Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ethiopian Adoption Update

I have had several people express an interest in where our Ethiopian Adoption process is at these days, so I will attempt an update.

We have filed our immigration paperwork, and are waiting on word from the powers in Texas that will let us know when our biometrics appointment is. We need this paperwork completed in order to send our dossier to Washington, and then onto Ethiopia. Huge step. Another wait.

We had to have the old fashioned ink fingerprints done at our local police station 2 weeks ago. That was a strange feeling, standing in a hallway with an officer, getting fingerprinted. We were able to send those prints to our State Capital and within the week, they had sent our criminal clearance records back to us. I thought we'd have to go on a 4 hour trip to the Capital to get this done. And for the record, neither of us has any criminal activity in our background. (grin). Tommy was disappointed that they didn't need his fingerprints. I told him he wasn't over 18 yet, so we didn't need to check his background activity. He said, "Everything happens when you're over 18." It must seem that way when you are 5.

The interesting information we found out while on the paperchase has been locating our Nicole's birth certificate. When we adopted her at 4, the state printed a new BC with our information, and we noticed the date they recorded was a day off from the county record. So, for the last 8 years, we have been holding an incorrect BC for her. Knowing we didn't want any issues coming up with our Ethiopian adoption, I have sent a couple of letters trying to get the BC corrected, and also made a trip to our local records office. Come to find out, the State is standing by their record and is saying the county record is incorrect. That is good for our international adoption since we have 4 copies of her BC in house!! But we have been celebrating her birthday a day late for the last 8 years, and she's thrilled to remedy that!! We will still need to get her county record repaired, but at least the adoption is not at a stand still waiting for a corrected record. That is a blessing.

We have sent a final paper to Mike's employer for yet another reference that Ethiopia is requiring, stating that he works there, and is in good standing. I think this is the 3rd or 4th letter we have had to get from Mike's boss. I am thankful that he has been helpful and understanding each time.

We also should be getting word from both of our physicians, stating again, how healthy we are and capable of adoption at this ripe old age of "almost" 50. The rest of the paperwork we need is tucked in a neat little folder, in a HUGE binder (that has grown considerably over the past year and a half), waiting to be sent to our agency in Portland,OR.

After our dossier is translated and sent to and registered in Ethiopia, we become an official waiting family. It is at that point that we begin the wait for a referral of our children. That referal process is taking 4 to 6 months typically now, and then a couple months after referal for the Ethiopian courts to process our request, and finalize our adoption, then 2 months after that before we can bring our children home. This is all dependant on the children's health, whether we accept the referal, and whether the Ministry of Women's Affairs has all our children's paperwork in order for the whole process to progress smoothly.

It's a detailed process to protect the rights of the orphaned children, and we are glad we connected early in our process with a reputable agency that is conscientiously advocating for the children in need. There has been much media coverage of children who have been put at risk for child trafficking, and we have been cautious to stay clear of any agency along the way that did not take the children's best interests to heart. Although it has felt like a long and dragged out ordeal, once our children are identified, we can be sure it was all appropriately done and the children will be able to join our family with no strings attached. We will delight in teaching them the beautiful country they were born into, and preserve any family connections they may have there.

So, that is the update from our livingroom. Some days it feels like we will never reach our children, yet other days we are encouraged by other families who have traveled the same path and find hope in the journey. I am determined not to falter and eventually the path will lead us to our children and I can bring them home forever.

On a lighter note, my Tommy is telling me it is time to change the TV channel. At 5, he is not even slightly interested in Angelina Ballerina cartoons. When I asked him why he did not want to watch it, I assumed he would say it is too "girly" (because his young sisters love the show!!). Instead he said to me, "Because Mice do not dance. None of them around our town does."

Oh, the simplicity of life through the eyes of a child. If only I could view all my own issues in life so simply.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


I found out this weekend that I am NO good at handling disappointment.

I have had my hopes dashed in the past, but today I realize it's not so much about having NO hope, it's about wondering when to hope again.

I am determined that I will see God in this disappointment. I am not sure how, or when, but I know HE is still in control.

Because HE cares for even the smallest sparrow, I will not doubt His love for me.
But I am praying for peace on the journey and someday, another song in my heart.

I plan to praise, tho' my heart wants to cry.

How do you handle disappointment?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

All things Official...

Today felt like, maybe, we are getting somewhere towards our Ethiopian adoption. Our immigration paperwork was recieved last week by immigration officials in Texa, and our official fingerprints were completed today. They go overnight to our state Capitol so the officials can officially find us to be clear of any criminal charges....and then, our dossier is nearly officially complete.

