Thursday, May 31, 2007

Random Updates

I haven't posted in a while and figured that I better get something up before people give up on reading my blog!

There is not a ton to report, I have to admit....The program coordinator for our agency's new Ghana program is in Ghana right now taking care of things, getting things set up, and learning a lot about the Ghana program so that she can tell the anxious pilot families all about what we can expect. She has been giving us updates when she can from Ghana and it sounds like she is being very productive! They found the house for the new agency orphanage, they have hired Ghanaians to work at the house, they are planning to provide schooling to the younger kids on site so they don't have to walk a long distance to go to school, and they are even hoping to make one of the rooms in the house a guest room for visitors! I am so excited about the future of this program and I know that the right people are working to make it a very good program. I am hoping that I will have a lot more updates to share with you in a couple weeks when the program coordinator gets back home from her trip!

Z has been at his new job for a couple of weeks now and is loving it! I think that he will be very happy there. Lately, he has even been getting up before me in the morning! And, the part that I love the most? He is home in the evenings with me now! My schedule is flexible, but I usually work the typical 8 or 9 to 5....Z used to work in the evenings, so I wouldn't see him at all until after 10pm. But, now he works from 8-4, so I get to see him in the evenings! Once I'm done with my thesis, I don't know what we'll do with all that time together! Its going to be great!

We have been doing some yard saling lately, trying to pick up some odds and ends that we know we will need for our future kiddos. This summer yard sale season will be the best opportunity for us to pick things up cheaply to help our dollars stretch as far as we can make them. We've been picking up clothing mostly so far...but we're definitely keeping our eyes open for a set of bunk beds. For those of you who are currently parents of (or have parented) toddlers, what are some "must have" things for us to keep our eyes open for?

Monday, May 28, 2007

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Build-a-Bear


On Saturday, May 19th Build-a-Bear is allowing the first 200 customers in the store to build a bear that will be donated to the Joint Council of International Children's Services. These bears will be donated to kids who are in need of loving families. So - go to your local store and Build a Bear! After making your bear for donation, you'll get a coupon for $3.00 off a $15.00 purchase. I'm not sure that I'll be able to make it to the store on Saturday morning...but if I do, I'll take pictures.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I've been tagged...

I've been tagged by Rae! Yay- fun blogging games! Now I have to tell 7 little-known things about me for all the blogger world to read...

Hmmm....

1. When I was in the 6th grade my class had a St. Urho's Day party (my teacher was Finnish). One of my duties was to make the Kool-Aid for the party, so off to the school kitchen I went. All of the cooks were gone for the day, so I just grabbed the first white granular substance I could find and mixed it with the Kool-Aid and water. Yep - you guessed it - not sugar. It was salt. Salt does NOT make good lime Kool-Aid! Luckily we had some extra packets and I finally managed to find the sugar. Of course, I got some teasing after that...the "smart girl" in class didn't even know how to make Kool-Aid!

2. For the past 3 years, I have spent at least 2 weeks in the summer crawling around on the ground in the Black Hills of South Dakota looking for tiny ferns - and I LOVED it! This year I can't make the trip, and I SO WISH I could go. Even though I have not had a trip to the Black Hills that did not include both scorching heat AND snow in the same trip. I've even looked for these little ferns during a hail storm!

3. Like Jocelyn, I don't shave my legs above the knee either. I have light blonde hair on my legs, too...so what's the point? I have way too much to do, by the time I remember to shave my legs in the morning I'm usually running late already, and really what's the point...not even my husband would notice the difference!

4. I have traveled to Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, and Taiwan for my thesis research. I only spent a long weekend in Puerto Rico, nearly three weeks in Costa Rica, and 2 months in Taiwan. I also traveled to Tanzania when I was a senior in college. It was a totally life-changing trip!

5. I used to dress my little brother up in dresses and put make-up on him! He hates to be reminded of it now....but I KNOW he liked it! He was smiling in all of the pictures, after all ;)

6. My husband and I have a serious soft spot for animals....We have 2 dogs and 3 shelter-rescued cats. We also have a small aquarium with a few fish and a couple of lizards.

