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Reece’s Rainbow Christmas Angel Tree Project

angel-tree-logo-blue.jpg As many of you know, our family is adopting a child through Reece’s Rainbow and a while ago, The Mom Crowd hosted a raffle to help bring another child from Reece’s Rainbow home.  You can catch up with this beautiful family and their new daughter, Addison {AKA: Nika} at their family blog.  Is that enough “hyperlinking” for ya?

I wanted to take a moment to share with you about Reece’s Rainbow and their mission.  Reece’s Rainbow is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to raise awareness regarding the plight of children with Down syndrome in foreign orphanages and their availability to be adopted, to raise adoption grants for waiting children, to seek out adoptive families for these children, to help adopting families during their adoption process with fund raising opportunities and paperwork assistance {and emotional support-I threw that one in!}, to provide humanitarian aid to foreign orphanages, to facilitate support groups for birth parents of children with Down syndrome to help decrease the number of children placed in orphanages, and to enact social change abroad about children with Down syndrome and other special needs through the testimony of adoption.

In 2006, Reece’s Rainbow expanded from an outreach program for families with children with Down syndrome in Atlanta to an organization promoting international adoption of children with Down syndrome.   In the short two years since beginning this new focus, over 120 children with Down syndrome and other special needs have found forever families with the help of Reece’s Rainbow. As of June 2008, they have dispersed over $86,000 to adopting families and have waiting children with substantial grants ready for their prospective parents.  Many orphans around the world are not receiving adequate nutrition and health care.  In Eastern European and other countries, orphans with Down syndrome are commonly transferred to mental institutions if they are not adopted by the age of four. After they are transferred, most die within the first year from lack of basic care.

There is a special way you can help Reece’s Rainbow fulfill their mission.  Every year, Reece’s Rainbow hosts a Christmas Angel Tree Project.  Right now, you can see every child with Down syndrome waiting for a family through Reece’s Rainbow and sponsor one or more of them for Christmas.  With every $35 donation, you will receive a special ornament with a picture of the child you are sponsoring for Christmas.  Will you consider sponsoring an orphan with Down syndrome this Christmas?  In order to receive an ornament, donations must be received by December 15th.  Please visit their site today and help bring an orphan home for Christmas!

Incredibly True Traveling Stories: a Q & A with Moms

Last week, our family had several days with no plans.  Pre-school was out due to fall break.  Playgroup fell through.  By Friday, the kids & I were going a bit crazy.  So I did what I don’t normally do: I packed them up for an outing, just the 3 of us.  After about 90 minutes, we were back home, and I said, “That’s why I don’t go out alone with the kids.”  At the time, I felt totally justified in this.  I mean, come on: my kids are 2 & 1.  The park is a big place, the slides are fast & scary, the threat of injuries & falls is ever-present.  I was exhausted chasing them both around.  My daughter walked right into my son’s moving swing and got cold-cocked in the face.  Cue the crying in pain.  Not ten minutes later, she had a major face-plant on the ground when trying to climb into her carseat (big ole bump & bruise to prove it).  More distress followed.  To cheer Lucy up, I took them to the library for fall craft day “for a quick minute”.  It was fun, but difficult, as many of you can attest, to help Lucy use a glue stick with my squirmy son on my lap.  (I gave him what I hope was a non-toxic marker and let him go to town on his hands.)

But after hearing what some of my friends have been up to lately (or reading their Facebook statuses, rather), I realized I am pretty much a lazy wuss.

Enter Sharon, Jenny, and Amy, my three new heroes.  Sharon lives in Israel with her family as missionaries, and she came back to the States for an extended visit while hubby remains overseas in seminary.  Jenny is traveling from San Antonio to Pittsburgh over the course of two weeks, visiting friends, with her two children in tow.  Oh, and she’s pregnant.  Amy is headed to Arizona with her family for a job relocation.  Her fourth child was born just months ago.  When they commented on their amazing itineraries, I had to ask them a few things… just in case I’m ever daring enough to venture out with my children past a five-mile radius.

Let’s start with the basic details: how many kids do you have, what are their ages, and were you traveling with your spouse? 

Sharon: I have two children, ages 4 and 1.  Although we’ve done this flight many times, this was the first one without hubby along to help.  


Jenny: I have two kids, 4 and 1, and one on the way.  No, my husband is not traveling with us on the way up; he’ll actually meet us in eastern PA (where he’s traveling solo for work) and drive home with us.


Amy: I have four children, ages 6, 4, 2 1/2 and 3 months!  Yes, I was with my husband!  (I tried a trip once with the 3 kids while I was pregnant – it was a nightmare!)


