Tuesday, November 22, 2011

4 weeks home!

4 weeks ago today our little lady stepped off the plane in D.C. and became an American citizen.  To say time has moved swiftly since then is putting it mildly. It's really hard for me to believe it's been that long. We all were extremely tired and emotionally overwhelmed by everything, I think. But after the jet lag and the newness has worn off, I think we've all adjusted rather nicely.  Let's see, in those four weeks, little miss V. has:

Learned to LOVE the bath  (please excuse the duplicate videos. you know my computer skills are very limited and the other part of my brain - Gabe- is not here to fix it).

Exhibited her amazing flexibility

Been showered with sibling affection and attention. My kids all love her. We are so blessed. I just love seeing what adopting a special-needs kid brings out in our other kids.

Tried lots of new foods ("This shoe is delicious"). Her favorites: yogurt, applesauce, oatmeal, anything with meat.  She's slowly getting used to bananas, berries, citrus. She still can't really chew, so her food has to be very soft and easily swallowed.

Mastered the sippy cup ("yeah, I've got skills.") And she's learning to like water and milk.

Had lots of parties with my BFF Millie in our room

Really honed her wrestling skills

Been to church, a Mexican restaurant, the mall, and the zoo

Helped my siblings makes LOTS of messes.  See that cabinet full of pots and pans?  She and her sister (in the proud tradition of children of all generations) have twice pulled them all out to use as noisemakers. 

And completely stolen our hearts with her extreme cuddliness and sweetness

She also had a 2-hour! doctor's appt. with the international adoption specialist.  Really helpful for us and Vika looks good. She also has to see a cardiologist, an ear/nose/throat specialist, opthamologist and an occupational therapist for a chewing/swalloing study. After the 2-hour appt., she had to have her blood drawn. Poor thing, her veins look non-existent to me. So after the vein in her arm dried up, they had to stick her in the hand. I couldn't watch. But they finally did get all the blood they needed.  The blood will tell the doctor lots of things. One of the things they will check for is what's called "tighters"(spelling?). This will let us know if the vaccinations she received in her country need to be repeated.

The doctor also told me it's best for us to feed her at this time. It's part of that whole attachment/bonding process that's the most important work right now. And I thought I was empowering her by encouraging her to feed herself! Vika missed all those things we all do with our infants so the idea is to make up for as much of that as we can now. It's also important for Vika to be with me or Gabe pretty much all the time. Although at times, we've had to briefly hand her off to someone, it's something we're trying not to do now. All she's known are paid caregivers, not mama and papa. She's got to get used to that whole concept and know that we're the ones who will meet her needs. just so you know.

And here's that crazy video again. Reruns are good, right?

One more thing that Vika is doing more and more of is looking in our eyes.  VERY good thing.  As I mentioned before, previously her eyes would just dart around the room, particularly at the ceiling. She had a hard time focusing on us very long. Now when we sit together she makes good eye contact and really seems engaged with us. She is a little bit difficult to get to sleep, so often after everyone else is asleep, I will get her from her bed and rock her for awhile. It's such a sweet time for us both. I think she's starting to expect it a little bit. I don't mind for now, she's got a lot of catching up to do. What else can I say? We love her! Crazy? Hectic? Stressful at times? Oh, yes! Next time I'll do a post about those things, but for now, I don't have too much to complain about.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Zoo Day

We are enjoying some wonderful fall weather here in SE Michigan so we decided to take advantage of it and head to Toledo, Ohio! What's the big attraction in Toledo?  Well, there are several noteworthy ones, but the only one we really care about is the Chick-fil-a. It's the closest one to us, unless you count the one in the Student Union at Oakland University and I don't. 

We all enjoyed our chicken and waffle fries, except for Vika who sampled their yummy chicken noodle soup, and Millie, who mostly dined on their yummy ketchup. I think some of the potatoes ended up in her belly, but not much.  We love that place! It doesn't take much to excite us.

The other main attraction in Toledo is their wonderful zoo.  We've gone there many times with our three and thought it would be a great day to let Vika experience it. 

Here are Eva and Eli in the parking lot demonstrating how they can walk backwards. 

Here are the two little ones securely fastened in the stroller - for now. They will soon break free.

Vika enjoying her walk.  She really didn't pay much attention to the animals.  She did really like the whole atmosphere, though, the sunshine, the breeze, the leaves. Lots of smiles from her today.

I just love the ensemble Eva put together for going to the zoo.  I had nothing to do with this, just so you know.

I think Eli is occupying the Bird House here.

That's just sweet, that's all I can say.

I just like this picture.

Vika enjoying the bird house. The aquarium was also a big hit with her and I got to use the russian word for fish, even big fish - "arriba balshiah". I'm sure people standing near us were so impressed at my fluency.