7. I didn't learn how to use chop-sticks until I went to Taiwan (even though I had planned to learn before I left, but ran out of time to practice). If I wanted to eat, I HAD to learn how to use them! So, I learned pretty quickly. Although, at first, it was pretty embarrassing to be the only "white girl" in the restaurant - EVERYONE watches you and critiques you on your chop-stick usage. I am proud to say that by the end of the first two weeks I was a pro - and people complimented me on my ability to use chopsticks! Before that - they snickered at me. No one there expects you to be able to use chopsticks, so when you can, they are pleasantly surprised. I am also happy to say that I NEVER asked for other utensils. Even if it took me longer to get the food to my mouth. When in Rome, do as the Romans do....

And...since I'm going to play a Jamie here and not officially "tag" anyone else (if you are reading this and haven't done it yourself already, consider yourself "tagged") I am going to add another little-known tidbit for good measure.

8. When I was in Tanzania I ate termites. Yep - that's right, I ate termites. We happened to be there when the termites were leaving their underground homes to colonize a new location. So, there were termites flying everywhere! Our guide's two sons decided that we needed to learn about a Tanzanian delicacy...termites. The boys caught them, took their wings off and popped them in like popcorn. None of us were really interested in that, so they offered to cook them for us - in butter. A bit crunchy...and with the butter, very much like popcorn!

Because I'm a nerd like that...

So, for those of you who don't know, I'm a plant nerd. I LOVE plants...and I'm a graduate student in Botany (well, for the next few weeks anyway). I got my Bachelor's degree at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN and right now they have a very unusual plant in bloom (and its getting a LOT of attention).

Go here to see a news story on it.

Gustavus also has a webcam set up so that even if you can't visit it yourself, you can still see it. Although, you won't be able to smell it (which is probably a good thing). After all - its not called a corpse flower for nothin'!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A bit of background...

Ok...so you might have noticed that I made some changes to the blog...no longer do I have the current time in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on the blog (instead the time is for Accra, Ghana)...I have a new country flag on the blog....and today I just changed the title.

So, even though things aren't really "official" yet, I am making an announcement today. We have decided on a slight change of plans for our adoption. I'll explain, with some blackground information.

Last July, I spent some time doing some research on international adoption. At the time, Z and I assumed we could never afford it, but I had also heard that the rates for international adoption for countries in Africa were not on the same scale as the often quoted rates for places like Guatemala, China, and Russia. Z and I were not really interested in adopting from places like Guatemala, China, and Russia (not because the children there are not beautiful and not in need, but because we didn't feel a personal connection to those places). But we were definitely interested in Africa. So, I decided to do some checking. The continent of Africa is huge, and there are lots of countries; but very few have infrastructure in place to support international adoption. So, after some research, we realized that our choices were Liberia, Ethiopia, and Ghana. Several other countries in Africa allow international adoptions, but no agencies work in them so the adoption would have to be done independently (we definitely did not feel comfortable with that), or the country is open to adoption from some countries, but not the U.S.

For some reason, Liberia never really spoke to either Z or myself. I'm not sure why...there are great people working in Liberia and there are certainly lots of kids in need there, but it just wasn't where our kids were.

We immediately fell in love with Ghana. Western Africa, on the coast, English is the national language, a rich but dark history....There were lots of things to love there. In our location in central Iowa, there is a fairly large population of West African immigrants. Since the national language is English, perhaps we would feel more comfortable traveling there (and maybe our own parents would be willing to travel there someday as well). It is a place I can easily imagine myself wanting to travel to over and over (which we want to do, so that our kids continue to feel connected to their home country and culture). West Africa is well-known for fabric and fabric art...as a quilter that's heaven to me. But...at the time we were considering Ghana there was only one agency working there. For several reasons, this particular agency just didn't feel like the right place to us. We thought about it, but decided we needed to have a back-up plan in place in case we still didn't feel just right about it when we were actually ready to send in the application to get started.

The back-up plan was Ethiopia. There are a ton of reasons to love Ethiopia. Ethiopia has a rich history, beautiful people, an adoption-friendly culture, lots of agencies working in Ethiopia to facilitate adoptions, and because Ethiopian adoptions are gaining "popularity" there are a number of Ethiopian children in the U.S. (and several fairly large Ethiopian immigrant populations across the U.S.). I can honestly say that I love Ethiopia...and I would have been completely happy pursuing an adoption in Ethiopia. But, another opportunity arose that we just couldn't ignore.

