Monday, May 31, 2010

A New Home For Sofia...and Our Boys!

We are putting our precious Tudor home in East Sacramento on the market this week in hopes that we can sell it and buy a bigger home in the suburbs outside of Sacramento. It's about 1600 square feet and it has 3 big bedrooms and 1 bath, living and dining room, kitchen with nook, large utility room, manicured front, side and back yard, wrought iron gate on the driveway, detached one car garage, an attic and a cellar. Lots of potential to add on as well!

We thought long and hard before doing this because 1) We ADORE our house and our neighbors and our friends and East Sac and 2) We LOVE living so close to my parents (Nana and Grandpa).  It's just that our cozy home is just too small for a family of 6 and we just need a little more space to breath and to move and to feel that everyone has some room to grow. We are about to have 4 children under the age of 7 and in a few years those bodies will get bigger and bigger. And although it's not a great time to sell, it is a great time to buy so we think we are making the right "move"...literally and figuratively.

So...if you or anyone you know is looking for an adorable home that has tons of charm and lots of updates and ready for you to hang your clothes can contact our realtor Tim Collom.

Here is a link to our listing.

East Sacramento is probably one of the most charming places to live and it will be hard to leave. We live on the most beautiful tree lined street. Lots of neighbors with children live up and down the street. We have excellent public schools and nearby private schools as well. It's walking and bike riding distance to parks, coffee shops, restaurants, Trader Joe's, and the list goes on.

I've made some amazing friends here in East Sacramento and I hate to leave and start all over again but I know that I will keep my good friends and I will see them often since my parents live here and we will be visiting VERY often!

We're moving to the suburb of Rocklin in the Whitney Ranch neighborhood...if we are able to sell our home. It's about 30 minutes away so not too far. We hope to make new friends quickly and if all works out we will sell our current house before the end of summer and then move to Rocklin in October. We HOPE we can do this. I think our family needs the space and I need my sanity! We look forward to having a neighborhood school (two blocks away) that is brand new, a wonderful neighborhood pool (4 blocks away) and lots and lots of open space and parks. It's not East Sac (hard to beat!) but it does have a lot of the qualities of the kind of neighborhood I grew up in and I'm looking forward to having that for our kids.

So....with so much happening in just a few days with us leaving for Ukraine to get Sofia...we are adding to that stress by putting our house on the market while we are gone and getting it prepped to sell this week! Yikes! We sure know how to keep busy in this household!

But, even with the craziness, I feel deep down inside that this is what is best for us, the boys and for our Sofia. This move is ALL about the kids. And it doesn't hurt that we will be saving money as well since it's less expensive living in the suburbs than in town. Seems smart all the way around.

Please pray our house sells quickly and that the perfect family finds it to be as sweet and charming as we have. We will miss our sweet home.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

An Abundance of Gratitude

My heart is full of gratitude tonight. An abundance of gratitude. It brings tears to my eyes.

There are so many people to thank and I really do not know where to begin or how to express my gratitude to each and every one of you.

We received support in so many different ways...emotional, financial, spiritual, physical.

Friends, family, coworkers, strangers, community members, businesses...all of you came together to help us save a little orphaned girl in Ukraine who now has a family to come home to and a community that loves and supports her. We absolutely could not have done this without YOU.

I will never doubt the good in this world again. I have witnessed it and lived it and it has changed me. I want to give back and will always look for ways to return the love and support we have received. This experience has deeply moved me and I'm so grateful.

A few people have recently asked how much we were able to raise and how close we got to our fundraising goal. We totaled it up tonight and we have raised through DSIA and Reece's Rainbow a total of $24,400. Our estimated costs for Sofia's adoption are at $26,000, just $1600 shy of that goal.  I would say our fundraising efforts were EXTREMELY successful and again we have all of YOU to thank.

10 more days and we will board a plane to go get Sofia and bring her home to her forever family. Thank you for making this possible. Thank you for saving Sofia!

God bless all of you.

Love for Liam

Can you believe this? 

Liam is being adopted by a local family who learned about Reece's Rainbow from our story in the local newspaper.

I'm overjoyed for this family and to be a small part of this is just an honor. Liam will be welcomed with open arms into our community here in the Sacramento area.  I think this makes close to 20 little children with DS all under the age of 3 all within 10-15 miles of each other (and those are just the few that we know of!)

