Monday, February 27, 2012

A Post From Mila!

Look what I can do! I've been working so hard in PT. Mama has stretches to do with me to help my tilted head! I want to crawl SO bad that sometimes mommy has to take me off my belly because I start getting REALLY MAD when I can't get my body to do what my brain is telling it to do!!
I love my big sister so much, whenever she is around I can't stop staring at her. I think her bow is cool and she likes to hold my hands!
Sometimes I fall asleep in my swing holding onto my rings. My mama can't figure out this nap thing because I'm making it tricky for her! Mama says my big sister came home mostly already knowing how to take naps and sleep through the night! BUT last night I slept for 11 hours straight. Thank goodness Daddy gets up with me at 5:45am! Mama says we need to work on my wake up time!
But she has a really hard time getting upset when I'm THIS cute!
Well I have to go pick my big sister up from school while my mom sits on the couch and eats bon bons. Thanks for checking in on me!

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Ukraine doesn't just cross my thoughts a few times a day. I miss it so much some days I feel consumed by it. I long to return. These feelings surprise me, greatly. Especially because after Zoya's adoption I had no real desire to return to that country for a LONNNNNG time!

I don't know why I miss it so much. I don't know why a certain phone ringtone or song or smell can transport me right back to the 10 total weeks we spent in Ukraine and have me wishing I was there. There are little things I miss about Ukraine, like the slower pace of life, the living with so much less, the friends we made there, the experiences we had, the people.  I loved that so many distractions were removed during our time in was so much easier to hear the Lord's voice, and it was vital that we clung to Him. We had no other choice than to hand it all over. We needed Him like no other time...we were in constant communication. I felt His presence in almost every moment during our times in Ukraine. I long to feel that again. I can't get back to that no matter how hard I try. 

I know part of me misses it so much because my children's roots are there and their roots are entwined with mine so deeply that there is simply no way to separate the two.  Part of me misses it because I left a big part of my heart there with the little boys and girls still waiting for their mama and daddy. Part of me misses it because it is there that I started waking up from my nearly comatose life....there where I started to learn how many needs exist in this world and how little I had done to help anyone outside of my own backyard. It was there that I was forced to come to terms with the sadness and unfairness that exists in this world. It was in Ukraine that my perspective on life began to radically change.

But it feels like I miss Ukraine for more than all those reasons. Maybe I miss it so much because I feel that I have unfinished business there. I don't know what it is. I feel my heart being called to Ukraine, and it's a different kind of feeling than when we were called to adopt. I've been feeling so much unrest, trying to hear God's voice, and exactly what it might mean. I do know I miss it in a way I never imagined. Ukraine has a place in my heart like no other. I can't wait to share it's beauty with my girls one day.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Zoya Faith....

Sometimes when I look at you I can't even fathom that the rest of the world can't see you the same exact way I do. You are a light in this world. You fill my heart with sunshine. One look at your beautiful face and all is right in this world...even if just for that moment.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

3 Months Home for Mila!

It is almost impossible to believe Mila has only been home 3 months! I mean it feels like she has been here soooo much longer than that!!! She has been through so much in that short time and is a completely different baby! 3 months ago today I trekked across the globe carrying  my precious 9.5 pounds of cargo who was in desperate need of medical attention. I held my breath nearly the entire trip, scared to death, just hoping she'd make it with no big medical scares. When I think back to that day, I realize I had no idea what we were in for. Had I been able to get a glimpse into what we'd go through over the next 3 months with our beautiful daughter, I'd have been scared out of my mind. God only shows us little pieces of the puzzle because sometimes that's all we can handle at that moment in time....and that has been true from the very beginning of Mila's adoption journey. This journey took us on an unknown road with too many forks to count, but each time we were led through, what seemed at the time, such a broken road. What I know now is that the road wasn't broken, we were.

Mila's stats:
4 Months ago: 7.5 pounds, 21 inches
Today: 16.5 pounds, 26.5 inches

Those stats are only an outward indication of all the inward changes happening.  We met Mila 4 months ago to the day. I can still picture it in slow motion in my mind. As the Assistant Director brought her to us with her arms outstretched like an airplane, I couldn't get over how tiny and pale she was.

