Monday, December 31, 2007

Another Day Passes in Ghana


I heard from Z today after he returned from his mini-vacation. It turns out that the trip was not really anything that Z was expecting. He was wanting a trip outside Accra to see how rural Ghanaians live and to see a bit more of Ghana. He was expecting a "rustic", authentic African experience, but instead went to Cape Coast and saw lots of white European tourists. Bummer. Cape Coast is an area of tremendous historical significance to Ghana, so it is not a bad thing that he went there....it just wasn't what he was expecting. Z's request is probably a very unusual one...most tourists want to see tourist sites. But, Z wants to experience Ghana, understand Ghanaian culture, eat Ghanaian food. It is important to him to know about the place where his children have come from. It is important for him to understand their culture as much as possible, to eat the food, to visit their neighborhoods and see how a typical Ghanaian lives. He wants to understand his sons...and a big part of that is to understand where they are from. Its difficult sometimes for people to understand that.

From personal experience when I've traveled I can say that without exception every time I have gotten "off the beaten path" I have learned a great deal more about where I visited and gained a much better appreciation for the people I was visiting (this was true in Tanzania, Taiwan, and Costa Rica....in fact, that's even true here in the U.S.). Sure, when I spent time in Tanzania with the Maasai and Hadza people I smelled bad because I hadn't showered in a week, I was tired and sore from sleeping on the hard ground in a tent in the African bush for a month, but those times are the times I will never, ever forget. I gained a tremendous appreciation for how people in Tanzania (and many parts of Africa) live their lives. Having no safe drinking water, no clean hot water to shower with, limited food choices, and stark housing is what the majority of people on this earth deal with every day. Visiting for a week, two weeks, or a month and giving up those things to experience life is a very small sacrifice.
Did I appreciate the comforts of home when I got back from Tanzania? Sure...but I also felt tremendous guilt and shame that I had so much "stuff" and yet I felt compelled to complain about what I still didn't have. The people I met in Tanzania had very little (or no) "stuff", yet they would have given it all to me in order to make my stay more comfortable. They had the widest smiles I have ever seen. They lived their lives with gusto and did not dwell on the little things. THAT is what I always want to remember from my time in Africa. I learned a lot from them...and sometimes I need to remind myself of their example.

I am hoping that Z is able to experience just a little bit of that while he is in Ghana. I know already that Z loves Ghana. He loves the people he has met...he loves hearing music blaring at all hours of the day (and night). He loves hearing rastafarian music in the internet cafe...he loves the food (especially the fish)....he loves that everyone has been kind and accomodating to him. He loves the culture, especially how it seems that western culture and tribal culture are fused together in so many ways. He loves that there is a church nearby, that religion is such a big part of life in Ghana, and that Christianity and other religions are fused together in interesting ways. Sure, some of the experiences are different and hard to get used to (like the tremendous amount of traffic in the market, the hustle and bustle, and the unspoken rules of the flow of foot traffic). But even those experiences are exciting and great learning experiences.

The only thing he hasn't really appreciated was his time in the embassy. It seems that even with an appointment, no one seemed to know what paperwork they needed to turn in...no one could give them a timeline for processing...and no one seems to know what should happen now. We are still praying that he will get word on Wednesday about the I-600. We would appreciate prayers for approval so that they can begin working on the boys' visas.

Today Z seemed a little bit "down". I think that being away from home and not knowing when things will get done is getting a bit frustrating. I think that he may just be overly tired and maybe the heat is getting to him (although, he seems to thrive in heat...I don't know how he does it...this Minnesotan tolerates cold far better than heat). And, I think that being away from home during the holidays is hard. On top of that, Z is getting really attached to his sons...and the thought that he might have to leave them behind is really difficult for him.

But, don't worry...Z rarely stays down for long. I am sure he will be back to his normal, upbeat, optimistic self in no time! At least I surely hope that is true!

The picture at the top is the photo I've been waiting for him to send...a picture of our boys!!!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Adventures in Ghana

We went to the market today... it was pretty wild stuff. Very large and very busy but I managed to get a few pictures without feeling intrusive. It's second largest market in Ghana according to Edward.

Today we went to a Southern Fried Chicken (picked by Edward) which has KFC type fast food but also pizza, curry, Ghanaian dishes, etc. I, of course, had a Ghanaian dish as I want to try it all. So I had beans and red sauce on top of fish (red snapper) and fried plantains. All the meals here are huge though... I have yet to finish one I bought. Last night I had Tilapia and Banku at the little place next to the guest house. They were very nice and thought the pepper would be too much but it wasn't, although I just could not finish it all (so a little banku got left behind).

I asked Edward how hard it was to go out of Accra and he said that he could take me to the Central Region, about 2-4 hours away (which means longer). So you probably won't hear from me tomorrow because I'll be overnight in a village. This means I get to present the chief with a bottle of gin (which seemed to surprise Edward I knew we'd need this - thank you Anthony Bordaine). I'm not sure which village we are going to but I asked Edward how much I'd need to bring and he said 20 cedi should be enough for a bottle of gin and an overnight stay. What a cool adventure. I'll be sure to get pictures there!! We will be leaving very early Monday and will be back in Accra by mid-morning so it should not disrupt Embassy affairs.

I got to meet Rose today (Z’s co-worker’s mother-in-law), who was thrilled to get her icy hot pads and cameras. She actually is only about a quarter mile down the road so I can probably walk there and get the cameras on Wednesday next week. She smiled and said, “oh Angie” in a funny way so she seemed tickled by it all. I still need to grab hats for Kali but I'll take care of that next week when I'm back here.

I have not gone to the orphanage yet today but I figured I'd do that later because I had a headache when I got back (from the market) and thought I'd go to get some cooler water and relax in the shade before getting all sweaty picking up kids. I feel bad since Jim went there to give the things we bought today but I didn't want to have a headache and not be much fun so I figured I'd sit in the shade and write this e-mail and go send it first. I actually am feeling much better now... I just needed to relax a bit from all the heat and bustle of the market place.

I'll get to see them tomorrow too when they go to Church so they don't miss a day of seeing me, yippee! After Church is when we'll be traveling so I'm going to wash up my laundry tonight. I'm definitely excited about this extra trip. I think I'll add what I can extra for the drivers when I leave because they are definitely doing more than what was expected. Speaking of expected, I'd have to say that other people that travel may want a book or some form of the Ga language written down for both reference in talking here and when the kids come home. The kids all speak Ga, English, toddler and something in between all of them; sometimes all at once. The caretakers speak a lot of Ga and most people here converse in Ga or Twi probably 80-90% of the time. I think I'll ask for Ga words while riding in the car tomorrow.

I'll update when I can!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Stomach of Steel

Check out Renee's blog today....Jim is "guest blogging" from Ghana. Its fun to hear about the guys' experiences there as they wait for paperwork to be processed. Z is very adventurous when it comes to eating - he will try ANYTHING! He wanted to experience Ghana when he was there, and food is a big part of that. He might pay for it later...but I know that he will say it was worth it. "When in Rome; do as the Romans" I suppose! ;o)

I know that Z appreciates having Jim around...he is soaking up lots of parenting advice from Jim's experience! Thanks, Jim!

Update from Ghana

Another update from Z (again, I edited names for privacy and edited out some extraneous stuff):

We went to the orphanage this morning while they were in class. It was fun to see them in the classroom environment. Our boys are prone to cry when they want something, rather than ask which I'm sure results in the quickest response, but it’s another thing we’ll have to work on. I also think that T is left handed. The other day they were eating and were using knives and forks...T would usually just use his knife (held in his left hand) and eat with that. When corrected, he'd change but had a lot of trouble and would just switch back when not being watched.

E cried a lot when challenged to write his ABC's (only to D). I've noticed both boys will cry when something is difficult or they don't get what they want. It's basically like they are half their age and I think it'll be challenging (maybe I should do the same thing as they do… sniffle...) but exciting to watch their progress as they learn our boundaries.

I've photographed the school schedule, the orphanage schedule, the school rules (which are a great guideline they'll recognize) so we can follow a lot of that and not change patterns. They do ask to go to the bathroom now so we may not have to worry as much about that front. Also, as for sizes, they are both about Dante’s size (shout out to Z’s sister and nephew!), T is a bit heavier though. I'd say E’s weight is in the low 30s and T might be in the low 40s after a meal. I've picked them up plenty, and usually that is their reward and punishment... funny how it is different. When they are good they sit up on my lap or want to be lifted high; when they are bad they go to the floor crying when confronted and kick off their shoes and scream bloody murder when picked up.

