Wednesday, November 12, 2014

National Adoption Month!

November is National ADOPTION Month! ~ How has adoption touched you? 

Adoption has touched me all my life. I know many people in my life who are adopted....or have adopted....or are in the process of adopting. 

Ever since I was a young girl, I dreamed of adopting. Some days, our own adoption seems too incredible for me to believe its really happening! But, we really are adopting! What an incredible opportunity we have! 

I have always believed adoption to be one of the most beautiful love stories. CHOSEN to be loved?! That's pretty remarkable! What a beautiful illustration of God's LOVE for us! (Eph 1:5; Gal 4:5-6; Gal 3:26; I John 3:1; Psalm 27:10; Isiah 49:15) 

Also, we believe that God clearly asked us to care for orphans and that we can make a difference in the orphan crisis...even just ONE CHILD AT A TIME.

~Hosea 14:3 - "In you the orphan finds mercy."

~James 1:27 - "Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God means caring for orphans."

~Matthew 18:5 - "And anyone who welcomes a little child on my behalf is welcoming me."

~Isaiah 1:17 - "Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans."

Not everyone is able to adopt. That's ok! God has a different calling for everyone. But everyone can be supportive and encouraging of those who can.

For us, our calling is to raise our children to LOVE God and others and help the helpless. To us, that means a special needs child. We have been called specifically to adopt. God has given us the capacity to love another child and until he/she comes home, there will be a void in our hearts. 

Thank-you for taking the time to follow our journey. What a journey it has been! We cannot wait to see what God has in store for us in the end. In spite of the emotions and stress of it all, we have already been blessed throughout the process...can't wait to see what happens next!  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Why so expensive? What are you paying for???

Lots of people have asked us "Why does it cost so much? What are you paying for?"

Good question....a question we have also asked ourselves many times. The fees are outrageous. There's no doubt about that. Let me break it down for you....

Application Fees, BCS: $500 - (PAID); International Agency: $375 - (PAID)
Home Study Fee: $2,450 - (PAID)
USCIS and Biometrics: $890 - (PAID)
Paperwork: ~ $1,500 (PAID)
- Passports (x5)
- Certified Copies of Birth/Marriage Certificates 
- Transcripts
- Autehntications
- Apostilles
- State/FBI Clearances
- Postage
Dossier Translation: ~$3,100 - (PAID)
Agency Fees: $11,400
- BCS Program Fee: $1,500 - (PAID)
- BCS Post Placement: $2,000 (PAID)
- International Agency Dossier Fee: $4,000 (PAID)
- *International Agency Placement Fee: $4,000
*Estimated Orphanage Donation: ~ $2,000
*Airfare:  $9,886 -
Estimation Only: (Estimates provided by Adoption AirFare)
$1,531 (round trip) per person (X) 6 = $9,186 (+700 "lap baby" on return flight) = $9,886
*In-Country Expenses for 10-12 weeks: $8,000
Transportation for 7 in-country: (3 adults, 4 children) 
Lodging for 10-12 weeks
Passport/Medical exam for child
Food/Hygiene needs for 10-12 weeks
Translator/Interpreter 10-12 weeks 
US Attorney Fees: ~$2,000

* Items in RED are unpaid and will be needed in the next 3-4months *

HOW in the world are you going to be able to afford it?

Well, we have PAID half already and have some in our SAVINGS....We are applying for an ADOPTION LOAN, and will be applying for GRANTS. We are also hopeful to have some successful FUNDRAISERS and SUPPORT LETTERS.

And of course, a lot of FAITH and PRAYERS!!!!! :)

CLICK HERE To Give a Tax Deductible Gift

Productive Week!

Ok friends....thought I should share a bit of an update with you all!

This process has been crazy exciting and after 11 months of painstaking, slow-going preparations, things are starting to come together quickly. This process has been quite a test of our patience and faith!

