Tuesday, November 30, 2010

World HIV/AIDS Day

Did you know that Dec 1st is World HIV/AIDS Day? Yah, I didn't either. This adoption journey has brought me to learn so much more about so many things, one of which is HIV. I realize now that what I knew about it was based on what I learned back in high school. I hate to admit it, but that was a while ago now. I am still learning and I am going to ask you to do so also. If you truly believe that God loves everyone, then you believe that he loves every person who has HIV/AIDS. And for that reason alone you should be willing to learn more, learn about what is afflicting so many of His precious children. This includes those children with HIV waiting to be adopted and perhaps the person standing next to you in line at the grocery store.

If your knowledge about this subject is based on what you learned in high school like me, let me give you a couple facts in order to help peak your interest:
  • Antiretroviral medication for people living with HIV/AIDS now costs about $140/year, down from $10,000 just 10 years ago.
  • A child today with HIV and treatment can expect to live a normal life expectancy.

How can you learn more? Easy! Watch a video, get answers to FAQs, or read a blog about a real family (you can read about HIV specifically if you "read by subject" on the right hand side or you can just enjoy reading all of her posts about their normal life with normal kids, one just happens to have HIV). These are just 3 resources that I have found helpful but if you are really interested, there are many more out there. I hope you will join me in learning more.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I am thankful for so much

I have so much for which to be thankful. Family, friends, safety, comfort, choices, opportunity... The list is so long. Lately I have been thinking alot about this. There are so many things that I take for granted.

In class this Tuesday, we were discussing global access to education for women. Education is not a given for boys or girls in some countries. And when I say this I am talking about basic education, not just access to an university education.

We live in a country where people eating too much is a very common and epidemic problem. We eat more than our bodies actually need every day. I know I do. And to celebrate all of our blessings, once a year, we eat even more than that.

This makes me this of the story of the good Samaritan. (Prior to this passage Jesus has been telling the people to love their neighbor.)

Luke: 29-36 NLT
The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied with an illustration: "A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes and money, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. By chance a Jewish priest came along; but when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. Then a despised Samaritan cam along, and when he saw the man, he felt deep pity. Kneeling beside him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with medicine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two pieces of silver and told him to take care of the man. 'If his bill runs higher than that,' he said, 'I'll pay the difference the next time I am here.' "Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?" Jesus asked. The man replied, "the one who showed him mercy." Then Jesus said, "Yes, now go and do the same".

The world is a small place. We watch the morning news and we know about the effects of the earthquake in Haiti. We know that malaria kills almost 1 million people per year. We know that more than 4,200 children die every day from diseases caused by unsafe drinking water and sanitation. We can't just turn our heads and say "oh oops, I didn't know."

So at what point do I become the Jewish priest that crossed to the other side of the road to avoid contact with the inconvenient truth? If I acknowledge the problem but do nothing about it, am I the Temple assistant that looked at the man but then continued on? I can't save everyone so what am I supposed to do? The Samaritan in the Bible story did not save everyone but he did come to the aid of the person in from of him. But the world is so small and the tv and internet put so many people in my path; I can't help them all. I believe that this is the burden of wealth and blessings. When God blesses us, He expects us to use that for more than just ourselves. I have said before that I believe that God speaks to us through our hearts.

I am so thankful for all the blessings that God has given me. And I am honored and privilaged to use my life for Him. I do believe that we will all be held accountable for our action or inaction. I only hope that I can answer well when it comes my time to answer to God for my life.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Some clarity

As you know, this adoption process has been an emotional roller coaster for me. But today I have found some clarity.

For weeks now I have been agonizing over every little detail. I have attempted to control something which cannot be controlled. For the longest time I have said that God knows exactly who are kids are and all we have to do is find them. I have been so worried about finding them. What if I find them too slowly and they have to wait longer than necessary? What if they get hurt in the meantime? What if I don't find them at all? But I had it all wrong. I don't need to find them. God has not placed that burden on me; I placed it on myself. God will bring our children too us. I have to stop looking at every waiting list photo looking for them. I have to stop trying to predict who they are just so I can buy their clothes and toys months before they will ever need them. I have to stop.

Josh has said for a while now that he wants to wait until our i-600 (immigration form) gets approved before we expect to find them. I just wasn't listening. I know what I need to do now but here comes the hard part, I have to do it. I have to let go of control. I have to let go of the control I never had in the first place. I have to trust God. I have to trust God to take care of my kids until we can get them home. I have trust God to bring them to us.

I have to note that this clarity did not come to me as a sudden revelation. Multiple people have come to me to verbalize to me what God has been saying. Yes, I am a slow learner. Perhaps this blog is going to become the "what not to do guide to adoption"? :)

So I want to ask you to pray for me. I know what I need to do but I need your prayers for the strength to let go and trust God. This is so simple and so difficult all at the same time.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Highs and lows

I seem to alternate between highs and lows lately.

