Monday, February 10, 2014

I'm writing today with such a full heart. Let me start by telling you a little about Mila. Mila was born in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. She was born to a mother, a Senior Professor with a PhD in Science/Chemistry  and a Father who is a Senior Professor, both at a major University in Siberia. They are established and have been married for many years. Mila was born 4 years ago today, November 27th 2009 and was abandoned 2 days later, because she has Down syndrome.
I do not hold any ill feelings against her birth parents. They didn't know. They were more than likely told that this would be best for them and the baby. They do not have the same awareness that we have here in America. I often look at Mila's beauty and wonder what her parents and sister look like today.
I often joke about Heavenly Father sending her down across the world so I could "play" Where's Waldo with my kids. Well, it took me 1.5 years to find her, but I found her! He hid her GOOD :)
I was sent an updated picture of her, when we were "on the fence" about a few little girls. When I opened up the attachment with her picture in it, I KNEW. I knew 100 % she was MINE. I showed the picture to my husband and he said "that's the one."
Mila officially became ours on February 22nd 2012. An Orphan NO MORE. Just a few months shy of the Russian government banning all US adoptions of Russian children. We could have lost her had it been just a couple more months. If we had not had the selfless donors that we had and one AMAZING substantially large donation from an amazing family, we might have missed out on the blessing of Mila. I can honestly say, there is not one single day that goes by..not one...that I do not think of these people. This particular large donor told me that he felt strongly that I needed to get her home sooner than later...wow. Thank goodness for promptings, AND people that listen to them.

So, a little about Mila. She is happy, and loves her family. This little girl loves her Momma more than any child I've ever seen. She trust her mom and dad. She trusts and loves her brother and sisters, though that took a little longer. She has a "favorite" sibling that she adores. She can't sit still for too long. She loves food...ALL food. She appreciates things immensely. She is a quick learner and loves books. She loves Micky Mouse, Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins and Peppa Pig. She often has a small paint brush/makeup brush or a toothbrush in her hand, rubbing it on her lips or sucking on it. She loves water..everything about it, drinking it, playing in it, pouring, bathing in it..everything and anything you can do with it.

Mila loves to dance. She is really good at it, like REALLY good. She loves music. She is very observant and imitates things she sees. She uses sign language very well. She is deathly afraid of loud noises. She is scared to death of the 4th of July, sirens, and car washes. It is like she has had a scary experience with something loud. It is a TRUE fear.

Mila will wave at someone if she sees that I know them, but will NOT let anyone pick her up. She is extremely cautious of people. She does not trust anyone outside of her immediate family to hold her or get too close to her. She will let my sister Kelly, whom we see often, pick her up for a second, but that is long enough. She loves deeper than anyone I've ever known. She looks into my eyes while I hold her with such pure love. It takes a lot of time for her to open up to anyone, but once she does...it's forever, and completely unconditional. She has always come to my dad, she has never been afraid or leery of him. He has held her for a few seconds before at our house, but she always gets right down. Recently we had family pictures. Mila of course runs to me or yells "no" if anyone gets too close talking to her. THEN...out of nowhere...it happened!!!


She went to my dad, and he held her for a looong time. My Heart. I cannot explain in words what this did to my heart. I love them both. 

Giving birth to Hope, my biological daughter with Ds, changed my life. Adopting Mila changed the way I view life.



Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Willing and Able

     In 2008 I had 3 children. I was NOT going to have any more. I was DONE!! I really struggled with 3. I hated going anywhere. I had a friend tell me during a church trunk or treat one year, (where I broke out into tears while my 1 year old took off running and calling her name only made her laugh and run faster) that it was normal to be stressed. She had 8 kids...She always seemed so calm and happy. I asked her how in the world she made it past 3! She said to look at the gap between her 3rd and 4th kids. Sure enough, she had also struggled at 3 kids.

    I had always wanted a large family. I was from a family of 5 kids and we are all close, and they are my best friends. I wanted that for my kids. Well...a few months later I found out I was completely and unexpectedly pregnant. LOOOOONG story short, 3 days after Christmas 2009 I gave birth to a 3 lb 12 oz little girl....with Down syndrome. My life changed. I was quickly blessed with an extended amount of patience and capability. I was also blessed with an extraordinary amount of Love. It is a love that I have not been able to explain to another soul. Words cannot explain it. I feel like I have a glimpse of understanding of the way our Savior loves us. I love all of my children unconditionally, but there's just something about Hope.



