Sunday, December 13, 2009

"My Crazy Adoption"

If you've never hopped over to the blog "My Crazy Adoption", it's a great place to stop in! Kari Gibson (daughter of Gary Smalley) and her husband adopted little Zoie from Ethiopia last year, and are in the process to adopt again.

She's created a website that touches on everything from recipes to adoption, and is a great resource!

I love her "Simply Love" t-shirts they're selling as a fundraiser...esp. the men's t-shirt, which says "Man Up. Protect and Love the Fatherless." The back of the women's t-shirt says "If you are a Christian, then orphans are your thing." We'll be sporting them before too long! (If you all knew a secret code that Mark didn't know, I could tell you that I'm buying them now while they're available and saving them for our Mother's Day and Father's Day gifts this year, but I don't know a secret code. So shhh... don't tell, and maybe he will forget that he read this).

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fun!


We just received our first check from our Just Love Coffee fundraiser store! It wasn't much, but more than we had before...we're grateful to those of you who have started buying coffee from us!

I must say (and I can be unbiased here b/c I have no control over the product whatsoever) that it is some seriously.good.coffee.

If you haven't tried it yet, check it out! www.justlovecoffee.com/milligan. Our adoption fund receives $5/bag of coffee sold, $9/sampler. Every bag of coffee brings Karis one step closer out of an orphanage and into our home!

The storefront still appears that you have to join the coffee club, and you don't...you can just purchase ala carte. If you purchase some, leave a comment to let us know how you like it!

So far our my favorite is Selam Tsehai, but Ethiopian Sidamo is on its way right now (despite my best efforts over the past 12 years, Mark is still not a coffee drinker)!

They have also just added an espresso blend, there are green beans for those who like to roast their own, and all coffees can come either whole bean or ground. There are also a few samplers if you're not sure which one you'd like to try first!

Another great note is that the Swiss Water Decaf is not treated chemically...it is very hard to find a naturally decaffeinated coffee!

So head on over to make sure you have all the coffee you need for Christmas entertaining, and enjoy knowing you're helping create one less orphan in the world!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Read For Orphans Results are in!

Well, mostly, that is!

We are just blown away by how God has used the lives of kids (and their super-supportive parents AND friends and relatives who did the sponsoring!) to bless our daughter in Ethiopia by helping to bring her home. Blown. Away.

The results are trickling in, and I have some "sort-of" tallies...as in, I've been informed of total amounts earned, & checks are still arriving, but I don't yet know how much each child has read in order to award some Amazon gift certificates (though I just found an awesome website with great Ethiopian kids books I wish I had known about to award with instead)! If anyone else participated that I don't have recorded here, please leave me a comment or drop me an email!

So, in no particular order, here's what I know:

Times Five kids:
Jordan...raised $58
Christian...raised $82.50
Adam...raised $73.50
Eden...raised $60
Maria...raised $118

Friend of the Times Five gang, who helped us despite never even meeting us before!
Hannah M...read 40 books and raised $68

From our church:
Jordan L. from AK...read 20 chapters and raised $200
Dakota L. from AK...read 24 chapters and raised $150

Our nieces and nephews in PA:
Walter, Lesley, Laura, Katie, and Ethan M...raised $450

And the siblings trying to bring their sister home:
Andrew...read 39 books and raised $194
Jacob...read 41 books and raised $166.40
Anna...read ? books and raised $10 (not sure if reading books to herself while on the potty counts, or her shortened attention span during bedtime stories with the boys...but Grandma M. sponsored her anyway)! :)

Can you believe it?!?
16 kids working together raised $1630.40!!!

God's workings never cease to amaze me. We are continually humbled by the outpouring of love and graciousness by those around us as we make our way through this new territory.

To all of the kids who gave of their time and efforts in seeking out sponsors and in READING, we just want to say THANK YOU!!!

To those parents who helped record and tally and collect...THANK YOU!!!

To the faithful sponsors who were willing to put a high price tag on a simple activity because of the cause...THANK YOU!!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Wrapping Up "Read For Orphans!"











I hope all the families participating in our Read For Orphans campaign have enjoyed two full weeks of "reading with a purpose!"

If your family started the RFO on November 8th, then it's time to report back to all the sponsors to collect pledges. If you started at a later date, then just continue on to finish out your two weeks.

Andrew and Jacob are doing the same thing here this week, and we're excited to see how God has been working through all of you on our baby girl's behalf!

I'm hoping to post a report here by Dec. 2nd, so please get your pledges sent in so we can tabulate and let you know how it went!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It Arrived!!!










Our long-awaited, most important form has finally arrived! I guess I can't really say "finally," as it could have taken up to 12 weeks, and instead it was only 9 weeks. I know I thought I would be devastated if we still hadn't gotten our dossier off by this point. But honestly, we've been so busy with getting fundraisers going that it's okay. And I'm not devastated that here we have our final piece, and we don't have all the funds together to send it off. I know that some of the $7200 has been raised already...I just don't know how much "some" is. And I'm okay with that, despite the fact that sometimes this is a moment-by-moment struggle to have faith in my Jehovah-Jireh, our Provider. At this moment, my weakness is being made perfect in Him!

I do know we made about $150 on the Pampered Chef fundraiser...thank you so much to those of you that ordered! And I do know that several kids are reading voraciously! Our wonderful nieces in PA called the first Sunday of the Read for Orphans campaign, simply besides themselves with delight that between them and their siblings, they had over $300 raised already! Between Andrew and Jacob, they've raised about $150. So it's working, God is faithful, and we just need to have faith and patience!

So what's next? We need to have two documents state-certified, though I haven't yet a clue how to go about that. And then we need to make three sets of copies of our stack of dossier documents, and then off it goes, with $7200, to our agency for review and translation...and then off to Ethiopia!!!!!!!!!
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Monday, November 16, 2009

Why Adopt from Ethiopia?

I saw this list of sobering statistics on another adoption blog. It's interesting to read other adoption blogs, especially the "Why we're adopting from country X" posts. Whether it is remarkable (or unremarkable, actually) is that for any international adoption, the list is similar to this one...perhaps different issues, but hard facts nonetheless.

So why pick one country over another if they all have horrific circumstances pertaining to the orphan crisis?

I don't think we pick. God picks for us. And when we're trying to follow His will, it's an unmistakable pull towards one country over another. I find that both reasonable and comforting. Our baby is in Ethiopia, and we're going to bring her home...

Why Adopt From Ethiopia,you ask?

• One in six children die before their fifth birthday

• 44% of the population of Ethiopia is under 15 years old

• 60% of children in Ethiopia are stunted because of malnutrition

• The median age in Ethiopia is 17.8 years

• 1.5 million people are infected with AIDS (6th highest in the world)

• 720,000 children have been orphaned by AIDS alone, and there are 4.6 million orphans in Ethiopia.

• Per capita, Ethiopia receives less aid than any country in Africa

• In the 90s the population (3%) grew faster than food production (2.2%)

• Drought struck the country from 2000-2002 (first year no crops, second year no seeds, third year no animals)

• Half the children in Ethiopia will never attend school. 88% will never attend secondary school.

• Coffee prices (Ethiopia’s only major export) fell 40-60% from 1998-2002.

• Ethiopia’s doctor to children ratio is 1 to 24,000.

• In 1993, after 30 long years of war, Eritrea broke from Ethiopia and became an independent nation leaving Ethiopia landlocked without any major seafaring ports.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Who Can Resist?

I have been very proud of the boys in their efforts with our Read For Orphans campaign. For those of you who sponsored the boys, I'm not sure how you'll take the news that they've been reading up a storm, and the bedtime routine has certainly been pushed later as a result!

Jacob has lately been "growing up" before my very eyes, as he feels a certain responsibility, as the new 5 year old, to handle things differently. For those of you who know Jacob in person, you have witnessed his "very slow to warm up to new situations" tendencies, and his reticence to strike up conversations.

While his required "warm-up" period is still present, it is significantly shorter, and he's been willing to step out of his comfort zone to speak with people.

Case in point (lest you think I'm posting on the wrong blog!): Last Sunday the boys were asking friends from church to sponsor their reading for Read for Orphans. I know, I know...it's hardly fair, sending the pastor's kids out to ask for sponsors from among the congregation. :)

But to top it off, this is how Jacob worded his request to one person in our church.

"Will you please sponsor my reading so that we can bring my baby sister home?"

Awww...

