"May the God of hope fill you with great joy and peace as you trust in him." Romans 15:13

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trick Or Treat

It was a fun night! Sierra dressed as Jen Ledger, the drummer from SKILLET, her favorite band. Brenna was a witch. Jamison was a monster. It was chilly to trick or treat, but they still ended with a bucket full of treats. Krissy spent the night at a "Murder Mystery Sleep-over" - doesn't that sound like fun?

Krissy's request

The end of this week was filled with doctor appointments. We all need to have a doctor fill out a form and declare us healthy individuals, medically suitable for adoption. Chad and I need our forms notarized, the kids' just need to be signed by a doctor on their letter head.

So, I went first. As luck would have it the doctor I chose did not have a notary, forcing me to find one elsewhere. (A BIG thanks to our CPA and friend for not only letting me use the notary in his office, but even driving her to the doctor's office himself. It turns out that her son is adopting from Ethiopia as well!)

The next day I was back with Krissy, Jamison, and Sierra. The kids were troopers, but a doctor appointment for 3 kids is a bit crazy! It was a success though - we got our letter!

Krissy also received the thumbs up she wanted from the doctor to accompany us on our trip to bring Joshua home. She is very serious about her desire to go, so serious that she volunteered to start the immunizations she will need in order to travel to Ethiopia. So serious, I have heard her say what she wants from her grandparents for Christmas is money to go toward her plane ticket. Chad and I fully support her desire to come with us. We think that it would be such a life changing trip for her - for all of us of course, but for an eighth grader to see true poverty will have to make an impact. We also think that when Joshua is 13 and really beginning to question who he is and where he came from, it will be so beneficial for him to be able to talk to his big sister who saw his birth country at that same age.

The only concern we have is financial. This whole process is expensive to say the least. The agency fees are about $12,000. The home study costs $3400. Travel to bring Joshua home will be about $3000/person. US Government fees will be about $900. Add to that all the incidental expenses like immunizations, Joshua's medical care when we get him home, FedEx charges, changing the workout room into a bedroom for Sierra.... and the total is pretty big. We will take advantage of the tax credit, apply for some grants, sell some stuff, and probably use up our savings.

Anyway, for Krissy to come with we are going to need some help. Would you consider making a financial contribution toward her travel? Today, I committed to help her raise the $2500 she will need in order to come with. So, our first crack at fund raising is a direct request to those of you that love us. If you could help her see the world, I truly think you would be impacting the way she sees things for the rest of her life.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

On My Soap Box

One thing I have been thinking about a lot is what to do with and about all the information I am learning. As we prepare to adopt a little boy from Ethiopia, we want to learn everything we can about his home country. The facts we are learning are staggering. They seem hopeless at times.

*Every 3 seconds, somewhere in our world, a child dies because they are too poor to live.
*Every 15 seconds one of those children are dying from diarrhea. (Diarrhea!!! Have you ever feared your child dying from diarrhea!) Ethiopia alone loses 230,000 children to diarrhea each year.
*One million people die every year from malaria - a mosquito bite.
*The life expectancy in Ethiopia is 54 vs 79 in the US
* Average GDP per capita is $779 vs US $45,592
*Adult literacy rate 35%

I have been thinking about what to do with it all. We feel God leading us to adopt a child, but what else. What could you do? What else could we do?

Here are some cool organizations I have found just this morning. Check them out.

www.aglimmerofhope.org Has an awesome web site, with a lot of good information on the projects they are working on. They only work in Ethiopia, and 100% of money donated goes to the people/work they are doing there. They work on all types of projects such as building schools, providing wells, health care, veterinary care, etc... Their website also has a lot of information about Ethiopia in general.

www.tomsshoes.com A shoe maker that gives a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair he sells. I guess there are diseases that people have been crippled from that can be prevented with wearing shoes. (Not a very technical explanation, but I am trying to be brief.) Have a shoe fetish? Check him out.

