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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Last Year At This Time

On this day last year Dustin and I were meeting our son Jonas for the first time. You can watch the video* here.

We travelled with an awesome group of people who will forever come to mind at Christmas. We shared such amazing, life changing events together. I wish somehow I could hug them all today and share once again the joy of our experience.

You can visit some some of their blogs:

Stager Family

Burk Family

Caldwell Family

*Disregard the date at the beginning of the video. We were in Addis for a week before meeting Jonas working with some friends at Hope for the Hopeless. All those busy days bled together. When and I made this clip after we got home I guessed at the date and got it wrong. Thankfully sources more reliable than myself straightened me out.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Home Study Update

I receoved an email from our Social Services Coordinator. She informed me that our home study (HS) has been submitted to corporate for their final review. The catch is everyone is out of the office for the holiday season. They get back the 3rd of Jan. She doesn't arrive until the 5th. If our HS been reviewed by then and is waiting in her inbox on the 5th she will submit it to the court.

I'm not holding my breath that the HS will have been reviewd by the 5th but I do hope and pray that it will be review before the end of that week. It would be very lovely if the court would have the approved HS back to us by February.

Ooooh I get tingles thinking about being able to request a court date soon!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Finished With Five

I was recently reminded again of a special conversation Dustin and I had before we were married. Actually, I'm sure we had this conversation several times but I seem to be able to recall one in particular. We were doing as young lovers do, dreaming about our approaching wedding and the life we would share together. We talked about how we love our large families and dreamt of the one we hoped to build.

It was during this conversation that Dustin and I determined we'd like to have 5 children. At that time the number seemed a bit random. For some reason we couldn't explain we knew we wanted more than four. And six, well, that seemed like too many. But 5, well now, that was a number we could manage.

Then, we had our first child, followed closely by our second 16 months later. We wondered if maybe two would be enough.

Over time we grew more proficient in the art of multi tasking and confident that we were, in fact, decent parents. That was about the time the Lord decided to add baby girl #3 to the mix. By the time she was born we were convinced the main reason God brought us together at such a young age was to have enough energy to raise all the children He would give us.

When Dustin and I began our adoption journey that fateful May 2007 we knew from the very beginning we'd be adopting two boys from Ethiopia. Our intention for this was not simply to achieve our goal of five kids (the idea never crossed our minds), but more out of a desire that the boys be close in age so as to have each other as playmates. We knew it would be important for them to share the common bonds of adoption and race within the family.

As sure as we were felt that May about adopting two boys we didn't feel we should request two at the same time. We knew it would be less expensive for our family to adopt two boys simultaneously. We knew that bringing home two kids at once would be a tall order but not impossible. But, we just didn't have peace about it. So we requested a single child and waited to be matched with our spunky, sweet Jonas.

Whenever people would mention that they were requesting two boys at once I'd feel a strange twinge of something. I never did know what to call it... doubt, maybe? Often I wondered if we had made the right decision. Mostly, my concerns had to do with money and whether we truly would be able to afford to go back to Ethiopia and adopt a second son. I knew there would be more sacrifice involved for our other children in order for us to complete a second international adoption ( i.e. College fund? What is this thing you speak of?)

Last night I was overwhelmed at the realization of all the Lord has done to build up our family, and all the details He orchestrated to bring us to this point. I realized: Even when Dustin and I thought son #2 would be on the back burner for a while God was designing a way to bring him home. Not just any boy number two, but OUR number two. The RIGHT #2 for this family- A*.

It was surprising to us (but not the Lord), when shortly after we arrived home with Jonas we began to feel a pressing urgency to adopt again. It felt so sudden that we would immediately feel drawn to kids with special needs. When, through a series of twists and turns we ended up looking over AWAA's waiting child list right before Jonas' six month post placement visit with the social worker (SW) it felt to us as if the timing couldn't be more awkward. Who does that anyway? Who looks at a waiting child list like one day before the SW is due to arrive for their 6 month PP visit?

Apparently we do, because, there A* was. The just-right boy for us.

As we sat and talked with our SW during her visit about the idea of pursuing another child so soon after bringing Jonas home our vision suddenly became clear, and we realized that the Lord had been preparing us for A*, his HIV, and the care he would require all along. I found I was reciting a list of reasons why our family was the right match for A* and was surprised and how logical and sensible it all sounded coming out of my mouth. It was as if the Lord was speaking to me and through me at the same time. Our social worker responded in a shockingly agreeable way. She, too, seemed to believe we were a good fit for A*.