Once our official dossier paperwork is in order, and sent to Ethiopia for translation, we will become an official "waiting family."

Let it be known by all that I am officially tired of all the official stuff.

From what I read from other prospective adoptive parents, I am not alone. A human pregnancy takes 9 months. This paperwork pregnancy has now officially been 13 months. It feels like even more. I am grateful for the opportunity to have had 3 successful pregnancies in my life, but I sure to wish our adoption experience could have been less stressful and gotten our children home by now.

This week, I am working on switching four bedrooms around. The official nursery is lavender, but if we get a referral for a boy, that is a quick fix with paint. At least everything is set up. Mere and Bella got the bigger of the rooms at the back of the house, which makes for a nice morning when Bella sleeps in because she is farthest away from the morning noise makers. Nicole felt like her life was too chaotic, while Nelly was tired of Nic's nagging, so a good fix became putting Nicole in her own room, so Nelly and Tara could be in the other room together. Nelly said she LOVES sleeping in a room with Tara, mostly because Tara falls right to sleep and Nicole had a tendency to continue talking well past the lights out time. Good solution there.

Tommy has not changed rooms yet, but we have plans to add an egress window in the basement next to Tyler's room, so we can move Tommy down there. It is called the "boys quarters" already, and once Tom's room is completed, it will be a perfect place for him to have his own space. That also frees up one of the bedrooms on this lower level so we can spread out some of the younger kids as they age...

Ashleigh was here this week, going over our bedroom changing plans. After assessing our situation, she says, "Gosh mom, we have to add on." Finally, we have a house that is not in a state of remodeling, and the obvious option is to add a few more rooms...Ok, that's possible. Until then, we continue to make the most out of the 2800 square feet that is complete.

Since we started adopting 8 years ago, people never fail to ask us how many more children we plan to add to our family. We always answer the same way - we don't have a plan. When we got Nicole, we wanted to be parents and struggled with our decision to start over since our biological kids were heading out on their own. We wrestled with knowing that cruises, quiet walks in the park or easy vacations would not be a part of our future. We determined that our goals in life would change by bringing in a young daughter again, but over the prayers and thoughts of it, we were delighted to begin the adoption process. We have never looked back.

Now, we've added 7 additional kids to our family tree. We are looking at two more children from Ethiopia, or whom ever God decides to bring into our home. It has always worked that way for us anyway. We want to be faithful to His calling, we open our home, we make a welcoming bedroom and we wait to see what blessing God brings our way.

I still don't know when to say "we're officially done." It's not a clear cut answer.
But I do know, OFFICIALLY, I am ready for the next one, and God will have to shut the door if He doesn't want anyone else in our home.

Officially, this is the best part of the whole process...waiting for the next little blessing to come through our doorway. Thank you, dear Father, for the blessings you have already given us, all 10, and thank you for trusting us with another.

Officially, God, in the words of my teenage blessings, YOU ROCK!!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bella and the Babies

Bella is all about babies right now. Our friends, Joanna and Dwayne have Baby Leo. He's not yet 6 months old, but Bella says that he is her best friend. Until Baby Liam is over. Liam is 4 months old, and her second cousin, but when he's around he is also her best friend.

There was one day when we were babysitting Baby Leo for the day when Baby Liam came to visit us. Liam is Macy's little brother, and over all, Bella refers to Macy as her best friend. But when there is a baby in the house, (or lucky day, two babies!!) Bella has to take a break from Macy's friendship for a minute to hold and feed a baby. It's absolutely adorable to see her do her very best to cuddle a wiggling infant, but even with her toddler hands, she tries her hardest to be gentle and seems to enjoy rubbing the baby heads the very most.

There was a day when Bella was barely over a year old herself when we were shopping at the local Walmart store. A mother strolled past us with a baby in her infant seat in the front of a shopping cart, which happened to be right on the level that Bella was riding at in our cart. Before she even saw the bundle in the seat, the pink or blue blankets struck a cord in Bella and she let out the sweetest, most genuine "awwwww" that I have ever heard come from a little one. She was smitten immediately just thinking of what was under those covers. And she wanted a peak.

When we went out east to be with our son and his wife for the birth of our 3rd grandson last October, Bella had her 2 year old nephew (I know that sounds weird!) to play with. Her and Keegan are really best of buddies when they are together, and she really loves talking to him on the phone just about anytime she can even now. But once that baby nephew was born it was "watch out world!! there's a baby and I'm gonna hold him!!" Bella just loves babies. Alot.

