Tea Party for Three: Tulle + Toddlers March 16 2017, 0 Comments

Toddler Tea Party: Table Decor

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The older I get, the more I like to create. However, the older I get, the more responsibilities I have...fabulous, beautiful, rewarding responsibilities...but alas, responsibilities. I have found that hosting a party is my outlet. However, my mom has urged me to watch my margins and not commit to putting too many on my calendar! Well I listened and decided to throw my oldest sweet pea a "low key" tea party with her input. She wanted a princess tea party but I had to draw the line for my sanity and my budget.

The idea was just to have her closest friends over, set some cute place settings for tea and call it a fun, girly day. That was a GREAT idea until I sat down to write down who to invite limiting it to girls right around her age. Well, my baby girl is blessed to have at least 15 little girls to call friends. So what started as just one humble little party table that would take me about 30 minutes to throw together turned into using my dining room, coffee, and kids table in three different rooms. I had good intentions to start off simple. Things just happen! Sorry mom!

My trick to planning parties is to start out super early (months or weeks ahead) when I have energy or an idea captures my attention. I go on a little frenzy and find discount decor (Homegoods is my go to for inspiration I can afford and return if I change my mind) and then put a short plan together for the event including pulling some pins for food. Food is hard for me. I try so hard to cook and prep but it is always the hardest part of entertaining for me. I have learned to keep it basic.

For toddlers at 10:30 am in the morning I didn't have to have lunch. I found gluten free macaroons and shortbread cookies at Homegoods. I did luke warm tea, lemonade or water for drinks. The only actual prep for food I did was muffins (my adorable babysitter let my daughter make them) and strawberry raisin bread toast (made first thing in the morning). The cake was ordered completely plain from my local bakery (petit fours were way too expensive although so pretty). I found mix and match tea cups and saucers over the course of a few months at Homegoods as well. It took visiting a few locations to get a good variety.

Since I had the party at home and didn't have to pay any fees like I would at another venue, I made the tea cups and tea pots my little girl's heirloom third birthday gift. I was working on a concept Forever Blanket and made that her gift as well as she transitions to a big girl bed. I am so excited to see years and years of parties, afternoon snacks and play dates with both my girls enjoying the adorable tea sets I found.

Everything I found for her party was on sale or clearance. That is my rule in life. I can do things fancy, but they have to be bargains. The best thing about a tea party theme is the ability to dumb it down or make it fancy, depending on your preferences, kids, space, and budget. We've already shared a pot of tea together post birthday. That is the real magic that has transpired since celebrating my little lady...another excuse to spend time with my baby girl who is growing up faster than my heart can follow.

I have one thing left to do though (besides put all this stuff up!). In place of traditional favors, I had each mom address an envelope and since we had a fancy photo booth for the toddlers, I will be sending out a printed photo of each girl as a thank you gift and hopefully, invaluable keepsake. How's that for saying goodbye to material things!

A few things I learned from this experience:

  • If you have an affordable photographer in your area, hire them! Last year all I did was try to capture the Puppy Pawty 2nd Birthday since no one in my family is much of a photographer and I feel like I missed the fun. Stephanie Madison Photography did an amazing job! And was so fast!
  • Don't overdo food, three year olds don't need a ton of sugar (oops).
  • Start setup a week ahead. I laid out the place settings and played with the tulle I found on clearance at Joann's to see where things would go and if I needed anything else.
  • Invest in a handmade party dress. I let Isla pick out the color and materials for her dress while at Joann's along with the pattern. My seamstress in house made both girls gorgeous matching dresses sized so they can wear them more than once.
  • Use your assets! My mom is an Atlanta event florist. All those gorgeous blooms were actually an entire week old and had been sitting in her flower cooler from an older event. I didn't pay a dime for flowers. Lucky me!!! Thanks mom.

In case you see something that catches your fancy, details at the end of the post!

Tea Party Food Ideas: Kids

Tea Sandwiches and Cookies

Tea Party Table Settings

Floral Design: Atlanta Parties and Weddings

Tea Party Invitations: DIY

Unique Toddler Birthday Party Ideas

Dance Party: Tea Party Birthday

Shabby Chic Tea Party Themed Toddler Birthday Party Cake, Silk Peonies and Garden Roses.

Gorgeous flower birthday party cake ideas. Simple, silk flowers on white cake.

Family Birthday Party Photo: Toddler Tea Party

Birthday girl, Tea Party Table Decor.

Shabby Chic, Style Me Pretty Style Floral Arrangements for Tea Party Birthday.

Organic flower crown party hat. White roses, greenery. Flower girl style.

Birthday girl and her cake with daddy. Shabby chic tea party birthday, Pink tulle dress.

Pink Tulle Baby Girl Party Dress, Flower Girl Style.

Whimsical floral painting, Baby flower girl dress in tulle, flower crown, mom and daughter party photos.

Blowing out candles, Flower cake, light pink, peach, white roses and silk peonies, Tea Party Birthday Party.

Tulle flower girl and party dress for toddler with flower crown, Toddler tea party decor. Pink!

Light pink Hobby Lobby Tulle Dress Pattern, Handmade toddler party dress.

Baby Light Pink Tulle Party Dress from Hobby Lobby Pattern, Handmade and beautiful!

Toddler Birthday Party Ideas: Family Photography in tulle dresses. Pink theme tea party.

Flower girl handmade flower crown with white roses and greenery. Wedding or party style ideas.

Toddler Tulle Pink Dress and Flower Girl Style Crown, Headpiece made of roses.

Handmade party hat for toddler tea party birthday, tulle pink dress with full skirt.

Rose and greenery flower girl crown, tea party headband, organic inspired parties and weddings.

Pink vintage tea party themed birthday party for little girls, three years old. Classic gold accents party decor.

Grandparent Party Photos.

Beautiful floral inspired organic white wedding or birthday cake. Tea Party themed toddler birthday dessert. Peach, pink, white roses and peonies. Style Me Pretty fun!

Life is short, eat dessert first napkins. Dessert party.

Tea Party Table Setting, Wedding, Shower, Birthday Party. Vintage tea cups and saucers, high tea pink details.

Mom and baby natural light photography. Light pink tulle baby dress. Birthday photo session.

Mom and baby natural light photograph birthday party session. Pink and white accents.

Baby girl tulle dress, bare feet photograph. Birthday party photo session. Natural light photography.

Three year old toddler tea party high tea birthday party ideas and details. Tea pot with flowers. Silver set arrangement.

Pinkies up, toddler tea party for little girls

Pinkies up, toddler tea party for little girls, Daddy pouring tea.

Pinkies up, toddler tea party for little girls

Pinkies up, toddler tea party for little girls

Pinkies up, toddler tea party for little girls

Pinkies up, toddler tea party for little girls

Pinkies up, toddler tea party for little girls

Pinkies up, toddler tea party for little girls, Cake table decor.

style me pretty birthday or shower cake with silk flowers, toddler tea party. three years old.

Putting candles on the birthday cake, tea party.

Kitchen island, flower arrangements, cottage style kitchen, calcutta gold countertops

Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

Toddler Tea Party Floral Layered Birthday Cake, Shabby Chic Vintage Style

White brick cottage portico front porch exterior with floral front door wreath, stained wood 6 lite glass door, flagstone steps, stained columns, wooden window boxes, nautical copper exterior light.

Unicorn heirloom baby blanket with bunnies, personalized gift. Swell Forever

Unique birthday gift heirloom for toddler. Forever Blanket personalized baby blankets.

 Sources:

  • Invitations: Designed to print by San Francisco Crafts and printed at Costco
  • Dresses: Joann's Tea Length Party Dress Pattern, Tulle from clearance rack except top layer
  • Tulle on Tables: Clearance rack at Joann's 
  • Ribbon chandelier (not sure if pictured): Discount ribbons at Michael's, leftover tulle from dresses, sewing hoop from Joann's
  • Tea pots, tea cups and saucers, flower plates, etc. all came from various HomeGoods and T.J. Maxx stores in Atlanta area
  • Front Door Wreath: Half off at Michael's
  • Photo booth lace: Old curtains from my mom, heirloom chair of my grandmothers
  • Photo booth jewelry: My cousin owns an adorable costume jewelry shop called Swell Caroline and let us borrow the pearls and beaded necklaces.
  • Cake Flowers: 40% faux flowers from Michaels - spray roses, garden roses and peony cut down off stems. Took 5 minutes to decorate cake and less than $10.
  • Flower Crowns: Handmade by my mom's flower shop, www.gingerlilyevents.com

Swell Mamas: Hello There! March 02 2017, 0 Comments

This was an accident. Truly. The path to this little space for other mamas started when I was pregnant with Isla in October 2013. My best friend from college, Michelle, asked me what I thought about starting a cooking club. I had actually been thinking about something similar at the time but didn't have the focus to get it going. One email later inviting some lady friends to start this nebulous social group called "cooking club" and we were official. We started with eight but quickly settled into six. Six women who represent a lot of diversity in styles, preferences, personalities, life experience and passions.
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Sydney was a brand new mom at our first cooking club but I was soon to follow. And then the mothers in our group snowballed. Holly and I had met and bonded previous to cooking club through a mutual friend as we were both trying to get pregnant and stay pregnant! She was the only one who didn't have an initial connection to Michelle. Turns out Sydney and I actually both went to Furman together (I was there for a few years) although we were not familiar with each other. I met Kaylen and Christi for the first time. 
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So it began, this humble group of funny and kind women (most of whom had some talent in the kitchen, yours truly not included). A few years down the road, we found ourselves at my cabin in North Carolina on our first retreat. We were desperate for a break. Two of us brought breast pumps. Sexy, I know. 
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Swell Mamas came about after the most expensive bottle of wine I have ever bought got consumed and then we started in on the cache that most likely came from Sydney. The house was literally bumping. We went from teary eyed stories, bonding over bad boyfriends to just dancing in complete lack of rhythm and singing very loudly. It was the best of times. Somehow we joked about a blog. Supporting other moms. Writing about life. Being real. And our hopes to inspire and befriend other moms who need the very type of girlfriendship we were experiencing at that moment. (Note: Holly had to return home that night and got volunteered into this project by force of our wills)
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I promised the girls if they would blog for my company I would buy them food. Free food is what sealed the deal. And wine. Maybe I promised them a trip to the spa too? We don't remember a ton of the details, but the Swell Mamas initiative was born. 
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Our goal + mission? To share our hearts, to invite others into this beautiful bond we have nurtured and cultivated these past few years, and to just sprinkle joy and understanding into the lives of other mothers who need what we have needed from each other all this time: genuine, selfless friendship. 
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We are not a clique. We are not a tribe. We are just six women who have a heart for loving others and inviting them into our everyday world.

An Eric Carle Baby Shower! February 18 2017, 0 Comments

Eric Carle Baby Shower from Swell Forever. The Very Hungry Caterpillar theme.

Swell Parties:

Gender Neutral Baby Shower with Eric Carle

Truth be told, I hosted this Eric Carle themed baby shower for a dear friend at the end of last year. I'm not busy at all so of course it took "a few" months to share some photos. Since the baby's gender would not be announced until birth and would be a big surprise (yay!), the nursery theme was the mom's favorite, all things Eric Carle. As a school teacher, this just fit perfectly. It also happened to fit perfectly with the wide array of adorable teethers, books and baby toys being hawked at Marshalls. Lucky me! 

I am getting way more efficient at hosting showers even with the two little people in my life keeping me on my toes. Simple menus, planning months in advance so I can buy things as I see them on sale and prevent last minute cramming for the right look, and having the housecleaning ladies from Green Queen come AFTER the shower are a few lessons learned from years of throwing parties.

Enjoy some photos from our festive event. Cake from Henri's Bakery in Sandy Springs, GA. Rubber ducky from Amazon. Stolen decor from another shower the mom-to-be brought back (again, lucky me --- I am not so crafty). Food from the one and only Kroger. And adorable company consisted of her school teacher friends of all ages and stages...they were a hoot.

Eric Carle Baby Shower from Swell Forever. The Very Hungry Caterpillar theme.

Eric Carle Baby Shower from Swell Forever. The Very Hungry Caterpillar theme.

Eric Carle Baby Shower from Swell Forever. The Very Hungry Caterpillar theme.

In case you were wondering, Eric Carle has written a lot of books. Over 40 in fact!

Eric Carle Baby Shower from Swell Forever. The Very Hungry Caterpillar theme.

Eric Carle Baby Shower from Swell Forever. The Very Hungry Caterpillar theme.

Eric Carle Baby Shower from Swell Forever. The Very Hungry Caterpillar theme.

Eric Carle Baby Shower from Swell Forever. The Very Hungry Caterpillar theme.

You know every baby has to have one of our personalized Forever Blankets...even if they don't have a name yet and we don't know their gender. The beautiful thing about our navy Millie Forever Blanket gingham check pattern and red embroidery.

https://swellforever.com/collections/forever-blanket-baby/products/the-millie-forever-blanket-baby

Eric Carle Themed Baby Shower!

Cute Gender Neutral Baby Shower Ideas

By the way, I now know if Baby O is a boy or a girl...to be continued...in the nursery.

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Shop Small Gift Exchange! January 11 2017, 0 Comments

Shop Small Gift Exchange: White Elephant Party Ideas

 

Back in December, I hosted our Swell Team members for a holiday party to celebrate an amazing year. As my gift to them, I curated some special gifts from other small businesses and entrepreneurs and tried to only buy gifts that were purchased through such shops or in local stores I love. Enjoy some of the gifts I came across and keep these in mind for your Valentine's gifting!!! Unless of course, our Forever Blankets fit the bill for your gift buying needs. 

