Friday, December 21, 2007

My Christmas Wish...

Is for my little girl! (Or my I-171H!)


USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) Philly office is the office who will review my I-600A application and issue the I-171H upon satisfactory review. They normally update their wait times mid-month.

They have not updated for the month of December and it is driving me nuts!

Just thought you might like to know.

More Papers!

Even though I am basically done with the paperchase, it doesn't mean that I am done dealing with tons of papers!

Today, since I don't have to work or do school work, I am spending the day applying for adoption grants and loans. It's amazing how many papers are required!

So, please pray for a quick (and positive) response to my applications!

Reason #9- Matthew 18:5

Jesus said... "And when you welcome one of these children because of me, you welcome me."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Reason #8- Want, Need, Deserve

I will never forget Emily's statement on her blog: There are so many children who want, need, and deserve a family.

I believe family is God's design. I believe that God created the perfect family when Adam and Eve came together and were told to be fruitful. I believe that God designed humans with the need to experience family as an expression of His love for us (similarly, God tested Job through destroying his family.) I believe that God wants each person to be in a family. This is God's perfect design.

I believe that sin entered this world, and because of sin, we cannot experience perfection here on earth. I believe that God can and does redeem us from this sin, and allows us to experience His grace, mercy, and blessings. One of the blessings we experience is family.

I believe that "every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights" (James 1:17). Like any blessing in our life, we should share the blessing of family. For some, this may mean caring for parents, grandparents, or others who need help. For some, this is sponsoring a child or family less fortunate. For some, this is bearing and loving a child. For me, this is adding a child to my family in an alternate way, and loving them their whole life long.

There are so many children out there who, because of sin, are suffering. They are sick, hungry, alone. Many of them are dying. The all want, need, and deserve families. And I have a family to share.

My family is not perfect according to what I believe God's ultimate design was: there is no dad in my family. But there is a Momma, a lot of love, and a good God. We live in a broken world, but my God is gracious, and He uses these flaws and imperfections to bring Him glory.


Q: Do you think you'll really love her?

A: No.

I don't think I will love her, I know I love her right now.

I'll be honest with you, I don't believe in "love at first sight." I am not the kind of person who can fall in love with a picture. I believe that love is so much more than the limited experiences we have with our eyes, so "seeing" someone is not enough to make me "love" them.

The truth is, I used to worry that I wouldn't love Abigail. I mean, I never worried while I was pregnant that I wouldn't love her when she was born, but once she was born, I used to worry that I wouldn't love her as much when she got older. That was totally screwed up, because it turns out that once your little one starts developing a personality and sense of "self"- there's even more to love! It's fabulous (and one of the reasons I am hoping for a toddler age 14-18 months at time of referral.) My experience with Abigail has been that the older she gets, the more I love her.

Right now, I love my child. When I see her and hold her and hear her call me "Momma" I am sure my heart will burst with the amount of love I have for her. And every day I wake up, I will love her more. (There may be times I don't like her, but I will always love her.)

Q: Do you think you will love her as much as Abigail?

A: Yes and no.

I think the quantity of my love will be the same, but the quality will be different. Because Abigail and the new child will be different.

It's like my brother and my sister- I love them equally much, but differently. Because my relationship is different with each of them. We relate in different ways.

I anticipate that my new child will be very different than Abigail. There will be different things to love about her. We will share a different past than Abigail and I share. But I will always love her as my daughter, just like I love Abigail.

Q: Do you get offended when people ask "ignorant" questions like the ones above?

A: I try not to. The truth is, for many people, adoption is a new thing. When they "gut react" to my news, they are going with the first thing that pops into their head. If they stopped and thought for a few minutes or days, would they end up asking these questions? Probably not. But they can't help their gut reaction.

I think all of us fear rejection on some level, and the "can you/will you love her?" questions are an expression of the individuals gut instinct to fear rejection. I hope that I am patient, honest, and kind in my replies.

I know many people who have never seriously considered adoption or explored their own feelings about adoption may never really understand the way I think and feel about adoption. That's okay. But I hope that my adoption process gives them a reason to think about adoption, and that in the end, their attitude towards adoption will be positive. I am not saying that I think everyone should adopt, because it's not for everyone. Kids aren't for everyone! That's okay. But I hope that in seeing the love I have for this child, they will be supportive of the institution of adoption. Attitude, perhaps even more than practice, influences how people talk/think/express about adoption. And I want a lot of positive talk/think/express happening around my kid!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Authentic Momma

Around 2:30 this afternoon, I briskly trotted up Third St. Big, wet, white flakes steadily fell and my glasses developed small wet specks. Crossing the street, my feet crunched in the anticipatory salt. Cradled to my chest is a blue file folder.

20 minutes (and $180) later I was authenticated and on my way home. And that's it! All of the documents in my possession are dossier ready. When my I-171H arrives, I will head back to Harrisburg to get it authenticated, then my dossier can fly away to Texas, then Washington DC, and eventually land in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia!

Once my dossier is submitted to Washington and the Ethiopian Embassy, I will be eligible to receive a referral. So, all that stands between me an my new child is a piece of paper, a signature, some FedEx time, and a few grand! Woot!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Abigail's Prayer Request

During bedtime prayers:

"Dear God, I know you have a place for my little sister in Your heart and in my heart and me in Your heart and so please help her know that You and me love her. And please help all the orphanage (I don't think she really distinguishes between orphan and orphanage) that don't have any momma so that they can know they are in Your heart and I love them."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Re-Current Standings

To update you on the process:

Gladney Application: Complete and Approved! (As of Dec. 14, 2007)

Home Study: Complete and Approved! (As of Dec. 10, 2007)

I-600A: Application Complete. Awaiting I-171H. (As of Dec. 11, 2007) Current wait times according to the USCIS for the Philly branch office< 3 months.

Ethiopian Dossier: Awaiting I-171H as final document to complete dossier. The documents originating in Pennsylvania still have to be authenticated (should happen next week.) So, things are moving along! Yippee!

In my Inbox...

Hello, Grace!

Congratulations on receiving your Gladney Approval! I will continue working with you as your caseworker through the dossier and referral process. You have done a great job working on your Gladney paperwork!


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Do you Hague?

Ever wondered what all the fuss about the Hague Treaty is? You have probably heard me talk about it here. Below is a good article from the NY Times:

"The United States, the world leader in international adoptions, will join more than 70 nations committed to standardizing policies, procedures and safeguards to reduce corruption in the largely unregulated adoption marketplace."

I really believe that transparency and accountability in adoption is so very important to promoting ethical adoption practices. Even though enacting the Hague Treaty (and working with an agency that requires me to act as if the Hague Treaty is in full effect) can be a hassle (and expensive!) I really do believe that it is necessary.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Merry Christmas, Ethiopian Style!

This was a great bit of information about the Ethiopian Christmas holidays.

Merry Christmas!

The Source of Abigail's Fear

I have decided that being a nurse may occasionally scar my child.

Yesterday, Abigail really freaked out after her shots because she needed to confirm that the needle was not still in her. I was a little confused about this, until she said "the needle stayed in you, Momma."

Then I remembered that a few months ago, when I was suffering from a major gastrointestinal illness, a friend started an IV on me, and I took a few liters of fluid at home since I couldn't keep anything down. Abigail saw the IV and I explained that the needle was in me to help give me medicine (or something like that, even though there isn't a needle in the IV, but whatever.)

So, her major issue with the shots? Not the shots, the pain, or any of that. Just the fear that the needle would stay in her! She was much better after I explained that the needle never stays in for shots.

