Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Forever and Always

On May 24, 2014, Milo was sealed to our family for time and all eternity. In case you are new to this blog, we are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As part of our doctrine, we believe that families can be sealed together in the temple. To learn more about this, you can click here. We were also able to be sealed to Cooper back in October. That blog entry is here.
Our family and a few of our closest friends all came to support us in our special day.
This was a very special and sacred day for our whole family. Typically kids are not allowed in the temple. You cannot attend a temple sealing unless you're an endowed adult. One of the very few exceptions to this is for an adoption. When children come to your family biologically, they are automatically sealed to the family. When children are adopted, you go to the temple with them to have them sealed to your family. They then become part of your forever family, just as though they had been born to you. It's such a beautiful thing! As part of this, the children that are already sealed to you can come witness the sealing. This is so special! We have pictures all over our house of the temple, and there is much focus on the purpose and importance of the temple in our family. Our kids have looked forward to attending the temple their whole lives! To be able to go in and witness the sealing of Milo was an occasion of great excitement and anticipation!

It was an absolutely beautiful experience; one we will certainly never forget! I am so thankful for my family. For all of our beautiful children. I'm thankful to be a member of the LDS church and for the blessing it is to be sealed together forever.

One of the most special parts of the whole day was after the sealing was over and we got to stand together as a family and look in the mirrors that face each other and see our family go on forever. To see some pictures of what the inside of the temples look like, you can click here.

I want nothing more than to be with these people for days without end. They are my life and I love them more than I have words to express!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


We could not have completed our adoption without the financial support of others. We spent $30,000 in Russia trying to adopt Dasha girl, then another $30,000 for Milo's adoption. Adoption (domestic or international) is not cheap. You are not paying for a child, you are paying for services (home study, background checks, USCIS, agency fees, in-country staff, travel expenses, etc.) It all adds up, though, and I believe firmly that this is money well spent. It is money that is saving the lives of children.

With such daunting numbers, though, families are often dissuaded from adopting. For those who took the brave plunge and committed to a child, some struggle to come up with the necessary funds. Fundraising is absolutely exhausting, both physically and mentally. I think often of how I can help others in their fundraising. I don't have much extra money these days, but I know I can dig deep into my pockets and come up with at least a little. Everyone has at least a few dollars a month they could give, right?

With the knowledge that many people donating small amounts adds up to big money, I have some friends who've started a wonderful program! It's called 5/5/5 for Families. You donate at least $5 on the 5th of each month and the money gets split up among 5 Reece's Rainbow families in the midst of their adoption process. 5 different countries are chosen each month, with one family from each country being selected. Easy and effective! You can even set up your Paypal to donate automatically each month! I think this is such a great way to help kids make it home to their families!

Please consider signing up to donate monthly to this amazing cause! You will be directly helping children with special needs make it home to the families that already adore them! To join the movement and set up your Paypal donation, click here! To learn more about the 5/5/5 program and to join the Facebook page, click here!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Waiting Children on My Mind

I can't help but continue to look at pictures of children who are still waiting for their families to find them. I am drawn to so many of them, but there is no way we have the resources right now to adopt again. They pull at my heart, though, so I thought I would share right here some of the sweet faces that call to me in hopes that their families find them!
  Roxie is an adorable little girl who is 4 years old. She has Down syndrome, with no known heart issues. Roxie is healthy, outgoing, lovable, very social, and happy. This sweet little girl loves to play with the other children. She is speaking (simple words), and her motor skills are good. Roxie is ready for her family to come and bring her home!
I mean, seriously though. Look at that face!! She is perfection! Roxie is in China. To learn more about her, click here! **UPDATE! A fantastic family has committed to Roxie!!

This handsome boy likes to giggle when he plays. Yule is an outgoing little guy who likes to play with other children and will share his toys. He likes to play with cars and blocks and loves to listen to music. His caretakers describe him as an unforgettable good child and hope he finds a family soon. Are you ready to snuggle or play cars with this sweet little boy?
I have loved "Yule" for so long!! He is just SO darling! He is a four year old little boy with Down syndrome waiting in China. He has quite a sizable grant growing on Reece's Rainbow, too! Click here for more information on Yule! (P.S. I've also seen video of him from his agency. HE'S SO CUTE!!)

