Tuesday, December 14, 2010

We're Home!!!

It still is surreal to me, but all four of my children are tucked in their beds for the night in the same house!  (I guess it's equally surreal that I have four children, period)!

My trip for our embassy appointment and to bring Karis Lemlem home was amazing.  Never before have I so literally felt the prayers of others lifting us up before the throne of God!  Some day soon I will sit down and write out all the details of our homecoming, as they are a testimony to the greatness and faithfulness of our God!

Meanwhile, I'm recovering from jet lag and a head cold, and Mark and I are both tired from a baby that's having trouble figuring out how to sleep here. 

My sister Tricia took amazing pictures of our airport reunion.  She was hesitant to post them, as she's always considerate not to "steal my thunder" in posting things about my family before I get to. 

However, any thunder I may have is currently buried under a heap of spit-up cloths and diapers, so I told her to post away-and she did!

So, check out the homecoming party they staged for Karis Lemlem, and share our joy as she's united with her family!  It's all right here...unless you find this link well after the fact, in which case you'll have to scroll down till you get to Dec. 13!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Embassy Appt

Posted on FB Weds. morning:

"Our embassy appointment is complete!!!! As soon as we land in Chicago, lil' miss Lemlem is a citizen of the good ole US of A!!! She was a trooper through the wait, and even finally gave in and feel asleep! God is taking such good care of us through such good people! Our travel group guys have been incredibly helpful w/ carting bags and such as I go this alone w/ baby girl. And the staff here is amazing as always, covering our backs on everything. We actually made it through embassy simply by the grace of God, as we weren't informed that I needed a copy of Mark's visa from court travel-thankfully they let it slide!"

- IT girl

First Day/Night with Karis Lemlem

Posted on FB Tuesday afternoon:

"Karis Lemlem and I are here at the computer, and we could seriously use some prayer! She basically was inconsolable for the first hour we've been here. She did finally sleep for a bout 10 min, but the moment I moved, she was awake & crying again. And she doesn't like the bottle type I have for her either. But, she's mesmerized by the computer screen, so at least she's calm for the moment!"


(a few hours later.......)
"THANK YOU for praying! In hopes of distracting her, we went down to dinner, & I had over an hr. of smiles from her till she got fussy @ bedtime. We tried 4 different bottle/nipple combos-all met w/ crying. I finally just sat her up on my lap, held the bottle in front of her-she got it in her mouth herself, chugged it all sitting up, fell asleep, burped, & was (& still is!) snug in bed...all in 15 mins! Hallelujah!"

(Next morning.........)
"We had a fantastic night! She was asleep by 8:30 pm, then woke up @3:30 for her bottle, practically stayed asleep while drinking it, then went back to bed and I had to wake her up at 8 this morning! We're both smiling, happy campers this a.m. as we head out for our embassy appt...please pray that it goes smoothly!"

- IT girl

Made it to Addis!

Posted on FB late Monday evening:
"I'm safe & sound in Addis! Nearly cried w/ joy @ seeing the bassinet waiting in my room! Learned some things along the way...Frankfurt has the least efficient & most poorly laid-out airport of any I've ever seen, & the smell of German beer on the breath of those sitting next to me on the plane makes me nauseous. Other than that, it's all good. "Paperwork party" in the a.m., then to get my girl in just 12 hours!!! Finally got my contacts out, took an incredibly long, hot shower, and am ready to go horizontal for the first time in two days. Will report back tmo with my baby in tow!"

- IT girl

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bringing her home...

Well, we're finally on the final leg of this adoption process!  (Well, excluding the next 18 years of raising her...but you know what I mean)!

I am currently en route to Ethiopia to finally bring our daughter home!!!

There are so many emotions coursing through me right now...joy being prevalent, but also mixed with concern for our trip home, grief for Karis Lemlem to be losing all that she knows and is comfortable with, all layered through the normal excitement and surreal acknowledgment that we're actually having a fourth child!  In so many ways it's like giving birth...and in so many ways it's not!  It was very hard to leave Mark and the kids last night, and I came to realize that I didn't really want to leave to bring her home...I just want her magically home!  But, since that's not possible, I'll do what I have to do!

To that end, I have several specific prayer requests that I would humbly ask you to be seeking the Lord for us about.
1.  For my time in Ethiopia...that Karis Lemlem and I would have a relaxing time of bonding together, so that as she experiences the new and possibly frightening surroundings on the way home, that she would truly feel comforted by me...and that I would feel the comfort and peace of the Holy Spirit that will flood through me to her.
2.  For our embassy appointment on Wednesday, that everything would go smoothly and that there are no issues in getting her travel visa issued.
3.  For our travel home...
  • For favor with the many airline attendants from whom I will need help!
  • For extra seats next to us on our flights
  • For Karis Lemlem to be healthy and to sleep well much of the time
  • For our flight connections...I have just 3 hours in Chicago to get through Customs and Immigration, hauling bags and baby and getting to our connecting flight
  • For our flight home with Mark from Pittsburgh, as we have a connecting flight in Detroit with only a 45 minute layover
4.  For our kids:  Adding a new baby to any family by any means is stressful.  Good stress, yes, but stressful all the same. Anna will especially need grace through this adjustment.  Also, she really had a difficult time when we last went to Ethiopia, and I know me being gone for yet another week will be hard for her (when it's the day before you leave and your three-year-old tells you every four minutes "I lub you, mommy," you know she's thinking about it too much...as heart-warming as it is to hear)!
5.  Pray for Mark and everyone holding down the fort at home, and for Mark's flights to meet me in PA to be safe and smooth.

We're so grateful to have so many standing with us in prayer.  I'll be posting updates throughout the week via facebook...if there's anything lengthy or incredibly noteworthy, Rebecca will post it here for those of you not on facebook! 

If you're local, we'd love to see you in Anchorage when we get in on the 12th!  One week and we'll all be home!!!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Finish Line

I hope I don't get any details wrong in this post...because in this case, the truth is stranger than fiction.  Not strange...but remarkable, amazing, divine, out-of-this-world crazy.  And this is kind of lengthy and detailed, but I believe your heart will be blessed by what you read here!

We, admittedly, were beginning to stress about the last bit of our finances that we needed to go to our embassy appointment and bring Karis Lemlem home.  We KNEW God had provided everything we needed up to this point, just like He always has through everything.  But, when it comes down to the rubber meeting the road, it gets a bit hot!  A week out from presumably needing almost $6000, and we had not an inkling where it would come from.

The run down:
Flights for both of us:  $4000 (estimated)
Flight for Karis Lemlem: $300 (estimated)
Visa for Karis: $400
In-country costs: $1200-$1400.

As we started looking at flights, it was getting nasty...and with little flexibility due to Mark's work schedule, available flights were soon over $3000 PER PERSON.  Ugh.

That is when we made the decision for me (Wendy) to travel alone.  Save on flights. Save on in-country.  It'll be tough, but I can rally-at least that's what I told myself then!

And then God's handiwork became evident once again. 
$1000 given by a friend.
$500 given by another friend
$75 given by another friend from college.
$370 remaining in our adoption fund

Total:  $1945
My ticket AND Karis Lemlem's combined final ticket cost: $1922!!!



So, this left Karis' visa and our in-country costs.
I really felt strongly that we should do the t-shirt fundraiser...if for no other reason than I wanted them!  My sister Rebecca went to work designing, Daniel and Sarah at http://www.bluebirdscreenprinting.com/ were ready to roll on short notice, Eric digitized the design for us, and away we went!

Many friends, family members, and fellow adoption peeps rallied on the t-shirt fundraiser.  Donations and help spreading the word from friends from high school.  (I'm getting old, folks...that was 15 years ago, and I'm once again blown away by the generosity and goodness surrounding us from past to present).

In the meantime, I rec'd the new estimate on in-country costs for just me traveling:  $800-$1200.
T-shirt fundraiser results (includes many generous gifts):  $1100!!!

