Tuesday, June 26, 2012

It's a Small World After All

I told myself I was going to bed early tonight.  Midnight has been my bedtime lately and it is not working out for me.  But then I saw this photo on Facebook and got to thinking about how small our world really is.  
This adoption has opened up a whole new world to me.  I have seen many hard things in the months we have pursued Arnold.  I have seen photos of children tied to their cribs, in what they term "laying rooms."  These are rooms they put the "severely" disabled children who aren't worth the effort because they are probably going to die anyway.  And who am I to judge the people caring for these kids?  It is probably the sad reality, in most cases, that these women who work in these orphanages honestly don't have the resources to care for each child individually like they wish they could.  But do you know what?  I have the resources.  Or I should really say we have the resources, because our adoption of Arnold wouldn't be possible without a whole slew of people who have provided resources for us.  
When I see photos like the one above, and those of these children living in despicable circumstances, it hurts, like it always has since the first time I became aware of hunger, disease, pain and suffering, and injustice in the world.  But something inside of me has changed.  Now I look at these photos and believe I can do something about this.  We can do something about this.  

Today as Brian and I were talking about where we stand financially on this adoption, I became excited thinking about what I was going to do after.  After he is home.  After life has resumed a new normal.  After he is safe in our arms.  I am going to advocate like crazy for children who are in need in this world.  If not me, then who?  I have "met" some of the most amazing women and men through this adoption journey, who have hearts of gold and mama bear instincts like no other who fight for orphans with special needs like their own lives depended on it!  The women in the Facebook group for Reece's Rainbow are just incredible.  They rally around families who are adopting like they're extended family.  And most importantly, they rally around the children.  You should see the posts and excitement when another child is placed on the "My Family Found Me" page on Reece's Rainbow.  You can feel their joy, see their tears, as they proclaim things like " did you see (insert child's name here) is on MFFM???!!!  Oh I have been praying for him since I first laid eyes on him!"  They rejoice like the child was their own.  I admire these women so much.  I am so grateful that they are there in the wings for us, if any need arose.  Everyone needs a community like that.  

Right now there are so many little things going on in the background around here, all having to do with our own adoption. As my own pride gets in the way of asking for help many times, it will be nice when I can shift my focus to advocating for others, especially the children.   

The child in the photo above could be anyone's child.  It is anyone's child.  It is our child-the world's child, and we can all do something about that. 

We can start changing it for the better in our own homes, churches, neighborhoods, states and country.  The world truly is a small place.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Whole Lot of Goodness

I am, once again, overwhelmed tonight at the goodness of people.

Two of my beautiful nieces (center) and their parents' cousins' kids (2nd cousins?  I'm never sure of the proper  title)

These cute kids were taking tickets from members of Brian's extended family at a birthday celebration for Brian's Great-grandma in Utah today.  You see, this wonderful family that I have married into came up with the idea of doing a raffle for two of Great-grandma's treasured quilts and donating the money from the raffle to our adoption (cue my tears again, which have been at the surface today).

My sister-in-law Melanie (I can't tell who the other person is-family, enlighten me please:)

Brian's parents generously brought some things for the raffle that all the kids would like.  My sweet niece Allie even donated her geode that she had just found this morning in the west desert in Utah.  Anyone that has been around children knows what a sacrifice that was!  Beautiful rocks are treasures to children, so her giving that up really says a lot.  

Great-Grandma enjoying the raffle

Brian's dad was calling out ticket numbers.  From what I hear, the kids had a great time waiting for their numbers to be called to receive their prizes.  


Calling numbers and handing out prizes
Melanie's son Hyrum won the geode!  Perfect!

What a great bunch of people!

In the end, cousin Randy won grandma's beloved quilt.  He heard that she really wanted to win it back herself so it could go on her bed.  No sooner was it in his hands than he handed it back to grandma to keep on her bed as long as she wants.  I love to hear things like that!  Randy, you are just awesome!  

I had completely forgotten that the party was today.  We were wrapped up in the excitement of a yard sale some dear friends and youth were having for us today.  When we got home from that, my sister-in-law (who is one of the neatest, kindest, humblest, practically-perfect people I know) sent me a text with the pictures of the girls taking tickets on it.  As more pictures rolled in, I remembered what was going on, and the tears started flowing!  She was sending me photos as things were happening: first the ticket-takers, then groups of people holding all their tickets, then Allie's donation....each time I became more excited to see what would happen next!  I just love the last photo, of Randy giving the quilt back to grandma.  His gesture displays perfectly the general nature of the entire Preece family.  Honestly, these people are all amazing.  From the time Brian and I started dating (in High School!), they have been so accepting of me and supportive of us.  They are the kind of people you know you could call in the middle of the night for an emergency and they would be ready to help with anything.  For them to even think of doing this raffle for us is just.....completely in character for those I proudly call "my" family.  I love you guys.  Brian and I are just overwhelmed and humbled and so thankful for all of you. We will always remember this, always. 

