Sunday, June 20, 2010

Will She Ever Wear Normal Clothes Again?

Adeline turned two on June 15th and she is getting cuter by the day (non-biased parent alert). My mom gave her a bin of dress-up clothes and accessories, including her all-time favorite of high-heels, and its like this girl has been born-again. She changes clothes multiple times a day, and insists on wearing items like her "paws" (translation: gloves) in public. Other new favorites to sport out and about on routine shopping trips to the grocery store, or even the swimming pool, include: a Hello Kitty nightgown, plastic high-heels with a pink poof at the tip, a dance leotard and tu-tu out-fit, a fairy-dress, butterfly wings, furry masks, beads!, and of course, a girl has got to have her purse and sunglasses. Soooo, does this end before or after she turns 16??

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Just Plane Disaster

So I just got back from a visit with my family up in West Virginia. It was an interesting trip. I flew with both the kids by myself for the first time since Adeline stared walking. My time there was great (minus the fact that I got a little stomach bug); we celebrated my cousin Katie graduating from medical school at UVA (and BONUS, she's going to do her residency in pediatrics, so now I get to call her at all hours of the night with annoying questions about my kids diarrhea and fluid intake) and Asher and Adeline got to spend lots of time with Pops and Packy. The interesting parts were the flights there and back. Apparently Adeline is allergic to flying. Or just has a propensity to throw up on airplanes. Or gets extremely airsick. Or all of the above. All I know is that throw-up happened all over me on the way up there and that Adeline arrived wearing a Delta airlines blanket. On the way back she woke up at the gate and then threw up all over Jonathan as soon as we hit baggage claim. So... I started thinking I would just never fly again. We drove at Christmas and it wasn't that bad. And this was really bad. Really really bad. Vomit in the hair bad. No extra clothes bad. Screaming freaking out Asher bad. Trapped on the tarmac due to weather for almost three hours bad. With no air conditioning bad. And this trip was only half-way across the country, you can imagine the scenarios going through my head of what a trip half-way around the world looks like. Obviously flying to Africa will be required, I'm just hereby committing to everyone I will be packing a carry-on bag full of extra clothes for not only the kids but for me as well, complete with soaping towelettes and plastic bags!!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hitting the Books

I've been doing a lot of reading lately... a lot. I could link and link and link articles on here, videos on here, and flood this blog with statistics that would make you scream. Deep breath. Restraint. Today I will post an article/blog post by Anne Jackson of Flowerdust, which is a site that has lots to read on it (at this point in my head is running the old, "but don't take my word for it" from Reading Rainbow).

Breaking News: American Orphans Get Kicked Out of Public Schools, Nowhere to Go: Predators Wait

At the end of their freshman year of high school, American orphans are left fending for themselves. No longer integrated into the public school system, the federal government provides each orphan with $120 and a wish of “Good luck!” as they drop them in their respective inner cities.

These children stop to purchase a cell phone or some clothes, and then go one of two ways: Some move back to their neighborhoods, although they lack any family or connections, and others attempt to find jobs.

However, predators are numerous and falsely advertise vague jobs in the newspaper, offering a doorway into trafficking under the guise of legit employment opportunities. Others wait in the neighborhoods for those who do return, pretending to be employers looking for workers.

Most of these orphans end up kidnapped and working in Mexico and Canada, making pennies a day for sexual services.

That would be shocking, wouldn’t it? We’d be enraged. Rally.

Thankfully, that is not the scenario in the states. However…

While we’re here in Moldova, we’re trying to learn everything we can. Yesterday, we started at the beginning — how do so many children (20-25% of Moldova’s population, most orphaned and most female between 16-24) end up being sex trafficked? Where does this cycle begin?

A lot of the problem begins through the orphanage system.

Take, for instance, the eleven year old girl we met yesterday at an orphanage. At fifteen, she’ll be released out into the world on her own, with no family or connection to anybody out in the city. The government will provide her with a small sum of money, not even enough to rent a room for a month.

This girl is completely vulnerable…and the predators know it.

They’ll advertise “real” jobs in papers, promising good work in other bordering countries. Naive and unsuspecting, these girls will go for an interview, and typically get drugged, kidnapped, and moved into another country. Their papers will be stripped away and changed and they’ll gain a new identity.
Sex slave.

Not knowing how to escape, being violated and told they’re worthless, and that nobody cares, they see no hope — no reason to escape. Some commit suicide.

The reality is nobody really will miss them. Moldova is a small country, and 30,000 women and children disappear every year without a trace. Without identities.

Nobody knows they’re gone, and nobody misses them.

As we sat in a rather large orphanage yesterday, I couldn’t help but stare at each girl. They varied in age from maybe five or six to teenagers, and I knew the teenagers would be soon sent out on their own to fend for themselves. Some may find a transitional home which will help educate them, put them through tenth-twelfth grade (or beyond) and keep them safe. But there would be some who would simply disappear.

And nobody would know.

A year from now, I wonder if I’ll even remember their faces – glowing brightly with youth and what I could only imagine is hope.

Or will I also forget as they disappear into a system of the worst kind of crime and suffering?

Today, we are meeting with some organizations that are on the solution side of this issue. I hope tomorrow’s update will have a better ending than the stories I heard today.

(**Note: Just in case it wasnt clear the story about American orphans is not true. It is a parallel to what is happening here in EU and Russia for context.)

