (who’s Reeces’ Rainbow alias was ‘Lori’) was born in 2006. It wasn’t until they pulled her file that day in Kiev, that we were told she was actually a year older than we thought.
This is a big deal because although we had seen ‘Lori’s picture many times, we passed over her in our minds because she was at least a few months older than our oldest biological daughter, and we’d been warned about all the things that could go wrong if we decided to “adopt out of birth order.”
Eventually, the Lord dealt with our hearts and impressed upon us that He was wiser than the wisest advice of men and that He had a plan. Had we known that she was a whole year older than we’d originally thought, we may not have even opened our hearts and minds to the idea in prayer for the possibility of adding her to our family.
|An updated picture sent to us from someone who visited the orphanage…
looks like she’s always liked helping with the cooking!
Lena Joy Hazleton – born ‘Olena’ – turned out to be quite different than all our expectations. The day we met her, I was shocked at how tiny she was. So little. And painfully thin. See-all-your-bones thin. This could have been from the massive amounts of parasites she came home with, or the ridiculous metabolism of a child who was probably rarely still for the first 5 years of her life, or maybe because children with HIV have different needs nutritionally, that weren’t being met in the orphanage. Or it could have been because she was born prematurely at home, weighing only 4 pounds. It is a miracle she is even alive, because her birth-mother had her early – at home – and then took her to the hospital, where she was abandoned just hours later.
|The Day we met her|
So she was tiny, but she was dynamite. A firecracker. My wildcat. During our visits to the orphanage, Lena would literally climb us like we were trees to be conquered. She would hang on us, laughing wildly. Nothing deterred her – or made her sit still for more than 2 minutes. Jeff and I would leave the orphanage every afternoon completely exhausted. And I worried that we had made a mistake.
|She’s a great big sister, and loves babies|
But now I can hardly believe the transformation in this child. She is calm. Gentle. Helpful. She beams when she is praised or thanked for anything. Before we brought her home, we knew there was a possibility that Lena has FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome). Honestly, I kind of wrote this off. I very naively thought, well if she does have it, it must be mild, and we’ll just work with her and help her get better.
But the thing about FAS is that the brain is permanently affected. And with Lena, I didn’t realize the extent of the damage until I sat down to begin teaching her some kindergarten basics.
There is a lot to say about FAS and how it affects Lena – so much so that I’ll have to write an entirely separate post about it. Suffice it to say that there are definite challenges. And we have had to change the way we parent with her.
|Modeling her new dress from Granna|
But thankfully, knowing is half the battle, right? And we’re seeing progress, both in her behavior and learning, and in our bonding with her.
Lena loves to play with her brothers and sisters. She’s an extremely big help with watching over Carson and sitting and talking with Olivia while I’m cooking dinner. She loves to do anything to help with dinner or around the house, and constantly asks what she can do for me. She makes my bed nearly every single day. And honestly, if given the choice between watching a show with her sibling or making my bed, she’d choose to make the bed. Just yesterday – of her own accord – she decided to clean out and re-organize the drawers in their dresser.
|Easter Sunday with (most) of her Sissies|
And on top of that, she asks to rub my feet every.single.night. Pretty amazing girl, huh? And you know what? Because of the difficulties she has with FAS, Lena is emotionally much younger than six. So her being older than our oldest biological daughter is not even an issue. I’m so glad we decided that God knows best. Because look at the blessing we almost passed over!
|Miss Hazel Eyes is growing up|