Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Zoya The Comedian

So last night we were out at the Olive Garden for dinner. Zoya was so well behaved and we were so proud of her! She did manage to crack us up though. She really enjoyed the olives in the salad which we thought was weird since neither of us really like olives. I gave her a small bite and she signed more so fast you would have thought I was giving her chocolate! We each ordered different types of chicken and shared our meals with Zoya. I was only putting one piece on her plate at a time because she tends to stuff her cheeks until she chokes if we give her more than one piece at a time! So her plate was empty at one point and she started banging her fork on the plate (no idea where she learned that!). I said, "put your fork down nicely" and she followed my directions like a good girl. Again her plate was empty and she was banging her fork on her plate making lots of noise and Shawn looked at her and firmly said, "nice" (he forgot the 'put your fork down' part). She then proceeded to tap her fork ever so "nicely" and lightly on her plate and then she looked at Shawn with a smile like "look dad I'm doing what you said!" We started laughing right out loud and our table neighbors probably thought we had lost it....well we did lose it! She cracks us up!

She continues practicing her walking and has taken even more steps today! She is so darn cute to watch! We bought her a little shopping cart that she loves to push around and put things into. It is a really nice one for learning to walk because it is pretty sturdy and doesn't tip over when she pulls up on it.

Here are some videos of our walking rockstar. She is trying so hard, but I think she is trying so hard because she wants the fishies so badly!  Food definitely motivates this girl!

In this video you can see her get to the couch and look at me like, "Okay lady, I walked like you wanted me to now give me a fishy." You can even see her cute little hand signing her version of "fish." So sweet

This is the best walking video I was able to get. Here she takes almost 7 steps! Woohoooo!

And here is her walking with her shopping cart...she looks like a mini mama!

I finally captured the "pouty face" on camera. I have NO IDEA where she learned this but did it pretty soon after she was first home. Another friend who adopted a daughter with DS from Ukraine says her daughter does the same thing!!! I sure as heck didn't teach this to her! You can hear me say, "no touch or you sit" thats what we say for time out. She HATES time out and has recently begun screaming at the top of her lungs while in time out (for her whole minute) but she is learnig she has to sit QUIETLY for a minute! Can't wait til this girl is 16 (sarcasm noted).

This next video is one of my favorites! You can see she is starting to demonstrate what love looks like with her baby. I love watching this because it means she, a girl who was never treated gently by any means at the orphanage, has learned in such a short time how to love. We are startig to see her do this with her babies more but I also have to say she still throws them across the room at times....but it's a start!! LOL. You can also hear her say, "Hi Baby." I just love her cute little voice! It is very rare that she puts two words together like this but she is starting to do it a little more! Remember this child was not exposed to the English language until 3 months ago...again...that is why she is a ROCKSTAR!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Guess who took her first steps tonight??? My baby is starting to walk! With all of my screaming, my neighbors probably thought: 1.) I was nuts or 2.) I won the lottery. Well this is better than winning the lottery. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops and tell the whole world.  Not only do Shawn and I have the "new parent excitement" seeing Zoya walk for the first time, but we also have the excitement of knowing that this child, a child who was sentenced to life and death in a lonely orphanage spending most of her days in a crib, has beat the odds and is already taking on the world.  Just last night I was reading over some of the old blog posts from our first days with Zoya and I had totally forgot that she could barely sit without support when we met her! Here were my words from only three months ago:
"Zoya can bear weight on her legs with a little help! 
She can sit up on her own too (kinda)...a bumbo seat would help lots!"

I can't believe in just over three months how far this child has come. I have no doubt if she were still in the orphanage she would not be doing any of this! She has gotten so strong and has finally been given the chance she deserves to show the world what shes got! She is a ROCKSTAR! We are so proud of her. She is one determined girl and nothing will stop her from doing all she hopes and dreams in this life!

Without further is one video we captured....yes I know the signing times is brighter than her walking, sorry about that! I was just so excited I could only hit the button and watch with excitement! No time to mess with the settings or lighting!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Smooth Sailing

I've mentioned a time or two that Shawn and I volunteer for an adaptive sailing program. It is an awesome program for kids who are differently abled. It is called Erie Adaptive Sailing Experience (EASE) and it is through the Bayfront Center for Marintime Studies in Erie, PA. Up until this season, EASE has had two sailboats to use for the program. Every Friday during the summer, we take kids out sailing one-on-one on Lake Erie for about an hour each. We have so many wonderful volunteers and were in need of another sailboat to add to our program. Through a grant EASE received, we were able to purchase a third sailboat, thus being able to allow more kids to participate in the program!  The program coordinators and some other volunteers decided that the boat needed a name. Having been inspired by Zoya and her amazing story, the new sailboat was named in honor of her......ZOYA! When we found this out we were brought to tears. We are so honored to have this boat named after her.  Her story has touched many people.  We have been so humbled by the support from our family and friends, and especially from our "sailing friends," who have been like another family to us, throughout our adoption process.  In several years, Zoya will be able to take advantage of this program and learn to sail on Lake Erie. I can't wait to see her out in that boat!

