Monday, June 15, 2015

Trial Run

We made a quick weekend trip to our new country home for a job interview. (Fingers crossed.)  Within an hour we were geared up and headed out to collect eggs and close things up for the night.

Sara really wants to hand feed the cow but she won't get any closer than that.  She tried throwing grass to it but it wouldn't tetch (catch).  In all fairness, that thing has some pretty big horns.

video



Thursday morning found us hanging outside and doing a little gardening.  Life is just a little slower in the country.  


My dad got all Pinteresty on us.  Pretty much everything we need for summer salads.  Now if only we could grow avocados.  We'd could have some amazing guac.



Sara is reading her family book to Grandpa.  What could be better than a book full of pictures of her favorite people?  Thanks Gigi's Playhouse Tinley Park for the literacy tutoring.  She'll be a reader yet!


Cribbage.  A game learned at my grandparents' kitchen table.  A tradition we are carrying on at my parents' kitchen table.  I can't wait until the day that Sara can learn to play.



Sara has a new favorite store.  Target has been eclipsed by Tractor Supply.  After all, the carts are WAY cooler.  (And, of course, grandpa lets her ride standing up.)  She was very disappointed to learn that they don't sell baby chicks in June.  I guess she'll have to wait until next Easter to get some more.


Saturday morning brings farm chores.  My dad has some great ideas for marketing the little farm and our meat and eggs.  In order to make that happen, some major barn clean up needs to happen.  Dad, Rob, Sara and I spent a couple of hours cleaning out and shoveling up.  We got a lot done and set some goals for our next Saturday together.


This is what Sara put on when I told her we were going to work in the barn.  She even brought some gold fish out with her.  Clearly, we need to work on this new farm vocabulary starting with what "chorin' clothes" are.


The self-appointed supervisor.  Her break was definitely longer than her work.


She did do a little work.  She's actually pretty good with a shovel.  We might have to find her a smaller one, though.  (After these pictures she declared she needed a bath and headed inside to hang out with Nana.)  


My dad and I had a long discussion on the pick up truck and if Sara could ride in it.  (I still need to look up the laws.)  We decided she would be ok if she was in the middle where there was no air bag and she was in her booster seat.  She loved it.  She could see so much up there.  She also liked having easy access to the steering wheel and rear view mirror.  (We had to have a nice chat about how Grandpa doesn't really need help steering.)  She liked the front so much that when we returned to the truck, she snatched her seat and slid it over to the driver's seat.  She was determined she was going to drive home.


She's also a big fan of the hills in NY.  Every time she sees on approaching, she throws her arms in the arm and yells weeeeee!!!  She was definitely made for country life.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Moving On

So, I realize that I have not updated in forever.  Months and months.  Please tell me it hasn't been a year...

I really started to struggle with what to tell and what to protect.  I want to portray adoption honestly but I also need to keep my baby's best interest at the forefront of everything I do.  Especially since I stupidly used my name when I started this blog long before adoption was even on my radar.  I just haven't known what to share.  But, I'm going to try to resurrect the blog with a slightly different angle.  At least for now.

I grew up in a small town.  That's really where I'm most comfortable.  After college, I moved to Chicago and then left that for the suburbs about 9 years ago.  In so many ways, I've grown up here.  I am certainly not the scared 22 year old that moved here from small town NY and a corn field in OH.  But the time has come to move on.

In a few short weeks, little Missy and I will be moving here:

Definitely going to be different than where I've been for the last five years:

And nothing like where the munchkin spent the first 4 1/2 years of her life:

It'll be so hard to say goodbye.  My last day at my job is Tuesday.  My job is exhausting on every level possible but I love my students and my co-workers have been my family here for the last 13 years.  I still can't even process what life after E will look like.  

I worry about Little Missy's adjustment.  She has moved so many times in her young life.  She has bonded so well.  (Sometimes it feels like too well.  She stays with no one but my parents.)  I know that long-term this move will be so good for her but she doesn't really understand what the next few months hold.  She loves school and she is so loved there.  We have our Gigi's friends and a great babysitter.  She adores my friends here and they have all been unbelievably accepting of her.  So much change for a little heart that has already lost so much.  

