We are adopting two adorable girls who have a little something extra, Down Syndrome!
We are excited to add them to our family.
We will use this blog to update family and friends on our adoption progress and fundraising efforts.
Just joining us? Click on the 2011 posts in the archive to find out why we are adopting the girls.

Free Giveaway

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.

We are doing a free giveway!  No payment necessary!  All you have to do is spread the word about our bracelet fundraiser.  For every facebook post, blog, tweet, email, etc you send out about our bracelet fundraiser, you are entered to win.  We will use Random to pick the winner.  The prize is a doll with Down Syndrome (pictured above) generously donated by Kate Ylst at http://www.facebook.com/TinyWideSmiles   They are sooooooooo much cuter in person.

Make sure you comment below all the ways that you shared so you can be entered to win.

Thanks!!

Big Update!!!!!!!!!!!


Big Update!!!!!!!!!!!  All of our intial paperwork is FINALLY done and is being hand carried to our girls' country this weekend!!  Another family who is making their first trip is leaving tomorrow and they are taking our precious documents with them.  I am jumping for JOY!  Our agency has already scanned and emailed all the docs to their in country staff so they could start the translations early.  We should be officially submitted to adopt the girls this week.  YEAH!!!!!!! 

The next step is that we will get the referral from their country which will include more pictures (can't wait!), medicals and descriptions of the girls.  I want to cry just thinking about it. 

We are coming sweeties!  We are one big step closer!

Color Coding

So I have started to freak out a little bit about the organizational challenge that 10 kids will be.  So taking the advice of other large adoptive families, we have decided to color code the children's things.  Each kid was able to pick their color.  So far, every kid now has a tooth brush, towel, backpack, robe, slippers, beach bag, water bottle, drinking cup, bathroom bin, hair brush, flip flops, etc either in their color or personalized with their name in their color.  I am really hoping that as we do this, it will help us know who's is who's and stay more organized.  Especially since so many of my kiddos are the same size!!  My 4 bigs are exactly the same size, then my next 2 are the same size, then the next 2 are the same size.  Only little Jonathan and Mary (Mara) will be different.

I found this great website that has LOTS of stuff to personalize.  The cost is very reasonable (especially if you buy in the quantities I do) and I just got my order and the items I ordered are very high quality.  I don't make any money or kick back from them, I just thought that they were worth recommending!

www.cottonage.com

It is unrealistic to buy EVERYTHING in their color.  Afterall, who would want to wear the same color shirt every day??  But I have visions of getting scripture bags, 3 ring binders, notebooks, etc in their colors.  I am so sick of the "Who left their . . . . . in the living room?" Only to be met with a hundred "Not me!"  Now hopefully I will pick up the backpack, see that it is Orange and yell, "Elena!  You need to put your backpack away!" 

We'll see if it works!

Love This Shirt!

Another adoptive mommy is doing a T-shirt fundraiser to bring their daughter home.  I LOVE THIS SHIRT!  I soooooooooo want one!  I hope they are still selling them once I get this adoption paid for and I can buy clothes again ;).  If you like them too, here is the link to purchase:

http://findingrdaughter.blogspot.com/p/serial-adopters.html

Question 16: After the girls come home are you done adopting? Will your family be complete?

Ha, ha!  This question cracks me up only because I have lost all creditability when it comes "being done".  I honestly believed that I was done at three kids, then at five, then six, and so on.  I did not "plan" any of this.  I have, announced several times over the years, "We are done!  This is our last child!  I mean it this time!"  only to have God laugh and ask us to bring home another.  So why does everyone still ask me this question?  Don't they realize I don't have a clue ;)?

What I can say is that I don't for a second regret any of our children.  I cannot imagine my life without each and every one of them.  Every one of my children make my life and my family so much better, funner and more loving.  So even though several times over the years I have said "No more!"  I have always been grateful after each adoption that we said yes when the Lord called.  That does not mean that I am always thrilled when He calls ;).  Sometimes it takes a lot of courage and faith to say yes.  But then that sweet child enters your family and you realize what a massive blessing they are and you feel so grateful that the Lord chose you to be their mother.

