Friday, November 7, 2014

Confections for Connie's Cousins

It's  baaaaack!!! 
Last year, this peppermint bark helped us bring Connie home forever. She's here and she's a little package of sweets herself! 

The bark was so popular, I decided to make it again this year, but this time the proceeds will help my sister Tara and her husband Jonathan bring home their children...Connie's Cousins!!!

Here's the Nalley family on their first trip to meet their two children in Ghana.  They still have some steps before their adoption is complete and they can bring them home forever. They are also adopting a darling little girl from a different country, and you can learn more about their adoptions at

Without further ado...let me introduce:

Homemade Peppermint Bark. 

This is not your average confection.  I have researched, sampled, and melted many different chocolates...and finally came up with something that I am truly proud to sell for this fundraiser. 

Two layers of velvety Guittard premium chocolate, infused with all-natural peppermint oil and topped with crushed peppermint bits.  Not only does Guittard chocolate taste amazing, it is all natural (no preservatives or additives) and is processed in a peanut and gluten-free facility*. Another huge plus in my book: Guittard chocolate is Fair Trade Certified.  The crushed peppermint candies are all-natural as well (from Trader Joe's).  Each box contains approximately 6 oz. of bark.

The bark will come sealed and inside a box with the "Confections for Connie's Cousins" label (and a little card insert telling the recipient that all proceeds are going toward the Nalley family adoptions). 

*Guittard Allergen Statement

These boxes will make lovely Christmas/Holiday gifts for friends, teachers, family members...anyone you know who has a sweet tooth! They are sealed in a cello bag, placed in a box and tied up in string. As long as the bark is sealed and stored in a cool dry place, it is edible for up to a year.  Last year, I opened one box 5 months later and it was as good as the day I made it!

It is definitely wrapped and delivered with love! 

 1 box:  $10.00

Shipping (please add to your total):
 1-5 boxes- $5.00
6-10 boxes- $8.00
11-15 boxes - $10.00
16-20- $12.00
21-30- $15.00

Payment Instructions:

Via Paypal:  Please use the gift option (for friends and family) when paying. The account is under Leigh Walters. Also, please include instructions for how many boxes you are ordering and your mailing address.  Click on the link below and use my e-mail for transfer:

Paypal Link

*There may be a small fee if your PayPal account is using a credit card for the purchase. 

Local friends:  I will deliver for orders of 2 or more boxes! (Which saves you from the $5 shipping charge). Please send me an e-mail with your request and address.  I will collect your payment upon delivery.

Greenville, SC peeps:  I'm sending a bunch of boxes to Greenville with Tara for local delivery of 2 or more boxes. Just send me an e-mail with your address and phone number when you place your order and Tara will contact you for delivery.

Friday, October 31, 2014


Connie's medical records from China seemed very thorough and she was seen by doctors regularly while living in the orphanage. We were told she had no health issues other than her Down syndrome diagnosis and she certainly looks healthy enough!  However, we still wanted her examined by our specialists here at home, knowing full well that the care an orphan receives will always be sub par to what is done for a child with loving parents. We began the rounds with doctors the week we came home but it has taken almost a full three months to see all of them. Almost immediately we could tell she has poor vision and sure enough, she is significantly near-sighted. The first time she put on her glasses she became quite dizzy (we expected it with an 11 year old who coped with poor eyesight her whole life). It's taken about a month for her to be able to wear her glasses consistently but she is doing great. The first couple weeks she would constantly point at distant objects and say "wow"! It has been fun for us to witness the world open up for her. 

The ophthalmologist also noticed Connie either has no tear ducts or they are completely blocked. The only way to know for sure is to do an eye probe (under general anesthesia) and if they are blocked, they insert stents to open them up. If she doesn't actually have the anatomy we will see specialists at Vanderbilt due to the complex surgery that will require. We put off this surgery due to some more immediate surgeries. 

In fact, less than two weeks ago Connie had her tonsils and adenoids removed and her ear canals cleaned out. 

She failed a hearing test at the ENT (hopefully due to all the blockage) and we already knew her tonsils were huge and causing her many problems. She has sleep apnea (which already seems to be gone only 10 days post-surgery) and also difficulty swallowing. In fact, Connie chokes on food at almost every meal and it was quite scary at times. We are thankful to have that surgery behind us. The recovery was very painful and difficult for her but she's looking a lot better. Here's what she's doing as I type this: 

An iPad and guard dog make post-op healing a lot easier. :)