Even though there are probably a hundred reasons to stay, I know there are a million to go.  Many of them being the tears that my daughter sheds when we pull into our driveway after a visit at my parents' house.  She knows that Nana and Grandpa are far away.  And she's not ok with it.  She loves them and their animals and country life in general.  Our reasons for moving:












The next step on Life's Amazing Journey is taking us to the country and my parents' small farm.  I can't wait to update about life in the country and how this little girl thrives with fresh air, animals and lots of space.  

And, who knows, maybe this move will lead to some other big announcements in the future.  Stay tuned....

Thursday, February 26, 2015

International Adoption Grants and Loans

Last Updated:  February 26, 2105.  Currently active grants are in green.  Outdated grants are in red.  

There are TONS of adoption grants out there. Go ahead, type it into Google and see what you come up with. The list can be overwhelming and, a lot of times, out-dated. This list will not be comprehensive by any means but I will try my best to have the most updated information.

I literally spent hours googling and came up with about 20 grants to apply for. Some I've heard from. Most I have not. But, in the end, I think the applications were definitely worth my time. They can be overwhelming at first but they all ask for similar information in slightly different formats.

General Tips:
1. Most of the grants require a completed home study before you can apply. Others require I800A or I600A Approval. A few require an official referral. Go ahead and fill out the applications and gather them ahead of time. That way, you can mail them in as soon as you have the approvals you need.

2. A lot of grants are reviewed quarterly. You may think that your adoption will be completed by the time the review date roles around. Apply anyway. You never know how long an international adoption will take.

3. Google. Try using the type of adoption--international or domestic. Try using your child's country or disability. Try using your religious affiliation. Try your geographic area. Don't give up! There are lots of grants out there if you can find them.

4.  Ask your agency what grants they recommend.  They may have agency-specific grants that you qualify for.

5.  Don't be discouraged by the grants you don't qualify for.  There will be lots (especially if you are single).  Focus on the ones you do.


Grants Applied for:

1. Affording Adoption.
UPDATE:  September 2014:  Affording Adoption is no longer giving out grants because of a lack of funds.
*Reviewed quarterly.
*Must have a referral.
*Most grants are $1,000.
I got an email thanking me for sending my application.
*Received a grant.


2. Beautiful Feet Global Outreach
UPDATE:  February 2015:  The grant fund is temporarily out of funds and applications are not being accepted.
*Must have USCIS approval.
*Big supporters of Reece's Rainbow.
*I heard from them but was already fully funded.  

3. Boatner Family Foundation - This organization is listed on almost every grant list. You are told to send a letter asking for an application. My letter came back to me.


4. CARE - Christian Adoption Resources and Encouragement, Inc.
UPDATE:  February 2015:  CARE is not currently accepting applications.  They are waiting to have their non profit status reinstated.
*Applications are accepted from May 1 to October 1. Funds are dispersed the first week in November.
*I had to email to get the application. The one online had a fee involved.
*You must have an adoption agency to apply for this grant.
*Received notification of receipt of application.
*Was offered a grant but was already fully funded.  

5. Child of the King
UPDATE:  February 2015:  Their link is no longer active.
*I received my application in the mail marked "return to sender" more than 2 months after I applied.

6. A Child Waits Foundation
*Starts with a short pre-application.
*I was denied based on my pre-application.

7. Gift of Adoption
*You can apply when you have an approved home study.
*Requires an official referral before decision is made. Monthly emails and updates are required until you have an official match.
*Received a grant.
*I heard from another family that they were denied because they didn't have 50% of the funds they needed before applying.  

8. Golden Dawn Adoption Assistance
*For LDS and other Christian families. Requires a letter from your minister.
*For families adopting children with special needs and other hard to place children.
*Applications reviewed quarterly.
*Was offered a grant but had already returned home from the adoption trip.  

9. International Adoption Resources
UPDATE:  September 2013 - The link to the application is no longer valid.
*I have not heard anything regarding my application.

10. Kids for Kyla
*Usually reviewed annually.
*Also give grants for fertility treatments.
*Priority given to applicants who do not have children.
*Must have a completed home study.
*I received an email that I am a finalist.  

