Thursday, January 28, 2010

Urban Petting Zoo

Last week two of the kids started dreaming about pet bunnies. They asked if they could each buy a pet bunny if they paid for it with their own money. Dad said 'sure'. Liesel looked on Craigslist and found baby bunnies for sale. We called and made an arrangement to buy two of them.

Unbeknownst to us, the person selling the rabbits was a fellow Down Syndrome advocate, Reece's Rainbow supporter, and Oklahoman. She happened to be a blog follower and a facebook friend. How weird is that! Hello Qadoshyah! :)

Anyway, we came home with two cute baby bunnies. A couple of days later our Chesapeake Bay retriever mistook the open cage as an invitation to eat one of the babies. :(((((( The children were devastated, so John told us all to load up in the car and drove 4 crying children an hour and a half to get a replacement for him.

We ended up coming home with THREE more rabbits, plus a little goat. We didn't know the first thing about raising rabbits OR goats, just like we didn't know anything about raising little girls with Down Syndrome two years ago. :)

Act first, think later, that is our motto.

So with no further adieu I introduce you to.....
Bear, who apparently can't wait to bring more baby bunnies into the world.
Champagne, sweet laid back, who doesn't mind being held by even Hope
Flopsy, whose brother Peter was eaten by a dog just a few days ago

And Jack, Peter's replacement.

And Romeo was the extra bonus!! I never thought I would care for a goat, but he is the cutest thing! He is living in a dog crate in my house for the moment because we don't quite have the heart to put him in the barn in sub-freezing temperatures. He drinks 3 bottles a day and cries like a baby when he's not getting enough attention. He's hollering right now in fact.

Come on over to the Urban petting zoo!! Admission is free, and we'll even throw in a mug of hot chocolate!

Monday, January 25, 2010

We love Wii

I couldn't resist posting this. I walked in the living room to see Simeon teaching Ava to play the Wii. She was really into it. :)

And look at her Mii (Me?) character. How cute. No eyebrows even, just like my Ava. She was staring at her character and pointing to herself. She knew just who that was supposed to be. AWWWW.

My Valentine...

Thanks to all of your help in selecting a sweetheart to advocate for this Valentine's season. The winner is Anya in Eastern Europe....nominated by...Anonymous. Who are you, Anonymous? Anya is almost two years old and is diagnosed with arthrogryposis. She is affected in both her arms and legs, making her immobile and bedridden at this time. :(((

Imagine what corrective surgery, therapy, and the love of a family could do for her.

Isn't she scrumptious????

So here's how it will work. On Valentine's Day I am going to be randomly drawing a name out of the hat to determine the winner of a $100 gift card to Target. (Everybody loves Target, right?) A $10 donation counts for one chance to win, $20 counts for two chances, etc. If you put a link to this post on Facebook or on your blog, tell me you did, and it will count an extra chance. Does that make sense?

Let's see if we can raise $1,000 for dear, sweet Anya! Just click on the ChipIn button, it is really easy and it goes straight to Reece's Rainbow.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Another kid

I told my husband I would like to have another kid. I guess I should've been more specific...... :)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Who is your Valentine?

I want to do a Valentine's fundraiser for one of the waiting kids listed on Reece's Rainbow, but there are so many deserving children I'm having a hard time narrowing it down to just one.

So here's what I want to do.

I am going let you all help me choose one. Please leave a comment with the name of whichever Reece's Rainbow child has captured your heart and tell why you think he or she is deserving of a little help finding a family. Exactly one week from today I'm going to randomly pick one of the suggested children. Fundraising details will follow.

Click here to see the children in need of families!

And can someone tell me how to do the random name draw thingy? I've never done that before.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Meet Mara.....