*** my personal disclaimer here *** I have not done extensive research on these organizations, they may not be as wonderful as they appear to me at first glance. My biggest point is to be on the look out for ways to help. As the holidays approach we all spend a little extra money, maybe there is a way to spoil your family and friends and help a someone in need at the same time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Home Study Act 1

Chad and I drove to Fargo yesterday to pick up some materials for a job, but we also were able to meet with Lindsey for the first time. Lindsey is the social worker who will be doing our home study. The home study basically looks at our family as people, instead of just paper. It will asses whether or not we are people whose hearts and home are right for an adopted child.

Yesterday Lindsey gathered background information on Chad and myself. She asked a lot of questions, listened, and took notes.

She asked things like:
Describe your Mom.
Describe your Dad.
How did they parent/discipline? Is that how you parent?
What type of values did they instill?
What is your relationship like with them now?
Are you more like your Mom or Dad, in what ways?
Describe your siblings.
What was your relationship like with them growing up?
What is it like today?
What does your family think about you adopting?
What were your teen years like, jobs, hobbies, etc...
What are your job schedules like?
What do you like to do for fun?
What are your long term goals?

We visited for about an hour and a half. I bet you are curious about what we had to say? It was actually kind of fun. We are been lucky to have a lot of great memories to share from wonderful examples.

Lindsey gave us a little homework - just more forms! She also gave us a list of training opportunities. The state requires 10 hours of training for adoptive parents. She gave us a list of resources that I am excited to explore.

We will meet with her 2 more times.

I am finding myself enjoying this part of the process. Completing paperwork is "doing" something. After we have all the paperwork in place, we wait. That will be hard. Waiting for a child to be referred to us will be OK. Waiting for a court date (which will be about 8 wks after the referral) and then to travel and receive our son 8 weeks after that will be much HARDER!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Great Season

I thought it was time for a football update!

Jamison played his last grade school game tonight. He got to play at "The Bowl." The players and cheerleaders were introduced over the loudspeaker, there was live play -by- play, and trophies at the end. His team ended the season with a record of 4 wins 3 losses. They were forth in the league. He played mostly tight end, as number 28. He is the second purple and gold player from the right in the above photo. We were so proud of his team and the amount they improved throughout the season.

Sierra was a cheerleader for Jamison's team. She rocked! It was very fun for us to have them both involved. The only downside to her cheering was we would get her funky cheers stuck in our heads. "B -A- N -A -N -A -S ! Go Bananas! Go Go Bananas!" Tonight, her team received metals for cheering!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Joshua's Ethiopian Mother

Last Sunday my brother got hurt. He fell and injured is leg. So, he called his wife and our parents for help. I was with them all when he called, only I was out of the loop because I was gabbing on my cell phone with a girlfriend. I was only on the phone for 5 minutes or so; but, by the time I hung up and refocused on what was happening around me, everyone outside of myself and my girls was gone. They were in their cars and on their way to help.

For some odd reason this whole series of events has led me to think of Joshua's Ethiopian mother. From everything I have read and all the people I have visited with, I believe that Ethiopian mothers are very much like I am. They love and value their children. They do everything they can to take care of their children. They are very nurturing. They strive to protect their children under the worst of circumstances.

I can not imagine what she has faced or is facing. I can not imagine having no one to help me, no way to make sure my child is safe and cared for. I know there is a chance that I will die before our children are grown. I also rest in the knowledge that even if I died, our children would never be orphans. We are blessed with young healthy parents, many siblings, and other family members that would step up and raise our children. What would it be like to have no one, no one to raise your child? No one to come to your rescue?

I am so blessed!

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I am beginning to organize the paperwork for our dossier. I am a nerd and like paperwork and organization so it was almost fun. IAN sent us a very specific guide with lots of templates that makes the process mostly fill in the blank. I have been busy making appointments with the various people we will need to sign off on our merit as adoptive parents.