11. National Adoption Foundation
*Reviewed quarterly.
*Need to have a homestudy in progress.
*I have not heard anything about my application.  Others have not gotten responses either.  

12. The OATH Ministry - Orphans Awaiting Their Homes
UPDATE:   February 2015:  They are not currently accepting applications.
*Must have a completed home study.
*I received a small grant.  

13. ONELess Ministries
*Requires a pastor questionnaire.
*I received an email asking for a status update.
*I informed them that I am fully funded and to please take my name out of the running.


14. Open Hearts for Orphans
UPDATE:  February 2015:  Open Hearts for Orphans has been folded into Bethany Christian Services and is no longer giving grants.
*Christian Families
*Chicago area only
*Received emails promptly.
*I received a grant from this organization after an interview.


15. Room for One More
UPDATE:  February 2015:  None of the links on this page currently work.
*Received an email confirming receipt of the application.

16. Saving Children, Building Families
*You must have a completed home study.
*I haven't heard anything regarding my application.

17. Show Hope
*A very long application but well worth it.
*Reviewed 6 times a year.
*Must have a completed home study.
*For Christian families
*SH is now working with the Tim Tebow Foundation to give one grant a month specifically to families adopting children with special needs.
*Received an email confirming receipt of the application.
*Received a grant.

*I heard from a family that was denied.  They said it was still worth it to apply because they got a large list of resources and ideas from SH.  


Other Grants: (Because I am a single woman, I found a lot of grants that I don't qualify for.)

1,  America's Christian Credit Union
*Must be a member of the ACCU.

2.  Both Hands
*Partners with Lifesong for Orphans but can be applied for separately.
* Families set up teams and get pledges to work on a widow's home.  The pledges go to the adopting family.
*Must have completed home study.
*Singles may apply.

3.  Brittany's Hope
*Must use an affiliated adoption agency.
*Must be a special needs, international adoption.
*The family must raise half of their grant amount.

4.  A Brother's Love
UPDATE:  February 2015 - The link is no longer valid.
*Must have a completed homestudy and a referral.
*Hague countries only.
*Singles may apply.
*Letter of reference from pastor is needed.

5. Caroline's Promise
UPDATE:  February 2015 - The link is no longer valid.
*Christian couples
*North and South Carolina only

6.  Elijah's Truth
*Qualified Christian adoptive families
*Approved by a licensed agency
*Adopting a minority infant or have a referral from another country
*Only in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota
*Must have completed home study

7. Families Outreach
*Christian, married couples with the endorsement of their pastor.
*Must have a completed home study.
*I have heard of a couple of families that received grants from them.

8.  God's Grace Adoption Ministry
*Matching grants.
*Married, Christian couples only.
*Income of $60,000 or less.

9. GRACE fund
UPDATE:  February 2015 - The link is no longer active.  
*Only for families adoption from Ethiopia.

10. Grace Haven Ministries
UPDATE:  February 2015 - The link to the application is no longer active. 
*Christian couples only.
*Must have approved home study.

11. Hand in Hand
*Christian couples only.
*Matching grants only.
*Requires you to send out support letters to friends and family.

12.  Heart of the Bride
*Must have a current homestudy.
*Must have an adoption agency.

13. Help Us Adopt
*Must have a completed home study.
*Grants are given twice a year--in June and December.

14. IBSEN Adoption Foundation
*Washington State Families only

15.  Jeremiah 29:11 Project
*Currently fundraising for future grant cycles.
*I have heard of a family that received a grant from them.

16. JSC Foundation
*Only offers grants to married couples. (Since I attempted to apply, they have made this clear on their website.)
*Strict guidelines regarding family size and previous adoptions.
*I have heard from several people who have received grants.  

17.  Kael Man
*You must have a completed home study.
*You must be using an agency.
*Requires a statement of faith.

18.  Katelyn's Fund
*Christian couples only.
*Must have an agency.
*Focus on families making under $100,000.
*Process involves an interview. 
*Another family I know got a "no" from this agency.

19.  Kyle Reagan Foundation 
*Indiana Residents
*Must be using an agency.
*Must have dossier in country.
*Requires a letter from a pastor or church leader.