And Abigail is just so sweet. I was talking to the doctor about "catch-up" and "repeat" immunizations for the new baby. After we were done talking, Abigail said that when her new sister has to get shots, she will kiss her owwies and give her sister a sticker to make her feel better and know that it's okay and we still love her.

She is going to be a great big sister!

My I-600A application is complete!

I waited 3 weeks and 6 days for my CIS approval! Received January 7, 2008!


I would like to give a little plug for my home study agency, Adoptions Forever. AF is a small agency based out of the Philly area. Megan is an adoptive mom to two (now teenage) girls, and her goal is to make adoption a reality. She did my home study, but she is also a licensed placing agency for some international countries.

If you are within 2 hours of Philly, I would definitely recommend her for your home study. She is very direct but approachable. She is also efficient. My actual home visit was November 17, and even including the shut down of seemingly everything for Thanksgiving week, my finalized, notarized home study arrived in my mailbox yesterday- less than one month from start to finish!

If you would like more info about her, give me a holler.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Don't tell Abigail, but at 4:15 we are taking her to the doctor to get more shots.

I am trying to think of a good reward for her braveness.

Any ideas?

Signed, Sealed, and Delivered

As of 9:12am, my completed home study was delivered to USCIS- Philadelphia office. This is the last document needed to complete my application for my I-600A. The website claims that they are processing I-600A applications within 3 months. The approved I-600A results in a I-171H, and that is the last document needed to complete my dossier.

The home study was also the last document needed to complete my Gladney application/approval. That is currently on the truck to be delivered to Gladney's Texas office. Since Gladney has already seen and signed-off on my home study, I think it is just the hard copy of the paperwork that is needed to "officially" get approval.

So, the adoption plans currently are to get my PA documents authenticated in Harrisburg (sometime after finishing the massive amounts of finals/papers I have to do this week to complete the semester), and then sit back and wait until I get that I-171H. Granted, I won't really be "sitting back" since I have grants and loans to apply for, fundrasiers to jump on, education and training to complete, and travel to plan, but the actual "process" will pretty much be waiting from here on out.

So, pray for some patience, okay:)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


Yesterday, Abigail and I had our appointments at the Travel Clinic. They are the people who say "You are traveling to Ethiopia, so you need these immunizations, and you need to take this anti-malaria medication, and you need to take this medication with you for travelers diarrhea, and don't drink the water and wear this mosquito spray" and all that good stuff.

You may now call me the human pincushion, because yesterday I got 4 shots. Abigail got one, but she has to go back for 3 more at her pediatrician's office, and we both have to go back to the travel clinic for the Typhoid immunization.

If you are interested, here are the shots I got:

Hepatitis A (first of 2)
Yellow Fever
Meningococcal meningitis
Polio (booster)

Here are the shots I did not have to get because I had already gotten them (for work/nursing school/childhood immunizations because I was born after 1980):
Hepatitis B series
Tetanus/Diptheria/Pertussis (TDap) (booster required every 10 years)
Varicella (I had chicken pox as a kid)
Measles/Mumps/Reubella (MMR)

Here is the one immunization I did not get because I thought the risk was small: Rabies

Abigail got the Yellow Fever shot at the clinic. Otherwise, her standard childhood immunizations were up to date and she will only have to get a few more.

Here is the list of what Abigail needs to get:
Meningococcal meningitis (they only had the adult shot at the Travel clinic)
Hepatits A series (this is now a routine pediatric immunization, but I don't know why this isn't on her shot record? I guess since they made this standard in 2003, she somehow got missed?)

So, grand total, we both will be getting 5 shots. I probably got more than most travelers, but that is most likely because I am a nurse and I have seen first-hand what can happen when you have these illnesses. I think it is my responsibility to protect myself and my child as much as possible from any kind of preventable disease. This is not just immunizations, but things like good hand hygiene and routine physical/dental/eye exams. Not to mention- I cannot possibly imagine coming home with my new child and having Abigail and I be sick with something really nasty!

5 shots. Not really all that bad in the long run (definitely less painful than giving birth), but I tell you, my arms are sore today! Washing my hair this morning was a form of cruel and unusual punishment!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Not So Shiny

So, I received my authenticated Illinois documents today (I love you, FedEx!) I did expect them to come today based on this conversation, but it was still a nice surprise since they really shouldn't have arrived until tomorrow or Wednesday. Now all I am waiting on for my dossier is:

~my home study and notarized agency/social worker licenses

~my I-171H

~my notarized PA documents to be authenticated

My trip to Harrisburg (and by trip I mean 20 minute drive) has now been postponed until Wednesday or Friday, assuming I receive my home study and other agency items by then. I will have to make a return trip when my I-171H arrives, but since there is always potential for problems with my documents, I would rather go sooner with the majority of the documents and make a return trip for the one document that I have not yet received.

Just thought you might like to know.

Oh, and also thought you might like to see an Illinois authentication letter. They are not nearly as shiny as the Washington and Michigan letters!

Here is the Michigan authentication letter (don't think I showed you this which is for my birth certificate.)


I have been exploring ways to serve the people of Ethiopia. As I have learned more about these beautiful people and the great needs they have, I have felt led to serve them. "God, I don't have any money to give them!" I prayed.

"You have hands," God replied.

And that is truth right there, people.

I have hands. I have the hands of a mother. I have the hands of a nurse. And these hands are capable of holding the motherless child, feeding the starving child, of giving a shot to the sick child. God made these hands special, to serve His precious children. So please be praying as I explore the opportunities to serve in Ethiopia doing medical work.

Also, here is a little something that encouraged me!

Little Update

This is a little update. I have not gotten the agency sign-off on my homestudy yet. I don't know if there was a problem or if they are just a little back-logged from the holiday or what. But at any rate, they have not officially approved my homestudy. This is not a terribly big deal, but it does affect a few things, namely: 1) I was going to take all my stuff down to Harrisburg today to get it authenticated, but it seems silly to go without my homestudy 2) My I-171H cannot be officially processed and approved until they get a copy of my homestudy 3)Most of the adoption grants/loans that I want to apply for need a copy of your homestudy, which I won't get until the agency officially gives their okay, so I can't file my applications and 4) I can't get official agency approval until they have the final and official copy of my HS from the HS social worker. Agency approval can also affect grant/loan applications.

So, please pray that everything is okay and that I hear something today!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Coincidence? I think not!

You know, not 2 hours after posting this, I got a phone call from the state of Illinois. They insisted they could not authenticate my divorce decree since it had not been certified by the circuit court county clerk.

Oh, but it had! I knew exactly where to tell them to look.

This was obviously divine intervention because:
1) On caller ID, it showed up as "No Name." I don't normally answer calls from strangers, so it must have been God that directed me to pick up.
2) I was off work today, and was randomly available to take the call at a time when I am not normally available, even on days I'm not working!
3) I remembered exactly what page to look on and what to look for to prove the certification of the divorce decree. How often can you say that? I can barely remember what page I am on in my current book!
4) Since when does a state worker call to let you know they are very sorry but they will be unable to assist you? That never happens! And not only was this lady so kind as to call, she actually thanked me for explaining what she was overlooking!
5) She gave me a little blessing by saying it would go out FedEx tomorrow:) Yea!

Anyway, so there is another little thing:)

Isaiah 62:2

" will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow."
Isaiah 62:2

Do you know, God "gave" me a name for my new daughter before I even knew I would be adopting? I am keeping the name private until I travel, but as this process unfolds, I see more and more how her name is a promise, just like she is!

I will respect her Ethiopian heritage by using at least one of her names as a middle name (she will have at least 2 middle names.)

But God continually reminds me that while HE never changes, the whole process of following Christ is a process of us changing!

I think God likes a little change:) (Or maybe a LOT of change.)