PS: If you want me to hear it in person, I can have Jacob call you to request your sponsorship. :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Our Orphan Sunday

I'm not sure the term "celebrating" is the right term for what to do with Orphan Sunday...perhaps "Remember," "Commemorating," or "Honoring." I'm sure those behind the movement to bring awareness to the orphan crisis by creating Adoption Awareness month and Orphan Sunday had the dilemma of what to name it.

Regardless of how we acknowledge it, it's my prayer that each year, more and more churches are using Orphan Sunday as a way to challenge their congregation to get involved in God's call to care for orphans.

Unfortunately, we had technical difficulties at our church on Sunday, so we weren't able to show the video or host the live event from Nashville with Steven Curtis Chapman.

However, I have never been more proud of my husband as I was after he preached on Sunday. His sermon was incredibly powerful and poignant for Orphan Sunday. So often, preachers will simply relate the concept of adoption to our own spiritual condition, from which we needed God to ransom us, defend us, and call us His own adopted child in order to save us from our sins. That is all true. It's all vitally important. But James 1:27 is often glossed over.

"Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."

Too many churches, too many pastors, want to forget about our responsibility to live out our faith...to act upon the "as you have done to the least of these, you've done unto me." (Matt. 25:40).

My husband is not among them, and he leads his church to not be among them. He calls it like it is. To share the change God has wrought in his own heart, he gave the illustration of a student sitting in class, dutifully paying attention, silently praying that the teacher will not call on him to give the answer! And that when the teacher did call on him to respond to James 1:27, he was dutiful, but not necessarily passionate about it. But when we respond in faith, God does a mighty work all the way around...and with tears in his eyes, Mark shared his new perspective. "That's my child over there, and I'm going to go get her!"

Do we have that passion? Do we have the heart of God, to love and reach out the way God would? I've said it before and I'll say it again: the church has done a shoddy job of caring for orphans. It's time to change that. If we are the Body, why aren't His arms reaching? We sang that song on Sunday, and I pray it isn't just words we sang, but a battle cry we're issuing as we reach out.


I would love for you to leave a comment about what your church did for Orphan Sunday.

And if it didn't do anything, and you're willing to be a spark in your church, please email me (milligansnorth at gmail dot com) your mailing address, and I will send you a resource DVD to use for next year.

Or go to
http://www.showhope.org/Resources/VideoLibrary.aspx, and pick a clip to show your pastor and ask him to show it during church sometime this month...Adoption Awareness goes on! A single video clip of just over a minute might be exactly what God wants to use in someone's life.

And start praying, or keep on praying, for orphans to make their way into their forever families.

The only wrong way to help orphans is to do nothing at all.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Orphan Sunday

Orphan Sunday from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.


What will YOU do about the most important statistic?

Friday, November 6, 2009

One more in!

My passport has arrived!

Now, aside from the funds that we need to raise at this point, we only need our I-171H!

Do you have any idea how thankful I would be to have our dossier off to Ethiopia by Thanksgiving Day?

REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY THANKFUL!!!!!!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Read for Orphans!








We were searching for ways in which to both raise money for our adoption and also engage the faith and actions of the body of Christ...for the command to care for orphans in James 1:27 applies to all of us!

A friend suggested the idea of a read-a-thon (thanks, April!), and it seemed like the perfect fit!

So what is "Read for Orphans?" It's quite simple, really. It begins on November 8th, which is Orphan Sunday. Children from age 3 on up through high school set a goal of how many books they will read over the next two weeks (older kids can set goals by chapters instead of whole books). At the same time, they seek out sponsors who will pledge an amount per book, such as .25/bk. Or, sponsors can just support the reader with a flat donation.

After the two weeks of reading is completed on Nov. 21st, the pledges are collected, tallied, and mailed to our church for our adoption fund. Prizes will be given based on who reads the most!

If this is successful, we will try to make this an annual event, putting the proceeds to any number of orphan causes.

We would love to have you join us in this effort! If you would like to participate and you don't already have the info, please just leave me a comment with your email address, or email me at milligansnorth at gmail dot com, and I'll get you the rest of the info you need!

Thanks so much for standing with us in this!
Happy reading...you're part of a miracle in progress!

PS: If you're another adoptive family and would like to use this idea, I'd be happy to send you the packet I made up that will be really simple to personalize for your own use!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Crazy? Crazy!

Want to know the overall most prevalent comment we get regarding our adoption?

"You're crazy!" But coming from the ones who say it, I know they mean it in the most loving, supportive way possible...as they chuckle and hug us. It's not a criticism (those come in other forms, believe you me), just an observation. I find no offense it whatsoever (at least not so far, in the way it has come and from whom it has come)!

This declaration of crazy comes from people who know our family, who love the three children we have already, and who know that life with [a job, a ministry, homeschooling, 3 children, 4 goats, 13 chickens, and an adoption] does not fit into a tidy little box that we open every morning at 7 and have wrapped up neatly with a bow by 8 p.m.

My newest response comes from the heart of what God is teaching us in a major way:

OUR LIVES ARE NOT OUR OWN.

We have been bought with a price...Jesus laid down His life for us on the cross. In accepting His free gift, we live in and through Him. And HIS life was not His own. Out of love, he was compelled to give it up, that we might have an abundant life.

There are so many so-called "rights" that we cling to. The right to a comfortable home, a decent car, free time to do whatever we want. The right to sleep in on Saturday mornings, to control our schedules.

We cling to these rights for our children, and from us they learn to cling tightly, as well. The right to lots of books, the right toys, a spacious bedroom. The right to stay in their comfort zone, to x-amount of hours of individual attention.

But you know what? Our lives are not our own. The rights to which we cling are not "rights" at all, but privileges we enjoy. They are not necessities, they are gifts. And when we start demanding gifts, a beautiful life lived in the Spirit instead becomes a downright ugly, spoiled-brat life.

To those who have heard the clear call of conviction to obey God in a particular matter, do you dare disobey for the sake of hanging on to the gifts you've been given? Or do you understand by faith that laying down your life is the only way to really live it? "anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. [Because] Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 10:38-39).

So are we crazy to be pursuing this adoption? A resounding YES!

"Better a full, busy life lived in obedience to God
than a nicely-ordered life lived in rebellion to His call.
If you're busy, be busy with what He's handed you,
not with the things you've picked up on your own."

-WJM

I hope you've hung with me this far...sorry for a wordy, un-pictured post. We really appreciate you taking the time and effort to follow with what God is teaching us through this whole journey, to understand our hearts right now.

But I would love for you to read one more thing. It's the post that started us exploring this whole concept in a fresh way. It's a post by a 31-yr. old mom who, after having 3 biological children, adopted a sibling group of 3 kids from Ethiopia, then adopted another sibling group of 3 kids! Yes...nine children. (No, we're not headed for 9 children, I don't think)! Reading her original post will give you a better understanding of where we're at...Check it out here...thank you!

I promise to make up with pictures of our baby girl later for all the boring posts you've been enduring on this blog!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Why $7200?

So why do we need $7200 to send with our dossier? Our agency breaks amounts that are due into more manageable chunks, some of which are timed to be due with the dossier, and other parts are connected directly to the dossier. Here's the breakdown:

  1. Agency fee mid-payment, $1500 (which reflects a 25% pastor's discount).Honestly, I have never asked what exactly the program fee covers. I do know that there is a full-time, wonderful staff in VA that must get paid. The staff makes everything happen, they lead us through the entire complicated process. And they even do it cheerfully! I also know that there is staff in Ethiopia who meets with adoptive families when they arrive, makes court appointments, and handles paperwork.
  2. Translation/Authentication: $800. That huge stack of paperwork we're gathering? It all has to be translated into Amharic. And authenticated, which give assurance that it's all legal, etc.
  3. Post-Placement Deposit: $1000. This is actually refundable after the post-placement visits with the social worker have been completed at 3, 6, 9 and 12 months. This is the agency's way of ensuring families meet the standards set by the gov't of Ethiopia for reporting back on how their orphans are doing. If families don't cooperate with this, the country may decide that they don't have enough control over what is happening to their population, and close down adoptions (I have heard this is what happened with Guatemala, at least in part. International adoption is one comlicated can of worms!).
  4. Courier fee: $150. Get that important stack of paperwork delivered safe and sound!
  5. 1st half of international program fee: $3750. This covers children's medical exams, the transitional home child-rearing, and an orphanage donation. All good stuff.
Grand total: $7200.

