Friday, March 25, 2011

Getting The Word Out: Kirill's Story

This is the story of a friend of my husband's cousin in Tuscaloosa, AL.  As the proud parent of a special needs child, I could not believe this story. I could not believe that Kirill was denied adoption because of his special needs. I ask you, dear readers, to open your heart to this story. Pray for this family. Pray for Kirill.

Kirill's Story

Please feel free to share the following on your blogs. It is a summary of our adoption journey so far. Please help us spread the word. We are hoping somehow someone will be able to help us.

Two years ago Greg and I began praying for God to do whatever he wanted with our lives. We handed him a “blank check” so to speak, and told him to cash it. He opened our eyes to children with disabilities wasting away across the ocean in Eastern Europe. We joined God and started our adoption journey.

Our family is more than equipped to handle a child with special needs. I have a degree in Early Childhood Education. I am a member of the Board of Directors of Best Buddies of Alabama. I have volunteered for RISE and Eagles’ Wings. All of these organizations serve individuals with special needs. My husband I have close friends and family who have special needs and we are a big part of each other’s lives. Our wedding party included some of these special people. Our involvement with individuals with special needs led us to adopt a child with special needs; specifically, we chose Down Syndrome.

As we prayed over the faces of thousands of orphaned children with Down Syndrome, we ultimately chose a little boy named Sergey from Russia. Eight months later, as we neared the finish line of our adoption, one of Sergey’s family members in Russia stepped forward to adopt him. We were heartbroken for our loss, but God showed us that we were following him, and his ways are perfect. We knew we still wanted to adopt, so the way we saw it, two children would find homes because of our journey…Sergey went to his family and now we would choose another child to come into our family. We took great comfort in knowing that God could see this when we first committed to Sergey! We were honored to be a part of his plan.

Shortly after losing Sergey, we received a new referral with a grainy photo of a four-year-old blond-haired boy wearing pink glasses named Kirill. We were instantly in love with him. We had to re-file a lot of our paperwork because of the change in referrals and regions of Russia, but we were fast and we thought we were looking at three more months at the most until we would have Kirill home.

That was well over a year ago.

Since then so many things have happened. A tragic story of an adoptive mother sending her child back to his country alone on a plane with a note pinned to his shirt rocked our world…he was from Russia. Adoptions in Russia came to a screeching halt. Kirill’s region stopped processing adoptions for eight long months. The judge refused to accept any Amercian adoption cases until an official treaty was signed between the United States and Russia.

Even though we wouldn’t be able to finalize the adoption in court until the treaty was signed, we were allowed to go visit Kirill and sign our official petition to adopt him in August 2010. We fell more deeply in love with him. This was our son.

During that time, we found out that Kirill is the first child from his region EVER to be adopted with Down Syndrome. A birth mother keeping her child with Down Syndrome is unheard of in this area of the world. Adoptions of children with Down Syndrome just don’t happen there, these children are literally hidden away from society in orphanages and mental institutions. As our process continued, it became apparent that Kirill would be a pioneer. If our adoption was approved, it would pave the way for other children with special needs to be adopted from this region.

Then, a miracle happened around Christmas and the judge in this region suddenly changed her mind and began processing American adoptions again. We were elated.  Could this be the light at the end of a very long tunnel? I was somewhat nervous about Kirill being the first child adopted with Down Syndrome from his region, but our agency was very confident that if we got a court date, our adoption would be approved. In seventeen years, they had never had a case rejected IF the family was issued a court date. We were told not to worry, so I didn’t. After meeting the judge’s requests for several supporting court documents, we were finally granted a court date-March 17, 2011. St. Patrick’s Day…I was thrilled. This would be our new favorite holiday! Our son was coming home!

Our other son, Clayton, who had just turned three when we started this adoption process, has prayed fervently for his brother. He is now almost five. When we told him Kirill was coming home, oh my…we had an excited big brother on our hands! At one point he even went to his room, dumped out his toy cars and divided them into two stacks…one for him and one for Kirill.

Last week, as we sat in the courtroom and suffered through five agonizing hours of difficult questioning, we were not prepared for anything but an approval of our case. Two doctors, two social workers, and the Minister of Children’s Services all made very strong statements on our behalf. They fought for us. Hard.