I've also created a new blog roll of blogs and sites I'm finding helpful in learning about the sex trafficking industry; if you know of others, please let me know!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

An Ant Can Carry A LOT on its Back

I feel like I'm carrying some burdens around with me right now. Not my own burdens, but those of the orphans, foster kids, and girls whose banner I am trying desperately to hold up. The weight of these burdens - poverty, fear, loneliness, hopelessness, hunger, anger, hurt, abandonment - can press down a crushing force on me at times. When I meditate on these things, pray for them, my heart can feel their pain. It can put me in quite the funk,for hours, sometimes days. It's been hard as we embark on launching this ministry at our church to really talk about it, blog about it. It's sometimes hard to sum up in cute sentences or pithy comments, witty sentiments our plans, or even the statistics, or more importantly the stories behind the statistics.
On a more personal note, I was so obliviously and blissfully naive and unaware of the conditions at our own children's orphanage. I think I was lulled into a false sense of security because the nuns there are so loving, and reports of parents going are always so positive. But after reading an account of the orphanage from a complete outsider, it's like seeing it with fresh eyes. I am now hurting also for my own kids, for all the children there. Thankfully so many of them will soon be with their forever families, even some right here in Austin. Surely it will be a comfort to them to see some familiar faces here! (here are the accounts I read: Land of A Thousand Hills 1, Lands of a Thousand Hills 2) I can't wait to take a suitcase full of toys and clothes when we go!!
We are supposed to lift our burdens up to the Lord; but what if it is God that gives you the burden? Have you ever been in this place? Talk to me!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Not for Little Eyes

Okay, so last week we went to the CAFO Summit conference up in Minneapolis. It was awesome. We got a ton of resources and came away with a lot ideas and visions and dreams of what God can do with our ministry. My prayer going into it was that God would reveal what work He would have us do, and well, He gave us a work to do. A big work. Years of work. More on all of that in blog posts to come.
Every day God can surprise you. Here I was, going to a conference on ORPHAN CARE and ADOPTION. Look, I already feel out of place most of time, even at church, for being "one of those crazy adoption people." I was feeling nice and cozy, among my own peeps for once, when of course God had to push me out of my comfort zone. Looks like comfort is just not in my cards. Morning one. Tom Davis takes the stage. Great, I think. I love Tom Davis. "Fields of the Fatherless" is practically an adoption classic, and I came to the conference looking forward to hearing him speak. Uhhh... then he started talking about sex trafficking. Not the topic I was expecting. But as he expounded on the topic, my heart started to grow for those involved. He explained how many of the young girls - and I do mean young girls, ages of even 7 years old - are lured out of horrible situations, like orphanages or foster situations or street situations, by promises of family, safety, , jobsand belonging. Everything they've always wanted that they've never had. Instead they get hell. They get taken not to a home but to a hotel. They get held there against their will by large grown men who rape them, then invite other men to do the same for a price. If they don't make enough money they get beaten. They are in hell. They are girls. They have no one. They can't just leave and its not their fault. They weren't somehow asking for this. Being smarter won't help them escape.
As I describe this situation, what country are thinking about? India? Russia? Does the distance make you feel safer, more comfortable with it? I know if I ever thought about this subject in the past, I had it tucked away neatly into the pockets of "doesn't concern me" and "that kind of stuff doesn't happen here." Well, no longer can I look away. No longer can I have that attitude. And it does happen HERE. Right here, in America, in the open.
But what can WE do? I mean, I don't know any sex traffickers. This is a huge industry and I am a little person. Well, little people can band together and have a big voice. It turns out that one of the largest outlets for these men to sell their girls on is Craigslist. Craigslist is well aware of the situation but refuses to take down the adult services section of their website. Read the open letter by Rachel Loyd to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster below:

Dear Jim,

We met about 18 months ago via video-conference and at that time I shared with you a story of an 11 year old girl that I was working with. I'm not sure if you remember her, but I'd like to share this story with you again.

"Bethany" had been in foster care since she was 2 years old and had bounced from foster home to foster home, until at 11 she was introduced to a friend of her 14 year old sister. This friend was a 32 year old man who lured her in with promises of a stable home and love, everything she'd been craving her whole short life. He took Bethany from New York down to a hotel in DC, bought her some ‘sexy' clothes, and took pictures of her and then posted those pictures on your site, Craigslist. Bethany didn't really think there was anything unusual about this, after all her 14 and 16 year old sisters were both being sold on Craigslist too.

For nine months, almost till she turned 12 years old, Bethany's pictures were posted on Craigslist. Sometimes she was "NEW IN TOWN" when her pimp/trafficker would bring her to cities up and down the East Coast, posting her pictures in different regions. Sometimes she was "HOT N SEXXY FOR U" with her price listed as 150 roses. Night after night, adult men clicked on her ads, dialed a number and ordered her as easily as they would've ordered a pizza. Night after night, adult men came to the hotel room she was being kept in and had sex with her, or rather raped her, as at 11 years old she was too young to consent. Night after night, her pimp collected the money that he made from her and if it wasn't enough he beat or whipped her, badly enough that she has permanent scars.

No-one who saw Bethany's pictures ever clicked on the link on your site and reported "suspected exploitation of minors and/or human trafficking to the appropriate authorities". No law enforcement ever found the ads that her trafficker posted in the midst of the hundreds and hundreds of other ads of girls for sale.

Bethany, and her two sisters, were sold on your site, just like hundreds of other girls I've worked with have been. Just like thousands of other girls and young women across America are sold every night. It's hard to imagine that as a businessman with a sense of social responsibility that this wouldn't sicken and horrify you. The thought that you could profit even one dollar, let alone millions of dollars, in any way from the sale of children has to deeply sadden and make you outraged to the point where you would want to ensure that this can't happen - at least not on your site. I would've hoped that would be your automatic response anyway.