Swim Gift Ideas and Gifts for the Beach

Some of my mompreneur friends have pretty AWESOME beach ready gear. Betsy at SwimZip carries my favorite kids bathing suit line as well as SPF protective cover ups for women. I love mine in the same pattern as the one featured above. The kids suits are a must have for summer, especially the long sleeve rash guards.

Beach Ready Maternity Cover Up

I have also loved gifting Kami's Simple Sarongs. They are adjustable for all sizes and great for teens to more mature ladies. I gave my mom one a few Christmases ago. I love how practical they are because the material is made like a towel but keeps you covered up when you get out of the water.

And the Bogg Bags made by Kim's company are perfect for everyday but made for the beach and pool lover. You can wash out the sand and gunk easily. She has different sizes, tons of colors, and they are a great price point. The recipient of these this year gave her little girl the small one so she could match mommy's larger bag. 

My friends at Beer Greetings make clever giftable 6 pack greeting card cartons. I filled one with food themed goodies including a gift card to our local Buttermilk Sky pie shop here in Sandy Springs, GA. My family is from South Georgia so I also included a batch of Blackberry Patch syrup made in Thomasville, GA.

Clever Beer Greetings Gifts. Gift Basket Alternative.

I love photography and a local friend of mine takes beautiful photos. One of our pregnant team members, Meghan, received the Family Photo Shoot session from the extremely talented Atlanta photographer, Sofia Di Trapani.

And then there were the local shops that I love like Acorns in Highlands, NC where we have a cabin (I bought several gifts there!) and a few spots here in Atlanta.

 

 

Located in Brookhaven, GA

 

Shops around Atlanta

I love their storefront and their facials (whenever I get them!)

 

And the best registry shop in Atlanta is located in my town. I registered for my wedding at Fragile Gifts!

 

In terms of Skin Care, two lovely lady friends of mine sell stuff I love.

For a face balm, I have discovered Beautycounter's Balm thanks to the beautiful Averi who can help you make your skin look as awesome as hers.

And an all time favorite adoptive mompreneur of mine is Samantha from Green and Lovely Products. They are divine and affordable. My mom is really into her face lotions and I love her caffeine infused Wake Me Up face cream. It smells like fresh coffee and goes on like a whipped cream. And it is organic.

 

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Foster Swell: 2016 Wrap Up Part 2 January 10 2017, 0 Comments

Swell Adoption Fund: 2016 Wrap Up: Part 2

We are continuing to highlight some of the beautiful and deserving families who have received grants this year.
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Melissa

Melissa has been fostering her daughter since she was 3 days old.

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"With 45 minutes notice I brought home a beautiful 5lb 5oz angel who was nameless and born positive for cocaine. After 15 months of no contact from any of her birth family the court finally moved to terminate parental rights and allow me to adopt her. My home has been approved to adopt and we are just waiting on the process to finish terminating parental rights.
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I fell in love with a beautiful little girl who took over my home, my life, and stole my heart. I found out when I was 19 that I could not biologically have children, but I knew I would figure it out. The day I met my daughter my heart was home and my sweetest of dreams came true. I can't imagine life before her and life after her will never be the same."

Caitlyn + Brett

 We have always known that we wanted to adopt but didn't expect it to happen so soon in our lives. God has a great sense of humor though. Over summer 2015 we decided to participate in an orphan hosting program and hosted an 8-year-old boy from Ukraine. We fell in love, but the family who was hosting his older brother decided to pursue the adoption of both boys. Our host son made a lasting impact on our lives however and opened our hearts to the world of orphan care.

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That winter, we decided to host again, by hosting two siblings from a sibling set of four. "We're just hosting," we said. "We can't adopt four kids!" Yet again, we fell in love, and this time we knew for certain these were our kids. Friends and family members thought we were crazy, as we have no children yet and to go from zero to four kids is a major lifestyle change. So we decided to host them again over summer 2016, bringing the oldest three siblings into our home for two and a half months. Every single day something would happen, some small reassurance or feeling, that we knew these were our children and this was meant to be. By the end of the summer there was no doubt in our mind - soon, we would be parents to four children from Ukraine. It's hard to explain the feeling, but having actually met the children whose adoption we are pursuing, we have this amazing connection that is indescribable but incredibly reassuring at the same time. They are our kiddos, and all we have to do now is bring them home. 

Stacey + Matthew

We have always felt called to adopt, we are just being obedient to make the Gospel tangible to others and live out James 1:27. God already gave us a special child with our son, so He equipped up to bring another special child into the family.

We are adopting a 5 year old girl from China who has Down Syndrome.  

Our home study is final and we will be applying for the 1800A application and sending our dossier to China.  

Tracy + John

We are Tracy and John, and we are adopting an older, special needs child from Bulgaria!
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Before I met my husband, I had already decided that adoption was part of my future family plans. When I met my now husband, we talked about family, and he was in agreement that we would adopt as well as (hopefully) have our own biological kids.

It soon became apparent that we would not have much success with having our own babies without spending a great deal of money, and enduring more and more invasive fertility treatments. We mourned the loss of a biological family, but were still very much committed to building our family through adoption! 

For about a year, I had been a member of a couple of private group pages for families interested in adoption, from Bulgaria and other Eastern European countries. Last July, a member posted information for a then 9-year-old special needs girl living an orphanage in a small village. We had previously lost the opportunity to begin a dossier for a 3-year-old boy from Poland, after the family who had originally declined his referral decided they wanted him once they knew another family was interested.   This little girl also had a lot of interest, so we were extremely happy when we received word that we were the first family to commit to her!

We are now in the home stretch of our adoption. This will be our first (and possibly only) child, and we are so very happy and feel fortunate to have found her! We went on trip one in July, and she is a wonderful child. She shares many personality traits similar to ours as well as having cute dimples (we both also have dimples)! 

Jenni + Eric

Hi! We are Eric and Jenni, from Ohio have been married for 20 years and in that time we have been blessed with 5 wonderful children. Emilia is our oldest and she asked for siblings for 6 years until Jakob arrived.  In 2012, we welcomed Kofi and Joy from Ghana and they are thriving in our family. Eve was adopted in 2013 and she is the most joyful child full of determination. Eve has cerebral palsy and she is deaf, but none of that defines who she is. Once we were used to the medical world, therapies and wheelchairs, our hearts were open for more children with medical needs. We just waited until we found him or her.
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We learned about Josie as she had been waiting for a family for 18 long months. Words like paralysis and cancer can be scary, but we felt that no child should go through something like that alone. We knew that she would be the perfect little sister in our family. We spent time learning about spinal and brain tumors, chemotherapy and what the future might hold for her. We are already used to wheelchairs so that was not a concern.
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Because of her medical condition, Josie  needs to come here for medical care urgently. We have the means to take care of her in our family, but we need to raise the necessary funds to pay for the adoption fees and travel. We are so thankful that there are people who want to learn more about our story and join us in our journey to Josie.

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Foster Swell: 2016 Wrap Up Part 1 December 27 2016, 0 Comments

Swell Adoption Fund: 2016 Wrap Up: Part 1

As 2016 comes to a close, we are celebrating the creation and success of Foster Swell this year. Since the launch of Foster Swell in June, we have been able to award grants to 16 families going through the process of expanding their family through adoption! Below is a beautiful collection of some of the deserving families who have received grants this year.
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Brian + Paula

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Brian and Paula have two biological children, Shane 19 and Sarah 13. They wanted more children, but due to medical reasons, were not able to have any more children. 
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"Brian and I are currently adopting a little boy who is a dwarf like us from China. We feel we could provide him with everything he needs. Lief is 5 years old and was abandoned in a park in China. He may need surgery for hydrocephalus, we don't know for sure. Since Brian, the kids and I also have dwarfism and feel we can help him to get the medical care he needs as well as the love he deserves with a family to love on him."

Jeremy + Jacinta

After many years of trying to have a baby and a diagnosis of unexplained fertility, Jacinta and Jeremy decided to move forward with they dream to adopt. While the process was long and emotional, their dream was finally realized with the adoption of a newborn baby boy in March.

 "We finally got the call we had been waiting for. Sarah, a high school senior, wanted to meet with us. That day changed our lives.

 Our baby boy was born at 4:27pm, Wednesday, March 30th.   He entered this world completely perfect, and we were blessed with the best birthmother, who allowed us to experience the entire birth.  Our son is now 6 months old, and our finalization court date is quickly approaching. While our journey to this point in our process was long and often painful, we wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. We ended up getting the best opportunity to raise the best little boy in the entire world! And not only did we gain a son, we gained an entire extended family! We meet with our birthmother and her family once a month, and text at least once a week. We love our unique family created from so much unconditional love!"

Christina + John
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After being inspired by a friend's adoption journey, Christina and John decided to follow in their footsteps. After looking on an adoption website to identify children to specifically pray for, Christina and John fell in love with one child in particular and felt moved by God to make her part of their family.

"For our whole marriage, we had been advocates for adoption and foster care. We believe strongly that the Bible instructs us to care for the needs of the widow and the orphan.  We decided to make it a family project and pray and advocate for waiting special needs children ourselves.

 Immediately, the family felt drawn to this little girl.  It seemed impossible, because international adoption is expensive and complicated…but God continued to tug on our hearts. We asked Him for a sign. We kept our eyes peeled to see “Sylvia” somewhere but we didn’t.  Finally, we were about to just let it go when an email from the adoption agency said this: “Yes, her name is Sylvia but she goes by Sissy.”

 You see, Sissy is Chris’ nickname.  Her sister, brother in law, nieces and nephews all call her Sissy. It was decided right then and there.  This was our daughter. We are so excited to see God move in this little girl’s life and to be the family she deserves."

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Adoption: Truly A Dream Come True December 27 2016, 0 Comments

 Swell Adoption Fund: 2016

Adoption: Truly a Dream Come True
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Amanda Hatcher shares her story about her and her husband's adoption journey, they began when they both had a similar dream about their future son.
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Our adoption story begins with a dream-literally. Three years ago Joe was in El Paso, TX preparing to deploy with the Army National Guard. I went with our year and a half old son, Caleb, (we’re from West Virginia) to visit him for a few days before he left for Afghanistan. One morning I woke up and told Joe I had a really vivid dream we had another little boy, one with chocolate colored skin, about 3-5 years old, and a big smile. Surprisingly, Joe told me he had the same dream that night too. We’d always talked about fostering or adopting at some point in our lives-I was adopted as an older child from foster care when I was 15, and Joe had relatives who were adopted-but we always talked about that being in the distant future because we wanted to focus on raising biological children first.

Joe returned after 12 months overseas, and about a year after he’d come home, we were fortunate to become pregnant with our daughter, Hannah. We still talked about adoption, and occasionally Joe looked up local children that needed homes. We were certain God gave us the dream (although Joe confessed he didn’t remember), but we weren’t certain when, where, or who was meant for us.

One of my best friends from high school, Tiffany, adopted a seven year old boy with special needs from Colombia the beginning of 2015. She told me about meeting-by chance-her son’s foster brother while she was there. She said the two boys had been together since they were both babies, and had been moved through different foster homes together. She inquired about the foster brother (who also has special needs) and found out there had been a mix up in his paperwork, and he had never been available for adoption his whole life. Though a single mother, Tiffany decided she would return and adopt this boy as well.

Over the following year Tiffany and I lost touch. Back in April we started chatting through messenger one night to catch up. She shared with me that she’d decided not to go forward with the second adoption. She said she and her son, Elias, recently returned from visiting the foster brother in Colombia, and she realized her limitations as a single mom, and didn’t feel she would be able to care for two special needs boys. She said she was determined to find him a home in the U.S. so the boys could stay close. She’d shared a photo of him with me the previous year, after she brought Elias home, and I’d been surprised to find he wasn’t hispanic, but looked more African (she said he’s classified as Afro-Colombian). So when she shared her news with me-I talked to Joe, about the possibility of adopting this boy. I told him I knew he didn’t remember his dream from three years ago, but when he told me his dream that morning, he had told me the boy in his dream was Tiffany’s boy and she couldn’t keep him so we took him. At the time, I thought it was a random part of his dream-I never even considered it might be a very significant detail.

In April, after a lot of prayer, we started the process to adopt this special boy from Colombia. We’ve had a lot of amazing things happen since our process has started, and we know God’s hand is over it all. Thank you for reading our story!

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Sharing the Dream of Adoption December 19 2016, 0 Comments

 

Swell Adoption Fund: 2016

Sharing the Dream of Adoption
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Melissa and Matt Thomas both knew they wants to adopt before they met each other. Early in their relationship they were excited learn that they shared this dream!
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We are so excited to be on this journey! I (Melissa) grew up in the 80’s, the glorious era of Cabbage Patch dolls, and I remember wanting one so badly for Christmas. Everyone around me had a doll that looked like them (hair and eye color, etc.) so I was expecting a blonde haired, blue eyed doll. But, it turns out that they were hard to come by, and for Christmas that year I opened a dark haired, dark skinned doll. I was instantly in love. I think this is where my passion for adoption started. Knowing that family can be all about the people you choose and the tribe you build - not only through blood. We know that life is precious, and we count it as a big gift to be able to share life with a child. We are excited about loving our little one with all we have, pursuing new adventures together and expanding our definition of family! 