Here is Shawn taking the first sailor out in the "Zoya" boat!

Of course she needed a sailing outfit! Shawn popped her collar to make her look like a true sailor! I know you're probably thinking I must need a 2nd job just to afford her clothes, but this is actually one of the only outfits WE bought her! She sure is a lucky little girl to have so many people who love her and want to spoil her :)

Zoya is helping out the "office staff" I think she only ate one envelope!

Doing a dry run in the kayak! This is the life she says!!

Staying close to Daddy!

Helping Daddy paddle

She's gotta have her hands in the water!

Amazing how God brought this angel almost 5,000 miles from four white walls to a boundless world full of love.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Starring Zoya....

So many videos that I haven't taken time to post, so I thought I'd post a few. This is the "messy pudding" video. Zoya's OT encouraged me to let her play with her food, and we are also working on scooping with and using a spoon to feed herself. At this point in the pudding escapades, I just dumped the remaining pudding on her tray and let her go at it. She ended up getting a bath and I ended up with a change of outfit myself!

Here is Miss Zoya swimming and loving it!

Zoya is walking holding onto toys and this is a video of her walking with one of her favorite toys, her red wagon from Grandma and Grandpa B. This wagon is an awesome therapy tool (along with a nice way to take a stroll). She works on climbing in and out and from the wagon to the couch and all sorts of cool things. She also watches movies a little longer if she's sitting in her wagon.

Another video of Zoya walking holding hands....I wonder how long before she's walking on her own?

And here is Zoya's favorite game.....she sits on the floor and I come running from behind the corner and scoop her up. You can see her at the end of the video wanting to get down so she can do it all over again!

And this is the end of Zoya's film debut....more to come once the ratings are in!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

2 Months Home Today!

2 Months ago today (tonight at 10:30ish) we landed in Erie International Airport and walked into a huge welcome home from family and friends waiting for us!  Today, we were reminiscing about the LONG journey home with Zoya.  We can almost laugh now at how extremely difficult it was and how the 7 hour layover in Germany seemed like days trying to entertain a baby who was exhuasted beyond all exhaustion but who refused to sleep (even with a little help from Mr. Benadryl). We look back at our longest flight of the three, which was 8 and a half hours, and I'm not laughing yet about that part!  That was the longest 8 and a half hours of my life and I honestly didn't think we would ever get off that plane!  We laugh about the time all three of us piled into the TINY bathroom in the plane to change an explosive "orphanage diaper" as we have fondly named them. I knew I couldn't do it alone as the changing table was the size of a cookie sheet and Zoya was rolling all around and pulling all the barf bags and dixie cups out of their holders the last time I tried....I knew this messy diaper was no match for just me and a little airplane bathroom.  So Shawn kindly offered (okay I forced him to) jam into the bathroom with Zoya and I while I barked orders at him about how to help me with this mess! When we were finally done, we opened the door to see a lady staring at us with wonder and Shawn said something like, "We're trying to see how many people can fit in there." LOL. Oh it will be fun to share that story with Zoya one day!

Sometimes I can't believe it has been two months already, but most of the time I can't believe it's only been two months.  I can hardly remember life before Zoya (except for the times she is sleeping and I start thinking of leaving to run an errand or go out to dinner...then I remember that I FORGOT I have a baby and I can't do that anymore! LOL). But really, it seems that Zoya has always been a part of our lives. Before Zoya something was missing. I've never had so much joy or been filled with so much love and happiness as I am now. She makes waking up early something to look forward to. She makes me forget my stresses. She makes anything bad that happened during the day melt away with her smiles, hugs, and kisses. She makes life so much better! I could have never imagined that at this point in time, Zoya would be doing as well as she is doing. Some days I almost forget she wasn't always here with us. Zoya is an inspiration to so many people, including her Momma. When I grow up, I want to be just like her!

