Saturday, June 30, 2012

Prizes added!

It's been a blessing and a whirlwind.  As I write this, we are OVER 10% to our goal in our Reece's Rainbow account for the matching grant.  We are also about ONE THIRD of the way to our goal of our matching Brittany's Hope grant. 

How blessed we feel!  How awesome that is! 

We have two new prizes to add.  Both are terrific handmade items that will be sent to the 2 winners!

Tiny picture - I apologize - but they are tiny shoes!  Handmade by a pastor's wife specifically for those adopting.  It makes these little baby shoes even more special.

A very crafty friend of mine also offered this:

She's a better Mom than me, because she can sew.  These are toddler skirts.  One will be sent to the winner.  You can see they have an elastic waist.  The fabric may be different than what you see here.  If you're the winner, I'll put you in touch.  I'm a personal fan of the blue and green one myself.  In fact, can I please enter my own giveaway?  I want a chance at just about everything I see here!

Especially the SODA STREAM, which yes, probably makes me a big old dork, but I'll accept that.  Jon isn't interested in buying one (convinced we will not save money) but I'm just fascinated with the thing. 

Every detail, including how to enter, how to receive free entries, and pictures of the prizes are here.  Keep your eyes on the blog because I will add prizes as I receive them, so the giveaway will just grow.  And if you have something to offer, let me know!  You'll be entered for free if you do!

We are $2,250 away from our matching grant opportunity in Reece's Rainbow.  We are $3,050 away from our ultimate goal in Reece's Rainbow.  And we are $725 away from our matching grant with Brittany's Hope!

AND WE TRAVEL...IN TWENTY DAYS (and a handful of hours).

Share or donate a prize for a free entry.  Donate for more opportunities.  And THANK YOU!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Great Thirty Day Giveaway - please share!

Friends, I want to offer an apology of sorts.  There have been a few things (financially speaking) that I have not shared.  It is not because I wanted to be dishonest.

The truth is, we were scared.

About a week or so ago, an anonymous donor connected to someone we know offered us a matching grant.  The "challenge" was this:  If we could raise $2500 in 30 days, he would match that amount for us. 

I held off not saying anything - honestly because I was afraid to say "yes".  I was afraid I would fail. 30 days - to me - is not a long time. 

Then, two days ago, we received news that we are eligible for a matching grant through Brittany's Hope.  This grant, for $2,000, requires us to raise $1,000 as a seedling gift. 

We have filled out the paperwork to receive this grant, but have done so slowly...because of fear. 

"Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you."  Deuteronomy 31:16.

We have been so very blessed in our adoption process.  Gifts have been given to us from friends and strangers alike.  We have over $3400 in our Reece's Rainbow account because of this unmitigated, undeserved generosity.  It is, truly, a blessing for our family; one that continues to humble us. How is it that some members of our extended family don't care about our adoption, yet strangers bless us?

It was the words of a very kind woman who has befriended me during our process to bring our son from The Bad Place in Bulgaria who prodded me into action.  She reminded me of the mightiness of God, and promised to help.  Others promised too. I was reminded of 1 Chronicles 28:20:

"Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished."

The work is not finished.  We are not yet fully funded, and we are traveling on our first trip JULY 21ST.

I will do the work, Lord.  Forgive my unbelieving spirit.  You have given us gifts that will provide gifted funds to finish Your work. 

It is time to step out in faith and use the gifts given to us.

And so....*drumroll please* we are with MULLIGAN STEW TWO:  THE GREAT THIRTY DAY GIVEAWAY.

We have prizes!

First, the entry system.

If you share this giveaway, you will be entered. By leaving a comment here and a link to your blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc,  you will earn free entries. That's it.

If you would like more entries, we are going to use the same "amounts" as were in Mulligan Stew for donations.

$10.00 - 2 entries
$20.00 - 5 entries
$35.00 - 9 entries
$50.00 - 13 entries
$75.00 - 19 entries
$100.00 - 25 entries
$150.00 - 36 entries
$200.00 - 47 entries
$250.00 - 58 entries
$500.00 - 110 entries

Where do you donate?

You may donate to our Reece's Rainbow fund or our Chip In fund.  The Chip In will be used to pay the seedling gift needed for Brittany's Hope.  When we reach $1,000 in that account, we will have met our goal.  You are free to donate beyond that, but we are seeking the funds needed to receive the matching grant from Brittany's Hope.

For Reece's Rainbow, our current total stands at $3,430.  To receive the second matching grant of $2500, the total must reach $5930.  To be completely and fully funded, we must raise an additional $800.  This will cover expenses such as additional care for our future son in Bulgaria and some fees that we just discovered TODAY we will be paying in-county. It also covers the costs of the prizes we are offering, since only a few of them have been donated to us. 

Therefore, the total we need to raise is $1,000 (for matching Brittany's Hope grant), $2500 (for second matching anonymous grant) and $800 for additional expenses  = $4300. 

I want to make sure you all know where we are in the process and how much  more is needed.  When you see the Chip In reflect $1,000, you will know (before I even say!) that we have met that goal!  When you see Reece's Rainbow with $5930, you will know that we have met our matching grant.  And when our account reads $6730, you will know before we write a word that we are FULLY FUNDED.


We have prizes! 

We have a $25 VISA gift card:

We have a $50 AMAZON gift card:

We are also going to provide 2 "top" prizes - and allow the winner a choice!

The second place prize will be a choice.  Do you prefer coffee...

A KEURIG B40 ELITE coffee maker?

or do you prefer SODA?

A SODASTREAM GENESIS - complete with starter kit!

The runner up winner will get to choose one of these prizes.  So which is it for you?  Soda or coffee?  Either one is FABULOUS!

The grand prize winner will also get a choice.

