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

Dana

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.  

  Sara


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.  

Friday, August 22, 2014

Meet Laurence's Family

From time to time, you have seen me advocate for another family.  This time it's different.  This time, it's a family that I know and love dearly.  This time, it's one of my first Chicago friends that is adopting.

I wish I could post tons of pictures and tell you tons of stories about this friend.  Unfortunately, she has had some stolen identity issues in the past and doesn't really have an internet presence because of that.  So, I will tell you that she is a dear friend who has an amazing heart for orphans.  She's the one that really stirred my heart in that direction.  We traveled on a my first mission's trip to Mexico together.  We have taught at two different schools together.  We have served locally together.  Now, I get the pleasure of seeing her teach my students about service.

Her heart has always been for kids in need.  She has completed all the steps to become a licensed foster parent.  She has had several children in her home through the Safe Families program.  She routinely opens up her home to children who need a place to stay---all while working and raising her son.  She's now ready to open up her home to her new son permanently.

*She has started a blog for her adoption journey.  Please head over there and check it out.

*She has a page on Reece's Rainbow.  If you feel led, you can make a tax deductible donation there.

*I have an ongoing fundraiser for her (and a few other families I know and love) on my knitting page.  50% of any item ordered goes to her Reece's Rainbow account.

*Check back here and her blog for upcoming fund raisers and updates.




Monday, August 11, 2014

What Have You Learned?

How is it the middle of August already?  We've had a crazy, busy, amazing, exhausting, fun summer. I love that my job allows me to spend so much concentrated time with my little girl. Maybe someday I'll update. 

In all honesty, I've been struggling lately with what to update and how much to share. I don't want to end the blog now that Sara is home. On the other hand, I want to respect her privacy and not blog about every detail of her life. I'm going to strive to update more in the fall. I just need to figure out how to show the ups and downs of our life without revealing too many intimate details. 

I was talking to another mom at the Reece's rainbow reunion this summer about our kids. Both of our kids are doing really well and have adjusted beautifully (with a few bumps of course).  However, neither of our kids have mastered basic academic readiness skills yet. 

If I'm being honest, I thought Sara would be much farther along academically at this point. I had visions of her being ready for a year of inclusion kindergarten this  year.  She's not. Every color is purple. Every letter is B. Every number is 4. She won't say her own name.  She will sometimes say she is 5 but not always. (She turns 6 in two days so that won't be accurate anymore either.) 

Thankfully, my friend reminded me of all the things she has learned. She's learned a new language!  A new culture. School rules. Home rules. Church rules. Going to the grocery store rules. (Ok. So she hasn't mastered all the rules but she's learned a lot!)  She's met tons of new people. And she's learned what it means to have a mom. A family. To be a daughter.   To be a granddaughter, cousin, niece. That's a lot for 18 months!  I can't wait to see where she is 18 months from now! 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Keep The Change - For Laurence

One of the hardest parts about being an adoptive parent is not being with your child for the milestones---birthdays, holidays, first day of school, first loose tooth.  July 5th is Laurence's 13th birthday.  That's usually a scary birthday for orphans in his country since it means they only have one year left to find a forever family.  But Laurence can celebrate this year---his mom is on the way!!  And, with your help, his mom can celebrate that day, too.    

Keep the Change!


From June 5th to July 5th.  

It's pretty simple:

*Find a container--it doesn't have to be anything fancy--an empty cup, an empty jar, a bucket...whatever you have. (You can grab a picture of Laurence from his Reece's Rainbow page if you'd like.)

*Put the container in a visible place in your home---next to your purse, on the kitchen counter, on your dresser.  You could also consider putting it in your office or work space.  What a great conversation starter!

*At the end of the day, empty all the change from your pockets and wallet into the container. Say a prayer that Laurence will be celebrated on his birthday and know that he is loved.

*On Saturday, July 5th (Laurence's birthday), take your container to the bank and cash it in.  (Or sometime around then since it's a holiday weekend.) 

*Deposit the money into Laurence's FSP on Reece's Rainbow.

This is a very simple way for all of us to bless Laurence and his family on his birthday--even they can't celebrate together.  (Can you imagine how fun it will be for his mom to watch his grant grow on his birthday?) 

I have a jar of change that I've been saving since my adoption ended. I can't wait to cash it in and see what's in it.

If you want to participate, leave me a comment here and let me know!  I'll keep a running list of people who have agreed to pray for and bless Laurence and his famiy during the month leading up to his birthday.

So, start looking for the perfect container.

