22 February 2016

Process Update

Okay, here's where we are on the adoption side of things:

We had our appointment last Wednesday, and it went wonderfully. Thank you for praying! I was so vulnerable during all that time. But I was able to meet a member of the birth family who'd taken care of the girls as well as she could, and I was so thankful to meet her! They moved our appointment time that day (fro 1:30 to 3:15), so we were there until 4:30 (poor Stephen was alone with all four kids the day after they got here from noon to 5:15).

The woman who was interviewing the family said everything seems great, and she felt comfortable scheduling the visa exit interview (yay!), BUT she said they didn't have any availability until Monday, Feb 29th. Which means we wouldn't get their visas until March 2nd. Which means we wouldn't be home until the evening of Ezra's 5th birthday, March 3rd. Which is miserable for this mommy. It also means we have nothing to do until a week from now. Nothing. UUUUUGGGGGH.

I've been reading An Unhurried Life and it's been so good for this time (for reasons I believe are obvious). I'm really trying to harness my thoughts as they keep spinning out from under me about wanting to be home, with my "house" and my people and my life. Here everything's just a bit more difficult, and I really didn't think I'd be here for a month, but it would be a month to the day if we left on the 2nd. I'm pretty worn down.

So, please pray with me that they would give us an exit interview on Wednesday. Stephen's leading worship on Sunday, and I'd love for us to be there. I more than anything just don't want to miss Ezra's birthday.

A Good, Hard Week

Sorry for the silence. The Ugandan government restricted access to social media sites (even email at some points) during the elections. I'm sure you can imagine my thoughts about that.

Having Stephen and the boys has been so, so good. Look, I was even able to have Stephen take a picture of me! Not the most important reason for them coming, but still, a perk.

See, I am here!
Oh, it's also been really hard. Going from two kids, 4 and under, to four kids, 4 and under, is a really crazy transition. Add in that the boys hardly slept on the trip here and have been really out of their element, and this house is not equipped for children or regular cooking for six people and, whew. It's been a lot.

First time watching tv together. #amazingparents
But still so good. Our sons met our daughters. We rode with the driver to the airport to pick them up -- neither girl could sleep, they were so excited. They've started learning how to play together.

several baths were taken
They tried their hardest to charm the guard here (everyone has a guard here), as well as anyone whose attention they could catch through the ...peephole? hole-for-unlatching-the-door-from-the-outside-and-also-to-look-through...

many turns were taken
the thrilling view
They have started to bond, and also to jostle each other a bit as they figure out their places in our new family. I think it's been hardest on these two:

I know your heart just melted. I know.
For Ezra, any change is difficult. Traveling halfway across the world and adding two sisters into the family and then preparing to leave them again... what a doozy of a week! And his behavior has shown it.

this kid pulls faces like nobody's business
For Mirah, it's just been adjusting to not being the youngest; she was not a fan of Judah for a few days! But they've managed to start playing some together in toddler ways (poking each other's faces; sticking their fingers in each other's mouths; you know, gross toddler stuff).

I'm in love with these kids, even though I've cried almost every day from being exhausted by their needs (of discipline, mostly the boys).


Tomorrow, the boys go, and I don't know when we'll follow. Please pray it's soon. Half my heart is leaving me again, and the kids are just as sad to be parting.

14 February 2016

An Invitation

I probably won't post again until after the birth family interviews on Wednseday, mostly because I'll be busy preparing for Stephen and the boys to arrive Tuesday night. My feelings about which can be summed up in the video below.

So freakin' excited. But that isn't why I wanted to post today. I want to extend an invitation.

You see, the birth family interviews are incredibly important. Their answers to the embassy questions will determine if we can leave next week, or if our case will be sent to Rome for further review (which, if you remember, adds on at least a month to the process). Now, it's important for the embassy to be thorough, to make sure the family doesn't think this is like a long-term fostering situation. In previous years, birth families have lost their children because of misunderstanding (and outright fraud), and we want every child leaving Uganda permanently to be leaving with their birth family's blessing. But that makes the embassy now very careful, even a little leading in their questions, to ensure it doesn't happen. Even the birth family saying things about the kids visiting can make the case be sent to Rome.

