Archive for September 2014

Auction ends tonight!

Sorry for our silence here the last two weeks. Paperwork duties swarmed over us, sucking up all spare time, and I’m now catching up on all that I didn’t do during the the paperwork madness. At the moment, we’re waiting: for child abuse registry clearances to come back, for state department authentications to come back, etc. I’m hoping and praying everything comes in next week so our papers can be mailed and submitted the first full week of October.

In the meantime, our silent auction is almost over! It ends in just over 15 hours, and we have some amazing items available for super low prices. A few items don’t yet have bids, including two of my very favorite items in the whole auction: the stump table and the lace afghan.

The stump table was handcrafted and donated by a family in process to adopt two children from Shanti’s orphanage. Similar tables regularly sell for $600 and up! It’s an incredible piece of craftsmanship, and I can’t believe its future owner hasn’t yet placed a bid. Additional photos of the stump table are available here, and they show just how beautiful this table is.

table 2

The lace afghan was donated by a close friend who lives in Cincinnati, herself an adoptive mom (and adoptive grandmother — her adult children have adopted quite a few children of their own). Words can’t fully describe just how beautiful this afghan is. It’s simply exquisite.

white afghan - Ellen ReadPlease take a few moments today to look through all of the items available in our online auction, and get in your bid while you still can. Don’t forget — bidding ends at midnight tonight! 🙂


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The Auction is Live!

Our silent auction to help bring Shiloh home is now UP AND RUNNING! Woohoo! We have 88 AWESOME items, from home decor and movies to jewelry (lots of jewelry) and clothing. You’re sure to find something that’s right up your alley! Please take a moment to browse through the items available.

(You don’t have to have a Facebook account to view the auction items, but you do have to have an account to bid.)

On a super-cool and somewhat related note, our Reece’s Rainbow Family Support Page is also now up and running, meaning we can finally accept online tax-deductible donations. Some of our friends in the online adoption community got our fund off to a great start yesterday. Let’s see if we can keep the momentum going! 🙂

Thank you so much for your time and your support, and let the bidding begin!



The auction will open Sept. 12, and bidding will run through midnight on Sept. 26. 100% of all proceeds will directly benefit the Araya Family’s adoption of Shiloh. Unless otherwise specified in item description, US shipping is included in the bid price.

Bids must be made in at least $1 increments. Bids that do not increase the previous bid by at least $1 will be discarded.

Winning bidders will be contacted on Sept. 27 with payment instructions. Payment of winning bids must be made by Sept. 30, or item will be awarded to the next highest bidder.

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Life goes on

In the midst of the paperwork and the fundraising, the craziness and the busyness, life goes on. We cook together, we eat together, we play together, we live life as a family. We are constantly working to bring Shiloh home, but the day to day moments we share together are not forgotten. Life as a family of three is good. We are excited to become a family of four very soon, but that doesn’t mean we don’t savor the daily smiles and laughs that come with enjoying our family just as we are right now.


Notice the score on the screen. For her first frame of the night, she got a spare! Good job, Shanti!

Notice the score on the screen. For her first frame of the night, she got a spare! Good job, Shanti!

Bedtime silliness :)

Pre-bedtime silliness 🙂

Making borsht -- Yum!

Making borsht — Yum!


Ready for family movie night, with a delicious dinner of borsht. Star Wars Episode I was in the docket.

Ready for family movie night, with a delicious dinner of borsht. Star Wars Episode I was in the docket.

The morning of Arturo's birthday. Shanti made him a keepsake box, complete with jewels that had to be worn as facial jewelry.

The morning of Arturo’s birthday. Shanti made him a keepsake box, complete with jewels that had to be worn as facial jewelry.


The paperwork may be daunting, the fundraising time-consuming, the process exhausting. But in the midst of adoption #2, life goes on.