Participants:
Natalie 



Saturday, May 10, 2014

(Happy) Birth Mother's Day

I recently learned that the day before Mother's Day is Birth Mother's Day.  I had planned to write this beautiful tribute to Sara's birth mother.  One about how grateful I am that she gave her life (I am) and how she made the self-less decision to "give her up" (I hate that phrase) so she could have a better life (I don't know if that's true or not).  I wanted to thank all the women who allowed their children to be adopted so they could have more opportunities than they could give them but it's just not that simple.  Adoption is crazy and messy and heartbreaking and dividing.  It's hard and painful for everyone involved.  

I have three adopted siblings and an adopted daughter.  Each of them has a different story.  Each of their birth mothers had different reasons, motivations, fears, and decisions regarding their children's future.  Some decided (for a variety of reasons) not to parent the child they gave life to.  Some had no choice.  While I don't know their hearts and don't know all of their reasons (I know less about Sara's birth mother's decision than my brothers'), I'm going to guess that none made the decision easily.  

It sounds so neat and easy.  "They gave up their child for adoption."  Never is it that easy.  It almost becomes flippant when talking about children with special needs.  "Their parents didn't want them because they had a disability."  Do we really think it's that simple?  Do we really think that their parents didn't want them?  That they didn't love them?  I can't believe that.  I won't believe it.  Believing it means I am passing judgement on thousands of women that I have never met.  Thousands of women who made a very hard decision for a multitude of reasons.  

I don't really know a lot about the culture of disability in Colombia and I don't know what motivated Sara's birth mother to make the decision that she did.  (I wouldn't share it here if I did!)  I do know that not so long ago in this country, parents were not encouraged to raise their children if they were born with disabilities.  They were only presented with one "solution"  You put your child in an institution and forgot about them.  Parents had to fight for the right to raise their own children.  It would not surprise me at all to find that this is currently going on in most parts of the world.  Parents are not given the option of raising their child with special needs.  They are TOLD to put them away and forget about them.  (As if you can just forget about your child.)  They don't know about the kind of conditions their child is living in because they are doing what they are told by doctors and professionals is best for their child and their families.  They didn't abandon their child because they have a disability.  They are following the directions of respected members of their society.  

Parts of the world are very superstitious.  I learned this first-hand when I lived in Mexico.   Anyone with a disability is seen as being cursed.  While a family may love their child deeply, choosing to raise that child could be detrimental to their family and to the child.  The family and child will be social outcasts.  Life could be very hard for siblings.  The parents may not be able to find work---after all, no one wants to associate with a cursed family.  People fear what they do not know.  Unfortunately for these children and families, fear can be dangerous.  It really may be the safest thing for these families to place their child and pretend they never existed.  At least pretend publicly.

There are countless other reasons a birth parent could choose not to raise their child:  poverty, lack of resources for a child with special needs, abusive relationships, fear, age, marital status, broken relationships, religious beliefs, societal expectations, and on and on and on.  I cannot even imagine having to make that decision.  I can't imagine making the choice to allow my child to be raised by someone else.  Or worse, making the decision to place them in an orphanage and hope that someone chooses to raise them!  I respect any woman who has made that choice--even if it was made out of ignorance and fear.  And while I may not respect the choices that a woman makes that lead her to have her child removed from her care, my heart goes out to any woman who is not raising a child she gave birth to.  It cannot be easy to wonder where your child is and how they are doing.  It has to be painful to hope that your child is being loved and cared for.  I can't imagine a scenario in which a birth mother doesn't think about their child regularly---especially on Mother's Day.

When I think of Sara's birth mother, it makes me sad.  I don't know her reasoning for signing over her rights to Sara.  I believe, though, that she is a kind, sensitive, caring woman with a spunky personality.  Those traits that I see in Sara are innate.  She was born with them.  I can't help but be sad that this woman doesn't get to know her wonderful daughter.  She doesn't get to wake up to that adorable face and those sweet kisses.  She doesn't get to see her learn new things almost every day.  She doesn't get to see her get excited over the littlest things.  But I do.  And for that, I will always be grateful.

Happy Birth Mother's Day!  I hope that you somehow know that your daughter is loved and cherished. 




Friday, May 2, 2014

Coincidence?

Tonight was Family Fun Night at Sara's school.  We paid $1 and got way more food than we could eat, games, pony rides, face painting, and a bounce house.  I knew Sara would love it so I signed us up.

Then I started to dread it.  I knew exactly how it would go down.  Sara would spend the vast majority of the night in the bounce house and I'd be stuck standing outside with nothing to do and no one to talk to.  These are the types of events that make me really wish I had a husband.  But again, I knew Sara would love it so we went.