I'm working on a post explaining why exactly we're doing fundraising for this adoption. I mean besides the obvious...we think it is right and good for "the church" to support adoption. I hope to share our perspectives on this, and to illustrate how our own church and our families have grasped the heart of it. Stay tuned.

Passport!

We have a passport! Mark's passport arrived today!

As you may recall, we're only missing four things in order to send our dossier off to Ethiopia:
1. Mark's passport.
2. Wendy's passport.
3. Form I-171H
4. $7200.

It feels great to be making progress again!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Coffee Fundraiser!

The Just Love Coffee Store has finally launched!

Just Love Coffee Roasters was started by Rob Webb, coffee roaster and adoptive father of two girls from Ethiopia. He forged a way to merge his work and his faith in an amazing way, and Just Love Coffees was born.

He has made available to adoptive parents a seamless fundraiser. His company roasts fine coffees from over the world, makes it available through each adoptive family's online storefront, ships it directly to customers, and the adoptive family receives $5 per bag of coffee.

To many (myself included!) coffee is a life staple...and now it can be used to care for orphans!

We ask that you check out our storefront at www.justlovecoffee.com/Milligan. The neatest option is the 2Buy2 Coffee Club...receive 2 bags of coffee every month of every other month to save on time and shipping! We're definitely going that route! But you can buy bags of coffee individually, too. We will continue to receive funds from the storefront until our adoption expenses have been met. Then, for those of you in the 2Buy2 Coffee Club, you will still be supporting orphan care in Ethiopia through your purchases!

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to either leave a comment or email us at milligansnorth at gmail dot com. If you browse around the Just Love Coffee site (which I encourage you to do-it's a really neat story!), make sure you come back to our page (Milligan will be in the URL at the top) to make your purchases.

Just think...if 30 of you each purchased one bag of coffee a month for the next 12 months (the estimated time left till we travel to Ethiopia), that would raise $1800 towards our adoption. If 30 of you shared our fundraiser with just one other person that purchased coffee monthly, that would be $3600...that's almost 20% of what we have left to raise!!!

We would appreciate your help in spreading the word...email to friends and family or post the link to our store if you get a chance! Thanks so much!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Coffe Store Launching Monday!




Woo-hoo! The team at Just Love Coffee has been working tirelessly to get each adoptive families' storefronts up and running, and the official launch date is Monday, October 26th!

Starting then, you'll be able to go to our site (of course the link will come here on Monday!) to purchase your coffee! A fine line of Fair Trade Certified coffees...all of which support placing orphans into forever families.

So all of you coffee-drinkers and all of you non-coffee drinkers who entertain them, Monday's the day...stay tuned!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pampered Chef Fundraiser!

Do you know anyone who loves Pampered Chef products? Do you? Do you have some Christmas shopping to do?

We can help you to help us with our adoption!
We're hosting a Pampered Chef fundraiser from now until Dec. 5th. If you're local, I'd love to have you come for the party on Nov. 7th. But since most of you aren't local, I wanted to share the shopping link with you.

Just go to http://www.pamperedchef.biz/kitchentips?page=host-search-results&showId=2260991, and start shopping! Voila! Our fund for our adoption will receive 15% in sales!

Thanks for your support...and even if you're not interested in Pampered Chef, please pass the link along to everyone you know, post it on your blogs, etc! Thanks!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

$7200, here we come!

I keep hoping to get all my ducks in a row and details in order before posting some initial info. But, it's not happening, so here goes the "un-organized" nutshell!

Nov. 7th...a Pampered Chef party/fundraiser! It will be here at our house, BUT you can place orders online and our fundraiser will be credited! I will update with this post soon with the actual website, but for now, just know that it's coming up, and save some of your Christmas shopping! Our adoption fund received 15% from all the sales!!!

Nov. 1-15th: Read for Orphans! I am so excited about this...kids can be involved with helping orphans, too! This will be a two-week read-a-thon, and kids of any age (you can read to your toddlers and preschoolers) can participate. Kids just set a goal of how much they can read in 2 weeks time, get sponsors to pledge a certain amt. for their reading, and all the proceeds help our adoption! If this works well, I'd like to make it an annual event to help other adoptive families!
I will be emailing out info packets on this, so if you want your kids in, leave me a comment or drop me an email at milligansnorth at gmail dot com!

Nov. 30th: Discovery Toys fundraiser! My former upline (from my former "I'm a DT consultant" life) is helping me out with this one! Unfortunately, we can't do online orders, so all products ordered will come to me and then would have to be shipped to you from here. But, if you love DT and want to check out their online catalog, we'll try to work something out! Our adoption fund receives 20% from our sales!

Jan/Feb: lia sophia fundraiser! My mom is a lia sophia advisor, and we'll do a party this winter after the hubbub of the holidays. lia sophia, if you aren't familiar with it, is gorgeous jewelry...even for un-girly girls like me! My mom will donate 10% of the sales, AND the free jewelry I earn as a hostess will be auctioned off!

So there's an overview...check back for more info by early next week! While we need much more than $7200, that will at least get our dossier on its way to Ethiopia!!!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Phew!

As of two days ago, our part of getting our dossier together is FINISHED. Every document, certificate, signature, notarization that is our responsibility is finished.

At this point, we need three things to send our dossier off to Ethiopia:
1. I-171H (form from USCIS)
2. Passports (copies need to be included in the dossier).
3. $7200 (the next fees due, which included translation of our dossier and courier fees).

#1 and #2 are a waiting game...best guess is 4-6 weeks for each of them.
And the $7200? Now that the dossier is off my plate, let the fundraising efforts begin! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Police Clearances.

Check.
Two off the list.
Woo-Hoo!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Another one in!

Mark's birth certificate arrived today!

It's really funny to me that nowadays, official-looking envelopes are greeted with more enthusiasm than a hand-written, personal envelope!

(Not to say that I don't appreciate personal mail, too-don't get me wrong! To those that sent them, thank you for all the birthday gift checks...one passport paid for)! :)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Not quite the birthday present...

Today (well, yesterday...I see it's after midnight now) was my birthday. And it was a delightful day all the way around, filled with fun times with those I hold dear.

I have just one disappointment from the day.

For months, I have had the goal of finishing our dossier by my birthday...the best gift I could think of. My birthday has now come and gone, and the dossier still sits unfinished.

I can't be too discouraged-we're close. Very, very close. I wish I could explain the urgency I have felt in the past few weeks to have our dossier flying to Ethiopia. It's almost surreal. I cry easily when thinking about the daughter God has planned for our family, desperately wishing this stage to be over so we can officially begin waiting for her. I know it's all in God's timing, but lately-the urgency I feel clutches at my heart. I can't really explain it, I guess...I just know that it's time. Almost like the transition phase of labor, knowing that it's getting worse before it gets better, the panicked feeling to do anything to stay ahead of the pain, the frantic focus on what's at hand and just ahead. It's a heavy weight and a heart of hope all at the same time.

But seriously, we are almost done. Here's the document list for our dossier...the only documents left to gather are in bold.

1. Application letter
2. Husband's Birth Certificate-requested, still waiting
3. Wife's Birth Certificate
4. Marriage certificate
5. Husband Physical Exam Form.
6. Doctor's letter
7. Wife's Physical Exam form
8. Doctor's letter
9. Proof of medical insurance
10. Proof of life insurance
11. Financial statement
12. Husband's employment letter
13. Husband's 2nd job employment letter
14. Wife's non-employment letter
15. Home Study
16. Letters of Reference (3)
17. Husband's Police Report
18. Wife's Police Report
19. Agency Post Placement Agreement
20. Agency Recommendation
21. Power of Attorney
22. Dossier Cover Sheet
23. 2 extra passport photos each
24. Copies of passports.
25. Family photo pages

26. Approval from USCIS (Form I-171H)

If you compare this list to the dossier progress from August 31st, it's encouraging, especially considering the items that are left.

#17 And #18 are supposedly going to be ready for Mark to pick up from the police dept. on Monday.

#19 is a simple form I need to get to the home study agency.

#25 I can whip out using Picasa in an hour.

#22, the cover sheet, can't be done until all of the documents are under it!

So, #25 is all I can really do right now, all that needs to be done sooner than later. Mark's passport renewal will be $75. My passport application (can't renew if your original passport was issued if you were under age 16 and if it's more than 15 years old, both of which apply to me) will be $100. I'll really have to pray about whether to expedite them, which would be another $60 each. I know $415 is nothing for our God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills!