Ava enjoys participating in classes and motor activities; she dances, exercises, and draws. She executes given instructions, cooperates in group with her peers, and sometimes plays alone. She uses single words more and more. She is a cheerful, sensitive, and friendly girl; she smiles often. She displays emotions of happiness and sadness. During walks she likes to walk in a pair with someone. In the playground she uses toys, swings, cars, slide and she plays in the sandpit. 
I love this little girl from the bottom of my heart! Seriously! She is so, so beautiful! She is four years old and has Down syndrome and is from an Eastern European country. If you're interested in more information, please email me at whitneybarrus@yahoo.com.

Kent is an adorable baby boy who is just 2 years old! He came into care when he was 4 months old, and they began working with him immediately to strengthen his muscles. Kent has Down syndrome, and a VSD (6mm) with left atrium enlargement. He may require a surgical procedure to plug the ASD. Kent’s development is delayed, as would be expected. When he turned 1 year old, he was not yet sitting alone, or crawling. He will need more time, and attention, before he masters these milestones.
Kent is a precious baby boy. He is very alert, and very engaging. His receptive language is very good, and he is beginning to make sounds to communicate with the nannies. His favorite activity is listening to music and being hugged. I cannot argue with that! Kent needs a family to love him, and help him reach his full potential. This sweet boy is waiting for you!
I love this little face! Kent sounds like such a sweet boy! He has Down syndrome and is in China. To find out more about Kent, click here.

Recently turned two year old, Frankie is diagnosed with Down syndrome. Frankie can sit alone and can crawl. He can imitate adults’ actions, can bang two blocks together, and can stack blocks. Frankie knows his name and reacts when called. His language development is delayed. Basic sign language would be a great option for him at this time. Frankie is outgoing, cute, and lovely. He likes to lie close on people. When there is music playing, he will shake his hands happily and shake his hips. His favorite toys are cars. Frankie is one unforgettable boy!
Last, but certainly not least, Frankie!! I LOVE HIM!! Seriously, someone needs to commit to him before I make a very irrational decision. The problem is...he looks so much like Milo!! It makes me want to go get him ASAP and have twinner brothers ;) That's not going to happen, though, so someone I love needs to get him! To find out more about this darling little love, click here!

There are so, so many waiting children that I love. These are a few that I think about constantly and I'd really love to see them find wonderful forever families. I see the difference it makes for Milo, and I can't help but want that for all these children. I also know how Milo is changing our family for the better, and I know that in reality, WE are the ones that are most blessed for adopting him! Please consider adopting one of these beautiful children; you'll wonder what you ever did without them!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Milo in the Morning

I can't believe it's been so long since I've updated! May...how I loathe thee! Too, too busy! It's worse than December in so many ways! Every child has a school performance, musical instrument performance, dance performance, etc. It never ends! It feels like every night we're booked! I have had so many blog thoughts swirling around in my head, but I've never had a chance to sit down and type it! Here goes...

The best time of day for Milo is the first hour or so after he wakes up in the morning. He is so cute I can't even describe it in words! He's Smilo for sure! He smiles and laughs and is the happiest, cutest kid in the world! I wish I could bottle up the joy! It's hard to get pictures of, though, because he is smiling in response to us, so as soon as the camera's covering my face, the smiles temporarily fade. I really do need to record it somehow, though. They are some of the most precious moments to me!