It went down pretty much exactly as I thought it would.  EXCEPT----

Sara's math teacher was running the bounce house.  We started chatting.  Her first questions were about adoption.  She was thrilled to realize that I had CHOSEN to adopt Sara KNOWING that she had Down syndrome.  She started telling me that:

*She's always kind of wanted a child with Down syndrome.
*She's never told anyone that because she thought it sounded crazy.
*She's always been drawn to her students with DS.
*Her students with DS have always been her favorites---except teachers don't have favorites.
*She didn't realize you could adopt a child with DS before she heard Sara's story.
*She has a lot of professional experience that would be valuable.
*She really feels like she has a lot to offer a child with DS.
*She really thinks she could do it.
*But, she's not married.

That is my EXACT story!  I wrote it out here when I was first considering adoption.

Things got busy after that so I told her that she should definitely consider it and that LOTS of kids with Down syndrome are looking for families.  Of course, I told her that she should check out Reece's Rainbow and contact me if she had anymore questions or wanted to chat.

I have never met this woman before tonight and probably wouldn't have if we hadn't gone.  She only has Sara for math so she doesn't come to the IEP meetings.  I'm rarely at Sara's school because of my work schedule.  It's very possible our paths would never have crossed.

It was very clear to me that she adores Sara and that Sara's story has touched her heart.  People always say that Sara is very lucky to have been adopted but I know that a lot of people have been blessed by Sara.  This little girl is capturing hearts every where she goes.  I'm the one that is blessed to be a part of her life.  

Some pictures of Family Fun Night:

Grandpa has taught us to always be early so we were waiting in the car for it to start.  

The first thing we found was the food.  

First Pony Ride.  It took her a little while to relax.  

Last time I took her for a pony ride, she waited for an hour and wouldn't get on.  This time she rode like a pro!


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Myths aka My daughter is not always happy.

I started this post for World Down Syndrome Day. I'm only a month late!  

There are lots of myths out there about Down syndrome---which is kind of funny since everyone knows someone who has a child with DS.  Just go somewhere with your child with DS and someone will say how their second cousin has a Downs kid.  (Hey!  That's what they say!)  They will almost always mention how this child is always happy and loving at family reunions.  (Their family member must handle crowds much better than my daughter does.)  I'm not judging these people at all.  I'd much rather have someone try to engage me in conversation about Sara than ignore her or look at us with pity. I appreciate their attempt to find some common ground---especially since the classic questions "What's your name?" and "How old are you?" don't get your conversation very far with Sara.

Anyway, here are some of the myths that I've heard about people with Down syndrome and the truths as I've experienced them.

People with Down syndrome are always happy.  Variations:  They are angels here on earth.  They are so innocent and could never do anything wrong.  
I recently read a news article about a young man with Down syndrome who had been suspended from school for aggression.  I don't remember the exact situation but I remember the comments.  Countless readers were appalled that he had been suspended.  After all, people with DS were all loving and kind and could never be mean or aggressive.  It must have been a huge misunderstanding because these angels on earth are incapable of doing anything wrong.  It's not in their nature.  

I can assure you that none of those commenters were a parent (or teacher) of a child with DS.  Sara is incredibly sweet and kind.  She has a great heart.  She also bites and hits.  She is capable of doing wrong---just like any other 5-year-old.  She is very often happy but not all the time.  She experiences all the emotions that any other child does.  She is a human being, after all.  An extra chromosome doesn't change her into a robot incapable of human emotion or feeling.  Oh, and every morning when I have to get her up from school, she looks and acts nothing like an angel on earth.


People with Down syndrome will never get a job or live independently.  I also hear the converse of this---that all people with Down syndrome will be able to live independently, marry, and be famous actresses on Glee.  
I've read a lot of debates about whether or not DS is a spectrum disorder like autism.  Those who say it's not a spectrum disorder say that you either have it or you don't.  You can't "kind of" have Down syndrome. Those who say it is a spectrum disorder point to the wide variety of needs that people with Down syndrome have in all areas of life.  Some are very healthy; others have countless medical problems.  Some are verbal; others are not.  Some learn to read and write; others do not.  The list could go on and on.  That one little extra chromosome can affect every aspect of a person's life or barely affect their life at all.  

Back to the original myth---it is unfair to assume that every child with Down syndrome will be dependent on caregivers for the rest of their life.  It is also unfair to assume that every person with DS will live independently in the community.  There is such a wide varying of abilities in people with Down syndrome.  As with any person, they will reach their highest potential when encouraged and, maybe even, pushed to be as independent as possible.



Everyone with Down syndrome has three copies of the 21st chromosome.
I actually didn't know that there were three types of Down syndrome until the pediatrician suggested Sara might have Mosaic DS.  (She does not.)  

