Thursday, September 26, 2013

Cards for A Cause

As you may remember, I am working this Christmas season to earn money for Kimberley's grant.

How could I not want to help this adorable child?

My first fundraiser for her will be Cards for a Cause through Usborne books.  

Each box of 30 cards costs $30.  
Think about how much you usually spend on a card.  It's far more than $1!

The cards are unique and you can choose All Occasion cards or Kids cards.

Kimberley's grant will get $13 of each box sold!

All of the cards will be shipped to me.
If you are local, I will deliver them to you.
If you are not local, I will ship them to you for an additional $3 charge.  
(If you are near my parents, I can deliver them to you at Thanksgiving.)

I will be taking orders from now until October 12th.

All payments can be sent to my paypal account using the email  
If you are local, you can write me a check and I will pick it up.
I will pay the Usborne consultant and then make a donation to Kimberley's grant.

Please let me know if you want Box 1 or Box 2.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

School Stuff - My Advice

If you know me at all in real life (or on facebook), you know that I have had nothing but constant issues with Sara's school this year.  The district was great to work with before she came home.  In my own naive little world, I assumed that everything would be fine.  After all, I'm a special education teacher.  I know how these things work.  Certainly I wouldn't have any problems.  I couldn't have been more wrong.

*I should note that the majority of the problems come from a completely incompetent teacher.  The whole district isn't bad but this teacher has  no idea what she's doing.  

I want to share some of the things I've learned.  These things may be helpful to anyone who has a child with special needs--even if you are a special education teacher with 13 years experience!  

*Learn the laws!!  Education laws change from state to state.  Even the most knowledgeable person can't know them all.  However, IDEA is a federal law and anyone can learn the basics of that.  There are also a lot of books out there about Special Education law.  A quick google search of Special Education Law and your state will produce a lot of results.  Learn as much as you can.

*Get an advocate!!  You do not have to spend money to hire a lawyer.  You don't need someone with a fancy title.  You just need someone that can go to meetings with you.  If you introduce them as a parent advocate, they will garner respect---even if they are just your next door neighbor.

I've been in more IEP meetings than I can count as a teacher.  I've sat in on some of my brothers' IEP meetings.  Sitting in one as a parent is an entirely different game.  It's intimidating.  So much is being said so quickly.  It's impossible to catch and process it all.  Bring someone with you who can take notes.  Even if that's all they do, that's ok.  Even if you have the best relationship with the school possible and your child is doing amazingly well, it's always nice to have another set of eyes and ears at a meeting.

It's helpful if your advocate does have some special education knowledge and experience.  A lot of times, a local disability support group can help you find one.  Sometimes, the school has parents who volunteer for that role.  Don't be afraid to ask!

I am blessed with many friends who are very knowledgeable in the field.  I bring a friend to meetings with me.  I introduce her as my friend Sharon.  I let them draw their own conclusions.

*Ask questions.  I have learned over the years that asking questions can get you a lot farther than direct confrontation.  I use this in a lot of areas of my life.

If you don't understand why something is being done with your child or what the rationale is for something, just ask.  Sara was coming home with homework packets from Kindergarten that were way over her head.  My assumption was that this is what she is working on at school and I didn't understand why she was working on Kindergarten skills when she didn't have all the readiness skills yet.  So, I asked in the meeting yesterday what the rationale was for that.  I was told that due to state regulations and Common Core, Kindergarten age students need to be exposed to Kindergarten concepts.  While I still don't really agree with it, I understand now the rationale and legalities behind it.  Rather than start a fight or get into a confrontation, I asked.  She answered.  I understood.

*Sweat the little things.   If there are things going on that you don't like or don't approve of, bring them up before all the little things turn into a big thing.  I spent the first several weeks of the school year assuming that things were going to get better.  It felt like each day something small was going wrong or not being done.  I didn't want to nitpick so I didn't bring it up.  By the time someone did ask me why I was so frustrated, I had a long laundry list of things.  I wish now that I'd brought things up one at a time and not waiting until it was a multiple page email.  I've had parents do that to me and I didn't appreciate it.  As a teacher, you can't fix things that you don't know are wrong.