Do you like games?  (Or do your kiddos love gaming?)  You might like:

A NINTENDO 3DS handheld gaming system!  It's okay; you can pretend it's for your kids when it's really for you :)

If games are not your thing, the grand prize winner can choose this:

An IPOD TOUCH 4th GENERATION - 8 GB with Facetime and an HD camera.

There will be other prizes added as we are able so that more people have a chance to win.

What do you need to know?

1.  Donate to our Reece's Rainbow account or Chip In to support our matching grants.  PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT to note that you've entered and how many entries you have (note the chart).  Notes are moderated.  Please leave a name or a way to identify you so that entries can be verified through Reece's Rainbow or Chip In.  Your comment WILL NOT be published, so no identifying information will be shared.

2.  Share to enter and leave a comment on our blog to note that you've shared.

3.  Second and first place winners will get a choice of prizes (as described)

This giveaway ends on JULY 28th, 2012.  We will be returning from Bulgaria on that day.  Entries will be tallied and drawn at random using assigment of numbers through  We will do this as SOON as we come home and as quickly as we can.

THANK YOU for your support, for your prayers and thoughts.  Thank you for your entries, and for sharing this with others.  Thank you for praying for our future son. 

And THANK YOU to those who very kindly "kicked us" a bit into action.  :)


This giveaway is void where prohibited. 

No purchase is necessary to enter; simply share a link to the blog and leave a comment with a way to verify your "share"

Please leave comments regarding entries on THIS BLOG ENTRY only.  Comments left on Facebook, through twitter, or on other blog posts will not be counted. 

The top 2 prizes are CHOICES.  You will not receive both prizes at the top 2 prize levels.  Choose between a Keurig or Sodastream for 2nd runner up, or an Ipod Touch and a Nintendo 3ds for the top prize. 

Prayers do not earn you entries.  But prayers are free, and appreciated :)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

travel dates!

It's time to write the entry I've been waiting for.  WE HAVE TRAVEL DATES!!

We will be traveling to Bulgaria and seeing The Bad Place firsthand on July 21st! 

Yes, if you are counting, that's almost 3 weeks away - just 24 days from now!

In 24 days, we will meet our future son, complete the paperwork to say we WANT him to be our son...

...and then come home.


I know.  It will be so very difficult, I suspect.  To visit that place in person, and see all that we will see..and then have to leave him there.  He will not understand why we are leaving and will not understand that we are coming back.  He also won't know that his days there are numbered and soon, he will not live there anymore.  I know we will work with his Baba and try to do whatever we can to help with the transition...but nothing is perfect and this won't be either.

I know from others who have been to The Bad Place what they experienced.  For me, I don't know.  I really don't.  Part of me thinks I will steel myself against the emotional hardship.  Part of me thinks I will be so excited to see him that it won't matter.  And part of me thinks I will finally see the graphic need that exists and work tirelessly to change the conditions that exist there. 

International social work anyone? 

Beyond that, I'm terribly excited!  I want so much to have some time to visit this country.  I've never been to Bulgaria and it looks like an amazing place, rich in culture and history.  The language is intimidating, to be sure, but this is my future son's birth country!  On this trip, I will have more time to learn and enjoy it; to capture memories that I will share with him until he visits himself one day (if he chooses to).  This is not a vacation and it's not an adoption-business trip.  This is a multi-centered experience, focused on meeting our future son, learning about his country, and enjoying some time with my husband as we work to become parents again.  We will meet the people in Bulgaria who will help us become a family of four.


Psalm 107:29-32 - He caused the storm to be still, So that the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they were quiet; So He guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the LORD for His lovingkindness, And for His wonders to the sons of men! Let them extol Him also in the congregation of the people, And praise Him at the seat of the elders.

All blessings flow from the God we serve, even as we work to afford the expenses of travel to meet our precious, neglected future child from a place that simply cannot care for his needs. 

Thank you for your prayers and thoughts and hopes for us; thank you for donating to help in our needs.  Thank you for your steadfast prayers throughout this process. We do not yet know how we will manage all of the expenses of travel.  But we serve a God who is faithful!  THANK YOU for rejoicing with us!!


Thursday, June 21, 2012


Much good news has been received in our household over the past 24 hours.

First, we received two very small videos and a new picture of our future son.  The most heartening part of seeing it, aside from actually seeing it, is how much better he appears.  In just four months of time, he has grown much taller and looks as though he has gained weight.  Rather than sitting without much movement, he is truly walking and moving fairly well!  His legs look straighter and his wrists look smaller (thick wrists can be a sign of rickets, among other things).  The spot on the back of his head, which is likely from spending too much time in a crib, is vastly reduced. 

He has a mullet now!  *laughs*  His hair is long.  While not my preference, I'm grateful his head is not shaved short.  He was smiling and running around, trying to grab a stuffed toy from a bin.  The female voice I heard was his baba, who now spends many full days with him.  We can tell it's making a difference...we are thrilled, actually.  This is closer to the type of care he deserves - but not the type of care he deserves. 

Seeing him, running and happy, I felt an immediate pang of sadness.  His life is going to change in radical ways that he will not understand.  Although we firmly believe that it is decidedly in his best interests, it would be folly not to recognize the loss he will suffer as he moves from the only home he's known into our home.  The care he now receives is much better, and the hope is that it continues to improve as The Bad Place - perhaps - becomes less of a bad place. 

But there's a caveat; a little wrinkle in the glimpse I see of that happy child.

You see, when the orphanage workers in The Bad Place know that a family is coming for a child, and when additional care is provided (above and beyond what is generally offered), a child's condition improves.  He is fed more, changed more, interacted with more - because the family is coming for him. 

