Saturday, December 31, 2011

365 days of despair leads to 306 days of Hope (and counting)

If you would have told me in March 2010 that in January of 2012 we would still be a family of two I would have been in denial.  I wouldn't have believed I'd have the strength to get there and certainly would not have believed I'd be hopeful, happy and honored to be there.

This is the second Christmas that has passed since we decided to have a child. But this Christmas was nothing like the one that preceded it. 

Yesterday I decided to clean out my closets: clothing, shoes, purses, coats, I've now stored away for the girls in Africa that need it way more than I do... but during this cleaning I found a bag, hidden away to keep me from remembering the days I believed I'd conceive a child. This is what the bag contained:

The dolls were gifts from us, as potential parents, to our baby boy or baby girl.  Soon after deciding to have a baby we visited Disney World and I couldn't resist this Mad Hatter doll (yes I have a full blown Alice in Wonderland obsession for those that don't know).  Months later I purchased the Minnie on sale at a store, just in case we had a girl.  I tucked them away in a bag that held two little t-shirts my mom gave me many years ago.  She found them and couldn't resist (who could blame her?) and the four items have been tucked away ever since.  The act of purchasing the dolls was, in part, a sign I was hopeful, but the bag hidden in the back of my closet was a sign of my despair.  I didn't want to look my "failure" in the eye.  I was sad, angry, bitter and afraid.

Finding these items triggered those emotions. I was immediately brought back to that dark place where baby items needed to be hidden away from plain sight. And then I remembered, I am hopeful. This Christmas was not sad. We have children's furniture in a beautiful orange bedroom and we look at it everyday.  So I brought these items downstairs and added them to the children's room. I don't know how they'll be used. Maybe the t-shirts will be used by an older girl to put on her baby dolls.  It doesn't matter how they will be used, what matters is that it all will be used and embraced by the children God will bless us with, and that is no longer an uncertainty.

This Christmas was also filled with amazing gifts that reminded us of the beautiful journey we are on... so here are a few of my African things (yes that was supposed to be sung to the tune of the Christmas song...):
An adoption frame from my husband. You can choose either way to put a picture of the child, which enables the quote to be read no matter what.
The inspiring quote in the frame.
A 'Love Africa' t-shirt from Sean.
The front of the beautiful Africa ornament from my parents.
The back of the ornament.
In the middle of reading there is no me without you, already read (and was so inspired by) from ashes to africa and can't wait to read MAMLITA!
A gift from my parents. Thought to be the very first board game ever created!
And part of the proceeds went to African aide.
From my in-laws.  A children's book in which every letter of the alphabet stands for something in Ethiopia, and it includes beautiful illustrations!
An Adoption Rocks hoodie from my parents via adoptionbug.com
A mousepad for my computer at work, from Sean.
Our shelves have become fuller.  In addition to those previously explained, we also added a "Joy" book from my in-laws and an Ethiopia coffee mug. (The mug's handle actually broke so it became decor and Sean got me a new one to take to work.)

Overall, it was a great Christmas and I truly believe 2012 will bring many blessings. At this point we are just waiting for our domestic home study to be complete. We met with the agency directors and "matchers" last week and after discussing our broad request one of the workers said, "So you have no idea what your family will look like.... how exciting!" My sentiments exactly :)

And Abram believed in the Lord and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith (Genesis 15:6)
Happy New Year! Looking forward to a year full of blessings, happiness, love and above all, FAITH!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Shop with a Purpose!

On facebook today, there are some giveaways through adoption sites for blogging and sharing.  This inspired me to not only share and blog about those giving away items but some of the other cool family fundraisers and non-profit organizations out there helping orphans and their forever families.
*Note: Most of these are not our fundraisers but still reputable and great causes!

ADOPTION BUG - Buying through our storefont (http://adoptionbug.com/Voorhies/) and purchasing one of our six designs does help us bring home our child(ren) in Ethiopia, but this site is great in many other ways!  This site was started by a couple who brought their little girl home from China in 2010.  They have so many great products, even for the little ones with sayings like "Sent From Heaven by way of Ethiopia" and "Special Delivery from Ethiopia."
     One of the designs I love that our storefront doesn't offer is The Heart in Africa t-shirt:
Heart in Africa
Although, thanks to my mom and sister, I have three other awesome t-shirts from our own storefront!

MY HAPPY SHIRTS - This amazing site was started by a couple at our agency.  For every shirt purchased My Happy Shirts purchases a shirt for an orphan in need! And you can order today and still have your order delivered by Christmas!  Just visit: http://myhappyshirts.com/  You can choose from a variety of categories (hobbies, professions and animals to name a few) and choose your "happy."  Here's an appropriate one for me:

JUST LOVE COFFEE - You can purchase ANY ITEM through our storefront:  https://justlovecoffee.com/about/beneficiary/voorhies/ and we get $5 per item.  This site only sells "the finest Fair Trade, Direct Trade, organic, and shade-grown coffee beans from the best growing regions around the world." And  a portion of EVERY cup of coffee they sell goes to someone that could use a helping hand.  In their first two years of business they donated over $200,000 to adopting families, non-profit organizations and the arts.  In addition to coffee, they sell apparel, music and cool coffee equipment.

MOSSY ROCK DESIGNS - 
http://www.etsy.com/shop/mossyrockdesigns This is a couple from our agency that makes BEAUTIFUL prints like this one:
Waiting for You 5x7 adoption print
All the proceeds go into their adoption fund - by purchasing you are helping them bring their daughter home from Ethiopia!  We will FOR SURE be purchasing from this site, but we want to wait until we know more about our little ones(s) before we choose from all the beautiful designs.

