Psalm 68:5-6

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.

God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

I am Stepanie Nance. My family adopted two little boys with Down Syndrome from Ukraine in 2010. I hope to educate and to inspire you. I hope to make you laugh and to make you cry.

Come along for the ride. It's a wild one!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Theo sleeping

Here's your creepy Halloween post. Theo is a little lovey boy, but...

Watching him sleep with his eyes open makes my skin crawl!!! ha! I've never seen anything like it. See for yourself:

Has anyone seen a child sleep like this before?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


My sweet friend Julia got an early Christmas present!! It's so sweet! Go take a look HERE.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Look what I got in the mail!!

Certificates of citizenship!!!

I thought maybe I had messed something up because it took so long for these to arrive.

I hardly recognize the boys' in these photos anymore. Mostly because they have hair now! haha! But other things have changed, too. It's just hard to notice when I'm with them all day everyday.
And, the days can be rough. They take steps forward. They take steps back. It's all OK though. The trend is forward!
Yay! I'm so excited! Now we can get their Social Security numbers!! Oh, wait...another appointment?! *sigh*

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Zhen's first barn party!

Last night was Zhen's first barn party! In all fairness, it was Theo's first barn party too, but he was sleeping in his car seat the whole time so he didn't get to experience it in the same way.

Here is young master Zhen (Don't quite know why we call him that, it just sounds cool. We say master Theo, too!) in the barn. You can see the entrance to the secret tunnel which he had zero interest in exploring. Still haven't found the shoes that he will keep on!

Classic Zhen face.

Ralph thought that it was chilly and that Zhen needed his hood on. What a great brother!

Another classic Zhen face! Big brother Richard joined us tonight. Always great to have him home.

It got dark very quickly after that photo. We roasted hot dogs over a fire, which sounds like fun except that I got my face roasted too. And smoke in my eyes. I think the spectators had more fun watching! Of course Zhen choked on his hot dog. He has very well developed self gagging skills, though, so he knew what to do.
After dinner, Zhen enjoyed the hayride tremendously! All the bumping and lurching really relaxed him. The moon was shining and the weather was pleasantly cool. It was a perfect night for his first barn party.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


First things first...I drew a winner of the iPod yesterday and posted it on Facebook, but neglected to announce it here. Silly me.

Clare Oven was chosen randomly. Thank you to everyone who made the fundraiser for Tori a great success. Let us continue to pray for her family as they race to get their paperwork submitted before the Christmas season shut-down that happens in November.

Secondly I wanted to share what our church family has done for us. Today they threw us a baby shower for Zhen and Theo! OK, the boys are not babies, but you get the idea. Showered is what we were! Showered with kind, encouraging words, lovely and thoughtful gifts, and fantastic food and conversation.

Even the other children got a little something special!

My wish for you other adopting families is that your church family would take you under it's wing in the same way. Not all families are as fortunate as we are to have that kind of love and support. We are humbled and grateful.

I shared a little about my friend Jill over at Ralphcrew. Please go HERE and take a look at my amazing friend who provided us with some music today. You won't be sorry!!

Friday, October 22, 2010

The best news!

This is the best news you are going to hear all day long: Tori has a family!! Her adoption grant is fully funded and what do you know? Boom! Family!!

And here is another thing, and if you know me you know I hate say this but...I was wrong. Plain old wrong. You see, I underestimated the power of money to get things to happen. I have news about Tori!

My understanding is that it would be nearly impossible to find out her condition until a family showed up for her. I'm guessing that the fact that her adoption is completely funded combined with the fact that a family has committed to her was enough incentive for someone to successfully check up on her.

Tori is alive! The lower half of her body is paralyzed but the upper half is not. Great news! I can't wait to be able to share more. Here's hoping that her new family makes their commitment public very soon so that we can thank them and pray for them.

Now let us turn our attention to Brady and Heath! We know these boys are alive and well, but living in a terrible situation. Julia Nalle has shared some more about them today, at a great personal HERE. The door to adopt them is open for now, thanks in large part to the awesome Nalle family. But it won't stay open forever unless someone goes through it.