Unfortunately that hasn't been the case. Your responses to the criticism though raise some interesting points. Yes, while there may be a few people who are concerned about "casual sex" on your site, the vast majority of people who are signing petitions and raising their voices about this issue are doing so on behalf of girls like Bethany who don't have a voice. Yes, while there are of course other sites, magazines and Yellow Page ads where girls and women can be bought, very few of them have the brand-name recognition that Craigslist does, and besides, the "other people are doing it too" argument seems to be one that our mothers taught us when we were in kindergarten didn't hold much water. (Kudos, by the way, to New York Magazine for dropping all their sex for sale ads last year). And yes, while Craigslist has been cooperative with law enforcement on this issue, the sheer volume of postings of girls for sale on each night, in each city makes truly targeting traffickers and pimps a Sisphyean task.

This campaign isn't about a "cynical misuse of a cause as important as human trafficking as a pretense for imposing one's own flavor of religious morality". In fact, for those of us on the ground who work with girls like Bethany every day, it's saddening to have our work and our advocacy efforts framed as such. While we recognize that Craigslist taking a stand on this issue won't end commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking in our country, it will send a powerful message to the adult male buyers that Craigslist will have no part in, nor take any profit from, the sale of 11 (or 14, or 16) year old girls.

So, as intense as that letter is, that is what is going on out there. I am boycotting Craigslist until they stop making profits from the sale of young girls. Will you join me as well? Another thing I will be doing is learning. Will you learn with me? This issue is too important to ignore. Finally, I am committed to being a voice for these girls who have no voice. So, if you decide to stop reading this blog, I'll understand. But its not all sunny and roses out there, its just not. That is for another life, and strive as we might, we're never going to get that here so the way I see it we might as well put our gloves on and get into the fight down here while can. So get ready to learn a lot about places like Moldova, the sex trafficking capital of the world, and ways we can be involved in helping to support girls that have been rescued and are transitioning out of that world. As my new friend Brandi says, lets be warrior girls.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Hope Chest

I made my first official purchase for our child(ren) in Rwanda earlier this week. It is nothing big, just a small stuffed elephant, but with that purchase came a change in thinking for me. I WILL ENJOY this waiting period. I will take this time and think about these children, prepare for them in hopeful anticipation, not anxious impatience. With that, I have decided to created a Hope chest for them, and purchase for each of them one item every month that we wait until our meeting. It may be a special book or toy, or even a cute outfit I see, but I want to focus my energy on believing in their homecoming instead of doubting. And if we end up with only one referral at the end of this process, then that only means that the Hope chest will have a longer time to fill up before we bring the other one home. I hope it will serve as a visual reminder to our kids (especially Asher) that their brother and sister will be coming home soon. Now, I just have to buy the actual chest...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Going to the Summit

One week from TODAY I will be packing up my things (my warm things) and getting ready to head to Minneapolis for the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit VI Conference. My amazing husband is taking off two days from work and my mom is taking off one day to watch the kiddos so that I can go to this amazing conference. I will be traveling with two other women from our church, Christina and Erin, who are also leading our Adoption and Orphan Care Ministry. We could not be more excited. We have the complete backing and support of our church, which is sponsoring our trip, which feels amazing. Let me tell you how huge that is. We get to go and participate in really really really awesome breakout sessions, such as: Church-Based Orphan Ministry 101, 201, and 301; Understanding Childhood Development of Overseas Orphans; Engaging Youth and College Age for Orphan Ministry; Adoption of HIV Positive Orphans and Other Special Needs; Help Wanted: How Every Season of Life Can Advocate for the Orphan; Adoption and Orphans: Becoming a Multicultural/Multiracial Family; and so so many more. And on top of amazing break out sessions, we get to hear THESE speakers:

John Piper!

Mary Beth and Steven Curtis Chapman!

Tom Davis!

We are hoping to learn as much as possible in as many different areas as we can to bring back to home to implement in our adoption and orphan care ministry. And I am determined to drink a latte on the plane because little hands will not be able to knock it over!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

It's Funny Where a Beard Can Take You

How do you de-stress at the end of the day? A piece (or two...) of chocolate, glass of wine, exercise, facebook, reality tv, reading a good book or a bad magazine, blogging, talking with your significant other or a good friend? Well these are all valid choices (except maybe the exercise one), but the past two nights I've been having fun wasting my nightly down time on this site: Yes! That IS my husband's website. He just made it a couple days ago and put it up mostly for professional purposes. HOWEVER, he put up an interactive app that lets you upload any picture and put his beard on your it (have I mentioned he is bearded fellow?). His beard is fully stretchable and re-sizable, so you can put any size face up there. There is also a beard gallery of other people's creations that is fun to browse through. So I know I should probably be doing more important things... but sometimes we all need some time off.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Eagle Christians

Yesterday we went to our friends' church to hear and meet some pretty amazing people from Rwanda. Pastor Charles preached; Pastor Charles along with his wife is the founder and director of Africa New Life Ministries, which does just amazing work in the communities of Rwanda. We also had the privilege of hearing the testimony of Enric Sifa. Enric was just a kid when the 1994 genocide hit, and he and his little brother survived by living in the jungle in a pit. His father was murdered but his mother somehow survived, and they were reunited with her in an aid camp after the genocide had subsided. After they moved back into their neighborhood however, Enric's mother was beaten for advocating to get her land and house back (a more powerful man now wanted it), and she eventually died from that attack. Enric became a "street kid" to survive. He described his life and more importantly his mental attitude as a street kid. He told us how when he would get sick he would just sit on a curb and wait to die, because he knew it didn't matter to anyone whether he lived or died.
Eventually Enric's love of music led him to discover a church, which led him to Pastor Charles and Africa New Life Ministry. Now Enric has sponsors here in America, goes to school, and guess what? He tried out and WON Rwanda Idol! (Rwanda's version of American Idol). This kid is incredible. He taught himself how to play the guitar, and has some serious skills. He spoke of how becoming a Christian and having faith has changed his life, and knowing that people KNOW him and care about him has given him confidence. What a cool guy, in every sense of the word. Get his cd's!!
After the service I wanted to talk to Pastor Charles and his wife, Florence. I didn't really know what to say to them. Hi, We're adopting! just sounded so hollow after hearing everything that was going on in their country. What I really wanted to say to Florence was, I want to be you. Working to take care of all these kids, making a real and lasting difference. Working on the ground. But that sounded flippant as well. So we chatted about our daughters and she wished us luck on our adoption.
But I left the service with a heavy heart. The work being done in Rwanda is yielding amazing results; children love going to school there, the community is thirsty for faith, the government is willing to partner with programs that are seeing results, like Africa New Life. I was just sad that I was stuck a half a world away. I told Jonathan that my secret plan is to get him to live in Rwanda one day (sooner than later), which is why I obsessively ask everyone who goes to Kigali how the internet speed and connections are (Jonathan is a web developer). My secret (which I don't think I was keeping very well before) is out of the bag. Who knows where it will take us one of these days, but I hope it takes us somewhere where I can hold babies and play with kids who need love and work in a community like Kageyo or one of the many other communities in Rwanda that is rebuilding.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