Please go visit and follow little Liam's journey home...what a love! Liam will be Hansina and Mark's sixth child, their second adopted child and their first child with Down syndrome. Oh, they have no idea how much more blessed their lives will be with Liam in it! I also can't wait for Sofia and Liam to meet...our little Ukrainian angels! And by the looks of this handsome boy...Sofia could be a distant relative!!!

Love For Liam

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Over It

Joaquin has another evaluation coming up for his Early Intervention services so all his therapists are doing their 6 month evaluations on him and letting me know where he falls on the spectrum as far as his abilities or lack of abilities. One of our teachers from Easter Seals was asking me all sorts of questions like how many words does he say and how many words does he sign. I told her "a bunch". She wanted a number. I told her I don't really count them but he has a lot and we are happy with his progress. Again, she wanted a number. I told her I really don't know and I really don't care to count them out. He's behind for his age as far as his typical peers go so why does it matter what number of words he says.

Can you tell I'm over it?

I really am. I love Joaquin. He is amazing. He does amazing things and he does them on his own time. He is progressing and he is improving all the time. I don't see the point in putting a "number" on it. I KNOW the therapists have to do this in order to justify his therapies and I UNDERSTAND that, I'm just over it.

I told the teacher from Easter Seals put whatever number or age range you want, it really doesn't matter to me. I'm happy with where Joaquin is at right now. She was SHOCKED! She said so many parents want to know exactly where their kids fall in the "typical" range and these parents keep very close track of it. I don't. I don't keep Joaquin's therapy notes. I read them and then I toss them. Sorry. I live a lot of my life in the moment and I don't like to dwell too much on things and maybe this makes me a bad parent. But I don't think I am. Joaquin gets over 6 therapies a week and I make sure he gets to all of those appointments and he rarely if ever misses them. I read to him, sing with him, sign with him and play with him all day every day. He is surrounded by his two big brothers every day. He is in our community every day socializing with my friends, his brother's friends and his own friends. He gets loved on by his grandparents almost every day. He's pretty integrated into our lives I would say. And for the most part, besides those 6 hours of therapy a week, he's just my normal child. Sure he's over 2 and just starting to walk, that's ok with me. He's going to walk, run and jump soon enough. Sure he's over 2 and not talking in sentences, but he is communicating and he is getting most of his needs met through his signs and limited words. He will continue to improve on this with time.

Again, I may be in for a huge reality check when it comes time to transition from IFSP's to IEP's but I know my child and I know how to advocate for him so I'll cross that bridge when I have to.

So, when it comes time for these 6 month reports, I just simply get through them, nod my head, make sure Joaquin gets the services he needs and then move on. I do not even care to hear where he falls on the spectrum...I just don't. Like I said it doesn't matter to me. I'm over it.

Ok...thanks for the vent.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Thinking of Her

I think of her often. Here is the photo I have on my desktop. I think it's my favorite right now.

Missing her and wondering what life will be like when she is here. Looking forward to getting to know her better, to bonding, to becoming a big, happy, busy family.

Two more weeks and a few sleeps away from bringing her home. There isn't much space in our house for her but I've carved a corner of our bedroom as her space for now. We will move a "smaller" sized crib in our master bedroom and put some pink sheets on the little crib mattress. I have a small stack of adorable clothes and bows. We're ready, can we get her now?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pirate No More

I called Joaquin's eye doctor today to get some advice on what to do about our patching prescription of 3 hours a day. Ever since we've started patching, Joaquin's good eye has started turning in a lot and his strabismus has gotten much worse. I was fully expecting to hear that we needed to continue or maybe to alternate patching on each eye.

Well, they are giving us a "patching vacation". She said that it's an excellent sign that Joaquin's good eye is turning in now. She said the brain is now switching to using his "bad" eye more than his "good" eye and that his sight has most likely returned in the "bad" eye.

She'll see us again in July and reevaluate. Sigh. Okay.

P.S. Above is a photo of Joaquin with his buddy Sheridan who is having open heart surgery next week, please say a special prayer for him and that he recovers quickly and is back playing with his buddies as soon as possible! And see this very special quilt we had made for him at Monkey Musings. We love you Sheridan!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Trickle Effect


I had no idea what had begun that April day when I opened the March issue of Kidaround magazine.  I was actually searching for a different article, but my heart was captured by a photo of Sofia.  As an adoptive mom myself, Jennifer’s story moved me to tears.  I shared the article with my eldest daughter, Sara age 11.  We immediately agreed that we wanted to send money to Reece’s Rainbow for Sofia.

