Thursday, December 20, 2012

Oh, I-171H, how you ail me

Evan and I have been waiting for a letter from the USCIS for our federal fingerprinting appointment that will result in the last piece of paperwork necessary for the Dossier- the I-171H. This piece of paperwork is often referred to as the "golden ticket" because it grants permission from the U.S. government for you to bring in a person from another country into the U.S.

I did receive a packet in the mail yesterday from the USCIS office, but it was a rejection notice. Thourghout the process, we have been sure to cross every "t" and dot every "i" and the one piece of paperwork that you wouldn't want to make an error on is this one because it takes so long to get the I-171H from the federal government. Well, we forgot to sign the application. I know there has to be a greater purpose in this because this kind of oversight is not like us at all.

When I called the USCIS office, I made sure that we have everything needed to resubmit and Evan zipped to FedEx and overnighted our corrected packet to the USCIS office in Texas. While I was on the phone with the lady from USCIS, she said the timeframe we are looking at to get the I-171H is 75 days! This is way longer than it has been. If this is truly the case, we won't be able to submit our Dossier until March or April. On the heels of the news that the wait time has increased, this is a tough pill to swallow.

I still hold to the fact that all of this is in God's plan, and His timing is perfect. However, the waiting is so hard. Please pray for things to move faster or for God is bless us with peace with a longer wait time.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Beauty from ashes

"To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory." Isaiah 61:3

I pray this over all who mourn the tragic loss of life in Newtown, CT. I first heard of the horrific events while at school, in the 5th grade classroom where I teach. As many of you, I could not fully absorb what was happening. It was only later that the reality began to sink in- beautiful children, like my students, taken. 

Perhaps it's too soon to hope for beauty, but perhaps not. Over the years, I've had the privilege to teach many wonderful children, and last year in particular I taught an exceptional girl. She is not exceptional because of her intelligence, beauty or maturity - although she possesses all of these traits, she is remarkable because of her generosity. Last year, she and a friend started making jewelry and sold it to benefit a local animal shelter. Over the summer, she and her cousin had a lemonade stand and used the profits to buy cookie dough. She made cookies and brought them to residents at a local nursing home. She sold the rest of the cookies to buy her mom a gift. She kept nothing for herself. 

I told Corynne about our adoption when she came to visit my classroom before school opened in August. Since then, she has sent several emails updating me on her life and events and asking about how the adoption is going. Recently, we met for a "coffee date" today with her mom to catch up, and she proceeded to ask questions about the adoption and how things work, and then she told me about how she has been fundraising on my behalf. Corynne and her mom (who was in tears) explained how Corynne made a jar with a picture of the Ethiopian map on it, and began collecting money since we first talked about adoption. She gave all of the money she earned (did not keep a penny for herself), sold some of her toys, and took a special offering at church to give to our adoption. She then went into her book bag and handed me a crumbled wad of $20s. It took everything in me to fight back the tears (although I totally lost in when I got to the car). I truly witnessed a piece of Christ in that moment. Her joy in giving me this gift was astounding.

Through our adoption process we have witnessed more beauty, faith and generosity than you can imagine, and Corynne is a beautiful part of this story that only God can write. There is undeniable evil in the world, but today I was reminded today of the beauty.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

25 Days of Christmas

I feel very fortunate to be married to a wonderful Godly man. He is kind, respectful, a servant, and has a strong desire to be Christ-like. To show my appreciation this Christmas season, I decided to do 25 Days of Christmas.

How does this work? I made up 25 cards and wrote a message in each. Each day is centered on either encouragement, a small gift, a service, or an activity we can do together. I hung up a red ribbon and got mini clothes pins at Michael's, and each day a new card is put up.

Thus far, the 25 days have been a hit! In addition the experience blessing Evan, it has also gotten my heart centered this holiday season.

Monday, December 3, 2012

An update- where are we now?

Well it's been a while. So, let me give you a bit of an update. We have finalized our Home Study, and we had it written that we are requesting one child 0-2 years either boy or girl. However, we had it also written in the Home Study that were are approved for 2 children 0-2 years. What is the difference? If there comes an opportunity and a need for a home for two children under two, we are approved to take them, but at this point it is not our formal request.

Since we received our final Home Study, we mailed off one copy to USCIS to get our federal fingerprints. These result in the last piece of paper work that needs to go in our Dossier. Although that sounds simple enough, getting the fingerprinting appointment and resulting clearance letter from the Federal government can take 2 months. SO, please pray that it goes faster!

We also found out to day that the murmurings of a longer wait time, is confirmed. Rather than the original projection of 18-24 months wait time (after Dossier submission), we are looking at 24-30 months. Even though I knew it was coming, why do I still feel so down? It's difficult staying encouraged during this time.

What I do know however, is that we have raised enough funds to cover Dossier submission and program fees. We will amp up the fundraising efforts again as it nears our travel time......2 and a half years from now. Thank you all for your continued prayer and support.

Friday, November 23, 2012

iPad winner announcement!

Thank you so much for all the support! We feel tremendously blessed by everyone's generosity and caring! You have played a huge part in bringing our child home.

We are excited to announce the winner of the brand new 3rd generation 16GB iPad is..........(drumroll please)..........The Williams family!!!!!! Congratulations!!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

iPad give-away, only a couple of days left!!!

We are coming done to the wire, and the drawing is near!!! Here is your last chance to enter the iPad give-away. All entries are due by Thanksgiving Day! We will be drawing the winner on Black Friday! Evan and I are going to try to shoot a video of us drawing the name, we'll post the winner on facebook and the blog.  Best of luck and thank you all for joining with us in our adoption story!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Silent Auction Gratitude!

