Archive for the 'family' Category

What’s one more?

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

I haven’t been blogging a ton lately, and many of you know why. We have a third child with arthrogryposis in the house these days thanks to the foster care system. And while I’d love to take a million pictures of this sweet child’s face and tell you the amazing (unplanned) story of how she became a cuddly and loud and goofy and precious part of our family, unfortunately I’m prevented by privacy rules as she’s still a ward of the state. Going from one child with AMC to two had it’s difficulties, but going from two to three has been another story entirely. I have no free time anymore thanks to a casting and splinting schedule that has tripled. My blog has grown cobwebs. I forget what my husband looks like. And going grocery shopping or to Miracle League or to events involves a lot more logistics now.

And guys, we got a minivan. This just got real.

But it’s worth it! Love these kids! They are all so smart! And stinkers! Ohhhhhh I have stories. :)

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Laura’s kidney (kidney saga continues!)

Monday, November 18th, 2013

(For a link to the story with text click here.)

I want to thank Ashlee DeMartino from 10News for airing the original story (seen here) about the cancelled surgery. James is a great advocate and because of his fight and the exposure from the news report a new surgery date was given that’s only two days from the original date instead of two or more months! This last week has been a roller coaster ride for the Rivera family. Thanks for all your prayers and support. My aunt, uncle and cousin fly in day after tomorrow! Exciting!

(The above video contains Roland being a cute little annoyance who wouldn’t let us do an interview. He was really cute. He talked the whole time I did. :))

There’s so much background to this that is incredible. One of my good friends, Meg (who is responsible for the veggie lasagna that kept my newly adopted and very stubborn son alive for the first month home), really cared about her coworker, James. In fact one day when she was over she pulled me aside to talk about him. She told me all about his family and his little girls and his circumstances. She encouraged me to find out my blood type and consider donating to him since she was one of the few who knew I was starting that process anyway. I contacted my kidney coordinator and, after talking to Janine I got James’ coordinator too, but long story short he didn’t fit in my chain unless we wanted to kick several people off the chain who had been waiting a long time. Plus our two hospitals weren’t really compatible, although Sharp was willing to try to work it out if there were no other options. (Sharp Memorial and the NKR pretty much would have done whatever I asked even if it was in no one’s best interests but mine. They take care of their donors.) Then Laura said she would see if she could help. (So in a way Laura gets credit for the six additional people in my chain who got their kidneys since James was now taken care of.) After the testing Laura found out that not only was she a match for the oh-so-hard-to-match James, but she was a VERY close match! The kind of match they usually only see with siblings! I texted Meg the good news about Laura and she was texting me back while in labor and I didn’t even know. Haha! Her son was born sometime soon after that! This is the most random amazing story. James’ and Laura’s surgeries are this Friday!

Double Birthday Fun!

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

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Laelia cut her own hair.

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And the lady at Supercuts evened it out for her birthday. (It’s short, y’all.)

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Grandpa and Grandma drove the ten hours down to stay with us for a couple weeks.

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They wear the kids out. :)

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And they bake the kids cakes!

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Hand-decorated by Grandma

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Birthday hair band

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On the go!

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Wink

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“It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.” Whiny boy was cold. Mama didn’t mind all the cuddles to warm him up.

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Presents!

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More presents!

Tomorrow we drive up to LA for the AMC mini meet up! Can’t wait to see all our AMC friends!

These last several days were nuts. In the the last 12 days and next two we had/will have:

1 ministry fair
1 major all-day metabolics clinic we waited 8 weeks to do, with testing
2 visits to the orthotist
1 battle with insurance over a shoe lift
2 school meetings for Roland since he no longer qualifies for Head Start because of his diagnosis and we have to transfer him
1 meeting with regional center (2 hour psych eval for Roland, he’s now testing at 26 months old, he’s three)
1 wedding
2 trips to AWANA with verses memorized
2 ball games (Miracle League) for Laelia
Cleaning the house for 3 visitors coming to stay with us
1 blood draw and doctor’s appointment
3 special writing projects
1 trip to Laelia’s school for her citizenship award
2 trips to Sharp to meet with doctors
1 Compassion Int. conference where we worked the booth
1 AMC meetup in LA
1 double birthday party for both my kids
2 orphan blogs due on the first
1 giant fundraiser with multiple vendors that I’m organizing

And of course my surgery is Monday. I’m donating my kidney to a stranger same as my hubby did a year and a half ago. Kids will hang with their grandparents while I’m recovering the next couple weeks.

