18 December 2012

The Wait

I don't know how many posts during this time will be just like this... Oh well! If I'm gonna be 100% honest, this blog is more for me than it is for you (though you're important, I promise!).

Some days I'm doing really well. Actually for the most part of most days I'm doing well. Some things just get my heart in a twist, like pictures of African kids (if you need someone to cry with, come over and bring a picture of an African baby. It's foolproof.), when people describe longing, things like that. Sometimes I think I need to get this crying thing under control, or I'm gonna scare my kids or something.

I've never been a "rock" - someone you can count on to be strong and persevere and such. I don't usually mind. But it does make waiting (waiting for months) difficult. It's not the same waiting as being pregnant and waiting for your baby to come. There is no due date, I see no progress. It's just day after day. I can't rely on anything else but God.

It's been quite eye-opening! I am glad God is using this. I am. Sometimes. ! Well, what can you do but be honest? Of course I wish we could travel and bring home our child tomorrow. Of course I do. Of course I want to know if s/he's okay right now. And how long will it be till I know her/his name and see my child's sweet face. And of course, I just don't know. I can't. You, God, you're so crafty. He knows I can plan the faith right out of my life, so He chucks me out of driver's seat and stuffs me in the trunk. I suppose if I refuse to let You drive, Lord of everything, it's exactly what should happen.

Still, I hate waiting.

13 December 2012

I'm Still Embarrassed.

If you think this is easy for me to say, get real. Okay, I'm going to tell you things of which I am ashamed, but of which I would urge someone else to not be ashamed.

I'll first take you to my freshman year of college. I was a part of a group that was really fun (and let me feel like I belonged even though I really felt I never did). That group had parties with lots of alcohol (in college! I know, it's shocking). Sometimes I would get really drunk - it wasn't something I did in high school; I was just kind of experimenting with it in college. And I wanted to belong to my group, and everyone got really drunk at parties, and I wasn't yet sick of hangovers. So I invited a guy to one of the parties - he was in two of my classes - small classes, too. We were friends - we ate lunch together several times a week. We got really drunk (or I did), like blackout drunk. I don't remember a lot but I know we got food and took it back to his dorm room. And I know we had sex. I didn't like him like that and I wasn't wanting to have sex, but I don't remember how it happened. I don't remember much of anything. I don't remember if he used a condom or even if his roommate was still in the room. That's how drunk I was.

Do you think I was able to give consent? This is one of the most important experiences of my life because I don't know if I'm supposed to feel ashamed or not. Sometimes I have called it rape; sometimes I've told myself it was my fault for being drunk and in his room late at night, or at least that he didn't do anything wrong. But I know how I felt afterwards. I felt gross. I felt worth less than I was the day before.

How does that work? I don't know. What does it mean? I don't know. Mind you, this wasn't the first time I'd had sex. It wasn't even the first time I'd had casual sex. It also wasn't the first time I'd had sex when I didn't really want to. But that story holds so much shame for me... I cannot tell it yet. It is also exactly the kind of story I want people to hear who think we live in a society free of what some call "rape culture," but I'm just too ashamed of my inability to withstand the pressure I faced 11 years ago.

I think there's something wrong with that.

12 December 2012

Consent

Okay, I'm about to talk about something really awkward. For my like 2 guy readers, please also stick with me. I want to talk about "rape culture." If you want to see my jumping-off point for this, please check out this recent news article (men: there are two pictures women in underwear. It's not overtly sexy, but you know, check your heart or something before you read...)

I want to talk about it because it seems like this idea is something that Christians should be talking about. Sometimes I think we can hole up with our ideals that sex should be between a husband and a wife and not address anything else. Yes, I do 100% know in my bones that sex was intended to be enjoyed in the safety and security of marriage (and I know the consequences my heart and marriage have suffered from not respecting the parameters God set around sex). But we are absolutely fooling ourselves if we believe people who don't follow the Lord are going to not have sex until they're married. Or that our children will be safe from the culture that surrounds them if we love them enough or protect them enough or something them enough.

We need to talk about this. We need a way to talk about our culture and how it treats women and sex (and women having sex) in our own words. Because I don't think American culture perpetuates rape like some other cultures, but I do definitely believe there is cultural pressure on young women and girls to have sex, and then a societal norm to value them less when they do. And I don't want extreme feminists to be the only ones talking on this subject.

And I do absolutely think it's viewed as acceptable for a young guy to put pressure on a young girl to have sex with (or perform sex acts on) him. Many young women I know then feel as though they will be ostracized within their social circles if they refuse. What follows is, I believe, what can fairly be called non-consensual sex. The girl is often then subjected to worse pressure and treatment before (since she is now an easier target). I say it's viewed as acceptable because the guy doesn't get ostracized for doing that. Even in middle school. And where do you think that came from? Did it plop into his head out of nothing but his fallen nature?

I don't think this is okay. Perhaps many of my friends didn't see this kind of thing happen in their junior high and high schools. I'm sure a lot of you did, though. I know that that was rampant in my school and has seemed to only become worse.

We are the light of the world. We need to talk about this and how to help. Yes, I want to make sure my sons are not users of women, and I want to make sure my daughters know that their bodies are much too awesome to be given to some pubescent predator, but what about the girl down the street? Do we abandon those who didn't happen to be born to us (or adopted by us)?

Tomorrow I'll be sharing a part of my story. If you believe rape can only be done by a stranger in an alley, I ask that you at least read my words tomorrow.

Check check

Just testing. Talk amongst yourselves.

04 December 2012

Waiting

Waiting is hard. Waiting is good.

I'm already tired of waiting. But it beats some of the "American" out of me - the part that thinks if I just bother someone enough, things will move faster (or, more desperately sad, throw enough money at it).

It's when nothing's moving that one's resolve is tested. Sometimes I do wish to get pregnant. But then, when I get around to actually daydreaming about it, I get sad about missing out on this. And I'm renewed in my desire to wait, to adopt our child. It's slow, this process, painfully slow. But it's painful like the soreness of a muscle that's been worked out. It's doing things in my heart. So (at least for right now), I'm glad there's no news, and it's just an expanse of waiting before us. Nothing exciting, just holding on and settling down and waiting for the Lord to move when it's right.

28 November 2012

Exhaustion

If you know me in real life, you probably know that our son E doesn't sleep well. We've been working and working to try and find ways to help him stay asleep in his bed, but he's just not a good sleeper, and something happens every time we start to get a good thing going (staying overnight away from home, another dang tooth coming in, etc).

Normally we make do, but this past week, oh man. This past week I've had a sinus infection, which is not the end of the world (I sleep with my mouth open like a boss). But I've had a bad cough. One that's been keeping me up - last night until after 2. And it means that I can't go back to sleep in the morning when Stephen wakes up with Ezra.

I don't know how to tell when I've reached a point where I cannot function anymore, but I've got to be close to it. Having one night (or three) of bad sleep isn't the end of the world when you've been getting an uninterrupted 7 or 8 hours for weeks before, you know? But it's not the same when you've been deprived of quality sleep for almost two years.

Anyway, I realized today that I've been taking a lot of blame for Ezra's sleeping on myself - the if we'd done something different, he'd be sleeping well kind of responsibility that really is hazy. It's possible there's something that will help him that we haven't tried. I've been feeling like a failure since we don't know how to help him, and we just keep trying different things, and nothing is clearly working any better than sheer luck.

But the Lord is so gracious. Yesterday, Ezra woke too early from his nap. He slept too long to be able to go back to sleep, but he needed to sleep longer, so he just lay in my lap, dozed, and fussed for a half an hour (y'all, that is an extraordinary thing!). I got to hold him and love on him, and stir up those feelings of compassion, that, poor guy, he couldn't behave any better because he was out of resources to cope with.

During my quiet time today, I was just telling the Lord how utterly spent I am. The total exhaustion that says, "I have nothing left to give." He had me go lay down in our bed and reminded me of yesterday, when I was holding Ezra. The Lord isn't upset or disappointed in the way we've parented E. He isn't even upset that I haven't been "on good behavior" lately. He knows I'm spent. He knows my "poor little body" has had to run on less than it needs for a long time. He understands I can't pull it together. He wants to pull it together for me. He wants to carry me when I can't even stand anymore. He doesn't wish I was stronger or better or different.

It was just what I didn't know I needed to hear. Thanks God, for being so good.

23 November 2012

PB & C Pie

So I thought I should share with you a lil recipe I "cooked" up over Thanksgiving. I've always been a sucker for peanut butter and chocolate together, and I've never wanted to actually, you know, expend more energy than necessary in making something. The great thing about this recipe is that it makes two 8" pies - one for your guests and one for you. :)
And remember, I don't do food pictures, so imagine something rich and delightful in your mind.

