Saturday, April 28, 2012

They Were Meant to Be Sisters!!

These photos were taken by the talented Erica Z.!!! I'm so excited to share this sneak peak with you! If you're local and have kiddos with special needs, I can't wait to share with you how you can have a photo shoot with Erica!!! More pictures and info coming soon! She did an amazing job capturing the spirit of our beautiful girls! I look at these pictures and am so thankful we get to share life with them and even more thankful they get to share life with each other!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Exactly Where We are Meant to Be

Tonight, for the first time, Shawn and I talked about Mila's surgery...I mean really talked. Talked about how difficult it was and how scared we were and how blessed we are to have her here today. We talked about how long this journey has been and I thought about how good it feels to finally be able to look back at it as a memory, as something that tested us and in the end made us stronger.

The hardest part for me was seeing Mila right after her surgery. I felt weak looking at her little helpless body. I felt physically sick seeing her like that. The memory of walking into that room and seeing her is still so fresh in my mind. Shawn reminded me that the hardest time for him through all of it was when she was coming out of the sedation (unintentionally) but still paralyzed and had tears draining from her eyes just falling down her cheeks. Oh how helpless we both felt. I wonder briefly how we got through that time, how we watched our sweet girl go through such a major surgery. Then I remember "we" didn't do anything. It was only through the strength of God that we got through each moment, one at a time.

I was telling Shawn how fiercely I love this sweet daughter of ours and how my love has grown for her so greatly. I loved both of my girls from the moment I saw them, but it took time, with both of them, to feel this roaring mama-bear love that I have for both of them now. For some reason I'm taken-aback all over again with this fierceness of love I feel for another human being. It's the same way I feel as Zoya's mama, but it just takes me by surprise that I can feel like this all over again for my second daughter. I'm falling more in love with both of them every day.

We chatted about Zoya and Mila's past lives in their orphanages and hospitals and how we so wish we could have been there for them then. We talked a lot about how scared Zoya must have been going through open heart surgery without a mama and a daddy.  Thinking of that nearly crushes me, but I remember that God protected her physically during that time, and I have to believe he protected her emotionally. We talked about how our girls might be different had they started day one with the love and attention of a mama and daddy that they deserved. Would Zoya be so strong-willed had she not had to fight so hard her first two years of life? Would Mila be less sensitive had she felt valued and safe from day 1? In the end those thoughts are irrelevant and wouldn't change anything about how we feel about our girls, yet they're still thought that float through my head from time to time.

We agreed that if we could be given a magic glass ball to see their days without us, we wouldn't be strong enough to look. We wouldn't be able to see the terrible things our girls went through without us because honestly, we FORGET they weren't always ours. We forget they weren't always here with us. We love them so fiercely that, given the chance to see the pain and hurt they both likely went through as orphans, we'd run the other way. We'd never be strong enough to see all of that. As much as we wonder about their lives before us, or their birth families, or the fact that we don't even have a birth mother name to tell Zoya one day, we know God has planned each piece of this puzzle in this exact way. Though, that doesn't make the wondering disappear. I often find myself daydreaming about what their birth parents look like or what they're doing at this exact mome or if they have any idea of both the pain and the love their children have experienced thus far without them. Oh some days it's just so much for my heart to bear that I can't help but just give it all to God.

At the end of the day, today, I know that Shawn and I and Zoya and Mila are exactly where we are meant to be in this moment in time. Despite all our fears, and wonders, and worries, and thoughts of the past, I can honestly say I wouldn't change a piece of our story. Yah, I wish we could have been there for Zoya when she went through her open heart surgery, or that we could have witnessed the day Mila was born, or celebrated Zoya's first birthday with her, or sat by Mila's side as she lay intubated in ICU in Ukraine for months.....but I know that God's plan is far better than anything I could wish for and I know had we been able to experience those things, we would not be exactly where we are right now, which is exactly where we are meant to be.

Thankful tonight for exactly what He has given us!

Friday, April 20, 2012

5 Months Home for Mila!

Yesterday marked 6 months since we touched down in the good old US of A with our very sick little girl! She has truly transformed before our eyes!!! Here's a little update on our "meatball."