Because Brady and Heath are considered older boys, their fundraising is a tricky thing. Older boys don't have individual grant funds. The older boys adoption grant is a first come first served deal. In my opinion, we must focus on finding a family for these two boys and then focus on the money. Are you with me??

Thursday, October 21, 2010

my letter to an orphanage logopedist

Dear _______,

I've been thinking about you ever since I left Eastern Europe with my newly adopted sons in August. I hope that this letter finds you happy and well!

Here are some photos of Zhen and Theodore. You can see that they are healthy and well loved in our family. Zhen is starting to take steps on his own. He will soon be fitted for ankle/foot braces. I expect him to learn to walk very quickly with the extra stability that the braces will provide.

Theodore weighed only 5.5 Kg and became ill shortly after we arrived home. Many tests were conducted at the hospital and we found that he is growth hormone deficient! With a new special diet over the past two months and the medication that he started two weeks ago he now weighs about 7.5 kg. I'm looking forward to his continued improvement.

I want you to know how special you are to me and to all the children who live in your baby house. You are a positive and cheerful force in a dark and hopeless place. I was always happy to see you in my boys' groups because then I knew that with you around, the children would be talked to, played with and encouraged to try new things. When you were present, many of the children who were normally left in their cribs were up and about where they could receive the stimulation that they desperately need.

When you were not around the group playrooms were mostly empty. Sometimes one or two children were in the empty playpen or a tethered walker, but that's all. No toys! On more than a few occasions I had to go searching for a caregiver to return my son after visiting. These children were caged up and left alone in a quiet, empty room.

Thank you for taking a special interest in my boys and for taking photos of us and other adopting families. Thank you for striking up a conversation with me at every opportunity, even though we could not understand each other well! I appreciate the effort that you made in learning to say the name Theodore and teaching the other ladies to say it as well!

I know several families who are headed to your baby house to adopt children in the next few months. I will be sending you some photos prints to share. I would like to know if there are items I can send which would help you to help the children even more. Do you need batteries? Special tools for speech therapy? Let me know and I will see what I can do!

with much love and appreciation,

Stephanie Nance

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

October surprise!

Last night I was feeling very low. I was looking forward to a difficult day in today for one thing. For another thing I was feeling like I had failed Tori by not working harder to publicize her chip-in fundraiser.

I was really praying for the fundraiser to take off and fly and to raise a full grant for her adoption - $20,000 or more. BUT, I wanted God's work and not my salesmanship to get the credit, so I kept it pretty low key, pleading only with God. I had fears initially so I didn't even set a goal. Great faith, huh? not.

Even though I was disappointed, I felt like I had surely done the right thing and turned an iPod Touch into $2k for Tori. That's pretty successful, right?

Fast forward to today...Imagine my surprise after five hours in a doctor's office and seven hours of driving with three crabby little boys to find that...

Tori got a new grant!!

She is now fully funded!! See for yourself HERE.

How did that happen? I will likely never know. Many people were advocating and praying for her. Someone knew someone who knew someone else and so on. God has provided. What a fantastic version of an October surprise!!

I'll be turning my attention to the Reece's Rainbow Angel Tree over the next couple of weeks. I'm just trying to choose a child to work for, so stay tuned.

Now...let's see who steps forward to rescue Tori!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

DS Clinic for the boys tomorrow.

Down Syndrome clinic tomorrow. I should be excited! I'm going to find out if Theo can hear!

I'm dreading the whole day.

Ralph gets his meds at midnight. It's the only way it works to give him the medication that he needs every eight hours. He leave for school at 11:30am and doesn't get home until 4pm and that kind of jacks the whole eight hour schedule up. Unless I want to get up at 3:30am every single day of my life. What's worse?

We have to leave at 4am tomorrow to get to the appointment on time. I've got to stay awake somehow because it's just me and three babies. Eating snack always helps, so I'm sure I'll be sick and bloated by the time I get home! ha!

Also, everyone in the house has been half sick. You know, not down and out, but still not 100%. Theo has been running a low grade fever and everyone is dripping with snot. What do you want to bet that he gets sick for reals tomorrow?

