Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fresh Air Fund

I remember meeting a family years ago who volunteered with the Fresh Air Fund. I had never heard of it before and thought it sounded like a great idea. I was able to witness the joy of the children that the family was hosting and I thought it was a great idea.

Here's a blurb about the program from the Fresh Air website:
"Since 1877, The Fresh Air Fund, a not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer experiences in the country to more than 1.7 million New York City children from disadvantaged communities. Each year, thousands of children visit volunteer host families in 13 states and Canada through the Friendly Town Program or attend Fresh Air Fund camps."

Recently I was contacted by someone who works for the Fresh Air Fund and asked to advocate for them. They are currently looking for host families who will welcome the children into their homes and sponsors to help defray the costs. If you've ever thought of hosting a child this is a really wonderful program. This quote sums it up, I think: "A child taking a walk in the grass barefoot, gazing at the stars, being outdoors and enjoying a slower pace - that's what it's all about." - Joan, PA

Friday, July 29, 2011

Fundraiser Friday - Paisley and the Tam Family

Love those brown eyes!!
Renee and Steve Tam are adopting Valeria, who they are calling Paisley. They hope to travel to meet Paisley for the first time in September and are hard at work raising the last of the money needed to be fully funded by that time. Their giveaway is awesome and I have dubbed Renee "The Fundraiser Queen" .

She's not sure if she accepts that title but I can tell you she definitely is the "Toffee Queen" and if you enter the giveaway you have a chance at finding that out for yourself. Because for every $1000 they raise in this giveaway three donators names will be drawn and will win some of Renee's amazing white chocolate toffee AND the recipe for the famous toffee. I think that's quite a prize on it's own and it's just a little extra incentive to give generously and tell your friends about it!
Renee's World-famous toffee.
Just LOOKS mouth-watering, doesn't it?
It is! Trust me.
But, I've gotten a little ahead of myself. The toffee is great but, like I said, it's just an extra incentive. You can also win: 
  • An Ipad2 32GB w/Wifi in black
  • A Nikon D3000 SLR 
  • A couple of really cute prints from Etsy
  • A $50 Starbucks giftcard
  • A $50 Target giftcard
  • $50 to spend on Lisa Leonard jewelry 
  • Two of the cutest wreaths made from BURLAP! (who knew burlap could be so cute?! it is...)
  • Four really cute and colorful key fobs (you choose)
  • $50 to use at Posh and Prissy (Liza has one of her bows. SO cute)
  • A pair of squeaker shoes (dontcha love little kids in squeaky shoes?)
  • $50 to use at Vera Bradley
  • A basketful of beautiful homemade soap
  • Three custom pillowcases
Whew, I think that's everything. Go over to Renee's blog, Chasing Moonlight, and check everything out. This is definitely something that you want to get in on. I still can't decide which prize is better the toffee or that Ipad2, or even those burlap wreaths :) Which one are you hoping for?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Music and Life: Fighting Dragons

We are big fans of Taylor Swift here in our house. I think she seems like the sweetest person and so far she doesn't seem to have let her fame go to her head. On top of that, she's a very gifted singer/songwriter and there aren't a whole lot of her songs that we don't love.

This one is mine and Noah's favorite song by her right now. I had listened to it a few times and just knew I liked it but had never paid attention to the lyrics. Then one day Noah asked me to play the "dragon song" while we were on a long car trip and after the second time hearing it I really paid attention and realized that not only was the music good but the words really had a great message.

Some of my favorite lyrics are:
"And the cynics were outraged
Screaming, "this is absurd"

'Cause for a moment a band of thieves in ripped up jeans got to rule the world"
"long live all the mountains we moved
I had the time of my life
Fighting dragons with you"

Don't we all wish for just one day where this is our song? I know I've felt like a member of that "band of thieves" waiting for my moment to rule the World. 

I'm dedicating this song to my kids. I hope that someday they all have moments like this in their lives. That they celebrate the walls they crash through. That they have friends they can trust to fight the dragons alongside of. That someday the Kingdom lights will shine just for them and that they prove all the cynics wrong. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Conversations With Liza

Liza had only one word when we got her out of the orphanage. That was "Nyet" (No). I'm putting her clothes on her, she's chanting "net-net-net!". I'm brushing her hair, she's chanting "net-net-net!" Washing her hair, "net-net-net!" You get the picture, right? It was kind of annoying, yet kind of cute at the same time. I should have known then what we were in for.

Now that she's been home for eight months she's learned to communicate lots more words through either signing or speaking, mostly signing. In the beginning she just used one sign at a time, signing "juice" for juice, signing "daddy" to ask for Daddy, signing "eat" when she was hungry, etc. Lately she's been stringing signs together to really have conversations with us. It's really been fun to watch her transition and grow like she has.