This week has been very productive....
1.) We submitted our USCIS 2 weeks ago and received our biometric appointments for next week! 
2.) There are ONLY 4 more documents we are waiting on for our dossier - 2 of which are our notarized transcripts from LU. Once we receive those, we can send out a packed to VA to get apostilled! 
3.) The other 2 documents we are waiting on are our FBI clearances - they are in process.
3.) We sent out MN documents to get apostilled
4.) We only have one more local country to get notary authentications from before we drive to Albany to get our NYS documents apostilled. 
5.) We applied for an adoption loan (in some absolutely, terrifyingly, crazy high amount)
6.) Started filling out applications for grants

THIS is exciting stuff. This dossier consists of a lot of time, money, and anxiety! lol. But we are sooooo excited how close we are to completing it! Our goal is to have the dossier competed and sent to our international agency by the the end of  December. (We are hopeful we can bring our NYS documents to Albany ourselves to have them apostilled over Christmas break). 

Once our dossier is completed, we will mail it to our agency and they will submit for translation into Macedonian via a legal translation service. Once it is translated, we will make a copy of of the Macedonian version to carry with us when we travel, and THEN, our agency will submit our dossier along with our request to adopt!!! (Hopefully by early spring).

There are A LOT of unknowns about this timing and such as this is a pilot program....we are praying that all comes together smoothly! 

Please keep those positive thoughts and prayers coming!!! We are so excited. 

- Joe and Hannah

Friday, October 24, 2014

Raising the Funds

 CLICK HERE to Give a Tax Deducible Gift!

We really need to raise some $$$ needed for upfront costs. We have applied for a personal adoption loan and plan to pay much of the $41,000 ourselves, but we would be very blessed and encouraged to have some help to get the ball rolling! 

We also plan on applying for grants and doing more fundraisers/support letters. 

Thanks for the thoughts and prayers! This means the world to us!!!!

Monday, October 13, 2014

We are Adoptoing....Internationally!

Look! We're on Reese's Rainbow! *Xavier for the Butler Family!

Thanks so much for taking the time to view our blog! 

It is our hope and prayer to adopt a precious one from Macedonia. Unfortunately, because of all the adoption laws of the Hague Convention, we cannot give many details, but we can tell you, that we are hoping to be matched with a little one with special needs, Down Syndrome specifically. 

We are a pilot family for a new adoption program for special needs children from Macedonia. We are hoping to be the first family in the United States to adopt a child from Macedonia through the Hague adoption system. The program is not yet open to other families, but we are hopeful that we can help create a successful program that would assist in finding families for hundreds of precious children with special needs. 

In the past 10 months, we have connected with an outstanding agency to start a new adoption program (essentially opening a country for international adoptions), converted our home study from domestic to international, and begun the process of compiling our dossier. Its been a long 10 months as we've waited anxiously for things to come together. Thus far, the doors have opened and we are pursing this opportunity with excitement and A LOT of FAITH! 

The requirements are not easy. The adaptation period is 10-12 weeks. We will be flying to Macedonia for 10-12 weeks (hopefully this summer). Not what we were initially expecting....but we have prayerfully decided to continue our pursuit. 

We covet your prayers!!!!!
Pray for . . . 
1.) Orphans in Macedonia
2.) Officials in Macedonia as they work on adoption procedure/law from their end
3.) Wisdom and Guidance for our family and Our Agency 
4.) Things to move along swiftly and smoothly
5.) God provides the funds

Many people ask us, "Why are you choosing to adopt?" To us the reason is simple - because our hearts are telling us to!

Both of us want to add to our family. We had talked about adoption before we even had children of our own, so we knew it was always something we wanted to do. We have always dreamed of having a large family and when we realized Hannah would no longer be able to have more biological children, we knew that we were meant to adopt! We love kids and feel as though our family is not yet complete. Adoption is the perfect option for us! We have the space, the time, the desire, and most importantly, the love to give. Adoption has become a passion and a calling for our family. Not a day goes by we don't pray for our newest addition!

We were specifically looking to adopt a child with special-needs. Our youngest child has several special-needs of his own, including prematurity and Down Syndrome. We feel well established with the group of specialists he sees for his own special-needs as well as his involvement in the Early Intervention and therapy programs. We have already learned so much through caring for our son, Benji, and therefore feel as though we are equipped to take on the responsibility of caring for another special little blessing.