How far did you travel/are you traveling? 

Sharon: We traveled over seven THOUSAND miles!

Jenny: We will have driven over 1,700 miles when we meet up with my husband and head back home.

Amy: We are in the middle of driving from Virginia to Arizona (it’s about four days). [Editor's note: Virginia to Arizona is roughly 2,185 miles.]

What was/were the primary mode(s) of transportation?

Sharon: We flew from Israel to Houston (with a stopover in Germany), then drove from Houston to San AntonioLufthansa is awesome by the way; best airline coffee I’ve ever had! 

Jenny: 2001 Honda Odyssey!

Amy: All 6 of us are riding in the comfort of our 2001 Mazda MPV (I’m pretty sure it’s the smallest mini-van out there). 

What were your worries going into this time of travel?  What steps did you take to alleviate your anxiety?

Sharon: My primary concern was keeping the kids occupied on the longer flight (10 1/2 hours in an airplane is a long time!).  I was also worried about my son wandering off in the airport (which he has done before).  So, I drilled into my son the importance of staying next to mommy and helping me take care of his baby sister.  He did beautifully!  And I tried to pack a lot of things to keep the kids entertained.  The airlines provided a pack of cards for my son, so we got to play MANY games of Go Fish.  The baby was a little bit harder.  She basically took a lot of cat naps, and I would take her to the back of the plane to crawl around when she got bored in her seat. 

Jenny: Mostly I was concerned about the kids’ antsiness and impatience during the longer stretches in the car.  So I just really made sure that we had a variety of activities to keep them busy.  We brought crayons, coloring books, dolls, books, cds, and toys.  And when all of that didn’t work, it was time to use the dvd player (and I didn’t feel one bit guilty!).  I also made sure I listened to them, and when it seemed like things were getting to be too much, we took breaks to run around and play. 

Amy: One of my biggest worries was having to travel with sick kids.  That was one reason why my last trip with the kids alone went so badly.  Two weeks before leaving, I made everyone wash their hands 50 times a day, take their vitamins, I prayed daily about it, and I wouldn’t let anyone who seemed sick near them!  Two days before we left, my 4-year old ended up with a fever and a sore throat.  Ugh!  We hit the road while “praying without ceasing” for our sick, whiny little girl.  A few hours into the trip, she perked up and was fine!  Praise God! 

Any close calls or major stress-filled moments?

Sharon: Just exhaustion.  I probably slept about two hours during a 24-hour period.  Oh, and we almost missed our plane in Germany!  Fortunately, that flight was delayed, so we made it without a problem. 

Jenny: It’s always hard to mediate a fight or change a dvd while driving, so there were a few near-misses where I had to swerve back into my own lane! :)

Amy: None whatsoever, unless you count getting stuck in traffic for 30 minutes in Jackson, MS, while having to pee!  I was seriously thinking about grabbing a diaper! 

What got you through the journey?

Sharon: Knowing that it was temporary. 

Jenny: Knowing that at the end of the trip, I get to see my best friends.

Amy: God did. :)   Admittedly, we did use the dvd player a few times.  We also had little gifts from a friend to open throughout the day.  Each gift was a little activity the kids could do to occupy them for a short time.  I also brought my manual breast pump so I could bottle-feed the baby in the car.  That way we only had to stop for food and potty breaks. 

Would you do it again?

Sharon: Well, I kind of need to, since I’ll be flying home with them in December.  But, after that… I’m waiting until they’re a little bit older! 

Jenny:  I’m only halfway through, but it’s definitely been worth it.  So that’s a yes.

Amy: Umm, not unless I had to!  It’s tough, but we do bond as a family and it’s great seeing the sights of our great country as we drive to our new home.  Maybe we’ll do it again after we buy our RV - ha ha! 


So I’ll officially shut up now about how it’s so much work to take the kids to the park or store by myself.  ;)  

What are your travel stories?  How have you survived long-distance flights or road trips with young children?  Is the Mazda MPV the smallest mini-van out there?

Go on a Babymoon Before the Baby Comes

by Amanda on September 30, 2008
category: Pregnancy,Travel

canoeing.jpg My husband and I are discussing where we want to go on our second Babymoon. A babymoon is simply a little vacation that you take with your spouse to enjoy your time together before the baby arrives. I remember hearing about the idea of a vacation to enjoy your time together before your world is turned upside down and I thought it was a fabulous idea. We love to travel, so this seemed like the perfect excuse to take a vacation.