Please don’t forget our ongoing fundraisers! Our need is great, and every little bit helps. We have an Avon fundraiser running through Monday, Sept. 15, and we’re still accepting donations for an online auction that will open Friday. (The donations for the auction so far have been AMAZING! Thank you so much!) Our $3,000 matching grant is good through Oct. 15, and our Amazon Affiliate link is up and running. (Thank you to everyone who has purchased through it already!) We’re getting there. Little by little, dollar by dollar, we’re getting there. 🙂

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We’re underway! Paperwork Update & Fundraisers Galore

Sorry for my silence at the end of this week, but it was for a good purpose. This past week, our adoption process took off full steam ahead. We had notary appointments, meetings in the county auditor’s office, trips to the BMV, visits to the sheriff’s office, discussions at the clerk of courts office, and blood tests at the doctor’s office. Not to mention hours spent patiently (or not so patiently) on hold with USCIS, talking with our social worker, and texting with our stateside adoption facilitator. At the end of it all, we got most of our questions answered, signed our names hundreds of times, and completed nearly 40 documents that I mailed yesterday afternoon to the Ohio Secretary of State’s office for apostilling. As soon as these 40 documents come back, in approximately 1 week, they’ll be overnighted to another family traveling soon to Shiloh’s country, and our application to adopt will officially be initiated with his country’s government. So exciting!

We still have several big items to cross off our “needed documents” list, not least of which is our homestudy update, but the process is well underway. Our original goal was to have our documents done by the end of September. We may not make that deadline, but we shouldn’t miss it by much. Shiloh, here we come!

The paperwork process — the part we’re slogging through right now — was by far my least favorite part of Shanti’s adoption. It wasn’t the hardest part for me — feeling helpless in the face of Shanti’s grief was definitely the hardest part — but it was definitely the most stressful part and the portion of the process I had the most difficulty with on a personal level. To be honest, this paperwork-obsessed time in the adoption process was part of the reason I was so reluctant to adopt again. “You mean I have to do all that paperwork again????? Never!!” 

I used this cartoon in one of early posts about Shanti's adoption. It perfectly captures both how I felt then and how I feel now.

I used this cartoon in one of our early posts about Shanti’s adoption and the piles of paperwork involved. It perfectly captures both how I felt then and how I feel now.

While this time the paperwork is going a lot faster because we’ve already done it once and know a lot of the pitfalls to avoid, it’s not any less stressful for me, not any simpler for me to slog through, not any easier for me to see the light at the end of the paperwork tunnel. It seems that every time I’m able to cross a document off the list, a problem arises with another document that removes any sense of achievement from the document just completed. Yesterday’s victory of having so many documents completed and ready to be apostilled was a much-needed milestone for me on a personal level. After two weeks of paperwork obsession, I needed a triumph to celebrate. Yes, I can do this. I’ve done it once, and I can do it again. It won’t be pleasant, but it will be worth it. Shiloh is worth it.

I think you'll agree that this smile is worth the paperwork nightmare.

I think you’ll agree that this smile is worth the paperwork nightmare.

And now for a happier topic …

In the midst of the paperwork explosion, many fundraisers are in the works, and several are even going on right now! Here’s the info for the fundraisers already underway.

Avon Fundraiser

Shop for the latest makeup, accessory, or clothing items you need, and support our adoption at the same time! Natalie Keller, the Avon representative who is running this fundraiser for us, is donating her entire commission for every purchase from Sept. 1 – Sept. 15 to our adoption, meaning 20% of every purchase goes directly to help us bring Shiloh home. Simply click here to make your purchase.

avon 2

The Quick Details:

  • Running NOW through September 15th
  • 20% of every purchase supports our adoption
  • Click here to make your purchase.

Online Silent Auction

Jamie Lentz, one of our friends in the adoption community, regularly runs online silent auctions in support of adoptive families, and she generously offered to support us with her next auction! The auction opens September 12 and runs through September 26. Right now, we’re still in need of items to populate the auction. Anything you might want to donate is absolutely welcome. Bonus if you’re willing to pay to ship your item to the winning bidder!

