Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's Never Too Late......Or Is It?

Check out the change in Sofia in one year's time!

I love that quote. It is perfect for my children, and all the children who were once orphans, but now have families! I thank the Lord for allowing Sofia (and Zoya and Mila) a chance to "be what they might have been...."

However, I can't help but think of all the orphans still waiting. You know what? Sometimes it IS too late to "be what you might have been." You know WHEN it's too late? When you're a 5 year old orphan with special needs, and when your family never comes for you, and when you die upon transfer to your mental institution....or when you're a 1 year old orphan with a heart defect desperately in need of surgery but you don't have a family to get you the medical care you need and you die from something that could have so easily been fixed, if only you had a family....you know when else it's too late? When you're a 16 year old orphan who has aged out of the system, still without a family, and you commit suicide because nobody ever invested a single ouce of love into your life and the pain is too much to bear....THEN it's too late....

What will YOU do in 2014 to care for orphans? Maybe you have a tiny little inkling that you might consider adoption, please DON'T ignore that little voice you hear. It's DEFINITELY not too late for YOU to step up and give a child a fighting chance! Check out the waiting children at Reece's Rainbow. Tonight ends the Angel Tree Fundraiser....choose a child....a face you just can't ignore....and donate to their account to help them find a family. I dare you to look at those faces and click out of your browser and forget about all of them forever as you go on with your Holiday Celebrations with full bellies and hearts, warm beds and hugs and kisses....all while they wait with none of those things! And if you're really brave and you've been praying about adoption for some time and you're looking for that SIGN, I can assure you the Lord did not lay this on your heart for you to just walk away! I know there's got to be at least ONE PERSON reading this right now who is scared to death to take that leap, but knows in their heart the Lord is calling them to adopt....if that's you, ACT NOW!

That's all from me for now.....I'll be back next year ;)

Monday, December 30, 2013

One YEAR Home for Sofia!!!

Oh Sofia.....ONE YEAR HOME and I feel like we're finally figuring one another out! Sofia is so full of fire and joy-all at once, all together! Reading back over my monthly update posts about Sofia, one thing stands out to me: how much I talked about how resilient she seemed. And it's true, she really did seem so very resilient! What I know now, one year later, is that many times the kids who seem the most resilient in the beginning have even deeper layers of hurt and pain. They are the kids that have even more trouble bonding and letting go of that need for control. Sofia's apparent resiliency was all a coping mechanism....one year later we're in the depths of watching that wall of artificial resiliency come crashing down. It's been tough, I'm not going to lie. The past month has been very trying for Sofia and for us. I recall a similar regression for Zoya around her 1-year-home anniversary.

It's not that Sofia is not happy, because this child is SO FULL OF JOY. It's that she has such a deep seed of mistrust and fear of letting go and passing the reins of control over to us, that she has this internal battle going on in her tiny two year old soul.  She has extreme mood swings.  Part of this, we've come to know, is simply her personality...but there are times that I can so clearly see her internal struggle....her fear of letting go of that control and just letting Shawn and I take care of her. She is so independent because she learned to be that way....she adapted to not having parents for her first 15 months of life...she adapted SO WELL that now that she DOES have us, it's taking some time for her to fully allow us to meet all of her needs. We are being very intentional about teaching her to communicate her NEEDS to us.

If left up to her, Sofia would not ask Shawn or I for a single thing all day long. She'd rather follow her sisters to the table and sit there and wait to be fed. She'd rather go the the drawer with bowls, pull one out herself, and open up the snack cupboard and get her own snack, than ask us for help...because SHE CAN. As you can see, her extreme independence, which would normally be a good thing for a child with a typical family history, actually complicates things. She IS learning, though, to ask us to meet her needs. We've seen this primarily in the area of seeking comfort when sad or hurt. She's made SO much progress here! When she was newly home she used to bang the back of her head repeatedly on the walls and floor. We still see that behavior now and again when she is particularly stressed, but the majority of the time she's seeking us out for comfort, giving better eye contact, asking me to sing to her over and over again, allowing me to rock her and sing to her with full-on eye contact, a completely relaxed body and soul, and contentment. She's getting there, slowly but surely. Part of Sofia's personality is just very "I can do it myself," so even if her early life circumstances were different, I think she'd still have a pretty independent fiery personality. It's definitely been a bit of a battle over this past year....

As I mentioned in my last post, she's going through a stage where she gets very anxious in social situations with people other than us. She does not like when other people talk to her, it makes her very uncomfortable! I've said it before, but somehow this wild child has a very shy side outside of her comfort zone! We're teaching her to safely respond to other people by holding her and asking her to give them a high-5, playing peek-a-boo with new people, and other little games that take the stress off the situation for her. Shawn and I wonder if she's afraid someone else will take her away from us....a touch of separation anxiety compounded by her lack of parental bond early in life. Whatever it is, it's a pretty wicked stage! Christmas was particularly difficult for her, between the change in routine and having company.