So, we're down to just Karis' visa ($400), and then we also got the bill for our homestudy update that we had to do last month ($324).  And it was disappointing that we now could not take any donations to the orphanages/street kids, because I could only take 2 bags...which is one for me and one for my baby girl.  Extra baggage is $200/bag.  *disappointed sigh*  We had a whole suitcase of medical supplies given by a nurse here in Anchorage, and we also had hooded sweatshirts donated by friends from church for the street kids Bisrat works with, as well as a whole tote of cloth diapers I have had in storage and tons of new plastic pants and ear thermometers bought by another friend from church for the orphanages. 

Well, last week our church treasurer called me to see if I was home b/c she was going to drop off a cash donation that had just come in.  We just missed each other from her coming by and me getting home...and there was $400 sitting in an envelope on my table.  Karis Lemlem's visa taken care of.  Just. like. that.

A week later, a family member of a friend was here and wanted to buy a t-shirt.  She left a check on the counter for it.  $300. Homestudy update bill taken care of.  Just. like. that.

At church on Sunday, I was reminded that from another friend sending a check, there was $200 in the adoption fund.  And someone else gave me $100 specifically for the orphanage donations.  And someone else gave the treasurer $100 for the same thing.  Extra baggage fees taken care of.  Just. like. that.

Of course there is the issue of having traveling money for , meals, tips for bag attendants at the airport in Addis, and emergencies....and someone else at church handed me $400 to have for travel.  Taken care of.  Just. like. that.

The only thing left in this whole process is our post-placement visits (follow up with the social worker who did our homestudy) and readoption fees.  Could run anywhere from $600-$1500, depending on what our homestudy agency charges.

Between today and yesterday, we received another $650 total from friends and family. 
I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure our post placement costs will run us about $650. 

I hope you have read in amazement what God has done for us.  We are in awe of how mighty our God is.  We are completely humbled by how he has chosen to bless us.  I can hardly wait to see what the Lord is going to do in the life of our baby girl, who is really HIS baby girl...it's surely going to be something great with all that he has done in her life in six short months!  "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart..." Jeremiah 1:5

"Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done.  The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare. Ps. 40:5

"Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me." Ps. 54:4

"I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.  I will meditate on all your words and consider all your mighty deeds."  Ps. 77:11-12

"Declare His glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples." Ps. 96:3





Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Embassy Date!!!

We are so grateful to finally have a concrete embassy date...December 8th!!!
While we are disappointed that we won't be able to bring Karis Lemlem home for Thanksgiving, we're so thankful that we'll be home in plenty of time for Christmas-in 25 days, we will all be under one roof!  Plus her health has improved tremendously, so we're relieved of that!

Logistically and financially, the December 8th date is working so much better than if we left this week!  Although our plan isn't entirely what we had hoped for, it will still work reasonably well (though don't ask me how well it's working 10 hours into our flight...you might not get the same answer)! 

There were several issues to work around.  One is Mark's work schedule.  While he's allowed to take the time off, he still needs to service all of his stores, and would have to make it up...meaning a double load after our trip.  Also, our flights were going to be over $3000 each.  So, we were trying to use our airline miles to at least get to the east coast, which would make the international leg that much cheaper.  But, in trying for Thanksgiving week, it was no surprise that there were no flights available.  Now, we can use our miles!

At this point, I  (Wendy) will leave very early a.m. on Dec. 5th, which will get me into Addis at 2:20 a.m. on the 7th.  After a (hopefully) good hard sleep, I'll be off to the Transition House to bring Karis out of the orphanage for good and forever!!!  That would be 20 days from now, in case you weren't counting! :)

Mark will fly out on the morning of the 10th, getting into Pittsburgh late that night.  Karis Lemlem and I will fly out late Friday night and get into Pittsburgh the night of the 11th.  We'll have a few precious hours with Mark's parents, brothers and sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, and anyone else who blesses up by showing up!  Then we leave Pittsburgh at 6:30 the next morning, and arrive in Anchorage at 2:30 p.m!  While we're disappointed to not have more time in Pittsburgh, it still absolutely boggles my mind that it worked out at all, and that Mark's whole trip and my trip from Pitts to Anchorage is all free with miles!

There are still a few financial variables, like the in-country cost (which should be much less now for just one person), & Karis Lemlem's ticket (international flights still charge even for a lap infant), but we know it's going to be much more manageable and we won't need to sell nearly as many shirts!  But please keep spreading the word about our t-shirt fundraiser, and thank you to every one who has ordered so far!  At this point, we're just about giddy with excitement that we are THIS CLOSE and GETTING CLOSER to bringing that baby girl HOME!  We're as happy as she looks!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Still no embassy date

So, it turns out that Monday was NOT the day to find out our embassy date. 

The embassy office did not accept our paperwork on Monday.  The fact that our paperwork was even in had to submit is a huge praise!  It's still ahead of the typical time frame!

Apparently, there is something that needs to observed or celebrated on Tuesday, Nov. 16th, because the offices will be closed.  They will try again on Wednesday to submit our file.  If the embassy office accepts it and chooses to give us an appointment within the very next week, it will truly be the hand of God at work, as this Wednesday would be the typical date to submit for appointments two weeks out...our next date option being Dec. 8th.

So, we'll wait and see.  I haven't heard any other news regarding Karis Lemlem's health, and usually they send updates on Mondays.  So, I'll have some checking in to do tomorrow!  Please keep praying for God's perfect timing!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hard Stuff, Part I

I know it may seem that once Karis is finally home, the hard part will be over.  That couldn't be further from the truth!  There will be many more hard things that come with the territory of parenting an adopted child.  Worth it?  Oh, yes.  Challenging?  Yes.  Bad?  No.  Just hard.

One challenge for us is how to handle comments others may make once Karis Lemlem becomes part of our family.  I know it's inevitable, and I want to help people understand the realities.
But it will be a challenge if someone says:
  • "She's so lucky to be part of your family."  No, actually.  If luck had anything to do with it, she wouldn't have been an orphan in the first place.  We're blessed to have her in our family.
  • "What happened to her?  Why was she up for adoption?"  Thank you for your interest, but that's her story to tell to whomever she chooses when she's older.  Please don't be offended...and put yourself in her eighteen-year-old shoes.  You wouldn't want everyone knowing all the hard places of your life, either.  We're holding those hard parts of her life carefully.  We're new at this (obviously!), and as we figure out what we're doing, we want to err on the side of caution. Information can always be shared later...you can't take it back once it's out!
  • "She was meant to be part of your family!"  Um, I beg to differ.  I don't think God sets upon a plan to destroy families.  Her adoption into our family is making the best of a really tough situation...He does work all things out for good, but she was meant to be part of her first family.  We're the "Plan B."  Yes, I know God knew about it from the beginning.  But it doesn't mean the injustice of the tragedy that brought her to us in the process is pleasing to Him. If we could, we would give her back her first family, and give her the opportunity to be nurtured by her own parents.  It's not possible, and we're grateful that we're allowed to parent her, but I am so sad for what she has had to endure in her short life.

While we're on this topic of "hard stuff," a few things to share about her name...

We plan on calling her Lemlem for a while, until we are at least familiar to her.  Then we'll call her Karis Lemlem...until she becomes used to hearing both names. And then?  We'll just see what happens.  If she were older, I'd ask her which name she prefers.  For now, I want both to be familiar to her.

This isn't what we originally planned.  But when I think about this transition for her, it makes me cry...by the time she gets carried off the plane in D.C., there will be not one shred of anything familiar to her remaining.  A sea of white faces. Unfamiliar voices, sounds; language rhythms.  New smells, new formula (never mind the fact that it will hopefully help the spit up trouble!).  Love, yes...but love expressed in different form and language than she's used to. 

The very least we can do is call her by the only name she knows.  It means nothing to her, nor should it, that we've had the name "Karis" chosen for a daughter for forever.  The significance of its meaning is lost on a tiny baby who is feeling set adrift.  It's the opposite connotation of what we hold for adoption.  We perceive love and safety and a family to cherish her.  And it is all that and more...but not from her perspective-not yet, anyway.  Will she come to feel loved and safe and that she belongs?  That's the goal.  But for now, I imagine she'll feel pretty lost.

