Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Her Legs Were Made for Walking (and Q & A #2)

Here are a couple of videos of the walking girl.....(remember she was being motivated by crackers and the dog....so although shes walking GREAT...she still only does it when shes motivated or when SHE wants to). In the one video you will see Mya snatch the cracker right out of my hand and Zoya thinks it's pretty funny :)

Question and Answer Post

Where did you get the flashcards in the video?

TJ Maxx and Marshalls….I couldn’t find the one set that I wanted (First Words) so I ordered them from Walmart.com for $6 and free shipping. I also made my own flashcards in the categories of food, clothing, and body parts….printed them out and laminated them and they work great. She really does like the touch and feel flashcards though…that was a good place to start because they got her attention quickly and she enjoyed feeling the different textures on the cards. They are called “My First Touch and Feel Picture Cards.” They make them in these categories: Animals, Colors and Shapes, Numbers, Things that Go, and First Words. If you google that you will get all kinds of results, but the cheapest ones I could find were on the Walmart site. Prior to starting with these cards we worked on the most important toddler vocabulary though which of course is: more, all done, want, help, no, yes, eat, drink, play, please, and nice (to name a few). We didn’t use cards for these words, but just everyday experiences to teach her these.

How did Zoya learn so many signs so fast?

Other than being a rock star you mean?  I have to brag about her a little you know. We started teaching her the sign “more” in Ukraine and she picked up on it pretty quickly. Once home we started with some other important words like eat and drink and all done. She seemed to pick up on them very quickly so we bought the Signing Times Set of DVDs and flash cards. She watches the Baby Signing Times videos the most. She LOVES them and watches one every night before bed. I took a graduate sign language course and taught special education so I knew a lot of signs from those two things. I also have an ASL dictionary and when I see a teachable moment, if I don’t know the sign, I just look it up. We use signs when we talk to her (for example, I will say let’s go take a bath, and sign “bath”). It usually only takes about a week or two for her to pick up on the sign and start using it herself. We have had to modify some of them to meet her fine motor developmental stage, but we know exactly what she means for each of her signs. It has been awesome and having her sign has really cut down on the whining and has opened up our communication! I highly recommend the Signing Times Series.

What was the most pleasant and unpleasant surprises on your adoption journey?

The most pleasant surprise was definitely how our community of family and friends surrounded with so much love and support. Shawn and I were always the people who liked to help others. We never asked others for help or thought we really needed anyone else. We learned that we are so blessed to have so many family and friends who love us so much. We learned that sometimes we need to ask others for help and we need other people to share in our highs and lows. Being on the receiving end filled us with love and gratitude.

The most unpleasant? Umm other than the orphanage diapers for the first few weeks? Haha. I would have to say the most unpleasant surprise of our adoption journey was hearing that people in Eastern Europe really thought we wanted to adopt Zoya so we could sell her body parts. People seriously believed that. I guess they thought that because they cannot fathom why in the world we would want a child they view as broken and sick and a curse. They were very suspicious of us and our intentions. I never would have imagined they actually believed we wanted Zoya for her organs. Yes that would be the most unpleasant surprise of our adoption experience.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Living A Compelling Life...and other ramblings...

Today was the first day we left Zoya in the nursery at church. We had arranged to tour the nursery and the 2's classroom before the service started to see which would suit her better. I was a nervous wreck as it was because this was the first time we were leaving her with people we didn't know and leaving her in a group setting with a bunch of other kids. I figured she wouldn't remember being with a bunch of kids in the orphanage, but I worried slightly this might remind her of her prior life. So as we were waiting to meet with the director of the children's program, Shawn noticed this boy (about 8 years old) laughing hysterically while looking at Zoya. This boy went and got his sister and looked right at Zoya, while laughing, and said, "LOOK AT HER FACE" and continued to laugh and smirk. I was beside myself and Shawn was pretty upset. I said to the boy, "What's so funny? I don't see anything funny!" And then the director came over just at that moment to start our tour. He is lucky because I had it in for him let me tell you!  At church, I cannot believe this happened. My heart was racing, I was FUMING mad at this 8 year old! I felt like screaming at him, I felt like crying.  I was SO upset. I know not everyone sees Zoya like we do. I get that. Nobody else will ever think she is quite as special as we do because we are her parents. But to laugh at my kid right in front of me because she LOOKS different. You just woke up the momma bear in me!  My claws came out and I was ready to fight (yes an 8 year old!).  I couldn't believe I was so mad at a little kid! I wanted to just yell at him and call him a little brat. I wanted him to see what we see in Zoya, but it seemed hopeless. Parents, teach your children compassion, seriously....if that's all you do....do THAT! Anyways....

