Tell me what it is you want to do with your one wild and precious life? -mary oliver

Thursday, September 30, 2010

From her sister's eyes

Sweet  (because she is sweet)
Angel   (she's an Angel from above)
Rainbow (we found her on Reece's Rainbow and hope to see a rainbow when she comes home:)
Amazing (it's who she is)
Hope      (she is hoping to see her forever family soon)

*written by Addy, 7

Friday, September 24, 2010


This evening, my parents came into town for dinner and we spent time sharing our adoption journey and celebrations.  The process, paperwork, and logistics seem daunting to them, but they are excited about the greatest reward.  Andy and I know it is tiresome, but the moment she walks into our arms, the paperwork chase will be forgotten and the journey will so be worth it.    I was sharing with them the recent celebrations in the Reece's Rainbow community and other adoption blogs that led us on our path. 
"We all need to hear the good in the world," they said. 
So the purpose of this post is to celebrate the good in the world...

1.  Our part of the home study will be completed in less than a week, and then it can be written up.:) One step closer to our little girl...  We are waiting to order birth/marriage certificates because we need to be careful they do not expire within six months.

2.  Our Child Specific Petition has already been sent to her country.

3.  Sasha has a forever family.  He is a little boy who my blogging friends have been advocating for and hoped to find a family.  An AMAZING life has been saved!!!

4.  Josie, from Confessions of the  Chromosomally Enhanced, is breathing better.  She is still in the hospital, but is a fighter.  She, along with another Josi, were "Red Thread" connections this summer.  Check out Josie's blog.

5.  My parents, and others, are praying for some of the families who I have been sharing on our blog.  They may never meet, except through prayer. But, Miracles are happening!!

6.  Andy printed little cards with our blog address/Reece's Rainbow/Sarah's picture and passed them out at his business meeting in Houston.  Families have been impacted by reading these blogs/websites and perhaps another will be moved towards saving a life.  We've already received calls today about what they have read:).

7.  I stopped at my neighbor's last Saturday to share our news. (now that I'm teaching, I don't visit like in the summer:(.  She was so happy and excited for us and showed me her "Sarah" from student teaching.  She also read this story in Parents' Magazine that day and gave me the magazine. I found this family blog in June, late one night when I couldn't sleep, and was deeply moved. Another red thread.  Monday evening, my friend went to the county fair and saw another "Sarah" she taught who was in college.  She is constantly sending me more "red thread" connections. 

8.  Some families who are traveling in Sarah's country now have been emailing me travel tips and places to stay.  Andy will be most likely be working some of the time while we are over there and will need phone and internet capabilities. (He's a satallite office!)  Another family is traveling soon to her orphanage and will try to get some new pictures for us:)  What a sisterhood Reece's Rainbow is!!!  I am blessed to be a member!

9.  Wednesday, my kids had a movie at school for a reward.  When I asked Addyson who she sat with, she said," I made a difference in Austin's life today because he was sitting by himself and I asked him to come over with us!"  Daily, I am asking them to make a difference and now it is becoming part of their language and actions!

1o.  Sarah, My Name is Sarah, made the front page of her newspaper telling their story about JEllens Fabric Store and its mission to employ adults with Down Syndrome and Autism.  Way to Go, Sarah and Joyce.  You're an inspiration to us all!!

My friends, there is so much good happening all around us.  Look for it, Live it, and Celebrate those special moments.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Josie's Joy

    I began following this family early August before we decided to adopt, as it became a  part of our Red Thread.  Josie's mother writes about the love for her daughter and her sister, both chromosomally enhanced.  This family is filled with compassion and celebration of life.  Josie has been in and out of the hospital recently and is back in again tonight.  Lift Josie up in your prayers, pray doctors find the source of her breathing issues, and pray for Josie's family...

Confessions of the Chromosomally Enhanced

Friday, September 17, 2010

Our Little Princess

Being deeply loved by someone
gives you STRENGTH;
Loving someone deeply
gives you COURAGE.

