Signed, Sealed…

It’s official!  The first batch of our paperwork is taking the first part of its journey to Eastern Europe, by way of our adoption agency here in the states.  This means that we have a ton of copies of all of our paperwork apostilled, which is a certification of notarization so the documents can travel out of the country as “official” as well.  What’s lovely is they put this very becoming gold sticker right over the edge to make you feel oh so fancy:

This is what thousands of dollars looks like. A small price to pay for the barriers it knocks down.


What that means for Thadius is that we are officially requesting a referral from his country to come visit him and confirm that, yes, he is the one we will commit to.  That could take as little as two weeks to receive, or maybe up to eight weeks.  We have no way to know.  

These little hams really get it. They asked, “Mom, is this the paperwork that brings Thadius home to us?” Yes, my darlings, it is.

But we do know one thing.  We’ve got the first part of the song down, “Here I am baby, oh yeah, signed, sealed…(soon to be) delivered…” We can’t wait to add the best part: “I’m yours!”

Hoovered It

It’s pretty rare that I write a blog post about stuff I love.  So, when I do, it means I have used this for a while, and REALLY love it.

I don’t want to let the chance pass me by to sing the praises of the incredible piece of household machinery that is the Hoover Windtunnel Max. (It’s official name is Hoover Windtunnel Max Multicyclonic Bagless Upright, but that sounds a little stuffy for a vacuum if you ask me.)

I received one of these vacuums as a gift from someone who felt my duct-taped 7-year-old Bissell was an embarrassment to humanity.  Even though I consider myself the Messiest Housewife In The World, if I do clean, I want to do it right.  That’s why I was ridiculously overjoyed to find this package on my front step this April:

So, when I put the thing together (like three little clicks and one screw to tighten), I put it through its paces.  I immediately carried it downstairs by the cleverly positioned recessed handle underneath the canister, and straight into the lion’s den.  My children had spilled about 5 lbs. of rice out of their sensory table three months before the previous week.

Like the sound of those delightful fizzy firecrackers right before the grand finale, I vacuumed the offending area for 15 or 20 passes (5 foot square).  And I got this:

Oh. My. Goodness. The Windtunnel Max sucked up 5 lbs of rice. Hoover, take me away!

I had forgotten what the carpet in the basement felt like without the disturbing sound of rice squinching deeper into the floor.  Oh my goodness.  Sweet carpeting is not ruined.  I carried it one-handed with a little effort upstairs and swung by the kitchen garbage to empty the canister.  It was a snap, opening cleanly from the bottom with the touch of a button on the top handle.

It was time for a head to head test.  I wheeled out the squeaky old Bissell canister upright, which now had the feel of a dinged up Kia next to a Cadillac, and vacuumed the TV room. I followed up with the Hoover. I then apologized to the children for spending the last seven years making pretty lines in the carpet without ever actually vacuuming. The Bissell canister was filled with these little dust bunnies, and the Hoover…well, let’s just say I was so embarrassed, I didn’t take a picture of it.  What I can tell you was that as I rolled it over the carpet that leads in from the backyard/sandpit of despair, all I could think of was that scene in The Green Mile when John Coffey sucks the black bugs out of people.  The little window at the floor bristle lets you see the dust physically being lifted out of your rug with an oddly entrancing spectacle.

Next I hit the entryway for the final test of greatness: The Stair Attachment.  My version is the P.A.W.S. pet hair specific one, which means instead of bristles, it has little paddles that ACTUALLY ROTATE on the stair hose brush.  It did a great job, with visible debris in the freshly cleaned canister.  In addition, when I pulled out the hose, I noticed the floor bristles automatically stop turning.  Because I’m the numbskull who always seems to jam her toes under the brushes while reaching to suck a spider into a death of Helen Hunt proportions, I really appreciate the effort.  There’s also a snazzy, easy lever to turn off the floor bristles with your foot when you get on a vacuuming roll and don’t want to stop the momentum from the living room shag right onto the kitchen tile.

