Monday, January 29, 2007

A word of advice...

From a cat owner...

On the morning that you have to take two orange cats to the veterinarian for their yearly vaccinations - Don't wear black!

Luckily I have a lint/hair remover in my desk drawer. What a way to start a Monday morning!

Baby Steps...

Today we made another baby-step toward our adoption. We finally sent in the contract (and a bunch of other forms) and another check to AAI. It felt really great to drop that in the mail! Next we'll get a packet of information from AAI telling us what needs to be included in our dossier (then the BIG paperchase begins). We also will have to have our homestudy completed and be approved by the US Dept. of Immigration. We have decided who we will be using for our homestudy and we have talked with the social worker who will be conducting the homestudy for us, so hopefully we will get going on that in the near future.

One little baby-step at a time...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Record Breakers

In the past couple of weeks, I have noticed that a few significant records have been broken. And they are records that I am happy to see break. One of these records I posted about a couple of days ago. Disney is FINALLY making a movie starring a black princess (more specifically an African American princess in "The Frog Princess").

Second is that this year a black NFL coach will win the Super Bowl. Both teams being represented at the Super Bowl this year are led by black coaches. This is so significant because out of 32 total NFL coaches, only 7 are black. There have only ever been 9 black head coaches in the NFL. This year one of them will lead his team to victory at the Super Bowl. Those of you who know Z and I well, know that we are not the world's biggest sports fans. But, we will watch this game (as will so many other Americans) and we will relish the fact that we are watching history. It may seem insignificant to so many people, but I can guarantee that this event will have much the same effect on young black boys as Disney's black princess will have on little black girls. They are role models. They are examples of people who look like them who are doing great things. That is important to every little kid.

The third broken record is one of the political kind. Regardless of your political position, the news in the past few weeks in the Democratic party is significant. This is the first time in history that a woman is the Speaker of the House. This is also the first time in history that the two front-runners in the race to the Democratic party nomination are a woman and a black man. Granted, it is EARLY in the race and a multitude of things could happen between now and election day, but it is still significant. Finally, people who are not middle-aged white guys are breaking in to the world of politics and making a splash. Whether you agree with their politics or their ideals or not, is insignificant (at least for the purpose of this point). Finally conversations about politics in America are starting to be conducted by people who actually LOOK like America. And that is very significant. It means that there is hope that people of all kinds will have representation in the government that rules this country. Unfortunately, the majority of the diversity found in our government is in one party...hopefully this will change in the future, too.

Because I am planning to become a mother to two black children, these broken records have special meaning to me. They could easily be milestones that I could recognize and let pass by without a second thought. But, knowing that someday someone I love will be in need of positive role models that look like him (or her), makes me take note of these milestones in a very real way. My kids will not have adults who look like them in their family that they can look up to. But, I want them to know that I recognize this disparity and that I am conscious of helping them find positive role models who do look like them.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Our Troublemakers...

This is an excerpt from an email Z sent me today....Keep in mind he had only been gone for about 20 minutes while we went to the bank to get a document notarized (yes, the first notary signature of many for this adoption process) and to drop me off at my office.



In the time we were gone the dogs:

A. Took the blanket out of the kennel while Paka was sleeping on the puppy bed.
B. Took the carpet under the sink to the deck door.
C. Took the carpet by the front door up half the stairs.
D. Began tearing apart the goofy looking toy you got at Pet Smart.
E. Pushed pillows off the couch.
F. Knocked chairs out from under the table.
G. Were sleeping soundly when I got home.

How'd they do all that?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Go Here...

http://www.fora.tv/searchresults.php?page=1&keywordsearch=Melissa%20Fay%20Greene

This is a video of Melissa Fay Greene giving a speech and answering questions about her book "There Is No Me Without You". It is an hour long...but is so good! She tells stories about her experience of adoption from Ethiopia and the story of the woman who this book is about. She also talks about the AIDS epidemic in Africa and the responsibility of the rich western world to help do something about it.

To access the video, go to the link above and click on Launch Fora Player (on the right hand side of the screen, under the picture of Melissa Fay Greene).