Later that week Sara attended her Girls’ Bible Study meeting, there she shared the story of Sofia and the fact that she wanted to send money to Reece’s Rainbow. All 17 girls in the group decided that they wanted to participate in raising money for Sofia too!
Each of the girls invested their time and talent differently. Some held bake sales, one girl had a lemon-aide stand, another crafted jewelry and hair clips, another made soy candles, sold bags of fresh herbs, sold licorice on the sidelines of a soccer game, or simply donated their allowance.  After 2 weeks time, together they had collected over $400.00.  Their motivation was of course helping Sofia.  But it is also incredibly valuable for these young girls (age 8-12) to learn that they are old enough to make a difference through both their work and prayer.  It has been a wonderful experience for them as they followed the details on Sofia’s journey through her blog, they now feel connected with this little girl from half way around the world. Jennifer has agreed to bring Sofia to meet all the girls as soon as they have settled in this summer. The girls can't wait!

And still another blessing...

While Sara was asking for donations for Sofia we met up with a friend, Danielle. Sara shared with Danielle the details of her fund raising effort.  Danielle was intrigued, and she promised to read Sofia’s blog and visit the Reece’s Rainbow website when she returned home.  That evening Danielle and her husband saw Ivan on the Reece’s Rainbow website, and they have now started the process of adopting him.  We are now praying for Ivan and seeking ways to help support their journey. Here is their blog Saving Ivan.

Hang On

Hang on little Sofia, your mama and papa are coming soon!

We just booked our flight back to Ukraine. We leave Sunday, June 6th and we hope to return on Thursday, June 17th...if not sooner...with Sofia!

It takes this amount of time to process the new birth certificate, passport, medical appointment and visa in order to bring Sofia home.

I already have two PACKED suitcases full of donated clothing for the orphanage...THANK YOU!

It's been a busy week here at home with the boys and add on top of that a cold for me and pink eye for least we got sick here at home. Last week I couldn't get enough sleep, I was exhausted and still feel like I need to catch up. That trip home really wiped us out, emotionally and physically. We've been loving on our boys and it's been wonderful to be back to our normal, busy routine. I have such a new found appreciation for everything that we have here at home. We have so much to be grateful for here in the States.

It's strange to think our daughter is half way across the world. I hope she's happy. I hope she's healthy and doesn't feel lost without us visiting her. We can't wait to get her home. The first thing Mateo asked us when we got home was "Where is Sofia?" It's so hard to explain to them why she couldn't come home the first trip and why we will have to leave AGAIN but we know that in the end everything will work out and then they won't know life without Sofia.

My BIG Boy!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Final Fundraiser TODAY!


Kelly Stephan

The lovely backyard of Bonnie Merz (Kelly's Mom)
14060 Riva Ridge Circle
Auburn, CA 95602

Sunday, May 16th


Event Details

2:30-3:30 Free Wine and appetizers. Raffle tickets will also be sold at this time for some great prizes and a 50/50 cash raffle. 100% of proceeds from raffle will go to saving Sofia.
You do not need to be present to win a raffle prize!

3:30- Fashion show begins
Jen's friends will model the new CAbi Spring/Summer line! A portion of all clothes purchased at the event will go towards Sofia's adoption. After the fashion show, raffle winners will be announced and you can do some CAbi shopping!

Silpada jewelry display. Come purchase some beautiful sterling silver jewelery. 100% of profits of the sales will go to Saving Sofia. If you'd like to purchase some jewelry and cannot make it to the event. Please email me at and I can give you more details.

Please come enjoy the day with friends and fashion for a great bring sweet Sofia home to her family!

If you are unable to attend, but would still like to purchase CAbi clothes with part of the proceeds going to Sofia, you can check out the website, Please call Kelly at 916-847-5355 or e-mail at with your order.

If you are unable to attend, but would still like to purchase raffle tickets for the 50/50 cash raffle ($1/ticket or $20/25 tickets), you can call or e-mail Kelly also.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Monica & David

I cannot WAIT to see this documentary. It won Best Documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival. ANYTHING is possible for Joaquin...and Sofia...and all their peers! I cannot wait to see what the future holds for Joaquin and for Sofia.