In all, the Preece family raised over $400.00 for Arnold's adoption!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I just still can't believe it.  I know many of these families are young, some facing a hard time in this economy, which makes that figure even more humbling for us.  Every dollar that has been donated to Arnold's fund has been "blood, sweat & tears" money.  They are sacred funds to us, and have been treated as such.  


Like I mentioned above, we also were blessed to have another yard sale benefiting Arnold's adoption today.  One of the neatest ladies you could meet, Andrea Murray (yes, RODS racing Andrea Murray), helped a young woman in her church put on this yard sale as a project for the young woman to earn her Young Womanhood Award (this is akin to an Eagle Scout award in the scouting program).  

There were also many other young women from her congregation there helping out.  Brian spent the day with them, I was at home wrestling three tired & cranky kids.  But I wrangled them up long enough to head over for the last couple of hours of the sale.

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This lady has been working non-stop for weeks for orphans with Down syndrome!
Thank you, Andrea!
Having gone through the yard sale process a few weeks ago, I can appreciate how much work it is to put one on.  You have to coordinate donations, tables, baked goods, water, transporting all those donations, figuring out pricing, negotiating, hot weather, and cleanup.  Whew!  I was so impressed that these girls spent one of their valuable Saturdays helping out a family they had never even met.  Thank you girls!  I can't wait for you all to meet Arnold when he is finally home!  How awesome is it knowing that you are a big part of the reason he will have a home to come to?  I know Heavenly Father  was smiling down on you today, and I hope you were able to feel his spirit confirming that you were doing something pleasing to Him.

A few more photos from the sale today:

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Andrea's sweet son Nash, enjoying just a few of the many stuffed animals for sale.  I love this kid!

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This was about halfway through the sale.  I can't imagine how much was there at the start!

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There were piles and piles and piles and-you get the idea-of clothes.  Mountains of clothes!

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Look at these cute young ladies!  Thank you so, so much!
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Brian gave this poor kid a hard time about the price of the baseball cards he wanted to buy.  Good thing
he had a good sense of humor!  I'm glad you found what you wanted!
Girls, you raised $830.00 to help bring Arthur home!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Can you believe it????!!!!  You should be so proud of what you accomplished!!  That was a ton of work, you deserve a vacation!

So you can see why I am feeling overwhelmed again at the kindness of strangers.  What is so neat is that after you work alongside people like this for a cause like this, you no longer feel as strangers.  One of the many blessings of adoption has been this new extended family we've inherited, who share our love of children with special needs, children who need homes.  These children have been all but forgotten in their country, but not here.  Not in this "family."  

One of the greatest things on this journey so far has been to sit back at moments and see how this cause has rallied people together, united them.  I can see it in their eyes, hear it in their voices, and feel it in their countenances.  Even children have it.  They can sense that this is something bigger than themselves, their own family, and even community.  This is about saving lives.  This is about telling the world that people who are different are still people, just as deserving of love and family as everyone else.  Kids especially get the magnitude of what life would be like inside an orphanage, without a family.  Even they can picture themselves alone, without their family, and how incredibly devastating that would be.  They want to make a change for the better too, and their enthusiasm is contagious.  This is striking a chord within me that reverberates to my soul.  I am so grateful to be on this journey.

Today I read a blog post by another adoptive mom who said something that really struck home.  In the special needs community it is often heard that "my child is just a child, who happens to have Down syndrome (or other special need)."  It is meant to point out that our kids are kids first, which I completely agree with.  But it is also my belief that God does not make mistakes.  God does not create a person and then say, "whoops!  Too many chromosomes in that one!  Oh well!"  It's laughable to even think.  My son Jake, and my soon-to-be-son Arnold, were created purposefully, I believe, in the image of God, just like the rest of us.  I believe there is a purpose for the presence of people on earth who are different from us.  I hope that I can, in some small way, show my appreciation to my Heavenly Father for those differences.  I am so grateful that He created us as unique individuals.  I believe we area all unique, not just because God loves us as the individuals we are, but so that we may also learn from each other and thereby become better people ourselves.  The older I get, the more I realize how much I still have to learn.  I think by the time the end of my life is near I will feel like I know nothing but that I have learned so much.  

