Tuesday, March 21, 2017

CELEBRATE THE EXTRA!

IT'S WORLD DOWN SYNDROME DAY, 3-21- 3 copies instead of 2 of chromosome 21!
These boys are not mistakes- they are exactly how they were meant to be!
Back of tshirt says "Am I rocking this extra chromosome or what?




Sunday, March 19, 2017

STILL PART OF THE CONVERSATION

Jonah, at 6 1/2 years old, is for the most part non verbal.  He has made great strides this past year in saying the beginning sound of words, but he does communicate mostly by sign language.

What we would like people to know is that even though Jonah doesn't talk much, he understands everything that is said to him.  This is actually very common in Down syndrome kiddos- their language comprehension may be much higher than their language production.  

So if you have a Jonah in your life, please feel comfortable to talk to him just like you would any other 6 year old boy.  He loves to hear your stories.  He loves to have you ask him about his life.  In his own way, he will answer your questions or try to tell you a story too.  Please don't underestimate him- he is listening to everything you are saying, and he understands everything you are saying to him.  

Like we said, Jonah has made great strides in the area of language production this past school year. We are very hopeful that one day he will be quite the talker.  

However, even though he is non verbal now, Jonah is still very much a part of the conversation.

Now time for a flashback.  In honor of Jonah's IEP meeting that is happening tomorrow, here is a photo of Jonah's 1st day of his Early Childhood class when he was just 3 years old.  Now, we are getting him ready for 1st grade next year!  This means after almost 4 years with his Early Childhood teacher, he now will transition to the 1st-3rd grade Special Education department.  

It has been a great 4 years with a great teacher, Mrs. S.  We love you, and thank you so much for all you have done for Jonah and for us- we have learned so much from you over these past 4 years.  We also say thank you to all of Jonah and Ben's therapists at school and their incredible 5K teachers and aides.  We are truly blessed to be part of an amazing team of educators for both our little boys!

Wasn't he just the cutest thing going off to school?





Saturday, March 4, 2017

THIS IS WHAT WE ARE HOPING FOR


Yesterday, the above photo was sent to me by one of the boys' teachers at school.  The boys had a class together and found each other to sit by.  This is exactly what we are hoping for: that these boys will not only be brothers but forever friends!


Thing 1 and Thing 2 from Dr. Seuss Day at school

Friday, February 24, 2017

SPECIAL MAMA

When Ben arrived at the orphanage at 3 weeks old, he went to the newborn baby room.  There, one of his caregivers would become his "special mama".  

This woman didn't just take care of Ben, she CARED ABOUT him.  

When Ben needed his open heart surgery when he was 2 years old, she arranged for a priest to go the hospital and give Ben a blessing in order to protect and keep him safe during surgery.

Over the 6 years of Ben at the orphanage, she continually prayed for a family to come forward for Ben.

Even as Ben moved to other groups and other caregivers, she kept a special eye on this little boy.  Ben would often have the freedom to leave his group's room and go and visit his special mama in the baby room.  There she would give him special food and snacks.

The fact that Ben was able to experience this constant and continual love and care from his special mama was such a blessing for him.  It allowed him to feel like he belonged to someone and planted the seed in his heart what the love of a family would feel like.  

Ben being able to attach to his special mama over the past 6 years definitely helped him attach to us.  What we have learned through our foster care experiences is that a baby needs to attach to someone even during those first few weeks of life.  As long as there is bonding with someone, the baby will have an easier time bonding to his new adoptive parents.  So this is exactly what special mama helped Ben do.

Special mama also gave Ben the gift of a Lithuania baptism shawl that she wanted him to take to America with him.  

We are so grateful for the Lord bringing this wonderful woman into Ben's life.  Her love and care for our little boy has helped make him the wonderful child that he is today: bright, funny, loving, and sweet.  

Thank you special mama!

Special mama is the woman to the side of Ben, talking to him and trying to get him to say hi to us.



Saturday, February 11, 2017

HOW SAD

I don't know what else to say about the following article except how sad...

DOWN SYNDROME FREE WORLD



Monday, February 6, 2017

GOD WAS ALWAYS WORKING!