a Reblog

from Heather's blog at Sit a Spell, something so great I wanted to to retweet it, only I don't twitter, I only blog, so here I am, reblogging it:

We may have issues. Can we in the least admit that? Maybe the issue is our hard hearts. Maybe the issue is that the church as a whole is not talking about adoption enough. Let's not get defensive. Let's just admit that there are a whole lot of orphans out there being neglected and a whole lot of us doing nothing to care for them in their distress. Let's quit defending ourselves and simply admit...crap. There's a lot of orphans. There are a lot of Christian families. This discrepancy is a problem.

And now for a can of worms: You guys out there adopting from Rwanda, with or without an agency, who HAS or IS planning on sending their dossier without CIS approval and who HAS NOT. What has anyone heard about this? We thought this was totally fine to do, and had heard from multiple places that we DID NOT have to wait on CIS approval to send the dossier, that we could send the approval along when we got it to our POA and he could put it in.Now we are hearing the opposite - that we need to wait for approval to send our dossier. We were planning on sending our dossier off in a matter of weeks, so this would be a major time delay if we have to wait on CIS; however we don't want anything to go wrong over there. I know what the Migeprof website says (to have approval in your dossier) but we were under the impression that as long as you had it by the time you went to court you were fine - anyone know anything???

Monday, April 5, 2010

And so it began

On April 6, 1994 the plane carrying Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundi's Hutu president Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down as it attempted to land in Kigali. Like us, the small quiet country had just celebrated Easter; families had gathered, congregations had worshiped, neighbors had shared meals. In a flash, the world turned evil. The radios spewed only lies, evil, and hate. Power hungry and evil men took over the government and wanted nothing but the total annihilation of the 15% of the population that was of Tutsi descent. In a country of 7.3 million, that means 1 million people. More land for the Hutus. More jobs, resources, educational opportunities, cattle, food, more everything for the Hutus. For 100 days the world went on while Rwandans killed each other. Hacked each other to death. Hunted one another down. Trapped groups of people - women, children, babies - in schools and churches where they sought sanctuary and set them on fire.
The Rwandan genocide is one of the greatest manifestations of evil in recorded history. I hate thinking about it. I've read some books, done my research on it; I feel I owe it to my children to know as much as I can about their birth country. I do not dwell on it, and I would not even bring it up, but for this one reason: for you to know how much greater the good work that has been accomplished there is.
It has now been sixteen years since somewhere between 750,000 and 1,000,000 people were brutally murdered by their own neighbors, by people they knew and who knew them personally in a country the size of the state of Maryland. In sixteen short years, Rwanda is now once again safe to travel to; in fact I would feel safer traveling to Rwanda than I would traveling to most of the countries in the western hemisphere!
How is reconciliation like this possible?
For one, once the veil of evil was lifted off the eyes of the Hutus - once the genocide leaders were stopped, once the drug and alcohol induced fogs fueled constantly by the genocide leaders, once the killing squads were not called to assemble, once the propaganda stopped on the radio, once the fear-mongering ceased - truth could once again burst forth and be heard. The truth took a long time to take hold. Some were stubborn and didn't want to believe it, for certain, but truth has a way of winning out in the end.
The world finally took notice and came. And then they stayed for while. Peacekeeping forces from France and Belgium were the first to arrive, and later the UN took over and set up refugee camps (where many more died from poor conditions, malaria, and water born illnesses) across the borders in the Congo, and Uganda. When the world is watching, evil men revert back to the cowards that they are.
Restoration. Deep heart changing forgiveness. Rebuilding of trust and of a whole country. Building by building and house by house. The kind of restoration only possible when God intervenes. He alone can change ashes into gardens, mourning into gladness, death into new life.
Money, aid, sponsorship programs, educational programs, counseling programs, programs, programs, programs! Investment is the bottom line. Not only others investing in Rwanda, but Rwandans investing back into themselves.
Obviously the work is not done there. Some estimates put the number of orphans at 750,000, some even higher. Clean water is desperately needed across the countryside. Infrastructure still needs to be rebuilt. There is more work to do. But it has begun.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Orphan Villages

This is from 4-more's website. They are a non-profit that works in Rwanda on behalf of the orphans of Rwanda. They are currently in Rwanda now, working on installing their first water purification system in two orphanages, and while they are there they are traveling the country and making other contacts as well. This is from their travel blog today. Counting my blessings and holding and hugging them a little closer as I kiss them goodnight tonight after reading this. People ask us why adoption. We point to the great need. This is that great need.

"We were able to visit one of the 45 orphan villages throughout Rwanda. The homes in the orphan villages generally consist of an average of 4 children and do not usually exceed 9 people.