95% of people with Down syndrome have Trisomy 21.  Every cell of the person has 3 copies of the 21st chromosome.  This is the type of DS that Sara has.

1-2% of people with Down syndrome have Mosaic DS.  Some of their cells have an extra copy of the 21st chromosome and some do not.

3-4% of people with Down syndrome have Translocation.  In this type, a part of the 21st chromosome breaks off and attaches itself to another chromosome.  Cells then have an extra piece of the chromosome but not an entire extra chromosome.


Families suffer from having a child with Down syndrome.  It's not fair to the siblings and the parents always get divorced.  
I don't have all the statistics in front of me and I won't pretend that I took the time to find them all.  (After all, you'll never find two stats that agree anyway.)  It is true that having a child with a disability can be very hard on a family and a marriage.  Statistics do show that there is an increased divorce rate for families with disabled or chronically ill children.  However, those stats do not apply to families of children with Down syndrome.  Dr. Brian Skotko has spent his entire career conducting studies to show how a child with DS can positively affect your family.  If you are really interested in this information and the studies behind it, I would encourage you to read some of his work.

As a teacher, I have met some great families that have young adults with DS in them.  I've also met some that I wouldn't choose to socialize with outside of my professional relationship with them.  This is also true of families who have children with autism or any other disability.  Families are families no matter who is in them.  Some function well.  Some do not.  A family won't be perfect because it has a child with DS in it but it also won't disintegrate from that either.


Kids with DS never grow up.
They do grow up.  Just like every other human being.  They turn into adults in every way.  This is one of the many reasons it's important to teach them boundaries and social skills when they are young.  My mantra is:  "What's cute at 5 isn't cute at 15 and is criminal at 25."  Sara loves men (preferably between 45 and 60).  She has an uncontrollable desire to touch them.  Because of her height, she ends up grabbing butts--a lot.  Because she's 5 and cute, people smile it off.  They won't be smiling it off when she's 15 and they really won't appreciate it when she's 25.  That's why we are working on it now.  Because she will grow up!

Also, if you see an adult with Down syndrome---they are an adult.  Please treat them as such!  Can you imagine if someone talked to you as a 5 year old all the time?  How frustrating would that be?


Children with Down syndrome are only born to older parents.
Again with the stats that I don't have in front of me.  The majority of babies with DS are born actually born to women under 30.  That's because the majority of all babies are born to women under 30.  While being older increases your chances of having a baby with DS, younger women are not at all exempt.  Any woman could have a child with Down syndrome at any age.


People with Down syndrome plateau and stop learning.
This isn't true of anyone so why would it be true of people with DS?  Everyone can continue to grow and learn throughout their life.  Now, if your child with DS is 15 and still working on phonics, it might be time to find another way to teach them to read or to focus on important sight words but that doesn't mean they won't learn anything anymore.  It just means phonics isn't going to work for them and you might need to prioritize the important skills that they need to learn at this phase of their life.


All people with Down syndrome will be over weight.  
A lot of people with DS do struggle with weight but a diagnosis of DS does not have to equate with obesity.  Like every other human being, they will benefit from proper diet and exercise.  They should also have their thyroid functioning checked regularly, as this can be an area of concern and can lead to weight gain.


People are afflicted with or suffer from Down syndrome.  
Why can't we just say that they have Down syndrome?  It's a result of their genes.  I don't suffer from curly hair.  I'm not afflicted with shortness.  Those are just things that I have because of my genetics.  Sara has Down syndrome.  She doesn't suffer and she's not afflicted.


All people with Down syndrome are stubborn.
This might not be a myth.  I'm pretty convinced it's not.

Easter Happenings

I know that I owe my few loyal readers a real update.  Someday maybe I'll have time to sit down and write one.  I promise that the lack of updates are simply because we are crazy busy.  Sara is doing amazingly well (except for her current cold/ear infection/fever/general miserableness).

Here are some Easter pics to enjoy.  I'll throw some in from last at the end so you can see how much she's grown and changed in a year.

Unfortunately, we spent a good chunk of Saturday at the pediatrician's office.  The official diagnosis is an ear infection but I'm convinced there is more to it.  She's still running a fever and coughing.  Now the poor dear is starting to lose her voice.



She must have dyed eggs at school this year because she was definitely familiar with the process.  You could tell she wanted to enjoy it but just didn't feel well.  


This is what happened when we tried to dye eggs last year.  




She got a great Easter basket from our friend Jenny again this year.  Jenny picked great, thoughtful gifts for Sara that she, of course, loves.  It's so fun to open gifts with her.  She slowly opens each present and gets so excited over every single one.  She seemed confused that I didn't have any gifts so she gave me one of hers for each one she opened for herself.   She is genuinely surprised that all of these things are for her.  Me?  




