Sunday, May 13, 2012

Celebrating Three Months Home

Our last month has been busy seeing and learning and doing new things!

We had a fun music play date with our DSACT InkDot friends.  We met lots of new friends who also happen to have extra chromosomes just like us!
Hannah - Playing with a rain stick.  Brother is with us (in the yellow shirt).

Naomi - "I found a tambourine!" (Hannah, Nathan and Sarah are in the background.)

We visited Sweet Berry Farm in Marble Falls, Texas and picked blackberries and strawberries. It was the first day for blackberry picking, so we had lots to fill our box.
"I'm not sure I like those thorns..."

Don't these look the yummiest?!

We visited the goats. We weren't too keen on actually petting them, but we checked them out.
Naomi (back seat) & Hannah (in front)

Feed me, please!  Pretty, please!

And to celebrate our Three Month Anniversary with our family - we had Strawberry Sundaes made with the fresh strawberries from the farm!  Yummy!
Hannah - "Oh, I'm ready for this!"

Naomi really likes strawberry sauce!

All in all, the girls are growing and doing very, very well! They have officially been home for 3 full months as of May 9th.

Hannah has gained 5 pounds and grown 1.5 inches since coming home. She is gaining a noticeable amount of muscle in her legs and arms. She's already filled about 1/2 of the "growing room" that was allowed in her AFO braces.  It might not be too long before she outgrows these. :)

Naomi has gained 5 pounds and grown 1/2 inch since coming home.  She is filling in and also gaining some noticeable muscle in her calves. She lost her first tooth here, but must have swallowed it.  We couldn't find it anywhere. It was there and 5 minutes later it was GONE! Nowhere to be found....

We had evaluations and assessments with the school district this month, too.  The day was busy with lots of questions about what the girls can do, what they might understand, and lots of chances to show what skills they have and what we can build upon.  I'm waiting on the school folks to finish their reports on their findings and recommendations and we'll get together to see how we proceed with an education plan for them.

In delving over developmental milestone charts and filling out assessment forms for the school, the girls seem to be generally at about an 18-months-old developmental level in most areas.

Hannah is making great progress in walking. She is very motivated to be mobile right now. She's able to take several steps by herself.  Her balance is still wobbly, but she's able to go a little farther on her own. With assistance holding her hands, she can go a good distance down a long hall or across a big room. She can cruise the furniture and walls with ease.  She has only a few ASL signs she will do, but doesn't show a lot of interest in doing it now.  She can mimic or copy signs, but doesn't usually use them independently. yet. This is not a big deal.  Many kids with Down syndrome will be busy working on one big milestone task, and will often stall, or put learning other big tasks on the sidelines while they mastering one.  That seems to be just what she's doing.  We're also still working on playing with toys without throwing them across the room or accidentally hitting someone with them. Maybe she can be a star softball pitcher one day. This girl has an arm that can throw!

Naomi is our quiet observer.  She is more motivated right now to communicate rather than walking.  And that's perfectly fine.  She has about 20 ASL (American Sign Language) signs that she uses independently and appropriately. In her repertoire, she can ask for food, drink and bath now.  She can sign:  up, down, all done, brush teeth, eat, drink, banana, milk, more, please, night night, bath, dog, shoes, go, rabbit, hugs, wash hands, brush hair, turn around, and a few more that I can't think of right now.  There's quite a few more we're still working on. She loves to watch and listen.  This week she also surprised us by pointing to something she wants - which of course is bananas. The girl loves bananas! She is figuring out cause & effect pop-up and musical toys. She likes to get up on a chair and watch while I wash dishes.  And she figured out how to climb three stairs this week!  The baby gate stopped her or she might have made it to the top.

We still have a number of doctor appointments that will keep us busy over the summer.  That and playing outside as much as we can until it gets just too hot.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Back to the Dentist

Monday, March 28, 2012

We headed back to the dentist for another cleaning.
Naomi is signing "brush teeth" while we wait for Dr. Kelly.
Because Naomi's teeth and gums are in such poor shape, we are doing a little cleaning each time.  She's a great patient and we go for as long as she'll tolerate at each visit.  Then we give her a little break, give the gums some more time to heal and then we'll go back.
Watching "Meet the Robinsons" on the overhead screen.
All done!
All smiles!

