Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Play Time!

Last week was spring break for Claudia.  I decided it would be a nice time to have some mommy-daughter time, so I took the week off from work (of course this also meant that I did not have to scramble to try to find a sitter for her).  I had planned on taking her out to various places but the weather was really not all that good and to be honest, I was quite burned out from work and needed some time to recoup.  So, Claudia and I mostly stayed in, went for walks and played outside.  We had some good mommy daughter bonding time.

We had a quiet but wonderful Easter this year.  Jason worked during the second service at Church and took Claudia with him to give me a little break.  I met up with them for the third service.  We heard a beautiful message from our Pastor.  I don't have any cutsie pics of Claudia in her Easter dress, I did not have a chance to get any before she left and she got changed and went down for a nap shortly after coming home.  I did however get some pictures and videos of our day at the park!  The weather was so nice on Easter that Jason, Claudia and I went for a walk to the park after Claudia's nap.  It was so much fun being there as a family, usually it is just Claudia and I.  I love watching her interact with Jason, she loves her daddy so much!  As you will see...


 




 
Check out Claudia's ever-improving walking skills.  It's hard to tell, but she is going up and down a ramp:
video
 
This one is a fun video of Claudia running and crashing into me...

video



Yep, she loves her mommy too!

Over her break from school, Claudia started to say "All done"  although she almost screams it.  Claudia only talks when she want to...  She will repeat a word several times over the course of a few weeks and then won't say it again for months.  She is still working on developing her language skills, but I think that we are starting to see some progress.  Claudia has been mimicking our mouth movements as we speak, although she does not produce sounds when she does this.  She has also been babbling to herself a lot.  Right now her favorite sound the the B sound.  We encourage her vocalizations.  Claudia also loves to watch herself in the mirror, so we try to get her to talk while looking into the mirror.  Jason and I are confident that her verbal skills will continue to improve.

Claudia also worked hard at potty training over her break from school.  She even had a whole day without any wet diapers except for over night.  She definitely knows when she has to go and when she is wet.  She also does not enjoy having a wet diaper.  Claudia will tell us when she has to go potty but is not yet telling her teachers or others.  She has not quite figured out that she can use the toilet at other places consistently.  I'm hoping that as she continues to improve at home, that she will be more inclined to use the potty when we are not with her.  We have been very lax with the potty training and do not put much stress on Claudia to use it, she is the one deciding that she is ready for it and we are so proud of her!

Claudia's self help skills continue to improve.  She can mostly dress and undress, brush her teeth and scrub up in the tub.  We are very encouraged by the improvements we have seen in these areas over the last couple of months.  It gives us great hope for her future!

We still struggle with some behaviors, especially in public and in crowds of people.  Claudia still does not like to be picked up by most people, I don't blame her.  She also does not like other kids to be in her personal space unless she needs or wants something from them.  Claudia is getting better at showing people that she is upset instead of lashing out and pulling hair or hitting at first, but this continues to be something we have to work on. 

Overall Claudia is doing great.  Jason and I have been very encouraged by her grown.  We love her so much!

Here are some sweet pics of our playtime today, she was being quite a goofball!



 
Claudia loves to push things down her slide, these things are usually teddy bears and dolls.  Today it was a Lego bus.  It gets even better...

She makes the bus "walk" up the steps before going down the slide :)
 
<3 love="" td="">

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Origami Owl and Other Fundraisers

I know that I have mentioned it before, but with Mother's Day coming up, I wanted to post about it again.

In order to help fund our adoption of Chance, I became an Independent Designer for Origami Owl.  Origami Owl is a direct sales company that sells beautiful, unique jewelry that helps you to tell the story of you!  It was started by a 14 year old girl with a dream.  I will let Bella Weems tell you the story for herself:

Taken from the Origami Owl website (www.OrigamiOwl.com/story.ashx):

"I started Origami Owl with $350 and a simple dream in mind—getting a car on my 16th birthday. When I was 14, I asked my parents for a car but they said I needed to work for it. So, with all of my babysitting money and my family’s support, I set out to start my own business and created Origami Owl.
Immediately, people loved creating stories with jewelry and women began asking how they could share Origami Owl with their own family and friends. We were a hit! After hearing stories about how our jewelry touched lives, it only made sense to spread some love across the country. Today, we have more than 60,000 Independent Designers who pursue their own dreams by selling our jewelry at home parties we like to call Jewelry Bars.