IKDKIDS - This is another couple from our agency fundraising for their adoption:
http://www.etsy.com/shop/lkdkids  They have a variety of beautiful and amazing products including handmade baby dolls:
Custom handmade Ethnic Rag Dolls
And right now, they are offering 15% off of your order as a holiday special!

SHOW HOPE - This non-profit organization was founded by Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife (also the founders of our adoption agency) This organization "mobilizes individuals and communities to meet the most pressing needs of orphans in distress by providing 1) homes for waiting children through adoption aid grants, and 2) life-saving medical care for orphans with special needs." Buying a product from http://store.showhope.org/ will not only help change the lives of children all over the world, but you can help raise awareness through their products as well! Right now you can receive 25% off of your order!
For other ways to help, visit:
http://store.showhope.org/sponsor

WORLD VISION - "World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice." Sean and I sponsor a beautiful little girl in Ethiopia through World Vision, as do others I know.  If you have children, think of making them part of the sponsorship as well, while they can write letters, draw pictures and pick out small gifts.
http://donate.worldvision.org/OA_HTML/ibeCZzpHome.jsp?a=b
And if you don't feel you can commit to a sponsorship, you can make a one time donation or give a gift to a child in need.

I could have written this post for days but hopefully one of these amazing sites will help you to give back during the holiday season!

A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.
Proverbs 22:9

Sunday, December 11, 2011

"I will not refuse to do the something that I can do."

We completed our last 12 hours of training this weekend - woohoo!  Getting close to being done :)

Most of our training on Saturday was dedicated to viewing and discussing a DVD featuring the "Trust Based Relational Interaction" program through Texas Christian University.  A four hour long instructional video did not sound inviting, but I cannot believe how valuable it really was!

http://www.child.tcu.edu/DVD%20sales.asp
Here are some of the key points, lessons and practices:
(note: the "adopted children" referred to are primarily those from the U.S. foster care system or, as the video states, "children from hard places.")

  • An adopted child's brain is different.
    • Early trauma affects neurotransmitters
    • Brain damage is also induced by a lack of the mother's touch
    • When a baby's needs are not met by typical crying, survival mode kicks in: manipulation, aggression and acting out
    • Change or lack of control is very scary!
  • Traditional discipline doesn't work
    • Punishment is ineffective
    • Many of these children are developmentally less than half their age
  • There is no quick fix
    • Love is not enough
    • We can't rush back to "regular life" after an adoption
    • Learning requires a lot of repitition
  • Find a Strong Support System
    • Good friends and family are not enough - we need to find "likeminded" people who understand our unique struggles
  • The child needs "felt safety"
    • Schedule regular snacks during the day (they need to know food is always available and eat well)
    • Give them plenty of fluids (these children have often been dehydrated)
    • Help them develop a good sleep pattern (which most have not had before)
    • Schedule physical activity every two hours
    • Play alongside the child
  • Keep a behavioral journal
  • Never make food a battle
  • Make the day predictable
    • Announce transitions
  • Share power
    • Allow some negotiation (the traditional parents are groaning here...)
  • Balance structure and nurture
    • Most parents emphasize one over the other
  • Connect to the child
    • Stop what we're doing and look the child in the eye when he/she wants to talk to us
    • Be approachable - voice, body language, tone, etc.
  • "Match" the child
    • Position body and voice like child's
  • Respect personal space
    • Let the child say no
    • Set a reasonable bar
  • Praise child often
    • Not only performance oriented but who they are
    • Give more praise for every correction
  • Encourage child to "use words"
    • These children need to be given their voices back
  • Follow through on promises
    • ALWAYS (they're used to broken promises)
  • Allow "re-dos" after negative behavior
    • They're learning positive behavior
  • Ask to see the "real child"
    • Most of them are masking who they are to survive
  • Use "time in" instead of "time out"
    • Time out will only delay bonding and attachment
    • Keep them near us - they can think about what they did wrong and discuss it with us
I know what most of you are thinking... "just wait!" because all of this will go out the window when a child comes into our home.  I am not naive nor do I think this is going to work perfectly or go smoothly, but I DO think it's vital for us to understand that we cannot parent as most parents do, and we need to do everything we can to understand this.  

I'm only one. But still, I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still, I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
-Edward Everett Hale

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Another Week, Another Post, Another Change

Yes, I said it... another change!  God has opened our hearts again to new possibilities.  I realize now this has been timed perfectly and had to be a gradual process. We have broadened our request so much over the last 10 months.  We started with only an Ethiopian infant, which soon turned into young siblings, which then changed to a toddler and a (possibly) older sibling.  Next our hearts were opened to public domestic adoption, and we had decided on one or two younger children, but now we are even considering older siblings (2 girls), even older than 10.

Our most recent change that is quite drastic, however, is the openness to private infant (domestic) adoption.  From the beginning of this journey, our hearts have been closed to this for two reasons: 1. Open adoptions scared us and 2. We bought into sensationalized stories about birth parents taking children away from adoptive parents after these children had been home for months, or even years.  Thanks to our training sessions and the amazing panel discussion we got to attend, we realized now we were misinformed!  We now understand how great open adoption is for everyone, especially the child, and we understand the actual laws when it comes to a private adoption.

We had a home study visit last night and after discussing this with our social worker, we are going to broaden our search to both public and private adoption.  We will make our profile book to be given to birth parents, but we will also continue to look for a "match" through public adoption.  We have now opened ourselves up to so many possibilities and we will let God reveal the details.

I guess this means I need to update our "Adoption Story."  I will not say it will not change again because God may still be working on us!

Out last training session is this weekend, and our social worker said our home study should be done by the end of this month!

What a great Christmas present!

After that, the wait will begin - no more paperwork, meetings, home inspections, or trainings.  Although that probably sounds great to most people, impatient me always does better with a task, so I am reminding myself that this is God's timing and this is not in my control.