These are the hard kind of days when you hold your nose, 'cause the situation stinks, and you put one foot in front of the other through sheer will. I'm going to live through it. I've done it before. I'm sure it won't be the last time. I'm going to grin and bear it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Well, it's official.

Well, it is official.

I have found the twenty pounds that I lost in Ukraine. If only we had no air conditioning here. And I had to walk the better part of a mile to catch a bus to get anywhere. And the bus was as hot and steamy as a sauna. If only there were hills in my immediate vicinity. Unless you count highway overpasses, there are none.

I had very little desire to eat while I was in Ukraine. Since I've been home I can't seem to get enough food. It's a little scary. I've heard conspiracy theories about food additives that American food manufacturers use that make you want to eat more, and more, and more. What do you think of that?

I guess I'm also a little blue. It is really hard to go anywhere these days. Two of my big boys have gone off to college and the other is hardly ever home. It takes me a minimum of three trips to get everyone loaded in the van. So we mostly just stay home. I'm glad to be at home, but the kids need a change of scenery every now and then.

By the time I get everyone to bed I'm too tired to run to the grocery store or even to blog. I'm out of milk tonight but sitting here yawning. Something has got to give. Ya know?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Zhen's firsts

My kids love Zhen. Although, I'm not sure they could love him any more than the McDonald girls, but that's a whole other post! ha!

Whenever Zhen eats or does something new my five year old son likes to make it into a song, sung to the tune of "Happy Birthday!" For instance, on the evening that Zhen first tried burritos, which was quite soon after he arrived, we had to sing "Happy Burrito Day to You." I'm nearly 100% certain that he never had burritos before in his life! In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a Mexican restaurant in Ukraine!

Zhen has had pizza day, ice cream day, swing set day, and many, many more. Today was piano day! I let him bang on the piano for the first time today. And yes, he is glaring at me. :)
We didn't sing because Leroy was at church. I stayed home with boogery, low-grade-feverish babies. What do you think of this face? I see it quite a lot! ha!
It's a big week for Zhen and the family. He goes to the Down Syndrome clinic for the first time on Wednesday. That is a logistical nightmare for me, so pray if you think of us. Thursday Zhen goes to the cardiologist. Saturday my friend is throwing us a baby shower-like "getting acquainted with the new boys" brunch. How sweet is that?! Saturday night is a real treat - a barn party in the country. Phew! Lots of firsts for young master Zhen this week!!!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Zhen and Theo photo feast.

Ralphie adores his little/big brother Theo!

Can you tell? What could be sweeter?

How about a big/little sister burying Theo in the stuffed animal bucket?

Did I tell you that Theo is now up over 16 pounds? Tell me how good he looks!

Zhen. I'm loving his hair more and more as it grows.

And those eyes!

Zhen loves to chew on these linky rings. He is hardly ever found without one.

This photo isn't the best, but I just love his expression!

Thanks for letting me share!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Theo, Anne Marie, Tori...

Yesterday Theo went to see the endocrinologist in Kansas City. Fine, right? I had no one at home to put Ralph and Leroy on the bus so they went with us, too. And of course, Zhen and Ruby. *sigh*

They are my children so I don't mind taking them places. It's not always easy and sometimes it is just downright tough. Yesterday was a tough one. After the 3+ hour drive I did an assembly line diaper change and stroller load-up and headed into the hospital. Ralph wasn't looking so good. He was fine before we left, but he was running a good fever when we arrived.

The waiting room was small, even smaller with my two strollers. We waited 45+ minutes before being called back. The doctor, who was not our doctor, was huffy and busy and bothered. Why bother being a pediatric-anything if you can't be friendly?? The one bright spot were the nurses. They put us in a treatment area with a TV and a movie. They broke out the snacks and even packed us a care package for the trip back home. Very nice!

I spent the whole trip home stewing over the stupid appointment. The doc barely looked at Theo. She never touched him. They took his height and weight, that's all. We could have done that at home. But, what really got me is this: the doc we saw, who we were not supposed to see, wants Theo to have an MRI and doesn't understand why it wasn't done yet. WHAT?!

