Friday, March 21, 2014

One word....love

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 her...in 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)



Monday, January 13, 2014

Jensen Ohana, Party of Eight

Dear Life,

It's official! 

Asya Sofi Rose Leilani Jensen is our daughter!!!!




 
 


I have been flooded with emotions and people congratulating us on this amazing, and LONG AWAITED  event.  I am truly humbled and amazed by the sheer amount of people that have followed Sofi's story and have helped in some way.



 
 
I was thinking about Sofi, and some of the common things that have been said...that we are amazing....that she is so lucky....etc.

We are not amazing, we are just a mom and a dad that believe that no child should be an orphan. 

She is not lucky...she's a survivor....and we are the lucky ones.

Because of her, our eyes have been opened to the heartbreak of the plight of orphans... all over the world.  

Because of her, we have a daughter.
An amazing, beautiful, resilient daughter.

Because of her, the boys have a sister.
A princess in a house full of boys.

We are the lucky ones. 

And because of you we got this far.

Because of people literally all over the world an orphan has a family.
She will be an orphan no more.
Because you shared your love, our story, your prayers, your shoes, your faith, your dollars....our Sofi will come home.
She won't be left in an orphanage.
She won't die.


Now we are planning our pickup trip.

Now we are planning a changed life;
A changed family.

We are so excited.
So grateful.

We are looking to travel to pick her up on February 14 (where we would actually get her on Monday, February 17).  We would be home again all together as a family on February 27th.  And her fifth birthday, ten days later will be celebrated with a family. 

No longer alone.




This road was long.
There were many roadblocks.

All of those that have helped us tear down those road blocks...thank you.




We currently have two weeks left to collect as much used clothing, and shoes as possible to raise the money for her airfare, and her exit medicals.  We are begging all of you to help us in the final stretch.  If you have cleaned your closets, and you are in Southern California, we will come and get your stuff.  If you are out of state, but you still want to contribute to bring our girl home, you can go on our GoFundMe account.  There is no small amount. 


There are no words...thank you is so insignificant.

A child in another country is now our daughter.



A child that was left abandoned.

A child that has had no voice for four years now has a mommy, daddy, and five big brothers.

Her story is your story.

You are the reason she is coming home.



Thank you.



 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Miracles


Dear Life,

Do you believe in miracles?  
I do.
I have for years.
First watching "Little" (Kumaka) as he navigates boy hood full force.


Remembering the baby years....the multiple shunt revisions...the casts for months on end (that lasted for years)...the surgery after surgery to correct feet....and then hips....and then broken bones....the ongoing infections.

I never in a million years would have imagined Kumaka to be this active....this happy....this....BOY LIKE.  

There is not a "can't do" moment....it's a how can I attitude. 

The last few years have been truly miraculous to watch and given us much joy.

Then, we embarked on the adoption journey.

Did we have the necessary funding in our account just waiting?
No.
But Sofi was waiting.
And we determined that she would wait no more for someone to be her family.
We fell in love with her....and decided that we would do whatever it took to bring her home.

And we did.
Everything we could think of.
Cupcake days, shoe drives, clothing drives, pizza days, jewelry giveaways, TV Raffles, Helmet Raffles, etc etc etc.

We have driven to Los Angeles more times than we can count to get paperwork taken care of.  We have cried, laughed, and prayed harder than ever.

And then our court date happened.

We didn't get a "Now she's yours moment".
We got a continuance.
We needed current fingerprint clearances from the FBI.  
At the time we needed them, our government was shut down. So we got state clearances and prayed they would work.
They didn't.

SO....the day we had court and didn't pass, Stuart and I rushed to the police station to get our fingerprints done.  I then rushed to get money orders and had them sent next day to the FBI.  

When I knew the received them I called to beg for them to expedite.  
Normally fingerprint clearances take 6-8 weeks.
I didn't have that kind of time.
We begged, my agency begged, and we found someone to do them.
They sent them out on December 24th.

BUT they sent them to the wrong place.
So yesterday and today we have been in a panic trying to figure what to do.
Right when my  head bowed, and my tears flowed, because Sofi's fate was to be put in the hands of the judge....again...
God stepped in.
The documents were found.  My money orders were found.
The State Department is helping us by expediting our paperwork.  
They will get there in time.
By a hair.  
That's all we need.

Yes, I believe in miracles.  
I believe in people.
Because throughout this journey, I have witnessed the goodness of people all over this world.  

I am a better person because of this journey.

Miracles are real.  
You just have to believe.

 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Monday is the day

Dear Life,

Monday is a very special day.  Monday our family will grow.  We will have a new little daughter.  She is 4 and a half, with beautiful brown eyes and the most amazing, curly, brown hair.  Her smile lights up the room, and her determination to live life despite the odds amazes me.  She is a survivor.  She was once lost.  And she is now found.  She will be coming home in January, to a daddy who will adore her and spoil her rotten (because he has been waiting for a little girl for 19 years), and five brothers who are over the moon excited for her to come home.