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We do have some very special circumstances that have shaped us as a couple. In 2009, before we met, Matt was in a mountain biking accident, leaving him paralyzed. Having been a professional whitewater kayaker and general outdoorsmen the accident was devastating. And, where most would have probably felt hopeless, Matt chose to never give up. After a long hospital stay, and lots of physical therapy he decided to spend time in Southern California to pursue some intensive exercise based recovery methods. We count it nothing short of a miracle that our paths crossed and we are thankful everyday for our lives together. We were married in 2014 in what we like to think was “the best weekend ever”. Really, how could it not be the best when it involved our family, friends, some killer tacos and all you can eat churros! Amazing!

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Here’s what we believe: that relationships matter, laughter is the best medicine, and as a family we choose to “Never Give Up” - both in what we pursue and also those we love. We love our new normals and we are excited to expand our family to include a little one. We’ve learned that life gives us no certainties, but there is always hope and that hope gives way to something beautiful! 
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The Beautiful Gift of Adoption October 25 2016, 0 Comments

 

Swell Adoption Fund: Fall 2016

The Beautiful Gift of Adoption
Bryan and Rachel Wendel are excited at the opportunity to adopt a second child and grow their family. They share how adoption has been a beautiful gift for their whole family...
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With this being our second adoption journey, we do have prior experience with adoption. Although there were many emotions along the way, our adoption journey ended exactly the way we envisioned it. We started our adoption process shortly after finding out we both had fertility issues. We were matched with our first child August 2012. One week prior to the birth, the birth mom decided to parent. We were then matched again March of 2013, again the birth mom decided to parent as well. Our 3rd match came July of 2013, with that one failing soon after the match. As emotional as it was, we knew a child was out there who would be perfect for us and who needed us more than the first three matches.

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On December 7, 2013, we received a call stating a baby girl born the night before needed an adoptive family. We had one hour to decide what we were going to do since we would need to be in Florida that night. During that hour, there was no hesitation. We immediately started making arrangements for our pets and booking flights. That night we had our daughter in our arms and have had her ever since. She is truly one of the most amazing gifts we could ever receive and her birth mom was just as amazing. We cannot wait to hold our second baby in our arms and bring him or her home to their forever family just as we did our first. We love the idea that both of our children will be able to share the blessing of adoption and lean on each other for support.

Our inspiration to build our family through adoption was also emotional, but it was one of the best decisions we could ever make. Bryan grew up knowing he was unable to have children due to his Klienfelter’s syndrome. Shortly after we were married we started fertility treatments. After several failed treatments and a miscarriage, testing was done on Rachel. Results showed a unicornuated uterus. It was determined that even if the fertility treatments would work, it would be considered a high risk pregnancy. The chances of having a successful pregnancy would be low. Instead of dwelling on this news, we looked at this as an opportunity to share our unconditional love and become adoptive parents. We wanted to be able to bless children with opportunities they may not have had in the situations their birth parents may have been in at the time of birth. Adoption is an amazing gift to not only the adoptive child but their adoptive parents as well. We cannot wait to start our second journey!
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A Nest for Evey: Nursery Inspiration October 05 2016, 0 Comments

A Nursery for Evey Lyn

A dash of this, a little of that. Clean, bright, woodsy and playful.
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With my first daughter, I had a clear picture of how I would decorate her nursery. I picked an amazing peony themed aqua and pink colored wallpaper from Anthropologie and made it my accent wall and tried to keep everything else classic in white or light pink. I LOVED that room from my Craiglist Serena and Lily glider purchase (which I bought unknowingly from another mompreneur in Atlanta) to the tiny floral coat hooks in pink and white. Other than the wallpaper, I didn't spend a lot of money in that room. I didn't pay full price for a single thing I can even remember.
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When I found out I was having another girl, I was not ready to move my oldest, who still sleeps in a crib at 2.5, to a new room. My sister sold me her white jenny lind crib for Evey's room. I moved the Ballard Design clearance rack whitewashed dresser to the new nursery (formerly the living room as it still has a fireplace in it) and the glider along with some decor. And then I just lost my way. 
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This room did not come easy. I couldn't find a wallpaper that worked and realized if I ever had a boy in the future, I probably needed to keep at least one bedroom free of floral wallpaper! Finally I stumbled upon Bari J's beautiful prints. I loved the whimsy, the nature theme and her use of bright colors! Our tag designer used those prints over the crib to inspire a gorgeous custom painting that was supposed to go over the mantle. It is perfection. It was supposed to be in her room until I bought another art piece and realized it would not fit where it was supposed to in my house. So we played a lot of swapperoo and here is the end result. 
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As cheap as I am when it comes to buying things for our house (our bar stools literally were stolen from a garbage pile in front of someone's house and repainted), original art is one of my new favorite things to buy. I find it so incredibly special to own and harder to get tired of. The other part of Evey Lyn's room that stood out to me were the LOVE letters when my sister took me shopping at the Atlanta wholesale mart. I had to have them. Too bad they took weeks to arrive so needless to say, the nursery never really got "finished" until Evey was about 3 months old. 
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This was a hard room for me. I never had an exact vision and finally just threw things in it that I loved. I kept the draperies really simple since I don't know how long it will be a nursery. They cost $18 and I found them in an unmarked clearance bag at HomeGoods. The rug was the hardest decision by far but Rugs USA had a lot of options in this color so I just had my sister help me make a final decision...She designs at www.carolineweigel.com by the way.
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As a second child, I just felt Evey deserved her own nest. She may not care as a baby but I do think looking back she will love that I created a room just for her. Sitting in it now at night as a nurse her to sleep, I get to sit next to my grandmother's former foyer table. If it had not been for my sister encouraging me to mix the old dark wood with newer furniture, I might not have figured out how perfect that table would be. It is odd how sentimental furniture is for some people like me that often catch themselves living in the past. I love taking in the detail of the marble top and the table now stands out at me every time I see old photos of me in my grandmother's front room. Thanks to my uncle for keeping it all these years since my grandparents passed. 
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While I know doing a completely new theme for a second girl might seem a little much, I am pretty pleased that both my girls have their own nests to reflect the uniqueness that is in each of them. 
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Sources:
Crib: Amazon.com
Rug: Rugs USA, Color Grey
Dresser: Ballard Designs
Crib Woodland Prints: Bari J
Rustic Frames: Hobby Lobby
LOVE letters: Indaba Trading
Original Art: Cheryl Connelly Art
Side Table: Passed Down, Heirloom
Wooden Crate: RH Baby
Baskets: HomeGoods
Glass Jars for Bows: HomeGoods
Wall Shelving: Land of Nod
Curtains: Clearance Rack, HomeGoods
Driftwood Lamp: HomeGoods
Glider: Serena + Lily
Peony pillow, white polka dot pillow, vintage fringed chenille throw: Scott's Antique Market
Swell Forever Forever Blankets:
-The Noah Forever Blanket (White with white satin, navy monogram)
-The Charlotte Heart Forever Blanket (handknit, all profits for a CuddleCot)
-The Millie Forever Blanket (pink gingham check pattern)
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Bringing Home Baby From India! October 04 2016, 0 Comments

Swell Adoption Fund: September 2016

A Special Needs Adoption in India!
Ms. Caroline Seeberger is excited to share the story of her journey to become a new mom through special needs adoption in India...
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I have invested a great deal of time considering why I would like to be the mother of a special needs child. My decision to adopt came from an overwhelming desire to provide a loving family for a child who has lost his/her parents and is in need of this opportunity.  I feel very drawn to Indian culture and the heritage my child will celebrate. I have much love, and an extended support system to make a difference in the life of an Indian child. I have considered the challenges of adopting a child who is different from me in race and ethnicity and will require specific medical care. I believe that though there may be challenges, the rewards for the child and for my family will outweigh the difficulties.
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Since receiving and accepting my referral for a HIV positive little girl, I am beyond ecstatic and committed to bringing her home and providing her with the best medical care possible.  In my joy of receiving her referral, I can best describe her to you as round like a cherub, beautiful skin like a cocoa bean and a smile like a Lalita goddess that will melt your heart.
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Despite the joy of the recent referral, my adoption journey prior to this moment in time has been long and financially challenging. I had begun with adoption process with my application into the Marshall Islands program in December 2014. Unfortunately this program has endured its challenges and has caused the wait for referral to extend much longer than originally anticipated. With this longer wait the requirements for updated home studies and clearance paperwork has increased my overall adoption cost. Early February the team at CHLSS recommended I switch programs from the Marshall Islands to India. This switch in country program required a giant leap of faith, in addition to the added costs for USCIS paperwork and revising my non-Hague home study to a Hague home study. All in all, the leap of faith was definitely worth it!
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Our Calling to be a Family For Children Who Have Lost Theirs September 30 2016, 0 Comments

 

Swell Adoption Fund: September 2016

A Family For Children Who Have Lost Theirs

We are Brian and Amy Shaw of Wauseon, Ohio. We have been blessed to be married more than 19 years. We love the Lord Jesus with all our hearts and are so thankful to have walked many, many years with Him. We each maintain our own walk with Christ on a daily basis, in His Word each morning and praying together as a couple each night. We believe strongly that raising up our children is the highest task God has bestowed upon us and we continually seek to listen to His voice and ask the Spirit to guide us and adjust ourselves accordingly.

We have been blessed with 4 living biological children--Jensi (14 yrs), Anneli (12 yrs), Oliver (9 years) and Darrah Kate (5 years). We have also been entrusted with the blessing of little ones who began their lives in Amy’s womb but then ran ahead to Jesus early: Timothy (Anneli’s twin) at 22 weeks gestation, Hope Carolina at 10 weeks gestation and finally sweet Oskar Brian at 39 weeks gestation. Each of these were dramatic losses in our lives but we have seen God bring beauty for ashes in each circumstance. We would not want to rewrite our story.

Throughout our married life we have always sought to serve God overseas. We each did this before we married, and wanted desperately at times, to do so together. God allowed us to serve two amazing years in China together with our two oldest daughters. The timing of Oskar’s death kept us home from returning to overseas service. From that point, God burdened our hearts for children without families.

We began to see that we were a family who had lost children, and by God’s power, we could be a family for children who had lost theirs. We believe that our experiences overseas have increased our understanding of the plight of orphans. We saw firsthand the poverty and desperate need for these children to be loved and have their hearts trained in the Lord’s ways. We understand that families adopting orphans is not the end solution for the global orphan crisis, but it is what we can do, and how He is empowering us to serve Him. First for Zareb from Uganda (Asperger’s Syndrome), then for Toby from China (diagnosed with Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita), then for Esty also from China (who has Spina Bifida, scoliosis, incontinence, hydronephrosis) and then Gable (hepatoblastoma in remission). We are now adopting two more little girls from China! Windsor Grace is 3 and has Cerebral Palsy (Right Hemiplegia) and Schizencephaly and Summerlin who is 20 months old and also has Arthrogryposis like our son Toby.

We trust that when the Lord says to bring them home that He will empower, fund and teach us all we need. We have an amazing support team of church members, friends and family surrounding us. We know that a family is the best place for children to overcome their obstacles and that the love of Jesus is the true healing power.

We believe the greatest thing we can impart to our children is to live a life of following Jesus, completely trusting in Him. We believe this is best modeled and caught, rather than lectured. We live this way and involve our children in praying and rejoicing as God continually meets our daily needs and proves Himself over and over again. What a joy it is to walk as His children, as a family!

 

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Baby Loss, Foster Care + Adoption September 08 2016, 0 Comments

Swell Adoption Fund: September 2016

The M Family's Travels From NICU to Foster Care and Finally Adoption

My husband, Michael, and I were your typical high school sweethearts.  We started dating in ninth grade, were homecoming king and queen, went through college together, got married and had our whole life planned.  My idea was to have two kids by the time I was thirty years of age.  I became pregnant with a baby girl at the age of 26 and my life seemed to be going just as I had hoped until April 30th, 2011, when I gave birth to our beautiful Lily Grace.  The doctors had laid her on my chest and I knew something wasn't right.  She was lethargic, no interest in feeding, low muscle tone...I just had a "not so good" feeling.  
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After our family swooned over our new baby girl in the hospital room, the doctors and nurses had asked to keep her in the nursery so they could monitor her.  As hours went by, she would still not feed and they decided to admit her to the NICU.  After 18 days of countless tests, blood work and narrowing down disorders, our Lily Grace was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Zellweger Syndrome.  Zellweger Syndrome (ZS) is a rare genetic disorder which affects the brain, liver and kidneys.  Babies with ZS have little to no functioning peroxisomes, which break down toxins in the body.  These babies usually have low tone, an inability to suck or swallow, cannot move, and eventually have seizures.  Unfortunately there is no cure for ZS as well as no treatment.  The prognosis is poor, the babies usually do not survive past six months of age.  
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As Michael and I were told that our baby girl had ZS, the tears poured and our hearts were broken.  There are no words to describe the hurt we felt that day.  We brought Lily Grace home from the hospital and chose to live life with her to the fullest and not grieve her death before she died.  We went hiking, swimming, and tubing down the creek.  We snuggled and loved for as long as we could.  Just shy of three months, on July 24th, 2011 Lily Grace went to be with Jesus and our lives and hearts were forever changed.
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I vividly remember standing in the hospital room with Michael shortly after receiving Lily Grace's diagnosis and talking about what this all meant for our future children and our family.  It meant we had a 25 percent chance that all of our biological children would have this fatal disorder.  We immediately knew we wanted to adopt and there was a peace in that decision that I cannot explain.  We took some time to grieve and heal before we dove into researching ways of growing our family by adoption, but after almost two years we decided it was time.  For various reasons including cost, we have chosen to go the route of adoption through foster care.  After signing up with a local agency, doing hours of paperwork, training and background checks, we were certified!  The thought of having children in our home and of being a "mommy" to a child who needs love more than ever made me ecstatic.  I was naive to the fact of what that really meant, that by a child coming to my home they had to leave theirs.  And not by choice, but they were either neglected, abused, abandoned, homeless, or hurting.  

