Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I'm always shocked when I click on our vine to see how our fundraising is going and see a large jump in the amount. That happened just now: someone gave us $100!! Thank you soo much, whoever you are. I guess that counts as 5 $20 donations :). I know of one other $20 donation on the way, so that's 7 down and 6 to go!! We can do this!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Do You Love Coffee?

I think most of us do, or know another coffee-lover who needs a Christmas gift. I am pleased to announce our newest fundraiser: Just Love Coffee, Just In Time For Christmas!

Here's how it works: you go to our store and buy some coffee. It's all fair trade. We get $5 for every bag of coffee sold. That's it! So easy. You can also click on the coffee button on the sidebar to get to our store.

There are several things I love about this fundraiser:

1. Absolutely NO work for us other than to advertise! Just Love takes care of processing and shipping and mails us a check each month! It is such a great organization.

2. Because Riley has special needs (I hate using that phrase, need to come up with a better one...), we can keep our store open INDEFINITELY to help pay for his medical expenses! How great is that?!

3. You get some awesome coffee!

Please check it out and consider buying some coffee for a Christmas gift, or just for yourself! Absolutely every penny goes to help bring Riley home.

Also don't forget we are doing our One-Week Challenge until Friday, Riley's birthday. We still need 12 more people to give Riley a birthday gift of $20 to reach our goal of $2000!

Friday, November 26, 2010

One-Week Challenge

UPDATE: We made it! Thanks, Katie, Nic, April, Erin, Michaela, Becca and Anonymous!

How much do you usually spend on a birthday gift for a friend, niece, nephew, cousin, sister, brother, or child? $20? Or more?

In just one week Riley will turn two years old. He won't get any birthday gifts this year. He won't have a party, he may not even know it's his birthday. I've been at orphanages when a child has a birthday and it's just another day for them. The nurses may tell him it's his birthday but there will be no celebration. If he's lucky, a relative might come for a visit that day and bring him some candy.

So I want to challenge you, friends, to give Riley a birthday gift of $20 or more between now and his birthday on Dec. 3. I am calling it the One-Week Challenge. We're about $260 short of having $2000 raised. That means we need just 13 people to give $20. I know there are at least 13 people reading this blog that have considered giving. Now is the time, friends!

To give some perspective, $2000 will fully fund Riley's plane ticket home, his medical exam, visa, passport, and a donation to the orphanage. Not bad.

Please leave a comment or send me an email if you are up for the challenge. That way I can keep a running total on how many people have donated, how many more to go, and update this post with that information.

We can't do this without you.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just a quick note to say Happy Thanksgiving! We are so thankful for everyone who reads this blog, prays for Riley, and has donated to help bring Riley home. We couldn't do this without you. We are very much looking forward to next year, when we'll have Riley with us to celebrate this wonderful holiday. And, God willing, we'd love to have Vika  in our arms by then, too.

Enjoy this day with your family and treasure them!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What's With The "The"?

I've gotten a lot of questions lately about "Ukraine" versus "the Ukraine": which is it?

I don't know why everyone seems to naturally refer to "the Ukraine", but I catch myself doing it, too. Grammatically, it's incorrect. Ukraine is a proper name, just like Russia or China. You wouldn't say, "I'm going to the Russia", would you? No, you would say, "I'm going to Russia". Same thing for Ukraine.

We do say "the United States" because it's referring to a plural, a collection of states. But Ukraine is a single country, so no "the"!

There you go, your grammar lesson for the day. :)
Map of Ukraine

Friday, November 19, 2010

My Favorite Kind of Update...

As a brand-new blogger I have been having a lot of fun and really enjoy posting. But my FAVORITE thing to do is update our vine as donations come in! Thanks to our generous friend, Melissa, we now have close to $2000 raised! This will cover Riley's airfare, visa and passport.

We still have a long way to go but I am going to celebrate every little victory! Thank you so much for your donations, they are soooo encouraging!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What Are You Thankful For?

This is the time of year when we stop to count our blessings. There's many things we are all thankful for, and I'm willing to bet that everyone reading this would say they are thankful for their family. I am, too.

But what if you didn't have a family? No one, none at all?

That's the reality for Riley, and hundreds of other orphans like him. And if you think he's too young to understand, think again.