Many thanks to all who helped with the Silent Auction! It was a lot of work, but it has paid off. You help us raise $1,200!!! Remember, you can still enter the iPad give away. I will be drawing the name on Black Friday.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Silent Auction

Evan & I are having our next adoption fundraiser on Saturday, November 10th from 11:00-3:00 at 130 Jackson St. Blacksburg! We are having a silent auction and we have a lot of fabulous items from local business and some beautiful handmade crafts. We'll also have some delicious treats to munch on as you bid on items!

You will also have the opportunity to be entered into the iPad give-away for a brand new 3rd generation 16 GB white iPad!

Please come and get some early Christmas shopping done!

Monday, October 22, 2012

iPad give away!

We have very generously been given a brand new (receipt in hand) 3rd generation 16 GB white iPad, and we are using this blessing to do a give away!

How it works:

You get entered once for every $20 donation. So, if you give $100, you are entered five times!!!

You can donate online through our Eternal Family Program with our agency, America World. Donate to our adoption costs hereChoose "Eternal Family Program" from the drop down menu and in the notes section, please make sure you write our names (otherwise the donations will not go to us and I won't know you entered). If you'd feel more comfortable mailing a check, please email me for our address.

You can also donate and be entered at our Silent Auction on November  10th 12:00-3:00 pm at 130 Jackson Street in Blacksburg.

Another way to be entered is you can "share" this announcement on Facebook or Twitter. Email if you have shared, and I will put your name in!

We will announce the winner on Black Friday- November, 23rd. I will mail or meet up with the winner to give the give away!!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012


We are just blown away. God is continuing to be so faithful. We have had several large donations recently towards our adoption, and it is ever reminding us of how huge God is and how this $38,000 is truly his bill.

A friend of ours is also adopting, and a fundraiser that worked very well for her was an ipad giveaway......a donated ipad. So, Evan threw the opportunity out there on facebook on Saturday morning. He mentioned that if you've been looking for a way to give, would you consider donating an ipad. Within 24 hours, the ipad is in hand.

I am humbled by people's generosity, by God's sovereign plan through all of this, and that He wants us to bring this child home even more than we do. I feel so blessed to be interacting with God through this experience. It reminds me that when we step out in faith and allow God to have the driver seat, the story is so much better than anything we can write.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Attatchment 101

I follow many fantastic blogs, and one is called The Wayman Family Nest. This family also adopted from Ethiopia, and this post discussing attachment and the ever important "cocooning."

Attachment 101

A couple of days ago I mentioned I'd be doing about how Hayes has been doing as far as attachment goes, so here we go...

Hayes was 6 1/2 months old when we brought him home. He had lived in 2 different orphanages during his young life. He was passed around among many caregivers. He had no real attachment to anyone. When we brought him back to the guest house where we were staying, the other families kept exclaiming what a "good" baby he was. I knew that this was not normal (and not that he wasn't a "good" baby, but it's not normal for a baby to NEVER cry. On the flip side, he didn't smile or make cooing noises much either.). He was just as content to be held by random strangers in Ethiopia (and they WILL just take your baby from you! haha!) as he was to be held by us. Hayes did not trust that any one specific person would be there to meet his needs. So from the time we arrived home, we began "cocooning."

For 2 weeks Hayes and I didn't leave the house. Most families actually cocoon much longer, but I was going stir crazy! The hubby and I were the only ones to hold, feed, rock, bathe, change, and comfort him. When he did cry, we immediately met his needs (usually with a bottle and cuddle time). After 2 weeks we ventured out a bit, usually just to Target so mommy could get out of the house. A couple of times (even after being home for a month) we went to a restaurant and it was just too much for him. After these instances we would stay at home for a few days. We didn't usually get out but once every 3-4 days. After 2 weeks we also let immediate family hold him. Honestly, I was planning on waiting longer, but I didn't feel that people really understood (and I felt like they were upset with us), so I bulked under the pressure. After we had been home for about a month, we went to church. Even there we didn't allow anyone to hold him (which is what we did when we went anywhere was there were more than just a few people present).

For us it was a beautiful time of bonding. It is such a crucial time to Hayes's healing process. We have seen a huge difference in our son. He now cries and lets us know when he has a need. He smiles and laughs and is an all-around happy, confident little guy. He loves to be cuddled and he loves touch-holding hands, putting his hands on our faces, etc. He will let other people hold him, but still looks for mommy and sometimes wants to come back to me. When he fusses when someone else is holding him, we still are the ones to comfort him. He knows that we are mommy and daddy. The difference in him is truly amazing.

And still after 4 months at home, we've been the only ones to feed, bathe, change, and rock him to sleep. We also have only left him in the nursery on 2 occasions and once with a family member (for 1 hour). This is about to DRASTICALLY change as I go back to work a week from today. To say that I'm nervous is an understatement, but more on that later as this post is getting lengthy! We'll continue to watch Hayes, as attachment is an ongoing process. I've already told the hubby that if we see him regress in the area of attachment, then I'm quitting! And I mean it! I'm not going to work the detriment of our bond with Hayes. We would love to have your prayers during this time of transition for our family.

Here are some things I wished we had done a little differently that maybe can help some of you in the process:
- Prepare friends and family for what cocooning will look like ahead of time.
- Cocoon as long as you feel is necessary.
- Stick to the rules that you established as far as the time frame for others to hold him.
- Wear younger children in a wrap/ergo. I didn't do this (I usually just held him on the couch or rocked him), but I think he would have benefitted from this.

For more info on cocooning and attachment, read here, here or here.

Sorry for the LONG post, but hopefully some of you who have just arrived home with your children or who will soon be home with your children will benefit from this in some way.