20.  Lifesong for Orphans
*Matching grants only.
*2 parent Christian Families only.
*Must have a completed home study.
*Requires a letter from your pastor.

21.  Lost Stork Foundation
UPDATE:  February 2015:  The link is no longer active.  
*Heterosexual married couples.
*In July 2013, the website says the grant applications will open in Spring 2013.
*Must show financial need.

22. Love Has Come
*Must have completed home study and a referral.
*Must have a licensed agency.
*Priority given to Montana families but others may apply.  

23.  Lydia Fund
*Christian couples only.
*International adoptions only.
*Must have an agency.
*Homestudy and USCIS in process.
*Apply at least 3 months before travel.
*Another family I know got a "no" from this agency.

24.  The Orphan Foundation
*Must have a completed home study.
*10 grants of $500 given each year.
*The child must be in an orphanage or institutional foster care.
*Another family I know got no response from their application.

25.  Orphan Impact 
*UPDATE: February 2015:  The link is no longer active.  

26.  Parenthood for Me
*As of February 2015, the 2015 grant cycle had been postponed.  
*Grants for adoption and fertility treatments.  
*Approved home study.
*Available to private or agency adoptions.
*Must demonstrate financial need.

27. Perpetual Change
*UPDATE:  February 2015:  Their website is currently under construction. I'm not sure if they are currently offering grants or not. I could not find an application on their website.

28. Sacred Selections
*Must have completed home study.
*Couples only.
*Do not need to have an adoption agency.
*Must be "members of a conservative, noninstitutional, noninstrumental, church of Christ."

29. Sea of Faces Foundation
UPDATE:  February 2015:  They are no longer giving adoption grants.  
*Christian, married couples only
*Must have a referral from a developing country


Other Fund Raising Organizations:

1.  Abba Fund
*Christian Families only
*Can be used for home study costs.  

2. Adopt Together
*Allows you to post a family profile and receive tax-deductible donations.
*I had a profile with them and raised $49.
*Another family mentioned that they were given a small grant in addition to the money they received in donations.


3.  Connected Hearts Ministry
UPDATE:  February 2015 - The links to their family sponsorship program do not work.  
*Allows families to post profiles and receive tax-deductible donations.
*Completed home study and matched with a child.
*Older or Special Needs Children only.
*Must have an accredited agency.

*Allows you to post a profile and receive tax-deductible donations. 
*Child must have special needs.
*Funds released at travel.



Adoption Loans:
1.  Abba Fund
*Interest Free Loans
*Process takes 6 to 8 weeks.  
*Christian Familys only

2.  A Child Waits Foundation
*Must have a licensed agency.
*Covers only final payments when all other avenues have been exhausted.
*Low interest loan.
*$10,000 limit.

3.  America's Christian Credit Union
*Up to $50,000
*Also an Equity Loan Option
*Adotion Visa is also an option
*

4.  Hebrew Free Loan
*For the Jewish Community
*Up to $15,000

5.  National Adoption Foundation
*Up to $35,000.

6.  Oxford Adoption Foundation 
*$5,000 per child
*Only after adoption has been granted by the foreign country
*0% interest for the first 3 years

7.  Pathways for Little Feet
*Interest free loans
*Up to $7,500
*Monthly payment amount set by the family.  



I know that there are many, many more grant and loan organizations out there. If you've had experience with another one, please let me know. I'd like to keep this list as updated as possible.  

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Cha-Cha-Cha-Changes

Some big changes are coming to our little family.  Big changes.

The first huge change is moving.  We are planning to move this summer to be closer to my family.  I've been almost 600 miles from my family since I finished college 15 years ago.  I've enjoyed my independence and never planned to move back.  But, kids change everything.  There are tons of reasons to stay and tons of reasons to move but I really want Sara to be near her family and that trumps the rest of the list.

My parents and I are working on a housing situation since rental options in the middle of no where are pretty limited.  I have almost finished the process to transfer my teaching license to NY.  (Although I'm open to lots of employment options.)  I've met with a Realtor and am cautiously optimistic about selling my house here.  I've been looking for jobs but it's still pretty early to get serious about anything.  Please pray with us for a great job (I love the one I'm leaving here) and that we will at least break even on the house.  