#26...Praying it comes quickly! Basically, USCIS takes both the home study and the fingerprint results to create one government approval piece, the I-171H. Please pray with us on that one!


Well, if you're still reading at this point, your stamina is impressive! Thanks for standing with us through this journey!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It's Done! It's done!

It's done, it's done, it's done!

I got a phone call from our home study agency informing me that our
HOME STUDY IS FINALIZED AND ON ITS WAY TO USCIS!!!

Thanks to the Lord leading some very generous family members, the $750-$800 (variable based on social worker's travel reimbursement) we need for the final payment for our home study is available!!!

Please pray that USCIS gets our I171-H to us in good time!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Finally!!!

Guess what arrived in the mail yesterday?
Our marriage certificate and my birth certificate!
First requested on July 21st...gotta love government efficiency.

More updates coming soon!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Paperchasing Woes

I now have a better understanding of why this phase of the adoption process is called "paperchasing." I feel like just calling a time out so that I can try and sneak up on some of the papers we need before they run off again...

In order to get a referral for our baby girl, our dossier first needs to be sent to Ethiopia.
Before we can send our dossier it needs to be complete.
To complete the dossier, we need to have form I-171H.
To get form I-171H, we need to submit our home study to USCIS.
Before we can submit our home study, we need my FBI clearance from my 3rd set of fingerprints.
We've been waiting for them for 6 1/2 weeks. *sigh* So much for our writer's recommendation to say "Please rush, as the home study is nearing completion, and the first set of fingerprints was rejected."

Our dossier also needs our birth/marriage certificates.

To obtain them, you order them online through VitalChek "for fast and easy service."
So, looking for "fast and easy service," you place your order online. VitalChek routes your order through the appropriate state office (in this case, NY). For security reasons, to complete your order, you must also print out your order receipt, add a copy of your driver's license, and upload it to VitalChek.

Of course, they will only send your birth certificate if your billing address and shipping address match. Since we have a PO Box, and have had one for 7 years now, it's obviously the one we had to use. But if you're using a PO Box, you have no option other than to use regular, untrackable, snail mail. You convince yourself that it could be worse, and that it will arrive eventually.

About the time that you expect your certificates in the mail, you get an email from the records office in NY, saying that they won't mail your certificate to a PO Box unless you get a notarized letter stating that you get your mail at a PO Box, not a physical address, along with yet another copy of your driver's license which must show the same PO Box as the address. By this time in the paperchase, our notary (who also happens to be our postmaster) is used to us showing up with papers to be notarized. After getting the letter and copy of my license notarized, it's supposedly a quick step to just upload the document from my VitalChek account. Great...except that orders over 45 days old are no longer accessible online, and any communication must be faxed.

Ordering from PA wasn't that much better. Cheaper, yes. Better, no. I tried no less than 4 times to order Mark's birth certificate online through VitalChek, and always received a note that there was a discrepancy b/t the shipping and billing address. So I would re-do, thinking perhaps I made a mistake. Still never works. So the 5th time I get the error message that my order cannot be placed online, I follow their link for fax instructions to place the order that way. I get the order faxed, and am deceived for three days into thinking that all is well. Then I get an email stating that the PA records office no longer accepts orders via fax, I should fax it in, and the order they have in their hands will be shredded.

You know, I'm not really a swearing person. I did swear like a sailor when I was in 5th grade, but it was a passing phase. Or something. But I confess that I've thought of some choice names for the Dept. of Health Records offices of NY and PA lately.

And I would recommend, if you have certificates from NY or PA and you might adopt at some point in the next decade, you might as well request the certificates now. Except that they can't be more than a year old for your dossier. So it would backfire. Guess there's nothing to do but keep chasing...and praying that God's hand pushes the paperwork fairy along at a faster pace. Or something.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Dossier Progress!

Let me just say this: If you have a major project you need to tackle, the best thing to do is to have your inlaws come for two weeks and schlep your kids around from one adventure to the next for days on end...you'll get a lot done!

Here's the list of what needs to go in our dossier (and it all needs to be notarized, too):
1. Application letter
2. Husband's Birth Certificate-requested, still waiting
3. Wife's Birth Certificate-requested, still waiting
4. Marriage certificate-requested, still waiting
5. Husband Physical Exam Form.
6. Doctor's letter
7. Wife's Physical Exam form
8. Doctor's letter
9. Proof of medical insurance
10. Proof of life insurance
11. Financial statement
12. Husband's employment letter-working on it.
13. Husband's 2nd job employment letter
14. Wife's non-employment letter
15. Home Study
16. Letters of Reference (3)
17. Husband's Police Report
18. Wife's Police Report
19. Agency Post Placement Agreement
20. Agency Recommendation
21. Power of Attorney
22. Dossier Cover Sheet
23. 2 extra passport photos each
24. Copies of passports.
25. Family photo pages


As of a week ago, I had just 2 of the 25 required papers (# 5 and #7 in italics). Everything in bold has gotten completed just this past week...and it's all notarized, too! It feels sooooooo good to have the weight of this lessened, and to know that much of what we still need is out of my control. I am so grateful to mom and dad for all their help while they were here...the kids had a wonderful time making memories with them, and we're that much closer to our baby girl!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hallelujah!!!

Have you noticed our list of adoption expenses in the sidebar?
Take a look at #5 and #6. Doctor visits for both of us.

We thought Mark's insurance would have covered his, but because the blood work our agency requires isn't deemed as "usual or necessary" by the insurance company, most of his wasn't covered. I have just a major medical policy, so we knew mine would be more expensive, though I'll admit we were a bit blown away by how much it costs to have extensive blood work done.

So here we sat with $748 in medical bills. Having gone through Providence Medical Center, we decided we had $748 to lose and who knows how much to gain if we didn't apply for their financial assistance program. I submitted the necessary forms weeks ago, and we've still been waiting to hear back.

Today, we received the Financial Assistance Approval letter. "Thank you for your interest in our Financial Assistance Program. We are please to notify you that your application has been approved. The level of Financial Assistance that you qualify for it 100%."

What more can we say? Hallelujah, God is good!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

For lack of a better word...

I know the word "weird" isn't exactly descriptive, not on the top ten list of words used by skilled writers. But sometimes it works for lack of a better descriptor.

I took the kids on a Tot Time field trip to the fire department on Monday. There was only one other mom from MP; most were from S, so I didn't really know any of them.

At some point during the tour, it came up that the volunteer firefighter giving the tour was pregnant, and the questions revolved around how that would affect her work at the station. And lo and behold, there were at least 2 other moms there who were also pregnant, all of them due around the same time.

The conversation turned to morning sickness, prenatal yoga, and due dates.

I wanted to chime in just as excitedly, just as eager to share my news as they were to share theirs. "I'm expecting a baby, too!"

But imagine the conversation.
"Oh congratulations! How are you feeling?"
"Ummm...fine."
"Would you like to come to prenatal yoga with us?"
"Well, um, thank you, but..."
"Well, when are you due?"
"Hopefully by next Christmas!"

Seriously. How does one interject into a conversation like that with a bunch of strangers?
I only saw one way...to not to. (Yes, one of our favorite lines to repeat from the movie Cars).

I don't fault the other women one bit, and I'm sure they would have been excited for me if I had shared. But the whole feeling I had during their conversation was a brand-new experience for me, and it was
just
a
bit
weird.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Home Study Visits. Check.

Hurrah!
We are almost over the big hurdle of our home study! Our visit yesterday went much better than I expected...no water and all!

Of course with coming down from Anchorage, the first thing she asked when she got here was if she could use the bathroom! I simply let her know that our pump was in the process of being fixed, so we don't have water today, but here's the bathroom, don't flush, here's baby wipes for washing up with, I'm sorry for the inconvenience! It didn't seem to phase her a bit!

She asked Andrew for a tour of the house, which he was happy to do. Ironically, she didn't even see the girls' room, since Anna was taking a nap...but she basically just wanted to see how many bedroom/bathrooms were in the house. She was also impressed with our basement, "what a great playroom," to which we owe a debt of gratitude to our NC VBS team!