OUR MISSION IS TO BE A FORCE FOR GOOD; TO LOVE, INSPIRE
+ MOTIVATE PEOPLE OF ALL AGES TO REACH THEIR DREAMS +
EMPOWER THEM TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS.
But there is something else I want you to know, we’ve always been so much more than just a jewelry company. From the beginning I wanted my company to be different, I wanted it to be a force for good; to help others achieve their dreams like I achieved mine (yes, I finally got my car; a white Jeep I named Alice). It didn’t happen overnight, but with lots of hard work, Origami Owl grew from my after school job to a multimillion dollar company.
It’s been such an incredible journey and I believe our continued success has come from our intention to make a difference in people’s lives, we never put profits before people.
Our story is only just beginning to unfold and I hope it can be a part of your story too. Take a look around to build your own meaningful Living Locket®, or to find out how you can join our family!"

This is a company I can stand behind and I am proud to be an Independent Designer!

A unique, personalized Living Locket from Origami Owl would make a wonderful Mother's Day gift for any mom or grandma.  They are gifts from the heart, they take thought to create.  If you are interested in purchasing, my website is: www.Origami4Orphans.OrigamiOwl.com

Below are a few virtual lockets I have created to give you some idea's for gifts or for yourself.  The lockets look much better in real lie, these are just virtual examples and the proportions may be slightly off. 








 
Contact me for more information. Don't forget to make a wish list for yourself and give it to your significant other :)

We also have a few other fundraisers currently going on.  I have set up a page on Face Book so that I can keep all of our fundraisers in one place.  The page is HERE.  On that page you will find several items available to Buy It Now!  I have several infinity bracelets for sale other jewelry and more.  I also have available my very own Super Soft Chocolate Chunk Cookie recipe available for sale.  Visit the Face Book page for details.  Below are some examples of the goodies you may find:


 



 
 
Yum! 

 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Funny Faces and Progress


I know, I know, it's time for an update!

As far as our adoption of Chance goes, we are now done with our Home Study, our I800a has been submitted and we working on our Dossier.  Once that is completed, it will be shipped off to Chance's country and after it is reviewed and approved, we will be invited there to meet him.  I am hoping this will be sometime in the late summer or early fall, but with adoption, you just never know.

We recently got a short update on Chance telling us that he is doing OK but has been fighting bronchitis.  If you think of it, please say a prayer that our lil man will get healthy and stay healthy.  He is continuing to grow at a steady pace, so that is encouraging!

Claudia is doing so well!  I swear she grew overnight.  We went from a size 18 months to a 24month-2T all of a sudden.  Claudia is definitely getting heavier and looks so much taller.  She has gained about 6lbs and grown 3 inches since  coming home, and I think most of that has been over the last 2 months!  Where did my little girl go?

Claudia recently got new glasses as her Miraflex were too tight against her eyelashes and she wanted nothing to do with them.  She now has a regular, metal frame pair of glasses that she like much better.  They stay on better and make her look so grown up!

Our sweet girl went in for a laryngoscopy recently and they found that she has chronic laryngitis which is likely the cause of her deep voice.  At this time, there is not much to be done about it but hopefully her Speech Therapist can work with this.  Claudia also had an ear tube placed in one ear (the other ear canal is still too small).  The ENT drained a significant amount of fluid from behind both ear drums, so hopefully Claudia is hearing better now.  Our hope is that she will soon start using her voice to speak instead of her sign language and Dynavox.  I long for the day when she consistently calls me mommy <3 p="">
Claudia is much more steady on her feet and is starting to move much faster, she will be running in no time!  She is very active and loves to climb all over Jason and I.  She loves to play, do puzzles and read books.  She also loves to eat!  There are few foods that she won't eat after trying them.  Transitions between foods (at one sitting) can sometimes cause her frustration and she does not always want to switch but once she tries the new food she is usually OK.

I have said it before and I will say it again, Claudia is one smart cookie!  She is very good at watching someone do something and then copying that behavior later (when she wants).  Some examples are putting the napkin on her plate when she is done eating, brushing her tray off into the garbage and putting dishes into the sink.  She also is into imitating the dog lately.  Whenever the dog starts barking, Claudia starts making her dog sounds.  One day while Claudia was eating, the dog was licking her lips in anticipation.  Claudia saw this and started sticking her tongue out and licking her own lips!  She cracks me up! 

Claudia has always liked to make people laugh.  Even when we first got her she made this strange sound that would always make people laugh, so she kept on doing it.  She has long since grown out of that particular behavior but still likes to make people laugh.  One day while riding in the car, I looked in my rear view mirror and saw Claudia making faces.  I started laughing, so she kept on making the face.  I told her it was a "funny face" and now anytime we tell her (if she is in the mood) to show us her funny face she does it.  I have some pics of it below!

Enjoys some pics from the last couple of months:

Crazy Hair Day at school :)



Looking grown up in her new glasses!

 
Funny Face!


Funny Face!

Funny Face!


Happy girl :)
Sleepy girl

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Happy (Belated Valentine's Day, Happy 1 Year Home


Happy Valentine's Day!
 
