It's busy, it's crazy, it's challenging, it's stressful, but it's also such a joy! It's a good busy.
So, I give up on trying to keep the boys' names private, in theory it's a good idea but it just doesn't work. We end up saying their names every time we shoot video of them and how in the world do you edit that out? And it's just getting so confusing, they have their birth names, their orphanage nicknames, their 'blog names', and their new names...sheeesh. So in case you didn't catch their names in the videos...drum roll...Valentin's name is Daniel (Hebrew meaning "God is my judge") and Joey's name is Bohdan (slavic name - Boh meaning "God" and dan meaning "given").
Thank you for praying for their first Pediatrician appointment!!! Pictures on our way to the doctor...
It went VERY WELL!!! Having a translator there helped tremendously! The boys were so good and tolerated everything so well. The blood draw was a completely different story. Poor guys, it was very traumatic even with both Tyler and I there and the translator. It did not help that the girls drawing the blood were not very patient or nice at all. We got through it and with special treats afterwards the boys don't seem traumatized by it. But I think the picture of the 3 bandages on Daniel speaks for itself...poor guy!
We love our Pediatrician, he is very adoption friendly and he takes time to research their countries and what blood work they need and he jumps on getting referrals for us. However he is definitely just a referring doctor, he does not answer any of our questions very well about things that concern us, he just refers us to specialized doctors. So we really did not learn much at the appointment. Both boys' blood work and tb tests came back fine (other then low vitamin D levels which we expected - being out in the sunshine is totally new to them) and only Daniel has one parasite that we are treating right now. Other then the CP and obvious slow growth and being so skinny (they are both in the 1st percentile for weight and height for their age) the boys are healthy otherwise.
Okay, so I'll back up a bit. I am not going to talk about the plane rides home, is was traumatic and exhausting for everyone, and I mean everyone sitting in economy class and probably some in business class too. There were a lot of tears (mostly mine) and really I am glad it is quickly becoming a distant memory. A necessary step to get us home that I am glad is over, but even in midst of it God was teaching and comforting and we are grateful for that!
Our plane arrived late to the airport and our wonderful friends and family waited at the airport for us for over an hour and a half (even with small children). God bless them!
I cannot tell you the SHEER RELIEF of stepping off the plane in our hometown and knowing that in minutes we would see our family and we would all be reunited. I started the 'ugly cry' before we even saw our kids running towards us. And I completely lost it when my mom hugged me!
My mom meeting the boys for the first time...
Our friends showed up with gifts for the kids, food, and 'thickit' for Daniel (by the way 'thickit' is the greatest invention EVER for children who choke and aspirate on liquids!).
So very grateful to have all the kids together at last...and to be going HOME!
Surprisingly all the kids slept through the night that first night, and praise God they have all continued to since then. Daniel and Bohdan had no problem switching time zones. It has been an amazing blessing! One of the hardest things for me about bringing home a newborn or newly adopted child is the lack of sleep, I have never handled lack of sleep well. But God in his mercy has given us all rest! I thought the boys would 'stim' a lot to fall asleep but I was surprised that Daniel does not stim at all and Bohdan only rocks his head back and forth singing Ukrainian songs and nursery rhymes, it's actually quite soothing to all of us! Everyone falls asleep pretty quickly and everyone stays in their beds all night and even in the morning no one gets up, they just call for me. I know right, how great is that????
So how is bonding going? Daniel and Bohdan are fitting in like they have been here all the time. The difference in behavior with Daniel from the orphanage to here is huge! He is not fearful at all, his screaming and head banging has significantly reduced. He loves his new found freedom! Other then some potty issues Bohdan has not had any significant issues at all. I am really surprised that is has gone so smoothly. But then again I am not surprised at all...we serve a big God! I am not saying it's easy...easy is not a word I would EVER use to describe our days or adoption in general, but it has been better then I ever thought. There has been no real anger, acting out, sadness...anything. I can tell Bohdan is very happy, first of all he tells everyone who speaks Russian how happy he is in his new home (isn't that the sweetest thing ever?) and second he is nothing but love, giving spontaneous hugs and kisses all the time. Again, it's not all sunshine and rainbows but the hard things are brief and minor, we are not having to deal with the big bonding issues that I expected. The hardest parts have been just the addition of two more bodies in the house and the work that entails and all the lifting and carrying with Daniel. He is very light for his age but still very stiff dead weight and we are still figuring out how to best carry and move him around the house. We are still getting a routine down.
