Saturday, June 23, 2012

Zoya Rides a Horse!

Zoya is sort of obsessed with horses! But until today she had never interacted with a real horse! We have a bouncy horse she loves to ride, we have the carousel at the zoo that she has a love/scared-to-death relationship with, and lately Zoya has been putting her stuffed Mickey and Minnie on various household objects and pretending they are riding a horse! I'm not sure exactly where this obsession started, but I thought it'd be fun to give horseback riding a try!

We found a great therapeutic riding center that allows younger children to ride. So this morning we took a trip out there. I'll be honest, I had pictures of Zoya clinging to me like she sometimes does on the carousel. I had prepared myself for the worst, but followed our motto, "If you never try how will you know?" So we gave it a shot! My hope was that she would just pet the horse and if she just did that it would have been a successful first trip!

Zoya gets anxious with new experiences, but as we grow together, we're learning how to decrease that anxiety for her....part of this includes approaching new experiences in teeny-tiny steps and having a "no pressure approach." That means that we have to be okay knowing she might need more time until she is comfortable with a new experience, and that the first time doing something new might not always be a roaring success. Just having this attitude alone takes a lot of pressure off us and off Zoya. That girl picks up on EVERYTHING, and if she feels pressured to do something when she isn't ready, well you might as well just forget about it. If only we would have realized this sooner, we could have saved ourselves and Zoya a lot of stress and anxiety. But, hey, we're learning as we go!

Anyways, I'm happy to report that this new experience was a roaring success! Zoya got to visit with some of the horses and pet them. She was hesitant at first, but slow and steady won the race! She watched other kids get on the horse and said very confidently, "ME DO!" And I pulled the ol' sibling-card! I said, "Oh really? YOU want a turn? Who should have a turn? Mila? Mila wants a turn." Zoya said "NO, ME!" And I said, "Oh, okay I guess you can have a turn if you really want to." I love her confident-yet-still needs-mama stage. Because she was so excited to get on that horse but she still needed me to reassure her and walk along side her! She giggled nervously as the large dog horse started moving. She told the horse "walk on" and "woah" except every time the horse moved she said "WOAH!" because she was so excited so they were trying to teach her that "woah" means "stop" to a horse LOL. Her horse's name was Maple and she thought he was so cool!
Looking at the horses (Minnie Mouse along for security!)
She asked if he was eating Pretzels (probably because that's her favorite snack!)

Checking out Maple from a distance

Okay, maybe it's not so bad!

Time to do this without mama's arms!

And a little closer

All angles here!

Meeting another horse

Minnie's turn to pet the horse

My favorite picture! She thought his teeth were cool after she got over the initial shock..he was breathing so hard it was like we were in a wind tunnel for a minute!

Getting ready to ride, trying on her helmet!

Holding on to mama...she was so ready but still a little nervous!

She's doing it!

Ready to go!

There is a smile!!

Saying "Walk On"

Getting ready to ride through the woods!

And we're back!

I think she had a good time!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

7 Months Home for Mila!

Mila has been home 7 months! Here is a little update on our superstar! 

Physical: Mila is 21.5 pounds! She has tripled her weight in 7 months! She doesn't even look anything like she did 7 months ago. She is able to sit on her own and starting to stand. She is figuring out how to get from her belly to sitting. She often stays awake in her crib practicing this skill! She often gets up on all fours and rocks and will also lift her body off the floor and push herself up on her hands and toes. Mila has her top two molars and her third tooth is coming in,which is a bottom molar. Very strange to get her molars first with no other teeth yet! Mila is typically not a fan of physical therapy because it's oh so hard for her! 

