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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Ten Months In

This past Monday, we celebrated ten months as a family. Ten months of laughs, of tears, of smiles, of joys. Ten months of meals shared, songs sung, church services attended, prayers recited, bedtime books read. Ten months of kisses every night before bed, ten months of bleary-eyed good mornings. Those who know us in real life know that those bleary-eyed good mornings were hard, really hard for a long time. That’s gotten much better, and the morning fireworks are almost a distant memory at this point, so much so that this morning Shanti woke from a deep sleep with a huge smile on her face and bounded out of bed to tell Arturo about the dream she’d had. What a transformation. What a miracle. What a blessing.

This photo was taken less than an hour after we met Shanti. She is looking at the photobook we brought for her so she could see photos of us, our friends, our home, and our city.

This photo was taken less than an hour after we met Shanti. She is looking at the photobook we brought for her so she could see photos of us, our friends, our home, and our city.

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Our very first family photo, taken on November 1, 2013, over a month before the courts officially declared Shanti our daughter.

Our very first family photo, taken on November 1, 2013, just a few hours after we met Shanti for the first time and over a month before the courts officially declared her our daughter.

Showing me the orphanage photo album so I could see photos of her as a young child. I took photos of these photos with my camera, and they will forever be a treasure to us, as they are one of the only records we have of her life before we met her.

Shanti showing me the orphanage photo album so I could see photos of her as a young child. I took photos of these photos with my camera, and they will forever be a treasure to us, as they are one of the only records we have of her life before we met her.

Taken on November 2, 2013, the day after we met Shanti for the first time.

Taken on November 2, 2013, the day after we met Shanti for the first time.

The metamorphosis in the life and heart of our daughter was brought home to me last week by the casual comment of a new acquaintance. I teach music lessons from our house, and of course we have photos of our family all over. We have a frame in the front entryway that has a photo of Shanti and me just a few days after we met her, and then another photo from several months later. I had a new student come for her first lesson last week, and as she was leaving she paused at the photos, pointed to Shanti in each picture, and asked, “Is this the same girl?”

In many of the big ways, yes, Shanti is the same girl we met just over 11 months ago. Her laugh is still quick and bubbling, and her smile is still infectious. Her sense of humor is the same, all “12-year-old,” and her mind is as quick as can be. But in many other big ways, Shanti is not at all the same child who tentatively said hello to us for the first time. The hard shell of pain and defensiveness around her heart is slowly melting away, revealing a spirit of pure gold underneath. Healing is not a linear path, and some days seem like we take three steps forward and two steps back. But the progress is still there, and when I look back over how far we have come over the past 10 months, I am blown away by what God can do when we open up to His will and dare to say “yes” to His call.

One of our 2014 family photos, taken late last month

One of our 2014 family photos, taken late last month

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Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of Shanti, for the blessing of our beloved daughter, for the blessing of our family.

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A successful first silent auction, and other news

Our first silent auction ended on September 26 and it was a huge success! We wish to give our most sincere thanks to everyone who participated by bidding, by getting the word out, or by donating items to the auction. We had almost 100 items available in a very short time and raised nearly $900!

We also have our first benefit concert for this adoption! Several of our very talented friends have agreed to donate their time and talents for this first concert. It will take place at Cheviot United Methodist Church, 3820 Westwood Northern Blvd, Cincinnati, OH 45211, on November 8th at 4:00pm. Admission is free and a love offering will be collected to benefit our adoption. Please join us if you enjoy good music. It should be a fun afternoon for all.

If you missed out on the opportunity to participate in our first auction, fear not, we have another silent auction coming up. If you missed out on that one item you really had to have, or if you found something you were thinking about giving away you get one more chance. This one will be a live auction but will also last several days. We will also give people the opportunity to bid online as before. Bidding will begin on November 8 at our first benefit concert venue and will go through midnight Cyber Monday (December 1st).

Thanks to everyone who has participated in our events so far. We can’t tell you how grateful we are that you are once again part of this process. We are overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity and excited at what the future holds.

Blessings,

Arturo

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