Saturday, July 19, 2014

voices of hope, happiness & HOORAY!!!

Astounding, Phenomenal, Incredible Generosity!!!!

words will fail me again, but that's not going to stop me from trying!!  or crying!
tonight was an AMAZING night, a truly amazing evening....
let's look at some numbers:

over 60 households donated auction items or food or logistical help
more than 24 local businesses donated goods or services
over 135 items were available for auction

and also
dozens of loaves of bread
pounds and pounds of pasta
bushels of strawberries
a whole rainbow of mini cupcakes (in a V shape!!)
fountains-full of chocolate

were enjoyed by probably even more than 180 people, who were

served by an ambitious kitchen team
encouraged by an industrious auction team
and entertained by
24 amazing, talented, clever, hilarious, & beautiful acts, performed by
52 talented & brave, adventurous folks
backed up by a terrific tech team
experiencing a true Variety: from singing to playing piano to dancing to lip syncs to an original song & art, to a new morning routine to amazing costumes to gymnastics!
two precious people driving 6 hours across the midwest, simply to surprise us on this special day

totaling ONE magnificent night of sharing stories, laughter & love in a room with a whole lot of wonderful people in it....

bringing the number of dollars given (yes, in!) to
six thousand, three hundred, eighty-four dollars and fifteen cents.
which looks like this:

here's where the
eyes bug out!
jaw drops!
legs give out!
heart skips a beat!

We LOVE YOU and I truly wish I could have hugged each one of you before you went out the door tonight.  We have known many of you from many different times and parts and seasons of our lives, and some of you came tonight (and brought your families!) without even knowing who we are, just willing to add to the music, or be another set of helping hands.

it reminds me of the mustard seed...
2 years ago we said YES. to one small step forward. and another, and another...
and now, a mountain has been moved.
you helped it move!  you helped US move-
so we can take another step forward toward one dear small girl in China.


I regret there were many pictures I would have loved to take, that I did not have the chance to take
(if you did happen to take some that you'd like to share, thank you!!), but here are the few I did take.

By the end of the evening this beautiful V vase was overflowing!
Any donations we receive above the coverage of the adoption expenses will go toward Vera's medical expenses...

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for blessing us & Vera!
Thank you God for blessing us with Vera!

words fail...

How on earth can we begin to say thank you to so many who have blessed us in



I have so many thoughts to share but time is fleeting before our event this evening so I'll have to save them for another day!

From early June when we figured out that we needed eighteen-thousand-dollars(!!!) before summer would be through, to about a week ago when we had a fantastic 2400 start to that, to today, when we can share that our $8,000 matching grant IS ALMOST COMPLETELY FUNDED!!!!!

This is news that Must. Be. SHOUTED!!!
ONE WEEK, people!
And the week is not over yet!!!!!!
I cannot describe or fathom how it is to be receiving something I feel so undeserving of....

Thank you, God!
Thank you for the generous hearts and willing hands and people with more gumption than seems possible... For the surprises and immense blessing from so many loving and compassionate people...

We are going into our event with only $6700 left for our adoption to be fully funded!!! Woohooo!!!!

We've been meaning to share our puzzle with you - we are going to put the names of everyone who has helped, encouraged, donated auction items, donated funds, shared with us toward our adoption, on these puzzle pieces.  Many families have done puzzle fundraisers, we are a bit behind the times but our fundraiser came first and came fast and how fantastic is that!!!

So from all across the country and even the ocean, we will have your love represented in a small but special way to share someday with Vera, how well she has been loved into her new home...

Thank you!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

cued speech & other cool stuff!

Welcome to Wednesday! We are THRILLED with all the love via Give1Save1, and we have heard from many of you who are sending in checks to Hand in Hand AND our RR account has grown by more than FIVE hUnDrEd dollar$ too!!!  This is crazy awesome-generosity-that-we-can't-truly-fathom!!  THANK YOU so SO so SOO much!!!!!!  Please feel free to keep sharing our video/story ;)  We really, really appreciate it.
 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So the day we first found out about sweet Vera, i became a researching wild woman.  Our little one does not hear very well - she has 50 decibels of hearing loss in one ear and 65 in the other.  Mild hearing loss is 26-40, and profound deafness is 90 or higher, so hers is in the moderate to moderately severe category.  We are not sure what this exactly means for Vera - but if her inner ears are healthy, she will likely be fitted for hearing aids of some kind.  If her inner ears are not, then she may possibly be a candidate for a cochlear implant.  We just won't know until she gets here, gets settled, and gets seen by the people who do know!  Of course there are many many awesome websites to educate oneself on all these things, and many wonderful encouraging folks.