So, the happy child I see would not actually be so happy and better cared for if we did not exist.  If a family wasn't coming for this child, he would be a nameless face in a sea of forgotten, neglected faces.  This is the catch-22.  If he could receive appropriate care with a consistent, loving caregiver; enough food to avoid malnutrition; enough therapy to overcome his physical challenges, an education, opportunity, social could make the case that he could make a reasonable life in his birth country.  I would still argue that a family is the most appropriate environment, but there would be evidence to suggest alternative thinking. 

That evidence evaporates if we disappear. 

A healthy, happy life is what we would want for any child, preferably in their country of birth and hopefully with extended family if the immediate family could not care for him.  It's the premise of foster care, even as that system is flawed also.  (We don't live in a utopia, no matter what some websites beg you to think).  It makes me sad that this appears to be impossible for him. 

The good news?

This little boy, without knowing it, has a family here who loves him and wants him as their son.  In the absence of hope where he is, he will have hope with us.  His physical challenges and delays do not deter us.  We stand prepared to bring him the resources he will need to improve and to introduce him to the love of a family.  We will learn to grieve the losses he will likely feel and do what we can to connect him to the life he is leaving.  His culture will become ours; when we self-identify, we will include Bulgarian in our roots. 

I am glad to see images of our future son that suggests he's improving.  I pray that this means other children are also benefitting.  I continue to pray that The Bad Place becomes less "bad" as more resources and media attention are poured upon it.  Privately, I have read accounts of the new administration at that orphanage and they have not been terribly positive.  It appears that children continue to suffer while others (who have families coming) are treated better.  This is not as it should be. 

Thank you for praying for our family, for our little boy, and for our trip.

Oh, did I forget to mention our trip?

We've been given permission to travel after July 15th and are working with family and various logistics to determine what dates will work.  Very soon, we will be able to count the days until we meet him!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

the gazes of three year olds.

There is something uniquely bone-chilling about the betrayed, horrid look in a little girl's eyes as her mother exits the room. 

Unless you're inhuman, it cuts to the core.

There is also something amazingly heartwarming to see the delighted eyes of a three year old as she plays, independently, in a group of children; smiling and saying, "Hi Mommy!".

My little girl did so well today.  Her return to preschool, this time, was triumphant instead of traumatic.  The report from her therapist was encouraging.  Our preparation was worth it; we saw the fruit of it today.  She is beginning to manage her environment.

She's not perfect, of course.  There are miles to go before we sleep (a nod to Robert Frost).  She needs assistance following directions and joining the groups.  She needs help with transitions and with social interaction. 

But she's doing it.  She's doing it!  Thank you, Lord.

How will she do when she has a brother?


Tomorrow, my little girl starts preschool - again.  Her first attempt last year went quite poorly.  We've spent this time preparing as best we can and assembling resources for her.  She will now attend a different preschool with full supports.  Tomorrow she will be with a very familiar therapist who I hope will make the transition as smooth for her as possible. 

She's enrolled in  her preschool's summer program.  The only real reason for this is to give her maximum practice time for the fall, when the school year officially begins.  Preschool isn't a mandate in my state, but with Chelsea's various social delays (among others) it's really not a question whether we should send her or not.  We must.  She must learn to interact with peers instead of pushing them away.  She must learn to use her ever-growing speech abilities in public.  She must learn that the world is not always a predictable place, and manage those challenges with as much grace as she can.  Transitions occur in the real world, as do academic demands and structure.  We can't really recreate those environments at home, and for a child with her diagnosis, these are critical skills that she can't master anywhere else.

As a person looking objectively, I know this.

As her mom, I worry for her and pray that we have done our job better this time, giving her the very best chance to taste success at school. 

While some parents rejoice at the precious hours of alone time, where it's easy to do laundry and run out for a quick jaunt the store, that won't be me.  Instead, I will sit, probably working on my classes and worry until it's time to pick her up.  I will pray that I don't arrive to a hysterical mess of a child who cried for the three hours she was away from me.  She needs to learn independence and self-regulation.  It would be a hell of a lot easier to just keep her home and cross our fingers that she "gets it" by the time kindergarten starts.  But that wouldn't be prudent.

As I reach the midpoint to my latest semester, I am again reminded of just how little time I have remaining until I achieve my bachelor's degree.  The adoption of our future son doesn't (thankfully) put me earning that degree in too much jeopardy, but I wish we had travel dates.  We are still waiting for them, and likely won't know them until next week, at best. 

The point of earning my bachelor's degree was really nothing more than finishing what I had started years ago.  I was a child who grew up believing I would have a degree, and I never bothered to finish.  Too little dedication, too much distraction.  As I grew older, I became more frustrated with myself.  I'd always wanted the degree - would I ever get it? 

In December of 2009, I sat my husband down and explained that, while I  understood his MBA was important, my bachelor's degree had been placed on the backburner for too long.  I wanted it, and I was ready to get it.  I started college again in January of 2010 and haven't taken a semester off since. 

My original major was pyschology, because I have always had an interest in this subject matter.  I wasn't terribly concerned about marketability, knowing that psych majors typically need at least a master's degree before they can be taken seriously. I wanted to take something that I loved.  (Being involved in adoption, and reading what I read, I'm so glad I have the background that I do.  It is really eye opening.)  I chose psychology and not long after, thought about a minor. I considered law seriously, thinking someday I would go to law school, but ultimately was interested in Human Services (social work) because I loved the practicality of the electives I had already taken.

As I progressed, I realized that Social Work was more rewarding to me than psychology.  I found myself looking forward to my social work classes and finding fewer psych classes that interested me.  After some soul searching, I decided to switch and become a social work major and use psych as my minor.  That change didn't impact my credits or my timeline.  The only sadness I now feel is that I didn't choose a school that offered an official BSW.  By the time I realized what I wanted, it was too late to change without pushing my degree plan back at least another year. 

