Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.

-Ethiopian Proverb-

Thursday, November 18, 2010

9 Days to Go!

Only 9 days left until we take off in what amounts to a large aluminum can flying over oceans, mountains, rivers, deserts, and many other geographical features! I can't believe that we are in the single digits. I have been waiting for this moment for years, and in many ways, I can't believe it's really happening. I'm ready to meet my two youngest daughters. I'm ready to look in their eyes, hold and rock them, play peek-a-boo with them, and kiss the tops of their sweet heads. I am ready to see the part of my family that has always been missing. I'm ready to meet the real babies who are printed on the photographs. I'm excited to begin again the adventure of parenting with my sweet husband who is, in my opinion, the world's best father. I'm ready to take that next step! It's time to go!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

10 Days!

10 days is all we have left until we leave on the trip that will irrevocably change the lives of so many people. T and I will become the parents to two more daughters; L will become a big sister; grandparents will add to their brood of grandchildren to love; aunties, uncles, and cousins will be connected to a country thousands of miles away; friends and colleagues will be on hand to welcome two little ones; and most importantly, two little girls who were brought into the world under circumstances that resulted in becoming orphans will be given a family and be forever united in the bonds of sisterhood, family, and daughterhood. When I reflect on the seemingly random and chaotic events that have transpired over many years to bring T and I to this point in our lives, I am overwhelmed by how "unrandom" and "unchaotic" these events have really been. I truly believe that T and I were called by God to this country and to these two little souls! As the days gradually ebb away towards the start of our trip and our departure, I find that I have become very reflective. When T and I got married and started thinking about having a family, we, like most couples, just assumed that our children would come to us through birth. God, on the other hand, had other things in mind. I have been reflecting that if we had been able to have birth children, we would never have had the honor of adopting L into our family; she has been a complete blessing in every way for each day of the past 8 years. By parenting her, we have been gifted with the awareness of so many things that would have never crossed our minds if we had been able to have birth children such as the management of Type 1 Diabetes, the obscene number of amazing children in the U.S. foster care system who are desperate for a family, and the healing that can take place when a hurting child can grieve, mend, and thrive in the embrace of a loving, committed, and stable family. Once again, T and I, through the miracle of adoption, have been gifted with awareness. We are now confronted first-hand with the suffering, grief, and longing of millions of orphaned children in Ethiopia; we are now aware of the effects of crippling poverty and rampant disease; we have knowledge of human rights violations so horrifying, they can turn your stomach when you think of them. Through adoption, T and I have been able to remove our heads from the sand and wake up to finally realize that suffering is a condition of the human race that affects more people than not. Suffering knows no boundaries; it permeates all cultures and all countries including populations within our own (children in the foster care system for example). God has used adoption to not only bless our marriage with children, He has used it to make T and I become aware of more than ourselves. How fortunate T and I are to be blessed by God with the desire to not only love and parent children together, but also with the desire to actually roll up our sleeves and get to work helping our fellow humans!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

High Ho High Ho! It's Off to Pack I Go!

As we are only 2 weeks and 3 days away from flying to Ethiopia, the frantic packing has commenced! I have encountered people who fit into 1 of 2 different packing styles; the "less is more" packers and the "if I don't pack it, I'll regret it" packers. I fall into the latter category for sure. For those of you who have seen the first Austin Powers movie where he discovers that his girlfriend is a "Fembot" by opening her suitcase and seeing how frighteningly organized all of the contents are with each article of clothing in its own separate Ziploc baggie, you have an understanding as to how I like to organize belongings for a trip. I think my method of organizing, which borders on the obsessive/compulsive side, freaks out my darling husband. For this trip, I have divided all of our contents equally between suitcases with all things, with the exception of clothing, secured in plastic containers and fortified with rubber bands to keep the tops from popping off! My oldest daughter L shoots me incredulous looks whenever she looks through my suitcases! So far, I have packed the following items:

1. travel pillows
2. travel blankets
3. first aid kit
4. books
5. pens and pencils including Sharpies
6. toilet paper
7. paper towels
8. gum
9. over-the-counter meds (15 different kinds)
10. prescription meds (8 different prescriptions)
11. peanut butter
12. jerky
13. Cliff Bars
14. hand sanitizing wipes
15. laundry soap sheets
16. flashlight with extra batteries (the power goes off a lot in Addis Ababa)
17. solar alarm clock (wouldn't want to over-sleep!)
18. travel garment steamer
19. travel hairdryer
20. Wet Ones (individually wrapped and in packs of 25)
21. umbrellas
22. sewing kit
23. electrolyte drink mix (gotta stay healthy and hydrated!)
24. instant coffee (for me the caffeine addict)
25. powdered creamer (coffee is just not coffee without cream)
26. tape
27. scissors (with blunt edges of course)
28. Downey Wrinkle Releaser (double bagged with Ziplocs)
29. puzzle books (it's going to be a long plane ride)
30. clothes pins (you never know!)
31. extra rubber bands
32. Ziploc bags in 2 different sizes
33. individual Kleenex packets (public restrooms are rumored to be short on supplies)