It is late and this will probably make no sense to me in the morning, but I just had to share this wonderful day with you.  Thank you again for stopping by and following us on this incredible journey!

P.S. I noticed the jump in our Family Sponsorship Page over at Reece's Rainbow.  Thank you, whoever you are, for helping us get that much closer to our son!  We will be forever grateful.   

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Glimpse of the Future

I was looking through my photos from the past couple of weeks, and as I looked at the fun times we've been having, I couldn't help but think about all that Arnold has to look forward to.  Our family is like most others: we laugh, we play, we disagree, we forgive, etc. etc.  We have our ups and downs, but the most important thing is that we are a family.  I've been thinking a lot about what it would be like to not know how to be in a family.  There are so many things we take for granted by simply being born into this group of people who bond to you and love you no matter what.  Anyway, I thought I'd post some pictures of things Arnold has to look forward to:

Going to the Snake River with friends.
Holding hands with your dad
Running through the sprinklers
Throwing rocks, sticks and grass into the river
Impressing your brother with your stick-picking skills
Eating home made caramel popcorn-yum!
Watching your mom eat caramel popcorn.  Don't worry-I'll share.
Roasting marshmallows for s'mores-more yum!
The beauty of Idaho skies

Going to parades and posing for the camera

Smiles from your little sister
Sibling love
Tackling your dad with your brother and sisters

Cheering at a parade
Being loved by your big sister

Having a silly big sister
Spending time together as a family
So much is made of what we are doing for Arnold, but really, it will be us that will get the gift of watching him explore a whole new world.  Although he will be four years old before he is home, there will be so many "firsts" we will get to see....first camping trip, first parade, first time swimming, first s'mores, first movie night, and on and on.  I know there will be bumps in the road, but that is the case with any family, adopted children or not.  I look forward to all of it.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

So Much to Post!

Things have been wild around here lately-many places to be and things to do.  But it's all been good.  I had to pop in and share with you some of the most heartwarming experiences we've had over the past week or so.

My sister lives in Utah and was getting her hair done by her friend, Andrea Barentsen, who works at Artistic Look Inc. in Clinton, Utah.  While she was visiting with Andrea, she began telling her about our adoption and about the conditions for kids with special needs in Eastern Europe.  Andrea was touched and pulled out $20.00 to have my sister send us for our adoption expenses.  Amazing!  I sent Andrea a thank-you card expressing how profoundly grateful we were for people like her-willing to help a complete stranger with a cause dear to our hearts.  Andrea had the thank-you card on her mirror at the salon, and since then has shared our story with other clients who have come in for a haircut.  Four more customers also donated $20.00 each to our adoption!!!  Can you believe this?  Complete strangers wanting to do something good in the world.  We have a friend who works for the DEA (drug enforcement agency), and when we visited about why we were adopting Arnold and what kind of awareness we were trying to bring to these defenseless children, he emotionally said, "this brings me great hope for the world."  This person sees the very worst of humanity, and it lifted him up to know there is also so much good going on in the world.  It lifts me every day too in so many ways.  This is one of the most fulfilling things I've ever done in my life, and I will be forever grateful that this has been a part of my life.  Thank you, Michelle (my sister), Andrea, and your clients who have touched many people by your selfless act of giving.  Anyone needing a great haircut down in that area, head on over to support this great woman!


Today we helped out our dear friends Brady & Andrea Murray with a free snow cone day to raise awareness for RODS Racing (Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome).  It was an incredible day!  When people would come up for their free snow cone, we would give them the little postcard we have about RODS Racing and explain to them about the video contest Brady is currently in to race in Kona, Hawaii for these kids.  Everyone was so supportive and kind about it and promised to get on and vote for him today, tomorrow and Monday.  Brady is in second place, creeping up to first. The contest ends Monday.  If he wins (the top two win), he will not only get to go race in the biggest Ironman there is, but he will also get a spot on NBC's national coverage of the event.If you've ever watched the Ironman, or the Olympics on NBC, you're probably familiar with the little biography snippets they show during the events, highlighting the athletes "story" about how they got to this point.Brady will get one of thosespots during the Ironman coverage, which would be huge for Reece's Rainbow.