When we received our first placement call just a few days after being certified this became real and our hearts were opened to the ministry of foster care forever.  We now had to help heal the broken and that was not easy, and honestly, we were both scared.  We welcomed two adorable blonde haired little boys into our home and they stayed with us for a little less than one year before they were reunified.  Our journey with them was not an easy one but we were so blessed to share our hearts and home with them in such a time of need.  We had a few shorter term placements after the boys left our home as well as some promising placements of adoption that never panned out.  We also had a private adoption that had failed as well.  It seemed as if every time we got our hopes up for a "forever" child, it just wouldn't happen.
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Hurt and broken, it was hard for me personally to hold onto God's goodness and to trust in His timing.  We had been praying for years for a child and I couldn't make sense of why so many placements and adoptions have failed for us.  I was beginning to lose hope and to think it would never happen.  With lots of prayerful consideration, we have decided to contact an agency that would help us to facilitate an adoption and connect us with a birth mother looking for adoptive parents. And so began the countless hours of paperwork, home studies, background checks and creating profiles.  By the summer of 2015 our adoption profile was ready!  We received a few phone calls from potential birth mothers but nothing too promising.  
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At the end of September we were connected with a wonderful birth mother who was getting ready to have her baby girl in the next few days.  We received a phone call from her that she needed to be induced and we were beyond excited to go and meet our baby!  October 2nd, 2015 Aminah Marie entered the world and stole our hearts. We got to be present for the birth and I even got to cut her cord!  She was perfect, she was beautiful and we were beyond blessed for her birth mother throughout this entire process.  We have been praying for her and her baby before we even knew who she was.  We have an open adoption and the relationship forming with Aminah's birth mother is beautiful.  We are excited to have our baby girl grow up knowing who her birth mother is and the selfless love that she has for her.
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One month before we found out we would be adopting Aminah, we had received a call for our previous foster child and his new baby sister.  We accepted the placement, and just when we thought it would be short term, it turned into months.  The oldest went to live with his grandparents and we continue to foster Isabella.  We currently have been fostering this beautiful, fun, silly little girl for almost a year.  
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With two girls only four months apart, our house is full of bows, tutus, glitter and giggles. We are hoping to be able to adopt Isabella as well, we have been praying for God's will for her and our family.  Every day, the picture of our lives becomes a little more clear.  Every day, we see more of God's goodness through the pain and trials we have faced throughout the years.  Every day, we learn to love a little more, just like Christ has taught us.  Every day, we feel blessed to be on this journey and whatever comes our way, we cling to the promise of God's unending love and faithfulness.  My plan to have all my children by the time I was thirty looks silly to me now.  I would have missed out on so much if God would have allowed me to do it my way.  We are excited to see how our family continues to grow and the plan that God has for us and all of our children.    
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Waiting for the Call: A South Korean Adoption September 06 2016, 0 Comments

Swell Adoption Fund: September 2016

Adopting from South Korea!  

Hi! We are Zach & Hannah.  
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We are so excited to be adding a child to our family through adoption from South Korea!  
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We started dating when we were 18 and 19 years young and got married shortly after.  On our very first date, we talked about adopting "one day".  From the time I was a little girl, I always knew I wanted to adopt.  I can't pinpoint the exact moment that God placed adoption on my heart but it seems like it's always been there. I knew that whoever I would marry, would need to have the same heart for adoption.  And he did!  After 7 long years of infertility and pregnancy loss, we were blessed with our biological son, Josiah. 
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Through those years, adoption was always on the forefront of our minds but the time never seemed right for us.  Now, 14 years after our first conversation about adoption, we are finally in the process of adopting a son or daughter from South Korea.  We were initially on track to adopt domestically but, as we were waiting month after month to be chosen as parents to a newborn, God spoke to our hearts about how there were orphans all over the world already waiting to be chosen by parents.  After much prayer, we decided to switch to international adoption. 
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We can't wait until we get the call from our Social Worker that we have a referral of a child and are trusting in God's perfect plan, provision, and timing.  Although the waiting seems hard at times, we are doing the best we can to learn about Korean culture and to prepare Josiah for being a big brother. 
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"I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you." John 14:18
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To support this family directly, check out their crowdfunding link:
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A Heart For Down Syndrome September 06 2016, 0 Comments

Swell Adoption Fund: August 2016

The M Family's Heart for a Child with Down Syndrome 

We are the Meredith family! Andrew and I (Diana) have been married for 6 years and we have two biological children. Audrey is our oldest at 4 years old, and Jonah is the youngest at 2 years. 
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Adoption has been a topic of conversation for Andrew and I since we were dating, but we were not sure when we would begin the process. As we discussed adoption on various occasions, I asked Andrew what he thought about adopting a child with Down syndrome. I was a special education teacher before we had children, and I was especially drawn to children with Down syndrome. At first, Andrew wasn't sure what to think about adopting a child with DS, but over time he became more open to it. As we learned about the harsh reality and grim future for children with Down syndrome in orphanages in foreign countries, we became more convinced that we wanted to adopt a child with DS.
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In November of 2015, we saw the photo of a little girl with Down syndrome in China, and we decided to contact the adoption agency about her. Soon after, we learned we were not quite old enough to adopt from China, so we landed on Eastern Europe instead. Although that sweet girl was not meant to be our daughter, she stirred our hearts to take action and pursue adoption right then, rather than waiting any longer. In late November, we submitted our official application to our agency.
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From January through May, we completed our home study visits, attended several weekends of excellent parent training classes specific to adoption, compiled our dossier, obtained multiple sets of fingerprints for various background checks, had medical evaluations done, and worked on saving as much money as we could. We also completed several fundraisers to help raise the money we needed to pay agency fees.
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Our dossier is now complete and in Eastern Europe awaiting a match to our future son or daughter, who will happen to have Down syndrome. As we wait, we are continuing to save as much as we can since it is possible that things may move very rapidly from here. Our remaining expenses are a large legal fee to the country we are adopting from, travel costs, and some additional paperwork expenses. Our child's country will require two trips, one to meet our child and one to bring him or her home.
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We are so grateful for all of the support we have received from our family and friends, both in prayer and financially. Adoption has already been a joyful, yet difficult journey, and we look forward to seeing how God will use this in our lives to bring glory to His name.
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Want to support this sweet family directly? Check out their fundraisers and blog.
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The G Family Adopting! July 26 2016, 0 Comments

Swell Adoption Fund: July 2016

The G Family's is Building a Family Through Adoption!

Hey, we are Manuel and Michelle!  We were first led to adoption about 2 1/2 years ago. Manuel brought it up to me when we began looking into seeing an infertility specialist. After doing some research into adoption, I said "No. No way. This looks like a lot of work, and a huge risk. This is going to be scary. This is going to cost a lot of money. This is going to be rough on us. No." But the idea kept coming up, and Manuel remained steadfast that this was the way we were meant to have our family.
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Suddenly, adoption was surrounding us. We found out one of our friends was adopted. There were sermons at church about adoption. Songs on the radio, and stories online jumped out at me about adoption. We prayed about it. Then prayed some more. Finally, I agreed to stop running from it. It was clearly God's plan for us, and it was time to embrace it. 
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Pursuing this adoption has been nothing like what I thought it was going to be. It has been all about Love.  
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We have experienced God's love for us in so many new ways since we have started this process, and it has left us secure in the knowledge that this is His plan, and He is in control of everything.  We have had so many people come up to us and tell us that they are praying for us. The feeling of knowing you have an entire team of people saying daily prayers for you and your future child is almost overwhelming.
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A love for the birth-mothers has been placed on our hearts so strong that it brings me to tears praying for them. I can't imagine what they are going through during this time, and pray that they receive some peace from their decision. And finally, a love so strong for our child. We were expecting this wait to be hard, but what we didn't know was that we would already love this child.
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This child we have never met, and know absolutely nothing about. But we love them already. We can't wait to meet him or her, but we rest assured that they will come to us when it is time. God has everything in control, and we couldn't be happier about that.
We can't wait to see where this process eventually takes us, and are looking forward to the amazing ride that is to come!  The day they place our baby in our arms will be the happiest day of our lives. 
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A China Adoption Love Story July 26 2016, 0 Comments

Swell Adoption Fund: July 2016

The B Family's Heart for International Adoption

When I was 14, I went on my first international missions trip to Guatemala.  On that trip, I spent some time working at an orphanage.  The time I spent there made such an impression on me that I knew I would some day complete an international adoption.
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In 2012, my husband and I applied to adopt a child from Ethiopia.  Shortly after sending our dossier, policy changes in Ethiopia seriously changed our timeline.  We were on a waiting list for a year and a half.  During that time, we had a biological son, Charlie.  
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After much prayer and discussion with our adoption agency, we decided to switch from the Ethiopia program to the Taiwan program.  However, we had to wait until we both turned 30 in the summer of 2015.  We put in a request for a little boy in Taiwan in August, but were turned down, because of the age of our biological son.  
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After more prayer and discussion with our adoption agency, we decided to switch to the China program in February of 2016.  Since we have been in the China program, things have been moving very smoothly, and we have just been matched with a 5 year old boy.  
God has been so good to us throughout this process, and we know he has great plans for our family!  
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Before we received our referral, I prayed that my husband would know without a doubt that this was our child, as soon as he saw the file.  When the file arrived it was titled "Jackson", the name my husband has been saying he wanted to name our little boy!  Even though we have arrived at many closed doors, we know that God has led us to this child, at this time!  

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A Swell Birth Story: Evey Lyn June 23 2016, 0 Comments

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Thank you so much to our fans and customers for patience while we welcomed our newest daughter to the family in May. Six weeks out and it is still a transition running a business and tending to a two year old and newborn at home, especially when that newborn LOVES to eat around the clock and doesn't always sleep. We do a lot of baby carrying around here and showering is for the birds apparently. 

Makeup as well.

Not a lot of people choose to have a birth photographer present at their birth. For some it can seem invasive or just plain unnecessary. And having someone there for who knows how many hours it takes to delivery isn't exactly cheap either! However for me, I wanted to capture so many moments I did not get to capture having a c-section with my oldest daughter. I never even labored the first time around despite studying and reading up on natural childbirth for months in advance of Isla's arrival. I was really bummed when we found out she was breech at 40 weeks and she clocked in at over 9 pounds.

It felt as if the experience of giving birth was a bit robbed from me. I was NOT happy about a c-section but I was incredibly happy to finally have a baby in my arms after three miscarriages. So I got over it. But I did have back problems and ended up in physical therapy to help my ab muscles start working better again when Isla was 17 months. I knew I wanted another chance to give birth the non-surgery route the next time around, however a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section) is frowned upon by WAY TOO MANY DOCTORS even though the statistical risks are very low for a uterine rupture.

I researched and asked around and was referred to Dr. Joseph Tate in Norcross, GA leading up to planning my second baby's prenatal care. His office is a stark contrast from a clinical environment and includes lots of kids running around and office furniture circa 1980s perhaps. However, Dr. Tate delivers all of his patients and believes in evidence based medicine and not fear based medicine. His faith that most women can deliver without surgery or crazy interventions was reassuring to me. I think my first OB thought I was crazy when I said I would try for a VBAC the next time around.

I also had pain from my epidural in my back for several weeks after my first birth via c-section so I wanted to avoid having to go through that again and the horrible itching I had right after my daughter's birth. No one tells you that they can make you scratch all over and it was so not fun. I wanted to bounce back as quickly as possible and be as present as possible for my daughter's arrival so we hired a doula. I mean I love my husband but what does he know about childbirth? He barely read a chapter in the Birth Partner book!

We thought Evey Lyn would be a smaller baby. I didn't gain the 70+ pounds I gained with Isla and I measured a bit behind for the last several weeks of my pregnancy. Dr. Tate doesn't put any stock in estimating weight, which was a good thing. Evey shocked us all at 8 pounds 13 ounces. We thought maybe 7 pounds! 

For anyone who has been told by their OB that a VBAC is not an option, I encourage you to research other practitioners and really push for WHY it is not an option. Ask them for evidence based reasons not to attempt a delivery. Obviously there are reasons not to attempt a trial of labor in some cases for some women, but I read somewhere that about 70% of VBAC attempts are successful! Says a lot about a woman's ability to give birth!!! That is a lot of ladies that don't have to recover from major surgery. And whatever you do, run if your OB says anything like "we won't let you go past xx weeks." It is your beautiful baby and your beautiful body and your health. No one should tell you what you are "allowed" to do. They can suggest options but should not back you in a corner. And yet it happens all the time and I hear it all the time. Advocate for yourself.

I advocated for myself and challenged the norm of today's OB practices and I am so thankful for the experience I had. A few days before my due date, my water broke although my contractions didn't really feel like much. I was admitted to the hospital to monitor the baby and worked all day long. Finally around 9 pm I started getting uncomfortable and my doula, Christine Strain, arrived to help me out. I did not want pitocin although it was offered and after every dilation check, my contractions got worse so I was confident my body was figuring it all out. 

