Friday, June 25, 2010

LOVE him!

Can he get any more edible? This photo was taken by a friend on her iphone so it's not the best quality but I just LOVE him and his face and his green eyes. I swear I kiss him a thousand times per day!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sofia's First Playdate

On the same whirlwind day that the news reporter came to our house to do a quick interview on our little "star" Sofia, we rushed off to attend a music therapy playdate at a friend's house. We were so excited to see a HUGE group of friends attending the group and Sofia got to meet so many of her new girlfriends. There must have been about 10 children there (not including siblings) and all with DS and when Joaquin arrived he was the only boy (with DS) in attendance and he sure poured on the charm for everyone. Sofia was a little social butterfly and happily was passed from one mama to another and even participated in the music therapy session. I swear this little girl LOVES a crowd and enjoys all the attention! She really lights up around big groups of adoring people.

Here are a few snapshots from the morning playdate. Check out Sofia taking a ride in the big drum and Joaquin at the front of the class practicing his animal "signs".

We look forward to LOTS more of these in the future! We are so blessed to have an amazing community of families touched by DS and we (the mamas) affectionately call ourselves The Sisterhood. I love my "sisters" as if they were family. They have been an incredible support and it's just a wonderful feeling to have so many great families to experience this journey with. We hope to raise our children together and watch them grow and thrive and build friendships based on these early playdates. It's so exciting to think of all the kids when they get older. And judging by the numbers at today's playdate, Sofia will have LOTS of sleepovers and princess dress up playdates and tea parties at the park with all her "girls". And Joaquin....well, the odds are in his favor when it comes time for a homecoming date!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Joaquin Stealing the Show!

Sofia & Joaquin on TV Today

Friday, June 18, 2010

Happy 4th Anniversary to Reece's Rainbow!

Video Montage for Reece's Rainbow on their 4th Anniversary!

Get your tissues ready. This is a very powerful video. I am in awe of what Andrea at Reece's Rainbow has been able to accomplish with her adoption ministry. I am honored to be a part of it. Look for faces that you will recognize in the video (my dearest Leeza and precious Anna both still waiting for a family!). Please open your hearts and consider adoption or please continue to support other families trying to save the life of an orphan. Like Andrea said, there is no shortage of families wishing to adopt, only the funds.

Thank you so much for taking this journey with us!

Our New Family

I'm going to have to figure out a new blog title now that we are FOUR!

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Big Brother

Joaquin is a BIG BROTHER!

Sofia has arrived and our family is complete with our latest addition! Finally a little bit of pink in the house!

You can read all about our homecoming here and here. Joaquin greeted Sofia with a big kiss! He seems like such a big boy now that there is a baby in the house!

Our First Day

We spent the day visiting with friends, taking a stroller walk, walking to Starbucks, visiting our Great Aunt Tootie at her Senior Living Center, getting a social security card and swimming at Nana and Grandpa's pool. It was a perfect summer day and I hope there are MANY more to come!

Sofia is having some difficulty with the time change so we tried to get out and about as much as possible so that she could feel the "daytime" and be ready for bed tonight. I think it worked. She got some good California sunshine and took her first swim in the pool. She was a bit unsure about it but overall she did amazing since it was on the cool side.

The boys are loving their baby sister. Diego is the caretaker. He wants to make sure she is happy, safe and fed. He gave her two of her bottles today and took great care in feeding her. Mateo constantly hovers around Sofia, giving her kisses and hugs and making sure she always has a toy nearby. Joaquin stops to give a kiss here and there but otherwise that boy is BUSY! His new walking skills are WAY more interesting right now than baby sister. Too funny! He is overall VERY gentle with her and every time he kisses her he strokes his face which is the sign for "gentle" so he gets it...MOST of the time. He did sneak in a little pull of her fuzzy hair today but mostly because he was really wound up from wrestling with his brothers.

Today at the social security office we discovered that the man behind the counter helping us with our application was actually born in the same city as Sofia! What are the chances? It really truly is a small world! This ended up being a blessing in disguise since all of Sofia's official documents are in Russian and we needed them to be translated in person (they don't accept outside translations) so he was able to sit and read her birth certificate and adoption decree right there in front of us. It was so incredible! What are the chances?

A couple local news stations called today and yesterday wanting to do a follow up story on Sofia so I think I'll give them a call tomorrow. We need to let our community know that Sofia is home and so so happy!