Edited to add:
Z also says that the boys seem to be getting more and more comfortable with him coming and going from the orphanange. For the first couple of days E would cry and try to follow him as he left...Z would have to pick him up and bring him to the nannies so he could leave without E following him. But, the last day or so have been better. The boys will watch him leave, but they aren't crying anymore. It is good that they are learning that he will continue to come back after he leaves.

Z said that he is also getting to know all of the kids at the orphanage a little better. He said that Amara is "cute as a button" and can do a really great funky dance. Little S is a cutie who needs some reassurance...he always seems like he is on the verge of tears. And the older girls love to play with his hair.

The I-600 has been filed, but there is no word on how long processing will take. We are praying for quick processing so that the boys can come home with Z. We had hoped we would know some sort of timeline by now, but it looks like we just won't know until its done. Once the I-600 is approved, they will begin work on the boys' visas so they can all come home!

We appreciate continued prayers for safe travels, good health, and for fast paperwork processing. We would also appreciate prayers that Z and the boys will form good bonds with each other so that when the time to travel comes the boys will trust Z and follow him obediently (easing travel for Z, the boys, and everyone else on the airplane!).

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas!

The Christmas Tree at Eban House....the little stockings are "extras" that I sent along with Z. Before he left we put together little stockings for each of the kids at Eban House. I'm glad that they were able to find a use for the extra ones!



The boys in their brand new traditional outfits! Aren't they just the most handsome little boys? I can't wait to get them home! The guy standing in the background is Z....I now have photographic evidence that he is there!

Thanks to Anita for posting the photos for everyone....Being able to hear about the boys' Christmas and seeing pictures is the next-best thing to having them home for the holidays. All of the kids look so beautiful in their new traditional outfits! What a great looking bunch...I can't wait for them all to come home to their families!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

He's in Ghana!


Here is a portion from Z's email to me today (I edited out all the mushy bits...and I edited the boys' names for privacy). The picture at the top of the email is the first (and so far only) picture that Z has sent to me. I am a botanist, so I imagine that is the reason why he chose to send me the quintessential African photo of growing plantains as his first picture...I'm still waiting for photos of the boys!

Z's email:
Well, I made it here alright. I hope you're having a good Christmas. It is definately a more up-beat holiday here. I got here last night at about 11:00pm, which my plane came in late and it was a bit of a fiasco finding the purple luggage. Everything was located alright though and I got to meet Edward and his asssisstant Percy who drove me back to the guest house. The traffic isn't horrible but I had to hold tight a few times. It was pretty fun though because the holiday is celebrated with all night parties on the street and fireworks so there was plenty to watch on the ride.

I then got here and met the other Percy (the adoption related one) and got settled into the guest house. Hooray, there are modern toilets here and they had toilet paper in stock! There was a lot of music last night when I got here and since I slept on the plane, I went outside and talked with one of the guys (Edwin) who works at the guest house. He showed me around, and I went in the church across the street and got some pictures of the celebration (which I think is still going on now). I got up this morning and had breakfast (bread and eggs with NesCafe) at the orphanage.

This morning, I went to the orphanage and met Muna. She had the boys come and visit with me in the office. They were quiet, and E was quick to give a hug. He is definately going to need some structure to help with the attachment and he was quite wild. Although T has said very little (nothing yet actually) he has been very kind and has helped keep E in-line. This is a comfort because it makes me think I'll only really have to keep an eye on one kid for most of the trip becuase T is able to help. Still, they were very kind, but wild and running all over the place.

The orphanage is a wild place! Muna said that she was going to have a Christmas party at one so I'm going over there in a bit to help out with that. I told Muna that I'd be happy to help around the orphange (meaning help cook, clean, etc.) and she seemed surprised but happy about that. It is literally a block down the road so it's no problem and I think for my sanity and the boys' comfort in getting to know me I'll go for short, couple hour periods throughout the day until they grow past the initial phase (being E's over-affection and wildness (which Muna said was not his usual self) and T's quietnesss.)

I'm pretty comfortable, it is 90 and humid all day and night, every day so I'm enjoying my fan but it's not too hot to be comfortable.

Muna is showing me around town a little. She is going to show me where to get a phone, and showed me where to get bottled water and use the internet, again it is a block away.

The goat was delicious for lunch, mmm, and I imagine I'll pay for such a big meal later! They are very excited to feed me phu phu for dinner.

Anyhow, the kids are all excited, and I got great pictures/video of them dancing. E of course was hanging off of me too much to dance but he was pretty tired after eating so he was calmer.

This place never sleeps, I'm going to be so deaf after being here. I just got to the internet cafe and it is blasting music but they had cold water next door! They also helped me get my computer up and downloaded drivers to their phone so my computer would connect to the internet alright. Kindest people in Africa!

Africa is LOUD! It's like having a radio on all day. The church is rocking and their are fireworks, although fewer than last night, all the time... everyone is pretty friendly and once I find bottled water near-by to replace the few liters I got last night, I'll be set. Z.S.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas in Ghana


Four years ago today, I was driving across Iowa and Kansas with my mom to pick Z up from Fort Riley so that he could be home for our wedding. It was the day before our wedding (which I had planned in 6 days), I was excited for what was ahead, but I was also tired, stressed, and worried. Z had a window of just a few days off his Army training for Christmas so we decided to go ahead and fit in our wedding and a holiday with our families before I had to take him back to Fort Riley to continue training for his deployment to Iraq. It was a crazy time!

Today, I feel as though I am in a similar place (at least emotionally similar). I am again excited about what is to come, but I'm tired, stressed, nervous, and worried. Today we are busy packing for Z's trip to Ghana. We're going through paperwork, discussing what's necessary and what's optional to pack in case it doesn't all fit into the luggage. We're trying to determine what is needed to pack for the boys (in case they can come home with him). We're getting copies of important paperwork...and shopping for the last-minute things that we didn't get earlier and determined needed to go into Z's luggage.
Z is so excited about his trip to Ghana. He's excited that he will meet our boys for the first time on Christmas morning (God-willing all the flights will go as planned). He is excited to spend time getting to know his sons and learning more about their birth country.

He will also be filing the paperwork needed to finish the process in Ghana and allow the boys to immigrate to the U.S. We would appreciate prayers that all will go smoothly in Ghana, that the embassy will process paperwork quickly, and that the boys will be able to come home with Z soon! Please pray for safe travels for Z and for Jim (another dad traveling to pick up his boys). Pray that the embassy will process paperwork quickly for both families allowing all 4 boys to leave the orphanage and come to America together. Our boys are cousins and it would be fantastic if they could all leave together.

Here are some pictures of Christmas decorations and Christmas dinner at Eban House. That's right...the goat is Christmas dinner....Z should be there for all of the festivities. I'll make sure to give you all a report when I have one!


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Paperwork Schmaperwork (or A Minor Breakdown of Sanity)

For the past few days, we have been preparing for Z to head to Ghana to file our paperwork there and maybe (hopefully) bring our boys home. Anyone who knows anything about the adoption process knows that paperwork is involved. Lots of paperwork. But, to be completely honest, we've had it easy so far. Our homestudy social worker made it really easy for us to get what we needed - everything was totally clear and she helped us understand anything we didn't know. And it helped that she was here visiting with us when she provided assistance, she could point right to the spot where we could find the answer. On top of that, compared to lots of other countries, the dossier for Ghana is pretty easy. There's paperwork involved, but not mounds and mounds of it. For some reason, after the dossier was done and we were in "waiting mode", I assumed that the bulk of the paperwork was done. We'd just have the immigration stuff to do and how bad can that be? Well....I should have known better!

Last night we were going through the list of paperwork that our adoption coordinator put together for us and for some reason I couldn't wrap my mind around how long it was. What? We need that? We didn't need to provide that much detail before; why do they need more now? Isn't it a little late in the game for that? Bank statements, W2s, birth certificates, employment letters, receipt letters, 171-H, I-864, I-864A, DS-230, I-600, ugh, ugh, ugh. I looked at the list and I cried.

I CRIED.

And then I started to hyperventilate.

And then I ran away from my computer to go upstairs to bed and cry some more.

And then Z came upstairs to talk some sense in to me, assure me that we could get it all done, and encourage me to come back downstairs and get to work.

I felt stupid for getting so upset. But, the truth is, I looked at that list of paperwork and I got overwhelmed. This was another list of paperwork that I could screw up. I could make a mistake, send it with Z and then not be able to fix it in Ghana. Messed up paperwork means the boys are delayed and they don't come home with Z.