Our plans for our first babymoon started grand with a week in Paris. Then the trip got downgraded to a weekend in New York City, then we decided to drive to Austin for a weekend, then we came to our final decision to just drive north into the Texas hill country and see where we landed. The weekend turned out wonderfully spontaneous in our Mustang convertible. Little did I know that that would be one of the last times we could go for a ride with the top down. Driving with my windows down on the Camry just isn’t quite the same.

We found a hotel and mentioned that we were on a babymoon. Then the front desk clerk gave us a deal on the room. The next day we found a hole in the wall BBQ place playing John Wayne movies. As we walked around Inks Lake I saw an old couple in blue jeans canoeing. I thought that if they could do it, then I could canoe eight months pregnant. Rowing around the lake was the highlight of my entire weekend.

We took our trip about two months before I was due. I actually felt infinitely better towards the end of my pregnancy, than in the beginning. My friend took her babymoon towards the beginning of her pregnancy before she got uncomfortably huge. I don’t think it matters when you take your babymoon, just as long you do one.

Taking the time to be together and not worry about commitments or the future was invigorating. We appreciated the peace of the trip before we got back to painting the nursery, birth planning, and sleepless nights. Of course I miss the spontaneity of being a DINK, but I really feel like we celebrated the end of our childless phase with our babymoon. I am glad we took the opportunity to take a small trip with just the two of us. Now we will be taking our second babymoon, before we become a family with two children under the age of two (at least for two months)! I want to appreciate the quiet of only one child, before my life becomes even more full of the joys of parenting.

How about you did you do anything special before the baby came?

Raffle Winners!

by McKenna on September 28, 2008
category: Down syndrome,Inspiration,Special needs,Travel,Uncategorized

img_4082a.jpg Congratulations!  Over sixty of you bought a whole lot of raffle tickets and I’m so happy that we were able to help the Balsis family in this way!!  They are now home from their first trip to Russia and have met a little girl who has Down syndrome and will be bringing her home very soon.  Addison Veronika is the cutest thing ever!  She is going to be two years old next month.  While our raffle is closed, they still have a lot of expenses coming their way with another trip to Russia and the costs of finalizing their adoption.  If you would like to follow the Balsis family and/or financially support their adoption, you can do so by visiting their adoption blog: Dreaming on an Angel.

Before I announce the lucky ducky winners of our fantastic prizes, I want to send a big THANK YOU to the sponsors and co-hosts of this raffle!  I am blown away by the generosity of others and grateful for your support for this special family’s adoption journey.  Thank you so much, from the bottom of our hearts!

Now onto the big announcement!  All winners have been notified by email as well.  Congratulations!!

  • Shay K.- Serena and Lily Rory Crib Set
  • Amelia S. -  Dear Johnnies Robe and Gown Set
  • Vanessa B. – UPPAbaby G-Lite Stroller
  • Judith D. – UPPAbaby G-Lite Stroller
  • Amy A. – Born to Love Pink Argyle Visor Beanie
  • Shylo U. – Bella Tunno Circus Spots Chalk Placemat
  • Claudine E. – JessiJeanJewelry Blue Swirl Glass Pendent
  • Julie O. – Ellie Bellie Kids Lavender/Lime Tutu
  • Kim D. – SlickSugar Guitar Tee
  • Williams Violet – Cuddlebee Brown Dot Bib and Burp set
  • Robert B. – JP Lizzy Sprout Tote
  • Cheri P.  – BabyRock Apparel Sorry Boys tee
  • Brian R. – Baby K’tan Camo Baby Carrier
  • Michael G. – Made By Angie Primary Dots Wipes Case
  • Kristie B. – Itzy Ritzy Bitzy Blanket in Black Damask andBlack Minky Dot
  • Shylo U. – Paperluxe Studio Set of 24 Notecards
  • Aimee B. – BabyRock Apparel Heart and Crossbones Shoes
  • Breanna P. – Born To Love Tan Visor Beanie
  • Sherry F. – Baby Rock Apparel Sweetheart Onesie
  • Jessica S. – Wet happened? Carnival Bloom Wetbag
  • Natalia D. -  Baby Rock Apparel Preschool Tee
  • Amy A. – Clairebella Candy Stripe Blue Moses Basket
  • Jenna P. – Mia Moda Ciello Stroller
  • Brigitte V. – Bella Tunno Sweet Tooth Play Smock
  • Debbie B. – Born To Love Pink Visor Beanie
  • Sherry H.  – Cuddlebee Fun Dot Bib and Burp Set
  • Naomi S. – Baby Rock Apparel Angelic Onesie
  • Kara S. – Ellie Bellie Kids Mocha Messenger Bag
  • Carmen M.  – Little Showoffs Myself Tee
  • Colleen B. – Little Showoffs Rock Star Newborn Onesie
  • Craig G. – Ribbies Hair Clippies
  • Jodi R. – Sarabear Havana Diaper Caddy
  • Sherry F. – Mairzey Dotes Dotty Bird Bib and Burp Set
  • Jennifer S. – Pink Axel Peace Beanie
  • Jeanette W. – Pink Axel Peace Beanie
  • Kari B. – Georgie Tees Let’s Get Smashed Onesie