3 Boys and a Baby Girl

Sofia is HOME!

Oh those sweet words...Sofia is home.

And because I'm not sure when I'll get another spare moment in the next few days of getting settled with our newest addition, I will send you over to my dear friend and "sister" Lisa at Genenetically Enhanced who was able to document us getting to the airport and some of our first few moments all together as a family.

Oh what a sight to see, our three golden boys waiting for us with Nana and a group of my closest friends and fellow "sisters". Thank you everyone for all the love and support. It means the WORLD to us.

Sofia's Homecoming!

I'll post again soon with how things are going as a family of six and some more photos and videos of the boys with their new sister and how Sofia adjust to being home in California.

Much love and blessings to you all!

Monday, June 14, 2010

We're Coming HOME!

Today we got Sofia's Visa at the U.S. Embassy so we are completely DONE with our adoption! YAHOO! We are headed back home early tomorrow morning and we'll arrive Tuesday night in Sacramento. Two days earlier than we originally planned. We can hardly believe it!

We've tried to soak up as much as we can of Ukraine. We took a 2 hour walking tour of Kiev yesterday with Nikolai's daughter and learned so much about the history of Ukraine and realized that it truly is a VERY young country as it has only been independent since 1991. It was so interesting to hear the perspective of a young citizen of Ukraine and all her hopes and disappointments about the country and it's leadership.We hope for the best for Ukraine and it's people...all it's people...especially the orphans, the elderly, and the disabled. Again, we have so much to be grateful for in the United States.

So it's on to a new chapter in our lives. We're now a family of SIX! We cannot wait for the boys to meet their new sister.

But especially for this boy to become a big brother for the first time!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Wedding, Anyone?

In the course of an hour walk, we saw at least a dozen brides if not more (we seriously lost count!) at the historic park across the street from our apartment in Kiev. When we saw the first one, we were so excited...oh, look someone is getting married! And then we saw another...and another...and another. It got quite comical.  In fact, it was a parade of brides in the park. It was at least 90 degrees at around 3pm and everywhere we turned we saw a different white dress with a sweaty groom attached. LOTS of champagne bottles popping, too. The occasional blushing bride. Even a bridezilla pouting and stomping her feet at her photographer. It was hilarious! It seems that in Ukraine it is customary to get married in the church and then to take a pilgrimage to the park and make an offering of flowers to the eternal flame monument overlooking the Dniper River.

And then, after the photo op, you head in one of these to a nearby restaurant for the after party!

Cheers to all the beautiful Ukrainian brides!

An Afternoon Walk in Kiev

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Today was GOTCHA day for Sofia!

When I woke up this morning I was overwhelmed with emotion. My feelings about this whole experience have been all over the map but today especially. I felt so incredibly excited about finally brining Sofia home. We've waited 6 months for this moment but I also felt a huge amount of sadness for the ones left behind. It's so hard to explain. My heart absolutely aches for all of the orphans left waiting for a family. So with a heavy and happy heart, we set off to scoop Sofia up around 10 am.

We arrived to discover it was a very busy day at the orphanage. There were teams of "doctor" types visiting all of the groupas and so the staff were very preoccupied and seemed nervous and on edge. It was almost as if it were examination day and these groups of people all dressed in white coats were examining the children and the staff had to be alert to answer their questions.

When the staff saw us, they knew the reason we were there and so they scrambled to go get Sofia. One of our ABSOLUTE favorite staff members was there today so I was thrilled to be able to say goodbye to her. We brought the groupa some bananas (a rare and expensive treat to the children) and some baby cookies. We also brought diapers and a large box of chocolates for the staff. We also presented them with a brand new little girl's outfit as a trade offering so that we could bring a pair of old orphanage tights home to have something from Sofia's first home.

Out came Sofia with WILD hair and a HUGE grin! It was marvelous! The staff had so much to say to us so we got Marina on the phone to help us translate. Basically they wanted us to know that they love us, they are grateful to us, they wish us well, and wish for us a safe journey home with Sofia.

Sofia was in her usual form cheerful and sunny but she seemed to be especially giddy today. I wonder if somehow she knew deep down what was going on.
When they brought her to us she had nothing on but a diaper so we dressed her in her sweet little outfit and pulled out her hat...we knew we better have a hat or we might get scolded! And of course a few minutes later one of the staff brought me some long socks to put on her. At first I thought, I better listen to her and put them on but since it was about 90 degrees today, I shook my head and said "No thank you!" It was actually a really sweet gesture, she was going to give them to us and again I realized the staff really do care about these children.