She is really right between the two classrooms so we opted for the nursery for a few months and then we will transition her to the 2s classroom. She was eager to go in and play with all the toys and the kids. She waved bye bye with no reservation. I was trying to tell the workers everything I could jam in about Zoya and all her quirks but they were so busy checking other kids in I really didn't have time to say much. I did warn them she likes to touch everyone and sometimes hugs very hard and that she is not trying to be mean when she does this. So we left her there, and I watched her play and explore for a few minutes before I went into the service. The sermon was on Living a compelling life. The pastor got to a part in the sermon where he was talking about living a life in which we know we are constantly being observed by others and trying always to make Christ-like decisions.  He said, "when's the last time you acted in a way that was un-Christ like?" At that moment I leaned over to Shawn and whispered, "Oh crap, that would be about 5 minutes ago when I wanted to drop kick that boy who was laughing at Zoya!!!"  I still couldn't get un-mad at him though as hard as I tried.

The sermon was really inspiring and pushed me to reexamine how I can continue living a compelling life. We followed God's call to adopt Zoya but it can't end there. We need to continue living a compelling life in which we can affect other people and be an example of Christ's love.  I'd be silly to say I know what the future holds. I don't. Will God call us to adopt again? If I had to be 100% honest, I am hoping he doesn't. How could I say that after seeing how blessed we are with Zoya?  Well because international special needs adoption is hard, it's scary, its difficult, it's all unknown, its a risk (but I guess all good things in life are).  If you asked me a few months ago, I'd say this was our one and only adoption regardless of how God feels about it! We did our part, right?  To be honest, I don't really WANT to go through all that hassle again.  I don't really want to put my full trust in God again (isn't that awful?) I want control!  I struggle a lot with that.  It is so hard to let go of all the unknowns and just jump.  I laugh at myself because I can see the outcome and how God KNEW Zoya was meant to be ours.  I can see that I should have trusted him fully all along and never doubted him because he could see us as a family long before we ever could.  He knew we needed each other.  We have Zoya and she is such a blessing and we are so happy and content with this life.  But, this life is NOT about us or our comfort.  We need to abandon that idea, but it is oh so hard.  We are human.  I have no idea what we will be called to do, but I am hoping that when we are called...no matter what he asks, we will abandon all fears and jump again...whatever that means....I hope we can be open enough to be ready when he calls us to our next mission field (whatever that may be).  I feel God has bigger plans for us in the orphan and special needs ministry area and am praying that I can help our church move more toward a focus on those two areas. Our church needs it. 

So you're wondering how it went with Zoya?  We picked her up and as a teacher myself I knew to ask an open ended question to elicit the most honest response about how she did. So instead of saying, "Was Zoya a good girl?" (How do you answer no to that?!....) I said, "How did it go?" And the lady said, "Good, she had fun....you're right she does like to touch everyone and not everyone appreciates it."  Heart broken there. I would love to help our church start a children's program that knows just how to include kids who are differently-abled. A program that would reach out to all the families with children with special needs. Many of these families are afraid to come to church because they don't know how their children will be accepted. We need to reach out to these families and tell them we want them and need them and value them. After I was feeling kind of sad about not everyone appreciating Zoya, the director came over to me and said that it seemed to go well while she was in the room. She said sweet Zoya crawled over to one of the babies in a swing and put a blanket over her to cover her up! My sweet girl. This almost brought me to tears. She is demonstrating love and compassion all on her own, which means she feels loved and valued and treasured and nurtured. I'm so proud of her. She also said Zoya was signing "help" when she wanted to play with a toy a couple of times. She was asking permission to play with it!