 We just can not get enough of her!

 

       We soon found Reece's Rainbow, a ministry that is dedicated to finding children with Ds, mainly in Eastern Europe, loving homes. I found out that in these countries these precious, special children are immediately given up for adoption at birth. They are considered less than human, broken. They are soon after sent to live in remote mental institutions away from the visibility of the rest of the world...forgotten. This just broke my heart. I had to help. I had to give at least one a family. 
We adopted Mila, after 3 long trips to Russia.
We finally brought her home in 2012. When we first met her she didn't know how to laugh. She was 2 years old. We fixed that real fast! She didn't know what a kiss was. She had never been clapped at and told "good job" or "yay!"  She now LIVES for those moments.
She loves to be praised. She loves her Mom, probably more than any child I've ever seen. She loves her Dad. She adores her brother and sisters. She loves food. ANY food. She eats all her food, then makes her rounds to everyone elses plates and finishes their left overs. She loves to learn. She is so so smart. She is stubborn. She is hyper. She is ours, and we are HERS. She loves it. When we are laying together at night she will just suck on her tongue and look at me, with her arm around me, and I have never seen so much love come from one set of eyes.

I feel so privileged to be entrusted with these special spirits. I feel able. I feel like I have a purpose. I absolutely love it. Now, that's not to say there are not hard moments, or days...because there definitely are. There are moments I want to scream, there are moments that I DO scream. I don't go anywhere with all the kids unless I absolutely HAVE to. I have a husband that helps tremendously. We own a business that allows him to be flexible with his time. That has been such a blessing. But.....There are very happy moments and days. There are times that we laugh so hard, and love even more. There are moments of absolute joy. These are the moments that makes it all worth it. Each and every little accomplishment, makes it all worth it. 
   Every hug, laugh and kiss make it all worth it.




About a year ago I came across a documentary about a Ukrainian Institution.
 It is the first time ever that cameras have been allowed in such a place. It is called Ukraine's Forgotten Children. It takes place in the region of Zaporozhye  in a place called Kalinovka. If you can find any time, it is such a good documentary. It changed my life..again. I became so intrigued by these children. I have so much admiration for the people who are trying to make a difference and care about these kids. They are doing the best with what they have been given. We are so blessed to live in America. I really gained a true appreciation of that when I went to Russia.

      These kids are orphans. Most are social orphans, meaning they are not true orphans. They have one or both parents still alive. Most have signed away rights when they were born with their disability. Very few have a parent that may still visit them, but cannot afford to raise them, or don't have the means to do it. One that I know of in particular, that is in the documentary, her mother wont give up rights because she is living under the delusion that her daughter will one day be "normal."  
After watching this movie, I did some further research on Kalinovka and the children there. I found myself just drawn to them. One little girl in particular caught my eye in the documentary, just in the background, but I noticed her.

                                           I found many more pictures of her and videos.
                                                    

I watched her grow up in pictures, from earlier pictures to recent pictures. I saw pictures of her at a young age with her hands red and raw from "self soothing."

                                   
                              I wanted to go back in time so so badly and be her mother!!!


I became friends with someone who had visited these kids and she told me all about her. She had said:
 " ...you could just tell she was simply DESPERATE to have me to herself and was trying any way she could think of to make that happen. I adored her, I could see how much she would shine with a family of her own. This seemed to be a little girl ready to grab life if only she could get a chance. Her desperate longing, played out in her fighting defensiveness of her time with me, was simply heartbreaking. 

Her vulnerability, obvious from the start became magnified when the caregiver within the room moved her away from me to have her photo taken with two other children. She was positioned 'just so', her arm wrapped around her friend's shoulder, a happy pose but her face said it all! Her face crumbling into tears because she had been moved away from me. Her compliance to the caregiver's orders accompanied with her wobbling mouth, painfully desperate to see. "


This little girl is now 11, though she looks younger. She often sits alone, rocking herself, and will continue to do so. It is so much more difficult for these children to find homes because they are "older."  I've thought this same thing myself...until recently. I have really grown fond of these older kids...Kids...that is what they are. They are not adults, they are just little kids. They are mentally and even physically younger than that. When she was little she had the most beautiful smile and mischievous eyes.


                                                                  I love her.
                                    I have watched her slowly start to lose that sparkle.
                                                She doesn't smile like she used to
.
                                                     ..But, I know it's still there.
 