Do you have a gift card to a store you don’t visit or for a restaurant you don’t like? A purse or tote bag in like-new condition that you’ll never use? A gently used kid’s clothing item your child has outgrown but that still has a lot of life left? An awesome toy in like-new condition your child no longer likes? A kitchen tool that just isn’t your thing? An art item that’s not your style? A craft kit you’ll never complete? Another item I’ve not even thought of? We’ll take it all! Leave a comment on this post before September 11th if you have something you’d like to donate, and I’ll be in touch.

Once the auction opens for bidding on September 12, I’ll be posting LOTS more about the auction, where to view the items, and how to bid. The auction is run on Facebook. You don’t have to have a Facebook account to view the items, but you will need a Facebook account to bid. So, if you don’t have an account and think a silent auction is just your cup of tea, perhaps it’s time to sign up for a Facebook account, even if you only ever use it to bid in this auction. 🙂

(Quick sidenote: we will also be asking for donations for an in-person silent auction that will run in conjunction with benefit concerts we’re planning in October and November, like the auction we held for Shanti’s adoption. If you just don’t have time in the next 5 days to put together an item for donating, never fear. We’ll still take it after the 11th, it’ll just go for our in-person auction instead. 😉 )

The Quick Details:

  • Accepting donations of items through Sept. 11
  • Bidding is open Sept. 12 – 26. I’ll post a link to the auction on our blog when bidding opens
  • 100% of every winning bid directly supports our adoption of Shiloh

Amazon Affiliate Link

If you are an ultra-observant blog reader, you might have noticed the new “Amazon” link in our sidebar. That’s right, we’re signed up as Amazon Affiliates! It works like this: instead of navigating to directly, you can first visit our website and click the Amazon link in the sidebar, or any of the Amazon links in this post. Then, shop Amazon as usual. 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!

The Quick Details:

  • Use any Amazon link on our blog to get to
  • Any purchase you make from Amazon after first visiting our blog will send us back a percentage of your purchase price
  • Shop for Christmas gifts online and give both to our adoption and to your gift recipient!

Matching Grant

A generous donor has agreed to match every dollar we raise between Sept. 1 and Oct. 15, up to $3,000. WOW! In other words, any donation made to us in that time frame — whether that’s through the Avon Fundraiser, the Online Silent Auction, our Amazon Affiliate account, sent directly to us through our PayPal link, or mailed to Reece’s Rainbow — will be doubled, up to $3,000. So exciting! Because of this matching grant, right now is a great time to make the donation or purchase you might have considered but not yet taken the time to complete.

The Quick Details:

  • Running NOW through October 15th
  • Doubles every donation made, up to $3,000
  • Method of donation doesn’t matter!


We have several more fundraisers in the works, including benefit concerts and an in-person silent auction, as I mentioned above. As soon as I have more details, I’ll be sure to let you know. One step at a time, one dollar at a time, we’re getting there!

Arturo, Shanti, and I want to thank each of you from the bottom of our hearts for the incredible support and love you have shown us since our adoption announcement this past Monday. In less than a week, you have surrounded us with kindness and generosity, in a way that completely amazes us. Thank you for your kind words, for your gifts, for your pledges of support, for your hugs and smiles of friendship. It takes a village to raise a child, and the village we have — YOU — is the best village any family could ask for. Thank you.

Araya Adoption Fund

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Adoption Finances, Take 2: The Nuts & Bolts

When people donate to a charity or choose to financially support a cause, they typically want to know how their money will be spent. It’s fair to say that those who support an adoption are no different. To that end, here’s our detailed expense list for adoption #2, as we plan for the considerable expense of traveling to Eastern Europe to bring home our son.

If you’d like to see our pre-trip expense list from our first adoption, when we brought home Shanti, click here. Our second adoption will be less expensive than our first for many reasons, including the fact that many of our approvals are still valid and don’t need to be renewed, and also that we will not need to spend as much time in Shiloh’s country as we spent in-country for our adoption of Shanti, reducing our daily travel costs and living expenses. Every adoption is different, and every country is different. This list reflects what our adoption will likely cost, but another family’s experience could be (and likely will be) drastically different.