But when the ruling was read, the judge said, “Your application to adopt is rejected.” The basis given was that Kirill was “not socially adaptable” due to his “medical condition” and he was better off in an institution than in a home with a family. As the judge read her ruling, she stated several times that we were a good family, that we met all the criteria to adopt a child, but that she would not approve our adoption because Kirill has Down Syndrome. She told us that we could adopt another child, because legally our application had no problems according to Russian adoption law. She said she would approve our adoption for a “typical” child, but not this child. Why? The only reason? Because he has Down Syndrome. Even though we were approved by our home study and by the USCIS to adopt a child with special needs. It makes no sense whatsoever. Denying a child a family because he has Down Syndrome is a violation of human rights at its most basic level!

It was like a terrible dream. We were so unprepared for this outcome. As we left the courthouse in a mental fog, the doctors and social workers that had testified came to us and said, “If you appeal, we will fight for you. Appeal. Fight this decision.” Of course we were going to appeal…I could no more walk away from our biological son, Clayton, at this point. Kirill is just as much my son.

So here we are, asking God to move the mountain that is standing between Kirill and us as we appeal to the Supreme Court in Moscow. There are also three other families who are in various stages of adopting children with Down Syndrome from Kirill’s region; one of the families has a court hearing set for next week.

We are hoping that someone will hear our outcry and help us bring our son and these other waiting children home. His adoption will set the precedent for many other children in his region. There are 98 children in his orphanage with special needs alone. It is one of many orphanages in this region that houses children with special needs. This is about more than just one child, the lives of hundreds of children with special need are at stake.  Please help us.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Why I Don't Coupon - Part 1

I'm frugal but I don't coupon. Or at least not very often.
10/366:  Sunday Coupons by teamjtx
 photo by teamjtx on Flickr.

Coupons are for people who buy processed foods. Or stuff with junk in them. 
And we don't want no junk around here.

The only coupons available in Sunday circulars are those for products by big food companies that put all kinds of stuff in them I don't wanna eat. Or bathe with. Or clean my clothes with. Or ..... 
Do you see my trend here? 
Occasionally, I will find a coupon in my local heath food store for a product I might buy. Or a treat for the kids. But for the most part I don't use 'em. And I've tried. Believe me I have tried. 

There are only a few things left that I actually buy that I can use a coupon for: coffee, some bagged teas, hubby's toiletries that I can't get him to let go of. That's about it.

So what do I buy without coupons, you ask? Well we'll be talking about that this week.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

RECIPE: The Lucky Smoothie

In honor of St Patrick's Day, I wanted to share something we have been doing in our house lately.  Music Man has always had trouble with constipation since Day 1 (literally in the hospital!!) This is due to extreme low muscle tone which affects not only the face muscles making it difficult to eat and talk, the leg muscles which challenge mobility but also the gut where he would have trouble "going," to put it nicely. We have worked through several several awful medicine routines and gone back and forth with different ways of dealing with it. Last year at the advice of another mom dealing with the same thing, we tried a daily smoothie. Our basic recipe was
Gotta Go Smoothie
1 c liquid (I use whole milk yogurt, kefir, pear juice or even whole milk, in a pinch)
1/4 of a frozen banana
1 T natural peanut butter (I eyeball it.)
1T homemade prune butter (Again, eyeball it - no measuring just a spoonful.)
handful of ice

The ingredients are interchangeable and measurements are approximate (except I stick to the 1/4 banana.) Music Man loves prune butter thank goodness, but the peanut butter and banana are his faves thanks to visiting Whole Foods after orthodontics visits. They hide the flavor of drinking prune butter. It isn't very appetizing to me but he loves it.

So we did this for a good while - every afternoon during snacktime he had a Gotta Go Smoothie. It worked beautifully! I was amazed. Really. No meds. No crying at potty time. If you have ever dealt with a kid who couldn't go you know what I mean. It was literally God-sent!

Now before I introduce the "lucky" ingredient, let me deal with another issue. I concede that bananas are known to be binding. The simple answer is that bananas are his fave fruit. Actually the banana is the only fruit he eats. He used to eat a whole one daily (until I realized how binding they were for him.) Now he gets part of one banana in a smoothie daily. The peanut butter probably doesn't help either. Again, it is a small amount. It is to cover the taste. He loves it and I just have to deal with it. The yogurt is also dairy which is also binding but his gut needs the good stuff in yogurt. I was blessed by a friend a few weeks ago who gave me some kefir and I have been using that ever since. (Not sure what in the world I am talking about? Well, I am still learning all about kefir myself. All I can honestly tell ya right now is that it is supposed to be better for ya than yogurt with good bacterias and it is sure easier - and cheaper!! More on kefir later, but you can visit The Kefir Lady for more info if you so desire.)