Monica & David

Friday, May 7, 2010

Trains, Planes & Automobiles

After court on Thursday we started making our way home, with a heavy heart in leaving Sofia behind but very excited to be home with the boys. We took the train from Dnipropetrovsk to Kyiv in the afternoon (about 7 hours)and got there around 11PM where Nikolai (Uncle Niko) picked us up and drove us to the airport to wait another 5 hours for our flight that was leaving at 5:30AM. It is always a pleasure to hang out with Nikolai, his stories are great and he is always eager to practice his Spanish. After waiting and waiting for our flight, we finally took off on our way to Frankfurt. In Frankfurt we had a long layover and waited 5 hours to board the flight from hell to Washington Dulles. We sat on the tarmac for 2 hours and then had to take a longer route due to the volcano ashes over England (10 1/2 hour flight) which made us lose our connection to Sacramento. So here we are in D.C. with a 3 hour layover getting ready to fly to San Francisco (6 hour flight) and Grandpa is picking us up at 1 AM and driving us back to Sacramento by 3AM. We haven't slept in 2 days, we are tired to say the least, but we are so happy to be in the USA. Now I'm (this is Hector) going to have a much anticipated hamburger and fries here at the Dulles airport, YUM!

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Getting ready for court this morning, I wasn't very nervous. I really felt calm and peaceful. Hector was slightly nervous as he had no idea what questions the judge might ask of him. I just trusted that we would answer from our hearts and that we would be absolutely fine.

Marina picked us up around 9am and took us straight to the courthouse, where we waited on a small bench while she collected the social worker, the representative from the orphanage and the prosecutor. Meanwhile, two witnesses also filed into the hallway waiting for our court as well. This is when my stomach went crazy with butterflies. I realized then that we would essentially be on "stage" and would need to fight for our little girl. We waited until about 10:15 before we were allowed into the courtroom. I decided to show Marina our photo album at this point and she quickly brought it over to the witnesses, the social worker and the orphanage representative. They seemed to enjoy the album and I heard a lot of "syndrome de Down" talk but otherwise we have no idea what they thought of the photos they saw. I had compiled an album full of pictures of our home, our vacations as a family, tons of photos of the boys, photos of our nephew Andres who has DS and is 19 years old, photos of our community and all the gorgeous babies with DS, photos of Joaquin doing his therapies and photos of our families and our wedding day. I hope they enjoyed it and I hope it opened up a few eyes about the potential of children and adults with DS being fully included in society.

We waited another 10-15 minutes for the judge to arrive and when he did we realized we had seen him in the hallway a few times going into and out of different offices. He was a young judge maybe early 30's, very tall and a large frame with a bit of a boyish "pudge" about him. He had a half grin on his face and kind eyes although he played VERY serious in his courtroom.

The prosecutor was a mid to late forties something woman who looked a little bit like the editor of Vogue Anna Wintour but without the "glam" factor. She seemed very firm and very by the book and showed very little expression and very rarely looked at us. Oh the nerves were really starting to go crazy and I worried I might pass out.

The social worker reminded me of Tammy Faye with her makeup but was wearing a polo style shirt and jeans, very casual and relaxed. The orphanage representative had the soft, warm look of a grandma in her early 60's with a nurse type practicality about her. We learned that Sofia's parents were married and this was their first pregnancy and that Sofia has no siblings. We also learned that her biological parents were considered highly educated, her mother studied economics and her father studied law. Both the social worker and the orphanage representative wanted us to know that what we were doing for Sofia was absolutely necessary and kept stressing to us that if these children (children with DS or any other disability) are not adopted by age 4 or 5, they will die in the institution setting. Grim but true.

Up and down we stood each time the judge spoke with us. We answered all the formalities and then the true questioning began. Hector courageously volunteered to take the majority of the questions and all I can say is that I've never been more proud of him and his composure and his wonderful, thorough and thoughtful answers to all the questions that were asked of him.

Then it was my turn and I really got it easy since Hector had explained most everything about us but of course the first question the judge asked me was what I though of Sofia and that is when the tears welled up in my eyes and I got pretty emotional. I did my best not to burst into tears and was able to get through my questioning with composure.

I really think we sailed through the questions because of our experience with Down syndrome and having Joaquin. Once the questioning began, we realized we were going to do just fine. It seemed that everyone really wanted to know about the therapies available, the medical benefits and what type of future we can expect for Sofia. Everyone just seemed eager to know that there really is a place for a person with DS in society. We told them that people with DS can go to college, drive a car, get married, hold a job and that there is huge potential in each individual. We also stressed that Sofia would be raised knowing where she came from and that we would teach her about her culture and give her the opportunity to visit if she ever wanted to. The only question asked of us by one of the witness was if Hector's parents were alive and how old they were. We're guessing he wanted to see what type of longevity Hector might have...maybe?

The judge agreed to only ONE court date during the proceedings which was a HUGE victory for our region. I think everyone in that courtroom was shocked and it was at that point that we really were able to BREATHE again.