* either 2 store-bought graham cracker crusts, or 2 8" tins with a graham cracker crust recipe you got from somewhere else
For the peanut butter layer:
* 1 full cup peanut butter (I like the kind that you grind yourself. It really tastes like peanuts and isn't too creamy or too crunchy.
* 8oz cream cheese
For the chocolate layer:
* 12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
* 1.5 C heavy whipping cream
* 1/4-1/3 C sugar (depending on how sweet you like your stuff. 1/3C will be quite sweet.)

Instructions:
* I usually nuke me cream cheese on a lower power to get it softer. Don't actually make it hot: the goal is roomish temp.
* Mix peanut butter and cream cheese until homogeneous. Yes, you were going to use that word after high school biology. Divide and spread in pie tins. Don't freak out if your mixture isn't sweet. In fact, be worried if it is.
* Melt chocolate chips with half the cream (make sure when melting that the heat is low and you stir often. Burnt chocolate is not enjoyable to any of your senses. Some people successfully melt chocolate in the microwave but I'm terrified of my chocolate losing its temper. See what I did there?)
* While your chocolate is melting, beat the other half of the cream until you think you'd probably call it whipped. There's leeway in this recipe for an actually whipped cream or a kind of whipped cream. E was already asleep when I made this, so it was whisked instead of whipped. Still yummy.
* When the chocolate is mostly melted, turn off heat and add sugar. Stir until homogeneous.
* Add chocolate mixture to whipped cream and beat until homogeneous again.
* Divide and add to pie tins on top of peanut butter.

IMPORTANT: The chocolate needs to set, so you need to make this pie the night before. Seriously though, it takes like 12 minutes.
IMPORTANT: I don't like Cool Whip. I think it's really weird and yucky to my mouth. But you can use it at your own risk.

P.S. I ruined the predecessor of this pie by trying to melt chocolate and then mix it with marshmallow creme. The texture was genuinely gross [Stephen said like mud without the grit... ;/ He then was reminded that women are allowed to get offended at someone else for essentially repeating what they just said.] I was trying to make it lighter without becoming too light, but I now know that this pie is meant to be so very rich, and to be eaten in little, heavenly slivers.

05 November 2012

Fundraising... oh whatever. Fundraising Update!

So!

Let's see. We did a bake sale a SCW which raised a little over $250! YAY!

My awesome, hard-workin mother-in-law Tammy catered a wedding and gave us $500! YAYYAY!

That gives us $3,000 in our adoption account. :D That's a good chunk of money!

I feel like I should share more, but we're in the middle of making a decision this week that may affect our adoption process. We're totally still adopting, but it may be sooner than we thought. Any prayers you want to send for clarity in decision-making on our behalf would be greatly appreciated.

In the meantime, I'm working on the last two grants we can apply for before we receive our referral (at which point we can apply for one more). Please be praying we receive a grant (or two!) because it would make the fundraising process much less arduous (as far as essentially working on top of our jobs in order to raise funds).

Thanks all!

04 November 2012

Dear self,

We just have to break up. I know this may seem sudden to you, but it's actually a long time coming. Like, a really long time. I know you've enjoyed dominating my life, and, honestly, I've just let you far too often.

Truthfully, this is going to hurt you more than it will hurt me. Because, self, you're about to die. I promise I'll try and resurrect you a few many times. But this is it. We are never ever ever getting back together. I just don't like you as much as I like this guy. Have you met him? His name is Jesus. You may not like him though; he's pretty specific about you dying, like, every day.

I know this is going to be a hard transition, but, self, it just has to end. I can't submit to you and Jesus at the same time. He's gonna be my new self. He's gonna tell me what to do with this life. I know this is hard, but sometimes bad things have to end. And you're a bad thing, self. Sorry.

We are never getting back together. Like ever.

29 October 2012

This is not adoption-related

BUT IT WAS SO DELICIOUS SERRRRIOUSLY.

This. I think I'm the only person in the world who makes roasts in my slow cooker that turn out between meat and shoe leather in texture, but surely I'm not the only person. Right?

Anyway, I wanted something delicious to do with a roast that was on sale, and I decided to do this recipe (heck yes I linked to it twice. Is how we do.) If you offered me a thousand dollars right now, I still wouldn't be able to tell you which roast cut it was for sure. But it was $2.38/lb.

Anyway, I also used a can of both Campell's French Onion Soup and Beef Consomme (because it's towtally better than lame old broth), and a great can of dark beer called Old Chub. It's the best beer I've ever had from a can. Plunked it all in our slow cooker, set it on low, and it was done in 5 hours' time or so. I'm guessing you can tell when it's done because, you know, the meat is cooked.

Anyway, since our HEB doesn't have hoagies (do they? I've wandered around looking), we used bolillos, which we toasted in our toaster oven (how can anyone live without a toaster oven?) with slices of provolone.

I wish, oh how I wish I could make you be able to take the deliciousness from the other side of the screen. But if you have a chance, try this recipe. You will only regret it if you lose all self control, eat way too much, and then feel icky afterward. Not that that has ever happened to me.

25 October 2012

Fundraising Friday

Hey all!

Sorry about neglecting the blog for a lil bit. We have our Spiritual Challenge Weekend (our campus fall retreat) this weekend, so we've been preparing for that. Our elders have also allowed us to hold a bake sale benefiting our adoption while we're there. Feel free to pray that we sell everything I've made because HOLY COW I MADE SO MUCH.

Here's a list!
-oreo truffles
-E.L.Fudge truffles
-cookie dough truffles (don't worry; they're eggless)
-fudge brownies
-marble brownies
-turtle brownies
-lemon bar cake
-lime bars
-chocolate cupcakes with buttercream icing
-spice cupcakes with buttercream icing
-gluten-free/dairy-free lemon bars
-gluten-free/dairy-free/eggless chocolate chip banana "bars" (cake-like)

I was going to try and toast my own pumpkin seeds (yum, right?!?) but I ran out of time.

17 October 2012

State of Grace

Yes, it is a Taylor Swift song. I'm not super-taken with it (it's pretty much a U2 song written by TSwift), but it struck me.

I used to feel really uncomfortable with singing songs to God that could be sung to a boyfriend. I just thought it was weird. I suppose a lot has changed, since now I love singing songs about people's boyfriends to the Lord.

In a season when I've been confronted with my own rocky heart, with its walls and padlocks and stiff-arm'ed "KEEP OUT" signs, aimed against the two people who love me most, it was a comforting realization from the Holy Spirit that I'm not who I once was. I am in a state of grace, and the Lord and I are working on tilling the hardened soil of my heart, in weeding out lies, and in watering the Words he gives.

I thank you, Lord, for your grace.

15 October 2012

No Whining

Yes we have entered that phase. Well, it's actually almost never whining - we end up saying "no yelling" a LOT more. E's just an aggressive little dude. I think he gets it from me... whoops! :S

Anyway, I was just convicted this morning that it's totally hypocritical of me to tell Ezra not to whine when I'm whining all day long. It's the little ways that the Lord (somewhat) gently says, "Grow up." I feel encouraged to say "No whining, Mommy" out loud when I catch myself. That way Ezra knows that rules apply to us, too.

Do you ever catch yourself not obeying the rules you set for your kids?

13 October 2012

Seasons

Okay, it's kind of hot today, but still... the seasons are changing (as much as is does in Texas). I don't know why, but this time of year (and when "winter" changes to "spring" - these terms are probably not accurate to anyone who has a real fall or a real winter), I always get... weird. Like a snake as it sheds its skin, I get a little cranky. A little skittish. A little tender. A little restless (okay, a lot restless). I NEED MY FREEDOM! I need to be able to leave at 4am to go... somewhere. Who cares where? I don't even want to know where, just away, by myself. I need to sing old songs and watch the sun rise over the dash of my car.

Obviously, this is not a thing that can happen. I have a family and a job and those who would be very concerned if i just wasn't there one morning. It's not that I don't love my life; I just want to be able to leave it without notice every once in a while. [yeah right.]

I won't ever do it, but I'm glad I have this feeling twice a year. It drives me to searching. You know how C.S. Lewis talks about yearning? I'm glad I still yearn for things I can't have now. I'm glad it takes me right to the Person I need to be searching for all the time. I'm glad it makes me pursue freedom (the internal kind) since I can't slough off my responsibilities. Even if I don't get to "up and leave" my situation ever again (ouf, that's hard), I certainly can shed parts of old me - the parts that don't fit on the new woman I am. It's already cracking and peeling away anyway.

I believe I can emerge from the other side of October fresh, pink, and new. You do great things, God.

09 October 2012

I just need to tell you

I am not an organized person. You can tell the moment you come into our house. It's just not important to me (or not important enough to do it. If you want to come "make a place" for everything in my house, feel free, but bring a lot of labels).

But you can't adopt without some organization. The sheer number of documents (and the documents that must go with those documents) will overwhelm you if you don't. I may be a haphazard kinda person, but I have an ace up my sleeve: I'm excitable.