Then naps for everyone!

Happy Gotcha Day!

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

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We take “Gotcha” day literally around here. Good catch, Laelia!

My baby boy’s Gotcha Day is TODAY! Happy one year home little Amerikrainian!

Last year on this day (August 15th) Roland left the orphanage and was promised that he would never EVER go back there. Welcome to family; family is permanent.

“Are you sure you want him? Would you rather have a ‘healthy’ child?”

Our son (the diamond in the rough, a pearl of great price, the treasure in the field) is forever wanted! Desperately wanted. Incredibly loved!

What they couldn’t see, we saw so clearly.

So did all of you.

“Didn’t you pick him up two days ago?” a nanny asked on this day last year. No, we hadn’t. Was he just a number? Another mouth to feed? He’s so much more than that.

I carried him out the formidable green gates, down the stairs with no handicap access, across the streets with no crosswalks and into the car with no car seat.

He literally left without a thing to his name. Well he would have. They striped him of clothing, and then when they realized we had left his extra clothes at our apartment in Kiev, an hour away, they suggested we leave him in the orphanage another day. (Um, no.) Finally they allowed us to take home different clothes (comically too big, mismatched and pink-laced) only because I asked really really nicely. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand it also may have had something to do with the fact I had just gifted them 100% of the money the Ukrainian government had in a savings account to feed Roland that would have gone to me. My back. Your back. Scratchy scratchy.

He had no toys.

He had no ability to chew the first foods we gave him. And he choked on his first snack. (Great job, mom!)

He was so scared during our walk around busy Kiev (on our aimless hunt for diapers) that he started shaking and then threw up down the front of my shirt. Cars and buildings and people and noise… this was all completely foreign to him.

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With no language and no way to get away he braved the terrifying umbrella creature over his head. What torturous moments in the rain.

And, even though I imagined this magical instant bond, he was also wary of this strange woman he was strapped to.

But then that woman put him in a bathtub.

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Or glorious day! He LOVED his first ever real bath! So much!

He discovered the microwave that was kept near the floor because “Let’s put microwaves on the floor!” said the dumbest apartment designer ever.

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And the best toy in the world was the door in the apartment between the bathroom and kitchen that he loved to close, then wait excitedly for it to open again, then close it again.

He didn’t make great eye contact.

He didn’t know how to hug or rest against me or cuddle.

But he was willing to learn. Slowly. Cautiously.

He fell asleep for the first time in his life that night with a Mommy right next to him, hand on his tummy–no bars, no distance.

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With those little stiff arms that would NOT bend.

Several days later Roland would get his passport and fly home.

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…and scream most of the 26+ hours of travel. And throw up on the plane. And hate us for doing that to him for a while. :)

Then he was home. And he was ours. And it was so surreal. That first night home I fed him a bottle of donated breast milk and rocked him gently. It would be three long, hard days of detoxing whatever drug was in his system before I got a moment like that again. Well worth the wait.

He is not the same boy I took out of the orphanage that day. He’s a maniac! Haha!

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(Click to enlarge.)

Happy one year home little man!

Roland

We love you.

To celebrate Gotcha Day he got chocolate! (Haha, not as great as it sounds thanks to his new metabolic issue.)

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We made sugar-free chocolate cake and sugar-free chocolate cookies to celebrate since Rolly now has sugar limitations.

Cookies: 3 mashed bananas

1/4 cup of unsweetened apple sauce

2 cups oats

1/4 cup of unsweetened almond milk

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup of sugar-free cocoa powder

350 degrees for 20 minutes

Cakes: 1/2 cup ground walnuts (or crushed)

1/2 cup carob or cocoa powder (sugar-free)

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

4 egg whites

2 tsp vanilla

1 teaspoon cinnamon

350 degrees for 20 minutes

(The cakes tasted like sawdust so I suggest adding some almond milk or unsweetened apple sauce.)

Pray

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

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Guys my heart is breaking! Please, if you pray, please pray. The orphanage my sister is adopting from is right outside Lubumbashi where rebel fighters have just attacked! The last time rebel fighters attacked (they attacked Goma), the militia killed all the women and children they could find… *after* savaging them. My nephew is in this city! Right now the orphanage itself is six miles outside the city and spared, but pray it stays out of harm’s way!