It wasn't that we couldn't do it. It wasn't that I didn't WANT to do it. It was that I finally reached that point where I was just TIRED. I'm tired of waiting...I'm tired of discovering more "steps" that need to be done (of course, I knew all along that these steps were there)....I'm tired of paperwork....I'm tired of having "one more" obstacle in front of me before we can bring our boys home. I knew that these steps were always there; I knew that I had to do them, but that doesn't change the fact that I'm just tired.

I won't be with any of "my boys" for Christmas. I won't be with any of "my boys" to ring in the New Year. I'm feeling a little "grinch-y"...and lately I'm feeling a little cranky, too.

Luckily, I have a husband who is understanding; who coached me on how to breathe last night and who took on the mound of paperwork like a trooper. What would I do without him?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Living Dangerously


I'm actually a little afraid to put these thoughts into writing...like I'm going to jinx myself and what I'm hoping for won't come true. But, in all honesty, you all already know what I am hoping for, so this won't come as a surprise!

The truth is...I'm really, really, really hoping that the boys are able to come home with Z. In fact, it is getting to the point where I am almost counting on them coming home with Z. It isn't because I don't want to travel, because I do. I want to experience Ghana, I want to meet the boys birth family members (if they want to meet me), I want to thank the staff at Eban House for taking such great care of the boys and for loving them while I couldn't, I want to eat interesting Ghanaian food, I want to breathe the air, smell the smells, and buy some beautiful Ghanaian fabrics. I want to meet the boys on their own turf; hold their hands as they show me their beds and give me the tour of Eban House. I want to give them hugs and kisses and let them get to know me when they aren't completely overwhelmed with everything else that is different. I want to talk to their teacher and orphanage director to find out what their schedules are like and what their favorite foods (and least favorite foods) are.

But, the truth is, I just want them to come home. Me traveling to bring them home means that we have to wait even longer for them to get here. Eban House is a nice place and as far as orphanages go, its a pretty great place. But, it isn't a home. It isn't a family. If I'm not there to do the things I wanted to do, I know that Z will do a perfectly good job of it for me. And I know that a first meeting at the airport could be just as sweet. I won't be able to soak in Ghana, but I can soak in my boys instead...and I can do it without jet-lag and without worrying about our house or our precious pets at home. If I can't travel I can do everything I can at home to get things ready for them. I can finish up their room to make it comfortable and homey...I can clean and clean and clean so that I won't have to worry about dealing with a messy house and getting to know the boys at the same time....I can cook and freeze food so we'll have plenty of dinners that are ready to pop in the oven...and I can finish up the quilts for the boys that I've been planning to do for the last few months.

When we first hatched this plan of Z traveling to file the last bit of paperwork, it seemed like a complete long-shot that the boys could come home with him. But, as every day passes I am becoming more and more hopeful that this possibility could come true. A family that is in Ghana now got I-600 approval in a matter of just 3 business days. This is a huge source of encouragement!

But, there's a downside to this hope, too. I know that becoming this hopeful and getting ready for the boys to come home with Z means that if they can't come home on this trip I will be disappointed. We will then have to wait a few more weeks to bring the boys home....and we will have to spend more money for another trip to Ghana (and we are already stretched pretty thin as it is).

I know that I am not the one in control of how things will go and when the boys will come home. But, I know that it will all work out the way it is supposed to. I just have to be patient and wait.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Waiting is Hard

Alright, I have to preface this post by saying that today has not been an especially tough day for me...and this past week has not been an especially tough week. I have just been thinking about this lately and thought I'd share.

Throughout the process of adoption, we have waited and waited and waited, passed over hurdles we were waiting for and waited some more. Those of you who are in the process (or completed it) know exactly what I'm talking about.

Ever since my trip to Tanzania in college, I felt that adopting from Africa was a part of the plan for my life....but I knew I had to wait until the time was right. I went on to graduate school, met and fell in love with Z, got married, and was set to finish up my degree. I was blessed to find Z...a man who loved the idea of adoption as much as I did; a man who wanted to be a dad but didn't care whether or not his kids looked like him, shared his genetics, or were born on the same continent. He didn't even care whether or not they were babies when they joined our family.

We waited with our plan until we felt it was the right time....I can't explain how we knew it was the right time to move on this plan, but we knew...and all the doors opened for us. I spent several months researching agencies and trying to determine the right fit for us. We set a date that we would send in our application and we waited until the date came. Soon after, we heard from the agency that we were accepted and because we were requesting "older" kids we were told we could go ahead and start our homestudy. We found a fantastic social worker to do our homestudy, got all the paperwork ready and waited some more. Soon we found out that the agency was starting a new program so we asked to be a part of a pilot program in Ghana. We waited for the decision. When we got the go-ahead, we put together our dossier, sent it off and waited some more.

I have heard some people say that the wait from sending the dossier to referral is the hardest wait. I've heard other people say that the wait from referral to court date is hardest. And I've heard other people say that the wait from referral to travel is hardest. There's no doubt that they are all difficult waits....but I feel differently about them now than I did when all the waiting started.

After sending off the dossier we waited and waited to hear who our children would be. When we saw pictures of our two boys we were so excited! There they are! Those are OUR boys! Suddenly that wait between dossier and referral didn't seem so bad.

After the referral, we waited and waited for a court date. Since we are in a pilot program, we didn't know how long to expect that wait to be. It turns out that wait was a little over 4 months long. We had court re-scheduling and cancellations to deal with, but we finally had a court date and were granted an adoption order! They really ARE OUR boys! Suddenly that wait between referral and court date didn't seem so bad.

Now we are in the midst of the wait between court date and bringing our boys home. I can say without question that, for me, THIS wait has been the hardest. Those boys really are MY boys. Z and I are legally their parents and we are so anxious to get to know them. But, we still can't be with them.

Adoption in Ghana is new. That means everyone who needs to do something in order for us to bring the boys home needs to learn HOW to do it. Jobs that can be (and are) done in just a matter of a few hours or a day or two in other countries sometimes take much, much longer in Ghana. We passed court on Nov. 2nd, but we are still waiting for the documents to be released from the court so we can submit our I-600 and begin processessing of the boys' visas. Once we file the I-600, we don't know how long we can expect to wait for approval (though we have some hope that it will be processed quickly, based on this post from another family in Ghana right now).

Right now we are in "wait-mode"...we're getting used to it ;) But, we are praying that we are out of it soon. Z is heading to Ghana on the 23rd to spend Christmas with his sons and file the I-600. We are praying that the I-600 is approved quickly, that he can apply for the boys' visas and get them quickly, and bring the boys home with him. What an amazing start to 2008 that would be! We would certainly appreciate any prayers you feel compelled to pray on our behalf.

I will wait and wait and wait for these little boys if I have to. But to be honest....I'm just ready to have them home.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A little of this and a little of that


These last few days have been busy...and not busy at the same time. We are making plans for Z's trip to Ghana to meet our boys, trying to get gifts all wrapped and packed up for shipping off to family for Christmas, getting vaccines, and trying to spend as much quality "us time" as we can before our lives get turned upside down!

We spent yesterday morning at the doctor's office getting our vaccines for travel. I've been to Africa before and had all the basics taken care of. Z was in Iraq with the military, so they made sure he had all the basics, too. We knew we would each need probably one vaccine, we'd get prescriptions for an antibiotic and anti-malarial medication, and be on our way. But, what should have taken just a half-hour or so turned into a 2 hour ordeal. First, we were about 10 minutes late because we had to spend a bunch of time scraping ice off of the vehicle...then we waited in the waiting room for over a half-hour to get in...then we waited in the room for the doctor to come in....we chatted with him, he wrote the prescriptions...and then we waited some more for the nurse to come in and give us the shots we needed. It turns out that we both each got two shots (but I don't count one of mine because it was the flu shot). By the end of all the waiting Z was pretty annoyed...his face was even turning red! Poor guy...when he scheduled our appointment he asked how much time he should allow and they told him an hour, so that's all he scheduled for work. Luckily work was kind of a slow day for him anyway because of the weather, so it all turned out ok.

The boys' room is an absolute mess! Its been the go-to room for all the "stuff" that we accumulate and don't have any other place for. So right now, their beds are covered with things that need to find a new home, and the rest of their room is filled with Christmas presents that need to be wrapped up and sent off to their recipients, two laundry baskets full of laundry that need to be put away, and luggage that I pulled out to start getting Z packed for his trip. Not to mention the piles of orphanage donations that I am hoping to fit into his luggage somewhere and the boys' stuff that I am trying to organize! At this point, my goal for the room is just to not lose anything important, get Z packed up and off, and then I'll work on the room while he is gone. I'll need a big project to keep me busy during that time anyway.