The judge excused himself for about 15 minutes with the witnesses and prosecutor following him to make his final decision. When he returned he officially pronounced us the parents of Sofia Andrea Sanchez.

The 10 day waiting period was not waived and we are in the process of working out a return date with Marina when she gets back from her vacation. Unfortunately it looks like it might be closer to one month before we are able to return and get our precious girl.

After court, we wanted to present Sofia's original "baby groupa" with a gift from us. We decided to give it to her baby groupa and not her current groupa since that is where she spent her entire 14 months before being recently transferred. High on the orphanage wish list was a couch for the groupa room so that when the staff feed the babies, they have somewhere to sit. Right now, there is nowhere for them to sit and this makes feeding time very uncomfortable for the staff and the babies. We decided we would LOVE to purchase a couch for them so we went to the local furniture store and picked out the biggest couch we could find, bought it on the spot and hired two workers to deliver it to the orphanage later that same day. I will tell you it was the BEST $300 we have ever spent. It felt amazing to give back to the orphanage in some way that would make their lives better and more comfortable. When Marina called the director to tell them what we had purchased, she said the director was screaming with joy! How cool is that? There will be money given to the orphanage as well from our adoption but they like to use that for medications for the children since they have so many sick babies. They rarely if ever budget for luxury items and a couch is considered a luxury there.

We also found out that Sofia's orphanage is one of the poorer ones and is often overlooked because it is not in a big city. They are in desperate need of everything. So, we plan to pack light on our next trip and bring two full suitcases of clothes for the children so if anyone in the Sacramento area would like to donate clothes we will do our best to take as much as possible with us next trip. They also need diapers so if anyone would like to donate money towards a diaper run when we get there, we would be happy to collect that and keep it separate in a "Diaper Fund" and purchase those when we get into town.

All in all it was a great day albeit very emotionally exhausting. We left a small bag of toys and pj's and Sofia's polka dot jacket and pink hat in her locker so they know we are coming back for her. We weren't able to see her one last time as it was her nap time when we got there but we pray that God watches over her and the others the next few weeks until we return and bring her home.

On another very special note, Marina said that we will be allowed to get good pictures of the other children in Sofia's groupa (mainly Liza) when we return and we will get all the details on her and some other's if we can to put them on the Reece's Rainbow website. I can't wait...because I'm going to HOLD Liza when we take her photo!

It's Official!


Sofia Andrea Sanchez
Born 2-21-09
Adopted 5-6-10

We are off to catch a train to Kiev and we will come back for Sofia in early June. 

We will say one last goodbye to Sofia at the orphanage before we leave and this time it will be as her official MAMA and PAPA!

Thank you everyone for your prayers! God answered them!

P.S. We chose "Andrea" as Sofia's middle name in honor of my mother. We know this makes Grandma Esther smile! Happy Early Mother's Day Mom!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Two Weeks in Ukraine

We've been in Ukraine two weeks as of today and tomorrow is court at 10 am. When we think of it that way, it really hasn't been that long and we are so grateful. If everything goes as planned, then we will be Sofia's parents tomorrow around noon. At that point, we will tie up some loose ends, get some gifts for the orphanage staff and for our landlady, finish packing and hop on a train to Kiev at 5pm. We will arrive in Kiev at 11pm and we'll have Nikolai take us to the airport where we will camp out until our flight at 5:35am. We will fly from Kiev to Frankfurt then to DC and home to Sacramento around 7:45pm. It will be a LONG two days but we've rested up for this and we look forward to being home with the boys in time for Mother's Day weekend.

It will be very hard not to come home with Sofia. The boys will be so confused as it's the first thing they ask us when we skype with them. Is Sofia coming home? We don't expect the 10 days to be waived and even if the judge softened his heart to the idea, the prosecutor would be the first to object and possibly cause even further delays in us bringing Sofia home. We know Sofia is taken care of at the orphanage and we think she'll be shielded due to her age of feelings of abandonment. The orphanage is all she's ever known so we take comfort that she'll be ok until we return. I'm trying not to think about the fact that we might not see her for close to a month. She'll have changed so much!

We will most likely come back the first week in June. Our facilitator Marina is taking two weeks off in May to take care of her mother and although we could proceed without her, we would rather not. She is wonderful and amazing and she is also very glad that we want to wait and finish the adoption with her in June as she really knows the system the best here in Dnep. It seems so far away but I will keep busy during that time to prepare our home for Sofia and to make all the phone calls and plan all the necessary medical appointments so that when she comes home with us we can get her looked at immediately and start her Early Intervention services as soon as possible. It will also be just in time for summer break so the whole family will have a chance to bond with her and adjust to having one more little body in our home without rushing off to school routines.

