Monday, December 27, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Where to begin?

I have failed miserably at staying on top of blog posts. I assure you, we are alive and well.  Darya is alive and well and wonderful!  I suppose, just like everyone else, life is just plain ole busy.  With homeschooling, never-ending laundry, cleaning, doctor appointments, and everything else I've just put blog posts on the back burner.  I've hardly had time to brush my teeth before noon (so don't come knockin' at my door before that! lol)

Anyway, every day I am amazed at our little angel.  I often forget that just a few short months ago she was in an orphanage and not with our family! In that short amount of time, she's learned to walk (more than just a few steps - she's so close to walking exclusively!), sign a handful of words ("milk" being her favorite), eat solids (she loves goldfish crackers and can feed them to herself), and to just love and be loved. When we first went to the orphanage, she didn't even know how to be held on the hip or how to play with toys.  It just brings me so much joy to watch her blossom before our very eyes.  It makes me sad to think of how much she missed out in those first years of her life. But I thank God that she is with a family now and for the rest of her life!

A couple of days ago, we had the privilege of having the Hollis family over for lunch.  It was Lydia's Christmas wish to meet Darya!  How sweet is that?  It was wonderful to finally meet their beautiful family in person, and I just loved seeing Lydia with Darya!  They truly are a wonderful family and we are so grateful to them and everyone who helped us to bring Darya home with our family.  I have to brag on their kids for a moment - they were all super polite and sweet, and Hope and Charlie are absolutely adorable!  Hopey gave Joel and me the best bear hugs!  And the boys were excited they got to play a little football with Caleb :-)

Now for some pics and short videos (once again, pardon the poor photo quality - they're still a bit fuzzy from the pool incident :-/ ):


Our Christmas gift this year! Remember the name "Darya" is similar to the Greek word for "gift"?  That's our sweet little girl!

Lydia and Darya!

The Hollis and Fick kids - good lookin' bunch of kids, if I may say so!

Look what I'm wearing!

 Dancing to Christmas tunes
video

 "Playing" Legos with her brothers
video

"Leaf me alone Mom, I'm busy!"
video

Walkabout the house (she's a bit raspy sounding due to a slight cold) - look at her go!
video

Thursday, December 16, 2010

665 Thanks!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to Ben's fundraiser!!  I think he had hoped to raise about $20 for his ABC-shells, but he raised $665 ($165 from the Chip-in, and someone else sent in a $500 check)!!!  I am so proud of my son and his tender little heart, and so grateful to all of those who donated.  We're praying that sweet little Carlene, who turns five this month, will get a family quickly before she's transferred to the mental institution.  The orphanage director has been holding her at the orphanage longer than she should be, so we're praying that money will no longer stand in the way between Carlene and a family.  The Hollis family, who has been raising money for Carlene's grant, has raised quite a bit. So with all of the funds combined, she how has over $5,000 in her adoption grant (and I believe a couple thousand more is coming from the Hollis girls' fundraiser at school)!  Isn't she beautiful?

Okay, now to find out who the much anticipated winner is of Ben's ABC-shells and Nate's portrait of his brother.  Drumroll please  .........................................................................................................................................................................................................................GILBERT BACA!  Thank you and we'll get those out in the mail for all of you as soon as possible :-)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

ABC-Shells for Carlene

The other night, Ben, our 7 year old son came to me in tears.  His heart was broken for the orphans.  The reality of life for orphans, of children just like him, just hurt his tender heart.  He wanted to help, but didn't think he could do anything since he's only a 7 year old kid. He was feeling utterly inadequate and helpless.  I comforted him the best I could and reminded him of Darya's amazing story, how a year ago a kid like him (11 year old Lydia Hollis) raised almost $30,000 in under two weeks!  And not only was Darya able to come home with that grant, but also another child for another family!  Now a year later, Darya is with a loving family of her own.  Money is the only thing standing in the way of families for these children.  I reminded Ben that nothing is impossible for God.  Even if he only raised $1, it would be to God's glory, and that every dollar means a child is closer to a family.  That made him happy and he was encouraged :-)

That evening, he went to bed brainstorming ways he could raise money.  When I went to bed, I found a pile of shells on my nightstand with letters written on them.  He had secretly come up with his very own fundraising idea and apparently couldn't sleep until he was done (he's usually the first kid asleep).  He really wants to fundraise so another orphan, like Darya, can have the chance to have a family of their own.  We decided to fundraise for Carlene, in honor of Darya, and especially because she is the orphan that Lydia Hollis has chosen to fundraise again this year.  With everyone's help, we can make a difference in sweet little Carlene's life and give her a chance.  A family who is there now (in Russia), said she is so close to being transferred.  Please help save her precious life!!  She NEEDS a family!!  She did have a family who was coming, but because of some unusual life-circumstances have had to let her go.  Her days are truly numbered!

