30 March 2012

Homestudy Pt. 3 - Addendum

Baby A, you're worth all of this. I already don't regret any of the crazy lengths we have to go to to bring you home. Jesus died for you; I can certainly be tired for you.

 Love,
ta maman

Homestudy Pt. 3

The HOME VISIT! [dun dun duuuuuuuunnnnn]

Fer serious, I was a mess about this. For those of you who only keep your house clean enough for college students, you know how intimidating it might feel to have a stranger coming into your house with the intention of ascertaining whether you're fit to raise an adopted child. What actually freaked me out is knowing that she probably often goes into homes with no children yet. And, lemme tell you, it is HARD to keep a house immaculate with a curious one-year old.

So we turned in our mountain of paperwork, and our social worker set our home visit for a week and a half later. Needless to say, it was a little bit of a stressful time in the Mnch household. On top of all the cleaning, we were trying to get our adoption education completed as well (which is still not complete; our education meeting is Monday, okay?!?).

Another thing you need to focus on is having your house pass the Fire & Environmental Safety Checklist. I don't know if some agencies require you to have it done by the local fire department, but ours did it for us, since College Station charges $30 (laaame).

Honestly, I didn't focus very much going into it on the actual questions she might ask us, which was of course the bulk of the time. I guess I tend to be a forthcoming person, and I can't change what is by thinking more about it or wishing it was different or something. But it was hard, after she left, to keep reminding myself that it's not an unspoken set of buzzwords you need to say in order to "pass" or something. And our social worker tried very hard to make us feel like it wasn't a test and that she wasn't here trying to find reasons to keep us from adopting.

I mostly believe that.

As far as the aftershocks, we're just exhausted. As soon as we finish the education part, I don't think we'll do anything adoption-related until May. I've had a little sinus infection I just cannot get over simply because I do not have the health unction (unction, anyone?) to get over it. Since Monday I have felt the way you feel (or at least the way I felt) after pulling an all-nighter: kinda queasy, a little loopy, super groggy, just bad. Anyway, you can be praying that our household will recover swiftly. I know this stuff comes in bursts; I just had no idea what a physical toll it has taken.

Oh, what's that you say? How did it go? Oh, I don't know. I think it went well. I mean, I don't know. Never having had one or seeing anyone else have one or even watching one happen in a movie - it's hard to know how it's supposed to go. Maybe ask me again after a few more nights' sleep. In the meantime, feel freee to pray for Ezra to miraculously become an awesome sleeper and for supernatural amounts of healing and restoration. Thanks!

29 March 2012

Homestudy Pt. 2

Part two of the home study process is what I whinily affectionately call the MOUNTAIN OF PAPERS.
Your homestudy agency will give you a list of paperwork they need filled out and returned, including (but not limited to):

- a lengthy application
- financial records for two months
- verification of your assets
- paper from your doctor saying you're healthy
- an involved autobiography for each of you
- a layout of your home (with dimensions)
- pictures of the front of your home and your yard
- pictures of your family
- letters verifying your employment
- 4 letters of reference
- certificates of completion for adoption training

... and maybe other things I'm forgetting? Anyway, a ton of stuff. It's pretty easy to feel overwhelmed when looking at the paper with alllll of the things you have to obtain.

How you go about this step depends on whether you're in a rush to get that baby! or if you're not. We aren't, having a baby at present and being pretty tied up with ministry. We were also doing two fundraisers while we had our paperwork, so I think we spent maybe 6 weeks just compiling the documents and finishing the paperwork.

I chose to do things one at a time, since that helps me feel successful. Being able to cross a thing off a list feels a lot better than getting closer to being finished on several things. Stephen worked on his autobiography during many small sittings; I did it in two chunks. I also started with easier-to-do things, like going to our filing cabinet and pulling out the records we needed to copy.

A suggestion I have for this phase of the adoption is to get your dossier doctor note (the one that has to be notarized) at the same visit wheres/he fills out the homestudy agency's paper. Also getting your employer to notarize their verification of employment also helps for your dossier. But my guess is most people probably already know that who are at this point in their adoption "journey."

Next up, the home visit!

21 March 2012

Serious Sunday

I may start a series. Or I may not. If you're expecting something stable and dependable from this blog, go elsewhere. Absolutely all of that gets used up on Ezra. Every single ounce.

Some church friends of ours came home this week with their daughter. She was born in China and was just adopted into the family God has ordained her to grow in since birth. I just kept tearing up all morning.

You know, with pregnancy, it becomes real (I think) pretty quickly: "morning" sickness/crazy fatigue. Even if you don't have that (lucky!), you still get to hear a heartbeat within weeks of conception. But I won't be carrying our next child.