Mara is 9 years old and has Apert Syndrome.
She is an orphan in Eastern Europe.
Her life story is already one of heart break and a second chance.
When she was born, she was placed in a horrible institution.
It is one that has been highlighted on TV shows and internet websites as the worst of circumstances.
Mara's country has been proactive in reforming this institution and many others like it.
Mara got a second chance.
Two years ago, she was moved out of that hopeless, horrible place and placed in an orphanage for children where she could receive medical care, therapy, an education and a chance to grow and develop.
Mara has THRIVED in her new environment.
She has had surgery to begin to fix her webbed hands
(and she can use them the way that they are).
She is attending a school program for children with special needs.
She is getting love and attention and a chance to learn new skills.
Mara loves her baby doll.
She watches the care givers take care of the younger children and mimics their actions with her doll (feeding it, dressing it, rocking it, etc)
Mara still has delays, but she's making progress every day.
She understands everything that is said to her and has a calm and loving spirit.
She is tiny for her age and actually looks to be about 4 or 5.
Despite everything that she has lived through, this precious angel is still smiling.
But, her time is running out once again.
Mara has a birthday coming up in March.
She'll be 10 years old.
She can't stay in her current orphanage much longer, as it is designed for younger children.
Thankfully, she is not being sent back to an institution.
But, she IS being sent to an orphanage for older children.
An orphanage that does not usually take children with special needs.
Can you imagine this TINY girl....with her obvious special needs....
in a place with older children that have never seen a child with a disability?

From now until Valentine's Day, Reece's Rainbow is conducting an awareness campaign for the older angels with special needs.
Please join me in raising awareness for MARA and all the other angels on this page.
If you would like more information on MARA or the process of adopting from her country, you can email me via the contact information on the sidebar or by leaving a comment on this page.
Donations to MARA's adoption fund can be made by sending a check to
Reece's Rainbow
PO Box 4024
Gaithersburg, MD 20885

Click here to contribute to Mara's adoption grant.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


The question was, how can prospective adoptive parents know they are not participating in unethical international adoptions?

I want to preface with another question: If there are 147,000,000 orphans in the world, why would people who profit from adoption feel the need to create more orphans?

According to UNICEF, UNAIDS and USAIDS nearly 90% of the children in orphanages worldwide are not orphans, but have at least one living parent. UNICEF estimates that 95% of the world’s orphans are over 5 years of age while nearly 90% percent of all adoptions in the U.S. are of children under the age of 5. 

If these numbers are accurate, then the answer is obvious. The adoption industry must meet the 'demand' (how I hate to use the words 'industry' and 'demand' next to the word adoption!) for the 90% of adoptive parents who want young healthy children, thus the need to create orphans. Ugh. Did I just say create orphans? I feel sick.

So how can well-intentioned adoptive parents make sure they are not contributing to the problem of child trafficking? 

First of all, these unethical practices have taken the form of child buying, to child stealing, to tricking parents into thinking they are sending their children for an education, to simply persuading the parents that their children will have a better life in America if they will sign them away for adoption. I haven't exactly taken a course or read a book on this or anything but from my experience here are a couple of things I would suggest you do to ensure your adoption is ethical:

-Think of adoption as a means to provide a family for a child, not to provide a child for a family. Not that adoption can't be a tremendous blessing to both parent and child, but I think it's important to really understand the losses and why adoption exists in the first place.

-Consider adopting an older child or a child with special needs.  If a child has shaken baby syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, is HIV+, tests positive for cocaine, or has spent years and years in the foster care system, there is no doubt they need a family, although those kids are typically the most difficult to place.

-Ask yourself why a perfectly healthy infant might be 'available' for adoption, and if the child is healthy and attached, what can you do to help the mother raise her own child?