And the name Lemlem?  It was chosen for her specifically because of its meaning, which given the circumstances of her life, is profound.  It was a name chosen with love. It means "to flourish and grow."  We love all the more the family member who gave it to her for choosing life for her, both literally and symbolically.  And yes, it's undeniably beautiful with "Karis," which is the Greek word used for "grace."  Think about that...for grace to flourish and grow in her life, to grow and flourish in the grace bestowed upon her.  Amazing.

Speaking of helping her to not feel adrift...
For a while, Mark and I (and the kids, too) will do most of the holding of her.  We know you love her.  We know you've waited just as long as we have to love on her-and we appreciate that so much!  And maybe we can just sit down on the couch, you-me-and Karis Lemlem, and you can sorta hold her. :)  (The jury is still out on initial airport greetings)! :)  See, for the whole of her short life, she has been cared for by a rotating staff.  We want her to realize that this isn't just another orphanage with a different staff.  It's her family.  She needs something?  Moms and dads take care of needs.  If we don't do everything for her, it will make it that much harder for her to realize that "home" is something different.  Hard to do?  Yes.  But that's our job.

More posts to come on hard stuff that may be helpful for you to understand...

SUSPENSE

I hate strongly dislike suspense.

But we have lots of it right now, because MONDAY IS THE DAY...the day that our process coordinator in Ethiopia will take our paperwork to the embassy, and ask them to handle our case in just one week.

Typically, the embassy won't make appointment for less than two weeks out from when the receive files.  BUT, we didn't have court until the 29th, and there was no way that all the pieces would have been received in time to submit them.  While it looks like that our paperwork was "submitted too late" to have the embassy date right before Thanksgiving, it actually means that our paperwork has been submitted on a much earlier time frame than otherwise thought possible, and it's a wing and a prayer that they'll take it "later" than two weeks out.  Make sense? 

That said...PLEASE PRAY WITH US that we are graced with an embassy appointment NEXT WEEK.  Embassy handles cases from our agency on Wednesdays, but since it takes about two days to get the printed visa after the appointment, they would likely push us up to Monday of next week.  One. week.

If we don't receive an embassy appt. for the week of Thanksgiving, then our date will be Dec. 8th.  That's not entirely bad, either...it gives more time to prepare to leave, and to raise money, as we're about $4500 shy of being able to pay our travel expenses.  Logistically, we'd prefer Dec. 8th.  Emotionally, I want Nov. 22.  *sigh* :)  Either way, it's SOON, and our baby is home for Christmas!

Grace. (aka "Court")

I just realized that I never shared the story of our court appointment to become Karis' parents.

In order to "pass court," a family must go before the judge.  She asks a few questions (thankfully they were all "yes" or "no" questions!) to help ascertain that we are prepared to parent one of her country's beautiful children.  Most of the approval comes from the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs (MOWA).  It is MOWA who takes the time to look over all of the dossiers that enter the country, after which they process a letter indicating to the judge their approval.

Typically, when a family does not pass court, it is generally because the letter that MOWA has written has become lost, or because despite their intention to write the letter, it hasn't gotten done yet.

We were told by our coordinator that some of us did not have letters in our files yet, and that hopefully they would be delivered by our 1:30 court appointments.

We waited for about an hour in the waiting room with many other couples from other agencies in addition to the four other family "traveling buddies" we had.  The first couple went in, and came out all grins with "thumbs up!"  They had passed!  Now I honestly cannot anymore remember the exact order we went in after that.  But when our friends Scott and Rachel came out, they were unsure as to whether they passed or not...and we also emerged from our 5-question appointment unclear as to whether we had passed or not. By this point, I was so nervous I was ready.to.throw.up. 

The final family went in, and came out all smiles as proud new parents of a 5 yr. old and 2 yr old sibling pair.  And then our coordinator spoke to all of us, and told us that there was another issue besides missing letters from MOWA.  Several of us had children that come from Shalom orphanage...and Shalom's license had lapsed.  It was nothing uncommon...just a delay in their part on getting their license renewed.  However, the judge was not going to pass any cases with children from Shalom until they had demonstrated their compliance through re-licensing.  After sharing that our letter was there, but that we hadn't passed because of the orphanage licensing issue, she went back in to to speak to the judge.

Our letter from MOWA was there.  Do you know long and how often we prayed for all of our paperwork to be in the fileSpecifically to be in the file?  A long time and annoyingly often.  It was there.

However, Karis came through the Shalom orphanage.  The judge had NOT passed our case.  But the family with two children?  Their children were also from Shalom.  And they passed.  No explanation as to why.  And so our coordinator went back in to speak with her, and urged the judge to "be consistent."  She had passed them, so she should pass us. 

And she did.

By the grace of God, she did.

We were so close, so ridiculously close, to not passing.  There was nothing about us that she should have singled us out for favor.  I don't know that we had any more people praying for us than had been praying for others.  But we were graced with passing...the most tangible expression of grace I've seen this side of Judgment Day. 

I cried.  I still do.  Every.single.time I tell this story, and as I type it out...I cry out of gratefulness for His grace and favor.

Did I ever tell you the story of how we named Karis?  It's the Greek word used in the New Testament...for "grace."  It's already proving true in her life.

Looking Up

I'm sorry I neglected to post this on here after I posted on facebook...
On Wednesday, after receiving a plethora of tough news, I emailed our coordinator at our agency. This is what I sent:

I am wondering how regularly the embassy allows paperwork to be submitted late.  Is this something that you feel is likely to happen, or is that completely out on a limb?  Will we know for certain by Friday, or will our appointment day still be in question after that point?
Our daughter Lemlem has pneumonia…she was sick while we were there two weeks ago and has just gotten progressively worse.  I am considering traveling early to be with her, but will need to know a concrete embassy date before making plans, as I have three other children at home.  Any advice you can give regarding this would be appreciated.  Also, does the health status of the children involved ever influence the embassy in their scheduling?  

Within ten minutes of me sending this email, she called me back...and she had already been in communication with both our process coordinator and the Transition Home staff.  She let me know that they were certainly going to be advocating for our case to go before the embassy next week, and that they would also keep in close contact regarding Lemlem's health.  She also let me know that the TH doctor did not view her pneumonia as serious, and that she was responding well to treatment.

I have been impressed by our agency before (to be realistic, there have been a few UNimpressive moments, too), but this was truly remarkable to me.  

AND, a friend called us, completely out of the blue, and let us know that they were sending us a check fro $1000.  Yes, you read that correctly.  And then another friend from college contacted me the next day to ask for my address, because the annual Christmas check she and her husband give each year to a ministry or missionary they wanted to send to us.  Humbling.  We're so grateful.

God indeed hears the cries of His people...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rough Day for News

Before 9 a.m. this morning, I received three hard pieces of news:

1.  Karis now has pneumonia.  I'm not really surprised, as she was so sick while we were there, worsening to the point of running a fever the day we left.  A friend who was there the next week let me know that she was still coughing and congested.  That baby just needs to come home, and I ask that you pray for her strength and healing!

2.  Our paperwork needed for an embassy appointment did not get submitted in time...though the AWAA staff sounds hopeful that the embassy will accept it late so that we can still have an appointment the week of Thanksgiving.  So, it's not a complete loss yet, but would have been encouraging to know it was all wrapped up.

3.  One source to which we had applied for a grant is out of funds, and we were extremely hopeful that this would come through for our travel expenses for the second trip.  We need about $6000 for our tickets, Karis' ticket, her visa, and our in-country expenses.  And while we're incredibly excited that we might be able to bring Karis Lemlem home the week of Thanksgiving-that's not very long from now given the funds that are needed!  I just keep reminding myself that the timeline and amount do not serve as an obstacle to God whatsoever-we're just in a very hard place right now.  

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Donations to Go!

Here's our pile-o-goodies that we took to Ethiopia with us to donate to the orphanages! One full suitcase!
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Headed Home

We're headed to the airport in Addis in about an hour. Saying good-bye to Karis was impossibly hard. Now we just have to focus on getting home and seeing our other three kids, or we'll go crazy. Mark's stomach isn't feeling the greatest, and I have a really sore throat, so please pray we have restful flights home!
(Posted on Facebook ~7am (AK time), ~6pm (ETH time))


- Posted by "The IT Girl"

Saturday, October 30, 2010

WE PASSED!

