Sunday, December 30, 2012

URGENT!!


Please take a few minutes to sign this petition asking that the White House get involved in helping to overturn the Russian law banning adoptions by American families.  President Obama needs to step up... his office has been silent over this whole issue which affects so many.... the numerous families who consider a child across the ocean their very own even if they have yet to meet them in person... the families who have held their child in their arms and loved on them, promising they will be back soon to bring them home... the families with scheduled court dates and the families who have already passed court and only need to go back to bring their child home.  And of course the children.  The children who's only chance of having a loving family is through international adoption.  ALL Russian orphans who have been available for international adoption were already passed over by Russian families.  Already rejected twice- first by their birth family and second by their own society.

Putin wants to encourage more Russian families to adopt, and I think that is wonderful.  Yes, more Russian citizens should step up and care for their own.  But this will not affect the children with disabilities.  They will be lucky to get all the *healthy* orphans into adopted families let alone those with disabilities.  We are literally their ONLY hope.  I signed this petition, grateful that my daughter is home with me. All kids deserve families no matter what country that family lives in. So many people out there have the mentality of "shouldn't we care for our own before someone else's?"  I try not to get too preachy, but this subject is very personal and I can't help it.  If this adoption crisis urges more families to adopt domestically- that is FABULOUS.  Yes, there are always children out there, near or far, who need families.  Thankfully, here in the United States, we don't have dilapidated orphanages that are so decrepit that the volunteers going to help choose to bathe down in the river instead of the disgusting bathrooms.  Yes, this is what the ROOF volunteers resorted to when they first began working in Lina's former institution.  It was one of *those* institutions, but thankfully ROOF has turned it around quite a bit.  But even with all the great opportunities ROOF is providing- NOTHING takes the place of a loving family.  We saw that through our own eyes bringing Lina home.  Please take a moment and read my friend Tesney's experience HERE.  Tesney adopted little Kirill from the same region our Lina was in- they both were even in the same baby house.  But Kirill was transferred to a different institution... one not fortunate enough to receive any help aside from the bare minimum from the Russian government.  I hesitate when I say "bare minimum" because it isn't even that.  My heart breaks for the children still trying to survive there, and I count my lucky stars that Lina was not transferred to this institution.  PLEASE read her story:  http://oureyesopened.org/2012/12/618.html

Americans are the children's ONLY hope.... they are struggling to survive when they should be living life.  Please PLEASE sign this petition, and share it with others to sign too.  Share it on Facebook, share it on Twitter, share it anywhere you can!!  Hundreds of children's lives depend on it, and our government should be doing more to communicate with Russia and urge them to make changes.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Wrapping things up....

I'm feeling ready to finalize this blog.... It's difficult walking away as it holds so many precious memories along our journey to add our precious daughter to our family.  This blog will remain here, but I will not be posting here much at all.  I may include a few of Lina's milestones, but I'm finding it quite difficult to keep up with one blog let alone two.  I will be combining my advocacy efforts along with my family blogging on my Ramblings and Reflections blog- please be sure to add it to your bookmarks or follow by e-mail if you so prefer!! http://amysramblingsandreflections.blogspot.com/

I know this seems like a random time- why now?  Why in the middle of Angel Tree.... right before Lina's first Christmas at home.... I am simply overwhelmed with busy schedules and need to cut back where I can.  It's the little things that count, right?  I feel like I'm totally letting down my readers by posting so infrequently, even if I don't have the biggest crowd out there.  Y'all still mean a lot to me! :)  

Willow is doing great on the Angel Tree- thank you so much to all of you who have donated to her fund!! We raised a few hundred dollars through the Auction for Angels which was awesome.  As of today her Angel Tree grant is at $757.30!!  Just $242.70 to go!!  We can do this!!


I just realized I never posted sweet Willow's updated photo!  Isn't she such a doll??  

Our family finally got our Christmas tree this past weekend and today was decorating day.... Little Willow's ornament is proudly hung- isn't she darling??


I apologize for the crappy cell phone pic.... I can assure you it's adorable! You can have one of your own if you simply donate $35 to her grant!!  While this ornament is precious, I know she would look so much better in the arms of a family.  Praying that family finds her SOON.  