If you're like me, you can milk this excitement to get things organized. It comes in waves, so you ride that wave of I'MSOEXCITEDICAN'TBELIEVETHISISREALLYHAPPENING to make to-do lists and need-to-get lists and cost breakdowns and action plans. I think it happens for me about once a month (more frequently if there are a lot of exciting things going on with the adoption). I does mean it takes me longer to go to sleep during those times because my head is trying to complete lists (and no one can tell my brain that seriously you can't finish a packing list a year before you travel so be quiet and go to sleep mode). But usually when I get wound up about something, I have trouble sleeping anyway.

Honestly, when I get that way, it reminds me of what people call "nesting." But I don't think I can call it that because I've done it for as long as I can remember. I'd get a planner or a calendar at the beginning of the semester and put in all my tests and paper due dates (which were sometimes consulted and often not). I think it's more my something-big-and-good-is-happening mode.

It also works with research. I get excited about something and research my little heart out for a couple of days. And then I know a LOT about whatever. I would die if I were required to do research for a job, but get me excited about a topic and we're off!

It's not a big deal; I just know that adopting can sound (and is) pretty daunting, even from the outside, and I wanted to let you know that you can adopt without being a filing cabinet wizard, and I have faith we will make it to Uganda with all the documents (and the documents that support those documents) in tow. And all the other things we need to bring in order to live for a month. Oh right, and our children.


07 October 2012

The Back Window

One of my "friends" leaves tomorrow for Russia [I put it in quotes because I don't actually know her, but I feel plenty of affection for her from being in the same virtual community. It almost counts, hence the quotes.]; it is the second of three trips in order for her and her husband to bring their toddler son home. This is the trip where they stand before the judge to be granted guardianship of their son (I'm pretty sure... They may call it something else; everything is different from country to country).

I am taken aback every time I think about it: leaving your child in an orphanage and flying thousands of miles away. It's like an automatic, huge, bright STOP sign blocks me imagining it. Of course I imagine it with Ezra, because this kiddo is their Ezra. I just can't deal with thinking about it, you know? The momma bear in me comes roaring out with a NO ONE WILL COME BETWEEN ME AND MY CHILD I WILL RIP YOU APART IF YOU TRY RAAAAAAWWWWR!

*ahem* So that's one of the things I really appreciate about Uganda. Yes, it's not the most stable program on the globe; and yes, the wait feels so long; and yes, we do have to be there for roughly a month; and yes, it's not going to be a month at the spa. But once I lock eyes on baby A, there's no reason I should ever have to stop. There will be no interruption of our bonding. I will get over the jet lag and still be with him/her (those first two days for me; it's like half my brain takes a power boat instead of the plane) once I perk up. Most importantly, baby A will not have to wonder where we've gone.

You parents out there, can you imagine driving away from your child, not being positive of when you'll see them again? How long would you be wrenched in your seat, staring out the back window, straining to see your child? That sounds like the very, very worst, right?

Then feel free to be praying for my friend and her husband (and their son!) that the 35-day wait period will be miraculously waived for them. With God, all things are possible (and our prayers move His Father-heart).

06 October 2012

Vanilla Spice Cake Fake

Sometimes in life, there are hills we don't want to climb.

Homemade cakery is one of mine. The box mix isn't bad enough for me to put the effort into trying to make a cake. I don't even know if it's hard to make homemade cakes. I'm just not "there" yet. Maybe someday (probably not).

But let me tell you, I wanted to make spice cake for a church meal I'm helping with. I was going to have spice cake daggggnabbbbittttt. But there were no box mixes. Whatev, I've got spices and like to experiment on the people I love! This found its way into my basket as my base cake mix:
Totally not getting paid for this. Call me, Duncan Hines!
I opened the package and it was so vanilla-y-smelling. I had a moment. And then I added:
1 teaspoon ginger (I'd recommend a little less ginger, but I'm not a huge ginger fan.)
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 heaping teaspoon cloves
1/4 heaping teaspoon nutmeg

It turned out really well! The spice tones down the sugar factor of the cake, so you don't feel overwhelmed after putting frosting on the top (I make my own of that, okay? Everyone has their thing). Just perfect for fall. Next time I'd consider putting a teensy bit of molasses in it because it's delicious.

Oh the other thing: it was definitely Ezra approved. We had his first sneaking-pieces-of-sweets-off-the-table incident, leaving quite a lopsided cupcake. I well; I suppose I'll have to eat that one. Tooooo baaaaaad...

03 October 2012

On the List!

We finally got our number... #18! Do you know what that means? It means that there will be 18 fewer orphans in the world in the next year... possibly more if there are siblings adopted! Do you know how exciting that is?!?!? I mean, I'm sure you do, otherwise you wouldn't follow this blog because borrrriiiing!

Due to several different factors, it looks like we'll be waiting for our referral for about a year. It could be less,  and we can certainly hope for that, but it could be more (and you can certainly pray for not-that!).

At this moment, we're really hoping to travel in November or next year. That would be really ideal for ministry and family and such.

Some of you may balk at such a long wait time, but think about the kind of time it takes to make sure that there are no relatives (immediate or extended) who are willing/able to take care of the child; that there are sworn statements from any relatives that they cannot care for the child (or documents proving that the workers made efforts over a length of time to find relatives or anyone who knows who the child's relatives are); that the child will probably not be adopted in-country, and you have a long time between bringing a child into the orphanage and having him be legally free for adoption. It's sad that children have to spend time without their parents, but it's reassuring that we won't be adopting a child whose parents are looking for him or would be able to care for him again in a short while.

Anyway, we'll update any time we move up the list. In the meantime, it's so nice to not be all hurryhurryhurry with the process. I'm not having to stalk our mailbox or check my email every 5 minutes. It's not happening anytime soon. I have a few documents I need to line up and a year to assemble them. Okay, I'll give myself 6 months, let's be honest. But still, no rush. It's nice (for now!). :)

28 September 2012

Fundraising Friday

Well I don't know if this counts as "fundraising" because we didn't raise it. It was plopped in our laps.

I was contacted on Monday by a total stranger (not like, we've met or have a mutual friend; I mean total) who found us pretty randomly. A check from her came in the mail today for our adoption. IT'S FOR $2,000.00!

I know, I was running around telling everyone too. I just can't believe how good God's system is - that he blesses us immensely and uses his people to do it. You get a twofer - fellowship with the one God and fellowship with your brother/sister. Loved by Father and loved by neighbor. It's just crazy.

So we've sent off the next fee. The last fee until we accept the referral of our child! Crazy, right?!? There aren't too many expenses until then: I need to order a new diploma ($50) unless by some miracle I find it. I don't understand how I can lose something like that - it's not like I move it or use it ever, and this is only the second place we've lived since I got it. Harumph. Another is to get Ezra's passport, and to finish our immunizations. That should round out at about $500 (the yellow fever vaccine alone will cost $280 for the 3 of us). By the grace of God, we currently have almost $2,200 in our adoption account!

I'll definitely update when we get put on the waiting list - hopefully on Monday!


27 September 2012

IT CAME!


I just knew it would come when we left town. The whole "watched pot" thing. Here is the best part of our beautiful, expensive piece of paper, in all its glory:


That filing date is based on the time we filed it with our signatures. It was originally sent in on July 20th. I'm sad my little slip of the mind cost us two weeks, but I suppose that's up to the Lord. Use it for your glory, I mean, if anyone can eke some glory out of such a silly thing, it's you, God!

Look, it's what we get. Now our His Kids, Too! grant is closed. Or will be at some point today... All in all, We raised $2,232* with them. It also means that, in the past few weeks, people have given $172* to our adoption with His Kids, Too! THANK YOU!
*I'm kind of extrapolating from the amount of the check they're mailing to our agency. It could be slightly more than that, since they have to remove the credit card/paypal fees from the amount given.*

I have some crazy exciting news to also tell you, but I'm waiting on permission. Stay tuned (for now, just enjoy the grainy screen capture of that piece of paper up there. I love you, piece of paper)!

24 September 2012

Fundraising Sunday

Because Friday is for PLAYING!

Anyway, so with the sale of $50 worth of jewelry (!!!) (including my first sale to a stranger, wahooo), and with a little we put in from my last paycheck, our next fee is paid for again! YAY! Now all we're waiting on is our danged 171H (our USCIS approval) to come. I BEEEELIEEEEVE it will come this week or I WILL have a hissy fit. I'm just being up-front about it.

Anyway, I thought I'd take the time to go over the rest of our fees, just to give you an idea of what the process is like and where the money goes. All in all I'd say we have over $19,500 left to raise (which makes people's eyes bug out, myself included). As you'll see, that's mostly travel costs.