And a great article (http://www.awaa.org/downloads/China/Gods_Will_for_Your_Wait.pdf) just happened to be emailed to me today about this very topic, just another reminder that God is with us every step of the way.

So I will"...determine to grow stronger, more effective, and more full of faith as [we] wait. It is, after all, a key part of God's intention."
-Paul Tripp

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

1 Month and 1 Day- DTEversary!

Although I DID remember that yesterday marked one month for our DTE date, I didn't get around to posting.  So today is our one month and one day DTE anniversary - yay! This last month has actually gone by quickly, probably because we have been immersed in the domestic process.

And because God uses timing in this adoption to remind us He's still with us on this journey, a new fun coincidence occurred: our nursery furniture was delivered yesterday, on our one month DTE date!

The bed can go from a crib to a toddler bed and even a "big kid" bed, but we decided to set up the toddler bed for now.  If the domestic adoption happens first, we will most likely be matched with a toddler or older child. 

Here's a look:


The doll on top is an Ethiopian doll, which was a birthday present from  my sister Chrissy and her family. ♥
We will put a changing pad on top of this dresser and use it as our changing table (if needed).
Ready for a toddler but easily converted for an infant or older child!
Although I haven't found the perfect spot for it yet, I also received this wall hanging from my parents (for my birthday):
Love it!
And I even managed to decorate a little and get into the Christmas spirit!


Hoping the many months ahead pass by as quickly as the first!

“The times we find ourselves having to wait on others may be the perfect opportunities to train ourselves to wait on the Lord.” ~ Joni Eareckson Tada

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Empress Taytu, a Porcupette and Many, Many Tears

Yet another busy week to discuss...

Let's begin with Thursday, which was a really great day!  My family and I went to Empress Taytu, an Ethiopian restaurant in Cleveland, to celebrate my birthday.  We even got our own "hut" which probably excited me just as much as it did my eight-year-old nephew!

The food was AMAZING! 

And I am not an adventuresome eater so I was a little nervous, especially because I REALLY wanted to love it... and I REALLY did!  

I didn't think to take that photo BEFORE we ate, so that was what was left of our dinner.  There is no silverware... instead, you just use the injera (flatbread with a spongy texture) to eat your food. You can see it was underneath our food, which is why it is missing in some places in the photo.  We were also brought plenty of "extra" though, and our "table" was all served on this tray.

After dinner we had a great dessert, which was peanut butter and sugar wrapped in injera, and following dessert, we had our first traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony!
Overall it was a great night with a great atmosphere, great food and most importantly, great people!

Now onto Friday and Saturday... 12 more hours of training for our domestic adoption.  Friday was similar to the previous weekend; we met at the agency and discussed common issues that arise when adopting through the foster care system and ways to handle this.

But Saturday we were invited to attend the First-hand Views of Adoption program in celebration of Adoption Awareness Month at Akron's Children Hospital. This would count as the first half of our training for the day. Well first let me say, this may have been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. For someone who has struggled with infertility and is also open to international adoption, domestic adoption, trans-racial adoption, infant adoption and older child adoption, this could not have been more valuable! We heard stories from EVERY angle possible, with key-note speaker Danita Harris (from News Channel 5) who also used our domestic agency.

Next I need to say that I have never cried at a public event like that... ever! Every time I thought I could get myself together, a new speaker would come up and it would start all over again. And I was not alone... I know this because I could actually HEAR everyone sniffling around me. Imagine how badly we all must have been crying. Through the training, our little group has gotten to know one another and the woman next to me said to me after, "I couldn't look at you!" Well, I couldn't look at anyone, including the speakers! What beautiful and inspiring stories though! And though everyone's story was different, they all said one thing: they've forgotten the struggle. I know one day I will be saying the same and the long wait will be a distant memory.

I am so thankful to have attended this event, and I will definitely be attending next year, no matter where I am in the process.

Finally, I want to share a book that I purchased after the event. This book was written by Vanita Oelschlager who helped fund the Oak Adoptive Health Center at Akron Children's Hospital. This book is a children's book about a baby porcupine that has to struggle to attach to a new family after losing his mother.

If you purchase a copy of the book through this website, VanitaBooks will donate all net profits to The Oak Adoptive Health Center at Akron Children’s Hospital in Akron, Ohio:
http://vanitabooks.com/Childrens-Books-Porcupette-About.html

I have to admit, I could use a break, so I am certainly looking forward to my TWO-DAY work week (insert groan from all the non-teachers here)...

Oh yeah, and HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Two Number Ones in Four Days

Back at the beginning, checking those "firsts" off the list!

Over the weekend, we attended our first training session at the agency.  We attended Friday 6-10 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.  We really learned a lot and the woman running the sessions was excellent!  She was able to answer any question we had.  About 25 prospective adoptive parents attended, including those pursuing private infant adoption, public adoption, foster to adopt and foster care.  What helped us learn even more was having a woman in class who had been adopted herself, as well as another woman who had three siblings that were internationally adopted.  It was neat to have all of the different perspectives!

One of my favorite activities helped us to assess the diversity in our lives.  We had a clear, plastic cup and different colored beads; each bead represented a difference race and we were to put the correct bead in as she would ask a question like, "What race is your doctor?"  "What race are the majority of your friends?" and many more.  At the end, we looked at our cups. Some were multi-colored, while some (like ours) looked solid white with a couple hints of color peaking through.  This was certainly an eye-opener.  We can't expect that not to affect a child of a different race.  We feel most confident that our church is diverse and even our neighborhood and school system, but it wouldn't hurt to be more aware of this when we do complete our adoption.

