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!!