(The basement had been a huge worry of mine. Regrettably, I neglected to take a "before" picture. But just imagine a construction zone...with having just finished the apartment remodel job on the other side of the basement, we had boxes of plumbing parts, piles of electrical outlets and wires, a mound of insulation, bits and pieces and sheets of drywall, enough tools to outfit a hardware store, an extra toilet and bathroom sink laying around, and enough dust to create a man out of...all of this covering and creeping over every part of the basement so that we could harldy walk through it. Sound like a perfect part of a family home ready to be inspected by a social worker concerned about the safety of children? Hardly. Mark and I had just the night before asked ourselves how many years it would take to clean it all up. Knowing my concerns, the team came home from VBS on Tuesday afternoon and had the place gleaming and organized. I kid you not...it's an awesome sight to behold)!

At any rate, she was here for about 2 hours, tapping away at her notes on her laptop as we talked and as she interviewed Mark. The kids were extremely cooperative, answering her questions when needed, and playing quietly when not.

The only downside is that she didn't end up coordinating our visit with another family down in Homer...so we'll have a bigger chunk to pay for her travel expenses than we hoped for. But we already have almost half of the $650 that will be due...and I'm sure that God will provide the other half before we need it!

All in all, Judy was very encouraging about everything, and said she would have it written up for us to review in short order! Praise Jesus!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Home Study visits are today!

We would be grateful for your prayers for a good visit with the social worker today...in a mere 2 hours! This will be Judy's first and only time to our house, which, incidentally, hasn't had a drop of running water since Saturday night. Not exactly the "tip top" shape I was striving for.

She will interview Mark first, who also, incidentally, hasn't had more than 5 hrs. of straight sleep a night for over a week now. Yes, that's directly related to our water situation.

Then she'll talk with both of us together, particularly about parenting our three angelic cherubs whiney kids who are overtired from VBS all week and are missing daddy time, since he's been spending an inordinate amount of time with our water system down in the basement.

Do you see now why I'm asking for prayer? Thanks!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Coffee Name Change

You may notice that the link on the sidebar for the Coffee Fundraiser has changed. Instead of One Love Coffees, it's now Just Love Coffees. I personally kind of like the name change, and hopefully you'll like the name and the coffee! Here's the scoop (no pun intended!).

After being on the phone with our attorneys all week, we have changed our name to Just Love
Coffee Roasters. The children of Bob Marley are attempting to register and protect the name "One Love" as it pertains to, not only, coffee, but every industry. So we decided to go back to the drawing board to come up with an alternate name. We believe that "Just Love" is actually more
synonymous with our mission. We like the dual meaning of the word "just" as it relates to the orphan crisis and our efforts to do our small part in helping. We are currently redesigning all of our artwork, working with our web team to make the necessary changes and getting all of the
paperwork filed with the State and Federal government. We apologize for the confusion and look forward to getting everyone up and running in a short time.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Speechless

Well, not usually. But on rare occasions, yes.

You know how I just spent $97.25 on original certificates from NY?

On Sunday, Kindra (our church treasurer) passed along an anonymous gift.

$100.

Are you kidding me?

No, God is pretty serious about blessing us. Wow.

Friday, July 24, 2009

One Love Coffees!

So you may have noticed some changes in the sidebar...One Love Coffees!

One Love Coffees is a new company started by Rob Webb, an adoptive dad who also happens to be in the coffee business. In a seamless transition between work and faith that is rarely seen these days, Rob is starting a new coffee business to support adoption.

We received notice of One Love Coffees through our agency, and immediately checked it out. As is the way with God, the email from our agency came just as I was trying to formulate our "anticipated funding plan" for our home study writer. It was as though it was one of the 5 smooth round stones needed to slay the giant!

Here's how it works: When One Love Coffees launches this fall, we will have a "storefront" on their site. Anybody, anywhere, can get online, go through our coffee storefront, and purchase their coffee...really good coffee, I might add! For each pound of coffee sold, One Love Coffees will mail us $5. Think about that. Just 100 people (I'm sure we have a network, from coast to coast, bigger than that!) buying 1 bag of coffee/month will raise $6000 in one year!

We're so excited about the way God can use this to provide for our adoption needs. And it's not just through our agency...if you're in the adoption process, head over to One Love Coffees to sign up! Rob is actually embarrassed by his, and I really quote, "cheesy little site." I guess the "real deal" will be rolled out soon.

In the meantime, spread the word, and thank you for considering us for all your coffee needs! I'll keep you posted on when they're ready to launch!

Official Certificates

I finally ordered our official birth certificates and our marriage certificate. And in typical NY fashion, each certificate (my birth cert. and our marriage cert.) was $45! Plus handling fees, etc, the state of NY is $97.25 richer.
For Mark's PA birth certificate? A whopping $18. Go figure.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Two down, two to go

Our whole home study process is ironing out smoothly. I mentioned in my last post that we might have two more interviews amidst our camping trip.

Well on Thursday, in preparation for camping and needing to get other groceries, I ended up making a very impromptu run to Anchorage, with all the kids, for a quick Costco trip. I called Judy to see how well it would work for her to meet with us over the weekend, which ended up not being feasible for her. But when I mentioned that I was actually in Anchorage, she said "Let's meet and get another visit out of the way!" So we arranged to meet at a playground after my shopping was done, so we could talk while the kids played. That gets us to two down of the four home study visits we need. The timing of it didn't even give me enough time to get nervous.

But seriously, God is amazing. I mean, picture this scenario: Wake up the kids so they have time for breakfast and chores, go to town to meet Mark for a lunch hour swim (read: tired out children), come home, grab a quick lunch, load up van, drive two hours, shop in Costco for an hour, obviously all three kids in tow. Would this scenario and the likelihood of your children's "cranky quotient" being up leave you in a great place to meet with a social worker who will analyze you and your parenting? No way! But God's faithfulness is beyond reasoning.

You see, the kids and I had a great day. A fabulous day. The rare kind of day in which I wasn't even once tempted to raise my voice at them, a day in which there was no squabbling. They were all helpful, and kind, and loving, and obedient. All. day. long. Does this happen in your life? If it happens often, I'd love to come be a fly on your wall to see how you do it. For me, I was blown-away grateful for this fantastically fun, rare "Parenting is easy!" kind of day.

We were relaxed. We were having fun. My children made it easy for me to look like "super-mom." We had a nice picnic, Judy came and visited, they played and I supervised while carrying on an easy conversation about my life, my schooling, my family, etc. The kids and I were still thoroughly enjoying our Hallmark moment when she took her leave.

Don't get me wrong...my kids and I do enjoy each other. We do have generally really good days. They're great kids. God holds my tongue. But siblings that aren't squabbling and a mom that's still relaxed and having fun after a tiring swim, a 2-hr. drive and costco shopping? That, my friends, is the hand of God.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Continue!

Phew, what a day!

Two nights ago, I spent a few hours researching different adoption grant programs online, and began drafting an email to our home study writer, trying to come up with our plan of "how we anticipate funding the adoption expenses." I listed names of grant organizations, their websites, and the average amounts they award in grants.

Still, I was nearly paralyzed to move forward. It was as if it was better to have an "I don't know if I'm willing to sign off on your home study" than a definite "no." This has definitely been a week of drawing near to God in prayer!

This morning, Jen sent me the most encouraging email, affirming our "what right does she have to hold this up?!" feelings, while at the same time giving some concrete ideas on how to handle it. And it was as if the Spirit of the Lord descended on my computer at that moment, and by 3 p.m. I had a document I felt confident in sending to Judy!

Right after I sent it, I went to church for music practice, and my email was lifted up in prayer by everyone there. I checked for a reply immediately upon returning home, but was disappointed. Checked after dinner. After the kids were in bed. Finally...after a load of laundry folded and put away, a reply!

To quote her (and boy, am I thankful I never gave her this blog address!), "Wow. You've done a great job. Now I'm willing to continue the process."

I could shout it from the mountaintops...SHE'S WILLING TO CONTINUE THE PROCESS!!!

It is so true...It's not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord.

For those of you who have been praying us through this past week, thank you.

And for those of you who have felt led to give financially, all I can say is that I'm both impressed with the way God works and blessed by the way you listen. As soon as our home study is completed, we can apply for a few different "matching grant" programs, so that every little bit will be doubled. I'll keep you posted on that front. If you'd like to remain anonymous, you can email my friend Kindra at ckleaders at gmail dot com, and she can help you proceed in donating anonymously until we get set up with a matching grant organization. Blessings...rejoice with us!

Monday, July 13, 2009

...three steps back.