Sadly, only 3 of the 45 orphan villages have water, which means they have a place to go (sometimes average of 5 kilometers away) and have to pay for their jerry cans to be filled (these cans are 20L and cost up to 100 Rwandan francs, which is about $ .25).

At times they are able to afford this water, and other times they are not. The other 42 orphan villages have no access to water of any kind. Their only recourse is to capture rainwater in buckets (as pictured).

Despite the many struggles and inherent disadvantages, the orphan villages are focused on improving the lives of children through such things as educational opportunities. In fact, 100 orphans have been sent to university and 54 have graduated!

In Gabo’s words, “our homes currently are just a drop in the ocean” according to the great need in Rwanda. The current number of homes within the orphan villages is 447. The estimated need is for 20,000.

Right now, the most desperate need in the existing orphan villages is for what seems the simplest thing – clean water."

Clean water to drink, a dry and warm place to live, a school to go to, food to eat and shoes on your feet. These are the bare basics of life. 447 homes in 45 orphan villages are not getting these. What is to become of the kids who need to live in the non-existing 19,500 orphan homes? Its enough to break your heart. Go to to find out how you can get involved to help the orphan crisis in Rwanda.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Totally Stealing Christina's Post

I'm feeling too tired to say much today, but I read a great post by Christina and I wanted to share it with all of you. Actually, Christina and Jeremy have been doing a great series on the misconceptions of adoption. Her latest entry is on the myth that adoption is only for couples who struggle with infertility. Okay, go read it - she says it better than I do. (Oh, it's the Jeremy, Christina and Nate blog on the blog roll).

Sunday, March 21, 2010

If only I knew then what I know now....

I turned another year older yesterday. Yes, the sands of time are catching up with me. I am in the process of investigating wrinkle creams (though that is a conversation for a different blog I'm sure; still suggestions are appreciated), and am considering getting serious about pilates. I need things to stay in place. I've got some years to go and I just can't get away from this gravity stuff! Its all around me all the time!
Okay, the point is, looking back, you always wish you would have done things differently. I wish I wouldn't have done that perm on Christmas day of 2000. My sister Abby's turned out amazing. Mine, turned out disastrous. We washed it right away (skipping the 3 day no wash policy) to try to get it out FAST, and it still stayed in my hair until I finally cut the last bit out two years later. Looking back, that was a mistake.
The adoption process is the same way. Mostly, we're all new at this. We try to gain wisdom from those who have gone before us, or from our agency, or from people in the field, but really it is one of those unique journeys in life that can be commonly shared yet be vastly different for so many of us. I find that so strange yet so fascinating at the same time. Here we are, all gathering roughly the same documents and putting together roughly the same paperwork, give or take a document here or there, picture pages here or there, family presentations here or there, and sending them to countries around the world or to just across town, and the quest that these documents take us on are so different. That is why I love reading your stories. Your love stories between you and your children. No two are the same and that is so beautiful.
Now, back to what I wish I would have known. I wish I would have known I needed TWO certified copies of my marriage certificate - one for my dossier and one for my CIS application - because I thought I only needed one and now I have to go back across town and get another one.
I wish I would have done the homestudy FIRST so that I could be getting the rest of my dossier done while waiting on my homestudy report to be written, but instead we did it last and now just get to.... wait.....
I wish I would have known I would have turned into a slightly hyperactive and stressed out not pregnant but sort of acting like I'm pregnant minus all the cravings and sickness (so really just moody) person. I don't know what I could have done about it, but at least I wouldn't have been in denial about it for so long. As they say, "Denial is not a river in Egypt." Acceptance is good.
I wish I would have gotten my doctor to sign me up to a clean bill of health when I saw her in September so I wouldn't have to scramble my way into an emergency physical. Of course, we hadn't settled on Rwanda in September, and I definitely didn't have the medical form needed then, but still, this is hypothetical, and that is what I wish.

So there are a few things for you newbies just starting out on the journey of independent adoption from Rwanda. Turns out I had my items slightly out of order for getting the dossier completed in the most time effective manner. If efficiency is your game, you may want to take these notes under advisement. Disclaimer: I can not be held responsible if you go mental in the process.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Crazy, or Crazy Practical?