I think back over the year and a half we have been on this journey, and I am amazed and so very grateful.  One family's desire to adopt an orphan, to give her a family and a chance at life, has become a journey for literally hundreds of people.  Sofi's journey is a beautiful story of love.  Not only love from our family, but love from that have supported our fundraisers, or have donated what you can to bring her home.

It's amazing to think that soon, we will have this beautiful girl....who was born to someone on the other side of the world....and will be our daughter forever.


We are fully funded as far as fees are concerned, but we still need to figure out our travel money.  Now is the final push....to raise money to get her outta there!!!!!

I know you all have stood by us...you have donated time and again.  You have shared and shared and shared her story.  We are here, humbly standing before you, thanking you for all of that.  Because of you, Sofi is one less.  One less tragic orphan.  One less statistic.  One less mouth for that orphanage to feed.

One more person to add to the Jensen Ohana.







Sunday, December 1, 2013

One less

Dear Life,



I wrote about Susanna awhile back. She needed a family so badly. (You can read about her HERE: Susanna's Story)
  
 Susanna had Spina Bifida that was never surgically repaired and untreated hydrocephalus.  She was the same age as Kumaka.  In her six years of life, she never, ever left the crib.  She learned to scoot around her crib a little bit, and she became best friends with the little boy in the crib next to her.  She would straighten his clothes and hold his hand.  Finally, a family came forward.  They were in the middle of the long, arduous process of paperwork that needs to be done when adopting internationally.  They were so excited to bring her home and get her the very necessary medical care she needed and add her to their beautiful family.  And then one day they received a phone call that no one wants to get.  Sweet little Susanna passed away.  Her family was working hard....but her untreated Spina Bifida got to her first.  





Our Adoption family was devastated by the news.  We all cried for this sweet little girl that never got to meet her mommy and daddy.  


This picture of Susanna's crib broke my heart...as I imagined her living in this crib for six years...and now she's gone.  

During this season of thankfulness, our family has really thought long and hard about all of you.  You, our friends, family, and those we don't even know who have donated one dollar, five dollars, fifty dollars, or more.  You, who have donated shoes, collected shoes, collected clothing, etc.   You are the reason that Sofi will come home.  That she has a chance for life.  You are the reason that she will have a family, that she will not be alone.  You are a part of her story.  And her crib will be empty soon, and she will be here in our home and with our family.  She will be able to have dreams, hopes, and love.  She will have the best medical care we can provide for her.  She will leave the orphanage. She will come home.  





Thank you.   We are so very close....court is coming up in a couple of weeks.  And then we can show her face.....please consider giving our girl hopes and dreams for Christmas.  


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gratitude

Dear Life,

As Thanksgiving draws near, I have been thinking about my family.
I have been thinking about my children.
I have been thinking about how very grateful I am that we live in a free country, with the knowledge we have and the medical advances our medical teams have.
I have been thinking how very grateful I am that we are allowed to make choices.
The choice to keep a child that was born with extras.
The choice to teach that child that he or she can do whatever they want to do in life.
The choice to teach them to dream.

I am thankful for all of those people who helped our little man last year.
Those that supported him, visited him, read to him, walked with him, and loved him.
By the end of the year last year, we felt so much support and love, and we knew that although he was not out of the woods with his hips and leg, he would be ok.
We knew that somehow, we had to give back.
We had to find a way to help another child.
A child that needs a family.
A child that had no hope.
A child that had no dreams.

I am thankful for Sofi.
When we looked at her picture, looked in her eyes and into her soul,
We knew that we could take care of this child.
We knew that we could be her family.
We knew that we could give her hope.
We knew that we could show her how to dream.

I am thankful for our caseworker.
When we told her we wanted to adopt, she told us we could do it.
When we told her we didn't know how we would fund it, she told us we could fundraise.
So we did.
We told Sofi's story.
Over and over and over again.
We have written, shared, cried, laughed and been amazed.
We have collected shoes, clothing, had pizza nights, picture days, cupcake days, Ruby's days, jewelry fundraisers, you name it and we've done it.  (Except garage sales.  I hate garage sales)
We have raised over $25,000.

I am thankful for you.
You have listened to us write about Sofi.
You have cried with us.
You have shared our words.
You have participated in our fundraisers.
You have loved this girl as we do.
You have given.
And given again.
Because of you, I got to visit her in October.
Because of you, she will be home in January.
Because of you, there will be one less orphan.
Because of you, she will have a family.
Because of you she will have hope.
Because of you she can dream.