Our adoption agency requires 4 interviews with a Home Study writer, which is apparently more than the norm. However, we can be a little flexible with the interviews since there are so many required...two of them can be meetings with just me, as long as she gets at least one interview with just Mark and one with us together.

That being the case, I had my first interview with our writer, Judy, on Monday when I went to get my fingerprints done. Before I had talked with her on the phone, in the previous week, I had been a bit nervous about our meetings. But she seemed quite easy to work with, and my nerves lessened.

Well, we covered only two topics in our meeting, which lasted just over an hour. The first was establishing some sense of cultural identity for our daughter, considering the demographics of our community. She seemed pleased with how we had thought through the issues and approved of our ideas on how to overcome the challenges. Moving on.

Then came discussing our finances, and my nerves resumed their previous position. She is concerned with how we are going to finance the rest of the adoption process, considering our income vs. our monthly expenses and debt. She claims that she doesn't intend to discourage us, and that she just wants to help us be realistic, but that she would like in writing our plan for financing the rest of the adoption. According to her thoughts, that includes contacting grant agencies to inquire about amounts that they are potentially awarding, and finding donors who will give lump sums or monthly amounts. She says that she won't "feel comfortable signing off" on our home study if we don't have a feasible plan in place.

Quite honestly, I don't know if, since we meet our agency's requirements, she even has the right to hold up our home study based on her perspective of our finances. That's something I'm looking into.

I cried nearly the whole drive home, crying out to God in my discouragement for His provision and help. And the very next lyric on the CD I was listening to played, "Blessed are the poor..." Yes, God...apparently that's us.

I've really prayed over what to post about all this, and this post may hang out in my drafts for a while, until we have some answers. In the meantime, we're taking some action. Mark is cleaning out his car, as I write, to put it up for sale (we have our van, his car, and his old pick-up. If we plan outings, errands, and appointments carefully, we can get by with just one "good gas mileage" vehicle, with Mark using the van to commute to work regularly, and on days I need the van, he can just drive the truck). Selling his car will pay off half of our credit card debt (we don't owe that much), which will help, since Judy's looking at it as "how will you add to your debt $20,000 more debt to finance the rest of the adoption and still make it?" I'm also making calls and comparisons, that I've been meaning to get to anyway, on our vehicle insurance and my health insurance, to find better rates to lower our monthly expenses.

In trying to encourage us, someone said of Judy that "it's her problem if she doesn't have the faith you have for God to provide." In actuality, it is our problem that she doesn't have faith. So we're just asking God, and asking repeatedly, for Him to provide for us. We know that He didn't lead us into this adoption journey and that He didn't provide so much already to just leave us hanging here to figure the rest out on our own. He's faithful, and He is continuing to be faithful in His way and His time.

Update: Okay, this didn't sit in my drafts folder very long. I just got an email from Judy, our Home Study writer, which said that she contacted our family coordinator at America World, and they "support my request for a more detailed plan of how to anticipate financing the adoption."
So, yes, she does have the right to hold things up till we submit a satisfactory plan to her.

If you would, please pray with us for the following: A quick, good sale of Mark's car; favor in finding better insurance rates; creativity and wisdom in planning fundraisers; direction and favor in pursuing grant assistance; and any other way you feel led to pray for us! We know that in everything, it's not by might, not by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord our God!

Two Steps Forward...

The second week of June, the kids and I stayed a few days at my parents' house while one of the construction crews was working in the basement. We planned on heading home on Thursday night, so that I could get my fingerprints done on Friday...the new fingerprint card had arrived in the mail from our social worker.

Before we left on Thursday, I used my mom's computer to check my email for the first time in several days. There was a comment on my "Bummer!" post from Jen, recommending the use of Corn Huskers Lotion...the "Gold Standard" in helping moisturize for good fingerprints! So after my sister called the store to be sure they even carried it, my mom fed the kids dinner while I zipped back into town to retrieve some Corn Huskers Lotion!

I used the lotion religiously for the next 16 hours, praying that it would make a difference in such a short time frame.

Well, I headed to down to the Sew. PD during Mark's lunch hour the next day. The officer doing the prints looked at the photocopy I had of my rejected prints, was quite surprised that they hadn't passed, and assured me he'd do his best to get a better set this time around.

We made another set of prints, and honestly, they looked worse than the copy of my first set. I asked him to please do it again on one of their cards, and I would transfer agency information later. He tried again...and produced yet another set of "rejects." What to do?

Both the officer and our Home Study writer, whom I'd been in phone conversation with, recommended that I pay to get the prints done at a business in Anchorage which does digital fingerprinting. So this past Monday, I headed to Anchorage to both get my fingerprints taken, and to have my first interview with our Home Study writer.

I told my "reject" story to the guy taking my fingerprints, and after looking at my fingers, he was a bit baffled. "There's nothing wrong with these fingerprints...where did you have them done?" A knowing smirk crossed his face when I told him. His wife chimed in..."Let's just say that the Sew. PD isn't at the top of their game when it comes to fingerprinting." Who knew? At least now they are done, and seemingly done well!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bummer!

Just got this email from our home study coordinator:

I received your home study packet towards the end of last week - thank you! I did want to inform you that your FBI prints were rejected - don't worry - this happens more than you'd think. The reason that they gave was that there was some sort of issue with how the prints were taken. I am going to mail you a new fingerprint card, along with the notice from the FBI. You will need to have your prints re-done for the FBI only. The AK check came back fine. So, I will get this mailed out today.

*sigh* Just as the officer doing my prints the first time suspected. A minor bump in the road.

So, I'm hoping the new cards get here before Friday, the only day our PD does them, so that we aren't essentially waiting two more weeks. Guess who'll be moisturizing her hands like crazy this week...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Home Study Packet Complete!

As I type this, our huge packet of home study paperwork is running through my copier!

We've had just one last piece of info to get together, and it's been weighing on me for weeks that it hasn't gotten done yet. (You know how I mentioned that it would be far easier to adopt before having biological children? Case in point).

Well, if she wasn't already sweet and helpful, I would think that Kindra offered to take the kids tonight just so that she didn't have to listen to me gripe and complain anymore that we still weren't done with our home study stuff. But because she is sweet and helpful, regardless of her motive, she did take the kids for a few hours tonight, fed them dinner, and gave us the uninterrupted time that we needed to finish it off!

I'm not sure if it's a reflection on my copier or the packet, but it's still going...

Anyway. I'm making a copy of the complete set of what I'm sending off, as I do with everything, just in case-even though I'll still mail it with delivery confirmation!

Ah, it's done. Want to know what's in it? Glad you asked.

  1. Application
  2. Office of Children's Services Clearance Form (2)
  3. Residency Disclosure Statement (2)...every city and state we've lived in since age 18, with approximate dates.
  4. Release of Information
  5. Adoptive Applicant Health Report (2)
  6. Financial Statement
  7. Verification of Employment (2)...I thought about having the kids sign off on mine as my employers, but figured it would be best to just write N/A.
  8. References Form (7 references: 2 family, and 5 people unrelated to you who hopefully like you and approve of you as parents)
  9. Autobiographical Outline (all 13 pages of it, times two)!
  10. Contract for Services
  11. Client Grievance Procedure
  12. Notice of Privacy Practices
  13. Birth certificate copy for all 5 of us
  14. Marriage certificate
  15. Front cover of 1040 tax returns for past two years.
  16. Plus...our FBI clearance should have been received by our social worker from our first set of fingerprints for background clearance.

All that, and a check for $800, and we're good to go! Our coordinator at Catholic Social Services will look over our packet and then will connect us with a home study writer to set up our interviews/home visits.

I know we still have a lot of hoops to jump through, but it feels soooo good to have this major chunk to check off. God is good! Now off to attack the dossier with a vengeance!

(Well...tomorrow night).

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Check that one off!

Mark and I had delightful date on Thursday, going to the Anchorage branch of the Dept. of Homeland Security. Kindra and Jordan came and watched the kids (thank you!), as we weren't sure exactly what the fingerprinting situation would be. The appointment notice stated this: WARNING! Due to limited seating availability in our lobby area, only persons who are necessary to assist with transportation or completing the biometrics worksheet should accompany you. So between the "warning" and the fact that our appointments were spaced an hour apart, we didn't think it best to try and bring the kids along.