Believe it or not, I am having a rough time remembering that it is Christmas time. We haven't put up a tree, lights, stockings, or decorations and we haven't even really done much with presents. We got Z's family's presents all wrapped up so that we could send them with his parents when they visited last weekend, but that was a quick "hurry up and get it done" kind of job. Z will be gone for Christmas...I'm not going home for Christmas....so in a lot of ways it feels like we'll just bypass Christmas all together this year.

I am thinking if Z returns without the boys he and I will celebrate Christmas (and our anniversary and New Year's) together when he gets home. But, if he returns with the boys (which we are hoping and praying will happen) then perhaps we'll just completely bypass the celebration. The boys will have enough to adjust to without the confusion of Christmas trees and lights and stockings. All of this adds up to me just not feeling very Christmas-y this year. Don't get me wrong...I love Christmas....and I am so looking forward to next Christmas when we'll have the boys with us and we can witness them experiencing Christmas in America for the first time. When we started the adoption process we thought for sure this Christmas was going to be the Christmas they'd be here. It is close to the time they will be coming home (we hope), but they will still miss Christmas, and that is sometimes hard for me. When two members of your family are missing, it just doesn't feel like Christmas.

Z will have an unforgettable Christmas this year...if all goes well, Christmas morning he will meet his sons for the first time. I am so excited for him, and so nervous for him, and so jealous all at the same time. I want to be there, too! But, I know that we made the decision to have Z travel first for a good reason, and I have peace about that. I am just looking forward to hearing all about it from Z!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Our Christmas Plans


Well, I have some news to share....one of us is traveling to Ghana to be with our boys for Christmas!

Its kind of a long story, so I'll spare you the details, but we worked out a plan for one of us to travel early to file the I-600 in Ghana. It just works out that the trip will be happening right over the Christmas holiday. We decided that as long as neither of us travels twice, we won't really be spending THAT much more money than if we both traveled at the same time (of course, its more money for in-country expenses...but that's beside the point). So, this time around Z is traveling...and when all the paperwork is done, my mom and I will travel to pick up the boys.

Z is so incredibly excited to spend Christmas with his sons (and the rest of the kids at Eban House). He has a Santa hat to wear and we put together little stockings for each of the kids so they get a little something for Christmas. Eban House will have a Christmas celebration of their own, but we don't know if it will happen on Christmas or just sometime close to Christmas.
This trip will give Z the opportunity to meet and start bonding with the boys on their own turf. He'll get to meet their caretakers and the other children at Eban House, he'll get to hang out with them in places they are familiar with. He'll get to experience what their personalities are like, he'll get to find out what they are used to eating, what their daily schedule is. Hopefully he'll get to find out a little bit about what their likes and dislikes are, and find out if the clothing we have waiting at home for them will actually fit them! All of this information is so important to us. He'll get to meet them, tell them about me and the rest of the family, and if he has to leave them he'll be able to promise that I will be there soon to bring them to America. I know that it will be hard for him to leave the boys, but in all honesty it will probably be less hard for him than it would be for me.
While Z is there he will file the I-600 and try to determine just how long processing will take. There is a SLIGHT chance that the processing could go pretty quickly. If that happens, then Z will extend his trip so that he can bring the boys home with him. We are not counting on this happening, but we certainly wouldn't complain if it did. We are so excited to get the boys home!! With Z traveling, that reality is starting to feel closer and closer!

My head is spinning with details lately....pricing tickets, working on Z's visa, how much money to bring, what to pack, collecting donations, finishing up the boys' room, working on Christmas presents (to get to family early since we won't make it to family Christmas celebrations), etc., etc., etc. If I go a few days without posting, now you know why! I will keep you updated on news and while Z is away, I'm sure I'll have plenty of time to blather away while I sit at home worrying about Z and the boys and waiting for news!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Shower of Blessings!


On Tuesday I was blessed by some of my friends and colleagues at work. When they started to hear rumblings that we were getting closer to bringing our boys home, they decided they wanted to throw me a little party. They put together a very yummy pot-luck lunch, we looked at pictures of the boys and some of the other kiddos in the orphanage, I answered lots of questions, and then I opened presents! It was a small group, but we had a great time and they were so generous. We got a pair of perfect matching carseats for the boys, a few toys (matchbox cars, little people toys, legos), gloves for the boys fingers when they come home during the COLD winter, some gifts of money, and a few donations for the orphanage. They asked great questions and some of them offered some wisdom and advice. But, the very greatest gift they gave me was the gift of support. It was so great to have a group of people get together to celebrate our decision to adopt these two little boys. Knowing that they are encouraging and supportive is priceless to us.

In other news, Z and I are working on a plan for travel and filing our I-600. If we can get all the details worked out, I'll have news to share about that!


Monday, November 26, 2007

Dreams....and other news

Last night I got to hug and cuddle my Jellybean and Peanut. I held their hands, I listened to them call me mommy, and I kissed their foreheads. We talked about airplanes and about how it was ok if they loved their nannies in Ghana more than me because they have known their nannies longer. We talked about going to America and how it is cold there right now. It was amazing....


...and then I woke up.


I have dreamt about the boys before, but I've never had a "going to pick up the boys" dream before. I had lots of dreams before our court date of things going wrong (family members going to the orphanage to pick up the boys, paperwork being forgotten, the judge not granting an adoption order, etc.). Those dreams all ended with me waking up terrified that they might come true. But not this dream. This time the dream was good. This time Jellybean came running to me when he saw me and wrapped his arms around my neck (Peanut needed a little more coaxing, so he went to ask the nanny if I really was his mommy). This time I woke up and started to ache when I realized the dream was not real. I wasn't in Ghana, and I have not met my boys.

This morning I also woke up to some disheartening news from Anita. She has been trying to find ways for us to get to Ghana ASAP to pick up our boys. We've passed court, but the court documents aren't printed yet. We can't file our I-600 until we have the court documents. But, where to file the I-600 is causing us great angst. You see, we could file it in Ghana, but no one can guarantee how long it will take to process there. Surely it will process faster in Ghana than here in our local USCIS office, but perhaps not fast enough for us to get I-600 approval AND the boys' visas within 2 weeks (which is about the longest we can stay in Ghana). We can file the I-600 in our local office and wait for approval, then wait for the approval to go to the National Visa Center and then to Ghana, but that will add AT LEAST 2 months onto our wait (one month for local USCIS to process the I-600, and another month for approval to finally reach Ghana). We were hoping that we would hear that our agency could file the I-600 for us in Ghana, or that we could mail the I-600 to the office in Ghana for processing. But, we heard this morning that the agency cannot file for us. Our next option is for us to either travel to Ghana twice (once to file the I-600 and then to pick up the boys when all is done) or to travel to Ghana to file the I-600 and then have the boys escorted home. Either of these options will get the boys home sooner than filing the I-600 here.

The problem? Money.

Traveling twice will cost extra money. Granted, one of us could travel alone the first time to file the I-600, but it will still cost a considerable amount to buy airfare, stay in hotels, pay for transportation, food, etc. while in Ghana. And, this option means that only one of us will meet the boys on this trip. We've both had a kind of romantic notion of meeting the boys at the same time...that we would all become a family of four together. But, both of us traveling both times would be very cost prohibitive. We're estimating that the plane tickets alone will cost at least $1500 per person (though we may be able to find cheaper tickets, at least for the first trip over). If we both travel on the first trip, and then have the boys escorted, we will have to come up with the cost of escort ($5000). Yikes!

It seems strange to be at this point and have to start worrying about money. We've been hemorrhaging money during this whole process....a few hundred dollars here....a few thousand dollars there. But the truth is, we're getting to the point where we HAVE to pinch these last bits left and save as much as we can. We have the money we need to travel to get our boys, but we don't have the extra to travel twice or to travel and have the boys escorted.

It is heartbreaking to think that we might not be able to meet our boys for an additional two months (or more) because we can't come up with the extra $5000 it will take to either travel a second time or have the boys escorted. But, that's where we are.

I'm having one of those days where my heart is just aching for those two little boys.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Starting Discussions

Surprisingly enough, my last blog post was the topic of some really great discussion over on my friend Anita's blog. Check out the discussion going on in her comments section here.

The blurb from my post that Anita responded to was the following:

"I will never think that our boys were "meant to be with us"; to do so would mean that I would have to believe that they were "meant" to lose their birth family, that they were "meant" to leave Ghana and everything they know."

While I totally back up that statement (hey, I wrote it), I feel like maybe I should explain what I mean just a little bit. I have heard many adoptive parents say that their child was "meant to be in their family", that they "were meant to be their child all along", or some variation of those things. I don't think that there is inherently anything wrong with any of those statements. I just don't feel like they are the right statements that I want to use to describe my relationship with our boys.

