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Saturday, March 31, 2012

the last day.

The accomplishment has been enormous!  The Mulligan Stew Giveaway has been a blessing to so many children and families.  I am truly in awe of the generosity that so, so many people have demonstrated, not only to me but to so many other children and families.  Naturally, I am especially attached to the families who are adopting from The Bad Place and want to work extra hard to see that those little ones leave that place.  Right now, there is a fundraiser trying to raise money to provide medical assistance and other supplies to these children.

Because the circumstances these children live in are so incredibly terrific, which is why we should make sure all of the children who inhabit The Bad Place live there for the rest of their lives, adoption be damned.

(are you feeling the sarcasm?  Are you?)

The Bad Place is The Bad Place for very good reasons.  There are reasons why scores of non profit organizations line up to support The Bad Place.  There is a reason why children are habitually being hospitalized, some are dying, and others weigh just a fraction of what they ought to.

For those who have difficulty connecting the dots, it is not because The Bad Place is one of the Good Places.

No institution is a good place, but few are as Bad as The Bad Place.

The Bad Place takes in children and twists them into shadows of themselves.  The Bad Place harms children and puts them in danger.  The Bad Place takes adoptable children, children who could likely easily find homes in Bulgaria or internationally, and transforms them into more complicated cases.  It is not necessarily because these children have special needs, but those special needs become magnified hundreds-fold because of the horrid conditions of The Bad Place.

Children of The Bad Place are covered with sickness, disease, and ills that hide their true value to many people.  Children of The Bad Place are like precious stones caked in mud; their beauty difficult to decipher beneath the dirt.

Almost the entire reason we chose our Little Dude was because he was living in The Bad Place.  It was not the only reason, because that wouldn't have been the right choice for our family.  We had to weigh health concerns, our family makeup and a host of other things.  But, in the final analysis, we educated ourselves about The Bad Place and swiftly determined that our Little Dude would leave that place. 

"Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilience..." (Psalm 91:3)

Today, on the last day of the Mulligan Stew, consider giving your very best and last entry to bring the giveaway to its roaring conclusion.  Pray, think about the children who are without permanent families.  Think of the the "sweet sixteen" in The Bad Place, pray for them if you pray, and consider supporting one of those families today.  Tomorrow is for hearing the grand results - the final totals, the WINNERS, and everything else.  Today is the last day to support all of us.  Even if you haven't a penny to spare, don't be concerned.  Instead, I will be selfish and ask you to pray for our Little Dude.  Take two minutes and ask God to protect him, to guide him, and to preserve him until he can be redeemed.  I do not ask for prayers for our family today. I ask prayers for our future son.  I want all of the focus on this last day to be on our future little boy...the child who is a precious one beneath the soil of The Bad Place. 

Thank you.  Thank you for your generosity.  Thank you for supporting us, for praying for us, for reading our words and sharing our story.  Thank you for praying for our future son, for our twin sons who left this world four years ago, and for our family.  Thank you!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

defending the cause.

Defend the cause of the fatherless.  That was the verse I chose for the top of our blog.  I loved the sentiment of it.  There are many good verses about adoption in the bible, but I loved that one, in part because it includes the word "defend".  I love to defend things.  It's why I study social work.  I despise injustice and unfairness.  Although I cannot change the world, I can change some things; I can be a voice for those without one.  It is what I endeavor to do with my bachelor's (and eventually my master's) degree. It is what I endeavor to do for our future son and what I pray we can do for The Bad Place where he lives.

Thankfully, I am not the only voice in that discussion.  And the more voices, the louder the voices become.  I can shout loudly, but I am still only one.  It is the multitude of voices that creates a stir that cannot be ignored.  Although God happily uses only one person to accomplish mighty things, a few extra voices don't hurt the cause. 

I believe it's the sheer number of voices that shout for the fatherless that draws the ire of some who inhabit blogs and leave spineless, silly, unsubstantiated, poorly researched, cowardly comments.  In spite of their weak, meager voices, people continue to adopt.  The numbers may be smaller, but these misguided, critical voices cannot drown out those who believe children deserve a chance to be valued.  Even the (very) few parents who ultimately travel the road of adoption and fail, (some in ways that are frightful) cannot drown out the voices of those who succeed; the voices of those who are ultimately victorious and endure through every challenge to bring a precious life from darkness into love. 

We have already paid thousands (literally, thousands) of dollars to adopt our Little Dude already.  This money didn't come from thin air; it came from our pockets.  It depleted some of our savings and came from tax returns and bonuses; things we could have used for other things and did not.  Our yearly trip to our condo in Florida was rented out for a profit instead of traveling there.  Our other yearly vacations have become shortened trips to local destinations.  Our desire to replace one of our cars has been put on hold.  We still pay almost $300 per month for our daughter's hippotherapy, something we hope that our Little Dude can enjoy and benefit from when he comes home.  Naturally, when we are not paying thousands of dollars for adoption expenses, the money we would normally have use of will return to us.

I am grateful and blessed that, as I wrote out every expense that we incur on a monthly basis, there was a surplus.  Right now, that surplus goes to increasing our adoption savings.  This is why, for those less educated cowards, extra money to pay for even more extra things is not easy and in some cases, not even possible.  If we expend the resources we have for those things, then we will not be able to meet our goals for the adoption expenses.  This is why fundraising is important, but we state unequivocally that we are blessed not to need the entire sum.  We have put great thought and effort into our ability to adopt and although we don't know where every dollar is going to come from, we know that it will come.  That's why we are hopeful to raise funds for additional nutrition for our future son, and that is why we will reach out to others to help cover the expenses of a Baba; something that we shouldn't even need to pay for, but in The Bad Place is nearly a necessity.  Of course we have ample funds to pay for these things - and if we weren't attempting to save close to $30,000 in total to include travel expenses and everything else, we'd have it.  We are certainly a family who has enough, but not one that has an extra $30,000 laying around.  For reference, we didn't have an extra $20,000 laying around when we did IVF.  We got the money slowly, through savings, through help from family, and through a small loan.  No one criticized our desires when we wanted to go to the fertility clinic, but there are some spineless, cowardly fools who somehow feed on those who ask for help adopting.  I do believe they treat adoption blogs as car accidents; and like most of weak mind, they are unable to look away. 

I stand firmly and boldly on our choices, prepared to defend the fatherless not only because it is God's call, but because it is the calling for us.  I am not in a position, as some are, to adopt several children at once.  I can adopt one.  I can bring a child who has no family to live with to live with ours.  I spend my precious free time researching the pediatric opthalmologist we will try to bring him to, or learning what I can of his birth culture, or finding resources for children who are vision impaired and developmentally delayed.  I do this on top of caring for our daughter, taking three classes in college, and being a decent wife. 

Stand firmly and boldly on whatever choices you make.  Don't hide in the corner, afraid to show your face.  If you believe what you believe, tell others.  Be genuine and clear.  There is no ambiguity here.  There are no fake names and hidden agendas. We are adopting a special needs child from the most horrific orphanage I know of.  We do this without shame.  It is not a shameful act, because this child is not a shameful child, and our preparation is not inadequate and hidden.  We are anxious to bring him home, we are nervous to bring him home, and we are realistic in our ideals.  But we stand, firmly and boldly, to proclaim the causes of the fatherless.  Whether you adopt, help us adopt, or help others adopt, stand firmly and boldly.  Thank you for your prayers, for your thoughts, for sharing our story and for standing without shame instead of hiding in the shadows.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

it's almost over!

It's almost over - the Mulligan Stew giveaway is almost over!

The wait for our home study - it's almost over!

Waiting to send off our I800 A - the wait is almost over!

Knowing what lucky folks will win the Mulligan Stew prizes - it's almost time!

But, like everything else, there is so much to do.

In the last days of the giveaway, http://covenantbuilders.blogspot.com/2012/03/stirrer-of-hearts.html, Julia has talked about the goals and hopes for each family.  Some of those families have reached those goals.  Others are far away from their goals. 

Some of the goals are financial, and some are asking those who read to reach out and consider being the Mommy and Daddy to a child.  The exposure that Julia provides is enormous.  Children have found their families because of her efforts.  Can you believe that?

If you do nothing else, go to her blog and look upon the pictures - all of the pictures - of children who have families waiting for them and those that don't.  Pray, even simply.  Ask God to move hearts to bring these children into families where they will experience love and security. 

The link I have posted will bring you to a darling six year old boy who lives in The Bad Place.

http://childrenshouseinternational.com/what-will-it-take/

He is as small as our future son, yet he is FOUR YEARS OLDER.  This is what The Bad Place does.  This is what it is all about.

