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.

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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.

To Call You Mine

Looking for that adoption blog we were going to set up?  We’ve moved it!  To right here!

Thanks for reading!

The next post has some GREAT info about our little one!

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Welcome friends, family, and new readers!

So, here’s the first thing first, that big announcement you were promised…

We are adopting a baby.

With Down syndrome.

From overseas.

And that’s all we can tell you just yet.  As you may know, this is a big change in plans for us.  But we saw this precious little one’s face.  And we knew.

Because this baby is waiting right now.  For a family.  To feel wanted.  To never be alone again.

And no one else may be coming.

So we can’t continue pursuing a domestic adoption when God has opened our eyes, and is making the path straight to do this crazy thing.

And my little one, I hope someday soon you will know.  Your dad and I are committed to do what it takes to hold you against our hearts, and to call you mine.

Preschool Graduate!

Eight months ago I dropped my big little 4-year old off for his first day of preschool.

JR’s first day of preschool, September 2011


Today I dropped off my big little 5-year old for his last day.
Last day of preschool, May 2012
Congratulations to JR, my big boy who was nervous about reading his five words, “We learn how to read,” at the play today. He was bashful, but he did it.

Proud Graduate!


Some people criticize preschool graduations as being overly indulgent. But, I think they’re great. Give them a taste of what finishing school with a job well done feels like.

One little step for a whole life of learning.

Next stop: Homeschool Kindergarten!

Why Now?

One of the biggest concerns my family had when we told them we were adopting a child with Down Syndrome was “why now?”.  Wouldn’t it be more prudent, fairer to the other children, if we waited until baby Hoss was five or six?  This baby might need a lot of our time and energy, and right now our time and energy is the kids’ time and energy.

The biggest reason we are ready now is because I am still nursing Hoss, who turned one last week.  Actually, we first called an adoption agency last year, when Hoss was just a few weeks old, knowing the adoption process might take two years.  I have always had it in my heart to seamlessly bring an adoptive child into our family, bonded, completely one of us, and without barriers.  Nursing is in line with this dream.

But, last year, we were told that a mother with a healthy baby (of any color) always asks for the same thing: a couple who couldn’t have children biologically.  It would be unethical to take our money and start a homestudy.

That’s when a friend gave us the link to Reece’s Rainbow.  Our hearts were moved by these children halfway around the world, desperately in need of a family to call their own.  A friend of a friend, Heidi, is actually raising money now to bring her own little boy home through this incredible organization.  We looked, but knew that these children were going to be closer to a year old by the time we brought them home.

Was there a child who might need a family from birth?

When Heidi’s blog went active in March to drum up support and finances for her Peter, Reece’s Rainbow appeared on my Facebook screen again.  Could we be the parents to one of the incredible children?  How could we ever choose?  They would certainly be too old to nurse, but what’s nursing matter when they have no future there? [UPDATE: I WAS SO WRONG ABOUT THIS! Read Jenny’s story.]

And just a few days later, we stumbled across the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network.  Obviously not a web-saavy organization, they spend their time on the phones, counseling prospective birth families and helping them decide if an adoption plan (what used to be called “giving a child up for adoption”) is right for them.  They also keep a database of families, like mine, who would love to provide a home to one of these children.  The woman laughed when I told her, apologetically, that we have quite a large family, with 4 kids, ages 6 and under.  “That’s not a large family around here!”  she said.  (Oh, God–what a healing ointment in those words!)

And so, we have requested to be considered as an adoptive family to a newborn who might need mom’s milk (DS kiddos often have correctable digestive problems at birth, but struggle with formula), but mostly, who might need a family like ours.

We want to be the parents to a child who will be the next child in birth-order, who will be in the same generation–and not separate from–his or her brothers and sisters.

Also, close friends know that we have some unique emotional and physical concerns about having more children.  But, in our marriage vows, we committed to being open to life.  We have kept every single one of our vows, and it has made us exceedingly happy.  How could this one be wrong, too?  We are remaining open to life.

We know our friends and family may have to fill in the gaps for childcare with the special needs that may take precedence over our lives for a while.  Homeschooling will also help facilitate the adoption, as our schedules will be much more flexible than traditionally schooling families (counting down the weeks until the end of preschool, or as I call it, the 12:20/2:50 time bomb).  I also bought a new pump on Monday and a boat-load of “in the trenches” books from Amazon.  We have a small network of five families in our town with young children who have DS.

We are actively preparing the best way we can.

So, to sum it up:

  • We’re hoping to adopt a newborn domestically child from Eastern Europe.
  • We’re picking the time to be now so that baby can nurse, just like he or she was designed to do.
  • We want our children to see their new brother or sister as one of them because of his or her close age.
  • We would be getting ready for a new baby in the next year, anyway.  There is no peace in being pregnant or childbirth for us anymore.

And lastly, my dream for the world is that there is such a line of people waiting to bring home every child that can’t be parented by his or her biological parents, that no one waits for more than a few hours, while we grown-ups scramble to seamlessly bring each child home.  If our family can help make that dream a reality for one child, we must.

Now is the time.

The 10%

When 9 out of 10 dentists agree on a toothpaste, we buy it.

When a funky new chair goes on 90% off, we find a spot for it.

When our gas tank is down to 9/10ths of a tank, we fill up.