Today marks the ONE YEAR anniversary of Claudia's homecoming.  It has been an amazing year with so many changes, ups and downs.  It has been full of learning experiences, trials and errors.  I can't wait to see what the next year brings us and I can't wait to be celebrating our homecoming of Chance.

These next two pics were taken yesterday:
 


 
These three were taken shortly after Claudia came home:
 


 
Love her!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

New Fund Raiser

Hi everyone, I have a unique way that we are now fundraising for Chance's adoption.  I have started making colored rice!  What is colored rice?  What can it be used for?  Well...

Colored rice is simply rice that is hand dyed by me.  It is edible, I do not use any non-edible product to create it but if you have children who put things in their mouths I would suggest strict supervision, especially if they have a sensitivity to dyes.  As with anything else with small parts, keep a close eye on small children who are playing with it.

My colored rice can be used for many different things.  It can be used in sensory bins for hours for fun.  It can also be used in the place of sand/glitter for art projects, just add glue to paper and sprinkle the rice onto it, much easier clean up than sand or glitter!  It can also be used as a decoration in glass jars or sprinkled on tables (please do not sprinkle or throw it outside where animals and birds can get to it).  Color coordinate for weddings, graduations or other parties.  Use it in your business to hold pens...  I am sure you can think of other ideas as well.

I can make your rice to order.  I am selling it for $5/lb plus shipping.  You can choose one color per pound, multiple colors (mixed) or a mix of several colors. To order, click the tab at the top of the blog (under the blog picture) or use this link: http://followingourcallingdaily.blogspot.com/p/dyed-rice-and-more.html

Below are some examples of colors I have made:




Sunday, January 26, 2014

We serve a GREAT God!

Anyone who has adopted can tell you how emotional the journey can be.  It is not for the feint at heart. The running joke in adoption circles is this: "You know you're adopting when..." and then you fill in the blank with something that broke down in your house, on your car... something unexpected happens that cost you a lot of money or you get negative comments about adoption from friends, family and complete strangers.  Sure many of these things happen to people every day, but when you are adopting, working so hard towards a goal and you hit a stumbling block, it hurts!  Almost no adoption process goes smooth, but let me tell you folks, we serve a GREAT God and adoption is worth it!

I have several friends that are in the adoption process now and I was talking to one of them today about the financial aspect of adoption.  They asked me if I ever worried about not being able to come up with enough money in time.  My answer: Almost every single day!  But I then was able to share some of our experiences with our adoption of Claudia that prove how incredible God is and that He does provide.

Being new to adoption, and not personally knowing anyone who had recently adopted, we were naive when we began our journey to Claudia.  We were originally led to believe that the adoption process would take about 6 months or so.  (Insert hysterical laughter here).  You see, often when you talk adoption with an agency they give you the timeline for adoption once you have submitted your dossier.  In order to submit your dossier you first must have a home study completed, accepted by your adoption agency and sent to the US government for approval.  During this process you will likely have to be fingerprinted at least twice and wait for your background checks to return (from every state you have ever lived in).  Once your home study is complete you can start getting your paperwork ready for your dossier.  This includes medical exams, marriage licences, birth certificates and any number of other documents the country would like you to send them.  Once you have all of your documents notarized, certified and Apostilled, you send them to your agency for review and if everything is in order, they ship that off to the country you are hoping to adopt from.  If you are lucky, this is when your timeline starts.  This process differs slightly for different countries, but this has been our experience and that of many other people we have met through adoption. 

So...  needless to say, we expected Claudia to be home several months sooner than she was.  We were disappointed for a while at how long the process was taking but we kept moving forward and in January 2013, we got to meet Claudia for the first time and she was home on Valentine's Day 2013.  Call me crazy, but during our adoption I was in the middle of nursing school, pursuing my RN license.  Had Claudia come home when we had originally planned, it is very likely that I would have had to take a year off from school to be with her for bonding.  If I had taken a year off, I would not be an RN right now, I would not be working as an RN, would not be making money AND we would NOT have been able to start another adoption at this time.

God is good!

God has perfect timing.  When we travelled to meet Claudia, I was on winter break from school.  I had almost a month off from school and spent two weeks getting to know my daughter.  I got to spend more time with her than I would have if I was in the middle of a semester and I did not have to miss a single day of school!

God is good!

God provides, Jehovah Jireh.  In December we got the call that we could meet Claudia in early January.  As elated as we were to be nearing the end of this part of our journey we were several thousand dollars short of having enough money to complete the adoption.  Thankfully we were able to apply for a personal loan and were approved.  We were a couple of days away from signing for the loan (it happened to be around the holidays so the bank was closed for a few days) when I received an email and Facebook message that changed EVERYTHING.  A very excited member of the staff at Reece's Rainbow who works with the grants told me on Christmas Eve than an anonymous donation of $8000!  It was just enough to complete our adoption!  God has perfect timing!  If we had not received that donation and had taken the loan, we would still be paying that off and would not have been able to pursue Chance.

