Saturday, April 18, 2015

2 & 3 Months Home

Time is going quickly! I missed my chance to do the 2 month update so we will just move right to the 3 month one :)

Esther is doing very well! She has really surprised me. Some of the highlights are:

We have made major improvements in her eating....she is now able to eat most anything, and has preferences of what she does and doesn't like. Her chewing still looks awkward as I think she tries to swallow or mush with her tongue first but she is getting it and popcorn is one of her favorites. One day she ate four handfuls of Fritos-that takes some chewing! She will ask for more food if she's still hungry or pout if someone has something she wants. She still doesn't drink liquids much but has started asking for water on her own and once even got it herself when she brought me a cup and I asked her if she wanted a drink. It no longer takes her forever to swallow it down. She is still very sensitive to extreme temperatures in foods or drinks. 

We are working on potty training and even though she hasn't yet been able to tell me when she has to go, she is able to hold it until the next time I have her try. She didn't respond to any kind of bribing motivation (stickers or candy) but praising her when she is dry or when she has gone works very well. I haven't changed a dirty diaper of hers in over 2 weeks! 

She's a bouncy girl (loves the trampoline), loves to move and copy what her siblings are doing. She will copy words, hand motions or the games they are doing. I was sitting with my hands folded on top of my growing belly while Esther sat beside me. I look over and she's copying exactly what I was doing. She's quick to smile and has a great sense of humor, responding well to tickles and teasing. 

I take her every where I go so we have had lots of opportunities to train and see how she handles grocery shopping, dr apts (hers or others), dentist and eye apts, etc. She does great-no fear like Ben had, unless she's getting a shot.

She is on the growth chart at 5% and is slowly growing. She's only up .8lbs since we had her weighed the first week home but she is also a lot more active now. 

Esther loves to brush hair (her doll's or anyone in the house who has hair may find themselves guinea pig, but she is quite gentle!), and is learning how to play with toys. 

Her hair is very thick and is slowly growing longer so it doesn't stick straight up in a pony as much as it did a few months ago. I'm looking forward to twin  pigtails and mini braids this summer. She is very accepting of hugs and cuddles and will seek it out on her own. 

Little things we have been working on are having her dress herself, sitting like a lady with her skirt down, cleaning up her dirty dishes or trash, leaning over her plate and wiping off her face when dirty between bites, not playing with trash, following basic directions, climbing over the gate (that blocks baby Ruth from climbing up the stairs), learning colors, counting and the words to simple songs, getting up into the trampoline on her own, climbing up the ladder and going down the slide on her own, responding with 'hi' when someone says hi to her (she will sign 'I love you' if someone says it to her), getting into/out of the van and buckling the top part of her seatbelt without help...

Speech is coming along. She will say anything you tell her to but her pronunciation isn't always clear. She is NEVER quiet and she chatters a lot but we have no clue what she is saying most of the time. She can name everyone in the family. She will repeat instructions I have given her or one of the other kids to her doll (like 'no rock'-she rocks when she's pouting so I usually ask her to stop, no touch, etc) and she has a good ear for the tunes of songs even if she doesn't know the actual words to it. Her sisters hear her humming familiar songs very early in the morning when she wakes up. She won't get out of bed but she hums and wakes them up, which they aren't quite enjoying, especially those who aren't early risers! I haven't yet heard her ask any questions or try to tell me something directly. She's great at following my instructions if I keep it simple so I know her vocabulary is growing. I have great hope that it won't be long before she is able to communicate with us in English as she learns the words to do so. She has tried getting away with pointing at what she wants and even though I can usually guess, I have her copy the request with words 'can I have a drink please?' etc. 

We are working on getting an MRI scheduled next month to check her back, her ears cleaned out and hearing rechecked in June and a blood draw to recheck thyroid level again. The dentist didn't go well on round two either, so we are working on warming her up to that. Two of her front teeth have come in since she has come home, unfortunately behind her baby teeth, which are no where close to being ready to come out now that nothing is behind them to push them up. Those will likely have to be pulled out. She does well with me brushing her teeth for her but she hasn't figured out how to spit yet. 

Esther is a sweetheart, full of personality and we are blessed to have her as our daughter! Can't wait to see her progress over the next three months :)

Meanwhile, we are trying to finish up school and prepare for the arrival of our baby boy this summer! 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Today is international Romani Day

Ben and Esther are both Roma.

Today is a day designated to celebrate their culture, bring awareness to the discrimination the Roma people have faced and to break the stereotypes. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

One month home

Last Sunday was actually the one month home mark. It's been 6 1/2 weeks since pickup and that time has gone very quickly. 

Esther is understanding more of what we say everyday but she does not talk a lot so it's hard to tell what English words she has pickup up yet. She can count to 10 in English!