Thanks to the The Fritz Farm for these new pictures of our Eastern European Princess. 
What a precious gift they gave us.  Filled with gratitude...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Not Tonight!!!:(

            In the midst of getting our dishwasher fixed (by none other than my Husband, he ROCKS as Mr. Fixit!!!), I was doing my best to remain calm before our first home visit.  I compared it to having my observation at school by my principal:  I know I'm doing an okay job teaching, but it's still nerve-racking beforehand:(.  I rushed home from school, ran to the bank, and picked up the kids at latchkey, all before 5pm.  When I walked into their school, the power was out!  (We live less than a mile from there.)   In my head, I'm thinking, "Please, not tonight.  I want to get Part 1 of the home visit over and move forward in the process!!!"  As we entered our neighborhood, pulled into our driveway...the garage door would not open:(

        Ladies and Gentlemen, our power was out and we had 2 hours until she came.  The kids were reading, Andy was finishing up with work calls and paperwork, and I was lighting candles all over the house.  We decided to call her at 6pm if the power was not on and let her make the decision whether to reschedule.  We grabbed a quick bite to eat, and I ran Addy to Girl Scouts. At 5:55pm, the power finally came home!!! Yeah, us:)    I was shouting with JOY!!!!  One hour to go.  When I got home, I looked out the window and a car pulled into the driveway.  I told Andy,"I guess she's early.  Maybe I've got the wrong time."  I've been forgetting many things lately!!  Sure enough, I looked in my calendar and wrote the time down as 6pm, but when I communicated to Andy the time, I added an hour:(  Oh well, it all worked out.)    More important, the power came on 5 minutes before she arrived.  Isn't that something?!!!  Or part of the MASTER Plan to work on trusting even when things go differently than what I want.  Or perhaps I'm learning to roll with the little inconveniences daily, that when the big challenges happen, it won't knock me flat!  What's important is I'm learning something daily to grow as a wife, as a mother, and as a individual who is passionate about making a difference in the world around her!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


The elementary where I teach sends home with students their class placement  on the last day of school.  Teachers receive their list for the upcoming year, but I always stick it in a drawer until I come back from summer break.  This year was no different.  In August, we had a Meet The Teacher time before school started.  For 2 hours, my students and their parents walked through my doors, looked at their room, and introduced themselves to me.  It was a quick meeting, and I tried very diligently to put names and faces together.  I did remember a family that had a strong accent when I spoke to them.

    During the first few weeks of school, I work to build a compassionate, caring learning community.  We spend time sharing, celebrating, and talking about our lives.  One day, we were sharing something unique when a boy, D, shared that his parents were from a country in Eastern Europe.  Of course, I was so excited and I began asking D questions.  Come to find out he can speak the same language as our Sarah's country!!!!  I could hardly believe it!!  D is now in charge of teaching a Word of the Day during our morning and closing meetings!!  How about that!!  I have my own language tutor from a fourth grader.   
Life is GREAT!!!

  Before I saw what I saw the last day of school, before I read the family blogs, before I thought about adoption and Down Syndrome, and before I was even shown this is the journey to go on, a young boy was placed in my classroom who speaks the same language as our little Sarah's country and would be able to teach me and my class conversational language from Eastern Europe.  I shared with a friend my story the other day, and she said, "Shelly, you found out the WHY things have happened sooner than some.  Count yourself blessed."  
I do and I am.

    I have grown so much in the journey thus far.  I'm learning to laugh about inconveniences and happenings. (Such as:  the dishwasher breaking a day before our first social worker visit and our kitchen is torn apart:(  I'm learning to do what I can and leave some things for another day. (I'll never be caught up at school!!)  I'm taking time to celebrate the small things. (My son loving his new cooking class /Cub Scouts activities and my daughter teaching her brother math games at home.)  I'm learning to take deep breaths and walk away when someone says something insensitive about adoption and Down Syndrome. (It's only happened once, but it left me speechless.)  Mostly, I'm seeing the world in a new light.  In a few short months, Sarah will be seeing everything for the first time and I'm looking at the world around me with a sense of awe and wonder. 

Being happy doesn't mean that everything is perfect. It means that you've decided to look beyond the imperfections.

Friday, September 10, 2010


I found this book from my fellow teacher bloggers called Hope is an Open Heart by Lauren Thompson.  The author was inspired from the aftermath of 9/11 and was trying to help her family find new Hope in their shattered world.  The book is filled with breathtaking pictures, along with an inspiration on every page.
    *Hope sometimes feels far away, but Hope is always there.