A big bonus of moving is access to free babysitters---aka the grandparents!  I have been blessed with amazing sitters for Sara after school and on her days off.  I would not be able to make it without them.  I also have respite care through a local agency but Sara will not stay with them.  (The emotional impact was not worth a few hours away.)  My parents adore Sara and she loves them.  They are pretty much the only ones I can leave her with without major tears and trauma.  (Although my dad learned at Christmas that she doesn't really like to go out without mom.)  Knowing that I will be able to run to the store alone occasionally or go to the doctor without a shadow is very relieving to me.  I'm glad that we've had these two years together to establish our little family but it's time to accept some help.  This mom is tired.

Now that I've admitted I'm exhausted, it's time to announce something else.  I might just be crazy but I'm planning to start another adoption once we are settled.  I have my eye on a little one but I'm hoping and praying she doesn't have to wait that long for a family.  (You know those prayers.  Dear God, please help me find her a family quickly.  If not, please let my agency have her file in the fall.  Because I want her to have a mom.  Soon.  But I really want to be her mom.)  I swore I would never go back to Sara's country but I think adoption is like labor.  It doesn't seem to bad from this side of things.  It was hard but totally worth it.   Sure.  I'd do it again.  

Sara has adjusted so well and is becoming so independent.  She loves babies and I think will do really well with a younger sibling (once she learns to share mommy).  I've had people asking me for the last two years when I was going to adopt again.  Reading this little girl's file and really thinking about what life would look like with another one makes me think that the time is near.  As long as the transition to our new home and life goes well, I really think we'll be in a position to start a new adoption in the fall.  

I have set up a Future Adoption Account and will change some of my advocacy and fund raising efforts in order to be as financially ready as possible when I can finally commit and start a home study.  (I know I won't save enough for the whole adoption by then but I'm hoping for enough to get me started.)  I'll be adding a small amount out of each pay check to the account.  I'll also be putting in any money that I make from selling items that we won't be moving.  (I love online garage sale sites!)  I'll be using my Swagbucks points to get paypal gift cards which I can transfer to the account.  I'll also be adding some money from Scarves and Skirts for Sara and Avon for Adoptions.  And once my car is paid off in the new few months, that account is really going to grow!

I will continue to use Scarves and Skirts for Sara to raise money for friends who are adopting.  When I sell items, I usually charge twice what the yarn cost me plus shipping costs.  (There are a few exceptions.)  I keep half of the money from each sale to cover my costs.  Up until now, the other half has gone to an adopting family or waiting child.  Starting with any new orders, I will give 25% of the price to the current family or child and put the other 25% in my future adoption account.  

I will also continue to use Avon sales from Avon for Adoptions to help adopting families.  I have always donated my 20% commission to adopting families.  Starting March 1, when a family is holding a fund raiser, they will get 15% of each purchase and I will keep the other 5% for my future adoption fund.  If there is not an active fund raiser going on, all 20% will go into my savings account.  

I realize this is probably a lot more technical information than a lot of you wanted but I really strive to be honest and forthcoming about all of my fundraising efforts--whether they are for myself or someone else.

Those are the two big changes that I'm ready to vaguely announce for our little family.  Who knows what other changes our future holds.  Stay tuned.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Baby Leo---So Many Thoughts

Everyone in the Down syndrome community (and society in general) is all abuzz about Baby Leo and his dad.  When the story first broke, Leo's Dad claimed that he was given an ultimatum:  His baby (who has DS) or his wife.  He was declared a hero and thousands upon thousands were raised for him and his son on their Go Fund Me page.  A few days later, the mom came out with her side of the story.  It's a story that struck a chord with me because it's so true all over the world.  She knew that her son would not be accepted in her native Armenia so she wanted to place the baby in an orphanage.  After all, that's what people do in Armenia (and around the world) when their child is born with a disability.

Now, of course, there are a million questions and speculations going on:

*Why isn't the mom going with the Dad to New Zealand? 
*Why couldn't they raise the child together in Armenia?
*Do most kids with disabilities in Armenia really end up in orphanages?
*Does the dad really need all that money?
*Were the parents going to get divorced any way?

