Friday, November 30, 2012

Pebbles and Bam Bam

Efa has been home 7m and Bella has been home 3 years.  I love that they have each other in our family.  I love that they have a sibling that looks like them.  I love that they have a sibling that shares in being adopted.  These two could not be closer.  Efa asks, "when is Bay-ya coming home from school."  Bella watches over Efa.  If someone gives Efa a treat, he shares it with Bella.  This is what a normal day looks like.  I am thankful for a full house and heart.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fall Update

I was blessed to be able to go to the Empowered to Connect Conference a few weeks ago.  It was a luxury to be able to sit and listen without trying to solve a problem or resolve a conflict.  I walked away with so many great suggestions for both my adopted kids and my bio kids.  I think that Karen Purvis is amazing.  Some of my take-aways:

Motivation:  Motivation influences expectaion.  Be able to answer the question..."Why did you adopt me?"  

Saying "yes":  By the time a bio kid is 2, they have heard yes 1000's of times.  Yes, I will feed you.  Yes, I will change you.  Yes, I will hold you.  These yes's give no meaning.  Find ways to say yes.

Voice:  Tone, volume, and body language is 97% of communication.  Kids often don't even hear the words.  (Big for me and my teenagers....)

Going to the conference, has made me think even more about adoption than I normally do.  When you make brownies from mix the eggs, flour, sugar, and vanilla.  You bake in a heated oven for about a half hour.  Voila!  A yummy dessert.  However, you can't "unbake the brownies," if you  then need the eggs.  I have noticed that kids are not too dissimilar.  Adopted kids, particularly.  It can be hard, if not impossible to tell if a behavior (i.e friendliness) or fear (i.e. of babysitter) is an adoption related issue.  Or is it personality.  Or is it a function of a good fit in family.   Is it some past trauma or life experience?  Why do some kids have a really difficult time transitioning when others don't?  I don't have any answers.  Just wondering.  Truly, I think that this is also true of bio kids, too.  If you have a rambunctious boy born into a girly girl family....the fit may be an on-going work in progress where as if that same baby had been born into a family of all boys, he may not even be seen as rambunctious.  Recently we had our social worker visit and again, she and I were talking about this specifically.  Is everything going well because I expect so little?   My social worker laughed.  We will never know because we can't "unbake the brownies."

All this to say...we are good.  Really good and blessed.  I am still tired.  But we are good.  Efa and I are taking a Mommy and Me art class.  Bella has started kindergarten and loves it.  Zach is juggling soccer and school.  Eliza is working on her college applications.  Andrew is busy as his fraternity president and his classes.  Hmmm.....maybe this is why I am tired:)  
Mommy and Me Art Class.

Bella getting some last minute instruction from Eliza.

Playing soccer against a big brother (love how much a size difference there is and yet how determined Efa is).

First day of kindergarten for Bella.

Going to work with daddy.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Start of Summer

They are really sweet together!

It seems wrong to write and post this on a rainy overcast day.  Summer is about to start.  We are busy.  Busy in a new way.  My house is mess.  I am tired by the end of the day.  Bone weary.  I am so thankful that I am not starting clinicals in the fall.  I could not do it!  Instead I am taking American Sign just keep me from withdrawing and re-applying.  I am excited for that class.   I guess I am older, humbling to feel it.  I have resurrected a word that we used all the time when the older kids were little.  Peace-ability.  The ability to be peaceful.  At 5pm I feel like I am using it all the time.  Efa is super busy.  I can not let him out of my sight.  He has been known to turn on the stove, try to open the door of a moving car-being-successful, once (thank the Lord for child safe locks), tried to flush the phone.  The list keeps going.  He is sweet.  He is smart.  He does not care for the word "No!"  His new word is "Dangerous!" for a reason.  We actually refer to him as "Bam Bam" because he is running, kicking, throwing, and making noise in way that only a boy could, all the time.  Bella has become known as "Pebbles."  He wants to do anything and everything Bella is doing.  When she is at school, he is lonely for his partner in crime.  Summer starts tomorrow.  All school is over!  I love summer.  I love the release from structure and routine.  I love coming up with the bucket list for summer....blueberry picking, joining the library program, pizza on the beach, ice cream visits, family walks, family vacation, raw oysters (we are the talk of the restaurant....because Bella even loves to try them), study of Nehemiah.  I will post it when we are done crafting it.

Eliza leaves for Ethiopia on Friday.  She is meeting Emily and crew in Frankfurt.  This will be the second time she has been to Ethiopia.  She is so excited.  Please pray for her safety as well as the the following:

Thursday, May 31, 2012



"Beep beep"


"Let me tell you..."

