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:


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 was more cold and snow.  

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! 


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.  


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.


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!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Christmas Scarves

Here is one of my Christmas Fund Raisers for Angel Tree.  $10 from each scarf purchase goes to help this little girl find her forever family.  

The scarves are made from beautiful Christmas ribbon.  They can be sewn into cowls upon request.

These fabrics are also available.  

These scarves are available for $15.

If ruffles aren't your thing, you can check out other hand knit items here.  50% of each purchase will go to Kimberley's grant.

If scarves and knit items don't interest you, you can order Avon items here.  10% of each purchase during October and November will go to Kimberley's grant.  During December, that number doubles to 20%!  Make sure to follow the Avon Facebook page to see current sales and new items.

The Angel Tree officially starts on November 1st.  During November and December, you will get an adorable ornament with Kimberley's picture for a donation of $35 or more.

Monday, October 6, 2014

From Unwanted to Wanted

My new friend Priscilla has started the Ribbon Box Project.  You can read the original story here on her blog.  The general idea is that someone gave Priscilla a box of ribbon.  The woman wanted to help her with her adoption but didn't have money.  Rather than just give up, she gave what she had.  A box of ribbon.

Priscilla has turned this into the Ribbon Box Project.  She's going to document every dollar that comes in from that box of ribbon so she can show this precious woman how much she really did give.  Above and beyond that, she is going to use these ribbons and other donated supplies, to make bows for other adopting families.  Priscilla is adopting.  She doesn't have cash to help other families.  But with donated items, she'll do what she can!

So here is where you come in.  I'd like to replicate her project with yarn.  (I wouldn't have a clue what to do with ribbon.)  If you or someone you know have yarn sitting around the house that you're never going to use or you just don't want, please send it my way.  If you are local, we can figure out a good time for me to pick it up.  If you aren't local, you can message me on my knitting page and I'll give you my address.  For the cost of shipping, you could help a child be united with their forever family!

I will take the yarn and make something new, usable, wanted.  These items will then have their own album on my knitting page.  They will be available at no cost to families who are adopting and fund raising.  They can use them for auctions, give-aways, or whatever they want.  The cost of the shipping of the finished products will be my donation.

By taking something unwanted, and giving it away, you can help a child who is very much wanted!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Angel Tree - Kimberley - Year 2

I'm not going to lie, I'm sad to be advocating and fund raising for Kimberley again this year.  I wasn't going to do the Angel Tree project again this year (I'm pretty busy with my own little munchkin, Avon sales, knitting, and 5/5/5 for families) but I just can't let this little girl down.  She needs someone to gush over her progress and take before and after pictures.  She needs a Christmas stocking and gifts.  She needs LOVE!  She NEEDS and DESERVES a family.  

I'll be working hard this Christmas season to raise money for her grant.  I hope that people will help by ordering items and sharing fund raisers.  More importantly, though, I'd love for my friends, family, and followers to SHARE HER!   She needs to be seen.  She needs to be loved and cherished.  

As you probably know, I found my daughter through an organization called Reece's Rainbow.  Each year at Christmas time, they have a huge Angel Tree project with a goal of raising $1,000 for hundreds of children on their site.  This money is held in a grant and then used to help pay for that child's adoption when a family is found.  (Sara had $0 in her grant when I committed to her.  $1,000 would have been a huge blessing!)  

Again this year, I have signed up to raise money and awareness for Kimberley.

She is an adorable 7-year-old in a country that I love in Latin America.  The country has a very small international adoption program.  For a long time, the country leaders felt that kids with Down syndrome were unadoptable.  Some brave families have worked very hard to change that perception.  Wouldn't it be great if Kimberley was the next one to show them that kids with Down syndrome are wanted by families?

I'm working on a virtual craft/vendor fair that will raise money for Kimberley, for my friend Emily's AT child, and for the school where I work.  This fund raiser has the potential to be huge.

I'm also thinking about ways to raise the rest of the money.  Just in case the local fund raiser isn't as epic as I'm planning.  

*All orders from my Scarves and Skirts for Sara page will benefit Kimberley during the months of October, November, and December.  It's not too early to think about special orders for Christmas!  I've found some great Christmas ruffle fabrics for really fun scarves.  