Theo was supposed to have an MRI when he was an inpatient back in August. In fact, he stayed at least an extra day so that he could have it done. At the last minute the endo decided that an MRI wasn't indicated and so we went home. Now I want to know why. I guess I need something to obsess about, because I'm not going to let it go. Also, the new doc increased Theo's meds...nearly doubled them. I'm feeling suspicious. I can't help it. I don't feel comfortable with these doctors anymore.

By the time I got home last night I was mentally spent. Ralph cried almost the whole way home. It didn't help that he had the sun in his eyes and I couldn't help him. When I got the children settled down and in bed I had the chance to check my email and oh my! Oh my stars.

Anne Marie.

I found out that Anne Marie had died. This beautiful girl had so very many people praying and advocating for her. She had a heart defect that probably would have been easily repaired in the United States. She died. Without knowing the love of a family. Why?

I tried to put some other photos up here so you could see how beautiful she was. Go to THIS BLOG to see Anne Marie through the eyes of a woman who met her, touched her, and loved her just a few months ago.

It just hit me so hard last night. She deserved better. Not because she was beautiful, but because she was a little girl, a human being. I think about the rows and rows of cribs full of babies and children who will never know the love of a mommy and a family. They deserve better. They deserve not to be caged and fed like animals.

Then I think about my Theodore. How on earth did my little 13 pound, four year old boy make it out of there alive? How? And why am I so uptight about the care he's getting. At least he is getting care, right?
Then I think about Tori. She's still alive.

I think.

You should know this: I've been told by people who know that we cannot get updated information about Tori. I've been told that it is not possible. My understanding is that the only way to find out about Tori is for a family to show up on the doorstep of the institution with a referral. Wow. Who is going to do that? Who has that kind of faith?

That is why I'm upping the ante on Tori's fundraiser. I was to afraid to set a goal when I first started. Afraid to hope. I can't be afraid now. I have to tell you that Tori must absolutely have a fully funded grant. That's $20,000. (Since I chickened out when I set up the chip-in, it won't reflect my goal even though I tried to change it.)

It can be done. $5 or $10 at a time even!

It's bad enough that we lost Anne Marie. I don't want to lose Tori, too.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Class of 2010 orphanage reunion

Our family had the pleasure of a visit from the McDonalds this weekend. If you don't know of this family, they adopted Zhen's best buddy over the summer. We met Zhen and Theo the same day that little Toby Jr. was flying home to the U.S.A. with his dad!!

Here is Toby Sr. loving on Zhen!

For those of you who thought the boys would certainly remember each other...well, sorry. We couldn't tell if they remembered each other at all!! And you know what? I think that's OK. If you had lived where they lived you wouldn't want to remember it either. I think it's pretty healthy if they, in fact, have been able to move on with their lives so quickly. Don't you?

We all had a great time showing off the new boys at the Buddy Walk. I wasn't originally planning a Reece's Rainbow table but at the last minute I was able to throw this display together. Not too bad huh? I had my hands so full during and after the walk that I wasn't able to talk to as many people as I wanted. It was a beautiful, sunny, comfortably warm day though. Perfect day. Perfect company. Thank you God for our DS community, adoption community and our new found brothers and sisters.

Friday, October 8, 2010

TJ is in the house!!!

TJ is in the house!! We are having so much fun with the McDonald's tonight! They are visiting us for tomorrow's Buddy Walk.

TJ is Zhen's buddy from the orphanage. They were adopted just weeks apart. Any of you who were betting on whether they would recognize each other...well...

TJ seemed to know Zhen, but Zhen looked totally clueless!!! We'll see how they do tomorrow. I'm praying that Zhen can handle the crowd and craziness of hanging out with 2000+ people at the Buddy Walk.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Taking bets...

Yep, I missed posting yesterday. I can't believe that I messed up the 31 for 21 challenge on day 6! How lame is that?

Yesterday was sort of boring anyway. Today I got a message from a friend in Eastern Europe! Some ladies at Zhen and Theo's orphanage want him to give them some photos and videos. I haven't a clue how they are going to watch any videos I might send them! How funny!