So, Ben wants to make this a give-away.  For every donation (no matter how small, even $1 helps!) you will have a chance to win "Ben's custom made ABC-Shells".  Oh, there is so much you can do with them, just use your imagination! :-)  As a bonus, you will also receive an original drawing by our 5-year old, Nate, of his brother holding the bag of seashells (his idea)!  Oh, boy!  If you donate $35 or more, you will get an ornament from Reece's Rainbow like the one in the picture in addition for a chance to win this one-of-a-kind collection ;-).  Just use the chip-in on the side and it will link you to Reece's Rainbow's paypal account. Your donation will go directly into Carlene's grant.  EVERY BIT HELPS!!

Here are the ABC-Shells that can be yours (ornament not included - but you can get one for a $35 donation to Reece's Rainbow!) 


Here is the bonus drawing by our talented 5 year old Nate!  Ben was camera shy, so Nate drew a picture of his big brother.  Notice the bag of shells in his hand?  Isn't the likeness of his brother uncanny? ;-)  

By the way, Darya is still doing great!!  Our hearts are overflowing with love for our precious little girl!  I will try to update soon, with pictures :-)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Fall, Baby!

Yesterday, our 19 pound turkey celebrated her first Thanksgiving!  I can't even describe how thankful I am for this little girl in my life.  She is a treasure who is loved more than she'll ever know!  We had a great day yesterday and had a young family from church spend the day with us.  We stuffed ourselves with Joel's delicious feast (he's got his Thanksgiving recipes perfected), relaxed, and played some games.  My friend, Loren, took some great pictures that I want to share:

Getting ready

Yum!

Before we stuffed ourselves

Classic olive fingers (I took this one as you can tell by the poor photo quality! haha)

The guys played a bit of football.....

....while the girls watched

She loves to crunch the leaves

 What's so funny?


Sweetness.




What a great day!




Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Videos!

Here are a few random videos which probably correspond to some of the snapshots I've posted. Enjoy!

She loves her fridge DJ from Kirra and Carl!
video

Our little gymnast with her brothers cheering her on
video
video


One of the best $1 garage sale investments was this piano.  She loves it!
video

Monday, November 22, 2010

Leaps and Bounds

It's been a while since I've really updated about Darya. Sorry about that!  I've had good intentions on updating, but you know how that goes....

Anyway, she is doing great!  I don't even know where to begin.  We are enjoying having her in our family and we think she feels the same :-)  She has really warmed up to her brothers and will give them her "kiss me" face (lips puckered, chin up in the air).  They love to help her walk, play, and sing.  They all adore and love her so much!  Not only is her growth and development fun to watch, but seeing the growth, tenderness, and compassion in the boys has been amazing to see. They are such sweet boys and daily thank the Lord for their new sister. They continue to pray for the orphans, as their concern and love for the orphans didn't stop with their sister.  This evening, Ben was sorting through my jewelry box and found an old pendant that was my grandmother's.  It was fake, but he thought if the jewels were real, he'd sell it and donate to baby Anna's grant!  Even as I'm typing this, Sam is spinning her and I'm listening to her contagious giggle :-)

In the month and a half we've been home, she has put on weight (she's almost 20 pounds), eating much better (thankfully those pesky parasites are gone), and learning so much.

EATING/SLEEPING
She used to put up a fight eating (her poor tummy hurt), but now she loves oatmeal, soup, mac-n-cheese, fruit puffs, etc.  She still won't use her hands to eat, though the other day she did pick up a fruit puff and put it in her mouth.  We'll take that progress!  Oh, and yesterday I decided to give her her favorite drink with a straw to see how she would do (blueberry Kefir) and she drank it all up!!  I was super impressed.  I used a take-n-toss cup and straw per my friend Julie's recommendation and it worked great.  I want to order this from someone else's suggestion for travel.