Here are some pictures of what attachment looked like early on in our house...

Snuggles with mommy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

DId you see? Have you heard?

Did you notice the fundraising thermometer? We broke $10,000! God has been so faithful in continuung to provide, and we are believing Him for the full amount. Before we can submit our Dossier, we need to raise another $3,000-4,000. Will you join us in praying for this?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hannah James jewelry

Hi friends!  This month a wonderful blogger and jewelry maker whom I never met is donating 45% of all her jewlery sales this month to our adoption. Her stuff is extremely cute and is great for some early Christmas shopping. Check her out!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Prayer request...

Hey loyal reader friends! Can you do me a favor and lift up a prayer request for me?

Evan and I submitted our home study paperwork several weeks ago, and we just heard from our social worker today. She told us that she can only do weekends because of her full time job and she is getting surgery next Thursday. Will you pray that she receives our paper work this week and can meet with us this weekend?

The home study being complete is the biggest piece of being able to submit our Dossier. Thank you friends for walking along side of us through this process!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Girl OR a boy!

Evan and I have made the decision to request either a girl or a boy age 0-24 months. We feel like God is leading us to be open. In addition, how sweet will that moment be when we receive our referral and it's a surprise as to what it will be! Join us in praying for our child:

God we ask for your blessing. We pray that you grown in our child. 
Please keep him or her safe and filled with love. 
Give us grace daily to be loving and spirit filled parents 
who will raise our child up knowing you. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sweet sacrifice

I love what I do. I teach enthusiastic 10 year-olds each day. I love that my day never looks the same as the last. Mostly, I adore that I can make an impact on a young person's life. Every once in a while, one of my former students stops by to pay me a visit. I'm always floored by how grown up they look!

At the beginning of the school day today, I had a sweet surprise. A younger sibling of a former student stopped by and handed me an envelope. Sydney heard that Evan and I are adopting from Ethiopia, and she and her sister decided to help. Riley, Sydney's younger sister, hands me an envelope and said, "We've been earning money for your adoption." They had a lemonade stand and saved all the funds for us. I hugged this sweet girl up and told her how much that meant to me. Later on, I opened the envelope and found this:

$28 in one dollar bills.  The generosity of the two young girls reminds me of the story of the widow's offering. 

Luke 21

New International Version (NIV)

The Widow’s Offering

21 As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

Thank you Sydney and Riley for your faith!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Poker Night!

Our first fundraiser, the Texas Hold'em Tournament, went wonderfully! We were blessed by the genersoity of those who showed up and those who bought in even through they weren't able to make it! Thank you to Jimmy John's and Kroger for donating food, and a big thanks to Bull & Bones for donating the 1st and 3rd prizes. Evan did an amazing job coming up with this fantastic fundraiser and with organizing it. Congrats to Dwayne for winning the Gloss Boss Streetailing raffle for a free car detail!

Our 3rd place winner is Joe with a $40 gift card to Bull & Bones
Our 2nd place winner is Matt with a free car detail from the Gloss Boss
Our 1st place winner is Tom with a $100 gift card to Bull & Bones

We raised $590!!! Congrats and thank you for all your support!!!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Having a tough time....

It's inevitable that there will be times of discouragement, and I am in one. There have been several sad events in the lives of those around us that have intensified my discouraged state.

We are currently in the paper chase. All of our paper work is in and we are simply waiting for the approval and a phone call from our social worker. I have trouble with this waiting, and I think my discouragement comes from knowing that the waiting I'm experiencing now is only the tip of the iceberg.

The reality of my wait time is sinking in - 18-24 months......once I submit the Dossier. However, it's looking like wait times are increasing and so 24 months to referral can be more like 30 months. Keep in mind that is not even to bring our child home; that is just to the referral. Add about 4 months from referral to bringing the child home.

I hate to be a real downer, but this space is here to share the ups and the downs. Please pray that God comforts and encourages us during this time.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Chocolate hair, Vanilla Care

I love this blog. She has amazing tips about how to care for your child's hair. Check out this post:

5 Natural Hair Tips for New Parents

If you are a new parent, via adoption or birth, and you're not sure what to do when it comes to hair, this post is for you. Not all children find their forever families at birth, so we not only address concerns that people might have with babies, but also the older children that come to us later in their young live...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wisdom from our orientation

First of all, the AWAA office is beautiful. It's warm, inviting, and we immediately felt more at ease upon entering. I teared up when passing the cubicals (prettiest cubicals I've ever seen) because there were groupings of pictures of adopted children pinned to the wall. I look forward to sending such a picture to our family coordinator in the future.

Our orientation was splits into 3 sessions- home study tips, trans-racial parenting and attachment, and discipline and behavior.

Home Study tips
We learned that our orientation counts as our first of 3 (possibly 4) home study visits, and that our social worker should contact us shortly to set up our appointments since we have handed in all of our paperwork (pray it's soon!). One visit will be both Evan & I together and the 2nd one will be each of us separately. After the visits are done, our social worker will write up the Home Study. This is the big piece that goes in the Dossier and enables us to get necessary paperwork from US immigration.

We also learned about re-adoption. Re-adoption is not mandatory for Ethiopia, but it good to do because: you can legally change your child's name, get a U.S. birth certificate and U.S. passport. In Ethiopia the child is named with their Ethiopian first name, adoptive father's first name and our last name....kind of funny for a girl.

