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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Bingo Bust Part 1: My Broken Plans

For those who may have missed all the excitement, this past week has been a true emotional roller coaster ride.

This past Friday, we finally got our approved I800A from USCIS. We have been waiting on this one last piece of paper to finish our dossier and after 73 days of waiting and weekly calls and worrying we received it!

I took this as one more sign that our Bingo event scheduled for the next night was going to be a huge success. You may remember we had done Bingo once before back in early September. It went ok. We had a lot of family and friends who were out of town, and I had only advertised it by creating a fb event and sharing on fb. I had made a few flyers and thankfully a lady who normally plays Bingo at the Elks on Monday nights happened to see it. She came with a group of friends, who I'll refer to as 'Professional Bingoers' or PBs. Total we only had about 30 people in attendance. We also had a lot of money tied up in this event so that when it was all said and done we ended up making $500.

I was thankful to have made that much because at one point during the evening I was just praying that we would break even. The group of PBs that came offered me a lot of advice about where I should advertise if we did it again (all local places, all free). We had a lot of supplies left over and considering that 30 people showing up had brought in $1500 we decided it was definitely worth trying again.

This time I did every thing I right. I stayed on top of things and got most of our prizes donated including the $500 in cash we were giving away. I contacted every free local source of advertising that I knew of and made sure that our ads went up. People kept telling me they'd seen our ads, heard about our event on the local radio station and that they were looking forward to it. The Elks decided they'd waive the $100 rental fee again which we weren't expecting and it just kept seeming like God was blessing this event left and right.

I had the forethought this time to have Steve take half the day off of work and I didn't make any other plans for the day of Bingo so that I would have plenty of time to do any last minute things. We had twice as many people volunteer to come and help run things. We showed up, every thing was going so much more smoothly than last time. I felt so much more prepared, so much more on top of things. I had done the work and God was blessing it!

....

The doors opened at 5 for food and people to come shop our vendors. I thought nothing of the fact that no one but our friends who had come to volunteer were there at 5:30. At 5:45 I was worried but thought maybe we would get a made rush right at 6. Two ladies came in who I didn't know. At 5:55 I talked to my husband, my friend and my Mom and decided if more people didn't come in the next 10 minutes we had to cancel and just give people their money back.

No one else came.

I announced that we were sorry but that we were going to refund everyone's money. We drew for the 50/50 raffle and for the vacation giveaway that had been ongoing and had a lot of entries already.

We started packing every thing up. We were efficient. I held it together. I think I may have been in shock.

People kept saying things like, "It will be ok, it's going to work out, God's got this." And I think I probably said something like, "I know, it's ok...I'm fine." I'm fine. I needed to say it, I wanted people to believe it. And, I wanted it to be true.

I wasn't really fine.

But, I did hold it together. I helped pack up every thing. I listened to the reassurances, the promises of help and I let the voices of my friends and family wash over me and sooth my hurting heart.

Later, we stood outside the doors of the Elks. All of the stuff packed back into our car and we stood there, our little group, some of our kids. I don't think anyone wanted to leave yet, we were waiting for a friend's husband to come pick up some of her stuff, we made small talk. Steve puts his arm around my shoulder with his hand on the back of my head, I lean into him for comfort and the tears come that I had been trying to keep to myself all night.

One friend says, "Let's pray for Brooke and Steve," and another starts the prayer, I hear others crying, another friends finishes the prayer. I look up and see faces filled with pain, and sorrow, some wet with tears and I realize.....we are so blessed.

....

There is so much more to this story. And, its too long to tell in one blog so I'm breaking it down into a series. God took what seemed like a disaster and turned it into blessing after blessing. And, I don't want to leave out any of the awesome details!

Friday, October 4, 2013

9 Months

9 months ago today I saw this face


on my friend Mandy's facebook wall. 

And, I can't explain it but I felt my heart move.

I messaged my friend back and forth until she suggested that I message the Social Worker with the agency who had his file. 

I felt a little crazy, a little foolish, I mean my husband was still saying, "No, you're crazy," pretty much every time I brought up the idea of adoption. 

So I prayed and I sent the email that started off like this (copied from actual email):

"Hi, my name is Brooke Kirk and I'm friends with Mandy and Marty Rhodes. Mandy posted about a little boy named Ian this morning and he has really been pulling on my heart. I kept asking her questions about him and she suggested I email you to get more information. My husband and are not homestudy approved and to be honest my husband is still on the fence about international adoption. But, I'm praying that having some information to go to him with might sway his heart."


Thankfully, she looked past the crazy and sent me his file.

A handful of photographs and 3 and half pages of information later I knew he was our's.

I'll be honest the next 4 days were hard in our house.

This is the email I sent on January 7th at 10:50 PM (My 32nd birthday by the way)

"I just wanted to touch base to make sure Ian was still available. Over the weekend God has convicted me that he is our son. I am just waiting for my husband's head to catch up to his heart and give the costs of adoption over to God, and, I really feel like we're almost to that point.
Thank you so much."

She messaged me back that he was.

And the next night I sent this:

"We want to commit to Ian! Please let me know what our next steps need to be. I think we know what homestudy agency we will be using. Thank you for all of your help! God Bless!"

Of course there's a lot more to the story, some of which I covered here as best I could.

We're on a journey that I thought we might find ourselves on one day, but, never expected to be on right now. I am thankful, humbled, blessed beyond measure.

The journey so far has been so much more than I could ever have imagined, both good and bad.