What I didn’t tell you was that between every room, the kids were fighting over who got to press the cord rewind button.  Best. Fun. Ever.  Somehow it goes at the perfect speed so that it doesn’t pistol whip you in the calves like the old school Electrolux one my dad got from a farm auction when I was 8.  I think I still have bruises.

The one thing I am having a hard time with is remembering that you turn it on with your thumb on the handle (which folds for easy storage).  I spent the first few days trying to use my feet to turn it on and resemble a confused pioneer woman, bobbing and weaving conspicuously around the newfangled mechanical broom looking for the “on” switch.  The front-placed moving stair attachment actually stays on really well during use, but the little detail brush may pop off if it isn’t seated just right.  Which gives the vacuum a 98/100 on my list.  Still an A+.

They also make a a swankier bristle-based upgrade for those who don’t find they spend a good portion of their cleaning time unwrapping pet hair from their attachments.  Because I happen to know one of the engineers who designed it,  I can tell you that these vacuums out-compete the over-hyped Dyson, for a fraction of the price.  And as of right now, you can buy the one Amazon with free shipping for well under the retail value of $199.99.

But Jaime, you say, every new vacuum works well, right?  I have been using this vacuum for 5 months now, and while its (washable) canister interior has gotten a little dustier (no, I haven’t cleaned it), the Hoover Windtunnel Max Multi-Cyclonic Upright Canister vacuum still works like a charm.  I would recommend it to anyone.

One corner down, three more to go.

Modern Cloth Diapering Orphanage Guide

My husband and I do emergency preparation, and one of the aspects we have considered is using our modern cloth diapers in the event of an emergency situation, where we have no power.  I have adapted that to focus on what the needs of an orphanage might be, with access to wash facilities, but not dryers.

1)   What is a modern cloth diaper?

A pocket diaper will best meet the needs of an orphanage because of its stay-dry capability (only microfleece, which repels water, is touching baby’s skin).  In addition, it dries very quickly (2-4 hours dry time on average relatively humid weather) because the absorbent insert is a separate component.

Components of a modern pocket cloth diaper (clock wise from the top: 1) Pocket-style opening for traditional insert 2) Soft microfleece lining keeps baby dry 3) Mini-gussets keep messes contained 4) Durable snaps for an adjustable fit 5) Waterproof outer layer

2)      Will the ones I buy online hold up to twice daily washings?

In a word: NO.  Don’t let anyone tell you that the newest, pretty, on-the market cloth diapers are made to last.  They have beautiful fabric, but the PUL is a much lower quality than what was available 5 years ago.    They MUST be line dried, but still, the waterproof plastic layer will eventually separate from its cloth front, leaving a leaky diaper that needs to be thrown out.

3)      So why are you suggesting this?

Because there ARE still old-style Fuzzibunz to be found.  They can be found brand new, in limited quantities from the online Fuzzibunz seconds store.  They are about $11 per diaper (compared to $18 new style), and run just a little smaller than the traditional Fuzzibunz mediums.   But they are made from a higher quality PUL.  The better PUL feels more like canvas when scratched from the cloth side, while the buttery soft feel of the new PUL will not hold up as well.   *Note: for users in the US, Fuzzibunz has just rolled out a new lifetime warranty for their diapers, so if you have easy access to a great cloth diaper supplier, go for the great, beautiful prints!*

The sturdier kind can be recognized by their pointy tabs:

Old-style, pointy-tab Fuzzibunz brand pocket diaper

The REALLY old kind has rounded edges and this tag: Old-style, original Fuzzibunz--can't bust 'em!

Also look on craigslist.  Used is fine.  The oldest diapers in my stash (on their third kid now) are pointy tab Fuzzibunz that have been used for 2 years before we got them, and three years since we’ve had them, washed every 3 days for 10 months out of the year).