I'd like to introduce you to my friend, Larisa.
Larisa came with us on our missions trip to Vorzel this past summer. She was adopted from that orphanage and this was her first time returning. She had a powerful experience and I'd like to share with you some of her own words as she recalls being in the orphanage:

I vividly remember when I was 3 years old in my orphanage, and most everything that had happened from then on. One of my early memories from those days in Ukraine was not knowing what love was, or how it felt to be loved. Being so little and knowing that the only person I had in my life to depend on was myself is something a child should never have to think about. Coming to America and meeting my new family was a dramatic change for me. It took me awhile to understand that I had this wonderful family that was there to love me and support me. As I got older, I began to more deeply appreciate what my adopted parents have given me, how much they have changed my life, and the opportunities they have given me that I would never have been given had I remained in Ukraine. I used to ask myself when I was little, “why is it that all these bad things are happening to me, and I feel like no one’s there to help me?” When in reality God has always been there. 
You can read her full story here.

So this Thanksgiving, when you think about your family, please consider donating to help give Riley a family. He most certainly understands that he doesn't have a family, no mommy or daddy. And as much as the nurses there can love him, as one told me this summer, "Nothing compares to a mother's love". What better birthday gift for a child than the gift of a family!

We are so thankful for all that have already donated to help bring Riley home. Thank you, friends.

Monday, November 15, 2010

To Answer Some Questions...

Yesterday Rob and I spoke at our church, nlcf, at all three services and talked about adopting Riley. It all went very well, but I was really nervous even though I've spoken/sang in church plenty of times before. We are really excited to start getting the word out and it was wonderful to introduce Riley to our church family. I found myself answering a lot of the same questions from people (which is fine!), so I thought I'd put some of the "Frequently Asked Questions" up here :).

1. "So when do you get to bring Riley home?"
We only have a best guess as to when that might happen. Riley isn't "cleared" for international adoption until February 2011, so that would be the absolutely earliest he could leave the country. However, Riley's government shuts down between the months of November and February, so they stop accepting adoptive family "Dossiers" (your official translated application to Riley's government) this month. There's no way our dossier will be ready this month, so the earliest we can submit is February. Once we submit it could take several months to get official approval. In addition to that, Rob and I can't travel until May because I have to defend my thesis in either March or April, and the adoption process is a 5-6 week in-country stay. So we HOPE to travel in May, and bring him home in June.

2. "What would happen to Riley if he wasn't adopted?"
Riley has no future in his country. Children like him are considered a "burden to society" and often sent away to mental institutions at the age of 5 where most die within a few years. He will always live with the stigmas of "orphan" and "HIV+", meaning he wouldn't be able to get a job. Unlike in the US, where legally you are not obligated to tell anyone about your HIV status, in his country he would have to disclose that information to potential employers.

3. "Do you have the money to adopt him?"
No, we don't. This is a leap of faith and we need all the help we can get. We have enough to cover to up-front expenses (about $5000); the rest of the expenses (about $20,000) will come when it's time to travel in May. So we have some time to fundraise, but not an infinite amount of time. The sooner we raise the money the better.

4. "How can I help?"
PRAY pray pray! And please, consider giving Riley a birthday gift. He'll be two years old on Dec. 3 and we are having a birthday party for him. This is the best gift you could ever give a child: the gift of a family of his own. This money isn't for us, it's ALL for him. If you want to help fundraise, we'd love to hear from you. We've got some fundraisers planned and we'll announce them as they begin, but the reality is that those can only do so much. We are praying for God to move in a few people's hearts to donate a large amount. If you feel called to do this, please send me an email so I can tell you the best way to donate a large sum (to avoid PayPal fees).

Thanks so much for your prayers and support! They mean the world to us and to Riley.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A New Picture!....kinda.

Yesterday we got the full-size picture of Riley! It's really the same picture but you can see more of him. For some reason I am just captivated by it!
I don't know what it is about being able to see him head to toe, but I just want to snatch him up and cuddle him! It's also given us a clue about his cerebral palsy symptoms. Up until now all we knew what that he has "mild cerebral palsy but is able to stand on his own". From the picture it looks like his right leg is affected in some way but his left leg looks ok. It's not a lot to go on, but we'll take anything we can get at this point!

We purchased some books on children with CP and I started reading through them a few weeks ago. To be honest I started to freak out a little bit and had to stop reading. There's just so many different forms of CP, and we have no idea what Riley's specific symptoms are, but reading about all the possibilities is just overwhelming. Hopefully we can get his medical records soon.

A homestudy update: Rob and I have both had our physicals and are healthy! Not much of a surprise, but still nice to know and very important for Riley's country to know. I'm getting ready to send in a boat load of papers to Forever Families, then we need to finish our online coursework, and then I think we'll be basically done with the homestudy! Yippee!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pray Without Ceasing...

