We have a court date! … maybe.

Hello friends. We have a court date: December 26 at 3:30 am EST time!! Praise God! This court date is a huge miracle all on its own, and we’re so excited. But … by no means does it actually ensure we will have court on that day. Our paperwork must be processed by the central authorities first, and to have our paperwork ready by the 26th would require them to move WAY faster than is usual. We continue to pray for a miracle.

If we are able to have court on the 26th, we will likely be home the third or fourth week of January. If we miss the 26th deadline, court will happen on January 12th, and we won’t be home until the second or third week of February. (Just saying that feels like a punch in the gut …) Praying hard!

We’ve had some up and down days with Shiloh recently, and we would very much appreciate your prayers. He has zero trust of authority figures and doesn’t even believe us on the most basic of statements (like telling him that we’ll see him again tomorrow, for example). It will take time to build his felt safety and teach him to trust. We are prepared for the task (as prepared as we can be, at least), but it’s still very hard to experience in the moment and extremely hard to watch him struggle while not knowing really how to help. The orphanage atmosphere and the short length of our daily visits definitely are not helping the situation, but until we take custody of him, we have no other options.

This morning, we went to church at the little protestant church in town, and it was wonderful. We sang “angels we have heard on high” and “o holy night” in Russian, we lit advent candles, we heard a wonderful sermon about the reason for Christ’s coming, we fellowshipped with wonderful fellow believers. It was one of the most refreshing and soul-recharging services in my recent memory, exactly what I needed after this past week’s rollercoaster ride. We are so blessed by this little church.

Arturo has had no more kidney stone pain since Wednesday, thank God. Hopefully this is the only attack of our stay here. My homesickness has abated somewhat – buying a Christmas tree on the way home from church certainly helped! – but Shanti is still struggling, still wants home more than anything else. To top it all off, she got sick after lunch today. :-( Arturo went on to the orphanage to visit with Shiloh, which had been the plan for all of us, and I’m home nursing our sick darling. She’s asleep on the couch for now and should be just fine by tomorrow, but I feel so bad for her. She just can’t seem to catch a break. Poor thing!

Thank you all for your prayers, and merry Christmas!

PS — A quick shout out to my brother, who is GRADUATING TODAY WITH HIS PhD!!! I am SO stinkin’ proud of him and all he’s accomplished, We’re sending huge shouts of love and congratulations across the ocean to my brother, his wife, and their cuter-than-should-be-legal little boy. We’re going to watch the graduation tonight on live stream. Gotta love modern technology! :)

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Update: We’re in-country, and we’ve met Shiloh!

Goodness, has it really been over a month since I’ve posted here? I am so sorry for the delay. Life since our last post has been … well, full. We held two incredibly successful benefit concerts, by which I was overwhelmingly humbled and filled with gratitude for the love and support of friends, family, and strangers. God is so good.

While we were in VA for the second benefit concert, Shanti got to see Nastya, one of her best friends from her orphanage life, and I got to see my sister and nieces. Oh what a wonderful weekend it was! My parents played host and hostess to the large gathering, and I was once again reminded how incredibly blessed we are by our wonderful support network. Jill and Rebecca, thank you both so much for making the trip to attend our concert with your kiddos in tow. It was SO good to see you both.

The weekend after our second benefit concert, on a Saturday morning no less, we got the call we’d been hoping and praying for: we got our date. We were scheduled for our appointment with the central adoption regulators in Shiloh’s country at 11:00 am local time on December 8th. Oh my! It was much earlier than we’d expected to receive our appointment, so we had lots of figuring and re-arranging of our schedule to do in order to make it work. Arturo and I were supposed to play a concert on December 6, and my music students were to perform their studio recital the afternoon of December 6. We spent over 2 hours on the phone with a travel agent trying to find some way we could leave Cincinnati on the 7th and make it in time for our appointment, but no such luck. We had to leave on the 6th. We did the rescheduling we needed to do, and we made it work. Our plane tickets were bought just a few days later. So exciting!