Mike and I have never forced gender preference on any of our kids. If they wanted to play with dolls and they are boys, we figured it would teach them to be kind and loving fathers. If the girls wanted to push around the Tonka trucks, we knew it would just help them be well rounded individuals when they grew up. This month, one of Bella's favorite toys is the huge dinosaur that Tommy got for Christmas, so if he isn't being too selfish, she carries that around all the time.

But, girls play different than boys. When our oldest son was young, his older sisters would get him to play "Barbies" with them. They would set up hair salons or art studios with their fashion dolls, and while changing clothes and primping their hair, Scotty would be dive-bombing the dolls off the china cabinet. If the girls were playing trucks along side Scotty, it was typical to see Ashleigh trying to take it apart, while Jenni was using the biggest truck she could find in the toy box to ferry around a massive amount of stuffed animals. They just played differently.

So, I dont' worry that we are raising a girl that is too prissy, or that we are forcing a "mom" role on her at an early age. She likes it. She comes up with the style of play all by herself.

But I do think it's adorable when I see her strolling a huge dinosaur around the house in her pink and purple doll stroller, covered to his scarey monster sized eye balls in a delicate blankie, all the while cooing to him, "it's ok...shhhhh...it's ok. Ni-Night baby."

After all, I have always loved babies myself. And I can't complain since I am living the life I always hoped to live: surrounded by babies.

Maybe Bella will be a mechanic, or a drag racer when she grows up. I think she'd like playing football or soccer and I believe she has the personality that will prove she won't be easily mislead or taken advantage of. But maybe she will want to grow up to be a mom, and surround herself with babies. If she does, I think the practice she is getting now is just a perfect way to spend her toddler days.

Whatever the future holds for Bella, I sure enjoy watching her love her babies. And I think it's sweet that a three year old can see a tiny baby as her best friend.

The rest of the world could learn alot from her. I am taking notes every day.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Cousins, Firetrucks and broken stairs...life as usual here.

When my second oldest daughter was growing up, her cousin Kelly was her very best friend. They lived about a mile away from us, and the girls spent many nights, birthdays and play dates together. Time and distance have separated Kelly and Jenni now that they are adults, but there is now an added benefit for me. Kelly and her kids have become one of my favorite young adults to hang out with.

My niece Kelly has 2 boys, Kyle, 6 years old, and Gavin, 4. They attend the same school as my two younger kids, where they play together at recess or wave to each other in the school hallways.

Kelly's sister, Tona, is another blessing in this whole picture. She is the same age as my oldest son Scott, but being that they are different genders, after their early years there was not alot of opportunities for me to get to know Tona in her teen years as I knew Kelly. We are making up for all of that now. Tona has 2 more of my great nieces, Nila (4) and Macy,(2) and a new great nephew, Liam, who was born just 3 days after my latest grandson last October.

My Mere and Bella think that Tona's girls absolutely hung the moon. Bella and Macy are the closest in age, so Bella talks about her best friend Macy all the time. Mere enjoys Nila's sweet personality, and they can play with their stuffed toys together for hours. At school, Mere chases Kyle mercilessly, but when we are on a play date, Mere tends to pair off with Nila so they can play in their little girl worlds until we have to tearfully break them apart. Bella is not always so gentle, and is learning how to play nice and gently, although the cousins often go home with scratches, pinches and once, even (to my dismay) a bloody nose. Still, they come back, which I hope means they really love our times together and are developing sweet relationships with my kids that resemble the times I remember of Kelly and Jenni playing together years ago.

When I was talking on the phone to Jenni the other day, she commented on how weird it was that Kelly, Tona and I have become such good friends now, since she remembers the younger years of her childhood and the friendships she had. Of course, if we had not adopted more children later in our life, I would not have had this unique opportunity to spend such quality times with my dear nieces, and my younger children would never have had the cousin bonding time that I valued so very much in my own youth. It's hard to have my grandsons so far away, but I love having great nephews and nieces in the neighborhood so that we can build relationships that have always meant so much to me. It's not a replacement in anyway for the time I miss with my grandsons, but it's a precious part of my life that I hope I never take for granted for the blessing it is.

All of that is background to write about the cousins play date this week. Kelly, Tona and I have been meeting at our local mall to walk 5 miles several times a week. I am terrible at exercising, and I love to eat what I love to eat, so the best chance I have to being healthier is walking. It doesn't seem like work when we are strolling 3 kids around the mall, and talking about everything from movies we like, to foods we hate, to which dress we'd wear to the prom when we lose weight...(none of us are even prom age anymore, but it's fun to dream!!)

