Friday, September 26, 2014

A Dasha Update

From the beginning of this blog, I committed to myself that I would be honest. Whatever I felt and however it all went, that's what I would post. I knew the journey would be difficult at times, but truthfully, I had NO idea just how long and hard our road would be. Everything is wonderful with Milo. We are amazingly blessed to have him as our son. Despite the loss of three other beloved children along the way, we are indeed grateful that the process of adoption ended with Milo Man in our arms.

Victoria, the first child we committed to, who was taken into foster care in Russia and made ineligible for adoption.
Beautiful Dasha girl. Stuck in an orphanage because of the Russian adoption ban.
Cooper Haolei, who passed away August 16, 2013.
Because it never feels right to stick a Dasha update at the end of a Milo post, I haven't written much about her in the months since he's been home. That doesn't mean, though, that she hasn't been in my heart and mind constantly since. It's a balancing act, I tell you. Losing Dasha has impressed upon me even more how very absolutely lucky and blessed I am to call four children my own. I don't want to miss a moment of their lives grieving. Because even though she's not here with us, they are. In the quiet moments when kids are at school or napping or after the house is peaceful and everyone is safely tucked in their beds at night, though, the sorrow washes over me like a wave. I've decided it's impossible to explain to others just how I feel for Dasha, so my grief has become very, very personal. I hardly ever talk about it. If you knew me in real life, you might even think I've forgotten about her. It just compounds my pain, you see, when my soul-wrenching sorrow is swept under the rug with a, "You need to move on with your life," or a, "I guess it wasn't God's plan. At least you have Milo home!"
 

Because yes, I'm forever grateful for Milo, but having him here absolutely and positively does not lessen the pain that Dasha is not here. They are two completely different people, and Dasha is still in an orphanage. She still has no family. She does, thankfully, has a loving orphanage director who is doing her best to make sure Dasha is taken care of for the time being. Aside from Dasha, she is the one person in the world that I'd love to wrap my arms around and sob thanks to. But alas, an orphanage is no substitution for a family. And the real kicker? What happens in less than 8 months when Dasha turns four? She will inevitably be transferred. The dreaded mental institution is so very near.


I have been going over our time with Dasha very thoroughly over the past month or so as we continue our European Court of Human Rights case. We had to respond to Russia's response, and we needed to make sure every detail was accurate. Opening files I haven't opened in so long caused many nights of trauma. Even now, 21 months later, the grief is so very raw. Reviewing all my journal entries, blog entries, the pictures of the time we spent together, and video we took of her only confirms just how magical our connection was. From the very moment I saw her, I knew in my heart she was meant to be my daughter. The love I felt and feel for her was no different than the love I felt when each of my other children was placed in my arms for the first time. Instant, immediate, true and forever love.


I checked the Russian database two days ago, and oh my stars! An updated picture!!! Only the second update in 21 months!
I can't even explain how much these updated pictures mean to me, yet how much they wreck me. Commence the sobbing so hard I couldn't breathe. Puffy eyes for days. She looks amazing. Beautiful, happy, strong, and is such a big girl! I love this child more than I can even fathom. All I want is for her to continue to grow and be happy. All I want for her is a family. I know of a Russian man who takes pictures of orphans to advocate for them. I tried to hire him to fly to Dasha's region to take professional pictures of her so she could be posted on all the Russian adoption advocacy sites. He called her orphanage director, and sadly she declined. She said it would be against the law for him to come take pictures of the orphans without permission and approval. I feel like every effort to find her a family has been thwarted. It makes me so, so sad. 

I have tried to let it all go. I've tried saying to myself that there's nothing I can do and I really do just need to forget about her and move on. There's something telling me my work for her is not done, though. There's something more I need to do for her. Until she is safely and happily in a family, I just don't see how I can walk away. Would I walk away from any of my other children if they needed me?? No, I would not. I would do whatever was within my power to do, and I would continue doing it until they no longer needed me. I have very little hope that I'll ever be able to parent Dasha (at least in this life), but that doesn't mean I've lost all hope that she can have a wonderful life. I have a few more plans I am going to try. In the meantime, I continue to pray and beg for her safety. I ask that angels surround her and protect her. I ask that she is happy and healthy, and, most importantly, I ask that she knows how very, very loved she is. Until something changes, that's all I've got. My prayers, my crazy ideas, and my faith that this girl still has big things to accomplish in her life.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

