Friday, October 24, 2014

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

In reality, we know that all things are working together for good in our adoption process!  But some days are easier than others.

There are 3 things that need to happen before we can go to Ethiopia for our court date:  
1)  Letter from MOWCYA (Ministry of Women, Children & Youth Affairs), 
2)  Birth Relative/Finder Interview
3)  PAIR letter

The first 2 are things that need to happen on the Ethiopian government side of things, and the PAIR process is US.  We were finally submitted to PAIR 9/29.  So far we have not heard any updates.  We are hopeful that we will at least hear that we have been assigned an officer soon. 

A few weeks ago, we heard from our agency that the first two things had been scheduled for 10/29!  Even though we were told approximately 40% of people do not get the MOWCYA letter on the first try, our hopes were high!  Especially because it also meant there was a *very slight* possibility we would not need to renew our i-171h, saving us over $700.  Things were finally moving!!!  (I even bought "A" a Christmas stocking yesterday......just in case!)

Unfortunately, our excitement was short-lived.  We started hearing rumors, and then our agency confirmed, that all MOWCYA are involved in a meeting that started October 20.  It is anticipated that these officials will be back in their offices the first week of November.  However, during these meetings no MOWCYA letters have been written.  Along with this information, AWAA provided us with new information that MOWCYA is going to be changing the way they write these important recommendation letters....

"MOWCYA announced a new procedure regarding recommendation letters that we would like to explain.  Previously, recommendation letters were written following the review of a case by a single MOWCYA expert.  Due to concerns about the thoroughness of the review, a new system is now in place that requires multiple MOWCYA experts to review a family’s case in order to write recommendation letters.  The Director of MOWCYA must also approve all recommendation letters.  Once the recommendation letter has been approved it can then be released to the court in order for the adoptive family court date to be issued.  MOWCYA hopes this new procedure will result in more comprehensive reviews of adoption paperwork and reduce the likelihood of unethical processes."

And then of course.....  "The new procedure of writing and approving recommendation letters will lengthen the time it takes for them to be issued.  This is due in part to the schedule of MOWCYA’s Director, as her duties require that she attend regular meetings and trainings throughout Ethiopia."

We are happy - really honestly happy - that Ethiopia continues to take steps to make sure adoptions are ethical!!!  Terrible, horrible things can happen in the world of adoption.  We are so thankful to be adopting from a country who loves and cares for their children so much that they are continually improving their adoption regulations.  We know that ultimately God is in control of all timing!!  Sometimes though, monthly updates are just not enough.  We just want our boy home.

Monday, September 29, 2014


We are rejoicing!  This morning I finally received the phone call from our family coordinator at AWAA saying that we had all of the needed documents to submit to PAIR (Pre-Adoptive Immigration Review).  PAIR is "the process by which the US can pre-determine a child's prospective eligibility to receive a US Visa before the adoption is finalized in Ethiopia."  It was not difficult to submit - our FC emailed me all of the documents that were needed.  It did take most of the afternoon to print and organize all the documents and their translations.  (Of course it didn't help that I ran out of ink after printing 2 documents and had to run to KMart to get more!)

Everything is now on it's way to USCIS in Texas!  Typically it takes around 30 days to be assigned an officer who will complete our investigation.  The investigation itself may take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.  Our FC seems to think our paperwork is in good shape and should not need any more documentation.  As for a timeline, it is still possible that we will travel for the first time before the end of the year!!  We are certainly hoping for things to happen as quickly as possible, butwe are content to rest in God's sovereign timing.

I can't even begin to explain the weight that has been lifted!  Exactly 4 months from the day we accepted A's referral, we are moving forward!!!  Thank you, Jesus!!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Happy Birthday A....and Happy 2007!

The weekend was a little bittersweet for us.  Mostly sweet, thanks to our trust in the Lord and in HIS timing.  It is amazing the peace he has given us through this time of waiting.  We are trusting that all things are working together for good (Romans 8:28), and He has generously allowed us to have a few glimpses of why His timing is better than ours (which maybe I will write about another day).  