New Legs!

Hannah was fitted for some nifty AFO (Ankle-Foot Orthotic) braces this month and has been wearing them for a couple weeks now.

Her feet are very flat (common to Down syndrome) and they also turn under severely.  So much that she's almost walking on the insides of her ankles. Ouch!  These will help to support her ankles, while positioning them properly for walking and standing. It will also help her to have better balance as she's still learning to walk independently.

I wasn't sure what to expect when we went for our fitting.  But they turned out really, really cute!  They have a heart patten on them and they are incredibly thin and lightweight.  We even able to use the tennis shoes that she was already wearing.  The braces that Naomi was wearing at the orphanage are about 3 times heavier than these.  Hannah wasn't sure at first, but once he put them on, she was all smiles and was up and walking right away.  Now she actually helps me to fasten the velcro when we put them on.
Cute pattern!

Spring in Texas

I just love the Spring weather in Texas.  My all-time favorite part is the beautiful Bluebonnet flowers that blanket the fields this time of year.  Here are a few pictures from the last two weeks as we have enjoyed the fantastic Spring weather!

Hannah on the swing.

BIG smiles!

Sarah and Naomi - Sisters!

 Do you notice the green grass?  The drought we've had the past two years left our pastures dry and dusty.  We've been blessed by good rains over the last 3 months, so we have some thick, deep grass now.  The girls have NEVER put their bare little feet on grass before. So we tried it out.... and as of now, they are NOT impressed!  Too funny!  I'm sure over time they'll come around as they see their brothers and sister walking in it.
Hannah has the most beautiful blue eyes.
Loving the sunshine!
All that playing just tuckered me OUT! (Hannah)
The other benefit of the rain has been the beautiful bumper crop of Bluebonnet flowers this year. And our neighbor has a fantastic patch we could take some pictures in....
We've also enjoyed some really warm days and the kids begged me to get out their little wading pool. Do you think they liked it???

You should have heard the endless laughter and squeals!  Now they could splash and make the big mess they want do in the bathtub.

And i just have to share this one since it's so funny.... Naomi doesn't yet chew and eat big or hard foods, but she was sure interested in my slice of pizza one evening....
Soon enough, Little One...

Tiny Little Teeth

March 7, 2012

We went to see out favorite dentist - Dr. Kelly.  We've gotten to know her quite well over the last 3 years as we've ventured in every 3 months for cleanings.  She's a mom and her kids are very close to the same ages as mine.  She has many kids in her practice that have special needs, and she is sensitive to meeting them where they need it.  And she has the most kid-friendly office I've ever been to. From the entry with a huge colorful mural that covers 3 of the 4 walls in the waiting room, down to each treatment bench that is equipped with a flat-screen monitor showing latest releases of kid movies. Get that! The kids get to watch movies while having their teeth cleaned!

When I was a kid all I got to watch was the dentist's nose hairs move back and forth as he breathed.  Lucky little buggars!

Naomi was first up on the bench since her teeth would take the most work today. Her poor teeth are in the poorest shape I have ever seen. They are brown-to-dark-gray along the gums of almost every tooth. She has strong bad breath. Every time I have brushed her teeth up to this point, her gums bleed horribly.

As Dr Kelly looked her over and began scraping and cleaning, her poor little gums just bled like crazy.  And Naomi was such a quiet little trooper. She obviously isn't a fan of having her teeth scraped, but neither am I.  Dr. K also said that this is the first time in her years of practice that she has ever seen full-blown periodontal disease of the baby teeth.  This is where the infection and decay has gone down into the jaw bone. She is losing the bone material in the jaw that holds her teeth in place and keeps them from moving or falling out.  The good news is that once we can get to the point of clearing up the decay and infection, when her adult teeth come in, she will be able to regrow the bone for her adult teeth, thus reversing the damage she has now.

So we will be trekking back to see Dr. K every two weeks until we can get Naomi's teeth and gums back to healthy status. We have Doctor's orders to brush her teeth 2-3 times a day and using an oral rinse twice a day until she's all better. It's a darn good thing she doesn't mind me brushing her teeth!  Hannah sure doesn't.