Nothing Says Lovin' Like FedEx

I love my FedEx man. Mmm. So nice.

Today he delivered a package to me. When I saw that the return address was my own handwriting, I worried. When I read "State of Washington," I groaned.

"Oh no!" I thought to myself. "I must have mixed up the labels and sent Eryka's reference letter to myself on accident rather than to the State of WA for authentication. I only just sent it on Monday, and I sent it 3 day saver, so it definitely did not have time to get there and back yet!"

But behold. The FedEx man brought me glad tidings of great joy!

The letter had indeed traveled to Olympia, WA and back in those few short days, and it bore upon it the famed golden seal of the State of Washington! And so, I now have 2 of my documents for my dossier authenticated. (Waiting on the docs from Illinois and to take my PA docs down to Harrisburg once my home study gets fixed.)

One of the nicest things about this adoption process so far is that I have had my friends and family say such nice things about me... Eryka wrote a particularly touching letter of reference. So thank you! Thanks also to Doctor John, Josh and Moriah Huff, and my sister, Faith.

"The Most Pointless War"

Here is an interesting article from Newsweek about the rising tensions in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

In other news, the first multi-screen movie theater has opened in the capitol of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa.

And I like Starbuck coffee.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Q: How much longer?

A: I don't know.

To be honest, once I submit my papers to the Ethiopian government, pretty much everything is out of my hands. I can guess the approximate time for my referral (3 months from the time of my dossier submission) but after that, everything depends on court dates. And embassy/visa appointments (these determine travel dates.)

So, sorry kids. It could be as soon as April (being optimistic) or well into June.

A Case of the Gimmes

I want this.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Pointing Me in the Right Direction

As read on another Ethiopian adoptive parent's blog:

This is the kind of fast day I'm after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
cancel debts.
What I'm interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You'll call out for help and I'll say, 'Here I am.'

If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people's sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You'll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.

Isaiah 58:6-11 (The Message)

Those last two lines are amazing. So full of hope. Because, you see, God has been using my entire life- my sin, my brokenness, my imperfections, my failures, my dreams, my rebellion- to prepare me for this moment. He is going to redeem all of that past to build this new thing.



Last week, someone at work said I should be on Oprah. She meant that I was so passionate about adoption, Ethiopia, and helping and loving children that I should be on the show to inspire people. She said she admired me. She said she thought I was fearless.

But I do have fears about this process. The adoption process is not just the paper chase and the wait for the referral and traveling to Ethiopia. The adoption process is all of this, but it is so much more. It is the process that makes a child you have never met your child. That makes you, a stranger, into this child's mother. It is the process of becoming a family and creating a history together, while still respecting the individual history of the time before.

And this is one of my fears.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


I knew there would be a few snags along the way. And on Wednesday I hit my first one.

Because of the differences in requirements from my home study agency and my placing agency, my home study social worker did not have the necessary number of personal references to complete my home study. Additionally, because of the holiday, my placing agency was not available to review my home study. So, two minor snags resulting in a short delay in my home study.

But it all worked out:) I called the director of Abigail's day care/school, and she whipped up a quick reference letter by Wednesday afternoon. And yesterday I received another reference letter in the mail, so now I have more than enough references for both my HS agency and my placing agency. Hopefully I will have a notarized copy of my HS by the end of the week since I plan on taking everything to Harrisburg to get it authenticated on Thursday.

Then, a copy of the HS to USCIS, and soon an I171H!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Little Dictionary

Can I just brag on Abigail a little bit?

Yesterday, during our home study, Megan asked Abigail what adoption meant, and Abigail said, "adoption is when the baby is in a momma's tummy, but when the baby is born, the momma can't take care of her or buy her food or clothes. So the momma gives the baby to a new family. And God makes them a family and they love each other forever."

And then she went on to explain that since we are adopting a child she gets a new dresser and will get bunkbeds.

I just thought that was so sweet!

Also, relatedly, at school, Abigail's teacher has been doing "meditation." When the kids get worked up, she sends them to a quiet place and they sit there and "get rid of their negative energy" and "think about happy things to get some positive energy." Kind of new age, I know. So I told Abigail that when she was getting rid of all her negative energy, she can focus on how much God loves her and how much her family loves her to help her get "positive energy." And she can pray that God will help her have a good attitude.

So, the other day she was talking about how her friend hurt her feelings, so she had to go to the quiet place and "get rid of her negative energy." And I asked her what she was thinking about to get "positive energy."

And she said "my new shiny dresser."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Done Like a Turkey on Thanksgiving Day!

Yes, folks, my home study is done! I should have it before Thanksgiving, too!

It was really NOT a big deal, and I am glad I did not go overboard with the cleaning. We sat at my dining room table and went over a bunch of paperwork and questions. Then a quick tour of the house.

Abigail was her usual great self, and the HS lady was very impressed by her. And of course she was looking adorable. I do think Megan was a little taken aback by the streamers and cupcakes, but I explained that they were for the party, and then she got excited:)

(I will post pics of the party on my other blog.)

So, that's it- the last "big" thing on my end. Now I just sit back and wait for my I171H.

Friday, November 16, 2007


I'm surprised by how many people immediately link me to Angelina Jolie when I mention that I am in the process of adopting from Ethiopia. It doesn't offend me or anything, especially since I think that is really the only frame of reference most people have for international adoption, specifically from Ethiopia. It does kind of annoy me though, because AJ and I are, of course, very different people, and I don't think it is fair to extend her reasons and motivations for adopting to me, or mine to her. Oh well, it is what it is.

Recently, allegations were made in Ethiopia from the birth family of AJ's adopted Ethiopia daughter, Zahara. Basically, a woman claimed to be Zahara's birth mother and stated that she never legally relinquished the baby. Zahara was relinquished in 2005 by her grandmother who testified in court and presented 3 witnesses who claimed the birth mother was dead and the biological father was unknown. AJ adopted the baby when she was 7 months old. The Wide Horizon's adoption agency, a well-known and established agency in Ethiopia, has backed AJ and states that the adoption was perfectly legal in all respects according to Reuters. They report that someone had paid the Ethiopian people to make the complaints.

This really irked me. What this comes down to is a child. People out there, for reasons unknown, are willing to rip apart the life of this little child- they give no thought to her. I don't personally know AJ or Zahara, but it seems evident that they love and care about each other and their whole family. And someone was willing to tear that child out of the family and home that she knows just to make some trouble or get their 15 minutes of fame? Why?

Why is our society so willing to punish children like that?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Down with the HS

My Home Study is Saturday morning, so between now and then I have a few things to do:
~Tidy up the house
~Clean bathrooms and kitchen
~Vacuum and wash the kitchen floor
(I am not going crazy with the cleaning, just doing what I would normally do to have people over)
~Review paperwork and make sure everything is in order
~Make copies of a few things
~Figure out how to address the "male role model" issue

BUT, because Abigail's b-day party is Saturday afternoon, I also have a few other things to do:
~Make cupcakes
~Re-do the party favors (a few more kids RSVPed so now I have to redistribute the loot.)
~Fill balloons and hang streamers
~Figure out what furniture to move to make room for 9 girls ages 3-6
~Finish the laundry so that Abigail has her "favorite" stuff to wear
~Decide, and make, whatever I am making for dinner for the grown-up "helpers" (John's mom is making chili- what else should I have besides cornbread?)
~Make a playlist of princess songs
~Put away breakable things

So, that is where things stand with the HS. I am not really worried or worked up about it, but I do hope we have nice weather. And that someone will pick up the balloons for me.

Any advice- about the HS or the party?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Encouraging Words

As emailed by another PAP:

"The Will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you!"