I need certified copies of our birth and marriage certificates. (ordered)
I need a notarized letter from each of our doctors attesting to our health. (made appointments)
I need a notarized letter from our CPA testifying to our income. (made appointments)
I need a notarized letter from the local police stating we have no outstanding police record. (ask)
I need a notarized letter from our bank stating total deposits and the account balance. (call for)
I need 3 notarized reference letters. (need to give them forms)
I need proof of medical insurance for us and our adoptive child, notarized of course. (must copy)
There are also various other contracts and Power of Attorney papers. (printed and ready to sign)
We need a completed home study. (have appointment to begin next week)

It is actually fairly straight forward, just a lot of "i's to dot and t's to cross" and people to meet with. My goal is to have all the legal documents ready to go before the home study is completed. We need a completed homestudy before we can apply for the US government's permission to adopt. Once we have that we can send everything to Ethiopia for their approval.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Will he have to share a room?

In the next 9 months we will have some remodeling to do at our house. Sierra will move downstairs to the current workout room. It will need carpet and a closet built in. Since it was originally build on a budget and with my treadmill in mind, we just painted the cement floor and sheetrocked. (I know the number for a terrific contractor! He is really busy, but I think I can talk him into this project.) Sierra is very excited to move downstairs where the BIG kids reside. She is pumped to choose a paint color for the walls and new bedding for her bed. If her life is really perfect she will even get a new bed, something she has been wishing for.

Joshua will receive Sierra's room. I want him upstairs, right down the hall from us. I look forward to getting his room set up. I already find myself glancing at bedding in fliers and catalogs dreaming about what a room for a little boy should look like. He will be old enough to notice the thought that I will put into his special space. I want it to be a color that will soothe and welcome. I want the bedding to be fun, durable, and soft. I imagine choosing each item from dresser to clothing to toys. Will he like balls? trucks? tools? blocks? What size will he wear? What colors will he prefer?

As I was contemplating how to make him feel welcome and loved in our home, I did a little reading on what an Ethiopian home may be like. I read that 75% of rural families in Ethiopia share their living quarters with livestock. 40% of children sleep on the floor, where average nighttime temperatures are right around freezing during the cold season. The average family size is six or seven. (He will make 7 here!) That family would likely live in a 30 square meter mud and thatch hut. Houses are made of whatever materials are available, often with walls of mud or wood. Only 12% of homes have cement or tile flooring.

I have always felt blessed to have the spacious home that we have. I have always made an effort to use it wisely and share it when possible. But those statistics are still sobering. I have had a room in my home for the last 5 years that's sole purpose was to house a treadmill and TV. I have enjoyed the novelty, but I surely am excited to put that room to much better use!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"Designing" Joshua

As I fill out all the paperwork necessary to bring Joshua home I am struck by how very different this process is than the conception/pregnancy we have experienced with our birth children. One form is making sure we are aware that he could have any number of very scary problems from mental disorders to diseases. We sign and say we will love him even if the worst happens.

A few pages later we "design" our son. We fill in the blanks about what age, gender, and race child we will accept. Then we check off which "conditions" we would accept. Would we accept a child with a birthmark that would require surgery? What about one whose mother had mental problems? What if he were missing a finger? How about a club foot?

It is all so crazy! I feel worried as I acknowledge all the possible problems he could have. What if he does? Then I become frustrated with the form where I decide which type of child would be acceptable to us. As I carried Krissy, Jay, Sierra, and Brenna I knew there were any number of possibilities. Although I hoped and prayed for intelligent, healthy, perfectly formed children, I never doubted I would love and accept them if they were not. It is so odd to think this time we will receive a referral, look at a picture, view some medical information, and accept or deny a child.

I am comforted by the words from Psalms 68:6 "He sets the lonely into families." I believe God has this all figured out. He will set Joshua into our family, and he will fit as perfectly as the rest of us. He won't be perfect, but he will fit perfectly. So until I see God complete this miracle, I will keep filling out forms.

Monday, October 19, 2009

How about the other three?

As I write in this blog I am trying to guess what you are wondering. Yesterday Krissy volunteered to write about what she was thinking and feeling. I am betting you would like to hear from Jay, Sierra, and Brenna too. Well, they do not want to type so I will take a risk and let you know how I think they are doing.