So when the girls get home are we done?  Yes.  For how long?  I am not sure.

Mary Kay Fundraiser Extended

My dear friend Melinda Munson has decided to extend the Mary Kay fundraiser she is doing for the girls until they get home!!  Their adoption fund is getting 100% of her comission!  And she is doing free shipping!!  I am so amazed at the generosity we have witnessed with this adoption. 

To order products visit:: http://www.marykay.com/melindamunson

And if you live in the Vegas area, she will even come do a make-over if you want to have some girl friends over.

I want this stroller!!!


Isn't this the coolest stroller ever?!  I soooo want one!  I am going to search and search for a used one because they are $$$ new.  I think it will be perfect for my 3 little ones (once the girls get home).  It is called a Valco Twin Trimode Stroller.  The toddler seat is removeable so it can be a double when Alisa (Alice) is in school.  Way cool.

Auction Went Awesome!!!

Thank you so much for all my angels on earth who helped put together the auction, bid, spread the word and made it a HUGE sucess!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As the payments come in, I will add them to our thermometer so come back to see exciting things happen!

24 Hour Auction

24 Hour Auction!  Sara Halloran is an amazing stranger, now a new friend, that is holding a 24 hour auction to help raise funds for our girls.  It is being held on March 21st (Wed) for just 24 hours to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day.  There are some super cute things on there including adorable fabrics, a doll with Down Syndrome, really cool cloth diapers, scentsy, etc.  She is adding more things as well.  Please mark your calendars to check it out on the 21st.

Thank you for all your love and support!!

https://www.facebook.com/#!/media/set/?set=a.234598816635305.49765.217020811726439&type=3

Mary Kay Fundraiser

My very dear friend (and fellow adoptive mom of special needs children) has very generously offered to do a Mary Kay Fundraiser for our girls.  She is giving us her entire commission on all sales!  So PLEASE go check it out!  We are running out of time to get the last needed funds.  We are hoping to travel at the end of May :).

http://www.marykay.com/melindamunson

Question 15: Wouldn't the tons of money spent on adoption be better spent on keeping biological families together?

This question assumes that the only, or at least the major reason children come available for adoption is poverty.  I don't know official stats on this, and I don't know every child who comes available for adoption's situation but I can tell you about my own kiddos.  None of them was money the real factor and throwing money at the problem would have solved little.

M & Z--They are twins and were adopted from Cambodia.  In Cambodia, twins are considered very unlucky.  They are said to be a curse to their families.  This belief could have been solidified by the fact that their dear birth mother died in child labor.  Being a single dad is hard enough.  Being a single dad to newborn premie twins in an area that store bought formula can be hard to obtain is even harder.  This was not a simple economic problem. 

E & N-- They are biological siblings adopted from Haiti.  Their birth mother was no longer with her husband and had the kids by another married man.  Their birth mother also has (from what I can tell in my interaction with her) significant learning disabilities.  We originally had an open adoption with her, but she became very abusive and out of line.  We decided that it was unsafe for our children to have any kind of interaction with her.  This was not a simple economic problem.

C--She was placed because her parents did not want a child with special needs.  They had lots of resources at their disposal and lots of offers of help.  This was not a simple economic problem.

T--Both of his birth parents are dead.  He had no extended relatives.  This was not a simple economic problem.

J--Was horrifically abused and neglected by his birth parents.  He was near death when we adopted him.  His parents were wealthy.  This was not a simple economic problem.

And the two girls we are adopting?  Nearly 100% of children with Down Syndrome in our girls' region are put into institutions by their birth family.  There is huge prejudice against those with special needs.  We have the same prejudice here in the US because 90% of babies here with Down Syndrome are aborted. 

