Friday, December 2, 2011

First Hug

Written in my journey on Wednesday 10/12/11


I asked many times when we might see the kids. I asked our driver (as if he would know). I asked the manager at the hotel (as if he would know). But no one knew. I was hopeful to see them soon but also set in my mind that it probably would not be until the next day. We settled into our room. I busied myself by organizing our bags while Josh conked out for a nap. About an hour or two later our driver reappeared at our door and asked us if we had time to see the kids today. Ummmm...... YES!


I woke Josh up. He was completely disoriented and groggy. I had showered earlier but wanted to put on some make up. In a way this felt like a first date. I got ready just as quickly as I could.


We arrived at the orphanage and all the children (not just ours) were in a group in the front yard. We got out of the car and approached them. It was without ceremony. I said hello to our 4 and asked each for a hug. Then we just stood there and I was thinking "now what?" My day dreams of this moment had never gone past that first hug.


JoAnita's English is very good. She understood almost everything we said. Oh! We had Sarah and Sylvia backwards in the photos. I had suspected that but it still caused me to stutter every time I went to call one of them by name. Sylvia (who we had thought was Sarah in the photos) also speaks a fair amount of English. She understood all of the basics. Sarah and Ryan speak no English at all. But JoAnita is a huge help with that.


After a few minutes, I sat down on the grass. Instantly all the children were sitting too. All just looking at me. I pulled Sylvia and Sarah next to me. Ryan wouldn't make eye contact with me. JoAnita explained that he wants to leave with us. He was sad that we were not taking them with us right then (We would learn weeks later that all prior parents had taken custody on the first day. Some parents have felt overwhelmed in the past by such a quick transition and so our agency recommended that we give it a week or so before taking custody. However the kids did not know this. It had to have completely unnerved them when we said that we were there for them but then left without them twice. We took custody on the third day). We saw a guest book inside and it shows that they get lots of visitors. Ryan obviously does not feel confident that we really are going to take them with us. After a while with him on my lap, he started talking. Ryan kept saying (JoAnita translated) "I want to go in the car. I want to leave with you. I want to go now." Sarah was saying (again, JoAnita translated) "I want to go to America. I want to go to America."


We played with bubbles. We ran out of liquid within about 10 minutes. Those kids are bonkers for bubbles. I tried taking pictures but they were all mobbing me so much that most pictures had a hand right in front or something. It was completely exhausting. But we had a great time.

Finally in Uganda

Written in my journal on Wednesday 10/12/11


I slept almost straight through the night. Thank you God for your hand upon this debilitating jet lag. I awoke to a thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk. I was trying to figure out what kind of machine it was that I was hearing when I realized that it was large African raindrops falling on the metal roof of our guest house right above us.


After landing yesterday, our driver helped us make stops to exchange currency, buy a phone, buy an orange stick (air card to access the Internet), and stop for lunch. It took 5 hours to reach our hotel just outside of Jinja. Of those 5 hours, approximately 4 were spent driving. The pollution from the cars is smellable, tastable, and visible. There are black clouds emitting from everything with an engine. Cars, vans, motorcycles (more like dirt bikes), bicycles, and pedestrians all share the same space. It's an insurance adjuster's worst nightmare in action. (If you don't know this about me, I work in insurance claims. So I say this literally. All you can do to make it less frightening is not look).

On the Ground

When we first landed in Entebbe, Uganda, the first thing I could think was "I would believe it if this were the location of the Garden of Eden." The landscape is so very green. I can't even explain how lush it is.





We stopped off to exchange dollars for shillings, buy an orange stick (aka air card for internet access), and buy a cell phone.

Traffic in Uganda is crazy! It make Los Angeles look like a picnic. There are no photos that could properly capture this. 


Motorcycles weave through traffic carrying enormous loads. (There is a motorcycle under that giant blue box). It is common to see small children being transported on these little death traps that dart to and fro.


Women can be seen everywhere with a baby on their back and up to 50 lbs of bananas on their heads.


All along the roads are tiny little shops (1/2 the size of my cubicle). People are hustling and bustling. All you can see is hundreds of people working their butts off to make a living.








Almost There

Written in my journal on Tuesday 10/11/11

After another long flight (9 hours) we are just 30 minutes from landing in Entebbe, Uganda. I have to admit that I am very nervous. At times I can literally taste the adrenaline. We have a long car ride ahead of us. I think we will get to meet our kids today. But I am trying to not be too hopeful just in case. It is hard to explain what I am feeling right now. Joy. Excitement. Fear. Nervous. Happy. Exhausted. The wide gamut of feelings seem to be netting out to a dull feeling of neutrality. I know that is a weird thing to say but it is the only way that I can think to explain it.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Call

For months we waited. I became very frustrated with the lack of a projected timeline and the lack of news. I had concluded that it was best to avoid talking to our agency because the time before those calls made me hopeful and then the lack of information left me disappointed. Having been through this now I can understand why our agency couldn't tell me when or even how everything would happen (the process in Uganda is always changing; you could almost label it "unpredictable"). But it left me frustrated nonetheless. 


On Tuesday, October 4, 2011, I got to work to find a voicemail from our agency. I had been out picking up Starbucks for my team and had forgotten one person's coffee so I needed to head back out. I wanted to call back right away but I told myself that it was probably nothing and to not be hopeful. Because I couldn't control those hopeful emotions that were so dangerous to me, I chose to push all of it aside and run back out to Starbucks. As I returned and pulled back into a parking spot, my cell phone rang. I could see it was our agency. My hopes jumped up again as I pushed myself to stay calm. I told my passenger that I needed to take this call and that I would see her inside. 