*Mila weighed in on Monday at 19 pounds, 6 ounces and 28.75 inches!!
*She was not even on the down syndrome growth charts when we arrived home and now she is in the 75th percentile for height and weight!!
*From simple positioning, her head has rounded out nicely and she will not need a helmet!
*Mila could not even hold her head up when we met her. She has been rolling over both ways for quite some time now, pushing up on her arms when on her belly, and her most recent accomplishment is sitting unassisted for 5 minutes! She is starting to get on her hands and knees, but with her belly still on the floor (maybe that belly is just too big??? haha)
*Mila could barely drink from a bottle (unless the nipple had a huge hole cut in it which was totally not safe especially with her airway issues). She can now drink from a straw! She eats stage 3-4 baby food, table foods that can be mashed or broken into small pieces, and has recently started feeding herself! She will hold a cucumber and chew on it (she actually bit a piece off with no front teeth!), and she loves "Pirate's Booty" (a gluten free snack) and has just started picking it up and putting it in her mouth! She's also grabbing for her spoon when we feed her and has gotten several bites of baby food from the spoon to her mouth! Yay big girl!
*Mila definitely knows her Mama and Daddy and sister and lights up when she sees each of us. She is started to get a little separation anxiety. Many times if a friend is holding her she will fuss and fuss until she can come back to Shawn or I.
*We now know how she survived so long. Girl has a fighting spirit that could be mistaken for one big giant ATTITUDE! HAHA. If she is not happy, she will let you know! She will play on her own for a few minutes but then screams to be picked up and then looks at us and giggles! Stinker!
*She is sleeping through the night pretty well. However, if she doesn't go to be super early (like by 6:30) then she is up between 5 and 5:30am!! She is pretty consistently taking two naps, her first nap around 9:30/10am for 40 minutes to an hour, and the second nap around 1:30/2 for about an hour.
*Mila needs glasses :( She is nearsighted. They're waiting until she starts doing a little more gross-motor activity, such as standing and beginning to walk, because right now her whole world is pretty close. But it explains a lot.
*She has an airway follow up appointment in May and they will determine if she needs a surgery to permanently fix the laryngeal cleft. Praying that answer is NO!
*Mila loves anything that lights up and plays music!
*She has just recently shown an interest in the iPad and likes the cause and effect games, songs, and she's becoming an Elmo fan!
*Her favorite songs are skid-a-marink, pat-a-cake, and Jesus Loves Me
*She still likes playing with her hands and staring at them when she's bored!
*She LOVES swimming and has already figured out how to kick her feet and move her arms to get herself moving!
*She is working on her first two teeth, which are both MOLARS :( (top molars). She has been in quite a bit of pain and pretty fussy from them breaking through...yuck.
*Mila is down to only 3 bottles a day, just before each nap and right before bed. She will only take a bottle if she is sleepy.
*Just like her sister, she enjoys being outside and having the wind blow through her hair.
*She is wearing mostly 9 month clothing at this point and size 3 diapers. I remember when she was in size 1!
*She is adjusting well and coming out of her orphanage stupor more and more every day!
*She is a thrill seeker and a dare devil. She can't swing high enough or be moved around fast enough!

And now what you really wanted to see. Pictures of our growing girl! (Pictures from her party coming in a separate post).

Big girl sitting up!

Silly girl!

Loves practicing her swimming on dry land!

"Oh sorry, I was busy, were you saying something to me?"

num num num

Feels so good on the teeth!

Okay, so I'm going to have to pick that thing up again...this is hard work!

AAAHH much better!

Look at my cool spoon!

We may or may not have taught her to do "the worm" SERIOUSLY! What is she doing!!!!????

She wants to move SO SO SO BAD!

And when she can't, we get this face along with some annoyed grunts and tears

But have no fear, big sister Zoya swoops in to save the day!

Eating some Pirate's Booty

What are YOU looking at?

Woah, this goes WAY faster with TWO hands!

Focus, Focus, Focus, Don't drop it!


What's that you say? I have something on my face?


Look Ma, One Hand!

And some cute Phone Photos:

Playing with the iPad

falling asleep sitting up!

Love this face!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Happy 2nd Gotcha Day Zoya!

2 Years ago today, we walked out of Zoya's orphanage, holding her in our arms, never to return! You can read about Zoya's gotcha day HERE. I can't read that post without crying. Crying for the nothingness my daughter had for almost two years and crying happy tears for the new life she was given! As I was reading back over posts I had written around the time of Zoya's gotcha day, and our days as a new family of three, I felt as if time was just slipping through my fingers at a suffocatingly quick speed. I almost can't remember Zoya being that small and fragile. I almost forget she lived in an orphanage for almost two years. I almost forget she wasn't always here with us. I almost forget she grew in another woman's womb and that woman is out there somewhere. I will never, however, forget the day we got to walk out of that orphanage with our girl! The day was a mix of excitement when we walked in with chocolates and champagne for the orphanage staff and then let down when nobody even wanted to tell Zoya goodbye; when they simply walked toward us with Zoya only wearing a diaper, all she owned.  They held her as if she were not even worthy of a gentle touch, and coldly handed her over to us and just.walked.away! She was nobody to anybody there. But she is everything to everyone here! She has brought so much joy to our lives. Zoya's heart has melted into ours. God surely knew exactly what he was doing when he created this special girl!
Celebrating her Gotcha day by eating at her favorite restaurant (mashed potatoes and chicken!)

Zoya's new "model pose"
Zoya is growing up so fast...too fast if you ask me. She's more mature and she's talking so much! In fact, tonight she looked at Shawn and I and said "Car. I want keys please." WHAT?! She just seems so grown up to me. How is that possible at "only-almost-four"??? My heart is at a loss for words tonight and I'm feeling proud, but also pretty sad about how our little girl is growing up so fast. We have so many hopes and dreams for her, but our biggest dream continues to be that she would use her God-given talents to contribute to this beautiful world. And she is already doing that at 3 1/2 years old! Her zest for life is contagious. People often say to me "Is she always so happy?" That answer would be a big fat "NO", but she experiences life without holding back...the happy and the sad, love, frustration, every emotion imaginable experienced at it's fullest.  She is so aware of everyone around her. Her intuition far surpasses the intuition of most children her age. There is no way to put Zoya into any "box" ever created. She is simply Zoya. I so want to be just like her when I grow up! I wish I had better words tonight to do my sweet girl justice! Since I don't, I'll share pictures.

My biggest life lesson from Zoya: Dance when you feel like it!

Sweet girl feeling sad for the dogs in the mall....that face shows her empathy perfectly!

We celebrated with some ice cream!

She talked Daddy into giving her the keys to the car ;)

"Okay, seatbelt's on...NOW can we go???"

I've been seeing a lot of this lately...Zoya has finally started RUNNING!

She's acting like a teenager already!

Throwing the bottle....

"oops, how did that happen? I'm innocent but my face says it all!"

Happy 2nd Gotcha Day! We are proud to call ourselves your mama and daddy! We love you so much is so? Way Way more than you'll know! 
(taken from one of Zoya's favorite books "I love you so much.")