Bonding between the kids has been slow but it's coming around. Daniel really does not want anything to do with other kids, he likes to play by himself. He has been isolated, separated from kids by cribs for 6 years so it will take time. Our 'littles' are still getting used to having 2 'bigs' in the house, admitting to me that they are scared of them so everyday we work a bit more on playing together and sharing and loving. Bohdan is a bit obsessive with blocks, spending hours doing the same repetitive things with them if we let him so it was a HUGE day a few days ago when he started to share his block and the boys all played with blocks together. One of our adopted kids regressed significantly when we brought the boys home...and I mean SIGNIFICANTLY. Like scary 'we are back at square one' significantly. We have spent some one-on-one time with him/her (won't give away who it is) and it has been a struggle but slowly we are seeing a change back to normal, praise God!
As you can imagine there has been lots of running back and forth to the doctors office and lab, getting the right referrals, making lots of doctor appointments, working on getting adaptive equipment, tons of therapy and making therapy plans, check ups, blood work, stool samples, plus all the therapy Emma is already getting. We have some sort of appointment almost every day and referrals from our doctor keep rolling in so we just keep scheduling more. Plus there is just the daily things that need to get done. Busy does not even begin to describe it. But again, I would not change it for the world! It's not easy but it is so totally worth it! It just leaves little time for things like emails and blog...and some days even just showering. Just for some humor, here are some of the things I find myself saying most days, "Someone smells like pee, I sure hope it's one of the kids still in diapers," "Didn't I just do laundry???," "Next trip to the grocery store we are getting paper plates!," "We are moving to a color coded system, each child is assigned a color and that is their toothbrush, plate, bowl, and cup color," "Did everyone's teeth get brushed this morning, I can't remember," "I just stepped in something wet, please tell me it's water," "Did we turn the water off to the pool? (by the way no we didn't and it overflowed)," "Oh forget it, we are all staying in our pajamas today," "Remember the time long ago we said we would never let your kids watch cartoons on tv?" "Who got into this (let the finger pointing begin)," "Oh no, I forgot to defrost one of the meals, who's up for sandwiches and fruit...we have bread right?" I am certainly not winning any mother of the year awards but I am grateful that even in my lack God still chose me to be mom to these kiddos, and Tyler their dad!
We have been greatly blessed with meals. Several friends have brought us huge amounts of food! We even had some dear friends buy us a brand new chest freezer for the garage! And we have received clothes too! I know right, we have the most amazing friends!!!! Thank you to all of you who suggested setting up a 'chip-in' so you could donate towards meals. You are just too kind! I might do it if I had time to figure out how to add a chip-in but alas time escapes me and God is providing. I just cannot thank all of you enough for your generous prayers and support even as they continue!!!! I continue to be blown away! And please forgive me for not being able to update you all sooner, I am feeling very guilty because I know how much you love the boys and are eager to see how they are doing. Thank you for hanging in there and for your patience!!!!
So here is a little about each boy.
Like I said Bohdan is a love bug. He has such a tender heart and has been nothing but sweet. We have our moments with him, he of course is grieving and figuring out his place in his new home, but overall he has been a delight! He LOVES to help me, if I am unloading the dishwasher he stops his playing and comes to help with a big smile. He also helps with laundry :-) The language barrier has been tough. He typically understands what we are trying to tell him or we can use the phrases and words we have learned or use a translation app, but the hard part has been when he is speaking to us and we want so badly to understand what he is saying (we of course understand the important wants/needs like potty, hungry, thirsty, hurt, etc). The translator we had at the doctor appointment was EXTREMELY impressed with his grammar. She told us how highly intelligent he was and bragged about him the whole time! He says the cutest things too, like when the translator told him the doctor was going to look at him, he lifted his shirt and told her "tell him not to forget to look at my tummy too" and he was giving the doctor instructions while he was looking at him. It was precious! And we are missing out on those cute things he says, it really is very hard for me, we are missing out on this huge part of his personality. But we continue to learn more Russian and he continues to learn more English and I know that soon enough we will be communicating well.