She was not what I expected to see in so many ways. I don't really know what I expected to see, but it certainly wasn't her. I remember being so taken aback by how small and frail she was, yet curiously intrigued at how intensely her eyes were starting into my soul. Her deep, knowing eyes certainly did not match her body. Her entire body seemed to be in a stupor....her tiny size and awkward movements seemed to scream "distant" and "delayed," but her eyes contradicted everything else about her. Those eyes, once locked into mine, told a story the rest of her body was incapable of telling.  I vividly remember her eyes just staring into the depths of my soul as if to say "I will be okay if you just help me...I am here inside of this body....I need you dont' know it yet, but you need me."

These past three months have been so hard, yet so amazingly rewarding. Since the day I met Mila that connection between her eyes and my soul has gotten us through many difficult days. Although it did seem like love at first sight and every ounce of me loved that girl the moment I laid eyes on her and held her, I found that I was distancing myself from Mila at times after I realized her serious physical condition. After that first lightening strike of love, I got so scared.  In my heart I wanted so badly to let go and just love with 100% of my heart, but I was terrified of losing her. I was so focused on researching and seeking out the medical care that she needed....that became my outlet for my fear as well as a distraction from reality and a distraction from focusing on just loving her....Doing those things gave me some artificial sense of being in control, when in reality I knew that I had no control over a damn thing.

Over the past three months Mila has endured three pretty major surgeries, along with her entire world being flipped upside down. She has persevered with strength that could have only come from God. She is a different child today than she was when we entered the United States 3 months ago, and even more different today than the day we met her 4 months ago. 

Mila is continuing to come out of the "orphanage stupor." Those eyes still stare deep into my soul and it is then that I feel the greatest connection to her. It is that same look I got 3 months ago to the day...that look that says, "stick with me here, I'm getting ready to blossom....I love you and you love me." It is then that I see she's getting ready to break out of her cocoon and spread her wings. In the 7 months of her life prior to meeting us, I can't even begin to fathom what Mila went through each day, alone and so sick...bundled up in that cocoon with no light coming in or shining out...wondering if she'd ever get the chance to spread her wings and fly....Well baby girl it's time and we can't wait to see your beautiful colors when those wings open!

Happy 3 months home Mila bean!
I love you in a way I never knew existed!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My Valentine Loves....

For a 2nd year in a row we spent Valentine's Day visiting doctors....but we did make the best of it by getting dressed up cute and listening to Zoya say "wuh wu too" (love you too) a million extra times yesterday! On the way we told Zoya Mila had to go to the doctor (and that Zoya would get to see the trains which are at Children's Hospital Pittsburgh where our appointment was). Zoya said "heart." She remembered Mila was there to have her heart sweet girl! Mila checked out good at the airway clinic and continues to swallow safely without aspirating, however, we did learn that the laryngeal cleft repair was only temporary and she *might* need a more invasive surgery...sigh.....but I'm not going there in my mind. Just praying she doesn't need it :) BUT if there is a surgery to make her sleep....I'm signing up for that one ;)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Heart as Big as the Ocean

Tonight I got to go on a little date with Zoya. Just her and I. It had been too long since the two of us did something special! We went to her favorite place...the mall...and ate at her favorite restaurant....she had two helpings of mashed potatoes and some grilled chicken. We sat in a booth, just her and I and she knew she was something special. I strive to make her feel like that every day, but sometimes life gets the best of us and we forget to celebrate one another. Today though, she knows beyond a shadow of a doubt how amazing she is and how much her mama loves every fiber of her being! I just sat there looking at how grown up she seems to me lately. How she can carry on a conversation with me that nobody else would understand. Loving her spirit and how she has to wave to every single person who walks by our table, and how she has to stop at every store that plays music and dance a little Zoya-jig. I marveled at how this tiny person became so interwoven with my soul. I memorized her soft smile lines and the glimmer in her eyes. I noticed her desire for independence is not outdone by still needing her mama as her security blanket. I thought about how life might be so very different for her if she were still living in an orphanage in Ukraine....but more than that I thought about how her life is so different now and how grateful I am for that. I noticed the old soul that seemingly knows more than you'd think possible for a child her age.

