Marching On

I’m so thankful that these last four weeks are coming to an end. We had at least three appointments for Sofie each week. Plus preschool, music class, ballet, a play date and a few appointments for other people. It was crazy and now that we are coming to the end, we are all fighting coughs or colds. It’s the way it goes, I guess.

It’s been a rough few nights here. Saturday night, Livi woke up with a 101 degree fever just before midnight. Once I got her temperature under control she woke Sofie up. Sofie was happy but proceeded to yell at the top of her lungs. It was impossible to sleep. She did this from 1am until just before 4am. I was losing my mind. Completely. Then she woke up at 7am!

The next night consisted of Sofie crying for 3 hours! We tried EVERYTHING to get her to relax and sleep. We redid her bedtime routine at least three times, we took her in to our room to calm down a few times, we sang, we rocked, we let her cry it out a bit, we gave her two separate doses of melatonin and finally Jon took her for a drive in the car. It worked! Only to have her wake up in the transfer! Argh! We figured since she’d been up and it was now 11pm, she was probably hungry again. We gave her a Pediasure and she was finally able to be calm enough to sleep. Now, she wasn’t hungry at the beginning of this evening. She had had a big dinner! But Pediasure’s are one of her favorite things in the world and I think she finds comfort in them. I was willing to give her whatever at that point and was thankful something finally worked!

She has still been off during the days and although she went to sleep well last night, she has been grumpier than normal during the day. Livi and I both have colds so maybe Sofie is fighting something too… although she doesn’t seem sick at all and hasn’t had a fever.

I wonder if this random difficult week has something to do with some kind of memory. Sometimes when people have endured a traumatic experience, they will sort of relive it each year around the same time of year. Sofie has been abused, in more ways than one. We will never know the full extent of her neglect and abuse. We can just hope to help her heal. It will be really interesting to see if this same behavior repeats itself next February.

Livi has been so empathetic and caring towards Sofie this week with all her outbursts. It’s been really sweet to see. I’ve been a little more up front with Livi about Sofie’s history. I think she is mature enough to handle some of it. We approached Sofie’s small size as her being a baby, when we first brought her home but this week I explained to Livi that Sofie is actually 3 years old just like her, but because she didn’t get enough food and love in Bulgaria she didn’t grow. Then as Livi witnessed her sister awake screaming from a terrible nightmare at nap time, I explained to her that some bad things happened to Sofie in the orphanage before she came home to us so she has bad dreams about it sometimes. Livi tenderly put her hand on Sofie’s forehead, she was laying on her bed recuperating, and turned to me to say “I think we shouldn’t send her back to Bulgaria. She should stay home with us.” Good idea Livi!

What else can I tell you?

1. I went to a tax seminar on Saturday morning to learn about different benefits and credits for people with special needs. I learned a lot and loved it! I’m such a geek.

2. We got our first delivery from the At Home program. They are now, for free, delivering Pediasure, diapers and wipes to our door for Sofie! Hooray! 

3. My lifestyle change went really well for the first 4 weeks. I lost and have kept 15 pounds off. Then I went to a party on a Saturday night, ate leftovers from the party on the Sunday and had Valentine’s treats a few days later. I pulled a muscle while working out too so I decided to take a week off and start with the “reset” part again. I then got sick a few days before my restart day and haven’t gotten back but planning too! With 15 pounds down in 4 weeks how can I not do it again?!

4. I bought Livi a Dora work kit which has her practicing numbers, letters, shapes, and colors. She is loving it and I love how proud she is when she completes a work page! The other day we were all sitting around the table doing our “work”. I was filling out more of Sofie’s forms, Livi was doing the number pages and Sofie was coloring on the magna-doodle! For over 30 min! Crazy! And I was amazed at how well Sofie was doing and showing interest in coloring. She is developing SO fast!

5. We had Sofie’s second attempt at her hearing appointment today. She was too distracted to pay any attention to the sound prompts the first time. Sofie gave better readings today but still scored slightly below the normal hearing level. The audiologists were trying to tell me this second reading was conclusive. I’m not convinced. The good thing is whether or not she has real hearing loss or not, it is not enough to do anything about at this point 🙂 We will monitor it and the next check up will be in 3 months.

6. Sofie is now caught up with all her immunizations! Just today. She did great and didn’t cry even though she got 4 shots! The worst part for her is being restrained, not the needles.

I think that’s it. I’ll try to take more pictures for you. I’ve had a few comments about lack of pictures on my posts lately 🙂 February/March always seem to be dry picture months. Once we get outside with nice weather again I’m sure I’ll be more inspired!

6 Months Home!

I can’t believe Sofie has been with for only 6 months. She fits in so perfectly. I don’t even want to begin to imagine what her life would be like if we hadn’t found her. God had better plans for her. Honestly, He has better plans for all those orphans… now if only we would all just bring them home.

Isn’t it amazing what a little food, love and a family can do in just 6 months!