I don't remember her exact first words but I do remember "you have a court date" and "are you ready to travel because you leave this Saturday." She told me how thankful she was that I was such a neurotic control freak as my prior excessive preparation and aggressive don't-get-in-my-way personality would serve us well in having to leave so very quickly. Okay she didn't use those words. She was far nicer than that. But I don't remember the exact words so I am just boiling it down to the point. :) Later we were told that it would be okay if we left on Sunday. While I wanted so badly to leave on Saturday in order to get to our kids one day sooner, we really needed that extra day to get ready. 


I walked, jogged, and skipped into the office and briefly paused on "the row" (the area where my team sits) to announce "we got it! we got a court date! we leave this Saturday! gotta go, I need to buy tickets." I'm pretty sure I dropped my coffee in the middle of all that but I know it didn't spill so I must have consumed most of it already. I'm sure the fresh intake of caffeine only added fuel to my frenzy.


We both continued to work the rest of that week as we needed to save our vacation time to cover the long absence. We would come home at the end of the day and part ways only to see each other again when crawling into bed. We went to the bank to get crisp, newer than 2006, unmarked $100 bills. We bought car seats, little winter coats, little underwear, travel tissue packs, tons of wipes, vitamins, little dresses for court, little sweaters to go with little dresses for court, 5 pairs of girls dress shoes (in hopes that 3 would fit), and on and on and on. We got anti-malaria prescriptions filled and prepared other prescriptions, all in their original bottles so as to avoid any issues with transporting so much (unfortunately I take a significant amount of medication due to significant pain associated with fibromyalgia). I picked up donated formula from local pediatricians and donated toothbrushes from local dentists (I parceled these out in small batches as I heard of various people making trips to various baby homes when it was appropriate; you have to be very careful about how you handle donations as you don't ever want to provide incentives to anyone within the adoption process as that is where ethics issues arise). We gathered more documents. We had conference calls with our agency about details and steps. 


I never really cried with joy like you would think. We were so very busy that there just wasn't time. I remember that when I would be waiting at a stop light, I would start to tear up but then the light would turn green and I would be off and running again. I don't know what all we did in those 5 days but I know that it was a complete sprint. We were both exhausted. I remember finding it very stressful but it was such an exciting time.


That Sunday as we got ready to walk out the door and head to the airport, I posted on facebook: It's baby time!!! Some couples go to the hospital. Others go to the airport.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Wait

Once you find out who your kids are (get a referral), you have to wait for a court date. There is nothing that you can do to make it happen faster and the wait is a killer. I feel like it was a time for Satan's attacks. So many questions went through my mind during that time. What if we are doing the wrong thing? What if this falls through (a failed adoption is emotionally similar to a miscarriage)? What if these aren't our kids? What if we already missed our kids and we failed to find them and now it is too late? What if they have been split from their siblings? What if they became ill and even died because they had no one to care for them? Why oh why didn't we try biological? Why four? We must be insane. 


I asked everyone to pray for our kids. But then I felt guilty because sometimes a whole day would go by when I wouldn't even think about our kids. I felt even more guilty because I was thankful for those days because they were a relief from the stress and emotions.


Ripping up our carpet and installing laminate floors was a ton of work but it was the perfect project during the wait. It kept me busy and I was too tired to stress, worry, contemplate, and over think everything.


I really have no advice for someone in this stage. It just sucks. Well, I guess I do have 3 pieces of advice:

  • Pray constantly and listen carefully.
  • Find a project. Lots of projects. 
  • Exercise, eat well, and cut out most sugar. International adoption is extremely physically demanding. If you get an infant they will keep you up all night. If you get a toddler they will want to be carried everywhere. If you get 4 school age siblings they will wake up early, want to be carried, they will get sick, you will get sick, step on you, elbow you, and climb all over you. If you are seriously dependent on caffeine and/or sugar you will likely crash at the most inopportune time (like I did) as foods in other countries usually do not contain nearly as much sugar as they do in the US.
If you are in the waiting stage right now, I'm sorry. If you know someone who is waiting, just listen as there is really nothing you can say to make it better.






    Home Safe and Sound

    We have now been home for 48 hours. Previously I felt too nervous to blog about our adoption for fear of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong way and somehow upsetting our adoption. So I elected to just stop for the time being until we had our kids home safe and sound. Well they are all in bed now.

    The past two months have been so extremely intense. My goals in writing are:
    • To share our joy with those who have showed their interest in our crazy life.
    • To share information with others adopting or considering adopting. I found reading others' blogs so very helpful when we were ramping up to adopt. Every person is different but having read multiple other stories gave me some idea of what to expect (even though nothing could have fully prepared me for this roller coaster).
    • To answer questions. We are two very tall white people with 4 very little Africans following us around. Naturally we get a lot of looks, stares, and questions. I am very open to these questions but I want to avoid constantly discussing my kids' adoption right in front of them. I hope that by blogging I can answer some of these questions while avoiding making my kids' feel like their lives are always on display.
    • To respect our kids' privacy. I know that people want to know about our family because they are interested, curious, considering adoption, etc. But when in doubt, I hope to default to sharing less. My theory is that you can always say more later but can never un-say something.
    • To keep a record of this amazing and crazy roller coaster. The stories and the memories are important to me. I hope our kids will enjoy having these in the future.
    I tried to keep a journal during our trip but that went out the window once we took custody of the kids at the hotel. So I will try to piece together my memories and write what I can.

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    We Are A Family!!!

    I know that it has been a long time since I have written much. I will explain that later, but right now I have something too important to wait on catching up. As of today, we are officially, legally, and forever a family. We were awarded, in writing, legal guardianship by the Ugandan high courts. It is my greatest joy to introduce our new family to you.