Now remember my sister is not adopting a child currently in the orphanage, but one of the next children to arrive there. So there’s a good possibility that my nephew is in Lubumbashi that is being attacked right now. That means that most likely my nephew is right now becoming orphaned and suffering abuse and trauma at the hands of the militia before being transferred to the orphanage. My sister’s heart is super heavy this morning.

Reminds me of something I read in the book 7 about Jen Hatmaker’s adopted daughter, Remy:

“During the first week of October, I suffered inexplicable sadness for our Ethiopian kids, yet unknown to us. I couldn’t quit crying. I couldn’t stop worrying. [...]

‘God is prompting you to pray for your children for some reason.’ [...]

So Brandon and I prayed desperately for our kids. Were they losing a parent? Were they suffering? Were they tender and lonely? [...]

[Three weeks later]

I went back to those dark days of prayer. It was the week she was brought to the orphanage. Shipped twelve hours north of her village, her people, everything she knew to a crowded orphanage with children and workers who spoke a different language, it must’ve been devastating. She must’ve felt so alone. At age five. Except Jesus never leaves His little ones, His most vulnerable. He was there in the scary van ride north. He was there in her confusion and fear. He was there as she was assigned a bed and communal clothes and had her beautiful head shaved. He was there that first heartbreaking night. And He made sure we were there in spirit, too.”  (pages 198-201)

UPDATE (from my sister): “Thank you to everyone who prayed this morning and this afternoon. The news reports no more fighting in Lubumbashi, as the militia group was stopped by the local army and peacekeeper forces. Please continue to pray for the people of DRC, our child, the orphanage owners/workers, and our future trip there. Only God can provide safety and peace in such a wartorn area.”

Give some green on the day you wear some green!

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

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Laelia and Roland can’t wait for their new cousin!

Many of you already know that my sister is adopting my nephew from Congo later this year. They have an online auction going on right now through the month of March. You can look at all the goodies (including a full-size star gate for us geek folk) here.

But that’s not why I’m writing. I’m writing because an anonymous donor has offered my sister a $500 matching grant to bring her boy home!

But here’s the catch: the matching grant is ONE DAY ONLY.

That’s right. This Sunday, March 17th, on St. Patrick’s day when you put on some green please consider donating some green too!

Every penny you give their adoption on Sunday will be matched up to $1,000! (So if we raise all $500 then they will throw in another $500!)

To donate go here.

Thanks so much!

Remember this Sunday only!

Thanks!

!!!UPDATE!!! 3/17/13 They made the entire matching grant! Thanks everyone who gave!

The easy life

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

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I wanted to write a little about how we’re doing considering it’s been six months since we brought our newest little home. I’d describe our adoption as “easy,” not that it was always that way, but because on the grand scale of things we have been incredibly blessed, and that has nothing to do with us. We weren’t especially prepared and we weren’t especially good at patience or parenting tricks. Regardless Roland has fit in really well, bonded incredibly fast and we all love each other. And thanks to our wonderful family and friends we were able to provide him not only a home, but a loving community.

I have incredible respect for those families who choose love during the hard times. I sometimes think I have this so easy because God knows I suck at being a loving mother during a screaming fit. And even though it’s been easy (much easier than we expected) it hasn’t always been roses. I’ve struggled with anger during the last six months. You’d think communication difficulties would just be hard on the little one, but I found myself getting angry! “What in the world do you want?!” has come out of my mouth more than once. And I have felt deeply the irony of yelling, “Stop yelling!” And some days I’m only one more “No!” or “Ow!” away from grinding my teeth to nubs. Oh and have I mentioned that my cute little man still has the well-earned nick name Mr. Screamers? I feel like my major accomplishment in this adoption has been to show the world that ANYONE can adopt.

And even though Roland has had some trauma in his past, most of what we’re dealing with is just two year old boy. I think my biggest parenting handicap is the fact that Laelia was so easy on me!

But really even when we were loving a picture of a boy and imagining what he would be like, I didn’t really think I could have as much love for him as I do. I mean Laelia is my world. She’s my life. Come on, she’s Laelia! So how after six months do I have as much love for my Roland as I do for my Laelia? He’s not flesh of my flesh. I didn’t have his newborn face to memorize or breastfeeding to bond us, but I love him as much as my daughter. How? I don’t know. It’s true that love doesn’t divide, it multiples. But I didn’t expect it on this scale.

Sometimes holding my little cuddly boy is healing. Just goodness.