The other "first" we checked off the list was our first home study visit. This time we were pretty calm and didn't feel as anxious.  We knew what to expect and really felt comfortable just being ourselves.  We also found out we needed to redo our BCI/FBI checks and our fire inspection.  I called the fire chief today, who couldn't be nicer, and after explaining my request, he said, "Didn't we just do this?"  Uh... yes sir, we did... He is so sweet though and was very understanding and willing to come to our home again this week.  I was also able to get a new BCI/FBI check when I got my new license (since I am 29 now!) and renewed my plates.  There is actually a DMV in the same building as the training we have to attend this weekend, so Sean can get his BCI/FBI check on our lunch break Saturday.  Then the paperwork part should be done.  Our next home study visit will be December 6th.  Who knows?  This home study could be complete by the end of the year.  I don't think I could've imagined all we'd accomplish over the last seven months.  Hopefully it will bring good news within the coming year.

And hopefully my next birthday will be celebrated with a little one (or two)!  A girl can dream ya know...

Birthday Cake | Free Pictures

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Starting all over, once we have finished!

A super-cute card from my parents ♥
Our paperwork has landed!  Our agency provided us with the FedEx tracking number and it was delivered to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Thursday, November 3rd.  Now there truly is nothing else to do but wait...


Except start the paperwork all over again...


Confused?  


Let me explain... 


Sean and I have decided to adopt domestically.


In an IDEAL world, we would get a referral for siblings from Ethiopia, BUT we also need to be practical. What we have learned so far on this journey is that we need to have faith, and we need to be accepting of uncertainty, but we also need to be realistic and practical. The practicality is what led us to first discuss domestic adoption. After looking at some websites that have waiting children in foster care (in the U.S.) and discussing this, we decided that this is the other adoption we would like to pursue at some point in the future; this would also be best financially (there's that practicality again).

Then, after more discussing and realizing our hearts had been opened to this, we also realized that it would make sense for us to complete the domestic home study now. There have been significant delays in the Ethiopian process, as well as extended wait times, and it seems logical for us to prepare for this. If we get a referral from Ethiopia before or soon after the domestic process is complete, we will still have our domestic home study ready for our next adoption and will just need to update it. If we were to adopt domestically first, we would change our Ethiopian request to one child 0-36 months and continue to wait.  There simply needs to be six months between placements.

Our agency calls this a concurrent adoption and we were approved last week. Once our domestic home study is complete, we will see where we are in the Ethiopian process and go from there. Our request for Ethiopia is a little different than most, since we are also requesting siblings with such a broad age range, so this referral wait time is unpredictable. The wait time for one child, however, is more predictable, and others in our program (through a yahoo chat group) have recently been warning us to settle in for a long wait.

I really cannot get a sense of the wait times for the domestic program. We have chosen to adopt from the foster care system and our informational packet explained that a referral for a child 0-8 is less common because those children are generally adopted by their foster parents. When I spoke with a representative from our new agency, she said it will simply lengthen the wait time but gave me no idea as to what that wait time might be! I am hoping that once we begin the home study and speak with our social worker, we can get a better grasp on all of this; at that point we can make our final decision about our request.

Although the paperwork for this adoption is MUCH less and the cost cannot compare, we do have to complete the home study just as before and attend 36 hours of training. We begin next weekend: Saturday 6-10 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.!

And so it begins, again...

Overall, I am not sure where this all will lead but I am excited to be on this journey!

I also know God is in control and that is all the comfort I need:
Who has done this and carried it through, calling forth the generations from the beginning? I, the LORD--with the first of them and with the last--I am he.
Isaiah 41:4

Sunday, October 30, 2011

DTE!!! DOSSIER TO ETHIOPIA!

Can you believe it?  Our dossier was sent to Ethiopia on Friday so we are OFFICIALLY WAITING!  This is day 3 of our wait, but who's counting?

Last Friday, October 21st, Sean and I decided to go to Chase Bank to get our last document notarized, besides our I171-H which hadn't come yet.  While on the way to meet Sean, I passed our mail-woman and thought about going back to make sure the I171-H hadn't come.  Then I talked myself out of it, since on Tuesday when I called they had said not to expect it for 7-10 business days.

But of course when I got home, it was in the mailbox!  I immediately scanned it, copied it and went back to Chase.  Then I spent Friday night and Saturday morning getting EVERYTHING together to send to America World.

I literally looked over everything at least six times.



Saturday morning, I fedexed everything to our agency in Virginia and got an email Monday saying everything had been looked over twice and looked great.  Barring any unforeseen circumstances, it would be sent Friday. And no unforeseen circumstances must have come up because I got the email Friday congratulating me on my DTE date of 10/28/11 and also giving me the tracking number to track the progress of my dossier to Ethiopia - right now it is in Memphis.

So now we settle in for the wait.  Who knew I would ever look forward to waiting so much?

Our yahoo group also keeps an "unofficial" list of where everyone is in their wait.  This only includes members of our program that also belong to the yahoo group and have asked to be added to this list.  The list, however, contains 126 families, so it seems to have many, if not most, of the members.

Here are our "unofficial" numbers:
60 for an infant boy
73 for an infant girl
34 for twins or siblings under 4
9 for siblings that have an older child (over 4)
16 for a boy 19-47 months (though we are only requesting up to 36 months)
26 for a girl 19-47 months (though we are only requesting up to 36 months)

Now we just wait for the most important call of our lives... no big deal, right?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Kickin it on East 9th Street

ONE MORE PAPER!  That is all we need before we can send our dossier to Ethiopia!  I cannot tell you how great it feels to write that...

Sean and I went to Cleveland yesterday and got our fingerprints for USCIS.  We were given a phone number to call on Monday or Tuesday to get an idea of how long it will take to receive that very important paper we need, but it seems to generally take between 2-4 weeks.  My goal is still to have that dossier in Ethiopia by my birthday, which is November 13th.