*10% of all AVON orders from my Avon site will benefit Kimberley during the months of October and November 20% of all sales from AVON will go to Kimberley during December.  (I am part of the Virtual Craft Fair that benefits the IDSC during October and November so they get 10% of all orders as well.)

*I will have some items in a large group auction that will benefit multiple children in November.  (I'll post the link as soon as I have it.)  

If you would like to help in any way, please let me know!  If you are interested in helping your own child this Christmas season, you can check out the Angel Tree page on Reece's Rainbow.

*Anyone who makes a donation of $35 or more to any child on the Angel Tree will receive an adorable ornament with the child's picture.  What a great gift for those people on your list who have everything!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My Dana, My Heart


Yesterday, I went to the wake of a 27-year-old former student.  She is the fifth student that I have mourned (3 here and 2 in Mexico).  It never gets any easier but this one really tugged at my heart.  I thought at first it was because she had always been healthy.  She had Down syndrome but she didn't have the health issues that some of our students do.  As a special education teacher, you will most likely be at more wakes and funerals than most teachers.   But Dana wasn't one of the wakes you expect to attend.   I realized as I was driving home and processing why it hit me so hard.  Dana had a hand in saving Sara.

You see, Dana was my first female student with Down syndrome.  She walked into my classroom on the first day of school with Matt.  He quickly informed me that she was his girlfriend and they needed to sit together.  I had only had male students for the previous two years so this came as quite a shock to me.  I wasn't even sure what to do with female students and now I had dating students?  I quickly rearranged the desks so they were no longer sitting together.  I wasn't exactly sure what they meant by boyfriend and girlfriend but I was not about to find out in my classroom.  

I had a male student with Down syndrome before Dana who I adored.   But there was something different about Dana and the rest of  the female students with Down syndrome that I've had over the years.  I can truly say that I have loved them all.  I love their fiestiness, their stubborness, and their sassiness combined with their amazing sweetness and tender hearts.   It's a combination that is hard to explain but it's so fun and so amazing.   (Yes. I realize I am stereotyping right now but these things have been true of all the girls I've taught with Down syndrome.)

Dana was one of the first students that made me say "If God chose to bless me with a child with Down syndrome some day, I would not be disappointed." She was a blast.  She had a family that adored her.  For them, a diagnosis of Down syndrome was not an end to their lives but  just the beginning.   I met them in later years so I don't know how they processed the diagnosis or if they struggled. But I know that by the time she was in high school, they loved and accepted her for exactly who she was.  They were one of the first families that made me realize that having a child with a disability was a blessing and not a curse.  They helped teach me that you can raise your child with Down syndrome the same way you raise their siblings and they can turn out to be pretty cool kids.  Dana planted the seed in my heart and in my head that I could parent a child with Down syndrome.  

I only had Dana for one year because I changed positions the following year.  But I can honestly say that was one of my favorite classes ever. I wish I had gotten the chance to teach her again.  Even though I only spent a year with her, she will impact me for the rest of my life.  In part, because of this spunky, beautiful, amazing young woman, I am now the parent of a spunky, beautiful, amazing little girl with Down syndrome.

Because of Dana, Sara is now thriving in a family and loving life---the way that Dana did for her short 27 years on this earth.  Because of Sara, Laurence is now being adopted.  Who knows where the chain will end? Dana's life on earth may be over but the ripples will be felt for years to come.  


Monday, September 1, 2014

Christmas Shopping

I know.  It's September 1st. Seasonal creep and all of that BUT I started Christmas shopping yesterday.  And I know I am not alone.  Maybe it's because I'm a crafter so I have to plan ahead and wish others would too. Maybe it's because I'm so very excited about Christmas with Sara this year. Maybe it's just who I am since I usually had my Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving long before Sara was in the picture.

I'd like to give you something to think about as you start your gift and shopping lists:

Who is benefiting from your Christmas shopping?  

This is not something I thought of before two years ago.  I shopped sales and deals at Amazon, the mall, Target. I bought things that were cute and fun and benefited large corporations.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I love Target and my Amazon prime just as much as the next girl.  I'm just challenging you to think about Christmas gifts a little differently.  After all, isn't part of Christmas spreading goodwill and cheer?
For the last two years, my Christmas shopping has almost exclusively benefited adopting families and orphans waiting for families.  That may sound tedious and stressful but I assure you it's not.  Here are some examples:

*You find the perfect item on Pinterest or Etsy.  Send me the link.  I am almost positive someone in my adoption group can make the item at a reasonable price with all proceeds going to an adoption.