So I'm working on getting some photos together. My friend is going to make prints and pass them out. I'm glad that they haven't forgotten us or the boys. I hope that seeing the boys looking healthy and happy gives them some idea of the potential that kids with Down Syndrome have.

More exciting news to share!! Zhen's crib mate, TJ, is coming to visit tomorrow!!!! How fun is that? These boys were together ALL the time in their group at the orphanage. TJ was adopted and came home abotu a week before we arrived to meet Zhen. The ladies at the orphanage said that Zhen was "suffering" since his friend left him. Poor sweetie!

I'm so curious about whether they will remember each other after three months apart. My mind says no way. Look what all has happened since then. Plus, they will be out of context meeting on unfamiliar territory.

My heart says friends are forever. They spent three years together. They ate their meals together and sat in the same crappy, empty playpen together. They are practically brothers.

Anyone want to place a bet? I'm thinking the odds are pretty even.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Challenge Day 5

I'm blogging everyday for the 31 for 21 challenge here this year. I want to raise awareness for adoption as well as Down Syndrome. In my opinion, the two go together like peas and carrots!

It breaks my heart that in many countries children with Down Syndrome are rejected by their families. I hurts me even more because I already have a child with DS and I know firsthand what a fantastic kid he is! When I found out that Zhen's mother was a nurse I was truly baffled. Surely a nurse would know about DS, right?


The crazy thing is this: (please don't throw anything at me) after living in Eastern Europe as one of the regular people, I can sort of understand why a mom might walk away. Life is particularly hard there. It's brutal in a way that you can't understand unless you've been there. Theo's birth mom ran away from the hospital. She split.

You don't reject your only baby unless the pressure is intense. You don't sign away your rights forever on a whim. I know of women who have kept their disabled children. Often their husband will abandon them. Their families tell them they are being punished for their sins. If you hear this often enough you may start to believe it.

Things are changing, slowly. Adopting families are touching the lives of orphanage directors, social workers, and judges. Organizations like Connecting the Rainbow and Downsed are having a positive impact. There is just a lot of reasons to be encouraged.

In the meantime, children with Down Syndrome are languishing in orphanages around the world. They'll never reach their potential without the love and attention of a family, decent nutrition and medical care.

In the United States the situation is not much better. Here upwards of 90% of children with DS are aborted. It breaks my heart that in our country children with Down Syndrome are rejected by their families. I hurts me even more because I already have a child with DS and I know firsthand what a fantastic kid he is! hmmmm...

Monday, October 4, 2010

You are feeling very sleepy...

You are feeling very sleepy...
Seriously, I think this beautiful boy has me hypnotized! I could just snuggle him and stare at him all day long. Must be love.
When Theo is unhappy, crabby, and crying there is one surefire way to cheer him up, toss the little sweetie into the air!! You can't toss him too high. The higher you toss, the happier he gets!
These fantastic photos were taken by my good friend, Valerie. She brought her two teenagers with her to play with the kids. Her son, Eric, had a great time pushing Zhen on the swing! Thanks dear friends!!!

I just love it when this sweetheart smiles big. Doesn't he deserve this kind of happiness and freedom?

(My son Chipper would like me to point out that Zhen is wearing an Atlanta Braves shirt.)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

More Theo

Someone commented on my post yesterday that Theo was getting a little pudgy belly. Let me tell you that this boy is and has been all belly. When we first met he reminded me of those photos of starving babies in Africa, with the bloated belly and stick arms and legs.

That said, he is looking a little bit better, isn't he?

Note the concerned look on sister Ruby's face. She was worried about Theo because he was crying. She couldn't take it very long. She just had to give the poor little guy a hug. I don't think Theo really appreciated it that much!!

Please don't forget about Tori's grant fund. If you have never done a chip-in before, let me tell's quick and easy! Don't be afraid, even $5 helps.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Finally!! New photos!!

Zhen loves to play in the tube with his truck.

Who is that learning to walk? Please ignore the laundry on the piano.

Note the intense concentration!

I was changing Theo's clothes today and I just happened to have a camera so I thought I should document his present appearance. Not bad, huh? Ruby loves him like crazy!