I'm super excited- packaging up my ornament from last year to send to her forever family coming to get her!!  Sweet Jessa was my Angel Tree child last year, and y'all rocked it then too- we met her goal and then some!    


From my Ramblings & Reflections blog in January:

I want to thank everyone who contributed to Jessa's Angel Tree fund!! I was completely astounded that EVERY child on the Angel Tree reached their goal!! YAY!!! The last day, New Year's Eve, was a huge rush of excitement as kids' funds were just exploding. Jessa's final Angel Tree fund = $1,194.26 with a grand total of $1,329.26 available toward the cost of her adoption!! As I packed her ornament away with all my others, I said a quick prayer that she find her forever family before I hang her ornament on my tree next December.
And my prayer was answered!! :))  Well even though she hasn't met them yet technically. ;)  Her family is still early in the adoption process- please keep them in your prayers that all goes smoothly and they can bring her home soon!  I'm sure they would appreciate a little love in their FSP as it is currently at only $195.  

Praying there will be a family for me to mail my ornament of Willow to next year!!  Have a blessed holiday season each and every one of you.... and keep following on Ramblings and Reflections! xoxoxo

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Auction for Angels- ENDS TOMORROW!!

Hurry and check those bids!! The Auction for Angels ends tomorrow, Nov. 30th at 11:00 PM Eastern time!!  There are 15 items to benefit Willow- just read the descriptions on each photo to see which child benefits from each item.  Willow's items total $305 right now- with all these items going well below retail value!! A couple items don't have ANY bids yet!!  These would make fabulous Christmas presents- please go check them out!! Simply leave a comment with your bid amount on the appropriate photo.  After the auction ends, payment instructions will be sent.  All payments are TAX DEDUCTIBLE!! :) Happy Shopping!!!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

It's Angel Tree Time!!

Angel Tree officially starts TODAY!!  As many of you know by now, My little Angel Tree cherub this year is sweet Willow, residing in Lina's former baby house for the next few months.



I say few months because Willow turns 4 in March.  That's when she will leave the baby house and be transferred to the orphanage for older children with disabilities... the institution.  I saw the progression of photos from Lina's time in the baby house to her time in the institution, and there was definite change.  After transferring to the institution, her spirit seemed crushed.  Emotionally she was absent.  She had no one in her life who loved her best.  No one to give her a random snuggle or to comfort her when she was hurt or didn't feel well.  Nothing. Just her own two fingers to suck on for comfort, her own self to rock back and forth when she longed for someone to rock and soothe her.

We were able to break Lina free from those walls and provide these things to her, and Willow deserves the same.  Right now her pitiful little grant sits at less than $100.  I do have to say- it has sat at $64 for what seems like an eternity, and I went to double check as I am writing this post- and she has received her first Angel Tree donation!!! THANK YOU to whomever donated to little Willow!!!  Her grant is now $95.50- my goal as her Christmas Warrior is to raise her grant to $1,064- adding $1,000 to what her grant was before the Angel Tree started.  Can we do it?  YES WE CAN!!

There are a few ways you can help!  If you want to make a flat out donation to Willow's grant, you can donate here:

I will be putting her donation box on the side of my blogs, or you can also visit her Reece's Rainbow page directly HERE.  If you donate at least $35 you will receive a Christmas ornament with Willow's picture!

Another way you can help: shop for yourself!!  I will continue to donate my Tastefully Simple commission to Willow all through Angel Tree season.  With Willow's first Tastefully Simple party- we raised $75 for her!! I will be adding that to her grant shortly. :) Also- there will be an online auction going on for several Angel Tree cherubs, and Willow is one of them!  When you browse through the auction items, read the entire description to see which items benefit which child.  The auction will begin November 15th so keep posted!!

My sweet angel from last year has a family coming for her, and I continue to pray I will have the same luck this year as well. :) Let's get that grant moving so we can help Willow find her forever family!!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

6 month Gotcha-versary!!

Can you believe it's been SIX MONTHS already since Lina's Gotcha Day??? Yea, me neither!!  Yet at the same time, it feels like she's always been here.


Making that long trek to Pskov seems like a very distant memory...


Pskov's beautiful Kremlin on the Velikaya River.... This city dates back to the year 903 AD.  The Trinity Cathedral was founded in 1138 and rebuilt in the 1690's.