4)      But what if the elastics break and the diapers start to leak because they are too loose?

A good used diaper will still have some bunch in the elastic.  Worn out elastic can be easily repaired with a bobby pin, a new piece of elastic, and a needle and thread to tack down the edges.  Make sure you include repair supplies in your package to an orphanage.  See the tutorial below:

5)      How do you put the diapers on?

It’s a snap!  Some diapers come with Velcro enclosures (Sometimes called “aplix” or “hook and loop”).  Avoid these ones, because they will need major repair after a hundred washes.  The ones with snap attachments are the most durable.  Here’s a diagram:

Step 1) Place insert inside of the pocket.
Step 2) Slide diaper under baby and pull up front.
Step 3) Snap sides to the front of the diaper

6)      So what do I use for inserts?

What’s great is that the diaper itself holds the shape of the baby, so the inserts can be made from any thin, cotton or microfiber material on hand, folded in half several times to make an absorbent rectangle.  Drying time for such makeshift inserts is significantly reduced (when the rectangle is shaken out and hung flat, 4-8 hours), compared to what comes with the diaper (a pre-sewn, multiple layer rectangle of microfiber material, 8-10 hour dry time).  If the orphanage currently cloth diapers with traditional pre-folds, they can be used as a part of the insert rotation, too.  I would suggest having 10 insert pieces for every 6 diapers.  Old receiving blankets, t-shirts, Birdseye flat diapers, and microfiber hand towels work best for both absorbency and dry time.

Birdseye flat diaper, dries more quickly, but must be folded before use.

Prefold Diaper has double-layer of material in the center, takes longer to dry.

7)      What do I do when they are soiled?

Take a pillow case and line a garbage can with it.  This is now a washable hamper bag.  Take the diaper off of the baby.  If only urine, hold by the top end over the diaper pail/pillow case garbage can.  Shake insert out.  Drop emptied pocket diaper in next.  Done.  If there is poop, two options remain—wash the diaper out by dunking in a toilet, or dump solids into a separate garbage can for disposal.  Proceed as above.

8)      How do I wash them?  Can they be sanitized?

The first step is to rinse the load of diapers, pillow case, inserts, and cloth wipes out in cold water.  This removes the majority of the urine and feces.  (A wet pail is not recommended because the PUL lining will weaken if left in water for extended periods of time.  This initial cold rinse does a thorough job if done within 36 hours of when the diaper was soiled.)  The next step is to restart the wash with a full hot cycle.  If hot water is not available, a small amount of bleach (about 2 tablespoons or 30 mL) can be used.  This will possibly decrease the life of the PUL on the diapers, but germ control is more important.  Any powdered detergent will do, but 3 tbsp (45 mL) is an appropriate amount of detergent for a load-full of 15 diapers and 15 inserts.  If a dryer is available, only the inserts should be dried by machine.  The diapers can be laid flat (microfleece side up) or hung to dry.

9)      This seems like an extra step to me.  Why not just get a water-resistant cover for our current diapers?

That is certainly an option.  There are modern PUL covers that will work very well and are washable.  But, the advantage of the pocket diapers is the stay-dry lining.  Our goal is to have a diaper that is faster to put on and also keeps the baby’s skin dry, reducing diaper rash.  In a cloth-only diapering system the absorbent material holds the urine on the skin.  After one urination, they need to be changed.  In pocket diapers, after 2 urinations, they will reach their maximum absorbency.  Absorbency can be increased by adding a second insert for naptime and overnight, but the protective effects of the microfleece layer are reduced every time the diaper becomes saturated.  For this reason, some people use disposable diapers for overnight use, and reduce costs by using cloth diapers during the day.

10)   How many diapers will we need?