I tried the dress she wore in her visa picture on trip 1 on her again this week (so glad we got it back!) and she has grown!

I picked up these two traditional outfits for our Bulgarians to have and wear on special occasions. They were both quite happy with them. Esther started doing a river dance type dance when I first put it on her :) 

We have been working a lot on trying new foods and textures and teaching our little lady how to chew with her teeth vs just moving all the food to the roof of her mouth to sit until it dissolves. I stopped pureeing her soups and she's tolerating chunks much better now. Making progress! She has tried pbj (thinnest layer of each), canned fruits and veggies (since they tend to be softer), pizza, cheeseburger, bean burritos, and much more.  She really doesn't seem to be picky as far as tastes as she will eat spicy or bland without much reaction. She surprised us the other day by eating two cups of regular popcorn! That requires some chewing! Somehow she's getting it down and rarely gags. Esther still isn't big on liquids, but she has a couple times asked for some on her own and taken some sips. She will easily drink broth in soups, etc with a spoon so I do that as much as needed to keep her hydrated so I have no concerns there. She loves pudding and applesauce, but isn't too big on yogurt and ice cream because they are so cold. She does not have near the same appetite Ben had when he came home (and he still has!).

Sleeping is going well. She wakes up happily humming which wakes up her sisters. 

We are working on teaching her to stay out of the trash can as she is a magnet to any kind of wrapper that crinkles. 

        Watching Ben do his school :)

Happy girl once she learned how to put her feet down at the end of the slide so she wouldn't land so hard. No fears of the swing, and she loves to bounce in the trampoline. Enjoying a warm day in January. 

She has another dentist apt next week (with a Bulgarian translator this time to see if that helps calm her), hearing test the week after and blood work somewhere in there. Hopefully the weather will warm up again. Neither one of our Bulgarian babies like this cold and we are all going a little stir crazy stuck in the house so much!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Meet Joshua - Is this your son?

Joshua (Little G) has now been moved to a group home for children ages 7 and up. This is very good news. His old orphanage is in the process of closing down and he was stuck in a group of younger and much more delayed children for the past couple years which no doubt had an affect on his development.

Here is the previous post I did about him: There is a little boy.

These two pictures are from July:

Here is the recent update on 'Joshua' from January:

From our team member that visited him in January 2015: 
I met the boy in January 2015 as he was recently transferred from an orphanage for children up to 4 years of age. Currently he is 7 years old. His behavior seems correspondent to that of a little
 bit younger child but we should keep in mind that he has been living with children who are significantly younger than him. 

At first glance he makes the impression of a very charming, beautiful boy, although one can right away sense his excitability. There are a few things in his behavior that a person would notice: the child’s behavior appears chaotic, he seems overwhelmed and expects presents right away, he is a little bit overstepping other people’s personal boundaries, and prone to get angry if he does not get what he wants.

The negative traits in his behavior could easily be explained with the way he has been raised and treated so far (by October 2014). He would, of course, require a significant amount of personal care, individual attention and a lot of efforts in order to overcome these challenges. By the end of October 2014 the boy was raised in an orphanage for children up to 4 years of age and was thus surrounded by younger children and no possibilities of learning and developing skills and habits that a 7-year-old boy needs. He has been diagnosed with moderate mental delay which is not uncommon for children raised in institutions, mainly because of the lack of a proper social environment and stimulation. He was also stated to have significant disturbance in behavior and a slightly hyperkinetic tendency (autistic and/or ADHD possible). The psychiatrist at that time prescribed medical treatment with Depakin which was subsequently changed with Rispolept. The most recent psychiatric consultation the boy has had, after he was transferred to the Center for Family Type Accommodation, showed that he does not need any medications and his behavior was mainly the result of the way he has been raised so far – inconsistently, without paying attention to his main needs and trying to avoid problems and negative reactions by presenting gifts to him, instead of taking care of his emotional needs and development. As a result of all this he appears somehow spoiled and in need of learning how to recognize, name and react to his own emotions.

His physical development is within the norms for his age; he is active and likes to play outside and listening to music. He mostly seeks the company and the attention of the adults around him, instead of involving in games with his peers and the rest of the children at the Centre. He is jealous when the caregivers are paying attention to the rest of the children and usually reacts negatively. 

He needs individual attention and a strict and firm approach of handling the unacceptable traits in his behavior. In order to modify these, he would need a structured family environment, consistency, learning how to build his own personal boundaries and how to respect other people’s boundaries, he would need to learn about his emotions, how to recognize them and handle them, he would need to develop skills for self-control and self-observation in order to overcome the emotions which result from frustration.

Although it sounds like a handful of work, the boy has very good potential. He will need loving, caring and patient parents in order to grow into a beautiful, self-aware and respectful boy. The staff at the Center for Family Type Accommodation shared that there is an obvious change in his behavior since he was placed there. Even though only 3 months have passed, he is now learning how to deal with his negative emotions when frustrated; he is also learning the basic daily tasks and regulations at the Centre and is starting to follow the individual educational plan that has been prepared especially for him by his resource teacher.