Through my work with Special Angels Adoption, I have seen lots and lots of adoption situations.  It is very rare that a situation is purely a simple economic problem.  I totally agree that when possible, loving birth families should be kept together and there should be programs to encourage such.  One great agency that has awesome programs you can donate to in order to keep biological families together internationally is Holt.  But even though these programs are great and should be supported, there are children who cannot stay with their biological families for more reasons then just money.  The problems are much more complicated then that.

Question 14: My husband and I are infertile and have been waiting to adopt for years, it doesn't seem fair that you have been able to adopt so many. Doesn't it seem like you are taking more than your share?

Oh my goodness!  If I had a dollar for everytime I have heard this question, I would have this adoption completely paid for!

The reality is, that children like mine are desperately waiting for families.  There are 135 million orphans in the world, there is no need to wait.  So why are there so many couples waiting years to adopt? Usually it is because they are not open to children like mine.  Sadly, they are missing out.

If you check out my post about the stats for adoption
 http://extra-chromosomes.blogspot.com/2012/02/question-11-why-not-adopt-from-us.html  you will see that for every healthy white newborn that comes available for adoption there are 35 waiting families.  If you are open to children that are older, have special needs, have color, live in a different country, etc, you will find there is little to no wait to be matched with a child. 

When I encounter people with this question, it usually becomes clear right away why they are waiting.  It is always one of two things, 1) they are not open to the type of children that are waiting to be adopted, children similar to mine or 2) they just don't know how to find the children or they are scared because of misconceptions.  If it is #2 then I am always thrilled to help!  And if they have an open mind, they usually quickly have a new child in their home.  If it is #1 all I can say is that I am not taking children you would be interested in anyway.

Imagine if you will two fields.  One has a few fresh ripe strawberries.  The other has tons big plump pumpkins.  Imagine now that there are lots of people in the strawberry field, competing for the few strawberries.  Does it make any sense at all that they are resentful and angry at the small handful of people in the pumpkin patch who have several pumpkins loaded into their cart?  When the strawberry picking people start yelling hostile comments to the pumpkin picking people, the pumpkining people look confused and say, "There are plenty, come help us pick them."  To which the strawberry people say, "Well, we are not open to pumpkins." 

Children, unlike pumpkins and strawberries, are ALL precious, wonderful, blessings. They are all unique and lovable.  Some children are more difficult then others, some are better suited with some families then others, but all are deserving of families and all have something wonderful to offer the world.

I do not believe that there is a loving family out there that cannot handle special needs.  No way!  It does not take any special qualifications to be a parent of a special needs child.  Don't believe me?  Look around at the biological families you know.  I bet several got the overwhelming surprise of their lives when they gave birth to a special needs child.  They did not have special qualifications, they learned, grew and adapted for the love of their child.  Not all families can handle all special needs, but that does not mean that there are loving couples out there who cannot handle ANY special needs.  In fact, I have yet to meet a perfect child.  I believe every one of us has something wrong with us.

So my answer to this question is, if you would like to adopt special needs children similar to the ones I have in my family, AWESOME!  You will find your life full of rewarding adventures and blessings.  Here are some places to find children who need adoptive families:

www.reecesrainbow.org
www.specialangelsadoption.org
www.rainbowkids.com

But most importantly, go to the Lord.  Go to Him with NO restrictions or conditions.  Tell Him that you will bring home a 17 year old if that is His will and if that is who your child is supposed to be.  And then listen to the answer and be willing to obey.  I KNOW the Lord will guide you.  He cares too deeply about children and families to not.  You just need to be willing to hear the answer.

Question 13: How do you have time for all your kids?

The simple answer is that it is all that we do.  And I mean it.  Many other parents work outside the home, have hobbies, go work out at the gym, etc.  We do not.  That is ok, there is nothing (usually) that we would rather be doing then being with our family. 

The typical family in America has 2 full time working parents.  Assuming that those parents pick up their kids at 6pm and put them to bed at 8pm, they only have 2 hours to spend time with their kids, do homework, clean the house, run errands, return phone calls, attend extra-curricular activities, etc.  Add to that book club, golfing, poker night, and anything else the parents are involved in and there is really not much family time.