Last night as I was getting her out of the bath tub, ok wait, let me rephrase that. Last night after the water drained out of the tub so she would finally get out, she started whining and "crying". Basically, she was having a fit cause she does not like getting out of the water, and here comes Austin to the rescue. She won't get out for me, even with the water gone so Austin gets a towel, takes her out, and wraps her up. This is the series of signs that followed and my interpretation of that conversation.

Liza signs:

  1. Brother
  2. cry
  3. myself/mine "points to her nose" (she made this one up herself)
  4. brother again
  5. work
This is Mom's interpretation of what she was trying to tell me, and if you had seen her grin during this whole convo you would know that I am spot on!

"Mom, when I cry my brothers come running to make it better. That's the way it works."

Yep, that's exactly the way it works and on one hand I know I am in deep doo-doo, but on the other hand I'm just so glad I get to be a part of watching her be the Princess of our household. She's got us all wrapped. And we are totally fine with that.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Fundraiser Friday - Phoebe and the Smith Family

Isn't she darling?!
Lisa and Matthew Smith are in the process of adopting Phoebe (and hopefully 1 more). They started this journey with hopes of adopting a precious little girl named Yana, but complications that could not be overcome arose. Instead of giving up they decided to move forward and are now waiting to go and meet Phoebe next month.

In the meantime, to raise the last bit of funds needed to complete the adoption they are having an American Girl doll fundraiser. Every little girl would love to own their very own American Girl doll, right? I know I would love for Liza to have one but honestly the cost of the dolls makes me cringe. That's what makes this giveaway great. For a $5 donation to their adoption fund you are entered once to win an American Girl doll package, and the package goes up as the amount donated on their chip-in goes up.

An example of prize package one (you choose your doll)
Check out Lisa's post for more example photos of other packages.
Here's how it works:

  • 1st package Valued at $119 which includes doll, book and accessory package. 
  • When donations reach/exceed $2000 winner receives $179 package which is the starter collection. If the doll you choose does not have the starter package you will get your doll and anything up to $179. 
  • When donations reach/exceed $5000 winner receives the best friends package valued at $234. If your doll does not have a best friend then you will receive your doll and accessories up to $234.
  • When donations reach/exceed $10,000 winner receives a world collection valued at $439. If your doll does not have this collection, we will give you a package at $439. 
So, if you want to win this prize it would be best for everyone (especially Phoebe and her mystery sister) if you share with everyone you know and donate for at least a few entries. They also have a couple of other prizes you could be entered for: Longaberger/Pampered Chef/31/Tupperware bundle or a Vera Bradley Purse and wallet bundle. Look for the chip-in in Lisa's post to donate and donate NUMEROUS times :) Let's help change Phoebe's and her sister's reality!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fundraiser Friday (A little late) - Andriy and the Burlingham Family

This Fundraiser Friday post is really special to me because the little boy whose family I am spotlighting is a little one that I had the opportunity to hold and really get to know, even if just a little bit. Andriy has the sweetest smile and the most precious laugh. When I met him his smile seemed very shy and his laugh was quiet and didn't happen very often. His most favorite thing to do when I played with him was to hold my hands and rock back and forth just smiling his shy, sweet smile with his head down. My heart was captured and I am SO SO excited for him and for his family!

Amanda and David are soon to be Andriy's Mom and Dad and their newest fundraiser is one of the coolest I've seen lately. They are doing a Leaves of Love fundraiser, for each $10 donation made a leaf (w/donors name written inside) will be added to Andriy's tree in a lovely Fall color, and when he is home it will be a work of art that tells the story of all those who cared enough to help change his reality. They are also giving away chances at a quilt and selling puzzle pieces along with the prints that are added to the tree.

Here's a rundown of what your donation could get you:
$5   One quilt entry

$10 One Leaf, 2 quilt entry

$15 One Leaf , 3 quilt entries, Your name on the puzzle

$20 Two Leafs, 4 quilt entries, Your name on the puzzle

$25 Two Leafs, 5 quilt entries, Your name on the puzzle

$30 Three Leafs, 6 quilt entries, Your name on the puzzle

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Cookie Monsters

Remember I was urging everyone to visit Charlie's Chocolate Factory? Well, we got our goodies from CCF, and let me tell you! They are just as amazing as everyone said, honestly.

Pictures speak a thousand words, right? So, I'll let them and Liza (the boys are anti-camera these days) tell the story.

First Bite.