So I'll leave this last post before the BIG DAY with photos from our last visit with Sofia today. I wonder if she knows she's about to become a Sanchez...a daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin, and friend to many back at home. Her eyes tell it all...she has the wisest, kindest eyes. She must know!

World's Greatest Parents

I will never be able to thank my parents enough for watching our 3 boys these past two weeks. We plan on coming home on Friday night and I'm sure they can't WAIT to have the house to themselves!

Thank you Mom and Papa (a.k.a. Nana and Grandpa) for loving our boys and loving us enough to watch them! We know how much you sacrifice for us and this is yet another one of those times. We could not have adopted Sofia without knowing that our boys would be in the best of hands.

Thank you always. And thank you also to so many of my friends that also helped out with the boys while we were gone. SO many of you...Michelle, Lisa, Katie, Christine, Cathy, Paige, Mary Ellen, Jennifer, and MANY many others. Our village is amazing!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My Beautiful Boy

Snapshots of Our Day

There are goats everywhere around town and since day one we have been trying to get a good photo of one and it has been avoiding us but today I think we finally took a decent one.

A neighbor died of a heart attack this morning, our landlady was very sad. And yes, this is what the ambulances look like here.

This is our daily walk back and forth twice a day. On the other side of this wall there are some pretty fancy houses, right across from the orphanage. We wonder who lives here, perhaps something to do with the Urkaine soccer team.

We love the red head!

We are still letting Sofia sleep during our visit, but not for 2 hours straight. We wake her up way before we come back and so far we haven't gotten in trouble again.

Playing Peekaboo!

Feeling Guilty

In the interest of keeping it real, I must confess that I feel a sense of guilt right now. It's strange and I know it's not appropriate at all but I feel bad for adopting Sofia who is doing really well and is not in as bad of shape as so many other children here.

I know this is really a ridiculous thing to say but it's how I'm feeling right now. Sofia seems happy and content, she is very healthy and robust and she is not in any pain or suffering. In her groupa, there are so many that are so much worse. One little girl in particular is breaking my heart. I found out today her name is Liza (prounounced "Lee-zah") and she is probably closer to 2 or 3 years old (probably 15 lbs at the most) and has a slash across her forehead (a new injury) and a bed sore on the back of her head. She has Down syndrome and she suffers from an extreme strabismus and literally rolls around on the hard crib surface all day long and shakes her legs and arms to entertain herself. A few rare times she has made eye contact with me and has smiled as well as waved. My heart absolutely breaks for her. She is the one that most of the time is just fed her bottle without even being held. The staff just lean over the crib and hold the bottle up for her to drink. All I want to do is hold her. I'm tempted to ask them tomorrow if I can. I'm in tears just thinking about her right now.

I won't even begin to talk about the others in need in her groupa. Too many. I think I look at Liza because it would have been just as easy for me to pick her. Or precious Anna...I ache for her but I'm certain a family will come for her very soon. Liza is NOT on Reece's Rainbow and if there is anything I can do to get her on there I will. I plan on asking Marina next time we see her if we can get her basic information and get her on the website.

I know we are saving Sofia and she is just as worthy as any other child but these children are not as well off as her and I fear that that will scare people away from wanting to adopt them. Should I have found a child less fortunate to save? The circumstances of me finding Sofia that day in December were not anything that I planned. It just happened and I found myself drawn to her and to adoption for the first time in my life. Now, I see the gravity of the situation here and I am deeply affected by it.

For now, I will do my best to share these children's stories and to spread the word. It's all I can do right now. And I will try and shake the guilt I feel inside. I will focus on our task at hand and save Sofia.


Jen and I are craving comfort food bad. The food hasn't been terrible but we are getting tired of our options here. We've tried a lot of different things and we are eating a lot of cheese and toast with marmalade.

If anyone knows me they know that I love tacos. Whenever we go to Mexico to visit my family, Jen knows that our first stop is not to my parents house, it is to a taco place.

I got an email today from work friends with this picture. I wish both of them a slow and painful death =). I can't stop thinking about those tacos, that was torture in the worst way!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Grandma Esther

Grandma Esther is Sofia's guardian angel. She has been a part of this from the very beginning...from the moment I saw Sofia's picture at Reece's Rainbow...and every step of the way after.