Caution: The ramblings of a crazy and obsessive, sleep deprived and over-stressed, recovering type-A perfectionist ahead.
As I was lying in bed late last night (later than usual due to the time change and a rare but much needed nap earlier in the day) my nightly visitors came calling. These visitors are lists of things I need to do or get in the upcoming week, and they race constantly through my mind until I think I have a handle on them. At last, I am able to move onto other things - usually scenarios of adoption doom (I mean, don't I sound like a blast to hang out with right now??). These include anything and everything from my kids hating me and not wanting to be adopted by us, to not having the documents at the airport and missing our flight home, to our kids pooping constantly and it running out all over us uncontrollably. One of my nagging fears is our dossier getting mis-mailed, misplaced, set aside, ignored, lost in transit, etc.. I can not let this one go. I think I have been obsessing over it a bit. Anyone else?? Anyone else lie awake at night thinking of worst-case scenarios? And I am a perpetual optimist, so this is new ground for me.
Well, to combat the fear of my dossier getting lost, I thought I had the most brilliant idea ever last night. It helped me to finally get to sleep and put my mind at ease about this one particular problem. My solution? To simply insert a GPS tracking device into my dossier. TADA! Perfect! Problem solved. It is like taking UPS tracking to a slightly elevated level. Now I can see exactly where my dossier is at all times. If it is spending too much time at one location, I can just make a call and ask why. This is brilliant, my problem is solved, I can not wait to tell Jonathan in the morning. Oh, and before I fall asleep, I think of an even more brilliant solution to another nagging problem. Why do I need to be kept in the dark the whole time while my dossier sits on that desk or gets translated or whatever is happening to it? And what is happening to it? I NEED TO KNOW!!!!!!!!! So, while I have a GPS thingamajig on it, why not just attach a sound transmitter as well?? OF COURSE! I AM A GENIUS. I could give the sound transmitter to my friend Saba, who speaks French, AND just got back from living in Rwanda for a year, so she's totally used to their accent and dialect. She can translate in her spare time (Saba, you could even take it to work, those crazy people won't know the difference). My plan is perfect. I will know where my dossier IS at ALL times, and what is going on around it. YES! PEACE OF MIND. SLEEP.
So, I got up in the morning, eager to tell Jonathan the SOLUTION TO ALL OUR PROBLEMS. He did not see it that way. He said I was crazy. As in borderline mentally losing it. I was sort of offended. I mean, okay, maybe it is a little overboard, I admitted, but... No, he insisted, I need major help. Turns out, if you send a GPS thingy with a listening device, I guess you can be arrested for spying. Like, internationally spying. I don't know who would want to spy on Rwanda, especially in the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, but apparently I now qualify. I don't really want to spy, just listen for my own sake, not sell the information or use it for anything.. Turns out that doesn't matter either. So, even if I scratch the listening device, he still thought I was being crazy. Something about being obsessive, needing to let go, all we need to know is that Peter gets it, blah blah... AHHHHH
Why are the men so non-emotional about this?
Why am I in constant knots about this? I am never like this!
I will leave you with one final thought that I also can not get out of my head. I can not get the School House Rocks, "I'm Just a Bill" song out of my head. It has been playing in my head for almost a week, driving me crazy. What grown person goes around singing that song? And I keep picturing the little bill all tied up neatly in the middle with his smiling face. Anyway, it has impressed upon me the need for School House Rocks to come back and make a song and video about a dossier, and how it is put together and what it goes through, ending with a family being united in then end. So, anyone have any connections to them? That would really help me out. And that concludes this editions of bizarre wanderings inside my head.

Monday, March 8, 2010

HELP! I'm Trapped In My Car with My Kids!!

"Busy" used to be how I described my old life. My pre-adoption, pre-house selling/house-house hunting, pre incontinent dog life. You know, the life when all I had to think about was taking care of my two kids, my family, my volunteer stuff, my house stuff (laundry for days and days, my gosh where does it all come from!!), and feeding and keeping everyone alive, and as a bonus, get to have a social life. I would get to relax. I would go to girls nights and have fun, i.e. not still be stressed out from the day. I would visit with friends and not have racing through my head all the places I still had to be and go that day. Oh, how I LONG for the busy days.
Now my life feels like it is in an utter tailspin. I mean, I guess when people ask, I still describe it as busy, but I think ridiculous would be a better word. I have to give a big thank you to Erin for giving me the best little mini vacation morning last Thursday. I was just at her house, but I swear it was like I was at a spa. She did an amazing job on my hair, and even gave me warm hot chocolate made with milk. There is something about taking care of yourself in the midst of chaos, and well lets face it, about having great hair, that can change your attitude about just about anything. I have never had great hair, or anything close to it, but Erin has me on the right track. It is good to have a friend who will be honest with you about things like that, and even better if she is an actual professional hair stylist. Thank you Erin! I didn't feel like a crazy person for at least the rest of the afternoon!
I am trying my best to keep a semblance of balance for the kids and their social lives, which is making my world shrink to the size of my van. Soccer, play groups, play overs with friends, after school playground time, I have to make time for them so that the looong trips in the car driving all over Austin won't feel so claustrophobic. And we have been having quite a few long car rides all together lately.
Have you ever felt trapped in your car with your kids? Because that is exactly how I feel. Adeline now hates getting dressed first thing in the morning because she knows it means we have to go somewhere and that means AUSTIN TRAFFIC all the way down Mopac. I told her that it makes me want to cry too. She didn't seem to understand. Tell me your tricks for surviving in traffic stress free with your kids. Maybe you can change my life!!

I Didn't Do It, I Swear

So I try to do all of my "official" adoption errands sans Asher, just to make them run a little smoother, but that really only leaves me Tuesdays and Thursdays and if I EVER want to get this dossier sent off, and I DO!, then I need to start utilizing every day I've got. With that in mind, we took a family trip down to get fingerprinted on Friday. Jonathan came on his "lunch break" and we just knocked it out. Hopefully we won't get matched up with any unsolved crimes.... and on Monday I will go and pick them up along with a copy of our State of Texas criminal background checks. Then I can send a copy of our fingerprints to the FBI for our FBI background check, and I can check one more thing off my list. HOORAY!!! I love making those check marks! Okay, confession, I LIVE for making those check marks. Sometimes I will make a half of a check if I have done part of a line item, just so I feel like I am making some sort of progress.
While Jonathan and I were getting our fingerprints electronically scanned, Asher became increasing interested in having his fingerprints done. The girls doing the fingerprinting were extremely nice, and they let Asher take his very own set of real ink fingerprints. He got to write his own name on his own card, then they took him the real ink block and took his whole set, both hands. He loved it! They were super patient with him and even gave him candy. I know all the cliches about government offices and so on, but they were just the opposite. They absolutely made his day, and therefore mine. Although, I don't want to see him giving his fingerprints again for a very long time! And even then it better be for a good cause!!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Thanks, Mr. Postman!