A child 5 months and older needs about 5-6 diapers per day.  If the diapers are washed three times daily (morning, afternoon, night), the large number of inserts (which take a long time to dry by comparison) will be ready to go into the diapers that were last used at night by early afternoon.  Let me show you a sample use schedule in which a groupa of 10 children has 60 diapers and 100 inserts:

Time Diapers/Inserts Being Worn Diapers/Inserts Being washed Diapers/Inserts Air Drying Diapers/InsertsReady to wear

Night

10/20

(each diaper uses 2 inserts overnight)

20/30

(from last 2 changes of night)

20/30

(drying overnight)

10/20

7AM

10/10

10/20

0/0

40/70

11AM

10/10

0/0

20/30

30/60

3 PM

10/20

(each diaper uses 2 inserts for naptime)

20/20

0/30

30/30

7PM

10/10

0/0

20/50

30/40

Night

10/20

20/30

0/30

10/20

So, while disposable diapers are convenient when available, having 6 pocket diapers with approximately 10 inserts on hand for each child will keep babies dry, cut back on diapering costs, and reduce the wash load for other bedding and clothing items.  Hopefully we can help keep these precious angels drier and diaper changes quicker while their caretakers are freed up from the inconvenience of changing bedding and treating diaper rash multiple times a day.

Be Strong. Rock on.

As many of you have seen via Facebook, we have an auction going on right now to bring little Thadius home.  Two of the many amazing items up for bids have been generously donated by Andrew Banar of Group Hug Apparel.

Andrew was born with Down syndrome, and an irrepressible zest for life.  One day, when his cousin was going off to college, Andrew decided he wanted to go, too.  He needed to raise some funds, however.  His mom, Karen Pickle, suggested taking one of his rock and roll sketchings and turning it into a t-shirt design.  They have used much of the funding received to support various charitable organizations.

Any t-shirt from the website and infant onesie in our auction feature Andrew’s own artwork, and are sold by a company he owns.   To keep up with the many adventures of Group Hug Apparel bringing joy, fun, and rock-star status to events all over Canada, click here: Group Hug Blog.

Imagine how you could help Andrew change the world by sharing his story and his message, one t-shirt at a time.  Be strong.  Rock on.  With friends.

A Church Family

The idea of a church family seems silly to someone who isn’t a part of one.  We are very fortunate to be part of one.  Today we were able to share our story with our whole congregation, through a “Stories from the Pew” flyer we were invited to write.  An excerpt:

Sometimes Catholics feel like they are limited in doing mission work.  Our examples of Mother Theresa and devoted priests seem to indicate, even at a subconscious level, that we regular people, working a full-time job could not possibly achieve anything big unless we take time away and immerse ourselves in building a house for hurricane victims and the like.  Well, Britt and I have chosen to become missionaries, and we have one full-time job and 4 children ages 7 and under between us.

…When we saw Thadius on the website for the international Down syndrome adoption ministry, Reece’s Rainbow, we were at a loss.  Could we do the impossible for him?

…Sometimes, when we’re not too late to mass, or wrangling a child in the entryway, we hear this song.  In it, we hear God’s voice, which has helped us to love our Thadius like He has loved us:

Without seeing you, we love you.

Without touching you, we embrace.

Without knowing you, we follow.

Without seeing you…without touching you…we believe.

Our church has supported us with a generous donation to our adoption of Thadius.  They are also donating space for a spaghetti dinner and silent auction to be held this fall.

We are looking forward to the day when Father Dale will baptize our precious little boy, with all of the children of the congregation splashing in the water, scaring their parents in the pews by leaning in just a little too far.  This church is home, because when our little boy is in our family, he will be welcomed in this family, too.  We have evidence already.  Our children are welcomed at Mass, and we will drive the half-hour for the sense of belonging we feel there.

Stopped by the State Rec area for a picnic and some play time. This may be our first full-family photo since May, and Lumpy still isn’t smiling. It’s going into the dossier, anyway!

For people who are just viewing this blog for the first time, I would invite you to read our Adoption Story so far.  It will take you through the most important posts.

