Tuesday, November 26, 2013


I've been really overwhelmed lately with the thought that this time last year Sara was gearing up for another Christmas in another orphanage.  She was in a nice place so I'm sure they did something for Christmas Day but not to the extent she will celebrate this year.

Sara has been given the opportunity to go to a Princess Ball held at a local hotel and sponsored by the Oak Lawn Children's Museum.  If you know Sara at all, you know that this is a dream come true for her.  She loves all things princess and dressing up.  She loves to eat and dance.  This is pretty much her ideal day.  I'm so honored that she was chosen to go and I know she will love it.  This is what really started me thinking about how much her life has changed.  

Her life has changed not just because she has a mommy who loves her but because she has a whole community of friends and family that love her.  I didn't buy her these tickets.  Someone chose to give them to her.  It's a father/daughter event so I can't go with her.  My father is taking her.  She doesn't have winter dress shoes.  A "fairy godmother" is taking her shopping before the ball.  As much as I want to do it all for her, I just can't.  

I have friends that jump at the chance to help out with her, to watch her, to love on her.  I have a family that can't wait to see her and spend time with her.  I have a church community that has been incredibly accepting.  I have a Gigi's playhouse around the corner where I am simply Sara's mom because it's all about the kids.  

This time last year, I was planning a Thanksgiving Pity Party with my friend Angie because our girls weren't home yet and wouldn't be home for Christmas.  Our girls were unaware of how hard their moms were working to bring them home.  They were celebrating another Christmas without us and we were counting down the days until mid-January.  

This year, we are planning a fun outing with our amazing little princesses.  Both girls are growing and developing and learning so quickly.   Both are girls are loved and accepted in our families, churches, communities and in their schools.  

So, as I stress about packing, work, and my to-do list, I need to take a deep breath and remember that this Thanksgiving is different.  This Thanksgiving I am grateful for the little girl who has forever changed my life.  I am thankful for those who helped her get home.  I am thankful for those in my life who continue to encourage me as I figure out this parenting thing.  I am thankful for people who laugh along side of me at her antics.  I am thankful that I have the privilege of being Sara's mommy.  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Find Your Passion

My sister just spent her entire weekend walking.  Literally.  3 days.  60 miles.  For breast cancer.   You see, my sister had a friend that passed away far too young from breast cancer.  Abby was an amazing woman and deserves to have her memory honored.

I am so proud of my sister.  She made a promise to honor Abby in this way and she did it.  Aches and pains and all.

I have to admit, though, that the 3 Day is probably not something I would do.  I haven't been personally affected by breast cancer.  It's not that I don't care about people who have it or worry that I might get it some day.  It's just not on the top of my priority and passion list.

Clearly, my passion is orphan care and adoption.  Now, if I could walk for three days and raise money for a waiting child or adopting family, I would do it in a heart beat. I would probably walk for a month if you could guarantee that one of "my" kids would get a family because of it.

I have probably annoyed some of my Facebook friends with my incessant fundraising posts and events.  I'm ok with that.  You don't have to support my causes or fund raisers.  Really, you don't.

What you do have to do is find your own passion.  Figure out what you do want to support and do something about it.  What makes your blood boil?  What melts your heart?  What changes do you want to see in the world?  Find your passion and act on it.

I have friends that post fund raisers for animal shelters and lost dogs.  

I have friends that post fund raisers for their child's school or organization.  

My brother feels very strongly about helping people find financial security and teaches classes about it.  

I have friends that work at Crisis Pregnancy Centers and post their fund raisers.  

I have friends that are passionate about things that I don't even really agree with.  

None of these people are better or more important than others.  They are all just people doing what they can for a cause they believe in.  None of these causes are less worth supporting than others---even if they are things that I wouldn't personally support.

As we head into the end of the year, people start thinking about the new year and resolutions and changes.  Instead of resolving to lose weight or go to the gym or be nicer, why don't you resolve to do something that will impact the world around you---even if it is in a very small way.  The important thing is that you find something you believe deeply in supporting or changing and act on it.  (Then, you can scroll past my orphan posts without guilt because you are already doing something to improve the world.)

"Be the change you want to see in the world." - Ghandi

"No one can do everything but everyone can do something." 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Letters to My Daughter - Christmas Is Coming


It's kind of funny to me now that I address your letters that way. I don't think I've ever called you that.  I call you lots of things but never that.  Right now, it's usually goofball or chickadee.

