Thursday, March 31, 2011


Exciting little Antonio has a family :)!! 
Well, he's not really my Antonio, but there's a special place in my heart for this little guy and I am so excited to find out who has come forward for him!

Thank you, so much, to everyone who has been praying for him, has already donated to his fund or helped to spread the word about him.

Check back for details on his family, and to hear more about how you can help them get to him sooner ;).

Sleep tight tonight, little one. You are in the hearts of many and will know the love of a family--your family--soon...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Back from the Beach

Does anyone notice anything different at the top of this blog? It's a new header picture taken while on vacation last week :).

And there are many more where that came from. Somehow, I ended up with over 600 pictures. Don't worry, I won't post them all here! But how am I going to choose ;)?

Both girls LOVED the beach. We all had a wonderful time, with lots of sun, sand, laughter and all the good things we could cram into a week-and-a-half at the beach.

I have so many things to write about, with so much going on in our Down syndrome and adoption communities.

If I can carve out the time, I plan to write a lot this month, because I'll also be advocating for Antonio, as well as featuring several posts here which will look back at our trip to Ukraine in April of last year to get Alina. (Our trip was such a whirlwind, that I didn't ever get the chance to post many of our pictures, or to share some of the more interesting and colorful details and observations from our journey overseas. Please leave a comment below if there's anything specific you'd like for me to cover.)

March is nearly over. Welcome Spring!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Birthday in Review

Thank you, so much, to everyone for the sweet birthday wishes for Alina :)!  

She was greeted last Thursday morning by her very own Mama & Papa and loving siblings, who were genuinely excited to celebrate her that day.  She LOVED her birthday--everything about it--and was beaming from the moment she got up. 

I went in to read to the preschool class that morning and to take a small birthday surprise for her classmates.  She was excited to see me, and ran right over with a huge smile to give me a hug.  She sat down in her spot when I began reading, but ended up standing right beside me as I finished the book.  

While the class sang to Alina, she looked around at each and every face in the group.  She was elated.  She honestly smiled and clapped the whole time.  And she got to wear a special "Birthday crown" handmade by her teacher (shown below).  It was a wonderful start to the day.

Alina received phone calls, cards and gifts from out-of-town family, and had her "special" birthday pizza dinner and dessert on Thursday.  On Friday, our extended family in town came over to celebrate, and she had more birthday fun and treats.

She truly enjoyed every.single.thing about her birthday--cards (she looked closely at each card), balloons, phone calls, gifts (she liked every gift, even the tissue paper in the gifts), singing, cake...all of it.  She really seemed to linger on every detail.  

It brings tears to my eyes, thinking about this little girl and how much her life has changed.

Celebrating Alina's fourth birthday, and her arrival into our lives, was more fun than any of us could have imagined.  

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Four years ago today, a beautiful little girl was born in a quaint and picturesque town along the Dneiper river in southeastern Ukraine.  

What should have been a day full of celebration for her parents quickly became a day full of sadness.  Tears of happiness became tears of grief.  

The little girl they waited for, and hoped for, had arrived.  But she was not the little girl they'd anticipated.  The child they had envisioned was not the child placed in their arms.  

The little girl they greeted that day was not a child they could welcome into their lives.  As precious as she was, she could not stay with them.  She had Down syndrome.  And in Eastern European society, there was no place for her.  

There were no supports for parents raising a child with Down syndrome.  And the stigma of having a child who is different, who is disabled...well, there just wasn't an option.  They had to give her up.  They handed their daughter to a social worker, who made arrangements to place the little girl in the local orphanage.  

Half a world away, another family also touched by Down syndrome, spent that day just as they would spend any other day.  They'd already had their day to be sad about Down syndrome and were fortunate to live in a part of the world where there was more support for children and families living with the diagnosis.  They'd already seen that disability is a matter of perspective, and that all people are the same within.

They had no idea that this little girl was born that day, that she was now alone in the world, or that she would one day play a huge role in their lives.

So the little girl waited, for three whole years, for someone to find her and claim her as their own.    

For over a thousand days, not one single person inquired about her.  But she survived anyway, in the care of her nurses.  Not having a family--or anything else--of her own would not dampen her zest for life, or her desire to learn and grow.