People keep asking how it's going. Right now we're waiting but we're moving if that makes sense. We're waiting on I800A approval which comes from USCIS (not affected by the government shutdown thankfully). It is the last piece of our dossier that we need. Once it is in our hands we will send it, along with a few other documents, off to be apostilled and then they'll join our homestudy and other documents in Bulgaria to make up the dossier that will be submitted. Once our dossier is submitted and approved we will be invited to travel. Could we still travel this year? I won't take any thing away from God, but at this point it really would be a miracle if we go on first trip this year though I haven't given up hope yet of a December travel date. Realistically I'm hoping that we at least have travel dates by December for January.

Please continue to pray for God's favor over our process. Please pray for our son's heart, that he is prepared for the change that is coming to his life and that God will prepare him for our family and our family for him.

Thank you all for the love and support you continue to lavish upon us and our boy <3

Love ~ Steve, Brooke and Nicholas

(Sorry this is from Easter, we're going to have family pictures done soon!)






Thursday, August 8, 2013

Smoky Mountain Getaway ~ Giveaway: UPDATE

So we're rolling along, slowly but surely in our journey to bring Ian home! We are homestudy approved and are now waiting on USCIS approval and for a few last documents to come back from being apostilled to go into our dossier. Once all of that comes back our 'paper baby' will head to our son's country to be approved and we'll be invited to travel for first trip!!

So, in the mean time we are busy raising our next set of agency fees which will be $6,000 and the travel expenses for trip 1. We estimate needing around $9,000 but this will depend on when we actually travel and what plane tickets costs at the time. From sales of the 'Hello My Name Is' tshirts, which we are still doing, click here if you'd like to order, and a fb auction we did we have about $1,000 of the $9,000 needed.

Yesterday, a sweet friend of mine, who just got back from B a few months ago with their new son and daughter, offered us this awesome getaway to do a giveaway with! Here is what you can win:

A Weekend Getaway at an Amazing Chalet in Pigeon Forge Tennessee

You Pick the Dates!
(Any non-holiday weekend from September 2013 through May 2014)

You can go HERE to see all the photos of this gorgeous mountain chalet and read descriptions of each of the rooms. I copied an overview from the website

Safari High

With French doors opening to reveal a gorgeous four-poster raised King-size bed, a view of your private gas fireplace from the bed, a private jetted tub, and an HD television, the Master Bedroom truly deserves that title. As if that weren't enough, there is a private deck off the Master, perfect for enjoying that morning cup of coffee.

Enjoying the fireplace is not limiten, with a connecting bath. Also off the Den is the Game Room, where you can rack the balls for a game of billiards, or enjoy foosball and a game of darts.

If you'd like to unwind after a long day of shopping or sight-seeing (just 10 minutes away), there is a private hot tub on one of the three decks. This home is perfect for honeymoons, anniversaries, romantic getaways, or just plain fun with the family!

*The chalet is 2 miles out of town from Stoplight #8, which is convenient to all attractions in Pigeon Forge, and removed enough for you to enjoy the peace and quiet.
*All roads going to the chalet are paved, and the semi-circle driveway is paved.
*The home is equipped with keyless entry and an alarm system.d to the Master Bedroom, as a second fireplace is in the Living Room, which is complete with an HD television and XBox 360 Kinect.

Downstairs, you'll enter the Den with a sleeper sofa, and will find the second bedroom, also with a King-size bed and HD televisio

How to Enter:

We're keeping it simple with this one, and increasing your odds of winning by doing a limited entry giveaway!

We are taking the first 110  60 (we're taking less entries so your odds are doubled!) $10 donations! 
As of today 9/12/13 there are just 48 entries left!!
You get one entry for each $10 donation, and you can buy as many as you'd like!

Your tax deductible donation can be made to our FSP on Reece's Rainbow HERE or to our AdoptTogether grant HERE

Either way that you donate you will receive an email receipt, please forward that receipt to kirk_brooke81@yahoo.com

I have a list with 110 60 slots for names. When all 110 60 slots are filled I will cut them into individual strips, put them into a bucket, blindfold Nicholas and let him draw a winner!

When all slots are sold we will have $500 more towards bringing our son home!!

And, I know I say it a lot, but THANK YOU. Thank you to everyone who has prayed for us, encouraged us, participated in our fundraisers even though I know you must be getting tired of us by now, and for every thing you do to show your love and support for our family!

~Love~

Steve, Brooke and Nicholas



Monday, June 17, 2013

Winner ~ An Update

First I want to say a huge, heartfelt thank you to everyone who prayed, shared, and gave to our giveaway! All told between all the entry methods plus the bonus entries for buying our tshirts there were 781 entries! And after factoring in the cost of the giftcard we are $210 closer to bringing our boy home!

Please continue to keep us in your prayers. We should wrap up our homestudy this week so please pray for favor and that we have every thing in order! Please pray that our next step which is submitting our I800 and getting USCIS approval goes smoothly and quickly. We've heard that right now processing time is around 45 days, but, we're praying it happens faster. Please pray for our family and all of the families adopting from Bulgaria as their government goes through this transition period that things will start moving again soon!

Ok, what you really came for....

The winner of the $250 American Girl or Amazon giftcard, or donation to adopting family of their choice is....