We have open hearts and arms and look forward to adding an addition to our family.

Thank-you for taking the time to read a bit about us.

Much love,
Joe, Hannah, Essie, Zac, and Benji

Look! We're on Reese's Rainbow! *Xavier for the Butler Family!
*Any donations given via the Reese's Rainbow link are eligible Tax Deductions* 

 Our Family

Sunday, September 14, 2014

About Our Family

  ~ Our Family ~

 We thought you might like to hear a bit about our family. There is so much to share. It is hard to know where to begin! We are a fun-loving, silly, adventurous, festive, family of 5. We love to plan activities and go on adventures! We are in the business of making memories. We always take a ridiculous amount of pictures and videos because we always want to cherish these special times. We love spending time together. Sometimes it doesn't even matter what we are doing so long as we are doing it as a family. Some of our favorite things to do are: *gardening, *going for walks, *visiting the zoo, *throwing rocks in the lake, *attending church together, *playing at the playground, *picnicking, *going to the movies, *playing games, *traveling, & *crafting (Zac and Essie's favorite craft is to paint! 

 We are involved in our Church together as a family and regularly attend Sunday mornings. During the school year, there is a special club on Wednesday nights called AWANA, that our kids really enjoy. We consider ourselves to be Non-Denominational Christians and strive to share our faith by showing love to others. We feel truly blessed and want to bless others also!

 Hannah especially loves to celebrate. She likes to make a celebration out of everything: birthdays, homecomings, achievements, and especially holidays! Hannah's all-time favorite festivity is, without a doubt, Christmas. She literally counts down the days all year long! We met at college in Virginia in 2005 and were married the following summer. Joe currently works as a university instructor online and also teaches High-School at a local private school and he just completed his Doctorate in Education! He enjoys playing games, listening to music, reading, and gardening. Hannah is a stay-at-home mom and occasionally nannies another little girl who also happens to have Down Syndrome! She dedicates the majority of her time to caring for the munchkins which she loves even more than she loves Christmas! She also enjoys reading, gardening, walking, and has a special love for animals. In fact, we have a golden-retriever, 6 ducks, 1 bunny, 2 turtles, and 7 gold fish. She'd start a zoo if she could!

 We have 3 children. Our oldest child is our little girl, Essie. She is now 7 years old and is in First Grade at a private Christian School. Zac is our tender-hearted and fun-loving 5 year-old. He adores animals and can't stand to see any living creature hurt. He is attending Pre-school along with Essie at a private school. Benji, our youngest, is 4 and absolutely loves life. He is super social and is always ready with a smile on his face. This is his first year of school. He is in Pre-K with his big brother Zac and loving it!

 We also spend a significant amount of time with our extended family. In fact, all of Hannah's family live close by, so we have an excellent support system. There are always plenty of hugs and kisses from aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandparents! This is partly what makes all of our celebrations so fun! There is never a dull moment in this house!

Zac, Essie, & Benji - Our Little Loves

Saturday, September 13, 2014

About Hannah and Joe

Thoughts from Joe about Hannah:

 What can I say about the love of my life?! Hannah has been the light of my world since the first time that I met her! I affectionately call her my Estrella, which means "my star, my destiny". There was no doubt in my mind that she was meant for me!

 Hannah has an amazing way of pulling everything together and making sure that everyone feels special. She loves life and loves to celebrate it at every chance she can! When there is an excuse for balloons and decorations, you will find them all throughout the house. When it is someone's birthday, she goes out of her way to find out what will make them smile and make their favorite food.

 She is an amazing mommy who gives of herself completely. She works from morning to night to make sure that everyone is taken care of before she attends to her needs. She plays fun little games which makes everyone laugh, sings crazy songs, tells the best stories, and will stop everything for a dance party.

 She has been blessed with the opportunity to stay at home and take care of all the children. She has a love for taking care of us and is our resident nurse. Whether it is something as simple as a scrape or taking care of medications, she knows exactly what to do. And like other mothers, she is protective of her little ones and makes sure that no one is left out.

