We’ve been home for 11 days and I’m afraid I’ve been a very bad blogger- not a single update! The truth is, after our 30 hour day traveling home, we hit the ground running and life hasn’t slowed down much since. I’ll try to do a quick recap on the topics I am asked about most.
Ready to leave Ukraine!
The trip home: Perfect. Vika was an angel and it couldn’t have gone better. She didn’t cry AT ALL and was happy and sweet and charming the entire way. Even on our 10.5 hour flight from Frankfurt to Seattle. By the time we landed, she had every flight attendant on the plane wrapped around her little finger.
Vika playing in the galley on our Frankfurt-Seattle flight
Sleeping like an angel!
Our reunion with Ryan and meeting her new siblings: Again, perfect!! After being up for about 28 hours straight, I was pretty delirious, but it was a sweet, happy time. My parents and Ryan’s dad all came to the airport to welcome us. Our older daughter Noelle (3.5 yrs) was thrilled to meet her and immediately asked us to go back and bring her a baby brother too. She has been such a good sister and tells me many times a day how much she loves Vika. Not an ounce of jealousy from this one.
This is how I found my girls on Vika's first morning at home
Levi (22 mos) is a bit more hesitant. He missed me quite a bit so he was really happy to see me but he’s still not too crazy about this new sister I brought home to him. Honestly Vika seems to care even less for him at this point. They do have their good moments and all things considered, it is going as well as any of us could have hoped. It’s going to be interested to watch their relationship develop. If anyone has any good ideas on fostering love among toddler siblings, I’m all ears!! This is our first experience with this sort of thing.
Sleep: Vika is a GREAT sleeper! She sleeps from about 7 PM to 7 AM and then naps from 1-5PM. I rock her for a few minutes before putting her down (which she loves!) and there are usually no tears. Bringing home a 2 yr old (vs. a newborn) certainly has its benefits!!
Food: Vika LOVES to eat. She will eat pretty much anything I give her, so long as it’s not cold (she’s not used to cold foods at all) or too difficult to chew. She can handle very soft, moist meats (like chicken or beef cooked in soup), pasta, oatmeal (her favorite!), well-cooked veggies, etc. She doesn’t feed herself at all, unless it’s something like a piece of bread. I’ve tried finger foods but she seems pretty clueless about what she’s supposed to do with them. She eats a LOT for such a little peanut- usually as much or more than I do. I’ve been told this is pretty typical for kids from orphanages, and as time goes on she’ll start eating more normal toddler-sized portions.
Bath and Potty: The bathing has been SO much better since we got home. As I mentioned before, Vika screamed through her entire first bath in Kiev. I hoped that having Noelle and Levi in the bath with her would help. Thankfully, it did! Her first bath at home was so much better. I got the other kids in first and then put her in. She screamed hysterically for about 20 seconds and then looked around at her siblings. Then her cries stopped immediately and she began splashing and laughing. Now bathtime is one of her favorite things!!
I have also discovered that she is mostly potty trained. The orphanage trains the kids quite young. She still wears diapers all the time but if I take her potty often (at least after every meal) she will stay mostly dry. This has been a blessing because I had heard that kids with DS can be very difficult to PT and had expected to be diapering full-time for several more years.
Development: We haven’t had any formal assessment done but it seems to me that she is functioning on the level of a 12 month old baby. She babbles, enjoys baby toys, cruises around, crawls very well, and is taking a few small, unsteady steps. If you forget that she is 2 yrs old, it is also easy to forget that she has Down Syndrome. She does everything that a typically developing 12 month old does.
Vika loves the swings!
Language: Having spent the first 2 yrs of her life hearing only Russian, she understands pretty much nothing of our English. I know a few Russian words that I use with her and she responds very well to those. Of course she is mostly hearing English now though, so I hope she will pick up on a few things soon. She doesn’t speak (except for one time that we think she may have said “paka paka”- bye bye) but maybe if we spoke more Russian we’d discover a few more words that she can say.
Adjustment and Bonding: It’s hard to say on this one. She definitely knows that we are her parents and prefers us to others. Her first week at home, she cried little and smiled a lot. This week has been much harder. I think the novelty of the it all has worn off and she’s grieving the loss of her world as she knew it. There have been a lot more tears this week and she needs her Mama a lot more than last week. Many times a day, she’ll lie down on the floor on her tummy and just weep . . . great big tears and her pathetic little cry. It’s the most heartbreaking thing. I think part of it is exhaustion- all of this adjusting is hard work for her and it’s wearing her out. But she’s sad too. The good news is that she allows herself to be comforted by me, which is a really good sign. It’s hard sometimes to balance the needs of the other two with her great need for comfort and closeness. We’re relying heavily on meals from our church and my freezer, and pretty much letting the housework go. I’ll be honest . . it has been very overwhelming at times. I’m exhausted and can barely keep my eyes open past 8 PM. But I know that God’s grace is enough. We’ll get through these days and there will be better ones ahead. And in spite of it all, I know how very blessed we are to have her and haven’t lost sight of that. She is a gift to us and we tell each other that many times a day. . .not because we need to be reminded, but because it is so very true.
Health: Overall she seems to be in very good health. Of course all three kids have snot dripping off their chins these days but that’s to be expected. She has some small patches of eczema on her face – fairly typical for DS. We are working on getting her added to our health insurance so she can get completely examined as soon as possible. The orphanage gave her a clean bill of health but I will feel better getting a full check-up from our pediatrician too. We also want to make sure her heart, thyroid, ears, and other DS “problem areas” are all healthy.
One last thing- A lot of people are unsure how to pronounce her name. We say it “VEE-kah,” which is short for her given name Viktoria, which they pronounce as “VEEKtoria” with a nice roll to the R. Our pronunciation of her name and her nickname both lack the Ukrainian intonation but if we copied that, we’d be in for a lifetime people rolling their eyes at our supposed pretentiousness. =) So VEE-kah it is.
A small band of musicians to serenade me as I cook- how blessed am I?