I may someday feel like our boys were "meant to be with us", but I never want to SAY that. Ever. So writing it in my blog is my way of reminding myself that I never want to use that language to describe my feelings. To me, saying that the boys are "meant to be" in our family means that they were "meant" to lose all they ever knew in Ghana (including their birth family). I always want my boys to know that I recognize the grief that they experienced - the grief that is inevitable in an international adoption. I would never want to minimize their grief by saying that they were "meant to be" in my family.

I never really thought that my little post would generate a discussion on "God's Plan" for these kids and for adoption. In fact, I never even thought about that at all when I posted my ramblings. But, the discussion is valid, and certainly worth thinking about. Do I think it is God's plan that our boys lose their birth family and birth culture? No, I don't. Do I think that it is God's plan that we found our way to adoption and eventually to these two boys? Absolutely.

Conflicting, no?

I think that God has lots of contigency plans. If His original plan isn't carried out, He doesn't abandon us. We are given an infinite number of "do-overs" in our lives where we are given the opportunity to make things right (or as close to right as we can get). I think that Z and I are a part of God's contingency plans for the boys.

I have heard in several places that there are no "accidental adoptions". I absolutely believe that is true. This process is a tough one, but I believe that God has His hand in every little detail (even if it wasn't His original plan for Jellybean and Peanut).

I know, clear as mud, right?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Hard to Understand

(I began this post with plans to take it in a very different direction, but alas, I went with the flow. I will, someday soon, write about what I was originally planning to write about today - birth families.)

The whole idea of adoption is difficult to wrap my head around sometimes; and if its difficult for me, I know that its difficult for friends and family members watching us go through it to understand. Z and I do NOT think that the boys are "lucky" to be adopted and come live with us. If anything, it is quite the opposite. We are the ones who feel blessed to be chosen to raise these two precious boys. We have been granted the biggest gift anyone could ever bestow on us, the gift of not one, but two lives. And with this gift comes great responsibility; Z and I want to raise the boys in a way that will make our families proud, in a way that honors their birth family, and in a way that honors Ghana.

I will never think that our boys were "meant to be with us"; to do so would mean that I would have to believe that they were "meant" to lose their birth family, that they were "meant" to leave Ghana and everything they know. The world is a harsh place sometimes; it isn't fair and balanced. The best case scenario for our boys would be that they could continue to live in Ghana with birth family members who love them and can afford to take care of them. They would receive an education, they would receive proper medical care, they would grow up to become men who can offer something to their communities, and they would never know that we existed. But the truth is, our world does not operate on "best case scenario", or any of the next few "next to best case scenarios" on the list. Instead, due to circumstances outside their control and outside our control, our boys ended up in an orphanage in Accra. Even the very best orphanages in the world are no substitute for a family.

I wish we could change the world. I wish that we could find ways to put safety nets into place so that families falling through the cracks could be caught and kept together long before orphans are created. I wish orphanages weren't necessary. I wish that domestic adoption programs were in place all over the world and that children could be placed into loving families in their country of birth. But the truth is, the orphan crisis is simply too big for many countries. Families in many countries in Africa are already over-extended. They have already taken in all that they can; and there are still children becoming orphans every day. Somehow, the problem needs to be fixed at the source. International adoption at the end of the process is not a fix.

Ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic, ridding the world of malaria, building communities up to end poverty, and building diplomatic relationships around the world to end and avoid wars are fixes and that's where we NEED to make a difference.

Z and I are adopting two beautiful little boys. Someone please tell me there is hope for the other 999,998 orphans in Ghana. Someone please tell me what will happen to the MILLIONS of orphans all over our world who currently have no hope of finding a new family. Those of us who live comfortable lives in safe places need to understand that there are others who are suffering. And we should not be comfortable with that.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Transitioning


We have officially begun the transition from a 2-person partnership to a 4-person family. Last night Z sold his little truck, saying goodbye to the days of throwing fishing rods, the inflatable boat, or kayaks in the back and heading off to the lake. Now if we want to do those things, we have to be a little more careful to get them into the back of the van (which means whatever we throw back there has to be at least a little clean and dry).

But now both Z and I have vehicles that the boys can ride in safely. And we have a mini-van, which will be great for long road trips to Grandma and Grandpa's house!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Whirlwind Trip to Texas

I'm still catching up from our 4-day trip to Texas! Z's oldest brother got married over the weekend, so we spent the weekend in Texas enjoying the warm weather and excellent company (how'd I get so lucky to marry into such a great family?!?!)

Driving from Iowa to Texas (and back) makes for a lot of time sitting in the car. Perhaps this was training for our LONG flight to Ghana to pick up our boys?!?! I will say, though, that our drive was filled with lots of good conversation (Z and I got more chatting in than we usually have time to do) and we listened to two interesting audio books. What did people do before audio books??

I will leave you with some photos of the wedding...


YAY! Kiss the bride!




Z's family...What a good looking bunch!


Me and my hunny...


Wedding Cake


Groom's Cake...check out the cute strawberries!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Season of Giving


It is getting close to the Holiday season again, and that means that its time to make that Holiday shopping list and get to work! Soon we'll be shopping for that perfect "it" toy for the kids, or finding the perfect sweater, or the perfect tie, or the perfect jewelry box for our loved ones. It is a season of pulling your family close and realizing how blessed we all are.

But...all over the world there are people who are less fortunate than we are. And this should be a time of year that we remember them, too. There are kids all over tho world who will not receive special gifts, special meals, or special clothing. The holiday season will pass for them without tangible evidence that it existed.

For those of you who are wondering what you can do to make sure that a child gets something special for the holiday season, I urge you to visit the website for Adoption Advocates International. AAI is the agency that we are using to bring our boys home and they are also an agency that is known for working hard to make a difference in the countries they work in. They are in the midst of their annual holiday donation drive and they (and we) would appreciate your help. For $20 you will provide a gift and new traditional outfit for a child in either Eban House (Ghana) or Layla House (Ethiopia). The money will also be used to fund a holiday party for the kids and to make sure that the orphanage staff in Ghana and Ethiopia also receive a gift.

Please take the time to visit Adoption Advocates International Donation Page to make a donation. If you would rather send a check, it can be sent to Adoption Advocates International, 709 S. Peabody Street, Port Angeles, WA 98362. If you do not have an extra $20, that's ok, too. Feel free to donate whatever amount you are comfortable with.

Friday, November 2, 2007

God Is Great

We were not the only family to pass court today (scroll down if you haven't read that post yet). Renee and her family have been waiting just as long as we have, but they've had even more delays along the way. Earlier this week they received hopeful news that they were headed to court on Friday, but found out last night that they were delayed again. Little did they know, God had a plan and was getting it all worked out behind the scenes. This morning they received the good news that they passed court, too!

Their two boys and our two boys are very close and it absolutely warms my heart that they all officially entered their new families on the same day!

The Happy Dance continues!

Stop by Steppin' Heavenward to give a big congrats to Renee and family - they have a lot to celebrate today! Today is a glorious day in our two households!

Uncovering the Secret

...Pause...

Not long after our last court date was cancelled, I talked to Anita and we decided that she wouldn't tell me when our next court date was until it was all over. But, it turns out that Anita can't keep a secret so I knew ahead of time! ;)

So, I've been keeping a secret these last couple of days. We've had a court date scheduled for TODAY!!

The news?
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.
.
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.
.
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WE PASSED!!!!

Z and I are parents to two adorable little boys!! Now we just need to work on getting them home!!

More info to come - I have phone calls to make and emails to send!

...Resume Happy Dance...

Thursday, November 1, 2007

One Step Closer

The boys now have their passports! We are one step closer! We are still waiting to pass court, but we are hopeful that will happen very soon. I'll keep you posted!

Check out our boys' adorable faces! (I did a little editing to protect the innocent...but I left their first names so that if you were curious about what Jellybean and Peanut's first names are, you can find out!) Remember, you can click on the picture to make it bigger.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Optimism

I haven't been updating the blog as regularly lately as I had originally intended. Sorry to all of you who are looking for updates from me! Over the past few weeks I've been feeling a little weary of the wait for good news from Ghana. We've had predictions of a court date....court date cancellations....two judges who were supposed to hear our case go on leave with little or no notice....and then a wait for another family to "test the water" with a new judge. The good news is the other family's case passed easily and we are next! We do not yet know when our court date will be, but we are hopeful that it will be soon. And because things went so well for the other family, we are hopeful that our case will have the same favorable outcome. Since we have had judges that went on leave resulting in court cancellations, I am sure that until we hear that our case was heard and that we passed, I will likely be a bit of a nutcase! ;)

I've been trying lately to distract myself from the lack of news from Ghana by getting absorbed in some good books. This time of year is my very favorite time of year. Its fall, the leaves are turning (or turned and fallen off in some cases), the weather is cooler, the air is crisper, and coffee shops now sell pumpkin flavored coffee drinks (yum!). Another reason I love this time of year is because for some reason I LOVE to watch Halloween specials on TV (ones geared for kids - not the really creepy, scary kind), and I love to read books with fantastical/mystical themes (faeries, vampires, etc). Over the past couple of weeks I discovered The Twilight Series of books and gobbled all three books right up in 5 days. I've slowed down a bit since then, but now I am almost finished with The Spiderwick Chronicles.