After being fingerprinted we stopped in a cafe for breakfast on East 9th street.


It was nice to sit there and relax, but it was also nice to know that one day we won't be able to relax because we will have a little one (or two) to keep us company...

After breakfast, which was excellent by the way,

we also stopped at a CVS to get an extra set of passport photos, which are needed for our dossier.  Then, on the way home, we stopped at a credit union that has a coin counter, which keeps 5% instead of the 8.9% Coinstar keeps.  We were able to keep $265, so that was a nice way to end our trip.

Soon I will be writing that our dossier has arrived in Ethiopia and that will be a GREAT GREAT GREAT day!  Until then, I will leave you with Hebrews 11:1, Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sport your support :)

FamilyHope, Joy, Peace
It's time to promote our t-shirt fundraiser!  We would love your support.  The t-shirts really are great and there are six different designs from which you can choose.  You do have to choose one of the six designs (from our site) in order for us to get part of the profit though.  We are still really hoping and praying for siblings so we could use the extra help!

JUST VISIT:
http://adoptionbug.com/Voorhies/

You can buy one for yourself or a family member - they even come in youth sizes so you can buy them for your kids!  They all feature an inspirational message related to finding orphans a forever family, so you'd be supporting a great cause.

We really appreciate anything you can do.  A little really does go a long way in this process...

Just a reminder that we are still running our coffee store as well.  And I know you can now purchase adapter pieces for you Keurig so you can brew ANY coffee as a k-cup!

http://justlovecoffee.com/voorhies

Remember, as long as you purchase through our store, we will get $5 toward ANY item you purchase!  I am wearing my justlovecoffee t-shirt right now!  (and yes I am aware how much this is starting to sound like a cheesy commercial, so I will end now...)

Again, thanks for anything you are willing to do, and thanks for simply taking the time to read this post.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Small but significant ♥

We have our biometrics appointment!  This is it... approaching the final step.  After being fingerprinted, we will await our I-171H, get it notarized and SEND OUR DOSSIER TO ETHIOPIA!  Can you tell I'm excited?

But it gets better.  Just in case we forgot that God has this all planned out, our biometrics appointment is scheduled on NEOEA day, meaning neither Sean nor I have to take a day off of work.  What are the chances?  Not that we really need reminders that God is in control of this journey, but He lets the little things fall into place like this, and it really builds our faith. 

My birthday is November 13th, and I am pretty confident that on my 29th birthday, we will be on the official wait list for our child or children in Ethiopia. (yay!)

On a sidenote, I added a little to our orange nursery.  We chose this color because it is neutral.  If we bring home a baby girl, we will use pink accents, and we will use green for a baby boy.  Oh yeah, and it's my favorite color too... the only problem with the room was that one of the walls and connecting ceiling was completely falling apart and short of sanding and spackling, we are not exactly the handiest people; however, we also are trying not to spend money either.  My solution: plastic stackable bins that I ordered from Walmart.com.  I even got free shipping for having them delivered to the store.  I hung them on the wall last weekend, and they completely covered the wrecked wall and ceiling.  A nice functionable, inexpensive solution:

After going to Hartville with my parents, we even got the first stuffed animals for the nursery:

love them ♥

Excited to be another step closer, excited to celebrate both my niece's and mom's birthdays this weekend, and excited to know that God continues to bless us with the little things...

Saturday, September 3, 2011

An I-600A kind of day

Yeah, that's right, we sent our I-600A to USCIS yesterday!  What an amazing feeling.  This is another HUGE milestone and also means our home study report was finalized and sent to us.  So hard to believe we have come this far.  As evidence, here is the daunting list of items we had to complete:

Sitting down and making all those tabs back in April was a little overwhelming, but now we are getting so close.  Next we will wait for our biometrics appointment, and once we are fingerprinted and processed, we will receive our I-171H.  Then, after having it notarized, we can SEND OUR DOSSIER TO ETHIOPIA!  I will be elated on this day :)  Yesterday we also took some other papers to get notarized and will then have to get them county and state certified.  I thought this was something that had to wait until we had our I-171H, but I was wrong.  So, hopefully this will be done before we are ready to send our dossier.

The only stress I have right now is that the notary noticed that sometimes we printed and signed our names with our middle initial and sometimes not.  Hopefully this won't be a major problem, but the Ethiopian government is very thorough and likes the signatures to match.  I should hear back from our family coordinator on Tuesday, and if this is a problem we will have to get some paperwork notarized again.  I'd prefer to be on the safe side, even if it is an extra hassle.

I hope everyone has a great labor day weekend.  We will be spending tonight at my 10 year high school reunion; however, we will also be praying for some special women out there.  Someone from the AWAA yahoo group came up with the "Labor of Love Prayer Weekend" and has encouraged us all to pray for the birth moms in Ethiopia for, as she puts it, "...their health and safety, for provision and peace. And most of all that they would know our Lord Jesus so that one day we may all be together again in God's glorious kingdom, as one beautiful family."  What a wonderful idea.  I hope you will all join in praying for these strong women who are sometimes forgotten during the adoption process. 

Thankful for all that we have :)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Happy to report on our happy report!