 She has been listed on Reeces Rainbow for quite a while now along with many other children from her institute. Where they may stay until they age out of adoption, which is a very sad reality.

   We have always known we'd probably adopt again. I looked at a 6 year old from this region a while back and was actually wanting to commit to adopt her, but she died before anyone could get to her. It breaks my heart. All it takes is getting sick one time and not getting the needed medical care, and it all can go downhill so fast. Especially when their little bodies have never had adequate nutrition. I have become friends with a woman that volunteers so much of her time toward these kids. She is the true meaning of service. She loves them, gives them her time and attention, which is all they really want. They don't "need" a Playstation or Nintendo, or new bike...they just want attention. They physically fight for it at times.

   I know most people say "Not my problem" or "Can't save them all" or "there will always be orphans out there."  I understand that. I used to be that person. I used to think the same thing.
                                              *Down syndrome changed me.*
I just have a bigger heart and a new awareness. With this "disability" also came so many more ABILITIES. Some people are able to donate money to these causes, that is their ABILITY. Some can donate time, that is their ABILITY. Some people run organizations and charities to help, that is their ABILITY.  None of these are mine... I have a loving home and a special love for these children. I have a family that has extra love to give. I have plenty of food and room to share. I have a knowledge of a specific diagnosis, and am willing to put that knowledge to use. I am willing and I am able. I know my life is not the same as many others. I know that people look at me, with my 5 kids, my 2 special needs kids, and think I am crazy. The truth is, I'm happy. I love my life. We all have different strengths and different weaknesses. While you look at me and think "I don't know how you do it" I may look at you and think the same thing of your life. I am not "amazing" I am not "crazy" I am not "trying to save the world"  I am just able.... willing and able. This is MY ABILITY.

      Every decision we make, we make as a FAMILY. We go by the spirit. We go by OUR answers to OUR prayers. It is extremely hard knowing that we will be judged for giving one of Heavenly Father's precious children a loving home. It is hard knowing we will be judged by people close to us. I hope and pray...literally I have prayed a lot, for family and friends, and acquaintances to appreciate the decision that we have made to adopt again. It is going to be okay, It really is. If anyone can remember back to my younger years, I have seriously made worse decisions. We feel privileged to get tho care for these individuals during our lifetime. We are absolutely okay with this service. MORE than okay. I know we will be watched over and blessed every step of the way. I have absolute faith in that.

.......So, are we going to bring this little girl home???
                                 
*I do not know yet*


                                  I do, however know we will be bringing home "Dillon"


My son has begged and begged for a brother. I have always been so stand offish towards this, Ds- wise, for no other reason than I am just comfortable with girls with Ds . That's all I know. Well, this one came out of nowhere and stole all our hearts. He has so much potential. He is so smart. He is so tender and loving.
Here is a quick clip of him..This clip did me in!!!


                      How sweet is he!!!

I went back and watched the documentary again. I immediately recognized him in several clips, Specifically clip time  36:46 in the documentary.
   He is on the right hand side among all the other boys.  He does not belong there! None of them do, but he just seems so out of place.
                                           We ARE going to give him a family.
                       One with so much love and laughter and will give him his full potential,
            We are really excited, and a little nervous, not about bringing him home, but about what others will have to say, but we know what we are doing is right. And YES, we have thought of absolutely everything there is to consider, the good and the bad. This is not a decision we have taken lightly. We have been in this process for quite a long time now.


                                      *************************************


                  THERE!....I'm out of the closet!   Been holding this one in for a while. My husband and I have finally come to the conclusion that this is OUR family. We don't need to let others opinions or negative comments change the outcome for this child/children. It will be challenging at times with 3 maybe 4 children with Ds and 3 without, but so worth it in the end.
This life on Earth is so short. My family ......is Eternal.    Just because things are different or scary does not mean we should not do them. We can do and handle so much more than we think we can. We are each capable of so much.  Imagine if everyone lived to their full potential on this Earth. That would be one amazing place.
                                   
                                    **************************************

P.S. You can see the profiles of some of the children that can be adopted from this institution HERE on Reeces Rainbow. If there is a child that you are interested in or wanna know more about, or one you saw on the documentary that is not listed, let me know, I'll find out what I can. :)  FYI...If you do watch the video, Margarita can NOT be adopted.