Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Language Study

Awhile back I ordered a book called Amharic for Adoptive Families.  It's a great little book with common phrases needed to speak Amharic, the official Ethiopian language, to small children adopted from Ethiopia.  Today it arrived in the mail.  It looks like this:  

The phrases are set up as flash cards to practice.  Here's a sample of the inside.  Pretty cute.

It also comes with a handy little cd to help hear and practice the phrases.  We were excited to try out the cd and get started.  But our experience with the cd went a little something like this:

Pop cd into player
Big smiles all around
Phrases start to play
Big Smiles fade
Wes: "We're screwed"
Nancy: "No joke"

Amharic is hard, friends!  So we decided Jena has the best shot at learning this stuff, so we are now trying to expose her to as much as she will tolerate.  :)   I do think the book will come in handy, and we're giving it our best shot.  

I put together the monstrosity known as a double stroller tonight.  I actually got it weeks ago thanks to a donation from my sweet friend Nikki to use as a trade in, but just got around to taking it out of the box tonight.  I started with this:

Taylor was skeptical that I could complete this in a timely manner.

But he stuck with me...

And we got it done in under 20 minutes.  Jena took it for a few laps around the house.  We're all pretty pumped about putting our stroller monstrosity to use!

Monday, February 25, 2013


I recently came across an exciting new documentary called "Stuck" put out by the Both Ends Burning Campaign.   Both Ends Burning is an organization which exists to support the culture of adoption and to help facilitate changes in the current adoption system.  Stuck is movie about international adoption.  Here is the trailer for the documentary.

They are touring the country, showing the movie and collecting signatures for the Step Forward for Orphans March that will take place in Washington D.C. in May.  You can find out more on their website  The Kirks are hoping to make a trip to the showing nearest us if we can make it happen with Wes's crazy work schedule.

It's a complex issue, international adoption.  We all want to safeguard children.  We all want adoptions that are ethical.  But it does feel like it is politics and bureaucracy that seem to be getting in the way.  (I'm looking at you, Russia).  There has to be a way to ensure that adoptions are ethical AND process them in a timely manner.  I like the point that the documentary makes about what happened in Haiti just after the earthquake.  We were able to bring several thousand kids over to the US is a relatively short period of time.  It was done because the kids were thought to be in crisis after the earthquake.  But orphans all over the world are already in a crisis situation every day that they sit in orphanages unnecessarily.  I realize that adoption alone isn't the solution for our orphan crisis.  But for those children who do have waiting families through adoption, why not work on the process so that children aren't spending years alone in orphanages while their family wades through endless red tape to bring them home?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Mommy's Heart Went Pop

A week or two ago I shared a facebook posting from Jen Hatmaker about the book Mommy's Heart Went Pop, by Christina Kyllonen & Peter Greer.  I've since ordered this book, actually I ordered two of them since I wanted to inscribe one for each boy, and I can tell you that it is just amazing.
It tells the story of a mommy awaiting her little boy from Africa.  One of my favorite parts is the mommy explaining to her biological children that "she had a baby growing in her heart, not in her belly like so many other mommies."  Just precious.  Jena has read it several times, and she loves it as well.
Another great thing about this book is that 100% of the proceeds go to the RubyMyles Fund, which gives grants to adopting families and organizations providing orphan care.  Here's the promotional video for the book.  Watch it and don't cry, I dare ya.

You can get your copy here, or on Amazon.  

Behind my book picture you can see the adorable blue rug I picked up for the boys' room.  I'm pretty in love with it.  Our boys' room is starting to come together.  More on that soon. :)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Blizzard of Oz

Today is the rare Kansas snow day.  We had record-breaking (since 1966) snowfall, and a "thundersnow".  See the awesome CNN video below.

Jena woke up sickly today, but rallied in the afternoon so I let her go out and play in the snow.  Now this makes me either the best or worst mother ever, I know.  (Jena is reading this over my shoulder and just shouted "BEST!"  So there's that.)  

A headless snowman cause that's how we roll.  Get it?  Don't encourage me, that was terrible.

Jena's brothers are often in her thoughts and she's commented several times today that she can't wait to show them snow, since they would never have seen it before.  