Now we come to the lucky part. I have been, over the course of the last few months, trying to change some of our eating habits. We have followed the Feingold Program for five years to combat the symptoms of Music Man's ADHD. The Feingold Program is a great for folks who buy a lot of processed foods and want to buy processed foods without all the junk in them. The Feingold Program eliminates artificial flavors, colors and petroleum based preservatives. It was a great transition program (or set-down from the way we were eating to where I am trying to go. I am so thankful, so grateful that they exist and fully support their mission. Lately though I have begun making steps towards more whole foods eating. I don't necessarily mean Whole Foods Market (the grocery store,) though I love them and shop there monthly. I mean unprocessed foods as close to their natural state as possible - fresh fruits and veggies, lean meats, healthy nuts. (More on all that later - it is a whole post or posts in and of itself.)

Well, since I have boys who are picky eaters, each in their own quirky way, I have to get creative occasionally. I couldn't just change up his smoothie (i.e. make it healthier) and hand it to him. I had to come up with something cute that my oral aversion kid would latch on to. So The Lucky Smoothie was born.

The Lucky Smoothie
1 c liquid (I use whole milk yogurt, kefir, pear juice or even milk in a pinch) My blender has measurements on the side and I have found that 1 c is the best amount in order to make it drinkable for MM)
1/4 of a frozen banana
1 T natural peanut butter (I eyeball it.)
1T homemade prune butter (Again, eyeball it - no measuring just a spoonful.)
handful of ice
handful of fresh spinach

Yep, I put fresh spinach in that baby. No, he doesn't know it is spinach and no, you can't taste it. My husband went shopping for me one afternoon and had to get greenish bananas so that's what Music Man assumed the green was from. I never corrected him and won't for a while. farm Boy has seen me make them and knows I put spinach in them and he is keeping our secret ingredient a secret. :) I have tasted The Lucky Smoothie so I can honestly say that you can't taste the spinach. I'm still not a fan - I just don't care for banana and peanut butter in my smoothies but I do taste everything I give him. But you have to use fresh spinach!! You can taste frozen spinach - I tried once when we were out of fresh. You can use a tiny bit of frozen just for color but it doesn't blend well either and it it isn't pleasant to look at.

So there you have it. The Lucky Smoothie.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

TOS Review: Who Is God? (And Can I Really Know Him?)

When planning out our homeschool year, the thought never occurred to me to use a bible curriculum. I don't know why since my husband and I started our life together (even before we married) working with youth teaching them the about the bible. When we began homeschooling I started the boys memorizing the books of the bible and scriptures and thought that was good enough. Then I started hearing about others teaching bible class and actual curriculums as part of their daily lessons. Christian schools do it- why not homeschools too?

Who Is God? And How Can I Really Know Him? is an amazing bible curriculum designed for families. It makes a perfect homeschool curriculum. Published by Apologia, I immediately trusted that the information presented would be what I wanted my kids to learn. The lessons are straight forward, biblical and easily adaptable across a range of ages from young elementary through middle school. They even designed a sample plan for how to implement the lessons over a two week time period.

True to Apologia format, an important part of the curriculum is notebooking. Notebooking is basically writing what you have learned from a lesson in a notebook. It allows the student to put in their own words what they heard in the lesson and allows the teacher to see what information was retained. It is also great for looking back on the year to see what was discovered. We have not done a whole lot of notebooking before now and loved the format.
Written conversationally to the student, it was easy for my first graders to understand what was being taught. I love that each lesson is full of activities complete with supply list so everything needed for a lesson can be gathered easily. Another thing that was high on the thumbs-up list for our family was that students are encouraged to look up scriptures for themselves. Our boys received bibles for Christmas and are just now beginning to look passages up on their own to read as we memorize them. They loved being able to find the scriptures listed on the lessons in their own bibles and memorize the scriptures from the lessons. Hands-on activities are sprinkled throughout the lessons along (including recipes which are always a big hit in our homeschool!) Vocabulary words are in bold throughout the lessons with the definitions and descriptions following.

There are plenty of questions listed throughout each lesson which really appealed to Farm Boy since he asks questions from the time he wakes until after he is in the bed (and sometimes in the middle of the night!!) The questions challenged us to think about what was being asked and elaborated on the topic as we went deeper into the subject matter.

The table of contents and my favorite, a sample lesson (straight from the book!!) are available on the website if you would like to take a peak inside! Sign up for their free monthly newsletter which includes lesson plans and samples and even a chance to win a free online course for the 2011-2012 school year.

Who Is God? (And Can I Really Know Him?)
Apologia Press
Hardback, $39.00

Legal Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew I received Who Is God And Can I Really know Him? free of charge from Apologia for the purpose of review and exchange for my honest opinion. No other compensation was received.

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