Here we are at the playground. Millie's getting ready to throw this big pile of leaves on this kid.  Fortunately for him, he's quick and got away just in time.

My silly boy sticking his head in a fish's (arriba!) mouth.

Vika chilling outside the reptile house. If I could only have someone push me around the zoo, life would be so wonderful.

This photo has no relevance. We just saw this sign on the way out and it made us giggle. We're not above potty humor in our family.

How do you define a successful family outing? 3 out of 4 children sleep on the way home! Yes! Eli, meanwhile, was playing some kind of game that looked like to me, "Kill the big stuffed chicken."  Yes, there was a stuffed chicken in the backseat. Doesn't everyone carry one in the car?

Yay! We all survived and dare I say, enjoyed, our first big outing since Vika came home! Happy Fall everyone!


Friday, November 4, 2011

So, how are we doing?

I've been getting that question a lot these days.  We've been home about a week-and-half now with Vika and life is definitely different - a little.  I'm still busy - only a little more.  I still change diapers, chop up food into little bites - only a little more.  And I still pry little fingers from places they shouldn't be and remove objects from little mouths - only a little, okay a lot more.   But other than that, life goes on in pretty much the same way.  I guess the thing that has surprised me the most is how seamlessly life has gone on and how well Vika has transitioned into our family. The biggest adjustments for us just seem to be mental and emotional ones - realizing this is our new family. Coming to terms with our new normal.  But let me assure you all, that we are completely in love with our newest family member.  She is the cuddliest, sweetest thing. How could we not love this little Buddha baby?

Now for some specifics on the growth we have seen in Vika these past two weeks she has been in our care.


 We believe Vika was used to mashed up food being shoveled into her mouth at a fast rate. She didn't know what a finger food was and if we didn't spoon her food into her little mouth fast enough, she let us know about it.  2 weeks later she can feed herself most of every meal with her hands and yes, sometimes she does get quite messy.

She still has no use for traditional toddler snack foods such as Cheerios or puffs. The whole crunchy thing is still foreign to her. We definitely will keep working on that. I practically raised my other 3 on Cheerios.


  Many adopted kids have a hard time with the bath at first. Vika was no different.  She was scared the first couple of times we put her in and refused to sit, but now - oh boy, does she love it and gets upset if I don't give her adequate play time in the tub. 

Eye contact

 Vika has made big strides in this area.  Early on we noticed she would often be looking up, sometimes at lights, or just at nothing in particular. This is one of the main things I remember from our first meetings. She would often seem like she wasn't really focusing on anything.

This behavior had me mildly concerned for a while, but now I'm pretty sure it is more of an orphanage behavior, a result of not having a lot to focus on for the first years of her life.  Now she is making all kinds of eye contact, often looking at us when we talk to her, and in general, showing signs that she will be able to relate to people in an appropriate fashion.


So much to say here. Eva, Eli, and Millie all love, love, love their new sister.  I'm really proud of them for the way they have welcomed her and are willing to share their things as well as Mom and Dad. They are anxious for all their friends to meet her and Eli wants me to bring her to his school.

Can you tell Vika is just a little tired here? Poor thing, we had just arrived home and I'm sure she was more than a little bit overwhelmed by all the attention.  For Eli's part, that's him trying really hard to give his best camera smile. He is so protective of Vika. It's so sweet.

And then there's Millie......

She's pretty crazy about her new sister. Ever the little momma, she must think we brought Vika home just for her to take care of and play with.  If given the chance she will attempt to feed her, clean her up, change her diaper, pick her up, correct her when she's into something that's off-limits. Pretty much everything she sees me do. This is our greatest adjustment issue right now. "That's a mommy job, Millie" has become my new mantra.

There are times, though, when they just play together, which is nice.

And lo and behold! just today, Vika apparently decided she had had enough of Millie's manhandling and decided to fight back. It was rather amusing to watch.

I think Vika won this one.

So, in general, life's a little bit crazier, a little bit busier, and a lot more interesting. But it's fun - really. 

 People will sometimes makes comments to me or Gabe about what a wonderful thing we're doing or what a big job we've taken on. A few people even make remarks that make us think they think we're nuts. All such remarks make me uncomfortable. The main thing I wish people would understand is that a child with Down Syndrome is really just a child. Parenting Vika is not scary. Our 3 bio kids have always been more than a handful. We've always had active, active kids, so I guess that's the only kind of life we know. Vika adds to the craziness, but not in a way that seems daunting or undoable. She's a loveable little girl who's absolutely so ready to learn and grow. Don't misunderstand, life's not all sunshine and roses now. There are problems and issues to face and work through, but there were before.  But the imagined problems and uncertainties that I had before we brought her home were greater than the reality we're now living.  The reality is, well, pretty darn good.