Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Fairy Godmother

Over the 5 years that I've known about Reece's Rainbow, I've done some advocating and fund raising for some of the kids from Latin America.  I haven't done nearly as much as some people but I've been pulled towards certain kids sometimes.  I sell Avon and hand knit items year round to help waiting children and adopting families.

Some of the kids I've advocated for are home---Mark.  Some are still waiting ---JamesPhillipVaughn.  Some are stuck in a country that isn't processing US families right now --- KimberleyLene.  One passed away before she got the chance to know the love of a family --- Monet.  One I will get to meet this summer --- Josie/Seraphina!

And then, there is the one who is being adopted by a childhood/high school friend of mine.  The one who will live less than an hour from me  The one I will be able to greet at the airport.  And spoil on his first birthday with a family.  The one I will get to watch grow and thrive.  Then there is  --- TJ/Andre.

And, guess, what?  I have the right to do all of those things because I am officially his Godmother.  Because every former orphan deserves one more person to spoil him and love him and pour into his little life.

His new family crashed Sara's dance class yesterday to officially ask us to forever be in his life.  I'm so honored and touched.  (Although I was very confused at the time.)  You can watch the video here:

If you want to help this amazing family financially, you can purchase Avon, buy some hand knit items, make a tax-deductible donation through Reece's Rainbow or make a donation directly to the family to help with upfront costs.  You can also order 31 or buy some great World Down Syndrome Day Shirts.  (Or this style shirt.)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Let's CHANGE His Life!

Just a little CHANGE can CHANGE a life!

There are a couple of options when it comes to change.
1.  It's in your purse weighing you down.
2.  It's jingling in your pocket.

Let's solve these problems, shall we?

Grab a cup or a jar or a bowl.  Put it in your kitchen, or your bedroom, or your office.  Attach this picture if you want!   And start filling.  Empty the change out of your wallet or pockets every day.  You'll be surprised how quickly your change adds up.  Every penny counts when you're fund raising.  

We are asking that people save their change for two months.  From January 10-March 10.  On March 10th, you will have a couple of options.  You can turn your change into your local bank and deposit the money into the Schaus' family account on Reece's Rainbow (tax-deductible) or their youcaring site.

You also have another option.  (If you are like me and you don't have a local bank branch.)  You can go to a CoinStar at your local grocery store and deposit your coins there.  They have the option to get gift cards without any fees.  You can get a gift card that we can use for baskets and raffles at the Schaus' coffee house event on March 25th.  You would just have to ship or give the card to Amanda or I.

Comment and let us know that you are participating!  Also, follow along on the facebook page.  We'd love to see pictures of your coin collections and how they are growing!  Everyone who collects coins, donates and messages a screen shot to the facebook page will be entered for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card!!!  

A little CHANGE can prepare a boy for a huge life-saving CHANGE!  

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Temperature Blanket

Someone shared the idea of a temperature blanket on my facebook today.  The idea is to knit one row each day based on the high temperature of the day where you live.  I loved it---especially living in Western New York where we  have 4 distinct seasons.  I don't crochet and couldn't find a knit pattern so I decided to create my own.

The first step was to choose colors and set up a scale.  I went with Red Heart Super Saver yarn.  I knew the blanket would require a lot of yarn and I wanted something reasonably priced and easily accessible.  You can choose the colors that you like together.  I chose to do temperatures in groups of 10 degrees based on the temps we have here.  You may need to vary this depending on where you live.  

Make sure you set up some kind of system to record the daily temperatures and keep track of what days you have actually knit.  Let's be honest.  You are not going to knit every day this year.  With a good system, you can fall a bit behind and still catch up.   (Weather.com can show you the recorded temperatures for each day of the year.) 

The next step is to choose a pattern.  I'm making this blanket for a dear friend and I love the pattern.  It's really easy and I love the way it scallops.  

Here's the pattern as I modified it for this project:  

Using size 10 needles and the color for day 1, cast on 261 stitches.  (Or a number in multiples of 13 plus 1)

Row 1:  Using Day 2 color,  (RS) *K1, YO, K4, K2tog, sl 1, K1, psso, K4, YO; rep from * last st, K1
Row 2:  Using Day 3 color, K1, P to last st, K1. 

Repeat Rows 1 and 2 while changing colors for the temperature. for 363 rows.  Bind off in the temperature for the 365th day.  

You can use whatever size needles are comfortable for you with the weight of yarn you chose.  I'm using size 10 now.  