Reading Recommendations

A few weeks ago I finished the book "There is No Me Without You" by Melissa Fay Greene. I was not going to say anything, but this story has stuck with me so much that I feel I need to say something.

I highly recommend the book for anyone who would like to learn more about the orphan epidemic in Ethiopia, and the roles that HIV/AIDS and poverty play in creating orphaned and abandoned children. The facts are rolled into a story that winds across 20 years and shows the mighty hand of God Himself in caring for these beautiful children who are so in need of the basic necessities of life: food, water, shelter, and also in need of love.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

2 Degrees of Separation*

Okay, it was cool before, but this morning, it was just plain cold! When I woke up, it was 59-60 degrees in the house. Don't know what happened to the heater- it just never turned on!

Now, I am about to get personal here... it was so cold in my room (probably about 56-58, given how much cooler my bedroom usually is) that I decided I would rather wait and go to the bathroom at work! I was not going to freeze my hiney!

Thankfully, the heat seemed to remember that it was supposed to come on, so I didn't have to call maintenance. But still.

Ah well, think of all the money I saved! Several dollars (and one very full bladder) closer to my daughter!

For a similar story about turning on the heat, click here.

*Get it? There were 2 degrees of separation between cool and cold? Get it? Man, just tell me to stop making bad jokes!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


A word about patience I saw on another adoption blog...

"For it is not yet time for it to come true. The time is coming in a hurry, and it will come true. If you think it is slow in coming, wait for it. For it will happen for sure, and it will not wait."

Habakkuk 2:3
New Life Version


I woke up this morning and it was a balmy 62 degrees in my room.

I have actively been working to save money for this adoption. Since acquiring money is not always easy (especially since I can't really work overtime and go to school at the same time) I have focused on reducing my spending. This has included things like eating out less, brown-bagging it for lunch, cutting out afternoon Starbucks runs at work, engaging in cheap or free family activities, and looking for ways to reduce my bills.

One of the things I have decided to do is keep my house a little cooler. I have the heat set to come on at 65, and to be honest, between cooking, doing laundry, and conserving the existing heat, I don't think my heat has yet come on except maybe once or twice overnight. In fact, it is usually about 70-74 degrees in my house, except for first thing in the morning when it is about 68.

So why was it 62 in my bedroom this morning? Well, I keep my bedroom door closed all the time to keep Lily (the cat) out. Combined with my bedroom being on the outside corner of my building, my room always cooler than the rest of the house. This is much more noticeable in the cooler months. Also, since I have my door closed, I keep a small fan going to keep the air circulating. I also have "blackout" curtains up from my night-shift days, so I don't get the benefit of the warming sunshine during the day. So it is just cooler in there. The rest of the house was 70 when I checked the thermostat, but my room was 62.

Don't worry. I am totally coping with this well. Flannel jammies, flannel sheets, a blanket, a big down comforter, and some nice fleece socks keep me warm at night. I also have my $4.88 pink fuzzy slippers from Walmart to keep my feet warm! And a zip-up fleece hoodie if I am still cold. And besides, it's amazing how telling myself that "each night I go to bed bundled up is one night closer to bringing my daughter home" can warm me:)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Reason #7- Arms of Love

Arms of Love

Sunday, November 4, 2007


Today we had a wonderful message about being homesick. You can listen to it by clicking here and then clicking on "online" next to the November 4 sermon- Homesick.

When Abigail was visiting her dad over the summer, she was gone for 6 weeks. I was homesick for her. Even though I was in my house, my "home" is really defined by being with my family- with Abigail. When she returned, I finally felt like I was "home."

And now I am homesick for my new daughter. I want her here with me- to be with her family and to know the comfort of love. To be in her "forever home."

And that ache in my heart is reminding me, over and over, how God is homesick for us. He created us to be with Him- to be in constant intimacy with Him. But because of sin, we are separated from Him. He is in our "forever home" waiting for us to be reunited with Him. He desires us- He longs for us the way I long to be with my daughter. He is homesick to be with us. How amazing is that?

80% live on < $2/day

Here is a report that appeared in the Economist about the current economic situation in Ethiopia. Pretty shocking stuff.

Reason #6- 1 John 3:18

"Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

Reason #5- Let Love In

You wait, wanting this world
To let you in
And you stand there
A frozen light
In dark and empty streets
You smile hiding behind
A God-given face
But I know you're so much more
Everything they ignore
Is all that I need to see

Friday, November 2, 2007

Cooling Off and Getting Cooler

This week the leaves have burst into shades of yellow, orange, red, and purple that can't even be captured by words like Merlot, sienna, eggplant, and saffron. Every walk from the house to the car is accompanied by the sound of crunching leaves, and occasionally by the whisk, whisk of corduroy. The days are brisk; the hours between dusk and dawn snap at my skin. It is autumn in all it's glory, and I welcome the cool days. Once a fan only of summer, I find that growing up has helped me appreciate the passage of time. I love to see how the year changes, and the changes the year brings.

Some of those changes are really quite cool, and here is a little list to perk up your Friday afternoon:
~ Yesterday my FBI clearance packet arrived in my mailbox (no arrest record.) This was sent October 20, and I got my clearance on November 1. That is quite possibly the fastest turnaround time ever! (This is not the USCIS document but rather a "background check" performed by the FBI.)
~ Last week my company awarded the employees with a bonus based on hospital performance- 1% of my income from the past year (or something like that.)
~ I thought I had drained my Dependent Care Flex Reimbursement Account, but I actually had quite a bit of money in there!
~ The bonus combined with the Flex Account money equals out to the amount I needed for my home study and post-placement fees!
~ Today I was talking to my chiropractor and she has a friend from church who is an Ethiopian native! She actually was a Freedom Fighter before getting married and settling in the US. My chiropractor is going to give her friend my "business card" and hook us up! Maybe I can get some Ethiopian cooking lessons? :)
~ Abigail continues to bless me with her excitement and enthusiasm for her new little sister. The other day we were going through her dress up clothes in anticipation of getting the new dresser. She sorted out a pile of things that no longer fit, then turned to me and said "Wait Momma! Don't put the for garage sale! I want to save them and give them to my new little sister so that she can dress up, too!" Another discussion in the bathroom:
Me: What if your new sister wears diapers and goes poo-poo and pee-pee in her diapers?
Abigail: I will teach her how to go potty on the potty!
Me: You will? What if it's stinky?
A: I will wipe her butt! I will get her a little potty like this (indicates a small training potty) and show her how to sit on it! And then, when I go potty, she can sit on her little potty. And then I will wipe her butt and we will flush her poops down the toilet! And then she can have grown-up panties like me!
I would love to see that happen:) She also continues to pray for her new little sister each night. The other night she prayed that she could tell her new little sister about Jesus so that Jesus could live in her heart and make her heart happy. I nearly shed a tear of joy! I am excited about the love Abigail has for her sister, but perhaps more so, I am excited about the love Abigail has for Jesus- a love so great she wants to tell others so that they can be "happy in their heart."

Before and After

All the hardware and everything is the same! Can you believe it? I am so excited to fill it with stuff for my girls:)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

On Parenting...

"People with kids often tell people who don’t have kids this thing about how when it’s your own kid, there’s this feeling, and you can’t explain it, it’s just different. Doesn’t matter if your kid is biological or adopted, it’s your kid and the instinct you have concerning them is primal. You see them and the feeling you have inside you reaches to the very center of your gut. All of that crap is so true, no really, it is, and it feels distinctly like that sickness you feel in your stomach after eating an entire bucket of candy."

Heather Armstrong

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

War, Peace, and a Very Fine Line

For those who may not be aware of the political situation in Ethiopia, here is a Newsweek article that describes the impending war the country could be facing.