Now, we know we have the remaining members of the girls' family's blessing to adopt them. We believe it will go well. But I am inviting you to fast with me that the women will not be confused by any questions, will answer clearly what they understand to be true, and that we will be able to leave with the boys on February 23rd.

Our appointment is at 1:30p Uganda time, so 4:30a Central time. If you would prefer not to fast (or cannot), I invite you to wake up at that time to pray for the two relatives who are coming from 5 hours away to testify.

Prayer points:
-that they would not be intimidated or overawed by the embassy (which is pretty intimidating, I think)
-that the embassy workers would be fair to and considerate of them
-that they would remember the documents they signed (8 months ago!)
-that they would have peace when they see me
-that our case would be approved quickly, despite the election being the day after our appointment (!)
-that we will be able to fly home on the same flights as the boys

Thanks! We have started to settle in as a trio, and it's feeling very normal. Nothing is perfect (they're children, after all), but it has felt like days at home, which reassures me and fills me with hope. In this four-year-mountain climb, I think we're just about to summit.

12 February 2016

Process Update Pt 2 (actual process update)

That's a please-tickle-me face if I've ever seen one
See? Towels. And balloons that ended up being WAY bigger than I thought they'd be.
Of course this popped moments later.
This week, we've had our I-600 filing date (which I wrote about here) on Monday, our first and second visits to the IOM on Tuesday and Thursday respectively, and received the email that gives us the date for their birth family interview. If you're not adopting internationally, the I-600 if the document that the US government uses to determine if a child meets the definition of a legal orphan. The IOM is the medical office embassies use to determine if people who want to migrate are healthy enough.

The embassy changed the way they do the I-600 and the visa. Previously, the birth family came for the visa exit interview, after the I-600 was approved. I think the way they're doing it now makes more sense, since the interview is important to deciding if they can approve the case here, or if the case needs to be sent to Rome for further review. A family we met the first time we were here is adopting a sibling set of three, and they were a week ahead of us in the process. They just had their case sent to Rome because the birth father wasn't briefed well enough and answered some of his questions confusingly.

I don't blame him; it's pretty intimidating! The mom sent me some advice so we can learn from their experience. It's not that their kids don't meet the definition of legal orphan -- they definitely do -- it's that everything needs to be clearly approvable, or the case gets sent to Rome. This family's case will be approved, it will just take a month+ longer than they were hoping, which requires making some really hard decisions concerning that extra time. So please be praying the birth mother and grandmother will be briefed well on how to answer their questions clearly so that there is no confusion.

The IOM visits, other than taking a long time, were fine. Mirah's birth certificate date makes her too young to test for tuberculosis, but Stella got hers done. Yay no tuberculosis! They also had their physicals done. Oddly enough the part when they cried the most was having to stand on the scale and have their height taken.  ..? We had been waiting for over two hours by this time, so I don't really blame them for being fed up.

Now we don't have anything to "do" until the birth family interview on Wednesday. If it goes perfectly, we should be home fairly quickly after that (within a week, we hope!). PLEASE be praying this is the case.

Process Update Pt 1

I know my posts have been mostly serious and fairly somber, but there's a lot of fun and a lot of normal going on. Cooking eggs, mopping the floor (not because I'm a tidy person, but because of the ants invading), reading books. Washing clothes I'm not willing to let a man I don't know wash for me. [okay, maybe that last one is less normal in America.]

Our house and my little confident girl. #adorbs
As I type, the girls are playing with towels they stole from found in my room. I'm really glad we get days like this, because it's much more true to real life. We won't be zipping in cars and waiting in offices for hours at a time at home.

Okay, this ended up not being a process update bc they're asking me to take pictures of them. #soadorbs

11 February 2016

Matoke and Posho

We found (okay, Linda found for us) a little restaurant we eat at pretty frequently. They make all the food the girls are most familiar with, and I want them to be able to have matoke, posho, and the like while we're still here.

That I get to have chapati may also be a factor.
This restaurant is around the corner from where we're staying. Unfortunately, the street we're living on is both narrow and busy, and people are really scary - one bodaboda driver who was carrying some boards knocked Mirah's arm while he passed by. The cars aren't better. They get so close to you, sometimes even when there isn't a car passing the other way.