Virginia 'Gail' Warner

Congratulations Gail!! We are so thankful to you and all the support you've shown our family and so many adopting families <3

Update

I told yall our friend Gail is awesome didn't I? I know that Gail knows some little girls who would love the American Girl giftcard, that she could use an Amazon giftcard. But, instead when she found out that she was the winner, she asked that we keep the money and put it back towards our adoption fund! We are truly blessed with some of the most supportive, generous and giving friends who have come along side us in this adoption journey.

Thank you again Gail, you are a true blessing to us!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

TShirts Are Ready to Order 2.0

We are so excited to be working with Freedom Prints to bring you a tshirt that we love!


For those that don't know, the concept for the tshirt design came from the Matthew West song, "Hello My Name is Child of the One True King," and if you've never heard it you should take a few minutes and listen to it now!


I love this message, a reminder that we are all children of the King of Kings, saved by grace, redeemed by blood. And, when we begin to get dragged down by the voices in our own heads of guilt, shame, defeat, regret, etc. etc. that we can shut them up by reminding them (and ourselves) whose child we are!

Upate, our first order has been placed and come back so I have a few pictures of the actual shirts to share with you all! We were super pleased with how they came out and get a lot of comments on them! (These are cellphone pics so they're not the best but you get the idea!)


Dark Heather (top) Cardinal Red and Royal Blue

Dark Heather and Safety Orange



Left to Right: Dark Purple, Lilac, Black and Cherry Red

Heliconia (basically hot pink)

Cherry Red and Black in the small print


Nick rocking his safety orange shirt, this is a Youth Medium (Nick is about 44" and wears a size 6 so a little big on him)






The color options for the first type of tshirt, available in Adult S-5X can be seen here along with specifications.

The color options for the second type of tshirt, available in Adult S-3X can be seen here , if you're like me and love the 'heather' type shirts because they're softer and a little stretchier, you will find more of those in this option.

We also have youth shirts available from Youth XS-YXL and you can see those color choices here

*Toddler sizes are no longer available. The Youth XS fits like a 4T*

Keep in mind when picking a color that the screenprint will be white.

We were able to get a great deal on the shirts and are passing the savings on to you! The shirts are just $16 for sizes up to an Adult XL and $18 for 2X-5X. And, if you need to have them shipped shipping is $3 for the first 3 shirts and $6 for 4 or more tshirts.

**Hoodies are heavier than we anticipated, please message me before you pay with your zipcode and I will give you a shipping charge if you would like to add a hoodie to your order**

NEW LONG SLEEVE OPTIONS

We now have long sleeve tshirts for men, women and youth and hoodies available!

          Long sleeve tshirts will be $18 and hooded sweatshirts will be $25

Women's long sleeve tshirts are preshunk, more fitted and don't have the cuffed sleeves. Available in Heliconia (hot pink), Navy, Black, Red, and Sapphire. See more details and sizing chart here

Men's/Unisex long sleeve tshirts are classic fit and length with cuffed sleeves. Available in Black, Navy, Sapphire, Red, and Irish Green. See details and sizing chart here

Youth long sleeve tshirts in classic fit available in red, black, navy, sapphire, and Irish green. See details and sizing chart here

Hooded Sweatshirts are available in adult sizes only in a classic fit in Navy, Royal, Cherry, Red, Carolina Blue, and Dark Heather. See details and sizing chart here

To order please send the total amount for your shirt(s) plus shipping if needed as a GIFT via Paypal to kirk_brooke81@yahoo.com then forward your receipt or transaction ID to the same email along with your color choice(s), size(s) and address! Please DO NOT make your payment via our FSP as we have to pay for the tshirts when they're ordered. Please email me at kirk_brooke81@yahoo.com if you need a shipping total for a hoodie or have any questions about your order, international shipping, or our current turnaround time for shipping!

*On average shirts take about 2 weeks to come back to us from the printer. This time could go up as we approach the holiday season. We also need a minimum of 12 to place an order so please message me to see what the turn around time looks like if you need your shirt by a certain date!

Please share on your social networking sites and if you would like a printable order form to take to your work or church email me at kirk_brooke81@yahoo.com and I will send one to you.

As always, thank you all for your love and support, we can never say thank you enough!

~Brooke

Thursday, May 2, 2013

American Girl Doll Dream Giveaway

Good news! We've raised our upfront costs and should have a completed homestudy by the middle of June!! Thank you to everyone that has come alongside us in prayer and support! We truly can't say THANK YOU enough!

Now we are working on our Dossier costs, 2nd set of agency fees and travel expenses for first trip. We are hoping that our first trip dates will be sometime in August or September. Altogether we estimate that we need around $10,000 before our 1st trip. Of course any thing we raise above what we need wold just go towards paying our last set of agency fees and pickup trip!

We have a golf tournament coming up in mid June (more details to come on that) and have a few other things in the works for later in the Summer but for now we've decided to do a giveaway! And, we think that if you have a little girl it's a prize that she's been dreaming of (or maybe you have as a way to surprise her!).

Here is what we're offering:


$250 American Girl Giftcard!


You can use the giftcard however you would like but we've put a few options together
for you so that you'll have an idea of every thing you could get!

1. Create a 'My American Girl' Custom Doll

Pick a doll ($114-$124 depending on whether you want pierced ear)
Many different hair color and style, eye color and skin tone combinations available!



Get a Matching Outfit/Pajamas and Tshirt for your girl and her doll!
(Many Options to choose from in sizes 3-20!)


Get some accessories! If you've picked a doll and one matching outfit you'd have about
$80 leftover for accessories such as a pet and school backpack set
or a desk and lemonade stand! Tons of
options available on the website. 