We received some good information today.  Our future little boy can have a new "baba".  (A Baba is a special 'grandmother type' person who spends one on one time with a child).  This baba will spend up to 8 hours per day with our little "Ian".  The cost for this is $200 per month, which of course is a pittance when you think about how much good it will do and how much time "Ian" will have with someone who hopefully cares about him.  We are reaching out to our parents to help us with the expense.  Although it's not expensive, it's not money we have readily available with adoption expenses piling up.  We must assemble the fees for our I800 A, which may be on its way soon.

We also have the address where we can send Pediasure.  The recommendation was to find some online company (perhaps based in Europe) that we could order something and have it shipped directly to the orphanage.  Not all of those details have been worked out, but we're going to work as quickly as we can.  Our first step is to wire funds to our facilitator in Bulgaria to employ the new Baba and also find out if we can speak to her through email in some way.  It is a joyous feeling to know that we can arrange for someone to care for our little special Dude while we try so hard to reach him.  If this baba can give him some extra vitamin D and perhaps get him outside once in a while, his rickets may improve. 

The wait is ending.  The time for work for Mulligan Stew is almost over.  The time when we are actively advocating for all of these families will soon close.  And we may be one step closer to going to Bulgaria very shortly.

What can you do?  Of course, you can donate.  If you pray, pray.  If you meditate, meditate.  Tell someone about our blog, or about other blogs like ours.  Share the stories.  Thank you for sharing our story; for caring about us, for praying for us, and most of all, for praying and thinking about our Little Dude in that terrible, Bad Place.

Monday, March 26, 2012

waiting no more.

I suppose in the final analysis, the wait is never as long as it seems when you stop waiting.  We heard from our social worker and she is actively preparing the home study for us.  She had some additional questions to ask us this morning, which we happily answered.  She has already sent us a draft to review and will be in contact with our agency today as well.  She stated that she expects to have the home study done this week.  I am so hopeful and praying that we can submit our I800 A this week.  If not, it will be early next week. It is all prepared and ready to go. 

I don't necessarily take things to be "signs" or "not signs", because there is so much that can be subjected to interpretation.  When I am feeling unsure, I tend to be negative and take things as a sign that this isn't what we should do.  At other times, when I am more positive, I take good things as an affirmation that we are on the right road.  I think of 1 John 2: "For all that is in the world - the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions - is not from the Father but is from the world." (16). We want to remain focused on our goal, irrespective of what our emotions may tell us.  If we are unclear in our emotions (one way or the other) we risk misinterpreting and misunderstanding our circumstances. 

It reminds me of what we learned in our marriage preparation class:  Love is a choice.  True love isn't conditional; it isn't built on what we feel today or another day.  If we only loved each other when we felt like it...well, I can tell you that there would be many days that I did not love my husband!  Love is a choice we make, a choice to love unconditionally in spite of circumstances.  Faith is the hope of things unseen.  It is with these concepts that we try to view our circumstances. 

The steps in this process seem to come in clusters, which is emotionally draining.  It seems that nothing happens, then things happen in a flourish, then it is quiet again.  It is actually an unnatural process, since most of our lives are pretty orderly and predictable.  Even pregnancy develops a sort of rhythm over time, culminating in the moment you meet your child.  Adoption isn't like this. 

It is even more amazing to me to think about this little boy...what is he doing right now?  He has no idea what is happening.  He has absolutely no clue what we are doing to bring him home to us.  No one has told him and he likely wouldn't understand anyway.  He just lives his life, one day at a time, losing weight, trying to walk in spite of rickets and scurvy, his eyesight growing a little worse with each day, and believing that his life will always be this way.  He has never known anything else.  Yet, here we sit, waiting on a document, hoping for some news, praying for things to move as we hope they will...and he doesn't know a thing.

Speaking of things moving, the Mulligan Stew giveaway is still in full swing, but it is almost over!  There are only a few days left to donate and enter.  Every prize is valuable, but there are some truly excellent prizes that warrant serious consideration!!  If I didn't already own an Ipad, I'd be first in line! I also own a Nook Color (won in an adoption giveaway last year!) so I don't need a Kindle, but you might!  Now the giftcards...I am totally into those because you can choose whatever you want. And there are some excellent gift cards in the mix.  You can enter the Mulligan Stew Giveaway by clicking on the button on our blog (on the left), choosing a family to donate to, and then notifying the giveaway owner that you entered.  It's that easy.  We're almost done, and SO many people have been blessed.  Have you entered?  Are you feeling lucky?  Want to enter again? 

Most importantly, as always, THANK YOU for reading, for following, for praying for our family, for supporting our efforts, and for sharing our blog!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

waiting for a social worker

I'm terribly frustrated with our social worker for our home study.  For reasons I don't know, she hasn't replied to our emails or my agency's emails.  She hasn't written our home study, even though we've given her everything she's asked.  This delay delays the submission of our I800A, a document I had hoped we could perhaps submit by the end of this week.  Now I'm unsure; and our future child waits.

Sometimes, I don't think people speak about the other disruptions that can occur in life as you wait for paperwork and wonder about traveling.  For instance, we take a yearly trip to Hilton Head Island.  It is already scheduled for the very end of August.  Will there be conflicts with travel or documents or something else?  Will there be any disruptions in my daughter's preschool schedule in the fall?  Will Jon be able to truly get the time off that he needs?  Will our future son be home for Christmas?  Will this be Chelsea's last birthday without her brother?

This is the difference between pregnancy and adoption, among several other differences.  Pregnancy typically has an end date.  It always has a date (a due date) by which the pregnancy will almost certainly not continue past.  Sometimes, like with me, pregnancy ends far too soon and the end date is never reached, or is artificially expedited.  There is so much I wonder and don't know.  Others wonder too (naturally) but I don't have clear answers.  I have a general idea, but just vague thoughts.

And then there's that little boy, our Little Dude who sits and waits.  We still have not managed to find a good way (or be able to fund) the added nutrition we want to send to him.  The delays means days, weeks, or even months of waiting in The Bad Place...growing thinner, suffering more with rickets, scurvy, and other ailments, without interaction, unable to walk, and not talking. 

It is hard.  I know our Lord is with him and can shield him if He chooses. I know the day will come when our future son is protected and able to get help.  I wish it could be more quickly, but sometimes things get slow.

This process will change you...it will change your family...it will change every facet of your life...

We'll go to church tomorrow and pray for the families who are choosing to rescue orphans, particularly those from The Bad Place.  We will pray for our future little son; for protection and care for him.  We will also pray for funding...our Reece's Rainbow account hasn't grown in the past few days, although we rejoice that others have.  The Mulligan Stew Giveaway is still going on! Have you enetered?  There are so many GOOD prizes in it.  On top of the Ipad, which is awesome, there are 2 Kindles and several gift cards...some of them are $250 each.  The odds of winning are so much better than in more traditional giveaways.  I never win anything, but when my friend was adopting, I won a Nook Color!  How cool is that?  Please think about entering with the button on our blog...and prayerfully consider our little boy "Ian" as the child to donate to to enter.  Thank you for believing in us, supporting us, and praying for us!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

ta-dah!

Three little letters for you:

F

B

I.

Despite the fact that I knew they were going to show up (eventually), I was still a bit startled when I saw enveloped from the Federal Bureau Of Investigations in my mailbox.  For a split second, I thought they were junk mail; in the next second I panicked, and a second after that, I praised God.  Thank you to those who gave us suggestions on how to speed these along.  It ultimately worked.  Now we are pressing our home study agency to do her job and finish our home study.  I scanned the results to her - "No Record Found" thankfully! - and am waiting for her to email me with some notification that she's done something with the home study. 

It's like molasses in January, it seems so slow.  Yet, I am grateful that we are one step closer to our I800 A...one step closer to submitting our dossier...and one step closer to our first trip!!

We just spent time filling out what we could of the I800 A form, including making the copies required.  It is all ready to go, except for a few things we will add when the home study is completed.

Today is a day when it actually seems real.  Today is a day when it feels like we are not that far away.  There are other, darker days when it feels as though nothing is happening and everything will take forever.  But then we see things moving, and we feel hopeful and panicked all at the same time. Hopeful because we are drawing closer to adding to our family, but panicked because everything is moving even faster than we thought and we worry about finances.  The last thing we want is to be in a position to move forward, but be unable to do so because of finances.  We've received support already, and we're grateful for that.  In the meantime, we continue to think about ways to fundraise and draw attention to the cause we face, even as we work to save money and sell the various extra things that seem to populate in our garage.  We continue to stand strong, step out in faith, and shout to the rooftops for our future son. We do not need help for all of it, but we do need support for some of it.