*Some suggest crocheting an edge around the entire blanket.  
*Other patterns suggest adding a white stripe in between months.  
*I thought about doing 7 row squares of knit 7, purl 7 to show the weeks of the year.  

Here are my first 4 days.  I have two colors so far.  (Today was brutally cold.  I'll be adding another color tomorrow.)  I'll try to remember to post an updated picture once a month.'

I ended up pulling it out and switching to smaller needles.  I think it was going to be way too big and the stithes were too lose to see the pattern.  I'm up to 4 colors already!  

If you have any questions or other ideas for modifications, leave me a comment and let me know!  You can follow this and other projects on my knitting page.  

Happy knitting in 2017!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Best News EVER!!!

No.  I'm not exaggerating.  This is pretty much the best news ever.  ANDRE HAS A FAMILY!!  And not just any family.  My friend Amanda and her husband are adopting him.  Amanda and I have been friends since 1st grade.  We graduated from high school together and reconnected through facebook.

I had no idea that Amanda and her husband were considering adoption.  I had no idea that she had searched the kids on Reeces Rainbow and felt drawn to Andre.  I wasn't even planning to do the Christmas Campaign this year. I signed up in a moment of exhaustion and maybe incoherence.  And now look!!

Next Christmas, there will be pictures of this little chunk with his family around the Christmas tree. Maybe even a screaming on Santa's lap picture?  Next Christmas there will be presents, and cute outfits, and love, and a family!

Advocacy works. You never know who is looking or thinking or praying.

Here is what Andre's family had to say in the Reece's Rainbow Profile:

The Schaus family is excited to be adopting for the first time. Chris and Amanda have been married for 15 years and have two beautiful biological children – Esme (10) and Gavyn (7). They are both teachers – Chris is a high school English teacher and Amanda is a Chairperson for Special Education. They enjoy spending time with family and friends, taking walks in the neighborhood, and snuggling up with a good book together. Life is full of extra curricular activities, church functions, and sports, but their hearts are not full yet.
For the last year Amanda and Chris have been discussing adoption and Andre’s picture continued to resurface. But on October 23, 2016, a Facebook post by another Reece’s Rainbow adoptive parent, Natalie Tena, who was raising funds for Andre’s Christmas Miracle Maker sealed the deal and they haven’t turned back since.
The Schaus family is excited to welcome Andre into their home and their family and friends could not be more supportive. They are currently looking for prayers and support to make this adoption financially, emotionally, and spiritually successful. Andre is already a member of their family in heart and mind. Please consider partnering with them to bring him to his forever home.

If you'd like to make a tax-deductible donation to Andre's family, you can do so here.  

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Educational Game

I chose to play Community in Crisis.   Community in Crisis is the second game in the Read to Lead series, which addresses engagement, literacy and career-awareness simultaneously.  According to the description, it is designed to 5th grade Common Core State Standards in Reading Informational Text, and is ideal for school-day, after school-, and summer programs.  Community in Crisis gives educators access to 40+ flexible hours of game-based learning and project-based activities. Students play the role of executive director of a community organization.

The simulation takes place in Port Douglas.  Hurricane Dante has recently damaged the town.  The staff of the community center are responsible for assisting community members in their recovery efforts.  

I was given two choices and played the Not It episode.  There are two main issues in this episode that the community center director (player of the game) has to address.  One is that no one wants to clean up the snack room.  The other is that no one wants to work with a client named Herb.  Everyone claims "not it" in both cases.  

There is not a lot of direction when you start the game.  There really isn't any.  I figured it out after a few missed clicks but 5th graders made need some direction in the beginning.  Once you get used to playing the game, it is very easy and students should be able to complete the activities independently. 

Community in Crisis works on a lot of different skills.  Some that I noted were diplomacy, writing, note taking, and problem solving.  Students must complete each task before they are allowed to move to the next item on the to-do list.  

My only complaint about CiC is that you are rarely given choices of what to do or say.  It would be very easy to click repeatedly to get through most of the simulation.  I think it would be better if students were sometimes allowed to pick the less diplomatic or appropriate response to a situation in order to see what the consequences were.  

I did like that the game gave you the option to print at the end so students could turn something in to the teacher to show that they completed the assigned activities. 

I may play a few more episodes to see if this is something I feel my 6th and 7th graders would enjoy and benefit from.  
         There’s a new client at Common Ground and nobody

Monday, November 14, 2016

Adolescent Interview

I interviewed "Freddy."  Freddy is a 13 year old male who is a self-proclaimed phone and phone company expert.  He knows the price of pretty much every phone plan from every company.  He tries to convince me to switch to T-Mobile every time I talk him.  