It's just like Christmas morning! Okay, not quite, but getting documents in the mail feels like an accomplishment even though all I really did was point and click with my mouse (plus wrack my brain to answer all the anti-identity theft questions at the end of the order correctly, and I think I still missed one). So hooray for official government documents! And especially hooray for them coming right to your door and not having to wait in government lines at government offices with cranky kids by your side.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New Friends

This morning I got to do the best thing ever. I got to go see a fully notarized and authenticated complete Rwandan dossier! I know, awesome, right! There is a small little group of us here in Austin that are adopting independently from Rwanda, and Emily won the dossier race. She was kind enough to invite everyone over to look at it before she sends it away to Washington and then to Kigali, never to be seen again. And not only that, she made lists of her table of contents for us to take home - a million thanks to her!
In this adoption journey, you need people to walk beside you. When we started, I'll be honest, I heard that advice and I despaired a bit. We have amazing friends, amazing friends who are adoptive parents, who are even currently in the process of adopting now, that share our heart for adoption and can relate to so many aspects of this journey. But its different when you have an agency walking next to you checking your p's and q's, making sure all your documents are in order, that all your i's are dotted and so on. Doing this independently is scary. Let me tell you how unbelievable it is to have this group of families seem to fall out of the sky and into our laps four months into our process. It is such a gift to have a group to turn to just to ask questions like "uh, did you include this statement in your dossier, and if so, did you get it authenticated or just notarized, etc..." Not to mention that the value of our kids being able to play together and share a common cultural background and appearance also can not be overstated. For now I am excited to have met a few of the women in this group, and I look forward to meeting the rest of the couples (there are six of us, including me and Jonathan). We have a no-kids-allowed dinner scheduled on March 6th so that we can all properly meet and get to know one another in person.
And I have finally decided on the home study. We are going to use Bonita, the independent social worker. I just feel like its going to be okay. So now I can move forward on getting the forms ready for that, and we can be on our way. Phew. Feels good to type that out loud.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Future and A Hope

Today Jonathan and I got to go to an adoption conference put on by a church here in town called A Future and A Hope Adoption Conference. It breathed renewal into me in so many ways. The keynote speaker spoke a message that was honest and true, and whenever a speaker does that, the message is powerful to me. I cried during his message, and I don't usually cry. Then Aaron Ivey blessed us with playing his song, Amos Story, about his and his wife's journey to bring their son, Amos, and their daughter, Story, home from Haiti (I believe I mentioned them in a previous blog). As Aaron played that song, I started crying again. I think I have just been so emotional lately. It feels like we have been on pause lately with our adoption. I hate pause. I am a proactive, move forward, get things done, doer. I don't like the waiting or patience that God sometimes requires of me, and seems to be requiring more of me lately as we sort through some opportunities that have come our way. But today was so amazing. It was so fun to be around like-minded people, to not have to try to justify a decision, to just be understood. And to see our little Austin Rwanda group together for the first time - that was just cool!
As the speaker was expounding on the nature of both vertical and horizontal adoption, a passage from "Adopted for Life" by Russell Moore came to mind. If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend it. The discussion topic entails that adoption and redemption are entwined; that even creation waits and is groaning under the chains that hold it down. It longs to be free. It longs to be "adopted out" and set into the kingdom of God. Here's how Moore puts it, he says it much better than I do:

"You see that's the whole story of redemption. The universe was meant to be a home- where the image-bearers of God rule and serve under their Father. It was all to be ours. The primeval insurrection in the garden, though, turned the universe into an orphanage - the heirs were gone, done in by their appetites. A serpent now holds the cosmos in captivity, driving along the deposed rulers as his slaves. The whole universe is now an orphanage.
But then there's Jesus.
When we were still orphans, Christ became a substitute orphan for us. Though he was a son, he took on the humiliation of a slave and the horror of death (Phil. 2:6-8). Jesus walked to that far country with us, even to the depths of the hog pen that we'd made our home, and hung on a tree abandoned by his Father in our place."

I love that passage so much because it just makes so much sense to me. Orphanages are no more natural and make no more sense to me than most things in this world. Earlier this week a crazy man flew a single engine plane into an IRS building about a mile and half from our house. The world is broken and the evidence is all around. I love the image of Jesus walking to that far off land. We as adoptive parents often travel to far off countries, endure long plane rides and bad food. How little we have to complain about. How short-sighted my perspective often is.

To everyone asking us "what's happening with our adoption?" we are just stuck trying to decide who to do our homestudy with. There are two agencies familiar with Rwandan dossiers in or around Austin that we would be comfortable using, or we have the option for a much lower cost (as in half as much) to use an independent social worker to complete the homestudy. She does not have experience with Rwanda, other than doing two other couple's reports adopting from Rwanda that we know. I would ordinarily save money without thinking twice about it, but for some reason I am thinking twice about it and I don't know why. Cost is a real issue for us, however, so I am sort of in this limbo state and I just can not seem to make a decision for the life of me. Thoughts and/or advice are always appreciated! So that's where we're at - hope to be somewhere else next time you ask. Progress is always my goal.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

We've Got Coffee!!

Our "Coffee Store" is now up and running. Simply click on the Just Love Coffee icon at the top right corner of our blog and it will take you directly to our coffee storefront. There you will find a wide variety of fair trade coffees in all roasts and blends, as well as espressos and even some apparel. There are usually some featured coffees on the page, but there are many more on the left hand panel. We get a portion of everything ordered from our page, and then we get to use all that money for our adoption costs - hooray! So, in conclusion, you guys get awesome fair trade coffees, and we get some help in bringing those beautiful kids home - everybody wins!
So, if you don't mind, think big. Does your office order coffee? Maybe your office could order from us every once in while (or all the time, that would be fine too). Do people you know like coffee (probably huh? most people do..), maybe they would like our coffee. They probably would. Our coffee is really good. Better than the coffee they are already drinking. Better than the coffee you are already drinking. Uh-oh. You better buy some coffee from us too, quick. Do those same people you know that drink coffee also work in an office that orders coffee? You see where I'm going with this...
And you don't always have to direct them to this blog to get them to our store. Here is our store web address - feel free to hand this baby out to anyone you know who has the slightest hint of coffee breath.
So, cheers! Cheers to drinking lots and lots of our coffee.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

