Friday, May 30, 2014

Witnessing miracles

Dear Life,

I know I've been telling you all about Sofi's story, but I have something in my heart I want to share.

8 years ago in July we went for an ultrasound to find out if our baby was going to be a boy or a girl.

We left the hospital in a daze, with tears rolling down our cheeks and horror in our hearts.
Tears because our perfect little baby was diagnosed with a neural tube defect called Spina Bifida, Hydrocephalus, and bilateral club feet.
Horror because we were told one of our options was to terminate.
Our appointment was on a Friday, and the radiologist wouldn't even explain what the diagnosis meant. He said we would have to wait until we saw our OB. I called her office immediately but she was gone for the weekend.
How were we supposed to go forward without knowledge?
We went home to our boys, who clamored to find out if they were having a brother or a sister. We took them to the pool, told them they would be having another brother, but he was going to have health problems.
The rest of the weekend was a blur...
Monday we met with our OB.
She explained what Spina Bifida was in greater detail and reiterated our option to terminate.
We forcefully told her we would not be doing so.
We were told our son could be retarded (their words), might not walk, might have learning difficulties and his quality of life would be bad and there was a possibility of death.
We wanted our son.
We lived through that summer and fall somehow, searching for hope.
8 years ago, there were no blogs, no Facebook, no groups.
We found graphic and rather frightening pictures that scared us to death.
When Kumaka was born, he had major surgery to close his back and place a shunt.

For 4 years, he struggled with various health issues and surgeries.

He had such an amazing spirit. His smile was so beautiful and he was always happy.

Even in the hospital, he would thank the nurses after putting in an IV ( with tears in his eyes).

He was a fighter.
A warrior.

And once his health got better, he was given the gift of a special WCMX wheelchair.

He learned how to go to skateparks and shred with the skaters.

He learned how to play wheelchair sports.

He wheeled his first 5 K.

He surfed.

He became an athlete.

He became a student.

He is now reading.
And sharing his joy of life with his friends.

Looking back eight years ago, we never ever thought our son would do one of the things he is doing.
And he is in good company. Within his circle of friends, there is an author, a cover model, an actor, an actress, athletes of all kinds, an aspiring swimmer, a dancer..... And the list goes on.
These children are all AMAZING.
Every day there is a new story being told....
Many parents were told to terminate.
Thank goodness they didn't listen.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Steps to Sofi....Asya's story part 4

You can read the prior posts HERE:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

I am reposting my visit....because I said it best in October. 

Dear Life,

Two weeks ago, my life became a dream.
I left my comfort zone, my family, my country, to go on an adventure.
An adventure that has left my heart forever changed.
I flew to Amsterdam, ran through that airport, boarded another plane and landed in Eastern Europe.

The next day, we took a bus for 6 hours.
And ended up in another world.
A world where all the women are tiny, dressed beautifully, and walk everywhere.
A world where there are beautiful, old buildings in the centre of town.
A world where people stroll, talk, and eat in the centre of town.
A world where a part of my heart was snatched by a small, brown eyed, brown haired beautiful girl.

On Monday, I was so nervous.
What if she didn't like me?
What if she didn't respond at all?
What if she wouldn't let me touch her at all?
What if ...what if...what if.
When we went to the orphanage, I had knots in my stomach and shaking hands.
I was introduced to the orphanage director who was so very sweet.
And then....they brought Sofi in.
Tears rolled down my face as I finally was able to see her after 14 months of guessing what she would look like.
I touched her hand softly, and was so happy when she smiled when I talked to her.

Then they asked me if  I wanted to hold her.
"I'm allowed?"
For some reason I thought I would have to gradually work towards holding her.
They handed her to me and I pulled her into the biggest hug.
I touched her beautiful, curly hair, and I talked to her.
I played with her.
And I reveled in her smiles.
They were frequent.
All of my fears went away.
She is so beautiful.
Her eyes are HUGE and her eyelashes are impossibly long.
Her hair is thick and curly.
And her smile is much like Kumaka's, it lights up the room.
She is a favorite in the orphanage.
For that, I am grateful....I can tell that she will be well attended to until we go back to bring her home.
I was able to feed her.
And I hugged her and kissed her for five days straight.
The days became routine, get up, eat breakfast, have the best hot chocolate in the world, get a cab and go visit my girl.
Play with her, feed her, play with her again, leave so she can nap and we could eat lunch.
We would get lunch in the centre, eating outside, watching people and talking.
Then we would go back, I would play with Sofi, feed her a snack, and leave her for the day.
I learned that she liked to be tickled.
I learned that she loves music.
I learned that she loved her daddy's voice.
I learned that she has a ready smile, an adorable giggle, and untamable hair.
I learned that she loved me....when by the fifth day she purposefully rubbed my arm and kissed my hand repeatedly.