I'm not sure what this little building was on this side of the river, but it was cute. :)  The railing behind this little building had padlocks all around and I knew it had to signify something....


I asked our translator and she told us that when people get married, they place a lock on the rail to signify their love being locked forever, and they then throw the key in the river.  We had noticed several were shaped like hearts and many had initials and dates inscribed, so we figured it was something to that effect.  Love it!

I wish we had been able to do more sight-seeing in Lina's hometown.  Our first two trips were extremely cold so we weren't really able to do much walking around.  Gotcha trip consisted of running around completing paperwork and collecting Lina's documents, spending one night, getting her the next day, collecting more documents and paperwork, and taking the train back to Moscow.  No downtime at all!


Our lovely hotel, the Rizhskaya, aka the Rizky ;) with the teeny tiny rooms but very yummy food in the restaurant


the breakfast buffet


a sampling of the dinner menu 
(stole a few of these images from some fellow Pskov families as Mike is doing work on the desktop where I have access to all my pics)

....and the train back to Moscow... oh the lovely 12.5 hour overnight train ride where we got very minimal sleep, and I acquired some food poisoning just about each time I ate their food.  Didn't eat on the train the last trip!



at the train station ready to depart Pskov with our tired, tired girl who had been snoozing in the car


in Moscow running more errands, when she really started to bond with us <3  Oh how you have grown and blossomed since we left your hometown.  Love you, precious girl!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Glimmer of Hope

Things have been quiet here on this blog as I have been anxiously awaiting an update from Marina in Pskov.... She has still been trying to track down Lina's biological family so she can purchase and deliver our donation to them.  For those new to our story:  all Russian orphans with special needs in particular receive something similar to a disability check and they each have their own bank account run by the Russian government and handled by the orphanage director.  It is customary to donate a large portion back to the orphanage.  We handed over our donation (Lina had a rather large account since she was collecting money for 5 1/2 years), and then Marina contacted me, asking if it would be ok to split the donation into three- one portion going to Lina's former institution, one portion going to a baby house in desperate needs of funding, and one portion going to help her biological family as they are very poor.  We were honored and excited to be able to help in so many ways!  Both orphanages have received their share, but Marina has had trouble contacting Lina's biological family.  It is common for families to leave their home for the entire summer to stay with family elsewhere, but she was hopeful that they would return when the school year began in September as Lina has a school age sibling.

Well Marina contacted me September 25th to say she still has not been able to contact the family.  She asked if she should continue trying or just send us back the money.  I replied to of course continue to try to find them.  And then a ray of hope.... I had done a little investigating on my own and was able to find two of Lina's siblings online.  I am not contacting them myself, but passed on the information I found to Marina, hoping it would help her in her search.  I am still waiting to hear back.  Hopefully she doesn't think I am some sort of stalker finding this information!  I just really really want to pull this off- our plan is to donate a refrigerator full of food to them and know it is much needed.  Marina will also share photos of our family and updated photos of Lina, and tell them a bit about our family.  She will also ask if she can take photos of them to share with us, which I am really hoping for.  I would love to be able to give this piece of Lina's heritage to her.

In the meantime, I am still raising funds for sweet Willow as well as another Reece's Rainbow angel- Aisha. Aisha's Christmas Warrior contacted me to hold a Tastefully Simple fundraiser for her and I was ecstatic to add her to the fun!  I would love to add more, so anyone looking for a fundraiser for their cherub PLEASE let me know!  All you do is share the link and get people to order, and your child will earn 20% of the total for your party.  If you wish to purchase and donate to Willow, click FIND HOST at check out and enter Amy Livingston as the host.  If you wish to donate to Aisha- her party has NO orders yet!! :(  Please enter Teresa Gorman at check out.  Both parties close on October 15th- just 6 short days away!!  I have a personal goal to reach $1,000 in sales by then, and so far have fallen $243.89 short.  Please help me help these sweet girls!  I did have a party for sweet Xenia whom her parents will call Kenzi- we were able to raise $70 toward her FSP which I will be donating shortly as soon as I get the money transferred. :)  Also, an added perk- those holding TS fundraisers will still earn the typical host rewards- free products and added discounts. ;)  And you don't have to be in the adoption network to hold a party either- you can hold a party simply to earn rewards for yourself and do some holiday shopping!  My Tastefully Simple site is found HERE for any orders you are interested in placing.