With less than a year remaining in my degree program, I am forced to ask myself:  What now?

When I began my degree, I didn't know my daughter would have special needs.  I didn't realize the advocacy role I would have to play for her.  We were not adopting at that time.  I didn't realize some of the passions that I now have for fighting social injustice and championing the causes of those less fortunate.  I just wanted my bachelor's degree, and that's what I set out to achieve.  I knew I would work hard, and I have. 

I also didn't realize that I would make Dean's List (twice), earn a place in my college's honor society, and be eligible to apply for a scholarship.  I've done well - better than I believed.  I'll graduate with honors from my school.  I may get Summa, but certainly Magna Cum Laude, and I'm proud. 

As I learn about graduate schools, I know my education will not hold me back.  There is not a program in the country that I am not academically qualified to apply to.  Period.  I  know that.  My grades are stellar. I currently have a 3.87 GPA and a 4.0 in both my major AND minor.  (3 B's.  THREE LOUSY B's.  One in a history class, one in Biology, and one in Math.) I have done well in choosing my electives and foundational courses. 

In short, academically speaking, I could go anywhere I wanted - money aside, of course. 

But do I want graduate school?  Do I want to be an MSW? 

More importantly, what can I do with my overall application package to strengthen it?  One area of critical need is volunteer opportuntities.  In order to get into a terrific program, I need more than a great GPA.  I need a background suggestive of a person who is competent and reasonably experienced with social services, and I don't have that. 

If I just had my daughter, and assuming she transitioned well into school, I would be in a position to volunteer at least 6 hours per week while she was at preschool.  If she was still able to function, I might be able to get her a longer day at her current preschool on some days so I could work. 

I don't just have my daughter to think of, however.  I have a future little boy who is on target to become part of our family - a little boy whose needs are not really known and who may require so much of my time that I won't be able to focus on applications to grad school, let alone actual attendance.  In order to be a prepared and proper mother to him, I have to ensure that he has the maximum possible amount of our time so that we can accurately assess his needs and see what challenges he presents medically and emotionally in our family.  He will not be able to join his sister at her preschool for some time; perhaps never.  I will be very busy advocating for his very specialized needs as a non-native English speaker, a child with medical concerns, and a child who will likely face attachment and assimiliation issues. 

Graduate school will likely have to wait if I want to present the strongest possible application.

If was able, however, I think I would pursue a CASA volunteer position (CASA = Court Appointed Special Advocate) for children. I would also consider volunteering at a pregnancy crisis shelter as an advocate to pregnant women in crisis.  If I had any time left, I'd throw a few hours to a well known local social service agency who equips disadvantaged children with basic school supplies.  The theme, naturally, is children, because I fundamentally believe that children are the innocent victims of choices made by others who are in power over them.  And I believe the price so many of them pay for mistakes not of their choosing are harmful for life. 

Someone abandoned my future son because they felt it was culturally appropriate to do so.  I'm fairly confident that his birthmother didn't realize the place she was leaving him.  It was simply the local orphanage and I'm also sure his birthmother wasn't educated at all on how to care for her son (from a fifth pregnancy) who was born too early and with issues.  There was little stigma and it was considered "the right thing to do" so she left him.  I don't know and I can't speculate how that must have felt for her.  I don't know what she thinks now or what she wishes might have happened.  Given the village she is reportedly from, I'm fairly confident she lives in poverty.  I'm even pretty sure that some of the reasons for her poverty, or her family's poverty, are not necessarily her fault.  I don't know what cards she's been dealt or what choices she realistically had or has available to her to improve her life, assuming she has not already done so. 

But even if her choices were limited (at best) she had them.  And he did not.  He was a tiny child, who had no voice and no choice.  He could not ask to live with his grandmother or grandfather.  He could not protest his placement.  He was an innocent child whose only "crime" was being born to a mother who did not feel she could care for him and a family that apparently did not (or could not) step forward.  To me, that is the height of social injustice.  Even bad choices are choices, but this child - just like so many others - had no choice at all. 

We can never restore some of his choices, but we can enrich his life so that he has more choices available to him as he grows.  We can empower him to be the best person he is able to be so that the injustice that happened to him as an infant is as reduced as possible.  What sort of a child might he have been had he lived with a stable, loving, financially secure family?  It is the same sort of process that a social worker uses for foster children.  Foster children, whether temporarily or permanently, cannot live with their birth families.  In that way, they have forever lost something.  But part of the foster care placement process is to help the child ultimately develop as fruitful of a future as possible with a functional family who can empower them to be the best people they can be. 

I am really just thinking aloud; about my daughter, about my future son, and about all that it means for our family. 

And, at this precise moment, I cannot tell you how I long to meet him and know this little boy.  We are still waiting.  Please pray for us as we wait.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Because I have no experience whatsoever with special needs *coughcough* and because I have absolutely no skill *coughcoughcough* and because I'm in completely over my head *coughcoughcoughcough*...I managed to get two of my daughter's three therapies started, after more than a month of excuses of delay.

Two strongly worded emails and locating a private speech therapist was all it really took to compel her educational service provider to stop delaying and start delivering.  It's unfortunate that it takes this amount of pressure to get what our daughter needs and is legally authorized for, but the end result is that she should begin her speech services and occupational therapy services next week. 


I know of a family that has been waiting since November for their child's services to begin.  That makes me very angry.  This is a child who qualifies for therapy and is forced to wait for reasons that, on top of being illegal, are just plain wrong.  Laws are in place to implement a child's service plan within a specific timeframe.  These timeframes are often ignored, so not only are laws being summarily dismissed, but no one is benefitting. The possible exception to this is the educational service provider.  Make up sessions, which are routinely offered to parents and then "stuffed" into a child's schedule are not efficacious for therapeutic services.  Therapy must be consistent and sustained, not stuffed into a five day week to "make up" for what was previously lacking.