This time last year, I was pretty sad and frustrated.  I had finally accepted that you wouldn't be home for Christmas but I was starting to feel like you'd never come home. Now, I can't even remember what life was like before you came!  

Last year, I didn't put up a Christmas tree.  I just didn't want to decorate it myself and then take it down before I went to Colombia.  It just seemed pointless.  This year, I am so very, very excited to put up the tree with you.  We may actually do it this weekend---far sooner than socially acceptable.  I just know that you are going to love it and I'm too excited to wait.

You are so in awe of life right now.  Every new thing you do is the best thing ever.  I think that you will be so overjoyed at the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of Christmas.  You will remind everyone around you of the pure joy of the season.  

I want to soak up every ounce of Christmas and experience all that we can.  (Of course, not too much so you don't get crabby and overwhelmed.  It's such a fine line with you.)  I want to take you to see the mall Santa and pay way too much for a horrible picture.  I want to play in the snow.  I want to ride the Christmas train.  We are going to dinner with Santa at Gigi's playhouse.  We'll do Christmas eve church and sing Silent Night with candles.  (That will be interesting since you are obsessed with blowing out candles.)  We'll do Christmas day with my family.  We'll start our own traditions.  

I want you to hear the Christmas story and love it on whatever level you can.  You love babies and animals so I think you'll like it.  I want you to learn Christmas carols and love them as much as I do.

I want to watch Christmas movies and make cookies.

I want you to wrap presents with me and learn the joy of giving to others.

I want so many things for you this Christmas.  

More than anything, I want you to know that you are loved.  That this Christmas will be different because you have a family to celebrate with.  That you will always be the best gift I have ever received.  

Feliz Navidad, mi chiquita.  
Merry Christmas, my love.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Facebook Status Update

I've been meaning to update forever.  I'm just tired by the time Sara goes to bed and I've been really busy knitting for Angel Tree.  I just haven't gotten to it.

So, instead of a real update, here are some facebook statuses and pictures from the last week.

Thanks, Mr. Jerry for loaning us Beauty and the Beast. She's watched it twice. She refused to eat dinner. I may never get her to bed. Definitely a hit!

What are all the local Christmas things that I need to do with Sara this year? We are going to experience as much Christmas as we can squeeze in.

Why do people perpetuate the idea that kids with Down syndrome are always happy and loving? I see it all the time and it's just not true. Sara is usually happy and can be incredibly friendly and kind. She is certainly not always that way. She can also be very stubborn, mean, and rude.

Who wants to come pull my child's tooth out? I am so grossed out by this process.

Today Sara:
1. Said "The End" completely unprompted at the end of a book.
2. Repeated and signed an entire sentence (one word at a time). She didn't used to repeat at all. 
3. Took my hand as we were leaving the post office. Usually, I have a death grip on her hand while explaining parking lots and moving cars to her. 
4. Signed two words together completely unprompted. 
This child is seriously changing ever single day.

It looks like "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth" is going to be Sara's theme song soon.

I don't think she's ready for a sibling. She's been yelling at E-ah (Eli) all night.

I could be a professional pacifer-loser. Seriously. Where do they go? (No. Sara doesn't use one but I watch Kate's kids on Tuesday nights.)

Every day I ask Sara how school went. Did she have fun? Did she learn something? All I get is "Yup." Today I asked. She thought about it, made a throwing motion and said "pelota." I looked on her sheet and she had gym class today. She was soooo proud and so was I!

Well now I want to put my tree up tonight.

It hurts a little bit that Sara runs to the end of the driveway alone and climbs on the bus without my help. I'll take this over the days when I had to carry her on to the bus while she tried to scratch my face off. I may never know what really happened at the old school but it has made me so thankful for this one.

I asked Kate to take a picture of her first snow fall. This is what I got.

Sara just licked a snow flake off the car. It might be time for a viewing of A Christmas Story.

So sad to be missing my baby's first snow fall.

There has to be a better way to do mornings. Two non-morning people trying to get out the door by 7:15. It may kill our relationship.

Veggie Tales Live. 

Sara is watching Peter Pan in French. She doesn't seem to notice. It's driving me crazy.