And after all that yapping, I will share Lina's portraits we just had taken this past weekend.  :) In the past I have always taken my kids for individual portraits around their birthdays to track their growth and all that fun stuff.... but with four kids it's becoming more and more difficult to keep up with!  I never got to take Justin for his portraits back in June, and was holding out for our adoption session we had at a local mill, but then was disappointed in the portraits and didn't order any.  Lina's birthday came last month and now Evan's is approaching in a couple weeks, so I've decided to just get EVERYONE'S pictures taken at the same time and be done for the year! ;)  Sooooooo.... here's our Lina girl!



And my favorite...


Oh how I hope we can share these and many others with your biological family so they can rest assured you are well cared for and LOVED. xoxoxo



Thursday, September 20, 2012

New ventures

Well... for Mommy anyway. ;)  I will be winding down posts on this blog regarding Lina and will be sharing her progress on our family blog, so please make sure you follow us over there!  I'm not ready to say goodbye to this one quite yet though, and have the strong need to keep advocating for the ones we left behind.  Those children now have names and faces, and not a day goes by that I wish we could have brought them all home too.  Thinking about them itching themselves to sleep at night as they are covered in scabies and fungus.... thinking about how they must still endure the awful abuse at night.  Remembering how starved for attention they were when we walked into the room.... EVERY child deserves a family.  Every. One.

We're tapped out and going back isn't an option for us, but that doesn't mean we can't still help.  We still have contact with our facilitators in Lina's former region, and we still have Reece's Rainbow.  We were blessed to have found much support through the Reece's Rainbow community as well as through our friends and family, and I have the need to pay it forward.  You may recall my sweet friend Noel held a Tastefully Simple fundraiser for us, and we were able to earn $400 toward our adoption.  Yes, adoption is expensive, but that's a good chunk of change!  We were also able to earn a substantial amount in free products, and with that I bought the largest gift basket they make to offer as a prize in our giveaway.  Our Tastefully Simple fundraiser was a HUGE success, and I want to pay it forward by doing this for other families and waiting children as well.

So I did it.  Something I swore I'd never do (just like I swore I'd never own a minivan and swore I'd never fly to Russia)... I signed up as a Tastefully Simple consultant.  Yes, I hate cooking.  But you know what? These products are perfect for people who enjoy cooking as well as people like me who despise it! :) Add water and cook? Yea I can do that.  Add a bottle of beer and bake? Heck yea I can do that!

No, I did not start this venture to add income to our family.  As much as it would help, I need to help these kids get HOME.  I will be donating the majority of my commission (holding a small part to cover myself for taxes) to Reece's Rainbow families and waiting children.  I have two parties going on right now- one for sweet Willow who is in Lina's former baby house:

Willow's grant is a measly $64.  We can do better than that!  I have also signed up to be Willow's Angel Tree Warrior, so come Christmas time I will be pushing extra hard for her.  I pray she finds a family before she is transferred to an institution.  Right now she's in an excellent baby house headed by an amazing director.  Not a day goes by where I don't wish we could have found Lina sooner, before she had to experience this transfer.  I can't imagine how traumatic it has to be for these children.

The second party I have going on right now is for sweet Kenzi:


Her Mommy and Daddy traveled to meet her for the first time a few months ago and fell madly in love.... and the judge in their region is not making things easy for them.  And... Kenzi needs heart surgery.  Expenses have been piling up with all the extra hoops they are having to jump through, and currently they need $3,500 more.  

If you wish to help Kenzi's family, during check out on the Tastefully Simple website, click "Find Host"- and enter Priscilla Morse as the host.  Select her party and Kenzi will get 20% of your total.  If you wish to help Willow's grant, enter Amy Livingston as the host, and 20% of your purchase will go to Willow.  Easy peasy!

If you love Tastefully Simple products as I do and wish to keep reordering products, please think of me and order from my site.  I'm not currently doing in home parties, but if you'd like to hold an online/catalog party I'd be happy to hold one for you.  You will still earn all the regular host benefits and I can even hook you up with samples to have your own little taste testing party.  You can let me know which child or family you would like me to make a donation towards, or I can simply add my commission to the current fundraiser.  It always feels good knowing you're helping someone else along the way, doesn't it?  

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