Since the last blog post, so much has happened with Milo man. For the first few weeks of May, we were insanely busy with doctors appointments. One week we had an appointment every single day. It felt like it would never end! The pulmonologist said we needed to have a sleep study done, so we scheduled one. They didn't have an opening until August. By some miracle, though, they called us on a Wednesday afternoon (May 7th) and said they had an opening for that very night! Quin took Milo and did the sleep study. The results were that he has borderline moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea. We followed up with a new ENT who specializes in children with complex airways. He said Milo needs his tonsils out and airway stretched. To stretch the airway, they make three laser cuts into the airway, then put a balloon in to stretch it. This is quite a dramatic surgery. The tonsils out alone is a lot for an 18 month old to handle. Milo's not a typical 18 month old, either. He's so tiny! They would plan on him spending at least one night in the intensive care unit. The purpose of the surgery would be to help his sleep apnea as well as breathing in general. Remember, his airway is the size of a premature infant. The problem with this surgery is that there was only a 30% success rate with stretching the airway and a 30% chance that the tonsils coming out would actually help the sleep apnea. I left feeling so sad. When Quin and I spoke later that evening, we both agreed that from a breathing standpoint, this would be the correct thing to do. From a whole child standpoint, however, it would be quite detrimental. Milo is just learning to eat well and sleep well and is bonding quite nicely. To do such an invasive surgery that can take weeks to heal from (during which not much eating is done) seemed counterintuitive to all we've been working towards. We spoke with his pediatrician, and he agreed that waiting was the best course of action for now. He said that if he himself had seen Milo for the first time mid-May, he would agree with the ENT. His breathing can be quite alarming with its wheezing and rattling. He had, however, seen Milo since March 20th and knew just how far he'd come in such a short amount of time. With summer on the horizon and no real RSV threat, he felt that if we waited through the summer and Milo kept up his amazing rate of growth, we might even be able to avoid the surgery altogether! I've scheduled a follow-up appointment with the ENT for mid-August to reevaluate. Even if he needs surgery then, Milo will be so much bigger and stronger and well bonded! 

Milo also made a visit to the pediatric ophthalmologist and...he doesn't need glasses for now! Phewf! It was the first medical appointment we'd gone to that didn't require a follow up!

In major physical accomplishment news, MILO'S SITTING UP!!!! He's not sitting up well enough to be left alone playing with toys or anything like that, but he can go a good 30 seconds plus sitting all by himself! He can also reach all the way forward, then pull himself back to sitting or when he starts falling backwards, he corrects himself and sits back up. We are all floored at his progress! I'm telling you, this kid was a puddle of mush when we got him. He didn't even know sitting was a way to be in the world. Now, three months later, he's strong as can be and sitting quite well! I'm so, so proud of him!

Another thing that's changing big time for Milo man is his eye contact. He is 1,000 times more aware of what's going on around him and engaged in life. He makes SO much eye contact now! Don't get me wrong; there are still times when he zones out and is in his own world, but he is leaps and bounds ahead of where he was! Sometimes he'll be making eye contact with me and if I look away, he starts yelling and grabbing my face. He's definitely saying, "HEY! Look at me!!" It absolutely cracks me up! He's now demanding attention! He also smiles in response to our smiles, which is a huge change! He only used to smile when being tickled or just on his own. Now we can elicit smiles by acting silly or smiling at him!!