Taking the Baby to the Beach

Recently our family had the opportunity to take a little vacation (or vay-cay, as I’ve been continuously calling it) to Panama City Beach, Florida.  We have not gone anywhere together as a family in about a year, and we were due some days of quiet away from home.  Thankfully, a family from our church let us use their beach house free of charge!  So we loaded up our car and hit the road.

dsc04809-1.JPG The house we were in was perfect for the kids.  They were so enamored with the sun room up front that they weren’t the least bit interested in opening the cabinet doors and nooks & crannies throughout the house.  We brought one baby gate, which was perfect to block them out of the bathroom; they had free reign everywhere else.  It was a little one-level bungalow right across the street from the water.  All we had to do was cross the street and hike through about 10 yards of sand to see the waves.  To top it off, the beach was “private”!  So there was no one else around for great distances.  Nice!

The first morning we were there, we suited up and got lathered in our sunscreen, donning our hats and looking good.  I even had a new swimsuit to wear (Wow!  We’re talking 3 years, people, since I’ve cared about that at all…)  The kids were ecstatic to use their new sand shovel and beach toys.  I brought a blanket, Dave remembered the umbrella for shade.  We were set.  I was thinking we’d be there for a couple of hours and then go back to the house for lunch.

Except that two hours was about 90 minutes too long.  Turns out, the kids were kinda freaked out by the waves and had no interest in getting wet.  This didn’t stop me from trying to get them in the water, mind you.  I held Eli and tried to let him get a little cooled off as the waves lapped up.  One little splash of saltwater on his face was all it took to convince him he didn’t like it.  They weren’t quite sure what to do about the sand, either, though that was easier for them to handle.  And boy, was it hot.  Upper 90s, sticky and humid.  The only enjoyment Dave and I found was when we could individually step away for quick little dips into the water.  (My swimsuit was great – stayed in place and everything!  Score!)


After 20 minutes of playing in the sand, Lucy was soaked from sweat.  Poor girl was so hot.   But she was not going in that water.  It became clear that if we weren’t going to swim, we might as well go back to the house.  Otherwise, we were going to melt away into the Gulf.  We didn’t have access to a swimming pool, which would have changed the way we spent our days completely.  Instead, we cleaned ourselves up and decided to see what else the beach town had to offer, which turned out to be a lot.  We enjoyed fun window shopping and cruising along the strip, and the kids weren’t too traumatized to head back to our beach in the evening hours to collect sea shells and watch the sun go down. 

On our last day, we decided to drive a little further east and see St. Andrews Park.  We didn’t know what we were going to find, honestly, but we brought a picnic lunch.  It turns out we should have brought our swimsuits, too, because we found this:


It was utterly kid-friendly, this little wading area for families.  It was like “Beach for Beginners”, and Lucy loved it.  She and Dave wandered around for awhile and ended up swimming in their clothes for about an hour.  Oh, how I wished we knew about this from the start!  We would have done this on the first day and then she probably would have warmed up to the “big waves” at our beach not much longer after that.  Eli would have enjoyed sitting around in the shallowest parts of the water with me, too.  Oh well.  Maybe next time.

Looking back, I realized we did lots of things right on our kids’ first beach trip:

  • We packed everything we needed for beach fun: towels, blankets, toys, sunscreen, beverages, and the camera.
  • We knew not to include eating while on the beach.  Nothing’s worse than a sand-covered snack!  We scheduled beach time around eating times.
  • We kept a flexible and positive attitude with every activity.
  • We all looked really good.  Seriously, we’re a family with good fashion sense. :)   (Okay, I’m reaching, here…)

Here is what I learned to do for next time:

  • Research what there is to do before leaving home!  Had we done this, we would have known how to introduce beachy fun to our young ones in a more effective manner.
  • If possible, go in a month when it’s not quite as hot.  The water was a great temperature for swimming, but it was sweltering outside of it.  We looked for shade at every opportunity.

Some links on the subject:

What about you, moms?  How have your beach endeavors fared this summer?  Any stories or tips that you’d like to share?

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