In case any of you hadn't heard yet, Mark and Wendy passed court!!!!  Karis Lemlem Milligan is officially their daughter!  As a result, their private blog, with pictures of Karis from the time of their referral til now, is open to the public; you can find it at: http://www.karislemlem.blogspot.com/. THANK YOU to everyone for your prayers and support!!!  :)

- Posted by "the IT girl"

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Prayers Needed!

Update from Wendy via Facebook:

"A hard start to our day. Visited an orphanage with deplorable conditions, and left in tears. Our group was able to buy 10 crib mattresses (yes, babies are sleeping on the wooden bottoms of the cribs). But they also need massive quantities of diapers...ripped pieces of sheets wrapped around their bottoms and held in place w/ their onesie t-shirts isn't cutting it.

Our time with Karis each day is becoming routine and relaxed all the way around...though today poor baby girl is sick-again! B/t having her temp taken and being weighed, and being congested and coughing, and being woken up from her nap, she was pretty crabby for a bit. But after a snooze in our arms and a bottle, she was more like her happy self! She is one amazing baby!

Please be praying for us today and through the night! Friday is our crucial day here...the birth families appear in court in the morning, we get to meet and talk w/ a member of Karis' birth family after that, and then we're off for the all-important court appointment!!! PLEASE PRAY that everything goes smoothly and that we pass right away! Thanks for standing with us through this journey!"

- Posted by "the IT girl"  :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day Two!

Update from Wendy via e-mail (a few new adorable pics on private blog as well!)

"We had a great day today, just super busy. It's hard to believe that we've actually only been in Ethiopia for 2 full days...it feels like weeks, though not in a bad way!

This morning we had our meeting with Duni (the Eth. coordinator), and we're all hopeful and praying that God answers Andrew's prayers for a Thanksgiving homecoming! She is highly hopeful & somewhat expectant, that IF all of our paperwork is processed in typical time frame that we'll be back the week of Thanksgiving! And that because of the holiday, they will likely be pushing to actually handle our cases earlier in the week, and that we could be flying home on Thanksgiving Day!

After that we went shopping, which was fun for me-not so fun for Mark! Then we went to Makush restaurant for lunch (we split a grilled chicken pizza) and then went to the Transition Home to see Karis!

She was fussy at first, and had lots of spit up, and just kept rubbing her eyes! She was so sleepy, but didn't want to sleep! We finally just walked around the property till she fell asleep. We also met with the TH doctor to go over her known health history, and to have answered any questions we had. We didn't have many-he was very thorough and professional. She didn't gain any weight in the past month, but is obviously healthy and happy!

After she woke up, she was so incredibly happy! She kept spitting up so I just kept changing her clothes into the ones I had brought to check for size. Size 3 mos fits her perfectly now, so moving into the 6 mos. outfits for when she comes home! But she loves having her clothes changed and loved having nothing on!

It was hard as usual to say good-bye to her...but it does help knowing how attentive the nannies are. Then we came back to the guest house and I did computer stuff...emailing pictures to families, messaging with updates about other kiddos, and getting pictures off the camera.

We went to a traditional Ethiopian restaurant for dinner. The music and dancing was great, but let's just say that I took off my shopping list an injera mat! Believe it or not, Mark actually liked it more than I did!

Tomorrow we will start early b/c several of us had a few more items to shop for, and then we'll visit two different orphanages. And after lunch, it will be back to see Karis!

Friday morning will be difficult, as we will have the opportunity to meet Karis' uncle and to ask him any questions. Then court in the afternoon, and hopefully time to visit Karis."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pics/Videos

For those of you who have access to the private blog, I have posted some pictures and a couple videos of Mark and Wendy's time with Karis today, so go check it out!  :)

- "The IT Girl"

First Day with Karis!

"We arrived safely in Eth. and have already put in a full day with lots of time loving on our baby girl! She's amazing and sweet and too adorable for words! Flights were all good, w/ space to spread out on the DC-Addis leg of it, and all of our bags made it!


On the group itinerary, we were slated to bring our donations to the Transition home today...so from the time we got in, got through immigration, & got to the Guest House, we had exactly 45 minutes to shower and get all of our luggage shuff...led around so that all the donations were in one bag, and then off to the Transition Home to meet Karis! It was surreal, finally holding her. Yes, I cried...thankfully she did not! We have video and pictures of the whole thing! She was very serious the whole morning, and a bit fussy. After lunch we went back to the TH, and after handing out care pkgs, I went in to see her and they scooped her right up out of her nap to hand her to me! But she was surprisingly good natured for having been woken up. We actually got some smiles out of her, and then we got to feed her her bottle. Then she fell asleep in my arms, and we curled up on the couch on the porch and had a little nap together! And it's been a long time since I've had baby spit up on me, but she sure made up for it today-not complaining a bit! Then the nannies changed her clothes from all the spit up, and she LOVES to have her clothes changes-she smiled and giggled and we got some of it on video! Such a precious first day with our daughter!


We had such fun giving out care packages today! I will try to email pics from here tonight, and pray that the internet is fast enough!"

Monday, October 25, 2010

Seattle

Hi everyone - just wanted to share a quick Facebook update from Wendy!

"Thanks, everyone, for sharing in our excitement & for all the prayers! We're in Seattle...it was much harder to say good-bye to the kiddos than I thought it would be. Anna asked, 'Mommy, why do you have a sad face?' That at least made me laugh! Oh, to have all of our children in one country, let alone under one roof!" 
(10/24 - 10 pm, AK time /// 10/25 - 9 am, ETH time)

- Posted by Rebecca (Wendy's little sister and "designated IT girl")  :)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

We're Off!

We're headed out to the airport in just a few minutes!!!  I still cannot believe that this day if finally here, and that on Tuesday I will finally be holding our precious girl!

Please be praying for these things specifically:
1.  Our court appointment on the 29th...that every piece of required paperwork is accounted for so that we pass!
2.  That the wheels that must turn for getting our embassy appointment would turn effortlessly and quickly so that we can go get Karis and bring her home in just a matter of weeks.
3.  For our kids and my mom...and for us as we're leaving them.  We don't leave our kids very often, and certainly not for this length of time, and we're all a little emotional right now.

Most updates will be on facebook, though Rebecca will try to get on this blog the updates from there.  When we pass on Friday, we will have new pictures of us with Karis, and the private blog I've been keeping with all the pictures we have of her will go public!

We're off...we're coming, baby girl!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, October 22, 2010

48 HOURS!!!

So much for counting down this week!
How is it that the past 3 months have crawled, and the past week has gone by in the blink of an eye?

Either way, we are where we are...in 48 hours (actually, 46 if we want to be precise), we will be on a plane headed for Seattle headed for D.C. headed for Rome headed for Addis!!!

Oddly...the same amount of time b/t now and when we leave is the same amount of time between leaving and arriving in Ethiopia.  Only I'm sure that span will go a whole lot more slowly...

Friday, October 15, 2010

9 DAYS!!!

Just so you know, on this here blog this week, you may learn to count backwards better than ever before!

I had a crazy, wonderful day today.  My dear friend Kindra watched the kids for me, even doing all of their schooling with them...so that I could go get ready for our trip!  Last night I spent hours poring over other people's travel advice from our agency, and then making one veeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry long  list,  Then Rebecca and I headed to Anchorage for a day of shopping!

We hit the $1 bins at Target pretty hard, and have tons of goodies to give out at the orphanages.  We found some nice little gifts for the nannies at the transition home where Karis lives.  And I got almost all of the necessary little travel incidentals...from hand sanitizer to a pair of comfy pants to wear on our 48-hour-journey.

At Costco, I did all of our grocery shopping to last us from now till we get back.  This coming week I'll be making dinners in double and freezing to make it easier for my mom, who is staying with the kiddos, to cook for some food-allergic kids. I also got our required 10 packs of baby wipes to bring to the transition home, and the most loved gift of all for nannies and drivers and such in Ethiopia:  chocolate!   

Overall, it was a very productive day, and I feel ready to break out the suitcases and get packing!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Cleared for Travel!

Praise the Lord...the court has confirmed our appointment for October 29th!!!

We were able to rebook our exact same flights for the nearly the exact same price...so we leave here the night of the 24th and return the night of Nov. 1st! 

Thank you so much for praying with us...16 days to pack, get donations for the orphanages gathered, get my kids squared away for while we're gone, and celebrate Jacob's birthday!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

PLEASE PRAY!!!

This morning, Kristen (the travel coordinator with our agency) called the three families traveling for court on Oct. 29th. Apparently there are not a lot of details, but the court is being "funny" about keeping our appointments on the 29th. They have not been clear on what  they want to do.

The in-country staff is campaigning hard for us, urging them to honor their commitment...especially as all of us have already purchased our tickets. If the court refuses to keep the date, we will have no other recourse than to change our tickets.

At this point, the courts are closed for the day, and the earliest we will hear anything is tomorrow morning.

Please pray with us on this one...
Lord Jesus, you know the plans you have for us, the plans you have for our
children. We know that there is no "funny business" that you do not know about.
You provided clear travel itineraries and funds for tickets for all of us with
court on the 29th, and you can move mountains on our behalf. Lord, please grant
Duni and the AWAA staff favor as they beseech the court to honor the commitment
they have given. Smooth the way ahead of us, that there is nothing in this that
will prevent us from passing court when we DO, by the grace of God, have court
on the 29th. Please be mighty to save in this situation. Amen!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

21 Days!!!

I think I should come up with a list of everything I need to get done and packed before we leave...I'm sure there's at least enough for one a day for the 21 days until we meet Karis...which really leaves me just 19 days to get everything done!!!

Monday, October 4, 2010

22 DAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Assuming that our itinerary is approved by our travel coordinator tomorrow, we will meet Karis in just 22 days!!!

It was interesting trying to get our flights, as you must be in-country 2 days prior to court, and can't leave until the evening after court, and also finding that it was significantly cheaper to actually stay a few days longer than we expected.

We leave here at 5 p.m., Sunday, October 24th, which has us in Addis at 8:20 a.m. on October 26th.

Baby-holding (and sight-seeing when they finally kick us out for the day*) on the 26th, 27th, and 28th.

Court on the 29th.  Hopefully, prayerfully, there will be much rejoicing and the sharing of pictures of the beautiful baby who is legally our daughter!

More baby-holding and sight-seeing on the 30th.  Church service (I'm so looking forward to this, too!) and baby-holding on the 31st.  Tearful farewell to our precious girl.  Fly out at 10:15 p.m.  Arrive back in Anchorage on Nov. 1st at 10 p.m. 

Continue praying for a speedy embassy date so we can hightail it back to get her and bring her home!!!

There you go, in a nutshell!  22 days!!!

*The hours we may spend at the transition home with Karis will be limited.  I think this is mostly due to the fact that the nannies have to carry on a routine with all of the babies and children after the parents leave...which can be very difficult to do when you have had doting parents there every day all day for a week.

WE HAVE A COURT DATE!!!

We just received word from America World that we have a court date scheduled for October 29th!!! 

We have to be in-country by the evening of October 26th, and we finally get to meet Karis on Wednesday, October 27th!!!  I am so excited I could burst!!!

PLEASE start praying now with us that we pass court the first time around (there is a 50% pass rate, with no reflection on the families whatsoever...it's all a matter if every document and letter that is required actually finds its way into our file). 

Also, please be praying that we are HOME BY CHRISTMAS!!!  (Thanksgiving is still remotely within the realm of possibility, though not highly likely).  There is typically a 4-6 week wait between a court date and an embassy appointment .  If we don't pass court the first time, or if the US Embassy is backed up for any reason, it could delay our appointment schedule.  SO, please pray for the Spirit of God to move on our behalf!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

"Welcome to Travel"

We've reached yet another milestone in this whole process!

There was an email title "Welcome to Travel" sitting in my inbox...the day after courts reopened!  I nearly had a heart attack, thinking it was a court date!  Alas, it was not, but it is a big major step in the right direction!

AWAA lays out the entire travel process from start to finish, and I'm feeling much less stressed about unknown details at this point.  It was also a request for some travel documentation that needed to be submitted in the next three days.  It was easy stuff, but the fact that they wanted it so soon made me wonder if they knew something we didn't!

Of course, all of that information was submitted the very next day. :)  And now, we wait for the word "go!"  

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Movin' Right Along...

Well, the courts in Ethiopia are officially reopened!

While we've been waiting, we've gotten quite a bit done.  At the end of August, Mark and I submitted ourselves to $800 worth of vaccinations for travel!  Last week we took our last "self-induced nausea pill," aka oral typhoid vaccine.  Phew. Now to get our malaria meds squared away.

We also had to have our biometrics renewed for USCIS.  For the life of me, I can't figure out why we need to be re-fingerprinted after a year.  Thankfully, they give you one free renewal...seeing as they're $830. 

We also have to update our home study, as it needs to be renewed yearly.  I can't believe that it's been a year since we've done it...and Judy, our social worker, will actually be here this afternoon!  We do need to make changes regarding Mark's new job, but other than that it should be quick and painless.

And, of course, we feel much more ready to bring home a new baby!  The girls' room is all set, Karis' clothes are all washed and in her dresser (assuming she's not the next size up by the time she comes home)!

I do still need to get a few things, like a bassinet/co-sleeper.  I also don't have a swing or infant seat anymore, so I'll be scouring Craigslist again.  I'm closing in on feeding details being taken care of, so we're in good shape, I think!  Now all we need is a court date to go meet our girl and legally become her parents!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It begins...

...the uncontrollable urge to buy something, anything, for Karis! (This was shortly after we received her referral)! Anna slept with this little package of pacifiers in her bed for weeks-along with the picture of her baby sister! (And yes, I realize she may not ever learn to take a pacifier-that's why I only bought one package)!
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Girls' Room is Ready!


I've had so much fun these past few weeks getting the girls' room ready for Karis to come home! Rebecca has put in a ton of hours on this with me...I wonder if she regrets the Christmas gift coupons she gave me for "Color consult" and "Painting one room in your house!" Seriously, we've had such a blast with this! There are few things in life more exciting than nesting for a new baby!

Anna LOVES pink and purple. When we discussed the room makeover with her, those were really her only parameters. So, we went with a nice soft pink (the coloring in the pics is a little off), and a light chocolate brown, and a faint lavender for the closet and for accent. For inspiration, Rebecca did a huge search of nursery decor and I searched etsy vinyl stickers. She found the most darling crib set, that I thought I would never get because I didn't NEED it...the pink and yellow gingham set I had for Anna was perfectly fine. Unbeknownst to me, Tricia and Rebecca went ahead and got the window valances and bedding set for me for my birthday! I am thrilled with it...thank you, thank you!
















For the "stencils", I printed on transparency paper the animals/tree we wanted to use, and then with the overhead projector, we enlarged, traced, and then painted over our lines. I couldn't be more pleased! Rebecca did much of the giraffe free-hand, and lest you don't take time to watch the video, check out the Africa spot/Ethiopia heart on the giraffe! Anna is delighted with her room, and is even more excited for her sister to come home now that we have the crib ready and her baby toys in a basket! The only thing really left to get are the letters K-A-R-I-S for the wall.  I was so excited about having a girl before Anna was born that I splurged at Company Kids and bought the pink gingham wall plaques to spell her name.  Silly me.  Now I have to get them for Karis, too...and at $10/letter, well, there aren't that many really nice girls' names with only 1 or 2 letters.  Lesson learned.  And we still have to bring up the bin of baby clothes from the basement...I can't wait to do that!














 
Interestingly enough, someone insinuated that this whole room makeover wasn't fair to Anna, like "This is all well and good for Karis, but what about poor Anna who now is unfairly subjected to this African-themed room?" Granted, they didn't say it in so many words, but that's exactly what they were saying. I was glad they asked, because it really helped me articulate some thoughts on the subject matter, as did finishing the book "There is No Me Without You." More on that later, but the ending is perfect for this situation.

Yes, Karis is being adopted into an American family, and she will be an American citizen, and the culture she will "fit with" is going to be overwhelmingly American. But that is only one side of the equation. We are also adopting into an Ethiopian family, and Ethiopia is becoming a part of our culture (to the best we can manage), and it is just as right for us to integrate Ethiopian heritage into Karis' life as it is to integrate it into ours. She is as much American as we are Ethiopian. Will the scales always be balanced? Probably not...but you can bet that we're going to try.




 I thought I should include a "Before" picture and video to give you an idea why I'm so excited about this room makeover!
BEFORE:













Another view of "Before":

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Update from Ethiopia

(Another pic that Jen took while Rebecca was holding Karis back in July)





Another adoptive mom is in Ethiopia right now, completing her embassy appt. to bring her baby girl home this week! As is typical on our yahoo group, those who travel offer to take care packages and/or photo consent forms. It was too short of notice to send a package, but I did email a consent form to Jo, and she sent me this email that blessed my heart:

Just got it and printed it off. I will love on her and check to see what size clothing she is wearing . She must be a tiny peanut. Lidiyanna is too. I completely understand your emotions. When did you get your referral and when is your court date or are you waiting for an assignment? I know how hard it is to wait.

We are soooo thrilled to bring home our daughter as I know you will be as well. I remember how much it meant to me to have someone love on Lidiyanna before we could go, so I will be honored to do the same for you.
Jo

Then I received this note via facebook yesterday:

Took pics or your sweet baby girl yesterday. I will try to send them to you soon. Computer stuff is slow here.She looks great and healthy. I loved her adorable chubby cheeks. She was wearing a 0-3 month outfit and it fit her well.Send you the pics soon.

So at almost 4 months old, she's finally out of newborn size clothing! Good to know! And Jo, bless her heart, just emailed me pics this morning! She will send them full resolution later, but I'm so thankful for the pictures this morning!
Posted by Picasa

August Update

It dawned on me that since I started a private blog with pictures of Karis (until she's legally ours, we can't share on a public forum any identifying information-name or pictures), I haven't been posting any of her updates on this blog. And I should!

Aren't these feet precious? This is one of the many beautiful photos that Jen Ely took for me while she and Rebecca were there at the end of July!


Here is her August update...I apologize for the redundancy for those of you who have read it already! We will receive another update at the end of September. And, joy of joys, they won't send us an October update because that month, we will get to feast on her with our own eyes and get the update ourselves, in person!


Name: L***** Milligan
Measurements:
Taken on: August 31,2010
Weight: 10 pounds (up from 7 and a 1/2 in July!)
Height: 58 cm
Head Circumference: 38 cm
Eating/Health:
She takes 5 ounces of formula seven times per day.
She had rash on her neck on August 17th; she was treated with Zinc Oxide. She had URTI on August 23rd; she was treated with Cotrimoxazole syrup. She has occasional cough.
Development/Physical:
She follows moving objects with her eyes.
She making sounds like e,e,e…
Personality/Other Comments:
She doesn’t like to be held. She likes to be rocked in rocky bed (per those who have been to see her, this isn't exactly true...they've held her and she seemed plenty content that way!).
She smiles when the nannies play with her.
Questions
1. What is L*****’s daily schedule (eating, sleeping, awake times)?
She takes nap almost after every feeding for 1-2 hours during the day. She eats at 6am, 9am, 12am, 3pm, 6pm, 10pm, and 2am. She sleeps well at night waking twice for feeding and diaper change.
2. Does L***** smile, and if so, what makes her smile?
She smiles when the nannies play with her making funny sounds.
3. Can she hold her head steady when being held upright, or does she still need her head supported?
Yes, She needs her head supported.
4. Does she go to sleep on her own, or is she rocked to sleep?
She likes to be rocked to sleep.
5. When she is fussy, what soothes her the best?
She gets comforted when she gets her bottle with formula and is rocked on her rocky bed.

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Karis' Bed

I love this picture of her little bed, with our family picture posted at the head and her name at the foot...but I will love even more her sleeping in her own bed in the same room as her big sister!
Posted by Picasa

Referral Acceptance!

I neglected to post these before...obviously we accepted the referral of our precious girl, and can't imagine there is any way we could have or would have said no! Signed the paperwork, included a check for just over $5000 (which we HAD in the church orphan fund, hallelujah!), and FedExed it off to our agency! Talk about a milestone!


Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Update from Ethiopia!

Ashlie just sent me this lovely note via facebook!  I know she's frustrated with being stranded in Ethiopia until they get Embassy clearance to leave the country with her new son Easton, but I so appreciate how she uses her time to bless the rest of us who have children waiting for us!  Thank you, Ashlie!

Wendy~
We got to spend some quality time with L***** today!!! I was at the TH around 2:00 with another family. They have a women traveling with them,and she held L***** for over an hour!!! She is doing good! A little rumble in her chest but no coughing. She is still very tiny, compared to Easton. Her features are very delicate. The nannies love her a lot, you can tell that she is special to them. I hope it does your heart happy to hear that you baby girl is doing well.
Hope you get to her soon~ Ashlie

(Just as we can't publish pictures of Karis until she is legally our daughter, we can't tell you her given name.  It's very cute, though, and we plan on keeping it as her middle name.  Funny to me that her initials will be in alphabetical order...KLM). :)

Submitted to Court!!!

Our Family Coordinator just replied to my email inquiry that we have indeed had our paperwork submitted to court!  That's a great step...at least we're "in line," even if we don't get assigned a date before closures.  But it would do our hearts good to have a date in place before the courts close tomorrow...thanks for praying with us!

Healthy!

I just got word today that Karis finished up her meds for her Upper Respiratory Tract Infection, and that's she's significantly improved!  Praise Jesus!  The video I have of her coughing just breaks my heart...I'm so relieved she's doing better!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Updates and Prayer Requests...

As is evident from the lack of activity on my other blogs, there is a lot going on in our life revolving around Karis!

We did get a picture via email on Tuesday from one of Rebecca's teammates.  Trust me when I say that even a completely unbiased opinion would say that she is the most beautiful, precious little bundle ever. I  just cannot wait to share her pictures with you!  But as grateful as I was for the new picture, it put me further into an emotional tailspin.  I just could not get past the agony and despair of not being with my baby for an extra two months, waiting for "no good reason," just waiting...while she grows and changes without knowing her family.  Buckets of tears here this week, I tell you.  I spent several days just rotating back and forth from our agency's Ethiopian yahoo group to see if anyone else had gotten court dates, to facebook to check for updates from Rebecca, to email to see if any pictures had come through.  And back and forth and around I went...becoming more sad by the moment.

By Thursday night, I was ready to crack emotionally, and I did...at our worship team's prayer and practice.  One big fat ugly cry.  But you know what?  They prayed over me...prayed for peace, for joy during this process.  And God answered!  It has been the difference between night and day!  Not that I am not still longing and praying to get there as soon as possible, but not devastated at God's obvious answers, either!  I am filled with joyful anticipation instead of heartbreaking agony.  A good switch, for sure.

We would like specific prayer for the following things, though...and as always, we are so grateful to have you all standing with us!
  1. Karis' health:  She has an Upper Respiratory Tract Infection.  Unfortunately, this is pretty common in orphanage life.  But she is so tiny, we would appreciate prayer for her strength and a speedy recovery.
  2. A court date.  Obviously, as court closes this Friday,  we are not headed to Ethiopia this month, despite our best-laid plans and prayers.
    HOWEVER, we are praying that our October date will be assigned this week.  If we get assigned a court date this week, it would help with:
    • Travel costs:  Purchasing tickets two months in advance will likely be much less expensive than tickets purchased 1-2 weeks in advance!
    • Quicker court date:  There will an absolute flood of requests for court dates when the courts reopen on Sep. 27th.  If we are assigned a court date now, we will "beat the rush."
    • Planning!  How much easier it will be to navigate the next two months with a travel plan in place, from travel arrangements to care for the other three kids to Mark's new job if we know a date two months in advance instead of the 1-2 weeks in advance we can expect otherwise.  A light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. 

    We know that God's ways are not our ways, but we're hopeful for a court date to be assigned this week...thank you for your prayers to that end!  

Monday, July 26, 2010

Updated Update from Ethiopia!

UPDATED: There was another facebook update that came through later from Rebecca about her time with Karis:
Hey I'm working on sending you pictures right now! I can't promise anything, the internet is TERRIBLY slow, and there's at least 4 people trying to use it right now, so, yeah...it's slow :) Jen got some AMAZING pictures though. You will die. She is so, so beautiful Wendy. I bawled like a baby when I saw her! I got to... feed her, and spent about 4 hours just holding her. They let Jen and I take her into a room and let us lock the door so no other kiddos could disturb us, and we just hung out! She is so beautiful!!! The nannies are wonderful, they don't speak much English, but it was wonderful seeing them interact with the other babies, they are great! I will give you more details when we talk next, I'm trying to message you the number for Kari's cell phone that you can call with an int'l calling card. Or we can try to get on Skype! Instant messaging though, I think audio would be a disaster :) Love you so much!
PS:  No...the photos didn't come through.  At least Rebecca will be home by Sunday, so I don't have too long to wait!



Rebecca called me from Addis last night! She as so excited because she was going to get to go visit Karis a few days earlier than she expected! I guess they're staying about a half-hour away from the Transition Home, but her team leader Kari was headed over that way for errands, and asked Rebecca if she wanted to come along! Of course she said yes!
I didn't get any pictures via email yet, but this is what she posted on facebook:

I got to meet Karis today!!!! By far this has been the best day of this trip! I'm not allowed to post actual pictures of her until they pass court in a month or two, but trust me when I say she is the most beautiful baby! And I'm not biased either, the people on my team agree ;) She is so so so tiny, but very precious, and has the longest fingers and toes I have ever seen on a baby! I don't want to leave her!!!


She'll get to visit Karis again on Wednesday when they spend the day at the Transition Home loving on all the orphans there!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Referral Day Video!

After Andrew and I rec'd our referral call at home, we waited anxiously for Mark to get home from work PRONTO so we could open Karis' picture!

I called Kindra to see if she would come down and video us opening the email, and of course she said yes-it meant she got to be the first one outside of our family to see her!

At first it was frustrating because I wasn't paying attention to the fact that there were so many attachments that there was a scroll down for the attachment bar.  Once we realized the pictures were indeed there, we were pretty excited!

At any rate, I'm glad we captured the kids' first reactions to their new baby sister!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Update from Ethiopia!

Our agency has a yahoo group for everyone in the Ethiopia program, and it is the most amazing, prayerful, supportive group!  As families travel for court or embassy appointments, we can send care packages, have pictures taken, and receive updates! 
Erin was just there at the Transition Home to meet her baby girl and have their court appointment, and she graciously checked on Karis for me and gave me this message via facebook:


I checked on your precious L*- She was sitting in a bouncy seat right by the nanny- she looked up at me with sparkling clear eyes and she is so sweet- tiny, but you can see a spark in those eyes- She was bundled in a blanket all warm and snug- rest easy, she is in good care!!! Hoping you get to come soon! 

Thank you so much, Erin...you've set my heart at ease!

*Karis is the name we've given her, but she still goes by her given name until she is legally ours.  We plan on keeping her given name as her middle name.  Until we pass court, we can't share any identifying information publicly.  

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fun Milestone

Our agency has a blog, and about once a month, they post a list of how many referrals have gone out in which program.
I'm quite used to looking at those posts, calculating the months and averages b/t DTE and referral received...and finally, our referral is on that list!
The posting is here.  We are the 1/22/10 DTE listed under female infants!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Roller-coaster

Our adoption has been an all-consuming emotional roller-coaster since we received the referral for our baby girl last Friday.  I think I spent the better part of the weekend crying for joy, and all of us stare at her picture so much it's almost ridiculous! 

Then on Tuesday we had Karis' medical paperwork looked at, and there were initially some alarming findings.  With a second opinion and a great deal of communication with the staff in Ethiopia via our family coordinator, we are less alarmed but we do know that she is not entirely well. 

Add to this the fact that courts are closing Aug. 6th until Sep. 27th.  Today, families who rec'd their referral July 1st and earlier are receiving court date of August 6th.  One dear mom who rec'd her referral June 24 was given a court date of Oct. 2nd.  When you hope and pray and BEG for a date before closures, it's devastating.  Maybe not in the overall lifetime of your child is it devastating, but for right now...it's hard.  Impossibly hard.

You see, adoption is a total miracle.  For those of you who are parents, think about the love you have for your children...the hopes, dreams, fears, totally-sold-out love you have for them.  We have them for Karis, though we've never met.  God planted it in us the moment we saw her face (maybe even before)!  So imagine having a sick child all the way across the ocean, unreachable...and you have a smattering of how we're feeling.

We are not giving up hope for a court date until we have a reason to give up hope.  I know it's not likely.  I know I'm grasping at straws.  But for now, that's all I have...faith that my God will do what's best, that he will move this mountain if it should be moved.  For my part, I'll keep on asking.



Friday, July 16, 2010

REFERRAL!!!!!

WE HAVE A BABY GIRL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Our family coordinator called us this morning at 10:15!  I started crying as soon as I saw the number on the caller-id!  While she tried to conference Mark in on his cell, I told Andrew that I was on our referral call, and he grinned from ear-to-ear, jumping up and down! I gave another phone to him and instructed him not to say a word, and go into the bathroom so it was quiet. 

Our family coordinator couldn't reach Mark on his cell (he never heard it ring, as he was on the phone with a customer), so she got back on the phone and said the words I have been longing to hear "This is your referral call!"

She told us that she was 6 weeks old, though from her paperwork she may actually be 9 weeks old.  She is just precious...so, so, so tiny!  She only weighs about 7 1/2 pounds! Her picture breaks my heart...she looks worried.  But such big beautiful brown eyes!

Mark headed home shortly after that...and we waited to open up the email with our baby's picture until we could all be together!  Kindra came down to video us opening the email...I'll upload it next week!  I spend the next several hours crying and calling everyone!  Anna asked me why I was sad..."I'm not sad, I'm so, so, happy!"

One of the many beautiful things about God's timing is that Rebecca leaves TOMORROW for Africa, and we were able to get some things together to send to Karis!  The kids were so funny, and had quickly gathered a huge pile of books and toys to take to her!  We whittled it down to some special outfits, a few books, and a little blankie or two! 

I will write more later, I'm sure...my mind is quite frazzled and distracted!  We're heading out camping for the weekend for Andrew's birthday-a baby sister for his present!  I'm sure I'll think of other details later, but there's the excitement at our house!

"The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with JOY!!!"

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Court Closures

Well, it's official.  Exactly what I hoped wouldn't happen, will.  Seeing as we're "on deck," meaning we'll likely receive our referral in the next 1-3 months, the following message from our agency directly affects us:

We have received confirmation that the Ethiopian Court will be closed August 6th-September 27th.  


These closures may or may not affect your family depending on your prospective waiting stage.  Referrals will continue to be issued to families during the court closure. Families who receive a referral within the next one to three months will experience additional delays in their process due to the court closure.  The wait time during referral and court date will be extended during this time frame.  We expect that families who receive referrals between now and the end of September will not receive notification of a court date until sometime in October.  

Court date notification in October will likely mean court in late October/early November (when we finally get to meet our baby!).  If we pass court the 1st time (there's a 50% pass/fail rate that has no reflection on the family, simply a reflection on whether all of the paperwork has been processed correctly and in a timely manner), then it's typically a 4-6 week wait to gain Embassy approval/visa.  All told, there's a slight chance we'll be home by Christmas.  Slight.  



Even though it will be so hard to wait even longer to hold Karis, we still are longing to just to see her face...and we pray that day will come quickly!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Rainy Season

In the Ethiopian adoption world, there is a great deal of discussion, angst, and worry about when the court system will close for the rainy season.  I've heard rumor that it will be closed Aug. 6th through Sep. 27th

I've always found it odd that the US embassy will still issue visas during the rainy season, but that the federal courts close down.  On our Yahoo group today, a very thorough explanation was offered by someone who has already been there, done that...so I thought I would share:


If you receive your referral during closures you'll be put in "line" at AWAA for assigning a court date once court reopens.  We received our referral last year on Sep 19 and our first court date was Dec 4 and assigned to us in November.