These past six months have gone by so fast and yet it seems to have been our lives forever. I remember what it was like to just have one child. Livi was so EASY compared to the two of them together! They were made to be together. They are sisters through and through. Livi dotes on Sofie… when she isn’t pushing her away or hiding her toys up high so she can’t get them. Sofie is so easy going when it comes to Livi. She loves to be close to Livi and do what she is doing. She tries to be just like her “big” sister. They fight too, but that is encouraging in a weird way. It means they are developing a completely normal sibling relationship and it is a beautiful thing.

 Making cookies on Valentine’s Day together.
Baking with my kids is one of my most FAVORITE things to do.

These past six months have been life changing for all of us but especially Sofie. Her development has literally sky rocketed. The orphanage director warned us, when we where picking her up, that the change in Sofie’s life would probably stunt her development in the next few months. Well, that did just not happen. AT. ALL.

In just six months, Sofie went from having no voice and not being spoken to in Bulgarian to understanding English, using 15-20 signs, babbling up a storm (a loud storm!) and speaking nearly ten English words clearly! Just hree days ago her newest word came! She said “Marmee” and made my mom one happy Gramma! Just this month she has learned to identify some different parts of her body parts, like her nose, eyes, tummy, etc. She is starting to chew a lot better. We haven’t got to raw veggies yet but we are getting there! She is doing really well with water too. Less of it is spilling out when she drinks and I think she is getting closer to the amount of liquid she should be drinking for her weight. Speaking of her weight she is 24 lbs and 33 inches tall! She is still ridiculously small for her age but she is finally a healthy BMI!

When she came to us she was just toddler walking and fell over a lot. She still falls over a lot but she is so much more confident in her walking. She is nearly running! She climbs on everything now. She has such a sense of humor and laughs her head off when she is trying to tease us. For example, we will be changing her and she thinks it hilarious to turn on her tummy so we can’t put her diaper on… and then she sometimes pees. Awesome.

I celebrate my second daughter and am in awe of how much she has overcome every day. She drives me nuts, breaks me in to laughter, fills me with pride, joy, love, honor and mysticism. I am SO excited so see where the next 6 months take her and us! I think I might cry from happiness when I get to celebrate her 1 year home!

Some of Sofie’s favorite things are:
1. Music. She loves to dance, rock out, she is starting to sing and even knows how to turn on the stereo by herself. We keep “her” CD in the stereo for easy accessibility for her.
2. Music Class. I can not recommend Music Together with Miss Kendra enough. We started the class in September as a family and now her and I continue to go alone. It is therapy for her. I credit this class as playing a major role in her development. Particularly her following directions and speech. She completely participates in all the actions and even tries to sing!
3. Naked Barbie. I gave her every encouragement and option to attach to a typical fuzzy, pillow, or stuffed animal in the house. Instead, she chose to become enamored with an old frizzy haired Barbie of Maggy’s that happens to have lost her clothes. I’m so glad that she is attaching to something but why does it have to be a naked Barbie?
4. Mirrors. She loves looking at her self in mirrors. She is vain. But what can I say? She does have a lot to be vain about 🙂
5. Tickles. She loves it and has the cutest baby belly laugh.
6. Giving kisses. She is very proficient at it but doesn’t quite know who she can and can’t kiss yet 🙂

Things she doesn’t like: 

1. Soups and juicy fruit. She doesn’t like the textures. It weird’s her out. 
2. Not being able to keep up with her sister. Livi likes to run but Sofie can’t quite keep up despite her best tries. She gets frustrated when Livi keeps running up and down the hall passing her each time. 
3. Being hungry. If she has any little hunger pains she gets ridiculously upset. I think it scares her. She didn’t get enough food in Bulgaria. She remembers and it is a trigger.
4. Being told “No”. Really, who likes that? She is quite stubborn about this one though!

I try to take pictures of each of my kids on their 6 month “birthdays” as well as on their actual birthday. Sofie is NOT easy to photograph! But she still makes some cute shots!

We love you Sofie! We thank God for you every day. You are a miracle.

Adoption – 6 Months Later

Should I say, “six months already?!” or “it’s only been six months?!” I think the latter is more true. Sofie belongs with us. She always has. She is a part of us and I can’t imagine life with out her. We had our first adoption check up on Tuesday with a social worker from the agency. It went well. Jon keeps making fun of me because I cleaned my house like I had OCD for the social worker to inspect and she didn’t even look around! She just asked questions about Sofie’s development. I’m just going to talk for a moment about my experience and feelings over the past 6 months. I’ll give you an update on Sofie around the 15th when she has actually been home for 6 full months.

In looking over the past 6 months, I’ve learned a lot, changed, grown, been enlightened and developed a whole list of new worries and personal issues 🙂 Adoption is amazing but so very hard, and I say this thinking that I have had it pretty easy. So many people thought we were choosing the hard road because Sofie has Down Syndrome. This is just not the case. If anything her DS, innocence, love and openness has made this transition easier on everyone.