6 Months Going On Forever

6 months ago today, this tiny, fragile, scared little baby was placed in my arms in Zhengzhou, China.
 He was sick and skinny and starving.
 He never cried unless he was asleep, and then he'd cry inconsolably.
 He didn't respond to being tickled or played with. He didn't seem to hate us, but then again, he didn't appear to really notice us.
 We were nervous for what life would be like. Would he ever come out of his shell?
 Would he ever be healthy? Would his breathing be so labored all the time?
 Would he ever feel safe, or had the trauma and neglect from his early life scarred him too deeply?
Well, today as we celebrate Milo's 6 month gotchaversary, I can hardly believe this is the same boy! It feels like just yesterday we were filling out endless paperwork and the wait seemed like it would never end. In other ways, I scarcely remember life before Milo was part of our family!
Milo has fit so seamlessly into our family that I'll admit I was waiting for the other shoe to drop for several months. I was prepared for a difficult transition. Bonding issues, post adoption depression issues, a struggle for our other children as a new child joins the family, etc. Nope; everything is awesome! We've had very minimal growing pains.
Milo continues to amaze all of us with his easy going, happy personality, his resilience, his strength.
He is happiest at home. He tends to tune the world around him out when he leaves the house. He used to do this at home, too, but slowly and cautiously he has let his guard down. He is engaged most of the day long, now. I know he's comfortable here.
As his ability and desire to make his needs known has grown, so has his trust in us. He knows when he needs something, he'll get it.
He knows he's safe. He knows he's loved. He knows Dad is funny, he knows Mom gives loves. (Don't you just laugh at his jack-o-lantern smile with those crazy teeth!?)
He knows his belly will be full and his diaper dry. He knows bath time is fun and reading books is relaxing.
He loves nothing more than being sung to and rocked, and he gives the best cuddles around.
He has become interested in the world around him, and has really started to play with toys.
He loves drinking his bottle while gazing deep into my eyes, and I enjoy feeding him his bottle while staring into his. He is a gentle and loving soul, and we are the luckiest family on earth to claim him as ours! (He had an infection on his face in these pictures. Luckily some antibiotic cream cleared it right up!)
Milo is funny and shy. He's cautious about who he gives his smiles to. You have to earn his trust first.
Milo is becoming a more adventurous eater, but still loves his bottles of home made formula the best.
To our amazement, Milo has mastered the art of going from laying down to sitting and back down again all on his own.
He's pretty much a rock star. He loves being on the move and, even though he's not technically crawling yet, he can get wherever he needs to go.
He's resourceful and clever and very much a wiggle worm!
Milo has gone from a tiny 12 pound baby to a 19 pound toddler in 6 short months. It's absolutely astonishing what the love of a family can do for a child.
It's magical. I don't know a better word for it than that. I am brought to tears almost daily in amazement of this child. He was so scared and closed off to the world when we got him.
To explain the experience of watching him become a son and a brother, grandson and nephew, cousin and friend is beyond my ability to describe with words. The love of a family has changed this boy's whole existence, and he has changed everyone in return.
Milo had a follow-up appointment with the ENT the other day to determine whether he needed his tonsils out and airway stretched. The last appointment we had was in May, and the doctor could hardly believe it was even the same child. He has grown and changed so dramatically that the surgery is no longer necessary!! He needs another sleep study to see if something needs to be done for his sleep apnea, but, once again, Milo amazed us all with his progress.
It's a rumor in adoption circles that 6 months home is a huge milestone for adopted children. They start to let themselves feel loved and safe. I had my doubts, but now I've actually seen the truth of it.
Milo has suddenly decided he LOVES this adored son gig! He has been extremely vocal (like yelling at me all day long) in expressing his needs and desires. He has become super duper smiley, and is engaged like I've never seen him before. All in the last week and a half. I keep waiting for him to revert back, but he doesn't!
Last night during our family scripture study, Milo became giddy. He started laughing every time we said our other son's name. He'd throw his head back and laugh hysterically. He then tickled his brother and started making his funny faces to make us all laugh. Oh boy, did we ever. The whole family. Tears streaming down our cheeks laughing.
 He is nothing but pure and complete joy.
 I simply can't wait to see what the next 6 months brings!!
 
We love you dearly, Milo Yang!! Happy 6 months; here's to months without end!

If you have ever considered adoption, I implore you to further explore the option. It changes lives. Yes, it can bring struggles, but it also brings joy the likes of which I've never experienced before. There are SO many children waiting for families. As if I didn't already know it, it's reaffirmed to me daily that children belong in families. If you ever have any questions about adoption, please feel free to email me! I'd love to answer any questions you have! My email address is whitneybarrus@yahoo.com.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Chosen.

I am so happy to say that all but one of the waiting kids I blogged about at the end of June have families coming for them! They have been chosen! Sweet little Kent still waits. He is so, so, darling! I will continue to pray his family find him!
To find our more information on Kent, click here!

Since I had so much fun giving these kids a shout out, I'm excited to do it again! I have a whole new batch of kids I'm in love with and would love nothing more than for their families to find them!