We decided to work with AAI (Adoption Advocates International) for our adoption. We applied, signed a contract, finished our homestudy, and started putting together a dossier. Then, the news came. AAI was going to start a program in Ghana! What are the chances that the agency we settled with in Ethiopia was going to start a program in the country we had originally wanted to adopt from? We learned more about the program and decided we wanted to be a part of it. It is a brand new program...there are lots of unknowns...We don't know what our timeline will be...we no longer know whether hoping to have children home by Christmas 2007 is a reasonable goal or not (though for now we're still holding on to that goal)...we are learning about a new adoption system and what to expect the process to be like. We are breaking new ground here. Its exciting and a bit scary, but for us it feels right.

The decision for us to be a part of this new program came quite a while ago and there was a flurry of new information going back and forth between myself and AAI's Ghana program coordinator. I am learning a ton about Ghana...and about what AAI hopes for the future of their program in Ghana. But, for now, it seems like the adoption process is standing still. Not because the program coordinator isn't working like crazy, and not because the Ghanaian employee isn't working very hard to get things going. I think to me it feels stalled because everything that's going on is going on without me having to fill out more paperwork. We haven't completed our Ghanaian dossier yet because we are waiting on something from Ghana. We don't have official referrals yet because there is a specific process that needs to happen in Ghana first (a Ghanaian process that helps to protect children and is a very good thing).

From where I was in the process while we were still working toward an Ethiopian adoption, I am surprised about how okay I actually am about the current lack of paperwork and obvious activity in our adoption process. I know it will all happen when its supposed to. I know that the Ghana program coordinator will contact me when stuff does start happening. I know that the agency we chose to work with will do things the right way and that the program in Ghana will eventually be a great one. And, I'm totally ok with helping them to get to that point, even if it means some additional unknowns in our process.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Praying for Lucas

An adoptive parent that I have quoted several times on my blog (and who's own blog I LOVE to read) has a child who needs prayer today...Avery's son Lucas got burned and needs prayer and some extra love sent his way.

You can find out more on Avery's blog....

You can also find out more on Heather's blog (Avery's wife)...

Thinking of you all here at 7,812 miles.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Happy Birthday, Babe!

So...today is Z's birthday!

Happy Birthday to you!

In honor of this momentous occasion, this post will be fishing themed (as fishing is by far Z's favorite pastime). Hmm...I wonder how long it will take before our kids have fishing poles??


Here's Z reeling in a big one!



I think this is the fish he reeled in...

(Just kidding...the fish he actually reeled in was a MUCH larger catfish)

In other Z related news...Z got a new job today. YAY Z!!!

I love you, babe!

Monday, May 7, 2007

World AIDS Orphans Day

Monday, May 7th is World AIDS Orphans Day. What does that mean exactly? I'm not totally sure...How should we recognize the day as such? I'm not totally sure.

Right now there are an estimated 15 million AIDS orphans in the world. By the year 2010, it is thought the estimate could reach 100 million AIDS orphans. How do you even begin to wrap your mind around those numbers? Who is going to feed 100 million orphans? Who's going to provide them with clothes and homes? Who is going to wish them well on their first day of school? Who is going to kiss their "ouchies" and tuck them in at night? Who's going to read 100 million bed-time stories and remind 100 million kids to brush their teeth?

The number is unfathomable. Even at 15 million, the number is unfathomable. I don't know what to do to fix this. But, today we should at least spend a little time thinking about it. Think about the reality for these kids. Maybe write a few letters...maybe sign a few petitions....maybe say a few prayers. We have to find a way to make these numbers stop getting bigger and bigger. If this were an American problem, would we sit by and watch the numbers get bigger? Would we call it a "cultural problem" and let them fend for themselves? If we saw the faces of these children every day, could we look away, pretending they didn't exist? Of course not.

In the words of Bono, "We cannot let where we live determine whether we live or whether we die."

Remember the AIDS orphans today....think of a way you can try to make a difference. Go here for more information. While I don't know much about this organization...and don't personally know if its legit or not....I can say that getting the word out about AIDS orphans in the world is a good thing. I haven't had time to investigate this group and learn more about them myself yet, but I plan to when I have more time. For now...I'm just remembering the orphans, thinking about them, and trying to figure out how I can make a difference. There HAS to be some way, right?