I have a degree in music therapy, and while it may sound odd to think of using music therapy with a person who can't hear, it is actually often a really wonderful thing!  The majority of folks with hearing loss do not have a TOTAL absence of hearing (many in the deaf community prefer the rest of us not to think of them as having any loss at all!).

Music therapy can help develop & enhance
  • residual hearing, listening skills
  • speech & language
  • all communication & social skills
  • a positive sense of self
  • creative self expression
This is just a small excerpt, from the Music Therapy Association of British Columbia website:

Speech and music contain many common properties. The auditory perception of speech and music involves the ability to distinguish between different sounds, their pitches, durations, intensities, and timbres, and the way in which these sounds change over time. These properties aid in the listener's ability to interpret sounds and attach meaning to them. These commonalities between music and speech allow music and music therapy to provide an alternative and pleasurable tool to enhance traditional auditory training techniques (Darrow, 1989).

Music therapy procedures can effectively address a number of objectives in auditory training. Attention to sound, attention to differences in sound, recognition of objects and events from their sounds, and use of hearing to determine distance and location of sound can all be trained through musical experiences (Darrow, 1989). Further, Robbins &amp; Robbins (1980) found that suitable music is more easily heard and assimilated than speech and thus is more likely to stimulate a natural motivation to use residual hearing.

And think about rhythm. You don't have to hear at all to experience rhythm!!
Here is a cool blog called Rhythm for Good, by Kat Fulton, a music therapist who loves rhythm, talking to a music therapist who works with folks who are deaf.  

Anyway, back to that wonderful day when I began to carry a special little secret in my heart, in my searching the web for all things for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, I came across something called Cued Speech.  I had never heard of it, have you?  It is this amazing way of making a (any) spoken language visible!  From the website:

Cued Speech is a visual mode of communication in which mouth movements of speech combine with “cues” to make the sounds (phonemes) of traditional spoken languages look different. Cueing allows users who are deaf, hard of hearing or who have language / communication disorders to access the basic, fundamental properties of spoken languages through the use of vision.

I have loved learning bits of different signs from ASL (American Sign Language) over the years, to put with memory verses or songs, but ASL is its own language...a beautiful language, one worth learning, but like any other language, one that requires years of study before a person is fluent.   I would love to get to know more signs, and also more people in the deaf community.  

But our family is a hearing family, and we wholeheartedly want to be able to communicate with our daughter.  Cued speech is made up of only 8 hand shapes, and 4 different positions/placements. Between just these several simple motions, you can "cue" all 40 sounds in the English language.  Because of its simplicity, it can be learned in a few weeks!  It is a brilliant way to truly enhance a person's understanding of language and greatly impact their opportunities in speaking, lip-reading, reading, and even in learning additional languages!  Cued speech is no spring chicken, it has been around since before Woodstock ;) invented by Dr. Orin Cornett in 1966.

So - in addition to packing our bags, progressing on paperwork, going over a few phrases in Chinese, working on our fundraiser, looking into flights, trying to clean out our basement, stocking Vera's drawers with clothes and toys and books, we are also working on learning cued speech!  

One more time, back to that first day---that very NEXT day, i got connected with a mama of a sweet little girl who happens to be deaf, has cochlear implants and was adopted from asia.  We got together and she asked if I had heard of cued speech!??! Which is what they use with their dear daughter.  So i was blessed to hear more about it from a real-life perspective, and gain a new friend...woohoo!!

All of this to say that while there are many unknowns & of course some anxieties about how we will best need to help our little one along the way, with hearing or not hearing, and everything else about life, there are so many wonderful resources and options for her, and we are eager to just get going already!!  But we are grateful!!

There's so much more to say, except I am running out of time for the morning is quickly turning into afternoon!  So i'll leave you with this, if you happen to be really interested in learning more...

Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 14, 2014

give one save one feature week!!!

Woohoo!!!  It's so fantastic to be celebrating such wonderful SUMMER! ;)

Welcome to our Give1Save1 week!!  We are so thankful and excited to have ourselves and our video featured on their marvelous blog! Give1Save1 is a incredible team of people helping adoption fundraising happen "by the people, for the people" ...just encouraging everyone to encourage everyone to give a dollar!  If you came over from Give1Save1, thanks so much for stopping by!

We had a TON of fun (and let's face it, like all good creative projects, perhaps a wee bit of stress that we can all laugh about now!) making our video and we hope you like it too!  If you do, would you please share it with people you like to share stuff with!?

[Since we got Travel Approval late last week this also means we have about ONE WEEK to finish our fundraising!  --can you hear my excited-slightly-freaked-out scream?!?] 

Katie did a great job explaining our matching grant - and if you want to read more you can click on our matching grant page at the top of the blog or check out the blip at the bottom of this post!  You can also give on our Reece's Rainbow profile which is quick and easy.

We would love to share our progress as the week goes along, & if you are part of that snail mail progress we won't know til later, so would you please let us know (via comment or email at the lower right part of the blog) if you send a check to Hand in Hand?!  Please don't be shy!  It is such a huge blessing to be so well loved and supported...

So -

watch the video just because ;)
• share the video if you like it!
• share a dollar if you wish!

and THANK YOU for helping our dream of giving Vera her forever family (US!) come true!

~ ~ ~

--Matching Grant info: if you'd like your gift to be doubled--
please (do not put our name on the check) make the check out to
Hand in Hand & send it to:

Hand in Hand Christian Adoption, Inc
Todd & Nancy Bartelt
18318 Mimosa Court
Gardner, KS 66030

international pregnancy wait

as i spend a little time alone while everyone's at vbs i am truly listening to the quiet...

and my mind is spinning
and my heart is wondering...
wow, whoa, this incredible journey
is really

today we finally set up her crib!  it feels more real by the minute but still abstract. i have to remind myself (after all it has been six (6!) years since i last had a baby!) that in my visible pregnancies, i also held a sense of the abstract. even after the first one, it seemed so surreal sometimes, that a real human person was growing in me and going to come out and have preferences and laughter and struggles and a temperament and their own fingerprints, unique personality and penchants for things i may never know.... it was truly too much joy to fathom, too good to imagine & rely on until i could see the whites of their eyes and kiss their sweet faces.  because i knew their journey to my arms was not without many unknowns and potential for struggles i could not imagine... so it is the same with this journey. there is, certainly, a lot that is different between adopting and birthing a child. but there is also a lot the same.  i find myself reflecting a lot these days on this particular international pregnancy wait:

1st trimester: homegrown (approx 12-13 weeks)
(get out the ovulation charts & start calculating about 40 weeks from now!...)
the wondering
the test
sharing the announcement
the nausea & migraines
the what-are-we-crazy
the hopefulness and excitement

1st trimester: transatlantic-adventure (approx 52 weeks) 
(a vague idea of which year estimated "due" date might be)
the wondering
the decision
sharing the announcement
the application & photos
the what-are-we-crazy
the hopefulness and excitement

2nd trimester: homegrown (approx 12-13 weeks)
(a pretty nice estimate of due date, give or take 4 weeks, within the next 6 months)
steeped in cravings,
a couple dozen doctor's appointments
chasing toddlers
acquiring bigger clothes
getting acquainted with moms groups & lovely nurses/midwives
the carseat straps, writing or surfing etsy at 3am
brainstorming names, NESTING!
reading about the doula option, having babies, nursing babies,
learning about holding babies close

2nd trimester: transatlantic-adventure (approx 36 more weeks)
(due date is still anybody's guess, a good year away, give or take 3-6 months)
steeped in paperwork, notaries, bloodwork,
a couple doctor's appointments
chasing authentifications,
acquiring a bigger budget for FedEx/UPS
getting acquainted with immigration & lovely agency workers
the homestudy, writing our autobiographies at 1am
brainstorming names, NESTING!
reading about adoption, parenting children, cherishing a child from afar,
learning about bringing hearts close