Money we've put in so far: ~$4200 (I can only approximate because I wasn't super-organized about things like gas money, stamps, printing costs, and the like. Maybe next time? Probably not; it's just hard for me to be that organized)

Our next fee (that I so hope we can pay by this weekend!): $3,000

Expenses down the road:

Agency fees left: $3,500
Lawyer and court fee: $2,500
Orphanage services/humanitarian aid: $2,250
Baby A's visa: $230 (the Department of State lowered this fee by $174!)
In-country medical exam (required for visa): $100
Document mailing US-Uganda-US-Uganda, etc: $300
Immunizations: $400 (only a couple are expensive, but boy are they!)
Airfare estimate: $6,000 (round trip for us 3 + one way for baby A)
Ugandan visas for 3: $150
Lodging for 30 days: $1,800 (we'll be there 3-5 weeks)
Food estimate: $300
Car service estimate: $1,000 (seems crazy expensive! but what are you gonna do with two little ones?)
Court report for re-adoption in the US: $500
Citizenship certificate: $550

GRAND TOTAL left: $19,580

Holey moley that's a lot of money. But you know what? God has all the money in the world (literally He's in control of it all). If He wanted to plop it in our laps tomorrow, it wouldn't be difficult for Him. I think He won't, but if there's one thing I've learned in the last seven years, it's that God loves for His will to be accomplished through His people. And God loves adoption.

As I know there's been a bit of confusion (totally my fault): we won't close our His Kids, Too! grant until we have our 171H because we can't. I wish I could and send it to our agency so it was taken care of and done, but we can't until we have a bill from the agency, and they can't send that until we have our USCIS approval.

[also, you may notice that the airfare is a huge amount of the cost. I have no idea how airline miles work, but if you wanted to donate those to us, I'll try real hard to use them! ;)]

19 September 2012

Birth Family Thoughts

This is kind of a me coming out of a closet post. [not THE closet, obvs.]

Some of you may not know that I'm a birthmom. But I am. I placed my first child, a boy named M, for adoption in January 2006 with a wonderful family. I found out I was pregnant at the beginning of June, just two weeks after choosing to let Jesus be the Lord of my life.

I'm telling you this because my experience gives me a little bit of a different perspective on the why and when of adoption. Something very popular right now is to say that children should be kept with their birth family if at all possible. I do not agree with that. I'm not militant about it or something, because I understand the heart - you want to enable people who aren't able to take care of the children they want.

But it's not as black and white as that. I wanted M; I loved him desperately (as expectant mothers do). I still love M and want the best for him very much. It wasn't that I couldn't take care of him; I had a job that paid well enough for us to get by (ish), and I know my parents wouldn't have let us become homeless or starve. But M's birthdad wasn't a really stable guy - he wasn't a bad person or crazy or anything; he just wasn't anywhere near being ready to be a dad. And I wanted M to have a family that was established in Jesus and his love. I wanted for M to not be raised by daycare workers but by people who loved him. I wanted him to be able to play soccer or t-ball. I wanted to get my degree and not be stuck working whatever job just so I could support us. I wanted to be ready to have children, so I could minimize the frustration at them when I felt the strains of growing up (and killing my selfishness). I wanted more than I could give him myself, and so I gave him that.

I remember the time when I was 5 or 6 months pregnant with him, wrestling within myself over whether I could place him or not. During a worship time one Sunday morning, God made it very clear that his will for this child was for me to place him for adoption - he literally said in my head, "This must be."

I don't hear like clear words from God often (though I did more during that time - oh the mercy of God!), so I knew without a doubt what God's will was in the matter. I know I have this instrumental difference - the Holy Spirit within me - that other birthmoms don't have which makes my heart at peace even as it's broken. So I feel I can know without a doubt that it's not always best for the child to stay with his birth family even if it's possible. Just because I could have cared for M doesn't mean I should have.

So no, I don't think it's always in the best interests of the child to stay with his birth family if possible, but I do very much want to help women/families in crisis to keep their families intact. Do I grieve over this loss? A lot, even still. But there's so much peace that I did what was right in the eyes of the Lord in our situation. I look forward to explaining to M when he's older all of the ways God helped me to put him in the family God meant M to have since the foundation of the earth. What M lost in his adoption is less than what he gained in being adopted. I have a confident hope that he, in time (or maybe always) will know this too. God is good, and he redeems everything.

I know it's a singular kind of experience, so I hope what I said makes sense. I don't think every person who hasn't decided to get pregnant should place their children at all. And I'm 100% for helping families stay together. But I don't think adoption should be viewed as a very last resort.

17 September 2012

Dear mailman,

I want to like you. Really. I know you're just doing your job and you do it well and usually while smiling. Thank you for bringing us our mail.

Just, come on, find a way to bring our 171. Please? I really really don't want to resent you, but I kind of am. This yo-yo hope isn't working wonders for our relationship. Seeing your little truck come by, waiting until you're far enough down the road that you don't see me excitedly scurrying (yes, I totally scurry) to the mailbox, and having my hopes dashed every day for three weeks!

Okay, I know that three weeks ago was not a time when I should have been hoping to get that piece of mail, but I did anyway. It's just what I do. I hope a lot, but I don't hope very well. I'm sure this process will strengthen my hoping muscles. I may even be a beefcake hoper by the time we are leaving Uganda with baby A in tow. But I'm not there yet.

I know my attempts to space out our outgoing mail so that you have to stop by every day don't do anything except make more work for you. I'm sorry. I'm going to keep doing it, but I know I will be making your life slightly harder until you bring our 171. So come on, just put it in the little box, and I'll go right back to loving you, mister mailman.

Sincerely,
The pink house on the right

11 September 2012

An Embarrassing Admission

So, you know how I said we were fully funded for this next fee? Well, that's no longer accurate.

There are a number of things that are totally legitimate - we overnighted our immigration paperwork twice (well, I'm not sure forgetting to sign it is legitimate, but still) so that it would be received before the weekend. Then we had gas for getting to Houston and back for our fingerprinting. Then we've written a couple of small checks to the grant programs that require it (usually $10 or $20). I may have also gotten our FBI clearances which are $11 or $12 each (honestly, so much gathering, I'm not really sure when I got what).

None of that is really embarrassing. The embarrassing bit is that I used some of the funds we'd received from previous jewelry orders to buy more things to make more jewelry. But none of that has sold yet. I'm definitely not going to buy any more! I really wish I hadn't done that, even though I thought it could turn out really well (because people make positive comments), but it just hasn't really. My bad... :/ I've thought about having a trunk show, but I'm not sure that's really my community's thing...

All in all we need about $100 more. Well, I think we do. The grant agency doesn't tell us every time we get a gift (remember that gift we received in May that they didn't tell us about until a couple of weeks ago? I do.), so we could be covered.

As I was telling Stephen, he (indirectly) challenged me to tell you anyway, because I've kind of been hiding it out of shame for making that bad decision. Our 171 can come back any day now (it's been 4 weeks since we were fingerprinted), so we could really use the funds. If you feel led to give, here's a good way (and it's tax deductible). If you don't, that's okay too! I know God will pull through for our child, in spite of me.

I hope to have exciting news this week - we could totally have our 171 back! Here's praying for a speedy government process - that can happen, right? ;)

09 September 2012

Serious Sunday

I'll be brief (HA! I mean as brief as I can be). Ezra's been sleeping poorly. And by that I mean, like last night: he woke up 5 times from 3:30-5, and then came into bed with us, where he rolled around until 6:30 and Stephen held him down in his crib until he went to sleep. But he just woke back up 5 minutes later, so I spent the rest of the night sleeping on the floor in his room with my arm in his crib.You know he climbed out of his crib, so we can't ever let him cry, even though he's just being stubborn about sleep (so it seems? Anybody know of a reason why an 18 month old would be awake - not ready to play awake, just not going to sleep - for 1-3 hours every night for over a week?).

I've been pretty complainy about it to the Lord. I mean, who wants to be this tired? I really have to watch my driving because I'm just not very safe anymore. I have to focus, or I get dangerous. So we were talking about God's discipline this morning during the worship time, and I was reminded - God doesn't lose patience with me, even when I'm being really slow to learn something, or even when I'm being stubborn in giving in to him. He's just persistent, to the bitter end he persists with me.

This season is unpleasant, and he let me know it's okay to admit that. But I don't get to complain about Ezra's difficulties with sleeping anymore. I need to take it as an opportunity to grow in patience because God knows I need more. I mean, I also know in theory that I need more, and I kind of want more patience, but I don't really want to go through the season required to grow that patience, you know?

But God reminded me, as I started to go into my old routine of thinking of obedience as a leash that gets shorter or a collar that gets tighter: he's not like that. He's a good dad. Good parents discipline their kids so that they can move into a greater freedom with the ability to be responsible with it. Ezra gets disciplined when he runs away from me because he could be hurt or killed if he ran away at the wrong time. Once he learns to stop when I say, "Stop!" then he can have more freedom - maybe to walk in the parking lot or something like that.