I am also preparing for my daughter's evaluation for the next level of her therapeutic services.  This will be great practice for when I am doing this for our son, so I am paying even more attention.  I'm already learning all I can about the process of evaluation as Chelsea exits the birth-to-three Early Intervention services and transitions into the 3-5 age range.  It's important that her therapies remain intact, as she's responded so wonderfully to them.  Autism is challenging, which is why good therapy is vital.  Our Little Dude may have autism too.  If he does (and we won't know this for a long while) we must prepare ourselves for that eventuality by learning as much about the process of securing services now.  We believe that this experience better prepares us to be his parents.  If we didn't feel ready to deal with his challenges, we couldn't in good conscience proceed, no matter what his need was or where he lived.

But the truth is, he is in The Bad Place, living without the basic nutrition children need, and without the stimulation that children deserve. He lacks the love and support of committed parents, which I believe is his basic right as well. 

We are working to change that...as quickly as we can.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

fbi fingerprints!

HA HA!  Who was it that suggested contacting our Congressman about our FBI reports?  Who was it? It was someone who reads me that is local to me. I'll have to go back in the comments to see.

SHE WAS RIGHT.  My husband reached out to our Congressman last week and we received a phone call - bingo!  It worked!  This person intervened on our behalf and asked the FBI to HURRY THE HECK UP and they have!  We saw the charge for our reports on the 14th, and now the congressman's office called us and said we should have them by next week, and to call his office if we did not.

I'm thrilled beyond belief at the expedited status, however, we will still have waited close to five weeks for their return.  That is not as bad as some, but long enough if you ask me. 

From there, it is onward and upward.  We are obtaining a letter of medical necessity which may be utterly worthless, but costs us nothing to get and may help something...somewhere...who knows. 

My semester at college began yesterday and I'm already swamped with that.  I (foolishly?) took three classes, preparing for a time when I may not be able to finish.  I have ten classes remaining before I graduate with honors from college.  I feel blessed to be so close to the end of my education, because I've tried really hard to finish this.  Some nameless trolls that like to crawl on their underbellies through blogs like mine should think before they speak.  Choosing to adopt doesn't lower my IQ, but choosing to leave anonymous, ill-informed comments I'm certain does. 

JOB 17:9:  Nevertheless, the righteous will hold to their ways, and those with clean hands will grow stronger.

I will never apologize to anyone for expanding our family through adoption.  I will never waver from the call to welcome children like this into my home.  I will never, not for a second, pretend that I am somehow to blame for the terrors that happen to some children - terrors that should never happen in an adoptive home but are sadly not exclusive to adoptive homes.  The fact that some who take up this road are not prepared or do wrong things is not an excuse for prepared, intelligent, caring people not to take action. 

Do not be like your fathers and brothers [or trolls], who were unfaithful to the LORD, the God of their fathers, so that he made them an object of horror, as you see. (2 Chronicles 30:7, with the exception of the 'trolls' part, which I added. :)  God, forgive me.)

Thank you for supporting us as we pray things move quickly so that "Ian" aka Little Dude's deterioration can stop very soon.

Monday, March 19, 2012

not the sickest.

It is understandable and perhaps even commendable when so many advocate and choose to adopt children who truly, truly are "the least of these". 

There are children who live in The Bad Place who are beyond thin and beyond sick.  These are children who will present with very complicated medical needs in a family.  These are children that need assistance from hospitals and doctors in their country - now. These are children who weigh less than 20 pounds (despite being aged 10 or more!) who suffer with debilitating delays, illness, and other maladies that are almost exclusively a result of The Bad Place.

Many of you know of a fundraiser that is currently happening to benefit orphans in Pleven; orphans that could potentially die without help.

Seriously.  They could die.  And why?  Honestly, it is because of where they live, not who they are.  Children in the United States die as well.  Some die of neglect, others from incurable illnesses, and others from accidents.  But it is rare to see a child die in the United States because they live in poverty, or live in an environment that is completely unsuited to their needs. 

Rickets, a vitamin D deficiency, is rare in the United States and in other developed nations.  It is almost entirely preventable, and is also treatable. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/rickets/DS00813
We take for granted the "vitamin D added" in our milk products, the easy availability of vitamins on our store shelves or on the internet, and sunlight is usually in abundance, even in our homes. 

Our little boy has rickets, among other problems.  His bones are soft, which is causing the bowing we see. He is likely in pain, suffering silently because he cannot tell anyone it hurts.  And even if he did, who would listen?  Why would he ever bother to walk or move when it hurts so much? 

He needs intervention.  But he is not the sickest.  He is not one of the ones whose faces shock you.  His is not a face you'd see in a youtube video, compelling you to act.  Our Little Dude's cheeks look plump (a mistaken image of health, but it is actually a sign of malnutrition).  He weighs 19 pounds and he's nearly 2 1/2.  His legs are softening due to nutrient deficiencies.

The funds raised to help the Pleven orphans should be designated for the very sickest, and I hope it is.  Our little boy is not the sickest.  He may not benefit much from that - and we accept that.

We must be his voice right now.  It is important for us to advocate for him, as well as the others, who suffer mightily in The Bad Place.

Please consider purchasing a bracelet from our button on the right.  As we "believe", we hope you will too.  We are going to use the profits from this to help purchase additional nutrition for him that we pray will reach him.  Please consider entering the Mulligan Stew giveaway and choosing "Ian" (our Little Dude) as your sponsored child.  If our Reece's Rainbow fund grows, we will be able to designate more of our own funds to send nutritional supplements to our Little Dude. 

Please pray for peace for our family, as we fight with horrid feelings of frustration at this process.  Where are our FBI fingerprints?  We grip at any thought of hope.  The FBI just charged our credit card for the fee on the 14th.  Does this mean we will see something soon?  I hope so. 

Our Little Dude needs to come home.  We need to travel on our first trip to see him.  We need things to move quickly so his deterioration can stop.  So many need this as well...please pray for all of them.

Thank you for purchasing bracelets, donating to the children housed in the The Bad Place, for sharing our blog, and for praying for us.  We are so grateful for followers, supporters, and prayers.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

...believe...

"Therefore I tell you, all things whatever you pray and ask for, Believe that you have received them, and you shall have them" (Mark 11:24).

My husband and I agreed that, when contemplating or continuing the journey of adoption, you must first believe that it can happen.  If you do not believe, you cannot press forward.  If we were all doubters and incapable of believing that such a thing could occur, we would not bother to fill out a single form or even inquire about a child we believe is meant to be part of our family. 

Faith is meant to help us continue the journey, as is hope.  Love occurs as we work toward bringing our child home, but it all starts with the belief that it can happen.  We put up blogs and fundraising profiles - we participate in Mulligan Stew giveaways at first because we believe it is possible. 

It is possible to have that belief shaken, our faith slip away as we move on.  It is even easy for that to happen. 

That is why we chose our bracelets, directly to benefit our adoption, with the word "believe".  When faith is shaken or when hope wanes, we wanted to give a reminder to those to continue to believe.  We hope this bracelet reminds those who need it to continue to "believe".

There is a button on the right side of our blog that will link you to our newly-created webstore where you can purchase these bracelets with the message "..believe...".  You can use paypal to pay.  They are $3 per bracelet, and $2 shipping for as many as you would like.  We will ship them to you, along with a prayer that you never lose your ability to believe.

All proceeds benefit our adoption, but payments for the bracelets are not tax-deductible. They will directly help us continue to work toward redeeming our future son from The Bad Place in Bulgaria. 

Thank you for caring, for sharing, for praying, and for BELIEVING.

"All things are possible for those who believe..." (Mark 9:23)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

thank you. thank you. thank you.

I really want to write something grand, something amazing to thank everyone who cared about us, donated to us, and prayed for us yesterday.  March 14, 2008 was a terrible day, and every March 14 after that has been a mixture of sadness, reflection, and wonder. 

Yesterday was different.

Yesterday, as I said to some, was the "happiest" birthday I've ever had for my boys...because it was a day that we raised enough money to cover our home study fee.  In one day.  So many donated because of Jacob and Zachary's story.  I never thought that would happen; I never believed true good could come out of their loss.

I was wrong.  I should have known better, but I didn't.  Those who donated showed me that.  Were it not for my baby boys yesterday, I'm not sure our account would be much higher than the day before. But God moved hearts...God showed me how the death of two precious angels could make a different to their future brother.

Thank you.  I really can't say it any better than that.  Thank you for caring for us, for following us, for praying for us, for donating to us.  WE ARE GRATEFUL.  We are humbled.  We are touched beyond measure. 