We then left all adoption thoughts behind and spent an incredible 4 days in New York City celebrating the 13th birthday of one very special girl. Before her 12th birthday, which we celebrated with Shanti in 2013 at her orphanage, Shanti asked us to take her to NYC for her 13th birthday. In the book of photos we brought for Shanti, she saw a photo of me in front of the Statue of Liberty and immediately decided she wanted to go there herself. So go to NYC we did. We saw the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (so cool!), took an open-air bus tour of Manhattan (more fun than I expected, and Shanti loved it), rode the subway (required for every visitor of NYC), visited friends in NYC (who were gracious enough to allow us to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with them), spent an afternoon at the Queens science museum (which was AWESOME — absolutely worth the admission price and more), saw the Macy’s window displays (WOW!), bought lots of souvenirs (we did have a 13yo with us, after all!), saw the World Trade Center Memorial (so moving), and took the Staten Island Ferry for a great view of the Statue of Liberty. It was a wonderful trip, and I’m so glad we had that intensive family bonding time with Shanti before our travels to Eastern Europe.

Just a few days after we arrived home from New York, our silent auction ended, with a final tally of well over $1,000. Wow! At this point, almost 2 weeks after the auction’s conclusion, not quite all of the winning bids have been paid, but most of them have, and that money will pay for our return plane tickets home as a family of four. I cannot thank enough those who donated to and bid in our auction. You literally provided the way for us to return home with our son.

No sooner had the auction concluded than we packed and hopped on a plane to Eastern Europe. We arrived in early afternoon on December 7, had our appointment without conflict on December 8, and met our son on December 10. On December 15, “Shiloh” signed his new name (which I can’t yet share) on the document stating that he wants to join our family. On December 17 (today), our request for a court date was submitted back to the central government adoption regulators. We are praying for a miracle that would allow us to have court before the courts and government offices close on December 31, as a delay in our court date until after the holidays would require us to stay in-country for at least an extra 3 weeks. At this point, we are expecting to be here until the 3rd or 4th week of January if we have court before December 31 and until the 2nd or 3rd week of February if we have court after the holiday break. Prayers are much appreciated.

“Shiloh” is wonderful and is indeed a perfect fit for our family. He and Shanti definitely hit it off, and their relationship is already growing well. Shiloh is fun, energetic, and all-around a great little boy. We are so excited to call him our son. I can’t share photos or details now, but I will as soon as we pass court and take custody, making us officially a family of four.

This adoption trip has definitely been different than Shanti’s in a number of ways, not least of which that we have Shanti with us and have her daily needs and schoolwork to monitor. Perhaps the biggest difference relates to our trips to and from Shiloh’s orphanage. For Shanti’s adoption, we were a mere 5 minute walk from her orphanage. Even on days when we spent 3 or 4 hours at her orphanage, the rest of our days still felt empty. Such was our free time (and level of boredom) that I knitted no less than 5 scarves, 6 hats, and 3 pairs of mittens during the 6 weeks when we were visiting Shanti’s orphanage each day.

Our visiting experience this time couldn’t be more different. Shiloh’s orphanage is over 1 hour away from our apartment, making for a 2-hour+ round trip each day just to see him, and nearly 40 minutes each way is walking, for a total of 80 minutes a day walking along the cold, muddy streets of Eastern Europe. While the weather hasn’t been terribly cold, it has definitely been cold enough to make the walk unpleasant. By the time we get home each night after our visit with Shiloh, we are completely spent and have no energy for anything other than making a quick dinner and falling into bed. I brought my knitting supplies for our trip this year, but I have a feeling little knitting will actually get done, unless we find a way to boost our energy levels significantly.

Shanti and I are also somewhat homesick. We both miss the comforts of our friends and family during the holiday season. I’m going to go shopping for Christmas decorations for our apartment today or tomorrow, which will hopefully help things significantly. Arturo is also struggling, although of a different sort. He’s had trouble in the past with kidney stones (including one terrible episode during Shanti’s adoption trip), and it appears the kidney stones are rearing their ugly heads once again. We would like to ask for prayers for Shanti and I to find comfort from the homesickness and for Arturo to find relief from the pain.