There will never be enough words to thank those that have been a part of this story.
Sofi's story.
She is almost here.
We are so close.
We are $750 away from being fully funded with our agency.
Then we only need a few thousand more to fly over and bring her home.
Our flights are paid for, we just need to pay for hers, for her medical clearances, the driver to pick her up (she is six hours from the capitol) and then she will be here.

Consider helping us finish this.
Consider giving one more time.
Consider Sofi coming home in Januaray.
Consider her safe.
Consider her loved.
Consider you....a part of her.

Thank you.

Monday, November 11, 2013

She has a story



 Dear Life,

When I met Sofi in that orphanage, and heard a small part of her story, I realized that this little girl was being saved for a reason.  Her story is just beginning, and yet, her story started at birth.  

Sofi was born to a young girl, 14 years of age.  She was born prematurely, and didn't breathe well right away.  She started having seizures that lasted for five days.  Finally, the doctors did surgery, and put a shunt in to relieve her hydrocephalus.   Sofi was five days old, and she had already fought hard to live.  And sadly, she went through all of that alone.  In a crib in the hospital, scared, barely alive, and alone.  There was no one there to make sure she was being cared for, no one to hold her little hand, no one to advocate for her, no one to hear her cries.  When she was finally stable, two weeks later, she was sent to a large orphanage.  It was there that she was left in a crib.  For two years.  She was only fed through a bottle.  Her body started to become stiff and rigid from not being taken out of the crib.  Not surprisingly, she never spoke, she never smiled, she barely existed.  That was her life for two years.  In December 2011, she was moved to the home she is at now.  There are only 7 children there, and they worked hard to change things for her.  Under their care, after many months,  she started to make a few sounds, and they taught her to eat mashed up food with a spoon. She started to smile.  

Early in 2012, Nina, our caseworker with Children's House International, first saw Sofi's file.  Below  is her part in Sofi's story.

"Before Sofi Rose became Sofi she was my Liliana.  Liliana was one of a group of children whose information I received in 2012 after I had visited Bulgaria.   Her foundation had heard my story of my love for my niece and nephew who were also born with neural tube defects.   They knew my eyes were open to the possibilities and potential these children had if they were loved and educated.  So, her foundation began requesting the profiles of children like Sofi that they knew I would fight to find families for.   Sofi's information was one page of medical information and a single photo.  Her orphanage was far from the capital and her information was grim.  She was a tiny girl who had not yet met any milestones.  Nobody visited her.   Nobody bothered to go see this small girl.  So with my one photo and my one page of information I decided this tiny girl deserved a fierce name.  In some cultures the weakest babies are given the names of saints as protection.   I decided to call Sofi Liliana as an alias.  Liliana Panitza was a heroine of great strength in Sofi's home country.  Liliana Panitza was instrumental on defying Hitler during WWII to save the lives of 50,000 Jews.  She was not in a position of great power.  She was just a girl inner strength an conviction.    What better name for Sofi,  who had nothing,  than to call her by the name of a woman who saved so many.  For over a year nobody inquired about Sofi.  I would speak to families about her and invariably the families would decline interest.  Until the day Tracy called.  I believe I sent her information on several girls.  Sofi's information was in the group. "

We received files of a few girls.  We scrolled  through the files,  looking for the pictures. Suddenly, we stopped, entranced by  this adorable baby, dressed in blue.  Her eyes were large, and so wonderfully brown.  Her eyes captured us, and there was no turning back.  

We started on this journey of adoption, having only read that one page of medical history, and seen one baby picture.

We prayed daily, praying for her health, for her to feel our love through the miles.  I would like to think that somehow, those prayers were answered.  When I traveled the many hours to meet Sofi, she was much different than I expected.  She was able to respond a little, she smiled a lot, and she had a few sounds.  The home she lives in is clean, bright, and decorated colorfully.  

It was while I was visiting her that I learned about Sofi's earlier years.  And I wept for her.  For the two year old that fought valiantly to live despite all of the odds stacked against her.  When I learned that she should have had medicals done yearly, but it appeared that those were never done, I realized that the other orphanage expected her to die.  

Almost like a physical blow, I felt so strongly that Sofi's story is huge.  That this amazing little girl has a huge story...and it's just starting.  That she survived the odds stacked against her because God held her in His hands, protected her, and then placed her in this home until we came along.  There is no other explanation.  




Sofi may never tell her story.  But we will.  We are so blessed to be able to do so.  And all because of you.  
We are so very close.  

She's almost home.  Her story is changing once again, but for the better.  She won't have to fight alone anymore.  She won't have to shed silent tears.  She will reach out and I will hold her hand. 


 She will laugh and we will laugh with her.  Her joy will be our joy.  Her joy will be your joy too.  

If you have wondered why we fight so hard to bring her here, why we continue to come up with all these crazy fundraisers, now you know.  She fought harder than we ever will, and she fought alone.  We are not alone, we have an army.  An army of wonderful, loving people.  An army to bring home a girl. 
You are in our army.