She loved finding the eggs we dyed.  Her "hunting" skills have improved greatly in the last year.  I guess my hiding skills will have to be better next year.  


Since she isn't contagious anymore, we managed to get ourselves dressed up and headed to church.  (Pretty much all we've done this weekend.)  I can't believe how grown up she is getting.  


Last year's Easter outfit.  

Happy Easter from the Keller Family!  May your truly understand what Easter is all about---God's plan to save, redeem, and adopt us!  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Avon

I've been looking for ways to help adopting families since I completed my own adoption.  I love knitting and will keep doing so but it doesn't make a ton of money in the spring and summer.  So, I've decided to sell Avon online.  I have no interest in selling in person or going door-to-door.  I just want to organize online parties for adopting families.

My first family is Laurence's family.  The commission from any purchases made from my site during the month of April will go to his family.  You don't need a special code or anything.  Just make a purchase!

Laurence's family currently has a matching grant through a local church.  That means, my commission donation will be doubled!!  40 to 80% of the price of your purchase will end up going to help this family!!  And, you still get a great product.

Summer is coming.  We all need to stock up on sunblock and bug spray!

Please pass this link on to your friends and family.  Who doesn't want to help someone while buying things they already need?

www.youravon.com/adoption

Friday, March 14, 2014

Sometimes, You Need More Than Love

All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love, love
Love is all you need.  


Fun song and a sentiment that has caught on in the adoption world.  If you just have enough love, everything will be ok.  You fell in love with a picture and God calls us to take care of the orphans so you have to adopt this child immediately.

I see all the time that people say:  "I have enough money to raise a(nother) child.  I just don't have any money at all to contribute to my adoption."  "I can't get a loan and I don't have a credit card."  "I have no other way to get the money.  No one that will support me and no one I can borrow from."  "I don't have the time or energy to fund raise."   I have seen people literally "fund-raise" (usually beg) the entire $30,000 for their adoption.  I've seen it more than once.  It happens.

Now, before you lump me in with people that are against fund raising at all.  That isn't true.  I wrote a whole post about my fund raising philosophy.  I fund raised for my own adoption.  BUT, I also contributed about a third of the cost myself and only fund raised a third of the cost.  (The other third came from grants.)  

I'm not saying you have to have ten thousand in the bank to adopt.  I'm not saying you have to pay for the entire adoption yourself.  I am saying, that if your budget is so incredibly tight that you don't have ANY extra money from week to week, you probably don't have the money to raise an adopted child---especially one with special needs.  (And pretty much any child over the age of 2 that has been living in an orphanage is going to have some sort of special need--whether physical or emotional.)

Kids with special needs are expensive.  My daughter is very healthy.  She has Down syndrome but she does not have any of the physical ailments that go along with it (except for cataracts).  Even as a healthy child, I have spent hundreds if not over a thousand on her health care in the year she's been home (and I have pretty good insurance).  She has been to the cardiologist, the Down syndrome clinic, the dentist, the eye doctor numerous times, the hearing specialist, the eye surgeon, the pediatrician.  She has had x-rays, blood work, a karyotype, physicals, eye exams, hearing tests.  I have bought glasses for her.  I'm not listing those things to complain.  I am so grateful she's healthy.  I'm just trying to give you an idea of how quickly appointments and copays pile up.  (I also intentionally choose a child that did not have a heart defect and that seemed healthy.  I knew that as a single mother, I would be unable to take time off of work for open heart surgery and wasn't sure I'd be able to handle it emotionally either.)  

Most kids that are adopted internationally (with special needs) are not so healthy--especially if they have come from a neglectful orphanage or an institution.  Chances are good they have never had their teeth brushed.  They haven't had good nutrition.  They may be dehydrated.  Parasites are incredibly common.  The list goes on and on.  

Before you adopt that adorable child that so "needs to be rescued", you need to make sure that you have a plan in place to pay for that rescue and the redemption that follows.  You may see the adoption as the rescue but the years that follow are the redemption.  You will have to make up for years of neglect and lack of medical care.  Chances are very good that they will need to have dental work (and most dental insurances don't cover much).  It's almost a guarantee that they will need to see some sort of specialist at least for check ups if not regularly.  They may need therapies--physical and/or emotional.  All of these things cost money.  It's just the way our country works.  Medical care is expensive. And internationally adopted kids--especially those with special needs---need a lot of it!

So, if you don't have ANY money to contribute to your adoption, where in the world are you going to get the money for copays, surgeries, equipment and medicines? 