It was just over two months ago that we last saw the sad little faces of all the orphans left behind in Zoya's orphanage. I remember thinking if we can just get out of there the sadness and the idea of the fate they are facing won't bother me so much. But I was wrong. It still hurts just as much today as it did over two months ago as we sat outside the groupa door and peered into their sad world. I still feel myself there sometimes watching those babies. I have dreams that I am there and the babies are crying but I can't get through the door to help them. I guess I feel like that in real life too. I can see their faces and their empty eyes. I can see LEEZA, who laid in her crib 99% of the time we saw her. She would shake her leg so hard to rock herself and stick her hands so far down her throat just for some stimulation. She wore a cap because she had bed sores all over her head. She was the picture of agony. She was the picture of a miserable awful it would be to be that little girl right now without anyone to love her, or even touch her or hold her. But I know somewhere inside of her there is hope. There is hope that a family will come for her and some day write a blog post about how well she is doing after being home only two months. There is hope for all of those children, but most of the time it is overshadowed by an awful feeling of despair. So two months later, if you're wondering, Zoya has likely forgotten much of her previous life, but I still can't shake it. I don't think I'm supposed to.

Two months feels like another lifetime ago, yet I can still feel all of the raw emotions that we experienced on this journey...the good and the bad and I'm still trying to process it all.

Here are some happy pictures of our sweet sunshine!

Took her to the playground for the first time. She loves climbing....not so much love for the swing!

This girl could be a supermodel with her long legs!

Take me out of this swing now or I'll tell the whole park how much I hate it!

We took a trip to the Cleveland Zoo with some friends. Zoya is showing off her cute outfit here!

I love seeing her look at me like this! It is a look she saves just for me! She was such a good girl. We were gone from 8:30am until 7pm and she was a happy girl all day long and even took a nap in her stroller for an hour and a half!! Good girl!

Zoya at the Erie Zoo with her friends :)

So...we were going to buy Zoya a swingset but when we realized how much she HATED the swing, we bought her a pool instead. It is so good for working on her therapy and strengthening her core muscles and legs! I think you'll be able to tell from the pictures that she LOVES the pool!

She likes to give puppy dog kisses lately...

Her "Momma" look!

Summer checklist of things to do: Learn to love ice cream....CHECK!!!

I guess it's not so bad!

Lovin on Momma!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

First Father's Day

I am so proud of my wonderful husband and the father he has become.  I don't know many dads who can say they've traveled half way around the world for their child. Literally and figuratively, Shawn has done just that for Zoya. He would do anything for his sweet angel. I love seeing the way her face lights up when he comes home from work, or when he sneaks around the corner and surprises her! She knows, without a doubt, who her Daddy is and that she is loved by him more than she could have ever imagined possible!

Zoya picked out a tree for her Daddy to plant this father's day.  She picked out the perfect tree!  Here is the letter she wrote to go with it:


I picked out this very special tree for you. You know how much I love trees, so I knew this would remind you of me. It is called an Eastern Redbud and every time you look at it I want you to know how lucky I am to have you for my Daddy. I thought this tree would be perfect because it blooms in the spring. Every spring around April, you can watch the beautiful purplish-pink flowers blossom and remember April 22, 2010 when you brought me home from Ukraine. As each year passes and the flowers bloom, Spring of 2010 will seem so long ago but when the flowers start to blossom I want you to remember bringing me, a tiny frail angel aching for a daddy to call my own, home. I want you to take pride in how your love has helped me to blossom through the years. Each year as the tree grows taller I hope you remember how much your love has changed me. Your love has given me a reason to live and grow. God promised me that He would not leave me as an orphan (John 14:18 “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you). You followed your heart and God’s plan, even though I know you were scared. You were the hands and feet of Christ and because you listened to Him, His promise to me was kept.

This tree is a fairly small tree and won’t grow to be as big as many other trees. Each year this tree will only grow about one foot. This tree, like me, takes a little longer to grow. That just means you have all the more time to take in every second of its growth and savor its slow growing beauty. This tree, like me, flowers best in full sun. You have provided me with a life of everlasting sunshine and that is exactly what I need to grow. In late summer, you will notice heart-shaped leaves on this tree. Thank you for opening your heart to me. When you look at these heart-shaped leaves, I hope you remember how much I love you and how thankful I am that you chose to love me. In the fall, the leaves will turn yellow and from a distance they are said to look like tiny yellow flags. They kind of remind me of the flag of my home country, Ukraine. When you see these tiny yellow flags in the fall I want you to remember where I came from and know that the only reason I am where I am now is because you wanted me and you did not stop until I was safe at home with you. I am so lucky to have you for my Daddy. You are so patient with me and make me laugh every day. I know you would do anything for me. The best part of all is that now I know I am valued and loved for the rest of my days. I love you Daddy!

                                                                                 Love, Zoya

Here is Zoya with Daddy at the tree nursery standing in front of the Zoya Tree

At home finding the best spot to plant it!