-Before you adopt, know how you feel about adopting poverty orphans or orphans with living relatives and make sure your standards match your agency's standards. If your agency is ethical they will use international adoption only as a last resort after family sponsorships have been offered and after all living relatives decline the opportunity to care for the child. If a child is a poverty orphan, could the family benefit from a humanitarian aide program or business loan charity? Are there other relatives that could raise the child? Biological families should receive extensive adoption counseling, and they should be warned of the hardships that can potentially go hand-in-hand with a child who has been removed from his culture and his family and is being raised by people he doesn't resemble, not to mention the feelings of grief and regret that may present for the biological families later. These things are very real. Adoption can be very beautiful and it can be very hard, and both parties should be fully aware of that before a single document is signed. I am also concerned about the fact that illiterate birth mothers have to sign documents that they can't even read. How easy would it be for a person profiting from adoptions to take advantage of a situation like that.

-Don't get attached to a particular child's photo before thoroughly checking out the agency. Photolisting sites are great, but keep in mind these organizations are not going to take the time to do the research for you. Some adopting parents will fall so deeply in love with that picture, they will do anything to get that child home, even if it means overlooking serious ethical concerns.

-Join the Adoption Research Group Yahoo group, a safe and private place for people to talk about their positive and negative experiences with their agencies. Search the archives.

-Google the name your agency as well as every person who will be managing your case. Keep in mind when an agency shuts down they can always just open a new one under a different name. Also keep in mind that most people are terrified to go public with their bad experiences, so be gracious when people choose to comment anonymously. Don't assume like I did that one person had a personal vendetta against somebody. People aren't going to take the time to fill out forms if not for a good reason. Here are a couple of agency rating sites that might be helpful:

-Call the state licensing agency where your agency is licensed and see what kinds of complaints have been filed against them. Ask to SEE the copies of the complaints. Keep in mind, when we called the licensing agency we were told all the complaints against our agency had to do with 'communication'. I guess technically a mother claiming her children were abducted and an agency denying any involvement in that could be considered a 'miscommunication'.  All that to say, don't trust someone's word for it. Look for yourself! 

-Find out whether your agency is Hague accredited. Hague accreditation is a good sign, but keep in mind that even some Hague accredited agencies have been caught in unethical practices. Hague accreditation alone shouldn't sell you on an agency. And if they were denied Hague accreditation AND refuse to tell you!

-If your contract prohibits you from contacting in-country officials to check on your case, consider amending it to include permission to contact in-country officials at least to verify the orphan status of the child. Any agency who would prohibit this, in my opinion, has something to hide. Transparency is the key.

-Tax records for non-profit organizations are available to the public. Look at them, they might tell you something.

-Having a license, being Hague accredited, and being a member of the Joint Council really don't mean as much as I thought. Have you seen the recent Australian documentary where the adoption agency is caught red-handed exploiting children and families for the purpose of adoption? That same agency is licensed, Hague-accredited and a member of the Joint Council, and continues to facilitate adoptions even after they were exposed.

-Listen to your maternal instincts!! Really try to understand why a mother would 'abandon' her child. These are CHILDREN, not furniture being donated to the GoodWill. Considering there is a lot of money being exchanged in any adoption, consider who might be benefiting from it and ASK QUESTIONS. Any agency who is honest will gladly welcome your questions and not become defensive that you want to ensure adoptions are happening ethically and legally.

Things that I would consider red flags in an adoption agency:
-Avoiding your questions
-Prohibiting you from talking to others about your case
-Heavy involvement with birth families
-Short wait (or no wait) for a healthy infant
-Conflicts of interest, such as a referring social worker who also happens to work for the agency
-Refusal to share information about how to contact board members
-Requesting large amounts of money upfront, or changing fees
-Frequent lost referrals or moving children around

*Click here to read a long list of other red flags, mainly pertaining to domestic adoption.*

When someone told me recently there is a book about parenting the stolen child, I realized this really is a problem worth talking about in the adoption community, and I hope you will understand why I feel the need to post this. PLEASE KNOW that I am not and will never be anti-adoption. As distrusting as I am at the moment, I believe adoption IS God's heart. I know there are many children whose lives will literally be saved through adoption. Those are the children I want to focus on. But as long as people lie there will be questionable adoptions. I have simply come to realize the need for reform, for standards and accountability. Please do not let my last couple of posts scare anybody considering adopting. In my heart I believe MOST agencies ARE ethical and have the best interests of  the children in mind. But it never hurts to be cautious, right?