I never felt the need for an epidural thanks to the support (and lots of massages!) that I had in place but Dr. Tate is one of the few who offers something called a paracervical block. By 2 in the morning on my birthday I really wanted something just not an epi so they called him in to give it to me. Thankfully I was 7.5 cm dilated so he agreed although he wanted me to try pitocin in hopes it would make my contractions more intense and keep me from hitting the infection and baby distress call that might lead to another surgery...I had about 4.5 hours before hitting the 24 hour mark that my water first broke and the baby showed some irregular heart activity due to my loss of fluid.

The paracervical block only lasts 2 hours at a time and is like a numbing agent that just relieves pain in the cervix, nowhere else. The great thing is you feel the need to push and where to push but it took the edge off for me even though it didn't remove the pain or feeling. I could move just as freely but you can only get it twice so it should be game time before you get it!

My contractions were already 1 minute apart and 1 minute long before the pitocin but the combination of the low dose pitocin and the relaxation relief made me feel the need to push and within an hour I was asking to do so. A whole crew came in and Dr. Tate said I was ready to push and 21 minutes later our gorgeous platinum haired little Evey came into the world on my birthday! She was a large little marge which surprised us all. It was 3:21 in the morning and I think everyone was relieved she was finally here. I could smell a lot of coffee.

Now the one big drawback to a VBAC with no epi is the fun that comes after the baby is born. Being completely numb would have been nice below the belly button for that part but I guess the lidocaine was OK. Emory Midtown is great at promoting Baby Friendly policies that help moms bond and breastfeed successfully so my little lady got to lay on my chest and stare up at me while we stared back for a whole hour. It was a great distraction and some of the absolute best moments of my life. Thanks to another baby with low blood sugar, she went off with her dad to the nursery before coming back to see me. 

All of the sudden it was time for everyone to go, included my husband and baby. I found myself with just our lovely photographer Claire Elise. And then it was just me for a bit before my nurse came back in. It is such an odd scenario going from crazy action and buzz everywhere to nearly complete silence...but that did not last long!

I treasure the memories made becoming a mother for the second time to an earthly baby and am so thankful for the photos we have to remind us of such an incredible moment in our lives.  And I have to say the recovery was great. It definitely took 4-5 days to be completely off motrin, but by one week out I was able to take walks, hold both girls, cook, clean and do laundry. Two days after Evey came home we went out to eat for dinner as a family. We even took a family trip to Callway Gardens for a night the second week we came home while Kevin had paternity leave!
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One of my favorite memories was Isla meeting Evey or "baby"! She brought her the Millie Forever Blanket I had made with a tag matching her current two year old place in life. It is the most precious sister gift and I hope Evey treasures it. The Noah Forever Blanket with white trim is from my husband and I. It has our handwriting on the tag and the quote from the movie The Help "You is Kind. You is Smart. You is Important." It has a spot of blood on it now that I cannot get out, but it was from the day she was born. It is crazy how something that could be seen as a blemish actually symbolizes something beautiful, the birth of a new life, a brand new soul with gifts to bring this world. I am so thankful for the doctors and specialists in life that push against the accepted norms. Without such courage I might never know what my body can do.
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Transitioning to Active Labor the night of May 11...
Meeting the Family...

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Local Adoption in Atlanta June 21 2016, 0 Comments

Swell Adoption Fund: June 2016

An Atlanta Family Adoption

"There is something so undeniable and irresistibly beautiful about adoption - of opening your arms, your life, and your forever to the ones who are without arms to hold, days to share and the hope of a forever with someone. 


The word "adoption" comes from the Latin word adoptio, which means to "choose, wish, or desire" something. Through the interplay of life and language, adoption came to mean to choose or take in as family. The etymology is beautiful. Built into the very word is not only the choosing or selecting we think of when we think of adoption, but there is also the "wish and desire" for something. 

It's beautiful enough to bring someone into your house, give them a place at your table, buy them clothes and help them with their homework. But what our heart really wishes or desires is to give this child our name, to call them son or daughter, to know that we are family through bonds stronger than genetics. Our entire adoption story is bound up in the very word adoptio. 

We anticipate many bumps in the road, just like we have found in the choosing of forever in marriage. But we also know that on the other side of those bumps is the deepest love we will experience in this life. In that love is where we find our true selves, our family, our hope and our peace. So we choose to open our arms to growing a family through adoption, celebrating that we will continue choosing each other for as long as we live."

{The C family is adopting locally via infant domestic adoption. They are open to any race or gender. Their desire is to meet the immediate need of their community and be placed with an Atlanta babe.}

You can support their adoption by shopping at https://www.etsy.com/shop/wildflowermornings

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Because of Hope: Ava's Adoption June 21 2016, 0 Comments

Swell Adoption Fund: June 2016

Meet This Newly Adopted Beauty from China, Ava! 

Once upon a time, our little family of four doubled when we added four more. They changed everything about how we look at love, hope, and family. It didn't have to make sense because many of life's greatest blessings never do. Had we given in to fear and doubt, we would have missed out on so much. God's plans are always better.

Then there was our son. We saw his face in April of 2015 and knew right away that he was ours. But his untreated heart and lungs were so very sick and we didn't have long to get to him. Would we make it in time? It seemed impossible. Paperwork and money, process and procedure. But four months later, mountains were moved and he was on his way home. Only God. He loved being home. He was so happy to finally have his very own family. And we were so thankful to finally have him. What we always feared but didn't know for certain then was that had he not come home when he did, he wouldn't have come home at all.  A few days later, sudden fainting brought us to the hospital where he spent most of the next six months, fighting for his life.

He wasn't supposed to survive, but he did and he is home now and so very loved, all because of hope.

Our son's story was once one of loneliness and hopelessness. But it is now full of so much love, faith, commitment, and community. Hope did that. Some wonder why we would ever choose this.

But we would do it all over again, because our yes changed our son's life and it has changed ours. Once you choose hope, anything is possible.

And then there was Ava. Yes was easy. A thousand times, yes. Why? Hope is why. No matter where you are, there is always hope. For four, that was hope in a care center in rural Ethiopia. For one, it was hope in an orphanage in eastern China. For Ava, it was hope in a hospice home because she shouldn't be alive. But she is.

Because hope.

So we did it again. Because her life mattered right now. Because there is no room for fear in love. Because it doesn't have to make sense. Because God's plans are always better and they never fit into neat little convenient boxes. Because stepping out in faith is always worth it. Because every heart matters and there is no heart too broken. Because yes can change a life. Because it changed ours and it changed theirs and we know that it will change hers.


We ran to her. Because she was worth fighting for and she deserved to have her very own family fighting alongside of her. And now she has exactly that, all because we chose to believe in hope. Ava has very complex congenital heart disease and multiple other health issues. So many families said, "no, too much". But our precious girl doesn't scare us. She is smart and funny and beautiful and so very worth it all. And whatever her life looks like? It will always have hope.

Because love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, and penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope. ~ Maya Angelou

{The S family wrote this while returning from picking up their daughter in China just this past month. We hope to help them fund this amazing adoption and cover the many expenses involved in travel, paperwork and medical care for Ava.}

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Introducing Worthdays for Children in Foster Care! May 09 2016, 0 Comments

Foster Care Awareness Month in May

And we are celebrating by donating a portion of this month's Foster Swell Fund for children in foster care to Worthdays! This brand new organization is dedicated to helping ensure children are honored on their birthdays when living in the foster care system. Thanks to Worthday's founder, Caroline, for guest blogging and sharing more about her non-profit start-up.

---You are so worth it!---

There have been many times in my career as a child welfare social worker that I simply had no explanation. There's no graduate level college course, trauma informed therapists, best practice conferences that has all the answers you'll need in this job. Not when the sweetest, big brown-eyed girl looks up at you and asks why she can't go home with her mommy. Or when sisters grapple with the decision of whether to be adopted separately or not adopted at all. Not when the tough teenage boy pleads with you, through never ending tears, to just give him one more chance to prove himself before you take him from his 'last ditch effort' foster home to a group home. 

We can craft whatever blubbery, compassionate response but there simply are no answers that make sense sometimes. Even after a decade of this work, I found myself speechless many days. 

It was on a day in January with snow on the ground that will always stick with me, among other similarly devastating days. I finally got the dreaded call from the foster parents of a particular teenage boy that they just couldn't make it work anymore - he had to leave. This family was amazing and had certainly tried very hard. They had taken the child to see the ocean for the first time. He had taken his first communion in front of their church family. And they had even said that one day he could share their last name. This was a rough around the edges yet so incredibly resilient boy who had literally lost everyone and everything in his life. But on this day, his foster parent called and said they just couldn't keep him anymore. Many of their reasons made sense but at the end of the day it was a dream shattered. 

This happened to be a day most people didn't go into the office because of the snow but I decided to go in to get some things done. It happened to be my son's third birthday and we were headed that afternoon to a family water park resort. Instead of focusing on the fact that my personal plans were likely to be railroaded because of my need to respond to this crisis, I set out to handle this situation. 

There are so many words that may describe this situation but I'm not sure there is a word in our language that can genuinely describe the mixture of grief, abandonment, overwhelming sadness and terror. Sitting across from a boy who looks more like a man overcome with the most intense sadness begging you to give him just one more chance to prove himself. The tears of abandonment flowed without the typical embarrassment a teenage boy may exhibit and the defeat he felt was visible throughout his whole entire body. 

As social workers typically do, we came up with a plan for the young man that night. 

To leave that scenario to then go to celebrate my newly three-year-old was daunting. This wasn't the first time I had pondered the differences of experiences of those I worked with and my own children. But it was when I sat down that night and watched my sons watch a magical animated story time at this water park resort that the inequities in this world were glaringly apparent. 

Why do some kids get to sit with their siblings in their favorite pair of Ninja Turtle pajamas watching an incredible bedtime story after a full day at a water park to celebrate their birthday while some kids literally have to plead to be loved?

There are simply no good reasons why. I will likely always have an aching in my body to have some explanation for this. I rest assured that each and every sweet child on this Earth was fearfully and wonderfully made and that it is our job to ensure they all know that. 

Fast forward about a year - this same brave teenage boy sat in a residential treatment center preparing for his sixteenth birthday. Alone. He wasn't surrounded by his siblings, he didn't have his parents planning his party, or friends to invite, there was no cake nor any recognition that this day was the anniversary of his birth. As his former social worker, I pieced together a few things for him and shipped it to him. I made a large note on the outside asking that the staff hold it for him until his birthday. 

Take a moment and think about your sixteenth birthday. 

Now think about sitting in a hospital, with paid staff surrounding you, with other hurting kids nearby, with no family, no birthday song, no candles. Literally nothing. Imagine that when one of the only consistent people in your life calls to wish you a happy birthday they are told that you don't have phone time. 

Now tell me what message that sends to you about your worth? That on the anniversary of your birth .. No one shows up, no one celebrates you, no one cares to speak the words 'happy birthday'. 

At the moment when I handed this boy's birthday package over to the the postman, I would've never thought cupcakes, cookies and birthday supplies could impact the foster care system .. But I was wrong. This brave teenage boy, his resilience, his drive to be loved, his birthday ... along with all the other kids just like him in this world ... Started a celebration that is just beginning.

That celebration is a new non-profit called Worthdays (www.facebook.com/worthdays1 www.worthdays.org). It has become my calling that kids in foster care know they are worthy, important and celebrated. That on important days in their lives, like their birthday, they know that someone out there in this big, scary world thought of them. And kids being celebrated isn't even the ultimate goal. Instead the ultimate goal is that we never have to make a birthday box again because each and every kid in foster care has found a family that loves them deeply and stands with them on their birthday loudly singly the words 'happy birthday'. Until then .. There are over 400,000 kids in foster care that need us.  

Meet Caroline, the founder of Worthdays!

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A South Korean Adoption! May 09 2016, 0 Comments

Swell Adoption Fund: May 2016

Meet the W's!

We are in the process of adopting a sixteen month old baby boy from South Korea.  This will be our first child, and we are so excited to become parents!  God undeniably opened our hearts to adoption and His hand has been visible throughout our adoption process. When people ask us “Why Korea?”, our answer is simple – that is where God clearly led us and put on our hearts. We describe our adoption story as us knocking on one door and God opening that door and (seemingly) dozens more. We are humbled that God has allowed us to start our family through adoption, and we cannot wait to see what God has in store for our growing family!

Our baby boy is a waiting child who had a seizure early on in his life; we are happy to report that he’s growing and thriving and hasn’t had any additional seizures. We are currently awaiting one last document from the US government, and then our Dossier will be complete and ready to send to Korea. We’ve known about our baby boy since September 2015. Back then, when we were collecting tons of documents, undergoing our home study, and moving to a home that could fit our family, the feeling of waiting was distracted by how busy we were. Now, the waiting seems harder…finding out that our baby’s vocabulary is growing, seeing pictures of him giggling, etc. and not being able to be a part of those moments is tough. But, we trust that God has a perfect time for our son to join our family. We are so eager to meet our son in Korea and finally be able to hold him in our arms!

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The Ms are Adopting! April 11 2016, 0 Comments

Swell Adoption Fund: April 2016

(Our second family feature for the month)

Hi, we are Tom and Tori Magnett.

Adoption is such a beautiful word.

Adoption to us means love, dedication, and courage.  Love because it is the most loving act a person could do.  Dedication, because it is a long process with lots of paper work and hoops to jump through. And courage, because you have to walk through a lot of unknowns. In March of 2013 God laid adoption upon our hearts, so we have been in the process now for 3 years. We felt we should adopt overseas, but after trying to adopt from 2 countries that decided to close their doors to adoption in the middle of the process, we decided to switch back to domestic adoption. We are adopting through Lifeline Children Services. Domestically, Lifeline specializes in Birth Mom Adoptions. We have been waiting patiently for a birth mother to pick us. It is a very long, hard, emotional journey, but it will be well worth the wait! We have had our ups and downs but this process has made us stronger.