I’m now going to be a horrible blogger and end this post with not a single photo. It’s time for lunch and then the mandatory hour+ trip to Shiloh’s orphanage, so photos will just have to wait for another day. Greetings to all of you from Eastern Europe. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. I can’t wait to introduce you to our new son!

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Silent Auction is Live!

Our auction is live! Get in your bids! :) We have nearly 100 awesome items for kids and adults alike. Handknit baby clothes, scarves and hats, jewelry, kitchenware, art and home decor, Christmas decorations — we’ve got it all. Bidding closes at 11:59pm on Dec. 1, so get in your bids while you still can!

A small sampling of auction items from the “Jewelry” category:

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 Red Marble Necklace – #17  Twisted Heart Necklace – #18  Turquoise Bracelet – #28
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 Infinity Earrings – #29  Bird Earrings – #30  Faux Pearl Necklace & Earring Set – #31
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 Color Swirl Pendant – #33  Four Pairs of Cufflinks – #34  Six Antique Lapel Pins – #35
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 Love Pendant Necklace – #53  Green Flower Pendant Necklace – #63  Five Pairs of Hair Pins – #65

In other news, our benefit concert this past weekend was incredible. The performers were amazing, and the audience was receptive and generous with their applause. After all was said and done, we received over $2000 in direct donations, not even counting all the auction bids that were placed. You’ll notice our fundraising thermometer has taken a considerable jump as a result.

We are blown away, completely overwhelmed with gratitude, thoroughly humbled by the generosity of all involved. There are no words ….

It seems so inadequate, but all we can do is say thank you. Thank you for helping us bring home our son.

Araya Adoption Fund

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One Year Ago Today

One year ago today, Arturo and I were in Ukraine, in an appointment at the Ukrainian Ministry of Social Policy. One year ago today, for the first time we saw a photo of Shanti when she was 8 years old. This is the earliest photo we have of her and is likely the earliest photo we will ever have of her.

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Today, Arturo attended an Honor Roll ceremony at Shanti’s school and proudly cheered for our girl, our precious and beloved girl who made the Honor Roll for the first quarter of her 7th grade year.

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One year ago today, we were in a bit of a panic. We arrived at our appointment at the Ukrainian Ministry of Social Policy only to be told that they couldn’t find Shanti’s file. The worker helping us had pulled Shanti’s file the day before to make sure all was in order before our appointment, so she knew it should be there, but still she couldn’t find it. And if she couldn’t find Shanti’s file, we couldn’t accept Shanti’s referral … and if we couldn’t accept Shanti’s referral, we couldn’t adopt her … “panic” doesn’t even begin to cover it. Our facilitator was completely unfazed because she knew it would be just fine and that the file would be found. The worker was frazzled and puzzled, but even she wasn’t all that worried. She had seen Shanti’s file the day before and knew she’d find it if she just kept looking. But Arturo and I — first-time parents in a foreign country navigating the stressful and strange journey called adoption — complete panic. It all did turn out fine, of course, although not until after we had suffered through nearly 3 hours of panic as we were sent away and given a later appointment that day so that the worker wouldn’t get behind and would have time to search for Shanti’s file. We later learned that when the worker pulled the file the day before to check that all was in order, Shanti’s file had inadvertently gotten stuck to the back of another file and then sorted into the wrong cabinet. It took a while, but the worker eventually found it, as the worker and our facilitator both knew she would, and we accepted Shanti’s file without further incident. But my heart still races when I think of the panic I felt that day. One year ago today.

Taken outside the ministry office, after the file had been found and our appointment was completed.

Taken outside the ministry office, after the file had been found and our appointment was completed.