... You know the rest from there. You know how the Lord provided the finances we needed to make this happen.

Last night, I turned to Dustin after I had been sitting quietly thinking and said out of the blue, "Oh my goodness! If we had requested two boys at once we never would have gotten A*."

"I know." He understood without skipping a beat, seemingly having read all my previous thoughts.

"How horrible would that have been!?"

"I KNOW!" (That's my man of few words for ya.)

It was then that I understood, possibly better than I ever have before, how everything HAD to happen this way.

The Lord has been preparing a place in this family for A* long before we ever realized it. Not just A*, but all of our children. He's timed each one of their entries perfectly, divinely. While I've always know that, somehow, I comprehend it better now. Little did Dustin and I know the night we dreamed- a little over a decade ago, now- of what our future held that we truly were meant to raise five kids after all (with another two waiting for us in heaven). The seeds of all our hopes for the future were planted in us by God. They've been watered by His faithfulness ever since.

Soon our family will be complete. A* will come home and that feeling- that unfinished feeling- will be gone forever.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Green Light for Care Package

I received an email around 7pm tonight (someone's working late!) from our family coordinator (FC) that we have permission to send A* a care package. YEAH!

I had a hunch today that I ought to get started on a photo book for him just in case. The email came as I was finishing up. I made ours at I was able to include lots of photos of our family, our home, an airplane, airport scenes, cars, etc., in an 8x8 hard cover book.

A* can at least have an idea of what to expect once we arrive there. I was able to include some Amharic too. Not much, though. It took waaaay too long accomplish the little I did. (um, like most of the day) I had to edit photos and create overlays with the Amharic font since Shutterfly wouldn't allow me to copy/paste it into their program. I had to scan the text as a photo and then edit it unto the other photos. I was able to do only a few words like, dad, mom, sisters, brother, airplane, my home, my journey because the process took so long.

Oh well, it's the thought that counts. At least the nannies can read those few words to him. I know several of the care takers can read English. I have no clue if they often have contact with our boy, let alone enough time to sit down and read to him. Even without the text in English, the pictures will be beneficial.

I'm so excited!

Our THANKS to the Shaw family for offering to bring over the care package for us. They will be traveling very soon to get their precious little girl!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Blog Buddies Part Deux

It's been so difficult for me this second second round with AWAA simply because the YG (yahoo group) has grown so much that I find it difficult to get to know new families to the program. So, I made it my mission today to spend time tracking down paperchasers and recent DTE-ers (that's Dossier To Ethiopia in adoption speak) and get to know their families a little bit. It's my way of trying to bring back some of the personal relationships that made our first adoption experience so special.

I'm sharing a list of some of their blogs here:

Two very special families I've grown especially fond of who are about to travel in January:

Home Study Complete

Thursday evening I received the draft of our Home Study (HS) for review. After looking it over I was able to give the green light for our Social Worker (SW) to submit it. I'm not sure the timeline for submission- she may have to send it to corporate for a once over before the court here receives the final draft. Again, we're shooting for about one month for approval.

After approval, well hold on to your seats, things should start moving quickly. Our dossier is ready to go! Once it arrives in Addis Ababa our agency will request a Court Date (CD) for us. They tell us a CD could happen 4-12 weeks from the date of their request.

Of course, We're always praying for a CD that is sooner rather than later in interest of A*'s health.

Since we signed on again to the program we haven't been able to receive any updates on A*'s health, nor any pictures of him. The reason for this is because we don't have an approved HS and since we have no HS we can't have an official referral (and still don't because we can't sign for him until the court approves our HS) I've written our Family Coordinator (the women who oversees our entire adoption from dossier on down) to ask if she would permit some friends of ours, who will travel early Jan to pick up their positive daughter, to take some photos of A* and deliver a care package to him from us. She is checking into it. Oh my, I'm praying so hard the answer is yes!

Helpful Checklist

I came across this checklist which details questions that are helpful for parents to ask the caregivers who worked with their adopted child in the orphanage. Since international APs can't assess whether or not their child has delays in his native language it is highly beneficial they utilize the help of those who know their child. Especially since a child's development in their native language can be a good indicator of how well he'll do learning a second language.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Adoptees and Language

We didn't have to worry much about language with Jonas. I had expected and planned for speech delays but, turns out, the boy is a chatter box and naturally seems to be a more verbal person. (Especially for a boy; which is great because he's just another loudmouth in a family full of 'em.) Jo is caught up with his peers in terms of his vocabulary. His speech becomes more and more clear every day. Every indication is that he will continue on this path making strong gains into the future.