Here is a picture of Grandma Esther with my mother Andrea. My mom Andrea was Grandma's first daughter. I am my mom's first daughter. Sofia is my first daughter. A very special bond between us all.

Thank you Grandma Esther for watching over all of us and guiding us and protecting us through this process. We think of you often and we miss you. We know you are always with us though and so we do not walk alone on this journey.

Thank you Grandma for helping us keep the faith and not letting fear paralyze us and for the angels who watch over Sofia and all the other orphans.

I read the story of Esther in the Bible and was shocked and surprised to learn that Esther was a orphan. A coincidence? I don't think so...AMAZING!

Update on "Joaquini"

My little angel boy is growing up. He is consistently standing on his own and taking 2-3 steps without prompting. With prompting, he is taking 5-8 steps. He may be walking by the time we return from Ukraine in a week. It's so exciting and I can't wait for him to take this next "step" in his development.

On another (more disturbing and shocking) note, my mom took Joaquin to see the eye doctor last week since we were in Ukraine and didn't want him to miss this appointment. We've been waiting over 9 months to see this doctor. Pediatric opthamologists are few and far between. The last time we had Joaquin's eyes checked, his vision was excellent and he had a strabismus that we were addressing with patching periodically as needed. His strabismus has slowly improved with time and when he started creeping on hands and knees, it was improving even more. He has excellent vision as far as we knew because he can make the sounds and signs of different animals and objects when looking at their pictures and he never runs into things or stumbles and he seems to know and "see" exactly what he wants to. He loves his Signing Times videos and also imitates those while watching the TV and it never appeared that he was using only one eye. So we knew he could "see" and weren't concerned too much. We were just eager to hear what the specialist would say about his improved strabismus and see what else was new with his sight.

Imagine my surprise and shock when I got an email from my mom that the doctor said Joaquin is almost BLIND in his left eye. WHAT?!?!? So the specialist recommended immediate patching of the right eye for 3 hours per day for 3 months to see if he can regain any sight in his left eye. Shock...that's all I felt...shock. When did his excellent vision deteriorate when all we saw was progress?

So my mom has been patching Joaquin religiously since then. What is very interesting is that even when patched, Joaquin can see. He gets around just fine, doesn't bump into things. He watches his programs and looks at his books. He does everything he normally how is that blind?!? We will continue to do the patching and I am VERY eager to go to the next appointment and try and figure out what is going on with Joaquin's sight. I have a million questions and I will NOT miss this appointment.

I feel horrible about all of this. I feel responsible. I don't understand how this happened. I just want the best for my boy and will do whatever I can to help him. So I'm hoping and praying that his sight will be regained in his left eye. These things we take for so crucial and seem even more so when the challenges are already stacked against my little guy.

Love you "Joaquini"!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Children

The days here are getting warmer and warmer, today was close to 80, it is funny how its almost the same weather pattern as home.

Yesterday during our first visit we let Sofia take her usual nap, the care takers of Sofia's groupa were out walking with some of the kids as well so we had to be careful so they didn't notice Sofia sleeping. In this picture, Jen is propping Sofia up pretending to talk to her.

But you can see here she is really fast sleep.

When we got back for our second visit in the afternoon, the staff told us that we shouldn't let her sleep when we go out walking, because apparently she didn't want to take her nap when it was time...BUSTED! It is so hard not to let her sleep since she is so tired around 10 AM when we visit. We don't know what we are going to do today, we don't want to get in trouble again.

On the second visit we saw this mom that comes to visit her daughter on Sundays. It is the most heartbreaking thing to see, she loves her daughter so much but can't take her home because she won't have a future in this country. She visits every Sunday and bring her daughter Anna diapers and other necessities, treats for the children and the staff. She spends several hours with Anna taking her on walks, picking flowers for her, talking to her and loving her. We don't know the complete story but we know from Marina that she wants her baby to be adopted so that her daughter can have a better life than she would here. She is currently on Reece's Rainbow as waiting for a family. Jen and I can't image what it must be like to have to make the most difficult decision of giving your child for adoption when you love them so dearly. But at this date and time in Ukraine, she has no other option.

After 8 days of visits here, and seeing these children every day, you start to wonder what their story is. Even the "typical" children you see in the pictures, they are so beautiful and I wish we could take more home. Of course the children with special needs are the ones that need more help, they need therapy and care that they don't get here. But also the normal children, which look like any other child at a local park back in California, they need a home as well and it is heartbreaking to see them here in this place all alone.