Thoughts from Hannah about Joe: 

 Joe is an amazing husband. I am truly in love with him. I would be lying to say we've never had our issues. We've had our fair share....especially when our youngest was born and was critical in the NICU for several months. Thankfully, the experience made us stronger people, a more dedicated couple, and better parents.

 Joe is a great communicator and is passionate about life. He is wonderful to remind me to stop and enjoy the small things and to never take anything for granted.

 He is also a very hard worker! He works two jobs so that I can stay home with the kids while they're young. That means the world to me and allows me precious time with our little ones. He also cares for the yard and volunteers in several community outreach programs. All that, and he is still purposeful about his commitment to family. Each night, he spends time with the kids. They often go outside to play or on walks. He enjoys taking the kids to the library and reading to them. They all especially like playing games and puzzles together. Our little munchkins love their "Daddy Time."

 I am so thankful to be blessed with such a wonderful man in my life. He is a wonderful provider and an amazing Daddy.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Our Experience With Special Needs

 All children are precious miracles and our Benji is certainly no exception! Benji is so tiny and adorable! People never believe me when I say he is 4 years old. Sometimes, I think it is partly because he is not quite walking yet. But, he is scooting, pulling himself to stand, learning to cruise, and using a special walker which is a huge accomplishment especially considering his rough start being born so premature. (Benji was on oxygen 24/7 and has now been OFF of oxygen since February 2013!) Individuals with Down Syndrome have low muscle tone and therefore, it is extra hard work for him to use his muscles. Benji receives Physical Therapy 3x a week to help maintain and extend his strength and endurance. We are proud of Benji's accomplishments and are excited to see what goals and challenges he tackles next!

 Another special-need for Benji is that he has a g-tube because he breathes in liquid instead of swallowing. Therefore, he takes all his liquid through a feeding tube in his stomach (about 3 times a day, we run liquid formula through his tube). However, he eats an abundant about of solid food by mouth - some of his favorites being french fries, broccoli, graham crackers, and bananas! Benji's physicians and speech therapists are confidant that his feeding tube is only a temporary need. Benji has weekly speech-therapy where we are attempting to teach him safe swallowing as well as communication skills.

 Benji does have sleep apnea (he skips breaths in his sleep) - a common condition in individuals with Down Syndrome -which requires him to sleep using a CPAP machine. He uses this consistently overnight with oxygen which allows him safe and restful sleep. Benji also have a small ASD (small hole in his heart) which is being followed by his cardiologist. 

 Benji is also delayed developmentally including his fine motor skills. In addition to his physical therapy, he also receives weekly therapy to help address these concerns. Benji has made great progress and we plan to continue these therapeutic services as long as they are necessary in assisting Benji's growth and development. It is our goal for Benjamin to be as independent as possible. We want him to have the ability to follow his dreams and we plan on doing everything in our power to provide him with the necessary tools to help guide him along the way.

 We are blessed to have an excellent team of physicians and therapists to help care for Benji. The doctors consider Benji to be stable and expect him to live well into adulthood. We are so thankful for the gift of our family and value our time together. We are thankful for the opportunity to be Benji's care takers and hope that our experience will one day open the door for us to help others with special needs.

                                             Benji wearing his CPAP! Doesn't bother him!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

About Benji

                                             Benji on our camping trip to the lake 
Meet Benji!

 Sweet, sweet Benji! Wow, there is just so much we could say about him. He is one special little boy. He has beaten the odds and continues to amaze us on a daily basis.

 Benji was born 14 weeks early and weighed 2 pounds. He was 14 inches long. Not only did he battle extreme prematurity, he also has Down Syndrome. He has overcome so many obstacles and yet, he continues to smile. He continues to enjoy life in spite of everything. He has come so far! Benji has taught us to appreciate and value life. We have been through so much together. Never in a billion, zillion years did it ever cross our minds that we would have a child with Down Syndrome, but for whatever reason, God blessed us with Benjamin and we have never looked back.