My daughter's will be.  I pray that the other children are appropriately served as well.

There is a stereotype associated with the educational service providers in my state; one that says that they are generally tough to deal with and eager to deny children services.  I'm grateful that, till now, I have not experienced this.  But, like most stereotypes, they are rooted in a truth, even if that truth is now distorted and magnified.  Regardless of my experiences with this provider, I must actively remind myself that not all providers are this way.  I must try not to paint the entire system with a horribly broad, biased brush.

I recently began re-following Regretsy.  This is a group that pokes great fun at some of the oddities found on Etsy.  As a decidedly un-creative sort, I find Etsy fascinating.  But I also find some of the things offered on Etsy humorous, sometimes offensive, and even a little head-turning.  Some of the commentary offered there directly appeals to my sarcastic nature, and so I am amused.

Many, many, MANY people use Etsy to sell the products they create.  (Okay, so some people use Etsy to pawn off items that are forgeries, but that's another post).  Some people use Etsy to sell things that perhaps they believe are creative, but...well....I mean, I saw some sort of a garment marketed as some kind of "flutter shirt" that was, honest-to-goodness, nothing more than a sports bra with handkerchiefs safety-pinned to the exterior.  I know I'm not creative, but I think even *I* with my lowly abilities could manage that creation for $60!

Periodically, a legitimate seller on Etsy will comment on some blanket statement appearing on Regretsy.  I recently saw someone reply to a comment - something about "all Esty sellers sell junk" (this was the jist of the statement).  A legitimate Etsy seller basically replied with, "Hey, I like your site and you point out a lot of funny, junky things on Etsy, but I'm not like that.  I wish you'd broaden your horizons a bit and accept that there is actually SOME things of value on Etsy."  To which the esteemed moderater replied, "Oh yeah, and I forgot that the rest of the sellers on Etsy who pretend not to sell junk are actually humorless idiots."

I shook my head.  Harmless, I'm sure.  Regretsy doesn't care about the legitimate sellers on Etsy.  Their site is about humor and about hyperbole.  I don't hate Etsy and I get a chuckle out of Regretsy's commentary, even as I know that it's not accurate.  The good part?  It's not meant to be.

My next thought was how so many adoption hating websites operate similarly.  They take the very worst "offenders" in adoption; they copy and paste blogs and writings out of context, and offer their humorous take.  They take less "harmful offenders" as well, and rain down a torrent of sarcastic, unsubstantiated garbage.

The sad part?  Many hold themselves out to be legitimate outlets of information (even as they admit they are biased!) as the "voice" of "reason" in the corrupt, horrid world of adoption. 

The good news is that any competent googler can easily find the right information and separate the facts from biased hate speech.  Or, they can read the *same account, over and over and over and over again* of the abuses adoptive parents have shamefully done to their adopted children - things that are inexcusable - and realize that it's not a representation of the entire picture. 

I was standing in the checkout line of my local grocery store when I saw the headline of the newspaper which read, "Man arrested for killing infant daughter."  I scanned the article and didn't see any mention of adoption.  I then held up the headline for my husband to read and said, "I don't understand. I thought only adoptive parents killed their children.  This must be wrong."

See what I mean?

We were at a local ice cream store and saw a banner for a family who is raising money for their daughter.  This child apparently suffers with a brain tumor and the ice cream store was putting on a fundraiser for her medical expenses.  I couldn't resist.  I pointed to the banner and said to my husband, "How dare this family fundraise?  Didn't they realize when they decided to procreate that their child could be afflicted with a horrible disease?  Is it society's fault that they don't have tens of thousands of dollars to pay for her medical care?  Obviously, if they do not have the funds to pay for this child's medical care, they are ill equipped to parent her!  Oh, but someone will try to argue that this was a surprise - not a choice.  But they chose to have a kid, so it IS their choice.  Oh, but maybe they have paid all of these expenses themselves, but ran out of money.  Oh well.  I guess the kid should suffer with the half of a brain tumor left if they can't afford to take it all out."


A very broad, biased brush.

I can't afford to paint with that kind of a brush.  My education patently forbids it and teaches me otherwise.  That's why I'm grateful (and actively read) some of the anti-adoption information that exists on the internet.  Some of it is true.  Some of it may not be, but it covers a grey area that needs to be talked about.  And some of it is absolute crap.

I'm grateful and blessed that our family has approached the adoption process with eyes open, trying to learn what we can, and embracing the unknown.  I am so happy that we have the opportunity to parent a child most deserving from a place that children should not live in.  I'm blessed that people have chosen to help us make this a reality, even as we write the checks ourselves.  I'm glad that some people recognize the differences and choose not to paint with that broad, biased brush. 

Stereotyping is an easy shorthand that everyone uses at some point.  If we had to actively evaluate each and every person or situation we encountered, we'd never leave our homes.  Don't get caught in the trap of stereotyping.  Take the time to evaluate for yourself before you paint every special needs adoption, every Reece's Rainbow child, or every adoptive parent with the same broad, biased brush.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Tick tock, tick tock...

Jon writing....

We're trying to teach Chelsea to wait.  It's a hard concept for a 3 year old...her entire life we've basically done whatever she needed for her as soon as we were able.  So the concept is a bit lost on her so far.  We've had some good luck with getting her to count....we'll say "wait, Chelsea.  Count to five."  She'll count 1...2...3...4...5...and then when she's done we'll give her what she wanted.  She's starting to get the hang of it.  I started trying to get her to count to 10, but so far no luck...after 5 she repeats her request :)  It's progress though, and I'll take it.