Hannah was up next for her exam.  She tends to be much more orally defensive and does not like hands around her face. She gets stressed very easily.  I was sure this would be a tricky and very loud examination. I knew the exam table would be a challenge.  But Dr. K is great and knows just how to work with kids and parents.  We did something she calls a "lap exam".  I sat in a chair and held Hannah in my lap. Dr. K sat in another chair directly across from me, our knees almost touching. I laid Hannah back so she was laying across our legs and her head was in Dr K's lap. They moved the light over to us and we worked right there.  I was able to hold Hannah's hands down while Dr K cleaned. Of course Hannah cried and screamed the whole time. I'm sure she must have scared every poor kid who was in the waiting room.  But it worked out well.  The more she cried, Dr K was able to get a clear view and examine and brush/clean her teeth really, really well!  But Dr. K was super-fast and was done with her in less than 10 minutes.

AND NO CAVITIES! I couldn't believe it! There is evidence that she grinds her teeth, but otherwise her teeth look great and her gums are healthy! She doesn't have to go back for another 6 months!

 We got our ballons and stickers and headed out.

As is our usual custom after the dentist visit, we go to CiCi's Pizza buffet for lunch.  I had promised the kids we would go, but as we rounded the corner I had immediate regret.  There were two school buses unloading out front.  I didn't see the kids go in, but I could just envision that it was the high school football team and they would eat all the pizza and it would be really loud.  I expressed to the kids that I wasn't sure about this choice, but my son begged to go anyway.

About that time, I saw that they were unloading two students in wheelchairs from the second bus.  I realized it probably wasn't the football team and felt better about going ahead with the plan.  And I'm really glad I did!

We walked in and I suddenly realized that every kid in there had some special need.  These were kids from the local high school and this was a special outing for lunch.  There were 3 kids in wheelchairs, 3 young men with Down syndrome, and a whole host of others.  Probably 30 kids in all.  I have to say it was the most beautiful thing I've seen.  And here we were with our two newest girls who have Down syndrome. We fit right in!

And I have to add.... this was Georgetown High School that publicly celebrated TWO kids with Down syndrome recently.  Their student body voted two students with DS as Homecoming King and Homecoming Queen in 2010! You can read more about them HERE. Be sure to watch the video.

I have to say that I had to choke back tears as I sat there having lunch with my kids.  Here I was sitting in a room full of kids who are included and cared for. They have the opportunities to go to school. They have access to good medical and dental care.  Their parents are no longer told to send them away to institutions anymore.  I sat there remembering the orphanage and the hope that Hannah and Naomi did NOT have in their country. They both had already been scheduled to be moved to a mental institution.  While they are still scrawny, small and underweight right now,  I sat there happy and overcome with the hope that they now have in their lives and their futures.

Even as I sit here recounting, I still well up with tears.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Weight Check!

March 1, 2012  we stopped by the doctor's office for a weight check.

Naomi now weighs 27 pounds, up 2 pounds from her weight taken on February 13, 2012!

Hannah now weighs 26.5 pounds, up 2.5 pounds from her weight on February 13, 2012!

I'm sure much of this from becoming re-hydrated. The girls are both already looking so much better and we can see that they are filling in nicely.

We finished the medication for the intestinal parasites, and the new checks came back clear!!!

Happy Birthday, Little Princess

March 2, 2012

Today Naomi celebrated her 8th birthday.  But today is the first birthday she celebrated outside of the orphanage with her new family.

We started off the day with color sprinkles on our morning cereal....
Every Princess should start her birthday with color sprinkles on her cereal!
We sang Happy Birthday countless times throughout the day....  which were always greeted with her sweet little smiles.

We wanted to celebrate at IHOP for a pancake dinner, but our plans were delayed to do a flat tire on mom's van. So mom whipped up some pancakes at home.  A couple days later we celebrated with cake at Grandma's house!
Not sure I know this song, yet...
Brother and Sister are showing her how to blow out the candles.  There's so much to learn about this birthday thing...
Happy Birthday, Sweet Naomi! You are celebrated today and everyday.  May you have many more celebrations to come!  We love you so much!!!

How's Your Heart?

February 28, 2012

I took the girls to visit the cardiologist to have their hearts checked.  If you don't know... heart defects are very common for children with Down syndrome.  There can be a wide array of defect and conditions - from holes in between the heart chambers  to valve defects, and other related conditions. Some kids require extensive surgery, others may need other procedures, some need nothing.