I guess what I mean by all that is that I sometimes get into a rut of thinking that God grows my character just so he can throw harder things onto my back. But I think I have it backwards. God knows that this is the easiest it's going to be maybe until I die. Who knows, maybe I'll have times when life slows down and I'm rested and things are tranquil, but I just kind of doubt it. I think life just gets harder because that's what life does here, and God wants me to be ready to walk in freedom, and to handle that freedom responsibly. He wants for my future to not be so burdensome as it will be if I don't grow now. He doesn't want to turn me into a circus animal who just does whatever he says when he says it; he wants me to not be a toddler for the rest of my life! I [sometimes] want that too.

For now, we're transitioning Ezra into a "toddler bed" (which, around these parts, means a mattress on the floor) tomorrow. I'm sure I'll have some stories to tell this week!

Oh, and he also said "grass" and "up" today. And he tried to say "robot" but was unsuccessful (bobo? Not a word). It's exciting to hear him speaking after so long of not understanding annnnything. Luckily we still aren't developed to the point of getting frustrated with Mommy for not understanding toddlerspeak.

05 September 2012

Out!

You will never guess where we found E sleeping this morning. Lemme splain.

So every so often, we close the door on Ezra in the middle of the night. He sleeps across the hall from us, so we don't need a monitor to hear when he wakes up (and he's always sure to tell us when he does). We don't close the doors frequently, just when we're sure that he's not hurting or in need of comfort, but when he just doesn't want to go back to sleep (he has never ever been okay with hanging out in his crib without us there). So when it's clear he's just being kind of naughty, and we've tried everything we know to do, and it's been an hour and a half for crying out loud, we close the door. Usually I'll go back in there after a few minutes to settle him down, and he'll lay down and go to sleep. But not last night. So we closed the doors again and went to sleep because I physically couldn't stay awake any longer.

I really do love my child, but I also know that I still have to take care of him the next day, and I can't do that well if he's kept me up for three precious hours (in fact I tend to dislike him on those days, which is sad). The fact that Ezra hasn't slept through the night since before the Staff Retreat (a month) doesn't help.

So we set our alarm for 6:30 - when he typically wakes up - and I open the door to find things blocking the way into the room and I'm like !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHEREISHEWHEREISHEWHEEERREISSSSSHEEEEEEE

Like that. Turns out, he decided to sleep on top of his changing table. Regardless of whatever you just pictured in your head, THIS is what his table looks like:
Does that look sturdy to you? No? No! It's not! I don't even know how he got up there, but I guess the same way he got out of his crib with no bumper rails or stuffed animals or any other type of leverage. 

I need a moment to calm back down.

So, we're trying to figure out what to do, once we can get up off our needs thanking God that E didn't hurt himself on the many sharp and dangerous things we have in that room. Really, it's just for sleeping; we keep the door closed during the day and everything.

I feel like a really bad parent, but is it normal for a small 18 month old to climb out of a crib that's fully lowered? I mean, he's only 31 inches tall. There's 21 inches between his crib mattress and the top of his crib. And that table is 36 inches tall! I certainly don't have that kind of upper body strength, and he's a toddler.

I need another moment. I've needed lots today. You mommas you, when did you put your kiddo on a mattress on the floor, or in a toddler bed? Or should we just move his crib into our front bedroom, which is free of enticing things like my sewing machine and our totally-full bookcase? 

01 September 2012

Fundraising Fri... Saturday :/

Whoops! With the first week of school come a crazy amount of work. Sorry for the silence! Our semester is starting up well, with 17 people actively interested in our small group. Yay! But that's not the point of today's post.

Since I'm already a day late on this, I'll keep it short. We're going to be closing our His Kids, Too! grant next Friday, September 7th. It will take a little bit of time for them to send it to our agency, and we want to have it ready to go when we get our advance orphan processing approval from USCIS.

So, if you want to support our adoption in a tax-deductible manner, just go here!

I didn't submit a grant application this week - just working too much. But hopefully I can get one out next week!

The only other thing is that I sold some oreo cookie balls at our church's office and made $5. I think maybe I should've made them a little smaller (and not at the beginning of the semester, when people are trying to work out and be healthy). Lesson learned! Still, $5 is $5 more than we had. Onward!

27 August 2012

A Quote for Beginnings

"Some of those apples will fall to the ground and rot. But God uses rotten apples - to fertilize the ground, to start more apple trees after little animals plant them, and just to make the air smell sticky sweet. You cannot know the depth of God's plan for your fruit. So throw it out there on the ground when you have no plan for its future. Waste it. [...] Be bountiful with your fruit and free with it. The only thing you can know for certain is that God will use it."
 - Rachel Jankovic, Loving the Little Years

Just a thought as our branches begin to bud.

26 August 2012

Etsy Giveaway Winner!

Okay, somehow I've forgotten how to do a screen shot (srsly Michelle? Shape up.), but the Random.org-generated random comment was #2!

Congratulations, Emily! I'll facebook message you to find out what pair you want. Yay!

I swear I'm going to get the other things I've made up; it's just so hard to find time (and space and a model) to take pictures.

Thanks to everyone who posted!

25 August 2012

Dear Students

It's that time of year again, and I just wanted to have a little chat. Well, what I mean is, we need to talk.

I love you. For serious, I do. We live here just to reach out to and interact with you. I enjoy getting to be around you and am really excited for this school year.

But, when you get on the road, please stop trying to kill me and my child. I know you don't know where you're going, and I totally remember believing subconsciously that I was invincible and could never die as a result of my own recklessness. I get it. But still, I have to tote my child around with me, and trust me, you will not like me when I'm angry. And if you hit me because you're crossing three lanes of traffic in the middle of an intersection, or decide to go straight even though you're in a turn lane, or just aren't paying attention to those pesky traffic lights bc lol ur txting, well, I will get angry. I will call your parents. I will tell them what you were doing and that you don't have a shirt or shoes on right now (but that you are wearing your swim trunks).

So please, for the love of your fellow College Stationites, and your poor parents, just STOP IT.

Love and huncalfroyo,
m

[these scenarios are all what I've seen in the past week; thank God we haven't had a crash yet! Praying we'll stay safe during these particularly rowdy times.]

24 August 2012

Fundraising Friday

Hey all! There are only 2 things I want to mention today. Oh never mind, 3 things.

Thing #1: If you happen to go to Fellowship Church, there are Oreo cookie balls in the fridge you can buy to support our adoption. They are super-duper-paratrooper good.

Thing #2: I finished another grant application! Everyone pat me on the back, because I definitely spent a lot of time wishing I was doing something else. Luckily, I made copies of the things we'll need for future grants (and will be able to reuse the letters of reference we're getting), so they should be less painful the next go-around.

Thing #3: Since we should hopefully have our USCIS approval soon, we'll be closing our His Kids, Too! grant to pay for our last fee until we match with our child. So, if you would still like to give and have it be tax-deductible, your window will close in a couple of weeks and not reopen for several months.

22 August 2012

This is not the post I'd want it to be

I'd really like to post on how excited I am that we're close to getting on the waiting list at the baby's home, and how ready I am to put my head down and start applying for grants and fundraising my socks off (anybody want to buy a pair of used socks? No?). But, although I am excited to get a number in my head (are we 15? 30? telllll meeeeeeeee), I am not at all excited to start really applying to grants.

It's not that I don't think it's worth it; it totally is. And it's not like I'm not grateful that there are funds out there dedicated to making orphans not be orphans anymore; I totally am. But this whole adoption process is invasive. Getting pregnant and having a baby requires no one to look at your finances - no one checks your last two years' tax returns before giving the go ahead to "try." No one needs to hear your testimony or to get references (6! no kidding!) before you go into labor. And it's just hard. It's hard to give the control of so much to people who have never met you. They're looking at pieces of paper in order to decide whether fundraising is going to go well or be amazingly difficult.

And it's just a bitter pill to swallow, to give to others the control over your family that you normally exercise. And it's really scary; I know some people don't understand how we live on what we do. It's totally fine that they don't - I really don't care usually - but they're using numbers to decide our future. It's a hard thing!

But it's times like this, when I sit down at the computer to copy/paste from previous answers another set of responses to faith-related questions, or when I do another "cash flow worksheet," that I'm reminded that the Holy Spirit is powerful. He moves in our hearts, and He can move the hearts of those looking at our papers. He can whisper in their hearts and move them to grant us funds. He is much more powerful than any words I write. He is much more in control than I am, and it's good in the hardest, most pride-crushing way. I like my pride, God! Just let me keep this little thing, this "We can make it on our own" kind of pride! PLEASE!!!!

*sigh* It's good. I do want to be more like Jesus. I mean, I want to want to be more like Jesus, you know? And even though I keep wanting to randomly cry about how not-in-control I am over things that are very, very important to me, I know that God is doing a work, and God makes beautiful things.

21 August 2012

Biometrics... Check!