If you feel called to help, please take a look at our Adoption Fundraising and Giveaways.  If you are also in the Saginaw Bay region, feel free to send me an email to biglittledays @ gmail dot com about more details on the spaghetti dinner.

***

See yesterday’s post if you’d like a (very good) chance to win $50 Disney Dollars by welcoming home a member of our Armed forces by supporting his daughter’s adoption fund.

Concerned

People who don’t know us and insult us are trolls and don’t deserve our attention.

But, people who do know us, and ask about our adoption with no interest in ever agreeing with us call themselves concerned. These are not the people who are concerned at first and want to hear how we are planning to do this, with a chance of saying “ok, then I’m pulling for you.” These are people who are concerned after we talk. They are still concerned after they read my blog. They are very concerned after they hear us “beg for money.”

The only way to explain it is that some people think it’s sinful to throw away a comfortable life for you and your kids by pursuing and bringing such a happiness time-bomb into your life.

These people don’t know about our kind of happiness. As gently as I can, I want to explain.

My kids aren’t happy because we are care-free.
My husband isn’t in love with me because I look a certain way.
I am not in love with my husband because he has a good job.
We are not secure because our bank accounts are full.
We are not promised able bodies because we were born with them.
We are not lucky because our biological children were all born healthy.

My kids are happy because we love them, discipline them, and meet their needs.
My husband is in love with me because he knows my heart.
I am in love with my husband because he is fully available to our family.
We are secure because God has promised to meet our needs.
We are promised a life bigger than any we could plan, sometimes through adversity.
We are lucky because all of our children have been hand-picked by God for us.

I know that the origin of their concern is love. But when the concern has no end, and we are willing to walk away if God sets a roadblock before us, it begs the question what should a family that rescues a child with Down syndrome from an Eastern European orphanage look like?

Should they be childless?
Should they be wealthy?
Should they have a sibling with Down syndrome?
Should they be experienced special needs caregivers?
Should they be older?
Should their children be older?

Because Reeces Rainbow alone has 500 children waiting for someone who qualifies. Are there 500 families in the United States right now who meet all of those criteria?

But how could Psalm 68:6 be true, then? God sets the lonely in families.

Well, why isn’t God doing this anymore? Why is He abandoning these children?
Oh yeah. He’s not. Families who are called don’t have the energy to fight all of their concerned relations. It’s just too radical.

And there are just so many orphans, why not pick one who has a shot at a normal life? Those “Downs babies” will never give anything back.

The mom of Andrew Banar would beg to differ. The mom of Dylan Keuhl would beg to differ. The mom of Sarah Ely would beg to differ.

And I know why these people are concerned. They see us and know we are not saints. They see us and truly believe that the reason we are happy, and they are not, is because we have everything good going for us now. Because they want our kind of happiness, which they see as founded on luck and circumstances. And we are gambling with it. Using our happiness and our children as the ante in a delusional poker game. How is this fair to our “real” children? Why can’t we just take care of what’s at home? How will we ever retire?

Your mission field is in your home already.

So, here’s what I cannot explain. Our kind of happiness does not come from events. Our kind of happiness does not come from luck, or health, or from fertility, or from money. These things only enhance our happiness. The source of our happiness is a peace in our hearts that tells us that no one is forgotten by our Maker. Our happiness created a marriage based on trust, and compassion. Our happiness allowed us to give up control over the size of our family. Our happiness sustained our decisions when we chose to birth at home. Our happiness has caused us to live a life that concerned friends and family consider far too radical to be rational.

And if what I have just said does not make your brain flood with peace, then I can never explain your concerns away. We are in this world. We are not of this world. We dare to love like God has loved us.

And in a few short weeks, you will be able to look at our precious, perfect boy. Let’s say we get all the way there, and he is not available to be adopted anymore. It doesn’t matter. If he is well, and is being loved, we will rejoice. Because we know every step we are taking is not for our personal benefit. It’s to grow the family God has placed in our care. To safeguard the child He has chosen for us. To advocate for the children we will be leaving behind.