 Benji absolutely adores people. He is social and outgoing like his brother and sister. He loves when people talk or sing to him. He seems to enjoy just about everything, but his absolute favorite things to do are read books, sing songs, listen to music, swing, and play with balls or blocks. So far, Benji's communication is limited to few signs and words but he is starting to be more expressive with his tone and gestures. His intent and determination are unmistakable!

 Benji enjoys the simple things in life, which has taught us to do the same. For example, he loves to feel the wind on his tongue and watch the leaves blowing. And, oh my goodness, Benji loves animals, especially fish! Whenever we go into a pet store or a zoo, Benji literally starts screaming with excitement! We decided to set up a large fish tank for Benji's 2nd birthday. We definitely picked the right gift! Its still one of his favorite activities to stand and watch them!

                                          Benji chilling out before the 4th of July fireworks! 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

About Zac

Meet Zac!

If you were ever looking for a forever-friend, Zac would be a good  buddy to have. He is such a sweet-heart! He makes friends easily and is such a good sharer. He's the kind of kid who makes friends at the park and shares his snack in the doctor's office.

He absolutely adores his Daddy to bits and pieces and is like Daddy's little shadow. It's pretty stinking adorable. Zac is not quite as energetic as his big sister. He's our snuggle bug and enjoys cuddling and bumming around. If we'd let him, he'd be perfectly content to wear jammies, drink milk, and watch movies all day long!

Zac is totally into cars and trucks and adores the Disney Cars characters. He sleeps with several of them and doesn't leave home without them! He is also a big fan of super heroes, especially Spider Man and Super Man. When he is playing with his action figures he always says, "Spider man, to the rescue!"

Zac also enjoys being outside. He loves, loves, loves the sand box and out-door play set. Between the 3 kids, he seems to love being outdoors best. In the spring when he was helping Daddy plant fruit trees, he collected dozens of worms and carried them around in a bucket all day! When we say Zac is all-boy, we mean ALL boy!

Sometimes, Zac can be a bit shy but once you get him talking, there is no hushing him, especially if you put an idea into his mind. As you might imagine, there is quite a bit of spelling in our house such as "c-a-n-d-y", and "m-o-v-i-e", and most definitely "M-c-D-o-n-a-l-d-s"!

Zac is incredibly enthusiastic about having a new baby brother or sister. He prays everyday that the new baby will come soon! He is already planning things to do when he or she arrives. It is really very sweet. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

About Essie

Meet our Essie! 

 If you were ever to meet our Essie, you would realize in an instant that she is a little Mommy! She loves babies and is a great big sister to Zac and Benji. She is beyond excited about the possibility of having another baby brother or sister and is always trying to pick out baby items at the store.

 Essie is very girly, yet she doesn't mind getting a little dirty. She loves to garden with her Mommy and Daddy and enjoys collecting snails and caterpillars. She also likes to dress-up and play "house" and collects fairies, ponies, tea sets, and princesses.

 One of her favorite activities is crafting! She especially loves to paint! She also enjoys molding play-doh, putting puzzles together, and watching her favorite movies, especially "My Little Pony" or "Dragon Land".

 Esther has an incredible imagination. She is often writing letters to the dragons and fairies and putting them in the mail box. She also believes that her Daddy is Santa Clause for the entire world and likes to remind him to bring presents to the kids in Africa. She has such a genuine and loving heart.

 Our Essie is tenacious and so full of life. She is determined, and once she has her mind set to something, there is no going back. We try to embrace her independence by molding her to become a motivated, world-changer. She has the energy and inspiration to make a difference. She has an awful lot of love to give and we can't wait to see where life takes her!

 Esther wants to be a "PT Lady" (Physical Therapist) or a school teacher when she grows up. She also says she wants to be a mommy and have a lot of babies. Whatever she chooses to do, we are confident she will shine.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

"Why adopt another baby with Special Needs? Don't you have your hands full already?!"

Sometimes people ask us, "Why? Don't you already have your hands full? Do you really think you can handle it?" 

It's true, we do have our hands full....and we LOVE it.