*Ask for what your child needs.  Unfortunately, schools don't seem to offer services, evaluations, or accommodations, without a parent asking.  I'm not sure why that is because I know that there are good therapists, teachers, and administrators out there.  As a parent, you have to ask.  If your child doesn't speak, you should be asking for a full speech and assistive tech eval.  If your child has sensory or fine motor issues, you need to ask for a complete OT evaluation and services.  I just found out this week that the school will take care of Sara's hearing testing because she failed the test at school.  (I sure wish I'd known that before I paid $45 to take her for an eval.)  As the school if they provide the service that your child needs or if they know someone that does.  Most schools will provide what you ask for.

*Understand that 99%  of the people you come in contact with love your child and want the best for them.  Yes.  There are definitely horror stories out there of mean, lazy, abusive, neglectful, or awful teachers.  They do exist.  But, the vast majority of us in the field are in it because we love the kids.  We want to see them succeed.  We want to help them reach their potential.  Like everyone else, we have off days.  We make mistakes.  There may be days that your kid comes home with some lunch on their face.  It doesn't mean we hate your child or we ignored them all day.  It just means we got really busy or we had an off day.

Even though I have no faith in Sara's teacher's ability to educate my child, I don't think she's a bad person.  I don't think she's trying to hold my child back or even that she's lazy.  I think she just has no idea how to appropriately teach my child.  I can't say anything bad about her as a person, even though I feel like her classroom is not the appropriate place for my child.

I have been in meetings where parents have insulted and degraded me as a person.  That's really not fair.  Even if you don't think that I am the best person to be teaching your child, you don't know me as a person.  I know that emotions run high when it comes to our kids.  Please try to remember that chances are that teacher is working as hard as she can to help your child--even if she's working on the wrong things or in the wrong way.  She is most likely going home exhausted from trying to help your child--even if she isn't succeeding.

I am sure that I will learn more lessons as I walk down this path.  Even writing this post has been a good reminder for me.  I am not fighting AGAINST a school district or teacher.  I am fighting FOR my child.   

What lessons have you learned that will help me (and other) navigate this crazy educational journey?  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Harsh Reality

Sara has been absolutely delightful lately.  She is adjusting amazingly well and is starting to understand both the limits that come with consistent parenting and the security that comes with a family.  Her behavior has improved greatly (*at home at least) and she is just the cutest, cuddliest, funniest, most loving child ever (95% of the time).  I really enjoy just being around her.

*I have recently learned that she's down right naughty at school.  

In all honesty, I don't really think about her birth parents much.  I'm not sure why but that's just how it is for me.  But, this weekend, I started thinking about them.  I started thinking about how they are missing out on this amazing kid.  I began to wonder if her birth siblings are as great as she is.

Then, I had a horrible thought.....

If Sara had been conceived in the United States, she would most likely have been aborted.  

70% of women in the US will choose to have prenatal screening.  Of those 70%, 84-91% of the women who find out they are carrying a child with Down syndrome will choose to abort.  (I got my stats here.)

I won't go into Sara's history here and I don't know the abortion laws in Colombia.  But, even without knowing those things, you can see that statistics would not have been in her favor.  (Knowing what I do, I am almost certain which choice her birth mother would have made.)  

I don't want to get into a huge political debate about abortion or religion or choices.  I just want to share the realization that I had this weekend.  My child's life was most likely spared because she was NOT conceived in this country.  While I'm so glad she is here now, I'm glad she was born there.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Angel Tree


I saw yesterday that there are 100 days until Christmas so let's start planning!  

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 each child listed on their site who has Down syndrome.  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!)  

I have signed up to raise money and awareness for Kimberley.

She is an adorable 6-year-old in a country that I love in Latin America.  There is a family that is in the process of adopting a little girl from there right now.  Is it believed that she will be the first child adopted from there with Down syndrome.  Wouldn't it be great if Kimberley was the second?  

