Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Picture Post!

I realize it's been nearly two weeks since my last post...OOPS! We've been busy busy busy here with lots of appointments, therapies, and trying to squeeze some fun in too! 

A friend of mine posted this idea that she found on Pinterest! Using a pack n play for a ball pit! It's a brilliant idea because I go crazy when the balls end up everywhere. The pack n play is high enough that unless they throw them out, they stay inside! Zoya likes to climb in and go bonkers...I assumed the little ones would like it best, and they do like it, but Zoya asks to go in every single day!! 

Mila is doing an experiment to see which color ball tastes the best apparently! 

I thought surely the dog would enjoy playing too since she LOVES to chase balls, but she jumped right out! 
Tent! Another idea is to put a crib sheet over the top and cut out one of the netting panels when you're no longer using the pack n play for sleeping makes a cozy little nook! 

We celebrated Shawn's birthday this month and Zoya decorated his cake! Totally forgot to actually take a picture of the birthday dude though! 

Zoya is still loving her dance classes! She has another performance coming up this weekend and then a couple more the following weekend! We bought her some awesome bright pink headphones to wear while she is waiting to perform and some earplugs for when she performs! Both allow safety commands to be heard, and she'll be able to hear the music, but they muffle/soften background noises quite a bit! She has asked for them several times at home when the babies were being noisy and they seem to help her! 

We've been working hard around here (mostly Shawn) to get a 4th bedroom ready! Sofia had been sleeping in our bedroom up until yesterday, now she is in her own room! (which used to be Mila's room). We had planned to have the two little girls share a room, but they both have quirky sleep habits that would keep each other up and we REALLY value sleep around here so we had to come up with a solution! Mila got the "new" bedroom. We turned our formal living room into a bedroom by closing off the doorway to the dining room and shortening the opening into the room and adding french doors! Mila got this bedroom because it's downstairs and she is typically the last to go to bed and the first to wake up! The girls have been loving playing in there since it's just down the hall from the main living area of our house. For the first night in new rooms everyone slept well! The dog, however, woke me up at 5am! Go figure!

Here they are playing in Mila's crib in her new room! 

Zoya is such a great big sister. She's always looking out for Sofia because Sofia gets into EVERYTHING! She is fast as lightening and sometimes gets herself into places she can't get out of  (under the bouncer, behind the chair, under the table, etc.) If Sofia falls Zoya will come running (even if I saw it happen and even though Sofia isn't phased) saying "Sofia fall mom!!!" The other day I heard Zoya say "Niet Sofia!!!" ("no" in Russian). I said, "Is she getting into the diapers again?" And Zoya said "Yes MOM! Help me!" It was so funny. Tonight I was doing the dishes and the girls were playing. I heard Sofia fussing and before I could dry my hands to check it out Zoya was yelling, "Mom! Sofia stuck!!!!" I turned around to see she had fallen into this little basket. She did look a little panicked until I started laughing hysterically and then she followed suit, giggling and belly laughing!! I snapped a couple quick pics while she was laughing! 

My little monkey! 
Zoya wanted to give it a try!

Sofia is comfortable enough with us to show us her range of emotions! I remember when Mila started this type of's a good sign to us! This picture makes me laugh. I posted it on my facebook the other day with this caption, "Sofia JOY is taking suggestions for a new middle name today!" It was too cute not to share. This is the "I didn't get my way" face HAHA! 

And little lady Mila is resting up for her big 2nd birthday coming up soon!!! She has been falling asleep in random places. Out of all the girls she is the only one who will just fall asleep anywhere! So precious! 

Clearly this is her favorite place...she bounces herself right to sleep! 

And here she was so tired she fell asleep chewing on the strap! What a nut! 

Happy Almost-March!!! 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Her Real Disability

I've been struggling with some thoughts lately. Often people who know Zoya pretty much forget her life before us. I truly wonder if some people just think the moment the child crosses the line into America, their life is redeemed and they go on their happy way, with no "baggage." I wonder if people think I'm holding on to the past too much when I talk about how her early days affect her current days.  And if they think that, then they probably haven't been in our shoes. The truth is, most of Zoya's difficulties lie in her early years of deprivation, NOT in Down Syndrome. I made it a point at Zoya's IEP meeting to tell them that in my opinion as her mama, her real disability is the anxiety and post traumatic stress she struggles with from her 22 months spent barely living in an orphanage. Her brain is wired differently because of the first 22 months she spent with little interaction, struggling each day just to survive, going through open heart surgery and recovery alone, not having anyone to nurture her or rock her or kiss her or love her.

I struggle with the guilt of this, as I've written about before. There are days, certainly, that I just wish with all my might that I could have met my babies they day they were born...that I could have been there for them from day 1....that they wouldn't have had to endure those months and years without the love they so clearly need and deserve. But, that's not how it happened, and I will continue to praise God because He knows best...even if we can't grasp that right now.