    Joanita Naomi Johns (age 9)
    Her full name is pronounced jo-anita but she prefers to be called Joani which is pronounced jo-ann-E. Joanita is the name that her first mother gave her, a piece of her history that we would never dream of taking away. Naomi is my mother's name. Johns is the name that will identify her as a member of our family. Joanita is a leader and a caretaker. She is serious and experienced at caring for her siblings. I have no doubt that she will turn into a strong young woman much more quickly than we would prefer.

    Sylvia Joy Johns (age 7)
    Sylvia is the name that her first mother gave her. Again, we would never dream of changing that. Joy is Josh's mother's name. Again, Johns is her family name. Sylvia is soft and gentle. She is a quiet girl who shows herself a little at a time. Each day we get to know a little more about her.

    Sarah Fehr Johns (age 6)
    Sarah is the name that her first mother gave her. Again, that is an important piece of her history. Fehr is my middle name which is also my mother's maiden name. We are happy that she will share our last name. Sarah is full of energy. She does everything with great enthusiasm. When she smiles you can't help but laugh with her. 

    Ryan David Johns (age 4)
    Ryan always was and always will be his first name. David is Josh's middle name. Johns is our family name which he will also pass on to his own family someday. Ryan absolutely loves every things about "motorcars". He is a typical little boy. Being the youngest to three older sisters, he can throw elbows with the best of them to defend his space.

    Thank you for sharing in our joy of this day. I will start catching you up on our recent past soon.

    Sunday, September 4, 2011

    Keep Praying

    Please keep praying for our kids. If you already are or would like to start praying for our kids regularly, please click on the link below and sign up. We would love to keep our kids covered in prayer all day long.

    Prayer Schedule Link

    Please pray for:
    - Good health for our kids.
    - Our preparation, both physically and mentally. This is going to be a BIG change for us.
    - The kids' hearts and minds. This is going to be a big change for them too. Please pray that the kids will be open to both our love and God's love. 

    Toy Boxes

    I have been hard at work getting our house ready for the kids. One of my projects was to create toy boxes. You see, we only have 1 living space which means we will have toys in our main/only living room. Since I am a bit of a neat freak, I wanted to be able to have somewhere to put all the toys rather than having them just piled in the corner or something.

    Back when we first moved into our house 4 years ago, I built a shelving unit to house our TV, electronics, books, DVDs and my gzhel (blue and white Russian porcelain) collection. So my plan was to get 10 boxes that would fit on that shelving unit that would function for toy storage. However finding something big enough (11x13x20 inches) would be difficult to do, expensive, and I'm just picky. So I decided to make my own. In order to save money, I got creative and used cardboard boxes from work. I cut them down and covered them in upholstery fabric.

    Before


    During


    After


    Close Up of the Fabric


    This project took me much more time and effort than I had expected but then most of my projects do. :) But I am happy with the outcome.
    

    Monday, August 15, 2011

    What to say?

    We didn't want them to know about us too soon as it is difficult for a child to know why it takes so long to come get them. At the same time they are at an orphanage where other parents are coming and going so it is natural that they would ask questions. We discussed this with our coordinator and fully trusted our agency and the caregivers to time this as well as possible.

    This last week we were informed that our children now know about us. With that news came an invitation to write them a letter. I found writing to my kids for the first time to be overwhelmingly intimidating. You would think I would have written it that day and sent it off just as quick as possible. Instead it took days.

    I felt like I needed to say everything at once. I felt like it needed to be some kind of poetic work of art. I felt like it had to be perfect.

    Finally I realized that this would not be the only letter that they would recieve from us. So I decided to take it one step at a time. I focused on our excitement, how many friends and family are waiting to meet them, and how much we already love them. With the next letter I will focus on how they will go to school when they get home and how we already have their backpacks and school supplies all ready to go.

    I plan to keep all of these letters to go in a scrapbook. (Are they still called scrapbooks when you do it digitally and then have a pretty, bound, professional looking book done?) I hope these letters will be a treasured piece of both our history and theirs.

    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    Shots and Malaria

    Today we got our shots for traveling to Uganda. I had to get 4 and Josh had to get 5. And man did they hurt! No, this does not mean that we have a travel date yet. It is just something that we have to do now in order to be ready when the time comes.

    I'll be honest, the diseases that these vaccinations are meant to protect us from flat out terrify me. I can't seem to get my mind off of the fact that we are the lucky ones. We are able to get these shots. Yes they hurt like crazy, but they protect us. Can you imagine living in a country where things like Polio and Typhoid are a very real threat and having no protection at all?!? No shots. No money for a doctor if you do get sick. No protection. Can you imagine getting sick and being too poor to just go to a doctor for help? Can you imagine your spouse or your child getting sick and watching them die? This is real life for so many people in this world.

    When we go to Uganda we will get a prescription for anti-Malaria medication. Just about every American traveling to Uganda does this. We are also instructed to buy the strongest possible mosquito repellent and bring plenty of it. But what if Uganda was your home? What if every mosquito that buzzed by was a danger to your life? What if you had no anti-Malaria medication and no mosquito spray and no bed nets to keep you safe while you sleep?

    2,000 Children die from Malaria every day! That is one every 40 seconds. How many have died since you started reading this? How many since you got on your computer? Does this sadden you? Do you want to close out this screen so that you can stop thinking about it? Don't! Don't you dare brush away the death of God's beloved children.

    I know that it is still August and Christmas is months away but it will be here in no time. Do you have someone on your shopping list that already has everything? I want to suggest a gift idea. What if you give a loved one a bed net? Why would they need a bed net? They don't. But someone does. Your gift to them could also be a gift to someone else. Just $6 is enough to buy a bed net which will protect 2 or more children for approximately 4 years. Will you think about it?