Our dog Taylor had a dentist appointment today (Yes, we are THOSE people), and we foolishly dropped him at the vet this morning.  The vet called later to tell us that she was missing staff and wouldn't be able to do the cleaning today.  So Taylor was stuck at the vet most of the day until Wes could pick him up on his way home.  Jena and Taylor are the best of friends.  And when she is sick...she wants her Taylor.  She had to settle for Carly today, which worked ok, but she told me a couple times she still missed Taylor.  Here's a pic of Jena napping with Carly.  

Last, but definitely not least, we got an update on our bigger boy today.  He's still in the orphanage, so we only get monthly updates on him.  He's growing, and beautiful and we just can't wait to meet him in person.  Still waiting for that court date.  Any day now...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

I know, right?

It was shortly after deciding to adopt a couple years ago that we got into a conversation about adoption with our dear friends Chris and Natasha (Chris also happens to be Wes's brother).  They had adopted from Ethiopia several years earlier.  Their daughter, our niece Ester, is this amazing, beautiful, brilliant, little girl; and their journey to her is an amazing story in and of itself.  But standing around in our kitchen that day they told us something interesting.  They said one of the most uncomfortable things that people say to them concerning their adoption is that "You're such great people for doing this(adopting)".  And my first reaction was "Yeah guys, must be real tough having people tell you that you're awesome all the time."  But I tucked away that conversation and came back to it recently.  You see, lately we've been getting a fair amount of this same sentiment.  It's all well meaning, of course, and I do appreciate the overwhelming support we've received.  If you know me well, you'll not be surprised to find out that I often have to choke down my snarky retort of "I know, right?  I'm pretty much awesome."  :)  But I do admit that the "you're such great people for saving those kids" sentiment does elicit a fair amount of awkwardness for me. (Aside from the general awkwardness that is Nancy, of course).  :)  And here's why: because it simply isn't true.  Perhaps I should go back to the beginning to explain my point.  Way back.

About 25 years ago a little girl in the second grade gave a presentation on "China".  I could have picked any subject and why I picked the very broad subject of China, I'm not really sure.  Apparently they don't teach focusing and narrowing your topic in the second grade.  It was the kind of presentation with the tri-fold cardboard display  that you set up in the gym for classmates and parents to peruse.  I dutifully glued facts, figures, and pictures to my cardboard display and somehow through this process, a seed was planted in this little girl's heart for international adoption.  I knew that babies were adopted from China, and I decided even at that young age, that I wanted one of them in my family.  And the idea of the family I someday wanted began to take shape in my mind's eye.

Fast forward a decade or so.  Wes and I were best friends from a very young age, and dated through high school and college.  (With only a few famous hiccups along the way.)  Towards the end of college we became engaged.  Now if you know Wes and I, you know that we are planners through and through.  We organize, think through, and plan every detail.  We discussed children and he agreed that international adoption was a good idea.  So the plan was that we'd finish our schooling (Med school/PA school), then start to have a family.  We'd have three biological children, and then when the youngest of those children was  school aged we'd consider international adoption, likely from China.  Before we were even married we had prospective names picked out for our future children.  Not in the weird, doodle on notebooks, sentimental kind of way, but simply because we like to be prepared.  We're planners.  So we married, completed our schooling, started our careers as medical professionals and became pregnant with our beautiful daughter, Jena.  In that order.  Everything went according to plan.  And then it didn't.

Just after Jena was born my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  I wasn't prepared for that.  It wasn't in my plan.  See, he was supposed to be around for many more years.  He was supposed to meet, and love-on, and help raise my children.  He died 10 months later, and I was heart-broken.  I was also secretly furious at God for taking a detour from the plan.  This was not how I saw it.  This is not what we'd planned for.
Then it was time for that second child to come.  But he never came.  I began a years-long losing battle with infertility.    Not part of the plan.  And the family that I had seen for years in my mind's eye never came to fruition. I was angry, and hurt, and lost and consumed with the kind of guilt that only people who've struggled with infertility can identify with.

So in the midst of this, we came to international adoption much earlier than my plan had allowed for.  We began to apply for China programs.  As it turns out, China will not accept applicants with large amounts of debt.  And with school loans for med school and PA school done simultaneously, you better believe we have a large amount of debt.  Most physicians leave their schooling with 6 figure student loan debt and we were no exception.  We begged and pleaded with the China coordinators, but they told us that even though we make a good income and by American Standards would most definitely be able to afford more children, China doesn't see it this way.  An amount of debt this large for any reason would not be tolerable.  Not part of the plan.