Also, we want to take this opportunity to address a “frequently asked question” we’ve received the last few days: “Because you raised money to adopt two children for your first adoption and only came home with one, don’t you have money left over you can put toward this adoption? Didn’t you spend less than you expected, since adopting one child costs less than adopting two?”

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is no. We used all of the money raised towards Shanti’s adoption for just that: adopting Shanti. God must have known that we would need the financial resources typically required to adopt two children, even though we ended up only adopting one, and so He prepared us financially for the bumpy road we were about to face. In almost every aspect, Shanti’s adoption cost more than we expected. We expected to be in Ukraine 3-5 weeks; we were there 8. USCIS regulations dictating what medical tests Shanti would need changed halfway through our process, requiring nearly $2,000 extra to cover last-minute unexpected medical procedures. Travel expenses skyrocketed while we were in-country due to policital unrest, and our plane and train tickets cost double what we had anticipated. Shanti’s paperwork with the central government had some issues unique to her situation that required considerable time and expense to sort out, a circumstance that also contributed to our extended stay in-country.

When we came home with Shanti two days before Christmas 2013, we had used all of the donated money for Shanti’s adoption, as well as most of our personal savings that we had set aside to cover emergencies. But we still had some savings left, and when in March God unexpectedly provided Arturo an incredibly generous bonus from work, along with a large tax refund, and simultaneously led us to a house that was for sale in our dream neighborhood that perfectly fit our needs in every way, we jumped at the chance to purchase our first home. We now own a beautiful house that will serve our growing family well for decades to come, a house that has already been an incredible blessing to us in many ways. But as a result, we have precious little personal savings available to apply toward Shiloh’s adoption. We need your help and God’s help, and we have faith that He will provide, that He wouldn’t lead us down this path only to abandon us when we’re halfway there.

So now, without further ado, here’s the expected expense list for adoption #2, edited to reflect our experience from our over-budget adoption #1, so that hopefully this is an accurate representation of what we will actually need to bring home our new son.

US Expenses:


Homestudy Update – Our original homestudy is still valid, so all we need is a 2-page update. Much less expensive than the first time around!


Paperwork fees and expenses: medical evaluations and doctors’ fees; apostille, certification, and notary fees; postage; wire transfer fees; etc.


BCI and FBI Background Checks ($60 each). We need 2 checks for our homestudy and 2 for our dossier.


Extra copies of our marriage certificate – needed for our dossier


Filing fee with US Immigration for adoption approval. This fee is less than we had to pay for Shanti’s adoption because our approval is still valid, reducing the amount we have to pay at the time Shiloh’s visa is granted.

US Expenses Total: $2,222.00


“Eastern Europe” Expenses:


Facilitation Fee – paid to the in-country team of translators and adoption specialists who will be handling the “Eastern Europe” side of our adoption.


Travel to Eastern Europe – assuming plane tickets about $1,250.00 each. We need 3 tickets because Shanti will be traveling with us.


Travel within Eastern Europe – from the capital to the orphanage, transportation to and from the orphanage each day, transportation to and from court, etc.


Living expenses for us to stay in Eastern Europe for the 5 weeks required for the adoption


Shiloh’s Medical Appointment for his American Visa


Shiloh’s Visa Application


Shiloh’s Passport and Expedition Fees


A one-way plane ticket to bring Shiloh home to America


Travel emergency fund to allow for unexpected in-country expenses (which are guaranteed to happen)

“Eastern Europe” Expenses Total: $19,900.00


Total Estimated Cost of our 2nd adoption
from Eastern Europe:

Just looking at this expense list, it seems impossible to raise this much money in such a short period of time. But God has done more amazing things, and He’s shown us time and time again that He’s got this covered. We only committed to adopt Shiloh just over a week ago, and already we have raised $3,845 and have been pledged an additional $3,000 matching grant! As I said the first time around, when we were working to raise $30,000 for Shanti’s adoption, this is definitely doable! But in order to make it work, we need your help and prayers and support.