Trans-racial parenting and attachment
This session was very helpful because it walked us through different scenarios and possible comments so that we can think through how we would respond graciously rather than out of defensiveness. This is going to be a toughy for me. For example: After adopting your child, someone asks "When will you have one of your own?" I realize that a person probably means "biological, " but saying "your own" implies that your adopted child is not your child. Can you imagine the little ears hearing that? Another scenario is when a family goes to the costume store for Halloween and their adopted child from China chooses a cowboy outfit and their Caucasian brother chooses a ninja costume. The person ringing them up says to the Chinese son, "Shouldn't you be the ninja?" Wow, I would really have to fight back a smart comment here. The recommendation was "It's Halloween, he can be whatever he wants."

As far as attachment goes, there were some great tips as to how to encourage healthy attachment including limiting visitors upon return. If you think about it, the child is used to a lot of people caring for them and so they need to learn who are the parents.

Scary term- RAD- reactive attachment disorder. While adopted children struggle with attachment to varying degrees, RAD is a very severe diagnosis. They are now starting to look at RAD on a spectrum (like autism) instead of a cut and dry diagnosis.

Discipline and behavior

What I learned and need my friends and family to know:  parenting an adopted child is completely different. Tried and true parenting techniques (time outs, etc) often don't work with adopted kids because of living in an institution. Also, we signed an agreement not to use spanking, and will not be using that as method of discipline.

Also, for these children food is a big thing. We build trust and attachment by making sure they are fed on time and enough. A lot of adopted children have great anxiety about food because of their past experiences. The idea of waiting 10 minutes for food, is not the same for an adopted child because there is a lot of fear and trust tied up in it. A simple granola bar in hand can build trust that we will not let them go hungry.

All in all it was a great and informative meeting!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ten things not to say....

I really enjoy reading the blog Rage Against the Minvan, and recently the author has featured some guest bloggers. Her friend Karen is an author and an adoptive mother, and I found the post very amusing. I can only imagine the questions/comments that I will receive once we bring our child home since I have already gotten some really interesting ones. Here is what Karen has to say:

Top Ten Annoying Things People Say To Adoptive Parents That, Even Though They Mean Well, Drive Adoptive Parents Up A Tree

My friend Karen Walrond is an adoptive mom, and also a  writer, photographer and author of the gorgeous and soul-nurturing book The Beauty of Different.  A couple weeks ago she sent me this post she wrote when  her daughter was young, to commiserate on the questions we often get as adoptive families. I asked if I could repost it here, and she agreed.  I think she is pretty spot-on in hitting the observations that come a little too frequently for adoptive families. I read this nodding my head in agreement . . . and giggling at Karen’s moxie.  Karen did tell me that 8-1/2 years later, she’s not nearly as angry. “For the most part, boneheaded comments have stopped,” Karen says. Can I dare to dream? 
Okay, people, listen up: I know adoption is not an issue you run into every day. I know this. But this should not be an excuse to keep you from educating yourselves on how to behave when you come face-to-face with a real live adoptive family. ‘Cause some of you, and you know who you are, just ain’t right.
karenwalrondfambymaile[photo by Maile Wilson]
Now, don’t get me wrong: we adoptive parents have no problem with being asked about adoption – frankly, sometimes it’s our favorite topic of conversation. It’s how you ask these questions and make these comments that make us twitch. So, ever the giver, for today’s public service announcement I thought I’d present to you the Top Ten Annoying Things People Say to Adoptive Parents That, Even Though They Mean Well, Drive Adoptive Parents Up a Tree. When appropriate, I’ll even present the right way to say these things – if even (with all due respect) it’s not your place to say these things at all. Please pay close attention. Feel free to take notes if you have to. But, on behalf of adoptive families everywhere, the boneheadedness must stop.
To wit:
10. “You look like you could be her real mother.” Newsflash, people: I am her real mother. Not only that, in about 6 weeks I’m going to have in my hot little hands actual real-live, no-foolin’ court papers that say so. Nonetheless, the phrase I believe you’re looking for is “biological mother” or “birthmother.” And to respond to your comment – yes, I agree – I think she looks like Marcus and me as well.
9. “Did you get to meet her father?” Yup. In fact, I married him.
Please see Number 10, above, and re-word your question appropriately.
8. “That’s such a kind, charitable thing you did, adopting Alex.” Well, that’s sweet that you think Marcus and I are such angels (and funny you should mention it, we’re having our wings dry-cleaned as I type), but make no mistake: the primary reason we adopted Alex is because we wanted a child. It was not an act of charity.
So, now that we’ve admitted this, you think we’re selfish little pigs, don’t you?
7. “Oh, you had your baby the easy way.” Well, if by “easy way” you mean filling out enough paperwork to make “War and Peace” look like a comic book, undergoing background checks, home checks and some very personal interview questions in the hope that the social worker will actually fall for the ruse that Marcus and I are sane enough to raise a family, nervously meeting the birthmother, and then waiting while she gives birth, hoping against hope that she’s taking care of herself well enough so as not to hurt the unborn child, fixing up a nursery and picking out names, but then finally enduring 48 hours from the bowels of hell in complete and abject panic as we fervently expect that since the birthmother has now seen the beautiful little girl who came out of her body, there is no way on God's creation she’s going to place her child with Paranoid Me and My Crazy Husband, rendering Paranoid Me and My Crazy Husband helpless and powerless and back to square one again, then yes, I suppose we did get our daughter the “easy way.”
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve never given birth to a child, so I would never presume to believe that adoption is harder than childbirth. But don’t believe that adoption is “easy” – it was, in fact, the most excruciatingly emotional process that Marcus and I have ever been through in our collective lives, albeit with an unbelievably happy ending. And, relatively speaking, we were pretty lucky – I don’t even want to think of what adoptive families who deal with the nightmare of infertility on top of all of this must endure.
And speaking of birthmothers:
6. “You know the birthmother?! Wow. Aren’t you afraid she’s going to stalk you?” Wow indeed – you’ve obviously been watching waaaay too many after-school specials. No, we’re not afraid. Yes, we have a relationship with Alex’s birthmother – we speak on the phone, and I send her family photos of Marcus, Alex and I. And, surprise, surprise, the more we get to know her, the more comfortable she feels about her decision to place Alex with us. And this comfort, you’ll be relieved to know, has been scientifically proven to be one of the main suppressors of the Stalking Reflex. See how that works?
5. “Aren’t you afraid that your daughter may have inherited some of her birthparents’ less desirable traits?” No. Aren’t you afraid yours has?
Sorry, got a little bitter, there. But you get my point.
4. “So what’s wrong with her birthmother? Why did she get pregnant if she wasn’t going to keep her?” This question REALLY fries my egg. I have no idea why Alex’s birthmother makes the life decisions she does, but you know what? It’s SO not my place to judge her, nor is it really any of my business. All I do know is that Alex’s birthmother is a good person, and is trying to make her way through life the best way she knows how – pretty much like the rest of us on this planet are.
And that’s really all I have to say about that.
3. “Are you going to let Alex meet her birthmother?” Alex is adopted, she’s not in prison. We wouldn’t think of keeping Alex from learning anything about her life, including meeting her birthmother, if that’s what she wants.
2. “Are you going to tell Alex she’s adopted?” Nah, we thought we’d keep it a secret.
Of COURSE, we’re going to tell her. We’re going to tell her that we chose to adopt because we knew that her little soul was out there waiting for us to be her parents. And that we were there in the delivery room, desperately waiting to welcome her to the world and our family on the day she was born. And because she has the undying love that she has from Marcus, me and her birthmother, she’s a pretty extra-special kid.
Besides, if we weren’t going to tell her, why would we tell you?
And the Number One Annoying Thing People Say to Adoptive Parents:
1. “She’s so lucky.” Please. Not a day goes by when I don’t thank the Lord above for my amazing husband and our incredible daughter. Marcus and I are so-very-much-more the lucky ones.
And I bet if you ask her that when she’s about 13, she’ll agree.
You can check out more from Karen at her blog Chookooloonks.