The pictures below are from January. He is almost 7yo. 

Please keep Joshua (Little G) in your prayers and please share so his family can find him! 
There is hope for every child and he will thrive in the right family that can give him what he needs to succeed!

Joshua is currently listed through the NGO Family National Association, who works with multiple placing agencies, including About A Child. I am happy to direct anyone interested in more information to the person who can provide it. He should be listed on Reeces Rainbow shortly as well and I will link to it once it is up. 

She is growing!

Last week we went to Esther's first dr apt. She did so well!

She has gained 5lbs since I picked her up and is now 33lbs. The extra calories in her food is helping and she looks so much healthier now.

Her medical records were surprisingly thorough as far as her shot records were concerned. Our dr wanted to take another look at them before sending us for blood work to see what she may need boosters on. We left a sample to check for parasites as well but I do not expect that to be an issue.

Esther is healthy, happy and doing very well. Our pediatrician was so pleased to see that. We showed off to her a little by having Esther show her where all the parts of her face were when I named them. The song "head, shoulders, knees and toes" helped her learn them :)

The only concern is her gait and there could be a handful of reasons for that. We will be checking them all out and helping her in any way we can to be sure she can learn to walk and move properly. I have already seen improvement in the last week so that is encouraging. We know going into any adoption that there can and likely will be surprises. It's common knowledge that the medical care in EE, especially for orphans, is not what it could/should be. But we are confident that God knows and we are thankful for the children He has chosen for our family and we know He will equip us to help them in any way they need.

Esther now lets me brush her teeth regularly. She has her first dentist apt tomorrow. Her teeth look to be in pretty good condition, but one side has either grown in oddly (or else her gums have eroded) which means her bite does not line up at all. I'm sure that has had an affect on her ability to chew. I am curious to see what they say.

Afterwards, we will be going to attempt to apply for her social security card. We didn't have much luck getting Ben's before the Certificate of Citizenship arrived so I'm not too hopeful but it's worth a try!

Then on Wednesday, we will be going to get her vision checked. Later this month we have a hearing test scheduled. We want to be sure she has a clear bill of health from the start and then we can continue just loving her and teaching her what a family means and learning the language.

She is not color blind! She caught onto this activity very well.


I said previously that Esther has fit in and adjusted so smoothly so far. I keep waiting for the honeymoon period to end but I do not think it will-this is just how she is. We are so grateful for that as it isn't always the case for that to happen. I had prepared myself for the worst, not knowing what to expect as she is a different child than Ben is. I do think the Skype sessions helped keep us familiar to her and the short time she spent in the group home was very good preparation to joining our busy family. I think that this not being our first experience bringing a child home has helped a lot with our expectations and how we have handled different situations. She plays and interacts with every one. She responds to teasing and funny things and owies appropriately. She has a great sense of humor and seems to be at peace with all the changes she has been through in the last month. She likes to be held and for me to feed her. She loves showers, playing dressup and jumping on the trampoline. She has such a sweet, joyful personality.

We are dealing with indiscriminate affection towards others, which is very common. She doesn't know what a stranger is and that hugs and kisses are just for close family. We are keeping her close and working on teaching her all of that. Part of the cocooning phase of the adjustment once home, so I was prepared for this.


And for all those naysayers and bitter trolls who have nothing good to say...

Bite your do not know our family. Every family is not the right fit for every child.

I share only a tiny bit of the reality of what our family is like, about each of our children and what our adopted children's special needs are. Mainly for the privacy of our whole family and frankly because it is no one else's business. I haven't shared the majority or details of the challenges or even the joys we have had over the past few years. With that said, no one reading this really has a clear picture of what our family dynamics are, what we can and can't handle, what our support system or available resources looks like, what we are approved to adopt, and when it is not wise to bring a child into a home whose needs can not be met to the best of our ability. God has given us the privilege and duty to raise the soon to be 11 children already in our home. They have to come first and be taken into account because they are already here. Their safety has to be considered and we have to be sure they will not be neglected in any way with the addition of another family member whose needs may be a bigger challenge than we are capable of handling with everything already on our plate.

We did not make the decision of not bringing Little G home lightly. It was heart breaking. We do have complete peace that we made the right decision for him and for our family even if it did not turn out as we had anticipated going in. We know there was no bond between the brothers. We know that the steps we took to find him ultimately got him listed for adoption, so he now has a chance at a family, and our meeting him ultimately got his file updated accurately to what his needs currently are so an interested family will be prepared for what is ahead of them. Maybe that was the only role we were supposed to have in this in the first place. We have full confidence in God's plan and love for Little G even beyond our own hopes and desires and we know his family is out there.