Although investigations should be able to "continue" during the court closures, remember that the courts close because of the rainy season.  This is because the road conditions become impossible to travel during this season, as well as major power issues etc.  Employees cannot get to work, witnesses cannot travel in.  Therefore, you have to understand that any investigations the embassy would be conducting could not be completed if the agents can't "get to work" or "get out to investigate."  Also, families do not travel during this time because the conditions are too difficult to travel in, so it would be highly unlikely for Embassy appts to be scheduled during this time.  It's truly a holding period in the program except for the beginning when the children brought into the TH are referred out.  But then there is a long lull in referrals since the whole "machine" stops and bows to the rain and the dirt road washed out conditions it brings. . . .  It's not simply that the courts take a vacation and that's the only part of the system that throws a kink in the gears. Every part of the country and it's happenings get hindered by the rain. . . .


It's simply part of the time table that God knew before He called you to this.  We received our referral for the kids right at the beginning of the court closure season and had to wait until the middle of January to travel and bring them home.  We understand how anxious that can make some of you, but it's a busy season here in America and it really does go by quickly, and as many kids who've spent the rainy season at the TH have told their families, it's a fun time for the kids in ET.  The staff does a wonderful job of entertaining them and making it a special vacation type season.

While it's not comforting to me at all to know that the older kids will be having fun during the rainy season...knowing that the earlier a child is in a loving family, the better; I do take comfort in the fact that it is part of the timetable God knew about all along!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I recognize this feeling

I have been driving myself to utter distraction ever since we got our "On Deck" email yesterday.  Thoughts of Karis and details and timeline guesses have filled my thoughts. 

And I realized that I have felt kind of like this before...almost exactly like this.  And it's happened to me three times before.

If you've been through this experience, I think you'll understand where I'm coming from.  You know what it's like when you go to your 38-week OB check up, and they tell you you're 2-3 cm dilated?  Which basically means you could feasibly go into labor any day...or not.  You could still wait it out two more weeks and then some.  But the fact that you are even a bit dilated is so encouraging, because it means progress is being made and that you're that much closer to holding your baby in your arms.

That's what I feel like. 
Just like being pregnant, except that I can still see my toes and I don't have heartburn.

Friday, July 9, 2010

"ON DECK!!!"

Okay, so AWAA doesn't include a bunch of "!!!!!'s" when they send the "on deck" email, but I sure do!

We got our official "On Deck" email today, which basically asks us to verify our child request, gives us info regarding accpeting our referral, etc, etc...and that we will likely receive our referral in 1-3 months!!!  Some people have their referral the next week, some wait longer.  There's really no way to tell.  But still, I'm so excited I'm crying.  So soon, baby girl, so soon. 

Monday, June 28, 2010

Yard Sale Fundraiser

Over Memorial Day weekend, Rebecca and I had a yard sale together...for her to raise funds for her missions trip to Ethiopia/Uganda this summer, and us for our adoption.

As busy as we both are, a lot of this happened in the wee hours of the morning.
We made these...





















...and turned this...





















...into this.














We learned several things:
1. We should have taken the time to do more publicity at the sale regarding why we were trying to raise money...if they had known more, people would have been more generous.

2. On Memorial Day weekend, there are two kinds of people. One kind is out camping/boating/fishing/having fun somewhere besides at garage sales. The other kind of person is having a garage sale. Between the two, there aren't a whole lot of people left to actually come buy things.

3. I can be really hot, even in Alaska, and despite only raising $300 (which was then split between us, meaning that overall, all the effort really wasn't worth it, esp. for us having made extra trips to Sol. to deliver stuff before the sale), my kids still had a lot of fun.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Time Flies!!!

I have neglected this blog for a bit now on account of lack of news. We have just been trying to be faithful in the waiting. We talk about Karis all the time...we are looking forward so much to seeing her sweet face. Anna asks routinely when we're going to go get her baby sis'er and how we'll get home. The kids pray for her every night. I pray for her all day long!

I have connected with our yahoo group of families within our agency who are adopting from Ethiopia, and have been blessed by joining with them in great prayer, heartache, and rejoicing on this rollercoaster ride called adoption! There was a definite slow-down in referrals, as another new Ethiopian court policy is that all children must have a regional birth certificate before proceeding to court. Until this past week, no less than 20 families have been waiting, pictures of their sweet children in hand, to even be assigned a court date. Then the floodgates opened this week, and travel dates and court dates have been assigned...and referrals have been given out again!

Now I doubt that you keep track of it like I keep track of it, but we are just finishing up MONTH 5 of our wait. And are you ready for this? WE ARE #1 ON THE LIST FOR BABY GIRLS!!! (Provided, of course, that there aren't any other "mystery" families...the list is unofficial, after all). The family with the latest referral has only been waiting six months!

The rub now is that the court will be closed sometime in August-September for the rainy season...and if we have our referral by then but not a court date, we would have to wait till after September to go and meet her. Yet this whole process has been orchestrated by God, and I'm not about to start doubting His timing now!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ladies' Tea Party Fundraiser!

On May 15th, the culmination of much hard work and planning finally went into effect...
our Ladies' Tea Party!

My dear friend Lynne had donated, over a year ago, a beautiful queen-sized quilt she had made. She originally made it to raffle to raise funds for a missions trip years ago, which ended up not being needed. So, she offered it to us for our fund-raising efforts. With us not wanting to go the "raffle" route, Lynne concocted the idea of an event for women which would have the quilt as its door prize!




















We asked Rose at the Inn at Tern Lake if we could use the great room at her Bed n' Breakfast (a gorgeous local establishment that hosts wedding receptions-including Tricia and Jerry's almost six years ago!), and she graciously offered the space free of charge!

I asked six special women if they would serve as hostesses...and they all willingly offered their help! They each tried to sell tickets ($15 admission), and exuberantly took on the task of decorating their table in hopes to win the "People's Choice" award for most appealing table! Rebecca won the prize for the best table...she had all of the kids at her table, and had an African theme, complete with African animal masks for the kids to wear!





















Everyone seemed to have a delightful time visiting, and it was a wonderful opportunity to bring awareness to the orphan crisis. I created a "Trivia Quiz of the non-trivial sort" using Ethiopian statistics...such as the population of Ethiopia, then the number of orphans in the country, the median age, and percentage of children who die before age six. (There was a prize for those who got them all right)! I also showed a clip from the Show Hope DVD...and it was a somber education for many in attendance.




















We had a buffet with a delightful assortment of goodies that our friends and family helped to make. There was live background music provided by our friends Keith and Kristin (who also play on our worship team), and my friend Virginia on the keyboard. It made the atmosphere so inviting to have their beautiful music playing!


We also had a silent auction going throughout the tea party. We had so many donations...my friend Mel made a lap quilt, my friend Willow made a lamp, there were lia sophia items from my mom and Pampered Chef products that I had gotten for free with the fundraiser parties I'd had, artwork and ceramic pieces from my friends Sue and Melissa, framed prints of nature photography from Tricia, a fishing charter for which I had traded out goat buck!, small household items from my friend Rosella, a big sketch of Teddy Roosevelt and a handmade bedframe from my friend Judy, and more...I'm taking a big risk by trying to list everyone individually! We were just blown away by the outpouring of love and support to pull this event off successfully!



















The most fun came when it was time to do the drawings at the end of the party! Melanie offered her flower arrangement to draw a name to win, and of course the drawing for the quilt! I had Lynne pull the name out of the basket, and she pulled out my friend Jill's name!!! I was so thrilled that she won, as she and her family are in the process of adopting two children from Rwanda!














The whole event was such a blessing to us, and I pray it was a blessing to those who were involved in various ways! And the final result? $2025 raised towards our adoption fund!!! Praise God!!!

(Thank you, Tricia, for taking all the lovely photographs of this event)!