Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Jojo's 1st year. There are some things you need to know....

Jojo had an amazing year!

We have said time and again that we can't remember a time when he was not a part of our family. He just fits and we are all so in love with him!

Expecting a baby with Down syndrome? 

One of the biggest challenges of having a baby with Down syndrome is working with them to meet their milestones. Things that "typical" babies do naturally don't happen as easily for our babies. We have to work for them. So, for those expecting a baby with Down syndrome, or thinking of adopting, I thought I would share some of Jojo's first year milestones with you.

9 weeks- rolls over
3 months-bringing hands to mid line
4 months-ate first solid food and started sleeping through the night
6 months- started sitting up in a propped position and learned to hold his own bottle
7 months- sitting up without being propped
10 months- started pulling up
10 1/2 month- finally figured out how to crawl!
1 year- army crawling all over the house!

Of course those are just the broad strokes, and every baby is different, but you may notice that he really isn't behind at all! That is because we go to therapy twice a week, and work on his goals at home. Another contributing factor is that he hasn't had any major health problems, which does set many babies back.

Considering adopting a child with special needs domestically?

These are the things "they" don't tell you.

They may not sound like a big deal to some people, but to me they were HUGE so I wanted to share just in case it could help someone else.

I was actually in the process of finishing my foster care licensing when I got chosen to be Jojo's mom. I had only 2 months to get my home study done, lots of paperwork filled out, and lots of money raised! So I really didn't have time to ask a lot of questions. But, if I had been in a position where I was considering adopting a child with special needs from the US, these are the things I would have wanted someone to tell me:

-If you are a foster parent to a child, and that child cannot be re-united with family, you can adopt them. And it is FREE. Free. (this goes for non special needs kids too)

-When you adopt a child with any special need (emotional, behavioral, physical etc) from the US, you qualify for an adoption subsidy from your State. You can learn more about what your state offers here. Let me be clear, this amount of money will not make you rich lol but it is helpful when paying for therapies etc.

-Adopted children who have special needs and many kids who are adopted from foster care get FREE insurance. Like as in I pay nothing for Jojo's health care. Free.

*Disclaimer: this is clearly not an exhaustive list of all the things you should know. I am also NOT suggesting that these things should motivate anyone to pursue adopting a child with special needs. That would be cray. No representation is made that the quality of adoption advice by me is better than the quality of adoption advice from others. Some exclusions may apply. Tax, title and tag not included. 

This I know to be true: Jojo has forever changed us all. He blesses people in ways I would have never imagined. People tell me ALL THE TIME that just seeing pictures of him makes their day. He it truly a blessing to many!!

This kid is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

If you are considering adoption or just want to have your day made, watch this video. It will shed some light on what "special needs" REALLY means when it comes to adoption! I am proud to have had a part in making it, my kids are in it, and Aidan is the narrator!



Project Hopeful: Adoption is Redemption from Lantern Vision on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Dear Birth Mom, Happy Mothers Day.

I am the one who changes his diapers.

I take him to therapy,
to help him build his strength.

I wipe his snotty nose and take
him to the doctor when he is sick.

I get up with him in the middle of the night.

I make the bottles, wash the bottles
and repeat over and over again.

I have the distinct privilege of watching him
grow every single day.

I will love him all the days of my life.

But you.....

You gave him life.

You made a choice that many
would never be brave enough to make.

You made a choice that many do not make.

You gave him life.

You made the most selfless sacrifice
that any person can make.

You chose him above yourself.

For that I will be eternally grateful.

You are a hero in my eyes and in the eyes
of everyone who meets him.

He is a little world changer, and that would not
be possible without you.

I pray every day that my life, your life, and his
life will bring Glory to God.

You made a difference.

You gave him life!

Happy Mothers Day!


Jenny and Jojo


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mercedes Marathon Weekend: From the other side.

We are no strangers to the Mercedes Marathon weekend.

Aidan in Kindergarten. He had strep throat but I made him run anyway....for some reason he hasn't wanted to do it since......

Ella Mae in Kindergarten! (I don't know why I look so mad in that pic)

I even ran the 5K last year....just for fun. Hmmmm.

Little did I know that one day, this weekend would mean so much more to me. I had no idea that one day I would not only be a Bell Runner, but a Bell Center parent!

It hit me like a ton of bricks on Sunday while waiting at my relay exchange point.

All of the Bell Runners (people who sign up to run for a specific child and raise funds for the Bell Center) wear the picture of "their" Bell Center child on their backs.

But I was wearing a picture of MY child on my back. 

Not a child I am running for but MY child.

One dad tweeted this after the race: 

Oh my heart. 