*Is that dad really a nice guy?
*Doesn't the dad already have tons of money?

*What is the dad going to do with all that money?
*Did the dad already have a disabled child and family in New Zealand?

And on and on and on.....

I have no idea where the donations are coming from.  Are they from mostly Americans?  Armenians? Or people all over the world? I don't know.

I find it fascinating that so many people care about this little baby.  I'm glad they do.  They should.  But there are so many kids around the world (and in our own country) with Down syndrome and other disabilities that no one cares about.  In the US, an estimated 92% of women who get a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome choose to end that pregnancy.  Americans have no right to judge how other countries deal with children with Down syndrome.  We don't even let them exist.

In many countries around the world, children with disabilities are given up at birth and placed in orphanages or institutions.  (That is my daughter's story.)  It wasn't that long ago that we did just that the in the US.  Hid kids away and told their families to forget they existed. I won't judge birth parents for doing that.  They don't know any differently and are following the advice of doctors and "experts."  To say they are unwanted or were unloved because of their disability majorly oversimplifies a very complex issue. 

People all over the world have a lot of work to do to overcome the huge stigma of disability.  This is true of the US, Colombia, Armenia, and the entire world.  Until then, we need to find ways to support families so they can have the confidence and ability to raise their children.  All of their children.  Mission to Ukraine is a great example of an agency doing that every day in Eastern Europe.

If you want to help children who have already been placed in orphanages because of their disability, you can check out Maya's Hope.

If you would like to help some kids in the same country as baby Leo find adoptive families, you can make a donation to any of these kids.  Or pick one and share their profile!

If you would like to help a family that is adopting two kids from the same country as baby Leo, you can make a donation to the VanHalle family here.

Let's not worry about who is right and who is wrong in the situation.  Let's use it to highlight the plight of kids with Down syndrome around the world.  Let's use it to make a child or family's life a little better!  

If baby Leo's story makes you mad or  sad or indignant or even curious, do something about it!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

2014 - Our Year in Review - Part 1

I know.  I've been very negligent when it comes to updates.  It's certainly not because there aren't things going on.  Maybe it's because there is too much going on.  Here's a summary of our 2014:

January:

We rang in the New Year in Maine with my Dad and my brother.  Our actual New Years Eve was not very exciting.
However, I got to spend New Years Day with my grandmother, aunts, uncles, and many of my cousins.  We picked my Uncle up to take him to see my grandmother.  He himself had been in the hospital since the fall.  It was fun to be with him while he experienced life outside of those four walls for the first time in months.  Sadly, my grandmother passed away two days later.  

On the 14th, we celebrated one year together.  


We went to Disney Princesses on Ice.  It's possible that Tia and Mommy enjoyed it a little more than Sara.  


The rest of the month was cold, snowy, and uneventful.  




February:  
February was more cold and snow.  



March:
In March, we got to meet our friends the Aschoffs in real life.  They also have a daughter from Colombia.  We met up with them at the IDSC's meet up at Great Wolf Lodge.  Sara was in her glory!  

We rocked our socks for World Down Syndrome Day! 

April:

We drove to Cincinnati and  NY for Spring Break.  Sara is a serious road trip warrior.  

We got to hang out with the Allison family in Cincinnati and meet their newest additions.  They adopted their son around the same time that I adopted Sara. 

A few days later, we flew to Maine for my grandmother's memorial service.  

Sara started swimming lessons.  

We had a quiet Easter with just the two of us.  



And then my poor baby got pneumonia.  

Sara took a tumbling class.  



May:

Sara rode a pony at her school's Family Fun Night.  This was something she refused to do in the fall.  

We did a 5k for my work.  She ran some, walked some, and rode some.


She loved the Memorial Day parade.

June:  

She was in her first ever school program!

My baby finished Kindergarten.

We were both in Tia Anna's wedding.  

I officially finished my 14th year of teaching.  

Sara went to summer school in the mornings for a few weeks while I tried to remember what I used to do before she consumed every minute of my life.

We made a quick trip back to New York to see my brother George graduate from high school.

I love her confidence.  


Check back soon for the rest of the year!