See all the options for dolls, clothes, accessories, furniture, etc. on the American Girl website!


2. If you have a younger girl not quite ready for an American Girl Doll, they offer an adorable line
called Bitty Babies
And with $250 you could get your little one a Bitty Baby AND every thing she 
would need to care for her!

This set is an example of every thing you could get, but, there are of course many more options
available on the website! The larger picture is the Doll+Starter Collection which sells for $125!

There are 7 different Bitty Baby Doll Options



If you've read all that and thought, "That's great but I don't know any little girls." Don't worry! We have some alternate prizes you can pick from!

Alternate Prize Option 1

$250 Amazon Giftcard

Stock up on Christmas presents, treat yourself, or give as an 
awesome Wedding or Graduation gift!

(You can even pick the design for the front if you want the card mailed to you,
or we can do an e-gift card).


Second Alternate Prize Choice

$250 donated to the adopting family of your choice!

*The family does not have to have an FSP but
must have proof that they are officially committed to their child
and have a tax deductible way to receive donations (AdoptTogether, ShowHope etc)



WINNER CHOOSES ONE OF THE ABOVE PRIZES!

How to Enter:

1. You can gift your donation to us via Paypal, for this option we don't lose fees and have instant access to your donations. To donate via Paypal send your donation as a gift to kirk_brooke81@yahoo.com and forward the receipt to the same email.

2. If you're able to claim charitable donations come tax time, you can make a tax deductible donation via our Reese's Rainbow FSP (Family Sponsorship Program) HERE then forward your receipt to kirk_brooke81@yahoo.com


Entries

$5  =  2 entries
$10 =  5 entries
$20 = 15 entries
$50 = 50 entries
$100 = 150 entries

*You can earn additional, FREE entries by committing to pray for our family 
AND for sharing!

Leave me a comment on this blog to let us know that you're committing to pray for us = 5 entries

Share via facebook (personal or business pages) or twitter = 1 entry per method per day
Example: Share on fb and twitter daily for one week you'll have 14 free entries!
Just comment on the blog with what you do or tag me on facebook.

Share on your blog and leave and link back to this post = 10 entries 

Finally, you can 'Follow' my blog over in the right  hand side, just leave me a comment with your Google or blogger name so I can verify! = 5 entries


Giveaway ENDS 10 PM EST JUNE 15th
Winner will be drawn & announced on June 16th

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Blessings Beyond Babies

First, I admit to borrowing the title for this blogpost from a fb group that I am in for families that have adopted/are adopting 'older' children.

Second, this blog started forming in my mind after attending a birthday party last weekend. I left that day joyous and thankful. We spent the day surrounded by adoptive families, awesome kids, and some pretty amazing orphan advocates. I never got that blog written and now I know why. God didn't want me to talk about our support system (though its awesome) or even about the army he's raising up in our little neck of the woods (Army for God and the orphans, not weird redneck conspiracy theorists type army in case that word gets my blog flagged). But, I think I'm supposed to talk about our kids and the gift of older child adoption.

'Older' child adoption doesn't have a strict definition (that I know of) to some people this means teenagers to others it would be any child past the infant stage. In our adoption circle its typically children that are 5 or older. Some countries will add children to the special needs adoption list solely based on an older age because they know that every year a child spends in an orphanage the more their chances for adoption go down.

It's an understood fact in the adoption community that boys are chosen less often than girls and older boys are the hardest to place. And, I honestly believe if God places a child on your heart their age and sex won't matter. So the point of this post is definitely NOT to dissuade anyone from going for a little girl or adopting a baby. The point is to reassure you if God is putting a child on your heart that may be older or a different sex than you had in your plans.

I always thought that we probably would adopt a boy and that he would be 'older' but by older I was thinking maybe three or 4, keeping in birth order but still old enough to be a playmate to Nicholas. Instead God broke our hearts for this little boy, 6 weeks older than Nicholas, who had already been waiting 5 years for his family:


We know that there are different issues we may face with adopting an older child and we're doing our best to educate and prepare ourselves for what his needs may be. I'm sure we won't be fully prepared, I'm sure we'll all go through an adjustment period, and I am sure we love our son and we are trusting in God to prepare all of our hearts!

So, back to the birthday party I mentioned before. One of the reasons our hearts were open to an older child is the fact that four of our real life friends have adopted older children (2 internationally, 1 through foster care and 1 family that has done both!) and they have shared their journey and their hearts with us.  And I want to share a small glimpse of that with you.

First, the birthday boy who just turned 8, celebrating his first birthday home with his family and sharing a party with his 'little sister'

Vaylo Rhodes

Vaylo has been home about 9 months now and is a completely different child from the one we met when Mandy and Marty first brought him home. Not only is he now a little chunk, he's started to interact with other people and he smiles! And, his smiles are amazing, they're real and joyful and they just make you want to smile right back at him!

Samuel Rhodes 'Sam'

Sam came home at the same time as his brother and is a huge personality, a ball of energy, a bundle of love, a huge fan of the dustbuster and I could go on an on! Sam turned 5 a few months ago.

Malachi Rogers (behind the playpen)

Malachi was actually the first Reece's Rainbow baby I ever met. I met him and his sister Claire, along with the rest of the Rogers clan at the Gotcha shower for Mandy and Marty. My first impression of Malachi was that he was busy, and, that is still my impression a year later :) He is sweet and a little mischevious and all boy!