I believe that God has called us to something great and that if we are obedient to His calling, that He will provide for us.  I am not saying it will be easy, we know better, but with God on our side, no matter what happens we will push forward until He closes doors.

I would like these stories to bring you encouragement.  When you are struggling please remember that God has a purpose for each and every one of us.  We may not see it at the time, we may not even know the purpose of certain events in our lifetime. But God uses our life events, good and bad, to mold and shape us for His purpose.  He does not make bad things happen to us, He gives us free will to do what we please and we suffer the consequences of our own actions.  No matter what we have done, if we seek to do God's will, He will forgive us and He can use our past for His purpose.  God can turn our past struggles into something good.  We serve a great God.

Because of the events of our adoption of her:
 
 
 
We are now able to persue him:
 
http://reecesrainbow.org/69430/sponsorvanhalle-2

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Metcha Day

One year ago yesterday (January 11th) we met Claudia for the first time. It was an incredible and emotional day. Our awesome translator/hotel owner Patrice drove us to the ICBF office in Pasto, Colombia. We passed armed guards on the way in.

Jason and I had a meeting with the social worker, psychologist and a few other people. We were asked several questions about why we wanted to adopt and learned about Claudia's routine. We also learned that she was the last of several kids with SN's to be adopted. Everyone there was very excited for Claudia to be getting a family. I got a little teary eyed a couple of times during the meeting, knowing she was behind the door in the room next to us!

When it was finally time for them to bring her in, they had us stand up and told us that she would be handed to me first. In came our little chubby girl in the outfit we had sent for her. They handed her to me... Off went my glasses, onto the floor, my hair was quickly pulled and I got smacked a few times. Claudia looked at me like: "Who are you and why are you trying to hold me? I don't LIKE to be held." She was handed to Jason, who admittedly had not held many children in his life. Off went his glasses. She REALLY did not like to be held, especially by strangers! She was give her doll which she promptly threw on the floor. Claudia was placed on the floor to play so we could watch and interact with her. She was not happy, that is until they brought out the potato chips! They opened a bag of chips and she settled down quite a bit. She even offered Jason and myself some once or twice. Every tie I tried to touch her, she recoiled. It was clear, this was NOT going to be easy.

Don't believe the rumors that people with Down syndrome are always happy and loving. They are people, they have a full range emotions just like you and I. Claudia was not happy to see us, she was not a cuddly love bug.

We were scared.



 
 
 

 
 
Here is a video of part of our meeting, please don't mind my ridiculous facial expressions, it was a bit overwhelming.  The thoughts going through my mind... well, you can see me putting on my best smile although I was terrified at that moment!   You will also see Claudia pulling away from my touch, and giving me the stink eye! 
 
 
video
 
 I don't think she had her nap that day, she fell asleep in my arms in the car on the ride back to the hotel, despite the VERY bumpy ride. 


We put her down for a nap when we got back to the hotel and she slept well.  We later took her to the store to buy some food and diapers, it was pretty uneventful but she liked the stroller and loved the bumpy ride.  We opted to do dinner in our room so we could work on bonding.  We were told at the meeting that she could feed herself... they failed to tell us she could not use utensils and makes a huge mess when she eats!  She loved dinner though and we got some real smiles out of her.  Yep, she loves to eat (then and now)!

 



 Bed time was not easy, she cried quite a bit, not as much the first night as the next several.  She was grieving the loss of her foster family, of the only life she had known for 3 years.  Now she was stuck with strangers that really did not speak her language at all and did not always know her wants and needs.
 
 

 
Something curious to note, she came to us with her hair in two small french braids with nothing to hold them in except a TON of hair product.  Needless to say, getting her hair brushed out that first night was not an easy task.
 
These stories and pictures were all from one year ago yesterday.  It is hard to believe it has already been a year since we met her, but at times it feels like it has been much longer.  Claudia has made such great progress in this past year.
 

Smiles!

Pretend Play!
 
Cuddling with mommy when feeling sick!

Interactive play!

HUGS!

 
While we celebrate her one year Metcha Day, I can't help but wonder how her foster family is feeling.  Claudia lived with them for 3 years, almost to the day.  I know that they loved her.  I thank them for caring for her to the best of their abilities.  I hope that they are happy for her finally having a forever family.
 
 
 
We look forward to providing Chance with this same love and pray that he is being cared for in his orphanage.  Orphanage life can be much more difficult than living in a foster home.  Pray for his safety, that he is being loved on, and that our process will be quick and smooth.  Thank you all!