I remember meeting her for the first time and been so completely enamored with the frail little bird that cautiously explored and ate up our attention. When we got home, things got real. The first two months were hard. So. Very. Hard. I was sleep deprived, most new parents are, and felt very alone. I was walking down a road very little people had any experience with. No one could give me the answers that I needed and I discredited those that tried because of their inexperience. I didn’t know how to separate Sofie’s orphanage/adoption issues from her natural delays with having DS. Even the doctors and professionals we saw seemed to dismiss possible adoption issues and figured everything had to do with delays associated with DS.

I remember, in those first few weeks, wondering what I had done… I felt “I had brought violence in to my home”. Sofie hit, pulled hair, threw things and scratched to the point where she made me cry from pain a few times. I saw no end. No cure to the behavior. I was scared for the harm that the “violence” would bring to Livi and I wondered how much I could take before I lashed out. It was a dark few weeks.

Thankfully, that’s all it was. A few weeks. One day, I began to realize how much less Sofie was pulling hair and throwing things. She was relaxing. Realizing we were safe. She doesn’t have to defend against or attack us. I saw hope again! Once we all made it through those first two months of no sleep, panic and distress, we started finding solutions and relaxing. I’ve said it before… we LITERALLY saw Sofie’s entire being relax and come out of the tight little shell it was trapped in.

I had the maternal instinct early on that the issues Sofie was facing had way more to do with the neglect and trauma she experienced in the orphanage setting rather than DS, so I approached them all like that. I understood her difficulty going to sleep as this was the first time she had been out of the walls of the orphanage and she was too scared to relax and sleep. I saw her hitting as the only defense she knew how to use against other children and adults. I saw her quiet, calmness in new overstimulating situations as her inability to cope because she had never been stimulated in the orphanage. She just shut down and inward. It was so sad to see but followed her lead, tried to give her the support she needed, and stayed close.

It’a  been a hard balance to give Sofie the extra attention she needed and give Livi the attention that she needed.  I still struggle with this balance. Livi goes through moments still of wanting to be babied like Sofie. Livi regressed in her own development when we first brought Sofie home and it took a frustrating few months to get a handle on proper toileting again! Bedtime for Livi is still a battle. And don’t even get me started on the attitude! I can’t blame that on bringing Sofie home though 🙂

With Sofie  it is hard to know how much to push her independence and how much to still baby her for attachment reasons. She doesn’t love being babied but giving her independence usually ends in such a huge mess! She has begun attaching to us but is still very non-discriminate about who else she goes to. She will come back to Jon and I but rarely looks for us in a crowd. She does recognizes us and is happy to see us though. She comes to us for nurturing and occasionally asks for us if she is with some one else for a few minutes. We still have only left her for a few minutes at a time with her Marmee and one evening at Christmas with my sister. Looking forward to a date night one day!

I love my girls. I love the journeys I have been on with both of them. I feel pretty confident most of the time with parenting Livi. Like I know what I am doing… at least to a point. With Sofie, I feel like I am in such new waters. Most of the time, she is just my darling daughter. I see her more as an 18 month old more than a three year old. I think she is somewhere between 12 – 18 months developmentally. I don’t think about her being adopted or worry about her having Down Syndrome… except in rare moments.

I find those moments happen more when I’m in public or talking to acquaintances or strangers about my family. I am so proud of my family. All of them and their unique journeys and gifts. But people don’t understand us… or at least me. When I get asked how old Sofie is, I usually answer with the truth, “She’s actually 3.” Then I feel like I need to explain why she is so small or enlighten them about certain unattached behaviors they are commenting on. I hate people thinking that she is so tiny just because she has DS. She was malnourished and neglected so she didn’t grow. Or that she is so quiet and calm in new surroundings because she is an angel. She is actually emotionally shutting down and inwardly freaking out because she can’t process everything and she’s scared. And I’d hate for people to think that hitting, rocking, throwing, eating issues, being overly friendly and explorative with new people and having unattached issues are typical for people with DS. These all stem from being in an institution for over 3 years.

I want people to know her story, our story, but I don’t like myself always telling people that she was adopted. Does this make sense? I don’t want her or Livi to grow up hearing me tell everyone she was adopted. That could just cause a bunch of other issues. Maybe this is just the stage that I am walking through and it is a good thing I’m going through it while she is still young. As she grows and attaches, I hope I won’t feel the need to explain her size and different behaviors. I also hope people won’t assume things just because she has DS. This is completely my issue and I don’t really know where it is coming from. Do I feel extra defensive and protective for some reason? Am I feeling judged and guarded?   Why? I generally don’t worry about what other’s think to much.

Although this journey has been so difficult, there are immeasurable things to celebrate! It’s been two years since we started this journey to Sofie and now we get to celebrate her being home with us for six months already! I’ll fill you in on all the things I celebrate about our little monkey in the next post and hopefully have some commemorative pictures for you!