She's been a great sleeper from day one.  When she first came home, she was taking a couple of nice looong naps each day.  Now she just takes one around lunch time and she'll usually sleep for a couple of hours. She goes to bed around 8:00pm and gets up around 8:00am.  Not bad!

COMMUNICATION
Darya seems to understand us fairly well. She doesn't say any of the few Russian sounding words like she used to, and can babble a few consonant sounds.  Check out Joel's blog for his recording of her saying "Dada".  Of course all of my kids' first word was that! haha!  She has said "mama" a couple of times, but mostly when we ask her to say it, she pats herself and laughs.  Little stinker :-)  She says ball (and signs it), she has said "duck" (for her rubber ducky), and can sign a handful of words (more, all done, etc.).

MOVEMENT
We work on her walking every day, and she just can't seem to get past 5 or 6 steps.  It is the cutest thing to watch though!!  She mostly gets from point A to point B fine doing her butt-scoot or by crawling. She can pull herself up.  She's been caught splashing in the toilet a couple of times so we've got to watch her on that one!

ORPHANAGE BEHAVIORS
I posted about this a while back when we were in Ukraine.  I am happy to say that the only thing left is the teeth grinding (much to Joel's dismay - nails on a chalkboard!).  She mostly does that when she's relaxing or tired.  Any tips on how to break it would be great!  But she is cutting some molars, so maybe it's how she relieves some of the pain?


MEDICAL 
She's had her cardiologist appointment, which I reported went well.  She's in the process of getting her immunizations (we're spreading them out a bit to not overwhelm her little body). She had some of her blood work done and her cell counts are good.  She does need to get more drawn since they didn't have enough to test for her thyroid.  We still need to get her glasses. I've been all over town and only one place had frames in her size but they were quite expensive for the lenses.  I'd order them online, but hesitate since I'm afraid to get the wrong size. So I think for her first pair, we'll just go with the pricier ones then later we can get them elsewhere.  She is farsighted, almost plus 5 in each eye (if that means anything to any of you).  We are waiting for her ENT referral.  And next week she will have her coordinator come and evaluate her to see what therapies she'll need. It will be so nice since it will all take place in our home!  Overall, she seems to be doing very well. Her coloring has even gotten better and she has nice rosy cheeks, shiny hair, and moist lips (no more chapped lips).

OTHER STUFF
Last week, some great friends of mine through Darya and official "Welcome Home" party.  We had such a lovely time and there were a lot of friends! Thank you Shelli, Amanda, and Mims for putting it together!!  Some moms and their daughters from the local Down syndrome groups came, too, and it was nice to meet them!  Then on Sunday 14th Joel got to baptize Darya. It was such a special and beautiful event!  Darya, our water baby, of course loved the water poured on her head. Amanda recorded it, so hopefully I'll be able to share that video soon.

Words just don't do justice how much we love this little girl.  We are so blessed and have had such an amazing adoption journey bringing her into our family.  I cannot imagine our lives without her!  She belongs in our family, and not in the confines of a government institution.  I love her so much!

I feel like there are a million other things to share, but for now this will have to do.  My camera still takes poorer quality photos since the pool incident, but at least it takes some.  Here are some random ones for your viewing pleasure :-)

Piggy tails

Kiss me!

Darya and Mims
 Darya's baptism

 She loves her fridge DJ (see the same smile)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Life's a Beach (or at least today was)

Today we decided to take a break from the busy-ness of our lives to spend a relaxing afternoon at the beach.  We packed pb&j's, loaded up the minivan, and drove an hour west to the quaint fishing town of Cedar Key.  The weather was absolutely perfect with the warm Florida sunshine and cool Gulf breezes. The boys brought shovels to dig (to search for pirate gold perhaps?) and Darya enjoyed every last grain of sand surrounding her.  

*On a side note, Darya had her eyes checked this week and turns out she's a bit farsighted and will need glasses. Stay posted for an ultra-cute post when she gets them!

Here are some pictures from today's excursion (pardon the photo quality - Joel was able to savage my pool dipped camera, but the lens is still a bit foggy):


Beach babe


She played happily in the sand for over an hour


 The boys diggin' for critters


 What'd ya find?


 Not gold, but a sea snail will do


 Darya loves the swing - the higher the better!  