I feel like recently Sofia and I have made some major progress in our relationship lately. I'm trying harder to be more intentional with her, and spending more 1-1 time with her.  She is so very different when she has that completely undivided individual attention...she seeks it, she needs it, she LOVES it! Today she and I have a special date planned, just the two of us. We're going to celebrate surviving this first year together, we're going to celebrate our beautiful, crazy, messy, sometimes clumsy relationship with one another. Over the past year, Sofia has taught me so much! Among these things are PATIENCE, LOVE as an action, JOY...oh I've never known a child who has such a gift of instantly transferring joy from her heart to mine.....and she's also taught me what danger signs to look for after a concussion (I joke, I joke, well okay that is not really a joke but maybe I shouldn't have put it on the end of such a serious sentence!! :) ) Sofia has challenged me in so many ways as a mother...many times I second guess myself about how I'm parenting her.....I guess that's normal for most mamas though. I would not ever want to live life without Sofia-she certainly fills a place in my soul that nobody else ever could, but I often joke that if she was our first, she may have been our last :) Her personality is bigger than life itself....she's got a whole lot of spunk and sass in that cute little 27 pound, 2 year old package, oh yes she does!

Looking back as I write this post, I realize she has made so so much progress since being home. When I go back and read my old posts, I am reminded of some of the struggles I'd since forgotten! Her food struggles were so difficult and they are now completely GONE! Most of her orphanage behaviors are gone.! She isn't terrified of riding in the car anymore! She has clear likes and dislikes. She loves music, Elmo (who doesn't?), loves swinging, and she is the best cleaner-upper around! She thrives on routine, she knows how to make us laugh.....and I mean BELLY laugh! She loves her sisters and her family...she knows we're "her people." Her gross motor skills are phenomenal...so much in fact, in a few months she'll probably be dismissed from physical therapy. She is very willing to try new activities in our home, has a very high frustration ceiling, and can focus on tasks for a great amount of time. She is an amazing problem solver, very good at puzzles, and loves exploring her environment. Her smile and laugh could melt even the coldest heart (and her mad scream could break even the thickest windows ;)). She LOVES being outside. She has a connection with nature that is rare for a child her age. She loves the wind in her face and the sun shining down. Sofia is very curious and likes to push the boundaries to see how far she can go. We've recently seen her showing empathy for others, something that was initially lacking. The Lord is restoring our sweet Sofia to the child He always intended for her to be. It's not always an easy thing, but it's always a beautiful thing...especially when I take the time to reflect on what an amazing ride this past year has been!


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas Eve 2013

I LOVE Christmas Eve, probably more than Christmas Day! Growing up, we had some Christmas Eve Traditions that I love continuing with my family! There's something so magical about the night before Christmas. The excitement and wonder and innocence in the eyes of my children is a pretty amazing thing! Since I took 4 billion pictures, I've compiled them into collages for your viewing pleasure :) And because it would take 100 hours for all of them to upload individually ;) Poor Sofia had a rough time with all the company and change in routine, so I don't have as many pictures of her....the only smiling ones I have of her from Christmas Eve were from earlier in the day. She's going through a little "stage??" (I hope) where she is very uncomfortable/anxious around most people other than us (you can see her binky made a return for our busy, out-of-routine holiday week because it really brings her comfort!)

Christmas Eve Day....some silly and excited girls! 

New Christmas PJs for everyone except the dog! She looks sad, I will try to remember this next year HAHA! 

One of our NEW family traditions is opening new PJs, a board game, and a snack. Zoya loved Candy Land...lots of fun, love, and snuggles with Mama, Daddy, Uncle Bub and Papa and Gigi! 

And my favorite Christmas Eve Tradition....reading "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." Every year, growing up, my dad read this story. He read it in a way nobody else could. He was able to read the story to our girls this Christmas Eve and hearing him read it took me right back to my childhood! We set out cookies for Santa...you can see Zoya and Mila tried to get in on the cookie action too ;) I remember Zoya's first Christmas home, we put all the cookies out, and she pulled out the chair and sat down and tried to eat them. When I told her they were for Santa and not her, she nearly cried! We had spent time so precisely picking out each cookie for the plate that year...little did I know that whole time Zoya thought we were picking out all the cookies for HER to eat. I made sure this year I was much clearer in explaining what we were doing ;) 

Mila was so intrigued by the fire in the fireplace...I loved watching the wonder in her eyes....watching the light in her face was such a beautiful thing!

Christmas Pictures to come! 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Lots more pictures to come :)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Christmas Gotcha Day Sofia!

Last Christmas Sofia got to break free from the orphanage and begin her life with her forever family! In many ways I can't believe she's been home a year already, and in so many ways I can't really remember life without her! Merry Christmas, beautiful! 

I'll do a bigger Sofia update on her "One Year Home" post at the end of the month! 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Happy 2nd Heart Day Mila Hopey Bear!