Ralphie loves his little/big brother, too!

More tomorrow! I'm doing the 31 for 21 challenge, so look for a new blog post each day of October. I'm crazy. But you knew that already.

Friday, October 1, 2010

My heart. Yep, this is long...

I've been thinking about this post for days. Like, obsessing! How do I communicate what is on my heart? How do I make you see and understand? And I think I've come to this conclusion, I can show you my heart, but only God can make you see and understand. So here I go...

I spent six weeks in the darkest place I've ever experienced. My journey in Eastern Europe was exciting and even fun at times, but darkness and hopelessness hangs over the place...especially in the orphanages, mental institutions, and nursing homes. I had the opportunity to visit a nursing home, but I chickened out. Not too proud of that.

The run down building where my boys lived was built in the late 1970's. Honestly, being there felt like being transported back to the 1930's. The wooden bars of the huge communal playpens are all gnarly from children gnawing on them out of boredom. Disposable diapers hang on the clotheslines to be used over again. Flies everywhere. Many children laying quietly in their cribs all day long.

Somehow...someway...many of the children retain a little spark of life. I was blessed to be able to talk and sing to them and witness that spark, though I was never permitted to touch or hold any of them. Not sure I could have handled snuggling with them anyway. It was bad enough to have to walk away from them after singing Jesus Loves the Little Children.

How do you do that? How do you tell a child in that place that Jesus loves them and then turn around and go back to your comfortable life? I promised in my heart that I would do what I could to bring attention to them and find loving families for them. And as neglected as these children are, there is something worse in their future if that doesn't happen. The institution.

Called the House for Invalids by the locals, the institution, or mental hospital, is the next stop for these children when they turn four years old. For many of them it will be their last stop for many of them do not survive the first year. The mortality rate is high and this is where many of our Reece's Rainbow children have died. Imagine tiny four year old children competing for food and attention. If the children do not yet walk or feed themselves how will they survive?

My little 14 pound Theodore was scheduled to be transferred to this place when he turned four years old in June. By the grace of God the director was able to keep him at the baby house until we arrived. I have no doubt that he would not have survived even a month if he were to have been moved. He can't walk, talk or eat on his own! Some of the children that I met and fell in love with will be transferred. Some of them will not survive long. It's only a matter of time and no one has adopted from the mental institution there.



There is a girl.


Isn't she beautiful?

She was transferred to the so-called House for Invalids when she turned four years old last year. Does she look like an invalid to you? To me she looks like a bright girl with enormous potential, not a girl who should be locked away in a mental hospital. She has cerebral palsy, that's all. It's not fair. She doesn't deserve the horror of living and dying in a mental hospital.

She's got that something special, I think. A special quality. I know I'm not alone in thinking this. I know that there is a family out there somewhere just for her. Maybe they don't know it yet. Maybe they already love her but they are afraid. Afraid of what it is going to take to rescue her. Intimidated by the uncertainty of the task.

It will be difficult. Like I said, no one has adopted from this institution before. But then again, no one had adopted from Aaron's institution before and he is now home with his loving family!! Yeah!!

It's going to take a miracle to rescue Tori. I'm asking you today to be a part of this miracle. You can be a small part of something huge! If together we can raise enough grant money, Tori's family will be emboldened to take on this fight. IF Tori can be successfully adopted it will open doors for other children who've had misfortune of being transferred to that horrible place.

I'm asking, no begging for a coordinated effort to help Tori. Please contribute to the chip-in fundraiser I've placed here on my blog. Any amount, small or large, is crucial to breaking down the barriers that exist in this dark, dark place. I'm asking you to share this on your own blogs, your Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, email or whatever avenue you have available to you.

What is a chip-in fundraiser without a little goody?? So, I'll be giving away this Apple Ipod Touch (4th gen 8GB) after the chip-in ends on October 21st.

Please, spread the word. Give a little and then pass it on! Watch the Lord work a miracle and multiply your gifts for Tori! Watch the walls of hopelessness come tumbling down! God will set this lonely child in a family, you wait and see!!!


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