Claire Rogers

Claire came home at the same time as Malachi and is a little princess, notice how nice and neatly she ate her cupcake ;) Claire walks and signs and is great at getting across what she wants which usually seems to be either food or to be carried where she'd like to go :)

I included Malachi and Claire here not really because they're considered 'older' but because they're adorable and they're a part of the Rogers family who does know a thing or two about adopting older children. Just months after bringing home Malachi and Claire, Erica and Mel (who already had 7 kids at home, the two above plus three adopted from foster care and two bio kiddos) stepped out on faith and caused a lot of happy tears in our adoption community when they decided to adopt Kaleb and Jessa, perhaps better remembered as the 'Sunshine Girl Bernadette'

This was the first picture I ever saw of Jessa

"Bernadette" on Reece's Rainbow, her smile captured hearts and a community of people rallied to find her a family before she aged out at the age of 16. The Rogers family was that family and this is Jessa today

Jessa Rogers

Jessa is as sweet and loving as she looks in her pictures! At the party I went over to meet Erika (who manages to go places with 9 kids by herself!) and when Jessa got out of the van and saw me, I hadn't seen her since we met them at the airport when they first came home, she smiled all big and sweet and came right over and hugged me. She is full of fun and personality and is such a joy to be around!

Kaleb Rogers came home at the same time as Jessa but somehow I don't have a picture of him from the party, so I borrowed one from Erika's page for yall of Kaleb with his brothers.

Kaleb Rogers (back row, right)

Kaleb did not have a sunny picture on his file. The list of 'behaviors' and needs was daunting, but, Erika and Mel again stepped out on faith and said Yes to him. Kaleb's smile is a little harder to draw out, but, when you get it, its precious. Kaleb is 9.

Also at the birthday party was the Pickett family who has been home just two weeks with their new son and daughter.

Vikki Pickett

Vikki is is 10, she has only been with her new family 2 weeks but she's adjusting well. English is still new to her but at the party she jumped right in to playing with all of the other kids. She has a big personality too and I got to see the cutest pout ever when her Mama actually made her pick between three desserts instead of letting her have them all!

Denny Pickett

Denny came home at the same time as Vikki, just two weeks ago. He is 7 years old and also seems to be adjusting well to his new family. When I talked to him he gave me his hands so that I could walk him around and I bet that it won't be long before he is walking on his own!


Overall at the party there were 32 children (good thing we had a whole farm!) and 14 of them were adopted. 8 are former Reece's Rainbow babies, 1 adopted domestically as an infant and 5 adopted from domestic foster care two of whom were over the age of 10. There are 2 more RR babies on their way home, next year 'K' (5) and Ian (7) will be at the party!

And, EVERY single person there is involved some way in orphan care. Everyone there has contributed to our adoption and the Rhodes family adoption financially and emotionally. We are blessed to get to do every day life with an amazing group of people. This wasn't a meet up of adoptive families, this was our typical play group/Mom's group/homeschool group :)

But, the part of the party that touches my heart, that makes me give thanks the most are these pictures ~







Can you look at those pictures and tell which kids are adopted, or which have special needs? Because our kids can't. They don't care. If their friend is non verbal or doesn't speak English yet, kids are great at pantomime and most of our kids know some sign language (or in Nick's case they know 2 signs and make up the rest...we're working on that). If their friend can't walk there are ride ons and swings that can be pushed. Our kids could care less about the color of someone else's skin, the language they speak or any of the other things that some parts of society say should matter. Many adults could take a lesson in friendship and love from our kids.

If God is putting a child on your heart that was not in your plans, do it anyway. Mandy says that older kids are the hidden treasures of adoption. She's right. Babies are a blessing but so is a full 8 hours of sleep at night! Toddlers are cute and squishy but diaper blow outs are not! If God has put a baby or toddler on your heart then by all mean, GO, go get that child, but, let your heart be open to older children who need families too just in case one day God asks you to walk that road ok?

And, if you've never met an older child, may I introduce...

Simon only has until October 2013 to find his family before he ages out in his country

Trudy will turn 14 this year, she also has a younger brother and sister and they can all be adopted together!

Doesn't Sullivan look like so much fun? He'll turn 12 this year and would benefit so much from being in a family!

Damian
This cutie will turn 8 this year and was also born prematurely like both of our sons. Our agency has his file if you'd like to know more I can put you in touch!

Or if you'd prefer to adopt domestically there are plenty of older children who still need families! Check out the adorable brothers from this sibling set in NC


These adorable brothers are all available for adoption here in the US through AdoptUsKids

I could go on and on but if you think your family could be the place for an older child click one of these links for Reece's Rainbow or check out AdoptUsKids for children that need families domestically. (There are also  younger children on these sites that of course need homes as well).



If you would like to become involved/more involved in orphan care but don't know where to start I'd love to help you! Reece's Rainbow has a lot of Advocacy opportunities, from Prayer Warriors to Angel Tree you can make a difference in the life of a child even if you can't adopt or can't contribute financially!

To borrow Mandy's tagline~ Pray, Advocate, Adopt DO SOMETHING!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Balloons for Babies

Hi everyone! As you may know by now, we have a huge fundraiser coming up on April 20th! We have partnered with A Sea of Hope and the Rhodes Family along with lots of local businesses, crafters, and family and friends to put on a Quarter Auction to benefit both our and the Rhodes family adoption funds!

With over 100 prizes up for grabs through the auction and raffles plus food, drinks, and desserts we are praying for a successful event. We have been advertising the event locally and on facebook and are expecting a crowd of 200+ people, most of who are adoption minded (or we hope will be after meeting some former orphans and hearing about our kids!).