In the beautiful tapestry of Ben's life story, there is an incredible fellow RR mom who advocated for Ben ("Ryan" on RR") back in 2014.  

I knew about her efforts because this mom and I talked about funds she had raised for our son and because we are both part of a wonderful FB support group.  She even sent me her Angel Tree Warrior ornament for Ben because she thought it would be a precious addition to his Lifebook.

However, yesterday I was reading her blog of her family's adoption and came across 2 posts I had never noticed before.  These posts were about our Ben:

11-21-14
Let me digress for a minute to talk to you about two more sweet babes.  One is Ryan, a four year old little boy living in an orphanage in the same country as ____.  This guy seriously has the best smile ever, and would make an incredible son.  Since I'm his Angel Tree Warrior, I asked our agency about him.  They've had him listed for sometime and she let me know that no one has ever asked for more information about him.  Not once, friends.  Even asked about him.  I think my heart split into a million pieces hearing that...

5-5-15
And last, but not least, my sweet Ryan.  This is the boy with the megawatt smile we designed the tshirts for, the boy who I shared around Christmas.  This little dude is still waiting, and he will be five this summer.  Five is still such a baby!  He recently got some new specs, and I'm not sure he can be any cuter!  Ryan has a repaired heart defect, and mild asthma, and as of this spring he was already getting dressed and undressed alone, as well as eating independently.  My facilitator said he is an awesome little dude, and I wanted so badly badly to give him some love!  He gets along and nplays with the other children and is very friendly to adults.  Ryan is at a perfect age to come home- ready to get started with preschool and kindergarten and have someone finally willing to discover all he is really capable of.  Ryan is interested in anything, and he would fit well in any family.  This boy has my heart, friends.

Part of me was very sad to read that no one ever inquired about Ben at the agency.  But another part of me was amazed to see how God had always ordained Ben to be part of OUR FAMILY!  

The one post is from 11-21-14.  If you look at our adoption timeline, Fall 2014 is when God started to the plant the seed in our hearts to adopt Ben.  Her other post is from 5-5-15- we started our paperwork with Open Door on 5-6-15!

GOD WAS ALWAYS WORKING in this little boy's life:  keeping him safe through the pregnancy and birth, caring for him during 6 years at the orphanage, helping him to be a happy little boy, working in our hearts to adopt again when we thought we were done, and helping our transition to our new life together with Ben in our family.

Ben may have been an overlooked treasure by many but never by God!

Perhaps the words of Psalm 139 say it the best:

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
5You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

WHY BEN?

I think I have discussed in prior posts why we adopted Ben.  But I don't think I ever explained why it was Ben we adopted.

January 2009

I wish I knew exactly when I became aware of Reece's Rainbow.  It was before we decided to adopt Jonah, but because of the cost and overwhelming process involved in international adoption, we opted for domestic adoption of a child with Down syndrome.


I think once we started the process of adopting Jonah, Reece's Rainbow went off my radar for a bit.  I have to believe the Lord was exerting His tremendous wisdom and timing-  our family was on the road that would lead us to Jonah.  International adoption of a child with Down syndrome was not in God's plan for our family… YET…

2010-2013
Our first 3 years with Jonah were very busy with trying to keep Jonah healthy!  Once he turned 3, he began to be much more healthy- praise the Lord!  We are so grateful for all the healing the Lord has blessed upon Jonah.

All that to say,  I don't really remember spending a lot of time on the Reece's Rainbow until sometime in the Fall of 2013 simply because I don't think I had much extra time or energy to think about anyone else except our 4 children.

However around the Fall of 2013, I remember coming upon the picture of Drake on Reece's Rainbow.  He was so cute and adorable.  I even started to think about what it would mean to adopt a little one like Drake.   I continued to check on Drake on a regular basis, praying for a family to be found and donating money towards his fund.  I even contemplated if we might be that family.  Then in November or December of 2013, Drake moved to "My Family Found Me" page on Reece's Rainbow.  We were so excited for Drake and his new family.  What an answer to prayer!  Even though I was so relieved to know that Drake was going to be adopted, a part of me wondered if our family had missed an opportunity?  God continuing to plant the seed, I believe…

Even though I believe the Lord was busy planting the seed, Satan was busy whispering doubts into ear: our plate is full enough with caring for Jonah, we would never be able to afford international adoption, my cancer could come back, and people would think we were crazy.  Talk about a spiritual warfare! 