The very idea that not only my team members, but so many other runners participated to help MY CHILD. The Mercedes Marathon is the biggest fundraiser of the year for The Bell Center and because of the funds that were raised (and continue to be raised), my son has learned to sit up almost totally on his own, is almost crawling, and will eventually learn to walk. He is able to hold his own bottle, communicate (mostly babbling but that is age appropriate), eat baby food with no problems. These are things that as a parent of a typical child, I used to take for granted. Now, as a parent of a child with Down syndrome, each and every milestone is celebrated. Simple things that most kids do on their own, many kids with Down syndrome and other special needs have a hard time accomplishing. Without Early Intervention help, many kids fall way behind in their development..... BUT, because of the Bell Center and our wonderful team, Jojo is right on track and doing EVERYTHING he should be for his age. 

So enjoy some pictures from this years race weekend! Thank you SO MUCH to all who donated, thank you to my amazing team, and to my mom for helping me navigate the insanity with 3 kids!

Oh, and if you want to pitch in and be part of helping Jojo and so many others reach their potential, there is still time....just click the link below.

They have capes for all the kids! So cute....ready to run!
Aidan and Ella Mae pushing Jojo in the Bell Kids run

Bell Center graduates and siblings race. Call me cray but pretty sure Aidan won!

Jojo biting his medal to make sure it is real.

Ella Mae and I ready to run her mile in the 1st grade kids race.

Finish line!

She did it!

Team JOJO!!!!!



Thursday, February 20, 2014

Birmingham Parent Magazine Article

This is the article that ran in Birmingham Parent Magazine in November! As long as the link stays live you can view it here.....but I wanted to post it on my blog too so I wouldn't ever lose it!


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

It is FINISHED. An update on Jojo!

Time flies.

I cannot BELIEVE he is almost 8 months old!

Jojo and I went back to Texas in January to finalize his adoption and to celebrate Lili's birthday in January. We ran in to one MINOR snafoo when we realized at the last minute that the finalization would happen in Forth Worth, which happens to not so much be the same, or even remotely close to Houston. Woopsie.

We had a great visit anyway and were able to finalize over the phone, so all is well that ends well!

After mountains of paperwork (this is domestic, imagine what International looks like), many prayers, 3+ weeks spent in Texas, lots of money (mostly donated by many of you) and tons of TRUST that God would work out all the details it is finally finished!

 "As if the child had been born to the Petitioner" (that's me). Be still my heart.

We had a celebratory dinner at the same place we went for Jojo's first night out. Of course we had to recreate the pic. Lili has that face DOWN. ; - )

I do hear from "T" (Jojo's birth mom) from time to time. She has a new job and seems to be doing well so that is a huge blessing!

Jojo is having early intervention therapy at The Bell Center here in Birmingham and it has been AMAZING. He is hitting all of his goals like a champ! We are currently working on crawling, and he can prop to sit up! We just finished the Mercedes Marathon this past weekend to raise money for The Bell Center....update on that coming soon!

Aside from that Jojo is just like any other baby but we love him like he hung the moon! If you want to see pics (pretty much daily lol) of Jojo, follow us on Instagram (link on top right of this page)!

We are so blessed to watch this sweet boy grow.....and grow...and grow!



Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Gospel and snot.

I have had a few rough nights with the baby lately. Jojo had a nasty cold resulting in my "typically sleep through the night no problem" baby (I know it's not fair but I don't want to talk about it for fear I might jinx it) turning into an "I can't breathe and am miserable and want the household to know about it" baby.

For the parents who haven't recently had a super snotty tiny baby, and for those of you who have yet to be blessed with snotty children, let me paint the picture for you:

Babies can't blow their noses.

So when they have snot we have the pleasure of shooting saline out of a pressurized container up their noses until they feel like they are drowning, then we suck it out with a bulb syringe in HIGH HOPES that the mountains of snot in their little heads will come out and not just the saline we just shot up in there. Typically it is just the saline.To make matters worse there is no "dry it up" medicine babies can take.

Then when bed time rolls around, we prop one end of their bed up as high as we can without them sliding all the way to the other end with one movement. We position the humidifier so it is blowing a steady stream of watery air all over them, and we PRAY that they will sleep.

They usually don't sleep because they can't breathe. They can't breathe because their noses are so stopped up and their little brains aren't mature enough yet to realize that if they would just open their mouths they would be able to breathe just fine. I lay there in the room next to him wanting to scream out


And then God whispered to my heart.....

"That is how I feel about each of my children. Those who won't accept my Gospel. If they would just allow me in, and let ME lead their lives, things would be so much better."