We had a lot to celebrate over the past several days - Ethiopian New Year, A's birthday, and the one year anniversary of some wonderful friends arriving in the US.  Carly and I made some cookies to celebrate these special may be able to tell who was on sprinkle duty.  :)

Our local Ethiopian restaurant had a special running for New Years, so Jon and I had a little date and stuffed our bellies full of delicious Ethiopian food, coffee, tea, and honey drink.  We chatted with the sweet Ethiopian owner, who confirmed that we are pronouncing A's name correctly :)  We are so blessed to have an Ethiopian community, restaurant, and grocery that are relatively local.  I was able to stock up on my berbere (common spice in Ethiopia) and it was exciting to realize that most likely the next time I buy it, we will be in Ethiopia!  If you are local and an adventurous eater, try Addisu Ethiopian!  Better yet, invite us to go with you :)

A few days ago, our A turned 7.  Seven seems so old.  Especially when we thought he was 5 just a few months ago!  It was difficult to miss his birthday, but birthdays aren't really celebrated in Ethiopia, and he doesn't even know his birthday, so to him it was probably just another day.  We wanted to do something special to celebrate, so we bought a couple blue balloons (his favorite color) and the kids wrote messages on them and then we took them to a field and released them.  As much as I told the kids they won't make it to Ethiopia, I think they still have in their minds that it's a possibility! 

I was hoping for a sweet, magical time.  Carly did not share my sentiments, and sobbed over having to let "her" balloon go.  Since the best field we could find without too many nearby trees and no other people happened to be a cemetery, we didn't feel it was best to hang around with a sobbing child.  We prayed for A, released the balloons, and hightailed it out of there! 

We love you A, and we hope we don't miss another of your birthdays for a long, long time.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Answered Prayers for Progress!!!

I bought about 80 pounds of tomatoes this morning, and I'm in the middle of canning pizza sauce, my kitchen is a WRECK, and I need to make dinner before I head out the door to volunteer at school, but I just received an email and I'm overjoyed to share some good news!  Everything else will just have to wait!  We received the following information from our family coordinator...

"I got an update today that the social worker successfully gathered documents for A! They are being sent through the regional government for a final signature and then will need to be translated.

I am regularly following up with our staff so you are going to be prioritized with them. They know to keep pushing this paper work along as much as they can!"

So, so happy to hear that all the documents were collected last week!  Now we are praying for that final signature and those translations to be accomplished.  All of the paperwork needs to be done to US standards, so it is not uncommon to to have 2 or 3 attempts at translating!  

On our side of things, we are prepping to have another Home Study update.  We will go in for our 3rd set of FBI fingerprints soon, and once we get all of our clearances back, we will send it all to our new social worker so he can get started!   Thanks for your prayers!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Praying for Progress This Week!

We are so hopeful that this is the week we will hear news of some forward progress in our adoption journey.  We did hear from our family coordinator that AWAA has purchased a plane ticket for the social worker at A's former orphanage.  The social worker is supposed to go to A's hometown THIS WEEK to collect the documents needed.  These documents will all need to be translated, and then we can finally be submitted to PAIR.  Please pray along with us that this does happen, that obtaining the documents is a smooth process, and that our PAIR submission happens soon.  It is getting so hard to wait.  We know that God is working behind the scenes, and His timing is perfect.  But with our human eyes, all we are seeing is.....nothing happening.....and that can be really discouraging!

In the meantime, here on the homefront, we've been keeping busy!  School started this past week, and I had my first day of being an "empty-nester," since Carly will be in school (K4) for the first time on Tuesdays & Thursdays.  I was so happy to hear that both kids LOVED school this week :)   We were also able to take a little day trip to New Jersey yesterday to visit with college friends, and today spent the day at Dutch Wonderland.  Life is great with the 4 of us, and we can't wait until we can change that number to 5!

Thanks so much for your prayers and encouragement!  Along with the paperwork issues, please be praying for our little guy's heart!  I can't even imagine the transitions he has gone through over the past several months. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

8 Week Post-Referral Update

Today is 8 weeks since our referral of A!  Tomorrow is 3 YEARS since we sent in our initial payments to AWAA.  At the time, we thought we could have a referral within a year.  That obviously didn't happen but we believe "A" was meant for our family and we continue to see all the ways God has used our wait time and circumstances to allow him to be in our family.  More on that in a bit.

