Friday, August 31, 2007

Call Me Stupid

So...Apparently I'm an idiot.

But, before starting this story I am going to let all my internet friends know that when I have a story of major frustration to share that I am going to TRY to come up with a silver lining at the end. You know...I'm trying to work on my cynicism. And I've got a lot of it. So, by the time I finish writing this story, I am going to try to come up with something that makes me feel just a little bit better.

Quite a while ago, we applied to have our 171-H changed to reflect our desire to adopt from Ghana, instead of Ethiopia. This meant sending in a new form....200 additional dollars....and a general pain in the butt. But, we did it all, sent it in and thought we were golden. A couple of weeks later we got a letter from DHS stating they needed a copy of our homestudy that stated our desire to adopt from Ghana.

Hmmm....the original homestudy we sent them stated our desire to adopt from Ghana. Did they not read it?

So, I email them to ask them - "Do you need me to send you a copy of the homestudy, even though it will be EXACTLY the same as what you already have in your file?" You know...I want to save the planet, one sheet of paper at a time...why waste paper if they ALREADY have the file?

No response.

A couple of weeks after that, we received a letter from the consulate in Ghana. Unfortunately, we took this to mean that they (the local DHS people) indeed opened our file, noticed their mistake and processed the form.

However, we never received a new copy of our 171-H. So, I emailed them again to ask about it. They tell me that they sent a request for our homestudy and they haven't received anything. Well...I didn't get a response from their office either.

So, I email again.

Then I call.

The "customer service" representative that I spoke to said "I don't have any information on any particular cases here. I think you should just set up a meeting with them to talk about your particular case. You can make an appointment on our website. Or you can just send the documents in."

I ask: "So, what you're saying is that I should just re-send the documents they already have, or I should make an appointment to tell them in person that they already have it."

Response: "mHmmm...yeah"

Ok...So, I'm angry at this point. Can no one check our file to see that they already have what they are asking for? Its Friday....the Friday before labor day. I leave work in the middle of the morning to go home, gather up the homestudy documents and the letter the DHS sent us and then head off to Staples to make copies. I fill out the envelope, put everything inside, drive to the post office and spend almost $5 to send it priority to an office that's only 30 miles away.

Lesson Learned:
When DHS says they need you to send them something - just send it. Just waste the paper and send it, even though you KNOW they already have the same EXACT document in their file. Just send it. Don't bother emailing; don't bother calling. Just send it.

Silver Lining:
At least when I headed back to campus to go back to work I managed to score rock-star parking in the parking lot. A space only 3 cars away from the bus stop.

So, after all of that I finally got a response to my email (my second email asking the same question). The email said that they no longer had our homestudy because once we were approved the homestudy was sent on to the consulate.

So...if you ever have this issue that is why you need to send the new copy of the homestudy. Who knew? I just wish I hadn't assumed several weeks ago that they had approved things and sent them on to Ghana. Then I would have sent in the documents and all of this would be done by now.

I need a vacation.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Quote for Today...

"Lord, deliver me from the urge to open my mouth when I should shut it.
Give me wisdom to keep silent when silence is wise.
Remind me that not everything needs to be said, and that there are very few things that need to be said by me."
~Elisabeth Elliot

Thanks Lisa, for sharing this quote after a day of much discussion on one of the adoption forums. I think we all need to be reminded of this every once in a while! Now...if I could just keep my trap shut sometimes!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lost in Thought

There are days when I love having a blog...I look forward to adding a new post and updating the world on our adoption process. Then there are other days where I wish I didn't have a blog. Not because I don't want to update the world on our progress and not because anything bad has happened, but just because I don't have anything in particular that I WANT to share. Then, the days go by and I start to feel bad that I haven't posted anything for a while.

We are moving along in the adoption process. In fact, we recently got some encouraging news. News that means it is within the realm of reality that our boys could be home for Christmas. Christmas 2007. This is FANTASTIC news! When we started the process of adoption on January 2nd, our goal was to have our kids home by Christmas. It was a goal we set for ourselves because we assumed it was far enough out that by then, surely, our kids would be home (naive, I know). We weren't waiting for a baby, so our wait should be shorter. Then, we switched countries and that goal seemed a little out of reach. But now it is back within reality. And that makes me happy!

I guess I am just in that place in our journey where I am finding myself totally lost in thought at times. I am totally and utterly in love with two little boys who are thousands of miles away. I can't give them hugs and kisses. I can't read them a story and tuck them into bed at night. I can't ease their fears and provide reassurance. I can't fix up the cuts and scrapes and send them on their way to play outside with Spongebob Squarepants band-aids covering the ouchies. I can't put on all their new clothes and make sure they fit OK. I can't whisper "I love you" in their ears. I can't reassure them that they have a mom and a dad and we ARE coming for them.