If you’d like to contribute to our adoption fund, visit our Get Involved page to find out how you can help. Or, you can always donate a bit right now. 🙂 (Please note that donations via the button below are not tax deductible. We will have tax-deductible donation options available soon.)

Donate to the Araya Adoption Fund

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Our Path to Adoption #2

As I mentioned yesterday, those who know us “in real life” have been somewhat surprised by yesterday’s announcement of adoption #2. We told very few people that another adoption was on our minds because, at first, we weren’t sure how we felt about it ourselves.

Shanti has been begging for a sibling since about 3 months in, but Arturo and I took a little longer to come around to the idea. We started feeling God’s call to adopt again about 2 months ago, in late June, but we were resistant at first. To be honest, my first reaction when it came up was, “You have got to be kidding me!” We are so happy as a family of three. The adoption process to bring Shanti home was a stressful nightmare. (The paperwork …. oh the paperwork!! …) But now that she’s home and we’re settling into a rhythm together and learning and growing as a family, life right now is good, really REALLY good. Why on earth would we want to change it? The first time it came up, we brushed the notion aside and moved on.

But God just didn’t let go. He didn’t stop bringing another adoption to the forefront of our minds, and He insistently kept laying it on our hearts. For a long time we kept saying “thanks, but no thanks,” rejecting the idea and trying to move on. But still, God didn’t let go.

Finally we agreed to pray about it, and we were completely blown away by the speed with which God confirmed to us, in a myriad of ways, that this was His will for our family. But still we hesitated, still we resisted. Practicality had to govern our actions, right? And practically speaking, we had no money to pay for this adoption. Shanti’s adoption used up all of the donated money and most of our savings, and buying our first house in June used up the rest of those savings. We’re at rock bottom. We committed over $15,000 of our personal savings to Shanti’s adoption. How would we make a second adoption work with none of those savings available? But still God said, “Go. This is my will for your family. Say yes, trust, and go.”

Practically speaking, we also had a major employment issue to consider. I will be starting a new job in just a few weeks, a job I am super super super excited about. It is perfect for me and for our family. I’ll be performing in schools for schoolchildren throughout Cincinnati. Because the job is working within the school system, I can still take Shanti to school every morning, pick her up every afternoon, and stay home with her all summer. Perfect for us, right? (I know, it’s perfect for me, I am SO excited.) But because I am just starting this job, I’m not eligible for FMLA, meaning I have no right to take a leave of absence for the adoption. To be eligible for FMLA, you must have worked for your employer for at least 1 year and have worked at least 1,024 hours in that year. I don’t satisfy either condition. How could we possibly adopt again and do the required adoption travel when I can’t take a leave of absence from my job?

And then God really put the pressure on. All of our considering to this point had been about a generic child, gender TBD, just “Adoption #2” in our minds. But on July 30th, we got in touch with 2 families that had both met an incredible, amazing, super awesome 10-year-old boy, named “Shiloh,” whose smile completely captured our hearts. A photo is just a photo, however, so we needed to find out more about him before we felt comfortable saying this was a child we would consider. And everything we found out from these two families during the following week confirmed over and over again that this little boy is perfect for our family. His personality, his likes and dislikes, his preferences, everything about him told us that this is the little boy God intends to be our son.

So, we thought and we prayed and we prayed and we thought. Were we ready? How could we make the finances work? What about my new job?

And still God said, “Go.”

After nearly a month, we finally settled on what we thought would be the “perfect” solution to our predicament: we would travel for the adoption at the end of May. My job winds down a few weeks before school gets out, so I wouldn’t miss any work by traveling in late May, and Shanti would be able to travel with us — bonus! Traveling in May would give us 9 months to fundraise, more than the 7 months we had for Shanti’s adoption, so surely we’d be able to manage the finances in that time, between our own savings from our monthly budget and our fundraising efforts.