Not too much to report here EXCEPT that our home study report is DONE!  Yay!  I reviewed it and now it is being sent over to the agency to be reviewed.  Hopefully it will be in our hands soon and we can mail it out with our 1600-A, which is the next step in the process.  I remember getting our paperwork months ago and seeing the overwhelming number of tasks we would need to complete, and the 1600-A seemed so far away... but here we are!  Another step closer, and it feels great!
The only other adoption-related news is that we decided to broaden our age request.  The younger age we will be requesting will now be 0-36 months.  This came after we returned from New York with Sean's family and had spent time with our nephew, Brandon:
(Why pass up an opportunity to add his cute photo?)  I was thinking, after the vacation, that even though Brandon is very self-sufficient, at the end of the day, he is still little.  He still wants mom to hold him and read him a story before bed at night.  He still has chubby feet :)  The next important talk for Sean and myself was, will we miss any major milestones that are important to us?  And the answer is no.  There isn't anything between 24 and 36 months that we felt would be too hard to let go of.  We just felt this was the age that was right for us, and felt led to make this change, just as we have been led by God to all decisions on this journey. 

Other than waiting for that report to be in our hands, we are just getting ready to go back to work (boo)!

I'll end this post with my inspiration for the day:
And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:27
...feeling thankful for the cross we've had to carry

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

3 visits, 2 years, 1 procedure...

3-2-1...

3 Visits
Homestudy visit number THREE was completed last week!  Yay!  Now we just have to wait for the report to be written, which can take a little while.  But this was just another reminder of how God wants this adoption to work out.  I knew it would be difficult to schedule our third and final visit because the day our social worker was coming home from vacation, I was leaving for cheer camp, and then I was having surgery when I got home.  My only option seemed to be to wait at least a week after my surgery and try to schedule the meeting, but our social worker said she would be unavailable.  I was starting to get frustrated when an email came Sunday night (the night before I left for camp).  She said her daughter would be away on Tuesday and could we meet her in Akron?  I almost wrote back no because of camp, but then I realized that I would be at The University of Akron!  So, it worked out better than I could have planned!  Sean met me up there, and I just went two buildings over from the cheerleading camp (while the girls were with the other coach) and met the social worker at Starbucks.  Not only did the final meeting go well, but she also said she would definitely be recommending us for both unrelated children and the concurrent family building plan.  I am still amazed at how well that all worked out!

Now onto 2 years...
Yesterday (August 8th) was our two year wedding anniversary!  Unfortunately I am still recovering from surgery so our big night out was going to the video store down the road, but that doesn't matter.  We are in such a wonderful place and have grown so much closer over the last year, and we are so incredibly happy with one another.  My husband has taken care of me the last four days, and I am so lucky to have him.  Now for a little reminder of that beautiful day two years ago:

And finally, 1 procedure
As I stated above, I had surgery on August 5th.  This was for potential endometriosis, which the doctor did find, and removed.  Without going into details (for risk of too much information) it was causing a definite contributor to infertility.  So, this could potentially increase our chances of getting pregnant.  Sounds good :)  But I have to say, I am not really concerned about that right now.  If that happens, wonderful, especially because we should be approved to stay in the adoption program at the same time, but overall it's just nice to have this done.  I had a feeling this was at least one of the culprits and it's nice to know it has been removed.

Right now, I am just focusing on getting better and trying to enjoy what remains of this summer vacation.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

"...rarest chords in the soul's harmonies"

With August approaching there has been a lot of talk in my house about going back to work.  This is foreign to the majority of adults out there who work year-round, but for those teachers out there, you know the feeling.  This has also lead to Sean and I discussing the changes in the last year and half.  It has been almost a year and a half since we decided to have a baby, and the changes and growth we have seen in ourselves have been astounding. 

Although this blog may seem nothing but positive, we were met with some dark days on this journey, and though they may be distant memories, they are not forgotten.  On many of those days, I took to writing, and I found myself praying that these words of despair would one day serve as a reminder of what life no longer was.  Well, I am there.  I no longer feel the sadness and hopelessness thanks to the plan God has laid out before us, but here is just a small glimpse into my past thoughts.  This particular rambling followed a description of what I had just gone through at the fertility clinic:

I didn’t plan for this.  In no part of my 28 years did I ever envision this as my life.  But this is what I do, month after month, because my husband and I have officially been diagnosed as infertile.

How do I feel about it?  Well that depends on the moment… not the day, not the hour, but the actual moment you ask because my feelings are inconstant.  I may wake up feeling hopeful, just to turn on the news to see a woman arrested for beating her child and become angry that she was ever blessed with a baby at all.  Why her?  Why not me?  And then I unhealthily feel bad for myself and wonder why life is so unfair, until I realize what a waste of time this is and tell myself to pray, to remain hopeful, to have faith. 

My husband says I have to see the baby, feel the baby, believe the baby is coming.  So I do this.  I see, I feel, I believe.  And then, weeks later, I fall harder than ever before because this month I saw, I felt, I believed, and nothing came of it. 

Maybe this is my fault.  Maybe if I had been better to other people.  Maybe if I had been a better Christian.  Can this be my fault?  Do I deserve this because everything else in my life has always come so easily for me?

So I stop seeing.  I stop feeling.  I stop believing.  And this time, the hurt doesn’t hurt so much.  This time, I am numb and my heart has stopped beating.  This time, I wake up and turn off my mind, storing away all that’s inside me for the next time my husband encourages me to have faith.  And that time will come because days will turn to weeks, and I will forget how bad it hurts to think and to feel and to live.



In no way has this journey been easy, and in no way have we been able to rise above for a year and a half, and that is my purpose in sharing this.  But it is therapeutic to uncover these words after the storm has passed.  Here we are, happier than ever, just knowing our children are waiting in Ethiopia, thanking God for his plan, thanking God we have each other and thanking God we never lost sight of our future family.

To take this post in a different direction... I was recently re-reading a book that my seniors were assigned over the summer: The Book Thief.  It's been a few years since I last read the book and there were new passages that spoke to me in ways they hadn't before - yet another sign of growth.  These passages really resonated in me, as the young girl in the novel shared sentiments that my future children may have, and they really touched my heart.