I suppose I will have to work this out with the Lord, but, if I'm being completely honest, sometimes I felt like I forced His had with Ezra. Not that I can make myself get pregnant by force of will or something, but God allowed my body to be fertile, and, well, we got Ezra. I wanted him so badly we didn't technically wait until we like heard a "Now!" from the Lord or something. Stephen was willing to become a parent, but he also was very comfortable waiting a bit longer.

I divulge all of this merely to say, sometimes I feel like having Ezra was more of a selfish act than I care to admit. I yearned to have him and be his mommy. I longed for it for years (5). I don't really have some sort of clear calling that God wanted us to have him when we did. I don't regret it a bit, not even a little, though that makes me feel a little bad. [whoops, sorry for being so willful, God!]

All of that to say, when we bring our next child home, I don't think I'll be able to feel that way even a little bit. There's nothing biological about adoption. You can't just "whoops!" into it. It's not the natural order of things - it takes many, many deliberate (and often laborious) steps. When I was pregnant with E, there were several times when I was terrified that we had made the wrong decision; that we weren't ready to parent this amazing person; that we'd mess him up terribly. I think that's probably normal.

The thing was though, there was no going back; he was coming, and he came, and he's here. With adoption, at any point, I can say, "no." And it all stops. And at any point, God can say, "no," and we won't get anywhere. I don't think that's going to happen, and I'm sure I'll have several similar freak-out-times as I did when we were expecting E.

But it's just so humbling: God choosing you to parent someone He loves dearly. What a crazy responsibility. I cannot believe He's picked me. Now, if I can only remember that when Ezra bites me tomorrow. [He got me on the underside of my arm today. It really hurt. Really.]

20 March 2012

Homestudy Pt. 1

I want to do a little series as we move along the process; hopefully it will be helpful to those who might be looking for more information or who are overwhelmed with the amount of work involved in adoption.

So what is a homestudy? Basically it's the process through which adoptive parents go to be approved by the US government to adopt. An agency studies your home environment to make sure it's (and you're) suitable for raising children.

Step one is to find an adoption agency. If you've chosen international adoption, your agency may very well not be located in your state. Ours isn't. But your homestudy and post-placement visits must be carried out by an agency within your state. [this may get confusing, the whole two agencies thing. I will try to use "adoption agency" and "homestudy agency" for clarification.]

Keep in mind that your adoption agency may have extra requirements. There's this thing called the Hague Convention. A country is either part of it or not. This sounds like no bigs, but it is bigs. It's very bigs. Anyway, agencies have to undergo a process to become Hague accredited. And if your adoption agency is accredited, then your homestudy must be completed by an agency that is also Hague accredited, even if your country is not party to the Hague convention.

That was our deal: Nightlight (now A Helping Hand Adoption Agency: a Nightlight Affiliate) is Hague accredited, so we needed an homestudy agency who is also. The good news is that most adoption agencies will send you a list of homestudy agencies they know they can work with when they send you your big, wlecome-to-the-agency packet.

Unfortunately for us, it wasn't updated. So I did a bit of snooping and checked to see if we could do our homestudy through Generations Adoptions in Waco.

We were going to go with Lutheran Social Services of the South, but a couple of things changed our minds (which are only personal preferences). LSSS has its own training, which they do in one all-day seminar in either Houston, Austin, or Dallas. This would be difficult for us because Ezra's never been away from me that long, and we are still nursing. Generations has online training, which isn't covered in their homestudy fees, but we can complete it in a few sittings rather than one very full day.

Another thing was that LSSS charged an application fee and Generations didn't. Their fee for the actual homestudy is also slightly less. I know it's not necessarily good to go with the cheapest everything all the time, but let's face it: we already can't actually afford to adopt. The less we have to raise through fundraisers and grants, the easier on everyone.

I'm really happy with our decision. Everyone I've spoken with at Generations has been very helpful, prompt, and warm. And honestly, I'm not a businessperson; if everyone I talk to throughout my day speaks to me like we're going to be friends, I'm on cloud 9. Especially in unknown and overwhelming territory.

I'll do part 2 of this series after we have our home visit, March 27th!

19 March 2012

Machine Gun Laugh

I don't know if this is a normal baby thing, but Ezra has a great laugh for when he's excited. See below.

video

Also note the sucking on his washrag. Again, I don't know if that's a normal baby thing, but I think it's really weird.

16 March 2012

Ezra Is a Toddler!

I mean, I think he is... He's actually been toddling about for some time.
Ezra found Dad and wanted to play, too.
 I love this pic of him sleeping. You mamas know - whenever your little one's been a fusspot, just a peek at them sleeping makes you remember how wonderful they really are.
Sweeeeet!

