Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I promise we haven't fallen off the face of the earth.

You are probably aware that we have been BUSY.
Almost daily I think of things I want/need to blog and try to figure out when I will get a chance to do so. Time Management and I are still getting acquainted.

Having four children isn't necessarily that difficult. It's not hard to care for four children (sometimes seven if the neices and nephew are here), physically. Other than taking a few minutes to feed, dress, bathe, squeeze each of them, it's not that hard.

However... my brain is MAXED OUT on all the other stuff: TEIS (and cleaning the house for TEIS), Vanderbilt for AG and Cale, IEP meetings, painting cabinets, re-listing the house, egg hunts, church functions, and Easter baskets, Easter clothes, dance, recital, baseball sign-ups, cooking club, clothes swap, gym, birthday dinners, Thank You notes, work, taking photos, editing photos, Girl Scouts, major autism tantrums, recovering from major autism tantrums ... and that's our two weeks.

In the middle of all that, we have managed to squeeze in some really sweet moments :)

Anna Gray felt grass for the very first time. EVER.

I thought it would be sensory over-load, but she loved it!

She has learned to reach- usually for us (she even wraps her little chubby arms around our neck and gives kisses!). She hasn't quite developed her pincer grasp- she's using more of a sweep-n-scoop movement, but it often results in something sticking to her hand. She doesn't always know what to do with it when she has it, but she'll get there!

For extra practice, I gave her a spoon covered in brownie batter. If anything was going to inspire me to practice picking something up and taking it to my mouth, it would be a spoon covered in brownie batter!

I'm not sure she really put two-and-two together, but we sure had fun trying!

Almost every night, Cale asks for "Anna Gray time". I'm not sure which of them enjoys it more.

Here we all are (Layla took the picture) in our blue and yellow for World Down Syndrome Day on 3/21. I saw Anna Gray's picture on probably 100 FB profiles- you guys were spreading awareness How cool is that?!

Saturday, AG had her first Easter egg hunt. And by "hunt", I of course mean Olivia carried her around for a few minutes while AG screamed for a bottle and then we gave up, but not before sitting her on the ground with an egg in front of her for an obligatory picture... but more on that later ;)

She was grumpy the whole time we were at my grandmother's.

She was super tired from all the running around without a proper nap and I have just about decided she is not a fan of the whole pass-the-baby-around-to-a-bunch-of-people-she-doesn't-know-game. Who would be, right? But the second we got home, she was sweet as can be! Even though she was still hungry and tired, she was all smiles!

Her favorite way to sit (is it bad that I want to stunt her so she stays just like this forever and ever?):

She should be starting physical therapy in the next week or two, still not exactly sure what that's going to look like. She has appointments with the opthamologist and audiologist coming up as well. Pretty sure her vision is great and fairly confident in her hearing, but we will double check to be sure. She is starting to either recognize her name or our voices- I'm not sure which, but she looks up!

Again, thank you all so much for reading our story (or at least the very beginning of our story!). We have been home six weeks tomorrow and we have literally not gone ANYWHERE in public that we have not been recognized. Even several towns over in the most random places. I can't believe our little AG reached so many people!  We learned so much from this experience, and I'm so glad we decided to share it. That being said, I think it's about time that I swap back over to the family blog. There are still things I have been wanting to put over there, but I felt like I needed to update here first. I will continue to blog the ups and downs and all the fun of being us! We would love for you to continue to follow our story at Growing Wests :)

(Her daddy loves a girl in overalls!)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Quick update!

Things have been a *little* hectic this week between the last minute doctor visits and Spring break. I suppose this is my new life :)

Wanted to take just a sec to update you on all Anna Gray's appointments this week...

Thursday was a long day, as expected. We saw six different doctors, but it did go rather smoothly. I was preparing to be overwhelmed with the process an all the info thrown my way, but it really wasn't that bad! I think maybe because I had been thru basically the exact same thing with Cale. Actually, we even saw some of the same doctors that we see with him, which was nice.

Thursday mostly involved questions and a few "let's see what she can do" moments. She seems to be developmentally similar to a 5-6 month old; which, according to them, is typical for a 12 month old with DS. If so, that means she isn't any more delayed because she spent the first 364 days of her life in an orphanage. Either way, she's doing really well. She's made a lot of progress since coming home already and even more in the last few days :)

Together, we've decided right now to focus on building core strength, signing, and lots of oral goals (like drinking water from a cup- which she did last night for the first time!).

I missed a call (cough, or two, cough) from TEIS while we were in other appointments. They will send someone out soon to assess her and see what therapies they can offer her. We'll go from there...

Friday was cardiology. I really didn't know what to expect- they just said "consult". Within minutes, they had her stripped down and were sticking electrodes all over my screaming baby. From there into a dark room, where they mentioned they needed her to go to sleep. She had slept the whole hour drive out there, so that wasn't happening. She laid pretty still though and soon Dr.D came in to tell us both the EKG and echo were perfect! No more visits needed :)

She was a trooper thru it all! I was SO proud of her!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bits and pieces.

There is still a lot going on. Too much to determine what our new normal is going to look like. I keep waiting for the honeymoon to end. I am not intentionally trying to paint a rosey picture of what post-adoption life looks like. I'm grateful that it's been relatively painless for us, but I don't want you to think that either 1) it's always this easy or 2) I'm not being truly honest. I am.