    *Hope is the warmth of strong arms around you.

    *Hope is knowing you are loved.

    *Hope is finding happiness in the simple things.

    *Hope is daring to do something you've never done before.

    *Hope is a candle flame in the darkness.

    *Hope is knowing that things change and that we can help things to change for the better.

  At the beginning of the year, I had my students and parents write their Hopes and Dreams for the year as inspiration and reflection.  Some may change, while others may stay the same.  What's important is that they are written down, concrete.

    I pulled this book off my shelf today, and began thinking of our little girl in Eastern Europe.  What are my Hopes and Dreams for Sarah?  I've been pondering this question all afternoon and will be writing my Hopes and Dreams for her as part of her memory book.  Hope is an Open Heart will be displayed in her room as part of the book collection we'll be creating for her and as a testament to the Hope she will have in our home.

For now, Sarah's Hopes and Dreams are:

     *HOPE is holding tight to your Mother's hand.

    *HOPE is your Father's good-night kiss.

What are your Hopes and Dreams for you child?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A family in need...

Lyla's family needs our prayers and our thoughts tonight...they've found out their soon-to-be daughter is in a hospital in EE at a very critical stage and not doing well.  Her soon-to-be mother received an email that their daughter, Lyla may not be well enough to be adopted.  I've known our Sarah a little over 3 weeks, and cannot imagine going through this.  Lyla's family is so close to traveling to her.   As you go to sleep, pray for this family. They will go through the night waiting on word of their daughter, Lyla.  They are in need of so much prayer, love, and support.  Please join me in lifting them up tonight...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What We Cannot See At The Time

If ever I believed that small acts can make a difference, it has been on this amazing journey thus far! In June, I began keeping a journal of all the feelings, hopes, and signs pointing us on the road less traveled. I'm so glad I did because not only will it be a story to share with Sarah, but a testimony of how when a door closes, a window opens filled with treasures. Our story continues to add chapters as we learn about those who loved our child before we ever knew her. I have already been asked to share our story with a small group at church and in our kids' classrooms at school. Yesterday, another RED THREAD connection to Sarah was made!!!

In March, a young lady in her 20's was led to be a Prayer Warrior for Sarah. She blogged about her. She advocated for her. Most of all, she prayed for Sarah to find her forever family. Before I even learned of Reece's Rainbow, before I even thought about adoption, and before we were even to begin our journey, a young woman was praying for a child she has never met, a child she saw on a website, and a child who would find her forever family in August. This young woman is living life to the fullest advocating for orphans and is making a difference!! Her blog is  Life to the Fullest. Melany, we are so grateful for your prayers. You made a difference for our little girl!!

We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.

Never underestimate the power of what your small act can do to change a life forever!!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Name Game

 How do you choose a name?  Our family and friends have a tradition that you take one letter and name your children from that letter.  Addyson and Austin were named from that very tradition.  But, when it came to our little princess, an A name wasn't fitting.  Our family sat in our library throwing out names, but we still couldn't agree.  At her Great-Grandmother's birthday celebration, Addy took my notebook and pen and began a list of names she liked from A-Z:)  She did a pretty good job:) 

    Over the weekend, I kept coming back to the name Sarah.  It didn't fit with our "tradition", but then neither do I.  Everyone in our family has the same initials, except me.  The kids were desperate to have a name, and Andy liked Sarah with an H.   We found a name!!!  Then, I began reflecting on why this name was to be our daughter's name.  That, in itself, is more powerful and more meaningful than the name.  

The name Sarah is a result of the many Sarah's that came before ours and paved a path.

    *Sara was the little 3rd grader, who made an impact on me and started the "red thread" that linked our families together.

    *Sara has the same birthday as our little Sarah, in Eastern Europe.

    *Sarah B from was kind enough to answer some questions over the summer that began charting our path to adoption.   She wrote about her experience, she wrote from her heart, and she wrote to make a difference.  She never realized the difference she was making  until recently. 

    *When we first announced we were adopting on our blog, we called her "Our Little Princess."  The meaning of Sarah is Princess.