We are adopting parents but we also strive to advocate for all of the little ones still waiting, that still need a Mama and Daddy to go get them. We wanted to give other advocates a unique opportunity to get the face and bio of the child/ren they advocate for out there to a new crowd of people! We are doing an event within our event called 'Balloons for Babies'





We are going to do something similar to the picture above. We will have helium balloons with cards attached to the bottom. On the cards we will put a picture of the child of your choice on the front and their bio and link to find out more information on the reverse side. There will be one child per balloon and the balloons will be placed around eye level at all of the tables!

To get 'your' child onto a balloon all you have to do is donate $10 and provide us with a link to your child where we can get their picture or information! You can have as many balloon babies as you'd like, just donate $10 for each one.

If you love the idea of helping a child in need find a home, but, don't have a specific child that you advocate for, we would be happy to select a child for you or help you learn more about how to become involved as a Prayer Warrior or advocate for a special needs orphan internationally via Reece's Rainbow I first got involved with Reece's Rainbow as a Prayer Warrior for a little boy who is now home with his forever family!

Update: Mandy and I decided that we'd like to extend this offer to other adoptive families as well! For $10 you can put your (or a family of your choosing) on a card, picture on the front and info with your blog and how to donate on the back!

Also, you can buy a balloon for any waiting child that is available for adoption, they can be in the US, in fostercare etc. as long as they are currently listed as available for adoption. Every child deserves a home and family whether they're waiting domestically, internationally, with or without special needs!

To keep it simple we ask that you donate the money via Paypal as a gift. Mandy and I will alternate having donations go to each of our accounts. To request a balloon baby or if you prefer information on how to make a tax deductible donation you can message me (Brooke) at kirk_brooke81@yahoo.com or Mandy at mamarhodes@live.com

We promise to take lots of pictures of the event and all of the balloon babies!

Thank you for your support for our families and all of the waiting children.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Faith and Consequences

We are chugging along on the adoption front. We had the first of four homestudy classes this past Tuesday and have almost all of the paperwork back that we need to submit for the homestudy. We're working on our Dossier as well so that hopefully by the time our homestudy is complete we'll be close to sending it off.

And of course it goes without saying that we are fundraising pretty much non stop. I am making bows and necklaces and other bottlecap merchandise to sell and have started a new line of craft projects that I hope to start selling soon. We had a vendor event/craft show this past weekend that brought in around $300, we still have our adoptionbug and Rada manufacturing fundraisers going and in April we have a huge yardsale as well as our Quarter Auction lined up.

We are thankful for the progress we've made, the funds that have come in, but, its been a hard and often exhausting process. I thought that I was prepared for the mountains of paperwork and the full time job that fundraising would be. I was wrong. Not because I thought it would be easy but just that I underestimated how emotionally, mentally, and even physically draining it would be to love a child, to know in your bones that he is your's and not be able to just go scoop him up.

Multiple times a day I stare at the handful of pictures that I have and I pray for our son who doesn't even know that he has a family coming. Our little boy has waited over 5 years (he was 19 months old when his Mom relinquished custody) for a Mama and Daddy. And, I wonder what the wait had done to our son mentally and emotionally. The more I learn about the psychology of adoption the more I pray for our son's heart.

This picture always pulls at my heart


The first thing I noticed about this picture was his sweet face, then the knobby little knees, the cute ears...but now I see hands hidden behind the back. I don't know if he just felt awkward for the picture or if he was trying to hide his hands. And of course my Mama's heart wonders if he's been made fun of for the hands with the fingers that are exceptionally long because of his condition.

We know that he attends school in his village which is great but I also know that in EE parents would most likely not be too happy for their children to be in school with orphan children. Even if the other children are not unkind to him, it has to make it that much harder to not have parents of your own, to return to the orphanage every day instead of home like the children he goes to school with.

5 years.

5 years of no one telling him that he is loved, that he is beautifully and wonderfully made. that he is a gift.

And that's why this process is so hard, why its so easy to feel defeated when a fundraiser flops or just a handful of people show up for an event.

But we serve a God who is faithful. So when the Devil tries to bring us down with the sheer amount of money we have left to bring our son home, God says 'My economy is not broke' he reminds us 'My grace is sufficient for you' and we pick ourselves up and we keep moving. Often He works through his people, a phone call from a friend offering words of encouragement, a $5 donation from a stranger, families that are in the process themselves that go out of their way to love on us and our son, and countless other instances where God reveals himself to us make it possible for us to keep moving.

FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION. We call it fundraising but I think we need a better term. We have fundraised before for many causes that are dear to our hearts. We served for three years as the Ambassador Family for our local March of Dimes chapter. We had years where we raised several thousand dollars and exceeded our goal, we had years where we missed the mark and were disappointed.

WE CAN NOT MISS THE MARK here. The CONSEQUENCES of failing to fundraise the money we need is not about missing a goal or being disappointed its about LIFE, our son's life. If we fail we don't get to bring him home and that is a heavy burden to carry around day in and day out. Even when our faith says our God is greater than any obstacle, any burden, any thing thrown at us by Satan...we get weary at times. Not because we don't trust our God but because we love our son so much it hurts.

I feel like my child has been kidnapped and is being held hostage. If your child were ripped from your home and you had no way to tell them that you were coming, that you were doing every thing you could do to get them how would you feel? Ian is as much our son as Nicholas is. That may seem crazy to you but that makes it no less true.