We are so focused on Sofia and taking her home but it will be hard to leave so many more behind. We only hope and pray to God that it is just a matter of time until all these children find a loving family.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Holiday Weekend

Yesterday after our first visit and Sofia's morning nap we took another walk to town. This weekend is a big holiday weekend here in Ukraine and the weather is beautiful, for the first time we saw a bunch of people in short sleeves outside enjoying the weather...and children without snow hats!!!

We've wandered back and forth almost every day since we've been here from our apartment nearby the orphanage to the town center about a mile away. This town is about 30 minutes outside of Dnepropetrovsk...but we think it's still considered Dnep. We walk through a wooded section to get to the town center which consists of some apartment buildings, some government and business buildings, a supermarket, a couple bars, an outdoor market, a post office, a small mall (which consists of open stalls of various goods), a notary office and a bank. I'm sure there is much more than this but since we can only travel by foot this is what we've discovered.

Inside the supermarket, there is a bar. An open beer bar with no seats where you can get a freshly poured draft and continue on your shopping excursion. We found the same thing at the "open air" market...right when you enter there is a bar with beer on tap. Beer is EVERYWHERE. People walk around with their beer bottles...instead of bottles of soda.

There are quite a few cars but it looks like people walk more than anything as a mode of transportation. We've seen some scooters and motorcycles, many bicycles and then a few old cars speeding by. What is fascinating is that immediately next door to the orphanage, with a shared wall with barbed wire, there is a state of the art sports complex where the Ukrainian soccer team lives and trains. Immediately across the street from the orphanage is a huge walled and gated community which must be where some of the staff live for this soccer team. There is a stark contrast between the people and the cars in town versus the people we've seen coming out of this gated community. The cars that enter and exit these places are high end new cars...think Mercedes, Infiniti, Lexus, etc.

On the other shared wall with the orphanage is another interesting place that we haven't quite figured out. It may be a school as we've seen kids on the property at times. Or it may also be a vacant building. Some parts of this building are literally "bombed out" and there even appears to be a bomb shelter door leading underground at one spot. Very interesting place...besides the few kids we've seen playing adjacent to these buildings, the place is totally vacant.

We plan on spending some time this weekend exploring town in more depth. It's a 4 day holiday weekend and it's one of the bigger celebration weekends here in Ukraine so I'm sure we'll see some action. It's there version of Labor Day and May Day combined. Cars drive crazy here and pedestrians do not have the right of way and are not regarded as important so we'll try and be as careful as possible. The parks are full of people this weekend too. LOTS of picnics and barbeques. Hector is always so eager to see what they are cooking. I think he's getting hungry!

We would love to get the nerve to go into maybe one of the bars and see if there might be food associated with it. There is a local dish, a soup actually, that we are so eager to try. It's called "borscht" and we are craving it! If we can't find it in town (and we couldn't find it in the grocery store), then we might ask our landlady who lives below us to make it for us. She's a cook at the orphanage after all!

Speaking of our landlady, we adore her. I wish we could speak with her more. Today, she rushed out the door when she saw us leaving for the orphanage and said in beautiful English..."How are you?" She was SO proud of herself and went on in Russian how she studied that all day today. She then taught us how to say "Fine" in Russian. Love her!

We run into goats all the time here...munching away at the fields nearby. That's the only livestock we've seen. Also, dogs run rampant in this town. There seems to be a HUGE stray population of dogs here. Cats on the other hand are few and far between and the few that we have seen are definitely pets not stray. Very interesting! It's kinda scary to come across a pack of wild dogs on our walks home.

People here do NOT smile readily. I haven't let that stop me from smiling at them. It would appear that most people here look grumpy and unkind and uninterested. That may or may not be the case. The checkers at the grocery store are downright mean! The staff that we've got to know at the orphanage and our adoption facilitators (Marina, Serge, Nikolai and Yulia) and our landlady have been incredibly lovely so I'm thinking that it may just be an exterior front that you just have to break through to see the true spirit and personality of a Ukrainian.

Many of the older women in Ukraine dress very traditional in skirts and layers and scarves around their heads. The younger women of Ukraine...well...that's a different story entirely! The women dress in VERY short skirts, hose, high heels and tight fitting and often revealing tops. They also wear a lot of makeup and have "big" or brightly colored hair. The men all kind of look the same in very typical and familiar jeans and sweaters or sweatshirts.

We'll see what the rest of the weekend brings for us! Maybe, just maybe, we'll find some "borscht" for's become our running joke!