First is 6 year old Todd. Todd is in China has Down syndrome and there is something about this kid that makes me cry for how sweet and cute he is! I would seriously LOVE to be his mom! What a great boy he is! Since there's not way we are adopting again right now, I NEED him to find his family!!
The description of Todd given by volunteers at his summer camp are that he is "socal, loving, and verbal. He would thrive in a forever family!"
To find out more information on this awesome kid click here. There are even two short videos of him!

My next love is Clover. She just turned three and she sounds absolutely amazing! Clover is also in China and has Down syndrome.
Here is the description of Clover: Clover is outgoing and friendly but she prefers familiar people. When I was in the institute she was happy to play with me and super smiley, but when her favorite teacher scooped her up we all go to hear her contagious deep belly laughs!
To find out more about Clover and to watch a video with her, click here!

Next is cute Jack! He will turn two in October. He has Down syndrome and is in China as well (do you sense a theme here ;)
Jack is described as outgoing and active. "He loves snuggling and attention, both of which he welcomes with a smile. According to his caregivers, because he is often smiling, he is lovely and adored. It doesn't get much sweeter than that!"
This picture doesn't do justice to how dang cute this boy is! Here is a link to a video of Jack. To learn more about how you can adopt Jack, email Kelsey at kelsey@faithadopt.org.

These next two kids I don't have a ton of information on, but I know they're both in China, both have Down syndrome, and both are cute as can be! They also both have $2000 agency grants! 

This little beauty will be five at the end of this month. Her motor development is great as is her receptive and expressive language. She gets along wonderfully with other children. She is doing amazing in her development. Someone go get her!!

If you have any questions about any of these waiting children, please email me (whitneybarrus@yahoo.com) and I'll connect you to the person/people that can help you!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Summer Shenanigans

We have been having such a fun filled summer I haven't had time to blog! Milo is continuing to amaze all of us, and our love for him grows with each smile. He is great at sitting, has started creeping/army crawling, has much more of an opinion, has started really using his hands well, is now reaching his arms up when he wants to be held (which means he also lets us know who he wants to hold him as well! It's no surprise that when he's tired or hungry, he reaches for Mom and when he's in the mood to party, he loves Dad!), is getting good at playing with toys, and has continued to love nothing more than being rocked and sung to! He's SO affectionate and loves to snuggle, hug, and kiss. He has also been really healthy this summer! His congestion and eyes have cleared up, and all three of our other kids have gotten strange illnesses this summer, but Milo has been able to avoid all of them! The only thing he caught was a common cold last week. I'm amazed! It seems like at first he was CONSTANTLY sick. He is growing like crazy, too! Last time I weighed him he was nearly 18 pounds! He is much taller and stronger as well.

We continue to feed him mainly his funky homemade formula, and I love it! It's providing him healthy, whole food nutrition and it's working; he's growing like a weed! He also has Early Intervention every week now. His same developmental specialist comes every other week, and a physical therapist comes the other weeks. They are both such kind, loving women and they really love Milo. They're helping him develop and hit more milestones then I dreamed possible in such a short amount of time!

He has had such a great time playing with his brother and sisters all day everyday, and I am going to miss my helpers once they go back to school!


We've had a couple of fun vacations this summer! We went to St. George for Father's Day,
spent some time in Snowbird,

then headed to Lake Powell in July. Milo made our annual Lake Powell trip a bit complicated, as we had to haul a generator down to power his massive oxygen concentrator, but it was all worth it! He had fun swimming, tubing, and hanging out with family!







Milo has really found his place. He is happy and content and loves to be home. He is such a cheeseball lately! I love his smiley little self! It's not hard to fall in love with this peanut!








We've had fun at Children's Museums,
 gotten lots of quality sleep in,

 had a few haircuts,
 and even met Elsa and Anna! We've stayed busy and had fun every single day!
One of our favorite holidays is the 4th of July! This year was no exception. Milo wore patriotic clothes for over a week! We sure did celebrate this boy's first 4th as a U.S. citizen with vigor!






Milo got to "march" in his first parade on the 4th!

He also enjoyed a family party and watching firerworks!

Having a little rest on dad waiting for it to get dark enough for fireworks
We sure had a good holiday!

Perhaps my favorite new thing about Milo is how cheesy he can be. He has discovered that if he makes funny faces, we laugh. He likes it when we laugh at him. He's a natural class clown ;) I mean, seriously. Look at those faces! Hahahaha!!!
This is my favorite face of all time. It's the "old Chinese man" face. Ha!
 





Alright, man! You are too cute to handle. I'll give you anything in the world!
We're getting close to Milo's 5 month gotchaversary (on August 10th). I can't believe we've been home so long, but I also can't believe we ever functioned without this babe. We love you, Milo Man!!