I had this song on repeat when we were in Colombia--especially during our "bonus" week. I clung to the belief that it was true. 

The first Sunday back we sang it in church and I cried knowing it was true. 

This morning Sara started singing it when it came on my ipod and we sang it again in church. Once again, I was brought to tears realizing on a whole different level how true it really is.

You were reaching through the storm
Walking on the water
Even when I could not see
In the middle of it all
When I thought You were a thousand miles away
Not for a moment did You forsake me
Not for a moment did You forsake me

After all You are constant
After all You are only good
After all You are sovereign
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Not for a moment will You forsake me

[Verse 2]
You were singing in the dark
Whispering Your promise
Even when I could not hear
I was held in Your arms
Carried for a thousand miles to show
Not for a moment did You forsake me


And every step every breath you are there
Every tear every cry every prayer
In my hurt at my worst
When my world falls down
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Even in the dark
Even when it's hard
You will never leave me
After all

Not for a moment will You forsake me

Just the tip of the iceberg. There is also a brown corduroy skirt that is way too small. A pink shirt and boots.

If you see us at church, don't judge my child's outfit. She has clothes on. No blood was shed and we are on time. That's enough for today.

Sara stole my ball of yarn and a wrestling match ensued with lots of tickling. All fun and games until she wet her pajamas on my couch. Then, as we were walking up the stairs to change, she puked on them. Maybe the tickling was a little intense but I love her laugh! 

Choosing to believe in second chances. Praying for redemption.

Sara just turned down McDonalds fries. Trying to decide if I should call the pediatrician or take her straight to the ER. Something is clearly wrong.

We haven't even gotten out of the house yet and we set battling. If we had anything in the house to eat, I would put off grocery shopping again. But I'm hungry.

Apparently you need a fancy dress to watch dancing with the stars.

I've been looking for chocolate in Sara's candy bag for several days. I can't find any but she keeps appearing with chocolate kisses. Where is she stashing them?

I've been beyond enamored with my child lately. Tonight, I feel like she is determined to test my patience and sanity. (Let me save you some time, kid. I have neither right now.)

Pretty much sums up her life.

I had the privilege of walking through the adoption process with this couple. We spent a lot of boring hours walking the malls and streets of Bogota. The child they are raising today is not the same child she was 9 months ago. If you think Sara has changed, you should meet Claudia.
9 months. A lot can happen in 9 months. Lives conceived and started. A final year of school. A first year of college or work. The last months of a friend or loved one’s life. New jobs, new houses, new goals, new dreams.
In the last 9 months we’ve seen a Nation that was changed forever in a single day. Seen couples become families. Seen lives changed forever after an encounter with God. Seen the conclusion of lives given in service. So it feels right to me that these past 9 months that have changed our little corner of the World so much, have changed me as well.
I have always been focused on accomplishments and appearances. I want to be the best, so that I can be seen as being the best. I want people, complete strangers, to be impressed by me, and think that I am important. I want to be better than the people around me, and I want them to know it. My ego and arrogance are things that I will always struggle with.
Claudia will, very likely, never achieve any significant thing when compared to what a typical child might. She is four years old and can’t yet speak, read, write, run, jump or even walk very well. Her early life put her at a massive disadvantage, and she is going to fight that, and Down Syndrome, to “catch up” for a very long time, if not her entire life.
There was a time when this would have bothered me greatly. Instead, what I see now is a person who works hard, everyday. A person who will achieve whatever she is able to achieve, and be happier with that than most of us ever will be, regardless of our accomplishments. That the scale of her success is not impacted by the people around her. I see someone who is perfectly content with how God made her, and who already has a greater positive impact on the people around her than I could ever hope to. And she does it naturally.
We should all be so lucky.
I don't see her struggles as tragic anymore, I see them as inspiring. Someone who works hard to achieve their goals is an easy person for me to like, and a privilege to have as a daughter.
Everything else aside, in the last 9 months Claudia has made almost miraculous progress, which seems fitting, considering some of the miracles we experienced in adopting her. In such a short period of time we have seen amazing changes, and have bonded incredibly tightly as a family. I've watched as Angeline taught Claudia to do things that I didn't believe she was ever going to be able to do, and been taught time and time again: the only limitations on Claudia are the ones I put there. Claudia is a different child than the little girl we met 9 months ago, and I can’t wait to see what the next 9 months brings.