Poker Night

Full House! Pocket Aces! Straight! Trip Jacks! Ante Up! Go all in!

On September 29th starting at 3:00pm, we will have our first adoption fundraiser. We are holding a Texas Hold'em Poker Tournament. There is a $20 donated buy-in, and we have several fabulous donated prizes from Bull & Bones Restaurant in Blacksburg. Jimmy John's has also graciously donated some of their delicious subs for the event. Evan will also be raffling off a car detail from Gloss Boss Streetailing for additional donations.

This event is not to be missed! Guys and girls are welcome! The only requirement is that you know the rules of Texas Hold'em and show good sportsmanship:)

Again the details are:

What: Texas Hold'em Tournament ($20 buy-in)
When: Saturday, September 29th starting at 3:00pm
Where: 130 Jackson Street Blacksburg

All donations go directly to the Oster Family Adoption Fund

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Adoption terms (PC)

I've learned that certain words, comments and phrases that seem similar can have very different implications and so I wanted to post about PC (politically correct) adoption terms.

Adopted- it's important to emphasize the past tense. It is an important event, but in the past. The child is now a part of a forever family.

biological child- this is the better choice than "natural child" because it implies that the adoptive child is "unnatural" in some way. Also saying one child is your own (meaning biological) has the same negative effects.

Any I'm missing??

Monday, September 17, 2012

Home Study milestone!

This past weekend Evan and I went to our home study orientation in Mclean, VA. Since we live in Virgina, AWAA is our home study agency and our first "visit" was our orientation. At the meeting we handed in all of our home study documents. It was such a relief! We have been crazy busy collecting paper work over the past month. Evan and I both had an audible sigh of relief.

We met some other families that are pursing adopting older Ethiopian children a hosting program that AWAA started. There were some testimonials that were real tear jerkers! We also were blessed to have our friends Tom & Whitney there. They are also pursuing adoption of an older child. Check out their blog here We had a great time connecting with them and enjoying some stress relieving laughs over lunch. What a blessing they are!

This week Evan & I decided to take a break from paper work (yes, there is still more for the Dossier), and for the first week in a long time, there is no to-do list on the fridge! I'll share more this week about some specific things we learned at our orientation.

Prayer requests:
-That this week we can enjoy some down time.
-For good attendance for our first fundraiser- our Poker Tournament on September 29th.
-That all of our Home Study paperwork is approved and we get matched with a social worker soon

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Where are we now?

What's been happening recently in our adoption story? Lots of paperwork. We are busy, busy collecting, filling out, and getting many things notarized. This weekend we are headed to our agency's Home Study Orientation which begins our Home Study process.

While there are things in our control such as: completing certain forms, making appointments and getting our paperwork notarized, there are many things that are not in our control. Once we start the Home Study process, we will be waiting for our social worker to contact us and begin the visits and the write-up. Please pray that this process goes smoothly and quickly! Our Dossier submission date hinges on the speed in which the Home Study is completed, and the speed of the U.S. Immigration paperwork getting processed and returned to us.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Waiting wisdom