2 years ago today our sweet Mila Hope was recovering from Open Heart Surgery. I've been looking at her pictures for the past 2 days remembering the day we had to hand her over not knowing for sure if we'd get to take her home again. I can't think of any other day in my life that was harder than that day. We trusted the Lord and knew He had a plan for Mila's life! We are so grateful to CHP and her surgeon Dr. Morell for performing her life-saving surgery. It still amazes me how the Lord orchestrated our journey to Mila, how He sustained her and got us there just in time, and how He has redeemed her life. From tiny and sick, scared, malnourished babe, to strong, healthy, bright, and FULL OF LIFE. It's still tough to look at her pictures, but our sweet girl is a survivor by the grace of God! It is my privilege to watch our beautiful girl grow up....and I never forget for even one second that her life is a TRUE miracle! Happy Heart Day (12/19) Mila Hope!

Mila: miracle, favoured, emulating, pleasant or soft

Friday, December 20, 2013

Sweet Sweet Sisters!

I love watching the bond between my three precious daughters develop! The Lord clearly made them with one another in mind!!! Here's a couple videos: one of Mila and Sofia and one of Zoya and Mila....what I really need is one of Zoya and Sofia because those two are T.R.O.U.B.L.E. when they're together!!!! 

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I'd be so blessed! Not every day is easy, but every day has moments of pure joy and love and I'm lucky to get to be a part of it all! 

Mila and I started this game where she claps, and then I clap and run and tickle her when she's in the swing. It means I usually don't get anything done when she's in the swing anymore, but it also means that Zoya has watched our interaction and mimicked it....it means that I know Zoya is growing up knowing not only what love looks like, but how to give love and make others laugh! 

Mila has been the Kissing Queen Lately....and Sofia has picked up on that and started giving her own kisses as well! Mila's kisses consist of her long skinny tongue stuck straight out, but they're the best kind of kisses if you ask me! Once these two start kissing they can't stop! The other night in the bathtub the three of them must have kissed each other 100 times! It means they all caught Zoya's cold, but it also means they feel safe and loved....they'll always have a friend to give love to, and a friend to receive love from, and that makes my heart so happy! 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Just Because They're CUTE!

I can't help it, I take so many pictures of my girls! Happy Thursday! 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Festivities

This past weekend we had a great family weekend! Shawn had the weekend off and we had plans to have breakfast with Santa! Zoya is a little bit of a Santa stalker. This is the first year she's REALLY into Santa! She could hardly take her eyes off of him for a picture! Surprisingly Mila also got really excited and reached right for Santa as well! Sofia was a little more hesitant but she caved under peer pressure! 

When Santa asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she replied, "presents...." well of course! 

Mila jammed out to some Elmo tunes on the iPod while waiting for breakfast! I've gotten so many comments about how grown up she looks lately....I know, I know....sigh.........

Sofia's down to only using her binky for naps and sleep, unless we're going somewhere new, she still needs it to help soothe herself as she tends to get a little overwhelmed in new places. 

I have no idea what's happening here.  This was the first time we've all gone out to eat in a restaurant...umm...maybe ever? Yah, now I remember why!!!!! 

Santa appeared at our table! Zoya was in shock!! 

Sofia, a bit hesitant of the big jolly guy! 

Mila waving to Santa! 

In this picture Mila had not yet noticed Santa (a little out of order)...

But she saw his red sleeve out of the corner of her eye and followed the sleeve up his arm to his face and this is the face she made when she realized he was sitting next to her!! HAHAHHA! I can hear her if she could speak in sentences she's saying, "Holy Moly, Mom! IS that really SANTA?!?!?!?"

Zoya could not stop hugging Santa...it was a real problem LOL! (not really, but she didn't understand that he had to spend time with OTHER kids too haha)

Stuffing her face, sister LIVES for food...especially VEGGIE STRAWS! 

Daddy is so funny! 

Mila has been a kissing MACHINE lately!!! Love the tongue out kisses she gives! 

Family photo! Mila was too busy watching Elmo :)

When we got home, we made some gluten free sugar cut-out cookies! Cut out cookies have always been a tradition in my family and I was happy to find a good recipe I could use with the girls! 

Tasting the dough....shhh!

Zoya decorating with Daddy!

Mila for the win! LOL 

What IS this thing? (Can you tell my kids don't get cookies often??? hahah)

This is her mad scientist face which always happens right before her crazy laugh when she loves something! 

Nom, Nom, Nom! 

And Zoya and I went on a sleigh ride to Santa's cabin with some friends that night! We decided not to take the little ones this year...and I'm glad we did! It was frigid, the drive was long because we got a little lost, and trying to carry THREE kids through snow is not my idea of fun! BUT Zoya had a blast! This was her second time going on this sleigh ride. It's really cute! 

She got to drive. The guy in charge asked her, "Have you done this before because you're really good!" and she yelled, "Yah!" 

Liv and Zoya <3 p="">

Santa! I get to see you AGAIN?! Santa laughed really hard when Zoya came up a second time with Mickey and Minnie and told him THEY needed a goody bag too! HA! 

Zoya asked if she could ride that beast! HA! 

On the way back licking snow off her mittens! Everyone else was frozen to the bone and ready to get back to the cars and she kept saying, "More ride! Not all done! More!" That's my girl! 

I love the start of all these traditions with my sweet lil' family!