Zoya also made Daddy this beautiful mosaic stepping stone with her hand print in the middle! It will go right under the tree :)

Zoya helped Daddy plant the tree!

Love it!

Daddy's Beautiful Angel...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Will YOU Save Monroe?

This is Monroe
Okay, so I have this strange feeling that I need to post this little boy's profile today. I came across him yesterday and read about how he is so close to being transferred to a mental institution.  Then today I was reading my emails and there was an email from the director of Reece's Rainbow saying that someone has donated $5,000 toward his adoption!  It was just too weird for me seeing that I just looked at his profile yesterday and couldn't shake him from my mind.  Hoping someone reading this is his Momma or Daddy. He is already 5 years old and living on borrowed time. He has Cerebral Palsy, so he likely won't live long once he is tranferred. The part that breaks my heart the most is that this child doesn't have much of a cognitive delay so he will understand everything that is happening to him once he is transferred. What a nightmare.  He might end up like this

or tied to his bed like this

or if he is "lucky" enough to live to adulthood, he may look like this

*These pictures were taken from another blog. If you are interested in hearing more about these pictures and why these children are being treated so poorly, you can read about it HERE.

Here is Monroe's information:

Monroe (12)
BOY, Born February 4, 2005

Monroe is a sunshine of a little boy! He is already 5 and blessed to still be at the baby house. He needs a family right away!
From a missionary who visited with him in June 2010: I met with the doctor in his Groupa House who brought me back to meet him. The Head Doctor wanted me to meet the children who needed equipment. While measuring him for a chair, she explained to me what was more important was that he get a family. He will be traferred in six months to the worst institution, restrained in a crib in a dark room. She broke into tears! Monroe has spastic cerebral palsy in all four limbs and is globally delayed. He is able to recognize the voices of his careworkers and understand simple directions. However, due to his spacitiy he is unable to do much of anything. No speech. With therapy he can improve but will always have limitations. I measured his head circumfeence and once home will check with a doctor regtarding whether ir not he is microcephalic as well. I will try to gather more information on him today. His temperament was sweet and his eyes twinkled. He needs a family fast!

From an adoptive family who visited with him in June 2009: Monroe has CP. It appears that he is unable to use his arms and legs and is not sitting up on his own. He has the most beautiful smile and I don't think there is much of a cognitive delay. He loves to be held and his whole face lights up when you come near him."

I have $6062 in my grant fund towards the cost of my adoption!

It is so hard to think of this sweet boy's fate. Are you his Mommy? Are you his Daddy? Monroe needs to be rescued! Please email me if you'd like more information.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

3 Months Ago Today....

3 Months ago today we rolled off an 8 hour overnight train ride and hit the ground running full speed without having showered, changed, brushed our teeth, or slept much. We walked into Baby House #1 in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine without a clue how our lives were about to change. We had butterflies in our stomachs and couldn't believe we were about to meet our daughter for the very first time. The daughter we dreamt about for so long, the daughter God promised us was ours, the daughter we knew almost nothing about, the daughter we came to save, and the daughter who ultimately saved us.  We sat nervously in the director's office listening to all the information they had about our daughter. We listened intently, yet, had difficulty focusing because we knew at any moment they'd be bringing our daughter in and we would finally be seeing her face to face.

They ran down her medical records, but the words that stuck the most, and that I remember to this day...echoing in my ears, were, "Nobody has ever come to visit Zoya or asked about her." It was translated so quickly and in a jumble of other pieces of information that it almost sounded like it was supposed to be hidden amongst the other details. It was hard to hear. To know, that our daughter had sat alone in that orphanage for almost two years without a single soul visiting or caring or asking about her. While they were rambling off the details they knew about her 21 months of life, I saw a caregiver pop in the door with Zoya and pop back out so quickly that I only got about a half of a second glimpse. They shooed her out the door as they were not done talking with us about her. When I saw her for that half second it looked like she had red hair (as I had been imagining all along) and I definitely noticed the bowl haircut and the bright blue dress. After that I don't think I heard anything else they said.  I remember thinking, "she looks nothing like what I imagined" and "what the heck are we doing here, we have got to be absolutely crazy for doing this."  The other thing I remember the most about all the details they gave us was looking at the director while she was speaking to us in Russian and seeing something in her face that said she cared about Zoya, that she was happy we were there to take her away from that place. She said, "Zoya has potential." I remember thinking that if someone there could see her potential then she must be amazing.  About 5 more minutes in the hot gloomy office and our facilitator asked us if we'd like to meet Zoya after everything we heard. They were giving us a chance to say no, to not even meet her, to run away and never look back. We couldn't wait any longer and they walked in with her. 3 months ago today, we met our daughter, Zoya.