    World Vision End Malaria Link

    Sunday, August 7, 2011

    Building Bunk Beds

    Today a wonderful friend came over and spent FIVE HOURS helping me assemble our Ikea bunk beds. I feel so blessed to have a friend who loves us and our kids enough to spend the majority of her Saturday working on this project with me. We had a great time chatting and laughing all along the way.

    70 Pages of instructions

    56 Boards
    267 Screws, bolts, dowels, and thinga-ma-jiggies

    1 Completed set of bunk beds!

    Monday, July 25, 2011

    Baby Dedication

    For about 2 years now, every time there is a baby dedication at church I feel overwhelmed with emotions. During the entire dedication I daydream about when it will be our turn. I was raised in a church that took the view that a baby dedication is more about dedicating the parents than it is about the baby. The idea is that the parents commit to raising their child to know about the love of God and the salvation available from Jesus. At the same time the church family commits to helping the parents in all of this. In other churches the view is that the child is being given back to God and a blessing is prayed over the baby. I really like both.

    This weekend I went to the local fabric sale as they had a 99 cent sale on patterns. I haven't sewn since high school... or maybe it was middle school. So of course I made up my mind to make my girls their dresses for our dedication day. Because 3 girls' dresses and a matching skirt or dress for me all in the same fabric should be pretty easy, right? Yes, I have officially lost my mind!

    Sunday, July 24, 2011

    Prayer Schedule

    I recently asked for volunteers to pray regularly for our kids. I tried adding a spreadsheet but I could not find a way to do so such that you could fill in the time that you wanted to sign up for since you don't have access to write on my blog. But I did get a suggestion to use a website that has that kind of layout already set up. If you already told me when you wanted to sign up for, I already put your names in. The website is really easy to use. Please check it out.

    Prayer Schedule

    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    Prayer

    I was hoping to put together a group of people who would be willing to daily and consistently pray for our children. I know that many of you are already. I was hoping to arrange some kind of schedule which would result in our children being covered in prayer all day every day. I can't tell you how much I value all of your prayers. There are 2 main parts to this:


    1. Unlike a pregnant woman, I have no ability to protect my children-to-be. I can't take vitamins to keep them healthy. I can't go to the doctor to see their heartbeats on an ultrasound. So I have to look to God to protect them and to deliver them to our arms. 


    2. Every day I dream of meeting our children, hugging them for the first time, and bringing them home. But I also know that what I long for will also be some of the most overwhelming and scary times for our children. Can you imagine strangers coming and telling you that  you will move to a strange land, to eat strange food, to speak a strange language, that they are now "mommy" and "daddy", and that this will all be wonderful? Our first year together will be full of wonderful times, full of firsts, and full of emotions both good and bad.


    I read an amazing blog post about a woman who adopted 4 siblings. (She is the one that I turned to for advice when our first agency was pushing us towards a pair and to ignore the call that we were hearing to find our 4, as a group of 4 is almost unheard of and not practical.) If you have ever doubted the power of prayer, you must read this. Here is the majority of that post:



    Never ever doubt the power of prayer--- even when you are not sure exactly what you are praying for. God knows and HE WILL USE IT!

    as darkness fell across the world in Ethiopia, for the release and protection of our children? 
    God led us to pray at that time because He knew that was the time when they were in the greatest danger.

    I had no idea what specifically that they would be in danger of, but it was at that time that 2 of my children were forced to sleep outside with no shelter.  
    Hyenas are everywhere in the countryside.  
    If you value your livestock, then it stays in the house with you.  However, some orphans are forced outside.  Those with no one to speak up for them--- no defender-- no helper-- have no other option.

    Our kids still become uneasy at dusk, wanting to be inside, safe from the ferocious hyenas.  Last night sweet Isaiah began telling about how he was so terrified of the hyenas when they spent nights outside.  Because hyenas can "smell everything--- and they know everything-- and they can see everything!"
    "But, they could not see us!  They would be right in front of us, but Mom, I believe something was holding them back!"

    Yes, baby, SOMEONE was holding them back.



    Our children are in an orphanage where they are not in danger of hyenas like these children were. But I still covet your prayers all the same. Would you commit to praying for our children at a specific time? Maybe when you are getting ready in the morning or when you are eating your lunch or sitting in traffic? If you are in a time zone other than Pacific Daylight Time, I would love it if you chose a time that is early or late in your day. I would be thrilled if we had people praying at every hour of the day. Please message or email (jdafjohns@msn.com) or comment when you would be willing to pray. If you could also let me know how I can identify you (first name, initials, or something) so that I could post the schedule, I would really appreciate that. 


    Prayer requests:
    1. Protection for our children
    2. Love and attention for our children
    3. Learning in school for the girls
    4. Preparation for Josh and me to become parents
    5. Preparation for the kids for such very big changes in their lives that are ahead

    Friday, July 15, 2011

    Pictures

    Yesterday we received more photos of our kids. I can't share them with you. But I have cut out a little piece for you. I hope that somehow seeing their hands will help you as you pray for them. I can't tell you their names or ages either. But I will tell you what I can.





    On the left is Little Sweetie. I have concluded that she is full of spirit and a curious one. In the very first photo we ever saw of them, she was staring straight into the camera so intensly as if to say "you better come and get me". In the individual photos of Little Guy and Little Darling, Little Sweetie has managed to work her way into the background of the photos, looking curious and energetic.

    Next to Little Sweetie is Little Guy. He has a soft gentle expression in every photo. In one photo he is leaning back a little with his elbow on a step and a smile on his face like he knows you can't resist his charm. I can just imagine him following Josh around everywhere he goes while the girls are off at school. I think the two will be quite the pair.
    Next to Little Guy is Little Darling. I am having a hard time figuring out her personality from the photos. In some of the photos I think I see a hint of sadness which makes me want to scoop her up and hold her until a smile appears. I'm probably reading too much into all of these photos, but I can't help it. Little Darling and her older sister, Little Lady, have the same noses and the exact same jaw bones. They are playing together in one photo and I have no doubt how much these sisters love each other.

    Next to Little Darling, on the right, is Little Lady. Little Lady appears to be wise beyond her years. Being the oldest, I can only assume that she is the caretaker of the group. In some photos she appears to be looking out for the little ones. She appears to have a gentle but serious personality.

    Please pray for their health and safety. Please pray that we would be patient as this process can't be rushed, it just has to play out. I so look forward to getting to know each of our children!

    Thursday, July 7, 2011

    Will Year 13 Be The Year That We Become Parents?

    This Monday June 27th was our 12 year wedding anniversary. It would have been nice if I had written this in advance so that I could have posted it on the actual day. But it's better late than never, right?

    I am so thankful that Josh has had 12 years of patience for me. I was first attracted to his gentle spirit. He is the opposite of me in so many ways but that is what allows us to balance each other out. After 12 years, I would marry him again tomorrow.

    Year 12 was full of ups and downs. And year 13 appears to be a very interesting year too. The idea of bringing our kids home is so very exciting. But we are realistic; we know that this will be a difficult year. Every couple goes through a difficult transition period when they have their first baby and life changes from just the two of you to everything being focused on that little infant. Having twins is an even bigger transition. Now imagine going from no kids to having quadruplets. I imagine that bringing our 4 kids home will be similarly challenging. Our kids will require tons of attention, care, and love. We know this and we want to do this. I think we have a healthy understanding of what is ahead of us, as much as is possible that is.

    Many of you are praying for us. Please pray that with every step of this process that we would draw closer together and closer to God. Please pray that as our kids come home that we would learn and grow into great parents together.

    Sunday, June 26, 2011

    They Fit!

    The new shelves are done. Both of our vehicles now fit in the garage without having to do the little side step and squeeze dance to get around. One step closer to having our house ready to triple in population!

    I Will Just Apologize Now

    I have listened to so many women talk about nothing but their children. And its now official... I am now one of them. As we get ready to change from a family of 2 to a family of 6, it seems to be the focus of so much of my time. I am trying to remain "normal" but this seems to be sucking me in like a vacuum. But I must admit, it is fun. We have looked forward to this for such a long time. While I do need to have other things in my life, I do feel like I am entitled to enjoy this just as every other woman gets to enjoy the anticipation of her baby's arrive as he grows in her tummy. So I will try to keep my head on in the coming months, but I can already tell you now that I am going to fail often. So I will just apologize now to all of you.

    I'm Not Telling

    I have shared a lot about what we might expect when bringing our kids home. But as the theoretic transitions to reality, my words will become more edited. I look forward to sharing their cute stories but I have no intentions of opening up their fears, hurts, and most personal information in such a public forum as a blog. If I knew someone who was considering adoption, I would certainly be willing to share more (on a one-on-one basis) in order to help them as others have helped me. I hope that I will be successful in finding this balance of helping other's learn, sharing my anticipation and joy, and respecting the privacy of our babies-to-be. I am so pleased that so many people are interested to follow our journey and I feel the need to explain why I would suddenly start holding back in how much I share.

    This is part of an article that I recently read which I thought was very good:

    Adoptive parents struggle with the public/private nature of adoption all the time. They are challenged to balance their family's sometimes obvious public status as an adoptive family with the privacy of the family's individuals. Most adoptive families are proud of their families and want to present a positive attitude about adoption to others, particularly their children. The precarious task for adoptive parents is to be open enough about adoption that their children don't see adoption as a secret or as something to be ashamed of, while at the same time taking care not to compromise the right to privacy of everyone involved. So, even as they're trying to protect their children's privacy, adoptive parents are also trying to normalize adoption for their children and for others around them.

    An important reason that parents try to control the dissemination of their chldren's information has to do with the fact that the child himself, particularly a young child, often does not yet know all of his own personal information. Parents are responsible for safeguarding facts about the child's life for the child until he or she is of an appropriate age to hear it. If the child's information becomes too commonly known, adoptive parents risk the child hearing things before he or she is ready. One adoptive mother tells of her daughter learning she had biological siblings in a very abrupt way, when another sibling used it to wound her in an argument. The parent had intended to discuss this under gentler circumstances, and when she felt her daughter was ready to hear it. This mother wished she'd been more careful about sharing her daughter's personal information with others, even within her own family.

    link to the full article

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    How We Found Them

    I have a friend from high school whom I dearly love. We were so close as kids. Unfortunately we don't live in the same state anymore. We don't talk as often as either of us would like; life just gets in the way. But Facebook does help us stay current on each other's lives. Erin is the kind of friend that when you do talk it is like no time has passed. We pick up right where we left off. We seem to always understand each other's hearts.

    At some point in mid-May, Erin saw a friend (whom I don't know) post on Facebook about a sibling group of 4 in need of a family. This friend of Erin's had adopted in the past and was in tune with the current goings on of her old adoption agency. Erin told me that when she saw this post she didn't think too much of it. She knew that we were waiting for a referral from our agency in their Ghana program.

    On Friday May 27th, Erin's friend posted again that there was a sibling group of 4 in need of a forever family. This time she felt completely compelled to let me know about this. Now I have had multiple friends tell me about these kids or those kids available from here or there, trying to be helpful. So when I got her text, my first reaction was to brush this off. But very soon I was looking into this. I sent this new agency a request for more information and I got a call back very quickly.

    Josh and I then spent the next 10 days thinking, praying, discussing, praying, fasting, praying and talking. These kids meant changing agencies, doing a bunch more paperwork, and doing another education plan (we had already completed WACAP and Hopscotch's education plan). This change involved leaving approximately $3,000 on the table with Hopscotch which was in accordance with their policies which we signed, but was painful none the less. Honestly, it was difficult to focus on God during all of this.

    We have not chosen the easy route here. If we had not felt called to look for 4, we could easily have a referral for 2 by now and very possibly have had them home already. If we had just stuck with our first agency our process would have been easier and shorter and less stressful. It is so very difficult to be quiet and listen to God.

    After those 10 days we said "yes". We are currently doing more paperwork. Completing an application, signing contracts, writing checks, putting together a dossier. I am hopeful that we will have this aspect done in the next week or two. Everyone says that the waiting at this point is the hardest. I am just looking forward to knowing that we have done everything that we can do on our end. I am hopeful that I can let go and trust God from that point. In the meantime we are preparing our home. Last weekend we bought a used Escalade which seats 7 passengers. Now I need to build more shelves in our garage in order to get all of our junk off the floor so that the Escalade fits in our garage. There are so many things left to do but it felt great to check this one off the list.

    Please pray for:
    - Our kids' health
    - Our kids' safety
    - Patience for us as we wait for the day that we first get to meet our children

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Change of Plans

    We had been waiting to find our kids in Ghana for a little over 6 months now. And then suddenly a change of plans. Was something wrong with Ghana? No. Was something wrong with Hopscotch Adoptions? No. So why the change of plans? It's very simple, we found our kids! But they were not in Ghana after all. They are in Ug@nda. It is fair to say that we have searched the world over for these precious children. I would love to share every detail that we have with you, but it is not appropriate to do so at this point. I will however answer the top 3 questions that we have been getting so far:
    1. Are they siblings? Yes
    2. How long have they been orphans? Are they orphans? This is information that we are going to save just for them. It is their story. Many parents choose to share this information. And we might someday. But our thinking is that we can always share this later, but once you share it there is no un-sharing that can be done. So if you have asked this, know that it is a common question but don't be offended by our choice to not answer.
    3. Do they speak English? We have no idea. Probably not but this is so low on the priority list in my mind. It's so low on my priority list that it kind of makes me chuckle. I have a B.A. in Linguistics so the process of language acquisition is not intimidating to me.
    So we are starting to kick into preparation mode. We are planning to meet with someone this weekend to hopefully buy a used 7 passenger SUV. We are going to need 1 car seat and 3 booster seats! I will need to practice my braiding skills even more as I will need to get very, very, very good at it. The closets need extra shelves to maximize the space. We will need a bunk bed. I want to move the 2 twin beds that we currently have into the other room because the bunk bed will fit better in that room. Thankfully I don't know the kids' sizes yet so I can't do any clothes shopping just yet. :)

    We expect that we might bring our kids home in fall or winter. The timeline varies a lot so it is difficult to say. When the time comes, we will need to make 2 trips (the first one for 3 weeks and the second one for 1 week) or 1 longer trip of about 6 weeks. At this point we don't know which option we will choose.

    I will tell you soon the story of how we found our kids!

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Roller Coaster

    Not too far from us, there is a decent sized theme park. Their biggest and fastest roller coaster is named Aftershock. It is the kind that harnesses you from above so that your legs dangle. Just before the ride really begins the floor drops out from under you.  It then takes you straight up at a 90 degree angle to the earth so that you are looking straight down. Then the machine lets go and you plunge straight towards the earth. You then fly past the crowd waiting for their turn and up for several loops and twists until it then takes you up in another 90 degree angle to the earth, this time you are looking straight up. It pulls you up further and then the machine lets go and you fly through the whole thing again, this time backwards.

    Now I am terrified of heights. We are talking hysterical screaming, a complete loss of sanity, kind of terror. If suddenly faced with a view of a long, or even a short, drop off, I will freeze dead in my tracks. The other alternative is that I will go flailing in the other direction without regard for what is in that opposite direction. It has nothing to do with logic. Although I can give you a long list of reasons why a person should be adverse to heights!

    Going back to our local theme park, I have been on Aftershock multiple times. I like the idea of the thrill of the ride. I hate the idea that at the age of 31, I am too old for that kind of stuff. I don't like thinking that I am a chicken. Every time I have gone on this ride it has gone like this:

    We stand in line and at first all is well. As we get up to the front of the line the adrenaline starts to kick in... to the point that I feel a little nauseous. But I see a 9 year old kid standing ahead of me who is so excited to get on the ride and so I think to myself "if he can do this I can do this." As the gate opens I go over to my little butt landing pad. Its not exactly a full seat, more of just a place for your butt to rest while your legs dangle over the edge. The very moment that I buckle myself in I think "oh my! what have done!" I start to consider unbuckling and bailing out of this ill thought plan. But then I just envision myself getting half way unbuckled when the ride takes off and getting drug along with the ride until I finally come completely loose and fly through the air before slamming into the ground. At this point a kid comes by to make sure that my belt is on properly. In the 1.3 seconds that it takes him to tug on my belt I find myself thinking "are you old enough to drive?! you are the one they are trusting with my safety?! what are you checking for?! do you even know what to check for?!" Then the floor drops out and the ride slowly begins to move. At that point I am excited, glad that I didn't chicken out, and looking forward to the wild ride. I'm thinking "I can do this, I can do this, I think I can, I think I can." The giant machine begins to pull the contraption up that 90 degree incline. Slowly slowly slowly it inches upward. And then it locks into place. "Oh what have I done?! this was a bad idea?! why did I do this again?!" And then it comes, the moment everyone has been waiting for, the ride begins. With a sudden rush of movement, we are catapulting towards the earth, past the crowd, up into the air, up in a loop, twist in a twisty loop. The whole thing feels completely out of control. And yet I am firmly in place, following the path designed by the maker of this wild ride.

    I have been told that adoption is a lot like a roller coaster. I always envisioned that this meant one of those old school roller coasters. The ones that take you up an incline and then down a steep slope over and over, with no loops no feet dangling no falling backwards towards the earth at a pace equivalent of falling to your death. I'm not an expert in all things adoption. I can only tell you about our experiences. No, our adoption is not that kind of roller coaster. It's a lot more like Aftershock.

    For 12 years we have planned to adopt. We stood in that line waiting until everything was ready. When the time came, we looked at different agencies and different countries. We were about to board this ride and it started to feel a little scary. What if we picked the wrong agency or the wrong country? We moved forward and committed to our first agency and our first country (Ethiopia). We had buckled in. We changed to our second agency and our second country (Ghana). The ride began to move, slowly. With every decision came a thousand questions. Are we doing the right thing? Are we looking in the right place? How many kids? What ages? What medical conditions are we open to? Are we ready for all this? 

    Now we are at a point where we are making decisions and the ride is about to really start. I'm not ready to share the details of these decisions just yet. But yes, it is exciting. I can tell you that it feels a little like the start of the roller coaster, during that first free fall. It is a wonderful feeling. But it is also a very scary feeling.

    So what is so scary? Is it the fear of bringing children home? No, that's not it. Don't get me wrong, we know we are jumping into the deep end of the pool. We have been to the classes, read the books, and talked to those who have lived it. We have heard plenty of the worst case scenario stories. And we know that knowing all of that is still not the same as really being there.

    So what is so scary? It is the fear of getting our hearts broken. What if I fall in love with these little faces and then it doesn't work out? What if it falls through? This isn't just a little scary. It's a lot scary. We are talking about putting it all out there and risking excruciating pain. There are no guarantees in this process. But there is a whole set of questions on the other side of this. Are we not willing to experience God's great plan for us because we are too scared to walk down His path? Is God not the great Healer of all things, including our hearts? So we move forward and trust God to catch us if we fall.

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    Braiding

    In high school I could french braid my hair without a mirror, products, or comb. I could do a double pig tail braid but for that I did need a mirror to make sure that I got the middle part right. If we have African daughters, I am going to have to do lots of braiding. Thankfully there are blogs out there where they give you detailed step-by-step instructions on everything from how to properly wash hair to how to braid different styles to what products to use. I have been reading two of them regularly for at least 6 months now. One is called Beads Braids & Beyond and the other is Happy Girl Hair. While we wait for our kids, I have been working on relearning to braid my own hair. I figure it is good practice. This is a picture of my current skill level.

    Friday, June 3, 2011

    Learning

    I have learned many things along this path to adoption.

    I have learned that adoption is way more difficult than I ever imagined. Everyone thinks that the paperwork is the hard part. Wrong! It's the decisions. Deciding when to adopt, from where, what ages, what medical conditions you are open to, how many, who to trust, which agency, and which children are yours. The decisions are mind boggling. Trust me, the paperwork is the easy part!

    I have learned patience. Okay, I have learned a little patience. But it's much more than I had before this journey began. I have learned that fastest is not always best. (Even though I do still prefer it.)

    I have learned to pray like I have never prayed before. We are talking on your knees, crying, begging for answers kind of prayer. Never do you talk so clearly and so directly to God as when you are the most desperate for His guidance.

    I have learned to truly appreciate the prayers of others. So many words of comfort like "It will all work out" or "God's timing is perfect" fall hollow on the ears of a PAP (Prospective Adoptive Parent). I finally learned what that acronym stands for just yesterday! :) But the words "we are praying for you" do bring true comfort like absolutely nothing else can.

    I'm a little fearful to think of what else I might learn before this process is over. But I have no doubt that it will shape me as a person.

    Saturday, May 21, 2011

    Have You Ever Prayed for a Garage Sale?

    This past year I have had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with a pretty amazing family. They have started an organization called Feeding The Orphans. They are working to feed orphans in Ghana. Who knows, maybe they are feeding our children now. I do know that they are feeding God's children.

    I have been hopeful for a chance to be a part of what they are doing and I think I have found a way. They are sending me purses and jewelry made in Ghana. I will be selling them on Saturday June 11th. You see, our town does one big garage sale every year. I would estimate that 25% of all houses have a garage sale going on in their driveway. All on the same day. It draws a big crowd from up to an hour's drive away. It's pretty crazy.

    My hope is to sell everything they send me and have nothing to send back but lots of money. So can I ask you to pray for this garage sale? I know it might sound like a strange request at first but this is about much more than just a garage sale. I will also be handing out information on Feeding The Orphans in hopes of building more support for this ministry. I am really excited about this opportunity to be a part of God's work. I hope that somehow in all of this I will find how I might be able to be a part of Feeding The Orphans in the future too.

    Sunday, May 15, 2011

    Overly Sensitive?

    Not too long ago we read a book called Adoption is a Family Affair. I asked my parents to read it also, which they did. (In fact, most of our family has read it by now.) My Dad and I were discussing the part where adoptive parents were telling some of the thoughtless things that people have said to them. We agreed that many examples were valid and in some cases people were being overly sensitive.

    Often times when people hear about our plans to adopt, they say "your kids will be so lucky". I know that this is normally said with the intent to be supportive. And I greatly appreciate the immense amount of support that we have received. But you should know that most parents don't really like this compliment. I can imply that the child doesn't deserve everything that they have and that they don't have a right to normal childhood behavior like tantrums and teenage complaints. Most parents will reply "no we are the lucky ones". Now if someone says this to me "your kids will be so lucky", I usually just smile and say "thank you" as I know their intentions are good. After all, why be oversensitive.

    Just this week a good friend referred to an adoptive mom as having 2 children "of her own" and 3 adopted. Now I know she was just trying to tell about why this woman is a special woman and I didn't correct her. But it really is a big deal. Why? Because the 3 children were adoptED. Past tense. They are no longer different than the other 2 children. They are all really her children and nothing less should ever be implied. Now this family was not around. But what if a child near by was adopted and you didn't realize it. Could you do damage with your words? Absolutely.

    I have always realized that there are two categories: words that are said to us/parents and words that are said in front of our (someday) kids. Recently I read a blog post that really explained why the latter is so important. I hope you will read it. It was written by Tracy. I found Tracy through the world of blogs. She was the first person that I had ever heard of adopting 4 siblings at one time. When our first agency was not supportive of our hopes to adopt 4 siblings at once, it was Tracy that I turned to for advice. Here is a little bit of what she wrote and a link to her blog:

    I'm not at all questioning anyone's motives, just informing them that, in their ignorance, they are being used as a tool of Satan to plant doubt and mistrust into the mind of a child.

    but whoever causes one of theses little ones who believes in Me to stumble,
    it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck,
    and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
    Matthew 18:6

    Orphans are serious to God--those who have been redeemed have an incredible call and purpose in their lives and the enemy is continually out to cause them to stumble.

    So, since we all have questions---

    Here is a small dose of enlightenment---simple facts that can shine light on some of the wonderings about adopted kids, mine are from Africa, but it could apply to anywhere:






    Friday, May 13, 2011

    So your paperwork is done, right?

    So your paperwork is done, right? Ummmmm... nope...

    I have gotten this question a few times in just the past few days. You would think that after this much time that we would have all of our paperwork done. So what do we have left? The dossier. We were 99% done with our dossier for Ethiopia when we switch over to Ghana. Dossiers are country specific but most of the documents are the same. So it shouldn't be too much work. I just need to sit down and figure out what I don't have. Without a referral yet I haven't felt much hurry to do this, but I really need to just get this taken care of and out of the way.

    So you might wonder what all this paperwork looks like. Well here is a look. Now keep in mind, I am kind of a nut and so I have everything in sheet protectors. But to my defense, there is not a sheet protector for every page, just for each group of related papers or duplicates. (We have 4 notarized copies of our homestudy.)

    Wednesday, May 11, 2011

    Baby Envy

    I have made so many friends, many whom I have never met in person, who have gone through or are going through the adoption process. A few months ago, one such person got the word to head to Ghana and pick up her girls. I was so envious. I watched her blog and facebook, drooling over the details and wishing for that day that it would be me. Just a couple of days ago I learned that a dear friend was selected by a birth mother to be a mommy to her baby. I was thrilled for her but again I was envious too. I hesitate to admit this because the last thing I ever want is for a friend to hold back in sharing their joy for fear of hurting my feelings. I'm not really sure why I am admitting this, except to be honest and to tell my story as it plays out.

    It is a little difficult for me to think that we have been at this for over a year now. It was Mother's Day 2010 when we first sent in our application. Our big day could be right around the corner or much longer. We don't have any news except to say that we continue to wait. But life is good and it is busy. And I enjoy making these many new friends and watching their adoption journeys play out.

    If you are praying for us, as I know many of you are, please pray that we might listen carefully for God's plan. We think His plan is to find 4 siblings, but it is so important that we be able to hear His voice in order to know His plan, whatever it might be.

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    The Hole in our Gospel

    After 4 years of textbooks, I have finished my first for-pleasure-reading that I can remember in what seems like forever. The book? The Hole in our Gospel.

    The Hole in our Gospel is written by Richard Stearns, the President of World Vision. He sets out to try to answer the question "what does God expect of us?" God has blessed most Americans with so much. And the world is full of poverty. So what does God expect of us? We can't do everything. And yet we can't do nothing. So what does God expect of us?

    I strongly recommend this book. I believe that this book will change the way that I view my life and hopefully will change the way I choose to live it. I believe in the value of this book so much that I am going to offer to give away 10 copies. 10 free books!

    If you would like a free copy, please comment twice on this post. The first comment saying that you are interested, which I will publish. The second comment with your mailing address and email address. I promise not to publish this second comment and only use it for shipping. I will purchase the books (used) on half.com and have yours shipped directly to you.

    There are 2 conditions to my offer:
    1. That you actually read the book, not just let it gather dust. I hope to hear from you within 3 months as to what you thought of the book.
    2. If you like the book half as much as I did, I ask that you find someone else willing to read it and pass it on to them.

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    Want to do something to help adoption? It's easy...

    Have you ever thought that you would like to do something to promote adoption, but don't feel that you are called to adopt and don't feel like you have much money to give? Well here is something that you can do, simple and easy.

    Macy's is having a Million Dollar Makeover contest. One of the finalist is Amy Sandberg Corder Ferrell. She is mom to 5 kids including 3 who were "older" when adopted from Ghana. She also lives in WA state so I look forward to a day when we might meet in person.

    Not only would a million dollars allow her family to move into a home better suited for a family of 7, but she has plans to use the money to "do some wonderful things in adoption and also in creating after-school programs for at-risk youth". She is a kindergarten teacher who has a passion for her students and for adoption.

    What do you have to do to help? Just vote via facebook. Search for "Macy's Million Dollar Makeover" and vote for Amy.

    Want to learn more about Amy? Read her blog and/or friend her on facebook.