You can't see her but the puppy is trying to snatch a bite.
Not happening!

Mmmmmm, that's pretty good!

Oh, you know what's about to happen, right?

Seriously, you can't guess what happened next?

Yep, Liza ate Austin's cookie!
(*This was NOT staged, I was just quick with
the camera for once!)

Pretty dadgum proud of myself right now,
if I do say so myself :)
Now, Austin - he's not so proud.
Better be looking out next time Brother!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Fundraiser Friday - Olga and the Abell Family

Jenn and Chris Abell are adopting the sweet girl above, her name is Olga. Isn't she just a cutie-pie? The first time I saw her photo I thought how much she reminded me of Liza - ok sure, it was probably just the blonde hair and fair skin, but then I read her description and it mentioned something about her being "determined" and that she liked to help the other children. Well, that really sounds like someone I know who happens to be cute, blonde, and a bit sassy. So, when I found out Olga had a family determined to come for her I was pretty excited for her and for them. Now, I have the privilege of sharing some of the fundraisers they are doing in order to raise the money needed to bring Olga home.

On July 16th they are hosting A Dinner for Olga in Port Orchard, Washington. They're serving pulled pork sandwiches along with some tasty side dishes and strawberry lemonade or sweet tea to drink. Sounds really good and if I didn't know they were all the way over in Washington I would think they were here in Virginia or a little further South judging by that menu (trust me, even here in "Northern" VA it's sometimes hard to find sweet tea!). If you're anywhere close to them and would like to actually attend Olga's Dinner you can purchase a ticket at their event page, and if you do go eat a little extra for me, ok? If you're out of town but want to donate you can go the event page purchase a ticket and then send Jenn an email letting her know you're not actually attending along with a message for Olga.

They also have a couple other fundraisers going on right now that you should check out. Jenn's friend, Stephanie, is hosting Christmas in July for Olga throughout July. She is calling it a "give-to" and here's how it works, she has these beautiful Christmas ornaments and for every $10 donation to the Abell's adoption fund she is giving an ornament to Olga along with a message sent by the contributor. Sounds like a great gift for Olga on her first Christmas with a family! Olga has also been chosen as the Jars of Hopes and Dreams child for the month of July. Who knew the change that could fill up a jar could be used to change the life of a child?

On top of all that the Abell's are sending everyone who contributes to any of these fundraisers a keychain to help you remember why you gave.
Front side
Back side
Please head over to the Abell Family's blog and help Olga come home to her family.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Things I Never Thought I'd Say to My Daughter

Liza is crazy, seriously. We call her a Crazy Chica, and she signs back to us that she's a crazy chicken... LOL

I find myself saying things all the time to her that I never thought I'd say to my daughter, or maybe to my child period. Here are a few examples:

  • "Oh Lord! Don't drink from the dog bowl!"
  • "You're not a dog, you're a girl!"
  • "Liza, don't lick the counter!"
  • "Liza don't bite Grandma's toes!"
  • Please don't lick your brother."
So, what do you think? Anyone else find theirself saying unexpected things to their kids? Surely she's not the only Crazy Chica (or chicken) out there.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fundraiser Friday (a couple days early) - Olga E's Puzzle

Monica lives in Norway and is committed to advocating and raising money for a little girl called Olga E. She is running a puzzle fundraiser to raise money for Olga's adoption grant and raise awareness so that her family can find her. We all know that the higher a child's grant is the more likely a family will step forward to adopt them. Because, adoption is expensive and the cost is what holds willing families back all to often.

Each piece is only $1 so go over and sponsor a few pieces and put Monica to the test as she adds the pieces to make Olga's puzzle come together.

(There will still be a FF post on Friday. I had a couple requests with fundraisers going on now and didn't want to miss any.)

Who is Andrea G

Maybe you've noticed that I mention her name a lot since coming home from Ukraine. I "met" Andrea about a month or so before we went to Ukraine because she had written about "her angels" on her blog and one of them just happened to be my angel. BTW - thanks to the Anonymous commenter who shared that post with me. See, sometimes Anonymous can be nice! (all you bloggers know what I mean, right?)

We feel so blessed to have gotten to know Andrea and to have had her insight into some of the things Liza did when we first met her. I remember one day I took Liza back up to groupa and let go of her hand to leave. I stayed and watched for a minute to see what would happen and my sweet angel walked right up to another child (pretty sure it was Diana), who is incapable of defending herself, and slapped her across the face! It broke my heart in two to see her do that. Of course, my fierce sense of right and wrong couldn't let that go so I marched right over to Liza and took her hand and told her with a stern look and a stern voice, "I DO NOT like that! Not Nice!" But, inside I was thinking, "my child is a monster. why would she do such a thing?" You know, all the silly Mama hysterics we can get into. Thankfully, Andrea witnessed the whole thing and was able to share with me why she thought Liza had done what she did. Seems it was a way to get attention from the caregivers that she and a few of the others practiced regularly :( It really set my heart at ease to have Andrea's insight into why she did what she did.