Bohdan's Cerebral Palsy seems to only affect his legs. He has adapted but his walk is a little unstable and long distances are hard for him. I love to watch him run, he is all over the place and it takes his whole body to do it but his exuberance for life cannot be contained when he runs and it is absolutely precious!!! He had orthopedic shoes at the orphanage and they let us take them, they are primitive but seem to help until we can get him in some AFO's which I am assuming will help him. With some therapy (which we are starting this week) and AFO's he is going to do so much better and I have a feeling he is going to love it! Cognitivly and developmentally I don't see a whole lot of delay, other then what you would expect coming from an institution, once he picks up English there will not be any stopping him!
So here are his needs (in order of importance):
Cardiologist - in Ukraine we were told he has "heart problem, but not need treatment" and that is the extent of information we received. It was not much of a concern in Ukraine because he seemed fine, but now at our high altitude some days he appears a bit blue so getting him to a Cardiologist is a priority.
Dentist - he does not have one single healthy tooth. A few of his teeth are so black and rotted that they are almost gone and the rest are yellow/orange and filed down or chiping.
Ophthalmologist - he has a hard time keeping his eyes focused, they usually shake and roll up - it looks like he is rolling his eyes but is not. It is hard for him to focus his eyes on an object. He has issues with depth perception too, often running into things or not seeing steps, etc.
Occupational/Physical Therapy - for his CP
Orthopedics - for his CP
Neurologist - for his CP
Daniel...our precious Daniel. This kid is amazing! Especially coming from where he came from! How he can still smile and laugh and be so full of life is truly a testament to God's love and protection! I am ever more convinced that he was heavily medicated in the orphanage. I can never say for sure but the difference in his demeanor, his behavior, and his alertness now as compared to in the orphanage is shocking! We could hardly touch him, look at him, or move him in the orphanage without it confusing him and leading to screaming and head banging. Don't get me wrong, we had great times in the orphanage as you saw in the smiling pictures and video, but what we did not show in pictures or video was the anxiety and self-injury that marked most of our time with him. He is so much more alert and for lack of a better description, adaptable here at home. I hope that makes sense, it is hard to describe. In the orphanage change, even the slightest change, freaked him out. But here he does not mind change as much. He does very well here at home and the other day I even took him (and all the kids - thank you mom for your help) to the store just to see how he would do and he did great. He would get a little anxious and whine a bit every time we turned down a new isle but with a little rub on his head and assurance there was NO HEAD BANGING. This is huge! He still bangs his head to express his opinion when he is upset. I assume the only attention he got in the orphanage was when he did something negative so we are fighting an uphill battle to get past that...and it is a battle...but we see great progress and that is reassuring. I don't want it to sound like it is easy, again it is SO not easy, it is a daily battle to undo what the orphanage did, but again it is so much better then what I was expecting. And my goodness, one smile from that kid and my heart melts and all the hard times fade away...and if he laughs...forget it, I am done for!
Daniel's Cerebral Palsy effects both legs, his trunk a bit, and his left arm. The physical progress he has made here in such a short time has been nothing short of amazing! You will see it in the video at the end. He is already army crawling! It started with just pulling himself with his one 'good' arm, then using both, then arms and one leg, and now all 4. And the speed in which he does it now is amazing! I get him dressed after a bath and I go to get his toothbrush and he is gone! He can bring himself up to sitting all by himself and he can keep himself balanced sitting up more and more every day. You will see in the video that I stood him up just to see if he would bear weigh (his toes are pointed because of the CP but he still puts weight on them) and not only did he bear weight but he took steps. I sincerely believe that with therapy he will be independently mobile somehow. His legs are so much stronger then his left arm, I think it will be his arm that will slow him down more then his legs. It's a long road ahead and it will take a lot of daily persistent work but the great news is that he is HIGHLY MOTIVATED and that is 90% of the battle!