I know what you are thinking....following God isn't easy. It is a bunch of rules that I have to follow....HOW does that make my life better? And I know why you think that....because it is what you have probably been taught it either growing up in a legalistic church, or by the example of your Christian friends. Here is the problem....it is not true.

Let God in. Let Him be the Lord of your life. He WILL prove Himself faithful to you again and again and you will WANT to follow Him. He will change your hearts desires. Just as a wife gladly submits to her husband because of the way in which he lays his life down for her (yes ladies I said the "S" word....move past it). Once your relationship with Him becomes real......everything will change.....for the better.

Life won't always be easy, but it will be joyful....if you just breathe Him in......



Sunday, November 3, 2013

I know why you THINK you can't adopt or be involved in foster care.

Orphan Sunday 2013.

(On this day last year, I announced on my blog that I was officially starting the process to adopt a child with Down syndrome. I would have NEVER imagined that a short 71/2 months later that baby would be born and become mine.)

I know why you think you can't do it, because I used to think it too.

And I know why we think that way.

One reason is that we have convinced ourselves that we are not "called". Our Western churches teach us that we are required to show up for church each week, and give money to support that church. We are required to be "good people" so we can make it to heaven. The rest, we are told, is based on "being called".

No need to go on a mission trip if you are not called.
No need to help the poor unless you feel called.
No reason to reach out to widows if you don't feel called.
Worst of all we have been taught that we can spread the Gospel just by our actions or inviting someone to church. If you don't feel called to open your mouth and spread the Good News, then that is cool. Leave it to the missionaries and the preachers who feel "called" to share the Gospel.

That mindset is where I believe our attitude towards adoption and foster care was born. It is optional. It is not my problem unless I feel called. Leave it to the people who do feel called.

The second reason is very simple. Americans have an idea of what raising children is supposed to look like, and adding kids from hard places into that mix will just plain mess things up.

Newborn babies have to look like this:

And they have to come home from the hospital to rooms that look like this:

And when they get bigger their rooms should look like this:
And of course it would scar them for life if they had to share a room.

But, once you allow God to open your eyes to the fact that these are real children we are talking about, you will be changed. You realize that every baby doesn't have to have a closet full of clothes to survive. That kids who share a room will likely learn a lot of life lessons from it and be better adults because of it. That growing up in a family that lives out the Gospel by giving their comforts away to help those in need will change your children for the better.

I have talked a lot about adoption in the past, so now I want to focus on foster care, because that is what God is speaking to my heart today. Here are some facts:

  • There are 423,773 children in the U.S. foster care system; 114,556 of these children are available for adoption. Their birth parent’s legal rights have been permanently terminated and children are left without a family.
  • More children become available for adoption each year than are adopted. In 2009, 69,947 children had parental rights terminated by the courts, yet only 57,466 were adopted.
  • Children often wait three years or more to be adopted, move three or more times in foster care and often are separated from siblings. The average age of waiting children is 8 years old.
  • Last year, 29,471 children turned 18 and left the foster care system without an adoptive family.
  • Adopting from foster care is affordable. Most child welfare agencies cover the costs of home studies and court fees, and provide post-adoption subsidies. Thousands of employers offer financial reimbursement and paid leave for employees who adopt and Federal and/or state adoption tax credits are available to most families.
  • Every child is adoptable. Many children in foster care have special needs. All of them deserve the chance to grow up in a safe, loving, permanent home. Support and other post-adoption resources are available.
  • Adopting from foster care is permanent. Once a child is adopted out of foster care, the birth parents cannot attempt to claim them or fight in court for their return. A family formed through foster care adoption is forever.
  • According to a National Adoption Attitudes Survey commissioned by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, 63 percent of Americans hold a favorable view of adoption and 78 percent think more should be done to encourage adoption.
  • Nearly 40 percent of American adults, or 81.5 million people, have considered adopting a child, according to the National Adoption Attitudes Survey. If just one in 500 of these adults adopted, every waiting child in foster care would have a permanent family.
My Orphan Sunday 2013 plea to you is this:

consider foster care

Pray about it and see where God leads you. Open your mind to the FACTS. Let it sink in that these are real kids and they are suffering. If Christians don't meet the need, who will?

Remember, our job as Christians is not to coast it out in this life, collecting as much stuff as we can along the way. It is not to create the perfect looking family. Our job is to be the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth. Based on the statistics above, I would say we are doing a pretty crummy job.

Please read the blog post below, written by a friend of mine who was adopted from the foster care system 30 years ago. You can also click the second link and look at the faces of these real children who need someone to stand up and care for them.