Yesterday I received an email with the subject line "PAIR Update."  Bonus points if you remember what PAIR is, but for those who don't, it's "Pre-Adoptive Immigration Review" and our next big step in the process.  We need to be submitted PAIR and approved before our case moves on.  At this point, we really do nothing but wait - When I saw the email, I held my breath, hoping for some good news, like - we are only waiting on one more document!  Instead, I found out that we are still a long ways off from being ready to submit.  Our little guy's orphanage, which is many hours away from the Transition Home he is living in now, is also many hours away from his hometown, where all his paperwork is.  The person from the orphanage in charge of collecting the necessary documents for PAIR submission has been unable to do so because of the distance, and because he has been working on collecting documents for other children.  AWAA is going to purchase a plane ticket for the social worker to go collect the documents.  Hopefully this is done soon.

We were also informed that a more accurate birthdate was found - one that makes him a year older than we originally thought.  So, "A" is now 6, and will turn 7 in just a few months.  Wow, that year went fast ;)  We are definitely praying for wisdom in his schooling.  It is a fine line of not wanting him to be a lot older than everyone in his class, but at the same time, not setting him up for a frustrating time in school.  We won't really be able to make a plan until he is here and can assess him, but we would appreciate your prayers in the meantime.

Now back to my first paragraph.....since our request was 0-5 years (which is actually 5 years 11 months)... if our agency had "A's" correct birthday on file from the beginning, we probably would have never received his referral.  It is amazing to me how God orchestrates every detail!

Since every post is better with pictures, here's a few from our beach trip last week!  We hope that next year we will be going as a family of 5!

Just as a reminder, here are a few things you can be praying for:
1 -  That the orphanage director/social worker would be able to travel SOON to "A's" hometown and collect the documents that are needed, and that the documents that need to be redone due to the age change are done without any problems.
2 - Wisdom for us as we continue to navigate this process and all of it's twists and turns - and that we would be able to come up with a school plan that is best for "A."
3 - God to be preparing ALL of our hearts for the many changes and transitions that will be taking place.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Looking Ahead: Donations

Today we are 6 weeks post-referral, and although I don't have any updates to share, a few people have asked about donations, so I thought I'd give a little of a heads-up donation list!  Although we won't be traveling anytime soon, if you come across any of these items and would like to donate them, I'll be glad to take them whenever!  This is a very basic list, and as we get close to traveling we will know more specifics.

*Suitcases or large duffel bags - all 4 of us are planning to go on the first trip.  We will each be allowed 2 suitcases.  We only own 2 big suitcases total.  Basically, the more suitcases we have, the more donations we are able to take.  It would be a huge blessing if we didn't need to buy more suitcases.  If you have old suitcases that you don't use anymore (but could still survive an international flight), we'd love to take them off your hands! 

*Diapers & Wipes - always needed at the Transition Home & the orphanages. 

*Crocs - the kids at the Transition Home all wear Croc-type shoes!  I have seen these types of shoes go on sale at CVS and Kmart at the end of the summer each year, or they can be used if they are in good shape.

*Fun Stuff :) - we will be spending a lot of time at the Transition Home on our first trip and would love to be able to pass things out to the kids.  Things like soccer balls, bubbles, coloring books, and sugar free gum are all big hits!  And of course fingernail polish for the girls!

If you have any questions about specific items, feel free to ask!  Thanks for your interest!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Small Update

I have to admit, this is a pretty fun stage to be in at the moment - looking forward with such anticipation to the day when our family of 5 is all together.  I'm sure as the waiting drags on, it will be a lot less fun, but in the meantime the whole situation is so fresh and new and I love getting out my phone or photo album to show off new pictures of our little guy.  I so appreciate all the people who are asking for updates, and although it's not a huge exciting one, we are one step closer.