Yesterday, as the Reece's Rainbow account continued to climb, we took our daughter to the park where our boys have a tree planted in their name:






Chelsea laid flowers at her brother's tree:





When that was over, she played in the park near their tree, and we remembered them and thanked God for the blessing that He brought us on that day. 



Thank you so much for everything.  Please click on the Mulligan Stew button to learn more about the other families that need help.  We want to share the blessing with others as much as possible - but thank you for blessing US on our baby boys' birthday.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

baby boys and God's plan.

Today is not really a day for me to talk about adoption, although it's hard not to because everything is so intertwined, it seems.

Four years ago, I met my baby boys.  We had tried for so long to conceive them, and then we felt the blessing of God.  Not only twins (how special!) but twin BOYS, something I had prayed for. I loved boys!  Rough and tumble, devoted to their mothers :) :)  and perfectly sweet.  It was boys! We sang to the rooftops, and I quickly began to plan a twin boy baby shower, covered in all things blue. 

Inexplicably, and without warning, I went into labor on March 14, 2008.  I did not know I was in labor. At only 21 weeks of pregnancy, how could this happen?  Couldn't the doctors stop it? 

No.  We learned in the wee hours of March 14, 2008 that there was nothing to be done.  The labor had been going on for hours and now I was 5 centimeters dilated.  At 21 weeks, we had no choice - medical intervention could not help them.  There are complicated reasons why this is, but ventilators do not work on paper thin lungs.  There are no medications.  My life could be at risk if we tried to keep them inside of me.  The edge of viability is 24 weeks, and we were a long way from that. 

We called our families and prepared to meet our sons.  First, our little Jacob was born, then Zachary about an hour later.  We held them, loved them, baptized them, dressed them, bathed them...and then they died.  Soon our family left and we were there with our babies...trying to say goodbye.

I remember being in my hospital room after their birth, bleeding heavily from delivery and having post-partum issues...and I remember they were in a little cradle.  I remember feeling that I didn't want them to leave us, I wanted to leave them.  I didn't want to see the nurses take our now-lifeless sons away.  Instead, I wanted to tuck them in, kiss them goodnight, and leave the room as if they were sleeping.  It was a farce, to be sure, but I wanted it.  Thankfully, the nurses obliged me and that is how we said goodbye to them forever.  I kissed their tiny cheeks and told them "Sweet dreams" and then I was wheeled away into the cold, raining, night...sobbing in the car as my husband drove us home.

The dream of twin boys was over.  It had died.

I felt a sadness that I can never fully express or describe.  Over the years, it has waned.  We had our baby girl, Chelsea, and she is a joy.  She doesn't replace her brothers and never could.

I longed for a son, and I knew it was possible for us to try again to conceive.  But that wasn't what I wanted.  There was room in our family for more, I wanted a son, and I knew we could parent a child with special needs.  We reached out and found "Ian".

It would not have been possible to adopt "Ian" if we had Jacob and Zachary.  Truthfully, Chelsea would likely not be here, or if she was, she would be much younger.  Although I don't know personally, I've heard twin boys can be quite the handful. 

All of this is related, yet it is hard to figure out.  God's ways are greater than our ways, but I can't claim to fully understand why my sons died, why my daughter lived, and why we are adopting a son.  When I get to heaven, the very first thing I will do scoop up my little sons.  Then I will carry them to Jesus and say, "Okay, now explain this all to me!" :)

Today I remember two little lives who were so perfect, but over far too soon.  I remember the bible verse I placed in their bereavement announcement, "Behold, I shall never forget you....see, I have carved you in the palm of my hand."  (Isaiah 49:16).  I look at my hands and see my baby boys carved in my palm, and my daughter's face carved there, and the tiny image of a boy that we will soon be able to call our son.  I will rejoice when "Ian" joins us...and I will rejoice in sharing the history of his oldest brothers with him.  I will forever rejoice at the selflessness of my sons, who paved the way for their sister...and now their adopted brother to join us.  I don't know why that happened, but I must believe it was for good.

My heart is full of sadness, but my soul springs forth with hope...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

2 + 2 + 1 = 5

Jon writing.

So today I wrote letters to our sponsored children we have overseas through Compassion International.  My family has been involved with Compassion since I was a teenager.  My family when I was younger sponsored a little girl; I remember she has the same birthday as my sister.

Jenn's already written much about our twin sons we lost four years ago.  After that experience, when we felt like doing something in memory of our boys, we decided to sponsor 2 children from overseas.  Since my family was familiar with Compassion and I knew they were an organization that could be trusted, we sponsored two boys.  The criteria was simple.  Find two boys whose birthdays were March 14th, in honor of our boys.

So just now I wrote 2 letters wishing each boy a happy birthday.  One in Ecuador, one is in El Salvador.  I truly hope they have great days and that their lives are enriched by the program Compassion is able to offer.   Tomorrow we'll go visit the tree we had planted as a memorial to our boys.  And throughout each day our thoughts our with our Little Dude in the Bad Place.

2 kids overseas, 2 twin boys in Heaven, 1 little dude waiting to come home with us.  Those are the 5 boys whose lives we have either impacted, hope to impact, or have impacted us.  Kind of strange how 2 babies alive only 2 hours can have an impact as great as they do.  Because of those 2 little babies, 2 boys overseas receive sponsorship and an education, and 1 little boy is soon going to have a change in his life the magnitude of which he has no idea.

Let's be fair - do I miss our twins, do I wish they had survived?  Of course.  But to think that at least some good came out of their short existence at least lets me know they made an impact even in the short time they were here.  Happy Birthday Jacob and Zachary.  And Adrian and Carlos, I hope you have a great birthday.  Little Dude....we're on our way.

on twin boys.

I realize how lucky I am to have the videos we have of our Little Dude; so many do not have these. I watch them over and over and over and over and over. I watch them to the point of being completely bored by them, and then I watch them again.  I try to pick up something new; any little tidbit into the Little Dude's personality or tastes or anything.

It seems utterly surreal that this child will become part of our family is a short-ish period of time.

I have a tough time with the word "son".  Some already refer to him as our son, but I don't think so. He will be our son, but right now, he's not. He's a little boy who has absolutely no idea what is going to happen to him. He doesn't know who we are.  It's amazing to see this little child, toddling around in an orphanage, knowing the process that is already in place to bring him home, and to know he has NOT ONE CLUE what that's about.

The other reason I have a tough time with the word "son" is because I already have two of them.  They are invisible sons, because they are gone.  They are with Jesus in Heaven.  They died in 2008.

My first foray into motherhood occurred on March 14, 2008.  It was the day I delivered our twin boys, Jacob Anthony and Zachary Ethan.  That was the day I became a mother for the first time, but our boys were born nineteen weeks too early.  Shortly after birth, they passed away.

I was a mother - able to hold her children - for about two hours.  I was a mother of multiples for that tiny shard of time, and then I had to plan a funeral for my sons.  I became a mother of twins who perished.

Tomorrow is Jacob and Zachary's birthday.  It is a day to remember, not celebrate.  I will never have a birthday party for them, never see them open the dozens of gifts they might receive.  I can't plan a twin birthday party or marvel at how Jacob loves Elmo but Zachary loves Diego.  I never got that chance.

That's part of why I am no stranger to advocacy.  When I became an invisible mother of sons, I had to learn to step out of my comfort zone and talk about my sons.  You would be amazed how few people really want to talk about children who have died.  They become uncomfortable and uneasy.  They don't like to say their names, or mention that I have other children. It's a bit easier now that Chelsea is here, because everyone talks about her.  Tomorrow, when I post their picture and talk about them, some will get uneasy.  Especially in the way my children died...sometimes, it can be easier for people who have lost children who lived longer to talk about them.  It is considered more socially acceptable sometimes.  My babies never opened their eyes, but I still held them.  My babies never uttered a sound, but I knew their faces.

My baby boys will have a little brother someday.  They already have a little sister, who knows to point to their picture and say "brothers".  It is our job to teach her about her siblings in heaven, and we will do that.  Tomorrow we will visit their tree and leave flowers.

When it is the Little Dude's turn, he can learn as well.  He will learn about Jacob and Zachary, the babies that are his brothers and went to heaven before he was ever born.

Tomorrow, March 14, is their day.  That is when I stop everything and remember them.  Chelsea, our Little Dude...they all can wait for 24 hours while we remember their brothers.  It is Jacob and Zachary's day.  We don't exactly 'celebrate' it, but we remember them and focus on them.

I cannot wait to introduce the Little Dude to his brothers someday.  I just hope it is someday soon.  This time next year?  I hope so.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Have you ever used a recruiter?  (You know, a headhunter? Someone who helps you get a job?)  If you haven't, do you know someone who has?  Do you know what they are?