I am now turning my sights on what life will be like when A* arrives home. I've got a lot more research to do. For now I thought I'd share the helpful article I stumbled across.

I believe I've mentioned here before that I'm working on picture cue cards for A*. It is my hope the pictures will be helpful for him as he learns his new routine with us. I'll definitely post here once we get to try them and let you know if I found them helpful or not.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Antiretroviral Drugs

Here's a link to a list of antiretroviral drugs used in the treatment of HIV.

This list is specific to treatment of pediatric HIV. Some people will find this list helpful for figuring out cost of the drugs whether on their insurance plans or private pay.

Advent Reading

A friend on Facebook suggested Jotham's Journey for good family reading during Advent, so I picked up a copy. I'm glad I did.

I have been amazed at this writer's story telling capabilities. Our children have been enthralled, and, more surprising than that, my husband actually complained at the end of a night's reading when we couldn't read on. You have to know Dustin to know he's not easily hooked into emotionally investing in a story, so this speaks highly of Jotham's Journey and the story's powerful message.

I just discovered the book is part of a trilogy titled Jotham's Journey Trilogy. The other two titles can be found by following the link I've posted above. I plan to pick up both of them for use during Advents to come.

Monday, December 14, 2009

What I've Been Up To

Hi bloggy friends. I've got lots to catch you up on.

First, we had our final post placement visit with Jonas's social worker. The remainder of our annual reports (until he turns 18) will be self written. I can't believe we are officially finished with adoption paperwork. Yahoo00!

The good news is Jonas's social worker will also be A*'s social worker, so we get to keep seeing her. This makes us happy. (I think I've mentioned a few thousand times how much we adore our social worker.)

A*'s homestudy isn't yet complete. There have been a few delays with revisions. We're waiting patiently for the review copy to arrive here any day. If it all checks out on our end they will submit our HS to the court. We're praying for a speedy approval by the court. To have the HS returned to us in one month would be awesome.

We continue to pray for A*'s health and that the Lord prepare his little heart for all that is about to happen to him.

I haven't had much time to learn more Amharic phrases lately (I've only got so much room and my Scripture memory of the book of James is using most of my brain power) but I hope to get crackin' the first of the year. I will also be making laminated picture cards of our daily schedule for A*, including cards for when he will need to take his medicine. Again, all of this to happen quickly after the New Year.

I addition to all this, lately, I've been writing. The Lord really inspired me to write a children's picture book about adoption (you'll be hearing more about it in weeks to come.) It is basically finished (still tweaking the last few bits) and I am preparing to launch my little baby out into the world of literary agents and publishers. (Eeek!) I'm looking to join a critique group but have to figure out when I could possibly fit that in with everything else I've got going on.

Oh, and our middle daughter Rory has been very ill. She's missed more school than any parent would ever feel comfortable with. You know, enough to make her sisters jealous and to ruin her from ever wanting to return. (She groused about her first day back to school this morning, informing me that she felt sure she wouldn't mind staying home forever) This Wednesday we'll followup with an ENT to see if her tonsils need to be removed. She's pretty adamant that she will NOT permit any such thing. It will be interesting, indeed, if the doc does decide she requires surgery.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Looking To The Least of These

Recently, a post by Russell Moore titled Jesus Has AIDS has caught the attention of many people. I have been pleased to see such a positive reaction to the message.

Tonight the Lord is burdening my heart for those He dearly loves who are most at risk in this world great big world.

It's hard to imagine levels of risk or need for orphans (truly could it get any worse for them?) but special needs children are the epitome of the least of these in the eyes of the world; children like Sean who require special education and training to live with disabilities.

Boys and girls with physical disabilities like Sean will have no chance to earn a living without the help of expensive prosthectics, therapies, equipment, etc. For these children there is little hope of ever leaving the orphanage.
Special needs orphans require love and attention that a team of outnumbered, overworked, and underpaid caregivers can't provide. The nature of the disabilities these kids live with require nothing less than a family's devoted love and care. Children like those of Reece's Rainbow are God's beloved; could one of them be your beloved son or daughter too?

When I saw Sean's picture I immediately thought of this man. I'm sure Nick's parents shudder to imagine missing out on the joy and richness life with their son creates.

If you can't parent a special needs child would you consider helping a family who can? Look for ways to donate to special needs adoption grants, such as Reece's Rainbow or others, and gift the blessing of parenthood this Christmas to a family with a heart for these kids.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Need Help Christmas Shopping?