Feel free to add to this list if you have something to share. If anyone from the PEAR  (Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform) community have anything to add I would sure welcome your comments.

Monday, January 11, 2010

How can adopting parents know?

Since I posted my adoption story, I have been asked by a few people how adoptive parents can know for certain that their adoption agency's practices are ethical? I have been asking myself the same question and honestly I am having a hard time coming up with an answer that seems good enough. I am going to be doing a little bit more research in the next few days and I hope to put together a blog post with my findings.

In the meantime, please read this post. If I could write so eloquently it is exactly what I would have written myself.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Please don't call PETA......

From my bathroom I heard..."Mom, will make-up stay on a cat forever?"

And this is what I found:

So the Cover Girl was put to good use after all.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Young at heart

My 94 yr. old grandmother went to live in a nursing home recently. I tried to convince her that she should come live with me instead but she was pretty adamant that she was right where God wanted her to be. We went to visit her after church on Sunday and she had me laughing and crying at the same time. She was going around rounding up all the 'old folks' for dinner, shaking hands, telling people Jesus loved them. She showed me a table that she wants to convert into a craft area, so she can 'do crafts with the old folks'. One lonely old man wheeled himself over to where we were visiting in the living area and struck up a conversation with us. He was a methodist preacher. Grandma told him she was part Methodist, part Wesleyan, part Baptist, part Pentecostal, and part Catholic (Now I know where I get it from!)

She rounded up an audience so she could entertain the 'old people' with her piano playing. Then she asked John to share the story with the 'old people' of how our family knew there was a child out there somewhere who needed a family, and how we flew halfway across the world to rescue a little girl we now know as Ava. :)

I can see a lot of myself in my Grandma, including the way we both love old people and are both in denial of our age!!

When the decision was made that Nanny would be going to the nursing home, I was pretty sad about it because I felt like she didn't need to be in the nursing home. But now I can see why she needs to be at the nursing home. She does love old people, after all.

Sorry for the poor quality cell phone pictures. It's what I had at the time.

To put things into perspective....

I've really enjoyed reading your comments about Ava's first steps. True, walkingwill open up a whole new world to her and to us. :)

This comment was particularly meaningful to me posted by Michelle: matted hair, skin and bones, vacant eyes, chicken pocks...just look at the beautiful insides of the gift you received 2 years ago. I am so proud of her, and of you for trusting your love and Gods will. I love you guys....

You see, Michelle remembers my post "Our first visit" describing the moment we first met Ava at  the orphanage. Her sparse hair was matted, she was cross-eyed, covered in scabs, skin and bones and didn't make eye contact. Holding her was like holding a floppy sack of potatoes. Michelle remembers the overwhelming fear I expressed at the challenges that laid ahead for us. I told my husband recently how glad I was that he made 'the decision' and not me, or I'm afraid our lives would have taken a much different turn. We are so blessed to have that little girl in our lives.

Recently I saw on Reece's Rainbow, two little girls, both with Down Syndrome, who remind me SO much of my Ava. matted hair, skin and bones, vacant eyes, chicken pocks...just look at the beautiful insides of the gift you received 2 years ago.  I can't help but think of the gift that some other family is missing out on by not having these two girls in their lives. Maybe your family will be one of the lucky ones. If interested in adopting one or both (they can be adopted together), please contact Andrea at And as always, if adoption is not for you, you can always help these children tremendously by donating towards their adoption fund. Please visit Reece's Rainbow to read more about these children and see how you can advocate for them.

To put things into perspective....and show just what a difference a family can make for these is Ava learning to sit up at 4 years old.....

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ava's first steps....

...and the reason why we recommend that our guests bring their ear plugs.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I have witnessed a miracle....

This weekend I watched my soon-to-be 6 yr old daughter take her first steps.