How can it be that I am trying to teach a 3 year old to wait, yet having so much difficulty waiting myself?  Right now we're waiting on travel dates for our first trip to Bulgaria to meet our little dude.  And the waiting is driving me nuts.  In the business world, where I'm used to operating, you get done everything pretty much as fast as you can, so you can get on to the next thing.  Apparently adoption-land doesn't work quite the same way  :)

I'm reminded of the Tom Petty song "The Waiting".  "The the hardest part...."  Running around, getting fingerprints, getting documents notarized and apostilled, etc. while difficult and sometimes annoying, was much easier live with.  Why?  Because in some sense, we controlled it.  We could make the process go faster if we got done what we needed to and planned accordingly.  The waiting is indeed the hardest part - as we're waiting on somebody else whose timeline doesn't work quite the way ours does.

I keep imagining God, sitting up in heaven looking down at me....saying, "OK Jon....count to five.....1...2...3....4....5...."  I suppose he knows better than I do - but as a lowly (OK very lowly LOL) person, I think my 3 year old does better than I do sometimes :)

Tick tock, tick tock...the days roll off the calendar....

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


I'm the mother of a little girl with special needs.  She is my biological daughter.

There are many lessons to be gained by parenting children with special needs.  Unlike some who have chosen to adopt children with special needs, my first experiences with special needs were not necessarily chosen.  I did not know my daughter would have challenges.  We simply decided to have a child.  That choice, it can be argued, is a choice on its own merits.  Choosing to have a child means that the child could have issues.  Had we chosen to remain child free, we wouldn't have a daughter with special needs. 

But that's not reality.  The reality is, the vast majority of children do not have special needs.  They are "special" because they are different - a deviation from the "norm".  The reason it is talked about is because it is not what parents expect.  Most parents expect a child who will grow just like other children they know.  That doesn't always happen.

It's different in adoption, because many families are consciously choosing to parent children with special needs.  Some of those parents, sadly, are not prepared for the realities of special needs children.  Most, gratefully, are.  Parent expectations can be a tricky maze to negotiate. 

We expected our daughter to grow as any typical child would, and she did not.  That is not a criticism of my daughter.  It is simply the truth.  Her path through childhood has not been the path that typical children navigate.  The way we think, the way our lives are constructed, the way we manage situations are not the ways that parents of typical children generally operate.

Parenting our amazing little girl requires a bit of rewriting.

The "script" we "rehearsed" in our minds about her before she was born and when she was very small have to be rewritten - edited, revised, deleted, and added to.  Sometimes, there are tears during the rewrites, as we erase some things to add others.  Sometimes, there is pure joy as we edit our new script that is constantly subjected to revision.  There are times when we can add several paragraphs to our script with excitement over things our daughter can do - challenges that she has surpassed.  There are other times when we must quietly delete many lines, sad to know that our child can't reach these goals right now, and may never. 

Life must be repackaged - packaged into a life that is more in line with our realities; realities that include triumph and great sadness, losses and gains. 

Our daughter is a miracle and she is amazing.  She surprises us with her abilities as well as with her challenges.  Instead of falling into the bad habit of envisioning her future (as so many parents do) we must keep our minds sharp on the here-and-now and focus on what we may hope for her future as we help her develop the skills to reach those goals.  Sometimes, this brings us great sadness and loss.  We mourn for what she cannot do now.  Occasionally, we mourn the loss we feel as her parents.  We will likely never be anything other than parents to special needs children.  We will always wear that label.  Our children will require accommodation, advocacy, and hard work.  Those who have not parented in this way have absolutely no idea the resilency and skill required of parents who have children with special needs. 

Parenting is a tough job; being a parent to a child with special needs is even tougher.  (There's a reason why more marriages fail when one or more of the children in the family has special needs).  Had we not had our experiences with our daughter, I don't think we would be prepared at all to parent another child with special needs.  Perhaps that's not true and I underestimate myself...but I think I know myself pretty well and I'm pretty confident in that answer.  Without our experience - experience that we continue to gather and execute - I don't think I would feel prepared to parent our future son. 

In truth, our life is one big rewrite.  We can control some of the quality of that rewrite.  The rest lies in how we read it.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


I sit and watch his videos.  Our tiny future son, attempting to walk, though his legs are bowed from rickets.  Clutching his special caretaker's hand, looking emptily at a ball pit that he isn't invited to play in. 

I watch his eyes; so badly in need of patching or possibly surgery.  I wonder how much he can see.

I see a glimpse of a smile from him in some of the videos, tiny flashes of light in the grey coldness of the orphanage. 

I watch clinically; noting his eye contact (or lack thereof), watching the way his hands form around a ball, or observing how he investigates his environment.  I am not a clinician, but I watch with the practiced eye of a mother who has watched a child in this way for almost three years.

Then I watch as a mother.  Not his mother - no, not yet - but as a mother.  A mother who sees a little small, hurting child and who can feel her heart hurting too. 

Oh little need so much and you need it now, and I cannot help.

We are waiting.  God makes us wait, and we do not want to wait.  We do not want you to wait anymore, little one, and yet somehow you must.  I don't know where his mother or father or family is, only that they are not there and he is left to be ignored in a place that is rife with neglect and maltreatment. 

It's so unfair.  It's unfair for any child to live in this way.

Dear little boy, as the sun rises in your country on this Sunday morning, we are praying for you and thanking God that we are one day closer to bringing you home.  We thank God that we have been given the honor to find you and love you; that God has blessed our family with enough resources to get us this far in our journey.  We praise God that there are others who love you and care about you; both in your country and here.  People who will try to help us reach you before the place you live in swallows you up and takes away what remains of your health and spirit. 