It's so hard to let go and let her show the world she is worthy.  I feel like I have to brag about her just to open people's eyes to give her a shot sometimes.  She is capable of SO MUCH, if people would just give her a chance. Seeing that boy laugh at her today made me most sad because it was once again a cruel reminder that some people will write her off because she looks different, or not give her a shot because they have preconceived notions about her ability (or disability to them). They will truly miss out. For now I will continue loving this girl with all my heart and pray that others can some day look past her differences in order to see her gifts. She is full of gifts.

Oh, and just for fun, it was a year ago today that I became a blogger.  I enetered the blog world with THIS POST ANNOUNCING OUR INTENT TO ADOPT ZOYA.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Homecoming (Picture Overload!)

Shawn and I met in college 8 years ago. Today was our college's homecoming and since we live in the town of our college, we headed over for some fun. Zoya had a BLAST. I've never seen this girl have more fun than she did today!! She met so many new friends and had a blast WALKING all around! She started off crawling but that did not last long. She began walking all over the pavement where the alumni tent was set up! I couldn't keep up with her. At one point I turned around and she was signing "eat please" to some lady as she reached toward her plate!! At least she asked right?!?!  (This was after she had eaten two pieces of chicken, some corn on the cob, potatoes, crackers, cheerios, and a huge brownie!) We weren't sure how it'd go since Zoya usually goes down for her nap between 12 and 1. You would have never know that though seeing our girl today! She was like the energizer bunny and full of smiles only!  We hung out in the alumni tent for a while, then went up on the field to watch a few minutes of the football game, then we went to the kids area where they had a petting zoo and bouncy houses!  She has just now finally settled down in her crib upstairs for a late afternoon nap (3pm). I just cannot believe how much fun this girl had! She is always pretty happy but oh my today she was like a kid in Disney World! I think you will be able to tell how much fun she had from her beaming smile in all of the pictures!

Walking maniac! We are in SOOOOO much trouble!

Cute Family Photos...

Zoya kept asking Daddy to throw her in the air.....MORE she kept signing!

 Youcan't catch me!

Zoya made some new friends....

Zoya says, "How come nobody told me this walking thing is so much fun?"

Lovin on her Daddy

 "I'm a big girl"

I love this girl more than words can ever say!

 New ad for Mercyhurst College?

My silly monkey!

Such squeezable cheeks!

At the petting zoo....

If you remember, Zoya was pretty terrified of the inflatable bouncy house at her 2nd birthday party. Not so much anymore.....she LOVED this thing! She fussed a little when we had to come out of it! (nothing a cracker couldn't make all better though!)

This one is blurry but I had to share....it cracks me up....look at her hair and that expression!

Now I am ready for a nap!!!!!

A Message From Sasha's Family

Many of you have been wondering who the lucky family is! Here is a message from them:

Hey all, Just want to say that WE are Sasha's new lucky family! We are so blessed to have so many people who care about Sasha and his story. Please continue to pray as we journey through the process of bringing him home. We know that the enemy is working overtime against this little boy, but we are desperate to show him that Christ's followers are alive and well and will not hesitate to answer His call. We would love for all of you to follow our journey on our blog: http://hagler-family.blogspot.com Thank you, especially to Sarah and Jennifer, who have graciously poured out their time, their love, and their hearts for Sasha and us. The Hagler Family Gary, Lindsay, Trey, Sasha and Luke

Adoptive families of children with special needs (and those adopting internationally) often face criticism for many reasons.  The road of international special needs adoption is NOT easy but this family has listened to the call and has stepped forward on faith.  Please join in support of Sasha's family by stopping by their blog and showing some love!

Follow their journey here: SASHA'S FAMILY

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I feel like crying I'm so excited for this sweet boy and his soon to be family! For those of you who don't believe that God speaks to people....this proves it in my opinion. That day DRIVING IN THE CAR when I was slapped upside the face with God's request for me to do a blog post about Sasha is proof God speaks. I even fought with Him saying it would not make a difference. Well this time, listening made a difference. Sasha's soon to be family read that blog post!  I've had the opportunity to email with Sasha's soon to be family and field some questions about him. I've been able to share videos and pictures we took of him while we were in Ukraine and try my hardest to give him a voice. Looking back it is amazing to see that God placed us there and drew our attention to Sasha. This boy is so sweet I just cannot wait to see him home with his family. I am also so excited to know one more family that will be going to Zoya's old orphanage and visiting Zoya's old groupa and rescuing a boy that I saw in the flesh and prayed over many nights. God has big plans for Sasha....his life will be SAVED! Amazing Grace!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