This post was written by Jenn about the purpose and lessons in waiting. Be sure to check out her blog over at Pure and Lasting. (How cute is this family?!!)
So here we are in our last stage of waiting for Maya’s adoption to be complete. It has been a long road. We applied to our agency, America World Adoption, on May 14, 2010. Our dossier was sent to Ethiopia on November 19, 2010. Our estimated wait for a referral was 7-9 months. We waited 19 months to see her beautiful face. The wait was longer than we ever expected, but worth every moment.
This week, I got the sweetest message from a blog reader. She sent in her paperwork a few months ago and was asking for advice on the waiting stage. I thought I would share our experience here on the other side. When we decided to adopt, I read lots and lots of blogs. I ran across many blogs filled with posts bemoaning the wait, desperate to be on the other side of the wait. Chris and I had several conversations about waiting, waiting longer than we expected. We made a conscious decision to settle into the wait, snuggle up and accept it. Every time it got hard, we would remind each other (ok, HE would remind ME!) that this was a choice that we made, knowing that there would be a wait, knowing that there were so many unknowns and there was nothing we could do about it. Our daughter was in Ethiopia. It sounds so simple, but the way we waited was to just accept that we would wait. Deep down acceptance. Accepting what you cannot change. It is something Chris does so well and I have learned through this process. Don’t let waiting steal your joy. It is one of the many lessons that adopting has taught me.
We also believed that God had a plan for us and for our family. A plan that we did not know. So we had to trust. Either we believe God has a plan or we believe He doesn’t. There isn’t much middle ground. For us, we got the amazing, in-the-flesh, obvious proof that God had a specific plan for us through our trip to Ethiopia/Rwanda and Alain coming to live with us. If we had filled out our paperwork any sooner or if the waiting time had been any shorter, he would not be here with us. It makes me shudder just to think about it. Why we are waiting isn’t always so obvious, but I try to remember in those moments that I cannot see everything. What I think is not always what is best. What God has planned is better.
Waiting has a purpose in the process. Adopting a child is not always easy. Attachment is not instant. Bonding takes time. As parents, we have a lot to learn, to prepare for before our child is home. Waiting is vital to the process. Use this time of waiting to prepare your home, your family, your friends and your heart. Adding a child to your family will begin a new stage in your life, an amazing one, but a new one. Let me encourage you (and me!) not to forget to celebrate the stage that you are in now. The waiting isn’t to be overlooked or fast-forwarded. It can be celebrated. Spend more time with your spouse. Do new things with your children at home now. Visit your parents. Go on a mission trip. Talk to your friends and family about adoption and sponsorship. Keep busy with other things. Read. Learn. Live the life you have now, don’t waste today waiting. Be open to God changing you. I am certainly not the same person who filled out that application two years ago. My heart is transformed. My priorities have been rearranged. My desires are new. Embrace the wait.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are quite small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.
And because they are the two most beautiful children on the planet and worth EVERY MOMENT OF WAITING!! My sweet boy and his new sister. Melt my heart. This cannot truly be my life :) So blessed!! -Jenn

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Another great repost

Blogger Jen Hatmaker had another great post about "How to be a village"

... just a few days ago, I received this email: 

Our good friends just returned from Ethiopia last night with their two little boys. Ok, they've had their "airport" moment and we were right there with them. What are some things we can do now to support them in the "real life" journey without overstepping our boundaries? Thank you so much for your transparency and honesty. Everyone can benefit when you share from your heart.

I was so moved by this email. Having benefitted from a community that practically smothered us with support throughout our adoption journey, I am so grateful for all the other good friends out there, loving their people and asking how to help. Since reading this email, I’ve been marinating on her question, and I’ve decided to write this Field Guide to Supporting Adoptive Families. (And it will be brief because I will try to remember that this is a blog and not a manuscript and the rules of blogging include succinctness, so that is exactly how I’ll proceed today, except for the exact opposite of all that.) 

Let’s break this down into two categories:

Supporting Families Before the Airport

Your friends are adopting. They’re in the middle of dossiers and home studies, and most of them are somewhere in the middle of Waiting Purgatory. Please let me explain something about WP: It sucks in every way. Oh sure, we try to make it sound better than it feels by using phrases like “We’re trusting in God’s plan” and “God is refining me” and “Sovereignty trumps my feelings” and crazy bidness like that. But we are crying and aching and getting angry and going bonkers when you’re not watching. It’s hard. It hurts. It feels like an eternity even though you can see that it is not. It is harder for us to see that, because many of us have pictures on our refrigerators of these beautiful darlings stuck in an orphanage somewhere while we’re bogged down in bureaucracy and delays. 

How can you help? By not saying or doing these things:

1. “God’s timing is perfect!” (Could also insert: “This is all God’s plan!” “God is in charge!”) As exactly true as this may be, when you say it to a waiting parent, we want to scratch your eyebrows off and make you eat them with a spoon. Any trite answer that minimizes the struggle is as welcomed as a sack of dirty diapers. You are voicing something we probably already believe while not acknowledging that we are hurting and that somewhere a child is going to bed without a mother again. Please never say this again. Thank you.

2. “Are you going to have your own kids?” (Also in this category: “You’ll probably get pregnant the minute your adoption clears!” “Since this is so hard, why don’t you just try to have your own kids?” “Well, at least you have your own kids.”) The subtle message here is: You can always have legitimate biological kids if this thing tanks. It places adoption in the Back-up Plan Category, where it does not belong for us. When we flew to Ethiopia with our first travel group from our agency, out of 8 couples, we were the only parents with biological kids. The other 7 couples chose adoption first. Several of them were on birth control. Adoption counts as real parenting, and if you believe stuff Jesus said, it might even be closer to the heart of God than regular old procreation. (Not to mention the couples that grieved through infertility already. So when you say, “Are you going to have your own kids?” to a woman who tried for eight years, then don’t be surprised if she pulls your beating heart out like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.)

3. For those of you in Christian community, it is extremely frustrating to hear: “Don’t give up on God!” or “Don’t lose faith!” It implies that we are one nanosecond away from tossing our entire belief system in the compost pile because we are acting sad or discouraged. It’s condescending and misses the crux of our emotions. I can assure you, at no point in our story did we think about kicking Jesus to the curb, but we still get to cry tears and feel our feelings, folks. Jesus did. And I’m pretty sure he went to heaven when he died. 