Odds and Ends

Last night and this morning we have been getting another little blast of winter weather. More snow! I'm lovin' the snow and am not complaining about it at all. It would have been nice to have snow at Christmas, but I appreciated the clean roads for the traveling, too. It finally feels like its winter around here.


Snow and winter make me feel like I want to just curl up on the couch with a cup of hot tea and read a good book. So, in the spirit of winter weather, I ordered (and just received) a couple of books that I am really looking forward to reading. The first is "I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla: Raising Healthy Black and Biracial Children in a Race Conscious World" and the second is "The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa". I am so excited about reading both of these books. I am hoping that "I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla" will help to provide some insight to having a trans-racial family. And into helping white parents find ways to help their adopted children be proud of their background. "The Soul of a New Cuisine" was written by a man who was adopted from Ethiopia by Swedish parents when he was a child. When he became an adult, he went back to Ethiopia (and Africa) to learn about his roots and explore African cooking. From just paging through it so far I realise that it really is more than just a cookbook. It has beautiful pictures and lots of stories to go along with the recipes. There are quite a few Ethiopian recipes in the book (which is the primary reason I bought it). So, maybe someday I will be able to master some Ethiopian meals to serve to my Ethiopian kids. I am so looking forward to that day!


Well...I wish I could curl up on the couch and read a few pages from these books, but I am off to work on some of the thesis stuff instead. If I work in the basement, I can't see the snow and be pulled to drink tea and read instead! Here's what our yard looked like this morning when we woke up! Perhaps we should have put the patio furniture in the garage for the winter???

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Special...

Well, my dear friend Anita, you've done it again. You've posted something on your blog that hit me hard. Really hard. Like a kick in the stomach....or maybe more like a nudge in the right direction - a hard nudge, but with the best of intentions.

The other day Anita posted about a recent conversation she had had with a friend of hers about adopting special needs children. Anita encourages families to consider special needs children and help to provide them loving homes. She encourages families to provide homes for special needs kids...and if you don't feel that is right for you, then she encourages that you find a way to support others who are led to provide homes for these kids. She is so right!

Special needs kids are special kids. They are the kids who are in the most need for finding a loving family who will help them get the medical care that they need and who will provide them with the love and support they need to live happy, healthy lives.

Children are classified as "special needs" for a wide variety of reasons. Sometimes the need is relatively minor, sometimes it is major. Special needs kids could have a variety of medical issues including albinism, cleft lip and palate, missing/deformed limbs, facial deformities, hepatitis, TB, HIV, cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, down syndrome, and lots of other issues. Some of these needs require surgeries, some require daily medications for life. Some will mean that the child might be sick for long periods of time and will need one-on-one care. Some will mean that the child has full potential to live a happy, healthy life but will live with a social stigma that the family will have to live with. In some countries these children are totally forgotten. It is assumed that they would not be wanted by anyone and they are left to die. Sometimes these kids have to live their lives in an orphanage. Often orphanages are financially strapped and the children cannot receive the medical care they need. So they die far earlier than their special needs counterparts in other, richer countries. Should geography determine who should live and who should die? Are special needs children not able to be productive members of our society? Of course not. Of course special needs children deserve homes. They deserve a chance at life. They deserve to have loving families and the medical care they need. After all, these children didn't choose their "need"...

How can we help children with special needs? What if we have a heart for kids with special needs, but don't really think that we can provide a home for a special needs child? Perhaps we could sponsor a child in an orphanage. Lots of adoption agencies have sponsorship programs where you can sponsor a child, even if you have no plans to ever adopt that child, or any other. Locate an adoption agency that works in the country of your choice and ask about this option.

Maybe you know of a family who has special needs children, or who is planning to adopt a special needs child. Find something you can offer this family, and offer it. Tell them you have a heart for special needs children and that you want to help them in some way. Maybe it will be providing them with a financial gift to help pay for their adoption, or to help with medical expenses. Maybe it will be offering to cook a meal for them once a week. Maybe it will be in offering the parents a date night where you babysit.

Maybe there is a particular special need that you are called to help for one reason or another. Locate a support group for people affected with this special need, or a research group that is helping to find a cure or a treatment for this special need and find a way to help them through donations.