Today, Shanti enjoyed a cappuccino and piece of chocolate-vanilla cake at a local coffee shop in celebration of her honor roll victory.

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One year ago today, Arturo and I wandered around Kiev, enjoying the sites and sounds and tastes and smells of the city. We enjoyed our next-to-last day as a family of two, and we had no idea how much we would come to love the brown-eyed girl we had only ever seen in photos.

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Ukrainian food is AMAZING.

Ukrainian food is AMAZING.

Today, Shanti asked me to roll her hair in foam rollers before bed so that she can have curls tomorrow, exactly as I asked my mom to roll my hair when I was a child, and exactly as my mom asked my grandmother to roll her hair when she was a child.

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One year ago today, Shanti had no idea we existed. She had no idea how her world would be turned upside down. She had no idea the new country she would learn to call home, the new language she would gradually master, the new people she would call her parents. She had no idea.

This photo of Shanti was taken in late October 2013, about a week before our appointment in Kiev.

This photo of Shanti was taken in late October 2013, about a week before our appointment in Kiev.

Today, our completed adoption paperwork was submitted to an Eastern European government to allow us to adopt a little boy, a child who has no idea we exist, a child who has no idea that we already love him and that we cannot wait to call him our son. He does not know that in 5-7 short weeks we will arrive in his country to meet him and to adopt him. He has no idea that he has a big sister excited beyond belief to have him as a little brother. He has no idea.

This photo of Shiloh was taken about 3 years ago.

This photo of Shiloh was taken about 3 years ago.

For two years in a row, October 30 has marked a day of incredible, momentous change in the life of our family. This day will forever be a day of celebration in the Araya household. It is the day we accepted the referral to adopt our precious Shanti. It is the day we submitted our paperwork to adopt our beloved Shiloh. Today is a day of celebration. Today is a day of love.

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Our Dossier Is Done!

This afternoon’s mail brought a wonderful delight: the LAST piece of paperwork we need to complete our dossier. Even better, because we can submit a copy of this particular document rather than the original, this document can be emailed to our facilitators in Eastern Europe. They can then print it and add it to all the other paperwork we’ve already completed. Our last packet of paperwork was mailed to Eastern Europe last Friday, so this last document from USCIS was all we were waiting for. Our dossier is officially complete.

Shanti posing with the shipping receipt from mailing off the last of our hard-copy paperwork last week.

Shanti posing with the shipping receipt from mailing off the last of our hard-copy paperwork last week.

I’m not sure I can overstate the overwhelming sense of accomplishment that comes with this milestone. The most difficult part of the whole adoption process for me to deal with during Shanti’s adoption was absolutely the paperwork. The months of gathering information and putting it down on paper, of filling out worksheets and notary documents, of hunting down HR personnel for the 5th time because there was some tiny error with the 4 previous employment verification letters, of testing the patience and goodwill of our amazing family doctor and his wife in order to get exactly the wording our Eastern European hosts want; all of this was by far the worst part of Shanti’s adoption just in terms of difficulty and frustration. If the last few weeks are any indication, this is likely going to prove to be the most difficult part of adopting Shiloh also.

Now that this milestone is finally past and the documents are safely and correctly where they need to be the clock is finally ticking for real. We will be submitted next week, and from that moment the real countdown begins. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty still to do. We have two concerts to organize, at least one silent auction, and several other fundraising events to take care of. We also have a bedroom to put together and a house to clean up, but this all seems so much easier now.

Shiloh, here we come!

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Fundraising Update — We’re Getting There!

First, a huge praise — we met our matching grant! Praise the Lord! We had a $3,000 matching grant running through October 15, and as you can tell from our fundraising thermometer in the sidebar, we met that goal, and then some. Hallelujah! Thank you so much to everyone who has already contributed to our adoption efforts. We couldn’t do this without you. In a very real way, you are giving the gift of family to a little boy anxiously waiting in an orphanage for a family to call his own. Thank you.

Thank you for helping us bring home Shiloh!

Thank you for helping us bring home Shiloh!