As you know, we had to update some of the paperwork from our dossier since it was over 2 years old.  This meant new physicals, financial statements, police background checks, etc.  It all had to be notarized, and one item (the dossier cover sheet of all things) needed to be authenticated in Harrisburg.  Over the weekend, the last 2 pieces of paperwork we were waiting on, the police background checks, arrived in the mail.  (And yes, our records are still clean!)  I was able to send all this paperwork to our agency Monday, along with a check (because there's a check involved basically anytime there's paperwork involved!).  I heard from our Family Coordinator that she received our paperwork and everything looked good.

The next item on our list was the Post Placement Plan - basically we needed to find contacts for basically any professional service we could end up needing for A - speech therapy, occupational therapy, respite care, counseling, etc.  It also had a list of questions to go through to prepare us for different situations that could occur - everything from transitioning A to American food to what we would do if we found out more serious special needs were present.  We were able to complete this and also send it in to our Family Coordinator earlier this week.  We now have a little bit more of a webinar about Adopting Older Children to complete, and then we are done ------ until our Home Study Update and PAIR paperwork, that is ;)

On to more exciting things.....our sweet boy!  I mentioned earlier the unbelievable timing of our referral - just before many friends from our agency were traveling.  Because of that amazing timing, I have been able to hear and see updates several times a week.  Because of these wonderful families (who are there soaking up every moment with their precious kiddos), we have been able to see before & after pictures on haircut day, know that he loves to play marbles, watch him do cartwheels, and hear his sweet voice saying "Hi Mama!"  These updates, pictures, and videos are treasures like no other!

A did receive his first care package last week, and we received so many great pictures of him opening it!  It's hard to describe the feeling of him wearing the shirt we sent, and seeing him looking at pictures of us, his new house, and wondering what he must be thinking!!!  We are praying that God is preparing his heart, and our hearts too, for all the transitions that will take place.

I'll leave you with our first family photo :)

Friday, June 6, 2014

First Care Package!

Another set of questions we've been asked a lot is, "What now...  Do you ever get updates?  Can you send him anything?  Does he know about you?"  It's such a blessing that the answer to these is YES!

Once we officially accepted his referral (we sent the paperwork in on May 29 - Jon's birthday), our US staff contacted the Ethiopia staff, who told A the news.  We were told that when A found out, he had a huge grin on his face, and went around showing everyone our pictures!  (These pictures were the ones we put together in our dossier, so they are completely outdated!)

From now on, each month we will receive an update.  They will email us a new pictures and any important news about A - health, progress, etc.  In addition to that, each month we are able to ask 5 questions.  These 5 questions can be directed to A or to the nannies who take care of him.  We are thankful that we will have these updates to look forward to each month!  Our first update will come in the beginning of July.

In between updates we also have an option that i'm soooo thankful for - sending photo releases & care packages through other families in our agency.  AWAA & Ethiopia are both very cautious about protecting the identity of the children in orphanages & our Transition we can't just be randomly taking pictures of all the kids and sending them to anyone.  The photo releases allow families who are in Ethiopia for court or embassy to take pictures for those who are still back here in the US.  The timing of A's referral was impeccable, in that several families were traveling a few days later!  I was able to scan & email several photo release forms and I am LOVING seeing pictures and hearing stories about A almost every day since we accepted his referral.  What a blessing!!!

Along with photo releases, we are also able to send care packages through traveling families!  And guess what?  A's first care package is currently on a plane along with my dear friend Jess and her husband, who are traveling for court and will be meeting their son "A" for the first time!!!  (Sidebar:  I am convinced that there are very few circumstances in which a "dear friend" can be someone that you've never actually met in real life.  Adoption is one of them).  Jess & Eric were DTE just a few weeks before us, so we have been traveling this road together for a long time.  I had hoped to be travel buddies someday, but when the Soete's accepted their referral in January, and ours did not follow too closely, we thought a care package delivery would be a good substitute.....never actually dreaming it would end up happening!  Yet another case where God's timing is just so sweet!

So what do you put in a care package?  We have some guidelines to follow.  It should fit in a gallon zip lock bag.  No candy or vitamins.  Nothing too sentimental or that you absolutely want to keep (A will open his own care package, but after that most of the items will be community property).  I think there are a few more rules that I don't remember offhand.  Shopping for A's first care package was a little more intimidating than I thought it would be.  It would be his first real impression of us....but at the same time, we knew all of the items would be shared.  Here's what we ended up with!