Freddy believes that he spends 18 hours a day on his phone but said that he turns the sound off at 10:00pm to go to sleep.  He also said that he spends about 10 hours a day making actual phone calls on his phone.  He gets home around 3 and goes to bed at 10 so his numbers are a little off.  He did insist that he talks on the phone from dinner until bedtime.  He informed me that he never ever actually turns his phone off partially because he needs the alarm on it.  

Freddy said that he is on 15 social media sites.  He was able to list 11 that he uses, including some that I've never even heard of.  He believes that social media is good to connect with friends and family that aren't local but it can also be dangerous.  He mentioned kidnapping, pedophiles, pornography, and drug sales as potential dangers.   

Freddy got his first smartphone at 11.  He thinks that kids should have smartphones by the time they turn 12 but they need to be educated to the dangers associated with phones and social media.  He stated that kids need to stop showing off online. I asked him what that meant.  He said that kids think it's cool to post nasty stuff and swear.  I questioned him a bit at this point because I've seen his facebook posts.  He admitted that maybe he needs to take his own advice.  

Freddy seems to respect the rules that his mother has set forth.  He doesn't use his phone at meals and he doesn't send anything questionable by text or social media because his mother would not be happy.  His mother doesn't, however, take his phone away as a punishment.  He said she did that once and he just switched to his ipod, tablet and laptop so it was pointless.  

Freddy wasn't very excited about teachers using social media to communicate with students.  He feels that his phone is separate from school and doesn't want his teacher interfering with that part of his life.  Freddy thinks that if a teacher is going to use social media to communicate with students that interactions should be monitored by a principal to make sure the teachers are not being inappropriate or communicating too often.  When pressed on this issue, he said that lots of people, teachers included, have trouble being appropriate on social media and he would be very concerned about some teachers communicating too often with students or communicating inappropriately.    

I asked Freddy about using technology in the classroom. He said his class has ipads, a smartboard, and one computer.  He is not a fan of the program that the ipads use and is not happy that he can't use it for other purposes.  He also believes that the classroom should have more computers, a smart tv instead of a smartboard, and ipads that have data packages and not so many programs blocked.  I asked what he would like to be able to do with the ipads.  He mentioned school wide games of Kahoot and taking pictures on field trips.

Freddy has a hard time imagining life before smart phones and social media.  He can't even imagine spending one day without his smart phone.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Orphan Sunday

What is Orphan Sunday?
Orphan Sunday is the second Sunday of November.  It's a day that the church is supposed to stand for the orphan and remember that God commanded us to care for those in need.  Now, before you stop reading because I said "the church," please know that I have very mixed feelings about that.  The church clearly is not doing enough to care for orphans and I hate the implication that only Christians care about orphans and foster children.  That certainly is not true.  Plenty of people are involved in orphan care and foster care without believing in God and plenty of Christians are not involved at all.  This blog post is not about Christians or the church.  It's about helping kids in need of families!!!  

What is the Orphan Crisis?
Here are some stats that I took from The Orphan Foundation.  Statistics can be twisted and there is a lot of discussion about how many orphans there really are.  How many of those are true orphans and how many are social orphans?  However, no matter how you look at it, the stats aren't good and the futures of children without families are bleak.
*There are 143,000,000 orphans in the world.
*There are an additional 20,000,000 “displaced children” in the world.
*The combined count of these categories makes the orphan population the 7th largest nation on the planet – slightly larger than the population of Russia.
*In Eastern Europe, less than 50% of the orphan population will live to see their 20th birthdays.
*In Eastern Europe, of the orphans that survive their 20th birthdays, 50% will end up in organized crime, drugs, or prostitution.
*In Africa, homeless children are armed and used for war.
*In Africa, there is a concerted effort to extend children’s lives beyond 5 years of age.
*In the US, 25,000 children will leave the foster care system without families.
*25% of these foster children become homeless.
*56% of these emancipated foster care children enter the unemployment ranks.
*27% of the emancipated male children in foster care end up in jail.
*30% of the emancipated females in foster care experience early parenthood.
*30,000 children in foster care are simply dropped from state care because they have run away.
*In the US, most young adults ages 18 – 24 still live at home with their parents, while approximately 25,000 children are annually released at age 18 from the foster care system without families to support them.”

Can we agree that there is a crisis both domestically and internationally?  If you still need some visual proof, check out my friend's facebook page.  She just brought home a 10 pound, 7 year old!  10 pounds!!  At 7!!!  We have a problem!