Sooooo I told you about the part in your I-600A where you get fingerprinted. They call it biometrics which is way, WAY more fancy than it should be called. Even though I'd previously heard it referred to as being fingerprinted, I was still hoping for a body scan or voice recognition or something worthy of a name like biometrics.

Come on, say it out loud. You know you want to. It's like a secret agent word!

But no, it was fingerprints, exactly like the ones I did at CSPD when I was starting the staff program at GCM. I have now been fingerprinted FOUR times. Once in order to do something with CSISD (I can't remember if it was subbing or being a field trip supervisor or for my certification or what). Once for the GCM staff employee paperwork. Once for our FBI background check. And (hopefully for the very last time) now for our I-600A. Dumb! Or at least a waste of time and resources; it's not like my fingerprints are changing.

Anyway, all that complaining aside, I have a story for you... Ags and not-Ags...
We got our appointment in the mail on Friday. There is no number for the center you're assigned, so you can't call and ask if there's a good time to come in. Moreover, this is the beginning of the school year, so it's a ca-razy time to be scooting on down to Houston and back (oh, did I mention?). Especially for Stephen, since he's the Campus Director and is currently fielding more calls from people in these two weeks than I do in a year (praise the Lord!). So I cook up a plan that we'll leave at 7am, get there at 8:30 (barring traffic in Houston, hah.) and hopefully they'll fingerprint us.

We show up at 8:50 (of course there was some traffic, but it wasn't so very bad), and the lady at the front says she cannot see us now and to come back to try to be seen at 11. This is quite a conundrum for us, as we have a dear friend watching our dear toddler. And this dear friend (hi, Jana!) has never put our toddler down for a nap. And sometimes he goes down like a mogwai and sometimes like a gremlin. And I prefer not to subject my friends to gremlins.

So we sit there weighing the pros and cons of staying or not staying and decide to stay. And praise the Lord for that! I wish the lady would've let us just wait there because, when we came back at 10:50, we waited for maybe three minutes. Not that I minded going to Shipley's... So seriously, after all that weighing and being frustrated, we walked out the door at 11:01. Hurray!

Anyway, just my two cents on the biometrics part of your I-600A... maybe it's better to come a little later in the day if you aren't going to wait for your appointment.

17 August 2012

Fundraising Friday


I didn't share last week because we were out planning for the ministry year. It's kind of a strange time for us, because we've got all these goals and plans and hopes laid out, but we aren't quite able to do anything about them yet. It's kind of nice, since E's been a bit of a drama prince in readjusting to normal life.

That being said, there are exciting things to report!

Here's our current tally:
Amount already invested into adoption: $3575
Next fee due: $3000 (due in 3-12 weeks, depending on USCIS)
Amount in adoption acct: $750
Amount in adoption grant acct: $1840 (+$40)
Amount raised this week from Etsy: $10 (goodbye, cute pair of earrings! I can't wait to see you on the lobes of a friend!)
Amount given in cash gifts: $510!
Amount needed for next fee: $0!!!
Est amount needed total: ~$15,000

We have enough to pay our next fee! We won't need any more $ until we accept the referral of our child! SO CRAZY! Of course, at that moment we'll need $5500, and the rest of the $ just weeks after that, but still! No more fees until we've seen our child's face! Best. The very best.

That $40 in our grant account is actually from May, but we weren't updated on its appearance until last week... ??? But thank you, person who donated $60! I only put $40 because I took out the amount that is taken from the gifts to pay Paypal/credit card companies. A large gift was given via Paypal as well, so that's why there's such a difference. We'll be closing that grant when we get our I-171H, so if you want to give that way, there's only weeks left to do so! ;-)

We had a friend give us $500 towards our adoption; so generous and helpful! The grant fundraising is really great to help people give and have it be tax deductible, but with grants, you have to submit receipts for things you've already paid to get them to reimburse them (like plane tickets), so having cash is really helpful (since we don't often have $4000 laying around).

We also had a couple give us a piggy bank intended to help us raise funds (which came with $ too!), and that was sweet and so heart-warming for me. Just like in GCM support-raising, large donations help so much, but it's the heart of people that blesses us the most.

Grants applied for: 0
Grants left to apply for: 6
Acceptance/Denial: none

I know I should have done more this week with our grants! Our financial situation is pretty tight right now, so I'm holding off applying until we look like we're not flat broke. I know we will be able to afford to care for baby A, but people who don't know us may not think so! Our plan is to sell one of our vehicles. Now, we're going to sell our second vehicle and then buy a reliable car with the combined money, but it'll be nice to look like we have savings, even though we won't be building up actual savings for at least one more month. Is that dishonest?

I'm not sure I care. We're not in debt; we work our numbers to make sure our kid is taken care of; we are blessed with an amazing community around us who love us and support us so we don't feel alone during lean times. They even pooled some money so Stephen and I can get glasses that we desperately need. My life is full, even if our savings account is empty! Know what I mean?

16 August 2012

Night Waking - an Update

Ezra spent his first night away from both of us last week; in fact, he spent three full days without seeing either of us. This may not seem like a big deal to some of you, but the longest he had previously spent without either of us present was about 8 hours. So this was a leap for the poor little Tookie.

Exacerbating the problem was that Ezra caught some virus or other before we were to leave, effectively fouling up some well-laid plans. Previous to "the Sickness," he was down to only nursing when he woke up in the morning (and that was mostly so we could stay in bed longer). When he got sick, he wanted more comfort, and I gave it to him, willing my milk to give him good antibodies or T-cells or whatever it is he would need to feel better.

He actually did very well; he didn't have any symptoms other than an unnervingly high fever (103 when his medicine was wearing off). Apparently he did a lot of laying on my mom and watching Backyardigans. I don't care; I was able to be an adult doing adult things for 3 days - so crazy! I do wish I could have a 48-hour period without Ezra where I'm not also working 10 hours/day, but it was still so much easier than it would have been with E present.

Anyway, I got E on Saturday, and Stephen came back (and brought Django the dog home) on Sunday, so we're finally getting back into our routine. I was supposed to come back with S on Sunday, but by Saturday afternoon, E was fed up with my mom (she thinks E thought she was holding on him with breastfeeding! Totally possible for my boy), and my dad's novelty was fast wearing off. It was a rough day or two after we were reunited; E wouldn't stop begging to nurse and would pitch fits anytime I said no (which was somewhat often bc he was asking like every hour and a half) or whenever I ended a nursing time (45 minutes is long enough!). I know he was just making up for lost closeness in his very favorite way, but we're having to get him used to how it was before we went away.

It's funny; I think E knew how much I was looking forward to sleeping through the night at our staff "retreat" (yearly planning time) and decided to start sleeping through the night himself like 10 days before we left. Well, he doesn't wake up until the morning I'd say 4 or 5 nights a week, which is still AMAZING to me!

The only difficulty is that he doesn't quite make it all the way to 6:30 - he's been waking up at 5, too tired to get up, but too awake to go back to sleep. He's too squiggly to stay in our bed (Stephen saves up his grace-giving for later in the day) but won't let me leave him in his crib... So it's been a little frustrating. I'm hoping he'll push that later and later until it's no longer an issue. He'll finally go back to sleep for a while, but it's just so sad to almost get a full night's sleep, but not quite. Soon and very soon, I'm sure.

Anyway, I know I've done a lot of complaining about my Mr. TooBusyToStayAsleep on here; I wanted to share some encouraging bits about it. I don't know why exactly it happened now (probably a mixture of cutting down on his ability to nurse; a new way of putting him down; and some magic formula of age, finally eating more food, and... God's grace?), but I'm glad we're getting closer to normal little boy sleep and farther from big baby sleep. :)

14 August 2012

Sorry for the drama... and Nutrition

Sorry; I can be kind of an emotional downer sometimes. It's not all weeping chez Muenich, I promise.

Sometimes, I'm researching instead of crying. ;)

So, for those of you considering international adoption, or even for fostering, the Spoon Foundation is a great resource for understanding the impact of malnutrition, nutrient deficiencies, and the like. It's also a great resource for ideas to help your kids to get back on track nutritionally.

I'm not gonna lie, I'm a big believer in brain chemistry and behavior. I'm also a big believer in helping your kids get their biochemistry balanced and on track. I suppose what makes me nervous is my bio kid already being a picky eater. Or I'd say E isn't a picky eater per se; it just takes him a long time to try new foods - he needs to see things and hold them (and give them to Django) a few times before he'll put it in his mouth. It sure helps when something's on my plate and I'm eating it, but it's no guarantee that he still will. So I really hope I can get Ezra to be more open-minded about food, since I'll need baby A to eat nutrient dense (and sometimes very un-candy-like) foods for his/her own health and development.

My plan is to start serving these kinds of foods now in the hopes that, by the time we have baby A, E will be enthusiastic about helping his little sibling eat well. Fingers crossed!