We met the doctor and then had an echo-cardiogram for each of them. It's basically like a sonogram of the heart and they look at everything.  They look at the walls of the heart, the dividing wall, all the chambers, the valves, from top to bottom and then some. They are able to check the directions of blood flow through the valves.  It's really fascinating to watch on their monitor.

 Naomi was the best and laid so quietly and smiled most of the entire time.  Hannah did well for most of it, but got restless toward the end.

I am EXTREMELY HAPPY to report that the doctor found ABSOLUTELY NOTHING wrong with either of their hearts!!!  So we don't have to go back for anymore visits or follow up. Praise God for great news!

First Haircut - First McDonald's!

February 15, 2012

We ventured out for a couple of errands and stopped by our favorite little hair salon to get a haircuts and tidy up the little orphanage bobs.  Their bangs were way down in their eyes.  But the ladies at Great Cuts did a fantastic job!
Hannah is checking out the hair dryer.

Naomi with her fixed up new "do"!

Afterward, J & S were begging to go to McDonald's (which is right next door to the salon).  I was hesitant since it can be pretty loud in there and the girls are still getting used to all the action in their new world.  But we were all getting hungry, so we took a chance.
I want those fries!
This was fun!
It was a stretch, but it was fun to watch Hannah enjoy her very first cheeseburger Happy Meal. Naomi still doesn't eat very hard or chewy foods, so she had the yogurt parfait and a banana for lunch.  They did really well.

They didn't get out and explore the indoor playground, yet.  We'll catch all those new germs soon enough. No need to hurry...

(By the time I'm actually posting this entry I realize just how fast their hair is growing now and I'll need to take them back for new trims very, very soon!)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

February 14, 2012

There are many reasons why I like living in Texas.  But I think I love it most for the mild winters and the sunshine. After spending 2 months away from home, and one of those months was continual sub-freezing temperatures, I was elated to go outside and not have to wear thermals under my pants, and a heavy coat, and a hat, and a scarf, and gloves.

Today was a GORGEOUS day!  It was sunny and warm with a gentle breeze.  I could treat Hannah and Naomi to a beautiful February day outside!   A day to enjoy the sunshine for all it's worth.
Joseph, Sarah, Hannah and Naomi

Sarah came up with the terrific idea of giving them a ride in the wagon.  I have to wonder, but I really don't think they've ever ridden in a wagon before.

 They really seemed to enjoy being outdoors again since out short little outing back in December.  We're looking forward to many more sunny days and basking in the warm days.

Meet The Doctor

February 13, 2012

I took the girls to see our pediatrician this afternoon for their first measurements and check-ups.  Our doctor and her staff have been so supportive since I told them we were adopting.  And they have been even more excited to meet and get to know them.  The girls did really well, but didn't take too kindly to the tongue depressor.  I hope we can teach them to just say "ah" and she won't have to use it anymore. :)

Just to log where they are starting:

Hannah (Lindsay) weighs in at 24 pounds at 7yrs and 8 months old.  She is 37.5 inches tall.  She wears a 3T or 4T shirt, but 3T/4T pants have to be taken in about 2-3 inches in the waist.

Naomi (Shawna) weighs in at 25 pounds at 7yrs and 11 months old.  She is 37 inches tall. She wears a 3T or 4T shirt, and can easily wear 3T/4T pants without them falling down.

They both wear size 4 diapers.

They both fall well-below the 5th percentile on the Down syndrome growth charts.  It's unfortunate, but not at all surprising considering where they've been.

So they'll be using the 5-point harness carseats for quite a long while.  I have a dream that we can get them to that new magical number of 4ft-9in to be able to ditch the booster seats some day before they turn 18.

We braved the lab and we were able to take a boat load of blood for a plethora of standard tests and to determine the effectiveness of their vaccines.  The ladies at the CPL clinic did a fantastic job. My hat's off to them!  Hannah cried like a wet cat and probably had pity from everyone in the waiting room.  Naomi surprised us all when she didn't make a single sound the entire time. I actually found that a little odd.

