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!

Friday, March 9, 2012

First doctor appointment...

Shew. Gotta start somewhere, right?!

I took our favorite little buddy with me for extra hands.

 He was a dream, but his hands were busy taking 38 pictures of Dr.K (I counted.)  and 12 that all look like this:

He got a few others too :)

Basically, she's healthy.

18 lb 14 oz (not as much as we thought!) and 29" long.
That puts her in the 15th percentile on the typical chart but 90th percentile on the DS chart!

He gave us something to clear up her eyes and something for the reflux (we barely discussed it, but since she puked all over his room, he caught on pretty quickly). We are going to keep her on the Similac Sensitive for now- with a thickener- and then transition her to stage 2 formulas when her stomach stabilizes and she is able to get some vitamins and nutrients from more table foods.

The stressful part always comes in having ZERO medical history. The only thing we have is a shot record in cyrillic and we don't know for sure how accurate it is (The same doctor that told me she was walking and talking and eating vegetables, told me she was up-to-date on her vaccinations. She may be, we just don't know).

We were also given conflicting information about her heart. The orphanage doctor said no concern, her records say cardio myopathy (which could be anything, really). So... we are going to the cardiologist and an echo has been ordered so we can be sure.

We also have a referral for Tennessee Early Intervention Services (TEIS) and the Down Syndrome Clinic at Vanderbilt. The two combined will eventually provide the other services she needs: physical therapy, occupational therapy, and feeding/speech therapy as of right now.

Because she is so big (and a few other reasons), Dr.K felt we needed to check her for Hypothyroidism (common in people with DS).  He is also checking her blood count since leukemia is also prevelent in children with DS. Add those into the other lab work we needed to have a better picture of her health and previous treatment PLUS vaccinations that she most likely did not get in Ukraine PLUS what would normally be given at 12 mos. Poor baby was poked all over the place :(

Even worse, her tiny little veins and big chubby arms made it VERY difficult to draw blood. Over 20 minutes of digging with a needle in both arms. Even the nurses were getting upset having to torture this poor baby. It was just awful!

But they finally got out just enough to run the tests. Hopefully, we start getting all the phone calls necessary soon and get the ball rolling to make her the very best Anna Gray she can be :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Brynn (age 5) has been amazing with Anna Gray. She is very sweet and loving, there hasn't been any jealousy or anything negative. But it's very clear that Anna Gray's adoption has brought up a lot of feelings about her own.

We have always spoken very openly and casually to the twins about their adoption.  Brynn has asked several questions over the last couple of years and we have answered honestly and age-appropriately. (Cale- who falls somewhere on the higher functioning end of the autism spectrum- rarely acknowledges that he is adopted and either doesn't know how he feels about it or hasn't shared.) It's not something we talk about ALL the time.  Our family may be made differently than some, but we are still just a family. It isn't a big part of our every day life.

Until Anna Gray got home.

Brynn has had a lot to say. I asked her specifically about AG's adoption and she said she loves having her baby sister home, even though she is kind of angry I was gone so long to get her. Understandable. She seems to understand where Anna Gray came from, about the orphanage, and why we adopted her.  She wants her in our family.  She says only good things about the baby being adopted, but nearly every day Brynn says something about wanting to be with her own birth family. She wants her whole family together (including us). She tells me she misses her birthmommy because she hasn't seen her since she was born. At first, she said she wanted to go live with her but now she says she just wants to see her for a minute or see her picture. She wants to tell her that she loves her. She gets jealous when we are out and see families, especially black families, where everyone looks the same.  She wants more brown skin, more hair like hers, someone else who has to be oiled and can wear beads.

Every time she talks to me about it, I tell her it's okay to feel that way. I would be sad too. I've never been adopted so I can't even pretend to imagine what she feels. But I can listen. I can hug her tight. I can allow her to feel whatever she wants to feel about it, good bad or ugly. We make sure she know's it's okay for her to ask the questions she needs to and whatever else she needs to express.

I am more and more grateful that she has built-in support in Cale. Having a twin means that not only is she not alone as an adoptee, but she is not alone in being a black child raised by white parents. In addition to her brother, we hang out with a lot of adoptive families and several of them are transracial. We use to have contact with two of her biological siblings who were adopted by the same family. Now that we are home and getting settled, we plan on reaching out to them again. Hopefully, all four kids will have the chance for a relationship. None of that replaces being with her biological family permanently, but hopefully in time, it will provide an extra place for her to share her feelings and gain a different perspective.