1 Month and Counting

The first month of my adoption journey has flown by! This month's highlights are:
~chose an agency for adoption and home study
~submitted most of my application
~gathered most of my dossier documents
~submitted I600A application and was fingerprinted (awaiting home study to complete the application)
~scheduled home study
~started this blog
~started telling people outside immediate family and friends
~learned more and more about Ethiopia

One more thing to add to the list: made first changes to home layout!

That's right. I have spend most of the month cleaning my house, sorting out closets, getting rid of unused things, packing things up for garage sales, and doing all those other little "nesting" things. But today I made the first major change...

About 18 months ago I decided I wanted to restore a beautiful dresser that has been in my family for as long as I can remember. It is a dovetail double dresser, with six drawers (I will post a pic as soon as I can.) Anyway, I love this dresser and it is a really beautiful piece, but it was in bad shape. So Todd and I decided we would restore it. For obvious reasons, that never happened. Long story short, in August I took it into a local wood shop to have them do the project. All this time I had thought I would be putting it into the guest room. Well, this month I've been thinking about Abigail sharing her room, bunk beds, dressers and the like, and decided that the restored dresser would be perfect for the girls to share in their bedroom. Then this morning I got a call asking if I could take delivery of the dresser on Friday morning. (YEA!) So...
this evening I moved Abigail's current dresser into the guest room, moved a ton of other things (like the TV that was in the guest room and the stuff that was in the guest room closet) and made room for the new dresser.

So excited!

And while it is not technically an "adoption" thing, I feel like the whole series of decisions surrounding the dresser have affected and been affected by the adoption, so I am posting that little tid bit here:)

17 days until my home study!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Getting Down with my Fingerprints!

Well, I had a busy morning! On Saturday, I received my invitation from USCIS to be fingerprinted for my I600A application. So this morning, I drove down to York and was fingerprinted. They say that it will take them approximately 30 days to process the fingerprints. That is about the time when I think my home study will be ready to be submitted to USCIS... So, maybe I could receive my I171H by the end of 2007? A friend from an adoption forum said that she never had any delays getting her approval (and she has done this 3 times) because as soon as everything was submitted she would call her congressman and ask him to intervene. Right now the website of the Philly office of the USCIS states that they are processing I600As from June 1. WHAT??? That was nearly 5 months ago! So I might be calling my congressman:)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Paper vs. Preggers

So, I have been making a list of things I like about adopting vs. being pregnant, and things about pregnancy that I like better than adopting. For those who have done (or are doing both, ahem, Emily) feel free to add to each list!

Things I like more about adopting:
~ No morning sickness! (for those who don't know, I puked 6 x day for 34 weeks when I was preggers with Abigail!)
~ No weight gain.
~ No need for wardrobe changes.
~ No hot flashes/swollen feet/pelvic pressure.
~ Easier to "share" the experience with others (as in, this experience is not a series of "hurry over and feel the baby kick- oh, you missed it!" but more of a "look at my I171H that I got in the mail today!")
~ Does not require a male :)
~ No labor.
~ Can skip early infancy and the related breastfeeding-around-the-clock chaos.

Things I like more about pregnancy:
~ Defined time frame (9 months- or less!- and the deal is done.)
~ More "emotional connection" (maybe this will develop more for me as I get farther along in the process?)
~ "I'm eating for 2!" excuse. (related- the "the baby wants White Castle!" excuse)
~ Feeling more and more beautiful as your belly grows.
~ Cleavage.
~ Breastfeeding and the subsequent weight loss.
~ Connecting to the general population (especially other moms) due to being (obviously) pregnant (everyone smiles at pregnant women:)
~ Closeness to my mom because of similar experiences.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Reason #4-HE is Hope for the Hopeless

"... for the children around the world without a home..."


Q: Is that her?

A: No. It's just a picture I found when I Googled "Ethiopian orphan."

When I do get a picture of my child-to-be, believe me, I will post it! But that won't happen until I get my referral, so probably not for a while:)


Q: Will she have AIDS?

A: I was quite surprised when I learned that many people were concerned that the new little one would have HIV/AIDS. While this is a horrible disease, and occurs frequently throughout Africa, not all orphaned children are HIV+.

Just to remind you, it is actually fairly difficult to pass HIV. The virus is very unstable and does not "live" on environmental surfaces. In fact, blood-to-blood contact is one of the few ways HIV is spread (transfusion, sharing needles.) Other ways include penile-vaginal, penile-oral, or penile-rectal contact without a condom, childbirth (not during pregnancy- the virus does not cross the placenta), and breastfeeding. You cannot get HIV from sharing a bathroom, sharing linens, eating off the same dishes, kissing or changing diapers of those infected with HIV. In fact, people without HIV are more likely to infect people with HIV with colds, flu, and other infections than those with HIV are to infect others with HIV.

That being said, all children coming into orphanages are give a "rapid" HIV test and a PCR (more accurate) test upon admission to the orphanage. For those children who are relinquished (given up by parents) a parental history is obtained if possible. (Obviously, abandoned children are not able to have a parental history.) When filling out the Gladney application, I was given the option of having a second HIV PCR test performed before accepting the referral. All children are given another "rapid" test before being issued a passport.

I have chosen to have the second PCR test performed prior to accepting a referral. This is NOT because I am opposed to caring for a child with HIV or out of fear for myself or Abigail, but rather out of the fact that people who "die from AIDS" actually die from other diseases and infections that take over the person's body. I don't think, being a single mom, that I could devote the time and resources necessary to care for an HIV+ child. I am very thankful for those who do choose to adopt HIV+ children. Many of these children do quite well once they get the anti-retro viral (ARV) drugs that we have here in the US. In fact, many of these children do so well and have such a positive response from their white blood cells that they never progress to AIDS. (The distinction between HIV and AIDS is based on the number of certain types of white blood cells present.) Many of the HIV+ women who take these drugs can give birth to an HIV- child. Unfortunately, these drugs are not available in Africa (at least, not to the masses) due to the high costs.


Q: Do you have a name picked out?

A: Yes.

Q: What is it?

A: I'm not telling.

Q: Why not?

A: I had the unfortunate experience of telling people Abigail's intended name when I was pregnant and having a less than kind response. ("Are you kidding! I knew a girl/babysat a girl/had a cousin who was named Abigail and she was a brat! I hate that name!")

Q: Can you give us a hint?

A: Okay. While I named Abigail with the intention of never using a nickname, I am fully intending to call the new child by her nickname... an abbreviated form of the name.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Hooray for CoCo!

Ahem. Cook County finally sent me my certified divorce decree. Now I can send it back to IL and get it authenticated. Fun:)

Ah, well... One more thing to check off the list!

On that same list-checking note, my labs came back yesterday, so hopefully by Monday or Tuesday I will have my physician report and letter. Abigail's doc isn't in the office until Tuesday, but since I work with her, I think I will just drop her a little text page to remember to sign Abigail's health clearance. Nice knowing how to get ahold of the people you need...:) One of the small perks of working with doctors all day!

That will pretty much be it other than the 2 letters of reference (they should both be done by Monday, hopefully), my home study, my FBI clearance, and my CIS (I171H) authorization. So start praying that all those agencies get going! My dossier is now in their hands.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Parenting Philosophy-ish

One of the requirements for my Ethiopian dossier is to write a statement explaining why I want to adopt, why I want to adopt from Ethiopia, how you plan to keep the child's culture and heritage alive, and what you feel your strengths are as a parent. Pish-Posh. That's nothing, right? Here's what I am submitting... a synopsis of my parenting philosophy, I guess:)

To Whom It May Concern:

Ever since I was a child, I have loved the idea of adoption. It seemed the most natural way to grow a family- to love a child who had no home. What could be more beautiful or right? For quite some time I have been considering adoption, but recently have decided that it is the right time to add a child to my family: another child for me to love and share my life with, and a little sister for my daughter.