Our household is very different.  My husband works from home and therefore does not spend any time commuting.  He has breakfast, lunch and dinner with his kids.  He is off earlier then most dads and just walks up the stairs instead of sitting in traffic.  He is also available when the kids get home from school to hear about their day and see their amazing projects.  He helps get everyone ready for school, attends their school activities and is available to them in the evenings.  The only thing my hubby does outside of the family life as a hobby is play basketball for an hour on Saturday morning.  There is just no hobby that is more appealing to him then his family.

I am a stay at home mom.  I do not work outside the home.  My life is dedicated to raising my children.  I do not have hobbies that do not involve my family.  I may have 8 children (soon to be 10) but I have a full 14 hours a day (the time they are awake) to make sure they all get the attention they need.

Don't get me wrong, some days are just plain hard to make sure everyone gets a piece of mom's heart.  Some days I am sick or super busy or just grumpy, like any other woman.  But overall, I think my kids get plenty of parental attention. 

My children are also raised to do many things for themselves which helps a lot.  I know that my role is to raise my children to be independent adults.  How can I do that, if I hover and do everything for them?  By the time they are 18, my children who are intellectually and physically capable, should be able to do EVERYTHING themselves.  This teaching cannot begin at 17.  It takes an entire childhood to teach our children all the independent skills they will need to be successful adults.  By the time my kids are 6, they know how to do chores, make meals, pick out clothes, get ready for the day, practice their piano, do their homework, etc, all independently.  Not only does this give me much more time, but it is helping them to be self-reliant humans.

It always boggles my mind that people think that it is impossible to raise 10 kids effectively but they have no problem sending their children all day to a classroom with 1 teacher and 30 kids.  Our ratio is much better ;).

Raising a large family requires a tremendous amout of time and sacrifice but for us, it is soooooooooo worth it!

Question 12: I see many of your children came home as toddlers, any advice for those of us adopting toddlers?

Yes!  SEVERAL of my kiddos were adopted as toddlers.  Here are the ages my children were at the time they were adopted:

Z-4 months
M-4months
E-2.5 years old
N-20 months
C-2 years old
T-2 years old
J-3 years old

My biggest advice is to read Toddler Adoption: A Weaver's Craft.  It is awesome!  Here is the link:
http://www.amazon.com/Toddler-Adoption-The-Weavers-Craft/dp/1849058946/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1331410021&sr=8-1

Here are our top 10 strategies that we found really help with transitioning and bonding:

1)  HIBERNATE!  This is vitally important.  Most children adopted from institutions have never left a single room in their life, at the very least they have never left the institution.  Typically American life can be very overwhelming and over stimulating.  This leads to the brain going into "fight or flight" mode.  This makes bonding and adjustments very difficult.  For the first month that the toddler is home, you should STAY HOME.  If you have to leave, divide and conquer, have dad stay home while you run errands or vica versa.  Say NO to as many commitments and activities as you can.  Really the only outings you should be making with the child the first month are necessary doctor's appointments.  Once you start taking the child "out into the world" do so slowly.  First, take a walk around the neighborhood or go to a nice tranquil park.  The very last places you should go, only do so after they are bonded and feel comfortable in their new family, is places with a lot of colors, sounds, choices and people.  We have found the WORST places for newly adopted post-institutionalized toddlers are 1) Grocery stores, Walmart or the mall, 2) Church 3)The theater 4) Family parties.  These places are just brimming with too much stimulation.  By keeping the child's senses calm, and the routine predictable and mellow, this will allow the child's brain to be dedicated to the most important job it has, bonding and adjusting to a new life.

2) Learn basic Golden Retriever in the child's native tongue.  It is not necessary to become fluent.  Toddlers who are adopted internationally become fluent in the new tongue in 1 to 3 months for every year they are old.  For example, a 2 year old will be fluent in 2-6 months.  MUCH faster then you.  But it is very helpful to learn the basic Golden Retriever language skills.  For example, come, sit, stay, no, yes, I love you, time for bed, are you hungry, potty, be nice, good, bad, etc.  These will help you navigate the day to day interactions until your toddler catches up.  Within days they will understand very basic English.  It really is amazing.