Please pray for our sweet girl. I don't want to wish away her feelings, she deserves to have them. I don't need it to be easier for me. I just need her heart to be comforted when she is sad or angry or confused. We need God to provide the right words to answer her questions. She is happy! She has made it very clear that she loves being in this family, but there are a lot of emotions that come with that... and that's okay :)

Meet Anna Gray Day!

What a day!  And it already feels like a million years ago.

The morning started out with some real drama.... what the heck was little girl going to wear for her big day?!

I ordered an outift that didn't arrive in time. I had another made that I thought was too big. I went on a wild goose chase to find something  appropriate flawless, but we ended up putting her in a smocked outfit we already had. It was sweet on her, but the outfit I had made ended up fitting her great and would have been perfect. Kicking myself!

All of that to explain why we were so late to our own party :)

Not the Big Party... but before the Big Party, we were having a small birthday celebration with just our family. Partly because her birthday didn't get celebrated in the traditional sense while in Ukraine, but partly so that they could each have a little time to meet her before the masses arrived.

We sang 'Happy Birthday' to Anna Gray and she had her first cupcake! She was SO tired, so we didn't know if she'd be up for trying...

One taste of pink lemonade icing and she was hooked!!

After the cupcake pics, I set my camera down to greet some friends. I didn't move for two hours. Literally. Thus... no pics of her meeting all of you :( If you took some, please share!

We finished up just as the next batch of guests started arriving and just as Anna Gray fell asleep.

She slept thru most of it, but around 130 people came to see her over a three hour period :)

It was obviously a long, exhausting day for her (and us), but it was nice to get it all done in one time and place.  We were so proud to introduce her to everyone who helped bring her home! And I was thrilled to see all my people again!

Thank you all for coming to see Anna Gray, for your welcome home hugs, and for making me bring less than 100 of my cupcakes back home with me!  Thank you to Deda, Ba, and Sasha for putting together a lovely party in honor of our sweet girl!

We traded around a couple kids for the night and got everyone home in one piece. Nathan, Leslie, and I waited until all the littles were fast asleep and then opened (and oohed and aahed!) over each gift with a glass of wine :)

It was SUCH a good day and we are so happy to be home to celebrate it!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

We're still here :)

I am being chastized (kidding) for disappearing so abruptly! It was not intentional, I assure you. Who knew we would be so busy when we got home!? Oh, right... everyone but me.

I have started this post three different times now and never get around to finishing it!  I think a lazy (mom of four who needs to cook dinner and has a ton of clothes to put away kind of lazy) Sunday evening may actually allow it.

Things are going great :)  She is *slightly* adored by everyone in this house.

I think Anna Gray and I are finally functioning on the same time zone as everyone else. Yesterday was Meet Anna Gray Day and we are all pooped (separate post on that coming at some point). (I mean the party, not poop).

We've had LOTS of firsts in the last week!
I had to get everyone dressed and out the door on time by myself for the first time.... CHAOS, but we were only 5 min late. Anna Gray had her first trip to Walmart ( should I be embarrassed that I just documented that?).

 Either Grocery-Grabber (Brynn) or Cart-Driver (Cale) actually got a pic while playing on my phone (it was also the first time I used her new cute diaper bag).

Welcome to Tennessee, little girl.

She had her first pancake (loved it). I went back to work for the first (and second) time. My first time to leave her, which means it was Nathan's first time with all four kids by himself. I may have gotten a "How do you do this?!" text. Or two.

AG met Oakley for the first time. Neither of them were too impressed.

She had her first (second, third, and fourth) walks around the neighborhood in the stroller, also a new favorite.

For Meet Anna Gray Day she had her first birthday party with her first cupcake and met most of her family/friends for the first time!

She also went to church for the first time today! We purposefully showed up late to miss some of the music. We were afraid it would be too loud for her. It wasn't, she danced the whole time. She babbled and raspberried her way thru the service with lots of snuggles from her church family afterward.

The plan is to post here until the newness has worn off and we are pretty well adjusted. Then I will start posting exclusively on our family blog. Feel free to continue following us!  I will leave this blog up so that it is available for those with interest or questions about adoption.

Speaking of... I have gotten lots of questions about all kinds of stuff! I am working on Q&A post now to answer them. If you have any questions about adoption, Ukraine, Down Syndrome, Anna Gray, our family, Reece's Rainbow - anything!- comment here, FB, or email me in the next few days and I will do my best to answer them in the upcoming post :)