06 August 2012

Mother-Love

Sometimes I just need a little space to grieve this lost mother-time. Our baby A has almost certainly been born by now. I should be more careful about looking at pictures of little African faces, because I can get kind of overwhelmed with thoughts.

Is he okay right now? It's 8 hours ahead in Uganda, so he's almost assuredly asleep. When he wakes up, will he see his birth mother, or anyone whose face comforts him? Will someone be there to care for him? Is he hungry or frightened? Is he okay?

Is my child, my little baby, okay?

You moms (and anyone with a knack for empathy) know how distressing that thought is. You also know that mother-love doesn't know time zones or continents or legalities or even time. Yes, technically I don't know if our child is a he or she (I tend to refer to baby A as a boy because that's what is familiar to me) or when s/he will become a Muenich. But my children are my children. I loved Ezra long before he was conceived; I love baby A long before we know who baby A is. But Ezra was with me from the time he was created. I've never had to wonder if he was safe or starving or being hurt. When he's sick, I care for him. When he's scared, I comfort him. When he's hungry, I feed him.

Perhaps I'm mostly grieving the loss of control of care. I can't protect my child, and I don't know how to deal with it emotionally. I suppose I'll have my cry and place baby A at the Lord's feet. Which, apparently, is a lot harder to do when you can't also be doing all the protecting yourself... merrr. Good to know you've been secretly relying on yourself. Whoops, sorry God!

04 August 2012

Fundraising Fri... I mean Saturday...

So! As we close out our document phase of our adoption (for the most part), now is time to really ramp up the fundraising phase. So, in an effort to keep people abreast of our current tally (and to keep me going on less-than-enjoyable parts), I want to start doing a Fundraising Friday post. Hopefully I'll have something to share every week. As in, get it in gear, Muenich.

Here's our current tally:
Amount already invested into adoption: $3575
Next fee due: $3000 (due in 3-12 weeks, depending on USCIS)
Amount in adoption acct: ~$750 (or will be once USCIS deposits our I-600A check)
Amount in adoption grant acct: $1800
Amount raised this week from Etsy: $60
Amount needed for next fee: ~$400
Est amount needed total: ~$15,500

So I opened my Etsy shop, and so far I've made $60 from the sale of jewelry! One was a custom order - if you have beads and want something made from them, I can do it! Stephen's great aunt passed away, and I inherited some amazing, vintage beads that I hope to make into jewelry and put up, as well as some vintage pins and cuff-links. I also have a few necklaces I really need to take pictures of to put up.

Grants applied for: 1
Grants left to apply for: 6
Acceptance/Denial: none

Hopefully once we get back from Staff Retreat this next week I'll be able to apply for one a week. They require a TON of supporting paperwork, and each one has different questions and worksheets and the like, so it's not like filling out a form and sending it in! I understand that they want to be faithful with making sure the funds go to families who need it and will use it, but it's hard to get everything they need and to be judged on paperwork alone by someone you've never met. Thus is life; baby A is worth the trouble!

25 July 2012

The Document Grab

So, y'all, there are a LOAD of documents you need. My dossier checklist is kind of depressing because you need triplicates of everything, so there are a lot of unchecked boxes (30). Yes, thirty documents I still need.

There are a couple of things you can do, psh, right now if you want. Ordering some birth certificates is a good idea. Whether you need them for your dossier or not, you'll need one for your homestudy, one for your I-600A, and one (or two to be safe) for when you travel. Something you should know about newly-issued birth certificates: you cannot copy them. As in, you can't fully read the print because it says," VOID" alllllll over it. So there's that.

To get your birth certificate in Texas, simply go to Vital Statistics. As of this date, copies are $22 each. Yes, documents add up.

Marriage licenses in Texas can be obtained at your local county seat. In Brazos county, they're around $20 (look, I didn't keep a receipt or anything). I think documents are a total racket because, at least here, they just print out a scanned copy, press the little indent into it and sign. It's like 3 minutes' work for 20 bucks. Laa-aaaame.

You will need (at least for a dossier to Uganda) a criminal background check. Check with your homestudy agency if they can give you a copy of the one they had to do for you during that process. If they can't, the FBI does them in a fairly streamlined fashion. You will have to submit a set of fingerprints, even though you're going to be fingerprinted for your I-600A. Yes, that's stupid; it's the government.

If you need a child abuse clearance, those are super easy in Texas (and freeee! I wish we needed ours because it was free!). I did a bit of internet digging, so email me if you want the form, since I'm not positive I can easily link to how I got the info.

For your homestudy, you'll need a verification of your employment by your employer. I'd suggest to go ahead and get them so sign and notarize a few copies at the beginning so you don't have to ask them to do it again during dossier prep.

You'll need a lot more documents (copies of your passport photo pages, for example), but those don't require steps. I already told you about the big pain it was to get doctors' letters and such. If you're adopting from a country that's a leetle more uptight about things like health, they may require some kind-of-outrageous things (chest x-rays, anyone?), and having a psych eval done is somewhat standard (and expensive) procedure. Check around to see if anyone who does psych testing is an adoptive or foster parent. They'll make your life a little easier (email me if you're in CS; I know a great guy). But I don't know much about that  aspect.

23 July 2012

The I-600A

Something you should know on the outset: this form is for non-Hague countries. The form of this kind for Hague countries is the I-800A, and I have no experience with that one. So there's that.

Now, I realize I should probably make my next post on acquiring all the supporting documents you need to file various and sundry things (birth certs, marriage certs, etc), but just imagine you've already gotten those.

Your I-600A is an exciting document. It's your request to the government that they approve you to adopt from the country you specify. I think thing #2 you should know (thing #1 having been what the doc even is) is that this thing takes for-ev-er to be processed. As in, if they get bogged down, it could be 3 MONTHS before you receive your determination. That determination is called the I-171H, the "notice of favorable determination for advance processing of an orphan petition."

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Even though your agency should send you instructions on how to fill out the I-600A, always check with USCIS for their latest incarnation of this thing (and fees, etc). You know the government.

With these couple of sheets of paper on which the future of your family depends (nbd), you will submit the supporting documents: birth certificates/naturalization papers/passport copy, marriage license/divorce decree/death certificate. These documents can be copies, but you should know that newly-issued Texas birth certificates do not copy. As in they literally have that written all over them when you try to black and white copy. And of course you'll send a check. The instructions at USCIS will have the current fee. Don't forget to add the fingerprinting fee required for each adult in the house. I should tell you, this puppy is one expensive document. Our I-600A, with fingerprints, will be $890.

The directions are, of course, not really THAT clear for being so danged wordy. For example, on the current incarnation, they don't really tell you what to write on block III if you aren't requesting an accommodation for a disability. Apparently you just leave it blank. I put "no" all the way down... We'll see if it works out okay... fingers crossed.

I'm told that at some point, we will get an appointment to get our fingerprints taken. I don't know why our fingerprints need to be taken and taken (I mean, Stephen and I were both fingerprinted when we were hired at GCM, and I was fingerprinted when I was with our ISD, so come on, guys!). It's not like they change. But once that happens, I'll let you know how it goes.

For us, as soon as we get our I-171H, we go on the wait list at our agency. Which is kind of a big deal. Then, the REAL wait begins.

22 July 2012

Home Study - Complete!

So our homestudy is finished and I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!

It certainly does NOT normally take this long. The laaaast bit our homestudy agency was waiting on was to confer with our adoption agency on what our specific country might need in its report. Since we left our original program (and roamed all over the earth, essentially), they had to wait until we signed up with our new program and new country.

Since our "new" program is Uganda and our new agency IS our homestudy agency, things moved quickly. They got it signed, notarized, and sent the two copies to us. Some states don't let you have copies of your homestudy, and some don't even let the social worker tell you any parts of the home study, but Texas lets the agency send us copies. That way we can make copies for when we send in grant applications. Yay!

Next I'll share about our Orientation (which, normally, would have been before our homestudy, but wasn't for us), and then I'll share about the I-600A. Are we all excited?!? I'm sure we are.

20 July 2012

Home Study Pt. 4

Soooooo only a couple months later...
I'll talk about the education portion. Every agency has different requirements, but it seems like most have you complete 10 hours of adoption training online, read books/articles, etc. Our homestudy agency deferred to our original agency, which had us do the National Council for Adoption's online training. It was a little overwhelming for Stephen because it was actually more like 13 hours, and we did it in 6 evenings, with Ezra in tow. The other sad thing about it is you need a certificate for each person, but there's no way for you to both do it on the same computer, so I had to "catch up" to Stephen every day afterwards.

I've read a few books that were really helpful. Definitely one I would recommend to anyone considering international adoption (psh, any parent would find it a good resource) is The Connected Child, by Karyn Purvis. It's just so good.