I know a lot about recruiters, because I was married to one.  I also know a lot about them because I have used them to obtain employment, especially when I was working in New York City.  I was a candidate, and married to the guy who was helping those candidates find jobs.

Do you know what recruiters make?  Wait, let me be clear.  Do you know what most recruiting firms charge for their services?  I want to make the distinction between the firm and the people who work there.  I know what my ex-husband earned as a recruiter and I know what his recruiting firm took in.  Suffice to say, those numbers were not...um...identical?

Recruiting firms in New York City charge (on average) 10-20% of the candidate's first year of salary.  That means that if someone is hired to make $50,000, the recruiting firm can charge anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 for their services.

And what services do they provide?  (Wait, is this a serious question?)

Do you really want me to answer this?  I will, but...you may not like the answer. 

A recruiter typically sources resumes.  This is a fancy word for placing ads in internet forums and networking, which is mostly about Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In.  They read resumes and solicit candidates that a company may want to hire.  Sometimes, recruiters arrange for drug testing or computer testing (for instance, to test a candidate's knowledge of Microsoft Word, Excel, etc).  In rare, cases, recruiters can provide access to psychological testing.  And sometimes, recruiters make a few phone calls to check references or past job history.  By the time the candidate arrives to the company to interview, the candidate is supposed to be properly vetted.

If you think this happens just as its supposed to, every single time, please feel free to return to your Utopian Universe.  May I join you there?

After a candidate interviews, the recruiter's job is to hound the interviewing company and attempt to convince them to hire "their" candidate.  If the company does this, the recruiter fields the offer, presents it to the candidate (while trying to convince the candidate to take the job, even if it may not be in the candidate's best interest to do so) and then earns their fee. 

There are some very good, ethical, and competent recruiters out there.  (No, really!)  There are also some really crappy, lousy recruiters who sound like used car salesman, complete with the cheap, two-bit suit and some line about how that peeling paint gives the car "character" and that rattling sound you hear is nothing more than a leaf stuck in the fan motor.

Whether they are ethical or crooked however, they all collect their fee.  (And, lest I begin to get hate mail, I'm describing how recruiters who are doing permanent placements operate.  Temporary staffing is slightly different in how compensation occurs, and I know this.)

What did they do to earn their "fee"?

They did some work.  There is some overhead involved.  Being able to sort through resumes on Monster.com, for instance, costs the employers (staffing firms) money.  Keeping up a website, phone calls, time to interview candidates, locate potential customers, find available jobs...this all costs money.  I'm sure some MBA-level manager could accurately calculate how much it "costs" to find a competent employee, but I haven't the skill or inclination to do so.  I will say, however, that I have a tough time believing that it magically costs some percentage of the candidate's salary.  I have a tough time believing that it costs $10,000 or more to hire someone.  I doubt it's all entirely quantifiable.  In fact, I just bet that there is some "cushion" built in there somewhere...hmm... (sarcasm much?)

When potential employees seek the services of a staffing firm, they do so because they believe that the recruiter has access to dozens of jobs.  They know that some staffing firms have exclusive contracts with companies, and that these companies never publish "help wanted" ads.  Instead, they give their employment information to the recruiter.  Potential employees believe that recruiters will advocate for them and be a "middle man" in the process of obtaining a job.

Potential employees do not "buy" a job from a recruiter, nor do employers "buy" employees for a position.  There is an exchange, mutually agreed upon fees are exchanged, work is done in exchange for the fees, and everyone goes on their merry way.  It is an industry that is rife with corruption, poor ethics, manipulation...and nobody says a word. Fundamentally, the system works with generally acceptable levels of good business practices.  No one accuses employers of "buying employees", even though the truth is, some recruiters do very little to earn their "fees".  I know this intimately and personally. 

In adoption, prospective adoptive parents are accused, in part, of "buying" children.  It is an understandable argument.  Adoption is also the subject of poor ethics and corruption.  Adoption expenses are always "spelled out", but let's face it...does it really cost $500 or $1000 to "review my home study"?  Should it cost me $3,000 for a social worker to come to my home for a total of six hours?  And where on that itemized list are the "donations", given to orphanage workers or others?  Does it really cost thousands of dollars to translate a dossier, prepare legal documents in other countries, or provide transportation?

The answer, more than likely, is no.  The organizations that help facilitate adoption have quantifiable expenses in the same way recruiters do.  They could not afford to operate for free. But actual expenses are likely far less than what adoptive parents are billed.  It is the way it is.  There's no getting around it.

Adoptive parents are paying for a process that expands their families.  In that process, there are things that can make most ethical people uncomfortable.  There are even situations where illegal things are happening. But adoptive parents can't control most of that.  When their checks are released to the "powers that be", well, that's the end of the control.  Some agencies are very ethical and aboveboard.  Some adoptive processes are really above reproach, even for those who hate adoption.  But others are not.  It is true.

Recruiters do not "sell" employees, and employers do not "buy" them.  Likewise, adoptive parents do not "buy" children.  It seems that way to some, perhaps, because of a highly simplistic worldview coupled with a lack of understand about how the process works.  With so many undocumented (or perhaps unprovable) expenses, it seems that way.  Real estate agents help people buy houses, but I can't imagine many agents who would tell you that the amount of money they charged on a listing was what it cost to sell it.  More than likely, their costs were significantly less; thus, their profit was high.

There is profit in adoption.  I would like to think that there isn't, but there is.  There certainly is.  One would like to believe that those who assist families and children in adoption wouldn't charge much in the way of "markup".  But I can't be sure that happens.  No one really can.  It is the process that exists, and those who seek to overhaul it or criticize it offer no reasonable, workable solutions to really change it. 

If every adoptive parent turned their back on the process as it currently works, in some sort of mass protest, the net result is that children - TODAY - would be without their basic human right of proper care and a family.  Some would be okay, sure.  But others would not.  Some might die while the backs of the adoption world collectively turned their backs, waiting for change that will likely never come.  Those who suggest change suggest a view of the world that is incredibly ethnocentric.  If some children are ultimately devalued because of their status (as orphan, disabled, part of an undesirable ethnic group), how precisely is it possible to magically change their thinking?  And by the way, why should they?  We may not agree that cows are sacred, but try telling that to certain religious groups.  Are they wrong?  Well, *I* think they are, but...you know, that's just me.

(the definition of tolerance, by the way...)

The point is, adoptive parents don't buy their children.  Adoptive parents don't have the kind of control that adoption-haters believe they have.  And in the final analysis, there are children who suffer or are deprived of a safe, caring place to be nurtured and grow.  They cannot wait while the utopian world view zealots figure out every single nuance to make everything completely fair and free of corruption (in their view).  Do you know that it is common in the Dominican Republic to be pulled over by a police officer while driving and to pay him to let you go?  Preposterous!  No.  It's true, and it's not considered corruption.  It's considered normal.  Should we mount a campaign against those from that country - start some sort of mass 'education campaign' to teach them why this practice is wrong? 

No.  All we can do is work within the system we have.  If that means we have to pack a few bucks extra while driving in the Domincan Republic, great.  That's what we have to do or we can choose not to drive there.  If we want to adopt a child, particularly a special needs child who is honestly and genuinely looked down upon in their birth culture, we have to use the system that is in place.  We must strive to find ethical people to help us, and we must understand that every dollar we spend to effectuate this process is NOT going to be accounted for.  Like the recruiter, they will earn their fee and that is part of the process.  To wait for a massive overhaul of the process while lives hang in the balance is unethical. 

There will be more posts like this one.  My blog is wide, wide open.  I hide behind nothing.  If you dissent and hide, you haven't the courage to offer a valid point, and that substantially detracts from your position to the point of irrelevance.

In the meanwhile, share our blog, share our story, share our life, and yes.  If you can, share in the process of bringing home our future son by contributing to our cause.

and a new week.

It's always interesting to see what a new week will bring.  More paperwork, to be sure.  I wonder what will arrive this week? 

It's my last week before classes resume.  I have only a handful of classes remaining until I acheive my bachelor's degree.  It is likely that this adoption process will temporarily place on 'hold' that ultimate goal, but I still believe it's worth it.  My husband is off getting his MBA as well.  I'm not looking forward to the upcoming semester because I registered for three classes (instead of my usual two) in an eight week semester.  My GPA stands at a respectable 3.87, and I hope to maintain that as I enter this hectic semester. 

And a temporary hiccup in finishing my degree isn't the end of the world.  I know I'll finish it, even if travel and a new child put that process on hiatus briefly.  I manage to get excellent grades in spite of having a child with special needs, a husband who travels, and all of it.  I was hospitalized for almost a week in November and still managed to get my school book into my hospital room.  It can be done.