The most important reason of all:
    *Sarah, from  My Name is Sarah  I found this blog over the summer and kept coming back to it.  Sarah is 21 with Down Syndrome who blogs about her life, her hobbies, and more recently  her job at the family's quilt store.  Sarah is an inspiration to the endless possibilities that Our Sarah, Bridget, Alina, Zoya, Nadia, Joquain, Sofia, and other special needs children can achieve.  She gives hope to everyone around her.  Her favorite fabric designer even flew into Cleveland for the grand opening of their store.  She made a difference in my life, and the life of our family.  One day, I will travel to Cleveland with our Sarah to meet the Sarah from Jellen's Fabric Store who made a difference!  What a reunion that will be:)

Our Sarah will be rich with love, rich with a heritage of those who came before her, and rich in the meaning of how her name was chosen.  That is all that matters!!!



Friday, September 3, 2010

The Red Thread Part Three

I had one day before I was to report for school because teachers report a whole week before kids.    August 16th, I woke up with the most horrendous sinus headache ever.  It was a record high for seasonal allergies, and while I've never been "diagnosed", I tend to have the sneezing, stuffiness associated with them.  This  headache/dizziness was something new.  I could barely lift my head up, but was determined to get things rolling in the next 24 hours.  After numerous emails to Andrea, we decided to proceed with the home study.  I emailed a quick question to Lisa about a home study referral.  She was shocked and surprised because we hadn't talked much since the initial time.  I wrote a quick note saying Andy was ready to commit and needed to get the home study begun.  I sent emails to the agency, ran some quick errands for medication, and then took a nap. 

A few events proceeded over the next few hours that sent us from a mountaintop high to low valley.  Both Andy and I talked long and hard about our commitment to a child, and we were going to focus on what areas we can control.  That's all we can do.  Live day to day.  It's a lesson we are going to use throughout this adoption process and the life with our new child. The next day at school, Lisa called me and I learned much on the adoption process and protocals, and she would help behind the scenes.  I felt so much at peace, but we still needed to find a child.  Who would our little girl be?  We hadn't told our children yet, because it would be hard for them to understand without a picture or a child to call our own.

Over the next week, Andy and I processed on our own.  Our home study agency returned our call and sent us all the paperwork information.  We began working and focusing on that part.  I spent numerous hours at night on that part of the process.  We kept looking at the listings for a child, but could not decide.  There are so many...  Lisa sent me emails filled with information, special blog postings, and a referral for Jessie (23). 

That following Monday, Andy and I talked about Jessie.  I sent emails asking about her, and he emailed Andrea to see if anyone was committing to her.  He called and emailed me at work to say no one had inquired.  I ran home from work and we went to get our commitment papers notarized and sent off.  We were going to be Jessie's forever family!!!  What is even more special is that she has the same birthday as Sara, the little 3rd grader who brought our families together.  Our red thread is closer than ever and will continue to stay close.

I could not have written a more powerful story.  This is a story of love, a story of making a difference, and a story of understanding that everything has a purpose.  It is a complete leap of faith, one we are jumping in fully knowing this is the journey we need to take.   Going through the disappointments last spring were heartbreaking, but I needed them to put me at that moment the last day of school.  A friend last spring told me, "God's got something bigger and better planned for you."  Was he ever right!!!

I am blessed that if  I do not have a meeting at school in the mornings, I rush downstairs at 8:45am to watch Bridget and Alina get off the bus and walk into school. Last Tuesday, Alina was waving at everyone as they came in.  What precious little girls!!!!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Red Thread Part 2

       I was like a sponge the next few weeks, reading everything I could on Reece's Rainbow, Down Syndrome, Adoption, and family blogs.  If I was awake in the middle of the night, I would come out and read more on the computer.  During the quiet hours of the early morning, I wept over and over as I learned more and more about special needs kids in Eastern Europe.  How could I make a difference?  Some images and videos, I couldn't play or see.  I cried tears of joy as families were introduced and brought their new child into their family.  The spark that was lit soon became an ember of light.  Five blogs were instrumental in leading our family on this path:  Saving Sofia, Angel Eyes Adoption, Loving Alina, Bridget's Light, and Seeing the Upside of Down.  I was religious in reading and rereading their blogs and felt a connection with these women.  These women were my compass rose, leading me on this path:  Kristin from the South, Sarah from the East, Jen from the West, and Lisa, the true north!