This past Thursday we had walked our 5 miles, and planned to get together at my house for a play date once the older kids were out of school that noontime. I put some frozen pizzas in the oven just before the kids showed up, and we all sat down to visit after lunch was consumed and the kids were off on their indoor adventures to "who knows where?". These play dates typically last for the entire afternoon, so once we know the bunny is in the cage and not facing undo suffering at too many little hands, we relax and enjoy adult company while the children enjoy their cousin time. I love these days. Relaxing, laughing, holding baby Liam and just loving having family around.

As the day was winding down, we all began to smell something unpleasant in the living room. It was faint, but growing stronger, so all of us adults began to search for the site of the odor. It quickly became more alarming when we realized it was the smell of an electrical fire, so I went into safety mode to check out where it was coming from. We pulled plugs on appliances, sniffed in all the corners and grew more concerned when the haze in the basement grew. I tried reaching Mike by phone, but was close to panic when I couldn't reach him. Tona and Kelly suggested calling the fire department, so I grabbed my cell phone, realizing right away I did not have the department number on my phone. I called 411, got the number, spoke to a real person and relaxed a bit knowing our dilemma was close to being solved by the professionals. I headed back upstairs to wait.

Within minutes a firefighter called, verified our address (which has recently changed throughout the township), then I waited by the front door. I think I expected a kind fireman to come to my house, check out the situation then leave us with an answer of how to fix the electrical failure that had caused the upset in our home this afternoon.

What I was not expecting was the 3 huge fire trucks that lined our street, lights blaring, horns sounding and Tommy running through the house shouting, "It's a fire, we are on fire, we're all going to die!" Mind you, there was no flames, nor fire to be seen, but the firetrucks were ready for anything. First words out of the kind fire mans mouth? "First, lets get everyone out of the house." Really? I told him there was no "real" fire. "Yeah, that's fine, but let's just get everyone out of the house. Now. "

That's when real panic set in. Gramma was holding baby Liam, drinking a cup of coffee. The kids were in various parts of the house, until Tommy's screaming alerted them to impending danger. Our dear friend who does laundry for us was being supportive and helpful, but mainly, we had 12 children and 5 adults in the house, firetrucks on the street, firemen in full gear briskly walking through our doorway, and we had to get them all out of the house. Now.

Nila started crying, as she was the first to realize we had a big problem on our hands. Everyone went into fast gear, grabbing coats and boots or gathering babies to get them out the door and over to the neighbors. Thankfully, we had a plan in place that if we ever needed to, the neighbors house would welcome us in case of a fire or other disaster, and it just took one call for me to know that plan was still in place!! Everyone headed to the neighbors house...just in time for the firemen to make it into the basement where everyone agreed was where the electrical burnt smell was coming from.

Unfortunately, 4 firemen with all their gear are more weight than normal on our basement stairway, and one of the men broke a step and made it to the bottom of the stairs on his backside. I felt horrible, but he reminded me that in a house fire, you expect things to be falling or in disrepair so he is trained to say, "That's OK, I am fine." I did notice a bit of a limp as he made his way to the other side of the basement, but he must also be trained to suffer in silence. I felt worse about it than he did, or at least he never let on about it.

After putting their thermal equipment on our fuse box, and checking all the wires in the area, and then staying long enough to watch the last of the fire haze to dissipate, they deemed their time with us was coming to a close, excitement over, case closed. They encouraged us to contact an electrician before we went to bed that night, just to be double sure that nothing else was brewing that we should be aware of. Good advice. The last piece of advice we got was when the fire Chief showed up, and reminded me, in the event of a fire, call 911.

I guess I didn't really realize how dangerous this could have been until it was over. When I am looking for a phone number, I always dial 411 on my cell. It never occurred to me to call 911. I know, that is what we train the kids, but for the life of me, I never even thought about calling 911. I guess I didn't realize we were in an emergency situation. Yeah, my bad.

So, the play date ended shortly after the firemen left our house. Mike pulled up to the chaos in front of his house, and said that had to be the scariest feeling that left a lump in his throat. We had my brother come check out the electric, and then our neighbors electrician uncle came to give us the all clear.

Mike cleaned out the gas dryer yesterday, and brought me a hunk of charred lint.
"Is this what you smelled on Thursday when you called the fire department?"
Yep, undeniably so.

Burnt lint. 4 firemen, 3 huge trucks, 4 volunteers, a bit of panic on a playdate. Best of all, no one got hurt. Nothing was ruined. All were safe and sound.

Nila was still crying when they left, and I hope the kids will come again this week for another play date. But I have to say, the day left an impression on me that will stick around for a long time.