We adopt because we were adopted. We love because we are loved. We give because it’s all been given to us. Our entire family is one collective response to a divine Initiator.

People say all the time now much Roland looks like us. And I know that’s true, but when I look at him I notice every single Ukrainian feature. I’m drawn to those differences like anyone is drawn to notice the differences in things. The things that look nothing like us are just as beautiful as the things that look like us. His eyes are the same color as his sister’s. His skin has the same paleness as both parents. But that Russian nose and dark eyelashes are on a completely different genetic canvas and they are beautiful.

So I know I haven’t found the time to write endlessly about our days, regretfully, but know that we are imperfect people who are enjoying life and learning as we go. And things have been good.

Really good.

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Our excursion up north… in pictures

Friday, February 15th, 2013

It’s nice to have most of our family living in the same state… oh wait, it’s the state of California which is freaking long! Family is really a ten hour drive “up the road” so we don’t see them as much as we’d like. But a friend’s wedding provided the opportunity for a road trip and off we went to make the rounds! Here are a few pictures of our trip. (I realize now I missed out on pictures with Grandma Wynema, Aunt Linda, Ginny and Emily and Daniel. I guess we were just too busy having fun and catching up.)

The wedding (Saturday):

We drove up Friday night after Charley got off work. We arrived in Fresno at 1:24 am only to be told our room had been accidentally given away. We drove around looking for the other hotel. We got the kids to bed by 2:15 am by some miracle. So then we were crossing our fingers that they would last the whole wedding later that day without being the crazy children they already are, but more so. Crazy concentrated  Lynn’s wedding was so great because the ceremony was set up in the banquet/reception hall. So we sat at the tables we would be served lunch at while watching the ceremony. Somehow this made it very intimate and perfect… like a family reunion. Roland missed most of the ceremony as he had to be louder than anyone speaking. At least I wasn’t the only one in the “little screamers” section and the set up made it less obtrusive to dart out the back. :) Roland cheered, clapped and hollered when the couple walked back up the aisle after the ceremony. :)

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The couple: Lynn and Doug

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Becky

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Bubbles!

Check out the video of my littlest trying to blow a bubble. He would have passed out before too long. :)

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Check out that face!

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That face there. :)

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Laelia decided to “meow” silently during the entire ceremony. Don’t ask.

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Roland sat with Becky… you know for the 30 seconds he was quiet, then they darted out the back. :)

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Loud little man!

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Flirting with my camera.

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Oooh!

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This was our table.

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Kids with Uncle Bolt

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One kid stealing food off the table.

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I had put the bubbles way up high, but Laelia climbed a small mountain of wide stairs to get to it! The first step was almost as tall as she was, but she did them all by herself. I even got a short video of the last couple steps. (She started at the bottom!)

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Sunday:

We drove up the extra three hours to Placerville that night with a little boy who cried most of the drive. (He had his casts cut off, bivalved and strapped back on with ace bandages which cut into his skin. Long story.) We arrived a bit after midnight and worked on getting the kids to bed. Later that morning we visited the church Charley and I met and fell in love at. It was nice to see the familiar spots like  that parking lot we used to make out in the… um… trees. :) And we spent some time at their new playground.

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Lunch after church at Tortilla Flats!

AMC Mini Meet Up:

Charley had to drive back to San Diego right after church. (He ended up being too tired to make it the whole way and stopped off in Bakersfield at Linda and Phong’s to sleep.) He had work the next morning, but the kids and I stayed a few more days. Through Facebook I learned of another AMC family living right down the road from my childhood home! So we went to her house. It was us three, plus Becky and her kids, plus Kayla and her kids and a friend. It was funny how we all knew some of the same people even though we lived a long ways away.

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The AMCers

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Love these people!

The next day we visited Sue who had just had hip surgery a few days earlier. We also visited Ginny and her family. Both Ginny and Sue flew down to San Diego to see us after Laelia was born and to welcome us to the special needs community and offer support. I had no idea what to do when Laelia was born. Wow how times have changed!

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Helping “Auntie” Sue learn to walk again. :)

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Getting Jared rides. :)

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Destroying Juni’s princess tent. :)

And last but not least…

Staying with Grandma and Grandpa and GIANT DOGGY!!!

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The three “kids.”

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Dog = ride-able

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Giddy Up!

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Grandpa taught Laelia poker (which she called “pokes”) and she beat us. All. The. Time. We even dealt the dog in. Laelia would give back cards that made no sense and then STILL WIN. ACCCCCCCCC! Grandpa says he’s taking her to Vegas.

