Friday, December 11, 2009

Our Cookbook

We have copies of our Adoption Journey cookbook available. We are excited to be able to share this with you. We have used the proceeds so far to help us pay for our adoption expenses for Ayana and Siqare. Future proceeds will go to pay off our travel expenses and for their medical expenses.

The cookbook contains 4 other adoption stories in addition to ours. Plus, almost 300 recipes. We have tried many of them and have had great success and lots of tastiness.

If you are interested, please let us know. We are selling them for $10 each plus $2 s/h if we need to ship them. They would make great Christmas gifts!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Loving our full family

We are tired and each day is full of challenges, but we are loving the fullness of our family. Ayana and Siqare are adjusting amazingly well. Their English is growing very quickly. Communication is great. The biggest adjustment so far has been Ayana learning to be a younger sibling again. At the care center he was one of the oldest kids for almost 7 months. Now there are bigger kids who get to do things that he doesn't. It isn't a huge issue, but that is where we are seeing the most struggles - that and when Siqare wants a musi(banana) and we are all out.

The doctor thought both loook really healthy and didn't see any long term affects of Siqare's malnutrition. He said with plenty of calories her belly will go away gradually. I wished the same could be said for me.

Our bio kids have been amazing. Certainly, they have had their moments of difficulty with the changes, but they have stepped up in ways I would have never imagined. Caitlin does S's hair. Caleb allows both A & S to crawl all over him. And Cameron loves teaching and helping them both with new things. Even better is the maturing that they have all done in the last month. Taking them with us was the exact right decision for them and us. They learned and grew so much through our experience there - especially in seeing so directly the work God did in providing the visas. They also connected in very special ways with us and with A & S because of our time there.

What an amazing time in our family's growth. I know there will be difficulties ahead, but am enjoying the honeymoon. I am also resting in the peace of knowing that we serve an awesome and loving God.

Ethiopia Guest Home

The website for the guest home we stayed at is:

It was fabulous. Would stay there again.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Little Humor

Just thought I would post something on the lighter side. Question: How is it that we can travel half way around the world to a third world country - 5 there and 7 back - and none of us get sick? But, our dog who only travelled 1 1/2 miles north comes back with horrible diarrhea? The only one we didn't ask for prayer for, I guess. Not to worry too much. Jake is still recovering, but doing well.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Details Details Details

Wow, what a week. While there was a very difficult part to endure, much of our week was full of wonderful moments and fabulous memories.

Saturday, November 14 we left our home in Hoffman Estates, Illinois at about 9:30 am. Our good friend, Jeff Rylander drove us (John, Val, Caitlin, Caleb and Cameron) and our 10 suitcases/5 carryons to the airport. After checking in and getting through security we played some Dutch Blitz and had some lunch. Soon we were on the plane for D.C.

After a fairly lengthy layover in D.C. we boarded our Ethiopian Air Flight bound for Addis Ababa. In the D.C. airport we met another couple, Carl and Angel from our agency who were also going to pick up their children. Little did we know at that time how deeply grateful to God we would be for having arranged their trip to coincide with ours. The bad news for the flight is that not much sleep was had. The good news is that air sickness was not an issue, even for Val who has had problems before and decided not to take dramamine this time. Wow.

When we landed in Ethiopia it was surreal. After all that we had been through up to this point, were we really here?

Getting through immigration took a little time, but was pretty simple. By the time we did that and changed some dollars into birr our luggage was ready for us. We loaded up our cart and exited the airport. When we got through the luggage check, we found out our new friends were not able to get their video equipment through. They were quite upset and extremely worried that they might not ever see it again. (They did get it back when they left at the end of the week).

In the lobby of the airport we were met by Sami, who was to be our translator for the week. What an awesome guy and fellow brother in Christ. He helped us with our luggage and we went to our van and met our driver for the week, Gecho, also a fellow brother in Christ. These 2 men were such a blessing to us throughout the week. Isn't it amazing how God put his plan together half way around the world? He knew we would need these guys by our sides for many reasons.

When we exited the airport the smell was the first thing that hit me. The closest thing I could compare it to is a good farm smell.

We were taken to our guest house, which also proved to be an immense blessing. Hot showers and electricity - amazing. They even had pizza waiting for us when we got there. That night we tried to crash. Everyone was exhausted. Unfortunately, many, many dogs were communicating some dreadful news to each other. That lasted until about 3 in the morning and then the roosters took over - they don't just crow at dawn and not just once. And if that wasn't enough sound variety the mosque's prayers were being broadcast throughout the night. Life in the big city of Addis.

Monday morning arrived. We were treated to a great breakfast of French toast. Then we were on our way to meet Ayana and Siqare - or so we thought. We handed our driver the "address" of the care center and soon learned that addresses don't mean much. After several phone calls it was decided that we would pick up an agency worker and they would direct us there. We also soon learned that no trip is short in Addis and that traffic was a sight never before seen by our family. First, very few rules, second, one must be aggressive if you are to make forward progress, third, automobiles are not the only users of the roads - people can show up anywhere and herds of animals need it as well. (Monday morning when we looked out the front door of our guest house, we saw goats in the yard across the street)

Finally, we made it to the center where our children were at. We drove in and there they were. Holding them for the first time after only seeing pictures for months. Wow! It was like time stood still for a while.

We all sat in a living room of sorts and just looked at each other. After some moments alone we got busy. We had brought donations and gave them to the nannies and then we started taking pictures of the other children at the center. During this time the other couple we had met in D.C. arrived.

We decided at this point that we were going to take Ayana and Siqare with us that day. Originally, we didn't know if that would be the best thing, but now we knew it was right. So, after some tearful goodbyes (the nannies and some of the other kids - not Ayana and Siqare) we loaded up our van with all 7 of us and left the center.

The rest of that day we spent at our guest house. A & S napped. The bio kids watched a video and we just soaked up the events that took place.

On Tuesday, we had some paperwork to finish at the agency's office. This was one place where our driver and translator helped a lot. Communication was very difficult and their translating efforts helped tremendously.

After that we returned to the guest house and had lunch. In the afternoon we went to the market. A & S stayed at the guest house. We purchased several things, gifts for A & S, decorative things for our home, souvenirs for our bio kids, gifts for people back home. We did pretty well with the haggling. By our last stop Sami had become a little impatient at how slow I was and took care of it for me.

When we had gotten most of the things we wanted, we went back and picked up A & S and went out for pizza at Island Breeze - recommended by a missionary family who we had communicated with prior to going. It was tasty. We had Gecho tell Ayana that we have pizza almost once a week at home and he just smiled.

Wednesday we had the goal of purchasing coffee, going to the Sheraton for internet access, and visiting a Leper Community. The Leper community was probably the highlight of the week - after picking up Ayana and Siqare of course. We watched them spin yarn/thread, weave cloth, stitch designs, and weave mats. Many other things were going on as well. The people were so warm and gracious. Caitlin and Val tried to spin the wool into yarn and Val did a photo shoot pretending to help with the bedspread needle work. Sami translated that Val wouldn't do any stitching because she didn't want to mess things up and the ladies just laughed. What a wonderful experience.

Unfortunately, their store was closed so we weren't able to purchase anything that day.

That afternoon, after lunch at the guest house (the food was really good all week - some of the new things like injera took a little getting use to) we went to the drop-in center that the profits from our guest house help support. We met the director, who gave us his story of how God had directed him very specifically to what he was doing.

The drop-in center supports 50 children. 25 of them attend school there. All 50 receive meals, clothing, and medical support. I didn't understand exactly how all of it worked, but it was neat to see the passion and care. We were able to play with the children a little bit as they were released from class. When we left, we ended up walking with many of the kids on their way home. All available hands were taken and we walked the two blocks back to our guest house hand in hand. This was also a highlight.

Thursday morning we made a quick trip back to the Leper Community. Thankfully, their store was open, their prices were much lower than the market, and the quality of their things were beautiful. One of the coolest things that they made there was bags woven out of cut up strips of milk bags. Recycling at its best.

We had lunch and then we were on our way to the Embassy - of course, thinking that this would be a breeze and we could celebrate that evening with the other families from our agency.

After a long night and morning we had obtained our visas. Now we were now pressed for time to get everything done in time to check out and be at the airport. We went back to our guest house, inhaled some lunch and then took our family to have a coffee ceremony with the other families from our agency. It was such a relief to be able to give them back their cell phone and to know that we would be travelling with them back to the states that night. The coffee ceremony consists of incense, espresso like coffee, and popcorn. We didn't think to ask what the significance was - we were still a little dazed from our previous ordeal.

After a quick visit there we returned to our guest house and began packing like crazy. We opened all of the suitcases and just started throwing things in. Within an hour we were packed and ready to go. We had dinner at our guest house one last time and then were treated to another coffee ceremony. The bonus this time is that the popcorn had sugar on it.

Soon our driver arrived, our bags were loaded and we were headed - all 7 of us - to the airport. Getting 7 people through immigration, check-in, and security 2 times was almost humorous - especially when you are trying to communicate with 2 children that can't understand you. But, we made it. While we were waiting we had some musi(bananas - which are very important to Siqare) and some Kitkats - the bio kids and I were ready for some chocolate/sugar.
Then we boarded for our 18 hours of flying/refueling/flying to D.C. Much more sleep was had on this flight. A & S slept a lot and had total control of shinte (going to the bathroom).

Arrival in D.C. was easy. Short wait for immigration. Just one glitch. We got to customs and our customs sheet only showed that 6 people had been processed. So, we had to walk all the way back. But, then they quickly crossed out the 6 and wrote 7 and sent us on our way. And the woman at customs told us that we could cut when we got back and she let us go straight through - no baggage checks. We rechecked our luggage and waited through 2 delays and finally boarded our last flight for home.

While in the D.C. airport, we met a high school classmate of Val's on his way back from a business trip. What are the chances. Brian even waited for us after we got off the plane and helped get us to baggage pick up. What a blessing.

My parents and my brother and his wife were there to greet us. Another blessing. We had originally planned to just call and have them pick us up outside. I'm not sure physically we could have gotten all of our luggage that far. We were all so ready to drop. (All ten pieces of our luggage were neatly lined up and waiting for us - done by airport employee)

About 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 21 we were all home.

What a journey. God's placement of his people throughout our journey was so evident and such a blessing. Thanks be to God. We praise you, Lord for all that you have done.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ethiopia Guest Home recommendation

For those travelling to Addis to bring home your beautiful Ethiopian children we want to highly recommend Ethiopia Guest Home. Our agency guest home which we did see and heard about from other families travelling with us, was quite unacceptable. Our stay at Ethiopia guest home was so much better and cheaper. All seven of us were able to stay in one room with a private bath for $135 a night (This included breakfast and lunch, phone/internet access, cell phone, water, nanny service, and a massage for all adults - we didn't use this).

The better part of our stay there was the people who worked with us there. The care and hospitality they showed was amazing. Siqare's hair was done twice while were there including de-licing. The food was excellent. They talked to the children and showed love to all of our children - both bio and adopted. Our driver, Gecho and translator, Sami were lifesavers. Were it not for them we would not have ever been able to clearly communicate with our own Agency staff. They also helped us in the market, showed us Addis, took us to a leprosy community. They also got tough with our agency, when we needed them to translate the urgency of our situation to them.

Not only did we have a great stay and great service there, but the profits the guest house makes supports a drop-in center that serves 50 orphan/very low income children with education, meals, and medical care. We saw the center and met the director. What a great heart he has - he listened for God's call and answered by following him.

BFAS parents, we had no problem taking Ayana and Siqare with us to stay there. We took them from the care center the first day.

The power of prayer.

Thank you for praying for our situation. When we requested prayer, we weren’t able to fully express the gravity of the situation. Last week on Thursday afternoon we had a visa interview at the US embassy in Ethiopia. From pretty much everything we had heard, this was a formality and the majority of families got their children’s visas without any problem.

When we went to the window for our interview, everything seemed fine. Then we were asked how are children came to be relinquished. We answered what we knew – that their parents relinquished them because of severe poverty. At this point the woman at the window went to her supervisor. After a few minutes they came back and told us that because our children did not meet the US’ definition of orphan, they could not issue the visas.

When we passed court in October the Ethiopian government legally established us as their parents. So Ayana and Siqare are our children. But, we are being told that with the current information that had been given to us and the Embassy, they would not be given visas to return to the US. So, not only we were facing a potential delay in returning (we were suppose to be flying out the next night at 10:15), we were facing the potential of never being able to bring them home.

We left the Embassy appointment in tears and distraught. Thankfully, in God’s sovereignty, he had placed 2 other families from our agency their with us. Both families embraced us and held us up during this awful time. One family had an international cell phone with them. When we returned with them to where they were staying, they allowed us to use their phone to make whatever calls we needed to. Our first 2 calls were for prayer. John called his parents, who immediately put the word out through their church, facebook, email, phone calls. Then I called our friends, the Rylanders, who emailed several groups and called the our church. Val and our new friend, Angel prayed together.

Almost immediately we could feel God’s strength returning to us. John's mind cleared and with the help of the other families we decided on who we should contact. Thankfully, by this time the US was beginning their workday and people were easy to contact. After many phone calls we had a clearer picture of what needed to be done and we had some action from stateside that might help move things in Ethiopia. The clearer picture, though, was that we had to legally prove that these children truly were orphans. Nobody could just say “put it through.” We had to find evidence – which at this point we didn’t even know what that evidence could be.

After about 3 hours of sleep we were up and ready for action. Unfortunately, it was another 5 hours before the Embassy opened. At about 7:00 am I checked email. Surprisingly, there was an email from our International Agency director in our box. Even more of a surprise was what it said. It was the story of Ayana and Siqare’s parents. The father was in jail for trying to murder their mother. The mother was left to support 5 children selling injera. While the story sounded like evidence to support that they were orphans under US law, the problem though was that this was an email from our agency director to the Embassy. There was no documented support for it in the children’s file.

Shortly after this we received a phone call from the Consulate’s office. They said they had seen the story and if somehow substantiated, this would prove that they truly were orphan’s under US law. They had requested the children’s complete file from our agency. Unfortunately, the agency was not complying. So, we went to our agency’s office in Addis; got the file and proceeded to take it to the Embassy. By the time we arrived it was 10:30 am. The consulate’s office closed at noon. In talking with the consulate officer we were told that they would look through the file and that for the next 30 minutes they would be trying to make phone calls to the rural area that our children were from to try to get confirmation of some part of this new story. She told us if they didn’t get anything by then they would have to just try over the weekend and maybe by Monday they would be able to get some sort of confirmation. Val and I prayed together. Our hope was that we would all be able to return that night to the states, but by now we were not very confident.

At 11:10 the officer came back to the window and told us that they had reviewed the file and nothing in it supported this new story – no contradictions, but no support either. But, that they were going to continue to try and make contact until 11:30. If they didn’t by then, they would not have time to complete the visas before the office closed. At 11:30 our agency’s assistant director leans over (after he had been sitting by us for about 5-10 minutes) and show’s a phone number written on his hand and asks if they might want this cell phone # of a MOWA government official from the area our children were from. We said yes and took him up to the window and got the number to them. He was worried that the consulate might not cooperate with him (hmmmmm, I wonder why).

Another 10 minutes went by (the times are clear in my head, because that was all we could do was watch the clock). At 11:40 the consulate officer comes to the window. She has a pretty serious look on her face – so we thought we were done. We would have to figure out what our plan B would be. We get to the window and she tells us she has good news. They were able to make not just one, but two contacts to officials that were able to confirm that Ayana and Siqare’s father was indeed in jail. She told us she would keep her staff there long enough to finish the visas and we would be able to go home with our children. At 11:59 the visas were slid under the window and we had them in our hands.

We were crying great tears of joy. So much so that the Ethiopian guard in the room asked if something was wrong.

God’s hand has been on our adoption process the whole way through. When Satan made this last minute attack, God said no way, this is my plan in my time and you lose.

All 7 of us (our complete family) were on the 10:15 flight that night. After 34 hours of travel we arrived back at our home, exhausted but joyful at the work God did.

Thank you so much for praying.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

God worked a miracle.

God worked an awesome miracle - providing the information needed to substantiate our children's orphan status 20 minutes before the Consulate Office was scheduled to close on Friday. At 11:59 (Office closed at noon) Ayana and Siqare's visas were in our hands and we were good to go. As of 7:00 Saturday night we were back home in Illinois with everyone.

I will flesh out the AMAZING story of how it happened soon. Jet lag has set in and I can barely keep my eyes open. While our ending for our forever family worked out, our ending with our agency has not been so good. It was the agencies fault that we were originally denied our visas and only because of 2 employees in the consulate were we able to finalize the adoption in time. Again, details will follow soon.

Just want to thank everyone for their prayers. God made his work so clear in our entire journey. The visa timing was his final stamp. Our trip home was extremely smooth - considering there were 7 of us traveling for 34 hours. All of our children are tired, but doing well.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

From wonderful to horrible

For those that haven't heard yet, we were denied visas for Ayana and Siquare yesterday. 5 families went before us and all returned joyful and excited. We were the last adoptive family to have our interview and half way through were told that our children - who are legally ours according to Ethiopian law - cannot be given visas because they don't fit the U.S.'s definition of orphan - 1 or fewer parents living. When I asked what we were suppose to do, the supervisor simply said "I don't know. I'm sorry." Thankfully we had some other families from our agency there to help us and support us. Our BFAS agency rep didn't think it was any big deal. We accompanied our new friends to where they were staying. They helped us figure out who to start contacting and let us use their international cell phone. After contacting family and friends and asking for prayer we called our home agency, our House Representative, our BFAS director, who responded initially with "What are we going to do?" And finally I talked to the State Department. From all of the info I can tell, it looks like they should be considered orphaned. We are just hoping that the additional paperwork makes it to the embassy right when they open and that they will move it forward quickly - in time to make our 10:15 flight this evening.

Plan B . . .

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

We're here and it's wonderful

Well, we made it. 26 hours of travel including one very long flight and we made it. Travel was very smooth - everything on time. The service on Ethiopian air was fabulous. Eating at all the wrong times and not sleeping much at all was hard on everyone - but overall we couldn't have asked for anything much better.

We are staying at an incredible guest house - Ethiopian Guest Home. We are the only family staying there - the food is very good - our driver and translator are wonderful. It is a Christian ministry that runs the guest home. The profits go to supporting a street orphan ministry.

Monday morning we met Ayana and Siquare. Both are beautiful and a great blessing. Siquare is the opposite of how she was described. Not shy at all. She was running the show when we got there. Very verbal and already picking up a lot of English - Thank you, mommy has already been heard. She calls me Baba.

Ayana is a little more reserved - his real personality is pretty boisterous. But, he isn't completely sure of the situation. He is incredibly bright. His language skills are great and is already speaking a little English - knows all the English alphabet and can write the letters really well. He laughs at us whenever we try to say their word for something.

This trip has been wonderful so far-challenging but wonderful. Sleep is a little hard to come by - many dogs barking throughout the night - the roosters take over when the dogs are done - there is a night club around the corner from our house - and their mosque chanting at all hours. But, when your exhausted you usually fall asleep eventually.

We had pizza last night. All enjoyed it including A & S. Ayana laughed when we had our driver tell him that we have pizza almost every week.

Health wise A & S are doing pretty well. Insides are not completely fixed yet, but otherwise they look good and have great energy.

Thanks so much for your prayers. They have been felt so strongly on this trip. Val didn't take any dramamine and was fine during the entire flight over. So far, everyone's health has been good. The transition with A & S has been very good - also, we were able to take them with us the first day with no problem from our agency - wasn't a tough decision when we saw the conditions they were living under. It was sad to see them say good bye to their friends and their nannies - lots of tears to go around.

We are looking forward to returning home soon. Wow! Can't believe we are now a family of seven. Looking at them at the table - it looks so normal - Ayana falls just a little behind Cameron in age and size - and then there's the baby.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Our musical was a success and tomorrow we leave for Ethiopia

Just some pics of our musical. Caitlin, Caleb, and Cameron were all in it. Caitlin and Caleb had speaking parts. The musical came together really well. All the kids did a great job.

Our last post was 23 days ago. It has been a whirlwind of activity sense then. Just finished putting most of the final things in bags - 10 checked, 5 carry-on. We are hoping the clothes we are bringing for Ayana and Siquare fit.

Everyone is exhausted, but very excited. Can't wait to load up tomorrow and head to the airport. A little over 48 hours and we get to meet Ayana and Sikuare. Wow!

We will try to update our blog as we go. Don't know how easy it will be to get internet access.

Thanks soooo much for all of your support and prayers. It has certainly been felt and seen in so many ways.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

21 days until we travel

Wow! So much has happened since last week. We are getting so excited. We took the plunge and purchased our airline tickets for all five of us going and seven of us coming. The kids on this end were looking at the plane diagrams - making sure there were movies available - looking at the guest house website.

We have also completed Ayana and Sikuare's room - which has become packing central. We have started to sort through clothes for them and donations for the care center. We will be getting the luggage out soon and hopefully producing a packing list, too.

One of the surprises (it shouldn't have been) this week has been the pummeling we have received from Satan. We have taken this journey out of faith in God's plan for us. I think we expected things to be difficult until Ayana and Sikuare were officially ours, but weren't expecting anything on the other side. We so covet your prayers and at this point we especially ask you to pray for our spiritual protection. Without going into details, we found ourselves in the middle of a battle on several levels, before we even knew what was happening. The battle from the outside is doing damage on the inside of our family. I am praying that our relationships with God would take priority and that He would heal and grow the relationships in our family through this. While we are seeking to grow our family both in number and in the grace of God, Satan is seeking to destroy it.

We give God the praise for the great and wonderful things he has done. May our lives glorify him through this. Often we our told how wonderful we are for doing this - for giving these children hope. Sometimes I have been tempted to take the credit. But, after this last week I can see even more clearly that without his plan and his guidance and his strength and his peace, comfort, love, grace . . . we would have never gotten to this point. Praise the Lord!!!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Meet the newest Hackers - Ayana & Sikuare

Today we heard the awesome news that we are the proud parents of a 5 year old boy, Ayana and his 2 year old sister, Sikuare. It's official!! Woohoo!!!!! We can't wait to travel to Ethiopia and bring them home. Lots of ground to cover between now and then. But for now, we will revel in the joy of these new children for a while.

A friend pointed out today the perspective our 3 and 1/2 year adoption journey gives us on Abraham's life. God said go - Abraham did - he didn't know where - he didn't know how long. I'm sure he was relieved and excited to make it to his destination. I'm also sure there was a joy and contentment knowing that he made the journey God wanted him to. It may not have always made sense; it was certainly difficult and frustrating at times; there were probably wonderful people and exciting events that he experienced that, but for the journey, he would have missed.

While Abraham was called to something very different from what we have been called to in adopting Ayana and Sikuare, we both took an unknown journey that has led us to something very awesome many, many miles from our homes.

Sikuare (Means - My Sugar)

Ayana (Means - Beautiful Flower)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Today was supposed to be the day.

Well, almost. We had our court appointment today, but they found a letter from another government agency contained errors. Thankfully, our case will be heard again tomorrow - hopefully all will be in place.

Monday, October 12, 2009

3 days until court.

Wow! The time has really gotten away from me. Thursday, October 15th is the big day. If everything is in place, we will grow from a family of 5 to a family of 7. We are excited, but cautious. The biggest issue, that we know of, is that on the day of court one of the parents has to be in the courtroom to confirm that they truly have relinquished their parental rights. This family is from a village about 8 hours away from the capital. So, we are praying - that God's will will be done. If it is in his plan, all of the pieces will be in place for the adoption to be final this week. If not, then we continue as we can.

This weekend was extremely productive as far as preparations go. The house is completely painted - the last room to be finished was our daughter, Caitlin's room - bright green with purple curtains. It turned out sooo well. The boys bunkbeds are assembled and the room for our 2 little ones is almost ready for their arrival.

God is good. This entire experience, from our start with domestic adoption to our most likely end in international adoption, has been a difficult, yet incredible journey. When we started this journey the youngest of the 2 children wasn't even born yet - but He knew. The months and years of silence were for a reason. Also, the growth in our bio kids has been amazing especially in the last few months. The responsibility and maturity they are each showing is so encouraging. We know they will be a huge help - much bigger than they would have been able to be 3 1/2 years ago. Also, financially, the ways in which God has provided is remarkable. Thank you to Anonymous who left a very generous money order in our mailbox. Thanks to everyone who has supported this endeavor - through prayer, finances, physical help, donations. We could not have done this without each of you.

One last thought - many have asked us over the past few months if we are excited. In a sense yes, but to be honest this has to be one of the hardest things Val and I have gone through. It has at times been scary, frustrating, overwhelming, tiring, and challenging to describe a few emotions. We still don't know how God is going to provide everything needed to travel and bring the children home. I do know that when God brings these children into our lives and we are able to see them and hold them, the emotions will be high and it will be an exciting time.

Until then, we live the lives God has set before us - parenting, working, schooling, churching, neighboring, growing our current relationships. So, if our answers to the excitement questions have seemed less than expected, hopefully this gives some insight. At times I've thought to myself, why am I not more excited. I have come to realize that excitement is not the right emotion. Yearning is probably more appropriate. Val and I yearn to bring these children home - to complete the family God has intended. I often times tear up with huge emotions when I think of our little ones - when I think of the nightmare they have had to live - leaving their family, living in a huge unknown city, seeing their friends leave, knowing they will be leaving everything they know; when I think of them being alone; when I think of our future together...

Thursday we should hear the news sometime in the morning. Once they are officially adopted, we will be able to post pictures. Can't wait.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

17 Days until court

We found out yesterday that the courts will not be opening until October 13. According to our agency anything scheduled after that date is still good. So, for now, our date of October 15th is safe.

House preparations are going well. Only 2 more rooms to paint. We got bunkbeds for our bio boys - the beds still need to be assembled along with a shelving unit. We love IKEA. We still need one more mattress.

Other than the extra projects around the house life is pretty normal. Busy with lots of activities. Cam's soccer team, which I am coaching, is 0 - 3. I can't figure it out. The team plays pretty well together considering they are 7 & 8 year olds. They just tend to be too nice. Gotta figure out how to toughen them up :). Our children's musical at church is going well. Great group of kids to work with. New thing this year is speech class for all 3 kids.

One day at a time.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

All quiet. 36 days until court.

Everything is in full swing with fall activities. If it hasn't already started, it starts next week. Labor day was extremely productive - almost all of the house is painted and the boys have moved into their new bedroom. A few more projects and the house will be ready. Starting to plan and get ready for travelling. Waiting on God's timing to provide for our travelling needs.

If it is in His plans, we will meet our 2 newest family additions in a little over 2 months. Until then we are praying for their hearts to be prepared for the transition into our family.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

51 days until court and counting : )

Only 51 days until court. Things are starting to get exciting around here. We've lived in our house for over 5 years and have only painted 3 of the bedrooms. My goal is to get a fresh coat of paint on everything before travel - partially due to having to rearrange bedroom assignments.

This last weekend saw the "extra" room painted and cleaned. We were then able to move most of our den in. Had a couple of great neighbors come over and move the big stuff. And then had a neighbor give us some leftover paint. Woohoo! So now we have a combination den/toy room. We also had to figure out how to go wireless with our computer. Wasn't too hard and obviously it is working because I am typing this in a different room then our modem. :)

Our Adoption Journeys Cookbook has been selling really well. Lots of interest and a great way to spread the joy of adoption. The 4 stories that we included are wonderful accounts of very different journeys.

As if preparing for this life changing event wasn't enough, all the fall activity is starting as well. Normal things such as my teaching, homeschooling, gym & swim, & AWANA are all getting started. And we are adding speech for all and soccer for 1, which has turned into for all since I, in a moment of insanity, volunteered to coach Cameron's team.

But life is good. God is good. May your life and mine be full of His wonderful blessings through the good times and the hard times.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Today was the day!!

We found out today that our court date will be October 15. We were also able to set our Embassy date for November 19th. The embassy date is the one that we have to be there for, but we can't do anything as far as travel goes until after we find out that we have passed court.

The good news is that we don't have to wait to know when the dates are. Praise the Lord! Sooo much to do to prepare. But what a great thing to prepare for.

One of the families in our agency is travelling this week to pick up their little one. We should be getting more pictures of our two. It is so neat to see their progress. They both look so much better than when they were brought in to the care center. Very excited that in less than 3 months we will get to meet them face to face.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Maybe today.

Last week our paperwork was filed by our agency at the Ethiopian Courts. We might hear today or tomorrow about a court date. We have been told that the courts will be closing from August 23rd through September 15th. This is a much shorter time than in the past. At this point we are hoping for a court date sometime in October and to travel sometime in November.

Our exciting news is that our Adoption Journeys Cookbook is done. We are very pleased with how it turned out. We've included four other adoption stories in addition to ours. It also contains almost 300 recipes from family and friends. Thanks to everyone who helped with it. If you would like a copy, let us know.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Could today be the day?

Today we might finally be filed for a court date. We aren't holding our breath. There is one item of paperwork that is needed from the orphanage that our children came from and it has to be seen and signed by 1 or 2 different government departments. It is very frustrating how long this has taken. We were told several times in the last month that all the needed papers were in order and that they would file for a court date. Then they would tell us, but we still need this other paper. AAAAAAAHHHHHHH.

Several years ago I was in an opera called the Consul by Menotti. I can't remember where it was set, but the family was trying to escape the oppression they were living under. My part, the husband, was part of the resistance and ended up getting killed. His wife was trying to get permission for herself, her baby, and her mother-in-law to leave the country. Every day she would go to the consulate. Every day she would fill out more paperwork. Then one day she just loses it. The consulate secretary gives her yet more forms to fill out. The frustrated and broken woman breaks into this huge, long aria screaming about papers, papers, papers. It is sooooo powerful.

While our situation is certainly not as precarious as the family in the Consul, I can relate to the seemingly unending mound of papers that one must provide and then to be told - "oh, there is one more" AAAAAHHHHHHH!

I am thankful that both our country and Ethiopia are doing everything they can to protect both the children, the children's birth families, and the adoptive families. I am also thankful for God's grace and goodness. This additional piece of paperwork didn't take him by surprise. He knows exactly when the best day for our court date is.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Still waiting. But encouraged.

These last 2 weeks of waiting have been really hard. While Yahoo/Google adoption groups can be great sources of encouragement and information, they can also be very scary and discouraging. We have been watching an Ethiopia Yahoo group. We never post - we just watch. Hardly a day goes by without something discouraging being posted.

In the midst of the discouraging posts and just being discouraged at the lack of progress we are seeing, we received a phone call from a couple who we know through our Orphan Care group at church. They just wanted an update of where we were at in our process. They were very excited for us and encouraging, especially when they told us that friends of theirs, who live near us as well, had just received a referal for a sib group of a boy and girl from Ethiopia, pretty much the same ages as ours.

This phone call came while Val and I were discussing our overwhelming discouragement and frustration. Knowing that there might be a family we know adopting Ethiopian children and that they live close by was just the shot in the arm we needed. God knew. Isn't he great.

Our story contined . . .

Our newest social worker's suggestion was that we consider making a change in the type of situations we were open to. She asked us to consider domestic healthy infant adoption. We thought about it and prayed about it and decided that since we could do this concurrently, it would be a good idea. But because life got busy, we failed to move forward on it.

Fast forward a couple of months. We receive a phone call one day in November. "A mother is giving birth right now in a nearby suburb, would we like to be one of the families presented to her for consideration?" Wow! We were sooo excited. Of course we said yes. But, we didn't have a family book put together. We would have about 48 hours to complete that. If you are unfamiliar with family books, this is a 10-12 page picture/text presentation of who you are as a couple/family. So we got to work - thank goodness for digital photos. We sat down Thursday evening about 8:00 and at least one pot of coffee later finished about 3:00 a.m. We were really pleased with our final product and had copies to our agency that afternoon. Then we waited. The mother was presented with 5 or 6 families books. At about the same time the birth mother's mother let her desires be known. She did not want her grandson put up for adoption. As far as we know the baby went home with his mom. Ultimately, we know that this is God's best for that baby, but we couldn't help but be extremely disappointed and sad. In fact we were heartbroken.

The day we heard this news was the day we were done with the adoption process. We knew God had a reason for our journey. We weren't sure exactly what that reason was, but we assumed the lessons and experiences and the relationships to date were it. We were ready to be done.

But, God wasn't. The very next day, what do we receive in the mail? A letter stating that we received a sizeable grant for our adoption - which were done with. Now understand we thought this grant had fallen through. We had applied for it and were told that we would be notified in October if we were to receive it. It is now the second week of December. This timing was nothing but God's perfect timing. He knew that to keep us from quitting we needed a big encouragement. This was pretty big.

This grant coupled with a donation offer from a family in our church opened the door in a huge way for us to consider an international adoption. And for the preceding year Val had been drawn to and was investigating Ethiopia adoption. I kept saying that there was no way. We just couldn't afford it. Well, knowing that God had provided this much and being pretty he didn't want us to end our journey yet, we took the plunge and began the newest leg of our adoption journey. Working with our agency we quickly made the necessary changes to our homestudy and received a quick approval from our state licensing office.

Several other pieces like Val's passport and our fingerprinting appointment and approval came through much more quickly than expected. During this time we had chosen an agency to work with for Ethiopia. Our paper work with them moved quickly and our dossier was approved and in Ethiopia by the end of March this year. It was a whirlwind, but we were so grateful at how quickly and smoothly everything went.

And once again we were back to waiting. But this time - not too long. We received a call for a referral - about 2 months later. We were seeing wait times of at least 4-6 months. In God's plan 3 other families turned down this sibling group. We immediately fell in love with this brother and sister sib group. We said yes almost right away. We had their medicals looked at by our pediatrition. Some problems, but only things that you would expect and things that are definitely treatable.

So, now it is almost August and here we are waiting for the next step in this journey. It is so good knowing that God has been putting every detail together for this adoption. He is in complete control of this. He knows what the perfect timing is for this and everything else in our lives. While we are hopeful that this is it, we know He may have other plans. This journey is in his hands. These 2 beautiful children are in His hands.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Nothing new yet. Still Waiting.

We are anxiously waiting for our court date. During the wait we have been blessed to receive several new pictures and even one video of the little ones in Ethiopia. As other parents from our agency go to Ethiopia to pick up their children they take pictures and send them when they get back.

Our little boy loves to have his picture taken. He is in many photos - sometimes straining to get in front of the camera. His sister on the other hand is not seeming to enjoy the attention. Of the almost 2 dozen pics we have seen of her, we have seen almost as many moods and most of them are not in the happy realm.

Our story continued . . .

God's plans included a long wait. During that waiting time we were made aware of a ministry called Safe Families. Lydia Home in Chicago started this as part of their ministry. The Safe Families ministry is designed to give short term care to children of parents who need time (time to find a job or a home, time for health issues, time for instruction on parenting, or time to right their lives). It is similar to foster care, but it is all voluntary. The parent voluntarily places the child in the program and the safe family is not paid anything to keep the child(ren). The state is not involved, unless for some reason DCFS is overseeing the case.

We decided that while we were waiting for the adoption process to move forward that we would open our home for this ministry. Because we already had a home study in place, the paper work was minimal. Within a very short amount of time after signing up we received a call for a Safe Families' placement - 2 little girls, 5 and 2, who needed to be cared for while their mom was giving birth to a baby brother. What an amazing growth experience that was. The girls and their mom were living in a shelter and had almost nothing. They were very cute girls. The oldest one talked a lot; the younger one barely spoke at all (except to our daughter, Caitlin). We had them with us for about 2 1/2 days and were very sad to say goodbye.

What was amazing was the way our children each took on a role in helping care for the girls. Our daughter really took the 2 year old under her wing, making her feel safe and even helping her smile. Our son, Caleb enjoyed playing with the 5 year old. Our younger son, Cam was looking for ways that he could meet a need or provide a toy for both girls. Because of their connection to these little girls, we were able to very naturally explore some big life issues - responsibility being a big one. Caitlin was righteously angry at the fathers' lack of care and support for these children. She was also angry that the 2 year old only had 1 onesie that was stained and had a hole in it. While she was upset even beyond the time the girls were with us, it clearly had a positive effect on her growth. Within the 2 days because of the generosity of our church friends and neighbors, we were able to collect enough donations to take 2 big bags of clothes back with the girls. What an experience.

This was the first of 5 placements that we had with Safe Families. The next was a 3 year old boy, who we were able to be with for 2 1/2 months. He was such a joy. He came to us right at the beginning of baseball/softball season. Lots of games. He was always a trooper - of course, usually with his shoes on the wrong feet. He truly became part of our family for that time. So did his mother. She was trying to get steady work and a home during this time. She had come out of a decade of hard living and had recently renewed her commitment to God. What a long, hard road she was starting to travel. We still are in touch with her and are praying that she will persevere.

After that we had 3 other placements. 2 sisters who were both under 3. Because of their intense needs, we were quite overwhelmed and were not able to keep them for the needed time. They were precious. Every time Val was in the kitchen they would both be at her legs saying eat, eat, eat, eat. After they realized that they would get food and plenty of it, they also made friends with our dog, "dropping" food off of their trays. He feasted well for the whole 2 weeks. A couple of months later we had another girl, about 4. She was with us for over a month. Again, became part of the family, participating in school and church activities. She did really well. Shortly after that we had our last placement with Safe Families. This was our most trying placement. She was 3 1/2 going on 20. She was a baby in so many ways, but had emotionally become her mother's support. We truly believe there was also some attachment problems. She was difficult in many ways. While we butted heads many times when she was with us, our hearts went out to her. This was a girl who was living in awful circumstances and we knew that the situation she was going back to was not going to improve, apart from God's intervention. While we were relieved to see her go, we were very sad to know what she was going back to.

Because of the difficulty of the last placement, we decided to take a break from Safe Families. Still, we are so glad we participated in the ways that we did. Whatever blessing we were to those families, we were blessed way more by being able to serve in that way. We grew in so many ways and are able to see now how God used that to soften our hearts even more to the orphan and their needs.

During this time we continued to search the websites and send out more homestudies. We also had our homestudy rewritten. In reviewing with our new social worker - same agency - we realized that things could be written better and more concisely.

After the revisions we did see a slight change in responses. We actually had 3 inquiries to our social worker. I think the first situation was a phone tag situation that never made contact. Another set up an interview time with our social worker and then proceeded to cancel it saying that they were postponing it for about 4 months. 4 months came and went - no communication and the children were still on the website. The third inquiry was the most promising. It was for a five year old boy in Maine. His social worker called to talk to our social worker and asked 3 questions. 1) Would we let him choose his own religion? 2) How would we feel if he was gay? 3) Would we put him in public school? We felt for our social worker. How do you answer these questions? Whose issues are these, the 5 year old boy's or the social worker's? However our social worker answered them clearly was not to the other social worker's liking. She said that the boy was too close in age to our youngest child (already should have known that from our home study) and it wouldn't work.

Huge disappointment and major confusion. What are these social workers looking for? Why is this process sooooo hard?

Even with the disappointment we kept on and still received nothing but silence. At this point I stopped looking. Val did keep looking. I discouraged her from spending too much time. The whole process had become such a drain on our family. We did continue to send our home study out, but more and more sparingly.

Then our newest social worker - same agency - had some suggestions.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Our family grows.

As I continue to recall our story I have to praise God for what looks like the end of our adoption journey. A week and a half ago we received a referral for a precious 4 1/2 year old boy and a 2 year old girl, brother and sister from Ethiopia. We are so excited and thrilled to see the possible fruit of a long labor. Thank you, Lord.

3 years ago, almost to the day of this referral, we began this journey officially. We started the paperwork with a wonderful agency, Evangelical Child and Family Agency in Wheaton, Illinois. Our first step, once we were excepted by the agency, was to work with our social worker to develop our homestudy. Wow. It took us about 10-12 hours of interviews and visits to complete. And recalling everything from our childhood experiences to how God brought Val and I together to our present family situation in front of a "stranger" was quite daunting. Things did get easier as we went and we actually enjoyed talking through those times and even got to know things about each other that we didn't know before. We completed the interviews and were ready for the next steps. We had to complete some basic training and then we started looking for children. Our goal at that time was to adopt a sibling group domestically. We didn't feel led to foster care, so we were just looking at waiting children (children whose parents rights are already terminated). What an eye opener. We never expected to have to look for children on the internet. But that's what we had to do and we were excited. There were hundreds of waiting children, many of which fit right into our age and health criteria. So, we (mostly Val) scoured the websites. We had our home study sent out many times. And . . . Silence. Not a single phone call. We were shocked. Eventually, we did find out that often social workers will receive hundreds of homestudies. This was the case time and time again. So, our hopes of a quick match vanished. Several months went by - nothing. We were very discouraged. How could there be all of these children in need of a home and none for our home?

In the midst of our discouragement God had other plans for us.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Great Week

This week has been incredible. We stepped out in faith and God is providing. The help, support, and encouragement that has been shown to us this week is wonderful.

Our journey officially started 3 years ago. But, God planted the desire to adopt in our hearts a long time ago. I remember wanting to adopt when I was a kid. I am not sure why. As a couple the topic came up shortly after Val and I got married. We even bought a how-to book. It was something we wanted to do, but it was not to be then. Not too long after those discussions we were blessed with our first child. Caitlin, our first-born, was and is an incredible gift. Not too long after that our 2 boys were born - Caleb and then 18 months later Cameron. Again, wonderful gifts. The challenges of having 3 children under 5 was enough for us at that time. Adoption just wasn't on our minds at that point.

Time passed - our children grew. Adoption entered our thoughts again. Actually, it bombarded Val's thoughts. It started when a friend, Katie, called one day and said, "Val, let's go adopt children from Guatemala." By the time the five minute phone conversation was done the friend was done with the idea, but Val, and subsequently me, started thinking. During the next couple of months it seemed as if Val was hearing adoption stories all of the time. Then she went to a Hearts at Home conference. While the weekend was certainly not all about adoption, that is what Val heard. She came home excited about the possibilities. That is when we started talking seriously about moving forward with the adoption process.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Our journey through adoption

A good friend insisted that we write down our journey to growing our family. This blog is all about God's timing and showing us His plans every step of the way. My plan is to periodically write entries of the previous part of our journey and then as his plans become more specific to share that part of the journey as well.