*You find something made by a direct order company like Avon, Tupperware, Pampered Chef, etc.  I know someone that sells it and will give the proceeds to an adoption or waiting child.  Pretty  much every vendor you can imagine is selling items at this virtual craft fair from November 16th to December 6th.

*You have an idea for a perfect gift but can't find it anywhere.  Let me know.  I can probably put you in touch with someone that can help you and help an adopting family at the same time.

*You need something for that person that has everything.  Why not make a donation to a non-profit in their name?  Lots of non-profits have special programs at Christmas time that give you a token gift for your donation.  (Need a non-profit? How about Reece's Rainbow's angel tree?)

*You want a unique gift that represents your family with pictures or birth stones?  I can hook you up there too with either Origami Owl or handmade gifts.

*You need to get teacher gifts and another candle just won't cut it.  (Although I can connect you with Celebrating Home candles if you want to go that route.)  How about personalized Christmas ornaments for a reasonable price?  I know someone that makes those too!

*I know that there are some people out there that these gifts just don't work for.  (My Dad!)  Sometimes you just need to order something from Amazon. Let me know that too and I can get you an Amazon link so that an adopting family will still get a percentage of your sale!

I know that not everyone is as passionate about adoption as I am.  That's ok!  I get that.  But would you rather help a big corporation or a family?  I don't think any of us are super passionate about big corporations.

Oh, and if you are looking for a gift for me, just message one of my adoption friends. They can help you out!

Monday, August 25, 2014

I'm Really Not Wonderful

Today began my 15th year as a special education teacher.  (Seriously, though.  How did that happen?  I cannot possibly be that old.)  Over the years, there have been numerous times when I've been told that I'm wonderful for what I do.  By parents.  By strangers in the grocery store.  By lots of people.  It's always a conversation I've been very uncomfortable.  I mean, what do you say to that?  I do what I do because I love it (most of the time).  I don't do it perfectly.  Some days, I don't even do it well.  But I like it, so I keep doing it.  Give me high schoolers with special needs over typical kids any day.  (I happen to think anyone that chooses to spend any time with junior highers is either a saint or crazy.)  

Now that I adopted (a child with Down syndrome *gasp* as a single mother *faint*) I am apparently on the road to sainthood.

The first day of school is meetings with new parents.  Last year, one walked in and said "I heard you adopted a kid with Down syndrome.  You know they don't get better when they get older."   (Talk about not knowing how to respond!)  This year, I'm a saint.  This mom was amazed that I teach sped all day and then go home to a child with Down syndrome.  (I'm wonderful.)  Then it came out that she's adopted.  (Her tan gave her away.)  (I'm amazing.)  Oh, and I'm a single mom.  (I'm on the road to sainthood.)

But here's the truth:  I'm not any of those things.  Seriously.  I'm a mom.  Who struggles.  Who tries to be consistent.  Who tries to do right by her child.  Who hopes to do better tomorrow.  

I'm not denying that I have had a unique set of life experiences that has prepared me to be Sara's mom.  I definitely have.  But I didn't adopt to make the world a better place.  Or to rescue a child.  I adopted because I wanted to be a mom.  That really is the bottom line.  I know that people adopt for a variety of reasons but that's mine.  I wanted to be a mom.

I have met quite a few adoptive families in the last two years.  Some have tons of prior special needs experience.  Some have none.   Some are doing well.  Some are struggling.  I don't think that everyone is equipped to adopt (especially kids with special needs).  I also don't think that you have to have extensive professional experience with kids with special needs to be a successful adoptive family.  There are a million factors.  I happen to have had some life experiences that have made Sara's transition easier but I also have a kid that has just adjusted really well.  Sometimes I joke that I hit the adoption jackpot.  I'm not wonderful but my kid pretty much is.

I was drafting this in my head while I made dinner.  Then, Sara lost it because I wouldn't let her eat her tortellini in front of the tv.  (We have a "spaghetti sauce only gets eaten at the table rule" which was deemed incredibly unreasonable tonight.)  There were some new, unpleasant behaviors that I haven't seen from her before.  (The first week of school is so tiring and hard.)  As we worked through the very unfair rules and mean mommy issues, I thought:  See!  I'm not wonderful!  I'm just a mom.  

A very blessed mom.