What's Lusoga for smorgasbord?
It's nice to go in order to get out of the house as well. Because we're staying in a house, there are no other families nearby (who speak English). Just across the street is the market. Americans, I don't mean a grocery store; think a flea market but with food vendors. So much gorgeous food!

Oh my heart! What a little stinker! Love her spunkiness.
Tonight was a little difficult because I'd actually made dinner, but I used a pepper I didn't know, and it was incredibly spicy. I think they were habañeros... #oops
I didn't have time to make something else, so to the restaurant we went, at the busiest time on the road.

On the way home, I was hurrying because both of the girls needed to potty, and a car came really close to Stella (who was walking, holding my hand). A man walking the opposite way on my side gave me a dirty look and said, "take care of that girl!"

I know it shouldn't have, but it made me cry. Really hard. I have gotten angry and hostile looks, but no one has said anything to me until today. And I know a lot of Ugandans don't like foreigners adopting because they don't know the adoption process; many believe we can just walk into Uganda, shower people with money, and walk out with a kid. So it makes sense that they would be suspicious.

And that man doesn't know how hard I'm trying to "take care of that girl," or how close the one I was holding came to dying because others weren't taking care of her. That man didn't see how his face and tone affected "that girl" after he said those words. I wonder if he would care. I know to some, I'm a thief; I'm stealing children. To some, I'm a trafficker. Really.

And I in no way want to make light of all my daughters will lose by leaving their home country, and have lost already by my involvement in their lives. But to those people, I wonder what they would say if I were to ask them: would it have been better for Mirah to have died at the age of two of a treatable disease in her home country, or grow up to deal with that loss as she matures?

Maybe I'll ask her. In thirty years.

08 February 2016

Be Essalto

First, watch this video:

After looking for some music for them to listen to while I wash dishes, I found this lil gem of Watoto children's choir. The girls have started singing it, but they're just starting to learn English words, so it ends up being something like "be essalto o Lohd ah God, ohres u reign" and it's reeeeeally cute. It's nice that there are few words in the song, since that's about what they can do right now. But they've really started to mimic; I'm hopeful they'll be using more English words soon.

I was so glad we've watched that video a few times, because we were at the embassy for two HOURS today. I'm just saying, make a two year old and a four year old be calm and quiet for two hours! Almost an entire hour of that was just sitting, waiting for the embassy worker to get the documents I had to fill out. So when they would start to get crazy, I would hum a little bit of it and start them singing. And dancing a little too. Man, they're cuuuute.

I felt so frazzled this morning. I think the embassy appointment went well, but I really cannot tell either way. I had all the documents she asked for except for Mirah's passport, which is being fixed right now because it has her birthdate as one day after what her birth certificate says. The worker didn't say when she would be in touch, so I don't really know what to expect. They will want some family members to come down for the interview soon; I believe that is our next big hurdle.

We video chatted with the boys right before bed tonight, and Stella kept saying "bye, Ezrat" all through brushing teeth. I'm really excited for them to meet in person and start being brothers and sisters. And by that, I think I'm really excited for them to be able to play, and quietly preparing myself for learning a whole new level of appropriate refereeing.

Please be praying the process with go smoothly. The expected timeline seems like the very earliest we could be going home would be the 21st. But that's based on one other person's experience, so it could be different for us. Which is a little daunting to think about for me, being here in Uganda alone, caring for two kids without any breaks, and in a house where there is no one else to talk to (that speaks English).

07 February 2016

An Unhurried Attachment

Today has been a really good day so far (it's noon here as I type). Yesterday was really tough because Mirah wasn't feeling well, and she was also really tired. And you know, tired toddlers are just hard. They don't know what they want, but they kind of want to sleep, but they don't want you to put them to bed.

But I don't know Mirah very well yet. Something would happen (sometimes I wouldn't even know what it was), and she would start crying, and then she'd scream if I tried to pick her up, hold her, put her in my lap, even touch her. I thought at first she was having some difficult emotions about leaving the foster home and being with me, which would be understandable, and it was really hard to not personalize the feeling of her rejecting me. I did pretty well by just focusing on her and not on me, but it was a difficult three hours.