I've started working with the service learning coordinator at work to figure out ways that our students can be involved.  I love watching them give back to others and finding ways for them to serve.  I have a few ideas that may work for individual classrooms or for our whole program.  (Classrooms compete in a coin drive; an online auction of art/items made by the kids; Christmas ornaments to sell; etc.)  The Angel Tree doesn't officially start until November 1st so we have lots of time to think and plan.  

I'm also thinking about ways to raise the rest of the money.  (I don't expect the students to raise the entire $1,000.)  

*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 am planning to host an online auction on my auction page from November 1 to November 15th.  

*I will be selling Cards for A Cause through Usborne Books from October 15 to November 1.  Each box of cards contains 30 cards.  The box sells for $30.  This is way cheaper than buying cards at the store and they are adorable!!

*I will be hosting a Paparazzi Accessories party locally and online at the end of November.  I've never heard of this company before but they sell really cute costume jewelry for great prices.  And they have a kids' line!  I guess I know what I'll be filling Sara's stocking with.  

I'm really excited about advocating and fund raising for this beautiful little girl.  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!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Guide To Sara's Spanglish

The speech pathologist asked me to write a list of the words and phrases that Sara uses at home.  I had fun jotting down everything she said this weekend.   She has a lot more words that I thought.  Since I already have the list typed out, I thought I'd share it here.

Aca = Right here
Agua = Water - she uses it for water to drink, a bath, rain, swimming, anything related to water.
Aila for baila which means dance.  She uses it for music and dance.
A uz for La Luz which means the light.  
Avie for movie
Bye-a  She used to say Ciao but I haven't heard that in months.
Caca = poop
Cae - It means I fell.  She uses it for I fell, you fell, it's going to fall, etc.
Cheese when she wants you to take her picture
Chebre means cool or ok in Colombian slang.  She uses it for "it's all good"
Chi chi for the bathroom 
Chool for School
Cow - All animals are currently cows. 
Goo Gight for good night
Guacaca for Guacala.  It means gross.  
Hola = Hi 
Moo - uses with a cow
Natty for Natalie.  It's what she calls me when other people are around.
Never - Said in the manner of the evil woman on Tangled.  
Pan = bread 
Papel = Paper - she uses it for napkin, toilet paper, paper, tissues, paper towel
Pas - The word in spanish is Mas for more but she says pas
Pera for espera which is wait
Ready - Sometimes she says I Ready but it's rare.  
Seepin for sleeping
Shampoo (Same in English and Spanish)
Tia = Aunt 
Morowrow for Tomorrow--when she wants to watch Annie
Turn around - it's pretty mumbled but it's in there.
Wuve ou for Love You.  
Wow-Wow (Dog)
Ya - literally means already but it can be used for enough or done.
Ya wa wa for Your Welcome 

We were pretty sure she was saying "Zip It" for a while this summer but I haven't heard that one in a long time.  

There are other things that she will sign or repeat but those are pretty much the ones she uses unprompted.  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Kids Are Expensive!

I am part of several on-line adoption groups.  Sometimes, I hear and see things in there that concern me to the point that I feel the need to write about them.  (These groups are not specific to one organization, country or special need.)  

I cringe when I see people say "We have enough money to raise another child but we don't have ANY money to put toward the adoption process.  We can't take out a loan; we have nothing we can sell; we have no one we can borrow from."  If you are trying to raise every single penny for your adoption, have you thought about how you will pay for medical care for your new child?  

Now, I went into my adoption process pretty naive.  I knew I had extra money in my budget every month that I could put towards the adoption and then raising the child.  But, I had no idea how expensive children are and how expensive medical care is.   I am very healthy and go to the doctor once a year, at the most.  So, my entire health care costs were $25 a month for insurance and one $25 copay at the doctor.  My how things have changed!  (Just for the record, I am a teacher and have decent insurance---even if I whine about it all the time.)  

My daughter has Down syndrome but is incredibly healthy.  She hasn't been sick once in the six months she's been home.  A lot of kids that are adopted internationally are not so healthy.  Kids with special needs may require lots of specialists, equipment, medicines, formulas, surgeries, etc.  But, for the sake of argument, let's assume your child is healthy like mine.  