From the time I began exploring international adoption, I felt drawn to Ethiopia. As I learned more about the country, Ethiopia’s history, and the present conditions, I knew this country was calling my name. I know my child is in Ethiopia. The current state of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa, and specifically the way it is ravishing Ethiopia, drew my nurse’s heart to the children who where orphaned by this horrible disease, and the families that have been broken apart by something from which we in America rarely suffer.

I look forward to being able to share in the deep history and culture of Ethiopia. Already, my daughter and I enjoy reading stories about Ethiopia and exploring the world map to find Ethiopia and her neighbors. We have started connecting to the local Ethiopian community, trying new foods, listening to new music. We learn about the country, the current conditions, the beauty of the history, and love to share what we learn with others. I look forward to serving the Ethiopian people using my nursing skills.

There is an old saying “give a man a fish and he will eat for a day- teach a man to fish and he will never be hungry.” I feel that my greatest strength as a parent lies in my ability to teach. I don’t just tie my daughter’s shoe laces- I teach her how to tie them. I don’t just read bedtime stories to her- I teach her how to read. I don’t just dictate morals and ethics- I teach her how to think about life and people, how to consider others and make choices. As the leaders of tomorrow, it is important that the children of today learn to value the human life, and I feel privileged to be teaching this to my daughter, even at her young age. Even more, I delight in the way she teaches me. Children are wonderful teachers, and my second greatest strength as a parent is my ability to learn from my daughter. For the rest of my life, I hope I will always be able to humble myself and discover what wonderful creations that can spring from the minds of children.

I know that I am not perfect. I realize that I have limits and boundaries in what I can do for my child- what I can give my child. But what I have learned so far in parenthood is this: there is no such thing as a perfect parent; there are only parents who do their best. I hope that I am able to teach this to my children- to do their best, always. To know that their best is enough. Above all, I hope that I am able to love them deeply enough that they never question their intrinsic worth.

Grace Kirk

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Q: What are you having (requesting? getting? picking?)

A: I am going to request a girl (what on earth would I do with a boy?) I really don't feel a need or desire to have an infant in the house (or to lose all that sleep), and I really like toddlers better, so the youngest I would be interested in would be age 8 or 9 months at the time of referral. I would take up to age 3. My "ideal" would be 12-14 months at referral.

However, this is not necessarily what my home study will designate me as eligible for... and it may not be what God has in mind. So, this is just my idea.

Reason #3- Sisters

On Monday I asked my sister if she would accompany me to Ethiopia when it was time to pick up my new little one. I knew I wanted to take Abigail along to this family-growing event, but traveling back to the US with Abigail and a toddler, on a plane for 17 hours... not so fun sounding. So when I thought about a grown-up that I would like to have along for this momentous occasion, I thought of my sister.

My sister and I were not terribly close growing up, and even now we are not as close as some sisters. But the older I get, the more I appreciate having a sister (and brother.) Your family is so important, and I know my family will always be there for me. Plus, there is a lot to be said for having someone to sit around and "remember when..." with.

And part of why I want to adopt is to give Abigail the chance to have that. To be a sister.

Monday, October 22, 2007


All of the documents in my dossier have to be "authenticated" or "apostilled" before sending them to Ethiopia. This is because Ethiopia is Hague Convention compliant, and this is a step in the US to ensure that the US is sending authentic documents to ET.

This is a step past certified or notarized. It must take place at the state level.

So, I had to send my certified birth certificate BACK to Michigan to get it apostilled. It cost $1.

When my certified divorce decree comes in from Illinois, I will have to send it BACK to Springfield to get it authenticated. That costs $2.

All of the rest of my documents that originate in PA... such as the statements from my bank, my employer, notarized copies of my birth certificates, etc.... those I will be able to take to the Capitol in Harrisburg and have apostilled...

AT $15 PER DOCUMENT!!!!!!!!!

Seriously, does that seem wrong to you?

To Spread the News...

I spent $12 at Staples and made business cards!

(Still no paper cuts!)

No Paper Cuts (yet)

So, thought I would update you on the current standings:

Sent off my Gladney Application with $2,100 Program fee. This is complete except for the doctor's clearances for Abigail and I. Still have to give them $500 Home Study Review fee before I would be able to get "approved" and submit my dossier to Ethiopia.

Sent off my I600A with the $750 fee. I found out they would accept a plain, old copy of my divorce decree, and did not require a certified copy, so off it flew to Philadelphia. They will still need my home study to complete my application, but I can still get fingerprinted before then.

My home study is scheduled for Nov. 17 in the morning. (Abigail's birthday party is that afternoon. The way I figure it is- clean once, get 2 events out of it!) So that day has a lot of potential to be stressful. Gulp. But the whole home study process should be completed by Nov. 25ish. Still have to give the poor lady some money, but waiting for my personal loan from my credit union to come through.

So, that's my big news. My agency recommends FedEx-ing everything, so I can't wait to see my FedEx bill (I opened an account) at the end of the month. Anyone want to finance my FedEx habit?

So you may now officially call me Grace- The Paper Cut Resistant Momma Extraordinaire!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Some thoughts about race...

Here are some thoughts I read on another prospective Ethio parent's blog. Read to the end- it's worth it!

...this post is about Transracial Adoption (though I can't imagine how anyone would guess that from my title or introductory paragraph...see why my journalism major only lasted a semester?), so I'll get right down to it. In the last post, I described the evolution of my feelings about parenting, race, and this adoption journey of ours. Now, I'd like to share some ideas that I have about the same sorts of issues. I like to divide things up, break them into smaller parts so that I can look at them more closely (see Homeschool vs. Public School, for example). I have come up with two concepts of race that hold perfect tension on the tug-of-war line between confusion and truth in my mind. I'd like to share them with you, but the caveat for embarking on this post is that if you read only part of it, the tug-of-war sways grossly out of balance. So (if you can tolerate all of the self-indulgent parenthetical asides), read the whole thing in a single sitting. Otherwise, you'll be choking on dry cereal one morning and drinking silty milk from a bowl the next.

First off,Race is a CONSTRUCT: One of the last classes I took during my last run at school spent a lot of effort in examining the ways in which people create ideas, especially socially significant ideas like race, culture, and gender. We talked about the fact that categories that seem pretty discrete and concrete actually exist along a much more fluid continuum than our conceptions would allow. Gender was, during that course, the example that impacted me. Our professor walked us through reading and class discussion that shook apart the dividing lines between categories so broadly accepted that stick figures in skirts or slacks almost universally symbolize their preeminence. But what makes a man a man and a woman a woman? Biology? That answer seems most obvious, but consider the biological qualities that we accept as identifiers. Hormones? Some self-identified women have hormone levels more saturated with testosterone than most culturally identified men. Chromosomes? What about Jamie Lee Curtis and the better part of a women's Olympic shot-put squad, all of whom have been dramatically affected by their ambiguous chromosomes, which include the decidedly male Y attatched to their pair of Xs? That's not to say that men and women aren't different, but it does illustrate the fact that the words we use to meen "male" and "female" are more pliable than we might normally recognize, that they actually represent some combination of a whole slew of factors that may or may not come into play in every instance to which they are applied.

Did I mention that this post is about Transracial Adoption? (7 right turns do, indeed, make a left.) All of that to say that if categories such as male and female represent loose amalgamations of expectations that we drag around without realizing it, then certainly already ambiguous categories like race and tribe slip their fences.