I think for the most part they mirror Krissy. They are very supportive of our decision. They have a lot of questions and some concerns too. I am so thankful that they express them to us.

Krissy used the word "weird" and I guess that is a good way to describe their feelings at times. It is weird to think that I will leave on a trip and come home with a son. It is weird to think that he will not have the same genetics. Up to this point they have very little experience with "family" being anything other than a blood tie. Yet they all refer to Joshua as their brother. They never say the little boy we will adopt. To me that is a huge sign of acceptance. That makes me really proud and excited!

I think the kids' biggest concern is Joshua feeling loved and accepted. Brenna told one of her friends that she is going to have a little brother from Ethiopia. When the little girl figured out that his skin would be black, she told Brenna that will be pretty "gay." (Don't be too hard on the peanut. We live in an area where you do not see very many nontraditional families, and she is 6.) This has made us all think about what it will be like to look differently. Looking differently is sometimes hard no matter how old we are. It has been the source of some really good conversations.

I can't end this post without telling you how crazy excited Sierra is. She is always the most emotional, our cheerleader, and she is thrilled to be having a little brother. She has told the world "Sierra- style", which is sometimes a little more energetically than the rest of us are comfortable with, but I am thankful for her loving heart and enthusiasm.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

What I Really Think About This

By: Krissy

This whole concept seems really weird at this point. I am so excited about the adoption but, it is weird to think about having a brother that is black. I really want my family to know that he would be treated just as my other siblings are now. He will be my brother not just some kid that lives at my house with the same last name. Joshua is already part of who I am and is already part of my family.

This concept of adopting a little kid from Ethiopia is weird. So what, he still is gonna be my little brother.

I really want to go with to go get Joshua. I know Africa is really far away but going to a 3rd world country... whatever that is, would be an experience that would be something that I wouldn't get without having an adopted little brother. I don't think that I'll get to go with though.

The Process

I thought you might like to know a little about what will be involved in the process to adopt Joshua. I am new at all this, but here is my understanding of what will take place.

1. Choose a placement agency, basically an adoption agency. We will be using International Adoption Network (IAN).
2. Choose a Homestudy Agent. (Some agencies can handle both the placement and the homestudy, but in our case IAN does not do homestudies where we live so we need to find someone else.) We will be using Lindsey at God's Children Adoption Agency Inc.
3. Begin the homestudy. The homestudy will take at least 2 months to complete. There will be 3 meetings, lots of paperwork, and the training required by the state for adoptive parents.
4. While we are working on the homestudy we will also be completing our dossier. A dossier is a goofy name for all the paperwork the governments require before approving us to adopt. In the end, we need to satisfy our state government, the US government, and the Ethiopian government. The dossier contains items like health reports, birth certificates, our marriage certificate, etc...
5. File I-600A with USCIS. The USCIS is the US Citizen and Immigration Services. This form is us asking approval to bring an Ethiopian orphan into the US.
6. Complete homestudy, dossier and receive I171H from USCIS. The I171H is the USCIS's approval of our form I-600A.
7. Dossier is sent to Ethiopia.
8. A child is referred to us. We will receive a picture and whatever information the agency has about this child. We have 2 weeks to take the information to our doctor or whatever before we accept the referral. (I know I refer to the son we will adopt as "Joshua" but we do not have an individual child placed with us at this point. I prefer to use the name Joshua instead of talking about "the adoption" all the time. Joshua is the little boy we are trying to get to... the adoption is just a bunch of legal work.)
9. We sign a Contract of Adoption.
10. Court occurs in Ethiopia, adoption approved.
11. Child's new passport and birth certificate and exit visa are issued.
12. Embassy provides immigrant visa for our child to come to the US.
13. We finally travel to bring him home. Travel will take place 8 weeks after the Ethiopian courts have approved the adoption, at which point he will legally be our son. It takes another 8 weeks for the paperwork to all get done. This is the phase I am dreading! We(not sure who we is at this point) have to be in Ethiopia on Monday and can leave as early as Friday. I am assured that Ethiopia is a safe place to stay. We will have bilingual guides provided by the agency, and the vast majority of our time will be spent getting to know Joshua.