5 Months Home

We have been home with Zoya for 5 MONTHS today! I seriously cannot believe it's only been 5 months. Someone needs to convince me that she has not been a part of our family forever! What did I do before her? (other than sleep more hehe) So many people have commented to me after watching the adoption montage that she does not even resemble the child from our metcha day photos. She sure does not! When I watch the videos from our time in Ukraine I can see pieces of the girl I know today, but mostly I see an entirely different child. I've said it a million times, but it hurts to think that she'd probably look exactly like the child from the Ukraine photos had she not come to be our daughter. It always makes me think of all the children left behind and how they are trapped inside their own bodies like Zoya was....just waiting for some love to fill them up and bring out the child they were born to be. This thought comes to me at least once a day. I think had we NOT listened to God's call we'd never know that we left OUR daughter in Ukraine. We'd be going through our days not often thinking of her or even knowing she existed. It is such a good lesson in faith. I simply cannot imagine life without Zoya. In fact its hard to remember life without her.  When this thought pops into my head it usually happens when I see Zoya just being herself and being soooooo happy.  Her squinty eyed toothy grin just melts my heart every last time I see it. I don't know if that thought (of imagining what her life would be like for her had we not adopted her) will ever stop, in a way I hope it doesn't. Each time I have that thought, I am overcome with gratitude to God and thank Him over and over for giving us this blessing and for leading us down a road we'd never have gone down otherwise. 

I spent some time tonight looking back at old videos we took of Zoya in Ukraine.  I wouldn't even believe the transformation myself had I not seen it with my own eyes.  Even after living it, it is almost impossible to fathom what has happened here.  Redemption.  Amazing Grace. A lost broken forgotten child that nobody cared about.  She not only found her place in this world, but is setting it on fire!

I thought I'd share a video from Ukraine and take a walk down memory lane, and then share a few from recently so you can see with your own eyes the transformation that has occured. And all the glory be to God!

As you can see in this video Zoya had no idea what to do with toys. She used to just bang everything. With the baby einstein music toy we worked for weeks in Ukraine to get her to push the button to make it play music. She understood the concept after a while but had no strength to push the button. When I watch this video and then the others I uploaded, I just don't believe it.

Here is a video of Zoya doing some of her flashcards. When she is focused she can chose the right one every time. I made her some more flashcards after she did so well with these ones. You can see her doing some of the signs. For some reason she signs fish by flicking her thumb back and forth and she puts it by her head every time lol. At the end you can see her eyes get oh so big when I mention ELMO. She loves that fuzzy red guy. She gets soooooo excited when I tell her she can watch Elmo!

This video "Zoya wants help" makes me laugh. We tried really hard to teach her the ASL sign for help but she couldn't get it, so you can see how she signs help here (raising her hand and flapping it wildly). You can see her thining, "OK LADY JUST HELP ME!" I wonder what she's really saying :)

And here is Zoya playing peek a boo. Her new favorite game. She thinks when she covers up her eyes that we can't see or find her! You can see her sign "please eat" before she points to the pizza at the end.  You can also see the pink bowl that is EMPTY which was her "real" dinner before I caved in and gave her some pizza (after all this was the day she had her knee surgery...tee hee).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Time Out

The other day Zoya was practicing walking and she was walking toward me for a cracker.  The dog (Mya) jumped up tried to get the cracker and knocked Zoya down pretty hard. I picked Mya up and yelled at her and put her in the bathroom and closed the door for a doggy time out. Zoya scooted over to the bathroom  door and signed "dog" and looked at me like what the heck mom (putting Mya in the bathroom is not a usual occurrence but I was so mad she had knocked Zoya over). I told Zoya that Mya was in time out.  Zoya looked up at me and signed "sorry" (when Zoya is in time out she has to sign sorry before she gets out). She was apologizing for the dog!! I felt so bad that I let Mya out right away! Zoya had no hard feelings that Mya had knocked her down apparently! Too cute!

