Today, October 7th 2021, marks 3 years of Nikolai and Viktor being home. They have changed in so many ways since we first met them in the summer of 2018.
They both had pretty much the same diagnosis when we adopted them - cerebral palsy (Spastic quadriplegia, meaning it effects all 4 limbs). They both use wheelchairs, are non-verbal, and use diapers. Nikolai has vision issues and probable autism. Viktor eats via a g-tube (a feeding tube that goes directly into his stomach). They are both absolutely amazingly wonderful ;)
They were a teeny 11 and almost 10 year old when they joined our family - and now, Nikolai recently turned 14, and Viktor will be his twin again at the end of November. The first picture shows them just after we walked through the door with them three years ago, reunited with big brother Newt, who had met them on our first trip earlier that summer. The second picture was taken on Nikolai's birthday last month.
The past 3 years have been full of life and living. There was a bit of a hiccup for about 16 months, when we barely left the house because of the COVID threat, but we've been making up for lost time since we've all been fully vaccinated at the beginning of the summer.
We did try them in school in the fall of 2019, and while it was a great program with wonderful staff, it just wasn't right for them, so we have been homeschooling since November 2019. My husband is retired, and I quit my job when they came home, so we are both home with them full time, which is great !!
Homeschooling looks different here every day. Some days, we stick to the academics, other days we get out and about, sometimes we play, or cook, or just hang out. Pretty much anything and everything is educational when you've missed out on the first 11 years of life, so I don't put pressure on them - or me - to spend a certain amount of time on math, reading etc etc.
Viktor is more involved when we do school - Nikolai hangs out on the sidelines, and hopefully he learns by listening. When it comes to hands on stuff, like cutting, gluing, writing, I do the work while Viktor watches - if something needs coloring, he does it. I do a lot of reading out loud, and explaining, and hope they're soaking it up ! Thankfully Viktor enjoys watching others do stuff :)
Viktor is our smiley, happy boy - even in the institution, when we first met him, he was an absolute joy, despite being half starved, wearing urine soaked clothing, and spending his days doing nothing. He is a total TV addict, and I truly believe he has learned SO much from TV that we couldn't have taught him - he likes to watch a wide variety of shows, from off-color sitcoms to documentaries. His next favorite thing to do is help daddy in the kitchen, and is able to use a switch attached to a handy gadget - a Powerlink - to make the mixer work ! He's also quite the artist !! He loves to color and paint, and has even sold some of his art. He also won $100 in a local art contest, and has his piece of art "wrapped" on a public electrical box in downtown Sioux Falls !!
Nikolai is our noisy loner ! Although we haven't had him tested for autism, we assume he is autistic - one of these days we might get round to evaluating him. He like to do his own thing most of the time - his favorite things are toys/objects that he can flap, and those that play music and/or vibrate or make noise. He isn't a people person, though he HAS recently started coming over to me and letting me know he wants to sit on my lap and snuggle for a while ! When he first came home, he was prone to meltdowns, where he screamed, scratched, pinched, bit etc - but I honestly cant remember the last time he had one ! He gets upset occasionally, but is able to let us know he's sad by crying rather than having a meltdown, and he'll allow me to comfort him, which is wonderful :)
When at home, he spends his time playing on the floor, where he gets himself around by kind of army crawling. He also has a stander that he enjoys. He was also lucky enough to get an adapted bike donated to him earlier this year, through the "Great Bike Giveaway" - an anonymous donor donated the full amount for his trike, which was amazing !!!
Nikolai and Viktor have both been amazingly healthy since coming home. Viktor has had a couple of surgeries, one for a feeding tube, and the second was double hip surgery. Nikolai hasn't needed any surgeries, but has had Botox a few times in his legs, to loosen up the muscles. They will both probably need spinal surgery for scoliosis in the future, but we'll cross that hurdle when we come to it !
As the weather is changing, from the hot summer to the cold cold winter, we've been trying to get out and about more. I usually take them out individually, so they get some one on one time with each parent. As the boys have grown and gained weight, it was getting harder to get them out and about - we live in the basement of a walk out ranch style house, so any time we wanted to go out, we had to carry them - and then their wheelchairs - up the stairs. However, earlier this year we had an amazing lift installed, which carries them up the stairs IN their wheelchairs! Its been truly life changing - and as we also have a lift in our Transit, life is SO much easier these days !
Here are a few pics of our recent forays out into the world - I'm still being pretty cautious, because of COVID, but we're trying to be a little more adventurous :)
Zoo time !
At the science center
Feeding the goat
He loved the reflection of the water
It started to rain !
Eating at the mall food court
The only thing in the whole park he can kind of use
He met a firefighter and a police officer on 9/11
He loves the feel and sound of wooden walkways
No, I won't smile for any more pics !
Listening to the ducks
Showing off his cool leggings
More cool leggings !
Viktor tries SO hard to help !
I could share SO MANY more pics and videos - if you want to see more, please join our Facebook group - "Sealey's Legacy" - I share pretty much our whole lives there ! :)
All in all, we've had a fantastic 3 years, and I cannot wait to see what the next three years, and beyond, have in store for us !! If you have ANY questions about adopting from Ukraine, or adopting children with cerebral palsy, or adopting as an older parents - please ask !!
Here are a couple more photos, as a reminder of how far they've come in the past 3 years.
Children belong in families.
Go to www.reecesrainbow.org to see the many waiting children, and maybe donate to the adoption grant of a waiting child, or help an adoptive family bring their child home !!