This was a lot to read! It is a lot to swallow for us too, but we are taking it one form and one check at a time. All we have completed at this point are steps 1 and 2! I rest in the knowledge that God has it all figured out, the timing, the finances, and even the forms.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Things we've learned about orphans in Ethiopia

1. There are a lot of them, somewhere between 4 and 5 million.
2. The Ethiopian people are very nurturing. They love their children. Many are unable to care for them for reasons beyond their control, such as famine and disease.
3. Both healthy and special needs children are available and needing homes. Our son will be healthy... for a 3 year old in Ethiopia. He will not have any incurable diseases, but he will likely be suffering from malnutrition. He will probably have some temporary developmental delays and/or other treatable problems.
4. Children available for adoption are either abandoned or relinquished. If they are abandoned nearly nothing is known about them. In the case of relinquishment a little more information is available, however Ethiopia is a third world country and not a lot of records are kept. Any information we are given can be shared with our son.
5. The age of an orphan is an educated guess. Children in Ethiopia are not given birth certificates or registered in any formal way. Add to that the fact that it is 2002 in Ethiopia! They have a 13 month calendar, putting them in 2002 instead of 2009. We will never know the actual birth date of our son. He will be issued a birth certificate as part of the adoptive process. Some families celebrate their child's birthday on the day listed on that certificate, others celebrate on the day they first met.
6. Our agency does not split up siblings.
7. Baby girls are the most popular to adopt. Followed by baby boys, toddler girls, and then toddler boys. Older children and sibling units are hardest to find families.
8. It will take anywhere from 9 to 15 months to complete this process.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Deciding To Adopt

It boggles my mind to think that our fifth child, the son we are working toward adopting comes as our biggest surprise. Chad and I have spoken about adoption or being foster parents off and on through the years, but never in a serious way. It was more like maybe we'll do that someday. This summer we were the most content and settled we have ever been. I heard my husband say for the first time, "We are done having kids." Our hearts were satisfied and thankful for the family God has given us.

We received a letter near the end of the summer from friends who are planning to adopt 2 babies from Ethiopia. They were working on raising funds to bring the babies home. They had started a blog. I told Chad I wanted to look at it, do a little research, and then decide how much money to donate toward their cause. His response came with a grin, "You sure you should do that? Maybe you should just cut them a check?" I reassured him that my heart was totally satisfied. I was NOT looking for more children. I meant that. I looked over their blog and we discusses what a perfect fit this adoption was for THEIR needs, end of story.

A few weeks later I ran into my friend at church and commented that I thought their blog was very nice. "Did you watch the video?" she asked. So I went back to watch the video, and wept. It was beautiful. I showed it to my family and as I wiped my tears my sweet Sierra said, "Mom, it's OK. Maybe we need to go get one of those homely kids!" Then I laughed and cried at the same time as I explained that the kids were homeless not homely. (She is very well spoken and HATES this part of our story!)

This video is on the bottom of our friend's blog http://www.leapoflove.blogspot.com/ Hopefully I can learn how to add video but I am not that savvy yet.

Or view it direct on You Tube.


Slowly God spoke to me through the information used on that video. I had no idea there were 143 million orphans in the world. The scriptures like John 14:18 "I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you." And Proverbs 24:12 "once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know and holds us responsible to act." As these scriptures pierced my heart a very strong feeling that there was a three year old little boy in Ethiopia that needed our family would not leave me.

I started to tell Chad how I was feeling. His response came with the grin I love so much, "So, you want me to buy you a baby?!" I punched his arm and said out loud for the first time, "No, I think it is a three year old little boy that needs us." He suggested that we have another baby. I explained to him that it was not that I felt like I needed another child, instead I felt like there was a child that needed our family. Not just some child, but that God had a very specific little boy in mind for us, and we needed to go find him. Chad hugged me tight and told me to start finding out how that could happen.