Turns out, I think she just didn't want to go to sleep. She's been falling asleep on me a lot, so when I was trying to hold her, she was thinking I was going to put her to bed. And she was just really tired but wanting none of that. I felt so much better when she woke up, ate a good meal (pictured below), and started happy yelling again! In the afternoon, she took another nap, but she didn't fight it. And last night she hardly fussed about bedtime!

This first meal I cooked for them. No vegetables were eaten. But happy faces!
It was hard to not feel very excited about parenting her yesterday. I had to keep reminding myself that I would feel the same way if my sons were acting like that, because I don't enjoy the sound of crying or whining, and I don't really like it when someone asks me for something and then gets upset when I give it to them (the way of the tired toddler, amiright). Still, I was feeling really tender and a little scared, despite my rational thoughts.

While the girls play together, I've been (very slowly) reading An Unhurried Life by Alan Fadling, and God definitely used it to remind me that I don't need to rush our attachment. We have the time to let it grow and bloom. I have the Spirit to help me nurture and parent the girls, just as I do with the boys. Just because I don't currently feel as attached to my daughters as I do to my sons, doesn't mean it will be this way forever. But, when I'm not reminded, I think that's where my mind strays.

As I was holding Mirah just now for naptime, I was studying her face. She has been sometimes studying mine the past few days. And it's something I've loved to do with the boys, especially since bedtime is often a difficult couple of minutes with them as well. I think watching kids sleep is a great way to fall in love. She has such delicate little features. I cannot believe I have four beautiful children.

I mean, how could you not adore her?

05 February 2016

Day 2

Today was a lot of good and a fair amount of please-don't-make-me-do-this. I woke up at 3am and couldn't go back to sleep, so my own fatigue was definitely a problem. I also forgot to plug the fridge back in last night, so the meat I bought (for 3 meals with leftovers) was spoiled. The girls did a great job playing, and they ate breakfast really well (6 eggs for two children, and toastnjam, and half an apple, and half an avocado). But we were waiting to be picked up to go back to the grocery store all day (there was a mixup with the drivers). Which sounds like not a big deal, but I was never sure I could make them a meal without it being interrupted, or put Mirah down for a nap, it was just an extra stressor.

I had to start really telling them no to things, even giving Mirah a time-in for hitting (it's like she was destined to be a Muenich. both boys are hitters). UGH I DON'T WANT TO DISCIPLINE. It's the lamest part of parenting.

And Mirah cries at bedtime and the wise part of me is all like "it's really not a big deal" but the whiney part is like "I don't waaaannaaaaa." But this morning, I went into their room right as Mirah was waking up, and she just laid her head on my lap and started dozing again. And when we finally went to the store she had just woken up, so she climbed in my arms and wouldn't be put down. Which, you know, she's pretty heavy to carry all around a grocery store, but it was sweet that she sought comfort from me.

I purposefully didn't take pictures today because I didn't want to make the fun things we did into something else. We blew up these ridiculously big balloons shaped like a swizzle stick, and the girls had a blast with stickers, and taking the caps off the markers (there was some drawing but not that much). They played with the balls we got at the store and started peeking through the hole in the gate at the front. They devoured their dinner and they sing and talk to each other all the time, including many different variations on "how are you?" and each other's names. During Mirah's nap, Stella and I started practicing letters.

So I think good things were done today. The girls seemed to generally be comfortable here and with me. Obviously I have no regrets about being here. I think really I just miss my boys and Stephen's coparenting. On the business side of things, Mirah's birth certificate was issued today, praise the Lord! We're going to finish filling out the forms tomorrow for our I-600 filing appointment on Monday. So excited to get the documents for the girls. There are so many blank spaces in their stories that I don't know; I'll be so glad to have even a little more to share with them when they're older.

04 February 2016

Day 1 of Forever

That title sums up my mindset right now: day _ of forever. Today was so crazy, but it was just the very first day.