We actually left about 7:45 a.m. for the 11 a.m. appt. (Which is pretty remarkable for me, but also on the appointment notice was this: IF YOU FAIL TO APPEAR AS SCHEDULED, YOUR APPLICATION WILL BE CONSIDERED ABANDONED). Needless to say, we actually arrived in Anchorage in time to run one quick errand and get to the office by 10:40. We made our way through the security check at the front door...which was inclined to make me giggle at the extreme seriousness of all officers involved, made our way to the lobby (which would have been plenty spacious enough for our children to wait therein), and filled out the next required form.

The biometrics was actually kind of cool, both the fact that you're getting your prints taken digitally (hurray for no black, inky hands!), and that the computer tells in process if it's an acceptable print or not (most of my fingers took 4 tries each).

Why they timed our appointments the way they did is beyond me. We walked out of the building from our 11 a.m. and noon appointment times at 11:03. We felt badly we had rearranged Kindra's whole day for that, but who knew? Regardless, it feels great to have that one off the list of things to do! One step closer to our daughter!

Monday, May 18, 2009

God of the details

This post has been begging to be written for over two weeks now, but I wanted to spend some time with it. Now I'm trying to start it even though I have three children running around at large, just because I really want to get recorded how amazingly good God is to us in both the big and little details! Yet, there's lots of background thought processes I need to share to give an accurate picture of how profound it all is to us.
(Warning: Kind of long, and it's okay if only our nearest and dearest persist through it all. Of course, if you don't persevere through it, you'll miss seeing God work in a major way. Just go grab a cup of coffee...it might help).


In finishing up our home study autobiography, some of the questions pertain to how we will help our daughter stay connected with her culture, what issues we've considered in affirming her race, etc. For those of you close to us in conversation, you know this has been a major issue on our hearts. To try and understand our feelings on it, imagine deliberately, knowingly, sending your child off to, say, a birthday party. You know in advance that there will be several bullies who will be attending the party also, and that these bullies have wreaked havoc for the neighborhood kids. And, there will only be one adult there to chaperone 30-some kids. Would you go ahead and send your child to the party anyway? Probably not.


That's kind of what it feels like to plan on bringing home a child whom you "know" is going to face prejudice and ridicule based on their skin color...do you really think that's the best thing to do? To top it off, you then start reading blogs of adult adoptees of non-Caucasian races who are adamant that it's not the best thing to do, that it's near cruelty to have to be raised by white parents in all-white families and communities, and that life in an orphanage in their home countries would have been preferable to the lives they have lived as adoptees.

I do wholeheartedly believe that it is valuable to glean understanding from adult adoptees who are sharing their experience. But as one commenter pointed out, adult adoptees who say that it would be better to remain in an orphanage say so from this side of the experience, never having had to remain in an orphanage. How much easier to criticize a situation when you only live on the side of the experience in which you have enough food, a comfortable bed, and parents to love you, as imperfect as their love may be. In my newfound but growing understanding in this arena, this seems to be quite the extreme extrapolation to say that they would have been better off surrounded by children of their own race in an orphange situation, when they never had to live it.


The commenter's point was well-timed for me, and really helped to round out the issue. So many orphans are left at orphanages not so that they will have a better life, but to simply live. Is wrestling through the issues of transracial adoptions and any forthcoming prejudice worth life? We think so. We know so. Or we wouldn't be doing it.


So, while we feel completely confident in following the path we're on, we're trying our best to not be naive, to be wise about the challenges that we may face...all the while resting on the assurance that since God has led us in this direction, he will certainly give us the grace and resources to handle it all as we come to it.

Thus, we have been wrestling with thoughts on how to keep our daughter connected with the Ethiopian culture despite many roadblocks, such as the absence of a support group to gather with every once in a while (something pretty common in larger cities. Okay, maybe even smaller cities. Somehow our town of 250 doesn't quite make it in some areas...). We knew that perhaps we would have to spend more time in Anchorage, or even driving the kids back and forth to S. for soccer, knowing there are at least a few black families with kids there. Our town is just really lacking in the diversity department!


Now, from your perspective, these issues may be small details. To us, and to others, they're big ones. But no matter which way you slice it, our God is a God of the details. Let me explain.


Two weekends ago, Mark and I were unexpectedly blessed to get away for our Baptist Convention's Minister and Spouse retreat. Although we had attended in past years, we didn't want to divert extra money away from the adoption, so didn't plan on attending this year. One couple who had already registered and paid had a family situation come up, so we were contacted to see if we would attend in their stead. We gratefully accepted, and thanks to my mom and Rebecca, we had child care worked out within a few hours so that we could accept the invitation!

Due to Mark's work schedule, we knew we would miss the opening session and banquet, but would meet up with everyone for the only other teaching session on Saturday morning. We checked into the hotel, and were delighted to learn that breakfasts were going to be provided at IHOP! While we got to the restaurant Sat. a.m. in what would have normally been plenty of time, the place was packed with, well, a bunch of Baptist preachers and their wives. :) And it seemed that only one waitress was working. We entered IHOP the same time as two other couples, both of whom had on name tags already, so we knew they were with the Convention. As the hostess was giving us our wait time estimations, I quickly asked the other two couples if they would like to have us all sit together to be seated more quickly. Voila! Instant friends and meal companions, and instant seating as well!

We had a delightful time visiting and getting to know Frank and Marian and Mike and Pam, which we had plenty of time for with an unbelievably long wait for our meals. It was accompanied by a growing sense of guilt that we were going to be very late to the session. The only session. A short one, which we would miss, um, half of. Gulp.

When Pam, Marian, and I finally arrived in the women's session, the ladies were taking turns sharing stories of how their church families had been ministers of grace in their lives. I instantly knew what I was to share when it came my turn...and I shared how much grace our church family has given us in support of this adoption. They really are amazing at loving and helping and giving of themselves, saying (and really meaning) that while we get to raise this baby, she really belongs to all of them. :) The rummage sale, which required tons of time and effort on the part of a lot of people, is a prime example.

At the end of the session, a woman I had met before, who lives in Sol. near my parents, came right up and wanted to share her sister's blog address with me, since she had adopted twice from Africa. Where in Africa? I asked. You guessed it-Ethiopia. Granted, there are lots of people who have blogs who have adopted from Ethiopia. But her sister Crystal is different. She has a blog, has adopted from Ethiopia, and lives just 70 miles from us. An hour's drive, in a town I frequent, well, frequently. Are you with me on this? There are two other Ethiopian children that LIVE LOCALLY! (70 miles is local when you're in Alaska-just trust me on that one). And, ahem, they also, um, homeschool. And, um, they also...raise goats. Crystal and I haven't met each other in person yet, but she's like, my new best friend. :) And apparently they aren't the only ones in Sol. that have adopted from Ethiopia, so they actually get together for activities and such. I hope you get an inkling of HOW HUGE this is for us!

But back the retreat, there's more. Saturday evening, all the pastors and wives gather at a local restaurant for dinner. It's totally packed in there...like we were going to be the sardines being served or something. We pick our way around the tables to one of the few tables with seats still open (no, we weren't late, either!), and lo and behold...we get to dine with Frank and Marian again! It just cemented the rapport we had with them. They are just the sweetest couple, willing to share their wisdom. I'm the same age as their oldest child, so there's definitely a mentor-type relationship potential. Frank pastors a church in Anchorage, but they used to drive to S. regularly, so know our little town from passing through. It was such a blessing to gain good friends so quickly. But you want to know how neat God is in this process? Frank and Marian are black, and they couldn't have known how much we need them right now. And they are so thrilled for us to be adopting our baby girl, and are so encouraging to us that the transracial issues aren't the major issues. Marian urged me to realize that our baby's self-identity is not going to be forged through being around other people of color, but through the value we place on her. Marian placed her beautiful brown arm next to mine, pointed and said "this is not what matters. Love for her matters. God will handle all the rest."

Marian is now Auntie Mae, and wants to come down and help me learn how to take care of our baby's hair, among other things. :) We can hardly wait to continue getting to know them better.

So, as you can see, our God has done some amazing work in filling in some major details for us! We are nothing but grateful!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

USCIS Appointment!

Today we received our appointment notices from USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services)!

On March 27th, we filed our I600-A (Advance Processing of Petition to Classify Orphan as Immediate Relative). Our caseworker had mentioned that we should receive an appt. within a month to have our fingerprints done at the Anchorage USCIS office. She was pretty close!

Our appt. is for May 28th at 11 a.m. Who wants to babysit? :)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Slow Progress

I should clarify that the slow progress is on our part, but not on God's part!