We will do whatever it takes to bring our son home, wouldn't you?! We obviously can't sell off our house (that would make it a little hard to pass our homestudy) but we are doing every thing short of it. We have made a commitment to love our son and care for him for the rest of our lives, we need your help to bring him home. We will work and scrimp and save and sell but we can't do it alone. I'm done being humble, I'm begging for your help.

If you can't help financially you can still help. You can pray for us and all of the families that are in the same process, our children that wait and the children who are still waiting for a family to say yes to them. Not everyone can adopt, but, we can all do something. You can also share our story and our fundraisers. We have two big ones coming up in April that we are blessed to be doing alongside the Rhodes Family who just got home from visiting their daughter and are now working to finish their process.

If you're willing to allow God to use you, even if its inconvenient, even if its hard, then He will.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Paperwork, Prayers, and Prizes

Ok, so its turning out that even with all the amazing things going on in our lives, I"m still a horrible blogger! I posted back on the 8th (1 month after we said yes to our boy) about the awesome GIVEAWAY that the Rhodes family put together for us. The Rhodes family has been such a huge blessing to us, I talk to Mandy daily (usually several times a day) not always about adoption but she's the first person I call when I'm confused over paperwork or panicking because our next set of fees are looming. We also froze our hineys off selling donuts along with the help of some amazing friends! (I really should blog more to share all this awesomeness with you all)

If you didn't know, they purchased the vacation that is being given away! When Steve and I were still in the discussion phase of this adoption, Mandy and Marty already loved our boy and promised they would help us bring him home. I knew then that it wasn't an empty promise, but, I had no idea how much of a blessing they would be to us!

Mandy helped me get my first facebook auction going. Then we were blessed with so many donor and bidders that it was overwhelming I literally felt like I couldn't say 'Thank you' enough. So, if you're reading this and you participated in our auction at all, even if it was just to share the event and invite your friends, from the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU!

By the way this is the precious face we're working so hard for!


And, the cutie that can't wait for his brother to come home! How awesome is this 'I'm going to be the LITTLE brother shirt ~Adoption in progress' Shirt that a fellow adopting Mama made for us?


So it's been a busy few days. Steve had the afternoon off yesterday so we went and had our fingerprints done for FBI background checks and pictures made for our passport applications. Today I applied for my passport, got our VA CPS background forms notarized, got money orders to send off to the FBI and VA CPS background checks, got life insurance for myself, and put up our latest fundraiser (more on that later). I came home and attempted schoolwork with Nicholas, looked at the dishes in the sink and the laundry that needs to be folded and decided they'd still be there tomorrow.

All of the above paperwork (except for the passports) are things required as part of our homestudy. For anyone that missed it we had our 1st intake interview and paid the first half of the homestudy fees ($850). We are working on getting all the forms filled out, working on our autobiographies (much harder than it sounds), getting vital records together, and trying to clean and organize our house so that we don't look like hoarders. I have boxes everywhere of stuff for the yardsale coming up in April, stuff for our Quarter Auction coming up in April and random stacks of stuff that I'm going to 'organize' once we have our new shelves finished and in place.

Add all of that onto homeschooling Nicholas and going to school myself, fundraising (which I now realize is pretty much a full time job) and some days I feel like I would only have enough hours in my day if I was actually able to give up sleep altogether. But, on those days all I can do is admit that its too much and give to Jesus, go to sleep and start over the next day. And God is faithful, on days where I'm overwhelmed it never fails that Steve calls and says he's bringing dinner home, or a friend calls just to chat and lets me complain or makes me laugh.

I want to go get our boy yesterday so its hard for me that so much is still not done, but, I'm trying my best to trust in God's perfect timing for every thing.

I keep promising a breakdown of our adoption costs. I promise its not a big secret its just that it kind of keeps changing as I find more and more things that we have to pay for :) But, here is my attempt. A lot of things are best estimates provided by our agency and families that have walked this path.

UPFRONT COSTS           Crossed through items are paid

Commitment Fees                                                                                $3500 DUE ASAP
 *Include fees paid to our domestic placement agency AAC
   and our foreign placement agency (In our son's country)

Homestudy Fees                                                                                  $250 Application Fee
                                                                                                           $850 1st 1/2 of homestudy
                                                                                                           $850 2nd 1/2 of homestudy 
                                                                                                           $750 Postplacement Supervision 
                                                                                                              (3 @ $250 each)
                                                                                                           $350 training classes 
                                                                                                           $35 online required class
                                                                                                           $500 Hague Oversight
                                                                                                         ~$200 mileage for Social Worker
                                                                                            Total: $3785  LEFT TO PAY: $2685

Miscellaneous    Apostilles for all notarized documents going to foreign country: $35, Fingerprints for FBI background checks: $10, Passport Photos $22 for both. Passports for both $270 (I clearly read this wrong somewhere I had budgeted $100 for both of them, imagine my surprise). FBI background checks: $100 for both, VA CPS background checks $14 for both. Shipping documents ~$20 so far. Shipping items from the auction $80  and I still have a few things left. 

I included our passport costs in this breakdown because we know we'll need them for our dossier and they can take up to 6 weeks to come back right now.

The good new is that between the cash/check/ChipIn donations we've received, our facebook auction ($2098 final total), donut sales, and the spaghetti lunch and dessert auction we've raised $3908! That is amazing for 7 weeks of fundraising! Out of that we've paid every thing that is crossed out above for a total of  $1651 (not including the Keurig for the giveaway, quarter auction prizes, gas, etc.). So we have about $2257 left from what we've fundraised so far.