Got some bad news today: Riley's government is trying to pass a law that would suspend all intercountry adoptions with the U.S. That includes kids with special needs and adoptions that are already in progress. It could be passed as early as the end of this year.

Here's the official announcement

I know from talking with Vika's orphanage facilitator that bills like this have tried to be passed before and not succeeded. Ultimately God is in control of the situation. Please please please pray, pray without ceasing...

The lives of hundreds of precious children are at stake.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Homestudy Interviews Completed!

We have reached a milestone in our homestudy process today: Our home inspection and interviews are done! Our wonderful social worker Clair, from Forever Families, drove down yesterday and met us at our house, took a tour, and did our couples interview. Normally there is a three-week waiting period between the home visit and the individual interviews, and for the individual interviews we would have to travel up to Warrenton, VA to the FF office. However, because we're doing an independent adoption, we don't have the waiting period normally required by adoption agencies. So today Rob and I drove up to meet Clair near her hotel in Roanoke (there were NO rooms to be had in Blacksburg last night due to the VT/GT game!) and we met at a Panera. We took turns with her for the individual interviews and they went really well. I of course talked a lot more than Rob so my interview took longer :).

Our next step is to get alllll the remaining paperwork sent in! We have a lot done already, so that's good. We also have some online adoption coursework to complete. Then Clair will send us a draft of the homestudy report so we can check it over, then the draft will go to Reece's Rainbow for inspection, and THEN our homestudy will be done! Which means THEN we can apply to U.S. Immigration for official government approval to bring Riley home!

Next after that is putting together what's called our "Dossier" to send over to Riley's country for THEIR approval! Phew...I'm tired just thinking about it. One step at a time...eyes on the prize...saving the life of a beautiful child.

On a completely unrelated note, here's a pic of the day:
Neko waking up from a nap on my lap this afternoon :)
This week I have been napping like it's my job because of a sinus infection. I even took the whole day off Tuesday to rest. Luckily I always have one or two kittens to keep me company. I hope Riley is a good napper!

Thursday, November 4, 2010


What's in a name?

On RR they often give the children an alias to protect their identity. "Riley" is most definitely an alias for our little guy. My favorite reaction to his name was when I told my translator friend, Masha, about Riley and she said: "Riley- what a strange name!". Yes, Masha, that's not his real name.

What is his real name? We don't know. I'm sure we'll find out at some point (anyone who's been through the adoption process before have any insight on that?), but he will come home to the name Riley. We just can't imagine calling him anything else! It fits his cute little face perfectly.

Once we do learn his real name we won't be able to share it with you on here. But his American name will be Riley Eugene. He'll be the third StClair to share the initials RES: his daddy is Robert Eugene and his grandpa is Reginald Eugene. We're so excited to pass on the tradition. I'm not sure "Riley" is ever a name I would have picked out myself, but for him I love it. Riley Eugene, we can't wait to meet you!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

New Blog Design and Button

So excited to have this new blog design from Penny Lane Designs! We also now have a "button" which you can put on your own blog to help spread the word. Please consider doing this if you can! It will mean so much to us and to Riley.

On another note, we have our home inspection coming up tomorrow followed by interviews on Friday for our home study. I don't know why but I'm nervous about it. More so about the interviews than anything else. I don't think there's any reason to be worried about it but I am just a worrier by nature. :) Please pray that all goes smoothly!

Speaking of home inspection, guess it's time to clean the bathrooms... :)

Monday, November 1, 2010

National Adoption Month

I found out yesterday that November is National Adoption Month!
This is such perfect timing as we get started fundraising for Riley's adoption!

You don't have to adopt to participate in raising adoption awareness. Here are some things you can do:
  • Tell your friends and family about Riley!
  • If you have a blog, put a link to this webpage on it or add our button (coming soon...).
  • Post a link to this page on Facebook!
  • Give Riley a birthday gift: He will turn two years old on Dec. 3 and we are having a party!
  • Have an idea for a fundraiser? Please let me know: JessicaLStClair at gmail dot com.
We truly believe that an adoption is a community effort. God never meant for this to be done by two people alone, but rather by a community coming together to bring in a needy child. We wouldn't be adopting if we didn't feel we have the love and support from our community and church family at nlcf.

Absolutely all funds raised for Riley will go to his adoption expenses when it comes time to pick him up. If for whatever reason we are unable to adopt Riley, all the money we raise will stay with him through Reece's Rainbow as a grant to help the next family adopt him.

Will you prayerfully consider giving Riley a birthday gift this month? Even the smallest amount helps (American dollars go a lot farther in Riley's country!). Thanks!