We said our goodbyes with Sofia waving and laughing and made our way to Sofia's "baby" groupa down the hall. The staff took one look at little Sofia and burst into cheers and happiness. They wanted to thank us for the couch and they let us walk into the room (such a "no no" here so we were thrilled!) and we got to see the couch and ALL THE BABIES! Oh my goodness, there were shirtless diapered babies EVERYWHERE and they were ADORABLE. I couldn't scan the room fast enough to try and see if I recognized any of them. I think I saw at least one pair those familiar and beautiful almond eyes! But about a minute into our visit, one of the "visiting doctors in a white coat" shouted in the scariest tone something to the staff and we were quickly led out of the room. If the staff had tails, they would have been tucked in tight after that scolding! Regardless, the smiles were bountiful from Sofia's first "mamas" and we were so happy to have at least said goodbye to them.

Then we made our way to the head nurse to say goodbye and of course ran into everyone on the way. I think every staff person was on duty today for whatever special inspection was going on. So of course Sofia was on display and was giving the crowds what they asked for...smiles and "Paka Paka" waves. We waited a minute for the nurse to arrive (and boy did she seem stressed out today!) and we presented her with a box of chocolates and then we were on our way.

We took our last walk from the orphanage to our apartment, this time with Sofia in our arms and it was an emotional moment for sure. On our way back, I tripped on something and almost lost my balance and I had Sofia in my arms. I was able to regain my footing and not lose hold of Sofia but in that moment it was sheer panic for both Hector and me. I almost dropped Sofia on the pavement on our walk home having her not even 10 minutes under my watch. Oh the pipeworks started. The tears and sobs were uncontrollable. I was so shaken by it. She was fine, I was fine but in that moment I realized that I had fallen literally and figuratively for my daughter. I love her and want to protect her for the rest of her life. Hector was so nervous too and I realized then how much he cares for her as well. All was fine and I DIDN'T drop her and we made it home in one piece. Phew!

When we got home we put on the fans and let Sofia play and relax on the floor with her toys. She was so curious about her new surroundings but took it all in like a true champ. She's such an easy going child. She happily played and smiled for us but within 10 minutes she was OUT. She just put her head down on the ground and fell asleep. I don't know if it was the heat or the excitement of the morning but guess what? We let her sleep! was only 11 AM and she hadn't had her lunch and this wasn't her scheduled nap time...but we were so happy to let her sleep when she felt like it. Can you imagine that feeling? I put a little blanket under her head and she managed to stay there for awhile sleeping.

THREE HOURS LATER, she was still asleep and had managed to get herself in all sort of different sleeping positions. It was adorable to watch but I was SO tempted to wake her up just to be with her more. But soon enough around 2pm she woke up...happy! For the rest of the day, I managed to be her mama. Changed a poopy diaper, fed her some cereal, gave her a bottle, gave her a bath, massaged some lavender lotion on her, brushed her teeth, sang for her, rocked her, played with her. It was a wonderful first day together and after a little dinner she put herself to sleep again for the night. Right now, Hector and Sofia are sleeping soundly and I'm left here pondering all the great fortune in my life. I feel so blessed and happy. Thank you God for opening this adoption door for me and for giving me the courage and the faith to walk through it. I am forever grateful and forever changed.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Summer at the Orphanage...and We've Got Photos!

Summer at the orphanage is completely different!
Today we went to the orphanage at Sofia's visiting hours and after we presented the director with all the donated clothes and toys we went over to Sofia's groupa.  We were surprised to find the room almost entirely empty. There were only two or three children left in the room and I could barely see them as they are very ill and are kept pretty isolated.

We quickly realized that the staff had taken all the children OUTSIDE to a covered outdoor permanent playpen and all the kids were dressed in diapers and tank tops (NO SHOES OR SOCKS!) and the they had put out a few toys and some blankets. At first Hector and I were a bit nervous to walk over there but we quickly realized that the staff were totally open to us coming over! The staff even introduced us to all of the kids by their names. Hector snapped LOTS of photos and I got to play with Sasha (the cutie pie who is going to be adopted later this year from an RR family), Anna (the adorable brunette girl with DS that I love dearly), Leeza (the sweet girl with DS and FAS that has stolen and broken my heart) and another little darling boy named Trenton (new to the RR website) and a little girl named Sasha (who does not have DS but has an orthopedic condition and is not on RR yet!).Maybe the conditions are not as bad as I feared here at this orphanage. The staff today are some of our favorite staff members that we've come to know and I am so happy to say that I do feel they care for these kids and I saw them interact and hold the kids today. I hope it wasn't just a "show" for us but a general care and consideration for the children. I'm sure they have their bad days and days when they are understaffed but today was a good day. A happy day. Warms my heart!