3rd trimester: homegrown (approx 12-13 weeks)
(getting close! sometimes they can tell how far along you are by measuring centimeters ;)
setting up the crib
increased absentmindedness 
packing to go to the hospital for 3 days
making logistical arrangements for siblings
trying to sleep
vowing to never/always believe/behave/handle x-y-z aspects of parenting...
feeling even more scattered than previous self thought possible
certain that it may be impossible to relax until every last closet & cabinet has been organized
a bit of regret, wishing i had done such and such before now...
but knowing sometimes you gotta live in the tension! 
trying to savor each moment with our about-to-change family but feeling pulled in many directions...let the distracted-mom-induced guilt begin/continue!
thankful for the cameraderie with new friends along the same timeframe
going a little crazy from imagining & re-imagining the story of how it will be when we first see our new little one!

3rd trimester: transatlantic-adventure (approx 12-13 weeks, at last!)
(getting close! sometimes they can tell how long til you fly far by measuring acronyms & weeks ;)
setting up the crib
increased absentmindedness 
packing to go across the ocean for 3 weeks
making flight arrangements
making much longer logistical arrangements for siblings!
trying to sleep
acknowledging that real life pretty much blew all the vows i made before out of the water...
feeling even more scattered than previous self thought possible
certain that it may be impossible to relax until every last closet & cabinet has been organized
a bit of regret, wishing i had done such and such before now...
but knowing sometimes you gotta live in the tension!
trying to savor each moment with our about-to-change family but feeling pulled in many directions...let the distracted-mom-induced guilt begin/continue!
thankful for the cameraderie with new friends along the same timeframe
going a little crazy from imagining & re-imagining the story of how it will be when we first see our new little one!!!

what will our story be like this time?
it won't be long now!

and my mind is spinning
and my heart is wondering...
wow, whoa, this incredible journey
is really only
just beginning.

i have certainly gained.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

celebrating TA!

We have another acronymn to share, one of the most fun ones!  TA- Travel Approval has been given from China to our family!  So this means we can really start to plan the specifics of our...
you guessed it, TRAVEL!  We will be leaving in LESS THAN 3 weeks, friends....whoa. 
Whoa. WHOA!!!  
This is really happening.....!!!

So now there's only ONE more acronym keeping our feet from touching the soil of that magnificent faraway land, and it's CA - Consulate Appointment. 
As soon as we get THAT (sometime this week), we can actually book flights, yikes!!

If you would like to see what is on our auction list, please check out/click on our new page (at the top of the blog) and see all the INCREDIBLE, generous, and wonderful donations we have been receiving! They are not even all in yet! Wow! Amazing! We are overflowing with gratitude!!!

THANK YOU the many wonderful "donation elves" as I lovingly like to call them and to the fantastic folks who have said YES to sharing items, services & love, to be so many Voices for Vera!

Our set list of acts is coming together nicely too, and it is going to be SO. MUCH. FUN!

And lastly, in less than 48 hours we will be sharing our video with you and I just can't wait!!!

The subdued, typo'd (AT) version before we realized our enthusiasm was not very visible!  ;)

Hooray for TA & Thanks for reading!!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

wondering & waiting....

As we get closer and closer to the day we will actually MEET sweet Vera face to face, I have many many emotions.  I have so much more to share about that, but we wanted to share this neat video that our agency made, about that day.  Some families call it Gotcha Day, some families call it Family Day, but it is an incredible day just a few weeks from today, for us, (some yet unknown date) but it will mark the beginning of a new & wonderful adventure together as a family of 6.

The last 3 times I was 35 weeks pregnant, I constantly imagined and re-imagined what those very first few seconds, minutes, hours would be like together... The first time to see the sweet face of my child, the first time they see mine...

It is similar this time, as I (all of us here at home) keep wondering what will it be like!?!?  But the difference, of course, is that dear Vera has lived a whole (toddler-sized) lifetime already before this day, before ever knowing we existed.  A lifetime of experiences & history that we will strive to honor and tenderly embrace.  And that is one of the many unique pieces of this, our (and any other) adoption story.  If you have about 10 minutes and want to walk with a few families through this exciting chapter of their stories, I think you'll be glad you did.