Me and my beautiful kids (and a manatee statue :-) )

Monday, November 8, 2010

Princess and the Peas

Darya's my little sidekick.  But when it comes to eating, let's just say it's been a battle.  Some meals she eats fine, but usually she puts up a fight (though she drinks liquids just fine).  A couple of weeks ago, Joel and I asked to have Darya's number twos tested for parasites. Our pediatrician didn't think she needed to be tested because she wasn't having any diarrhea, but alas for our peace of mind she was happy to oblige us. Turns out our princess had some little parasite friends in her intestines, Giardia!  5 days of medicine and she's eating much better (today was her last dose)!  Today she ate three full meals (even things she had never tried before like peas!) and even made progress on chewing.  Usually she just chews with her tongue, but tonight I tried her again on those baby fruit puffs and she chewed some!!  I was so proud of her!!  What a difference!! She has put on some weight since being home with us, but now I hope she'll fill out and get some more meat on those bones :-)

Things have been very busy but good.  With appointments, homeschooling, church, guests, laundry and just plain old life, we've been keeping busy.  It's a good busy and we love our full life, but please forgive my lack of updates on Darya :-)  We are trying to get into a routine, but that really won't likely happen for a few months.  Thankfully the kids are all so understanding and know how to go with the flow :-) Okay, here are a couple pictures:

The Princess and her peas (for lunch)


Getting sleepy and snuggling with her baby




Friday, November 5, 2010

Micah for the Ray family

I am so excited for the Ray family!!  A friend of mine from high school, Shelly, has been following our adoption journey of Darya.  She and her husband have decided to commit to their very own precious Reece's Rainbow child, Micah!!  I am just so excited for them as they embark on their own adoption journey.  They have five children, 1 boy and 4 girls and are excited to be adding another boy to the bunch.  Micah is so cute with that smile and fuzzy head, don't you think? Without further ado go "meet" them on their blog: http://www.rays-r-us.blogspot.com/  They have a lot of fundraising in order to bring him home, so if you feel so inclined any donations to their family would be greatly appreciated (tax deductible through Reece's Rainbow)!! I'm hoping to also help with some fundraising on my blog, so keep your eyes peeled for a future fundraiser on here.



P.S. I'll post an update on Darya soon, but all is well here and we love our little princess more and more every day!  I'll even add some pictures and possibly a video or two since Joel was able to fix my camera after the pool incident :-)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hero of the Year!

Congratulations to Andrea Roberts of Reece's Rainbow for being People Magazine's Hero of the Year!!  In just 4 years, this amazing woman has found homes for hundreds of orphaned children with Down syndrome and other disabilities around the world.  Had it not been for Reece's Rainbow, Darya would not have been in our lives, and we cannot imagine life without our precious daughter.  We are so grateful to Andrea and are just so amazed at how God used her in this amazing way to serve all of these beautiful children.  These children, who are shunned by their societies and sent off to live and die in government run mental institutions, now live lives of hope and a future with loving families of their own.  What beautiful testimonies of redemption!  Congratulations Andrea!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Music, mirrors, and her heart

On our way to Darya's cardiologist appointment this morning, I played a little U2 to get the day started.  Apparently Darya is a fan!  Okay, she just likes any music. And mirrors. And when you give her both, here's what happens, but of course safety first - this was taken at a red light ;-)



Her cardiologist appointment went well. She will just go for follow-up appointment in 6 months, then again in a year after that.  Praise God all looks good! Also, despite our feeding battles and her eating like a bird, she has put on a bit of weight.  Last week she weighed a smidgen under 18 pounds at the pediatrician's office, and today she was 18lbs. 9.5oz.  Good girl!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Florida girl

I can't believe it's been almost a week since I updated.  The days are full and good in our house.  I've started up homeschooling again and trying to get into that routine after being off for the past 4 months.  It's going well, slowly but surely :-)  We are falling more and more in love with Darya each day. What's not to love?? She has got us wrapped around her pudgy little fingers :-)  As far as medical stuff, she's got her immunizations started, bloodwork going, and referral appointments underway. Tomorrow morning she will see a pediatric congenital heart defect cardiologist.  I hope that the surgery for her ASD last year doesn't need any follow-up surgery.  According to the orphanage doctor, she is fine and should be seen by a cardiologist twice a year for routine check-ups.
Anyway, as summer weather still holds on here in Florida, I decided to take the kids for a quick swim today.  We will probably have very few days left before we have to "close" our pool until next spring.  Darya and I sat by the edge where she happily splashed and splashed.  The boys even rescued a lizard from sure death by drowning in the pool, and it showed its gratitude by befriending Darya.  I got a couple of cute shots, the last for a while since I dropped the camera in the pool. Thankfully the SD card wasn't ruined, so enjoy these photos as any future ones will be from my phone until we can replace our beloved Canon Powershot. :-) Enjoy!