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My car goes on your head. You’re welcome.

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Rolly Man getting tuckered out.

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Rolly had to be typing too. So they put a calculator out for him.

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Laelia pushing Levi.

Here’s a video of her pushing  Roland all over the kitchen. Compare it to this video in the same kitchen. She’s come a LONG way!

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Aunt and Uncle meeting Rolly

Afterwards we went to Seniors Club to meet all Grandma’s friends who had prayed Roland home.

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Laelia and Grandpa

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The little rascals. (Soon to be four! One more is coming from the Congo!)

We got to fly back home because these kids would not put up with another drive. (Especially after we drove out to Elk Grove one day, and Folsom the next.) We closed an entire TSA lane in the security area when I put Roland’s homemade walker through the xray machine and it got stuck. They had to open it up to get it out. I guess it was suspicious because of the two random planks of wood I had duct-taped to the bottom to add weight. The lady asked, “What the hell is this?!” I answered, “Roland needs a walker. Walkers cost $3,000. This was $5 plus $2.50 for caster wheels.” Then I hand it to my son who happily walks around with it yelling, “Wok wok wok!” (His word for walk.) The lady then smiles and says, “You saved $3,000? Say no more. That’s awesome.” Laelia demanded to walk through the area because she could walk now over “bumps.” They were telling her she couldn’t because of the metal in her braces. Guess who won. :) Roland is a MUCH easier flyer now that he’s been home for six months, and surprisingly taking my two AMCers on a flight was not that hard. These two are wonderful travel buddies when they want to be!

New Stuff Grandpa Built

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Many of you have seen the accessible light switches and door to the kids’ room that my dad built. (If not go here.) Laelia was able to get out of her room for the first time by herself using that simple contraption. Also one of the first great joys of my son’s post-orphanage life was being able to open and shut (and open and shut and open and shut) the bedroom door. When we were in Kiev he would shut the apartment door and then wait p.a.t.i.e.n.t.l.y for us to open it so he could swing it wide and then shut it again. Now he just does it all by himself all day long. :) He also loves the light switches and will turn the light off and on (and off and on) all the time… especially when his sissy is on the potty, taking a bath or brushing her teeth. Of course.

Well a few weeks ago Grandma and Grandpa came for another visit. This time besides some weather-proofing (what is this liquid stuff falling from the sky?!) Dad built a way for Laelia to enter the front door of our house! He had to figure out a way to keep the door in place using a gate latch. Then he drilled one of those shower bars to the door. Then he made a handrail (with another sturdy shower bar) for the one tiny step before that. I can’t tell you how nice it is to get Laelia out of the car and while I’m fighting with Roland’s carseat to just say, “Go in the house Laes!” and she does! Before I would use my necessarily beefy arms to hoist them both over the step and door jam. Now I don’t have to!!!

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Click here for a video of how Laelia uses them.

Also we got a portable “hide-y ramp” as Laelia calls it. Because it hides the one step to get to the living room. But it’s completely removable too! Dad even found left over carpet in our garage to match! Now instead of Laelia walking across the entire house to get to the living room, she takes the short cut! And she has totally mastered walking up this slightly-steeper ramp perfectly!

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No step here!

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Ramp upended to show it’s removable.

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And lastly he built a ramp going out the back. It’s just a simple one, but Laelia can do it herself!

We are just SUPER ACCESSIBLE NOW!

THANKS GRANDPA!

Christmas challenge!

Monday, December 10th, 2012

*GASP*

(Heh, that picture of Laelia never gets old. ;))

Laelia and Roland’s cousin made it to $1,000! Before the 12/12/12 deadline! Woohoo!!! Not only that, but their account now has $2,000! That’s over half way to our goal by the end of the month!

And that’s not all!

We have a Christmas challenge!

Some anonymous donors (different ones) have stepped forward to keep this thing going!

So starting tonight funds will once again CONTINUE TO BE MATCHED!!!

Every dollar will be matched until the account reaches $4,000 OR until 12/25/12.

That’s Christmas Day!!!

Go here to donate.

$1 will become $2!

$10 will become $20!

$100 will become $200!

$234 dollars will become $468 dollars!

And so on.

Every donation is matched within 24 hours and you can see your donation plus the matching donation directly on the donation page.

Please share with your friends!

We want to use this entire grant!

Thank you!

“All we want for Christmas is our cousin!”