Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sunday Funnies #8

Some of the funny things from this past week...

M's tummy still doesn't feel quite right and so food hasn't been so appetizing for her.  She keeps saying that her "taste buns" aren't working.  We love it!  That and her "ringears" (aka, earrings) make us smile and we don't correct her because we know that all too soon these funny little quirky sayings will be gone. :)

T has been trying to assert his independence these days by forcefully saying that he WILL NOT be doing something.  He has his 2-year check-up this week and we've been talking about what to expect at the doctor's office (not his favorite place).  You know, she'll check in your ears and in your mouth and she'll feel your belly.  And she'll ask you'll to take a deep breath. "NO! I. NOT. TAKE. DEEP. BREATH,"  he says repeatedly.  Cracks me up.  Guess he thinks that's just asking too much. :)

And finally, A Tucci Sandwich... :)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Rainbow Week

A new color every day... :)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tax Credit News

Yay!  We just found out today that the Adoption Tax Credit has been extended through the end of 2011--and it's a little more money and it's actually refundable (instead of just a credit)!  Really great news!! :)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Drawn From Water Video

Drawn from Water has reposted their video--watch it to see their story...

"It Began with Bale" from Drawn From Water on Vimeo.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sunday Funnies #7: So Thirsty

Ick--our family spent the past week fighting the stomach bug.  It's the first time that our whole family has all been sick at the same time (I'm sure it won't be the last). ;)  We are finally all better and I think that I have disinfected almost every surface--my specialty. :)

So, the stomach bug is really not so funny.  But there was at least one sweet, kind-of sad, but made-me-smile moment. 

Poor T was so thirsty, but his stomach really wasn't cooperating and we were trying to make him wait for a drink.  Anyway, I told him that he could have some water as soon as Mary Poppins was over (we watched a lot of movies).  Poor little dude looked at me with sad eyes and then looked at the TV and saw that Mary Poppins wasn't even close to being over.  So he devised a two-year-old plan.  With a sidelong glance over his shoulder he pathetically shuffled over to the TV and turned it off.  Time for a drink--Mary Poppins was "over."  Clever. 

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Mom Like Me

Okay, so this adoption stuff is completely exciting and amazing and really just so cool.  But it is also really tough.  You know, adoption has been on my heart for so long.  Really and truly the idea that there are little people out there who don't have parents to tuck them in, to tell them they're lovely and to be there for all the small, ordinary but completely wonderful moments of everyday life breaks my heart and seems hugely wrong. 

And it begs the question, "Why?"  Why are there so many orphans--so many children without a home?  Ugh, the answer to that is unfathomably complicated...death, illness, mismanaged governments, famines, droughts, floods, wars, cycles of poverty...

It also prompts the question, "So what am I going to do about it?"  I have read about poverty and starvation and just plain lack of basic resources (water, clothing, homes, food, safety).  This stuff is hard for me to fully understand because I have never been in need of ANYTHING. 

But here's the deal, I see the faces of little children and in their eyes I do see my kids.  I see pictures and videos of children so far from here playing and you know what?  I see them playing just like my kids.  I see them thin and hungry and I say, "Thank you, God, that I do not have to know what it is like to have children with empty bellies." 

And then there is the deep and really so hard for me to put into words because there is so much pain behind it--there are the mothers and widows of orphaned children.  How do I even begin to understand what it must be like to lose your husband...?  Or to give up your child to an orphanage (for so many reasons)...?  To not be able to give your children all that you ever dreamed of for them--even the basics...?

One thing that I'm totally loving in this process is the connection with other people who want to have more than ordinary lives.  And blogs are such an amazing way to hear their stories.  Which leads me to Andrea's blog.  Andrea is a part of Wiphan Care Ministries--an organization reaching out to the widows and orphans in Zambia.  She recently had a post that completely touched my heart for the widow.  (Click here to read the complete post--"What about me?".)

Here's an excerpt...
"Looking into her eyes--even with a language barrier I could clearly read her heart.  "I want to love these children like you do," she said.  "But I can't.  My children can't be attached to me because I don't know what tomorrow brings.  I will spend my day begging for food, and at night I'll come back to them and hope to bring something to fill their bellies.  I love them like you do.  I love them more than you do.  You come and love on our children, but what about me?"

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

"What IF...you poured into me?  What if you invested into me?  Your hugs and games and laughter are good--but when you leave--we are still here.  And so are they.  What if you taught me to sew?  And I was able to earn money instead of beg...and I could teach them..and they too could have a future and a hope?  What if I was able to make enough money to feed more--and feed the other 6 children I have opened my home to?  What if by pouring your hearts and resources into the widows, we could be the ones to care for the orphans and minister to the poor around us?"

Okay, so I read this and I look at the pictures and I see...me. I am a mom. They are each a mom. I know what it feels like to hold your baby, to watch them laugh, to watch them hurt. What I don't know is how it feels when there is little hope of help when it is desperately (life and death) needed. I am thankful for organizations like Wiphan that are making a huge difference in the lives of mothers and children half a world away. And I'm thankful that they are opening my eyes.

Here's a new video that tells their story.

Wiphan...The Story from Wiphan Care Ministries on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sweet Birthdays

On Saturday we had our very first Birthday Party at Hudson River Housing--a transitional housing facility that provides housing, meals and transportation for homeless individuals and families in our community.

My family and some awesome friends and their families gathered up lots of party supplies to celebrate 7 birthdays for the children living there who have a birthday during March.  We had facepainting and tattoos, playdough, coloring, a craft for kids and adults (covering notebooks in a patchwork pattern with scrapbooking paper--super fun!), beading, games and a play area for the smaller children.  One of our friends made beautiful, delicious cupcakes for everyone--yum!  It was a lot of fun and we're already getting ready for the next one coming up in April. :)

I have read so much about severe poverty and dire need around the world through this adoption process.  We can give money, but I want to do more than that.  I want to put action behind my thoughts and words.  As a mom of young children, I have found that finding opportunities to serve has been challenging.  :)  A few years ago I saw a segment on TV about Birthday Wishes in Boston and thought that is seemed like such a cool idea--a practical way to serve people in your community in a way that every little child loves. 

It is out of our desire to serve our community with our children along with the amazing hearts of my friends, that Sweet Birthdays has started.  We are still so new at this, but I am excited about the opportunity to show love to children (and families) in a tangible way.  Yet, I can already see, that maybe the biggest changes will be in my life as I meet new people and am stretched to do new things. 

Thank you friends for your sweet hearts...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

New Adoption Policies

Today we found out that we will have to travel two times to Ethiopia to complete the adoption process.   About three weeks after we receive and accept our referral (in about 8-12 months), we will travel to Ethiopia for about a week to meet our future daughter and to sign adoption contracts that will begin the court process in Ethiopia.  Then we will come home and wait for the court dates and processes to take place before travelling back to Ethiopia to pick up our daughter.  There will be about 2 months between the two trips.

There have recently been 41 initially accepted referrals in Ethiopia (not with our agency) that have then been rejected by the adoptive families.  This new process has been put in effect to help prevent that from happening. 

Our agency had about an hour long conference call today to explain these changes.  So love how great our agency is with communication and how apparent it is that they love what they do--helping children around the world.  Love them and am so thankful for all they do.  I'm also so thankful for processes that support the integrity of the Ethiopian adoptions.  It would be awful to be a part of a corrupt system.

Still processing what all of this means.  There are some positives--we get to experience Ethiopia more than once within a short time frame, we'll get a trial-run at the whole travel experience so that we'll be better prepared for the second trip and we'll get to meet our future daughter face-to-face and hand-in-hand for the first time much earlier than we normally would.  But that leads me to the biggest challenge--meeting her and then having to leave her there for 2 more months...  Ugh...  Will definitely need some good perspective on this one.

Again, so thankful for all of you fellow adoptive families/bloggers--love reading your stories and outlooks.  Crazy but amazing journey--so worth it all!

Adoption Timeline

This is our adoption timeline.  A great way to be able to look over the past year to see how far we've come. :)  It sure it long!

02-17-2009:  Contact an Adoption Agency to get more information about the process
02-19-2009:  T turns 1 and we can "officially" start pursuing adoption
03-04-2009:  Trying to decide between Ethiopia and Haiti
05-12-2009:  Finish reading There Is No Me Without You-get a better picture of Ethiopia
07-02-2009:  After a break in our research, we start looking at countries again
07-11-2009:  Read book from AGCI packet and love their story
07-18-2009:  J reads the book from AGCI and also loves it
07-26-2009:  Decide on Ethiopia and AGCI
07-27-2009:  Pre-Application to AGCI approved
08-11-2009:  AGCI Webinar
08-30-2009:  Submit Formal Application to AGCI
08-31-2009:  Send in Medical Letters
09-03-2009:  Application Approved by AGCI
09-09-2009:  Orientation Phone Call
09-11-2009:  Select a Homestudy Agency
09-13-2009:  Receive Contracts from Homestudy Agency
09-24-2009:  G's Physical
09-24-2009:  All Contracts and Official Forms Notarized
10-17-2009:  Send all Initial Contracts and Fees to AGCI
10-21-2009:  Receive Binder and Workbook from AGCI
11-12-2009:  Complete Eyes Wide Open Workbook (intense)
11-14-2009:  CPR Certified
11-17-2009:  J's Physical
11-20-2009:  Start Online Courses--Conspicuous Families
11-21-2009:  First Fingerprinting
11-24-2009:  First Homestudy Visit
11-24-2009:  First phone call with Case Manager to go over Dossier process
11-24-2009:  Spent 4 hours working on Dossier paperwork
11-25-2009:  Spent 4.5 hours in Pok getting papers notarized and sent
11-29-2009:  Ordered Birth Certificates
11-30-2009:  Ordered Marriage License
11-30-2009:  G finished Autobiography for Homestudy
12-04-2009:  Marraige License, G's Medical Clearance, G's Employment Verification
12-05-2009:  FBI Fingerprinted (+another set of fingerprints)
12-07-2009:  Sent Fingerprints to FBI
12-07-2009:  Second Paperwork Call
12-08-2009:  J finished Autobiography
12-09-2009:  Received Power of Attorney back from Albany
12-12-2009:  Sent Criminal History Check Forms to Albany with fingerprints
12-14-2009:  The Journey to Attachment and Medical Issues in International Adoption
12-18-2009:  Finding the Missing Pieces: Helping Adopted Children Cope with Grief and Loss
12-20-2009:  Adopting the Older Child.  Completed all of the online courses!
12-21-2009:  Third Paperwork Call with our Case Manager--Almost done. :)
12-22-2009:  Take 5 on trying to get our "Letter of Good Conduct" from the local
                    police.  It has become quite difficult to prove that we are not criminals. :) 
                    Maybe next week...
12-31-2009:  Send Child Abuse Clearance forms to PA
01-04-2010:  Fourth Paperwork Call
01-12-2010:  Sent I-600A form to USCIS
01-18-2010:  Fifth Paperwork Call
01-28-2010:  FBI Clearances Arrive--last piece of paperwork needed for homestudy
02-03-2010:  First Draft of Homestudy
02-17-2010:  Homestudy Approved by AGCI
02-23-2010:  Send Dossier to AGCI
02-26-2010:  Dossier Accepted--#52 for a little girl 0-15 months and #24 for siblings
03-09-2010:  New Numbers--#48 for a little girl and #22 for siblings
03-10-2010:  Find out that we will have to travel to Ethiopia twice
03-15-2010:  Sent Homestudy to USCIS
04-05-2010:  Fingerprinted for USCIS
04-13-2010:  New Numbers--#41 for a little girl and #22 for siblings
05-14-2010:  New Numbers--#33 for a little girl and #17 for siblings
06-10-2010:  New Numbers--#29 for a little girl and #17 for siblings
07-12-2010:  New Numbers--#26 for a little girl and #15 for siblings
08-06-2010:  New Numbers--#20 for a little girl
09-07-2010:  Received FDL
09-09-2010:  New Numbers--#18 for a little girl and #13 for siblings
10-05-2010:  First Round of Travel Vaccines
10-06-2010:  New Numbers--#13 for a little girl and #14 for siblings
11-04-2010:  Second Round of Travel Vaccines
11-06-2010:  New Numbers--#5 for a little girl and #6 for siblings
11-11-2010:  Unofficially #3
11-17-2010:  Unofficially #2
11-23-2010:  Unofficially #1!
12-08-2010:  Referral!!!  For a tiny 5.5-month-old beautiful little girl!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

New Numbers!

For a little girl between 0-15 months. :)

[And number 22 for siblings of the same age range.]

Monday, March 08, 2010

Farm Week

So in our family last week was "Farm Week."  What is "Farm Week" you ask?  Well, "Farm Week" is my attempt at making our days much more fun!  We have the usual things we do around here.  You know, playing with the toys in their bedrooms and in the basement, coloring, occasional baking projects and our usual tv shows (Thomas is our latest favorite).  And those things are all good--but theme weeks are giving me the very fun opportunity to make chores and play super-fun

Take "Farm Week" for example.  Our kitchen chairs have been scraping across the floor and it was definitely time to replace the pads on their feet.  So, how much more fun of a job if you pretend that you are putting new horse shoes on the horses?! :)  Needing the kids to come quickly?  Nothing like calling the "Cowpokes" in a deep voice and very funny to hear them call each other a "cowpoke."  Mulch covered sidewalk?  Yep, time to muck the barn!  Setting the table?  Getting ready for some grub!  Hungry cats?  Time to feed the animals (this one got a little messy--more water and food on the floor than in the bowls--but they had fun.)  And, seriously, the poor cats haven't had treats since I can't even remember when, but last week they made up for lost time. :)

We also made birdfeeders--we covered old stale buns with peanut butter and birdseed.  Unfortunately, either the birds haven't yet found our birdfeeders or they really aren't all that appealing to them. :)

And we experimented with "Pig Mud."  We made ooblick (2 parts corn starch to 1 part water).  Okay, that is the craziest stuff.  Solid when you touch it, liquid when you let go.  Very fun.  Also very messy. (Poor J had to clean this mess up because I did it with the kids right before I left for work.)

"Farm Week" was a good week.  They still want to help with feeding the cats and birds.  :)

This week is "Transportation Week."  Right now I have 8 dining room chairs snaking their way through the living room as a train.  My transporters were busy tonight making train tickets.  And working very hard as "deliverers"--delivering the mail back to our house, the garbage to the trash can and the overflowing laundry to the washing machine. :)