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For which we’re thankful

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I’ve been trying to think of a way to share some of the touching, incredible acts of kindness that have been bestowed onto us in the wake of losing Isabelle as they have been so integral in our coping over the past year and a half. But unfortunately I find myself muted in awe.

As I’ve read through the poems, the letters, the emails, the messages…  As I’ve admired the artwork, touched the jewelry, held the blankets to my cheek, and glance daily at many other gifts of support and love – I realize there is nothing I can do to give back what you’ve given to us.  To all of you who have sent us supporting words and loving gifts, or who have participated in our Bubbles for Isabelle philanthropy, please know that your support is among our most treasured blessings.

Thank you.

I really don’t think anyone can survive the loss of a child alone; you may never know the profound impact you’ve had on our healing.  You have shared in our grief, and you have shared in our joys…in the end, that is what life is all about.

This was sent to me during my darkest days and I cling to it:

“They say that time in heaven is compared to ‘the blink of an eye’ for us on this earth. Sometimes it helps me to think of my child running ahead of me through a beautiful field of wildflowers and butterflies; so happy and completely caught up in what she is doing that when she looks behind her, I’ll already be there.”

Author Unknown

Graham

Meet Graham

Sweet baby Graham
Graham is getting bigger and stronger and has now been placed in a foster care family who can provide him with the attentive care and love that he needs.  He needs our help to remain in the care of his foster home.

Graham was born prematurely at the begining of October.  He spent a while in the local Fuyang hospital before being moved to the Anhui Children’s Hospital and you can see that some of the photos show a very tiny Graham indeed!  He had pneumonia and received tratment for osophageal refulux.  He was found to be allergic to cow’s milk.  

Ten years ago, 95% of adoptions from China were of non special needs children. We all had read about the need – of Chinese orphanages filled with healthy baby girls – and people around the world opened their hearts to these children.  But now, almost 70% of all adoptions from China are of children with special needs. In the last few years alone, the birth defect rate in China has risen dramatically.

According to the National Center for Birth Defects Monitoring of China, nearly 1.2 million newborns have birth defects and congenital disabilities. That means that every thirty seconds, a new baby in China is born with a special need. This has changed the orphanage population in very real and distinct ways. Orphanage directors tell us again and again that 90-95% of the children now being abandoned in China and entering their care are children with medical needs. This brings new challenges to charities who wish to impact the lives of the children who wait but has also completely changed the responsibilities of the aunties and foster parents who care for these children in China.  If we thought an “auntie” had a job before caring for 10-15 healthy babies, just imagine how hard it is now caring for children all with complex medical needs.  Likewise many of our foster parents are dealing with children with complex heart defects, severe cleft lip and palate issues, tumours, special dietary needs, etc.

Why Foster Care?
We, Bubbles for Isabelle, is sponsoring foster care for Graham because, while it’s not easy for an untrained person to care for a child with special needs, it is proven to have better outcomes when the foster mom is able to sit and carefully feed and care for the child versus being one of a dozen that is being cared for by one person.  Children need to experience everyday normal life rather than be shut behind the closed doors of an orphanage.  They need to have their own things around them, have someone tuck them in at night, help them with their homework, teach them right from wrong.  They need to be loved and hence, learn to love back.  And if these same children are to be adopted then this is also a big bonus for them as they settle within their new families.

Why do People Foster Care?  Are their intentions good? 
Quite a few older people whose birth children have grown up and left the home choose to foster.  Some just love kids and many foster many kids one after the other.  Other people are truly heart broken when their foster kids leave for adoption and don’t foster again.  Some families do foster primarily for the money.  In most cases, it is a better environment for child with special needs.

A very tiny, premature Graham.

Graham at the beginning of November.
Graham with his foster mommy.

If you’d like to join us in sponsoring baby Graham’s care, you may donate here:

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Update on Coats for Kids

UPDATE: Here are some of the coats that Bubbles for Isabelle purchased for these gorgeous children!  And scroll down to see these sweet babies blowing bubbles of our girl, Isabelle.  Thank you.
Our coordinator mentioned that donations exceeded the amount needed for this coat project. The excess donations will be used for future coat purchases. Thank you to all who made that happen!  

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Coats for Kids – Jinjiang, China

First of all, THANK YOU to everyone who donated to Jia Qi’s education.  Below are some pictures of his accommodation at school, which YOU are helping to provide for him!

Our next project is providing coats to orphans in the region of Jinjiang, China.  A donation of just $10 will provide warmth for a child through the cold winter months.  $10 – and a child receives a coat.  We’ve committed to providing coats to 12 children – join us!

Stop.

If you’d like to join us in providing coats for these children, donate below.

Jia Qi’s housing accommodation:

Jia Qi’s dorm is not fancy, but it’s the difference between him getting an education or not.  He is very appreciative to have an opportunity for a brighter future.