I was so full of emotion as I saw Zoya displaying empathy for the dogs in the pet shop. As we stopped at the window two of the dogs were playing very roughly. Zoya's eyes got so big and teary and she said "Mama ouch, no, no dog." I told her they were just playing and she sat there with those big tears in her eyes so upset and so worried that those dogs were upset or fighting.  She hates when anyone is upset...even when you think you're not showing it on the outside...she knows!  Her face grew more and more worried but she wouldn't look away or move from her seat on the floor in front of their window. Finally I picked her up and walked inside the store hoping to avoid the tears. She stopped at every single window and said hi to every single dog. She stopped and held her hand up to some of them, and said "me do" (meaning she wanted to take the dog out). I told her just to say hi and she signed "sad" at one of the dogs that really did seem to be depressed.  How could she pick up on that at such a young age? It's part of her being...she was born with empathy. We left. Before we could even get out of the mall, Zoya recounted the story of the dogs "playing" no less than 5 times. She kept asking, "Ow. Ow. Dog. Play????? (in a questioning tone)." And I'd say, "Yes baby, they were just playing. They are okay." The entire ride home, the same words over and over and if I didn't reassure her they were just playing she got upset. She got out of the car and ran to her Daddy and told him the story; I explained. She talked about it until bedtime. I hope she doesn't have nightmares!

My little girl's empathy runs deep.  She has a heart as big as the ocean. It's hard to see where it starts or stops and its impossible not to be swept into her beautiful waves and taken under. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My Sassy Talking Girl

Oh Zoya girl....she just makes me laugh. She is so very sassy. I love that her speech is really starting to take off (I remember wondering if I'd ever be able to say that). She surprises us with what she says and how she is really starting to put sentences together. It's so nice being home with her because I can work on speech all day long in normal exchanges throughout the day and it doesn't seem like work to her. She actually LOVES trying to say words correctly when I give her a little help. She gets so excited when the word comes out clear. She tries so so hard to's one of my many favorite things about her. Sometimes she sounds like she's speaking Russian, but other times her speech is much clearer! Either way she just keeps trying over and over to get her point across through words and signs. Signs have been so great for us in so many ways.....obviously for her expressive communication, but they've also been great for me to help zoya order her sentences in the correct word order. Kids with apraxia have a hard time putting the words in the right order, especially as sentences get longer. So instead of saying each word and having Zoya repeat one word at a time and having a somewhat broken word by word sentence, I can sign each word to remind Zoya what word to speak. That way her sentence is more fluent and she gets practice saying all the words together not just repeating me word by word. It has helped so much!

We've been focusing a lot on going from 1-2 word utterances to 3-5 word sentences. For example, when Zoya has to go potty, she says "potty." So today we've been working on saying "I go potty," or "I want go potty." Yes I know we're missing a word, but we'll get there....once she gets good with "I want go potty," we'll add in the "to." Another example is that we always make her request to get down from the dinner table after eating. She used to just sign "down," then she would say "down," now she is able to say "I want down please." It's a progressive process and we just add a little bit at a time.

The other thing we've been working on a lot is pronouns. "You" and "Me" is such a hard concept for her, but we're getting there. We do turn taking games to work on this a lot. I've been intentional about saying YOU and pointing and having her do it back to me. We've also been working on "his" and "her" as well. I find pronouns so difficult to teach to her! You can see in the video me asking her "what is her name?" I, of course, pair all the new concepts like this with gestures and pointing.

The other thing in the speech world we're working on is increasing vocabulary and processing spoken language to follow directions better. Zoya understands a lot of what is spoken to her and can follow 1 and 2 step directions fairly well. But every now and then I'm reminded that she still has difficulty processing language. Tonight after Mila's bath Zoya was being my helper. I asked her, "Zoya go get me the comb for Mila out of the bathroom." Zoya happily ran into the bathroom and brought me back a towel! I asked her again. I said, "a comb for her hair." And she brought me back a hair bow! My sweet girl, I just giggled at her sweetness and how she tried so hard! It surprised me because if I said pick the comb and gave her 5 choices, she knows what it is. She obviously knows what a comb is but maybe she couldn't find it or maybe she only heard part of what I said or maybe it's just that missing link between the verbal directive and processing all the language I threw at her. She is so super fabulous and I seriously can't believe how we got so lucky to call her our daughter! So proud of my chicky!

Tonight we were playing the keyboard toy with Mila (who only makes a quick appearance in this video haha). I was playing a back and forth game with Zoya and I would take the keyboard and say "no no no I do!" and change the song. I wanted her to do the same and usually I have to teach her each word and then work on linking them together. Well she surprised me tonight when she shook her finger at me with her sassy attitude and even had an appropriate (although sassy) tone with her words. My little stinker...