She thrived, despite her circumstances.  And that family half a world away, who had already made peace with Down syndrome, well, they found her.  And they ran to her, and they made her their own...

Today, as Alina turns four, she'll be celebrating her birthday with presents, balloons and Dora decorations.  She'll be sharing a birthday treat with her preschool classmates and her mama will come in and read to the class.  She'll have a special birthday dinner with some of her favorite foods--pizza, salad and berries, followed by ice cream cones dipped in rainbow sprinkles.  She will be surrounded by people who love her.

If she were still in the orphanage, today would have been a very different day for her.  The paperwork would have been ready for Alina's transfer from the relative safety and security of her baby home to a remote, regional mental institution.  I'm in tears typing that sentence.  I can begin to process it, but can't even come close to reconciling that thought in my mind.

This treasure locked away for life, this precious child...what did she ever do to warrant being placed in an asylum?  How did we find her, and what did we do to deserve her?

Alina is purposeful and intuitive.  There's a fire--and a fighter's spirit--underneath her curious, active and happy-go-lucky exterior.  She's sharp, an excellent problem solver with a strong memory, and can entertain herself for hours.  She's easily amused, quick to love and has a heart of gold.

She is an absolute gem.  What would we do without her?

Oh Lina, Happy Birthday, little love.  You are treasured beyond words...

* * *
When we found Alina, there were two other children who caught our eyes.  One was Yana, who will soon be going home to her forever family.  The other is Antonio, who is still waiting.  (We initially donated for four children, but the pictures of the two little boys were actually pictures of the same child at different ages...we must really have loved Antonio!)  This precious little guy just melts my heart.  All of the children with Down syndrome in his groupa have found families.  I can't imagine why he is still waiting for his!

Antonio - baby picture

Antonio - around 1 year old

Antonio - 2 1/2 years old
We would welcome donations to Antonio's grant fund in honor of Alina's birthday.  I am going to do whatever I can to find him a home, too.  Please, if you are considering Antonio, or if you would like to inquire about him, contact Andrea at Reece's Rainbow today.  I know parents who have been to this orphanage and would be willing to share tips and information about it, and would also be willing to share their impressions of Antonio.  This little boy will be a wonderful addition to one lucky family :)!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

You Are the Flower of the Family

...and you bloomed :).

Sibling Love--Emmy's Birthday Card for Alina
Alina's fourth birthday is tomorrow.  I have new pictures to post, and thoughts to share.  Tune in tomorrow for a celebration of ALINA.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Heard Recently Around Our House

Bridget, when she hears the microwave beep: “Mommy! Poppy ready!” (your coffee is ready!) “Oh, what that ‘mell?  'Mell like poppy. ‘Mell good!” (What’s that smell?  It smells like coffee. It smells good!)

Bridget, after seeing butterflies on the potty seat: “Butterflies ” (flapping arms, looking upward) “Angels fly!”

Me: “I don’t want to see anyone naked in our family room. And I am especially talking to anyone who is three or four!” (The three and four year olds must not have been listening.)

Bridget (heard often): 

“Not cool!” 

“No way!”

“Stop it!”

“Oh, you’re right!”

“Oh, that is soooo silly!”

“Oh, ache you!” (Oh, thank you!)

"No Happy"

Me: "Bridget, would you like something to eat?"  
Bridget: "Oh! Ache you, mommy! Yes, a piece a cake!!"

Me:  "Bridget, what are you doing?" (after I saw that Little Bear had ended and she was still glued to the t.v.).  
Bridget:  “I watchin’ Pungebobs!" (Spongebob). "I wike it!"

(Bridget and Alina don't watch Spongebob.  But obviously, Bridget knows who that is!) 

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Sisters, Daughters, Granddaughters, Cousins, Nieces, Neighbors, Friends...

People.  Bridget and Alina are people. They are not worth less because they happen to have a diagnosis which includes intellectual disability.  

They have worth, and dignity, and deserve as much as anyone else, to be treated with RESPECT.

Let's make RESPECT the new R-word.

Important Reading: