Friday, October 31, 2008

"THE DATE"

We got another important call today. We have "THE DATE". Our court date is scheduled for December 17th. Please continue to pray that all goes smoothly in court so that we can go and get the little ladies. Given our court date, it will be early 2009 before we can pick up the girls. We were hoping for 2008 but God knows what is best. We are trusting in His perfect timing.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Our Own Little Spaces

It's amazing how it has already become more difficult to find time to blog in the whirlwind of planning and preparing for the girls. I can't imagine what it will be like once they get here! I have to say it is a bit unnerving to constantly hear the phrase "Enjoy it now" referring to anything and everything when people comment on how our lives will change when the ladies arrive. I'm not sure if comments like that are entirely helpful for the already-terrified-of-the-transition adoptive parent. It's much like approaching someone about to jump off of a cliff and commenting about how TALL the cliff is and how FAR it is to the ground.

I did say in my last post that I wanted to focus a bit in this post on how our little life story connects with the Bigger Picture of the global orphan crisis. I have been thinking about a comment recently posted on the Red Letters blog. The author wrote, "I woke up this morning with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Why doesn't my church ... do more for the world's poor, orphans, and widows? I am just back from Ethiopia and the need is enormous...Are we going to leave this problem to the UN and political organizations like One.org? I think part of the problem is our obsession with ourselves and another part is the lack of accountability among church leadership. I wanted to encourage each of you to ask your church what they're doing with your tithe to serve the world's poor. If the answer is nothing or if you see priorities like big screen TVs taking precedence over injustice, you've got to ask yourself if you're at the right place." While I think we always need to be careful about being too critical of our churches and our pastors, I do appreciate the writer's passionate attempt to focus our energy and our attention on something so dear to the heart of God - caring for those in need, specifically the poor, widows and orphans. It seems that sometimes as Christians we lose our way in this regard because we just get so focused on ourselves and our own needs in our own little spaces in the world. I'm already noticing this in my own preparations for our girls. Our girls will have the benefit of so much love, so much care and so many resources to help them grow into the women God wants them to become - but they are the lucky ones in that regard. As I work on every little detail of building a nest for our daughters, it is easy to forget about the little ones who will still have no place to call home and no family to call their own long after I am gone from Ethiopia, back to my comfortable home with my new family in my safe little space in the world. That kind of complacency is costly and dangerous. If enough Christians get just comfortable enough, we can get lulled into doing absolutely nothing very well. We can also get so self-absorbed in doing good things for our own that we forget about the many others out there who desperately need our help. I am grateful that our church is looking to the future with a serious eye on reaching out both locally and globally to those in need. Our pastor recently preached on being "extraordinary Christians" by making the love of God tangible in our world. That is our heart's desire. If we can do "something beautiful for God" (to use Mother Teresa's words) by forcing ourselves to look out, rather than just in, more often, the world will be changed - and so will we.

On the note of helping those in need, I want to highlight a great organization that works with HIV positive children. It's called From HIV to Home. They do some amazing work helping to meet the many needs of orphaned children living with HIV. As we all continue to ponder what it means to look outward into a hurting world, it is helpful to be reminded of the words of Jesus who said, "I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant [they seemed], you did for me"(Matthew 25:40). Orphans with HIV are a classic example of the "least of these" to whom Jesus refers. And yet, by serving them, we are serving the King Himself.



If you want to learn more about the state of orphans in other African countries, check out Brandi's great blog. I've mentioned her before. She is a mother and a passionate advocate for the children of Africa. She recently got back from Africa and has some stories on her blog that are both heartbreaking and humorous. She really helps you put a face on the orphan and humanitarian crisis in Africa right now.

On another note, we had a fun date night this past week at Barnes and Noble in the kids' section. We sat on the floor and each picked out a stack of books that looked fun that we then read together. We ended up taking home a great little book called That's Not My Puppy that is perfect for very little "readers". The book ends with a picture of "my puppy" that looks a whole lot like our very own canine companion! We also laughed hysterically at a book called Manners by Aliki which we also bought (I was literally in tears in B&N because this book was so funny). It uses worst-case scenarios to teach kids what not to do and why manners matter. We are wondering if it is inappropriate to give this as a gift to certain children we know! That same night, we also hit Michael's to get some "home improvement supplies" for renovating a cool wooden dollhouse my mom found for the girls. Here are a few fun pics from our date night.




Lastly, many of you have asked how you can be praying for us right now. We would ask that you pray fervently for our COURT DATE. We will not be able to bring Baby E and Little Miss J home until we pass our day in Ethiopian court. We are currently waiting to be assigned a date before a judge. Please pray that we are given a date soon so that we still have a chance to bring our daughters home in 2008. Also, please pray for two special friends of ours that Davis went to college with who are also adding two children to their family through adoption in the next few weeks. J and HJ will be adopting two children (ages 9 and 14) from foster care here in the US. They will be going from a family of four (with two very small children!) to a family of six. Please pray that God blesses them richly for this major step of faith. Pray also for a group that we are currently working on organizing. God has put it on our hearts to try and start a network for adoptive families of African children here in our community. We have already made connections with several families with children from Uganda as well as a family that is also waiting for their children from Ethiopia. Pray that God continues to connect us with others who might benefit from a group like this. Our tentative plan is to call the group the Gold Coast African Adoption Network (GCAAN). If you live on California's Gold Coast and have adopted children (or are planning to adopt) from an African nation and would like to be a part of this group, please email us! We'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Garage Sale Mania and Other Good Things



Wow! That last post must have been a good one. I got more comments on that post than on anything else I have written thus far. Thanks to all of you who weighed in on my diaper dilemma. I guess if I actually want to hear from some of you out there, I need to talk more about poopy diapers and my personal meltdowns. Will do! I'm sure when the girls get here, there will be a lot more to say on both of those fronts.

I have been percolating (I love that word) on this post for a few days. I have so many good things to share. This weekend, I had the chance to go with a friend to a killer multi-family garage sale in really nice part of town. The thing about garage sales in nice parts of town is that you actually get really good stuff for really cheap. My friend Jenna and I had so much fun driving around and around this swanky neighborhood hunting for stuff for the little ladies. To say that I scored would be an understatement. I got an antique desk that I am going to repurpose as a changing table (I'm painting it now) for only $45! I also snagged a cool art easel that is really high quality and a MOUNTAIN of clothes. I was literally picking up brand name dresses, sweaters, skirts - you name it - for somewhere between 50 cents and one dollar a piece! Check out the slideshow for pics of some of my treasures. Perhaps the most fun was stocking up on costumes for the costume box in the playroom. I got everything from a Tinkerbell outfit to a Care Bear costume with a stuffed bear head on it! I can't wait to have pictures of the girls playing dress up when they get a little older. I loved playing dress up as a kid and have such fun memories of trying on my mom's brightly colored plastic beads and scarves (this was the 80's after all). It will be fun to share playtime experiences like that with my girls. In retrospect, I realized some of the clothes I bought won't fit Little Miss J (our oldest) for another year or so but it was too hard to pass up cute clothes for a buck! When I got home, I did my first load of kid laundry. You can get lots of kid clothes into one load! It was fun folding all those little clothes up and stacking them in cute little piles. Make it a point to ask me in a year if I still think doing kid laundry is "cute". I have a hunch that the novelty of the experience may have worn off a bit by then.

The highlight of our weekend was attending the birthday bash for my former student's two year old son. EVERYONE at the party was Ethiopian. Needless to say, we stood out a bit! The people we met were so warm and so charming and made us feel like we were a true part of their community because of our daughters. Everyone we met wanted to see pictures and hear all about our girls. One woman even offered to come to our home once the girls get here to help with anything that needs to be done, including translation!

We also got to try Ethiopian food for the first time at the party. It was great! We really enjoyed the different types of lentils and the aromatic spices. Our host was very interested in what we thought of the food (he kept trying to get us to eat more!) and took the time to graciously instruct us in the proper etiquette for eating Ethiopian food using injera bread to scoop up the food on your plate rather than using utensils.

While at the party, we also got some great additional information on the meanings of the girls' given names in Amharic and more background on the region where they are from in Ethiopia. Our oldest is evidently from an area of the country that has a very rich historical connection to Christianity (as does the entire nation) that continues to this day. The amazing thing was that all the people we met at the party were Christians. One man was a pastor of an Ethiopian church in Los Angeles and he invited us to come and worship with them if we are ever in LA. What touched my heart most was how many people thanked us for what we are doing. One woman told me "Thank you for what you are doing for our children - for the children of Ethiopia." I was so humbled by the fact that she was thanking me for getting such a huge blessing! I told her that we were the ones who owed a debt of gratitude to Ethiopia for giving us our precious girls. We are so excited about staying connected to this community that embraced us so openly. Many of the people we met live reasonably close to us and have children. It will be so wonderful to have other Ethiopian children for our daughters to play with as they grow up here in the United States. There were so many kids at the party and they were all absolutely beautiful. It made us long to see our own Ethiopian beauties all the more. The night ended with all the kids gathering around the birthday boy to sing Happy Birthday in English - and then in Amharic! We'll need to learn Happy Birthday in Amharic (right now I'm still stuck on phrases like "Do you have to go potty?"). It would be special to sing to the girls in Amharic on their birthdays to honor their heritage.

In so many ways, these little "coincidences" - things we need provided for next to nothing, strangers embracing us as friends - have helped me to know that we are in the exact center of God's will in building our family through this adoption. I am so happy that we made this decision and I have such peace that we are right where we are supposed to be. I wrote in a previous post about how God "longs to be gracious to us". Each day of this journey, I am finding more reasons to marvel at God's graciousness as we prepare a home for our girls.



In my next post, I am going to be focusing more on Ethiopia and less on my "kid prep" saga. I don't want to overdo it on that. I just couldn't help but share my weekend of "good things". I really want this to be a bigger story that sets our journey against the larger backdrop of the need for orphan relief worldwide. I am also going to attempt in my next post to avoid overuse of the exclamation mark (we've talked about this before). I make myself crazy when I proof these because I just seem way too effusive. I will seriously try to keep those to a minimum next time! <- ha.ha.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Microwave Kiddos"






Well, I did it. I had my first "pre-mom" (this is my substitute word for an adoptive "pregnancy") M E L T D O W N last night. I feel like I am living inside of tornado trying to get everything in order for these little beauties. I can't help but think that what I am really dealing with here are "microwave kiddos" because they are ready so fast. In a pregnancy, I would have more than 3 months for appropriate "nesting insanity" because babies need 9 months in mama's oven to cook. Not so for adoptive moms - as I've said in previous posts this makes for lots of excitement but also a fair bit of exhaustion/confusion/exasperation.

It's just S O O O O much by way of "resource procurement". I have been spending every night after work staring bleary-eyed at the Target and Amazon websites (where we also now have registries) trying to answer questions like these:

1.) Which toddler plates are best (did you know toddler plates have suction cups on the bottom?) and don't have the dreaded BPA in them? I'm not completely sure what BPA is but Amazon reviewers say it's BAAAAD.

2.) Can I handle being uber-yuppie-I-live-in-heels-turned-mom-of-TWO-hanging-out-all-day-with-the-little-ladies and deal with cloth diapers? I'm just not sure I can handle adding to the newness of changing diapers AT ALL the newness of scooping poopie from the diapers into the toilet and then washing the poopie diapers in the same washing machine where I will wash my clothes, bed linens, etc. However, if I use disposable diapers the socially-conscious-activist part of me will feel very guilty and a bit lazy. What to do?!

3.) I could drone on here but the list is endless and I'm just making myself tired writing about it.

So the project continues. One thing that I have been trying to focus on this week is inviting God to be a part of even the littlest details of this process. I often forget that God really does care about every aspect of our lives and He longs to be gracious and show us compassion (Isaiah 30:18). So I'm praying about the little things - even about those disposable diapers!

There have also been some wonderful bright spots this week. It's amazing how God knows what we need when we need it. Early this week, I had a sweet woman at work (who I hardly even know!) bring me flowers to celebrate our referral. It was touching how this woman took the time to "see" me in my situation and show kindess. What a great lesson for those of us like me who are often in overdrive and need to slow down to take the time to notice the needs of those around us. A bit later in the week, one of my dear friends gave me a lead on darling store with great sales on kids' clothes. Check out Naartjie for some great fun and funky clothes for little ones. I stopped by yesterday and came home with a whole BAG of stuff for a very reasonable price. It was really fun picking out clothes and imagining the girls running around the park together in their stylish duds! The sweet little pink and green set above is for Baby E.

I continue to be amazed by just how much moms know. I thought that I was a fairly intelligent person prior to getting knee-deep in this process. What I have learned in very short order is that 1. I really know nothing and 2. my mom friends possess detailed and specific knowledge about things I have never even thought about! I'm still wondering how I can get a copy of the secret manual on must-know mom stuff that they must all have copies of stashed away. For now, I have been the humble and grateful recipient of a treasure chest of mom wisdom. I can only hope that I can give back to another frazzled novice mom like me someday.

Another surprise blessing this week was getting invited to a birthday party this weekend by a former student of mine who is from Ethiopia! His son is turning two and he invited us to join his family for Ethiopian food and the opportunity to meet other Ethiopians in our community. We are so excited! I also mentioned that we were having trouble learning Amharic and he offered to teach us. As I said, what a blessing.

The last point of great joy this week was seeing how adoption as a concept can spread. It reminds me of the runners that strawberry plants shoot out. I have had four different people express interest in adoption after hearing our story. That is a dream come true for an adoptive family. I think what it really takes is for people to actually see someone who is doing it so they know it is possible. We had both neighbors and friends that served as role models and inspirations to us of what an adoptive family could look like. What an honor to now play that role in the lives of others. The sad fact of adoption is that for every one child that gets a home and family, so many remain as orphans - often alone, sick and living in poverty. I feel it is our duty to commit ourselves not only to our own children but to helping the millions of children that will remain in Ethiopia. On that note, please check out these three great blog posts from a couple that is working with Children's Hopechest in Ethiopia. Tell anyone and everyone you know about these beautiful children that need homes.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Adventures in Baby Gear Land



I survived creating a basic registry for the girls yesterday. That allowed me to check off one thing (among many, many things) on the "Here Come The Girls Master Plan Checklist". We really only put the basics on this list as a lot of what we want/need isn't at Babies-R-Us. Thanks to my sweet friend Sheryl who helped me take on this major project. She has a set of twins that are the age of our youngest and an older child the age of our oldest. She was a perfect guide for this adventure. An experienced mom is an invaluable resource when your "soon-to-be-adoptive-mom-I-know-nothing-about-kids-gear" head is spinning trying to decide which of the six million sippy cup options will be best for your child (the sippy cup aisle was by far the most difficult!). It was also interesting to see how much gear is related to the first year of life. Babies take a lot of gear!!! I was happy that we were able to bypass entire aisles because of the ages of our girls. There is something to be said about having one of your children coming to you potty trained. Sounds good to me! That (along with other general benefits like no stretch marks) is adoptive mom perk for some of us adopting older kiddos. The whole process was actually quite fun. I had to laugh though when I walked up to the counter (where lots of very preggo moms were sitting with their respective men) and asked if I could start a registry. The lady behind the counter looked at me, paused and then gave me the paperwork and a zapper (what are those called?). I kept wondering what she was thinking. It didn't seem like adoption crossed her mind. Was she thinking (since I don't look pregnant at all) that I was just getting a REALLY early start on the whole process? Was she wondering about my lifestyle choices given that I was there with another woman who was also not pregnant? I laughed inside at that one.

I also didn't leave yesterday empty-handed. I picked up some sweet matching PJ's for the little ladies. One set has electric guitars on them. They were from the boy section but way too cute to pass up for our little rockstars (Sheryl agreed on this). I also scored two very cool Cabbage Patch dolls that might be fun to take with us when we pick the girls up. On the box, there is an "adoption agreement" about caring for you doll (remember that from when we had CP dolls in the 80's?). I know the girls won't be able to read that now but it was still a fun connection. Last night I finished off my adventures in Baby Gear Land by spending several hours on the Internet researching the rest of "the biggies" (strollers, car seats, slings, high chairs, etc.). As I did this, I crossreferenced several killer "must have" lists put together for me by other experienced mamas (thanks to Leah, Laura, Jenna and Stephanie for these goldmines). When all was said and done, I had my final "biggie" list all ready to go. It was 12:30 by the time we got to bed but the day had been productive indeed. As the superheroes always say, all in a day's work!

IF YOU HAVEN'T RESPONDED TO MY LAST POST ABOUT ADOPTION DISCRIMINATION, would you please please do that for me? I'd love to hear your advice and stories as I put together my battle plan.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Full Steam Ahead and Going To War


This has been such a full week! It's hard to believe it's only been a little over a week since we found out about the girls. We are now in "full steam ahead" mode over here. We have officially accepted the referral of our girls, sent in our last check to Gladney (ouch!) and now just have to wait for the court date. We are hopeful that we will hear soon about a court date. Having the girls home in 2008 would be so wonderful.

This week has been one of many surprise blessings. Our pediatrician, who also does aid work in Africa, said that the girls' health records were amazing. He described them as "children that are thriving" - what a blessing! Also, several dear friends and family are blazing forward with putting together last minute baby showers for us. We are humbled by the kindess and generosity of our community toward our daughters on the other side of the world. I am struck by how being an adoptive parent has some fun perks. It's like being in this cool new club (thanks to all of you sweet bloggers that have welcomed us to this club!). There is also a fun energy to all the hustle and bustle of everyone trying to get everything ready so fast.

I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed by how much has to get done - and soon. I'm hoping to register this week for things for our baby shower. That will probably involve a trip to one of my least favorite store on the planet - Babies-R-Us. I've gotten a headache every time I've tried to buy a baby gift there - way too much gear, way too disorganized, generally speaking - way too confusing. Luckily, a mom friend has offered to go along for moral and technical support! I really have no idea what we'll need. The friends with kiddos the age of ours have been really great about offering tips on kid necessities. That is helping to provide a bit of an anchor in this mad dash.

On the work front, I have been gearing up to go to WAR. Why you might ask? Because I found out this week from the HR department that adoptive mothers at my place of employment DO NOT qualify for the same paid leave benefits for maternity that birthmothers do. Even though I have months of paid leave accrued, I cannot use this time as paid time off because my children are not biological. I am outraged - to say the least - and I am preparing for battle on this one. It's really the principle of the whole thing that I find so offensive. Even if I don't win on this one, I have to try. It appears I may be the first adoptive parent they have had to deal with at my organization. For the sake of those who will follow, I have to fight this.

Thankfully though, as always, God provides. When I shared with my boss what had happened, she too was outraged, as were several of my colleagues. My boss made the decision to allow me to work from home for the next nine months in order to give me time, and paid time at that, with the girls. As a mother herself, she said that the girls would really benefit from me having lots of flexibility and freedom. She also said that she would rather me work from home with paid leave than have me take unpaid leave (which I didn't want to do!) and leave a big hole for my department. I was floored! What she offered was better than I could have imagined and in the end works better for all concerned. What a blessing! It reminded me of a verse that has been on my heart this week from Isaiah. "The Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion" (Is.30:18). I have certainly sensed his compassion and grace this week.

I am still going to WAR on this issue though. They have messed with the wrong adoptive mama. If you (or any other adoptive moms you know) have had experience with this type of blatant workplace discrimination, would you please email me or post a reply here? I'd love to get a sense for what the national state of things is on this issue.


One last thing this week: Please check out this great news story from Good Morning Texas.It features
Belay Tafesse , the Ethiopia Program Director for the Gladney Center for Adoption (our agency). He gives some great information on the current state of the orphan crisis in Ethiopia. The piece also includes a short interview with a little girl who was adopted from Ethiopia. She's now in third grade and is as charming as can be. I am already thinking about how many more kids my house can hold! Baby steps though. Baby steps.

Monday, October 6, 2008

OMG! This Is Really Happening.

Oh My Goodness. We are realizing that our little girls will be here very soon. We have SO MUCH to do before they get here, especially with the holiday season right around the corner! Thanks to those of you who have been replying to our last post with your wise and creative parenting and adoption advice. So far I have learned that our girls should share a room, that we need a Joovy stroller and a baby sling, and that we should have family movie nights on Fridays. Cool! Please keep it coming. We are so appreciative!

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Special Call - Davis' Video Project!

video

Amazing Davis did it again. Any time I ask for something, he always "overdelivers"! He said that he felt like he needed to contribute something to our "documentation efforts" (to use his words), so he made this awesome video of our special morning getting "THE CALL". Enjoy!

To help us prepare for our little ladies, please comment with any helpful hints you have for any great "must have" kid products or any special ideas for creating family memories. We'd love to steal some of your great ideas. We'll need all the help we can get!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

WE HAVE TWO GIRLS - PART III


We are still recovering from the emotional craziness of yesterday. I didn't sleep at all last night and I am a good sleeper. There was just so much to think about!!! Here's a fun pic of "Referral Day". Not my best shot (this is early AM!)but a fun piece of family history for the books! Video to follow...