Summer at the orphanage is completely different!
Today we went to the orphanage at Sofia's visiting hours and after we presented the director with all the donated clothes and toys we went over to Sofia's groupa. We were surprised to find the room almost entirely empty. There were only two or three children left in the room and I could barely see them as they are very ill and are kept pretty isolated.
We quickly realized that the staff had taken all the children OUTSIDE to a covered outdoor permanent playpen and all the kids were dressed in diapers and tank tops (NO SHOES OR SOCKS!) and the they had put out a few toys and some blankets. At first Hector and I were a bit nervous to walk over there but we quickly realized that the staff were totally open to us coming over! The staff even introduced us to all of the kids by their names. Hector snapped LOTS of photos and I got to play with Sasha (the cutie pie who is going to be adopted later this year from an RR family), Anna (the adorable brunette girl with DS that I love dearly), Leeza (the sweet girl with DS and FAS that has stolen and broken my heart) and another little darling boy named Trenton (new to the RR website) and a little girl named Sasha (who does not have DS but has an orthopedic condition and is not on RR yet!).Maybe the conditions are not as bad as I feared here at this orphanage. The staff today are some of our favorite staff members that we've come to know and I am so happy to say that I do feel they care for these kids and I saw them interact and hold the kids today. I hope it wasn't just a "show" for us but a general care and consideration for the children. I'm sure they have their bad days and days when they are understaffed but today was a good day. A happy day. Warms my heart!
I am THRILLED to report that I got to hold Leeza and play with the rest of the kids. I got Leeza and Anna to smile- YEAH! I had Anna laughing which was the first time I have seen a range of emotion on Anna. She loves to be tickled and it was just adorable. Sasha was up to his usual antics and was as charming as ever. It's definitely Sasha that makes himself known in the groupa, that boy loves attention and knows how to get it. Leeza can definitely see and has good fine motor control. I watched her pick the smallest pieces of lint off a blanket and pieces of bark off the ground to try and eat it! She's a fast one...she got a piece of something in her mouth before I could grab it out of her hands. The staff seemed hesitant to let me hold Leeza pointing to her newly shaved head and the scabs but I told them I didn't care and grabbed her anyway. She responds to people, looks at your face and tries to make eye contact. Again, there is a sweet spirit in there! When you look at the photos look beyond the bald head. She has platinum blond hair like Sasha and pale blue eyes. No photo will ever do her justice to what I see in her in person. There are a few children missing from the groupa and we don't know where they went. I'm not going to allow myself to think about that too much for fear of the worst. And there is a new handsome boy Trenton. I'm not sure what medical condition Trenton has and if it is DS then he is very high functioning and it is not very apparent. We weren't able to get any photos of him because the staff took him back as soon as we got there.
For those of you wanting more info on the kids, I saw a heart surgery scar on Sasha and Leeza. None on the others. Sasha and Anna are army crawling but can both pull up to a stand position and cruise. Trenton was being help most the time but I have seen him pull to stand and cruise as well as sit at a baby chair independently to eat. Leeza rolls around and cannot sit up but if she wants to get somewhere she can get there and fast in her own way!
It seems the staff are happier and more easy going now that the weather is better and more pleasant. I was so happy to see the children outside and the kids were happier too. They seemed happy to be in the fresh air and shade and although I'm sure they long to be roaming more freely than the bars that contained them in the playpen, this was at least a start! So, I am happy to say that my goal of getting to hold and play with the kids was accomplished and we have the pictures to share as well. I feel so much better now just knowing that I was able to connect however briefly with the children. I will miss them and hope and pray that they are all safe in a loving home as soon as possible. These children need you!
During our morning visit, we put Sofia in the outdoor playpen to see how she interacts with the children. It was immediately apparent that she is the most robust child in this groupa! What are they feeding her that they aren't feeding the others!!! She is just a sweet girl and full of laughs and smiles. The staff really love her. I watched her and Anna interact and baby "chat" with each other. They were adorable together. I know Sofia is going to LOVE her brothers when she gets home. They will be a source of constant entertainment!
Later that morning, we asked to feed Sofia so we could get a glimpse of what to buy her in terms of baby food etc. They prepared her meal by mashing it up and creating a think soup and then put it in a bottle with a LARGE hole in the nipple. The soup was a mixture of carrots, cabbage, potato, meat, bread and gravy...and it had a very pungent smell. The thick soup essentially poured into Sofia's mouth when I fed her. She ate/drank about half of that and she was done. Then the staff brought out another bottle filled with what they called compote which was a thick hot fruit juice which again she drank in about 1 minute. I'm wondering now how much of a challenge it will be to feed Sofia and if she will have the patience to actually suck from a normal bottle. We'll soon find out. I think I'm going to stick with rice cereal, oatmeal, bananas, applesauce, sweet potato and apple juice/water until we get home. I don't want to upset her stomach during our week left in Ukraine. We'll get more adventuresome when we get home. I think they give her one bottle of milk a day (but we have not seen this) but due to her excema and her congestion I think we'll hold off on formula or milk until we get home too. Maybe we'll get her some yogurt here instead. I'm sure hoping my experience in raising 3 boys will pay off now with caring for Sofia.
Tomorrow is the big day. We still have more supplies to purchase for Sofia which we will do first thing in the morning and then we will go and pick her up!