I think that's all for the time being. I'm hoping that the above list can be useful to others who are going to be traveling, and I really welcome any suggestions for items that I may have forgotten. I haven't even begun to tackle packing the clothes, electronics, and paperwork that we need to bring over. Just think, on the next trip, I get to pack all this stuff plus the stuff for the babies as well as orphanage donations! Exciting times folks! Exciting times indeed!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Preliminary Court Date

Well folks! On Tuesday, November 2, 2010, we got a call from Dove Adoptions with news regarding our preliminary court date in Ethiopia. If you recall, we were assigned two court dates once the Ethiopian courts reopened in September; the first hearing took place on Tuesday, and the other will occur on December 2. During Tuesday's hearing, the judge reviewed our family's dossier documents to see if we were fit to parent Laurel and Willow, signed necessary paperwork, and made various "judgely" statements and rulings. This was also the court hearing in which any birth relatives or other appropriate witnesses would need to give their testimony regarding our babies. According to Tami, the program director for Dove Adoptions, WE ARE IN GOOD SHAPE!!!!!! Everything went well, all papers were signed, all "judgely" statements and rulings were made, and we are on course for a very good second court date in which T and I need to appear before a judge and give our testimony. If all continues to go well, and Tami seems mostly confident it will, we should (hopefully) be granted legal custody of the girls on December 2nd!!!!!!! I am very excited about the possibility of being Laurel and Willow's legal mom next month, but I need to also remain cautious. The world of international adoption can change so fast it would make your head spin (eg: the Ethiopian court requiring parents to make 2 trips)! So on a positive note, things are looking good for our family, and we are in the throes of frantic shopping and packing. I kid you not, our bedroom looks like it was hit by a tornado with all of the suit cases, bags, snacks, clothes, toiletries, appliances, and weird random-but-extremely-important things laying all over the place in some semblance of organized chaos. I am trying to figure out how to fit all of those necessary things into two carry-ons and two suitcases without exceeding our 50 pound per suitcase weight limit while simultaneously attempting to keep our cats from destroying our luggage because of them thinking of it as their new scratching post! I got my college degree in education; not engineering or veterinary science! Yikes!!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Toukoul Orphanage, Ethiopia (Les Amis Du Toukoul)

I found this short video about the orphanage where Laurel and Willow are currently living for only a short time longer. For those of you out there in Blog Land who are going through this orphanage, I hope that seeing the pictures of where your children are or will be coming from brings you much peace as you can clearly see how clean and cheerful the environment is.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My Personal Leap of Faith

Relying on God's timing has always been one of my downfalls as a human being. As a person who likes to be in the driver's seat literally and figuratively, surrendering to God's plan for my life and for my family has always been difficult, and I am finding myself becoming increasingly tense as we head into the final stages of this adoption. I try to focus on the reality that I'm going to be seeing my daughters' sweet faces in a few short weeks and that currently, they are safe, healthy, and thriving. I also try to remain grateful and happy that my oldest daughter, L, has just started insulin pump therapy for managing her insulin-requiring Type 1 Diabetes. This therapeutic device has, for the most part, been fully covered by our medical insurance complete with a "Pump Trainer" who comes to our house to make sure L is doing well with her $6,000 miracle of modern medicine and technology aka The Minimed Paradigm Revel Insulin Pump! I am constantly reminding myself that "it's all good", but there is this part of me that needs more proof, and there is none! There is just so much going on, and I keep reflecting on my fears of what can go wrong. One scenario is not being granted custody of Laurel and Willow right away even after having traveled halfway around the world to give testimony before a judge all because a small piece of paper is missing from our file or a witness was not able to travel to the preliminary court date on November 2nd to give their statement. Another is that we won't get our re-fingerprinting appointment from the Department of Homeland Security auto- generated before we depart for Ethiopia thus resulting in expired fingerprints on our I-171H immigration form! Another scenario that keeps making my heart palpitate with fear is that if we are not granted custody of the girls during our first trip, we will need to get a homestudy update done for the Department of Homeland Security because our original homestudy expires on March 30, 2011. If we don't get custody right away and a third court date needs to be scheduled, the American Embassy in Ethiopia cannot begin processing the immigration papers for Laurel and Willow, thus resulting in delays in taking that second trip where we get their visas so they can enter the United States as full citizens. A homestudy update in the State of California is no easy endeavour. Not only do we need to get re-fingerprinted for our FBI clearance, our child abuse clearance, and our State of California clearance, we need to get our medical forms redone (an adoption physical is required and not covered by our insurance), have the social worker come out to our home twice for interviews and inspections, and pay $750! Not good! We had not anticipated this extra expense, and paying for the two trips to Ethiopia makes this difficult. Oh yeah, we also need to buy another car; we are currently a one-car-family, and I don't think L would appreciate being crammed in the backseat of our Honda Fit with two carseats! We had to use our down-payment for a car this summer to fully replace our broken air conditioning system because attempting to survive summer in the desert with no A/C is not only impossible, but very dangerous! I'm also really scared of leaving my oldest daughter back in "The States" when T and I travel to Ethiopia. For those of you who don't know us, my daughter L is an insulin-requiring Type 1 Diabetic who is at the mercy of the whims of a fine-tuned balance between short-acting insulin and carbohydrates. As L has grown older (and wiser), she has become mostly independent with her diabetes management, but T and I have always been there as part of her support and feedback team. Granted, L will be under the watchful eyes of my parents when we are gone, but Type 1 Diabetes is a condition where things can go really wrong really fast! I can't be there to support and comfort her if she has a severe low blood sugar attack; those are not fun, and she can become pretty disoriented! On the other end, I can't be there for her if her blood sugar becomes too high which can result in diabetic ketoacidocis; this condition would land her in the hospital! We would take L with us to Ethiopia, but her diabetes doctor cautioned us against it because of poor insulin availability, a lack of appropriate medical facilities, and the high incidence of illness that exists there, and since both T and I are legally required to attend our court date unless one of us is pregnant or about to be deployed to war, we have to go. Crazy stuff I tell you!!!!! I need to keep having faith that this journey is what God has planned for us. I think that at the end of this process, so much personal and spiritual growth will have occurred on so many levels for so many people. I truly believe that God strengthens our faith in Him through the facing of our fears and challenges. This adoption journey is like that part in the third Indiana Jones movie (The Search for the Holy Grail) where he is faced with stepping off the edge of a cliff into seemingly nothing but a deep chasm. His task is a leap of faith, and when he takes that first step, he lands on a rock bridge that blends in with the surrounding cliff walls. Indiana Jones makes it to the other side, finds the Holy Grail, and saves his dying father. I'm not saving a dying family member by completing the process of an Ethiopian adoption, nor will I find the Holy Grail when it's all finished, but I am taking my own leap of faith with the end result being the addition of two beautiful little girls to our family!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ethiopian Sepsis and FedEx