This weekend we moved up into the world of people who now drive minivans. Yep, that's right, we bought a minivan (mind you, its a sensible pre-owned flex-fuel minivan)! Now we officially have room in our vehicle for two kids and two dogs (and all of our luggage for when we go visit the grandparents). When Z brought it home, we took it out for a quick drive and let the dogs go for a ride. Ollie was afraid of it to begin with, but they both warmed up pretty quickly.

Z and I both have a pretty busy week ahead of us (actually we have a busy 2-3 week stretch and then we'll soon move into that busy holiday season - yikes!)...but, I will be certain to post when we have news from Ghana!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Waiting for some cold water....

Prov. 25:25
"Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land."

Thanks to Margaret for passing on this scripture today...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Elevator music anyone??

I haven't updated the blog in a while...sorry about that. I guess I feel like I am in the midst of a seemingly endless phone conversation where I've been put on hold and I'm listening to terrible elevator music. Such is life, I guess. At this point, there really isn't much to update you on. We are still waiting to hear when our court date will be. Another family will be heading to court soon (Tuesday) and if all goes well for them, then we should be up next. So, there's hope that we could have our court date within the next two weeks. I will certainly update about this when I can. Though...I may wait until AFTER it happens, that way I don't have to tell everyone again if there is another delay.

There is a volunteer traveling to Ghana at the end of this month and she is planning a trip to Eban House. She very graciously offered to carry over a couple of letters for our boys and hopefully she will get some good pictures while she is there. New pictures are always exciting!

Today in a fit of insanity, I decided to rearrange the living room (again). Mind you, our living room is not the biggest room, and there is a VERY limited number of ways we can arrange the furniture in here. But, I really needed a change of some sort. So, I switched a couple of pieces of furniture with some furniture we had in the basement office so that we could finally have our DVD collection on the same floor as the TV and DVD player. Minor conveniences, you know? However, I decided to do this while Z was out enjoying the outdoors (hunting) so I was going at it alone. And I was too impatient to remove the DVDs from the cabinet before carrying it up the stairs. But, with lots of pushing and pulling and straining I managed to make it up the stairs all on my own. Perhaps next time I decide to rearrange on a whim I will convince Z to help out, too.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bummin'

It turns out that our court date is not going to be tomorrow after all. Everything was ready and in place, but the judge who was supposed to hear our case went on leave. Africa delays. It doesn't make sense that people wouldn't know when the judge was going on leave ahead of time...and it doesn't make sense that another judge couldn't hear the case on the same day. But such is the way in Africa...and we'll deal with it.

Not to say that we aren't totally bummin' tonight - because we are.

At this point we have no idea when our case will go to court...but hopefully it won't be too much longer.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Court Date

We have a court date!

FRIDAY!

We would appreciate your prayers that court goes well and we are granted a full and final adoption decree for the boys...

Friday, October 5, 2007

Realizations

This week has been a tough week for me, no question. When the week started we had such high hopes of heading to court today (Friday) and leaving court with a final adoption decree. Instead, we got news that we would not be heading to court this week at all. Additionally, there have been new steps implemented in the Ghanaian adoption process (good steps, meant to protect the children), which mean that there will be delays in our case (and all the Ghanaian adoption cases). So, we don't know when court will happen now.

This week I had my first punch-me-in-the-gut realization that our boys may not be here for Christmas. It was so very painful for me to realize this as Christmas has been in my mind as our deadline since we started the process in January. I hate that I have reached this point, but at the same time I needed to. I need to prepare myself emotionally for spending this Christmas without them. If I don't and they are not here, then I will just make myself (and those around me) miserable. I don't want to do that. On the other hand, if I make myself prepared for them not to be here and by some miracle we manage to get our case to court and we get the Ghanaian government and the US government (immigration) all on the same page in time for them to be home for Christmas, then it will be a joyful one indeed!

This week we also realized that we have known about our boys for 6 months now. Our referral has been official for a little more than 3 months, but it has been 6 months since we learned about the boys and first saw their faces. No wonder I am so ready to have them home! They've been living in my heart for half a year already!

I spend most of my time on this blog blabbing away about MY experience with adoption. After all, MY experience is the only one that I am really familiar with. Its the only perspective that I have. However, I've been thinking a lot about our boys' experiences, too. I have no idea how well they will adjust to leaving Ghana and coming home with us. I don't know if they will accept us willingly, or if they will leave kicking and screaming. These two little boys have already been through so much in their lives. When we received the backround information on the boys my heart broke for them. Every orphan has a sad story...they all have lived through things that no kid should have to experience. But this story was my boys' story. Suddenly this background information took on a whole new meaning.

Everytime I think about it I want to hop on a plane and run to them to tell them "Its going to be ok. You have a mommy and a daddy now. And we love you. You have nice soft beds at home to sleep in. There is a lot of food in our pantry and in our fridge; you won't have to go hungry again. You will have lots of toys to play with and books to read; you don't need to take care of yourself anymore - you have us." But, I can't. I have to wait and hope that they are beginning to understand that those pictures we sent to them are pictures of real people who love them and miss them fiercely.

Its true...we miss them. These two little boys that we've never met.

To Get Me Through Another Weekend

We did not go to court this week as we had hoped we would. In fact, there are additional steps being implemented in Ghana that will add a delay in our case getting to court. We don't know how long the delay will be or when our case will finally head to court, but we're hopeful that it won't be too long.

But, its that dreaded Friday again and this week our update came earlier, so I know that it is unlikely we'll hear anything at all today. We did, however get a few pictures earlier this week, one of which is the photo here. It's my adorable Peanut, sleeping peacefully.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

I Found Them!!

So...ever since I've known that I would be traveling to Ghana to pick up our kiddos, I've been on the hunt for a good pair of traveling shoes. I've been reading other adoptive parent blogs, checking their packing lists, and trying to glean as much information as I can from them. So far, every blog that I've read that happens to mention the shoes (you know, the most important detail) they were using to travel with brought crocs.

Ugh....crocs?? Really? I have nothing against crocs, mind you. In theory they are perfect for traveling. You can slip them off and on easily, if they get dirty you just rinse them off and you have clean shoes again, they are relatively comfortable, and you can wear them without socks so when you are traveling in Africa your feet don't get too hot. But, personally, I think crocs are just ugly. Sure, they come in lots of fun colors, but unless you are hanging out at the beach or working at the pediatric ward in the hospital, bright orange shoes just don't seem appropriate (for an adult).

I had a pair of crocs at one point. Navy blue ones...they didn't fit right...and they shrunk when I left them out in the sun. There went the crocs.

But, since EVERYONE seems to be traveling with crocs, I decided to give the line one more look. Maybe they have something new. Maybe they have a pair of shoes that is cute and that isn't made entirely of some weird plastic polymer.

Look what I found! Of course, they are the most expensive shoes they had in their current inventory (just my luck). But, they are cute, they are not made entirely of that plastic "stuff", and they should work great for traveling. I can still rinse them off when they get dirty, they are comfortable, and they slip on and off easily. And, if I really wanted to, I could wear them with socks.




Well...I have my travelin' shoes. Now, when do we leave???

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Waiting Badly

Another week has passed...and I just realized that we are at the very tail-end of September with no hope of getting news of passing court until October, so that means another month has passed. To be honest, we haven't done a whole lot in the way of preparing for the boys in the most recent weeks (at least not in the physical way). We've been thinking a lot and preparing our minds and our hearts for the boys arrival, but their room looks just the same as it did a few weeks ago (except there might be a few more bags of stuff piled up on their beds). I've decided I don't want to finish work on their room until we have a better idea of when they are coming home (or at least until after we pass court). I figured it would be too difficult to have their room all ready for them but still not know when they would be here to use it. We still have a pretty big list of things that we need/want for the boys, but we have the basics taken care of. And we're hoping to put off buying lots of toys, etc. until after Christmas and after they get home in case the boys get some treasures from aunts and uncles and grandmas and grandpas for Christmas. After all, we don't want to spoil them TOO much, right?