Maybe you could plan a trip to visit an orphanage. Bring toys and games for the kids to play with. Plan a mission trip where you bring orphanage donations, or do some much-needed work for the orphange while you are there; painting, building bunk beds, etc.

All of these things are needed. Finding a way to help support those who need the support most is so valuable. And perhaps in the end, you will find that you gain just as much from the experience as the one who benefited from your help.

For those of you who think you might be able to consider providing a home for a special needs child, sometimes the thought of it is SCARY. There are so many unknowns. There are going to be all kinds of challenges. This is something that I have been thinking about recently. We just got a questionnaire from our adoption agency asking us to check those special needs we could consider or could not consider. How do you know what you can handle? If our birth children were born with a particular special need would we decide we couldn't handle it and give up? Of course not - we'd find a way to deal with it. But, would we choose it? Tough stuff....

In the end, I guess it will come down to what kids we are "called" to provide a home to. Somehow in the end we'll "know" which kids are meant to be ours. And if they have special needs, then so be it.

Here is the statement that Anita posted on her blog that hit me so hard (and it wasn't just because she had it highlighted):
He doesn't call the qualified, he qualifes the called.
Its a powerful statement....


Here's the link to Anita's blog, in case you want to read for yourself....
http://www.gillispiefam.blogspot.com/


A Tip of the Hat....to Disney

Stealing a line from the great Stephen Colbert, I am offering a Tip of my Hat to Disney. They are FINALLY starting production on an animated film that will feature Disney's first ever Black Princess. Several months ago, I signed a petition that was going around to encourage Disney to make a movie that had a Black Princess. Little girls all over the world have been waiting for this movie. Almost all little girls love to be princesses...when they dress up for Halloween they want to be a princess. But for far too long, African American girls (and black girls all over the world) have not had a princess to identify with. Now, they will! Congratulations Disney!

Here is what Wikipedia had to say about the new Disney movie (The Frog Princess):

"The Frog Princess is an animated film currently in development by Walt Disney Feature Animation. It will be the first traditionally animated (2-D) feature film in Disney's animated features canon since 2004's Home on the Range. It will be directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, with music composed by Randy Newman.
Sources have revealed that the film will be an American fairy tale musical set in New Orleans during the 1920s Jazz Age, and the leading character, Maddy, will be the first African American Disney princess. [1]
Although the film's entry in IMDb states its release year being 2008, it is highly unlikely as it hasn't been officially greenlit yet. Furthermore, Disney has been working on other animated films for some time, including Rapunzel which is slated for release in 2009."

Monday, January 15, 2007

Just Browsing = Bad Idea


So, today I decided to stop in at one of my favorite stores to do a little browsing. This particular store is one that I go to visit whenever I feel a little bit down. Not that I have any particular reason to be down today, but I just felt like I needed a little pick-me-up. This store is what I imagine to be a kid's dream. Tons of stuffed animals, puppets, dolls, train sets, books, etc. They have a ton of toys that I remember having as a kid, too. Those are the best kind (I think). They also have some clothing, though mostly girls clothes, and mostly little girls clothes. I usually don't spend much time looking at the clothes, because they are ridiculously expensive (adorable, but expensive).





Today I just wandered around the store and browsed, not planning to buy anything at all. But, of course, I found two things I just HAD to get! Yikes! I'm hoping that one of our kids will be a little girl, because now she has an adorable outfit to wear and a doll to play with. The outfit is a really cute top and pants set with a barnyard scene printed on it (these two parts could easily be worn by a little boy, too). Then there is a little jumper that goes on top of it that has a big chicken at the top of it! How adorable is that? And Z loves chickens, so I know he'll love it, too. Oh, and I totally bargain shopped, because it just happened to be on the 40% off rack - bonus for me!



The doll is a little Ty doll that matches one that I bought last summer. We now have a boy and girl doll matching set. Now I suppose I'll have to find a place to store them until we actually have kids who can play with them.

Is it wrong to be picking these things up already? I am so excited about having kids, I guess I just can't stop myself!