A few days after all of the drama centered around Laurel's diagnosis of sepsis, I had a long talk with the director of Dove Adoptions about the medical status of our baby girl. Apparently, Ethiopian doctors think of sepsis differently than American doctors. In Ethiopia, any infection that a person has warrants a diagnosis of "sepsis"; these infections can range from a simple ear infection to a serious infection of the blood. In the U.S., a sepsis diagnosis would land a person in intensive care in an oxygen tent undergoing crazy medical tests including a spinal tap! We had Dove forward an email requesting more information about Laurel's particular sepsis diagnosis, and today, we found out that she was treated with a broad spectrum antibiotic, she responded positively, and that she is currently healthy. Praise the Lord! We are still waiting for more information such as what her symptoms were and what follow-up tests they are conducting such as blood cultures and chest x-rays, but honestly, I think she's just fine. I hope we hear back from the orphanage soon!

Going off on another tangent, I need to vent about FedEx. After spending over $4,000 on airline tickets and traveler's insurance, our travel agency sent the aforementioned items to us via Federal Express complete with a tracking number. After waiting a couple of days for our tickets to arrive, T checked the tracking number and discovered that they HAD arrived when in fact, they HAD NOT!!!!!! We checked the front porch and also asked L if she had seen them. Lo and behold, they were not on the porch and L had no idea what we were talking about. Well, where could they be? When I called FedEx's customer service number, they couldn't find them too! They were going to run a trace the following day as we were calling on a Sunday, and FedEx only operates Monday through Saturday. Our tickets were floating out there in FedEx land complete with personal and identifying information about me and my husband. Needless to say, we were not pleased. I decided to take matters into my own hands and proceeded to shake down my neighbors. My closest neighbors didn't have them, so I went around to the other side of my neighborhood to the person who lives in a house that shares our address but not our street name. He didn't have them either! I was starting to get that all-to-familiar nasty angry-panic-helpless feeling as I walked home. I looked up to the sky and said, "Lord? I really need those tickets! Would you mind helping out a neurotic woman when you have a chance? Thanks. . . I'd appreciate it." I rounded the corner and was passing by a house that is three doors up from us, and what do you know! Our tickets were sitting on their front porch! The FedEx guy left our very important package sitting on the porch of a foreclosed house with a lock box on the front door! Also, the address was different than ours! I raced home happily all the while thanking God. With much relief, I presented our airline tickets to my very happy husband who promptly called FedEx to lodge a complaint. Shesh! I am really ready to be finished with all of this adoption drama! On the positive side, I AM GOING TO MEET LAUREL AND WILLOW NEXT MONTH!!!!!!!! Hooray!!!! Yippee!!!!!! Awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can hardly wait to hold them, rock them, play with them, cuddle them, and tell them how much I love them!!! Life is good!