They also had us read Love and Logic, which had some good things in it. I know it's just a personality quirk, but I have a hard time wanting to implement anything from a book that is all or nothing. I don't want to be a love and logic parent. I don't want to be a _____ parent, period. But, beyond my knee jerk reactions, it does have good advice on how and when to see if natural consequences work. I'm 100% skeptical because natural consequences don't work very well for me. I'm too impulsive. I still (far too frequently) will do something now, knowing full well there will be consequences later, simply because now is fun and later is whatever. My parents did a lot of natural consequencing, and anything where the consequences weren't immediate was completely ineffective. I just have a very difficult time caring about tomorrow. I don't meant o dog on my parents by any means; I have no, no idea how I would parent a person like me. I'm afraid I may learn, but it's honestly quite unnerving because I don't know what works with me other than age... I'm getting better, but I think I'm a little past being parented.

A book I currently have waiting in the wings to be read is Parenting the Hurt Child. We don't know our child's story, but adoption involves incredible loss for children, a loss or losses that will effect them for the rest of their lives in one or many ways. I'll let you know how I find it.

Anyway, our homestudy agency had us come to their office for a couple of hours of in-house training, basically a friendly-type quiz on what we'd learned. It was a little hectic because we had to bring Ezra, but he did fine and that was that.

The education requirements can seem very daunting, especially for those who don't spend a lot of their free time reading (like my husband). With the books, I highlighted parts I thought summed up what the author was saying or were especially meaningful, and that helped it seem less like a big pile of work he had to get done.

13 July 2012

New Etsy Funzies and a Legit Giveaway

*This giveaway is now closed.*

Okay, so I've been crafting all week, specifically making lots of fun earrings. Earrings are like the only jewelry I enjoy wearing (which makes me so sad now that I can't wear them if I want to keep my earlobes safe from curious hands). I stayed up way too late last night uploading the best pictures-I-got-while-being-hugged-at-the-knees-by-a-toddler to my Etsy. I have more I'll be making over the weekend, and I'll try to have those up asap.

Here are a few of my favs:
Suspicious Snake

I'm Nacred

Fireworks

Color me Bad

By far my favorite thing to do is name them (since I can't wear them and sell them). If you've watched the same movies as I have or listen to the same music*, you may recognize some phrases (but it's okay if you don't watch animated movies in our spare, grown-up time). I amuse myself, but don't expect to be amused since I never ever win at Apples to Apples. The important thing in life is to think you're funny, right? [*I do NOT listen to Color Me Badd.]

Okay, here are the ways to enter to win a pair of earrings of your choice:

1) Peruse the shop and tell me in a comment which are your favorite.
2) Follow my Etsy group on Facebook and leave me a comment saying you did or you already do.
3) Give to our Adoption ChipIn and leave a comment that you did (This is the only one where I may leave a comment in your stead if you forget.)
4) Buy a piece of jewelry on Etsy and leave a comment that you did.
4) Link to this giveaway on your blog or Facebook and leave a comment that you did.

For real this time, if you don't leave a comment, you can't win! I'll get a screenshot of the winning comment number from random.org on Sunday the 26th in the afternoon, so make sure you have your comments in by then.

Thanks for your support in helping us bring home our next child!

Our ChipIn

12 July 2012

A UGANDAN Family

Yes, we are back where we've belonged this whole time. We've been accepted into the Uganda program with our homestudy agency. You may remember that we were with a different agency prior to the new requirements changing. There are no hard feelings on our side; we just wanted to stick with an agency we had a real relationship with and who were close to home (as in, Waco, not the East Coast). The other agency was going through some transitions, and we feel more comfortable working with an agency who we've had personal experience with being prompt, friendly, and helpful.

We will have our orientation on Monday, and then our homestudy will be finished and we'll send off our I-600A. The I-600A is the 3-page, $890 document you submit to the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) that results in receiving your I-171H. That's basically a document that says the US Government approves of you adopting a orphan. Once we get that, our dossier can be submitted to Uganda, and we'll start the wait to be matched!

This week has been a bit of a flurry of activity for me (FINALLY I CAN GET SOME THINGS DONE!), but I'll post more on that tomorrow. :D

For those of you who remember that we were totally freaked out by the crazy requirements: yes, one of the two judges who grant guardianship does still require all of those things. Yes, I am fervently praying we don't get that judge. But our agency does take mission trips to Uganda, and what could be a better way to visit than to go back, not as a tourist, but as a helper, to play with the kids at the same orphanage our child may be in right now?

God is good.

04 July 2012

Okay, HERE's a current picture...

But E had been swimming. My darling husband fashioned his hair this way, and, because it was full of sunscreen, things got a lil crazy.

Now, don't start lining up for a cut n style all at once, now. Happy Independence Day, all!

Ezra is 16 months!

Okay, I'm not gonna lie... These photos are from exactly one month ago... WE'RE BAD PARENTS! Or whatever. I'll take a couple today and put them up. Oh yeah, happy 4th!

Oh, Daisy.
Developmentally, Ezra is moving along. He climbs ev-er-y-thing right now, but he doesn't always know how to get himself down (from standing on the coffee table, for example). He's started throwing little tantrums, but luckily for us he yells, not screams. He also turns in circles when he does sometimes, and it can be really hard not to laugh.

He's making progress on words - I feel so hesitant to say he's "saying" things now because he's clearly said some things a couple of times, but then I don't hear them again. But his favorite thing to say right now is "hot." I think because he can actually say it very clearly, everything is hot. It's kind of perplexing. He also said "water" (wawa) for the first time this evening. He says "day" for Django and he says "out" pretty well. He was saying "ice" really well but hasn't for a few days... is that a normal thing for y'all? It's like he knows he can say it, so he works on something else or something.

His excited face.
My favorite thing he's started doing is pointing to features on his face. His favorite (or the one he remembers most often) is his nose. He points to it and we say, "Ezra's nose!" like he's just done the most wonderful and exciting thing in the world. He's been experimenting with his eye (or really tear duct), and he knows our tongues and ears but hasn't quite gotten those on himself consistently yet.

He's also started trying to put our shoes on for us. I don't know, it seems so strange, but it's fine that I end up wearing two different shoes that are Stephen's some days. At least he doesn't try with his shoes on my feet; there's no helping them.
"Leetle leetle leetle leetle!" is what his grandpa sings to him.

He loves to read books over and over (and over and over) again, but lately he hasn't been "reading" them by himself much. I think now he's more interested in what the things in the books are called than just looking at the pictures.

He didn't gain weight from his 9 month well visit until the week before his 15 month visit (I kid you not), so he was in the 20th percentile for length, 5th for weight, and 90th for head circumference. Yes, he has a Muenich noggin. Love it!

video
 Watch this. It's short and amusing.

He's still kind of a perplexing eater: loving things one day and refusing to eat them for weeks after (or ever again, in the case of steamed carrots). I've been trying to get him on a snack-meal schedule, but I definitely don't have it down - I try to feed him and he eats like 2 peas and 3 cheerios and a teensy piece of apple and then his behavior falls apart 30 minutes later because he's starvicating.

I think he maybe should be saying more words, but I'm not really worried about it. He's a stubborn little person with a great deal to say, and more and more of it is becoming comprehensible. He's such a delight to us. He still has to be one of the happiest toddlers around. Love you, Pez!

03 July 2012

Weaning

Yawl. I'm about to get real serious.

 E is 16 months old and like 2 months into being weaned. I guess I don't really see the big deal in continuing to nurse past 12 months because it just gets a thousand times easier now that he's not relying on me for food. E nurses for comfort, and it makes my life easier to nurse him, honestly. Part of me is kind of glad we're weaning so I am forced to learn other parenting techniques to help him settle. He already gets tantrum-y, either from not getting his way, or from not being able to express what he wants, or both.

That wasn't meant to be anything about anyone else; I'm just saying I don't mind nursing him like 4 or 5 times a day or something. It doesn't make running errands or going to friends' houses or really anything difficult. But we're going on our church staff retreat at the beginning of August for 6 days, and E is staying with my parents. So we've been weaning him. And it's been so hard lately.

Like last night, He woke up 7 times. SEVEN. And I mean 7 times between 1 and 4:30, at which point he came to bed with us because I can only handle closing the door on him and letting him wail himself to sleep once every few nights. He even got to nurse for an hour from 3-4 because I was so tired that I fell asleep in the rocker - very first time I've done that.

I can't tell if he's honestly not ready, or just exercising his already strong will. I love his little strong will, but he is killing me slowly right now! We're down to 3 feedings, and I just don't know how to go to fewer, but I'm determined not to just leave him with my parents to be cut off from the comfort he obviously seeks. I would not push weaning at all except that I need to go to our staff retreat (I mean, I'm on staff), and we won't get anything done if he's there.

I know I'm just complaining, but it just seems like we're stuck in this situation, and I think this is the less-traumatic way than just cutting him off when we leave for staff retreat, but I'm not sure this is the less-traumatic way for me. :) Please tell me it will get better! I am losing hope that my child will EVER sleep through the night, or even only wake up once.