The young protagonist, Leisel, is a young German girl during WWII that is sent to live with a foster family.  The narrator writes the following after Leisel arrives at her new family's home in Molching:
"When Leisel arrived in Molching, she had at least some inkling that she was being saved, but that was not a comfort.  If her mother loved her, why leave her on someone else's doorstep?  Why?  Why?  Why?"

Soon after arriving Leisel begins to have nightmares everynight and her new "Papa" begins to come in and comfort her:
"After three weeks he held her.  Trust was accumulated quickly, due primarily to the brute strength of the man's gentleness, his thereness.  The girl knew from the outset that Hans Hubermann would always appear midscream, and he would not leave."

Finally, the narrator often stops to define things for the reader.  At this point he writes,
"A DEFINITION NOT FOUND IN THE DICTIONARY: Not Leaving: an act of trust and love, often deciphered by children."


Wow - poignant and powerful.  The simplicity of it all is what really gets to me... "thereness" and "not leaving."  Concepts foreign to these children.  I cannot begin to imagine how powerful these simple acts will be for these deserving children.

I will finish with the poem that inspired the title of this post:


Life's Harmonies
LET no man pray that he know not sorrow,
Let no soul ask to be free from pain,
For the gall of to-day is the sweet of to-morrow,
And the moment's loss is the lifetime's gain.

Through want of a thing does its worth redouble,
Through hunger's pangs does the feast content,
And only the heart that has harbored trouble,
Can fully rejoice when joy is sent.

Let no man shrink from the bitter tonics
Of grief, and yearning, and need, and strife,
For the rarest chords in the soul's harmonies,
Are found in the minor strains of life.

-Ella Wheeler Wilcox

I currently find myself thankful for "the minor strains of life."

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Great Joy is Coming: Enjoying Life in the Meantime

Today we completed our second meeting with a social worker.  This local social worker had to come to our home, get to know us, and complete a safety audit.  All went very well.  As I mentioned on Facebook, my cat Penelope even jumped up next to the social woker twice and let the woman pet her... very unlikely for Penelope.  Look how innocent!
This had to be a sign from God!

Because we can do the two separate interviews in one meeting, we only have to set up one more meeting!  She even made it a point to say it should be all done before we go back to school... wow!  Once she completes and finalizes the report, we can move forward in our dossier process, which then will take a while, as it involves more government fingerprinting and paperwork.  Feeling good though :)  We also had to give her our applications for unrelated children and the concurrent family building plan.  The unrelated children application is required because we are willing to accept two children whether they are siblings OR unrelated, but we have to be approved for this.  Obviously bringing home two children who may not even know one another and who will have completely different background stories will be more complicated, so we have to get special approval.  For this scenario to occur, we would most likely wait until we are given a referral for an infant and then see if there are also any available waiting children that are older that may also need a home.  On the other hand, the concurrent family building plan will allow us to stay in the program if we get pregnant, IF we are approved for this.  I am praying we get approved for both!

The wait time for a referral was just increased, but we were expecting this.  For an infant boy (which is a little less than an infant girl, so more likely for us) the wait time from dossier submission to referral was 7-11 months and it is now 10-16 months.  I have been telling people about a year anyway, because I knew the program was changing when we entered; however, if you can spare a prayer or two for the program and the Ethiopian government to keep this program thriving so these kids can find homes, that would be great!

I also learned a few new things from our social worker today:

1) She said that through her research and through direct experiences with medical professionals specializing internationally, she has discovered that Ethiopia has the healthiest babies!  Amazing, right?  Such wonderful news for all those beautiful kids in need!  This reminds me of a campaign "I Need Africa More Than Africa Needs Me" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAB-zJPsJjs).  The theme is that we believe that they are probably so downtrodden because of their living conditions and all of the negative things we hear, but after visiting, Americans can't help but realize that THEY (the Africans) are the happy ones and THEY are rejoicing and full of life.  Pretty amazing!

2) Our social worker pointed out that in addition to all of our family members, most of the "important" adults in our children's lives will be white.  I had not thought of this before, but yes, she is right... our doctor, dentist, teachers, hairdresser, etc... all white!  She suggested finding people of a different race to fill some of these important roles.  What a great idea!  And one we had not thought of before!

3) An older child will learn English fast and forget Amharic.  Our other social worker said the same thing: through immersion these African children pick up our language quickly!  The sad thing is they forget their native language, so she suggested lots of video taping when they first come home.  Another great idea :)

All in all it was such a great day.  I love the feeling of checking an item off the list, especially a big item like this!  Our passports also came recently, which was pretty exciting.  Just looking at them knowing they are in our hands because we will be traveling to Ethiopia to bring home our children is AMAZING!

WARNING: for those of you only interested in the adoption, the rest of this post will be about our great vacation to the Finger Lakes in upstate New York.

"A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in."  Well said Robert Orben!

It was a perfect vacation at the perfect time.  Thank you to Dale and Kathy (my in-laws) for providing this wonderful trip.  I will just share a few highlights here, and if you want an obnoxious amount of photos, visit my Facebook page.

One of the greatest parts of the trip was getting to READ... not just read, but read WHAT WE WANT. It has been a very loooooong time, which is what makes summer so great.  In cleaning for the garage sale I found old Borders gift cards that were unused and Sean got Barnes and Noble gift cards for his birthday July 1st, so we went shopping:

(Those of you that know us, see if you can guess which are mine and which are Sean's) 

Anyway, I got to read three and start a fourth while sitting on the dock with this view:


Yeah it doesn't get much better than that!  But if it did, it would be finding an Ethiopian coffee at the gift shop of a great winery! 
Oh yeah, and if you wanted to see my excitement, it has been captured for your enjoyment!