For the past two weeks we have been trying to finish our home study paperwork, and I feel like I'm up against a brick wall with it. I think a large part of the problem is that I am so fearful of not getting it all right the first time...I don't want to miss anything or fill it out incorrectly, etc. As a result of my perfectionist tendencies raring their ugly head, I'm simply not getting to any of it until I can be sure to not be interrupted. Guess how often that happens? I would say this: If you feel God leading you to adopt, and you also plan on having biological children, I would highly recommend doing the adoption first, as you'll have much more time to devote to the process then!

On God's part, He's trucking right along with providing for us! Last week we were totally blown away to receive $1500 towards our adoption expenses! He has been so mind-boggling-ly faithful through all of this. But then again, He is God, so it shouldn't be mind-boggling at all, as it is part of who He is! I will say that we are exceedingly grateful!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Great date!

Mark and I had a date today! After my dr. appt, we met at the police department to have our fingerprints done! And yes, Mark did take me out for lunch afterward! Kind of like having on OB appt, I reckon!

A huge thank you to Kindra and her kids for coming to take care of our kids this morning. At first we had planned on just bringing them, but with them still being potentially contagious with chicken pox, they would have had to stay in the van all morning with Mark while I had my dr. appt. and fingerprinting...not to mention that Mark is positively swamped with work right now and didn't really have all morning!

Please pray that our fingerprints are accepted on the first go-round! The officer doing mine said that if they're very picky about it, mine will probably have to be re-done, as I've got some deep creases across my thumbprints. I guess that's what happens when you change diapers and scrub bathrooms and clean kitchens and wipe noses for a living...all that handwashing after your jobs dries your hands out! I asked if I could just go wash my hands in warm water and re-do them right then, but he said that I would have to use moisturizer consistently for a week for it to make a difference. A very nice guy, but very funny to be getting hand-care tips from a big guy in uniform with a gun belted to his side.

A few more days

Well, our goal had been to have our Home study packet ready to mail Monday. However, it can't be sent off at least till Wednesday now.

Mark had his physical exam yesterday, and I had mine today...they both went well, we both appear healthy :), and everyone was quite excited for us. But, the "routine blood work" that is required can't all be done in-house here, so it will have to go to a lab in Anch. and then come back to our dr. here...Tuesday is the earliest we'll get that back for the dr. to sign off on it. Plus, a TB test has to be read in 48-72 hrs, so with Mark having an appt. on Thursday, he wouldn't have been able to get the results looked at over the weekend. So he will stop in on Monday to have his done, I will have to go back in to get my TB read, and when Mark goes in Wed. to get his TB read, they *should* have all of our forms signed, notarized, and ready to go!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Truckin' Along...

I know it seems quiet on the adoption front, but you can never tell how many forms are being filled out and signed behind the blog! We are almost done with our Home Study paperwork!

I'm excited that this week we'll get a lot accomplished. We will have our fingerprints done on Friday (the only day of the week the Police Dept. in town does them, which I find quite funny), and we both have our physical exams this week...which will be something to check off for both the homestudy and the dossier! (The dossier is the entire information packet that gets sent to the Minister of Women's Affairs in Ethiopia. I won't give you an exhaustive list, cuz' it's, well, exhausting...but it includes things like certified copies of our birth and marriage certificates, notarized doctor's exam summaries, financial statements, police reports, proof of medical and life insurance, the home study report, etc, etc).

Our goal, if you can pray for us in this, is to have everything for our home study ready to mail off to our social worker by Monday. Then, we can have the actual home visits arranged, and that will be a big chunk (literally and financially) handled!

With our homestudy paperwork that we hope to mail in, we need to include a check for $800. You know the amazing thing? We already have almost all of that from an informal continuation of the rummage sale! Our basement still looks like a used furniture store, and it keeps growing as people hear about the adoption and are cleaning out! Just yesterday, a gal who works with Mark donated her couch and loveseat, which are in really good condition, since they are getting new furniture. A stereo sold here, two armchairs sold there, church members who had bought from the rummage sale on time credit :), etc...it's has continued to add up over the past few weeks.

So, we're excited and moving along here...keep on prayin'! Blessings!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A dad's perspective

The large majority of "adoption blogs" that we follow are written by moms. Perhaps it's a woman's verbal propensity (not that I have one, lol), but there are very few blogs in this genre written by men. So I think in some cases, it makes it harder for adoptive dads to find a voice for what they experience throughout this process. I'm sure that (aside from the very obvious physical aspects of carrying a child), both a biological pregnancy and a paper pregnancy are processed and experienced very differently for dads than for moms.

And while I can't say that the lack of dad-written experiences out there has made it difficult for Mark, I can say that he hasn't had the same quantity of experiences to which to relate.

So, it was neat for us to visit at the home of a fellow pastor and his wife a few weekends ago, as he and his wife adopted from India fourteen years ago. Even then, from the stories they shared, the paperwork process was long and sometimes frustrating. But in wrapping up a story about his request for a new social worker for their home study process, this pastor leaned in and quietly and sincerely added something to the effect of "all the headache and frustration from the process will just disappear the moment you hold that baby in your arms. You won't even remember it."

I doubt that he knew how profound a statment that was for us, coming from him. But it was an encouragement from God, in timing we can't even understand. And so we write them down. (Dt. 4:9)

PS: Thank you, Robin and Karen!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

View from the hallway

For the first time ever, I have 8 x 10 portraits of the kids hanging in the hallway. I guess we've always had so many candid photos around that I never felt the need. But, we had a family photo session in November, and there were great portraits of all three of them (after the photographer retouched the only good one of Anna to take out the boys)!
Well, I didn't want to buy three matching frames now and then not be able to find the same style for a portrait of Karis someday. To solve that dilemma, I just bought four frames! So I printed out the map with the pink-colored Ethiopia on it, added a border with Karis' name, and voila! A portrait for all four of our children! (Though I dare say I can hardly wait to have a real picture of her)!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Karis Tree

This is too sweet...check out my sister Tricia's blog post about her new "Karis Tree."
Yes, Karis is the name we've already chosen for our baby girl. In another post sometime soon I'll explain how we chose the name.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ages, stages, & statistics

Just the other day, someone asked me how many children are adopted from Ethiopia each year. And I didn't know, but also became intensely curious to find out. Here's what I discovered:


















If you click on the graph, it will open larger in a new window. But what it boils down to is that adoptions from Ethiopia to the US have been increasing steadily, and for 2008 the total number of adoptions was 1724. (Source: US Dept of State).

I've heard estimates on the number of orphans in Ethiopia to be anywhere from 4.8 million to 6 million. With that many zeros, I'm not sure a 1.2 difference makes all that much difference!

If 10% of Ethiopian orphans were adopted (going on a 5 million orphan estimate), then 500,000 orphans would no longer be family-less. I'm sure you can do the math, too (probably faster and better than I can!), but it really hits home for me to break it down. 5% of orphans finding a home would 250,000 fewer orphans. A measly 1% of children being adopted would mean 50,000 new families for these kids! Instead, .04% of all Ethiopian orphans are being adopted. Forgive me if my math is wrong. But wow. And with the estimate of a new orphan being created every 18 seconds...we're not doing very well at keeping up or with helping to prevent them from becoming orphans in the first place.


Statistically, only 9% of the children internationally adopted by Americans
in 2007 were adopted from Africa. 71% of the 9% were adopted from Ethiopia. Looking at the Office of Immigration Statistics over a 12 year period for Ethiopia adoption... On average an equal number of boys and girls are adopted from this country. About 60% of children are 4 years or younger. 40% are 5 years or older. (Quoted from here).

I do occasionally sense an undercurrent of criticism for adopting an infant, when there are so many older kids who simply have no hope of ever being adopted. Older than age 5, and their chances plummet. And even though I know that within our personal family situation of having 3 young children already, we wouldn't have the time or emotional resources to support an older adoptee, I still feel a twinge when I hear "Oh everyone just wants the babies."

I'm thrilled when I hear of an older child getting a chance at a family. It's a beautiful, albeit difficult, process. I am thankful that there are families out there that have the capability of taking on an older adoptee.

But after looking at the statistics of the percentage of orphans from Ethiopia being adopted in the first place, all .04% of them, I feel the guilty twinge unwrinkle. Because if everyone adopted an older child, there would simply be another baby growing older to take its place. By adopting an infant, we are adopting an older child...before they get there.