**I know that I probably have offended people at this point.  I'm not targeting any one family or situation.  I've just seen too many families come home and not have the money for the basic care that their children need.  It's the kids that suffer in this case and that just isn't right.  I thought the point of adoption ("rescue") was to give them what they couldn't get in their birth country?  

**There may not really be a correlation between people who "fund raise" for their entire adoption and those that don't have the money for basic care when their kids get home.  I haven't done a scientific study but it seems that way to me.  How frustrating for those that donated to your adoption to find out that you don't have enough money to care for your kids?  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Letters to My Daughter - My Heart for You

Mija,

Tonight, as I sat in your bed rocking you to sleep, I started praying for you.  This isn't something I do often enough but I poured out my heart in that quiet, dark, precious moment.  I prayed that you will be an over-comer.  That you will over come the first four years of your life.  That you will over come your rough start in school. Most of all, I prayed that you will over come your mommy's imperfections.  I mess up far more often than I'd like but I know that you are thriving in spite of my mistakes.

I am in awe of you and who you are.  When you fall asleep in my lap or when I check on you at night, I am in amazed that you are sleeping in my house.  That I have been entrusted with your little life.  I can't help but smile when I see your adorable little face in my rear view mirror.  Most of the time, it seems crazy to me that I have this little person in the back seat of my car and that I am responsible for that little person.  And, when you call my name or kiss my cheek, I often tear up because this amazing little person actually loves me and calls me mom.  Some days, I am overwhelmed by the responsibility.  Other days, I am in awe of the privilege that I have been given.

We've been together for a year now and I've seen so many changes in you.  You are talking and communicating so much.  I honestly think I hear a new word from you almost every day.  You are so proud to try out new words, signs, and sounds.  We both get frustrated when I don't understand you but you've come so far.

You have matured so much.  You are calmer and you can take a minute to listen before totally losing it.  Sometimes there are still some less-than-stellar moments but we are working through those together.  You want to do the right thing and you want to be good.  We haven't used the stroller in months.  You even managed to walk through the mall without too much trouble.

You love life.  There are still so many aspects of every day life that are new to you.  You've really enjoyed the snow this winter (until you get wet).  You love going new places and seeing new things.  You've gotten a little less sure about new people but you warm up quickly.

You are learning that you can't have everything.  While this might seem silly to include, it's such a huge thing.  You don't expect me to buy you something when we go to the store.  You can look at something and then put it back.  You don't expect anything from anyone, really.  So, when you get a special treat, you are so very grateful.

You are so determined and a great problem solver.  You want to do things for yourself and you want to help everyone you meet.  Sometimes you're problem solving skills border on manipulation but I know that your determination and creativity will take you so far.

Sara---I am so proud of the little girl that you are becoming.  Sometimes, it breaks my heart to see you growing up so quickly.  You are not the little toddler that I met a year ago.  You are a fiercely independent 5-year-old who doesn't always need her mom.  But, when you're tired, and you ask to be my baby, I will gladly rock you in my lap.  I promise you that I will hold you as long as you let me.  You can be my baby as long as you need because I will always be your mom.

Te Amo Mija,
Your Mom


February 2014




Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day - Last Year

Last year, on Valentine's Day, I was in Colombia. (Cause I was pretty much there forever.)  My friend Jason and his daughter Claudia left that afternoon.  They had pretty much been my life-line and my sanity.  They were my escape from the hotel and the hotel food.  They were my connection to home.  And they left me.  (I can't blame them but....)

Susan and her girls were at the hotel at the time but I knew they were just passing through.  They were a lot of fun but I knew that they, too, would be leaving as soon as they possibly could.

Since it was Valentine's Day, Susan and I went to the grocery store and found the closest thing to American candy we could find for the girls and threw a tiny, little party in her room.

Pretty much the cutest Valentine's dates ever!


In the middle of our little party, the hotel owner knocked on the door and told me that I had a phone call.  I knew that it was too late at night for "The Call" (the one saying the adoption decree is ready) so I was interested to see who it was.  (A secret admirer, perhaps?)  I picked up the phone and realized it was my amazing in-country rep.  The hotel owner had called her because she was worried that I was depressed and thought she might need to come cheer me up.
Our amazing in-country rep

Apparently, in their minds, Valentine's Day is a HUGE American holiday and I must have been so sad about missing it.  I had to try really hard not to laugh into the phone.  I was in a funk but it had nothing to do with Valentine's Day and everything to do with my friends leaving.  It took me quite a while to assure her that I was fine and not missing anything at home.

I'm not sure I've ever even celebrated Valentine's Day.  The one year that I was dating someone in February, he was at college in Ohio and I was student teaching in Costa Rica.  I've gone out with groups of girls to "celebrate" but that's about it.  It is certainly not a big holiday to me and I was kind of relieved to be so far away from it for once.