3) Food is POWERFUL.  Food is an amazing, powerful force for bonding.  Don't waste it!  Whenever possible, feed your child.  Yes, even a typical 3 year old.  Consider bottle or sippy cup feeding while snugging.  Use lots of eye contact while you are feeding.  Food should always come from mom or dad, NO ONE ELSE.  And only give small amounts at a time so they have to keep asking you for more.  Never deny food in the beginning.  Give them as much as they want (even to the point of vomitting).  They need to learn that you are the source of food and that you will respond to their request.  Babies and toddlers in orphanages have not learned to bond adequately because they have not had their needs met when expressed.  It is at best, on schedule.  Toddlers need to learn that you will care for them, respond to their needs, rush to their rescue when hurt, etc, this creates bonding.

4) See hording as a positive thing.  Often children who come home from institutionalization have known hunger, lots of hunger.  They have also learned that just because you have food today, does not mean you will tomorrow.  To the horror of many newly adoptive parents, many of these children will hide and hoard food.  Not so bad you say? Wait until you find a lump of month old bread in your child's pillowcase or meat loaf under the couch.  The key is to recognize what brilliant emergency prepardness experts these kids are.  Good for them, saving for a rainy day!  You just need to give them a way to do it that does not bug you and is socially more acceptable (not to mention healthier).  Every newly adopted toddler from an orphanage should be given their own mini 72 hour kit in a small backpack they can keep on all the time.  In this backpack, you need to put non-perishable foods such as fruit snacks, granola bars, etc.  Also good items are bandaids, a small water bottle, etc.  Allow the child to put other "precious" items in that are important to them like a stuffed animal or match box cars.  Keep it light weight and allow the child to keep this backpack with them 24/7.  Not only will this completely stop the hoarding (they do not need to, have have food always at hand) but will also allow them to let go of their food anxieties which can be severe.  As an added benefit, when things go missing, it gives you a great place to look ;).  Another great way to help end the food anxiety and hoarding is to alway have lots of food out where it is visable and available all the time.  For example, a fruit bowel on the table that is always full.  Take your canned and boxed food items out of the cupboard and display them on the counter to show the child, we have food!  Lots and lots of food.  As the child learns that in America there is always food, they will begin to relax and will eventually abandon the backpack and their anxiety.

5) Have the child sleep with you.  Imagine if you will, that your whole life you have shared a room with 30 other kids and that the lights are never turned off so that the caregiver can keep an eye on everyone.  Most of the time, you have also shared a bed with a couple of other kids.  Then these strangers who speak a weird language pick you up from the only home you have ever known, take you to a strange environment and then at night they put you in a bed by yourself, in a room by yourself, turn off the light, close the door and leave you there for 8-10 hours.  TERRIFYING!  Instead, imagine that they bring you to bed with them in a big super comfy bed and snuggle with you.  They are there to comfort you when you are scared or have nightmares, they sing you sweet songs and whisper in hushed tones while rubbing your back.  Hmm, which scenerio sounds better for bonding and adjustment?  Another added bonus of sleeping with the child is that many children from orphanages aren't used to being hugged, kissed and loved on so they resist it big time.  While they are asleep you can do all of these things without protest and it still get registered in their brain, thus desensitizing them to the affection.

6) Don't sweat the small stuff.  Let go of all rules and regulations for this child that do not involve serious safety.  Your new child has enough on their plate learning their new home, their new family, the new smells, the new food, the new language, etc to possibly learn your rules.  Just use kind redirection when they are doing something unacceptable.  Once they are adjusted, you can start being the enforcer that you are with your other kids.  In other words, cut them some slack.  They have had no spoiling for 2-5 years, don't you think they have earned it?