I am one of those people that like math.  I really do!  So, let's crunch some numbers on the health care costs for my healthy child who has been home for 6 months:

My insurance rate went from $25 a month to $280 a month.  (I went from a single plan to an employee plus one plan.)  

Initial pediatrician visit:  $25
Initial labs:  $80 (Thyroid, lead, CBC)
2 visits to the Eye Doctor, eye drops, and glasses:  $150 (With my eye insurance)
Cataract Surgeon visit:  $45
Developmental Pediatrician: $45
Check up at Cardiologist:  $45  (Thankfully, her heart is good and we don't have to go back.)
Down Syndrome clinic:  $45  (Probably not going back to that one.)  
Kindergarten shots at ped:  $25
Hearing check:  $45 (She failed the test at school.)

We still have upcoming visits to the dentist, hearing recheck, karyotype, and a c-spine.  (I'm guessing that costs another couple hundred dollars right there.)  

These are not monumental costs.  I totally get that!  These are costs for a child who has needed no medicine, no procedures, no surgeries, no major treatments.  These are all just initial costs to get things checked out and a pair of glasses.  Can you imagine if she needed heart surgery, hearing aides, cataract surgery, lots of visits to the pediatrician, on and on and on?  Lots of kids do need those things when they first come home.  Some of them need them for years to come!

I don't ever want to discourage people who are ready and qualified from adopting.  I also don't want to discourage people from adopting kids with special needs.  Adopting Sara was the best decision I've ever made.  But, I think that people need to be ready for the reality.

Adoption is incredibly expensive.  I don't have any issue with people who are working to fund raise part of the costs of their adoption.  (I could write another whole post about how fund raising is a verb and you have to DO something.)  My concern comes in with people who have to (or choose to) fund raise every single cent.  If you don't have any extra money in your monthly budget to pay for your adoption, how will you ever have any money in the budget to pay for your child's medical care?  (Don't even get me started on the clothes and shoes you have to buy when your child grows 3 inches and gains 9 pounds in 6 months.)  

Just something to think about.....

Saturday, September 7, 2013

6 Months Home in Pictures

On March 7, 2013, we arrived at Midway airport very tired but so very happy. It's hard to believe that 6 months have already passed. Here's some pictures of our first 6 months home.

Pictures by month:
(I didn't censor these. I took the best picture that was taken on that day.)
March 7, 2013

 April 7, 2013

May 8, 2013

June 7, 2013

July 7, 2013

 August 7, 2013
(I feel like I need to explain that she put herself here to give me some privacy in the bathroom.)

September 7, 2013

Pictures by State:

New York






Cousin Grace

Uncle Bryon

Uncle John


Tia Janelle

Uncle Rob

Aunt Mary and Uncle Leroy

Aunt Kathy

Cousin Kinsley

First Day of School


First US Passport

5th Birthday

First Day of Kindergarten

First Birthday Party

First Flight

First Snow Sighting

First Easter

First 5K

First Memorial Day

First Train Ride

 First Road Trip

First Baseball Game

First Merry-Go-Round Ride

First Bike Ride

First Swim in a Big Pool

First 4th of July

First Flower Girl Gig

First Camping Trip

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Crisis is Real

I'm not really one to write about "the orphan crisis."  I don't usually give statistics or numbers about the number of orphans versus the number of Christians in America.  I don't encourage everyone to adopt.  I don't get into the politics of agencies or ministries or countries.  I just don't choose to spend my time that way.

But today, my heart is broken.  Today, I want you to know that the orphan crisis is real.  I don't know how big it is.  I don't know how to fix it.  I realize that my adoption did not fix the overall problem.  (It did change one little's girls world.)  I can't fix it.  But I do know this:

Today, in a country not so far away, a 3-year-old little girl died.  I don't know how.  I don't know why.  I do know that she died without ever having the love of a mother.  She died an orphan.

She was not in a neglectful third-world country.  She was not in a horrible mental institution.    She does have a heart-breaking story.   She, like every child, deserved the love and security of a family.  

She will be mourned.  There were many of us that loved her from afar.  Unfortunately, none of us were in a position to make her our daughter in time.  Please pray for those who loved her both in person and through pictures and stories.  Our hearts are broken.