What we're waiting on:

1.  FBI FINGERPRINTS!  (This is by far the most annoying thing).
2.  Child abuse clearance from New Jersey, my former home state;
3.  Some apostilled documents, but these are not as critical. 

The first two things hold up our home study, the third is only for our dossier.  We are also waiting for additional medical information that we can share with our International Adoption doctors.  Finally, we're waiting to hear from our agency about sending some additional items to the Little Dude.  Things like pediasure or other ideas for nutrition, and possibly a therapist (not affiliated with the Bad Place) to come and help him as well.  This may not be possible, because of the corruption of the adoption officials in The Bad Place, but we may try.  It doesn't hurt to try.

Do you like our blog redesign?  Kind of nifty, you think? 

There are many I read that are being put through trials because of what they believe; because they proclaim what they believe.  It is not acceptable to some  - many who profess 'tolerance' - to be tolerant of those they disagree with.  Instead, some are attacked and treated as though they are outlaws or evil because they believe in a way that is different from some.  I am reminded of 1 Peter...

"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:7)

If you are among people who are being tried today, take comfort in knowing that trials are a part of the human existence, and certainly of the Christian existence.  It is horribly unfair, I agree.  I personally despise situations such as that.  But I also know it's the inevitability of our lives here on earth. Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:13).

Be still, and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations;
I will be exalted in the earth.  He will be exalted in Bulgaria, or wherever you are adopting from, too.  He can be exalted, even in the Bad Place.  He will be exalted.  (Psalm 46:10 - minus the part about Bulgaria :) )

Sunday, March 11, 2012

thank you!

We are both so happy to see new followers, a few extra dollars in our Reece's Rainbow account, and read the accounts of so many who have also made this journey.  We want to be sure to point out that our reference to "institutional life" is likely not entirely fair.  There are many orphanages in Bulgaria that provide adequate, or better, care.  Unfortunately, our little one is not in one so good.  His orphanage is really, truly one of the worst in the country.  Thus, he suffers in large part because of where he is, and not because of who he is.  The Bad Place is just that - bad.  I personally find it ironic that a place whose name rhymes with "Heaven" could be just that horrid. 

I also find those anonymous people who float around the Internet, proclaiming that adoption is evil, ironic as well.

I'm not speaking about those people who maintain public blogs or websites and have an...interesting...view of adoption.  Those are people I disagree with, but who are speaking their mind in a way that is accountable. But not trolls.  If you are in an adoption process, particularly a special needs adoption process, you have likely been the target of these trolls.  I know for some people, it is bothersome and sometimes upsetting. 

They have a few key points, all of which are so belabored that they almost get boring - not because what they say isn't true (some of it certainly is) but because it's all been said before:

1.  There is corruption in adoption.  (This is true.)
2.  It is wrong to ask others to support your adoption by giving money.
3.  Sometimes, adoptions don't work out
4.  Sometimes, parents are accused of killing their adopted child.

My answer to this is to agree with them, and take things a few steps further. It is true that there is corruption in adoption.  Heavens, look at Guatemala, Ethiopia, Vietnam...shall I go on? 

I propose that we eliminate all institutions that involve corruption of any kind. I mean why single out adoption?  I'll be fair and just include all institutions that involve corruption and children.  Therefore, let's also get rid of:

--Child Social Services (have you read the articles about some of the workers who ignore complaints of abuse?  Do you remember the children found in the basement in NJ - just to name ONE example?)
--Food Stamps, and all kinds of welfare and support programs for children and families
--Early Intervention Programs
--Subsidized day care

Should I go on?  I want to be fair. I want to eliminate every source of corruption against children.

Next, I want to completely ban all baby showers.  People who have baby showers are simply beggars.  They invite people to a party and expect them to bring gifts.  Not only that, they actually create a LIST (the registry) of gifts they demand!  Revolting! Sometimes, people who are in a lower economic class have children, and total strangers assemble clothing, food and other items for them (these items are not free, of course).  There are even government and non-profit organizations that help support children (for instance single mothers, parents of children with special needs, etc) and those funds come from our tax dollars, an indirect source of giving.   I know I had a baby shower when we were pregnant with my daughter, and I want to apologize for anyone who gave me anything.  It was wrong of me to ask for anything from anyone.  What was the matter? Could I not afford to have my own child? 

Sometimes, it's true, adoptions do not work out.  It is dreadful and heartbreaking when that happens.  Responsible people find solutions when this happens, and a few parents do very irresponsible things.  Those who judge those families who ultimately do not keep their adopted child cannot possibly imagine what those families experienced, and if these people feel that they somehow "know" the story because of a few paragraphs on a blog...well...just remember the caliper of those who are doing this and you'll understand. 

Finally, there's an interesting fact out there:  Only adopted parents kill their children. 

Wait. You didn't know that?  You sound shocked. 

It's true.  I'm telling you.  Only adopted children are killed by their parents.  This horrid phenomenon does not occur in biological families.  There are families who paid thousands of dollars for fertility treatments, and waited years to have a child, and they have never killed their children.

Nope.

It's only adopted parents.  Which is why no one should ever adopt.  In fact, the statistics say that nearly half of the children who are adopted will be murdered by their adoptive parents.

Hmm...I might have that a little bit wrong.  Maybe it's not half.  It could be a little bit less...but I'm sure it's only a little bit.  Just ask the trolls.  They'll give you, what?  Two examples?  TEN EXAMPLES even?  Out of...how many adoptions in the United States?  It's funny, because I wrote two papers in my college career about this very subject.  One was specifically adoption disruption and the other was about child abuse in adopted families.  It's really amusing that I wrote these papers (which I received A's on) because it's so terribly relevant. 

Without whipping out those documents or those Barth & Berry citations, let me tell you that the rate of adoption disruption (even UNREPORTED cases) is embarrassingly low.  I'm not saying you'd have a better chance at winning the lottery, but it's not that far off.  There are situations that increase the risk of adoption disruption:  age, needs of the child, number of children adopted at once were all big factors.  The lowest factor?  Parental preparation was one of the least reliable indicators of adoption disruption.  That means that when researchers, who are likely smarter than all of us, try to design studies to measure an event, the marker that is least predictive of the studied result is the parent's level of preparation. 

Please make sure you can read this in the spirit of irony and sarcasm, which is intentional. 

If you are the target of a troll, particularly someone who doesn't have the courage of their convictions to be traceable and responded to, remember all of this and remember one other thing:  These people never offer solutions.  They don't have any.  They merely exist to supplement their unfortunately unhappy existences by trying to harrass you.  Moderate your comments, delete them, and move on. Don't be ashamed of inviting others to support you in your adoption efforts.  If you were having a baby shower, it would be perfectly acceptable for someone to buy you a gift (or not).  It is not much different. What you are doing is far greater than anything these trolls can do.  They do not take the time to know who you are, they do not take the time to read all of what you write.  They leave canned comments and links to stories that are upwards of four years old and pretend it is more relevant than it actually is. 

Thank you for those who support us, who care about our future child, who feel led to give a gift to our account, and who realize that even when a system doesn't function perfectly, it is a far better solution than doing nothing.  Inaction is always more harmful than imperfect action, as far as I am concerned.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

a video (with a link)

We feel so blessed and fortunate to have several videos of The Little Dude to review.  They are being sent to our doctor and also being carefully saved by us so we can share them with him when he is older. 

I want to share this one with you (it's a link) so you can really see just what we're up against.

In the first 30 seconds of this video, you will get a quick glimpse of the Little Dude's BALD SPOT.  It's quite noticable, and hard to accept.  He has this because of the number of hours he spends on his back, in a crib, without anyone.

Even though he is almost 28 months old, he is not walking independently.  Can you imagine?  We are parents to a child with autism and developmental delays, and we remember when we rejoiced when she walked at 18 months old.  Eighteen months.  More than likely, your children walked before that (unless there was a reason why).  This boy is ten months older than Chelsea was (and she walked late!) and still not able to walk or be steady.

Of course, my daughter didn't have a bald spot on the back of her head, and had been receiving physical therapy since she was ten months old. 

The room he's in...it's empty.  There are about 250 children in The Bad Place, and they are in an empty room (and weren't permitted to see anything else).  The reason?  They don't use this room; this room with a fun looking ball pit. 

*sigh*.

But this is the reality of institutional life.  This is the truth of children - even children who are not terribly sick.  When I feel my spirit ready to rise up - when I think I am about to burst with anger or frustration - I must remember to keep myself focused, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:20).