It goes to show, though, how kind and caring Colombians are.  Even if they are a bit misinformed.

This year, I'm spending Valentine's Day with the Love of My Life.  





Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Family Photo Shoot

My family does photos every five years.  It involves quite a bit of whining but we know that every 5 years we are getting them done.  I will admit to being a part of the whining but most of it comes from the male members of the family.  

It's fun to look at the photos because we've added someone to every picture.  We started in 1995.  The boys were so little then.  In 2000, we added my brother Rob.  In 2005, my sister-in-law Amy joined the group.  In 2010, my niece Grace made her first family photo appearance.
Our 2010 picture.  


Since 2010, we have added my niece Kinsley and Sara.  I wanted to do pictures again since they will all be so big in 2015 and there will be at least one more addition to the picture by then.  There were a couple of hold-outs of the male persuasion in the family and I hold no power to convince at least one of them.  So, we decided to do just the women this time around.  (Everyone will be in the 2015 picture.)

Sisters

Mother and daughters

All the women

Cousins - Take 1

Cousins - Take 2

Cousins - Take 3

Nana and her granddaughters

Saturday, January 18, 2014

2013 - What A Year it Was!!

I'm obviously a little late with my 2013 post.  I've been a "little" busy and I was trying to decide if I would do a 2013 post or a first year together post.  Since I'm now late for both and they pretty much coincide, here it is:

January

  • I honestly can't tell you what happened between January 1st and 12th.  I know I worked for a week or so but the rest is a blur.  There was some strategic packing and that's about all I know.

January 12  to March 7

  • January 12 - I got on a plane and left my old life behind.  My mom met up with me on the second leg of my trip.  It's a good thing she did or I may not have gotten on the plane.  
  • Janury 14 - I finally met my little girl.
  • January 20 - I got to meet Claudia for the first time.  Her parents and I had walked through the process together.  It was so nice to finally meet her and to have them at the hotel with us.  
  • January 22 - I agreed to move forward with the legal process and become this little girl's mother.  
  • Colombia is kind of a blur.  We spent a lot of time waiting for the phone to ring and as much time as possible hanging out with other families.
     
  • Daily walks quickly became a part of our routine.  
  • Jason and I got really brave and took our girls to the Children's Museum.  I was so impressed with how well they handled our girls.  
  • We visited the orphanage briefly and I got to meet Sara's BFF.  
  • We had several adventures with Jason and Claudia---including getting caught in the afternoon rains in their matching strollers.  
  • We ate out a lot.  
  • We got to meet Gracie and her family.  
  • We spent a lot of time hanging out at the park.  
  • Sara got her US visa on March 6.  She spent the waiting time chasing pigeons.  
  • Leaving meant saying goodbye to some great people, including our facilitator.
  • Sara did very well on the flights and became a US citizen when we landed in Atlanta.  
  • We finally arrived home March 7.  We were tired but happy and so excited to see so many friends and family at the airport.


March

  • My mom came to Chicago when we arrived home so she got to spend some time reuniting with Sara.  
  • Sara had a photo shoot done by my friend Katie of 5 Boys + 1 Girl = 6.  She did such a great job with Sara and I will always treasure these photos taken during her first days home.  
  • We made our first trip to NY to see my family.  I'd say the admiration is pretty mutual.  
  • Sara had her first eye doctor appointment in March.  She was not impressed with the dilation process.  Not even McDonalds french fries could console her.  
  • We celebrated our first Easter together in March.  A sweet friend invited us over for dinner.  I tried to get Sara to eat one green bean.  The gagging and crying was impressive.  


April

  • I had to go back to work in April.  Sara started school and the babysitter on the same day.  She handled it much better than I did.  
  • Sara got her glasses in April.  They weren't quite the hit we hoped they'd be.  
  • Tia Janelle came into town for a wedding.  Sara loved meeting her and loved the wedding.  
  • Sara made her first trip to the zoo.  She loved it.  


May

  • We did our first 5k together.  I walked.  Sara rode.  It doesn't seem quite fair that her time was a second shorter than mine.  
  • May brought our first Mother's Day together and Sara's dedication.  She acted exactly the way I thought she would.  Exactly. 
     