Can you imagine what national coverage would do for these orphans? How many people would look up their website out of curiosity, disbelief, etc.? It would be an awesome launch of greater awareness for these kids who so desperately want a family of their own. I am so proud to call Brady and Andrea our friends. How could I not believe God has placed us here in Boise, each with the same desires to help these kids, each reaching out in different ways, now united in our cause and working together to do all we can to find homes for these children? It is truly miraculous.

At the snow cone event, Andrea told me about a sweet family in her neighborhood who came to her house with some money their kids had raised for us doing a lemonade stand!!!  How amazing is that?!

Aubrey's sweet baby girl at the snow
cone event today.  One boy asked if she was
one of the orphans! :)
Another awesome couple we have gotten to know recently are Aubrey and Mike from Meridian.  They have four beautiful children, the newest of which is a baby girl with Down syndrome.  They were friends with the Murray's and have also been raising funds for orphans with Down syndrome.  The little guy they're raising funds for now is Heath, a ten-year-old boy with Down syndrome.

This dude caught my eye early in the adoption process too, so I was excited to find out they were doing this for him.  You'll notice that he has over $9,000.00 in his grant money to be used for adoption costs for any family who wants to adopt him.  I would love to see this little guy (he's tiny for a ten-year-old!) find a family soon!!  I am so impressed with Aubrey and Mike.  When my Jake was 10 months old, I think I was still in a haze of therapies, doctor appointments, and adjusting to our new normal.  And here they are, advocating for orphans with Down syndrome like they've been doing it forever!!!  Aubrey, I just think the world of you and have loved getting to know you better!

On our adoption front, here is the latest:  I believe (cross your fingers) there is one final edit to the home study left that can be done tomorrow.  Then we're just waiting for our background clearances to come in from Utah, Montana, and Washington.  Once the home study has a final date on it, we can go get the rest of our docs notarized and apostilled (this is like an international notary done by the Secretary of State in Idaho), then sent to Arnold's country to be translated!!  After translation, it will be submitted to the appropriate officials, who will then send us a travel date!  Please pray this will go quickly and that we can travel soon to formally accept Arnold as the one we want to adopt!  This finalization of the home study has taken so much longer than I anticipated.  It is so hard to wait and wait and wait....I have been following several families who have recently traveled or are soon to travel, and it makes me so excited to get on that plane!  I cannot wait to meet our little boy and see his country.  I will think of all of you when we're there, knowing it is all because of you that this is possible.

Our family has been so supportive and wonderful.  I have talked to many fellow adoptive families whose own families have not been so welcoming to the idea of adopting a child with special needs.  I know much of their disapproval is really concern.  As a parent, I know I want my kids to have to struggle as little as possible in life (even knowing this is when we really learn and grow), and I'm sure these family members just don't want their loved ones to go through any possible difficulties that may come with an international adoption.  I'm sure my parents and loved ones have felt this same concern.  I just want them, and all of you, to know that we are so grateful that you show your support anyway!  Thank you for trusting us to trust ourselves and our Heavenly Father to help us through whatever may come.

Good-night for now.  I promise I will be better at posting to this blog.  Thank you for stopping by and thank you again for your prayers, well wishes and support!  We can feel it all and we are so thankful!   

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Beautiful Life

Once in a while in life, we get to see the big picture.  We are set free from our usual perspective of day-to-day living and our minds open up to see the grand tapestry called life.  Yesterday, I was given this gift.  It happened again and again, the unexpected gifts of humanity.

It started the evening before, when Brian went around the neighborhoods collecting tables people had offered to loan us for the yard sale.  Not only were they throwing tables into the trailer, but they also threw in bags of clothes, bikes, furniture, and other items to add to our piles of yard sale items stored in our garage.  When Brian arrived home, neighbors showed up to help him load up their own vehicles to cut down our loading time in the morning.  They stayed until 10:00pm helping load.  Then they showed up again at 6am to finish the job.

Adoption yard sale
Loading up vehicles the night before-best friends ever!!

After they left, I stayed up until 1:30am printing cards that told a little bit of our story and about Reece's Rainbow to hand out at the yard sale.  I also put together a poster to display there with Arnold's picture, saying thank you for helping us bring him home.  It felt a little like Christmas Eve, that excited and nervous feeling you used to get when you were a kid, wondering what the next day would bring.