4. We’re happy to field your questions about becoming a transracial family or adopting a child of another race, but please don’t use this moment to trot out your bigotry. (Cluelessness is a different thing, and we try to shrug that off. Like when someone asked about our Ethiopian kids, “Will they be black?” Aw, sweet little dum-dum.) The most hurtful thing we heard during our wait was from a black pastor who said, “Whatever you do, don’t change their last name to Hatmaker, because they are NOT Hatmakers. They’ll never be Hatmakers. They are African.” What the??? I wonder if he’d launch the same grenade if we adopted white kids from Russia? If you’d like to know what we’re learning about raising children of another race or ask respectful, legitimate questions, by all means, do so. We care about this and take it seriously, and we realize we will traverse racial landmines with our family. You don’t need to point out that we are adopting black kids and we are, in fact, white. We’ve actually already thought of that.

5. Saying nothing is the opposite bad. I realize with blogs like this one, you can get skittish on how to talk to a crazed adopting Mama without getting under her paper-thin skin or inadvertently offending her. I get it. (We try hard not to act so hypersensitive. Just imagine that we are paper-pregnant with similar hormones surging through our bodies making us cry at Subaru commercials just like the 7-month preggo sitting next to us. And look at all this weight we’ve gained. See?) But acting like we’re not adopting or struggling or waiting or hoping or grieving is not helpful either. If I was pregnant with a baby in my belly, and no one ever asked how I was feeling or how much longer or is his nursery ready or can we plan a shower, I would have to audition new friend candidates immediately. 

Here’s what we would love to hear Before the Airport:

1. Just kind, normal words of encouragement. Not the kind that assume we are one breath away from atheism. Not the kind that attempt to minimize the difficulties and tidy it all up with catchphrases. We don’t actually need for you to fix our wait. We just want you to be our friend and acknowledge that the process is hard and you care about us while we’re hurting. That is GOLD. I was once having lunch with my friend Lynde when AWAA called with more bad news about Ben’s case, and I laid my head down on the table in the middle of Galaxy CafĂ© and bawled. Having no idea what to do with such a hot mess, she just cried with me. Thank you for being perfect that day, Lynde. 

2. Your questions are welcomed! We don’t mind telling you about the court system in Ethiopia or the in-country requirements in Nicaragua or the rules of the foster system. We’re glad to talk about adoption, and we’re thankful you care. I assure you we didn’t enter adoption lightly, so sharing details of this HUGE PIECE OF OUR LIVES is cathartic. Plus, we want you to know more because we’re all secretly hoping you’ll adopt later. (This is not true.) (Yes it is.)

3. When you say you’re praying for us and our waiting children, and you actually really are, not only does that soothe our troubled souls, but according to Scripture, it activates the heavens. So pray on, dear friends. Pray on. That is always the right thing to say. And please actually do it. We need people to stand in the gap for us when we are too tired and discouraged to keep praying the same words another day. 

4. If you can, please become telepathic to determine which days we want to talk about adoption and which days we’d rather you just show up on our doorstep with fresh figs from the Farmer’s Market (thanks, Katie) or kidnap us away in the middle of the day to go see Bridesmaids. Sometimes we need you to make us laugh and remember what it feels like to be carefree for a few hours. If you’re not sure which day we’re having, just pre-buy movie tickets and show up with the figs, and when we answer the door, hold them all up and ask, “Would you like to talk for an hour uninterrupted about waiting for a court date?” We’ll respond to whichever one fits. 

Supporting Families After the Airport

You went to the airport. The baby came down the escalator to cheers and balloons. The long adoption journey is over and your friends are home with their new baby / toddler / twins / siblings / teenager. Everyone is happy. Maybe Fox News even came out and filmed the big moment and “your friend” babbled like an idiot and didn’t say one constructive word about adoption and also she looked really sweaty during her interview. (Really? That happened to me too. Weird.) 

How can you help? By not saying or doing these things: 

1. I mean this nicely, but don’t come over for awhile. Most of us are going to hole up in our homes with our little tribe and attempt to create a stable routine without a lot of moving parts. This is not because we hate you; it’s because we are trying to establish the concept of “home” with our newbies, and lots of strangers coming and going makes them super nervous and unsure, especially strangers who are talking crazy language to them and trying to touch their hair. 

2. Please do not touch, hug, kiss, or use physical affection with our kids for a few months. We absolutely know your intentions are good, but attachment is super tricky with abandoned kids, and they have had many caregivers, so when multiple adults (including extended family) continue to touch and hold them in their new environment, they become confused about who to bond with. This actually delays healthy attachment egregiously. It also teaches them that any adult or stranger can touch them without their permission, and believe me, many adoptive families are working HARD to undo the damage already done by this position. Thank you so much for respecting these physical boundaries. 

3. For the next few months, do not assume the transition is easy. For 95% of us, it so is not. And this isn’t because our family is dysfunctional or our kids are lemons, but because this phase is so very hard on everyone. I can’t tell you how difficult it was to constantly hear: “You must be so happy!” and “Is life just so awesome now that they’re here??” and “Your family seems just perfect now!” I wanted that to be true so deeply, but I had no idea how to tell you that our home was actually a Trauma Center. (I did this in a passive aggressive way by writing this blog, which was more like “An Open Letter to Everyone Who Knows Us and Keeps Asking Us How Happy We Are.”) Starting with the right posture with your friends – this is hard right now – will totally help you become a safe friend to confide in / break down in front of / draw strength from. 