The next 1 1/2 months, I began having "signs"  pointing me towards adoption and Down Syndrome.
    *Late May, I signed up to take an online Sign Language class for professional development.  (I thought I signed up because it was on my Bucket List:)

    *June 22:  During a sunny midday, Austin told me out of the blue that he wanted to be a big brother, and I needed to have a baby.  He was tired of being the youngest.  I'd never heard him say that before.  I laughed him off and said he needed to talk to his father:) 

    *June 26:  While vacationing in the Carolinas, Andy and Austin were walking together by the pool.  Austin said to Andy, "Mama needs to have a baby so I can be a big brother."  Andy told me later what he said, and I laughed him off.  God was working in our lives.  I began to pray that if this was a path to take, he would definitely need to work on my husband's heart because I could not spring this on him out of the blue:(

    *Began reading Zoya's blog.  I learned that Sarah is a special ed teacher.  This is the first time I read about someone adopting who was not a stay at home mom and without a special needs child already at home.

    *Visiting a toy store in Southport, NC, I was perusing the book section when my gaze stopped at the book front and center:  Why I Chose You?  A book on adoption.  I am a book enthusiast and frequent many bookstores, and have never seen a book displayed on adoption.  I could not believe it.  Even on vacation, God was sending me signs.

    *After we got back from vacation, I was catching up on my blog reading.  Zoya's mother blogged about the book I saw on vacation and the same video I used in my class that spring on Making a Difference in the world around you. 

    *I began feeling led to help Reece's Rainbow. 
That moment I decided that if we could not adopt, I would donate my professional conference/trip funds to help some children on Reece's Rainbow. 

    *Early July, I began emailing Sarah about some thoughts on adopting and Down Syndrome.  My questions did not lie in the now, but the later on.  She made a statement that has stuck with me and I began internalizing it.  "We are at peace with not knowing what the future holds."   I began researching adults with Ds and found some blogs to store up for when I talk to Andy.

    *My children began reading and looking at the pictures on the blogs and asked questions about orphanages and adoption.

    * I was reading a book and this struck home with me.  "A physician's son was born with a defect that crippled him for life.  Someone asked him how does he plan for down the road.  Adversity is too overwhelming to think 2o years from today.  God doesn't give grace for 20 years today.  He gives it day by day."  I started thinking if we adopt, that needs to be our thinking.  Live day to day and celebrate our child. 

    *At church the next Sunday, the message was on Facing Our Fears.  We need to chase our lions and take a leap of faith.

   *We had a friend visit us biweekly and twice she brought her granddaughter with special needs.  She is 18 or 19, and I started asking questions about IEP's, how long she'll be in school, and more.  This girl made an impact on my heart. 

    *It was the middle of July, and I knew I needed to approach Andy and have a conversation.  I was teaching Vacation Bible School at my church.  The theme verse:  Jeremiah 29:11 for I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord.  Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you.  Plans to give you hope and a future.

    *July 13:  I was catching up on my TIVO when both shows had adoption references on two talk shows where the topic was not even about adoption.

    *July 16:  I grabbed a couple books to read at the library without reading the summary or previewing the book.(Don't tell my students:(  That afternoon, I was reading one before my nap, and it's about adoption.

    *July 20:  Again Austin asked about becoming a big brother. 

    *July 21:  My sign language professor mentioned in our chat that she adopted two of her children.  Austin is now looking at the kids on Reece's Rainbow and commenting on how cute they are.

    *July 23:  Andy and I had a date night and at Pei Wei, a father came in with his adult son with Ds.  Sitting outside, I heard a DJ reference adoption in a commercial.  Another rerun show was on adoption.

    *July 26:  Andy and I were going to watch a rental when the dvd player broke.  We played cards and then I shared with him what was on my heart.  He already knew something because he was looking at the history on my browser and saw the Reece's Rainbow and adoption sites.  He agreed to think and pray about adopting, and we committed to walking in the Buddy Walk. 
The next morning at church, the message was on living one day at a time and seize every opportunity to do good.  I could not have planned it better myself.  Inside I was grinning at God for putting this message in place.  But, I was very patient and did not mention our conversation again, nor would I for the next few weeks. We decided to email Lisa to ask some questions we wanted some honest answers, so I began composing an email that would sit in my draft box for a couple of weeks. 