So yeah, pretty great week, I have to say!  As a final note, here is a collage of our lake-loving, wine-tasting, beer-drinking, fire-starting, book-reading, time:

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Compelled by Curiosity

When we tell people about our Ethiopian adoption, I have found that we get many of the same questions, so I have listed them below and provided answers.  Hopefully this will help those of you understand the process who may have been wondering the same things.  Feel free to ask me any other questions you may have as well.

Before I begin, here are a few terms that will show up in my answers:
Dossier - the never-ending documents and paperwork completed for adoption
Referral - the officials at the AWAA match a child to each family after looking through the family's file, and then send this match to the family's agency who in turn sends it to the family; the family can either accept or deny the referral that is made to them; the referral comes with a picture, African name, age, birthdate (or approximate birthdate if unknown), medical information and any other misc. information about the child.
Home Study - The home study is required by our country and Ethiopia. This is where a social worker reviews everything about the family, including health conditions, financial status and the home. A licensed social worker from the state the family lives in must complete the home study.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Will they speak English?
Well obviously if we bring home an infant, this will not be much of an issue, but no, most Ethiopians will not speak English.  We will have a guide from America World (our agency) to translate when we are there, but we are also going to learn the most common language in Ethiopia: Amharic.  I will be asking for the Rosetta Stone for my birthday J  If we are lucky enough to bring home siblings, there is a good chance one will be older and will speak Amharic; we want to be prepared for this, so we can communicate with our child.

How much does it cost?
The total estimated fee for one child (including travel) is $25,584 - $35,734.  If we accept a sibling referral, there will be additional fees at that time.  This is why we are fundraising – here comes the shameless plug… https://www.justlovecoffee.com/Voorhies.

Do you have to pay all at once?
No.  The costs are broken up into smaller payments and are due at separate times.  The main fees to the agency are due at dossier submission and referral acceptance. 

Do you have to go to Africa?
Yes.  We are required to make two trips after referral, each about one week long.  The first is to go to court and legally adopt our children, and the second is to be submitted to embassy and bring our child(ren) home.  This means we will have to leave our child(ren) after the first trip until we have an embassy date.

How long is the entire process?
We hope to have the home study completed in a couple months and then submit our dossier.  At that point the current wait time is 7-11 months until a referral, but that is never set in stone, especially with the slow down in the number of cases Ethiopia is currently processing a day.

Will you get to name your child(ren)?
Yes, but obviously this would not be an option for an older child who knew his/her name.  For an infant, we would definitely want to keep his/her birth name, even just as a middle name.

Why Ethiopia?
As I said in my first post, it just felt right.  We did end up realizing, however, that the requirements seem to fit us best.  Also, my husband has always felt drawn to Africa and its culture, even teaching me over the years, so overall it was a great fit.  Finally, there is clearly a great need, with 5 million orphans.

Why not the U.S.?
Some people seem curious and others even bothered as to why we aren’t adopting from our “own country.”  Honestly, again, this is just not what God has called us to do.  But even if I were considering this logically (which truthfully I never have) it seems like it would be hard for me.  There are risks with any adoption and the risks with domestic are for people with strength that I don’t believe I have.  God put international adoption is our hearts for a reason because he made us for this purpose.  We have the strength for this process.

Will you know the birth parents?
If there is a living parent then we will probably get a chance to meet him/her.  This was another bonus for us when choosing Ethiopia.  They really try to get you in touch with living relatives.  They will provide a translator, and they are now even putting together videos with family interviews to show the children when they are older.  Not every country is able to do this.  They will even let you communicate through the agency over the subsequent years. 

Can the birth parents change their minds?
Yes.  What they are doing now is bringing the relative that relinquished the child into the court PRIOR to the adoptive parent’s first court date.  This way, if they should change their minds, the adoptive parents have not travelled or met their children yet.  The judge in Ethiopia really communicates with these relatives to ensure they understand the choice they are making and are at peace with it.

Do you already know who your child(ren) is/are?
No.  We will not know until we get a referral.  We can choose to accept or deny a referral (though I can’t even imagine denying).  We will be on two waiting lists, an infant and an infant plus child 0-8 years.  Whichever comes up first will be referred to us.  This will include a photo, medical information we will have looked over by an expert and any family history that is available.

Do you get to “choose” your child(ren)?
No.  We are able to give specifications: age, gender, health, and number of children.  Then we simply wait until we are matched according to our specifications.  The only criteria we chose not to specify was gender.  There is, however, a password protected “Waiting Children” list that members of the program can view.  This contains children that just don’t fit anyone’s specifications, so their photos and basic information is given so hopefully someone will connect and want to give them a home (which seems to always happen eventually).  For example, currently on the list, there are older children that are HIV positive, as well as a sibling group of four (which are so stinkin’ cute I can’t even handle them).  Anyone wishing to adopt off this list would have to be ready (home study complete and dossier submitted).

How much time will you spend with them before bringing them home?
The two weeks we travel to Ethiopia.  It seems to me, from reading others’ travel logs, that a majority of the time is spent with the child(ren).  We will get to see the country, especially Addis Ababa (the capital city) and as I mentioned before, living relatives.  We will be able to stay in the transition home (where they stay after we accept their referral) with the child(ren) while we are there.   Although it is not a law or actual rule, they do ask that out of respect for the natives, we don’t walk the streets with the child(ren).

Will you know if they are healthy?
Yes.  A medical report is given and it is recommended that we have it looked over by someone in the medical field that has experience internationally before accepting the referral.  This is because they made word things differently or have conditions with which we are unfamiliar.  Blood test results will be given, including Hepatitis and HIV.  We are with a very established agency which has a history of being fully reliable and ethical so I feel very comfortable in this regard.

Hopefully this answers any questions you may have.  Our first home study visit is July 22nd so we are about to be one step closer…