Please watch this video, share our blog with others, pray for the Little Dude.  Consider supporting us through Reece's Rainbow, or better yet - enter the Mulligan Stew giveaway!  Prayerfully consider one of the families to support as you enter (The Little Dude's picture is there!) and most of all, pray for all of us as we try so very hard to bring this little boy to a family who will help him walk, grow, and be the child God intended.

Look at him! He is too special to languish in this Bad Place. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWOfgjh3XSc&feature=youtu.be

(video link)

Link to mulligan stew (use the button on the right too!)
http://www.covenantbuilders.blogspot.com/

Friday, March 9, 2012

our little boy! (some new pictures)

We received outstanding pictures from our facilitator in Bulgaria today with some pictures of our Little Dude.  LOOK!




He is described as inquisitive but shy.  He is still not walking independently; unfortunately the report we received from a very special lady who visited was inaccurate.  He is also very thin, and our agency is investigating trying to get him more nutrition (we would pay for this - to add Pediasure or something to his diet to help him grow)



Our facilitator was not permitted to see any other rooms other than this "play room".  They brought him, dressed "well" for this visit.  Unfortunately, our Bulgarian counterparts report that he has a bald and flat spot on the back of his head. Why do you think that is?

Because he spends a good portion of his day in a crib. 

I don't know many two year olds who spend time like that in their cribs, but this is because of the very poor care he receives in The Bad Place.  The workers would not let her see where he sleeps, either.  Gee, guess why?  It is legendary for its poor care, and he lives there.


The woman who took these pictures and visited him today said, "The orphanage is very bad.  He is a boy who needs a chance - he just needs a chance to be in a family and he will be so much improved."

We agree.  This little boy needs a chance at a family. 


We couldn't agree more.  Please help us give our Little Dude something to smile about all of the time.  His little smile says it better than I ever could.  Please consider entering the Mulligan Stew giveaway (button on right - you can win a new Ipad!!!!) or donating to our Reece's Rainbow account (tax deductible).  We are doing everything we can to move QUICKLY (which makes money a little tighter) because this is a boy who needs to be with his family as soon as he can. 

When I see this face, I know we must move quickly...before that sparkle leaves his eyes forever.

Thank you for your prayers and support.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

just a video.

Just thought I would share a video of our daughter, Chelsea (and me) trying her hand at Twinkle Twinkle.  Don't know what it will be like with two little ones on my knee!

Enjoy!

Mulligan Stew

There is a giveaway that you will be hearing about (the button is on the right on our blog) and it's called Mulligan Stew.  The woman putting it together is an absolute saint; she's braver than I am!

Her goal is to orchestrate a massive giveaway, the proceeds of which will "feed" many families who are adopting.  Yes, it will help us, but not all of it will.  Instead, entries will be spread out over many people and help many children.

I must say, I love these giveaways.  This could be because I won one once!  Yup.  While doing a good thing (helping our friends adopt a child from the Ukraine) I actually won a Nook Color!  For my entry of $50 (which was a stretch, I admit) I was the winner! I got a Nook Color for 50 bucks!

I haven't seen all of the cool things they are giving away, but it's a great way to help adoption, help these little ones and their future families....AND win something incredibly cool in the process.  Look, you might send a dollar or two to some huge offer for an Ipad or something, right?  Well....think of the odds of winning that versus winning something like this!  I never win anything, but I won a Nook from my friend.  It can happen.

Even if it doesn't, you still win, because every dollar goes to help families like me who are stepping out beyond their comfort (and sometimes ability) to welcome a child with special needs into their family.

It starts tomorrow, so consider it.  It will run for two weeks I think.  Click on the button and you'll be whisked to a world of prizes that help families.

In other news, my heart is very heavy today.  I should be rejoicing, because I am hopeful that we will receive a video and some pictures of the Little Dude tomorrow.  Instead, I am sad because there has been some adversity in a wonderful group of ladies who are adopting from The Bad Place.  I just have to stop and pray for all of us, because it isn't difficult to understand how high emotions can run.

1 Peter 5:8-9:  Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren who are in the world.

We are all so far away from the little ones we hope to bring home.  We know that their lives are not as we would want them, not as they should be, because their basic needs are not met.  As compassionate human beings, we care so deeply and want things to move quickly so that this type of care will stop.  When we can't do anything to make things go faster (like waiting for FBI fingerprints, which just take forever!) sometimes we forget ourselves and hurt each other or others.  This is not as it should be.

I pray that Mulligan Stew helps "feed" these families who sometimes are so full of uncertainty (including me!) to know that there are people out there who care...and understand...and are waiting too.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Holy Cow

Jon again...

So, I was looking at our Reece's Rainbow page this morning and I saw we got our first donation!  Then, I got home after work, checked it out again, and saw we had gotten at least one additional donation, maybe more.

Needless to say I'm grateful to see the support already pouring in from friends and from those who simply have a heart for children overseas stuck in a horrid environment, and our mission to at least make a difference in one of their lives.

I didn't realize the outpouring of support we'd have so early in this process...we've met so many wonderful people....I'm amazed what a small world it actually is.  I had a blogger leave me a note the other night that lives 15 minutes away from us.  I met another lady the other day whose brother-in-law was the lead singer in my favorite band growing up.  Turns out they adopted a child from overseas as well.

To think that this is just the beginning.  I'm excited to think what is in store for us...ok and maybe a little scared at times, but I'm only human :) 

We are listed!

I'm so excited to share that we have our Reece's Rainbow profile!

http://reecesrainbow.org/34134/sponsormenges

Please take a few minutes to read our story, since there are details contained in our profile that we haven't yet shared here....specifically, the fact that we are actually (currently!) parents to three children...but we only ever talk of Chelsea.  This is because two of our children (twin boys) died when they were unexpectedly premature.  Next week is their 4th birthday, and I will share our memorial video of them and take a few moments to talk about them.  They are our sons, too.  Someday soon, we hope to be parents to four children.  Sadly, two of them will be invisible and unseen, but their faces and names are written on our hearts forever, and God knows them by name and hold them in the palm of His hand. 

"Ian" (the Little Dude) doesn't particularly stand out.  He isn't afflicted with some life-threatening disorder which can sometimes call others to advocate.  He isn't particularly small.  He has severe strabismus (crossed eye) that isn't seen in his cute referral photograph.  We have a new photo that we will share shortly that shows a different little boy than this cute one.  A little boy who is slowly falling into the culture of institutionalization...a boy with an eye that is terribly crossed and that may be reaching a point of blindness...

A forgotten boy.  One who isn't terribly remarkable.  He's not super sick, he's not super old.  Of course, he's considered by most standards to be "adoptable".  His only remarkable characteristic?  He's a boy.

Do you know how often boys are overlooked in adoption?  I don't know why this is.  I have some theories, but nothing concrete.  However, 70-90% of the adoption requests that prospective parents make ask for GIRLS. 

http://www.in-gender.com/XYU/Gender-Preference/#Adoption

Even our social worker remarked anecdotally that in her experience, at least two-thirds of her home studies request girls.

And girls are lovely!  I have a little girl!  And all orphans deserve homes! I would never deny a little girl the chance to find a family.

I just wish it was a bit more equitable, because I'm the queen of fairness.  Life isn't fair, but sometimes I wish it was.  So, when we began this journey, we made a promise to ourselves that we would seek out a son, because we knew so many boys would be overlooked.  We had to make considerations of what we were able to take care of because we already have a daughter with special needs.  We wanted to make sure we were prepared to provide for the needs of two children with needs.  This unfortunately excluded some conditions.  But it was more important to us to know without question that we could parent this child with whatever needs he might bring - because although he deserves a family and ANY family is likely better than what happens to him in The Bad Place - we would not be good parents if we chose to adopt a child with needs we were not prepared to accept.

Naturally, this requires a great deal of faith, because it is possible (even likely?) that he will come home with needs that are different than what we think they are.  And we accept that.  We have to accept that.  If we do not, we cannot proceed with this adoption.  I am learning this lesson every day.

I LOVE that there are advocates out there for children with complicated special needs, or children who are about to age out of an orphanage.  That is a wonderful thing, and I want them to continue to speak for them, because few people speak for children like that.

I want, however, to speak more for the unremarkable children.  The children who seem "okay". 

Why?

Because I have a daughter like that too.

To meet my daughter, just superficially, you wouldn't likely guess she is different.  She is autistic, but her autism doesn't look the way most people think it "should".  She does make eye contact at times.  She does speak.  She shows affection and she understands language.  She is very smart - at not quite three years of age, she knows colors, letters, letter sounds, and even a few sight words.

She's fine!

Right?