June

  • June brought the end of the school year for both of us and a summer of adventures and traveling.  
  • We spent a week in NY to see my brother graduate  from high school and visit with friends and family.  
  • Sara is a huge fan of water and spent as much of her summer as possible in a swim suit.  This includes the weekend we spent in Michigan with my friend Becky and her family.  
July


  • I'm not usually an over-patriotic person but the 4th of July meant just a little bit more this year with my new citizen.  
  • Sara was in her first wedding on July 5th.  She was incredibly crabby moments before the ceremony but turned on the charm and did a great job.  She danced the night away with anyone and everyone.  
  • July brought on an epic road trip.  4 weeks.  8 states.  Thousands of miles and countless hours.  Our first stop was in OH.   I got to meet a great family that I had gotten to know online during our adoption processes.  It was so nice to spend some time with another mother who just gets what my life looks like now.  
  • We went camping in Maine for a week. Camping for us means lots of people in an RV!  Sara got to meet my dad's entire family and got to spend some quality time with my family.  
  • We ended up with an "extra" week in NY so we went to visit Circle C Ranch.  It was fun to go back and see just how much hasn't change in the last 20 years.  
  • The extra week also meant a little extra cousin time.  


August

  • We spent a week in Mexico and California with Anna visiting with old friends and reminiscing about our time living there.  We even got to spend a couple of days with Tia Janelle.
     
  • Sara turned 5 in August.  We spent the day at the San Diego Zoo with Tia Janelle, Tia Anna, and Jonathon.  She got ice cream with a candle after dinner.  She was a little overwhelmed by all the attention.  
  • We had a small birthday party at the house with some friends.  She has since mastered the ability to blow out candles but all she could do at her birthday was blow her bangs up.  
  • My little munchkin started Kindergarten a week after her 5th birthday.  


September

  • We went to Fair Oaks farm to use a groupon before it expired.  She loves all things animals.  It was our first big day trip with just the two of us.  
  • Sara got invited to her first birthday party.  She was NOT a fan of laser tag.  She made it about 37 seconds.  
  • We celebrated 6 Months Home on the 7th.  
  • Sara had her first dentist appointment in September.  She did so well and her teeth look great. 
  • Sara was involved in a preschool sports program at the park district in the fall.  She loved the soccer unit.  The rest of the sports weren't quite as fun in her mind.  
  • A brand new Gigi's Playhouse opened in Oak Forest in September.  We are so lucky to have such a great resource so close to home!  


October

  • Sara was a flower girl in my friend Megan's wedding in Florida in October.  We flew down for the weekend.  She got to experience the beach for the first time and we spent most of our weekend in the hotel pool.  It was interesting to travel with pretty much just the two of us.  Sara did so well at the wedding.  It's amazing how grown up and well-behaved she can be when you put a pretty dress on her.  
  • We made a trip to Indy to visit with my dear friend Anna and to dress shop for her upcoming wedding.  Sara LOVES dress shopping.  Mom's not quite as big a fan.  
  • October brought a lot of drama with school and eventually a new placement.  (And a pretty cute school picture!)  
  • We went to a local pumpkin patch with a group from church.  Sara loved every single moment of it.  She had a hard time transitioning between activities.  She just wasn't convinced that any thing else could be more fun than what she was currently doing.  She was an absolute mess at the end of the day.  There is still straw in my car.  I'm still trying to figure out why no one else had children that were quite as dirty as mine.  
  • We really didn't celebrate Halloween.  I just didn't think Sara was ready.  She did get to wear a princess dress to school, though.  I spent the next several weeks trying to explain to her that she couldn't wear one every day. 


November

  • We spent Thanksgiving in NY with my family.  This always means lots of time with Nana, Grandpa and the Uncles and visits with the cousins.
  •  We also got to play with the VanHalles while we were in NY.  It's so fun to watch Claudia grow and change.  Maybe some day these two girls won't be afraid of each other.  


December

  • December brought our first Christmas season together.  I was VERY excited and we started celebrating pretty early.  Sara loved everything Christmas.  She especially loved pictures and figures of Santa.  She's not so sure about the actual guy.  
  • Sara got invited to attend a Princess Ball and my dad just happened to be in town that weekend for work.  (He's never been here for work before!)  Sara loved it.  Dad claims not to but I know he did.  After all, he was the grandfather of the belle of the ball.  

  • December brought the first real snow.  Sara loves it as long as it doesn't touch her skin.  I actually thought at one point that she had broken her arm while we were shoveling.  It took me a while to figure out that some of the snow had fallen into her sleeve and that was the source of the screaming and wailing.  
  • We spent our Christmas break with my family in NY.  Sara just loves being around all of my family and they certainly love her.  
  • 2013 ended in Maine.  We knew my grandmother wasn't doing well so my dad, brother, Sara, and I went up to Maine to visit and to spend New Years with my dad's family.  New Year's Eve was uneventful to say the least.  (I think we were asleep before 10.)  I'm so glad that we got up there, though, and got to see Ma one last time.