I am THRILLED to report that I got to hold Leeza and play with the rest of the kids. I got Leeza and Anna to smile- YEAH! I had Anna laughing which was the first time I have seen a range of emotion on Anna. She loves to be tickled and it was just adorable. Sasha was up to his usual antics and was as charming as ever. It's definitely Sasha that makes himself known in the groupa, that boy loves attention and knows how to get it.  Leeza can definitely see and has good fine motor control. I watched her pick the smallest pieces of lint off a blanket and pieces of bark off the ground to try and eat it! She's a fast one...she got a piece of something in her mouth before I could grab it out of her hands. The staff seemed hesitant to let me hold Leeza pointing to her newly shaved head and the scabs but I told them I didn't care and grabbed her anyway. She responds to people, looks at your face and tries to make eye contact. Again, there is a sweet spirit in there! When you look at the photos look beyond the bald head. She has platinum blond hair like Sasha and pale blue eyes. No photo will ever do her justice to what I see in her in person. There are a few children missing from the groupa and we don't know where they went. I'm not going to allow myself to think about that too much for fear of the worst. And there is a new handsome boy Trenton. I'm not sure what medical condition Trenton has and if it is DS then he is very high functioning and it is not very apparent. We weren't able to get any photos of him because the staff took him back as soon as we got there.

For those of you wanting more info on the kids, I saw a heart surgery scar on Sasha and Leeza. None on the others. Sasha and Anna are army crawling but can both pull up to a stand position and cruise. Trenton was being help most the time but I have seen him pull to stand and cruise as well as sit at a baby chair independently to eat. Leeza rolls around and cannot sit up but if she wants to get somewhere she can get there and fast in her own way!

It seems the staff are happier and more easy going now that the weather is better and more pleasant. I was so happy to see the children outside and the kids were happier too. They seemed happy to be in the fresh air and shade and although I'm sure they long to be roaming more freely than the bars that contained them in the playpen, this was at least a start! So, I am happy to say that my goal of getting to hold and play with the kids was accomplished and we have the pictures to share as well. I feel so much better now just knowing that I was able to connect however briefly with the children. I will miss them and hope and pray that they are all safe in a loving home as soon as possible. These children need you!

During our morning visit, we put Sofia in the outdoor playpen to see how she interacts with the children. It was immediately apparent that she is the most robust child in this groupa! What are they feeding her that they aren't feeding the others!!! She is just a sweet girl and full of laughs and smiles. The staff really love her. I watched her and Anna interact and baby "chat" with each other. They were adorable together. I know Sofia is going to LOVE her brothers when she gets home. They will be a source of constant entertainment!

Later that morning, we asked to feed Sofia so we could get a glimpse of what to buy her in terms of baby food etc. They prepared her meal by mashing it up and creating a think soup and then put it in a bottle with a LARGE hole in the nipple. The soup was a mixture of carrots, cabbage, potato, meat, bread and gravy...and it had a very pungent smell. The thick soup essentially poured into Sofia's mouth when I fed her. She ate/drank about half of that and she was done. Then the staff brought out another bottle filled with what they called compote which was a thick hot fruit juice which again she drank in about 1 minute. I'm wondering now how much of a challenge it will be to feed Sofia and if she will have the patience to actually suck from a normal bottle. We'll soon find out. I think I'm going to stick with rice cereal, oatmeal, bananas, applesauce, sweet potato and apple juice/water until we get home. I don't want to upset her stomach during our week left in Ukraine. We'll get more adventuresome when we get home. I think they give her one bottle of milk a day (but we have not seen this) but due to her excema and her congestion I think we'll hold off on formula or milk until we get home too. Maybe we'll get her some yogurt here instead. I'm sure hoping my experience in raising 3 boys will pay off now with caring for Sofia.

Tomorrow is the big day. We still have more supplies to purchase for Sofia which we will do first thing in the morning and then we will go and pick her up!