Milo is so much more a toddler now than a baby. He likes to be on the move. If he's held too long, he wiggles like crazy and is ready to be put down to play! He babbles like crazy! Dadadadada and Mamamamama! He is also now exploring the world. He touches everything and even puts stuff in his mouth! We're still working with Early Intervention to help him grasp things better with his hands, though. His hands aren't very strong and/or he doesn't recognize what his hands are for. It seems crazy to say that he doesn't know what his hands are, because he stares at them SO often, but the Developmental Specialist believes he doesn't know what they can do. I agree. He stares at them, but doesn't know exactly how to use them most of the time. We're working with him on that, and I'm confident it won't be too long until he learns!
Another area of physical change is that for the longest time, he wouldn't put any weight at all on his legs and feet. We've been working hard to help him with that as well and he's starting to bear weight on his legs!!
He's also gained SO much weight! I don't know exactly how much he weighs, but dang it all, he's starting to get so heavy! I love it! I'm so, so proud of him! He continues to eat his homemade formula as well as pureed baby foods. He also is eating foods with more texture and thicker foods as well. He likes mashed potatoes and has even started eating yogurt melts and Gerber Puffs!! He has recently moved from a size 2 diaper to a size 3 and from 3-6 months clothes to 6-12 month clothes. He is such a rock star!
Everyone who meets Milo continues to be smitten. He's such a charmer! Our Developmental Specialist comes every two weeks and is floored every single time by how much he changes! We all are. Being his mother is the most fulfilling and satisfying job I've ever had. Every single accomplishment he makes we all cheer and cry over. My heart is bursting at the seams with love for this little man. He has made our family so, so happy! My oldest daughter comments every day how lucky we are to have him, and I agree. He is the greatest blessing! I cry at least once a day out of sheer joy at how far he's come and how proud I am of him.
There was one particular encounter last week that has left me so uplifted! We had a family reunion dinner, and the cousin of our cousin is a darling 27 year old with Down syndrome. I've known her since she was a baby and I love her so much! She loves babies and asked to hold Milo. She was hilarious at first letting us know this was the first Chinese baby she'd ever held! It quickly turned heartwarming, though, as she said, "Hey, he looks like me!" I was taken off guard, but responded that he indeed looked like her. She then hugged him and kissed him and declared they would be best friends forever! Absolutely, Kelsey! She asked if she could come to his 2nd birthday party. She's already the top on the list! She also was very curious why he needed to be adopted and was saddened to the point of tears that Milo's biological parents couldn't take care of him. She then compared the palms of her hands to the palms of his and pointed out to us that both hers and his have "that one line!" Cutest girl ever! She really loves Milo, and it will be SO fun to watch their relationship grow as Milo does! It was such a touching experience!!
I was invited to be on an international adoption panel for adoption.com a few weeks ago. They interviewed a panel of us for about 6 hours on all topics related to the process of international adoption. I'm excited to see how it turned out and will post here once it's online!
On May 24th, we had the opportunity to take Milo to the temple and have him sealed to us. It was one of the greatest moments of our lives. All our family dressed in white, together in the temple. To read more about what being sealed means, click here. I want to dedicate an entire post to this event and will do so as soon as we get our pictures back from the photographer. I just wanted to mention it here, too!
Thanks for continuing to follow along, even when I'm lousy at posting! 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Pulmonologist, Early Intervention, and ENT, Oh My!

We've been keeping busy with appointments as you can tell from the title of this post! Early Intervention has been WAY exciting to start! We are loving learning how to help Milo reach some developmental milestones! He's doing awesome too, by the way! The last few weeks have really changed this dude. He's sleeping like a champ (only waking once a night at most to eat), napping well, and has started to really engage in life! He's making amazing eye contact, learning to eat better, and loves to explore the world around him! He's so dang fun!

Another thing that's changed is we're now making our own formula!! I have heard this idea floating around in some adoption facebook groups, and we decided to try it. Everything on the market for kids Milo's age that aren't eating solid foods are full of man made garbage and chemicals.  The Pediasure he was drinking has tons of sugar in it, and we never gave it to him as a long-term solution. I knew I needed to find another food source, so as soon as I could pull my life together enough, I asked! What we found seems to be working beautifully! We have a nutritional sheet of what he needs to be getting each day, and this formula meets all his needs. In it is homemade "bone broth", or chicken stock as it's otherwise known, banana, molasses, flax seed oil, fish oil, goats milk, coconut milk, hardboiled egg yolk, and baby rice cereal or oatmeal. He eats it like a champ and I'm overjoyed to be feeding him something organic and healthy! At his pulmonology appointment he weighted 15.1 pounds. He's gained nearly 3 pounds since gotcha day!! I'm so proud of this boy!

Everything looks good with his tubes and adenoids, his pulmonology appointment went well, and we've now been referred to a pediatric ENT that specializes in complex airways. We have an appointment with him in a few weeks. We know there are more problems going on in his little airway, it's just apparently difficult to diagnose! We have a sleep study set up, but they're completely booked out until mid-August. Until then, Milo is still doing great with his oxygen while sleeping.