Lighten Up Iowa

Z and I have decided to join a Lighten Up Iowa team this winter. The reason we've decided to do it this year is to help motivate us to do things we've been wanting to do for a long time and kept putting off. I spend far too much time sitting in front of the computer "working" on my thesis. And Z eats too much junk food and drinks too much soda. So, our goal is to find some ways to work out together, and we are both planning to eat better. Less junk food, more fruits and veggies, and less soda. The part that I need to work on is exercising more and the part that Z needs to work on is eating better. It should be fun. It started on January 10th and the official program goes until mid-May. To make it more interesting Z decided that we would put some money on the line. For every pound that one of us loses, the other owes that person $10. He is so going to owe me money in May!

To encourage more exercise and a workout we can do together, Z bought me a pair of pink boxing gloves. Yes...pink boxing gloves! Z likes to box, and I told him I would be willing to learn, so for now he's just teaching me the basics. The other night, we were playing around with the boxing gloves and we learned that Grommit is very attached to Z. If I hit Z, Grommit growled and whined and tried to get me to stop. Did he have the same reaction when Z hit me? Of course not! Apparently its just fine if I get beat up, as long as Z is fine! Go figure!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

It Really IS Winter!



We just got done taking a nice long walk in the snow....
The dogs LOVE the snow and took full advantage of playing on
our walk!


Updates...

Its been a little while since I updated on the adoption process. Since we are still at the very beginning there isn't a whole lot to update. We sent in our application to AAI on January 3rd and got a package from them this last Friday with a DVD in it. Then we got another package with a bunch of paperwork (including a contract) on Saturday (yesterday). I am getting the feeling that things might be able to move a little quicker than we originally thought! This is probably because we are requesting "older children" and not infants. This is really exciting, because it means we *might* be able to move our original timeline up just a bit. Either way, we are still at the beginning now, so we'll see how it goes.

The package we got on Friday included a DVD of waiting children in our agency's orphanage. There are so many adorable children just waiting for families. It is far too early in our journey to be able to "pick" our children from a waiting children list, as most of these kids will have been spoken for by the time we are ready to accept a referral, but it is still really interesting to see some of the kids, see where they live, get a feel for what the orphanage is like, and for what the kids are like. You can tell in watching the video that many of these kids are so excited to get a new family. They sit in front of the camera while the agency representative says a little bit about their history. They smile, they look their best, and they answer questions quickly when they are asked. How cute!

Today we spent some time filling out the paperwork AAI sent us to get our process started. We also filled out the application for the homestudy agency we have chosen to use. Once our application and adoption self-study are done for the homestudy agency, we can officially get started on the homestudy. Once the homestudy is done, we can go "full speed ahead" on the paperwork for AAI and the Ethiopian government. One step at a time.

We are FINALLY getting our first taste of winter here in Ames, IA this weekend. We have had so little snow so far this year. There has been talk that we might see 5-7 inches by tomorrow morning, so that is very exciting. I am not so fond of having to drive on the snowy and icy roads, but I do love the snow. There is something magical about everything being covered by a clean, white blanket. Of course, in IA the clean and white parts don't last all that long. It seems like it doesn't take long at all before it turns into a dirty and gray mess. But, I have to admit it just doesn't seem like winter without the snow.








On a final note....Grommit decided to sleep on my head last night. He likes to sleep on my pillow, and I usually don't mind, but sleeping ON my head is a bit much. I think when we move to our new house (whenever we do that) we are going to have to keep the dogs off the bed. We'll have to make them their own bed. We might even have to make a "humans only" rule for our bed in the future!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Geography Lesson

My friend Anita (http://www.gillispiefam.blogspot.com/) posted this information on her blog the other day and I promptly stole the idea (and the information) for my own blog! Thanks Anita! Most of this information came from UNICEF.

Pay close attention to the estimates of the number of people with HIV, the percentage of people who have iodized salt available to them (necessary for preventing birth defects), the number of mothers who die in childbirth, and the number of phones available per 100 people. We take so much for granted in our lives, it is so easy to forget that others don't have the things that we use everyday.