Did you know that people who are from India living in England are considered black? Most American people don't use that word in the same way. What about the word "Indian" in America? At least two stridently distinct ethnic heritages carry that label in our country. And are Russian's Asian? Are Haitian's African? Do you see how the words we use to describe other people leak like sieves? None of the categorical qualifiers that we might stuff in the bottoms of our language are sufficient to plug their holes. Complexion? Language? Family History? Many people who would check the box next to "Black" or "African-American" on a survey line have lighter complexions than other people who identify themselves as categorically white. People from several different continents all speak Spanish when they talk to their great grandparents, friends, and business associates. And while we're on the subject of great grandparents.....consider the flexibility in your family tree. Most of us don't know our great great grandmother's maiden name, and we know even less about the minutae of her daily life or the person she perceived herself to be. Some people's worlds are rocked when their family tree changes color or shakes off its leaves. My husband's German family is actually Danish. My grandmother's mother was Scottish and not Irish. My patrilineal ancestor snuck over on a boat from England and not Ireland. What about Carlos O'Kelly? Where's that guy from? Where are any of us from? Cultural heritage and ethnically rooted traditions can bind families together, but they cannot be regarded as racial signifiers. They don't have the stickiness to do the job. They're like a pencil-scrawled post it note, passed down from generation to generation: the writing has faded, and the back just never holds.

So what is race? Just like gender (only moreso) it is a conglomeration of labels that have slowly saturated our ideas about one another. Some of those labels were scribbled on the back of the post it note passed down to you through the generations. Some seeped in between the worksheets in our kindergarten classes. Some, we made up to explain the vague trends in our own experience. Who knows? I didn't know that "Jewish" could be used as a racial identifier until recently. Ten or twelve years ago, when I went to college, I think, I first heard someone say something like "He looks Jewish" or "That sounds like a Jewish last name." I had absolutely no idea what that person meant. In my arrangment of seives, Jewish was the religion of Moses, Abraham, and Jesus, and the people who observed Purim and Yom Kippur in my high school were white, like me. They just went to a different church. There was no special look, no identifiable last name in my construct of that "race."

Add to that (or add that to) the fact that I am committed, by a lifelong faith, to the absolute particularity of every person and his or her crucial importance to the heart of a loving God, and you have nothing but a shattered reflection through which to sift for any remnants of what you (or I) once labelled "race." In such light, the CONSTRUCT, simply cannot hold.

My children will be (are being) raised in accordance with that truth. Their indispensable voices, their irreplacable selves, their inimitable perspectives...their perfect particularity in the sight of God....will always govern the way our family operates. Our lives and the love that infuses them with meaning will unrelentingly reflect our commitment to the unity that comes from absolute diversity (not the shoddily drawn diversity of arbitrary categories but the radical diversity of individual, unrepeatable souls).

There you have it. Tug of war team # 1, truth, and its presidence over our family and all of its members: Race is a CONSTRUCT. It does not exist.

And here's the second, unmistakable fact:

Race IS a Construct: It DOES persist as arguably the most powerful construct in human history. It has been used to justify war and cruelty beyond measure. It continues to dellineate neighborhoods, churches, and cafeteria tables. In its prevalence, it creates commonality. People who have been stung by the broad, stupid application of the construct, again and again, are galvanized into unity by the heat and pressure. Likewise, people coagulate into like-mindlessness and power by virtue of their appropriation of a construct in common. So, at its best, the construct of race offers people a home, a place where belonging exists before words because common experience rarely needs to be spoken. And in this solidarity, people are comforted, empowered, and understood. At its worst, the papers.

If I don't arm my children with the tools to face down the wrong-headed implications of the most powerful construct in human history, then what kind of parent am I? And if I deny them an opportunity to melt into a community where they can find ease and identity without words among people who share common experience, an experience of a construct that I will never have nor completely understand, then I will have failed my children. I have an obligation to educate, encourage, and empower my family on all sides of this volatile, powerful, hateful, ennobling construct with every tool that my own resources and the resources of my community can provide.

I don't know how we'll manage it, but I'm fairly sure that if we let these two facts slide out of balance, if either side begins to pull harder, our whole family will collapse in a filthy heap. So I'm committed to the effort, with all of my heart. And I'll trust in the miracle of being set aright and hosed off again and again by the one who created without construct and yet enabled us to create them. And I can't tell you how much peace washes over me as I end that sentence with a solid, definitive period.


Q: Why adopt now?

A: Because it is the right time. How do I know it's the right time? I just do. (Didn't anyone tell you that moms know everything?)

I know some people can't believe I am ready to take on the "trouble" of a second child... they question how I will afford it, how I will do it without my family around, how I can possibly have the time for another little one. And sometimes I wonder those questions, too. But if families waited until they had the finances, time, and resources for a second child, everyone would be an only child! It is the right time to bring another child into our family, and Abigail and I are excited. I hope to adopt a toddler, and if I wait much longer, Abigail and the little one would be so far apart in age that they wouldn't be close- at least not in the way I hope they will be.

Friday, October 19, 2007

"Freedom" of the Press

The following commentary is from Ethiopian Politics:
ETP/AP - Ethiopia has been outranked by more than 145 countries including Zimbabwe, Sudan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia in a survey of press freedom around the world. Ethiopia was rated 150th in an index of 169 countries published today by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which examined various factors such as the way journalists are treated, freedom of speech, freedom of information and diversity of media ownership. RSF criticized the incarceration of journalists in Ethiopia, deportation of foreign correspondents and the government’s involvement in web censorship.
The report stated that most blogs and opposition websites were inaccessible in the country. The survey also found that Ethiopia’s neighbor Eritrea had the least free media in the world, displacing North Korea. "The privately-owned press has been banished by the authoritarian president Issaias Afeworki and the few journalists who dare to criticise the regime are thrown in prison," RSF said. "We know that four of them have died in detention and we have every reason to fear that others will suffer the same fate." China was seventh from the bottom of the list, at 163rd, just ahead of Burma, Cuba and Iran. The top of the list was dominated by European countries, which made up 18 of the top 20.

Current Standings

So, in case you didn't know, the adoption process is very... complicated, to say the least. I have 4 different manuals that are 40+ pages each. From these manuals I have to gather and submit various documents and applications to enable the adoption process. So, here is where things stand:

Gladney Application- This document includes several legal agreements and waivers between my adoption agency and myself. It also includes a series of information and documents about Abigail and me that allow the agency to determine1) if I would be a good adoptive parent, and 2) if Ethiopia would let me adopt. Currently I am waiting on three documents to complete my application: health waiver for me, health waiver for Abigail, and a copy of my official divorce decree. This application must be submitted with my initial program fee of $2,600.

Home Study- The home study is conducted by a licensed social worker. The social worker comes to my house and conducts an interview and investigates the home to determine the appropriateness of my home for an adopted child. The social worker determines the desired age and sex of the adoptive child, and what I can "handle" (ie- a family may want to adopt twins age 3-5 but the social worker may determine that the family can only adopt one child age 3-5, but is eligible for twins less than 3 years old.) They provide education and resources for me to help prepare Abigail and me for the adoption. The agency also conducts post-placement visits to make sure things are going well. Because Ethiopia requires that 3 post-placement visits be pre-paid before they will approve you to adopt, my application for the home study must be submitted not only with the cost of the home study but the payment for 3 post-placement visits which, before fees and travel expenses, totals $2125. I am almost ready to submit my application- I am just waiting on the funding.

I600A- This document is submitted to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS). This is my application to bring an adopted child into the US. This form triggers the USCIS to fingerprint me, and also results in an I171H or I797C which is my official "approval" to bring a child into the country. My application is complete but I am waiting on a copy of my divorce decree and the $750 fee.