My four little minnows (and if you look really close you can see their new lizard friend)


Splish splash! While doing the splits :-)


Cuteness.

 Can you spot her new friend the lizard on her?

Here he is up close

 "Mom, I want to go swimming like my brothers."


"Mom, I mean it!  I REALLY want to go in the pool!"


Yeah!!!

Wrinkled little piggies

Thursday, October 21, 2010

2 weeks home

Well, it's been almost 2 weeks since we flew home. Sorry for the lack of updates as we've just been busy and adjusting to life with the princess.  But considering she has been removed from the only home she has ever known, traveled across the world, and is now in a house with unfamiliar people who speak another language, she is doing really well!  Really, she is!  The first few days (week) were a bit difficult as we recovered from jet lag and colds, but as we figure things out each day is getting easier. She is such a sweet little girl and adjusting really well.

I took her to the pediatrician the other day.  She weighs just shy of 18 pounds so is a bit of a peanut, but not off the charts.  I brought a copy of Darya's immunization record from Ukraine, and she is actually pretty up to date on everything.  She just needs a couple, which we'll spread out over the next couple of months, and she is good to go for a while.  I do need to take her back so they can run some blood work on her.  The pediatrician called me yesterday and has already made all the necessary contacts as far as medical and therapeutic referrals.  I look forward to getting things moving on that front!

Feeding has been somewhat of a tough issue. Darya usually puts up a bit of a fight before each meal, but eventually realizes she's not going to win the battle and will oblige us and eat.  She does not like anything with much texture so she's pretty much eating baby food. She also does not do well with anything cold.  I think at the orphanage everything was warm and likely fed to her in a bottle with a large hole so everything sort of poured out.  She will not hold her sippy cup (more like a bottle) also likely because of this.  Her pediatrician said to keep feeding her baby food until we work on feeding issues with an occupational therapist.  She also has us give her liquid multi-vitamins with iron with a bit of juice for absorption.  I don't think she was fed a wide-variety of nutritious food at the orphanage.  She also said to add a dab of butter or olive oil in her meals to give her extra fat that she needs for brain development.  Hmmmm...do those doctor's orders go for me, too? hehe

Darya is a great sleeper so I have no complaints in that department!  It only took her a couple of nights to adjust to the jet lag, and she sleeps for about 12 hours a night.  She was taking 2 naps when we first brought her home (though only one at the orphanage), but now I think she will just be a one-nap kid.  She sleeps for a couple of hours at a time. Yay!

She is warming up to her brothers now.  She "tolerates" them much better and doesn't smack them as much when they get too close to her any more.  In fact, she lets them get her out of her crib or her carseat, and loves it when they sing songs to her.  They are all such good big brothers and are very patient with her.  Ben really wants to help feed her, but until we overcome that issue it will just be Joel and me.  When I first got home with her, she didn't even want to go to Joel. It took her a couple of days, and though she still prefers Mom, she now does love her time with Dad (she has got him wrapped around her finger!).  We have had no bonding issues on our side and she seems to have really bonded with us. We are so thankful for that!

Darya loooves music!  We sing several of the same songs over and over to familiarize her with them, and she will sometimes try to join in the hand motions.  I bought her a toy piano that lights up and plays music at a yard sale last weekend.  The best dollar I've spent in a while! She loves that thing!  Oh, and often times when she's fussy, I'll sing my own off-key tone-deaf rendition of "Hush Little Baby" and it calms her right down :-)

Another good thing is that she doesn't seem to have any sensory issues with textures (aside from food).  She loves the feel of grass and we found out yesterday that she loves sand. I should probably get some big plastic containers filled with beans or rice for her to play with.  I bet she'd love that.

And now for some pictures!!

Playing in the sand

Daddy's sleepy girl

She loves the swing so much!  (Recognize this outfit?)