Those precious days were a dream.

And then Friday came.
That day was more somber.
I drank my hot chocolate in silence.
I looked over at the buildings and knew I wouldn't see them again for awhile.
I watched the people walking by, envious that they would still be in the same town that my girl lives in and I would be halfway around the world.
I didn't put mascara on that day. I knew that would be futile.
We took the cab, went into the orphanage for the last time.
I held her close and whispered a story about a little princess named Sofi.
I told her that Princess Sofi has a new mommy, that came to visit her.
But before Princess Sofi gets to go home for good, her new mommy had to take care of more paperwork.
I told her about her daddy, the strongest, most loving man in the land.
I told her about her five big brothers, and how much they love her and are waiting for her to come home.
I told her to remember how much I loved her.
And my tears rolled down my face as I told her to remember these hugs and don't forget her mommy.
And when I had to hand her  back to the orphanage director, a piece of my heart fractured.
And that piece stayed in that orphanage with that little girl.
When we got on the bus, my tears rolled down.
I said goodbye to that town, and a see you soon to my girl.

When I close my eyes, I relive that week.
I imagine the hell she lived in for two years.
The first two years of her life, those formative years, were shattered for her.
She was in an orphanage that has now been thankfully shut down.
It was the stuff of nightmares.
She literally never left her crib.
For over two years.
She was never held, she never saw the sunlight.
The only time she was touched was when they changed her diaper.
And I'm sure they didn't do that very often.
She was only fed from a bottle, so she still does not know how to chew or eat whole food.
Thankfully, somehow a miracle happened
She was moved after two years to the orphanage she is at now.
There are only 7 children there, and the change in her has been drastic.
The director told me that when Sofi came to them, she couldn't even move her arms or legs.
She told me that she was tiny.
They taught her to eat mashed food from a spoon.
They held her.
They let her out of her bed to play.
They taught her to laugh.
I have so much love and gratitude for these people, who have saved my girl.
I will never be able to express how grateful I am

Friday, May 23, 2014

Steps to Sofi- Asya's story Part 3

When we contacted Children's House International to inquire about adoption, we were so amazed by the reception we got.  I emailed Nina Thompson, a caseworker at CHI, asking about little girls with Spina Bifida.  Within a few minutes I received an answer, and a couple of files.  Emails started flying back and forth as we fell in love with Asya immediately.  

One of the obstacles was the cost of adoption.
We were floored at the cost and we didn't have $35,000 laying around in a bank account.  We didn't think that should stop this journey, and when Nina told us we could fundraise for the adoption, we blindly started doing so.  We never thought twice, we knew we were supposed to be Asya's parents, and we knew somehow we would get the money. 

We had many fundraisers, many from our local businesses.  But by far the most successful fundraiser we had was our shoe drive.  One night, I was on google, searching for fundraising ideas when I saw the ANGEL BINS website.  I filled out a contact form, and the next day received a phone call from one of the account managers.  She told me we could collect shoes of all sorts as long as they were matching and without holes in the soles....and she said we needed to collect 5000 pairs to raise approximately $3500.  I thought that was a great idea, so we decided to do it.  We started the shoe drive on Januray 3, 2013.  We appealed to everyone on every form of social media.  We had drop off spots in every county we had friends in.  Our Spina Bifida community rallied and collected shoes.  And all of a sudden our little shoe drive took off.  You can read the blog post thanking everyone HERE.  It tells how many counties, states, and the grand total!  Once that shoe drive was completed, we knew that this adoption was being helped along my a divine hand.  

As we shared Asya's story, she became Sofi to us.  Sofi Rose. And in October of 2013, my dear friend and I traveled around the world to meet the beautiful girl with the soft brown eyes.

 Our lives would never be the same.

Stay tuned for Part 4

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Asya's Story Part 2

Asya's Story Part 2
(You can see Asya's Story Part 1 HERE)

Asya was moved to a smaller orphanage in December, 2011.

When she was brought in, her body was as stiff as a board.
She didn't bend her arms or legs.
She didn't smile.
She was so small in stature it was unthinkable.