By the way, people ask me if I really think Zoya understands time out.  I can say without a doubt YES. She hates going there and the threat of time out immediately changes her behavior to a good choice.  Now all I have to do is look at her with "that look" when shes doing something wrong and she signs "time out" and points to her chair and most of the time immediately changes the behavior (sometimes I have to count to three)! Sometimes she signs time out and points to the chair when she is simply thinking about making a bad choice....it is way too funny!  For example, she might scoot over to the dog's water and think about touching it and then look at us and sign "time out" and point (and then she doesn't touch it).  The trips to time out are getting less and less so that is also how I know it is working.  She might go to time out 3 times a week on average (when we started she used to have to sit in time out 3-5 times A DAY).  Oh and the other day she crawled over and sat in her time out chair all by herself.  I said, "what did you do? why did you put yourself in time out?" She started crying and got the saddest look on her face.  She was about to lose it...so I said, "nobody put you in time out, you put yourself there, you can get out...come on stand up" and she stood up and then kinda laughed when she realized she wasn't really in time out!!!

She keeps us laughing for sure!  Love this girl to the moon and back:)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Skidders Shoes

I'm so excited that I finally found something that can go over Zoyas orthotics (Sure Step SMOs) that she can wear in the house! With her SMOs she always has to have shoes over them mainly for safety reasons. The SMOs are hard plastic and she would fall if she tried to walk on bare floors with them.  So we just always kept her shoes on in the house but I didn't like having her wear shoes all the time and having her dirty shoes from outside in the house too.  But look what I found! www.myskidders.com
They're cute little shoe/socks that fit right over her SMOs. They have lots of traction on the bottom so she doesn't slip. They were designed for toddlers between 12-24 months who are learning to walk (not designed for SMO wearers but they work nicely). They fit shoe sizes Toddler 4-8 (we have the size 4s). They come in a million different cute patterns and the best part is that I found them at Target for $12.99! They obviously don't offer as much support as a pair of sneakers, but the support is mostly the job of the SMO anyways and we are only using these cool skidders when we are home.  We still put her sneakers on when we leave and still wear them sometimes in the house.
So any other SMO mommas....these rock! I looked high and low for something like this and finally found it! She can walk just as easily in these as she can in her shoes. And she can be a little more comfortable and not have to wear sneakers 24/7.

And now for some super cute pictures just for fun!

Zoya is watching Elmo and he just came on the screen for the first time! Oh the excitement!

Daddy is telling Zoya he has a boo boo.  She is touching his knee and mirroring the "in pain" face he was making.

This girl loves holding onto socks. Notice the drum in the background.  This is now one of her favorite toys.  It is filled (until she empties it) with loud musical instruments. Her favorite instruments are the egg shakers that she uses appropriately but also likes to throw to the dog who chases them wildly around the house trying to eat them.  Next favorite is the drum sticks which she also uses appropriately as well as inappropriately (hitting the dog with them).  She loves the band in a box...me, notsomuch hehe....thanks Uncle Bub! She would empty and refill this drum a hundred times a day if we let her! I have started putting it up high and she has to ask for it.  If its anywhere in her sight she asks for it and if I say no she whines hehe.

Today we had a picnic for our sailing program. Here is Zoya's bud Seth (who as some of you know was one of our footprints leading us to adopt Zoya). In this picture Seth is laughing and Zoya is signing "more" because Seth just ran me over with the stroller and you can see they both thought it was pretty funny and Zoya wanted him to do it again!

Seth looks so proud to be the big kid taking Zoya for a walk!

Off to sit around and eat bon bons now.  Riiiiight, maybe one day?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Funny Stuff!

If you're wondering what I'm dealing with today...here is a picture

Taking care of two patients. One is faking it though. Can you guess which one?

They both look pretty happy if they're supposedly recovering from surgery. One is faking it and one is on pain meds.

I still can't tell...they both look sad now

I don't think Zoya is faking...she looks like she is in pain.

She's even signing "hurt" here.  That clue really throws me off....

I felt so bad for Zoya she even convinced me to let her have pizza!

Then I saw her doing this:
and I knew then and there she was faking all along!

When I told her I figured her out this is what she did....

Muuuuaaaaaahaha Mom I fooled you!

What a stinker! She will do anything for a little extra attention....sheesh! ;)

On a serious note Shawn is recovering nicely from his surgery!