I was so excited to fly in last night. The four things I have been anticipating with the most excitement:

1) getting through Entebbe airport and into the Ugandan air again (it feels like Texas in late May, heart eyes emoji)
2) getting my hands on our girls again
3) getting their big, whole-life-history file
4) getting their visa approval

So pictures don't always turn out great from the window of a plane (whodathunk), but the blue snakey thing waaaaay off in the distance is a part of the Nile (in probably Sudan or South Sudan)

I know you're already submitting it to NatGeo.
I got in at 10:45 last night, and I took some time to really unpack, so I wouldn't be disorganized while parenting two children who don't know me or speak English, ending up hitting the hay around 11:45. My body betrayed me and woke up at 6:15. What a jerk.

I went on a big shopping trip with our guide bc this guest house has a kitchen! And then we went to pick up the girls. I wanted to get flowers for Auntie Grace, the woman who has been caring for the girls, but my guide said (in more polite words) that she would think that was a silly mzungu thing and I should get them useful things like cooking oil and sugar instead. So I did (but the flowers were prettier than oil). 

I don't have any pictures of our meeting because I was kind of busy. Stella is very shy, but I could tell she was really happy to see me. Mirah, on the other hand, was NOT HAVING ANY OF IT. She refused quite dramatically to sit on my lap. I think a lot of it was that she was hungry and tired. She settled down when we got in the car, ate a banana, and fell asleep.

We had to go get a SIM card for a phone and an internet hotspot maker (I don't know what they're actually called) because the guest house has no internet. And I need internet to see my other kids. I, Stella, and Mirah sat in the car while my guide went into the stores. We sat in the car for no joke AN HOUR AND A HALF. It was so ridiculously hot. Poor Stella had not just beads, but drops and drops of sweat rolling down her face, down her neck, in her ears. Mirah would periodically shift in her sleep enough to wipe her face on my shirt. Luckily I "asked" if we could swing by KFC before we ran this errand. Stella and I ate some chicken (she likes ketchup!), then Mirah woke up, ate some chicken, and started yelling. Very loud, happy yelling.

You guys, my house is going to be so. loud. :D

We finally got to the guest house, and Mirah was so freaked out. She cried when she saw her room, she cried when I went to the bathroom (even though she was in there too), she cried if I tried to get her off my lap, even to sit beside me. That sounds bad, but it is hot, you guys. I helped her calm down with the use of Color Wonder markers [Stella makes excellent circlish shapes].

After dinner (which was random but nutritious things because I couldn't quite figure out the stove), we went and played outside.
Real girls wear two headbands, sometimes with one like Geordi LaForge.
This girl has my heart, forrrrrrrreal.
Not pictured: her trying to sing the first song Stephen sung to them in December.  1,000 heart eyes emojis.
Yes, she IS this beautiful IRL. Just you wait.
I think Stella and I have already bonded because I get her, even though her temperament is very different from mine. She's shy and reserved with people, even still hardly talking with the foster home workers after two months there. But she is so curious, and she's funny and courageous. She's already started repeating words after me when I ask her to.

Mirah is totally different. She's a little spitfire. Oh my goodness, you will fall in love with her within 5 minutes of meeting her, whether you want to or not. She has such a winning personality. She's extremely charming, and she knows it.
Who run the world? Girls who wear two headbands and a necklace.
Also gorgeous, FYI.
That dress Mirah's wearing? I bought it before Stephen and I ever got pregnant, like 6 months after we were married. Yes, I've held onto it for over 6 years. I just assumed we'd have a girl. And now we have two! #noregrets
Attn: not limes.
Apparently there's an avocado tree in the courtyard, because there were all these little avocados that had dropped from the tree. We (Mirah) decided trying to throw them back into the tree was the best use of our time and minicados. It was real cute. She's so feisty.

Mirah also took some time to practice jumping(ish). Stella took time to practice twirling (sort of).

Bedtime was hard. Mirah did the same thing she did in December: freaked out when it was clear I was putting her to bed, wailing until she couldn't fight the sleepiness. It wasn't more than 10 minutes of wailing, but you guys, it's super loud. Then she'll start up again if you try to lay her down. It's okay, it's day 1 of forever. She won't be wailing every night for bed in five years.

Now I'm off to take a rag bath and GO TO SLEEP. [yes, at 9pm.]