We made plans to offer all kinds of services this time around as part of our fundraising, so people wouldn’t just feel like they were giving and giving without receiving anything in return. I would knit hats and scarves, Arturo would offer computer and web design services, I would reopen my craft Etsy store, we’d make and sell jar food mixes over Christmas (great for Christmas gifts!), we’d update and sell a Christmas CD we recorded a few years ago, the list went on and on. Over and over again we crunched the numbers, over and over again we considered our options, and we finally decided to say “yes” one week ago Friday, on August 22. With 9 months to fundraise, we felt we could handle the financial burden. We regretted that Shiloh would have to wait 9 months for us to come get him, but it was only 2 months longer than Shanti waited after we committed to her, and 9 months is much faster than many families can go get their children, so all things considered, we felt we had found our path forward.

And then, in a split second, everything changed, and the world shook beneath our feet. Last Thursday, August 28, we got an email from our adoption facilitator that crumbled our carefully constructed plan into tiny little bits. Due to an unusual circumstance unique to Shiloh and the orphanage where he is currently living, if we wait until May to travel to adopt him, he will no longer be available. If we want to adopt this little boy, we need to travel as soon as humanly possible, preferably before the end of 2014.

I’m not going to lie. When I saw the email, I was physically sick. The two reasons we felt comfortable saying yes to God’s call to adopt again were (1) that we found a child that we know a lot about thanks to other families who have met him and who is a great fit personality-wise for our family and for Shanti, and (2) that we had 9 months to fundraise. Thanks to the information in that email, our options for proceeding were to either choose another child and still travel in May, eliminating reason #1 we said yes, or to stick to our commitment to Shiloh and travel in December, eliminating reason #2 we said yes.

I’ll be honest. When we got the email (and after we recovered from the shock and after I recovered from getting sick), we considered saying no, stopping the adoption altogether. How could we move forward to adopt a child we knew nothing about, when choosing a child that fits well with Shanti is so important to us and is one of the two main reasons we felt comfortable saying yes? And how could we move forward to adopt a child who would be a great fit for us without the financial resources to do so? We were lost.

So, we did what we always should do when we feel adrift at sea with no reference point: we prayed. We prayed. HARD. We contacted my new boss to find out our options, and we prayed. Arturo contacted his boss (since he’d be taking two FMLA leaves within a year, not an easy thing for his employer), and we prayed. We prayed and prayed and then prayed some more. And still God said, “Go.”

Last Thursday night, I sent the following note to our adoption facilitator: “We’re going to go for it, try for Shiloh. I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared in my entire life, and it still may come down to us getting travel dates, not having the money, and having to delay anyway. But we’re going to try our hardest, do our best, and pray without ceasing.”

And then comes the part that makes me bawl like a baby. We made that decision to step forward in faith last Thursday night, and God said, “See what I will do when you say yes to my calling. See how much I’ve got this. See what will happen when you say yes to the uncomfortable, yes to the illogical, and follow my call to care for the least of these. See what I will do.”

Friday morning, I woke up to an email from someone I barely know, pledging $1,000 toward our second adoption.

Friday afternoon, two people in our adoption community who regularly hold fundraisers for adopting families offered to hold fundraisers for us. (One of those fundraisers, an Avon fundraiser, is going on right now, through Sept. 15. Click here to shop.)

Saturday afternoon, I spoke on the phone with someone who offered us a $3,000 matching grant.

Saturday evening, I was contacted by an organization offering us a $10,000 interest-free loan if we need it at the end, if it comes down to “crunch time” and we’ve not been able to fundraise all of  the money needed. In accepting the loan we have to commit to fundraise for our full need and only use the loan if absolutely necessary, but that is an agreement we feel comfortable making.

Since our announcement yesterday, words and pledges of support have been flowing in from every side. I think I’ve been crying from joy more often than not in the last 24 hours!

We said yes to God, yes to Shiloh, yes to another adoption, at a time when we didn’t think we could do it. And it turns out we couldn’t. But God could, and God did, and God will.

All the time, God is good.

“Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

– Micah 3:10

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