The director there and the staff worked hard to help Asya.
They took her out of the crib.
They sat her up in chairs.
They took her outside once in a awhile.

Eventually she was able to move a little.
And with the attention she received she started to smile.
But she was still voiceless.
She couldn't talk and not one family had asked to look at her file.

Until August, 2012.
When we asked about little girls with Spina Bifida.
And we were shown her photo.
And we fell in love.

In September 2012, we were matched by the Bulgarian government and started the adoption process.
In September 2012, we became her voice.

Stay tuned for Part 3

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Asya's Story part 1

Meet Asya.

Asya was born to a teenage mom March 3, 2009. 
She was given up for adoption immediately. 
She had no one to be her voice. 
No one to advocate for her.
No one cared.  

She was born with a lesion in her brain that had to be closed at birth.
She had no mother waiting to hear how the surgery went. 
She had no father to quiet her scared cries.
She had seizures for the first five days of birth.
Her brain was basically shorting out on her.
Her head grew larger and larger until the fifth day when the doctors performed a brain puncture to drain fluid. 
Her terrified cries of pain and fear were left unanswered.  
She stayed in the hospital all alone for 9 days.
Until she went into the orphanage.
Then she stayed in a bassinet  for three years.  
No one held her, took her out, played with her, nurtured her.
No one even hung a mobile over her bassinet.

Her legs and arms stiffened from lack of use.
She was force bottle fed because she had a swallowing problem.
She had failure to thrive.

And yet somehow she survived that hell to be transferred to another, smaller orphanage. 

Continued tomorrow....

Friday, March 21, 2014


Dear Life,

It's been awhile.

The face we fell in love with

Life has been turned upside down for us.

Our girl is finally home!

"Gotcha Day", February 16, 2014

The boys (minus the one parking the car) waiting for their sister at LAX
(Photo cred: Julie Presley)

Daddy meeting his daughter
(Photo cred: Julie Presley)

Kumaka holding Sofi's hand for the first time (she's looking at him like "Oh no, I'm in trouble")
(Photo cred: Julie Presley)

She is amazingly, wonderfully perfect.

Gazing at awe.
(Photo cred: Julie Presley)

Her spirit shines through whenever she graces us with her smile.

She can be silly.

She can be sad (usually when she's hungry).

But she's perfectly made and amazingly perfect.

The first week she came home, as I contemplated this whirlwind we call "Stepping With Sofi" (also known as "Steps to Sofi"), I was given a confirmation that felt like God whispering to me "This is right.  You have done what I have asked.  She is with her family now.  Thank you"  Tears coursed down my face when I realized to the core of my body that adopting Sofi was something that was absolutely something that God wanted us to do.  It's hard to describe that kind of emotion.

(Photo cred: Julie Presley)

Watching my husband love on this sweet angel, my heart melts into a puddle on the floor.

Watching every single one of my boys hold her with adoration and do their very best to make her smile gives me peace.  She is the glue that bonds our family that we didn't even know we needed.  This tiny, 5 year old angel holds so much power in her hands, her sweet smile, her beautiful brown eyes.  

As we have been with her for a month, and seen some specialists, things have been brought to our attention, and some realities we never thought we would have to face are here.  Things that are hard...extremely hard.

Sofi does not have Spina Bifida.
She in fact has severe Cerebral Palsy.
She had a lesion in her head at birth that was maybe corrected (we are awaiting an MRI to see what is going on in that sweet head of hers)
She had hydrocephalus and now has a shunt.
There are many things that most likely will not change for our sweet girl, no matter how much therapy she has.
Honestly, these words have been hard to hear, and are even harder to write.
Make no mistake, she will have the best medical care we can give her.
We don't expect changes, but when miracles happen, we will rejoice. 

We have cried many tears in the last few weeks, knowing that her path is not the path we expected.
We have humbled ourselves, and asked God, "what is Your plan, because this was not mine".  

We came to a very important realization.  

Sofi came to our family because of love.
The first component of family is love.

Because of the many people that have loved our family, and this sweet girl, she has a mommy, daddy and five brothers.
But more importantly, our family is learning about love from a pure source....our sweet daughter.

Adoption is not perfect.

Adoption is so worth it.

She is not perfect in body...but her spirit is perfect as it shines through her eyes.  

(Photo cred: Chelsea Abinante)

We are blessed to call her daughter.  We can only pray to live up to her example of strength, perseverance, and love.

(Photo cred: Julie Presley)