Our adoption coordinator, Anita, has been absolutely fabulous! She has been so sweet to email me the last couple of Fridays to let us know how things are going. She's been through this before and knows how difficult those Fridays can be. She is working so hard to get everything squared away in Ghana. Not only is our agency (AAI) facilitating adoptions in Ghana, but they are also establishing an orphanage in Ghana. New regulations mean that setting up the orphanage is keeping everyone extra busy.

I am trying so hard to be patient and to wait for news from Anita. These past couple of weeks I have had to keep reminding myself that I don't need to call her or email her to "remind" her about our case! As if she could forget! After all, I know that she will be nearly as excited as we are to receive news of positive court outcome!

Our case is getting closer and closer to court. One more piece of paperwork needs to be completed before submission and then we are ready. We are hoping for some good news at the end of this next week. For those of you who are of the praying persuasion, please pray that I will have peace in my heart about this wait...that I will keep my fingers off of the phone to call Anita and my cursor off of the "send" button. And, if you could pray that we get some good news about court in the next couple of weeks, I would appreciate that, too! :)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Whew!

In yesterday's mail we received our 171-H with approval for the right country! I was starting to get a little worried.

We have word that our boys' case could be heading to court "soon". Of course, we are working in Africa, so "soon" could mean any number of things. But, I am praying that it means that we could pass court within a couple of weeks. Once we pass through court, we wait for the boys to be issued passports and then we wait for U.S. Immigration approval before we can travel.

I am finding myself in that "tough" place in the wait. I know that this wait is necessary and that things are happening in Ghana to make it possible for us to bring the boys home, but I am ready for the boys to be home yesterday. Some days I just want to know when the end point will be; I just want a target date in mind so that I know how much longer things will take.

But, I know that this too shall pass...eventually.

Friday, September 21, 2007

I Hate Fridays

Yes...you read that right. I hate Fridays. Never in my life did I think that I would start to dislike Friday. The last day of the school-week or the work-week. The night you can stay up late and sleep in the next morning because you don't have work, school, or church the following morning. But, the truth is, I have come to really dread Fridays.

In the adoption world, Friday is the last day of the week that the agency office is open. Its the last day of the week that things can happen in your adoption process. Its the last day of the week that the agency can update you on your case's progress.

We are at that stage in our adoption process where we are waiting for information. We're expecting news soon, but we don't know when for sure. So if we don't hear anything on Friday, then we go another long weekend with no information.

I've been swamped at work today, but I've also been keeping my eye on the clock. With every passing hour it is less and less likely we will hear anything new today. Bummer.

Silver Lining: It's Friday, afterall. I get to hang out with Z, maybe watch a movie or two, drink a glass of wine, and sleep in tomorrow. Can't complain too much about that.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Jena Six

I have been thinking a lot about this story for the past couple of weeks. First it made me angry, then it made me sad, but mostly I am left confused and conflicted. I am (hopefully) soon to become the mother of two very adorable little boys who happen to have beautiful brown skin. I know this world is a tough place and I know that my boys will experience racism during their lives. I pray that things will change before they are old enough to realize it, but I know things aren't likely to change very quickly. I know that most people will see my boys and think that they are adorable now, but what will their reactions be in 10 years when my boys are teenagers? Will people's first reactions when seeing my boys be that they are handsome young men? Or will they be seen as troublemakers or thugs?

One of the things that I have noticed while following this story during the past couple of weeks is something that troubles me tremendously. I have heard/seen interviews with several different people from Jena who adamantly state that the media is portraying Jena to be something that it is not. That racism isn't pervasive in their town. That they are not racist people. That black people are treated no differently than the white people. Every single one of those people has been white. Every one. But, when I've seen black people from Jena interviewed they all said that racism in their town is real, that it happens. Just like it happens all over our country. Only now the spotlight is on Jena, LA.

The truth is, discrimination can be obvious, but it can also be subtle. Its dirty looks. Its when you cross the street to avoid walking next to someone who looks different from you, or who you think looks dangerous or scary (for any number of reasons). Its when you judge someone's ability to do a good job based on the color of their skin. Its when women or people of color get paid less for the same work. Its when we jump to conclusions or make blanket judgements based on someone's skin color, sex, sexual orientation, weight/body type, or religious affiliation. Discrimination is everywhere.

Do those in the majority notice the discrimination? Do they realize that its happening? There is something wrong with our country and there needs to be a real and honest discussion about it. The majority may not notice what is happening, but those who are at the receiving end of it can tell you that discrimination is real.

Jena, LA is 85% white and about 12% black. The 85% might not notice that there is a problem, but when the 12% says something is wrong, perhaps it needs to be checked out. And perhaps it should have been discussed and diffused before the beating happened in the first place. Perhaps this discussion should have started when white students hung nooses in the tree in the high school courtyard.

I am, however, not saying that Jena is any worse than any other town/city in our country. And I'm not saying that the 6 young black students are innocent of all crimes. Afterall, they did beat a white student. The question for me is whether or not things could have been diffused long before things got so bad. If people had opened their eyes to see what was happening, could this whole situation have been avoided? Right now the spotlight is on Jena, and that is unfortunate for Jena. I am sure that it is difficult for the people of Jena to hear negative things about their town on the national media. But perhaps this will start a dialog in Jena and around our country. Maybe good will come out of this afterall.

I pray that my generation is the generation that says "Enough!" I pray that we are the generation that stands up and says that bigotry and racism will not be tolerated in our society. I pray that we can all spend more time noticing our similarities than pointing out our differences. I pray that we can make a difference in the world so that it is a better place for our children, for my children.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Monk & Neagle: A Review


Their album was released in stores yesterday (Sept. 18th, 2007). Yes, I know…I meant to have this up yesterday for the album release, but time somehow got away from me.

I was one of the lucky few who received a free copy of the CD about a while ago. WooHoo for me! A free CD - before everyone else gets to hear it!!! I had been reading BooMama's reviews of the album and I had high expectations based on what she wrote. I can honestly say I am not disappointed.

I am one of those people who truly believes that everyone has a soundtrack to their lives. Music fills our lives; it is everywhere. When we hear an old familiar song, it brings back feelings of where we were when we first heard it, or last heard it, or where we were when the song had the most meaning in our lives. We could hear a song a hundred times and it could have no impact. But, the 101st time could affect you in a profound way. It is all about where you are in your life at the moment you hear the song. The soundtrack to my life is very diverse and eclectic (perhaps a bit like I am). There are times in my life when I long to hear songs of worship and praise; when I surround myself with rich, uplifting tunes that fill my soul with hope and the Holy Spirit. Then, there are other times of my life when that is the last kind of music I want to listen to. There are times when I want nothing more than to listen to mindless Pop-y tunes, or heavy bass-y tunes, or something a little more like “angry” music. I listen to everything (well, most everything).

To be truthful, lately I have not been much in the mood for listening to Christian music. Not because I don’t enjoy it. Not because there isn’t a great variety of it available. I just haven’t felt like it. In fact, lately I haven’t been all that interested in listening to lots of music like I used to. My soundtrack has been a bit void lately. I think part of it is just that songs have been doing to me what they are supposed to. They are making me think; they are bringing up emotions. But, if you’ve been around me lately you know that the last thing I need is MORE emotion! So, I’ve sort of purposely avoided music that I know will well up an emotional response.

When I got the new Monk & Neagle CD in the mail, I popped it into the CD player in my laptop and listened while I worked. Yup – it brought upon an emotional response – especially when I got to the song “What Soldiers Do”. So, I didn’t listen to it for a couple more weeks. But I went back to it, and I’m loving it. I’m skipping a song or two here and there (see below), but I love it. I’m finding that the songs are sung with heart – real heart. There’s passion in their voices and its REAL. The lyrics are real and at times they are raw. The sound is reminiscent of John Mayer (for those of you who are familiar with the ever-present John Mayer tunes on pop stations). Sounds similar to those of John Mayer...with more substance.

After listening a time or two, I feel like this new Monk & Neagle CD is re-charging my soul just a bit. And that is priceless. Who couldn’t use a bit of a re-charge once in a while (or every day)? After several spins in my CD player, I am finding myself drawn to 4 songs in particular. The followings songs are getting a lot of play "Beautiful You", "The Twenty-First Time", "Wonderful Angel", and "Yours Forever".

I have listed the songs below, and for some of them I’ve added just a little description.

The CD is in stores NOW. Check them out. Their voices are so new to me still, but from the very first listen they sounded like old familiar friends. Click on the name of their album to go to their webpage to check them out and take a listen or two.