I continued to check the Reece's Rainbow website.  Now my attention was drawn to a little boy named Simon.  I brought Simon to the attention of the entire family so we often would pray for him at the dinner table.  We donated money to his fund as I kept track of his status on Reece's Rainbow, always pondering in the back of my head if our family should try and adopt him. 

It is important to note that whenever I mentioned this crazy idea to Andrew, I knew he was not even considering a 2nd special needs adoption.  He definitely felt called to pray and help support these children, but another adoption was not on his radar.  This is important to remember so you can appreciate the extensiveness of the miracle that has happened in our family in the past few months.

Fall 2014: Can't Un-know What You Know

One day I found Simon had been moved to the "My Family Found Me" page.  Again, we were so excited and happy and relieved for this little boy and his new family.  But I remember also feeling a tug at my heart of disappointment it wasn't our family. 

God was continuing to work on my heart.  I started following the blog for Simon's new family.  This gave me insight into what might lead a family to adopt multiple children with Down syndrome and some of the blessings and challenges that come with that calling in life.  All things for my heart to ponder…

After Simon was no longer available for adoption, I was led to another little boy on Reece's Rainbow.  I truly believe the Holy Spirit was guiding and directing me towards each of these children.  How else can you explain being drawn to particular children when Reece's Rainbow is filled with so many precious children available to be adopted?   It would be very easy to think if I can't help them all, then why even get interested in any. 

Anyway, I was drawn to a little boy named Ryan.  The things that drew me to him were 1) his cuteness; 2) reading that he was abandoned at birth because of his Down syndrome; 3) his DOB was very close to Jonah's age.

I introduced my family to little Ryan, and we began to pray for him and donate some to his fund.

One way the Lord worked in our lives to bring about the adoption of Jonah was through our experiences as a foster family for Bethany Christian Services.  That is a whole other incredible story!   Well, once again, the Lord in his infinite wisdom was allowing events and circumstances to occur in my life that would push us towards deciding to adopt another child with Down syndrome.

Sometime in the early Fall of 2014, our social worker Julie organized a social for the foster mothers.  During that get together, one of the foster moms mentioned the book Orphan Justice by Johnny Carr.  The things she said about that book caught my interest so I asked to borrow the book from Bethany's library so I could read it.  What a eye-opening experience!  This book just spoke to my heart in such a powerful and deep way that as Christians we are called to care for orphans.  Sometimes that might mean financially, but quite often we as Christians use donating money as the easy option.  The author conveyed that he felt many Christian families in the United States could adopt if they were willing to step out of their comfort zone in life and sacrifice the time and money it would require to do so.  Wow!  The idea just brought me to my knees.  Was I hiding behind sending money to the funds of children on Reece's Rainbow when I could be offering them a home instead? 

I begin to pray for wisdom and discernment for whether the Lord was really calling our family to do this.  However, the biggest thing I began to pray for was that Andrew would be convicted to do this also.  In fact, I knew that he would have to be the one to initiate this for our family.  As the spiritual head of our family, a decision this big and life-impacting needed to come at his initiative.  So I knew I needed to keep my mouth shout in regards to my thoughts on adopting and instead sit back and wait and see if the Lord would move Andrew in that direction.  However I did, at the Lord's prompting, give the book Orphan Justice to Andrew to read.  It had a similar impact on him- very convicting about what our calling is to orphans.

I also continued to pray for Andrew and for him to provide direction and guidance for our family if adopting was something our family should do. 

One thing that really stuck with me during this time was something I read in one of the adoptive family blogs on Reece's Rainbow.  One mother stated in her blog that you can't un-know what you know.  That resonated with me because for whatever reason the Lord had made me aware of the need for adoptive families for the many children listed on Reece's Rainbow.  Now that I was aware, there was no going back.  I had to do something.  I just had to follow God's leading on what it was He wanted me to do for these children.