 Okay, to the task at hand. Ezra's bday was actually the day of our garage sale. I tried to find another day that fit the criteria we were looking for: we had to be available, it should be around the beginning of the month, and we needed the stuff out of our house in good time before the home visit of our homestudy. This was the day.
The only pic of Ezra on his birthday: 7 am makes for a sleepy boy.
That evening the Mnchs held a family birthday extravaganza because there were (no joke) 5 birthdays between the end of February and mid-March (tomorrow, actually). It worked out pretty well because my parents were able to get a good bit of time with E while they were helping during the garage sale. We would not have been able to do that sale without their help.

So, with his actual birthday not available for a lil party, we decided to have it the next Saturday. Since it was the first Saturday of Spring Break, we thought, "hey, let's invite more people than just family, since a lot of people will be out of town." [Keep in mind that almost all of our friends are in college ministry, so we all pretty much live by the university schedule.]

So we invited our immediate families, our homegroup, and our coworkers.
I think it needs more balloons.
 Turns out, we had 31 people come! I love hosting, so it was kind of a dream for me. We certainly won't be able to do that every year or anything, but I think there's something about firsts. And celebrations. And cooking for people.

Unfortunately, the roaster didn't think 6 hours was long enough to cook all the chicken I had put in it. A couple of wonderful friends/coworkers stepped right up to help slice and pan-cook the chicken so people could, you know, eat.

The theme was Elmo basically because I got the plates, napkins, and tablecloths at like 80% off (possible 90%, but I've forgotten) when our local Albertsons was closing. Turns out, Ezra loves Elmo. Stephen has put it on for him when I've been gone and he decides no one will do but Mom. I'm not a fan of plunking a kid down in front of the TV, but I'd rather my husband not hate me.

Anyway, soon it was time for cake.
Apparently, cake is gross.
 Everyone sang happy birthday to him, and he promptly cried. He was too tired, and thirty people singing was too loud. Luckily the dog started barking, which always cheers him up.

Friends!

I had a good time, and it seemed like everyone else did as well. I'm gonna try to convince Stephen to have maybe a "happy 1st Gotcha Day" or something like that for Baby A, since s/he may already be 1 by the time we get home, or s/he may not have settled in comfortably by the time one year comes around. But I digress. Here's to the next year with my Tookie!

15 March 2012

Whoops!

Sorry for the *ahem* long hiatus. We've been busy around here. Let's get you caught up on the last 6 weeks in the Mnch household (yes, that's how I write our name in my head).

It took us a while to get underway with our homestudy. We were going to go with an agency based out of Austin, but they required us to pay for all of our post-placement visits at the time we paid for our homestudy, and that was going to be hard on us. [I totally totally understand why they do that. Of course people are more likely to actually complete those visits if they've already paid for them. It's really important that families complete their post-placement visits in order to keep the adoption process open between countries. Uganda doesn't want kids coming to the States and never being heard of again, obvs.] They also required an application fee, which I can also understand, because processing documents takes time, but gosh, the money really adds up!

So we checked with another agency and just got such great vibes from them. We were considering using Generations Adoptions as our agency for the whole sha-bang, but we fell in love with Nightlight's Baby's Home. In my interactions with Generations so far, they're a pretty great organization. So we completed their application (with no application fee, yay!) and started gathering the mountain of documents we needed for our homestudy packet.

In the meanwhile, we had our first real fundraiser: a bake sale. Our church graciously let us serve sweets during our biennial Dating and All That Stuff event. For such a small group, we still took home $237 in donations! Crazy, right?!? I was definitely not expecting that much, but so many college students gave generously to us. And the presence of cake balls didn't hurt either. ;)

As soon as that was over, it was time to really get down to business on a big fundraiser: our garage sale. So many of our friends donated (seriously, there was so much stuff). After a couple of locations fell through, the owners of the office building our church rents allowed us to use the parking lot. After 5 days of non-stop work (and an amazing amount of help), we brought in over $1,000! Seriously, one thousand dollars! And I got some Christmas lights to put on our tree. Oddly enough (to me, at least), no one was feeling the Christmas love. I think things like that a great to buy cheaply in the off-season if you have a place to store it. The lights were still in the boxes and LED and cute. Totally a score.

I should've taken pictures of the mayhem in our house, but I don't think Stephen would have allowed them to be seen by others. Our front bedroom was completely full, our couches were covered, and our dining room had a little walkway to the trash can. There were even things I left on the porch because I couldn't find a place to put them. It was nuts.

Oh, did I mention? The garage sale was on Ezra's first birthday. More to come on that tomorrow!