She's beautiful and quiet and cautious and serious and adorable and tiny and just precious.
And her smile...worth the wait! She makes you work for it but her face lights up!
The visits with her went well. From the moment they walked her down the stairs of the group home and she just ran right into my arms and melted in for a long hug until the absolute joy at her meeting her baby sister for the first time, there was no doubt that she was ours. Esther was just enthralled with baby Ruth and I'm so glad I brought her on the trip and was able to see how she interacted with her. We have the sweetest pictures of her nose to nose with her. Most of our visits were of Esther watching and inspecting her, or else wanting to do everything Ruth was doing...from playing with the same toys and sitting in her stroller to eating her baby food. She loved being pushed in the stroller or helping to push Ruth in it.
They said she chooses who she likes and has chosen to like her new mama <3 She was accepting of me holding and loving on her. I was glad to see she wasn't crawling into the laps of everyone there though. She was accepting of my touch and liked being sung to while looking right into my eyes. She liked being tossed into the air and spun around...so thankful she was light or my arms would have fallen off! She's observant and copied what I did whether it was how to operate a toy or the sound pattern I made with the nesting cups on the stones. If I used a specific color cup, on her own she would find the other cup that was the same color to copy what I was doing with it. She liked the music box and the necklaces. She has to hold something in her hand at all times, usually a piece of plastic bag or the beaded necklace or a duplo type block or a leaf that she will twist in her fingers. They said she won't go to sleep without something in her hand. They said she likes balls and we learned quickly that she loves to blow bubbles and is very good at it. She wasn't as interested in the baby doll I brought, though who could blame her when there is a live baby doll to play with. She kept sharing all her toys with Ruth, which was sweet, though Ruth wasn't so sure about the large pile in her lap. She is not potty trained. She liked having her hair brushed and brushing mine, but wasn't as interested in all the hair things being put in her hair. They agreed to let her hair grow out until we come back to get her.
When she was 3, Esther was moved to the group home that she currently lives at. It couldn't have been a better preparation for what she is coming home to! Family environment with multiple aged children who treat her and love her like their own baby sister. There are about 8-10 children in the group home and ages 5-12, Esther being the youngest and only one of two girls. She shares a room with a 10 yo girl who is just precious and gentle with her. Good preparation for all the big sisters waiting for her at home. They have 5 caregivers that alternate shifts caring for the children. The group home is connected to an orphanage that holds approximately 25 children (that we counted) ages 3-6. All the kids were so well behaved and so cute! Other than strabismus, it did not appear any of the orphanage kids had SN. The other kids in the group home were on the balcony when we arrived and were more than happy to tell us all about Esther. Every day they went for a walk while we were having our visits and returned towards the end of our 3 hrs and would come over to talk with her, us and our translator.
Esther appears completely healthy and we are so thankful for that. She has delays, how much are due to her premature birth or just growing up in an orphanage in her early years, I don't yet know. She has something going on in her mouth, similar to the issues Ben had, but thankfully her teeth are not ground down to the gumline bleeding and infected. She does grind her teeth and makes a noise with them. They said she does it most when she is concentrating but I noticed her doing it less with each visit as she was more relaxed. Ben had awful reflux symptoms, and she may have similar to a point but does not drool like he did. They said she doesn't like her teeth brushed, and the smell in her mouth gave that away. She is small and whatever is going on is affecting her ability to eat. The kids told us she eats a lot but yet she only weighs 26lbs at 5yo? She will only eat mushy foods that don't require chewing, same as Ben when he came home. We were able to see her eat her snack one day...a large bowl of yogurt with mushed fruit. She has a good appetite and eats very quickly. It was cute when she stopped to blow on one bite as if it was hot. They said she loves ice cream and I'm looking forward to getting her some on the pickup trip!
Esther doesn't have the same fine motor skill delays Ben has. She was able to color on the paper and hold the pencil and spoon correctly. We went through about 100 stickers, I would hand them to her to stick on a piece of paper. She still has a very slight unstableness when walking down the stairs and running, despite starting to walk at 2yo. She doesn't have near as many orphanage behaviors Ben had.
She doesn't talk a lot but she was able to repeat things I said in English clearly. She said all the names of her siblings, learned and said "round and round a garden' while drawing circles on our palm (a little rhyme I taught her that ends with tickles). There were some hand games she did with the caretaker.
When a few of the orphanage kids escaped and came over to play with her toys, she handled it well and didn't get upset, just more stared them down.
I don't know if it's her age or what, but I saw spunk as well. She has an opinion and has her own facial expressions she will make when she isn't happy about something. Reminds me so much of her sister at home, also 5yo! They are going to be quite a pair, haha.
I brought this dress and they put it on for her visa picture and it fit her perfectly! Size is 3T. The shoes she was wearing were too big but were a European 25, which is equivelent to 8 1/2-9 US.
We got to tour the group home and see her bed. She sleeps on a twin bed, no pillow and there is a shelf with a couple dolls and her shoes on it.. There is a wardrobe with her clothes in it. The home is simple but clean. Bathroom, living room, tv with shelves on either side holding stuffed animals, balcony where they hang clothes to dry. Table to eat meals on and tiny kitchen.
The whole experience of Ben's orphanage and adoption and Esther's is so different from each other. As hard as it was to leave her there, it was very comforting to know they are taking good care of her. It was exciting to learn we would be able to Skype weekly with her and would be able to get occasional pictures via FB. Never so thankful for technology! It will be so nice for her to get to meet her siblings before she comes home and to help make the time easier to bare until she is officially ours forever.
We appreciate continued prayers for Esther during the wait. That we'll be able to build bonds during our weekly sessions and her heart will be prepared to join our family when the time comes. Prayers that the wait to bring our beautiful daughter home will be short!