Life is busy for everyone but once you've got 3 kids, one with special-needs, and a few pets, what's ONE MORE?! :)

In all seriousness, we believe we can not only "handle" it, but that we would thrive! We feel as though adding a child with special needs would be like adding the missing puzzle piece. 

Benji is doing wonderful! In fact, he is doing better than ever. He is off of day-time oxygen, weaning off his feeding tube, almost off all his medications, and his heart, lungs, and immune system are so much stronger! He is doing so well, that the doctors are enthusiastic about us adopting another child with special needs. 

We will admit that before Benji was born, we probably never would have considered adopting a child with special needs. But our world changed the moment we received the amnio results. Down Syndrome has changed our life...and for the better. 

Benji's achievements are slow - but when he reaches a new goal, they are that much more appreciated and celebrated! However, his delay seems more and more pronounced as his brother and sister continue to grow and mature as typical children. One day, they will be grown-up and be independent, maybe even married, have jobs, kids. We're not saying Benji won't be as independent as possible or won't have a job or even get married. On the contrary! We hope he does everything he can and wants to! However, there is no denying the fact that Benji will always need us. 

Hannah used to dream about getting a 2 passenger sports car when we became "empty nesters" - now, she looks at cars like the Prius and says, "Oh, we'll need  a nice little car like that when the kids grow up so Benji has plenty of leg room!" She doesn't say it begrudgingly, just mater-of-fact. When we talk about growing old, we talk about Benji being with us. 

And what could make growing up more wonderful than for Benji to have a brother or sister who would have so much in common with him. To have a best friend...friends who would always be there for each other. Friends to grow and mature at the same rate. Friends involved in the same activities and opportunities. Just like our Zac and Essie participate in things together (like soccer), can you imagine anything sweeter than for Benji and his brother/sister to be involved in something similar together?! They would have a blast! And it would be my guess, that because they would have each other, they might not see themselves so "different" from the world.

We have begun to dream about our future with not only Benji, but with another sweet soul like our Benji. Imagining the two of them together makes our hearts smile. 

Yes, Down Syndrome changed our lives...but we have chosen to embrace our new path and would like to invite another little blessing to share in our special-needs journey. 

What's one more?! :) We adore our children more than anything and Benji certainly is no exception. We love him unconditionally and sincerely hope to add another special blessing into our lives! 

"Dear God, Please send me a new baby brother or sister soon. Amen."

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Our Home

Anyone who visits our home, would soon realize that kids are certainly welcome! There are baby gates, plug covers, a large fenced in yard with a new out-door play set, a sand box, and toys, and more Toys, and even more TOYS!

We live in an adorable 4 bedroom home right near the lake. We can even see the lake from our house when there are no leaves on the trees.  It's a raised ranch style home that allows for a lot of room for little ones to run around. It even has a great big room dedicated as a play-room.

The boys' room is decorated with cars, trucks, and planes - all boy. And of course, our Essie's room is quite the opposite! Pinks and purples, princesses, ponies, and butterflies, and these are just to name are a few of her favorite things!

                                                     Hannah feeding our baby duckies!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Additional Family Pictures

 Benji at the Easter Egg Hunt April 2014

Zac with his Big Pumpkin! 

Decorated the Tree Christmas 2013

"Hello Mom!" 

Zac and Mommy

Happy Boy!

Our family on the last day of our camping trip

 Benji and Essie checking out a baby chick

 Benji chilin' at the lake

 Hannah bottle feeding her brother's calf

 Princess Essie

 Daddy and Benji at the lake

 Essie at the lake

Zac @ our summer family photo shoot

Essie at the play ground

 Essie and her baby doll match!

 Essie loves to catch frogs!

Zac with his cars in hand and our beautiful girlie!

 Essie enjoying a donut! 

 Zac, "Look Mom, I dressed myself!"

 Hannah and Benji at the lake
 Zac in our cabin

 Good morning sleepy head!

 We sure love the lake! (2013)

 Zac and Essie at the play ground! 

 Benji, "Look, I'm standing!"

 Happy Birthday Zac!

Where's Benji???

 Happy Birthday Essie!

Essie and Hannah 

Joe and the boys 

Best Friends