Wrong. 

She is a child that some look at and think, "Oh, she's fine.  She'll be fine." She's unremarkable.  She doesn't receive some of the attention that others do, and I'm speaking about therapists and professionals; some of whom see her and don't understand.

She's not fine.  That's not some weird wish on my part for her not to be fine.  Oh, yes.  I want her to be perfect and wonderful.  Of course, she is to us.  But the truth is, she's not fine.

Some people don't notice the way she uses language.  They laugh when she uses some overly-precocious saying, but what they don't realize is that she is only reciting something she's learned by rote, and using it in a way she's memorized.  It's not functional.

They don't see her when we take her shoes off and she cries if you leave one shoe on, and don't take the other one off.  They don't see her reliance upon routines to regulate herself.  Chelsea is a child who will cry in church when the congregation claps unexpectedly, or when people sing "Happy Birthday" to her in unison. 

They don't see her choke on a piece of pizza, or realize that she still cannot chew effectively or eat all age-appropriate things.  They don't see how often we have to feed her at home, because she still has trouble feeding herself.

They don't watch her in the church nursery as she goes off into a corner by herself and plays.  They label her "independent" but really, she is frightened of other children and pushes them away when they enter her space.  She doesn't like to make eye contact with people she doesn't know, and she needs to be reminded several times to say "goodbye" to a stranger or to greet a child. 

They don't see her on the playground, unable to use the equipment without help.  They don't see her struggle to hold a crayon or be unable to place a very small peg in a hole.

What they see is a child who is adorable, dressed in matching Gymboree outfits, who might smile and even say "hi" (if prompted) and begin to run (they don't know she started running less than 2 months ago) and play.  She is unremarkable.  She doesn't "look" like an autistic child.  They might offer her a bag of fruit snacks, not noticing that I clandestinely take them away from her because she can't chew them.  They don't see how she was asked to leave preschool because she couldn't manage to stop crying at all and couldn't participate with the other children.

When I see "Ian", I see a reasonably unremarkable child who could be forgotten because "he'll be fine.  Someone will adopt him.  He's young. He's not that sick.  He's not that needy."

They are all needy.  If you think that way, I pray that you reconsider. Every child without a home deserves one.  Boys, and "healthy" children, and not-so-healthy children, and truly sick children, and little girls. 

"He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.  He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.  Like one from whom people hide their faces, he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.  (Isaiah 53).

Thank you for reading this, for following us, for praying for us, and for helping us bring a little "unremarkable" boy out of that Bad Place and into a home that is preparing to care for him. To us, he is just as remarkable as our daughter, and just as worthy to find a home in our family.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A word from Daddy...

Hello Blogosphere..(is that how it's spelled?)

In case you haven't figured it out, this is Jon posting instead of the regular update from Jenn.  Everything is fine with her, don't worry.  I just thought that now was as good a time as any to drop by and introduce myself briefly.

What's amazing to me so far is how fast things seem to be moving along, yet how painfully slowly it goes at the same time.  We manage to assemble a gigantic mountain of paperwork in a matter of days, but at the same time the FBI needs 8 weeks to figure out that we've never been involved in a crime.  So much action, then "hurry up and wait."

I've always told Jenn that one of the most frustrating things about my job was having to wait to finish my work until somebody else did their part.  This is very similar a situation.  We want nothing more to assemble our giant stack of papers, and get the heck on a plane and go get our little dude.  But alas, it just doesn't work that way.  And it's no good at all, knowing that he's at the Bad Place, as I believe Jenn puts it.  If it were up to us we'd be leaving tonight.

I suppose in the long run it's "better" to some extent that the process takes the length of time it does.  We're not heading over to the shelter to pick out a new cat.  This is little boy that will be an integral part of our family for the rest of our lives; so the time we have to prepare our family, our hearts, and our home is probably a good thing - at least from the outside looking in.  We just want to scoop him up and get him out of there though.

Well, stay tuned - I think Jenn has some news coming up over the next day or two...but I just wanted to take a few minutes and introduce you to the other part of this adoption equation.

Monday, March 5, 2012

we are listed...sort of.

We are so pleased to say that we were accepted into the Reece's Rainbow family, which will bring awareness to the plight of children without Down Syndrome who live in Bad Places - including THE Bad Place - and of course, it will help us to fundraise, which is certainly something we could use. 

Right now "Ian" as he is known (which is our Little Dude) is listed there under "My Family Found Me", but our information is not contained there yet.  It should be; I hope by Friday.  We are sending the paperwork and the necessary fees to Reece's Rainbow to get our process started.  We are waiting on our social worker to send a document to Reece's Rainbow, which we hope will happen quickly.

We also learned some excellent news; we are expecting a video of the Little Dude, hopefully by Friday.  Our facilitator in Bulgaria is supposed to visit The Bad Place in order to film him for us. I cannot wait to see this video and "see" him in person!

Today we also learned a good bit of news about the Little Dude's vision, which is not altogether positive.  His vision is very poor, and without intervention, he could go blind in one of his eyes, if he has not gone blind already.  Occlusion of the eyes (eye patches) were advised to help with this, but we know certainly that The Bad Place will not do this on a proper schedule.  Without a proper schedule, it is a useless procedure.  Our adoption doctor has told us that there is possible surgery for him that could have some benefit up to age four, but that most doctors in the US treat this condition by age ONE.  He is already over the age of two, and probably will be three when he comes home.  Oh, how we hope that the Little Dude's vision can be preserved while we work to get him home!

I am working with someone to redesign this blog so it looks pretty, so expect to see some changes shortly.  We'll have a Reece's Rainbow button and some more pictures to add (mostly of us!). We are also going to participate in a Bulgarian Adoptive Families Reunion in June, and I spent some of tonight filling out MORE PAPERWORK.  I'm grateful my college classes are over for the next two weeks, so I have extra time to take care of these mammouth tasks. 

Thank you for your prayers.  Please share our blog with others!!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

adoption weekend!

That's what this weekend (the first half, at least) is devoted to:  Adoption, and all of the paperwork required!

We had an outstanding visit from our home study social worker on Thursday.  There are some odds and ends that she needs in order to issue a favorable decision on our request to adopt.  But the good news is, she IS going to issue a favorable decision!  We spent yesterday and part of today assembling the documents she needs.  Things like our animal's vet records, a copy of our daughter's birth certificate, and miscellaneous other things.  We're also working this weekend to send off some documents that need authentication (apostille), primarily for me because I have documents that require this from other states beside Pennsylvania.  The Pennsylvania stuff will be pretty easy, all things considered.  We live close enough to Harrisburg to bring the documents in personally when the time is right.

The biggest thing we are still missing are our FBI background checks.  Our agency informed us that local FBI "channellers" who do this are not acceptable for Bulgaria.  We must have the report directly from the FBI, and this can take up to 8 weeks.  We mailed our information off a little more than a week ago, but this will hold up our home study because our social worker requires this information.  This is not welcome news, but news I must accept as we move forward.

Some of the money we expected to have at this point in the process is not here yet, either.  My husband has a wonderful bonus coming that should cover a good bit more of our adoption expenses, but it is delayed.  We're at a bit of a standstill with making our payments, although we are blessed to be able to pay for the home study and send some of the next set of agency fees.  After this point, we hope the bonus will appear.  I have read enough to know that so many who embark on this journey do not always know where the money will come from, and then it just appears.  This is a foreign concept to me, as I am such a "planner"!

"In their hearts, humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps."  Proverbs 16:9

I sound redundant, yet we must remind ourselves that this process will change our family in more ways than we can imagine.  We must be open to that change and allow it to happen.  They will all be good changes, because all things work together for good for those who love the Lord, according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).  "Good" is a matter of opinion at times, and there are times when things seem exceedingly bad, yet we trust that God will reveal that goodness even in the "bad".

We were saddened to learn that our Bulgarian facilitator was not permitted to visit our Little Dude in The Bad Place last week.  This frightens us because we worry that there is a Bad Reason why they would turn her away.  We hope this is not the case.  Our new medical information has given us hope and reason to believe that Little Dude's medical problems will be manageable.

Many have asked how they can help us bring Little Dude home, especially because he lives in The Bad Place.  We are so touched and thankful for those offers.  Right now, we have no formal way to accept donations.  To be honest, we had never thought of it.  We have reached out to organizations that might be able to help us, and we will happily let you know if God provides a plan for us to fundraise.  Right now, our request is for prayer - lots and lots and lots of it.  Please pray for the Little Dude most of all, because he has to live in that Bad Place.  Pray for our family and for this adoption.  God funds what He favors, and we know prayer is the very best thing right now to help.