Ethiopia Dossier- The dossier is the collection of documents that is submitted to the Ethiopian government to prove my ability to care for a child. This includes documents such as a certified copy of my birth certificate and divorce decree, a financial statement, my completed home study, health clearances and proof of blood work, proof of employment/income/health insurance/life insurance, letters of reference, a copy of my passport, and pictures of my family and home (among other things.) The dossier cannot be completed until the home study is complete, so I am not concerned with the fact that I have only gathered about half of the required documents. The final piece of the dossier (the last one to be obtained) is generally the I171H or I797C. Once the dossier collection is complete, it will go through a series of authentication on the US side and then be submitted to Ethiopia's Ministry of Women's Affairs.

Once the dossier is submitted to Ethiopia, they review it and give approval for me to adopt. At that point I become eligible to receive a referral (Gladney reports about a 3 month wait time for an approval- some are more and some are less. Babies and sibling groups may have a longer wait time, as do girls. However, most people I've talked to got their referral much more quickly than Gladney reports:) Once the referral is accepted, a Child Acceptance Agreement is sent to Ethiopia. Ethiopia determines a court date, and on that date the child legally becomes mine. The notification of the upcoming court date is my cue to get my airline tickets since most people travel just a few weeks after their court date. Then, 5-10 days are spent in Ethiopia bonding and finishing other required paperwork (and getting the kiddo's Visa) and HOME FOREVER!

So, that's where things are on my end. Hopefully Cook County can get going and get my certified divorce decree to me! (I already received my and Abigail's certified birth certificates over a week ago!) Come ON Co-Co!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

AIDS in Ethiopia

This video is about 20 minutes long and tells about the problems facing HIV/AIDS orphans in Ethiopia. Their sweet faces... how can we ignore them?

Reason #2-Bursting is not a good thing!

When I was a kid, I loved, and was loved by, my parents. I thought I knew what love was.

I grew up. I fell in love. I got married. I thought I knew what love was.

I got pregnant. I gave birth to a beautiful baby. I held her, nursed her, took care of her, cherished her. I thought I knew what love was.

How presumptuous was I? To think the human mind can fathom the height and width and depth of love! Love, true love, stretches across the universe, reaches beyond time, and gives from the never-ending fountain of grace and mercy.

But one truth I know about love is this: the more you give love, the more love you have to give. It's like ivy that can so quickly consume a landscape- the more it spreads, the more there is to spread. So all this love that I have been privileged to experience- all this love that I have been so blessed to give- it's just been growing and spreading and filling my heart. And now my heart is close to bursting with it. And let me tell you, in my humble medical opinion, bursting is not a good thing!

So, I am going to take my ivy-love and transplant it into the heart of another child.

I pray that you will be filled with love. I pray that you will be able to understand how wide and how long and how high and how deep His love is. I pray that you will know the love of Christ. His love goes beyond anything we can understand. I pray that you will be filled with God Himself.
Eph. 3:17-19 (NIV)

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
Isa. 40:11 (NIV)

The Horn, the List, and the Risks

Here is a link to an editorial from the NY Times about the Eritrean/Ethiopian conflict. These were the countries that warred through the late 1990s, with a tenuous peace for the past 7 years based on a treaty that neither country has fully respected. Full enforcement will go into effect in November, and tensions are rising. And if they begin to fight again, it will lead to the deaths of many innocent civilians.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Q: Why Ethiopia?

A: There are many reasons why I chose Ethiopia and I will share them with you, but the main reason is that I just knew that's where my child is.

When I initially began to seriously consider adopting I knew I wanted to go international. This was a "given" for me, based on the fact that even as orphans or foster kids in the USA, these children will have food, clothes, and education. As a matter of fact, most of them will even get a college education- free! It doesn't make up for not having a family, but at least they have a chance- a hope. So I knew I was going to look outside the US.

One of the first things I did was research from which countries I was even eligible to adopt... At the time, I was only 24, so the list of countries was quite small (especially with the closing of Guatemalan programs.) Adding to the list of detractors is the fact that I am single. Even fewer countries allow single-parent adoption (China closed their single-parent program.) Some countries have income requirements, others don't allow you to adopt if you already have a child... you get the picture. Anyway, once I turned 25, more countries opened up, including Ethiopia which allows single women age 25+ to adopt (this may be changing... please be in prayer!)

From the moment I considered Ethiopia, I just had peace. And as I educated myself about the country, my feeling that it was "right" increased. One thing that has really touched my heart is the HIV/AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. What an amazing opportunity this will create as my child connects with Ethiopia through service work- and the opportunity for me to serve in a medical capacity for people who so desperately need medical help! Additionally, education also revealed other medical problems:

1 in 10 children die before their first birthday
1 in 6 children die before their fifth birthday
More than half of the children in Ethiopia are stunted due to malnutrition
There is only 1 doctor in Ethiopia for every 24,ooo children

These people need help... these children need help! And I can give it to the! Not just through adopting, but through serving in an ongoing capacity.

Education also revealed the shocking human rights situation in Ethiopia. I won't get into it all, but how about this: 1 in 23 women in Ethiopia will be circumcised. Can you imagine?

So, all of this led me to Ethiopia, but mostly it was just the feeling that I don't think I can describe other than to say: I just knew that's where my child was.

Reason #1- 1 John 4:7-10

My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn't know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can't know him if you don't love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they've done to our relationship with God.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Here is a link for a Time interview with the Prime Minister of Ethiopia from September, 2007.

Very interesting and informative.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Religion in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has two primary religions: Orthodox Christian and Muslim. Religion has long been an area of civil conflict within Ethiopia, as it has been throughout the world. For many of us living in the US, religion-based conflict is pretty non-existent. The freedoms we have enjoyed since the foundation of our country- the freedom to practice any religion, and the freedom to abstain from religious practice- is something that we take for granted. The religious conflicts around the world are less "real" than those based on race, ethnicity, or country of origin, since we experience those kinds of conflicts ourselves in the US. However, these religion-based conflicts are very real. Here is an interesting article from the UK edition of The Times. It is particularly interesting because the peace sought with Christians from leaders of the Muslim world is directly relevant to the religious unrest within Ethiopia.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Ethiopian Flag

The colored stripes on the Ethiopian flag are significant - the red stripe stands for power, faith and blood; the yellow symbolizes the church, peace, natural wealth and love; and the green represents the land and hope. The colors were also interpreted to have a connection to the Holy Trinity, and the three main provinces of Ethiopia. The star represents unity of the people and the races that make up Ethiopia. The five rays on the outside of the star represent prosperity and the blue disk represents peace.


Pictures from National Geographic.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

First Contact

I just got off the phone with the intake coordinator of the adoption agency I think I am going to use. This was my first "contact" with adoption agencies, even though I have been researching adoption, Ethiopia, agencies, etc for a few months.

It was my first "first." And it was great! I really enjoyed speaking with Debra, and I was able to get many questions answered. The one thing she said that kind of threw me for a loop was that Ethiopia is considering closing it's intercountry adoption program to single women. Other countries (like China and Russia) have already done this. So, Debra's advice was to "Just Do It!"


Maybe God is throwing my timeline out the window?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Deuteronomy 10:14-18

Look around you: Everything you see is God's—the heavens above and beyond, the Earth, and everything on it. But it was your ancestors who God fell in love with; he picked their children—that's you!—out of all the other peoples. That's where we are right now. So cut away the thick calluses from your heart and stop being so willfully hardheaded. God, your God, is the God of all gods, he's the Master of all masters, a God immense and powerful and awesome. He doesn't play favorites, takes no bribes, makes sure orphans and widows are treated fairly, takes loving care of foreigners by seeing that they get food and clothing. (The Message)