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My alarm went off moments after I closed my eyes, so it felt, but I was ready to get this day going after so much prep work.  We loaded up the last things, and I headed over to the school to stay there to direct people where to put things.  I knew that some people had told me they had some things to donate that they would just drop off that morning, so I expected a car or two.  Little did I know how much stuff would arrive.  We ended up with probably twice the amount of items that we had packed at our house.  When I saw it all displayed, I couldn't stop the tears:

Adoption yard sale
Adoption yard sale
Adoption yard sale
Adoption yard sale

How many families donated to this cause????  Tonight I wrote 45 thank you cards to people who had helped in different ways.  In many cases, our friend's parents or siblings also donated items.  To say that watching some of these people help set up was beautiful would be the understatement of the year.  I saw in their faces their desire to help someone accomplish something remarkable.  I have learned time and time again that people have the desire to help one another.  I believe it is a God-given gift, and I am just grateful that we have the chance to be in the midst of it through this adoption journey.

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Poor Jake was so worn out.  I guess he found a "bed" to sleep on.

There have been many people physically helping out, and many behind the scenes (like the incredible Weaver and Adams families who volunteered to watch our kids all day so that we wouldn't have to worry about them at the sale).  There have been people advertising the sale on their Facebook pages, email, or by word-of-mouth.  People baked goodies to sell at the yard sale, provided a popcorn machine to sell popcorn, let us borrow a generator to have power, and on and  on.  When I first talked to some wonderful friends about possibly doing a yard sale, I could never have imagined just how many people would play a part and just how big it would end up being.

Adoption yard sale

One of the neat things I was privileged to witness during this sale were the acts of kindness and words of support for us.  Many people saw the sign about Arnold and asked more about him.  A handful of people would tell us "keep the change", when only buying a few dollars worth of items and paying with a twenty dollar bill.  Others said things like, "I was adopted, please take this donation and go get your son."  Or, "I am a big supporter of adoption, please keep the change."  One man drove up and called me over to his window and asked what this was all about.  I told him a little about what we were doing, and he smiled with emotion behind his eyes as he handed me some money.  One mom, who had four young children with her, bought a few dollars worth of stuff.  She asked what her total was, and after I told her, she handed me some money and said, "well, I think it's worth $38.00 because that's what I have in my purse," then proceeded to hand it all to me.  People from our church came with their children and bought things.  One sweet boy from our church came over and handed me a woven bracelet he had made and said, "here, you can sell this and I'll let you keep the money!"

We came home with almost as many items as we left with that morning, but we also sold a lot of items.  Some new and dear friends of ours have offered to hold another yard sale for our benefit on June 23rd in Meridian, so we will be taking our left over items there.

So what was our grand total???????? I hope you are as surprised and amazed and awed and humbled as I am when I tell you we made $2,625.00!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Can you believe it??  I came home bone tired last night, more tired than I have ever been since my last pregnancy.  But I knew people would be wondering how we did, so I dumped out the money on my bed and started making piles of $100.00.  I thought I might have 7 or 8 piles, and I would have been thrilled.  As I kept making more and more piles my heart was just racing.  I was thinking of the upcoming foreign fees we would be sending in of $5,500.00, and realizing that we would be able to do that with these funds and our chip-in funds.  This means we would not have to tap into his grant funds yet, which is awesome!

So tonight I will make a blanket statement of "THANK YOU," on Arnold's behalf, to every person who has helped in any way with making this yard sale such a success.  I can just imagine Arnold a half a world away, completely oblivious to the huge amount of people working so hard to bring him home.  How awesome it will be to one day share this story with him-his story.  It is something I will never forget, and it's you to whom I will always be indebted.  Thank you.

agsc Arnold (4) (1)
Arnold says thank you, too!

Monday, June 4, 2012

One Step Closer To Home: Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome

The amazing Brady Murray and his son, Nash.

I am having camera difficulties, so the yard sale post is delayed!  In the mean time, I am posting about our new and dear friends The Murray's from Meridian Idaho.  This incredible family is doing amazing things for orphans with Down syndrome, and we are lucky to play a small part in it.  Brian has recently joined his RODS racing team (Racing for Orphans wit Down syndrome), a group of triathaletes dedicated to raising awareness and funds for orphans like Arnold.  Brady  Murray is in a contest to have his video about RODS Racing shown on NBC during the Kona Hawaii Ironman, the biggest & toughest Ironman race out there.  If he wins this contest, it will bring untold numbers of orphans home to families who love them.  It may even garner corporate support for what they are doing, ensuring even more homes for these kids.  It only takes a moment to vote, so please, take 90 seconds and do this for Jake, Arnold, Nash, and all the other kids out there who are just waiting for someone to call their own.  Thanks!!

One Step Closer To Home: Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome: My family and I have loved being able to work on behalf of the children on Reece's Rainbow since finding this great organization.  It's for...