Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Happy 3rd Birthday Sofia Joy! Part 1

 Sofi J is THREE! She is so full of life and personality! She is very determined and knows what she likes, and what she doesn't like! I wondered a bit today about her birth mother and wishes I could share these pictures with her...to let her know this child is chosen and loved and cherished and celebrated! Our wild child is growing up...and I'm loving watching her slowly unfold into such a beautiful little girl, day by day, bit by bit! 

We had a really special day with the birthday girl :) While Zoya was at school and Uncle Mike was babysitting Mila, we took Sofia out to a special birthday breakfast and then to the lake! 

I love when we get the chance to spend 1-1 time with Sofia! She is so very different when it's just her and us! I am pretty certain all her birthday wishes came true today with some extra special time with Mom and Dad :) 

More birthday pictures to come....

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Zoya Goes to Kindergarten!

Zoya's first week of kindergarten was successful! It's a work in progress, of course, always tweaking and reevaluating to make sure we have a plan in place that will benefit Zoya in the best way possible! We recently moved, and a huge part of that decision was moving to a smaller town so our girls could benefit from smaller schools and a close-knit community. We weren't sure if we'd send her this year, wait another year, try homeschooling, or WHAT! For some time I really thought we'd end up keeping her home and taking "a year of respite" for our whole family. It's not easy balancing all of the therapies, medical appointments, meetings to ask for or coordinate specific services, reviews of said services/programs, etc. We pulled Zoya out of her preschool program about a month before school ended because it just wasn't working. We were tired of her coming home feeling defeated and we were tired of feeling defeated! It was exactly what our family needed-some "quiet" (if you can call it that) time together with fewer places to run kids to and from. We needed time to just love one another and celebrate one another and remember what this life is all about.

So we moved in July and we knew in order to get an appropriate program in place for Zoya we'd need to make a decision ASAP. We met with the new district to discuss our options. All kindergarten programs around us are all full day. We really weren't sure if Zoya was ready for a full day program. She fatigues easily, and when she is tired her behavior declines greatly. Although her anxiety is much better controlled than it was over the spring/first half of summer, she still struggles greatly with the effects of being a neglected orphan for 2 years. She doesn't trust others easily and we often see behaviors increase in new situations....heck we always see behaviors increase with any adults other than US. It's frustrating, because with us, for the most part, she is very well behaved. She's still learning to trust new authority figures and really does best around her immediate family. With that said, she also thrives when she makes meaningful friendships with peers and feels valued. She learns really well with me as her teacher, in a 1-1 setting, but I also know she's learned so many things from her typical peer classmates that I'd been trying to teach her for a long time with no success! So we decided to opt for a hybrid type program, designed just for our special little Zoya girl :) The district has been amazing and so willing to work with where we are and what our needs are! Zoya goes to a typical Kindergarten class all morning and leaves at lunch time to come home. I work with her at home on reviewing skills they're working on in school, and since she's missing math I will be working a lot with her on a math program! So I'm sort of half homeschooling, but not "officially" ;) We have the option to increase her day slowly if we all agree that she's ready and will benefit from it. We will decide at the end of the year if we want to do full day kindergarten next year or move on to first grade. We feel really good about the start of her school year and know she's in a place with many people willing to iron out the details! We feel like her program is really unique to HER which is how it should be!

She's coming home giving me bits and pieces of her day, naming a few friends and singing some songs. She has been practicing her letter writing all on her own and when I got the paper home about what they were working on it all made more sense. I see her carrying over things from school into home (she's been raising her hand saying "me! me! me! pick me!" which I find hilarious! :) Nearly every day when we pull up to the school building she squeals in a high pitched giddy little girl voice, "THERE IT IIIIISSSSSSS!" I can tell she feels loved and valued and that makes my mama heart so happy. Our biggest challenge continues to be following rules and learning appropriate social skills. She happily shows me all her stickers she earns each day and then also tells me if she did anything wrong (will she always tell on herself??!! haha).

I think the one thing that has made this transition so successful thus far has been PRAYER. I have never prayed harder in my life than I have for THIS CHILD! We pray on the way to school each morning and Zoya shares some things she wants to pray about. I've been surprised by what she asks to pray about. I asked her what she wanted to pray about when I was done praying and I almost crashed the car when she blurted out, "Ukraine. baby. scary." This happened on the way to school....as I'm thinking "Lord, why can't she just follow the rules and make this easy?" That's why...she's still struggling with the trauma she faced, in her own sweet little heart. It makes me tear up thinking about it. I don't know exactly what she's thinking in that little head of hers, but that was pretty telling for me and a reminder I needed. To go through what she's gone through and face such a big transition like this with such excitement (even though I now know in her heart she was/is a little nervous)...she is my hero.