Our special little boy may have a chance to be the little boy he's meant to be if we can get to him quickly and before The Bad Place eradicates even that tiny smile.  The Bad Place can do that to children.  It does it all the time.  We want to change that for him.

Thank you for helping us change that for him, and for praying and thinking of our family and our little boy.

Friday, June 8, 2012


Our future son will not be like other children.  He may never be, but he certainly won't be when he comes home.  He will need help; therapy, doctors, and other services.  He may be a child who doesn't connect well to us - not just when he arrives home, but perhaps ever - and we must prepare ourselves for this. 

For those who don't pay attention, it can be easy to dismiss what I know about special needs as nothing more than book knowledge; something I learned from reading.

But it's not.

I already know what it's like to be the mom who's "different".

My beautiful, intelligent, vibrant, miraculous daughter, is different.

I know what it's like to be the mom who shows up to a gathering with her daughter and two therapists. 

I know what it's like to speak to school administrators and advocate for the services that Chelsea needs to be successful.

I know what it's like to have constant interruptions from therapy appointments.

When I go to the toy store, I try to choose at least some toys that have therapeutic value instead of just "fun factor".  Oh, see that Cookie Monster toy? You have to press his stomach to activate him instead of just shake him.  I'll choose that one instead of the other. 

I know what it's like to call developmental pediatricians. I know what it's like to hear them say things you wish they wouldn't.

I know about uncertainty.  I know what it feels like to look at your precious child and be completely unable to predict what her future holds or what she'll be like years from now. 

I understand about loss.  I know it all too well.  I know what it is like to say" goodbye" to two beautiful, perfectly formed little twin boys.  I know what it's like to say "goodbye" to the picture-perfect childhood for my daughter.  Birthday parties filled with cheering and fun, typical preschools without the need for therapists...those are not realities for our family.  It is sad, but we have pushed through to recognize the joy and manage the struggle.  We know it.  It's not from a book.  It's from real life.

It is why we knew we could care for a child with special needs...because we already do. 

Our life will change even more dramatically when our future son becomes our own.  His needs will look different and our family will be different in a hundred different ways. 

But we didn't choose adoption because we were just "aching" to have another kid, or because we only wanted a son, or because we wanted perfection, or because we just believed that "all that little boy needs is a loving family" or a host of other reasons that perhaps some adopt. 

We weren't aching to have another child - but we certainly wanted another.
We didn't only want a son - but we certainly wanted to parent a boy.
We didn't want perfection - and we've never, ever gotten perfection, so why expect it now?
We don't believe our future son "just needs love" - but we certainly believe he needs a family!

The love of a family helps an awful lot, but our future son's needs will not be cured by how much love we show him.  That is why we prepare, as much as possible, to secure the resources that we need for him.  But there will be surprises.  There always are.  We know that too.  Not all surprises are "good" ones, either. 

In our hearts, however, we know that we are a family who is preparing to face a difficult challenge, but who also knows the joy that comes with even the smallest victories.  God is in those tiny victories, even as He is with us in the challenging times. 

Our first challenge will be going to The Bad Place to meet this little boy.  We will see for ourselves the difficult place he lives in and how delayed and sick he is.  Those dates are coming soon - we should hear pretty shortly, actually.  We also know that the faces of other children there will be heartbreaking and difficult also.  Some of them have parents coming, some of them may reap the benefits of improvements brought about by increased media attention, and others may still be suffering.  It will be hard.  But we will go there, because that is where our future son lives.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

the floors begin to empty.

Because of the terrible orphanage where my future son resides, I am exceedingly interested in the goings-on there.  And I am particularly interested in the children who, one by one, show up on lists and become available for international adoption. 

Poverty is the greatest "crime" that the naysayers of international adoption cite as the reason children should remain in their birth countries.  Poverty, they say, should be eradicated, and then everyone will magically care for their children all of the time.  Poverty can be solved with a swift wave of a magic wand, and it is only because this magic wand hasn't been waved that international adoption continues to exist.

Poverty IS a major reason why people abandon their children, but poverty cannot be eradicated by millions, even billions of dollars.  These dollars would be infused into part of a society that continues to lack in parenting skills, medical care for special needs children, and a host of necessary resources to care for children.  And while we're waiting to wave this magic wand, there are children who suffer.

A child who captured my attention was Gabby. 

Gabby's needs were long.  In addition to living in one of the worst orphanages in recent memory, she has complicated medical needs that most families could not possibly manage. 

Gabby had another problem; a problem few like to admit actually matters, but one that clearly does.  It is also one of the things that adoption naysayers like to harp on, because in their magic fairy land, no one is ever judged by how they look or what they believe (unless, of course, they believe in adoption.  Interesting.)

No one likes to say it out loud, but sadly, sometimes looks (and thus, pictures) make a difference.  It is precisely why groups like Reece's Rainbow exists.  Children are just words on a page and not human beings until a picture is seen.  Research suggests that pictures make an enormous difference - whether internationally or domestically - and sadly, Gabby's picture wasn't terribly flattering.

With eyes of love and understanding, it was clear to see that this little one was simply covered in "The Bad Place Dirt"; a sort of invisible substance that takes the sparkle out of eyes and dulls the complexion.  In addition to her profound medical needs, she just didn't look as adorable as some of the other children.  This shouldn't matter, and it doesn't matter to everyone, but it does matter to some - whether it is admitted or not. 

I worried as I looked at her sweet face, dulled from that horrid place and sick from malnutrition and illness.  Would her mother see her?  Would her mother find her face and come for her?

Time became short.  There has been a push with the authorities in Bulgaria to work more quickly to get children currently in The Bad Place listed and available for adoption - first domestically, and then internationally.  Authorities in The Bad Place have patently said that money and resources are not currently enough; that it would be best for the children who live here to find families (see the links here). 