All I can do is pray about them, think about them, and prepare for their homecoming. I pray that someone is filling in for me on all of those things. I pray that they are being handled with love and that someone is saying "I love you" and someone is kissing and hugging them. I pray that when they get cuts and scrapes that someone notices and comforts them - then cleans them up, bandages them, and encourages them to get back in the game. I pray that someone is teaching them new things everyday. I pray that someone reads stories to them. I pray that someone shows them our pictures and reminds them that we are here, in the United States, waiting for them. I pray that someone comforts them and assures them that we WILL be coming to get them. I pray that someone is telling them that their mom and dad love them very much and can't wait to see them.

I know that as far as orphanages go, our boys are in a "good" one. There aren't a lot of kids in the orphanage yet...the caretakers really care about the kids...they have a good teacher working with the kids...they are getting lots of good food and attention. But, the truth is, even the very best of orphanages is not a HOME. They are not home. They don't have a mom and a dad taking care of them everyday; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I am very thankful for the caretakers at Eban House. I appreciate all of their hard work and I love that they are loving our boys. But I can't wait for the day when I can tell them "thank you - we'll take it from here".

I thought I'd share this quote. Maybe I should start a quote of the day series of least then I'd get a post in. Maybe...don't hold me to it just yet. ;)

"I know God won't give me anything I can't handle. I just wish He didn't trust me so much." ~Mother Theresa

Thursday, August 16, 2007

School Time

I'm not totally sure where this post is going, but I just feel like I had to write about this topic and get it out there. So, we'll see where we end up! ;)

Z and I live in Ames, Iowa. A university town. A town that adds about 26,000 people to its population THIS WEEK. Suddenly all the Target, Walmart, K-Mart, and HyVee checking lanes are full and guiding your shopping cart through the stores seems more like time playing "bumper cars" than it does like a shopping expedition. Moms and Dads are busy buying school supplies, new backpacks, new clothes, etc. for their little ones and more experienced Moms and Dads are busy buying new bedding, storage containers, groceries, computers, and expensive books for their new college student children.

Ever since I started attending graduate school here in Ames, I have loved and dreaded this week. I love the anticipation of a new school year (even if I'm no longer attending school). I love seeing all the students come back to campus. I love seeing little kids picking out new school supplies. I love the smell of fresh, new erasers. But, I also dread having all the students come back to town. It means that city buses are more full. Traffic gets more complicated (you know, for a midwestern town). And the trips to Target and the grocery store get longer because I have to wait so much longer in lines.

This year, this week seems especially bitter-sweet to me. This is the first year (since starting Kindergarten) that I am NOT enrolled in school. The first year in all of my life (except for those pre-school years). I'm excited to be moving on to a new chapter, but at the same time, a little sad. I've ALWAYS been a student. And now, I'm not.

To add to that, last week Jellybean turned 5. Our oldest little boy is no longer a pre-schooler. He could officially join a Kindergarten class. The first year at school. That means excitement! That means buying new school supplies (crayons, pencils, rulers, glue, markers, erasers, pencil boxes, paper, scissors, etc.). It means picking out a new backpack, new tennis shoes, new clothes, and a lunchbox (or filling the lunch account at school). I so look forward to the days when I can take my boys shopping for all these new and exciting school supplies. And if Jellybean were home, we'd be doing it now.

A week or so ago, I went to Target and purchased a bunch of school supplies for the boys so that we would have them at home when the boys got here. Afterall, this is the time of year to get that kind of stuff. The stores have TONS of it, its on sale, and you can buy a box of crayons for 12 cents. But, its not the same as it would have been had the boys been home. Now the school supplies are sitting in a rubbermaid storage container in their room, just waiting to be opened and used in artwork, practicing letters and numbers, and gluing construction paper together to make handprint turkeys and the like. I wasn't one of the moms carrying around a school supply list from their school district, checking off items as they were added to the shopping cart. I wasn't one of the moms measuring her child's foot in the shoe aisle, trying to determine just how much his/her feet had grown over the summer. I wasn't one of the moms who had that lump in her throat as she shopped, knowing that her "baby" would be heading off to school in a few days.

Not this year anyway. Next year that will be me.

For some reason, Jellybean's birthday last week has struck some sort of chord in me. When we accepted the referral of the boys we knew Jellybean was 4 and Peanut was 3. I knew in my head that Jellybean would be 5 when he got home and Peanut would be either 3 or 4 (depending on when they got here). But, knowing when his birthday is...having the day pass without him here...and knowing he has now just turned 5 seems so BIG. 5 years old. Suddenly this little boy doesn't seem so little anymore. He has 5 years of personal history. We've missed 5 years of his life. 4 years didn't seem so much...but 5?!? That seems like a lot. When he gets here, he'll be old enough to go right to school. We'll be just bringing the boys home and we'll have to decide whether or not to enroll him in school right away, or hold him back until the next school year (while working on "school stuff" at home).

Most moms get 5 years to work up to that first day of school. I'll be lucky if I get a few months.

Mommy-hood...I better get ready. I'm not a mom yet (in life)...but I have two very handsome little boys waiting for me across the ocean. In my heart, I'm their mom...they're just not here yet.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Happy Birthday Jellybean!!