Again, to learn more about the Sunflower Project through which we are sponsoring Jia Qi, watch here:

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Education for Jia Qi

Jia Qi

Isabelle would be starting kindergarten in the coming days and it’s another turn in this journey of ours that hurts us so badly inside.  How I wish we were together, picking out her first day of school outfit, getting her new backpack stocked with new things and sharing in the excitement of a new chapter.

But we can’t.  Full stop.

What we can do, however, is see to it that another child gets an opportunity for an education and a hope of a brighter future.  And that’s where Jia Qi comes in.

I was extremely taken with this young man and the hardships that he has overcome.  When I learned that he had suffered Polio as a child it took me back to one of the many conversations I had with doctors, in which I was trying desperately to understand the medical language in her autopsy.  The reference to viral inflammation of gray matter (in her brain) was prominent in her autopsy and as it was explained to me, Polio is a Greek abbreviation poliomyelitis (polios meaning “gray” and muelos meaning “marrow.”)  Just one of the many things I wish I didn’t have the experience of learning.  In trying to understand why the virus that led to Isabelle’s death did not affect me, or her brother or anyone else, they often compared it to Polio.  They spoke of the time during Polio outbreaks, in which one person would fatally be infected, one person would not be affected at all, and the others could suffer various injuries somewhere in between.

Huang Jia Qi survived his Polio infection and desperately wants to further his education.  He has 6 members in his family: his parents, 3 older brothers and himself. Both of his parents are farmers, whose annual income is lower than 5000yuan ($784 USD). His 2 oldest brothers have been working hard to support the family since they graduated from junior school; they never attended high school, they needed to help support the family.

 Jia Qi is extremely hard-working. He is currently working part-time at his university library and they pay him a token sum for his work. He also does other volunteer work to help others

In his first letter, this kind young man wrote:

“Though I know little about you, I want to share.  When I was three years old, I fell ill with a terrible sickness.  My parents went to many hospitals, but no doctors could help me.  Finally, my family gave up.  As a result, I can not stand up or walk like other people.  I have to use one of my hands to help my feet walk.  I recently discovered that my disease is called polio or infantile paralysis.  The good thing is that my teachers and classmates like me and treat me well.  I like to make jokes and I love life.  I recall a beautiful sentence I once heard, but I’m not sure the meaning will translate: For a chance to see the sunshine, I came to the world.  It took three days to write this letter, since I am not good at English.  I am working hard to learn so that we can communicate in the future.”

We are sponsoring Jia Qi through the amazing Sunflower Project.  Children living in poverty in China face many obstacles, including the ability to receive an adequate education. The goal of the Sunflower Project is to help students from impoverished families overcome this barrier by providing personal support that empowers them to improve their own lives and then ultimately their communities. Students in Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, and Hunan Provinces are part of this important project. All of the students have family situations which prevent them from getting a high school or university education.

LWB has a local project manager in each Sunflower Project location, who personally visits with each student in the program. Donors will receive quarterly reports on their sponsored child, with photos and updates on the child’s progress. Donors are able to write encouraging letters to their sponsored students. Learn more about this amazing initiative through this video:

WATCH THIS VIDEO ABOUT THE SUNFLOWER PROJECT

If you would like to help us support others like Jai Qi, donate here:


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The final count

Our hope was to deliver 10 sets of Isabelle’s favorite 25 children’s books from around this time last year through her 4th birthday, which was a few weeks ago.  That would have been 250 books.  In the end, over 700 books were donated in Isabelle’s memory.

Over 700.

Wow.

Thank you.  Thank you to every one of you who supported this book drive.  For every dollar and every book donated, it really felt like a comforting, warm hand on our back as we continue to find our way.  Thank you for helping us, help others.

Boris and Isabelle, April 2009
(Calm Down Boris was one of her favorite books and a part of the BFI book collection)

Just to recap, below are the books that made up the 2012 Bubbles for Isabelle book collection:

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12th and final collection of books delivered!

Isabelle’s grandparents organized and delivered the final set of books to Hope Chest for Kids.

Hope Chest for Kids is a member of Foster Parents Association of Missouri and the Director, Suzie Forbis, was very moved and appreciative of the donation.

Hope Chest For Kids, Inc. provides needed goods and services to children who are removed from their homes due to abuse and/or neglect. These children are now in safe loving foster homes but that is just the start. Given the abuse and neglect these children have suffered they often have significant physical and emotional challenges. These children and their foster parents need your help. That is where Hope Chest For Kids comes in. Both directly and through appropriate referral Hope Chest for Kids see to it the children and their foster family have the resources and support so each child can overcome the abuse and begin to thrive.

The program provides needed food, clothing, educational assistance, camps, activity fees and any other assistance needed by the child and their foster family that is not available anywhere else. If the children cannot return to their birth family, this support continues after they are adopted or age out of the system as young adults.
December 2011 with my little man in charge!  We’re
packing up collections of the books to go those
making deliveries to deserving childcare facilities.
This past year my parents have kindly collected, organized, sorted and counted all of the hundreds of books that have come in from our book drive.  My father’s home office turned into a Bubbles for Isabelle book library, taking over an entire bookcase filled with Isabelle’s favorite stories.  Gwen has handled all of the packing and shipping of these books to every corner of the country. Without them, our book drive could have never happened.  Thank you Dad & Gwen!