I don't know what the next days, weeks, months, years hold for Zoya and her school experience, but I know we'll continue to take it one day at a time with the ultimate guiding goals that she feels SAFE and HAPPY. I'll keep praying my heart out because some days are just really tough when I feel we may not be making as much progress emotionally as I'd have hoped to have made by now. I am thankful for a God who is in the details and is capable of perfecting all that concerns my heart. His faithful love never ends, in the easy times, and in the hard!

We're really so excited for a great year for Zoya-a year of growing and learning and LOVING.

Up next, Mila goes to preschool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Zoya's first day of Kindergarten!!!!

Thank goodness Gramma Liz was here to give me a big hug when I returned home from dropping Zoya off!

This morning when I took pictures it wasn't sunny at all! The sun started peeking out when we were having this picture taken and when I saw the light on Zoya's face in the pic I knew my Grandpa was with us yet again for one of Zoya's biggest days. 

She was so excited!

This is where Mama got really teary! 

Ready for Kindergarten!!

I forgot in the shuffle to get pics of Zoya with her sisters!!! I guess I'll have to do that when she gets home :) Last night was tough for this mama and I thought I got all my tears out at midnight, but no such luck...there were more to come today! I know it probably sounds crazy but I felt very similar to the way I felt when we had to hand Mila over for open heart surgery. Now, don't get me wrong, I know her life is not at risk, but that vulnerable feeling of handing your baby off to people you have to trust with your child's life is just not easy!!! She was so excited about Kindergarten this morning talking about her principal and her teacher and her helper and making new friends! I am a nervous wreck waiting to hear how it goes! I'll post more about the kindergarten transition process and what Zoya's day looks like another time! But for now I'm going to keep looking over THESE OLD POSTS OF FIRST DAYS PAST and hold my phone tight.....juuuuuuuuuust in case! ;) 

'Twas the Night Before Kindergarten....

Twas the night before the first day of Kindergarten when all through the house
only one creature was stirring, and it was Mama mouse.
The backpack was hung by the door with care
in hopes that the kindergartner wouldn't forget it there.

The kindergartener was nestled all snug in her bed, 
while visions of the new school danced in her head.
Daddy was snoring as Mama lay there in place
with big wet tears streaming down her face.

The first day's clothing was so carefully picked out
This kindergartener would be well dressed, no doubt.
Mama prepared the snacks and supplies
and wrote a little note as she cried.

Knowing with these first day jitters she'd get no sleep, 
Mama looked at baby pictures, letting out a sob so deep.
She wondered how it was that time went so fast 
and how it could be that so many days had already passed.

As the quiet fell around her she tiptoed up the stairs
and peeked in at her sweet kindergartner, stealing a moment that was theirs.
Mama knelt down by her bed
as a long anxious prayer was said.

In her heart she knew that her sweet girl was ready
Mama took one more mental picture of that tiny little girl snuggling her teddy.
She took a deep breath and smiled 
knowing that her heart only learned to be so tender thanks to this very child!

I don't know how I'm going to get through tomorrow! I cried through writing that whole poem, and through bedtime tonight and as I prepared her snacks and bag and peeked in on her. Thank goodness we're only starting with half days!! Pray for this Mama (and of course for Zoya!)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Sailing, Pontoon Boat, and The Fire Truck

This summer Zoya and Mila participated in this sailing program. Sofia's not quite ready to trust anyone besides Mom and Dad yet so she got to hang out on the doc and ride the pontoon boat while her sisters were having their turns sailing. Today was the last sailing session of the summer (tear!) This means the snow will be coming soon, I wish I was kidding! 

A Mila sighting! 

Hold on tight Uncle Mike! 

Zoya is known as the pontoon boat hostess! She insists on sharing her snacks with ALL the riders, even if they're not hungry ;) ! 

Sofia was feeding the ducks!

Piggies waving in the wind! 

C'mon Sofia, act like you're having some fun! 

That's better! 

Spotted Mila again...this time with some sopping wet pig tails! :) 

After sailing the little ladies went home with Dad and Zoya and I went for a stroll with Kimmy. Kimmy is a CCI dog that is handled by one of Zoya's therapists. She visits Zoya every time the therapist visits! Zoya absolutely loves Kimmy! We happened upon a fire truck with some firefighters getting ready to practice some dives in the choppy chilly waters! They let Zoya hop on and check out the truck! 

 Zoya and Kimmy even got to sit on the front of the fire truck! 

I'm pretty sure Kimmy is smiling here! 

I can't believe summer is winding down already! We are getting ready to send Zoya off to Kindergarten and I can hardly stand it! Mama is going back to work part time too so lots of changes around here! More to come about Kindergarten! Happy Friday!