I'm just not in a position to adopt or foster.  What can I do to help?
Help foster children/families:
*Call your local agency and ask what you can do to help.  They may need someone to help with paperwork.  (Most caseworkers are overworked and underpaid.  They'd probably love to have someone help them out with office tasks.)  They may need Christmas gifts or clothes.  They might need someone to go into a group home and give the kids good hair cuts.  You'll never know what they need if you don't ask.
*Check in with a foster family if you know one.  See what you can do to help them out.  Offer to bring them dinner when a new child moves in.  Offer to take their other kids out for a day/evening so they can spend some time with the new child.  Offer to collect clothes or supplies for their new child.
 *Offer to teach an older foster child a skill or trade.  The fate of foster children who age out of the system are not good.  Give them a leg up and maybe a job!
*Donate.  The Dave Thomas Foundation is probably the most well know organization that helps foster children become part of a permanent family.  Together We Rise provides duffle bags to children in foster care so they don't have to move their meager possessions in garbage bags.  I'm sure there are many others as well.

Help orphanages:  (Most of my examples come from Foundation For His Ministry in Mexico since I used to work for them and know that they are reputable.  I'm sure you can google and find similar programs in orphanages all over the world.)
*Helping orphanages can be tricky.  There are lots of mixed feelings about the benefits/harm that comes from outsiders visiting orphanages.  While we all want to help and "love on" children, that may not be the best way to help.  (That's another whole post for another day.)  If you do decide to visit an orphanage, please make sure you do so with a reputable organization that works in the area and knows the culture.  There are also lots of opportunities to use the skills you possess to support those who are permanently working in an orphanage.  Teams of skilled laborers, medical professionals and other skills are often accepted for specific projects.
*You can also help orphanages financially.
     *Sponsor a child.
     *Sponsor a permanent staff member.
     *Support a specific project.
     *Consider finding an Alternative Giving program that allows you to make donations to       charities instead of purchasing Christmas presents.
     *Consider having a contest at your child's school, children's church program, or club            to raise funds for an orphanage.

Help orphans:
*Through Reece's Rainbow, it's possible to help specific orphans.  RR raises grants for waiting children who are seeking their families.  The cost of adoption is huge.  Sometimes, knowing that some of the money has already been raised will help a family step forward and take the leap of faith to adopt.  Right now I'm working to raise Andre's adoption grant to lighten the financial burden for his future family. Some adoption agencies have similar programs.

Help adopting families:
*Adoption is incredibly expensive.  You can make tax-deductible donations to individual adopting families through Reece's Rainbow, AdoptTogether and several other organizations.There are also a lot of adoption fundraisers on sites like GoFundMe but those families aren't verified and donations aren't tax deductible.
*Support family fund raisers.  If you can't afford to support them, share them.  You never know who might be looking to buy some hand knit scarves or Avon.
*If you want to make sure that your money is going to carefully vetted families, donate to a reputable grant organization like Show Hope.
*Call an adopting family and check in.  The process is hard and exhausting and sometimes isolating.  Call and let them know you were thinking about them and their child.

Help prevent children from becoming social orphans:  (Social orphans are those that have one or more living parents who are not involved in their care.  Usually this is due to extreme poverty, disability or addiction.)  Adoption is a plan B for children.  It is born of loss and should be a last resort.  Above all, we should be working to keep children with their biological families and their culture if at all possible.  Here are some organizations that are working to do that.  I'm sure there are many more.
Eternal Anchor - Working in Baja California Mexico.  They have established a day care/school for children with disabilities.  This gives their families training and allows the children to continue to live with their biological families instead of being placed in a children's home or orphanage.
Mission to Ukraine - Working in Ukraine.  They work with families of children with disabilities.  They provide training and education to help families raise their children with disabilities.  They also provide summer camp experiences to kids.
Compassion International - Compassion works all over the world.  They work through a sponsorship model but it's so much more.  They work with the entire family and community to affect long term change.  Their goal is to develop leaders in their own community and culture,

What can you do to help?  Everyone should consider opening their home to a child in need.  If you can't open your home, at least consider opening your heart and helping somehow.  This problem isn't going away.  It's in our backyards and it's around the world.  What will you do to help?

If you are interested in adoption, foster care, or Safe Families, please let me know and I will hook you up with resources, families, and agencies.  I love to talk about adoption.  Encouraging and helping families in their journey is one of my favorite things to do.