Looking back on that day today I remember seeing such a sweet, yet scared looking angel. The child I picture (and the child in these pictures) is not the same child I know today, not by a long shot. I look at these pictures and see nothing behind her beautiful blue eyes. I see no life, no happiness, nothing that shows me she's ever felt love or ever had much to look forward to. I felt excited, exhausted, exhilarated, and scared to death to know that God was entrusting this child to us.

It didn't take long before Zoya started hugging on me and she did not want to let go. I remember thinking that somehow she knew we were there to come and rescue her from her nightmare. We had prayed so hard for this and I remember as soon as I took her into my arms, sunlight just poured in through the windows (on a day that had been rainy and gloomy up until that point) and all of the scared feelings melted away. I knew when I held her that she needed me and I needed her. From that point on we could not live without one another.

Notice the sunlight and the director smiling off to the back right of the picture. And if you click and enlarge the picture you can see a glimpse of hope on Zoya's face.

None of us had a clue here how much our lives would change in 3 short months.

So glad we trusted and jumped.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010



After "only" having been home 55 days, we FINALLY received Zoya's official certificate of citizenship! Zoya was automatically a citizen when we landed in the Philly airport on April 22nd. However, we needed this certificate to prove it....and to get her social security number...which is needed for MANY things. This certificate is supposed to come automatically within 45 days of returning to the U.S.  When we reached about the 40 day mark and still got nothing we started to worry a bit. One reason we were worried was that families who returned home after us had already received theirs, AND because we dealt with dumb and dumber at the Philly airport during our secondary inspection process. 

For those of you who haven't gone through an international adoption, when you get to the first stateside airport you get a red folder at the customs booth and then you have to go to another room called "secondary inspections."  Let me also add that when you go to the embassy in the foreign country, they give you a big fat "do not open" envelope with many VERY IMPORTANT IRREPLACEABLE documents that you are supposed to guard with your life, which we did.  When we landed in Philly, we went to secondary inspections....this scary room where it was mostly non-Americans who were being questioned for their entrance into or exit from the U.S. and a bunch of very young guys on power trips yelling at these poor foreigners who didn't understand most of what they were saying. When it was FINALLY our turn, they called us up and opened our very important "do not open guard this with your life" packet. They debated weather or not they should fingerprint her and then decided they don't have to fingerprint babies. When I asked when she would receive her certificate they told me she would be receiving a green card. I knew this wasn't right and so I questioned some more at which point one guy agreed that yes, as soon as she landed she became a citizen and then they clapped and cheered, and then he changed his mind and agreed with green card guy and said she wasn't a citizen.  I wasn't about to argue but I knew she was a citizen, still though, these two geniuses had me a bit worried to say the least. 

So when we inquired with USCIS (which by the way is like trying to contact a dead uncle--nearly impossible) as to why we hadn't received Zoya's Certificate of Citizenship (C.O.C.), we were annoyed to find out that her visa number WASN'T EVEN IN THE SYSTEM!! WHAT? How does THAT happen? Her visa had a stamp showing her entry into the U.S. and here she wasn't even in the system showing she had ever entered! We immediately panicked thinking once again that something went wrong and we were going to have to jump through more hoops...which we did. We were assured by our very kind USCIS caseworker in the Buffalo office that Zoya is still a citizen but that something went wrong in the process. He also thought it necessary (or funny) to tell me that this only happens to less than a dozen children of the 80 THOUSAND adopted into the U.S. each year! Yah thanks, coulda lived not knowing that!  Upon further investigation they found out that the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine never put her into the system and to make matters worse her very important "do not open guard with your life" packet sat in Philly for a whole month because they didn't know what to do with it and should have inquired when they couldn't find her in the system. It was last located being sent out of Philly to Texas on May 22 (when it should have NEVER been sent there...should have been sent to our local office) and since arriving in Texas it cannot be found. Yes, the very important "do not open guard with your life" packet that THEY lost!

So what happens when the irreplaceable packet of documents gets lost? You have to locate a million documents (some of those irreplaceable documents) and scan them all into your computer, label them each separately, and then attach them one by one in emails to the USCIS caseworker. Oh and you have to write a letter with a million different pieces of information including a "short" description of what happened at the "port of entry" (don't worry, I wrote that description and it wasn't short!) Oh and you also have to go and have new passport sized photos taken (if you notice the picture on her C.O.C. above is a very recent picture--not the one that was taken in Ukraine like it should have been).

And that folks, is how you get a certificate of citizenship after you've already put in 8 months of blood, sweat, and tears into trying to get your precious cargo home!