Early 2015: Deciding…

Through the reading of Johnny Carr's book, Andrew really started to think about adopting Ryan.  This was amazing to me because I really had tried to keep quiet about my desire to adopt him.  In fact, during some of our conversations during January and February 2015, I was the one with more reasons not to adopt than Andrew!  As a family, as a couple, and individually, we continued to pray for a family for Ryan.

Then in February 2015, we decided to contact Reece's Rainbow with some questions about whether we would even be eligible to adopt because of my breast cancer (I was in year 4 of the 5-year mark when one is considered cured).  

We contacted Reece's and were put in touch with Cathy from Open Door Adoptions.  She let us know that both of those issues could be problems, but if they were presented in the right away, it would probably be ok.  This would mean letters from my doctors stating I was in good health and had a good prognosis. 

As much as I felt relief from her response, I also felt nervous because this meant the ball was in our court to decide if we were really going to this rather than being told we couldn't. 

So Andrew and I continued to pray for wisdom about what we were suppose to do.

Our prayers during the months of February and March just seemed to be continually asking for guidance, wisdom and discernment about what to do about Ryan.  At times we both were frustrated because it seemed like God wasn't giving us any definite answers.

Of course, our sinful natures often blind us from what God is trying to tell us.  There were many times, not just during February and March, that God would reveal a scripture verse to us that was about adopting, or we would read a magazine article about old people adopting a special needs child J.  In fact, one day Andrew was returning a book to the library, and on his way out, he spotted a Guidepost devotional book in the Never-Ending Book sale.  He stopped to look at the devotional and the page he turned to was about adopting and putting aside our selfish needs to help another.  So I do think God was trying to give us discernment into making a decision about Ryan, but it was our selfishness that made the decision take so long to make.

Probably the biggest way God worked in us was financially.  At one point, early in the decision-making process, Andrew said that he would only consider adopting if God would provide $30,000 to us.  I jumped on that band-wagon also.  I think both of us envisioned a $30,000 check appearing in the mail, and then we would have our "ah-ah" moment that we were suppose to adopt.  So we waited many months for $30,000 to magically appear.  Then one day, Andrew sat down and looked at our finances and added up amounts available to us in our savings, investments, and through a home equity line.  He added up between $24,000 and $30,000 that we would have available.  On the information from Open Door Adoptions, they estimated a Lithuanian adoption costs between $24,000 and $30,000.  Wow, was that God-thing or what?  He had provided us with the money in our funds, and we hadn't even realized it!

Easter 2015- April 2015: Decided!

We continued to pray for God's wisdom, guidance, and discernment- yes, we still didn't get it!  Then on 3-31, Cathy from Open Door emailed us with new photos of Ryan.  These photos were adorable plus they showed us how much he had changed from the photo that was on his listing on Reece's Rainbow.  Looking at the new photos was almost like looking into Jonah's sweet face- they looked very much alike.  Cathy also asked if we would like updated records on Ryan which we said yes.  Those records revealed where his progress was at, what his likes and dislikes were, and continued to mention that no one visited him and no one was interested in him.  This really broke our hearts because to see these photos of such a precious little boy and think he did not have any family interested in him…so sad and so wrong.  The records also gave his most recent weight and height- Ryan was  the same height as Jonah and weighed one pound more.  I don't know why but that statistic just really touched my heart that these boys were meant to be brothers some day! 

Over Easter weekend, Andrew and I had a heart to heart talk and decided we wanted to adopt Ryan.  In the past, as we would discuss this decision, I did not feel at peace with saying yes- I was always very scared to the point of panicking.  Also the decision felt like it was something I should do more than wanted to do.  However that Easter Sunday, the Holy Spirit just really spoke to me in a powerful way by making saying yes seem like the most natural decision- Ryan felt like he should be in our family.  I felt a calling to be his mother.  I had a peace that I had not felt yet in all our agonizing over the decision.  While I was anxious and nervous, I was not at a panic level.  It was a very beautiful and amazing moment for Andrew and I as we came before the Lord and said, "Let's do this!" and "Let's bring Ryan HOME!"