I was so very excited about graduating and was counting the days. Then I learned that my timeline would not be as short as I expected. It is official. The good news is that I do not have to pay tuition again and I do not have to start over. The only thing that has really changed is the timing. It is not the end of the world but I was so looking forward to crossing this off my list. I feel like I have too many big things going on at once.

My biggest highs and lows have come from the adoption process. I feel bad writing about this. I feel like I am just going on and on about the emotional stuff. But at this point that is the majority of it. It seems to be lots of emotions combined with waiting, hurrying up, waiting, hurrying up, waiting, and then waiting some more. Sometimes I wonder about women being emotional during pregnancy because at times I feel so emotional.

I never expected this process to be as difficult as it is. I hate to say this because as I have said before, I really want my writing to encourage people to adopt and certainly not to discourage. But I have to be honest and this is so very difficult.

You hear about the costs and you hear about the waiting. But you don't hear about the wondering, the thinking and rethinking, and the difficult questions.

Would you take an infant?
Would you take a toddler?
Would you take a school age child?
Would you take a teenager?
Are you sure? Are you really sure?
Do you know what you are getting yourself into?

Would you take 1 child?
Would you take 2 children?
You would prefer 4?!?
Are you sure? Are you really sure?
Do you know what you are getting into yourself into?

Would you consider a child with delayed development?
Would you consider a child with a deformity?
Would you consider a child with severe dental problems?
Would you consider a child with fetal alcohol exposure?
Would you consider a child with a scars or birth marks?
Oh, this list goes on and on and on.

They are all very real questions. Questions you have to answer and you have to be realistic. And they are so very very difficult. And then you think and rethink and think them over again.

If you are considering older children you probably look at waiting lists. These are lists of children who are ready to be adopted and are just waiting for someone to claim them as their own forever. And you look at their faces. So many faces.

I think that in many ways it must be easier to adopt an infant. The wait times are normally longer but when the time comes a baby become available and you are asked a simply yes/no question.

This stuff is not for the faint at heart. But perhaps this is as it should be. Children shouldn't come easily.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Patience is just not my thing

Patience is just not my thing....

On Friday I got a call saying that me graduating this quarter is in question. Oh but the person I need to talk to is not available until Monday. SO stressful! Good news is that I am not the only one. 4 out of 10 of us are in the same boat. Its not good news for them but it is good for me in the sense that we will have to figure this out together.

Adoption paperwork is still in process. Its a hurry up and wait game. If you are trying to catch up on where we are at let me summarize:
  • Our new agency, Hopscotch, is still working on our application. So technically we are not yet a part of their program.
  • Our homestudy is being amended for Ghana (instead of Ethiopia which is how the original written).
  • Once our homestudy is done we can file our i-600 (immigration form)
  • Once our homestudy is done we can submit our dossier (forms sent to Ghana)
I'm not sure when exactly were are eligible for an official referral. It might be after the homestudy is done or it might be after the i-600 is submitted, but either way those documents all get done within a pretty short time frame. A referral means that a child or children are officially referred to you in order that you can claim them as your own. It is at that point that you get all of their information. I told you before how we fell in love with some little faces before off of the rainbowkids site. The problem was that it was way too early to go falling in love. They were not a referral. I'm not sure how you avoid this. I think adoption requires being open to the possibility of heart break, much in the same way that trying to get pregnant when it doesn't happen right away or even a miscarriage. Having children requires alot from a person, no matter how you go about getting those little ones. So the next steps, after all the initial paperwork steps, are:
  • The i-600 takes 1-2 months to get approved. Nothing can move forward until this is done.
  • Then (assuming we have a referral at that point) they start requesting court dates for us. (I think, I am a little unclear on things after the paperwork phase.)
  • Then we travel to Ghana for a first trip, meet our children-to-be, and do court stuff. (Again, I am not entirely clear on this part.)
  • Then we return to the states for about 1-2 months until court things get resolved. Or maybe it is visa things.... (Visa like for their passports, not visa like you use at the mall.)
  • Then you return to Ghana for a second trip and get to bring your babies home.
I had hoped that keeping a blog during the process would serve to help others learn more about the process and for loved ones to be able to keep up with us, but I think it is only serving to confuse people. I think at times I confuse myself. It is just not a simple straight line.

I have been reading blogs of people who have adopted from Ghana and it seems that the time lines vary quiet a bit. This appears to be due to circumstances outside of their control such as "passing court" in Ghana or getting visas for the kids from the US embassy. So I have started trying to avoid reading these parts as they only make me anxious. For a control freak like me, I think this adoption process might actually take a year or two off of my life. It's worth it though. I think if someone offered to take 5 years off my life in exchange for bringing my kids home tomorrow I would take the deal. Heck, I think I would take that deal just to know exactly who are children-to-be are.

So why on earth am I shopping when we are still at this point in the process? Well I bought school supplies in September just in case we got school age kids home during the school year. I bought 6 backpacks just to make sure I had every size and gender covered. Last week I bought a lifetime supply of body butter because one should "always be prepared". Are you seeing a trend? The problem is that because there are so many unknowns, I am inclined to try to prepare for every situation. It's a little nutty, I know. I am just so excited.

When I said in my last post that I daydream about them, I have daydreamed about them for at least 5 years now. At first I envisioned being in a Russian orphanage and meeting 2 little ones. Then I envisioned embracing 2, maybe 4, little Ethiopians. Now I envision travelling to Ghana. Now I actually envision embracing one at a time (not sure why) so even my daydream is unclear on how many. I still hope for 4...

Like I said, patience is not my thing. I think my deep desire to plan and prepare is my way of cooping.

Friday, November 12, 2010


I keep thinking about my kids... over and over and over and over again. I think about our first hug. I see it in my mind and imagine that embrace. It is not realistic. I know that my kids will be intimidated and scared during that first meeting. They may or may not choose to hug me. And if they do it won't be like what is in my head. In my head I practically tackle them out of pure joy. I'm pretty sure that would only serve to scare them. But I am going to enjoy these daydreams for now until I know more about our children-to-be.

Black Friday is coming and I would just LOVE to be able to shop for them... maybe next year. But there are some things which are generic enough that I can buy now. One idea I am excited about is those little key chain mini digital photo frames. The ones that are supposed to hold 50 photos. I have the idea of giving them to our kids on our first trip. We will meet them and then have to leave them for 1-2 months before we can go back and get them.

I'm sure there are so many things that I will be able to justify needing for our children-to-be during that pre-crack-of-dawn shopping event. But I have to remember not to go too crazy; We have to have some money left over to pay for all the adoption fees. (Someday after the fact I will write a post about what the costs were as that is common question. A question I had in the pre-paperwork days. But right now it involves alot of estimates.) Hehe. Maybe I will have to drag Josh along with me as my voice of reason!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

One Moment In Time

I have told you a little about this before but I though you might like to actually see it. This is where it all began. Look at this picture. What do you see?

I'll tell you what I see...

I had finished high school a couple months prior. I had just turned 18 a couple weeks prior. I was just weeks away from breaking up with my high school boyfriend. I was to leave for college in a month. That coming fall I would meet my husband-to-be. I had been in Romania for two weeks. I was with a group teaching English at a bible camp for a week. We were about to leave to head back to the states in a day or two. We stopped at this orphanage. I think we were only there for an hour, maybe two.

These kids were so starved for attention. I use that word very deliberately, starved. Have you ever been hungry? Without food for a day? What about years? Can you imagine being without attention, much less love, for years?!

During our adoption class (for those adopting children age 2+) we were asked to do an exercises. I am going to ask you to do the same one. Seriously, I am asking you to answer these questions. You will need to write them down. Please humor me. It really is not the same unless you actually get out a pen.

  • Write down 5 people in your life that you care most about.
  • Write down your 3 favorite memories.
  • Write down 3 traditions you look forward to. (ex: picking out the Christmas tree)

Ok, you are about to be adopted, taken to a strange country by strange people. They say they love you but you don't even know them. You are about to leave behind everything you have ever known.

  • Cross off #2 and 3 of your people you care about.
  • Cross off #3 of your memories.
  • Cross off #1 of your traditions.
  • Now go back and cross of #5 of your people you care about.
  • And cross off one more from your memories or traditions.

Kinda hurts doesn't it? And this is just an exercises...

Ok, now you are one of the ones that never gets adopted.

  • Cross off every line on your list. One at a time. Line by line. Do it.

Are you crying yet? I am.

When I look at this photo, I wonder where these children are now. I wonder if they ever found a family. Chances are they didn't....

Adoption can't be about a "rescue mission". You can't adopt because you want to "save" them any more than you can get pregnant because you want to have a baby that will give you unconditional love. You can't bring a puppy home from the pound and expect them to be so grateful to have a home that they never poop again. And a man cannot marry a woman who came from a previously abusive relationship and say "well at least I don't hit you" after forgetting their anniversary. In the same way you can't adopt a child and expect it to be easy from there on out because you did a "good deed". You certainly can't expect them to say thank you any more than any other child says thank you for having a home and a bed and food and a mom and a dad and love.

So why adopt? I don't know your answer. It is not the same for everyone. But I can give you my answer. I want to adopt because I believe that my children were born to another woman in another land. I believe they need me. I believe they are waiting for me. I believe they are mine.

I started this post with the intent of sharing a nice little story with you of where our adoption journey began... but I guess I took a tangent. I started this blog in hopes of advocating for adoption... and I still hope that is the result but it is just not a simple thing.

I look at that photo and I think it is funny how one small moment in time can shape so much of your life. I didn't know then what that moment would mean to me but with time it became very clear.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Body Butter Baby!

So apparently our kids will be predispositioned to have super dry skin. I am not clear if this is true of all African Americans or just those having lived in Sub Saharan Africa. (I'm sure someone will clarify for me me now that I have publicly admitted my ignorance in this area.)

Yesterday a friend and I were out shopping. (Don't you just love the kind of friend that will join you on just an hour notice!) We stopped at Bath & Body Works. They had a special of buy 3 signature collection items and get 3 free. Plus I had a coupon for $10 off and a coupon for a free item. They let you combine all of these offers at once.

It is my understanding that body butter is the best for significantly dry skin. You know, I have to be prepared for when we get our kids home. Ok, I'm getting a little ahead of myself as we are still many months away from this, I know but who could pass up such a deal!

I was able to puchase all of these goodies (6 body butters and 1 triple moisture body cream) for just $39 with tax. I have no concept of how long this supply will last us but I think it is pretty safe to say that we are all set in this particular area.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ghana - What I learned today

So as you know, we have switch to Hopscotch Adoptions. With this agency change is a change of countries. So I have been doing some research on the country of Ghana. Here is what I have learned today:
A person from Ghana is Ghanaian.
Independence (from the UK): March 6, 1957
Currency: Cedis; currently 1.4 Cedis to 1 US$
GDP: $1,500 per capita; 201st in the world (comparision: US is 11th; Ethiopia is 218th)
Population: 24.3 million (comparision: Texas has 24.8 million)
Size: Slightly smaller than the state of Oregon
Literacy (among those over age 15): 57.9%
Time difference: 7hrs ahead of Pacific Time. When we go to bed they are about to wake up. When we eat breakfast they are eating dinner.
Life expectancy: 60.5 years
Religion: Christian 68.8%; Muslim 15.9%; Traditional 8.5%; Other .7%; None 6.1%
Languages: Asante 14.8%; Ewe 12.7%; Fante 9.9%; Boron 4.6%; Dagomba 4.6%; Dangme 4.3%; Dagarte 3.7%; Akyem 3.4%; Ga 3.4%; Akuapem 2.9%; Other 36.1% (now I have a BA in Linguistics and I had never heard of any of these.... maybe I should have paid more attention in school...)
Source: CIA World Factbook

Monday, November 1, 2010

Moving on

One of the details that I left out of my earlier post, was that the 4 siblings we saw were in Ghana and with a different adoption agency. Picking an agency the first go round was difficult. It felt like such a scary decision as the agency you work with is your median between you and your adoption and can really make or break the experience. So the idea of changing agencies was equally intimidating.

I read everything I could find about Hopscotch Adoptions (the new agency) and went to yahoo adoption group for parents adopting/adopted from Ghana and asked if anyone knew anything about Hopscotch. I found good things and we felt comfortable with making the change. But we had told ourselves that we would not change agencies unless a sibling group compelled us to do so.

After the past few days we were left wondering why God would have allowed the events of the past two weeks to have occurred. We are still not clear on that but we do feel that it was for a reason. And we feel the need to move forward on faith. So we will be switching over to Hopscotch Adoptions' Ghana program. This means more paperwork and a little more money but it is also exciting. I can't explain it but it feels like the beginning of something truly big.

Well that's where we are at. We will continue to update you as we progress along our little journey. Thank you for all the support and encouragement we have received, especially lately.

Here is a little bit of info on Ghana: (copied from www.rainbowkids.com)
Ghana is a beautiful country about the size of Oregon. The ancient and historically significant country of Ghana is one of the five African nations along the northern coastline of the Gulf of Guinea. It is bordered on the west by Cote d'Ivoire, on the north by Burkina Faso, and on the east by Togo. The country consists mostly of low-lying savannah regions, with a central belt of forest. Children reside in orphanages or foster homes.

The children available for adoption from Ghana are generally age 2.5 and up. Occasionally babies do become available. Sibling sets and older children are also in need of forever families.

Married couples may adopt from Ghana. The country does not permit adoption by single parents. Parents must be between the ages of 25 and 50 and at least 21 years older than the child/children they wish to adopt.

The process is two trips or one longer trip of 6-8 weeks. The first trip is a short stay of around 5 days and 3-4 weeks later returning for a second trip of 10-14 days.

An adoption from Ghana is typically completed 6-9 months from dossier submission.