Let's get real for a moment, he is very much a 36 pound baby. Please hear me that when I say that it is in no way a judgment or complaint about him when I say that. I would never blame him or judge him for what the CP and orphanage have caused. I don't want anyone to misinterpret what I am saying, I am simply stating the way it is. He is 100% dependent. Some of that is simply the CP but a lot of the self-care type things are a result of the orphanage. He has the physical ability to feed himself but he was never given the opportunity. Sadly despite our efforts he still will not feed himself. It breaks my heart that he will either throw or play with cheerios on his tray. I know he is hungry and he wants the cheerios but he is so conditioned that feeding happens by just lying there whenever it suits someone to feed him. So so sad. He has no concept of expressing hunger, the orphanage did away with that. The great news is that I have been able to get him to come to the spoon to take a bite if I hold the spoon a little away from his mouth. So we are starting the very basic concept of him coming to the food. And we continue to work on hand over hand getting him to put cheerios in his mouth. I really do not mind feeding him at all but I want him to begin to not just be independent but to 'feel' independent. To be able to express needs and wants and to be able enjoy some freedom from being on someone else's schedule. Cognitively he is no where near being able to understand the concept of potty training. Mentally he is very much a baby. I don't know how much is the CP and how much is just not being able to have opportunity. Language and communication are almost non existent. He has the physical ability to help with dressing and other self-help things but sadly despite our efforts to teach him he still just doesn't 'get it'. I don't know how else to explain it. I feel like I have to say again that I don't want anyone to misinterpret what I am saying. We knew all this and we were prepared for it, I am not complaining AT ALL about having to care for him, I consider it an honor. Even if he stays 'baby like' we will day after day feed him, bathe him, brush his teeth, change his diaper, carry or transport him around, etc. But for his sake I want him to have some freedom, I think it's important for him to feel independent. I have high hopes for him all the way around, but if I am being honest I believe the physical aspect of his CP will be much easier to progress in then the cognitive aspect. Other then the physical strides he has made I have been so delighted to see how amazing his play skills are! He takes such delight in figuring out toys and playing with them. In the orphanage all he did was throw toys so it has been such a joy to see him enjoy toys. Again, you will see in the video :-)
Most of all, it is such a delight to see Daniel's world open up, to have a front row seat to his 'new life'. It is so much fun to watch him splash in a pool, get excited about reaching a toy he pulled himself to, squeal with delight over being able to stand up, and all these new experiences that bring joy to a little boys heart! And again we praise God for putting such happiness in his heart despite what he has been through! I am not joking when I say it is an honor to be his mom.
So here are his needs (in order of importance):Occupational/Physical Therapy - we are starting this tomorrow and it is going to be huge for him!!! The Occupational Therapist will also help us with feeding. He cannot swallow liquids without choking so we thicken all his liquids. He can chew foods but can only handle very small chunks. We have to leave him sitting up for at least a half hour after eating too because he throws up easily. We are excited for a feeding evaluation. They will also help us with getting the right equipment for him. We have him in a stroller which works but there are too many hard things for him to bang his head on, he really needs a more specialized stroller/wheelchair. Carrying and lifting him all around the house is hard. We don't mind it but we have been told there are great hi/lo type chairs and adaptive equipment that will help us with everyday tasks so we look forward to learning more about that.
Speech Therapy - we also start this tomorrow.
Dentist - his teeth look much better then Bohdan's but his breath is horrendous. It has us wondering if he has an infection or something in his mouth.
Ophthalmologist - I think I have mentioned before that one pupil does not seem to react much to light at all so we wonder if he can see out of that eye at all. He has at least some vision because he will pay attention to things.
Here are some more pictures and a video
Thanks Nana and Pa for the pool!!! I think it is a big hit!!!
Since I shared recent pictures of Bohdan and Daniel, here are our other blessings
I think we took like 50 pictures with dad acting goofy behind the camera to get all the kids to look hoping ONE would turn out...not too bad
Helping dad with yard work
The kids have so much fun in the back yard and I am so happy Daniel and Bohdan are getting some much needed sunshine! Picnic lunches are the best!
Sheeesh, for taking so long to get a post up I sure did make it a long one didn't I???? Again, thank you all SO MUCH for your continued prayers and support!!! Thank you for your patience, I am so sorry if I worried you by not posting :-( I want to say that I will post more often but I should probably not make that promise. I know how invested ya'll are in these boys though and I know how much you love them so I will work very hard at keeping everyone updated. I know I have said it a million times but we could not do it without you!!!!