We have about $6185 left in commitment fees (Did I mention we need to send those ASAP) and the rest of our homestudy. The next $850 will be due at our second interview which we're hoping will be in less than a month followed quickly by the remainder of the fees. Our goal is to have our homestudy done by our last class on April 8th which leaves us less than 6 weeks to raise the remaining $3,928 needed. We need ~$1250 to send our commitment fees in.

((I will break down the next $20,000+ we'll need in a different blog, I prefer to concentrate on small chunks at a time))

The giveaway posted at the top of this post ends Saturday and a winner will be drawn on Sunday! Click the link above for more details on the Vacation, the Keurig and how to enter.

I also just got our Rada fundraiser going today. We've done these through our church before and their stuff is pretty awesome! They have high quality knives, kitchen tools, and some bakeware that is usually much less than Pampered Chef. But, my favorite part is that they have really neat cookbooks starting at just $7 and lots of fun dips and mixes starting at just $2.50. We make 40% off of all sales. If you would like to check it out click HERE It will ask for an internet order number and a password. They are: Internet ordering number is 504287 the password is brooke9212

We have a vendor event/craft show that my sweet friend Stacy is hosting at her home for us on March 16th if you're local and would like to know more this is the facebook event Vendor Event

The first weekend in April, Saturday 6th we have a huge yardsale planned that we are taking donations for. We can store your items for you and help with pickup if needed. A really fun event is scheduled for April 20th but I'm going to do a separate blog about it.

Please continue to pray for our family, for God to show favor over our process, and for Him to open our boy's heart to us!

Thank you all again for every thing you are doing to help us bring our boy home <3





Friday, February 8, 2013

The Giveaway

There's a blog I need to write that goes along with this giveaway about love, faithfulness, amazing friends, but, first I'll share the actual giveaway!

My friend Mandy along with her husband Marty has been such a blessing to us during this adoption process. For starters, they're the reason we found our son. Mandy posted his sweet face and information on her facebook wall. But, before that, she is the reason that I had found Reece's Rainbow and started looking at those little faces. Through our friendship over the past two years, and reading her blog my heart has been broken over and over for the orphan. God works all things together for good. Had I just randomly seen 'I's' picture one day without my heart already being broken and prepared we wouldn't be where we are now.

But, like I said I have a whole other post coming about how God has been working, I know what you're here for:

The Giveaway: Win a Family Vacation

Since Mandy has already done all of the work over on her blog I'm just going to link you to the giveaway by saying click HERE

But, I will share a few few details like: You can win an amazing vacation! There are free ways to enter such as sharing and committing to pray for our family and our new son. It ends March the 2nd and the winner will be drawn on March the 3rd. Also, we have a tax deductible way for you to donate which should be live soon! Once it is effective Mandy will update the blog with where to make your donations.

Please comment on her blogpost when you share, commit to pray, and/or donate so that your entries can be counted.

Thank you in advance for your prayers and support!

Love ~ Brooke

An Update and a Giveaway

So, I haven't been doing such a great job of keeping up with this blog. I didn't have a whole lot to report, and, every time I got an idea for a blog it never really came together. But, now I have three different posts I want to share!

First, we're slowly making progress in the adoption process. We have out commitment paperwork all signed and notarized, but, we're waiting on commitment letter from our social worker. We have our intake interview scheduled for Wednesday the 13th so I'm hoping to have the letter today or tomorrow. We will scan every thing and email it to our domestic placement agency AAC who will forward it to our in country agency where it will be translated and submitted. This will 'officially' put our son on hold for us in his country. We will also be mailing off all of our hardcopies to be apostilled and then sending them over either by FedEx or with a travelling family to our in country agency.

Our application with our homestudy agency was accepted and once we have our intake interview our homestudy will be officially started and we'll begin the process of getting our house ready for the home visit (making sure we meet safety regulations for foster care guidelines in our state), writing our auto biographies, filling out paperwork for background checks, getting fingerprints done, medical, etc. The process will most likely take about 12 weeks, they've said it can be done in as little as 8 if we get every thing done and our background checks come back.

Our fundraising efforts have been going really well! In January when we announced we were adopting we had about $300 come in through Paypal. Our facebook auction which ended on February 2nd brought in $2,208 which is beyond amazing (and part of that will be included on my next blogpost). We've had $100 in donations come in this month. Our Krispy Kreme fundraiser that we're doing with the Rhodes family has gone really well, we had over 80 preorders come in. We decided to take a little leap of faith and order 150 boxes to pick up Saturday, so pray that we sell the 60+ extra boxes when we set up, and, if you're in the Collinsville area come have a box!

We also have a spaghetti lunch that our Ladies Fellowship at church is helping us with this Sunday, followed by a dessert auction that the Rhodes family wanted to put together for us. Just like every thing else we've done since deciding to adopt, the outpouring of love and support have blown us away and left us humbled. I feel like I can't say thank you enough! Our family and extended family, our friends, even total strangers have stepped up to help us during this process and we're overwhelmed at times with the love being poured out on us.

Ok, well this got long and I want the giveaway to be easy to find so I'm going to do make another post now about the Giveaway!

Thank you to everyone that has been praying for us, who has offered us support and encouragement, and to those who have given so generously to help see our boy home. We can never repay your kindness but know that God will use your gifts.

~Brooke~