Monthly Archives: December 2016

Celebrating 2016 and Anticipating 2017

future-and-hope

It’s what we’re about.

Magnifying the good. Whether we’re walking alongside families here or children and caregivers on the other side of the world, we want to focus on the future and the hope that is written all over it and encourage others to do the same.

In 2016, we blessed 13 adoptive families through grants so they could get the counsel and support they need as they grow their families through adoption. We also started a new grant specific to families adopting children domestically, the Avery Madison grant, and awarded our first 2 grants to families building their families through domestic adoption. We cared for over 100 couples at Together Called and many more throughout the year. Our board became further trained and equipped so we can better care for those families. We took a team of 14 to an orphanage in China to train caregivers to help them see the importance of relationship and use opportunities to build relationships with children and each other. And, we have loved hard. We’ve loved our team well. We’ve loved the One who called us to this work. And, we’ve sought to love well all those He has placed before us.

2016 was a good year.

And, 2017 is filled with hope and anticipation of more beautiful things.

Art for Ayis

I had an idea.

I was up early this morning, making a list and checking it twice. But, this list wasn’t a Christmas list; it was the list of gifts we are taking to China when we leave on January 6th. We’re heading to South China on this trip, to an orphanage in Guangdong province that has never had a team there before.

It’s considered a small orphanage with about 150 children in their care. And, while they are not new to adoption, they haven’t placed many kids until now. But, they’re partners with a good agency now and are on board with making children paper ready, even kids they thought were too old or too sick or too something. And, we get to go in and encourage them in what they are doing.

As I was counting out the gifts for ayis and the ladies who work in the office and the directors and the foster moms, I had an idea. Wouldn’t it be neat to give them something from a child adopted from China? Something that sends the message that children adopted from China are okay and that what they do to serve those kids now matters…wouldn’t that be great?

I’ve come to discover that good ideas don’t always come at convenient times. And, today is hardly a convenient day as mamas everywhere are scurrying around to Target for stocking stuffers and making cookies for class parties and using up all their Scotch tape wrapping boxes. But, some things are worth some inconvenience. This might be one of those things.

Here’s what we need:

a piece of artwork on card stock, an index card, or watercolor paper no larger than 5″x8″
a printed photo of the artist with his or her name written on the back, the year he or she was adopted and from where (e.g., “Sam Smith, adopted from Guangzhou in 2010”)

Mail no later than December 31st for an arrival of no later than January 4th to:

The Sparrow Fund Art for Ayis
124 3rd Ave
Phoenixville PA 19460

Questions? Email us. Help us bless these people and magnify the good.

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Want to do more? You can.
Order a few of the supplies from our wish list for us to take with us.
Order an Oh Happy Day shirt and wear it with us on the first day we serve on Monday, January 9th.
Sign up to pray for the team HERE.
Find out a bit more about joining a future team.

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Kelly-NHBO1-150x150

Kelly founded The Sparrow Fund along with her husband Mark in 2011. She works alongside Mark in his full-time purposeful work in China and works part time as a therapist at the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA, Kelly has a particular interest in (a) encouraging parents who are struggling to attach with their children, (b) helping parents walk with their children in understanding their own stories, (c) helping couples continue to pursue each other and grow together while they parent their children as a team, and (d) training and supporting orphanage staff in China to build relationships with children and each other. Kelly and Mark have been married since 1998 and have 3 biological children and 1 daughter who was adopted as a toddler from China in 2010. You can learn more about their journey on Kelly’s blog.

Gift ideas for the 2017 world traveler

Want a few little suggestions of what very well may be perfect additions to put under the tree for someone who is heading to China with us 🙂 or somewhere else around the world in 2017? Here are a few of our personal favorites to get you started.

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screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-11-52-06-amAfter using packing cubes, you may never go back. They aren’t much money and work so well for organizing your packing as well as allowing you to pack way more than you think will fit in your luggage which is always important. This blue set is a good option as it comes with some pretty spiffy extras.







Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 5.25.55 PMA luggage scale is a must have because that 50 lb. international luggage weight limit comes fast and the 44 lb. limit for a domestic flight in China comes even faster. At least one luggage scale for someone on a team of travelers is essential for packing and repacking in China. Here are two of our favorites–this one from EatSmart or this one from Balanzza.


screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-3-04-22-pmWe love Timbuk2 bags in general. And, this Q laptop backpack is our favorite China carry-on bag. It’s great on the flight, at the pearl market, and at the orphanage. All that several times over, and it will still look essentially brand new.

 

 
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China travelers need a passport holder, preferably one that can hold an envelope of crisp, brand-new-looking $100 bills without them having to be folded. This one from Ideawin for cards, passport, pen, travel documents, and even phone is awesome. It zips shut, has the wristlet thing, and comes in some pretty fun colors.
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Yes, these tags are obnoxiously bright. But, that’s the point. Baggage claim is way easier with a couple obnoxiously bright luggage tags. These colors and the grippy texture are perfect.










Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 6.07.21 PMWhen traveling to China, you really only need a plug adapter (not an electric converter) for your computer, phone, iPad, and camera charger. They can handle the voltage and just need the right type of plug. Trust us when we say travelers shouldn’t bother with bringing a hair dryer and/or flat iron to use with a converter. It’ll probably be destroyed within a day or two because the voltage is just too much (and you don’t want to burn your hotel down or anything).
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We know this TRTL travel pillow is kind of odd. But, what travel pillow doesn’t look a bit odd? And, when you are on a flight for 13 odd hours, odd is just fine. Whatever works. And, this one does. We should be getting freebies from this company for how many we’ve promoted and sold. We like that it is cozy and that it isn’t some big fluffy thing that you wear around the airport or have to tie onto your bag that can and will get filthy.








screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-12-58-43-pmNothing is better in a stocking than more stockings. And, these
Yaktrax cabin socks are nice ones. Put them in your carryon for when you want to get a bit more comfortable on that forever long flight.

 

 

 

 







screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-3-07-54-pmAlways a welcome stocking stuffer. A Starbucks gift card is great for the airport before departing and when you only have one more flight to go before home. That decaf caramel macchiato or green tea latte just tastes even sweeter then.




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Bathrooms in China often have sinks but no soap. This mini container has teeny tissue-like sheets of soap that are perfect for such situations when using hand sanitizer just isn’t what you want.




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This is also a handy stocking stuffer for the China traveler–travel sized, concentrated laundry soap. Then you can wash clothes to rewear what you need to and spot clean the spots you get from eating with chopsticks.



screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-12-16-15-pmEvery China traveler needs something to bring order to plug adapters, iPad chargers, phone charges, headphones, etc. There are lots of them out there. But, this one from Bagsmart looks like a good one with its bold colors so you can spot it easily in the depth of your suitcase or carryon.










screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-12-21-50-pmA toiletry bag is essential, and we prefer hanging ones to keep them from sitting in icky water on a bathroom counter. Grab this inexpensive one from NeatPack in a fun color.














screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-12-53-24-pmSometimes you just get tired of drinking bottled water and room temperature Coke. Having a couple of these Crystal Light liquid things in your bag for such occasions makes staying hydrated a bit more tolerable.



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Melatonin is your friend. And, it will make a good stocking stuffer that someone thanks you for later.

 

 

 

 

 






screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-12-30-55-pmAmylee Weeks is a talented designer. This journal is one of her designs, and we love it for a travel journal. Check out what the inside pages look like. They are inspiring but leave plenty of room for thoughts and doodles as you go and go deeper.

 

 

 

 



Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 7.21.57 PMOkay, so these are super expensive. we know. And, likely nobody’s buying these noise-canceling headphones as a gift since they have a high price tag. But, we had to share them because they are LIFE CHANGING. Seriously. If you have $250 to spare, get these. The plane ride and train rides and bus rides and long taxi rides are entirely different with these babies. You’re welcome.



screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-12-37-20-pmPlease don’t buy this for your China trip. It’s a post-China trip need. Every hotel room has an electric kettle to heat and clean water (no tea needed, just hot water). And, after China, you’re going to want one of your own. this one by Oster is great and the blue light is so nice in the wee hours of the morning.

 

 

 


Jiayin-charm-450x525

A very special gift is a sterling silver charm like this one from Jiayin Designs with a special word or phrase to wear before, during, and after your China trip. You do have to think ahead to give the gift of this charm–they take anywhere from 4-6 weeks to arrive. But, they are so unique and will be sure to become an heirloom.




Don’t forget the gift idea of books about China travel, culture, adoption, etc…..

Be sure to check these out:

These links are Amazon affiliate links. What that is an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. Use the links in this post at no cost to you and know that when you shop using them, we’ll get a small kick back to support what we do. 

Nesel Pack Sensory-Friendly Backpack {GIVEAWAY}

There are some words to describe our kids that seem to pop up often among our families: wiggle worm, jumping bean, monkey, crazy man, wild lady. You get the idea. We’re the parents sitting down in tiny plastic chairs at a conference who hears from the teacher that she feels like she has to take dramamine in order to teach our child.

Here’s the thing: it may not simply be disobedience (or to aggravate you). Simply put, all our thoughts and actions are traced to sensations that we transmit and make sense of within our brains. Our brains are always working to process internal and external stimuli and then tell our bodies how to respond. The way each of our brains are uniquely wired drives what this looks like for each one of us. When children experience hard starts and trauma that affect their developing brains, their responses might look a bit different than what we’d call typical. What all that means in very simple terms is that all that fidgeting and bouncing around and hyperactivity might not be resolved with typical correction. Instead, we need to study our kiddos and seek to provide them with the right balance of sensory tools and strategies to help them regulate and help us tolerate their need for it as well as connecting correction.

We’re always looking for good tools for our toolboxes–fidget foot bands, chewy jewelry, wiggle seats, and all sorts of fidgets. We discovered a tool recently that quickly has become one of our favorites–the Nesel Pack. It’s a backpack specifically designed for kiddos with sensory processing difficulties. It has several features such as clips on the straps to attach your favorite tools, specially designed straps to mimic a compression vest and a hip belt that offers more compression, a security strap, pouches on the inside to add weight if desired, and an ID tag in the front to let your child customize the bag in one of five fun colors. We think it’s pretty awesome outfitted with some of those favorite fidgets from our favorite sensory store with the best service from folks who are on the same team–as you can see.

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And, because we love it so much and want to introduce it to as many people as we can, we are offering a giveaway for one Nesel Pack of your very own (valued at $99!) to put under your Christmas tree this year. Enter through one or all of the ways in the Rafflecopter giveaway below and we’ll announce a winner next week. And, if you don’t win, just order one of these bags and stuff your kiddos stocking with all the fidgets to go with them for a Merry Christmas for your kiddo and you both.

a Rafflecopter giveaway