And, if you read my words, and want this kind of happiness, but don’t want this kind of calling, it’s ok. God will never shove you into international adoption kicking and screaming. No one has ever accidentally ended up adopting except in a Hallmark movie. We offered God our lives when we committed to become a family, when we married in the Catholic church. God offered us His life when He offered His son on Calvary. If we believe that He loves us and cares for us more than we could, and loves our children–all of our children–more than we could, how is this little boy, who needs our undivided attention for three 10-day trips and a Chevy Suburban’s worth of funds, be remotely considered anything but a blessing? He asks for so little. Our city is overwhelmed with resources and opportunities, and understanding. We are not special. We are barely sacrificing. We are continuing our lives, but adding an extra child. A child who will present greater challenges because he was institutionalized for a year than because he has 47 chromosomes. We are prepared to meet these challenges as best as we can, and God will equip us for the rest.

And now, if you still consider yourself concerned, I beg you to please do so silently. Don’t talk about us to our families, don’t speak about us when we are not there. If you wanted to know, if your heart was open to change, it would happen. I will pray that it does.

But we are pursuing Thadius’ adoption because God has made a way for us to pursue it. Your continued concern will only bring unhappiness for you and separation from us.

We are not concerned at all.

***

We have been so honored to be in contact with the young men and woman mentioned above. We will be featuring Dylan’s art and Andrew’s products in our Auction to Bring Thadius Home, being held via Facebook from 8/15/12 until 8/31/12. We are delighted to share in Sarah’s passion for all things Ohio State by offering our supporters “the chance to be in the band.

Dotting the ‘i’

My husband and I are complete band nerds.  In the best way possible.  We loved our time in our respective marching bands, and will demand hope that our children will share in this incredible experience themselves some day.

A certain level of greatness is evident even in rehearsal. The uniformity of our spacing? The hunger in the eye?  Eh, not really. We were all just looking for something to do.

I used a marching band metaphor a couple of weeks ago:

(It’s) like having a football game packed around the main attraction: the half-time show.

And Thadius’ adoption is a whole half-time show. It’s script Ohio. Sure, he’s dotting the “i”, but without every member of the band, he’s just a baby dude alone on a field.

Don’t get grumpy, Wolverines ;)

We need a strong band to bring this whole production home.

And those few words and a little picture brought on a cascade of blessings, financial and spiritual, allowing me to make a wonderful contact with Joyce and Sarah.

And I had a little idea. We would like to welcome our Thadius home with a meaningful representation of the people who helped get him there.  Script Ohio-style.

Andy and I are in the works to paint a 4 ft. x 7 ft. mural of a football field on the wall in the kids’ playroom.  Our goal is to sponsor 225 “members” of the band for $10 each, which will look something like this, except drawn by, you know, someone with talent (who has been contacted, no worries):

Pick the face and instrument of your choice!

As our band gets filled, I’ll print and laminate our members, and put them on the mural to spell out the name of our sweet new boy: Thadius. Well, except his real name. Which also has an “i” in it. Woohoo!

And when we have a whole mural, and our little boy has come home, we will make sure that he is the one who gets to dot the “i” to make our journey complete, and to kick off the next part of our lives together.

Here’s how it works:

1) Donate twenty dollars for each band member you would like to sponsor to our Chip-in (not tax-deductible, but immediately available, no further action needed) or to our FSP (tax-deductible, and send me a copy of the receipt at biglittledays at g mail .com).
2) I will send you an email with directions for getting an image for your band member(s).
3) I will email you back with your completed image, your file to keep, and I will make it a (soon-to-be modified into) very cool marching band dude/dudette for our wall.
4) The band fundraiser will continue until all of the marching band members have been sponsored, with our goal being before our second trip to court in (hopefully) late fall.

And for those of you who still have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, I present The Best Damn Band in the Land, doing what it does best: