Sunday, December 28, 2008

December Happenings!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2008!!!!

We are enjoying our time with the kids on break from school. Due to a snow day, they were home one day early. This meant they missed their Christmas celebrations at school and the home baked teacher gifts had to be put in the freezer. Despite this, the kids didn't seem to mind one more day of vacation.

On my birthday, December 13th, Steve and the girls surprised me with a party. Several of our friends showed up at our house after we returned from dinner to help me celebrate being 40! Steve, my dad and the girls decorated and cleaned the house while my mom took me shopping - pretty tricky, huh!?!! Steve managed to orchestrate the food preparation through my mom and his mom. What a fun surprise!!!
The weekend before Christmas we travelled to my parents where we celebrated with my immediate family. We stayed one extra night due to a blizzard. We didn't mind staying extra. There was no shortage of food or fun. It's nice to see the cousins get extra play time as well since my sister and her husband also stayed an extra night.

Christmas Eve we spent with Steve's family. Lauren played her violin and read the Christmas story. Olivia read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' and sang Silent Night in sign language and German with Avery.
On Christmas Day we stayed home and enjoyed each other as a family. In the evening I invited my Chinese friend Penny and her son for dinner. This was quite a treat because Penny brought a Chinese dish to share for the meal. Penny doesn't have any family in the states, so we were happy to spend part of the day with her.

Today, Sunday December 28th has been a very restful and peaceful day for us. Olivia and Avery are cleaning their rooms getting ready for a play date tomorrow and Lauren is away at cross-country ski camp at Maplelag.

We don't have any news to share about the adoption but we did get a call from our Social Worker on Tuesday. This was the first time she called since we were approved in May. Anyway, she just wished us a Merry Christmas and encouraged us to hang in there and that our referral should come soon after the first of the year. Even though she didn't have any news, it was good to hear from SOMEONE at our agency.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Turning 40 and a toddler on the way

If someone were to tell me 3 years ago that I would have more children after 40, I would have told them they were crazy! After having our third child, Steve and I thought we had our perfect family. We weren't planning on any more children.

People ask me how I feel about turning 40 and although I haven't given it much thought, I do appreciate being able to celebrate another birthday. I'm thankful that I am still here and that I am surrounded by friends and family to honor me on this special occasion.

And now that I am expecting a child at the age of 40, it doesn't feel awkward to me. Maybe I don't think it's such a crazy thing because it is reality now.

Many would think we are crazy to disrupt this closely knit family. We are so blessed with our three healthy daughters. Some people are concerned about how this will affect our biological children and the roles each of them play in our family. Will this be a setback? Will this affect our daughters negatively? Why would we want to take any chances?

This adoption journey has affected our family. Our hearts are warmer because of our journey. We care more for the less fortunate because of this journey. We care less for our ourselves because of this journey. This was a chance worth taking.

Our girls are overly blessed with material things. They have all their needs met and many times get much of what they wish. Not that they aren't thankful but in many ways they get too much.

As part of preparing for our son, we can't help but stumble across story after story of those less fortunate. These stories have changed our family. This journey has been a lesson on compassion.

I'm not trying to toot my own horn, but I want to share a few examples of how my girls have changed and how they are making room for their new brother in their lives.

When I ask each of them what they want for Christmas, they each think about their brother's needs first. Olivia's letter to Santa includes money to send to Ethiopia to help the poor and a few gifts for her brother.

Avery asked for a gift card to Target to buy presents for her brother.

Lauren asked if our family could sponsor a child through Compassion International after she returned from a youth conference where they spoke about sponsorships.

They have all learned a lesson in putting somone else first.

For me, instead of hoping Steve buys me a gift card to my favorite coffee shop or surprises me with a new piece of jewelry, I don't want him to buy me anything. Well, I still am selfish in many ways but this journey has changed me.

And here I am 40 years old, still much to learn and have learned much. But without this adoption journey, I wouldn't be the person I am today, having changed little.

I like what this journey has done for our family. We are closer because of it. Our eyes are more open to the needs of this world because of it. We have more compassion because of it. And we are less selfish because of it. We are bursting at the seams with love for this child.

As much as this journey has changed us, I can only imagine the joy that is still yet to come. How did we get so lucky? Yes! This journey has been a disruption to our family. It has disrupted our selfish ways to help us refocus on what is important in life.

Dear son, if you only knew how much you have changed our lives already even before you join our family. You have made our hearts grow larger and when you physically join us, you will fill an empty place in our tightly woven family.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The least of these...

I helped coordinate a women's event at our church this past weekend. The event was called 'Mugs and Muffins for Missions'. We honored the 'pioneer' missionary women our church supports.

I truly admire anyone who is willing to give up a comfortable life for a life 'on the battle field' faced with persecution and uncomfortable living conditions. I believe this takes a very special person to find joy in serving the Lord in this way, especially under very extreme and unfavorable conditions. The work of a missionary is truly honorable.

One of the missionaries, her husband and 2 children live in an African country and teach at a university. If they expose themselves as missionaries, as ones who are spreading Christianity, their lives would be in great danger. The country they live in is 99.9% Muslim. They have been rescued by helicopter from a situation that may have taken their lives. The Muslim faith is so strong that if they stay there for 20 years, they will be excited to lead 6 people to Christianity.

Another missionary couple resides in South Africa with their 4 children. They witness people hurting all around them. This missionary woman wrote a letter to our group and shared some very personal experiences. One was about a woman standing on a street corner in pouring rain with her children by her side trying to sell one mushroom. Selling this mushroom appeared to be her only hope for the day but as dusk was setting in, her hope would diminish.

Another group of missionaries work for Wycliff, an organization that translates Bibles into different language so that God's Word can be brought to all ends of the earth.

Just before this event, I heard part of a radio show and the speaker was talking about how Islamic Terrorists were settling in Addis Abba, Ethiopia by growing numbers. There, the terrorists groups take abandoned orphans off the street and train them to be terrorists.

Human Trafficking is another danger for homeless orphans. There are groups at increasing numbers picking up these vulnerable children and turning them into slaves and prostitutes as young as 7 years old.

Joyce Meier and other Christian leaders have been strongly advocating against human trafficking. Joyce, for one has recently funded a shelter in Addis Abba as an effort to rescue women from this horrible life and give them hope for a much better future.

Everyone participating in these efforts, deserve to be honored. Again, this type of work takes a special person and leading from the Lord.

Many friends and family members tell us how blessed our son will be and how we are doing such a good thing. We have also been told that this is the "MOST honorable" act we could perform.

What we have become to realize, however is how much our son will be a blessing to our family. We in no way want this journey to be looked at as honorable or the greatest things we can do to help the orphans.

Many adoption talk shows focus on the several different steps we can take to help the orphans. Adoption is always listed as the best way and then if you are not able to adopt, giving money to charities is the 'next' best thing.

Adoption is only a reaction to the 143 million orphans in the world. The best way to help the orphans is to perform actions that will keep children from becoming an orphan in the first place.

Adoption is the LEAST we can do to help those when it is too late, when there is no hope for them to no longer stay in their birth families.

What we are doing is so easy compared to the work of a missionary. When we go to Ethiopia to bring home our son, we will only be there for 1 week and then right back to the comforts of our home with the precious gift of a son.

For every child and adult that a missionary can bring the Gospel, that is one less person that Islamic terrorists will take into their training camps. When we give to charities, such as Charity Water (see side bar), we help keep families from disease, poverty and the difficult decision of relinquishing their child. When we give up our own comforts and material possessions to show others better ways of living, we help families who face the choice of giving up a child stay together. These are all honorable ways to support the orphans.

There should not be poverty in this world. There should not be people dieing of diseases that are curable in other countries. There should not be 80% of this world without clean drinking water. If we satisfy the needs of the hungry and take care of the oppressed, there should not be orphans.

The best life for our child would be to be raised in his birth family. God intended it to be that way. Our family would be His second choice. Yes, our child will have a better (material) life and more opportunities but how can I explain to him after going through a terrible loss that he is lucky to have us? Is he the lucky one?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Water for Christmas

A friend of mine called me a month ago to tell me a story about her experience with meeting an Ethiopian man. She was sitting at a restaurant having lunch with a friend and just outside the restaurant was a beautiful water fountain. Her waiter was a man in his sixties from Ethiopia. He shared with her that he had been living in America for 20 years. During their conversation he said, "see that water fountain over there? Isn't it just beautiful? Here, in America, people walk right by it without even noticing." Then he talked about how we as Americans take running water for granted and that in Ethiopia as a child he had to walk 6 miles one way to retrieve dirty, contaminated drinking water for his family.

I have been thinking about how to give back to my son's country. Before my friend called to share the above story, I had already started researching ways to help bring running water to Ethiopia. But when my friend called to share this story, I knew that this will be our way of giving back to our son's country.

I am still working on the perfect way to run my own campaign to support well digging in Ethiopia. But for now, another fellow blogger, Tesi has set up a means for us to give through Charity Water, a foundation that digs wells all over Africa. Tesi's project will help dig a well in Liberia.

Please take a moment to explore Charity Water's website. I have added a link on my sidebar for your convenience. Instead of buying the usual amount of Christmas presents this year, consider giving Water for Christmas. Together we can help bring water to all parts of the world. Not only is water necessary to survive but clean drinking water will help lower the spread of deadly diseases.

Here are just a few facts about the lack of water in our world:

  • 4500 children a day die due to lack of clean water
  • Unclean water and lack of basic sanitation cause 80% of all sickness and disease, killing more people every year than all forms of violence, including war.
  • 1.1 billion people lack access to clean water.
  • 1 in 6 people are affected by the water crisis
  • In many parts of the world women and children walk over 3 hours every day for water that will most likely make them sick.
  • $20 can give 1 person in Africa clean water for 20 year

Thursday, November 13, 2008

November Trivia

Each month I help drive Olivia's class to one of the local nursing homes. There we visit with the residents and create crafts. This month the activities director had designed a page full of trivia questions having to do with events in history that happened in November.

One of the questions was,
"Which president was assassinated in November?"
a. Kennedy
b. Nixon
c. Lincoln

The resident that Olivia and I were paired up with had her ideas:

R: Oh, was that Nixon?
Me: No, Nixon was not assassinated.
R: He wasn't?!! Well, I know it can't be Kennedy because I remember that day like it was yesterday. He was assassinated in the summer, not November.
Me: Are you sure? Well then, do you think maybe Lincoln was assassinated in November?
R: Lincoln was assassinated?!?? I didn't know that!
Me: Yes. Lincoln was assassinated.
R: Well, I still think it's Nixon.
Me: No. Nixon was not assassinated.
R: Ok, well if you are sure Lincoln was assassinated, then I'll put him down. (rather reluctantly)

Then when they revealed the answer to be Kennedy, she looked at me with bewilderment and said, "you were wrong! I was right!"
Me: Whatever!#@#

Friday, November 7, 2008

Preparing to grieve

We have prepared in many ways for this adoption. But after reading the stories of other adoptive families, I don't know if I can fully prepare my heart to handle the inevitable grieving for our son's loss.

But then again, how do you prepare to grieve? Those who loose loved ones without notice, don't have time to prepare. Grieving is just that natural and necessary reaction to a loss.

The hardest part of this whole adoption process is knowing that our son will suffer a great loss and we will all share in his grieving over his loss. Once we hear his story, the grieving will begin.

I have felt great sadness over the past few days for this part of our journey. So, maybe the grieving has already begun.

But just when I think we understand this whole adoption process and feel ready to add to our family, there are parts of the journey where I don't know if I'm ready for or not.

Maybe we have not received a referral yet because God knows we are not ready to know our son's story. As we continue to prepare are hearts, there is no better way to prepare than to read the stories of other adoptive families.

The following is a story of one family grieving the loss of a birth family and country with their adopted toddler son. This is a tear jerker but worth the read:

On one hand, it's the first Halloween our little peanut gets to experience...we've kept the goblins/scary stuff pretty much away from him, and instead focused on pumpkins, his costume (very cute little horse) and the fun day we said it would be. He got to wear his costume to school today which made him incredibly happy and participate in the little Halloween parade they do there.

Now for the other's the one year anniversary that he was relinquished. I've been dreading the day, and the closer it's gotten, the more of a weight I've felt on my chest. The enormity of it, how it changed my son's life forever, feels so much more real now the more we settle into our lives together (and the more in love with him we fall) than it ever has before. We adore each other, truly, but the pain of it is almost more than I can bear at the moment. I imagine what his family felt then and what they feel now, what he felt then and what he feels now, suppressed inside his beautiful heart.

Thanks for reading and letting me get this off my chest...need to go home soon and make the rest of the day as fun for him as I promised!

ETA...(sorry this is so long!) so I almost posted Friday night that we ended up having a great day, while my son was a little confused as to what exactly Halloween was, he loved the costumes, candy, etc and the generally festive atmosphere. Then Saturday While I believe I never let on to him how I was feeling inside or that the date (Friday) was anything special other than Halloween, how's this for a child remembering and letting you know he remembered. I should also say he hasn't talked about his past in ET in several months or wanted to if I mentioned it.

So this is how Saturday went:1) in the morning, he put on his new Lightning McQueen rain boots (not raining, just excited to wear them) and about 5 minutes later casually mentioned to me that his (birth parent)used to wear them. ("not the Lightning McQueen kind but the same boots").

2) later in the morning, a bit of a running joke continued...when my husband asked him if he wanted coffee, he said "no, Dad! you're silly!, my husband replied "you used to drink coffee when you were little" (we have a couple of pics of him drinking it in his lifebook)...only this time my son, instead of continuing the joke, answered him very loudly "that's because I didn't have a mommy & a daddy then to tell me!"

3) late in the afternoon, we are in the big farmers market here(heavily populated by Ethiopians) when he sees a few sugar cane stalks in someone's cart...he gets really excited and starts yelling at the man "excuse me, excuse me, where you get that?" and then "mom, please please please, I need that, it's my favorite". I said "I never knew you liked that", he said "it's so long mom, I never see it, please". So we found some to buy but he's still so excited, showing me how we need to cut it and strip it and how he would chew it. I asked when he last had it. He said, "I have it in English", then "no, before". I asked "did you have it where the other children were?" (care center) and he said "no, before that, with (birth parent)", basically that it was a big treat for him. Fast forward an hour later, we are home preparing dinner, but he's insisting on having some sugar cane, we give him a little piece, he's so happy chewing it, showing us how you have to spit it out.

4) coming out of his bath 20 minutes later, out of nowhere he starts singing "if you're happy and you know it clap your hands!" and proceeds to sing much of the song...I now have chills, for those of you who've been through the goodbye ceremony might remember the children (who are staying) singing it to the families who are leaving with their children. I ask "do you know this from school?" he said "no mom, from when you and daddy came to get me".

5) finally, not 5 minutes later I'm bringing him to the kitchen to give him dinner when he starts very sad almost baby like behavior and complaining about how his belly hurts. I ask him if he's just hungry or has to go to the bathroom, he says no "it's the sugar", then "I want daddy". We go to my husband and now in an even more pitiful voice, he says "dad, I need medicine, my belly hurts", "the sugar no good" and "please dad". Then for the first time in many many months, he says he's not hungry for dinner, we can just read books and go to bed. 6) on our way to bed, his face just crumples but he's holding it in...I say "you want to cry" he nods and I say "it's ok, go ahead"...he then sobs like he hasn't in months and months. I ask if he's sad, he nods, if he's mad, he nods again, I ask at who? at mommy?, he nods, at daddy?, he nods, at (birth parent)?, he nods again. I ask if he can say why, he just says "the sugar".

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cost of adoption

Several people have made some reference to me regarding the cost of adoption. Some have asked me straight out how much will our adoption cost and others will say, "Isn't it expensive to adopt?!" OR "Why does adoption cost so much?"

First of all I will not give out a figure for the total cost of our adoption unless I know that someone is genuinely interested in adoption themselves.

Secondly, I don't think people realize that there is a huge tax credit ($10,000 +). Also, there are several organization who have grants available for families for financial assistance.

Aside from the assistance or how much the adoption process taxes your finances, if God has chosen for you a path leading to adoption, God will provide your needs.

Why does adoption cost so much when there are so many orphans in the world? Adoption is a legal process and there are many resources and processes that are necessary to complete this legal process. For example, background checks is just one of the many steps a family has to take. This step is very necessary and will help cut down on human trafficking, a reality that is growing in all parts of our world, even in our own state.

In addition, the Ethiopian government specifically asks adoption agencies to give back to their country in some way. Our agency has provided much relief to much needed causes in many ways. Just to name a few, they have built a school, a stadium and a hospital in the capital city, all of which help generate money for their economy and provide needed schooling and health care for those who before have gone without these services.

We are not adopting to 'save' a child as many people like to assume. And our son will not be the lucky one. We are the lucky ones. We do hope to provide him with a better living environment. But regardless of his current environment, we know that God would choose his first family over us. Even if his family has nothing, being raised by his first family would be God's first choice for him.

We are adopting because we want to add to our family through adoption and since we see one of the biggest needs in Ethiopia, we have chosen to pursue adoption through this country. To us, this child's life is priceless. To his birth family, it is a much bigger price to pay.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from becoming polluted by the world." James 1:27

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Skunks only spray Grirls!

My father is retiring from farming after this fall's harvest. So, our family travelled to the farm this past weekend to witness some of the last corn picking days of his farming career. We love the farm! There is never a shortage of four wheeler rides, tractor rides and combine rides.

For my kids, this is like Disney World!

Actually, it's better than Disney World because not only are the rides fun but the culture you experience is so rich. Like, how many kids have really seen a LIVE SKUNK up close?!?!

My kids and all their cousins got to see a skunk. No, it wasn't a black and white kitty. It was an actual skunk that found it's way into a cage on my parent's farm and got trapped.

The cousins were so entertained by this skunk. Avery, my 5 year old announced that she didn't go any closer than 10 feet from the creature. How far can skunks spray? Well, I don't think I want to find out so I asked my children to keep their distance.

And then I had this conversation with my 3 year old nephew, who also saw the black and white 'kitty':

Me: O, have you seen the skunk?

O: Yes!

Me: Does it stink?

O: Yes!

Me: Oh! Did it spray you?!?

O: No it didn't spray me.

Me: Can I go see the skunk?

O: No! (shaking his head) You can't see it because it only sprays grirls. It doesn't spray boys.

Me: Oh, well if it only sprays girls, I better not go near it then.

Thank you mom and dad for the rich experience!!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Referrals starting again

After 4 months of hardly any referrals, our agency finally handed out a batch of referrals the first two weeks of October. We were disappointed but not overly surprised that we did not receive a referral this time.

When we started this process, we expected to wait 2 - 4 months. We thought for sure we would have our son home by Christmas. We are now 5 months into our wait and now will not travel until 2009.

The good thing is that every time there are referrals, we get that much closer to meeting our son. Also, our agency just announced that they now have contracts with 2 more orphanages in Ethiopia. We are hoping this will pick up the slow down we've had in referrals.

We know that our son will join our family at the right time but this wait is testing our patience. It's really hard to stay focused when so much time passes with no word.

Still, we try to keep our eyes focused on the Lord and not the wait. We have hope and joy in knowing that He will select the right child for our family at the right time.

Monday, October 6, 2008

My weekend with Lauren

This past weekend, I helped chaperon 15 girls (including my 12 year old, Lauren) from our church to the 'Revolve Tour' at the Target Center. Over 6,000 teenage girls from the Midwest and Canada attended the event. Our girls spent the night at a local church. Their sleep over was one of the highlights of their weekend.

The most popular part of the tour was the Christian band, Hawk Nelson. The girls absolutely went crazy over them!

Natalie Grant was also a hit! She was so awesome but unfortunately, I don't have pictures of her.

Another one of my favorite parts of the event was a message from Chad Eastham who wrote the book "Guys like girls who..." He told the girls that guys like girls who are comfortable in their own jeans and who like themselves. He also brought home the idea of NOT letting the guys be accessible by 'key pad' during this modern age popularity of communicating by text messaging. They even designed a T-shirt with the message, 'Don't txt my heart'.
Jenna Lucado (Max Lucado's daughter) was also there to deliver a powerful message about how "God is ALWAYS accessible, but it's up to me to access Him."

I was most inspired by this 14 year old boy. He started his own organization, Hoops of Hope and has raised millions of dollars to build schools and help feed hungry children in Africa. Go to this link for information on how you can get involved in this ministry.

My day with Avery

On a beautiful, sunshine, fall day, Avery and I took many pictures outside. She loves getting her picture taken! I just love spending time with this little one. We have so much fun together!

This is Lucy, the sunflower Olivia brought home from school in the spring and transplanted in our garden. When Olivia brought Lucy home, she was smaller than the size of my pinky!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sharing our story once again

I had the great privilege once again to read to Olivia's class. This time I chose a book about adoption.

Olivia has been getting a lot of questions lately from her classmates about our adoption. She doesn't know how to answer every question, so I used this as a time to educated the rest of her class and to help her answer some of those tough questions.

I answered no less than 20 questions from the students. They were so intrigued by our adoption story that they kept wanting to know more. Here were some of their questions/comments:

Will he be black?
Will he live with your family the rest of his life?
Will he be a twin to Olivia?
How old will he be?
Won't he be afraid?
How soon will you have him?
Can you bring him to school so we can see him?
I have a brother. Are you sure Olivia wants a brother?
How far do you have to travel to get him?
How long will you be gone?
Where are Olivia, Lauren and Avery going to stay while you are gone?
I know someone who adopted.

Olivia was pleased with the positive response from her classmates. In a way, I think it kind of took some pressure off her. She doesn't feel so weird about the whole thing anymore - she feels more at ease. What a blessing!

She informed me that at the end of their school day, her teacher lifted our family up in prayer, which really meant the world to Olivia!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

You are Special

Today I had the privilege to read to Olivia's 3rd grade class, 13 students in all. I read "You are Special" by Max Lucado. I knew that most of the students would have read this book before (about 95% of them had) but it is such a great book, I just had to read it.

The teacher had me sit on a chair and then the students gathered around me on the floor. Two students (including my own child) were sitting on my feet, so I had to ask them to back up a little.

2 - 3 pages into the book, I left some blanks and asked the students to fill in the words for me. After doing this 2 times, I felt A LOT of pressure on my foot and noticed that Olivia was very close to me again. I got the hint that her pushing on my foot was her way of telling me to stop asking the kids to fill in the blanks. Apparently this embarrassed Olivia. She later explained that I should read the book "exactly as it it written and not ask the kids to fill in the blanks"! Otherwise she said I did a good job.

For those of you who haven't read this before, the story draws a distinct parallel to God and how we should live to please Him and no one else.
The setting of the story takes place in a small village of people called Wemmicks. They give each other star stickers for their good looks and talents. Those who lack good looks and talents receive dot stickers. Punchinello, for one, is full of dot stickers.
Punchinello allows what others think of him to 'stick' with him and bring him down until one day he meets his maker, Eli. His maker didn't care what the other Wemmicks thought of Punchinello. What mattered was what HE thought of him and he thought he was 'pretty special'.

Punchinello laughed and asked "me, special? Why? I can't walk fast. I can't jump. My paint is peeling. Why do I matter to you?"

Eli replied, "Because you are mine."

Our Creator knows us by name too. He created us and He makes no mistakes. We are His and what other people think about us, doesn't matter. Trust His love because what matters is what He thinks.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fall Weather!

The leaves are beginning to change and the sumac is already a deep red. We love this time of year! Hiking is our favorite fall past time.

This past weekend, we took the girls to a hilly area where we could see for miles at the highest point of our hike.

Avery just woke up from a nap just as we arrived to our destination. She soon had to walk on her own but would have rather kept napping.

An orange colored berry bush I spotted along the trail:

Avery said, "mommy, take a picture of me sitting on this stump." Too cute! Look at her pose!

Just had to take this picture of them resting after our hike.
And after a long beautiful day of fresh air, Big Sis reads to the little ones before bedtime.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

God's Timing

God created TIME
Man created THE WATCH

We heard this at our couples' Bible study from Tommy Nelson.

I've known that everything is in God's hands and in God's timing.

But ever since we started our adoption journey, I have been making predictions on our referral. I am done with making predictions. Indeed international adoption has proven to be unpredictable but more importantly, we will receive a referral for our child when he is ready to join our family. This is God's timing - not timing that anyone can predict.

143,000,000 Orphans

There are 143,000,000 orphans in the world. 143 million children who don't have a mommy or a daddy. This number is too big to comprehend but if you click here , you will get a better perspective.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

More preparation

I received a phone call out of the blue the other day from the Epilepsy Foundation. They asked if we had any donations for them to pick up.

What I love about EF is that they will take anything from clothing to house hold products and they will do curbside pick up. This beats the work of a garage sale!

So, I said "YES! We do have stuff!" I have to get rid of stuff to make room for our son and this call was what I needed to get myself motivated to dig through boxes and other clutter.

It's interesting because as I was going through old toys of the girls (and I was able to get rid of some- shh! don't tell the girls!) I came across toys that should be very fitting for our son.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Thinking of our son as we wait

We continue to prepare our lives and our hearts for our son. We have not been introduced to him yet but in our hearts, we know him and we love him. We know that our son has at least been born already. After we receive our referral, we will know our child's life story but for now we can only imagine what is taking place in his life.

We can only imagine the anguish and pain our son and birth family will experience or have already experienced. It's heart wrenching to know that he will inevitably go through a major loss in his life. Because of this, our referral will come with mixed emotions. We will be overjoyed by knowing who he is and saddened by the story behind why he became available for adoption.

Physically, we are ready for him - we have a place for him to sit in our van, a place for him at our table and a bedroom with a bed ready for him. We are also ready to love on him and welcome him with open arms and hearts. This part of our preparation has been enjoyable, simple and filled with excitement.

Emotionally, this will no doubt be a difficult transition for our family and our son. I don't know if we can fully prepare for this part of the journey. We are sensitive to the fact that while he may find joy in joining our family, he will also be mourning the loss of his first family for some time. This is a hurdle we will prepare our best to come along side him, support him and do what ever we need to help him deal with his loss.

Someone on our forum made the following statement in regards to the lengthened wait time and I couldn't have said it any better:

"Somewhere, on the other side of the world, was a family, a family whose future was someday going to somehow intertwine with mine. And what that family was experiencing right then was something I could never imagine. And they would have probably given anything in the world to have nothing to complain about but a wait…"

They are the real heroes in this journey and they will always have a place in our hearts and we will be forever grateful to them for the gift of our son.

The wait and disappointing news

We have been waiting over three months for our referral. Our agency gave us an estimated 6 - 9 month average wait. But as I pointed out in an earlier post, since we are requesting a toddler, we should get a referral sooner. They have been averaging a little over 2 months for a toddler referral.

Last week, someone on our adoption forum stated that their specialist told them to expect a referral in September and that there are only about 5 families in front of them waiting for a toddler boy. Since this family has been waiting less than 2 months, I realized that we are one of those 5 families, which means we must be at the top of the list for a toddler boy referral. Again, this was last week.

Then yesterday, the disappointing news came:

Our agency hasn't given out a batch of referrals since the beginning of the summer. In an email from them yesterday, they announced that the referrals have slowed down and they are lengthening the wait times. They also don't expect referrals to pick up again until October 1st.

People on the forum have speculated as to why the referrals are slowing down. This is the explanation I understand so far: 1. More and more agencies are processing adoptions in Ethiopia. 2. The increase in the number of adoptions means more court cases in Ethiopia. 3. There are reports that other agencies have put a hold on the referrals of children with at least one living birth parent. There is a question about when a child has at least one living parent if they are by definition an orphan.

Many children our relinquished by their birth family due to severe poverty, so many children will still have at least one living parent.

I have faith that what ever bottle neck or red tape we find ourselves in, it's all part of our journey to bring our son home for I know that "Everything will work out for the good for those who know Him."

First Day of School: Part 2

Avery's first day of school.

She loves school!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

First Day of School

The girls were dressed and ready to go by 7:15 a.m. Lauren and Olivia started today. Avery's first day of K is tomorrow!

The first day went well!

Labor Day Weekend and Pirates!

Some of the kids in our neighborhood dressed as pirates and used our playset as their ship.

Is JACK SPARROW on board!?!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Summer 2008 Recap

Peter Pan!

Lauren and Olivia were part of a Peter Pan play this summer through community education. Olivia is a big fan of Peter Pan!! Lauren played the part of a lost boy and Olivia was a "Cleveland Indian" baseball player. (The Peter Pan play was a knock off of the real Peter Pan movie - very cute!) The above is one of Olivia's creations of PP on the computer.

Avery tried out gymnastics this summer and had a blast! By her last class she was able to perform a cartwheel and walked SOLO (without a spotter) on the high beam!

The summer was not complete without time on the our boat and lots of swimming!

4th of July Neighborhood 'Kiddie' Parade

Rides at an amusement park:

3 weddings in August, an opportunity to take our family picture:

Campfires and S'mores

A visit from a special friend from Belguim:

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Why Ethiopia??

First of all, Steve and I chose our agency, CHSFS because of their long standing reputation in the adoption world. We decided against domestic adoption due to the small risk that a birth parent could reclaim a child after a certain amount of time the child would be with our family. We were uneasy about this possibility.

Then, we looked at all the options we had through our agency to adopt internationally. When we began our application process, we were able to come to our decision to adopt from Ethiopia fairly easily by a process of eliminating other countries for reasons outside of our control. For one, China went to a 5 year average wait for a referral; Russia requires 2 separate trips and Korea only refers children up to 14 months in age.

Also, the process of adopting through Ethiopia is more predictable than other countries. Our agency operates their own care center in the capital city. They seem to have a good relationship and good communications with the government and those who orchestrate the adoption process in Ethiopia.

In addition, the travel schedule works well for our family. We are required to travel to Ethiopia to retrieve our son but we are only required to be in the country for 1 week. The shorter length of travel appealed to us, especially since our 3 girls who will be waiting for us at home when we travel.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Naming our son

We will name him one of two ways: keep his Ethiopian name or give him a new name with his Ethiopian name as his middle name.

We've had some discussion in our family about what we should name him. The girls have given us a thumbs down on all the names Steve and I have come up with so far. And they have their own ideas, which don't appeal to us either.

After much debate the other day, Olivia stated that we should wait for our referral and then name him. What a great idea! It makes sense to wait because there is a chance that we will keep his birth name.

As a side note: some people when they ask about the adoption, they refer to him as "the boy". Like, "have you heard any news about the boy yet?"

Referring to our son as the boy just doesn't sit well with us. Even though we don't know our son yet, in our hearts, he is our son. We thought it fitting for now to give him a name to call him, so we came up with the nick name "Jr".

Friday, August 15, 2008

What led us to adoption?

There are several events that led up to this life changing decision to adopt.

This is where it all began.... but please read on because our decision to adopt goes beyond this verse:

James 1:27 states that Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from becoming polluted by the world.

This verse at first gave me a heavy feeling - an enormous feeling of responsibility! I've been blessed with a very comfortable lifestyle all my life. I guess you can say that I am unfamiliar with making large sacrifices. It's not like I haven't experienced difficult storms in my life. It's just that God has blessed me abundantly in respect to the comforts of life. I have received much more than I deserve.

At the beginning of this journey, Steve and I began having several discussions about how we could better serve needs in our world. We have mailed money to this cause and that cause. We have tried to give where we felt the need was greatest.

Until one day, Steve commented about how nice it would be to actually witness where the money is helping - to see first hand the fruits of our labor. Writing a check, placing it in an envelope with a stamp, when you do it without obligation, is a good thing. However, there are ways to experience the results. I know there are many seeds we sew in our lives, some of which we may not know the harvest until we join our heavenly Father in heaven.

When we are called to take care of the orphans, we have the option to monetarily support organizations that help orphans. Steve and I knew we had the capacity and resources to do more than this. We began praying about adoption.

Adoption seems extreme - it did for us at first. I prayed many times that God would confirm the tugging at our hearts. Deep down I wanted God to take this tugging away from me. And for several months, I actually chose to ignore this pull on my heartstrings.

Fear that adoption would be the path God leads us to began to overwhelm me. I feared the adoption process. I feared the sacrifices our family would have to make. I feared the changes in the make up and dynamics of our 'perfect' family. I feared being judged by others. I feared having to come up with answers to tough questions when the answer is buried in my heart.

Then there is this verse:

"and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always: he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." Isaiah 58:10-11
(**Incidentally, God led me to this verse before we started our adoption journey. I didn't know at the time that this verse would be another confirmation of our decision and take away my fear of adopting.)

When I finally came around again to pray for God's will for the adoption, God replied in the most profound ways. One time when I was making preparations to attend a Christian Women's conference in Colorado, I specifically asked the Lord to confirm the tugging at my heart on this trip. And He did. On my flight out there, I sat next to a woman who shared with me how her and her husband built their family through the adoption of 5 children.

And that wasn't the only way God spoke to me. At the conference, there was a woman who joined my group of friends at our table one night for dinner. She introduced herself and went on the say, "and my husband and I have adopted a girl from China and let me tell you if any of you are thinking about adoption, let this be confirmation that you should adopt." Wow! When you pray for discernment, sometimes God will not only send you a clear message but He will send the message with a messenger!

I am ashamed to admit that even after this conference, I continued to have doubts about whether adoption was the right path. But God is faithful and He continued to confirm our decision in many more profound and perfect ways, such as through a dream, which is an event that is very special to me and I will always cherish. In this dream God introduced me to the voice of our child that we will be adopting.

God placed the desire to love another child into our hearts. He also showed me through my dream that He has placed on our child's heart a love for our family.

What first started out as a feeling of responsibility has evolved into our wanting to add to our family. I no longer feel heaviness in this journey but pure joy as we wait to be introduced to our son.

Honestly, not everyone in our immediate family has been on board this whole journey - I did not fear however because I knew that God would work through each person's heart if this is His will. Now, I am grateful to report that all of us await our new son's and brother's arrival with open hearts and excitement, to which I give all the glory to God!

For one, our girls have come a long ways on this journey. At the beginning, they had many questions, much anxiety and fear about this decision. Recently, they pray almost every meal time for the adoption process to go well and that God takes special care of our child. They have been asked to make some not so easy sacrifices but what touches my heart the most are the sacrifices they volunteer like........ "mommy, we don't need any Christmas presents this year because we are getting a new brother and that will be the best Christmas present ever!"

I know this has been a long and drawn out explanation of this journey, but I just had to share the ways God has had his fingerprints in this the whole trip. I have surrendered the weight of this responsibility to our Lord and take great privilege in soon to be the earthly parent to yet another child...And I have all the confidence that God will carry this journey out to completion in His perfect way.

Thanks for letting me share!
=) Tammy

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Our girls

This entry I will devote to introducing our three daughters...

First of all, we had a special visitor to our home yesterday, our middle child, Olivia's, 3rd grade teacher. She left with me a form to fill out about Olivia. We are suppose to list 5 words that best describe her. I thought this would be a great way for me to introduce all our daughters:

Our oldest, Lauren, is 12. She is 1. musically talented, 2. ambitious, 3. intelligent, 4. methodical and 5. an avid reader. Lauren's current passions include the violin and reading the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. This year she will be venturing off to the local, public Jr High, which will be quite a change from the small private school she has been attending since Pre School. However, we have prepared her and we are confident that she will adjust well to her new school.

Olivia is our middle child and she is 9. She is 1. creative, 2. fun, 3. compassionate, 4. responsible and 5. personable. Just to give you an example of her compassion .... her and her younger sister Avery, pooled all their money together and gave it to my husband and I for the adoption. That moment brought tears to our eyes. She also created a container for loose change and labeled it "for adopshun!" (her spelling) and placed it on the kitchen counter for anyone to contribute.

Our youngest daughter, Avery is 5. She is 1. lovable, 2. happy, 3. active, 4. inquisitive and 5. social. She is very easy going and always has a smile on her face. She has no fears of starting K this year and looks forward to meeting new friends. She also loves the attention she receives from her sisters' older friends!

Steve and I embrace all their differences and encourage the positive in their personalities. We have been so blessed with the fun dynamics each girl brings to our family. Most importantly, however, all three girls share with Steve and I a love for the Lord.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Our adoption journey so far

Steve and I began our adoption journey by attending an information meeting March 2007. After much prayer, discussion and research, we sent an initial application to our agency, Children's Home Society and Family Services (CHSFS) in January 2008. Soon after, we were invited to attend a Pre Adoption Class (PAC) at our agencies headquarters in St Paul, MN.

We attended the PAC meeting in March and continued our quest to adopt from Ethiopia by completing a home study and dossier, making us referral ready May 21, 2008. The home study and dossier included a multiply of forms that needed to be collected and notarized, including a statement from our bank, Steve's employer, local police, just to name a few. We also were fingerprinted by an immigration officer for approval through the US Homeland Security for our Visa to bring our future son home. This approval along with our dossier is now in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia.

The Wait:

We have requested and have been approved for a boy 12 - 36 months old. With three girls already, we thought a boy would add some fun dynamics to our family. Our agency gave us an average wait time of 6 - 9 months. However, we believe the referral could come quicker since we are adopting a slightly older child and there is more of a demand for infants.

Our agency cannot tell us where we are on a list of those waiting for a referral but I am part of a forum and on the forum's "unofficial" list (which accounts for 1/3 of those waiting), we are first in line for boy of the age we have requested. This gives me hope that we will not have to wait the 6 months but if we do wait that long, I'm trying not to get anxious because I know God has the right child picked out for us.