Altitude:
Ames, IA: 925 feet
Addis Ababa: 8,300 feet

Population:
77,431,000

Population of Addis Ababa (Capital City):
2.7 million

Population under 18 years:
51.3%

Population under 5 years:
17%

Population that is urbanized:
16%

Population living on less than $1 per day:
23%

Per Capita Income:
$160

Life Expectancy:
48

Under 5 mortality rank (1 being the worst):
19

Under 1 mortality rank (1 being the worst):
109

Percentage of Infants with Low Birth Weight:
15%

Percentage of kids under 5 that are underweight:
38%

Percentage of Households with Iodized Salt:
28%

Percentage of Households with improved water:
22%

Percentage of Households with adequate sanitation facilities:
13%

Estimated # of People with AIDS (low):
420,000 (.54%)

Estimated # of People with AIDS (high):
1,300,000 (1.6%)

Estimated # of Orphans (0-17 years):
4,800,000 (6.2%)

Skilled Attendant at Childbirth:
6%

One in __ mothers die during childbirth:
1 in 14

Child Labor (5-14 years):
43%

# of Phones Per 100 People:
1 per 100

Sunday, January 7, 2007

expected timeline for our adoption

For those of you who are wondering what it means that we are beginning the process of an international adoption, I thought that I would give you a rough timeline of what we can expect. Mind you, this will be a VERY ROUGH timeline because to be completely honest, I don't even know exactly what to expect :)

We sent in our application on January 3, and we expect to hear back from AAI within about 2 weeks to find out if we have been officially accepted into their program and on their first waiting list. Because AAI is such a well-known and well-respected agency, they have a large number of families who apply to adopt through them. This means that families have to wait a little bit longer. We will likely have to wait for about 2-3 months before we can get started on the homestudy and dossier paperwork that we need to get together and send to the Ethiopian government. We will also have to submit paperwork to the US Dept. of Immigration. During the process we will have to have background checks and be fingerprinted as well.

Once we start the homestudy and dossier preparation, I expect that it will likely take a couple of months to complete this step.

When the dossier has been sent to and accepted by the Ethiopian government, then we begin our second wait. This wait will be while AAI locates children who match our criteria. AAI has not been able to estimate how long this step will take. It will all depend on which children are in the orphanages that AAI works with at the time we are ready and which other families are in the process at the same time we are. It could be anywhere from 1 month to 4 months for this (maybe longer, maybe shorter).

When they find children who fit our criteria, they send us pictures of them and medical and personality information (this is called the referral) and we decide whether or not these kids are right for us. If so, we officially accept the referral and we start ANOTHER waiting period. We wait for our case to go to Ethiopian court, where they will officially declare the children "ours". So, even though they won't yet be home, they will legally be our children.

Then, the next wait. We wait for the date of our embassy appointment where we will be issued visas for our children so they can travel home with us. Once we have the embassy appointment, we are free to travel and pick up our kids!

We are hoping that this entire process will proceed quickly and we will have our kids home by Christmas 2007! It could go quickly, depending on several factors (like whether or not we identify children ourselves from a waiting child list) or it could go slowly. Either way, it looks like there will be a lot of hurry-ups and waits in the next year. Hurry up and get the paperwork done....Hurry up and get the homestudy done...wait...wait...wait. But it will all be totally worth it in the end.

The process of international adoption is no easy task. But one thing is sure. Our kids will always know that we worked very hard to get them home. And that we took a very active part in bringing them home because we love them...and we wanted them.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Reflections on the past and looking forward to the future...

Z and I got married just over 3 years ago now. In the grand scheme of things, three years is a drop in the bucket, yet most days it feel like we've been together forever. We finish each other's sentences, we (usually) tend to make the same decisions (at least the big ones), we have the same interests (we're such nerds, we know), and most importantly, we both have the same plans for our family and our future.


For those of you who have known us for a long time, some of you may think that this whole adoption idea was completely spearheaded by yours truly. And while that may be true in the initial discussion, I in no way had to twist anyone's arm or do any convincing. Once the idea was proposed (way early in our relationship - this has always been an interest of mine) Z was fully on board. In fact I think his first reaction was "That's cool. Infertility runs in my family anyway - so even if we wanted our own kids we might not be able to."