    *July 28:  I was driving to Lima, flipping radio channels.  I stopped on a talk show and it was on adoption.  Read another random book at my parents' house...adoption references in it.  We took the kids to the movies in Lima, and a group home of adults with Ds came in. 

    *I wrote and rewrote the email to Lisa
.  I was scared and apprehensive that she would feel let down if we did not go forward with the adoption.  I still did not know where Andy stood.  (It was very hard not to prod and ask, and I was learning patience!!)  I began checking books out of the library on adoption and Down Syndrome.  I started reading The Boy From Babyhouse 10, and found myself agonizing over the fate of these children. 

    *August 6:  I hit the send button on my email to Lisa.  She sent back a reply, surprised but with information for us to think about.   The red thread is closer than ever.  She was honest and open, understanding the questions we might have.  I was on a friend's  Facebook page and she shared photos of her son's adoption from Russia!!  I never knew...

    *August 10:  I also began emailing Andrea at Reece's Rainbow about home studies, process, and more.  I had one week left before school was to begin, yet Andy had not said anything. I was going to approach him soon, but was trying to find the right time.

    *August 15:  Andy finally opened up that he was being led to commit, also.  We talked until the wee hours of the morning, going through all scenarios.  I will still teach because I feel that is my ministry, also.  When I asked him when did his mind change, he said the next morning after our first conversation.  It was the sermon at church.  He said,  "Whoever said God has a still small voice, was wrong.  It's like a huge truck hitting me in the heart!!"

The story continues.... 
"An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break." - Chinese proverb 

The Red Thread

"An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break." - Chinese proverb 

My red thread began six years ago when I was teaching third grade.  I was a new mother, with a 21- month old,  a 4 -month old, and adjusting to Andy's increased travel schedule.  In walked this vibrant young girl, with a compassionate disposition.  Reading is huge in my classroom, and I am always trying to match my students with books that will grab them.  Sara was quick to tell me whether she was interested or not, and I began looking outside my classroom library to keep finding books to hook her.  During parent conferences, her mother, Lisa, would share how they had family reading time, along with other family outings.  The family reading time stuck with me as a teacher, so I started sharing with other parents how they could instill a love of reading in their own home.  I loved talking with Sara and shared we were heading to Hilton Head that summer for our first time.  Sara's eyes lit up and shared some of her favorites with me.  Lisa heard about our trip and sent me travel tips and websites for our adventure.  Over the years, I never forgot this family.

The next few years my red thread stretched very far.  I would see Lisa in the hall and say hello and heard they had added another little girl to their family, Bridget.   This past spring, I dealt with a series of minor disappointments.  I was feeling the need for a change, but there weren't any doors opening.  The big "WHY?" floated over and over in my mind.  While it was difficult to keep picking myself up, I did.  Lisa's son was in the classroom next door to mine, and his teacher stopped in one afternoon to show me their blog about Alina.  The red thread began to get closer. 

On the last day of school, our fifth graders walked the hall for the last time, while the entire student body clapped them in.  I was already emotional from a retiree's speech, so it was difficult keeping my emotions in check.  As the students rounded my classroom, 6 fifth graders broke rank, and came over to hug me goodbye.  Now, I was sobbing like a faucet.  I knew I was making a difference in their lives!!!  Walking into the classroom, my eyes paused on this family I once had.  There they were:  Chris, Lisa, Bridget and Alina, side by side.  Both girls were born with Down Syndrome and  I paused to marvel how beautiful they were, then continued the last day of school with my class.  Had I not gone through disappointment after disappointment, I would not have been in a place looking for "something."  I would not have seen what I saw!

That weekend, I found their blogs Bridget's Light and Loving Alina.  I read them from the beginning and a spark was lit in my heart.  The red thread was inching closer and closer.  That weekend began the summer journey that would lead us to our little girl...
Stop back for "The Red Thread... Part 2"