The statements from these authorities is that these children - these 'malformations' as they called them in the press - could not be adopted, so why bother?  As Gabby's time grew shorter, I began to worry that The Bad Place authorities would be found correct.  If Gabby's mother didn't find her soon, her file would be returned to her country, and those authorities would be proven correct.

Meet Gabby's mother.

Gabby's mother saw her.  She saw past the perhaps-unflattering photograph, past the "dirt" of The Bad Place, and into the eyes of a child most needy, the true "least" of these.  She saw Gabby not as a long list of special needs, but as a little girl who desperately needed a family. 

I always knew it would take a special family to find Gabby, and I believe she has a very special family. 

Thankfully, Gabby is not the first child from The Bad Place to find a family recently.  What a blessing that is. Reform, while needed, will not come in time to save these children. The children who currently roam the halls neglected, malnourished, and sick...those children must find families. 

They are.

Our future son has a family coming for him, too.  Soon, I pray the floors will be empty from that place.  I pray that, as the floors from that place begin to empty, conditions will improve so that children receive appropriate medical care, attention, diaper changes, and proper food.  I don't know if those changes will come in time to help Gabby or help my future son.  But I pray they come.

In the meantime, another precious treasure will find a home where I pray she is loved and cared for as the valuable person she is. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

basking in the blessing.

In the midst of adoption paperwork, financial worries, seemingly unnecessary delays in the process, the yearn in our hearts for things to happen faster, the worry we have over our future children, and so many other things, we may forget just how blessed we are.

We are blessed by friends, family, and strangers.  Whether you have just a little bit in your financial "adoption bucket" or quite a lot; if you are fully funded or far from it, chances are you have been blessed with favor from many people. 

"And my God will meet all of your needs, according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus."  Phillipians 4:19

When we are struggling to complete our paperwork, yearning for events to occur that seem to take so very long, we can forget what a blessing adoption really is.  We are blessed and humbled that God has given us the means to adopt a child.  Children who live in The Bad Place are suffering greatly, and it is hard on the heart to know that this happens.  But there are families who are stepping forward, to break the bonds of darkness for these children and allow them to enter into the light of God's love manifested in a family. 

"Father to the fatherless, defender of the widow - this is God, whose dwelling is holy.  God places the lonely in families." (Psalm 68:5-6)

Our family is grateful and blessed to live in a home that can accommodate another child.  We are pleased to know we can financially care for him and provide him with the needs he has.  Affording adoption (the outlay of thousands of dollars, often more than a person puts down on a home or a car) is not the benchmark to determine if someone is prepared to afford parenting.  Parenting is expensive over a long period of time.  Adoption is expensive over a much shorter period of time.  Those who criticize should immediately try to find $30,000.  If they cannot, they should immediately relinquish the children they have (for they cannot clearly afford to parent them) and if they have no children, should never for one moment consider having any until they can write a check - with liquid funds - for at least $30,000. 

For the rest of us, we should look at donation and support as a blessing that we bestow upon others and as a blessing to be received for ourselves- both of which are examples of God using ordinary people as "his hands and feet"; in essence, God's work through us.  The process of adoption is more than inviting a child into your family and parenting him or her.  The process of adoption reshapes a family; and those who obey God's command to care for orphans shall receive His blessings as a result. 

Lord, our family is grateful to live in a safe community, in a home large enough to accommodate another child.  We thank You that we are in a position to intervene on behalf of a child who was unwanted in his own country.  We pray for his family, that we may one day know them and teach our future son about them.  We express our gratitude to those who have supported us and blessed our family with their generosity and prayers.  We honor You with our obedience to reach the least of Your children and encourage others to do so.  We raise our voice in prayer for every family who reads our blog, prays for us, and encourages us.  We pray for those families who are in the process of adoption, and those whose hearts are open to adoption but who have not yet found their child(ren).  We thank You for helping us to find our future little boy and for the privilege it is to intervene in his life.  We thank You for every blessing we have in this process, and place our financial needs for this adoption squarely in Your hands as we prepare to travel to Bulgaria and meet our future son.

Please, if you are reading today, stop and examine the blessings that you have already received; whether you are adopting, or just caring about our adoption, or supporting others.  Don't forget what a privilege it truly is to open your arms to an unwanted child.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Free shipping code

I know many of you who read know we sell Avon to help fund our adoption.  Until June 5th, you can receive FREE SHIPPING with any order you place on our site.  A small order, a large order, whatever you'd like!

It can also be used in conjunction with all other promotions - such as 50% off Skin So Soft Bug Guard, or Derek Jeter's "DRIVEN" Father's Day fragrances. 

This means you can support our adoption and not pay for shipping on orders of any size to ship to your house!  Win win :)

The code to use at checkout is:  FSMAY5, and this code is valid until June 5th at midnight (eastern). 

You can shop simply by clicking on the "I'm the Avon Lady!" pink button, or by going directly to my website:

This code is shareable with whoever you know and we really appreciate the new sales.  Every dime of profit goes into our adoption fund.  With our first trip coming soon (hopefully dates next week!) we could really use the support. 

If you haven't taken a look at Avon lately, you need to see the fun baby items (from Tiny Tillia), the bath and body products (that I enjoy personally) and even some Tupperware-like storage and serving products.  There's even some fashion, and you can also use the free shipping code to buy out of the outlet store.

We know there may be few interested, but we would appreciate it if you could share this link with people you know who might be interested in Avon, adoption, or both.

Remember:  The code FSMAY5 is only good until June 5th!

Thanks for praying for us, for sharing our story and our blog, and for caring about our future son and the Bad Place he lives in.