We plan to visit a number of different specialists over the next few months so that we can get a good assessment of  their overall health.  Cardiology, orthopedics, and a dentist are all high on the list. Then we can set a game plan on beginning therapies and get these two up and walking, running, and talking up a storm.

Our first focus will be on nutrition and building their health.  They both eat really well and have liked almost anything that's offered.  But oddly enough, they are quite particular about drinking.  Styrofoam and paper cups are completely out of the question.  A few plastic cups might be tolerated.  Go figure!  They only drank from one particular mug at the orphanage.  So I finally was able to find a couple of Corell white coffee cups from my grandmother's cupboard that they WILL drink from.  So they now have their own special cups.   I hope to teach them to be able to drink from a straw, which will make outings much easier.  I really don't want to drag around these special cups everywhere.

They drink milk.  They LOVE Pediasure.  And we are still experimenting with fruit juices to find one they will drink.  I have to warm the drinks just a tad because they don't seem to like it very cold.

I'm looking forward to see how they much will grow and improve over the several months and on through this next year.

Day 63 - Departures/Arrivals

Thursday, February 9, 2012

We caught only a few hours of sleep as we readied for our departure this morning. Suitcases were packed and everything readied.

Niko arrived promptly at 4:00am to gather our luggage and all of us.  It was still bitter cold (-20C/-4F) outside but the skies were dark and clear.  With the girls and us all bundled up, we headed out for the airport to catch the 6:30am flight to Munich, Germany.
Check In line

Just in from the cold, bundled to our noses!

As we were about to check in, Lee realized his wedding band was missing.  Talk about your stomach suddenly feeling sick.  He had gotten a rash under his ring, so he wasn't wearing it.  We thought it was probably on the bathroom shelf back in the apartment.  At this point, we had already returned our in-country phone so we couldn't call.  I didn't have phone numbers to even use our costly US phones. It was FB and email... that's it.

I posted a note that we had lost the ring, and a couple of folks jumped in to help and pray. Phone calls were made to Niko and we had people looking for it in a matter of an hour.  In the meantime, we were boarding our plane and hoping to hear something when we got to Munich.

By this time, the girls were getting hungry, so we broke out the bananas to feed them. Poor Lindsay (now Hannah) has a big challenge with food.  She must eat and she must eat NOW.  We had to interrupt her breakfast so we could board the bus to take us to the plane. Poor thing began a loud meltdown right in the middle of the line and all the way to our seats.  I felt sorry for all the other passengers as I could read their faces.... many wondering if they were going to have to ride next to that screaming child the entire time.

I was glad that I didn't ditch the coats and pack them at the check-in counter.  We had to go outside, catch a bus, and ride out to our airplane. Then we had to stand out in the cold while we waited our turn to go up the steps. Once we finally made it to our seats, we were able to finish feeding the girls and Lindsay finally settled down with a full tummy - two bananas and one cinnamon danish later.  She was quiet and calm for the rest of the trip.

Once everyone was situated and ready to leave, the pilot announced that it was too cold outside for the effective rating of the de-icer liquid.  We would have to wait until sunrise and see if the temperature rose at least 2 degrees so we could take off.  We had to wait about 45 minutes to an hour before we could leave.

Finally, about an hour after we had boarded, we were cleared for takeoff.  And away we went. We had a three-hour layover in Munich, so our late departure wasn't too big a deal. We still had wiggle room in the schedule. The first flight went remarkably well, considering our rambunctious beginning.

Just before we were about to descend into Munich, Lee suddenly realized that he DID have his wedding ring.  He had put his ring into his money pouch for safe keeping, but with the stress and being tired, he didn't remember it.  What a huge relief!  (Once we got to Dulles, we were able to get online and let the folks back in Kiev know that we found the ring.)

We had time to grab some lunch at the airport and some coffee for me.  While we were finishing up, we heard our names called to report to our gate.  That threw us off since we still had at least an hour before departure and we were fairly close to our gate.  We hustled over to the gate and had to go through a passport and security check.  That took quite a bit longer than everyone else did since we had two little ones who were traveling with us and they had Ukrainian passports with a entry visas.  By the time that was all done, we still had to get seat assignments at another counter.  The lady at the counter was super-helpful and got our seat assignments.  We has requested bulkhead seating since we had little ones, but there weren't seats available.  She said the flight wasn't booked so she gave us seats in two rows with a seat between.  What we didn't know was that we had been bumped up to the better version of Economy class!  We had bigger seats, more leg room, and a seat to share!  It was so nice!  Hannah was a happy camper since there was more than enough food to go around.