Let’s face it, Target has been trying to pawn off 30% as clearance for years now, and I have stopped even browsing those racks.  But 90%?  90% gets us to move.  We act quickly to snatch up the item valued for ten times what we could now purchase it for, we know that 9/10ths gone is a tank in need of refueling, and 9 out of 10 experts is as close to a consensus that we are going to come to in most of our lives.

But this particular 90% is a statistic that has changed my life.  Our lives.  Forever.  For better.  For best.

This 90% has rocked Andy and me to the fundamentals of our faith, our family, and our sacred honor.  This 9 out of 10 has pursued me in my internet searches, and consumed my thoughts in the infrequent quiet of our long car rides, in the every day conversations with our cashier, with the moms at the preschool pick-up line.

I don’t want to break your heart, but I will, if it gets you to move.  Because it has broken me.  Us.

An estimated 90% of all children diagnosed prenatally with Down Syndrome are aborted.

Never given a chance at life.

Never given a chance at all.

When 90% of a tree frog population is killed off, fundraisers happen, environmentalists go wild, and patient local capitalists protect them through ecotourism.

When 90% of a group of people are killed for their genetic makeup, however, it is genocide.  Many people consider the only “cure” for Trisomy 21 is detecting it early enough to terminate a viable life.  It also terminates a complex, challenging, and rewarding new family.

But, the darkness of these statistics isn’t what makes us act.  It’s what breaks us.  Our faith makes us move.

So, last month, it was time we faced two choices.  We could accept how beautifully our family works as is, four healthy kids, a great home we’re affording, giving generously, sponsoring impoverished children.  We could live happily in this life as a given, living in the gift.  Or we could rock the boat and trust that the One who made all this possible can give us enough to love one more.

One of the 10%.

One of the children whose mother saw something, somewhere that made her say “not me, but someone.”

We want to be the someone.

We are opening our homes and our finances up to be considered by just such a remarkable woman.  For one such remarkable child.  For one such stubborn child.  For one such loving child who may hold the potential to see the world through God’s eyes.  For one child who might introduce us to the NICU, who might require surgery, who might need physical therapy, but who will, obviously, have the benefit of his mother’s breastmilk.

We are laying the groundwork (ok, paperwork) to become the parents of five children, one of whom will not start life from our DNA or grow in my body.  One who will start life in our hearts.

One who will rock an extra chromosome.

One who may not even be born yet.

One who will knock us into the deep end.

It’s ok, we’re strong swimmers.

And without us, without families waiting in line for these children, the next one just might go into the deep end alone.

Wouldn’t you go after him, too?

A year ago, there were three things I thought were for someone more inspired, less mediocre, more brilliant, far stronger than me to aspire to.  And today, I am not sure how I could have been so wrong, because today, that person is me.

I am homeschooling.

I am running my first half-marathon on Saturday.

We are adopting a baby who has the potential to change everything.  For the best.

Hmm, that last one makes the others sound so lame.

Summer Breeze

A few months back, in the cooling sunshine at the start of what would surely become a very bad winter, I took the youngest three out for a farewell trip to our favorite park. As we packed up to go, the first promising snow tapped against the windshield, chasing us away. I wistfully pondered who these children would be in the spring, after the mandatory winter furlough.

And this week, I got my answer. The pathetically warm winter, stunted by a rogue arctic front, kept the cold at bay for all but a few days. The March I expected was a wet version of freezing, but the reality has been, well, balmy, sunny, and summer.

And, as I bring my blog out of hibernation, I found us at our favorite park much earlier than expected.  The kids are definitely changed, but for the better, more loveable, more disciplined, and more rambunctious versions of themselves after their little season’s worth of growing up.

Sweet Hoss is a crawling, engaging, babbling little tyrant. A baby who knows that if he can avoid eye contact, he can bulldoze a few feet further into his mischief. He most resembles a baby triceratops, barreling his way through the kitchen, banging on the windows, and doing everything he can to get the big kids to follow him.

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JR is ever precocious, but oddly, a more obedient version of himself. His penchant for superheroes now is the center of all his play, and most of his conversations. He’s too tough to pose for pictures anymore.
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Lumpy is a ringleader. She’s under the table, swinging the chandelier, and climbing the couch backs before I can say good morning. Her hugs leave bruises, and sometimes she stops in the middle of a sentence to say “I love you, Mommy,” and I don’t think you can help but agree with just about everything she says. Every day she wins my heart.

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And Cal. Last time she was playing on some other playground, far away from my camera, from my melodramatic musings about a life I hold, but don’t own. But today, I’m pretty happy that she isn’t in a world without me, even for a few hours…just yet. And she’s wonderful, and homeschooling is working out well for us, and no, this is not becoming a homeschool blog. And, my six year old has fashion sense and sass and a deep love of George Washington.  This is the start of something better.

As for me, I am still running, training for a half-marathon, that I should really be taking more seriously.  Homeschooling has simplified my life, and I am thinking of going out into public two days a week.  Maybe.  My blogging and Facebook hiaitus have caused me to stop experiencing the sweetest parts of my life in witty one-liners and Fred Savage/Daniel Stern-like worldly insight.  But, I have to say, my day is much more fun to get started in the morning when all night I’ve been thinking of that perfect line to settle the muck I kicked up looking for lessons in the mud of a day filled with rain.