Monk & Neagle
The Twenty-First Time



Beautiful You
A song very reminiscent of John Mayer; it’s a true love song…to the Lord.


The Twenty-First Time
I think this is my favorite song on the album. It is a song for the “forgotten souls” in our communities.

Halleluja, Jesus
A true worship song, in every sense. It is sung with passion and intense feeling.

Stars Would Fall


What Soldiers Do
This song is beautiful…and heartfelt…but I could only listen to it once. I skipped over it every other time it started. The pain of missing Z during war and thinking he might have to head off again to war is way too raw in this particular soul. This song was so painful for me to listen to. But, to be honest, anything that explores the emotional aspect of this subject is painful for me still. For those of you who have been through the pain of saying goodbye to a loved one who is heading off to war, you will relate to this song, and it will give you a rush of emotions (which you may or may not need). For those of you who have not experienced this, then perhaps it will help you relate a little bit to your fellow country-men who have to deal with war in a real and tangible way. It is a magnificent song – I just can’t bring myself to listen to it.

Yours Forever
A song with a great beat! I could listen to it all day.

More Than That
Another song that reminds me a bit of the sound of John Mayer. With some great symphony back-up.


Wonderful Angel
Another song with a good beat. Uplifting, encouraging, and beautiful; with
some mandolin accompaniment. Gotta love a song with a mandolin!

Fallin’
More John Mayer-y sounds. Another beautiful love song.

Into Orbit
A song with a heavier, Pop-ier sound.

What Soldiers Do (Remix)
See “What Soldiers Do” above; but with mandolin…and maybe a bit faster. I
kind of like this version better….


To check out a fantastic interview with the boys of Monk & Neagle on BooMama's blog, click here and here.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

My Name on Flickr

C H A N D a

Of course, I can't figure out how to get it all on one line. Oh well.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Ups and Downs and All Arounds



If you talk to any adoptive parent, they will tell you that the adoption process comes with a roller-coaster of emotions. There are incredible highs (like getting your referral and seeing your child(ren) for the first time) and there are times of incredible lows (like when an unexpected delay occurs and you realize the process is going to take much longer than you had hoped). There are also times when you feel a little emotionally 'neutral' and you feel like you're just bracing yourself for one of those lows.

Today I feel a bit low. Now, I have to say that I have no real reason to feel low. I know that the staff for our agency here in the U.S. and in Ghana are working hard. I know that they all have made personal investments in this new program and they want things to go smoothly and quickly for the families. And they have all been great! We've gotten great updates on our boys. We've seen them go from shy, hungry, scared little boys in their intake photos to bright, happy, filled-out little boys in a matter of just a few months. We've gotten insights into their personalities, we've got LOTS of pictures of the boys (many adoptive families get only one or very few photos of their child), we've sent them a package and can send letters and photos with traveling volunteers and staff. We've even relatively recently gotten hopeful news of adoption progress on the Ghanaian side of things.

But...I still feel low today. Every conversation I have about the boys with friends and family at some point includes the question "How long until you can go get them?" I don't have an answer to this question. In my head it makes sense to me that I don't know yet. I've been in the midst of the adoption process for months now; I've been obsessed with all things adoption and I know how the process works. But some of our friends and family members don't. They expect by this point that we should know. There should be a date for our travel already set. So every time I answer "we're not sure yet, but we're hoping before Christmas" I am met with looks of confusion. After all, "how can you possibly plan your life if you don't know the date they are coming?"

Its true....unlike a pregnancy we don't have a due date. We could travel in two months or several months. It does make things more difficult. I'm finding that when people ask me what we are doing for Thanksgiving or Christmas (or for anything else this fall and winter) my answer is always "I'm not sure, it depends on how close we are to traveling". This is the time of the year that people start realizing that the holidays really are just around the corner. There's already all kinds of Halloween stuff in stores. Usually by this time of the year I am thinking about what we're doing for Christmas presents for family members and friends. I like to make a lot of things for gifts and I am pretty sure this year homemade gifts will be few. I haven't even thought about that stuff yet - and I doubt I will have time to anytime soon.

We still have lots of things to do to get the boys' room ready (and our whole place ready for two little boys). We have almost all of the basics taken care of, but I haven't yet gotten their room ready for them. And I don't really want to until we have a better idea of when they are coming home. I think it will be too difficult for me to walk past their room everyday knowing that it is ready for them, but not knowing when they will be here to use it. So, their stuff is still in boxes and bags waiting. Of course, a weekend of work is all it will take to have it ready for them.

So, I guess today is just one of those days when the "unknowns" are starting to get to me. Mind you, we totally signed ourselves up for this. We KNEW there would be unknowns, and we're ok with that. Its just that some days are harder than others. We don't know when the adoption will be finalized in Ghana. We don't know when we will be approved to travel. We don't know if the boys will be home for Christmas (that all-important deadline we had set for ourselves at the beginning of this process). We just don't know. We hope the adoption will be finalized soon. We hope it won't be too long before we can travel. And we hope that we will be able to spend Christmas 2007 as our first Christmas together as a family of 4.

A family of 4. Wow, that's weird. We're totally skipping over that whole family of 3 thing.

A Tough Year

First droughts and now floods. This has been a rough year for Ghana.

Read the story here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Unforgetables

**I've been thinking about whether or not to post this on my blog...but I decided to go ahead with it. After all, its a part of my adoption journey; for better or for worse. Perhaps I'm not the only one who's had this experience.**

When you're in the midst of an adoption process, it is at times overwhelming to think about the need that exists in our world. The numbers of orphans in Africa alone are staggering and the numbers of children needing assistance of some sort (whether it be through food, shelter, education, etc.) is absolutely unfathomable.

Sometimes it is so easy to become overwhelmed. I examine my belongings and think about selling it all in order to help "just a few". I look at my house and think "we could fit more in here". Or when we look at houses on the market I think "we could get one with a couple of extra bedrooms". I look in my refridgerator and cupboards and think about how many we could feed, and then I scold myself when I have to throw out uneaten leftovers.

I have to admit that over time, my heart has grown a little less tender in some ways. I have become resigned to the fact that we (meaning my husband and I) cannot help them all. We cannot adopt all the children; we cannot feed them all; we cannot clothe them all; we cannot provide shelter and education for all of the children.

When we started the adoption process, I looked through our agency's Waiting Children list and wondered about each of the children.
"How long will they wait?"
"What is this child's personality like?"
"Does this little girl have a mommy yet?"

I would turn to Z and say "Isn't he/she cute?"
"Maybe we should inquire about this one."

And he would always reply with "C - they are ALL cute."

Of course he was right - all the children on the list are cute. All of the children on the list were/are in need of what we have to offer. Almost any of the children on the list could have been made a part of our family.

When we switched countries to adopt from Ghana, we were no longer given a list of available children. We were now a part of a pilot program and the agency had only 6 kids in their care. When our criteria (siblings ages 2-6) were incorporated into the mix, there was only 1 match. Our boys. It was easy. These were our boys - they fit our criteria - they were the only siblings within the ages of 2 and 6 that our agency had in their care.

The decision was made for us. I didn't have to look at a list or a video and say "no" to dozens of other children in order to say "yes" to our boys. Now, I realize that it is not that simple...if I had chosen my children from a list I would not have been paging through pictures saying "no" to dozens of other children. I would have been looking for "my child". I would have been looking for the child that captured my heart; who grabbed my attention for one reason or another.

Now here is the part that I hate to admit...even to myself sometimes. When we were still a part of our agency's Ethiopia program my heart was completely captured by two very precious little girls. I thought about them...I prayed for them (and still do)....In my head, I knew that they were not meant to be with our family right now, but my heart still wanted to love them. And so it does. My heart continues to love these two beautiful little girls who still wait on the list. Two girls who still don't have a mommy and a daddy.

Loving these girls does not, in any way, take away the love I have for our boys. I am completely smitten with our boys and I cannot wait to make them a part of our family. But those two girls were the first children who caused me to gasp for breath when I saw their picture. They are the first children who's situation made me cry for them. They are the first children who made my heart yearn to be their mother. I don't know who will be the mother of these two girls. Maybe it will be an e-friend of mine who reads my blog or who I chat with in one of the forums (and who can give me updates on how they are doing after they get home). Maybe it will be a complete stranger who has the same reaction to the girls' picture when she sees them. Or maybe it will be me afterall. Perhaps my head just needed time to catch up with my heart. Though, I have to admit that I really do hope that I am not meant to be their mom. I hope that these two girls are not still on the waiting child list when I am at a point where we can make that decision (our agency requires 6 months between adoptions). And I know that Z really hopes that, too.