We cannot wait until we have our forever child in our arms! 

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Gideon's Adoption Story April 09 2016, 0 Comments

Swell Adoption Fund: April 2016

(Our first family feature for the month)

We are Craig, Ellen, Isaiah, Naomi and Lydia Lauer. Two and a half months ago we brought our 2 year old son home from China. This is his story.

God started laying orphan care and adoption on our hearts over 13 years ago when Craig and I were engaged to be married. We knew from the start we would have a large family and felt that God meant for us to adopt part of that family. We started praying that He would reveal his plan for us and clearly give us a call to action when His time for us to adopt was upon us. So we waited, and we prayed, and we waited, and we prayed and over the next 10 years God blessed us with 3 beautiful, healthy and happy (most of the time) biological kids! After Lydia (our 3rd) was born we knew God's time for our family to grow in the traditional way was over. But that desire for another child was still there.

(Especially in me!) I would sit at our table or in our car or at a fun family event and feel that someone was missing. I spoke with my friends about the fact that at times I would feel that missing person so strongly that I was sure if I looked again they would be there, and yet, I was relieved to know I would never give birth to another child. In the fall of 2014, I noticed this NEED for another child went away completely and I talked to Craig's sister, Ashley, about it. She asked if we were still considering adoption and I confessed that I just didn't think we would ever actually do it. You see, it's SCARY, and it's HARD and there is SO MUCH out of date and just plain UNTRUE information out there that the thought of the adoption process was overwhelming! Our family was in a good place, our kids were getting older, life was getting easier and we were content. We were DONE!

Well, WE might have been done but God wasn't! We just didn't know it yet.

Craig and I weren't talking, praying, or even thinking about adopting at this point. We were done, remember? Sometime after this God started to speak to both of us (and even our first-born) about adoption again. How could this be??? I thought 3 kids was it for us! No more 'missing child' at our family events! He spoke quietly at first. Quiet enough that we could ignore Him. But His words just kept getting louder and stronger until we started to wonder if maybe we weren't done, but we still weren't talking to each other about it. Without telling each other, we both started praying again that God would show us what he wanted us to do.

Remember when I said that before we were married we prayed that God would give us a clear "call to action" when His time for us to adopt was upon us??? At a One Less Orphan event at our church, a ministry leader stood up and said 'This is not a ministry to convince you to adopt. We do not want to single anyone out.' (I'm paraphrasing.) Moments later, a man at the meeting who was adopted as a child stood up and asked, point-blank, if there was a family there who was thinking about adopting.

Craig and I looked at each other with wide eyes and tentatively raised our hands. (And by tentatively, I mean we each lifted a finger off the table.) Seeing the other raise their hand gave us both the confidence we needed to go ahead and lift our hands high and declare that "Yes, God was, in fact, calling for us to adopt!" There it was! Our 'call to action'! Now, hearing that call and answering that call are two very different things altogether! We began to agonize over exactly how we were to add to our family.

Foster care? Domestic adoption? International adoption? We prayed. We prayed hard.

When the answer came to us it seemed like an insurmountable task. China? But what about all the orphans here in the States that need families? When God speaks, He doesn't always reveal his entire plan at one time. All He asks is that we have the faith to follow His leadership. So that's what we did. Over the next several months we went through the process of preparing our home for a home study and got all our ducks in a row for our dossier. We filled out mountains of paperwork, went to doctor appointments, had our fingerprints done and waited for that phone call.  

Then one day, it happened. WE GOT MATCHED!!!

On September 15, we got a call (THE CALL) from our agency that they had found a little boy for us! They actually called Craig while he was at work and when he texted to let me know, I didn't believe him! LOL! I had played a little joke on him the week before and it backfired on me! Anyway, he finally convinced me he was being serious and they were sending him the file in an email.  I told him to forward it to me IMMEDIATELY, even before he read it, so I could read it too.  I checked my email about every 30 seconds for HOURS! Then I decided to take matters into my own hands and I called our contact at Holt.  The answering service put me through to her line and I got a voice mail. :-/ So, undeterred, I called every single person I had a number for at that agency.  When every call went to voice mail, the answering service finally took pity on me and told me they had all gone home for the weekend.

TIME.STOOD.STILL.  

How could they have made that call, TOLD US they were sending the file and then gone home?!?!?!?!? This was NOT acceptable! So I cracked my knuckles, set my writing voice to 'polite and business like' and went to work emailing every single one of them, hoping I could catch SOMEONE and let them know we hadn't gotten the email.  If I had gotten a response, I was determined to whine, beg, badger or even bribe them to go back to work and send it! Lucky for me (and them!) the answering service lady was wrong...the entire staff was in a meeting. LOL! I am sure they all had a few laughs at my expense, but I'm not even sorry!

You see, there is a time limit to how long you get to look at a child's file before making a decision. During the review time, you have to get the file to a pediatrician to review so you know what to be prepared for.  If the pediatrician finds something peculiar or worrisome, you may want to have the file reviewed by a specialist.  You research and pray over every single sentence in that file. You worry about every single abnormality or inconsistency. You wonder why they use certain words to describe this little boy's personality and if that word means the same thing to them as it does to you. ("Relentless"??? What does that even mean???) You look at the picture of that sweet, innocent face 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 times (I don't even know what that number is, but you get the point.) and dare to ask yourself..."Is this my son?"

I can't describe to you how it felt when that email finally came and I quickly scanned through the entire thing looking for the picture.  Our first glimpse of him.  He was BEAUTIFUL, he was PERFECT, and I started sobbing. I've heard from other adoptive parents how they felt in that moment.  Some know right away, some look at the picture and are unmoved.

For me, it was love at first sight. I knew. I could not tear my eyes away and my arms and heart ached to hold him.  The weight of what we were doing came down on me in full force and everything that followed is a blur. Luckily, Craig was able to keep his head and he forwarded the file on to our good friend, who just happens to be a Neonatologist, and who has experience reviewing China adoption files. She knows our family very well, is aware of what we can handle medically and we trust her. I am so thankful for her! To me, it didn't matter what that file said because I was already emotionally attached.  But we needed someone objective to let us know what to expect.  She wouldn't hesitate to tell us if she thought there were issues we couldn't handle but she would be there to help us, no matter what our decision was.  Our prayers were answered when she called and told us she didn't see ANYTHING in the file that was outside of our capabilities. There are no guarantees that the file is 100% correct, but based on the information we had to go on, she was confident we could handle this little guy's special needs. In truth, we had already prayed over the file, written the LOI (Letter of Intent) and sent it. Heather's recommendation was perfectly timed confirmation that we were following God's will. About a week later, another friend and neonatologist offered to review the file and give us a second opinion. He was very detailed and gave us great advice on what to do first and what appointments to set up so we can hit the ground running when we get him home and advised us on how to go about doing that and what to expect.  I am so thankful God placed both these doctors in our life!!!!!

The time that followed being matched was absolutely the HARDEST part of this process.  We got our LOA (Letter of approval) from China on September 30, saying they had reviewed our dossier and we would be allowed to move forward with the adoption. Why was this time the hardest?  Well, if you're a parent, imagine knowing that one of your children is on the other side of the world and you have no idea if they are being protected, loved or cared for.

No....I mean ACTUALLY try to imagine it, right now.  Feel that giant hole in your chest??? Throat tight??? Pulse racing??? Fighting back tears??? Yep, every day.  That's how it feels. This child is your child, no different than your bio kids.  I can't explain how that happens, it just does.  I grieved his absence every day.

On December 7, in a noisy government building in Southern China, we met our son for the first time.

He was SO SMALL and SO AFRAID and SO PERFECT! I remember trying not to cry when they handed him to me because I didn't want to scare him but I was shaking and the tears just wouldn't stay inside. He felt very thin and fragile and all I wanted to do was snuggle him in and make everything alright. That was NOT what he wanted from me.  He sat there in my arms as stiff as a board with his bottom lip jutted out in a pout and started to wail. Our oldest child, Isaiah, came with us to China and if it hadn't been for him, I'm not sure I would have gotten through that meeting. He picked a little ball up out of my bag and handed it to him. Gideon immediately threw it back at him and giggled. That game continued to get louder and more animated as the minutes passed until finally the paperwork was signed. That ball began their relationship and ours. Ten days later that ball came home with us from China as we began the process of grieving, loving, growing, learning, forgiving and becoming a family.

We have now been home for two and a half months and I finally have my answer to "Why China?" Why China? Because that's where our son was. That's where he was born. That's where he was being cared for and loved by his foster mom until I could come get him. Gideon is part of our family, he just joined it a little unconventionally. He fits us and we fit him.  We love him completely and it feels as if he's always been here. He's energetic, goofy, outgoing, smart and determined not to let his small size or his special need hold him back.  Since being back in the states he has been seen by several doctors. He has surgeries in his future, but he's doing well!  He's a happy, healthy, LITTLE 2 year old with a BIG personality, a BIG smile, a BIG future and a BIG God!

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Cottage Before + After: Part 2 March 29 2016, 0 Comments

Updating a Sweet Cottage in Atlanta

{A Swell Side Project: Part 2}

Here is part 2 of our Swell Cottage Renovation for a dear friend. The master bath was supposed to be just a few upgrades until the tile guy discovered rot and water damage requiring a complete overhaul. We did salvage the tub and found new windows for $150 to brighten the space thanks to a salvage yard!
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This project was on a budget for sure!!! We ran into the same issues with finding custom cabinet sizes on a tight timeline and good quality. By far, that was the biggest frustration and something that would be nice to do over. However, the faux marble tiles and shower wall mosaic mixed with authentic marble floor and chair railing as well as the carrara marble countertop mixed perfectly for my modern loving friend.
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For more Cottage Before + After Photos, visit our previous blog post here.

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Swell Parties: A Beer Tasting March 25 2016, 0 Comments

Swell Parties:

{A Beer Tasting Couple's Shower: Wedding Season}

Can I tell you how much fun a beer tasting is? Well, since I am pregnant, it is not as fun, but the decorating, company and planning were quite exciting for me. I love that our friends at Beer Greetings let me borrow some of their unique beer cartons that double as greeting cards. They also let me use the graphics to create our invitations and some of the decor for the event like our Beer Tasting Rating Cards.
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How to throw a beer tasting? I can't say my way is the best, but letting guests rate their favorite beers from little shot glasses and pick the perfect two that reflect the couple best was how we did it. There were four hostesses who all pitched in to bring a different style beer (fruity, stout, pilsner, etc.) and a selection of appetizers that paired well with beer! The winner? Actually, I cannot remember the name but it had grapefruit in it! 
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Besides the Beer Greetings cartons that pretty much set the design and color scheme, I found the polka dot glasses and shot glasses from two different Marshalls and almost everything else was purchased from Amazon the week of the event from the beer napkins, confetti, green paper plates to the cupcake liners, dot stickers, plastic shot glasses and beer can cupcake toppers. 
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Our Menu:
- Soft Pretzels and Dips
- Cocktail dogs in crescent rolls
- Trail Mix
- Salad with avocado and fresh parmesan, raspberry dressing
- Fruit Bowl
- Cheese Platter with Hummus
- Mini Cupcakes adorned with beer cans
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And every couple needs a Forever Blanket as a wedding gift
with personalized message tag!
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A Baby Girl Sprinkle March 23 2016, 0 Comments

Swell Parties:

{The Sweetest Girl Sprinkle for a Swell Addition}

We are so excited to add another baby girl to our family soon. My sister and best friend offered to help celebrate her even though we have all the basics covered except a few things here and there to prepare for her arrival. Having been a second child myself with a half finished baby book, I loved the idea of having something for her to look back on to see that her arrival into our lives is just as epic and special as our first born's entrance.
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I am so appreciative to have such loving and supportive friends. Since we cloth diaper, I registered on babyli.st for cloth diapering items (I will have two in cloth!), a few 0-3 month summer outfits since my first was more in winter clothes, and miscellaneous things you realize you need extra of with two kids under 3!
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I requested easy and simple and they just delivered an absolutely beautiful party. A friend offered to make the most delicious strawberry mousse cupcakes from scratch and my mother decorated with her gorgeous as ever floral designs, www.gingerlilyevents.com. The confetti balloons I hear were from Etsy and the round confetti decor was so perfect. I call my stretched belly with freckles "Polka Dottie."
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Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
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Another huge thank you goes out to Anita from La Belle Bump, a new designer maternity rental company that ships you a box of several maternity items based on your style. You pay by the month and can exchange for as many items as you need to get items you want to wear more of. My dress is from Maternal America and was borrowed from her ample selection of spring dresses!
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Simple, yet amazing party food:

- Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Sticks

- Fruit Skewers

- Cheese and Crackers

- Pigs in a Blanket

- Homemade Strawberry Mousse Cupcakes

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A Puppy Pawty! March 08 2016, 0 Comments

Swell Parties:

{It was a PAWTY: Turning Two!}

We don't own a puppy or a dog or any living pet for that matter, but it became very obvious that my little girl LOVED her some doggies as it was one of her first five words and still remains a favorite. When your daughter is a bit behind on her language development you definitely pay attention to the few things she does say so with that, a puppy themed birthday just seemed to be the ticket. 
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Unfortunately, my diy invitations were quite a bit of work. My printer was out of the right color ink and nothing I tried made them print correctly. I then spent an hour at Office Depot and still had to handcut the invites to fit in the cute little envelopes! Never again.
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Thank heavens dog related party decor is SO EASY. I pulled Pinterest pins and then went to Hobby Lobby during Valentine's season and lucked out to find the puppy foam valentine decor I used everywhere and lots of pink, black and white decor which pretty much took care of most my party needs. The foam puppy Valentines took me ten minutes to assemble and cost $4.99 for a pack of 12.
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I used the mason jars I always have and invested in off of Amazon a few years ago. If you follow any previous party posts, you can tell I love colored straws. For the favors, I used Oriental Trading as they were the best price on small stuffed puppy dogs and I was on a budget. No really, I was, which is why we kept the food super simple and just went with baby's breath for flowers thanks to mom from Ginger Lily Events. Since we don't anticipate having a lot of energy for entertaining once we have two babies in the house, we decided to invite most of Isla's playmates, school mates, etc. and their families.
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For the hot dog silver warming covers, bone cookie cutter (which was too big for my sandwich idea), dog bowls and miniature toy dogs that I used on the cupcakes, I bought through my Amazon Prime account. My mom made a wonderful cake from scratch full of everything that will make a person incredibly bloated and fat. It was thoroughly iced at my request as we all have a knack of never making enough icing. The cupcakes were magically on sale at Whole Foods the day before the party. I wanted real food and not weird ingredients. Have you ever read the stuff they put in baked goods at the grocery store? Ugh. Since we had so many little ones, I wanted a mix of cupcake sizes and the marshmallow paw prints took all of 5 minutes to add.
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--- Note my childhood Spottie Dottie Piggy Bank as a cake topper ---
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The puppy chow was clearly easy (Chex mix), the bone sandwiches never materialized as planned but were easy (pb&j) and the "fetch sticks" were a ten minute project and seemed to be popular. They all pretty much got eaten. I used Ghiradelli chocolate bites for the melting over the stove from Target and laid them out on parchment paper to cool. 
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Isla's little party dress came from the clearance rack at Nordstrom at Christmas and was a Santa gift. It was less than $25 if I remember correctly? The best part was her handmade birthday hat and puppy ear headband that my cousin made and sent from LA. They arrived the day before the party after getting held up in the mail. She wore them the night they arrived and then fought us on the actual birthday! Her Coral Pear bow moccasins.were a Black Friday Deal and she finally fit in them after months of me waiting. 
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Perhaps the most unique part of the day was getting to have the only neonatal puppy orphanage in the country (Bosley's Place) come to the party with the cutest 8 week old puppy dogs. I was so busy I barely got to pet them, but Isla's face was to die for when she first got to meet them. And then she was back to the jumpy house (her first birthday gift from last year which is the best thing ever to have for play dates). I barely even saw her the entire day she was having too much fun.
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And our Swell Forever cover page model with yet another dog...several years later!
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The highlight of the day for me was definitely all the friends and family that came out and the moment mom said she saw Isla sitting by herself at the cake table in a chair helping herself to cupcakes off the table. She gladly let me take a few photos as long as she could stuff herself without interference. She loves her "cayke." Actually, ever since learning the word, she asks for it first thing in the crib every morning. 
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I toyed with having a no gift party again this year but figured books couldn't hurt and any extras would be donated to our library. The amazing thing is we didn't really have any duplicates at all and her library for her language development is amazing now. So many adorable books were gifted and a few awesome toys. How we made it through a birthday without a toy or book we already had, I will never know! 
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And that was our last birthday party as a family of three!
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Adopting Again: The Bentons! March 03 2016, 0 Comments

Swell Adoption Fund: March 2016

(Our first family feature for the month)

Antonio is a medical technician and was pseudo adopted himself as several loving families took him in as a youth and allowed him to see a different side of life.  A side vastly different than the extreme poverty and drugs that gripped the life of his family.  God used these families to show him love and stability in spite of their differences in race and background.

Crissy is a teacher who has a love for children and helping others. Adoption runs in her blood, as her grandmother and mother took in several people throughout the years who needed an opportunity to press the "reset" button of life.  Her mother, a retired teacher, took in many students, family and friends who needed a place of refuge.

Antonio and Crissy have 3 children.  Two sons that they call belly babes and an adopted daughter that grew in their hearts.  They are excited to add to their family, again, through the journey and gift of adoption.

Here is their take on Adoption:

Adoption is a journey of surrender.  We surrender our will, way, thoughts and timing and take on His; He breaks us and makes us more like HIM so that His glory can be seen in our story.

Some come to adoption to expand their family, others to make a difference in the world, nevertheless,  I come to adoption out of a heart of obedience to God. Adoption is my calling; at the age of 5, I felt God speak this to me and it has lead me every day until this time. 

I always tell people that adoption never sleeps.  I literally eat, breathe and sleep it 24 hours a day.  God has graced me to be able to minister to and encourage those who are going through the process, to guide and pray for our daughter's birth mom as she proceeds in her life's endeavors, and to muster up the strength to walk a second adoption journey of our own.

Adoption is not easy and it is not cheap.  Neither was our redemption, for it was bought with a price- the blood of Jesus.  Sometimes this journey, full of uncertainty and loss, surely feels like a cat of nine tails striking against your heart.  But in our brokenness, there is beauty.  We are beautifully broken before a perfect God who seeks to mend all of our broken pieces.  We all come to adoption broken- adoptive families, birth families, and the adoptees. We all need the grace of God as we pursue this avenue of change.  

Growing together through the journey of adoption is a beautiful exchange.  Adoption is the heart of God.

As this is The Benton's second adoption, they have set up a GoFund me page if you would like to contribute and learn more about their heart for adoption.

https://www.gofundme.com/nzs4apcs 

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A Cottage Before and After February 25 2016, 0 Comments

Updating a Sweet Cottage in Atlanta

{A Swell Side Project}

After three years of renovating our little cottage in Atlanta, I helped a friend update a home they purchased also from the 1940s time period in the most gorgeous little neighborhood. Here are a few photos of the projects we worked on this summer. A final exterior photo showing off the new door will be taken again when the grass is green and there are leaves on the trees! The photo above is the house before we replaced all the windows and the exterior door.
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Projects included:
- Master Bath (full gut and renovation due to water damage discovered)
- Tiny Hall/Guest/Kids Bath
- Custom cabinets and Fireplace makeover
- Replacement windows and new front door
- Double Door replacement
- New lighting throughout the home
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One of the toughest things with this renovation project was a tight timeline (before the birth of a first baby) and the lack of availability of skilled contractors as this happened while I was also finishing my own renovation. We had to take a leap of faith on cabinetry which was quite a disaster but fortunately the contractor doing most of the work turned out to have good follow through in the end. It was not an easy project but I think we saved tons of money on windows, door replacements (purchased from a salvage yard) and the owner had a great connection for tile discounts. Plus, they didn't have to hire a general contractor, which based on their initial quotes, saved them quite a bit of money.
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The down side of not having a full-time contractor of course is having to take on a lot of the coordination yourself; however, I believe as a homeowner this is a great (although stressful) gift of learning to give yourself for years down the road. It is empowering if not downright tearful at times when things are not going as planned. 
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The Fireplace
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<After>
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The fireplace is one of the first things you see as you walk in the front door in a very open living space that is connected to the kitchen. A few issues we ran into was the long timeline for custom cabinetry and unavailability of people who can create custom sized cabinets for us...and the expense. I called at least 4 people who were not available for this project.
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We did find a cheap shop in downtown Atlanta that looked extremely promising. We gave them our dimensions and planned to paint the cabinets or have a painter paint them. Only problem is they messed up all the cabinet dimensions and the quality of wood in the showroom was not what was delivered. These needed A LOT of TLC. However they were half the price of custom cabinets and available by our timeline (give or take a week and a headache). We tried to use stock cabinets at a liquidation store but we would have had to hack them heavily to make them fit this space. In the end, the contractor helped make these work.
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I am not sure if I would automatically go with custom cabinets in the future due to expense for something simple like this requiring unique dimensions, but I think it is a great reminder that when you plan a renovation, time to plan and prepare is the biggest boost for saving money and getting what you want. If you can, give yourself TIME!
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I had a slightly different vision for how the cabinets would connect but the tile guy doing the install had a plan that worked just fine. The tile on the fireplace and surround gave this room such a big bright punch. It was selected at Porcelanosa although the link may have a slightly different version than our final choice. The owner had a family discount which was HUGE. Always nice to get quality for a better price.
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The Tiny Guest Bath
<Before>
The vanity was built over an HVAC vent that could not be removed.
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Thanks to this closet nook, you could not open the door all the way. It was a TIGHT fit to get in and out of the bathroom. I wanted to do away with it and put a recessed shelf and cabinet combo in its place.
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The tub was tricky as the dimensions were odd and we had no idea how much room was behind this. The tile guy was right in that there were several inches to be gained by ripping this all out, but since I did not have that extra space in my bath reno I was nervous about committing to a tub/shower combo replacement. I felt it either had to stay (it was in great condition, just not ideal) to save money or be turned into a nice shower only unit. Thankfully he was right that there were extra inches in the space behind so the owner could put in a small steel bathtub although her choices were very limited.
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Clearly space is limited and unfortunately the flooring had rot underneath and was quite a project to fix for such a tiny space.
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<After>
A new cabinet face with a working top drawer to cover the HVAC vent that is built in on the right side. The bottom right "cabinet" is just a faux cabinet. The owner purchased the mirror online and I love the tie into the cream floor and tiles in the shower. Inexpensive faucets and hardware from Schaub and Co helped update the space greatly without a huge expense.
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And the highlight of this room for me is the Lace White Marble. My countertop guy had a remnant of this and it is my all time favorite marble but I never found a place to use it in my home so I got to live vicariously through my friend's little bath. Since it was a remnant, it was not a huge splurge and the countertop guys do excellent work.
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How do you say LOVE? I wanted so badly to use Arabesque tile as an accent in here. We used it in this little nook and as a feature in the shower to keep in line with the classic cottage style but with a little extra pizzazz. This was a custom sized cabinet that had to be hacked to fit the space and have more height than standard cabinets. We tied in the beadboard that is in other parts of the house but didn't go overboard with it. The tile guy who installed didn't like it but he is a modern kind of guy and modern was not what the house needed in my humble opinion. Now the best part is the bathroom door opens fully.

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And this classic little shower/tub renovation is for a kids bath. We purchased the arabesque tile for about $6/sqft online and the rest of the tile came from Porcelanosa. The bath I believe was finally found at Lowe's or Home Depot in the right size for the space. Finding a steel tub in such a small size was hard. Picture framing tiles were purchase at The Tile Shop nearby.

As you can see, this bathroom has no windows. It is on the inside of the home and there was no creative way of adding one. I wish I was more skilled at taking photos without natural light working with me!

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Dining Room Light Update
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Believe it or not, this is during the light of day! It was also before we installed a new front door with a lot of light. The light fixture was not anything exciting though not horrible but it was off center with the table. Notice the high cabinet against the wall next to the bench in the background is missing.

I saw this light fixture at Kudzu in Atlanta and was in love. Thankfully she was too. I think it is PERFECT. She also bought it during a lighting sale. You can see the new microwave cabinet we installed in the background to line up with some existing built ins.

And just for fun, although I had nothing to do with it, here is a beautiful nursery photo with a grey, yellow and aqua theme for a baby boy. My daughter was clearly having a moment which is why I will have to share more photos in a later post. I only got a few rooms photographed!

-Rug
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Yellow and grey rug from Target. Furniture from a custom order baby furniture store. 

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Ultimate Spring Shopping Fun! February 19 2016, 0 Comments

Hey everyone, we know with spring upon us you're probably looking for a few ideas of things to pick up in preparation. We want to help, so below are a few things we've found to help you, and your family to get ready for the new season! Have a look, and tell us what you think!

 

Airabella Active

Hit the gym in style with Airabella Active’s new spring Fitness Clothing line! Who doesn’t want a pair of mint and coral active capris in their closet?! Cute, comfy and super affordable!

For more Women's Yoga Clothing options, click here!

Swim Zip

swimzip

SwimZip is your go to swimwear and sun protective clothing line – all SwimZips suit offer UV 50+ protection and The perfect amount of flair to stand out at the beach! With adorable infant sun suits to stunning women’s cover ups, SwimZip swimwear makes for fun times while at the beach or pool!

To see more click here!

Wire and honey

Forget being a princess! Show your little one that the sky is the limit. Every little girl in your life needs this Future tee from Wire and Honey. This adorable female empowerment tee will let your daughter know she can be anything she sets her mind too. Let her aspirations run wild with all the wonderful things she could become. The days of playing princesses is over for little girls! It’s time to play Oval Office and Space Center!

To see more click here!

Atkinson Drive Organics

Atkinson Drive

These adorable leggings are made with custom printed organic cotton fabric. The seams are sewn with four threads to ensure a strong, professional finish so your little one can be comfortable moving around!

To see more click here!

Charlie & Chomper

This Justin Bieber inspired tank is perfect for the warmer weather that is coming!

To see more click here!

Glamasaurus

glamasauraus

This entire box was decorated by glamasauras. She made the little love bunny plush and accented her with balloons and roses. The wooden box is covered with heart fabric, ribbons, and lace. This box is one of a kind and super cute. The box is 4 inches 10cm across the bottom and about 2 inches 5cm tall.

To see more click here!