Previously I said we have committed to sharing about and helping his family find him. My next post will share the update and hopefully helps reach his future family. I have lots of pictures and videos from the time I spent with him this summer and am more than willing to talk to seriously interested families. He will make a wonderful son to the right family.

Monday, January 26, 2015


I think I'm all caught up now! Esther's first dr apt was supposed to be last Monday but they rescheduled it for Wed. I will update how that goes and than will take a little break and hopefully do the monthly updates like I did when Ben came home.

We took advantage of a sorta warm day to visit a park and finally get a decent picture of all our children together. They enjoyed playing at the park. I wish Spring was closer!

You can't see that there is a huge puddle on the bottom of the slide. 
She is a magnet to puddles and ended up soaked!

She learned how to say 'push please'.

She has no fear!

All our blessings <3

P.S. Ruth is going to be a big sister this summer ;)

First Week Home

Esther is just amazing us at how quickly and smoothly she has adjusted to her new life. She just fits in so well with everyone. We had tears briefly the first night home, and ended up putting her to bed with Emma (since she was familiar) the first few nights but she has since transitioned to her own bed in the same room as all the girls and is sleeping very well. She naps very well there also.

Meals are easy. I puree whatever we are having and she hasn't been picky at all. Like Ben did when he first came home, she eats a lot for breakfast as well. Two packets of oatmeal, a small yogurt, a packet of carnation instant breakfast all mixed together and then either some half/half or pediasure to get the consistency soupy. We are working on getting more calories into her as she is as skinny as can be. She likes pudding and applesauce for quick snacks. When she is full she lets you know. She's messy because she eats quickly. She handles a spoon fine and is a pro at scraping the bowl. She isn't big on drinking liquids so I add it to her meals instead for now.

She likes to play with toys, is curious, self-entertained, loves chasing her siblings around and laughing or schreeching. She tells me and signs "I love you" every time I put her to bed. She's understanding more phrases in English every day and will repeat anything we tell her to say, but she isn't yet saying anything in English yet. She mostly responds to her new name. She can correctly name 4 members of the family on her own and knows/uses a handful of signs appropriately. I'm very happy with her progress and I can not wait to see how she is doing 1, 3, 6 months from now.

We had to move Esther up to a size 4 in clothes for length. Anything with a waistband still falls right off of her.
B 5y, Esther 5y, A 4y, J 2y (there is only a 4 month difference in age between the girls)

 Ben wasn't quite sure what to think of her. He's watched her quite a bit. 
**We have had some regression and acting up since she came home but there have also been a lot of changes for him over the past month (winter break, me being gone for two weeks and staying somewhere and with someone that he knew but was out of routine, pulling him from school, and a new sibling who is getting all the attention) so it's hard to know exactly what the cause is. Things are getting better now that we are working on putting a routine into place.**

 Enjoying all the new toys to play with. 

 She's very cautious and nervous on the stairs. She also walks/runs a bit awkwardly. 

Happy girl enjoying cuddles. She's very accepting of our touch and closeness. 
She seeks us out to hold her when needed. She gives hugs on her own.

 We had a birthday cake for Ruth, sang the song and she enthusiastically cheered afterwards. 
Like Ben, she really enjoyed the cake (hers was soaked in milk).

She likes the dressup clothes and the girls taught her to twirl.

Watching big sister fix food. 

She liked the "Simple Songs" playlist I made on Youtube
but didn't like that there was a commercial on so the music was gone. 

Being silly

 All smiles :)

Showing me her clean teeth. Victory-she opened her mouth 
so I could brush all her teeth, not just the front ones!

Pickup Trip Part 12 - Going Home

After about 2 hours of sleep, I got up and finished up the final details before our ride arrived at 3:45am to take us to the airport. After we were ready, we woke up Esther, got her dressed and she went and sat at the table for breakfast, as had become her habit. It was funny considering she had no idea what time it was.


Waiting for our first flight to Munich.

Eating chocolate-filled croissants.

  The storm cloud face again...because I wouldn't let her have the croissant wrapper (she already had something in her hand that was a little quieter). 

 She got over it pretty quickly.

On the first plane! She didn't flinch, handled it very well.

Four hour layover in Munch. She ate some yogurt while we waited.

She's not a big fan of hanging onto the stroller.

Waiting for flight 2 to DC.

 Finally sleeping.

Someone made herself comfortable!

I couldn't have asked for a better flight home. The girls did very well. Hardest part with Esther was keeping her quiet as she gets a little loud with her squeals when she's happy. Customs wasn't bad and we were so glad to be home. We did not have a welcome home party to greet us, just Daddy and a couple siblings, but by the time we made it home and picked up the kids from Grandmas, it was time to put everyone to bed. We were all very tired.