7) Prepare other family members.  Have a talk with your other children and let them know that this child will need extra time and attention.  That they will get away with things that others won't.  That they may not know how to share yet.  That they might bite, hit or steal at first.  DO NOT tell them how great it is going to be when their new sibling gets home.  It may very well be a difficult transition. When the child gets home, lock up the pets and only introduce them slowly after the child feels more comfortable.  The only live animals that institutionalized children have seen (if any) are the very mean guard dogs.  Pets are often very, very scary.  Tell family and friends that they need to stay away while you hibernate.  You should only have one visitor a day, they shouldn't stay more then 30-40 minutes and they should not touch the child.  Your new child needs to learn who their real family is and having a revolving door of friends and relatives all being affectionate to the child, does not encourage bonding to their immediate family members. Along the same lines, no babysitters for several months.

8) The bigger the priority you make the first months of transition, the easier life will be forever more.  The sooner and stronger your child is fully bonded and adjusted, the smoother your life go.  Once bonding has happened and you are a real family, the more the child will respsond positively to your rules, affection, sleeping on their own, going out to eat, seeing relatives etc.  Remember, this is a very important but temporary time. 

9) Give yourself breaks.  Often newly adopted kids come home with aggrevating and annoying orphanage behaviors that can be hard to take day in and day out.  Make sure you and your husband take turns getting out and having alone time.

10) Love and enjoy!  Don't forget why you decided to adopt in the first place.  Really sit back and enjoy all the firsts that your child will experience.  Laugh and find joy in their excitement.

Bonus 11)  Never do time out!  When a child has first been adopted, the last thing you want to do is give them some alone time in a corner or room when they are bad.  They will then use bad behavior any time they are overstimulated (which will be often at first).  Instead use time in.  For example, lets say that the child is having a really bad tantrum or is being really mean and out of control, instead of sending them to their room, they have to sit on your lap, while you hold them tight until they calm down and say sorry in a nice voice.  Think that is not much of a punishment?  Oh believe me, institutionalized kids HATE IT.  It is much more affective then time out.  But beware, they are going to fight you, thrash about, hit, bite, head but, etc.  But you are bigger and stronger, don't give in.  You will be amazed at what happens.  Once the battle is over and they have calmed down.  When you let go, they will not leave you.  Instead, they will snuggle in and you will share a sweet moment or two.  Great bonding technique.

Good Mommy Moment

My son, E has made the goal to every day to befriend someone new at school who looks lonely or sad or picked on.  E is very popular and so he hoped others will follow his example.  So far, he has done it every day this week.  He always comes home so excited to tell me the wonderful love and kindness he has shown to the "least of these" and the difference it has made.  The best though is what E said today, "I really think I am the one who is getting the most out of this.  I have so many more great friends and I have learned that when they say at church, everyone is special, it really is true!  The kids who don't have friends are just as special as the ones that do!"

Makes a mom want to cry tears of joy!

AMAZING Video!

This made me bawl and bawl.  It is exactly what I needed today. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVxz71ygHbk

Adoption is a calling from the Lord

This is my favorite adoption scripture. Isaiah is talking about the last days:

"Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord. Enlarge the place of they tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare them not." Isaiah 54:1-2 

Adoption is a wonderful calling!

The Adoption Race

For the past two months we have been taking one step forward, two steps back with this adoption process.  Which makes it feel like we are further behind then when we first started ;).  I am starting to feel like the hamster running in his wheel.  Am I just pretending that I am making progress when really we are just spinning our wheels?  We have been super busy but I don't think that actually counts as progress.  How do you do it day after day Mr. Hamster without getting totally discouraged?  The answer: learn how to enjoy the journey.   Easier said then done.

So I am going to try to stop focusing so much on the girls and my desire to bring them home, and more on trying to enjoy the journey: appreciating all the miracles that are happening, God's involvement in our family, the amazing new friends and people I am meeting along the way, the generosity of strangers to our adoption fund, the changes that are happening in people's mind set, all of it.  Maybe it will make this stress-case mom chill out a little :).  Because honestly, so far, the stressing out has done very little but give me a ulcer (literally).