And I will remember next time, call 911. It's a pretty cool system that has been set up by a lot of smart people that can really save lives. I hope I don't need it again, but I will remember. Call 911.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

If we are the Body

Casting Crowns wrote one of our favorite songs. The chorus sings:

If we are the Body
Why aren't His arms reaching
Why aren't His hands healing
Why aren't His words teaching

And if we are the Body
Why aren't His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way
Jesus is the way.

I believe in Jesus. Completely. I can look back at the past years of my life, and see many times that I was confused at how things were shaking out for me or my loved ones, but then through the eyes of experience, see exactly where God had taken us and alot of the times, even how and why He choose the path He had us on.

I still believe. But I am wishing today that I oculd see the end result of His plan, especially in the lives we so desparately want to include in our family.

I will try not to be redundant, but let me explain. For the majority of my married life, I wanted to adopt children. My parents fostered many infants during my teenage years, so it seemed like a feasable way to add children into my home. Around 16, I had gotten the word that because of my endometriosis, I would likely never conceive a child, so when Mike and I married, we talked about the possibility of adopting. God, in HIS plan, blessed us with three beautiful biological children from the first birth in 1982 to the last one in 1986. Blessed beyond measure. Unexpected, precious lives we never thought would be given into our care in this totally normal way.

Years of moves, finishing college, various jobs, a hysterectomy at 28 and daily stuff of life, our children grew and it was good. But inside my heart, as I finished college later in life, and then took a fantastic job that grew me, personally, by leaps and bounds, I still wondered (hoped) that an adoption could still be possible for us. I printed out pictures of children from waiting lists around the U.S. I prayed over the faces, longed to wrap them in my arms and give them all the things that life had already cheated them out of. Pictures, stories, lives...but none of them were to be with us. Sadly, I still hoped some day I could have another child, born in my heart, as part of our life story.

In December of 2000, we met Nicole. Through a series of wonderful events, she became our adopted daughter the following year and my heart cry had been met. I praised God. She was the angel on our family tree. The job I loved so much was moving South the following year, and we toyed with the idea of what my next step should be. I wanted to be home with Nicole, and Mike felt like a new adventure was just around the corner. We got licensed for foster care, and on my birthday, we got the call for 2 very special girls who needed us. A temporary assignment became the loves of our lives, and 3 years later they took our name. It was official. Our family now included 3 little girls, all adopted, all a part of our heart before we ever even knew they existed. Nicole, Nelly and Tara. Now our family boasted of 6 children.

But there was always a face in the fog for me. A child somewhere was waiting for me, someone who would complete our family portrait. She was 2 1/2 months old when we met. She was an extreme preemie, a tiny, bright eyed baby who was in intensive care for more than an hour away. We met, I love her immediately, and brought her home more than a month later. We would only be helping her heal from her surgeries, gain strength and send her to a loving family. I didn't dare to dream that we would be that family. However, in '04 it was final. Another beautiful girl. Mere' became one of us.

We didn't plan for more, but we were blessed to foster a few more children and grieved when they left our fold. It was apparent, to us, that our hearts felt complete when the children could stay forever, and eventually, 2 boys, Tom then Tyler, and a precious baby girl, Isabella, joined our family, finalizing their permanence as recent as 2007. We now sheltered 7 children at home, 3 biological kids had settled into adult lives with spouses, with the added blessing of 2 grandsons to complete our enlarged homes and lives.

In the summer of '08, we dared to dream again. Waiting children from state lists were not an option, since our family was now considered "big enough" by state standards. But our hearts were not at rest. We both enjoyed the status of "large family", realizing each addition brought change, but not completion in our minds. We approached waiting lists from other states, only to be discouraged that the same standard held true. With the encouragement of our pediatrician, we began the process of international adoption. We didn't really choose Ethiopia, but she chose us. Our family size was not a detriment to adopt from their country, and our age just meant we had to get our doctors approval of good health. We began the process.

Fast forward to now. We have trained, studied the country, and dreamed of the brown eyed babies waiting for us. We have put our hearts into paperwork, emails, homestudies, and phone calls. Now, almost 2 years later, we still wonder why it's taken this much time to get, what seems like, hardly any closer to our hearts desire.

Today, though,I feel God's work in our home. I know we are on the verge of a miracle. He has plans to bless us, plans to enlarge our fold, plans to increase our hearts to include another child. I breathe. I hope. I wonder just how it will all work out. But I trust His plan. I trust our lives into His plan.

In the meantime, I seek ways to be HIS hands, HIS feet, HIS arms. I feel how much God has entrusted me with, and I want, more than anything, to be faithful to His calling. We ARE the Body of Christ.