Since almost half of children with Down syndrome are born with a heart defect (James has one and will require surgery in the future), Connie was seen by a cardiologist. Her medicals from China stated she has a normal heart but almost immediately the doctor noticed an abnormality on her EKG. Ironically, she has a heart condition completely unrelated to Down syndrome. It's Wolffe Parkinson White syndrome and involves the electrical function in the heart. Most of the time it is asymptomatic and the risk is sudden cardiac death. They ran a series of tests including a heart monitor and a stress test and the results were sent to specialists at Vanderbilt. They confirmed the diagnosis of WPW and she will have surgery to correct it. Thankfully, the surgery is not "open heart" but is done via catheters inserted through the groin and neck so her recovery will be much easier. Also, this surgery has a high success rate and she should have no ongoing issues once it is complete. The surgeon personally called us only two days ago and said he would like to do her surgery as soon as possible and suggested this coming Monday! So, with just 5 days notice (and only two weeks after her last surgery) Connie will have heart surgery at Vanderbilt this Monday morning. We appreciate any prayers and thoughts for Connie that day!  

Connie also needs oral surgery for impacted teeth and decayed molars but we hope to combine that surgery with her eye probe. All in all, she will have 4 surgeries within her first 6 months home. 

As you can see, adoption is full of unknowns, especially when the child is older and has more years of institutional care. This is why children need families and parents who love them. No orphanage can ever provide what a child really needs, no matter how "good" it seems to an outsider.  I'm so thankful Connie is here and is getting the care she needs and deserves. Truly, she is capable of amazing things and is already touching the lives and hearts of everyone she meets. :)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"She is a delight"

One of Connie's doctors summed up our feelings about Connie so well. He spent only 5 minutes with her and exclaimed, "She is a delight!  You must be so in love with her!"  He is right, she is delightful, and we are very much in love with her. She has a huge personality coupled with a huge capacity to love...

She's not camera shy, that's for sure!  She loves to be in the spotlight.

After China, I took a break from updates and social media in order to focus more on our family. Adding a fourth child is challenging for any family, but adopting an 11 year old with special needs requires very intentional parenting. Glenn and I are conscious of the fact that adoption is a whole family undertaking, and we know each of our children need us in different ways as we all adjust. I have to admit, the transition has been better than expected. Amelia, Grant, and James have been so loving to Connie, and have been the best sister and brothers...she knows she is loved.  And Connie is very loving toward each of us, and seems to have appropriate understanding of roles within a family.  That is a huge blessing!  
Connie did begin the grieving process once we were home, which is completely normal and healthy. Everything she's ever known for 11 years was gone: her caregivers, her peers, her language, her food, her "home", and even her climate: 


(The first week home, Connie asked for a jacket and gloves. She's used to a very hot and humid climate, so she did not appreciate our air conditioning. Thankfully, she's quickly adjusting and no longer asks for gloves.  Of course, cold weather is about to set in. Boy is she in for a shock.)

Grieving can take many different forms but for Connie, it was expressed through neediness. She wanted me to hold her and comfort her throughout the day. She didn't want me out of her sight and would sometimes fake cry to keep my attention. It was as if she reverted to much younger behavior. This lasted for a few weeks and then, suddenly, Connie was "back".  Her personality is naturally very joyful, so it was wonderful to see that joy return. 

Speaking of joy, these pictures will sum up how Connie feels about all her new adventures with our family:

     Frozen yogurt is a hit with these two!


   Splash pad fun! 

     Meeting "THE"  Reece!

    Road trip in a crowded vehicle!

          She LOVED the beach!

Sibling love:

Connie was the guest of honor at a "welcome home" shower given by one of our friends: 

A rare night out for James' 7th birthday:


Typical Connie: gets herself dressed and "packed" just for a trip to the grocery store. Haha!

 New glasses:

 Connie's 11th birthday celebration:



Speaking of crafting, she decided to take scissors to her bangs. At 4am, no less. Yep. This is what she looked like when I woke up:

We waited for Connie to begin school.  She needed time to adjust to our family, but it didn't take long before she began to ask us when she could go to school. We started the process a few weeks ago and her first day was last week. She was thrilled! She LOVES school and is so proud of herself!  I'm going to save the details about school for another post, but she is mainstreamed in a typical 3rd grade classroom and doing SO well.  

She and James ride the bus together (it's the special bus with only 6 other children and their favorite teacher's aide, Miss Janet, rides along with them). 

As you can see, we have stayed very busy since Miss Connie came home!  And I haven't even mentioned all the doctor appointments...whew! It's been hectic. I will update on her health in a separate post. 

Let me leave you with one of my favorite pics of Connie. We made a quick trip to Target and I bought treats for Connie since she was such a good girl while we were shopping (trust me, that's not always the case...positive reinforcement helps.  Or you could call it bribery.  Positive reinforcement sounds better though). When we were leaving, I had to capture the fabulousness:

Our delightful little diva.  So thankful she's home.