And so we came to Ethiopia.  It was a thriving program at the time, and they would accept our large amount of school loans because our income offset this.  We worked through our application and dossier, and soon after completing it the Ethiopia program fell apart.  Delays abounded.
None of this was part of my plan, and I was simply lost in the middle of it.  I didn't know my way around this unknown territory, and I was angry that I was even here.  I became pregnant and then miscarried.  Definitely not part of my plan.

It was in a very broken moment just before we switched adoption agencies that I remember saying to Wes "I just feel like this adoption has become the only way for me to find redemption".   Redemption.  God would bring this word to me over and over again in the next few months.  And I don't know if adoption was the only way for me to FIND redemption.  But in the end I know it was the only way for me to UNDERSTAND redemption.  And with that understanding I slowing began to release the white knuckled death grip that I'd had on my own plans for my own life.  God began to replace my plan with a new vision that included two precious brown baby boys.  And I see it now: This is so much better.  I did indeed begin to find redemption.  Because here is what is happening:
An American woman lost and disillusioned with failed plans, unprocessed grief, and unfulfilled expectations is to be united with two Ethiopian little boys who have lost literally everything.  And in this process we will both find redemption.  Because this is the business that God is in, my friends.  The business of redemption.  It's grief and loss + grief and loss = unspeakable joy.  Only God does that kind of math.   Out of wreckage, out of brokenness, out of dust: He makes beautiful things.

So the point I'm making is that when people say "You're such great people for saving these kids", the reason I'm uncomfortable is because it simply isn't the truth.  The truth is that they saved me.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Where we are now...

I guess it's time to do it.  Time to start the obligatory adoption blog as we count down our days until the boys come home.  :)  I had started one over two years ago now, but discouragement in the process led me to abandon that blog as time ticked on with little progress.  But now we are on our way, and it seems like we have things that we want to say about this whole process, and stories that need to be shared.  So here we go...

On November 9, 2012 we finally received our referrals for two beautiful Ethiopian boys.  The older is nearly 2 years old and the younger is now about 6 months old.  We've been in this process of adoption for nearly three years.  As is common in the world of international (and probably domestic) adoption, there were many setbacks along the way.  Shortly after starting our adoption the country of Ethiopia decided to reduce the number of adoptions out of their country by around 90%.  Setback.  Then our adoption agency came under investigation (they were cleared fully of any wrongdoing) and the country of Ethiopia held all adoptions from our agency.  Setback.  As two years passed, we had mostly lost all hope that this adoption was ever really going to happen.  It was at that point that I happened to see a facebook posting by Kari Gibson, she runs the "mycrazyadoption" blog and the Simply Love campaign, saying that she knew of an agency that needed families and had virtually no waiting list.  At that point we were stuck in waiting list purgatory.  Switching agencies would require re-doing literally ALL of our paperwork, and re-paying all our fees.  But after lots of prayer and discussion I sent an email to the Ethiopia director of International Family Services with the subject "We're In!", and about 5 months (and a lot of work) later we had referrals for our two little boys.

Our reaction at the news that we'd be getting not one but two little boys was a little emotion that I'd like to call "joyor".  It's the combination of sheer joy and sheer terror.  :)  I looked at Wes as our adoption coordinator told us over the phone we'd be getting two boys and could see the expression I knew was mirrored on my own face.  Big happy smile, eyes wide with shock and not a little fear.  She wanted us to take the weekend to pray and discuss it before accepting the referrals if we were willing on Monday.  I stayed awake most of that night thinking of things like "Oh no!  My dining room table only seats four!"  and "Are three car seats going to fit across one seat in my car?"  and "I'm going to need more Christmas stockings!"  Obviously the deeply important issues.  :)  But Monday came and I called our adoption coordinator and said these words "Randi, those are our boys."  And with those words, here we are now: not so patiently awaiting a court date.  The average wait has been around 2-4 months.  We are now sitting at about 3 1/2 months.  Once we have the court date we travel to appear in court and meet the boys.  Then we come home for a month or two (sadly having to leave them there) and wait for a US embassy date.  When we get that, we'll be able to travel back to Ethiopia and BRING OUR BOYS HOME!   So that's the story, super condensed, up to now.  Stay tuned...