On the Ground in Haiti

Just wanted to point everyone over to our friends Jeremy and Christina's blog, . Jeremy is an ER doctor and just arrived in Haiti to help with the medical needs over there. Christina posted an email that she got from him and it gives you an idea of what it is really like on the ground over there. Thanks, Christina, for sharing, and prayers for Jeremy to stay safe and healthy while he's over there.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

More Haiti

There has been so much chatter inside my head this week concerning the situation in Haiti. The news coverage has alternately made me inwardly scream with anger at the an anchors for completely getting it wrong or cheer for them for getting a story right. For days and days I wondered, WHERE ARE THE STORIES ON THE ORPHANAGES??? Where are the stories on the American kids stuck in crumbled orphanages that no longer even exist now sleeping in fields surviving on 1/3 of a cup of water a day (maybe) if they are lucky and no food, no formula for the babies, with loving families just waiting for them here at home? I knew the situation at the Bresma orphanage was growing increasingly dire, as it was at God's Littlest Angels. From their reports, I was only able to surmise what other orphanages must be going through. Fuel shortages to run their generators and therefor purify their water. Food and water shortages. No aid arriving. Sitting in the the sun, sleeping outside to avoid aftershocks. Babies in great need of hydration. My heart was beginning to sicken. I can not handle thinking of these things.
And then, the stories started happening. The push on the blogs maybe started paying off. You would do anything for your children, would you not? I would. If my child was sitting in a field literally dying of thirst, I would camp myself out and bang on every government official's door I could find. I would call every network. Get on every show. Tell EVERYONE. And you know what? It worked. A major TV push. Publicity. Crying mothers and fathers, video of beautiful helpless children. Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania flew a plane down to Haiti last night and escorted 54 orphans back to the states, where they will receive medical care and nourishment until their families can come pick them up.
Today I am hearing still more focus from the news on the orphan situation in Haiti. I am relieved to see this focus happening. Haiti's adoption process is long, involved, and hard. Many of these parents have been waiting to bring these children home for years. This earthquake was horrific. No parent wants their child to go through something like this, especially away from them. But if any good can come of it, then let it come. Let these adoptions, that are already legal and in the final stages, be expedited and finalized so that these kids can join the families that they belong to.
And to those who are splittering and splathering on tv about the running of the airstrip and how its not fair that an airplane got to land to pick up orphans, while critical supply planes had to wait, well I have a lot to say to you. None of it is nice. None of it is helpful to the situation. All of it would make me feel better. I will exercise something I am not accustomed to exercising, and that is some self-control. But I did throw a styrofoam dart at your face.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


The adoption community is small and will shrink your world as it widens it. At least it has mine. It makes news stories of human tragedy personal. Every third world country now means something to me. Hunger and civil wars, human trafficking, genocides of course; but yesterday when the earthquake hit Haiti, I had the news on in the background and heard the breaking news alert. It stopped me in my tracks. I had just talked to a mom at Asher's school three hours before who has an absolutely beautiful daughter from Haiti, and who is waiting to get her daughter's brother from Haiti as well, but who is currently still in Haiti. I immediately thought of her, and her son Amos (who is in Haiti). I can not imagine what it is like to be a mom away from your son or daughter and not know if they are okay or not. Thankfully, they received word that Amos is just fine. Please read her blog, dreamingbigdreams, located on my blog roll, as she has amazing ways to support Haiti in the relief effort (plus her blog is just awesome anyway). Also, if you are in Austin, her and her husband are going to be on KXAN at 6:00 tonight (1/13) to talk about their story and ways to help Haiti, so check that out as well.

Friday, January 1, 2010

My Dad Point of View

A lot of people ask us why we are adopting. Some of them preface the question with "Do you mind if I ask.." or something similar as if they are intruding into our personal space. Most of my friends know that I don't really pay any regard to the cultural lines of personal space, sometimes to the point of Rachel's embarrassment. But the truth is: we love talking about it, both of us. I don't always manage to make what I say match what I thought however, like my brain and mouth are playing a horrible game of telephone. So I thought I'd write here where I can think it through and delete the parts that only make sense to myself.

There are really two significant parts to speak of, one being the decision to adopt and the second being from where to adopt children.

Rachel and I never had a long period of discussing about whether to adopt a child. We always felt that we eventually would reach out to a child that needed a family and love it. Knowing God's love is such a blessing and such a huge part of our life that we can't help but want to experience it further. God uses marriage to teach me to love and to choose to love everyday. And He uses children to teach me to love unconditionally while at the same time providing for needs and caring for something entirely dependent on Rachel and I. They don't even know they are dependent on us. This week I experienced that moment that (probably) most parents have when their child tells them they don't love them. And all I could say was "I still love you. And I will always love you." I don't know what to say, but I know that if I tell God I don't love Him, He will still love me.

I guess the long and short of it is that we feel adoption of a child mimics God's adoption of us, improves or saves a child's life, and teaches us more about God, love and life.

Secondly, we had to decide a place to look for a child. I'd like to claim some credit for this, but really my wife's attentive heart was led to Rwanda. A place to adopt always seemed like a logistical choice for me. Pick one that we fit requirements for, choose one that you can afford or that has a good time period or many other similar reasons. But after reading and praying and listening, Rachel strongly felt like God had a child in Rwanda for us. She handed me a book called Land of a Thousand Hills, a biography of Rosamond Carr, an American woman that lived in Rwanda for 50 years and witnessed many wonderful and many horrible things.

While reading this book, I fell in love with the country and felt a sadness and a hopefulness for the people there. The Genocide there has left many homeless and fatherless, and God has called us many times over to care for those in need. After I finished the book, I did some research and found that logistically, everything about Rwanda was perfect for us. Praise God.