Andrea's heart for adoption and the kids who wait is huge and she is always open to sharing what she knows with prospective parents. She also has great info on Krivoy Rog and the different orphanages that she was able to visit. While we were there she taught us to take the bus on our own which really helped with boredom and saved us money on hiring a driver. She also helped us find the church that is right around the corner from the orphanage and that was such a lifesaver for us. I don't know how we would've made it without the fellowship at the church, and with Andrea herself, for all the weeks we were there.

Andrea is now back home in Canada, but advocates for her kids every chance she gets. We love her heart and are so glad we were given the chance to get to know her. I wonder if that's why God had our process take so much longer, because if we had gone to Ukraine when I wanted to we would never have met her. Looking back now I wouldn't change things if it meant losing the opportunity to meet her. Go check out Andrea's blog, Ambassador of Love, and the kids she loves but had to leave behind.

We love you Andrea!! :)  Many kisses from your girl... <3

Monday, July 4, 2011

Project T.L.C.

What about the ones left behind? That's what I keep asking myself ever since we came home. Because no matter how we advocate or how many children I, or my friends, or your friends, adopt we really can't save them all. Isn't that heartbreaking? It almost brings you to the point of throwing in the towel, huh?

ALMOST, but when I feel that way there's a story I heard once that keeps me moving, keeps me determined.

The Legend of the Starfish
A man was walking along a beach when he saw a young boy. Along the shore were many starfish that had been washed up by the tide and were sure to die before the tide returned. The boy walked slowly along the shore and occasionally reached down and tossed the beached starfish back into the ocean. The man, hoping to teach the boy a little lesson in common sense, walked up to the boy and said, "I have been watching what you are doing, son. You have a good heart, and I know you mean well, but do you realize how many beaches there are around here and how many starfish are dying on every beach every day. Do you really think that what you are doing is going to make a difference?" The boy looked up at the man, and then he looked down at a starfish by his feet. He picked up the starfish, and as he gently tossed it back into the ocean, he said, "It makes a difference to that one." 

No matter how many times I read that story I tear up every time. "It makes a difference to that one."

I have some friends who adopted a few children from Ukraine and two of them brought one child home literally on death's door. Stephanie, Shelly, and Boston decided they had to do something to make a difference for the ones they weren't able to rescue so they started Project T.L.C. to provide for some of the needs of the children that were left behind in institutions in the Crimea region of Ukraine. 

They will be sending someone over with basic hygiene supplies in the Fall and are in need of donations to make this happen. Can we all be like the young man in the story and look through eyes of hope and compassion? Knowing that maybe we can't save them all but we CAN make a difference for just one. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Speaking of Fundraising/Fundraiser Friday - Charlotte's Chocolate Factory

Since I let my heart fall out about families, orphans, and fundraising the other day I can't seem to stop thinking about it. I really believe in adoption fundraising and have decided I want to support those who are in the trenches, so to speak, like I was at one time - and who knows, may be again someday (and no, that's not some super secret announcement). If you or someone you know is fundraising for adoption please let me know so I can highlight them one week. Email me at hismissionmine at yahoo dot com.

So, Fundraiser Friday is starting today featuring friends I made not long after Liza came home and had the pleasure of meeting, ironically, at another family's adoption fundraiser.

Charlotte (aka Charlie)
Who wouldn't wanna spend some time with this cutie? :)

Kelly and Kyle Dirkes are adopting Charlie, a sweet little muffin with the same extra chromosome that Liza has. I met Kelly and Kyle not long after they committed to Charlie and have found Kelly to be a good friend ever since that night. She's helped me with computer and picture issues, and offered valuable advice on IEP navigating. I am really looking forward to meeting Miss Charlie when she comes home. 
Kelly is putting her love of baking to good use through Charlotte's Chocolate Factory for the next week and is inviting you all to indulge yourselves and help Sweet Charlie come home. I have been told these treats are delicious! I can't wait for mine to get here - I'm hoping I can hide them from Rick and the kids... lol

I mean, really! Even the packaging is pretty.
Go on over and visit Charlies Chocolate Factory and hook yourself up. You get some yummy treats and the satisfaction of knowing that you're helping bring Charlotte home. It's a win-win, seriously!