Here are some pictures of what we've been up to!
Here we are dying Easter Eggs. Milo was having fun watching!
Easter morning! We were running late to church and really didn't get a decent picture. Sad! The Easter bunny brought Milo a fun swing for the backyard. He sure loves swinging in it!
More from Easter. Milo wasn't feeling well. His nose is sore and red and he had weird red spots on his face. Poor dude!
He was SO congested. His breathing sounded awful!
The week after Easter. Little dude was feeling much better!
He REALLY loves sweet potatoes. He also REALLY loves making a mess with sweet potatoes ;)
One of the highlights of the past few weeks was Milo's blessing at church yesterday. It was so special! He also looked really cute! I love this little guy so much!!

That's about it for us! We're just plugging away at the doctor's appointments, having fun, learning, and growing like a weed!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

For the Love of Lucy

I have "met" many, many of the most wonderful people imaginable through adoption. It all started in my Reece's Rainbow Russia group. Those gals were an endless wealth of information, advice, and support during our Russian adoption. Since the ban, we have grown even closer. Nobody understands the heartache like these fellow mamas. I love them like sisters!

Several of these dear friends of mine have gone on to adopt from different countries. A few of them got their kids around the same time we went to China, a few are getting closer to travel, and a few just started the process. Although I know many, many people in the process of adopting that are in need of funding, these would-be Russian mamas are the most dear to my heart because they, like me, all lost about $30,000 because of the Russian adoption ban. $30,000 is so, so much money! Like us, many of them had been successful in their initial fundraising. Everything changed after the ban, though. It's impossible to go to the same people who gave so generously to your adoption and tell them, "Well, we still don't have a child, but can we have more money to go get a different child??" It just doesn't work well. Fundraising for a second adoption after a failed first adoption has been brutal for all of us.

There's one specific friend I'd like to highlight for this post. Her name is Tanna. When I first "met" her online, she donated to our iPad giveaway. Not only was she in the middle of an adoption herself, but even my real life family and friends hadn't donated to that silly giveaway! She didn't know me, but wanted to support me nonetheless. She works hard as a nurse and gives generously to others. She's getting close to traveling (she'll most likely be leaving the first of July!) and is still about $7,000 short on funds. Sweet Tanna has done everything she can to raise money for this adoption. She spent $38,000 on her Russian adoption trying to make sweet Lucy part of her family. All the expenses but travel had been paid before the ban. Lucy has Down syndrome and needs a family desperately. My friend loves Lucy so much it hurts and would give anything to have her be part of their family. We share so many of the same emotions. Tanna has been such a sweet support to me through the loss of Dasha and Cooper. She organized and ran an auction to help pay for ECHR costs, got a group gift together after Cooper's death, and prayed relentlessly for Milo as he wasn't gaining weight prior to us getting him. I have been able to message Tanna my worries and concerns, and she always has a way to calm me down. She says the sweetest things and I love her so much!

Tanna and her husband fell in love with a boy in China. I fell in love with this boy as well. You can't read about him, watch video of him, and hear from people who've met him without knowing he is something special.
Jay is a sweet, darling boy who always has a smile on his face. He loves to have fun and has many friends. Jay is seven and has been begging for a family. Jay has spina bifida and is in a wheelchair, but he doesn't let his disability slow him down. Not only does Tanna have to raise money for his adoption, but she also needs to pay for modifications to her home to allow Jay to live comfortably there. 
Tanna currently has a t-shirt fundraiser going on. Her family designed the shirt by themselves, and I think it's darling! They have youth, adult, and adult plus sizes. Please consider buying one by clicking here! If you're not interested in buying a t-shirt, would you consider donating to their Reece's Rainbow account? Every penny counts! $5, $10, $100, whatever you can give to help this amazing boy make it home would be so, so appreciated!! To read about their decision to adopt Jay, click here! Thank you! I know any donation would be a blessing to this sweet family!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

So True!

I had a really good laugh at this blog post today! It is so very true! I have been asked every single one of these questions already! I don't think people mean to be rude or insensitive. I really don't. I just think they don't know how offensive their questions can sound! Watch this video and take a mental note: if you wouldn't say it to someone that got a boob job, don't say it to an adoptive family!