Mint & Birch

mint and birch

A mama’s bird nest necklace represents the special love that a mother has for her young. Each Mint and Birch nest has eggs that represent children, family members or loved ones! This bird’s nest necklace is a sweet little necklace to gift to someone special, or to keep as a special treat for yourself. Each necklace is intricately and skillfully handmade by Mint and Birch, handwoven and hand-molded to create a small nest that perfectly and gently nestle precious “eggs.” These necklaces are perfect for moms, moms to-be, grandmas and even bridesmaids! Each nest is lovingly and carefully handmade with care, and each and every nest carries its own special meaning unique to the person wearing it.

To see more click here!

Life With Peanut

Our organic wood teething ring has a soft crochet cover made from pre washed jersey cotton. The wooden rings are untreated and naturally anti-bacterial (USA made). And check out our new Spring colors!

The combination of wood and yarn on the teething ring provides multiple surfaces for your baby to chew on and to play with.

To see more Click Here!

Classic Hound Collar

This exclusive magical design is all unicorns and rainbows! The core of this designer martingale collar is highly dependable 600-lb. polypropylene webbing. Our signature CuddleSkin satin lining will completely wrap the core to eliminate raw edges and protect your pet’s neck. Each seam is created with an industrial-duty heavyweight bonded nylon thread. Every Classic Hound dog collar comes equipped with military strength metal caste brass and nickel-plated brass hardware, each slide and D-ring is individually inspected before it is sewn tightly into place. Machine wash on “cold” in dedicates bag, air dry only.

To see more click here!

Dear Heart Designs

Psalm 23:4 Necklace Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and staff protect and comfort me.- Psalm 23:4 These necklaces are shaped like a valley and are amazing reminders of how no matter what dark time you might be going through, you need not be afraid because God is with you. They are amazing conversation starters and such a comfort to keep close.

To see more click here!

Taylin Threads

New spring cardigans are a light weight jacket. They pair perfect with shorts, leggings or over a cute dress. They are made from 100% organic cotton knit made in USA. The fabric is so soft on babies soft skin. They are a great unisex addition to any little’s closet.

To see more click here!

Get NursElet

NursElet – Essential bracelet for nursing mom. This genius invention (by a mom!) keeps your shirt securely out of the way while you nurse or pump. Wear it as a bracelet in between feedings. For others, it’s a fashionable accessory but for a nursing mom, it’s a Life Saver!

Available at www.NursElet.com

 

B. Stamped

bstamped

B.Stamped creates personalized jewelry and keepsakes. They aim to provide customer well-crafted pieces with a sentimental touch. Their spring line includes this rose gold bar and disc necklace, which is perfect for wearing alone or layering with other necklaces. Use code “airabella” to save 10% on your next purchase atwww.bstamped.etsy.com

 

Chamomile & Roses

Chamomomile + Roses just released her spring collection including these adorable #bosslife bodysuits (also available as a toddler t-shirt), organic knot headbands and baby knee socks. Available at www.chamomileandroses.etsy.com. Moccs by Sweet n’ Swag.

Swell Forever

Swell Forever designs ever after heirloom throws and baby blankets with unique personalized message tags. Forever Blankets are American Made and perfect for summer wedding gifts, bridal showers, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and year-round gifting as well. Our baby collection is a unique addition to your childs’ Easter Basket as well. With every purchase we support adoptive families and children in foster care. www.swellforever.com


A Little Valentine Play Date February 11 2016, 0 Comments

Swell Parties:

{Toddler Girl Valentine Fun}

It is so easy to get caught up in the busy pace of life, especially when you run a business from home and have a toddler running around taking apart everything you try to put back in place. And then there is laundry. I have a lot of it...
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There have been many times I have wanted to have a play date or host friends and been overwhelmed by the work involved in cleaning my house and getting ready. The nice thing about having nice friends is that no one really cares how put together your home or your life is as long as you help bring people together. A lot of times I barely get it together for a party, but sometimes I surprise myself. The challenge is fun. So even though our household was recovering from a stomach bug and I had to get someone to help me clean just to have some cute toddlers over for a small, festive girls event, it was worth it to see all the cute faces having a good time...and watching the start of girl friendships is just the cutest.
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We had seven little girls and their moms in total and I made two stops to get ready. One to Marshalls/HomeGoods and one to the Whole Foods next door. If we are going to go all sweets, I want it to at least be free of most the artificial crap! 
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Our party food was super simple:

- Mini cupcakes from Whole Foods with added candy on top for color

- Colorful muffin inserts with Whole Foods' version of Teddy Grahams

- A tin of lemon filled cookie straws

- A few organic juice boxes for the babes

- My mason jar collection with heart straws and a few bottles of sparkling lemonade

Since kids are happy to just to play, the only activity we had was some watercolors and paper at the kids table and lots of toy time. 

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For a take home treat, we had a tiny candy bar:

- Colorful Valentines candies from Home Goods

- A set of Vday themed cellophane wrappers, ribbons and cards 

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For the main event, each mom was provided with the names of the other children attending so that they could bring Valentines. This meant I needed somewhere for those little letters to go! I first started picking out cute Valentines gift bags in mini sizes for each girl and then discovered these little boxes with handles for $1.99 each as a reusable take home for the toddlers to carry. They were short one so my kiddo just had a cute bag!
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And that's it. No crazy crafts. No cooking required. Just great memories.
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Filling your children's early lives with warm and happy memories is so important. Those are the moments they reflect back on in times of crisis and self doubt. And that is what makes throwing parties so swell. And so worth it.
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The Call to Adopt: The M Family! February 03 2016, 1 Comment

Swell Adoption Fund: February 2016

Hello! We are Charlie, Jenny, and Noah and we are on an adventure to grow our family! Our story begins just over 8 years ago. Thanks to a bowling alley, a birthday party, and God’s plan for our lives, it was love at second sight for us! We quickly started dating and knew within 3 days that we were meant to be. We should have gotten married that weekend, but we did the traditional, dating, engagement and wedding planning all within 9 months and 1 day!

Jenny’s fertility problems were diagnosed long before marriage and we went into our life together knowing that pregnancy would be difficult and unlikely. After 17 months of marriage, lots of prayer and tears, and some help from our doctor, we were blessed with the pregnancy of our son Noah. Nothing about this pregnancy makes sense medically and looking back, we have no doubts that Noah was a gift from God. He is everything we hoped for in a child. Noah is thoughtful, quiet, sweet, and happy, with a love for Hot Wheels and Legos.

After Noah joined our family, we hoped for another miracle and that Jenny’s fertility issues weren’t as bad as predicted. We sought out help and more treatments, but were met with more tears and heartbreak. After 3 years and lots of prayers, we felt God closing the door to pregnancy and quickly saw Him opening the door to adoption.

God moved quickly and clearly, guiding our path and our hearts. Last summer we began the paperwork to grow our family through adoption and by Thanksgiving we were officially a waiting family! Our nursery is mostly complete and all 3 of us are anxiously and (im)patiently waiting for the call for the child that God has chosen for our family. The wait for this child has been exciting! Knowing that we are in God’s will for our family makes the waiting slightly easier.

Looking back at the past 8 years, it’s easy to see how God used that heartbreak and trial to grow each of us and draw us closer to Him. The journey was long and hard, but clearly God used it for His glory and we can’t wait to see what he has in store for our family! We have a heart for open adoption and are looking forward to the work God is doing.

Please join us in prayer as we wait on God. We don’t know if the baby is growing yet, what the birth parents are going through right now or if they have even met. But we do know that God has plans for everyone involved and He is orchestrating everything in His time. We can’t wait to see what He is doing and to meet our baby soon!


Adoption Profile: https://waitingfamilies.bethany.org/northcarolina/charlie-and-jenny


Blog: http://www.clothdiaperrevival.com/search/label/adoption


Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ClothDiaperRevival/


Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jamcclamroch/

 

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Where Are They Now? January 21 2016, 0 Comments

Where are our Swell Adoption Fund families now??? 

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I just want to say a HUGE thank you to our customers who have helped make not only our family's dreams come to fruition but also helped us bring together so many beautiful families and fill so many aching hearts this past year!!! Here are a few updates from the families that received our adoption grants in 2015. While our grants started out super tiny (our first was $100), we have donated well over $12,000 to adoptive families and foster children. I remember the months when I was desperate to be able to pull together enough funds just to send a check over $100! I cannot wait to see what we do in 2016.

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Katie and Sean

Luella June Grace Sanchez was born October 12th. This has been the most amazing experience of our lives! 
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The Carpenters
Our adoption process is still halted. We have had 3 potential matches, but 2 of those mothers decided to parent. We are still open to other ages besides newborn and are praying the right mother will come soon. Either way, we are trusting God in the waiting, and we are thankful we have come this far in the process and have had so many people bless us with their prayers and donations!
Note: Their church also matched the funds donated by Swell Forever furthering our impact.
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David and Kristen
Micah who was born with profound special needs is doing great and also shares a home with two adopted brothers who have Down Syndrome! We will be going for a sedated ABR test to see what level his hearing loss is at. He is starting to walk despite his initial challenges! Thank you again for blessing our family.️
 At Birth!
Today!
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The Lokker Family
Just waiting eagerly for that precious phone call! Our hearts continue to grow in love and deep desire for our precious child and his/her birth family! We are so so grateful for you! Thanks for all you do!
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Caroline + Keith
We have so enjoyed sharing fall with our sweet little Jane. She is growing so fast and we wish that she would slow down! Her smile is absolutely perfect and so contagious. We have been working through post-placement visits and hope to finalize soon. It has been wonderful to introduce her to all of her extended family and we cannot wait to spend the holidays together. We're looking forward to sharing in family traditions and spending some extra time together throughout the holiday season. 
 
The Malones
We have been matched with a beautiful 3 year old little girl internationally. We hope to travel to her by this Summer! We are still so grateful for all the help we received from you.

We cannot share her photo publicly. :)
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We have several more families who are hoping to send an update when they get matched soon! One of our first families is attempting their third adoption, second international special needs adoption. And another of our families brought home a beautiful little girl from China with special needs and has undergone medical treatment in the states since arriving. Check back in when we do our next update this summer!!!

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Grant a Foster Swell Wish Here

Apply for a Swell Adoption Fund Grant 

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Help Needed! Send a card... December 15 2015, 1 Comment

A Teen Boy Needs Your Love 

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What better opportunity than the chance to add a little sprinkle of kindness to someone's life. We have learned of a seventeen year old teen boy who has recently entered foster care with one of our Foster Swell Fund families. He was supposed to stay just for Thanksgiving so he would not be alone for the holiday but none of his family showed up for his case meeting to represent him. He has for all intensive purposes been abandoned to the system. What was supposed to be a one week stay while his situation got sorted out has turned into a three week stay with no end in sight as of yet.

This young man has no family to claim him, has no education, has been neglected and is now facing Christmas with a family he barely knows, not knowing what his next steps are. He came to this family with no belongings of any kind. Not even a book bag. 

As part of our Foster Swell Fund, we will be taking care of his basic needs and ensure he has a Merry Christmas perhaps for the first time ever; however we want to do more. 

Help us foster more goodwill for a boy who needs to know he matters and people do care for him. He has not been abandoned by the world. He is important and has value.

Will you take a few minutes and write him a Christmas card? It doesn't have to be fancy or even have a holiday theme. Just send him encouragement and wish him well. Sometimes it is hard to write someone you don't know and we cannot share his name, but I assure you it will go a long way in showing him that he matters.

All mail needs to be received by Monday, December 21st and can be mailed to:

Foster Swell Fund

c/o Swell Forever

425 Johnson Ferry RD NE

Atlanta, GA 30328

If you have been looking for your chance to pass the brightness of this holiday season to another, please consider doing this simple task.

xoxo,

Brooke

P.S. PLEASE help us share this post on Facebook and via social media.

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All We Want for Christmas... December 08 2015, 0 Comments

Adopting

Swell Adoption Fund: December 2015 

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Hello, we are Brad & Kendra and we’re dreaming of a NOISY Christmas! The paperwork is in, the nursery is put together and now all we need is a baby to join our home. We could get a call at any moment saying that we have been chosen by a birth mom or that there is a baby waiting for us so we are hopeful that we could end up with a very noisy Christmas filled with baby cries and laughter.  

We are high school sweethearts who have been together for 12 years and married for 9. We have had a great time traveling and having adventures just the two of us; but after a while we knew that it was time for our adventures to no longer be “just the two of us”. When growing our family didn’t go as planned we skipped any sort of fertility treatments and started straight down the adoption path. It was a relatively easy decision to move into the adoption process for us and there was never a question about if it was the path we wanted to follow. 

Kendra is very much of a planner so she has been making sure that the nursery is all set up and that we would be ready for a baby if we get a last minute placement (our agency has roughly 25% of their placements as last minute which means the mom is either in labor or the baby has just been born). A couple weekends ago we even practiced installing the car seat so we aren’t fumbling to put it in the car on the way to the hospital. Being a planner also has it’s downsides as she looks through all the adorable clothing at the local thrift store not knowing which season or gender to buy; let’s just say there are a lot of green sleep-n-plays and onesies in the dresser because sometimes you need to buy that item just to feel like the process is moving forward.

Every time there has been a slight hiccup in the process or we started to worry, God has had an answer. From reading the perfect blog post that day, to having Kendra’s work announce a bonding leave just a few days after we booked our 2-day training with our agency to begin the process. Each time this has happened, it has been great validation that adoption is the path we should be on.

While we are hopeful that we could have a baby with us this Christmas we also know that God’s timing is perfect and that our baby will arrive at just the right time; but really,

All We want for Christmas is Youuuuuuu.

 

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