That said, we still have work to do and money to raise before we can say we’re done. We have several great fundraising events scheduled and quite a few ongoing fundraisers that are now active. Please take a look, consider attending one of the events if you can, and spread the news about our ongoing fundraisers far and wide. Many hands make light work. Yes, our need is great, but if lots of people chip in just a little, we’ll get there in no time. :)

Upcoming Events

Benefit Concerts:

We have two adoption benefit concerts scheduled in two different locations, one at our home church in Cincinnati, OH, and one at my parents’ church in Moneta, Virginia. If you live close to either place, I hope we’ll see you there! Here are the details:

  • Giving Love Benefit Concert
    Saturday, November 8, 2014, 4:00 pm
    Cheviot United Methodist Church, 3820 Westwood Northern Blvd., Cincinnati, OH

    Join us for a musical extravaganza that will include the CUMC Chancel Choir, Orchestra, and Youth Choir, as well as soloists from around the Cincinnati area. A reception will follow the concert, with silent auction items on display. A love offering will be collected during the concert, with 100% of the proceeds benefiting the Araya Family Reece’s Rainbow Family Support Fund.

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  • Orphan No More: An Adoption Fundraiser
    Saturday, November 15, 2014
    Bethlehem United Methodist Church, 13586 Old Moneta Rd, Moneta, VA

    Arturo and Jennifer Araya will bring their musical duo to southern Virginia as they share an eclectic afternoon of music, featuring everything from their original arrangements for two cellos to old favorites by such familiar composers as Mozart and Haydn. The musical fare will include both classical and jazz, old hymn tunes and contemporary melodies. We hope you will join us for a musical celebration of life, family, and love. A reception will follow the concert, with silent auction items on display. A love offering will be collected during the concert, with 100% of the proceeds benefiting the Araya Family Reece’s Rainbow Family Support Fund.

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Silent Auction:

Our first silent auction was a huge success. (Thank you, Jamie Lentz, for organizing it!) When the auction donations and winning bids all came in, the full tally was over $1,000! Wow! We have a second silent auction scheduled, and this one will be a bit different than the first. Rather than being fully online like our first auction, our next silent auction will run in conjunction with our benefit concerts, with an online component to allow for extra bidding. Right now, we’re still accepting donations of items to include in the auction, and we’ve already got a great selection! Of course, we will need bidders once the auction opens on November 8. Attend one of our benefit concerts to see all the items in person, and check our blog regularly to make sure your bid ends up on top! Here are the details:

  • Bids to Bring Home Shiloh: Silent Auction
    Saturday, November 8 – Midnight on Monday, December 1

    A wide variety of treasures, from jewelry to baked goods and everything in between, will be available for purchase, with 100% of proceeds benefiting the Araya Family Reece’s Rainbow Family Support Fund. Auction items will be on display at the two benefit concerts, on Nov. 8 in Cincinnati and Nov. 15 in Moneta, VA, and most items will also be available for viewing and bidding online on the Araya blog. Bidding will close promptly at midnight on December 1, “Cyber Monday” after Thanksgiving. Let the bidding begin, and may the best bidder win!

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Ongoing Fundraisers

Thirty-One Gifts Fundraiser:

Lauren Hodges, a Thirty-One Gifts consultant, has generously offered to donate her entire commission for items purchased between now and October 28. Thirty-One has beautiful and useful bags, purses, and totes for every purpose, from bags for travel and bags for baby to purses and totes for day-to-day use. Click here to shop. Update: Our Thirty-One fundraiser is now closed, but thank you so much to everyone who participated! We had a great response, and we couldn’t have done it without you.

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Items for Sale:

We have several individual items for sale. If you’d like to purchase any of the items listed below, leave a comment or send us an email: jenniferjill.araya (at) gmail (dot) com.