My friend Lenka worked hard on an awesome post that has links to all kinds of GREAT shopping for Christmas gifts. The best part is that you can give gifts this year with a purpose. Each of these "stores" use their profits to do greater good. Buy something fun and help a great cause at the same time. What could be better?!

FREE Music

My friend Mark and his wife make the Dynamic Deal Duo. Mark made a list of free Christmas music. It was too wonderful a list and he spent too much time on his post to keep this treasure to myself. So friends, enjoy!

BTW- Mark works for World Orphans. Maybe you want to check out the work they are doing and write him to see how you can join in?

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Sassy Wisdom

I've mentioned Sassy Granny- Kathleen- before. She's written another precious post I just had to share with you here. Her words are such a wonderful reminders of what this season is all about.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


There is a wonderful family with our agency (America World Adoption Association) whose patience and endurance are inspiring to me. I had asked my readers to pray for them once before when they lost their daughter Julianna Ashure unexpectedly after they had passed court and while they were waiting to travel to Ethiopia to pick her up.

Now, the precious Reed family has no more than just stepped off the plane returning home with their second Ethiopian daughter, Maura Ruhama, and are faced with another dark trial. Maura Ruhama is suffering from a very serious cardiac condition that was only discovered upon her first US doctor's visit. Currently, baby Maura is in the hospital while doctors are determining the best course of action for this beloved child. There was mention of a possible heart transplant.

Please, friends, pray for this family. Pray especially for Maura Ruhama. Seek healing for her and wisdom for her doctors. Pray for peace for a little girl who has just had her universe rocked by the transition out of the only world she's ever known into the loving arms of gentle parents who are just beginning to become more than strangers to her now. Pray for her as she faces more strangers armed with pokes, machines, and anxiety inducing procedures. Join me in asking God that for every tiny measure of suffering and pain little Maura is enduring that a double measure of His Spirit would be poured over her. Maura Ruhama belongs to Jesus and we rejoice that He is taking care of her!

You can meet the faithful and inspiring Reed family at their blog, here:

Philippians 4:6-7 (New International Version)
6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tell 2 TODAY!

World AIDS day is today. In an effort so raise awareness and combat the sigma associated with HIV/AIDS I'm participating in the Tell 2 Campaign. The goal is for every person to share the facts about HIV/AIDS with just two people. Together we can make an impact and increase awareness about a virus which is ravaging the globe. Together we can eradicate the stigma which burdens so many suffering with the disease.

Please join me by dedicating your status on Facebook today or a post on your blog to this topic. Then, tell at least two people about it. Ask them to do the same.

Here are some facts about HIV.

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and it is the virus that if left untreated, can progress and develop into AIDS. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, and occurs when HIV advances and weakens the immune system to the point that the body can no longer fight off illness and infections.

There is currently no cure for HIV or AIDS, however, the medications that are now available to treat HIV are highly effective. HIV is now considered a chronic yet manageable condition in the United States and in other countries where treatment is readily available. Children who receive the proper treatment and medications are expected to live well into adulthood and have close to normal or normal life expectancies. Many people are now living with HIV for indefinite periods of time without developing AIDS.

HIV is not spread through hugging, kissing, shaking hands, sharing toys, sneezing, coughing, sharing food, sharing drinks, changing diapers, bathing, swimming or any other causal way.

It has been proven that HIV and AIDS can only be spread through sexual contact, birth, breast milk and blood to blood contact (such as sharing needles). HIV is not transmitted through urine, stool, snot, tears or sweat.

The lower the amount of HIV virus in a persons body the lower their risk of transmitting their virus to another. Think in terms of HIV being like concentrated orange juice. If you mixed orange concentrate according to the directions into a pitcher of water you would have more parts orange concentrate to water as compared to mixing that same can of concentrate into a swimming pool. Your odds of running into an orange concentrate in the swimming pool are greatly decreased as compared to in the pitcher. People who are managing the virus effectively with medications arel ike the swimming pool while those who do not receive treatment continue to see the concentration of virus in their bodies rise.

Medications can reduce the amount of HIV in a person's system to the point that the HIV is considered "undetectable", meaning there is only a very tiny amount of virus in the person's system. This does not mean the person is cured, it simply means the virus has been managed effectively through medication so that the amount present in the body cannot be detected by tests.

It is always recommended and wise to use universal precautions when dealing with blood spills.

It is also helpful to know that the risk of transmitting HIV through a bloody nose or skinned knee or something of the sort is minimal. This is especially true for a person that is on HIV medications.