Social: Mila smiles a lot! She grunts to get our attention all the time! If she is in her jumper or high chair and one of us walks by she will get a big smile and either sign "more" or put her hands up for us to pick her up. She gets confused and thinks signing "more" works for anything she wants to communicate! She will let other people hold her but often reaches back for us. Mila LOVES Zoya and Zoya can almost always cheer Mila up when she is upset. She likes to play pat-a-cake and giggles when she is tickled. Mila also has a HUGE temper!! I suppose maybe that's how she survived so long. But do NOT walk away during meal time until her belly is FULL or you'll hear it! Even with her temper she has such a sweet demeanor. She likes being snuggled, held, and sung to. Her favorite song is still "Jesus Loves Me" which is the first song I sang to her at the orphanage. If I could hold her all day long, she'd be just fine with that!  She likes to try and make people laugh by making funny faces! She will watch a short Sesame Street video on the iPad and gets excited when she sees the iPad! She likes to play with any toys that make sound and have lights. She is starting to understand cause and effect with toys that have buttons. 

Medical: Mila has been very healthy! She has a cardiology checkup in a couple of months. Next month we go for hopefully her last airway appointment and swallow study. My hope is that the doctor will transfer her care to our local ENT since she hopefully won't need the help of an airway specialist after this last appointment (as long as all looks good). Mila will likely need glasses at her next eye appointment and possibly an eye surgery in the future :( Although, after open heart surgery and airway surgery, this doesn't sound so bad.

practicing her wave
Eating:  Mila is eating lots of table foods! She is a little piggy. We are having trouble finding a variety of foods for her, not for her lack of willingness to try, but because she is gluten free...which is not a big deal...the problem is that she also does not do well with rice. We recently tried to reintroduce rice, which is in MANY gluten free foods and it didn't go over well. I think the orphanage overdid it with rice too early on and her body just will not tolerate it! She was on rice milk in the orphanage and it was her only source of food. Hopefully she'll outgrow the rice thing so we have more options. For now she enjoys fruits and veggies, ground turkey, goat's milk with homemade bone broth as a base, pear juice, veggie sticks, coconut yogurt, sweet potato fries, mashed potatoes, grilled cheese (GF I need to find GF and rice free bread), corn pasta with red sauce, and many other foods. She is down to two 8-ounce bottles a day, one before each nap. She drinks pear juice from a straw cup. She will finger feed herself pieces of food like a champ! We are working on having her bring the fork to her mouth and figure that out! 

We call this her crazy face!

Here is one of the faces she does to try and make us laugh!

One of my favorite pictures!

Sleeping: Mila has come a long way in the sleep department, but try as we might, she will NOT sleep past 5:30/5:45 most days :( It doesn't matter what time we put her to bed, she is always up at the same time. I am SO NOT a morning person, so thankfully Daddy gets up with her most mornings until I can peel my eyes open and roll out of bed! She is taking two naps a day of about one hour each. This is far improved from the 20 minute naps we dealt with for so long!

And here is a video of Mila from sometime during our first month home I think...I had to keep watching it because I couldn't believe it was her! She was just a shadow of the child she is now!! Praise God!

And just the other day....

Looking at all her pictures, can you imagine this beautiful soul still living in an orphanage? She likely wouldn't still be alive, no, she definitely still wouldn't be alive....not because she was beyond help, but because she wouldn't have received the medical care that she needed to save her life and because nobody paid enough attention to her to figure out that she had underlying health issues that almost killed her.  Although she was being fed rice milk, there was no love behind the bottle, no love from the caregivers feeding her day after day. Her inability to gain weight was due, in part, to her health condition and poor nutrition, but also due to a lack of love and nurture. As you sit here and read this today, remember all the babies still living in such conditions, never knowing what love feels like, never being given a chance, never being snuggled and kissed and never being taken to specialists who can help them, never receiving therapy, never moving from their cribs and never ever experiencing a loving touch or sweet gaze from a mama or daddy. Never feeling valued or wanted.  WHAT.A.TRAGEDY. Looking at Mila (and Zoya) I can't help but remember what they came from and know how many other children are still in that same situation....children who haven't had a mama and daddy come for them yet....and who may NEVER have a mama and daddy.

On this 7 month anniversary, I praise God for Mila's life, her health, and for thinking us worthy enough to embark on such a journey with such a special little girl. But I'm also reminded of all the other orphans hanging on each day never knowing if life will get any better for them. For this little starfish we have made a difference, but what about all the other starfish waiting for their turn? They're DYING waiting for YOU to help!