The girls did fantastic on the long transatlantic flight. They were so quiet.  Other kids in behind us made more noise than they did.  They slept a little, but not very much.  The crew was fantastic and kept checking on us.  They even gave the girls their first little airline wings pins!
Hannah - One tired girl.  (See my Wings pin?)

Naomi - Always smiling!  (I got Wings, too!)

We arrived on-time into the US at Washington DC.  It really seemed rather poetic that the girls would be receiving their official entry stamp for American citizenship right in our nation's capital city. We navigated the airport to our next gate and found that our flight would be delayed about an hour.  No big deal.  We were Stateside and it didn't really matter anymore at that point.  We could finally use our cell phones again and call whomever we wanted.

We finally boarded our last flight and buckled in. Only 3 hours and 20 minutes to our final destination! We were all exhausted and running on fumes.  The plane took off and I don't think we cleared the ground anymore than about 5 minutes before all 4 of us fell fast asleep.  We awoke when the pilot announced that we would begin our initial descent into Austin.  Holy cow! We all slept for 3 solid hours!

Since we were sitting in the last row of seats, we were the last ones off the plane.  We ventured our way down to baggage claim to meet our family and friends that were waiting for us.  I was tearing up at the thought of having all our kids together again.  We passed the escalator and we could see everyone waiting for us downstairs.  We could hear our kids screaming with glee when they saw us!   The gentleman at the kiosk there commented, "Sounds like someone down there's excited to see you!"  If he only knew half the story, he'd know there were no truer words spoken!  

We came down the elevator and when the doors finally opened we were rushed by our little ones!  My goodness they'd grown while we were gone!  And, oh! The hugs were amazing and the kisses were even sweeter!  Sarah kept saying, " I misted you so much!"  And yes... she said "misted".  Nathan was really happy to see Daddy and I thought Joseph was going to tackle us to the ground with his huge hugs!

Elevator opens and the hugs and tears commence!

A dear lady named Whitney who has a heart for orphans and adopting families had volunteered to take the homecoming pictures for us.  And she did an absolutely fantastic job!  If you are on Facebook, you can see her pictures of our family at The Archibald Project - Eubanks Homecoming . You can read more about their mission and at The Archibald Project

We hugged and cried and hugged some more.  Afterward, we loaded everything up and everyone into our van and headed home.  It was so nice to fall fast asleep in our own beds, with all our little ones under one roof.... It was pure, heavenly bliss.... and sheer exhaustion....

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Day 62 - Visas In Hand!

So today we had our second appointment to return to the Embassy and sign and complete the applications.  Our appointment was for early afternoon, so we were taking it easy this morning and hanging out.  Lee happened to check our email and saw that we had an email asking us to come a little earlier.  Well, OK!

We got ready quickly and grabbed a few snacks for the kids since we knew it would take a little while.  Poor Hannah.  It was too close to lunch time and she was getting hungry.  We had to break out the food a little earlier than expected, but it worked out.

We arrived and turned in the paperwork from the medical exam yesterday.  The consular representative told us it would be about an hour before the visas would be printed and ready.  Then he extended a special invitation to us and the three other adopting families that had appointments today.  The US Ambassador was wanting to have a small reception to meet and greet us!  What a treat! So while we waited we had a nice time visiting with the other families and sharing stories.

We have experienced quite a few firsts while we've been here.  Now I can add going into an American Embassy overseas and meeting a US Ambassador to the list!

Now we're back at the apartment and getting ready for our trip in the morning. 

We had a bit of dinner...
And then baths and hanging out in our PJs (that fit...).
Who needs toys? Empty bottles make great musical instruments!
Yoga, anyone? Doing a few exercises before I go to sleep.

Please pray that our trip will be swift, easy, boring and uneventful.  I like boring!

Dasvidanya! (Good bye for now!)

Niko is coming to get us at 4am to take us to the airport.   Off to finish packing!   Our next report will be from the other side of the globe!