I struggle with trying to put it all into perspective and just "forget" the past. I can't ever forget her beginning (or any of my girls' beginnings), but I don't want to dwell on it either. The truth is, though, that even nearly 3 years post-adoption, Zoya still needs me to remember so that I can parent her accordingly (with a much more sensitive and gentle style than I'd naturally be inclined to) and advocate for her needs accordingly. She has come a long way, she sure has! BUT, I'd be kidding myself to think that her brain developed in the same way it would have had she had those first 22 months with a loving family. Zoya's beginning in life will always play a part in the person she is. Maybe her beginning has affected her more than some children and less than others, but either way, it has clearly affected her. And we recognize that. I'd be failing Zoya if I just brushed it under the rug. I'm not trying to use this as an excuse for Zoya and I'm very careful not to fall into that trap. Do I think Zoya has active memories of terrible things from early on? No, but I think her brain remembers and her emotional regulation (or lack there of) responds accordingly. We might never be able to grasp the extent of how those early years shaped the child she is today.

At the end of the day, it's important for Zoya, and for us as her parents, not to just forget the loss and loneliness that she has experienced early on in life. Grieving along side her, at times, has been the glue that has bonded us. At the same time, it's important to remember that the best way to help her is to just keep loving her. God has made it clear to me (over and over and over since I'm stubborn) that my job as Zoya's (and Mila and Sofia's) mama is to simply love them. That's it. Just love them. That sure takes a lot of pressure off of me, because loving them is so easy to do.

So, my friends, my point is that redemption is not always an overnight happening. Sure, in the literal sense of the word, Zoya was delivered from her old life the moment we took her out of that orphanage. But, I'm here to tell you that her redemption is a lengthy process.  Redemption is still being seen and felt almost 3 years later, as the Lord continues to deliver and heal Zoya.  And as he does that, we love her for exactly who she is today, triumphs and struggles.


....from 3 little girls who are very loved!! 

Mila you came into our lives shining with HOPE! Our love for your runs deep, angel! 

Oh, bring us so much joy! We love you baby girl! 

And sweet Zoya girl, you restored our FAITH and taught us the meaning of love. 
We love you way more than you know! 

Some bloopers:


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Zoya's Dance Performance

Zoya has been taking a dance class on Monday nights and she seriously talks about "dancing" all week! It is a class for kids with special needs and it's a hip hop type class. I know Zoya well enough to know ballet was not her forte HA! But if you ask Zoya to drop it low or shake it, THAT she can do!

We weren't sure how her first performance would go. She knows the dance since they've been working on it every week, she loves doing the dance, but with her anxiety we just weren't sure. When we got there she immediately started breaking down very scared because it was so so loud. She was shaking like a leaf and gripping us for dear life for the first 45 minutes. Gramma Liz came along and gave Zoya some comfort through it as well. She had a great idea and found some cotton that we put in Zoya's ears. (I'm hunting for some better ear plugs, or wax that I can mold that will help keep some sound out, or possibly an external pair of headphones for her noise sensitivity. We're also going to start therapeutic listening again as that helped with this issue when she was first home). The cotton helped quite a bit, but Zoya was still very nervous saying "home, please!" We walked her out of the gym area and found her teacher who also gave her some snuggles and loved on her a bit! We got her calmed down enough to go back in the gym and she saw Uncle Mike and Aunt Carol. She was thrilled everyone came to watch her dance, but still a bit nervous. When they say it takes a village, they're right....our little village of friends that were there to support Zoya that day did not just sit back on the bleachers and watch....they actively engaged   with her and helped to ease her fears right along with us. It was tough walking the line between pushing her too much, and just calling it quits (because believe me, there were a few times I thought maybe we should just take her home). But I knew she wanted to dance because she loves it and talked about it for days before. I thought to myself, even if she just watches the rest of the kids, that will be a success. The fact that she was able to regroup and calm herself was success all by itself! Their warm up time came and Zoya rocked the practice routine. You can see it here!

Then it was time for the real show. I was so nervous I was shaking too. I wasn't nervous she wouldn't get the moves right, that wasn't important. I was nervous that she was nervous....if you're a parent you know what I mean! I passed her off to her amazing helper and stayed back as best I could :) Then it was time for her to do her thing! She rocked it!! She decided to veer off and put on her own show for the cheerleaders on the sideline, but we were so proud of her for overcoming her anxiety and getting out there and dancing it up! There were tears, lots of tears, a standing ovation for the whole group of amazing kiddos, and then more tears. I know it might not seem like a big deal, but we were so very proud of Zoya!! She truly inspires me! There may have been an ice cream bribe involved, but there was also lots of love and comfort given to Zoya and it's just what she needed.

Here is some pre-dance performance baby sister cuteness! (I found those shirts on clearance at Children's Place for $2! woot! perfect for the occasion!) 

And the star herself....

She's getting SO BIG!!

Waiting for the big moment! Sofia loved all the noise by the way! Imagine that ;)

Zoya's village....

Gramma Liz

Uncle Mike is a baby whisperer! Mila also loved the noise and craziness!

A sweet moment between Zoya and I captured by my friend Joanie!

Zoya's helper helping Zoya with her noise sensitivity!

Ready to rock it! (you can see the cotton in her ears...great idea Liz!)

She REALLY was having fun once she got over her anxiety!

I think this was one of her favorite parts...grabbing her guitar and putting it down to jump over it!

This image will be in my heart forever! Not a dry eye in the proud of our Zoya girl! This is her teacher from school, and Daddy, both in tears and so proud of Zoya.

A sweet hug from a sweet buddy!

We're so proud of you Zoya!!