I think a LOT has to do with the fact that AG is so young. Babies are so much more flexible. I'm sure a whole new life is confusing to her, but she isn't going to show that in the same way some of the older kids are. Also, again, her orphanage was so good to her. Having someone show her positive attention and LOVE, isn't that strange for her. I do think that's playing a huge role here.

Here are a few bits and pieces of her new life:

Sorry for the craptastic picture, but it was such a sweet moment! She started out sitting up, facing him. She was crying and crying and squirming and squirming (so tired!) and he would NOT let us take her. He just kept patting her back until she fell asleep and then held her for another 20 mins after that :)

Anna Gray went to the park for the first time! We're park people. It was a beautiful day and there was no way we were staying indoors! We had a picnic and played forever. I think she liked the swing? No strong reaction - again, SO tired- and then she fell asleep in the sling (that's SLING, not swing).

Apparently, she was fussing while I was in the shower so the kids brought her every stuffed animal they could find and then Layla recorded herself singing an "opera lullaby" on her DS and left it for her. It was very... um, pretty... and it played over and over and over until I got out lol :) It really was sweet of them though.

When we got home yesterday, there was a package on the backdoor from our sweet friends with a note that said "time to teach little sister who to root for!"

 Shirts for all four! GO VOLS!
Thank you D family, they love them!

One more thing:
I don't know what the grace period is on Thank You notes. Whatever it is, please double it ;)

Q & A

We have been asked a LOT of questions over these last few weeks. I tried to make a list, but I may have missed a few. These are a little all over the place, but I wanted to answer them the best I could.

What did you like most/least about Ukraine?
There wasn't really anything I didn't like about Ukraine specifically. It's just different! It is not an easy country to adopt from and there were definitely some frustrations throughout the process, but the country and the people were very interesting and I loved the experience over-all. Living in a foreign country and being there alone was tough. Really tough. But that would be true anywhere that I didn't speak the language and wasn't familiar with the customs, foods, etc. I will (do?) miss it. Ukraine is such a huge part of our life now. It's my daughter's country, so I hold it dear to my heart and feel sort of protective of it in a way.

What do you wish you had taken with you?
More food. More entertainment. Really. You need to pack as light as possible, you WILL be carrying *everything* you bring up and down a bajillion flights of stairs, every time you move (five times for me), on planes, on trains, in cars. You want to have a little as possible for those reasons. I took books and tons of movies, but still... there is SO much down time. And we went thru our snacks rather quickly. Lots of eat and run moments or sometimes you need something to hold you over for a while. Other than sweets and fruit, you can't buy many snacky items in the stores, in my experience. Granola bars, trail mix, etc really came in handy a few times and I wish we'd had more of it.

What did you take that you didn't need?
We took towels, linens, and a blanket- none of which we needed. There were plenty provided for us. I sent some of my clothes home with Nathan. It's not fun to wear the same 2-3 things over and over again, but it's worth it to have more room in your bag for all the "extras". We also took converters, extension cords, power strips, duct tape, zip ties, ziplock bags and other odds and ends and used EVERY one of them. Also, we only packed travel size toiletries to get us there, bought what we needed in country and then left it there. Toiletries take up too much space! I left a huge bag of stuff (mostly clothes) behind that I didn't need/have room for on the trip home. At that point, as long as AG and I got home, I didn't care about anything else. Even our coats stayed behind!

Are you involved in any kind of support group?
In a word, yes. I participate in several online forums for adoptive parents, parents who adopted from Ukraine, and parents who adopted thru Reece's Rainbow. We were also welcomed with open arms into a support group for parents of children with DS in middle TN. We have already met several of the other families in person (from one group or another) and have plans to meet many more in the near future. Already, these groups have been invaluable when it comes to asking our own questions and learning others' experiences.

What therapies does/will Anna Gray receive?
We have just started getting the ball rolling to figure out what specifically she would benefit from. Actually, there was a cancellation at the Down Syndrome Clinic at Vandy and we will be spending tomorrow there starting bright and early. While we are there, she will be seen by a geneticist, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, nutritionist, speech therapist, and behaviorist all in one day. It's gonna be a long one! And overwhelming, I'm sure. We will see how each initial assesment goes and go from there. Friday, she has her cardio consult. We are still waiting to hear back from TEIS (early intervention).

What were your total fees and were you fully-funded?
Our total fees ended up being about $22-23K and no, we were not fully funded.
We spent $7K of our own money up front. We fundraised our butts off , picked up extra shifts, and re-organized our budget to raise another $5K. We ended up getting a loan for the remaining $10K. THEN, while in country when we needed help getting home (and in gifts since then), you guys stepped up in a crazy loving way and provided another $4K+. We now only have a little more than $5K left to pay on our adoption loan. And let me just go on the record and say SHE'S WORTH IT!

How long did it take?
You can see the details on bottom right of the blog, but basically it was 7 months almost to the day from the day we officially committed to her to our appointment at the DAP. We were home exactly six weeks later :)

I know there are more and I plan to do a part 2. I need to get in bed so I can survive tomorrow, but please continue to send your questions. We don't mind answering them at all :)
Also, some fun posts coming soon :) I promise I'm trying to catch up! It turns out, having four kids doesn't leave a whole lot of extra time for blogging! Hang in there, friends!