Jellybean turns 5 today. Happy Birthday kiddo!

He is no longer a pre-schooler, but a full-fledged Kindergartener.

Here is a video of Jellybean counting. He does pretty well for a kid who just started learning English in March! Peanut makes a cameo appearance in the video as well!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

So much more than I was hoping for....

Heidi returned from her trip to Ghana and her husband Kurt posted her pictures online for those of us who were just itching to see them. Thank you Heidi and Kurt! These pictures were so much more than we could have ever hoped to get. I am so anxious to go get my boys now (not that I wasn't before)!

Here is a picture of the boys going through their photo albums (from the welcome bags we sent them). That's us in the picture. Is it not too precious for words that Peanut is kissing the photos? And the woman going through the photo album with them? I don't know her...but I love her. I love all the women who are working with our children at Eban House. Every time I see new pictures of the boys they look happier and healthier. The women who work at Eban House are the reason the kids are happy and healthy. They are being well-cared for and they are being LOVED. Knowing that makes the wait so much easier for us.
And now for a couple pictures of Jellybean and Peanut wearing their super-special Iowa State University T-shirts! (whew! Thank God they fit them!)And my first glimpses of our boys' artwork. I think they could be artistic geniuses...what do you think? Oh...and a minor observation. We got a couple of pictures of Peanut with purple things...purple artwork...purple lacing toy. Maybe my boy likes know, like his momma!

And yes...I think it is perfectly ok if my boy likes purple!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

How Long??

We've had the "official referral" for our boys for a little over a month now. We are learning more and more about them (whenever we get updates from agency personnel and/or traveling parents). We've learned what size clothes they wear; what size shoes they wear. We are learning more about what they are learning at the orphanage and what kinds of foods they are eating.

We're fielding all kinds of questions from our friends and family members who want to know all sorts of things about the boys.
-How old are they?
-When are their birthdays?
-Do you know anything about their birth family?
-Do they speak English?
-Do they know about you?

But, for us, the most dreaded question is:
-When are you going to get them?

We are learning to just put it out front that we do not know when we will be able to travel. Its just easier if we don't have to hear the question - to get the answer out there before the question is asked.

We are working with a new program, and that means that we are one of the few families that will be helping to establish the expected timeline for future families. No other families have been through the program, completed an adoption, and brought their child home - at least not yet anyway. We will be one of the first.

You would think that would scare us to death. To be working with a new program. To not have a timeline that we can depend on. To know that there might be kinks along the way and that things will be unpredictable.

But, the truth is we have confidence in this new program. We are confident that this program will become a well-established program and that our agency will do great things in Ghana.

Sure, it would be nice to have a firm timeline and know when the boys might be coming home. But, we went into the program knowing that we wouldn't have an established timeline to follow. And strangely enough, we're ok with that. We know that they boys will come home at the right time. Maybe it will be soon; before we're really totally prepared and we'll have to scramble to get their clothes washed and in their dresser drawers before we travel. Maybe it will be much later and we'll be twiddling our thumbs wasting time before they get here.

For what its worth, we've been told that we could expect anywhere from 4 to 8 months from time of referral to travel. So, the reality is we could be traveling as early as October. Or, next spring sometime. Personally, I'm hoping that the boys are home for Christmas. I'm not counting on it - but it sure would be nice!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

My Heart Is Full...

Heidi (another mom in the Ghana program) is currently in Ghana on a work trip. She's helping the orphanage staff develop curriculum for their school program (they will be teaching school for the younger kids at the orphanage) and doing some projects for the orphanage as well (like painting, etc.). While she and her friends are there, they are loving on all of the kids at the orphanage, taking pictures, and providing us with fantastic updates on them.

On Saturday, Heidi handed out the Welcome Bags for the kids. Now they know about us! She said that they all seemed to understand what the welcome bags were all about and what they meant. She also said that all the kids were most interested in the photo albums of their new families and they spent time going through each one. Jellybean and Peanut kissed the pictures in the photo album!! How cute is that?!?!

Today we got another fantastic update on the kids from Heidi. She said that the kids are learning the sounds of the letters of the alphabet. They have a song to help them remember "A, ah, apple" "B, buh, ball" etc. She said that she was teaching the kids her name later in the day and Jellybean said "Heidi, huh, H". He figured out that her name starts with an H. Internets, our boy is SMART!

I have loved getting updates and photos of our kids as AAI staff have traveled and taken pictures of them. Those pictures are SO PRECIOUS to me. I stare at them...trying to really see what they were thinking and how they were feeling when the shutter closed. But, I can honestly say that the updates we've gotten from Heidi during this trip are making my heart sing! And they came WITHOUT PICTURES! I'm getting a glimpse into their personalities! The child-specific updates are small...just a sentence scattered into a much larger update about all the children in the orphanage as a whole. But those sentences pop out to me and I hold on to them tightly.

Now...I just have to wait for Heidi to get home so she can share the photos with me! ;)

If you want to read some of Heidi's updates go here.