Superman T-shirt, Spiderman sunglasses, small American flag, bouncy balls, punch balloons, Parachute guy, markers, activity book, GUM (we have been told the kids go crazy for gum!), and a photo album with updated pictures of our family.  

Our hopes are that we will be able to send care packages around once a month if there are families traveling.  Our first instinct, of course, was to send as many as possible!  However, not only would that start to be a burden financially, but giving A the impression that he will be showered with gifts isn't accurate!  :)

So excited for our little guy to open his 1st care package!!!

Thursday, June 5, 2014


So here I go again, with a new blog.  I'm still trying to figure out a way to import all my old "adoption" posts onto this one...but for now, if you are interested in more of the background of our adoption journey, you can check it out on my old blog here.

If you are reading this, you probably know that a little over a week ago, on May 27, we received THE call......the call we have been waiting for for 2 1/2 years......the call that we have a CHILD on the other side of the world in Ethiopia!  At some point, I will share more about that special day, and how specific prayers were answered in a BIG way, but for now I want to answer some of the questions we have been asked.

What is his name?  Sorry, but we can't post any specifics!  I can try to pronounce it for you in person, but we've already heard at least 3 different ways to say it.  We will refer to him as "A" although even that initial is subject to change :)

Can I see his picture?  Sorry again.  If you see me in person, definitely ask to see some pictures ~ but we can't post pictures until we pass court, which is not anytime soon.  Just trust me when I say that he is super cute and has a dimple that absolutely melts me!

What do you know about him?  His background?  His family?  His special needs?  Our "A" is around 5 1/2 years old, which makes him our middle child.  Other than that, pardon me for being vague.  If you ask me personally, I may share a little more.  It's so natural to be curious about his story, but please just remember that although we are overjoyed to welcome him into our family, adoption always begins with some degree of loss.  We don't take that lightly and will do our best to protect his story and his heart.  None of this is "secret" information, but it's just "private."

Did you know this was coming?  Honestly, a few weeks ago our Family Coordinator from AWAA told us that based on our request, a referral could be coming "tomorrow or next year."  So we knew it could be happening any time (from mid-January on I had a minor heart attack every time the phone rang), but at the same time knew it was a possibility that it would not be until next year.  

Does he speak English?  No.  He might learn a few words, but other than  Actually, he doesn't even speak the most common language in Ethiopia (Amharic) although he's learning some of that now.  His 1st language is Somali.   

When do you get to bring him home?  This answer is so confusing, I can barely follow it.  The short answer is - not anytime soon....but timelines are changing all the time.  Our agency gives an estimate of 8-10 months, but even that is a total guess.  Right now, we are working on updating some paperwork.  Certain documents need to be less than a year old in our dossier (medicals, financial statements, police background checks, etc).  We are working to complete these as quickly as possible.  At the same time, our agency is working to collect other documents to be submitted to the PAIR (Pre-Adoption Immigration Review) process.  When they have collected the documents they need (at last check, they still needed 6/10), we will file more paperwork.  If our paperwork is all good, our case will be passed on to the US Embassy in Ethiopia, where they will complete an investigation which can take 4-6 weeks to complete.  If the investigation results are favorable, then the PAIR letter will be issued.  
When the PAIR letter is issued, our next step is court.  (I'm skipping a lot of info to give you the abbreviated version).  Court is our 1st trip to Ethiopia!  When we pass court, we legally become A's parents.  Unfortunately, at this point, we do not get to bring him home after court.
Our second trip, which involves our Embassy appointment, should take place 4-8 weeks after court.  THIS is when we will get to bring A home!
As you can see, there are so many variables, and no real way of knowing when we will travel.  Add to that the fact that Ethiopian court closes during the rainy season (sometime in August to sometime in October) and that just means that we honestly have no idea about a timeframe.  We'd appreciate your prayers that all paperwork and investigations go smoothly!

Thanks so much to everyone for your interest and your questions!  Even if my answers are vague, or even if I can't answer them, we SO appreciate you taking an interest in our sweet boy!!