4. Do not act shocked if we tell you how hard the early stages are. Do not assume adoption was a mistake. Do not worry we have ruined our lives. Do not talk behind our backs about how terribly we’re doing and how you’re worried that we are suicidal. Do not ask thinly veiled questions implying that we are obviously doing something very, very wrong. Do not say things like, “I was so afraid it was going to be like this” or “Our other friends didn’t seem to have these issues at all.” Just let us struggle. Be our friends in the mess of it. We’ll get better. 

5. If we’ve adopted older kids, please do not ask them if they “love America so much” or are “so happy to live in Texas.” It’s this simple: adoption is born from horrible loss. In an ideal world, there would be no adoption, because our children would be with their birth families, the way God intended. I’ll not win any points here, but I bristle when people say, “Our adopted child was chosen for us by God before the beginning of time.” No he wasn’t. He was destined for his birth family. God did not create these kids to belong to us. He didn’t decide that they should be born into poverty or disease or abandonment or abuse and despair aaaaaaaall so they could finally make it into our homes, where God intended them to be. No. We are a very distant Plan B. Children are meant for their birth families, same as my biological kids were meant for mine. Adoption is one possible answer to a very real tragedy… after it has already happened, not before as the impetus for abandonment. There is genuine grief and sorrow when your biological family is disrupted by death and poverty, and our kids have endured all this and more. So when you ask my 8-year-old if he is thrilled to be in Texas, please understand that he is not. He misses his country, his language, his food, his family. Our kids came to us in the throes of grief, as well they should. Please don’t make them smile and lie to you about how happy they are to be here. 

6. Please do not disappear. If I thought the waiting stage was hard, it does not even hold the barest candle to what comes after the airport. Not. The. Barest. Candle. Never have I felt so isolated and petrified. Never have I been so overwhelmed and exhausted. We need you after the airport way more than we ever needed you before. I know you’re scared of us, what with our dirty hair and wild eyes and mystery children we’re keeping behind closed doors so they don’t freak out more than they already have, but please find ways to stick around. Call. Email. Check in. Post on our Facebook walls. Send us funny cards. Keep this behavior up for longer than six days. 

Here’s what we would love to hear or experience After the Airport:

1. Cook for your friends. Put together a meal calendar and recruit every person who even remotely cares about them. We didn’t cook dinners for one solid month, and folks, that may have single handedly saved my sanity. There simply are not words to describe how exhausting and overwhelming those first few weeks are, not to mention the lovely jetlag everyone came home with. And if your friends adopted domestically right up the street, this is all still true, minus the jetlag. 

2. If we have them, offer to take our biological kids for an adventure or sleepover. Please believe me: their lives just got WHACKED OUT, and they need a break, but their parents can’t give them one because they are 1.) cleaning up pee and poop all day, 2.) holding screaming children, 3.) spending all their time at doctors’ offices, and 4.) falling asleep in their clothes at 8:15pm. Plus, they are in lockdown mode with the recently adopted, trying to shield them from the trauma that is Walmart. 

3. Thank you for getting excited with us over our little victories. I realize it sounds like a very small deal when we tell you our kindergartener is now staying in the same room as the dog, but if you could’ve seen the epic level of freakoutedness this dog caused her for three weeks, you would understand that this is really something. When you encourage us over our incremental progress, it helps. You remind us that we ARE moving forward and these little moments are worth celebrating. If we come to you spazzing out, please remind us where we were a month ago. Force us to acknowledge their gains. Be a cheerleader for the healing process. 

4. Come over one night after our kids are asleep and sit with us on our porch. Let me tell you: we are all lonely in those early weeks. We are home, home, home, home, home. Good-bye, date nights. Good-bye, GNO’s. Good-bye, spontaneous anything. Good-bye, church. Good-bye, big public outings. Good-bye, community group. Good-bye, nightlife. So please bring some community to our doorstep. Bring friendship back into our lives. Bring adult conversation and laughter. And bring an expensive bottle of wine. 

5. If the shoe fits, tell adopting families how their story is affecting yours. If God has moved in you over the course of our adoption, whether before the airport or after, if you’ve made a change or a decision, if somewhere deep inside a fire was lit, tell us, because it is spiritual water on dry souls. There is nothing more encouraging than finding out God is using our families for greater kingdom work, beautiful things we would never know or see. We gather the holy moments in our hands every day, praying for eyes to see God’s presence, his purposes realized in our story. When you put more holy moments in our hands to meditate on, we are drawn deeper into the Jesus who led us here. 

Here’s one last thing: As you watch us struggle and celebrate and cry and flail, we also want you to know that adoption is beautiful, and a thousand times we’ve looked at each other and said, “What if we would’ve said no?” God invited us into something monumental and lovely, and we would’ve missed endless moments of glory had we walked away. We need you during these difficult months of waiting and transitioning, but we also hope you see that we serve a faithful God who heals and actually sets the lonely in families, just like He said He would. And even through the tears and tantrums (ours), we look at our children and marvel that God counted us worthy to raise them. We are humbled. We’ve been gifted with a very holy task, and when you help us rise to the occasion, you have an inheritance in their story; your name will be counted in their legacy. 

Because that day you brought us pulled pork tacos was the exact day I needed to skip dinner prep and hold my son on the couch for an hour, talking about Africa and beginning to bind up his emotional wounds. When you kidnapped me for two hours and took me to breakfast, I was at the very, very, absolute end that morning, but I came home renewed, able to greet my children after school with fresh love and patience. When you loved on my big kids and offered them sanctuary for a night, you kept the family rhythm in sync at the end of a hard week. 

Thank you for being the village. You are so important. 

Adoptive friends, what can you add? What has been helpful or hurtful? How has your community helped you raise your children? What do friends and family need to hear?