I began to research like a crazy lady. To be honest, in some ways I was looking for the reason that this would not work. I realized that this was one of the riskiest ideas I had ever had. Not to mention the most expensive - and I tend to dream cheap! I was concerned about everything! Could we raise a child of another race? We hardly live in a multicultural area, how would that affect his self-esteem? What if he had health problems, learning problems? What id he didn't bond with us? God kept whispering, "You won't do it all right, but he will be safe with you." I spent hours reading blogs. One night I went to bed knowing it was a terrible idea. I had to drop it. I slept well for the first time in weeks. The next morning I woke up with the scripture, "Let not your heart be troubled. Trust in God." running through my mind and a stronger than ever feeling that my search must continue pounding in my heart.

I began asking our kids what they would think of having a little brother who was African. Their initial response (with the exception of 6 yr old Brenna who wanted to know how Mommy could have a black baby) was that if I thought there was a little boy who needed our family I better find him.

I called an adoption agency and asked them a million questions. No red flags there. I asked for references and the mothers I emailed called me within hours. These women shared their stories, answered my questions, and listened to my worries. They had only wonderful things to say about the agency, their experience with the adoption process, and most importantly about their children from Ethiopia.

Only then did I worry about the financial aspect. So I called our CPA and asked some questions about a tax credit that is available for adopting families. This adoption will cost about $18,000 - ugh! But he let me know that the tax credit would apply to us and be very helpful in the way we file our taxes. The tax credit will "cover" about two-thirds of the expenses. The remaining funds will be challenging, but much less so than the whole $18,000.

I had about run out of excuses. Excuses sounds bad. Throughout this whole process my heart was very open to the child we would adopt. It was like God had somehow stretched my heart and created a space that was meant to be filled with this son. However, I was very fearful. What if this idea somehow harmed our family?

Driving home from school one night Sierra asked, "Mom, if we do adopt what will we name him?" I responded that I didn't know. Chad had named each of our kids. But I confessed that the name Joshua was on my heart as I thought of this little one. After a silly dinner where we all argued and laughed about possible names (we had been having a lot of serious conversations - it was time for silly!), Krissy was on the computer looking up what our names meant. As I was putting on my shoes to pick up Jamison from football practice I asked her to look up Joshua. She responded, "Mom, Joshua means Jehovah Saves." I knew then I was right. God wanted to use our family to save a little boy.

Over the following weekend we shared the news that we were going to start the process to adopt a little boy from Ethiopia with our parents and siblings. What a special family we have. There was no hesitation in their support.

On Tuesday, October 13 we received the news that International Adoption Network, the agency that we wanted to work with, had accepted our initial application. They were willing to work with us. I was so excited! When I got back to my office after lunch I got right on my email and printed out all the contracts and other paperwork that they needed me to fill out. Reading through the extensive paperwork I became so terrified I doubted I could continue. All the "what ifs" flooded over me and I felt deeply panicked. Who was I that God would speak to me this way? I was probably having some type of "my kids are all in school" crisis. What was I thinking? I put all the paperwork aside and went back to work. My stomach ache and worry persisted. So, I logged back onto the blog of the family whose video had initially moved me so much. I was honestly looking for evidence of their turmoil and regret now that their child had been home for a while. What I found was another video, that both broke my hard heart and opened it all at the same time. I believe it was the voice of God talking to me through a computer. I cried until my teeth chattered.

This video is posted Monday, October 12 on blog http://www.weloveourlucy.blogspot.com/ I will try to get it here soon.

The You Tube link is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfJIgpPtbBc&feature=player_embedded

So I am done questioning that this is God's will for our family. I have a bit of a hard head and I still say often to God, "I believe, help my unbelief." I am very excited to welcome this son into our family. For now he is "Joshua", the little boy who Jehovah will save. Please pray for us as we continue this crazy journey. But more importantly pray for our Joshua. Pray for God's protection on his heart and health while he waits for us to come.