  • “For Unto Us a Child Is Born” Araya Christmas Album – Two years ago, Arturo and I recorded a Christmas album that includes Christmas carols arranged by us for two cellos and for cello and voice. Our original arrangements are also accompanied by musical readings of the Christmas scriptures. Purchase a copy for yourself, or give it as a Christmas gift to a friend. $12 donation each, plus $5.50 in shipping if shipping is necessary. 100% of the purchase price goes directly to our adoption.

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  • Christmas Bundle for Wee Ones - This set of Christmas activity books is perfect for the 3- to 6-year-olds in your life. The bundle includes the picture book “Night Like No Other” and “Good News Great Joy: Gospel Fun for Little Ones Activity Book,” both packaged in an adorable little goodie bag. $3 donation each, plus $2 in shipping if shipping is necessary. 100% of the purchase price goes directly to our adoption.

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  • Christmas Bundle for Children – Designed for older children, ages 7 – 12, this Christmas bundle is a great way to bring a bit of Christmas cheer to your child. The bundle includes the “Good News Great Joy: Activity Book” and a set of “Good News Great Joy: Nativity Wall Stickers.” The wall stickers will also work on windows and are sure to be a hit with the kids in your life. (Let me tell ya, the wall stickers are awesome, and I would have loved them when I was that age. …. Who am I kidding, I kinda want a set for myself now!) $2 donation each, plus $2 in shipping if shipping is necessary. 100% of the purchase price goes directly to our adoption.

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  • Starfish Earrings – One of the recent campaigns through Reece’s Rainbow celebrates the legend of the starfish. It goes like this: One day, a man was walking along the beach and saw a boy picking something up and gently throwing it back into the ocean. Approaching the boy the man asked, “What are you doing?” The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back out, they’ll die.” “Son,” the man said, “Don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach with hundreds and hundreds of fish? You can’t make a difference.” After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said, “It made a difference to this one!”

    With this beautiful story in mind, one of our friends in the adoption community designed Starfish Earrings in honor of our adoption of Shiloh. Every time the earrings are worn, you can remember that, while you can’t save every orphan or help every adoptive family, you can make a difference to this one. Each pair of earrings costs $15, which includes all shipping costs. $5 from each pair sold goes directly toward our adoption expenses.

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A Note About Shipping: For the Christmas Album and both Christmas Bundles, shipping is only necessary if you do not live in the greater Cincinnati area. If shipping is necessary, we would be happy to combine shipping to reduce the shipping cost for these three items. Just contact me, and I’ll help you figure out your combined shipping cost. However, the Starfish Earrings are made and shipped by an incredibly generous donor who does not live in Cincinnati. All earring purchases will need to be shipped, but the shipping cost is included in the $15/pair purchase price.

Shop in Alicia Araya and Jim Hickey’s Etsy store

Arturo’s sister Alicia and her husband Jim have agreed to donate 25% of revenue from their Etsy store to Shiloh’s adoption fees. Alicia and Jim produce awe-inspiring and 100% one-of-a-kind wood art pieces in their North Carolina studio. Most of these pieces are crafted from magical pieces of driftwood that the rivers in Appalachia create. They also craft wood jewelry, affordable digital prints, fine art pieces, photography, and other decorative home items. Please visit their store here.

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Shop Amazon Through Our Link

We’re signed up as Amazon Affiliates, and every dollar earned through the affiliate program will directly support our adoption. It works like this: instead of navigating to Amazon.com directly, you can first visit our website and click the Amazon link in the sidebar, or any of the Amazon links on this page. Then, shop Amazon as you normally do. Any purchase you subsequently make from Amazon will send a percentage back to us. The exact percentage varies depending on the product type, but its generally between 1-5% of your purchase price. This isn’t a huge amount, but it can quickly add up, especially as we approach the Christmas season and more people begin making online gift purchases in preparation for the holiday season. Every little bit makes a difference.

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Thank you again so very much to everyone who has already contributed to our adoption efforts. Slowly but surely, one dollar at a time and one purchase at a time, we’re getting there — we’re getting closer to bringing our boy home! :)

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