While we were dating we did the standard "getting to know each other" stuff. Lots of dates, lots of time spent together, and lots of learning about what each other was interested in. Our wedding was just days before Z left for Iraq to serve for 14 months in a transportation unit. During that entire year, we were able to talk on the phone a total of 4 times. We learned how to communicate with each other without the luxury of hearing each other's voices and seeing each other's body language. Despite the fact that we didn't talk on the phone, we did chat online nearly every day. Those times were totally precious to me. EVERYTHING in my life stopped if Z was online to talk! Even though we weren't in the same city, the same state, or even the same continent we were able to learn even more about each other. I was worried when he got back that our relationship would be different. That it would be harder, that we would feel like we didn't know each other anymore. But it was the opposite of that. It was a though he had never been gone.


Now that we are deep into "adoption mode", we are learning even more about each other. We are learning how big our hearts truly are for these children that we don't even have yet. I am learning that my husband has a huge heart for all kids and is especially vulnerable to children with special needs. I've always known that he had a heart for people with special needs (he currently works with adults who have special needs), but I had never really thought about how good he would be at being a father to a special needs child. For that matter, about how he will be a great dad in general.


I am so looking forward to going through this journey with my loving husband. He is amazing and I don't say it often enough.


I would marry you all over again....

Monday, January 1, 2007

Happy New Year...from our family to yours!

Ok...so my last few posts have been pretty heavy. I promise to keep things a little bit lighter (for at least a little while). This post won't have much, if anything to do with adoption (except maybe a little update right at the end), but I thought it would be fun for us to share our "furbabies" with you all....all 5 of them!

So here goes!








First is our Westie Grommit. He is Z's little white puppy, but he loves to cuddle with me, too. He is incredibly perceptive and expressive - letting us know exactly how he feels. He even likes to tell us when its bed time!








Next is Oliver (Ollie). This is my puppy. He and Grommit are best buds and won't do anything without the other. They are constantly playing and/or fighting over something. Like brothers who have to share a room and all their toys. Oh...and he snores...loudly. He's doing it right now...




Now to the kitties...First there is Mojo. My little Mojo. He was adopted from our local animal shelter (as were all of our cats) and he wasn't in the best shape when I found him. But, I felt so bad for the little guy. And now he is my best bud! He loves to cuddle with me and will often decide that when I'm in the middle of trying to work on my thesis at my computer is the best time to cuddle. Onto my lap and cuddled-in tight he goes. Of course, it doesn't always make it easy to type that way....He could kind of care less if Z is around to take care of him....and he'll wander around the house meowing if he can't find me.











Next is Crickette. She is without a doubt Z's cat. She LOVES him, and she could mostly care less about me (unless of course Z is gone, then she wanders around "talking" to me and telling me that Z is gone). She is by far the cat that is most friendly toward the dogs and we think she sometimes thinks she IS a dog.







Last, but definitely not least, is Paka. She was my first cat when I lived in an apartment by myself when I started graduate school. So she was queen of the castle then, and she is most definitely queen of the castle now. Both dogs are very aware that she is on top, and she'll remind them when they forget. I don't know what she does...but both dogs know not to bother her! Despite the fact that she is not the most photogenic cat, she is definitely our silliest cat. She will hide around corners and pounce when you walk by, she will spend hours hiding and playing with Mojo, she chases her tail on a regular basis, and she has some really funny obsessive-compulsive habits. In the winter, you can usually find her sitting right on top of the floor heating vents, greedily soaking up the heat.

So...there are ALL of our furbabies! Aren't they cute! Z jokingly said one day that we should have as many kids as we do pets so that we can assign a pet to each child. Uh oh...we're 5 kids behind!

Now for a pretty small adoption update....We finally filled out the final bits of the adoption application to AAI and put together some of the paperwork we needed. It is now signed, dated, and sealed in an envelope ready to go. Now we just need to wait until Wednesday when the post office opens back up to send it! We're officially getting started! Of course....it will be a little while before the next step begins, I suppose.