Sebastian was helper extraordinare!
Sebastian with gorgeous Reagan Drew packing up boxes of Isabelle’s favorite books to go to those less fortunate.

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11th set of books delivered (Goal surpassed!)

When we set out to do this project, our goal was to provide collections of 25 of Isabelle’s favorite books to TEN different facilites who were stretched thin, under resourced, yet providing an invaluable service to those in need.  

The enormous generosity of our friends, family, and people who were moved by our cause, allowed us to give extra books at Christmas, books to children programs, and spread books and love across the world.  We have one more exciting delivery after this before we announce our 2012-2013 project – stay tuned!

Our 11th collection of books goes to the Bradley Angle House in Portland, Oregon!

The mission of Bradley Angle is to offer survivors of domestic and sexual violence options for safety, empowerment, healing and hope, while collaborating with our communities to create social change.

In 1975, Bradley Angle became the first domestic violence shelter on the West Coast (and only the fourth in the United States). Over the years, our services have expanded to include a 24- hour crisis line, transitional housing, support groups, community-based advocacy, and three programs unique to Oregon: culturally specific programming for African and African-American survivors, an economic empowerment program called Making Cent$, and support for LGBTQ survivors.

Bradley Angle has a long history of providing local leadership to address unmet community needs and services for domestic violence survivors and their families.

Here’s what my dear friend Tracy had to say: 

“…I feel like we picked a very special place with kids in an especially difficult time in their lives. I think about them reading Isabelle’s favorite books and escaping into all those happy stories and pictures, and it makes me smile.”

THANK YOU Tracy for delivering these books in Portland!  We love you.

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Our birthday girl

Our little super girl in her new backpack on her 2nd birthday

Tomorrow is Isabelle’s 4th birthday.  It is impossible to believe that another year dawns without her.  This time last year we were operating in a completely different space-time where our world had stopped and the rest kept going.  We were living in a constant state of vertigo, in which life was a fuzzy program outside the windows of our shock, sorrow and devastation.  Stumbling and literally nauseous with sadness, we kept walking forward – somehow we kept walking forward – as hard as it was.  As hard as it sometimes still is.

This year, shaky ground continues to make way for balance and the world is more and more something we live in and take part in.  Our days are no longer completely crippled by devastation, though make no mistake;

the presence

of her absence

is constant and unrelenting.

We are often told that we are strong, that we are doing well.  But if we are strong, we are strong because strong is our only choice. You may not see the lump in my throat or the tightening of the tear ducts as I fight for composure, but every minute of every day I am gripped by the longing for our little girl.  And as time separates us, I ache with the unknowing of what she would look like now, what she would sound like.  What wonderful new things she would be doing; what discoveries we would be making together.

Richard and I are blessed with a beautiful love, beautiful children and beautiful people in our life.   Despite our pain we’ve learned to enjoy life again.  To laugh again.  We roll in the grass with our son and float on the sounds of our baby girls’ giggles.  And one of the only clear moments I recall in those terrible first hours of this new normal of ours, was that I had never ever felt as close to another human being as I did to my husband.  And that feeling remains, for which I am grateful.  It is a stark paradox within which we live; elevated in peaks of happiness and joy, surrounded by love, family, friends and laughter, while anchored with the vacancy of our cherished first child.  Both extremes are real, and both are present.  We’re learning to allow them to co-exist.

I would give anything to be naive again, to believe that only good things happen to good people, to believe somehow that the world was fair.  I’m still figuring out what to do with this unwanted enlightenment, which ironically only makes our world smaller.  I do not want tragedy and loss to define our lives – and it won’t – but yet, how do I place what happened to Isabelle?  It still seems so unfair, so very wrong.  I can only say there is a sense of freedom once it is realized that things are out of our control.  You let go.  I’m not there yet, but my grip is loosening.

In the end it is not honoring Isabelle by giving up, by crawling under a rock and never coming out.  That much we knew from the beginning.  We can only take the knowledge of how fast our world turned upside down and try our best to feel our way through every moment given to us.  To enjoy it, to see the good in it.  To focus on what matters.  Most importantly, to not let it slip by.  For Isabelle, we choose to live.  To try to live life as fully as she did.  That, I believe, is the best way to honor her…to celebrate her, not only on her birthday, but everyday.

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Our sweet girl Isabelle,


We will blow bubbles to you on your birthday.  They are filled with billions of particles of love that will float up to you and embrace you.  We will bake Magnolia cupcakes with your favorite pink sprinkles.  The four of us will hold each other tight around the memory of you in the middle.  Please know that while our life continues down here, I can still feel – really feel – the soft contours of your face in the palm of my hand, your daddy thinks of you when he reads your favorite books or sings your favorite songs, your brother inherited your same gorgeous giggle, and your new little sister has the honor of carrying your name in hers.


We love you, our enormously missed Isabelle.