Enough of the pictures...

A handful of kids is good.  5 is good.  2 years old is a handful, but good.   Efa is doing really well.  He is fitting in beautifully.  He is funny and sweet.  He does not like sitting still for pictures.  Bella loves having a little brother, most of the time.  She said, "I am so lucky to be his big sister."  And then a morning later..."I miss the old days."  Oh so normal!  I speak on a panel this weekend...for couples considering adoption.  I am excited to share our stories.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

God is Good!

I have gone to write about our time in Ethiopia, and every time I try, I get caught up in the timeline.  We are home.  We have all fallen, hook, line, and sinker for our sweet boy. He is funny, smart, sweet, and busy.

When we adopted Bella, Bella preferred me to Jason.  So we knew to expect that Efa might prefer one of us over the other.  I just did not expect that to be someone other that me!  Well, it gave each of us perspective on the other's experience.  Hard.  My feelings were hurt.  Truly wrestled with what the other parents on the trip would think of me.  Aren't all kids suppose to love their mom?  Childish, I know.  Because we went through it before, I was patient.  Efa rewarded my patience with such sweetness that it got me through the next day.  When we got home, he started to warm up to me.  He wanted me at 3 in the morning.  He wanted me when he ate.  So I went to bed earlier than I have in years and was up at 3 to feed and snuggle.  We have built on that time and now, I would say he is pretty balanced between us, Jason and me.

Efa loves his siblings and they adore him.  Bella needed to be reassured that we would not have to bring him back to Ethiopia.  After that, it was lights out.  She loves that they are both from Ethiopia and that they both have curly hair.

He loves:

our grace that we sing before every we inevitably have to sing it several tiems.
cream of wheat, mashed potatoes, cheerios, buna
balls (he sleeps with one)
playing jokes
a baby doll that he has named Mamita (after his BFF at the TC)
moving his eyebrows in funny expressions

Watch out!
Got you!
Big sister, finally.
We are truly blessed to be his parents.  Like labor, the pain of the process has lost some of its edge.  We will be working to get all 5 children (or at least 4 of the 5) in same spot for a complete family picture.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

It is over!*

Someone got a haicut!  It makes him look so old.

Yes.  I am coming to get you, Efa.  God is Good, always.  Thursday night, I was not feeling well, battling a sinus infection that is kicking my tush (as Bella would say) and just sad that another week was coming to a close without being cleared.  We saw this boy 5 months ago to the day, we were referred this little boy 9 months ago.  He is turning into a little boy right infront of my eyes but through pictures.  I could not do my bible study.  I could not read scripture.  I could not study for Global Health.  So I listened to a sermon.  One on...when God appears to be absent, inattentive, or uncaring.  Just listening to Andy Stanley be able to hand feed me scripture, was a gift.  It gave me peace that He had this covered, too.  No matter the outcome.  No matter the timing.  No matter how hard.  I knew that but I needed to be reminded and encouraged not to lose heart.  This is the scripture Andy Stanley kept coming back to "Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.  Matthew 11:6"  I woke up to an email that we cleared.  I wish I could say I have not stumble....I did.  I had moments of incredible grief for the time we were missing needlessly.  I yelled at God and sobbed.  But after all the energy expended at each episode, like a child, I would go back and know that He knows best, and that I wanted whatever He wanted.  Even if my worst fear (that Efa would not come home to us) was realized, His plan is always bigger and bettter than what I can imagine.  My dad once said, God always answers prayers.  Always!  His answer is...Yes; No, not yet; or No, I have something better in mind.  I have no idea and may never know the reason He allowed it to take this long....but I do know His way is not ours.

The other day I was picking up a little gift for a friend in Ethiopia that I have never met.  She has worked tirelessly to help bring Efa home.  When the lady behind the counter found out why, she said, "I have always wanted to adopt."  I shared with her our two adoption stories and ended it hard as adoption has been, it is soooo worth it.  My sweet baby boy is coming home!

Be still and know that I am God. Ps 46:10

*sorry for the tired ramblings.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Going on Safari

We are not...but our paperwork is.  Our legal response is en route to Nairobi.  I am tracking it, cross the world.  Silly, I know.  I feel like I am getting closer to Efa.

I have marveled that, for us, life seems to have been on hold, that the journey has gotten rocky, that we have had to change a few tires due to puncture wounds, that detours and road blocks have delayed our journey....but for Efa, none of this is true.  Part of the dis-synchronicity (is that even a word?) of adoption.  We fall in love with this little guy a world away, yet he has fallen in love with his care givers.  We have his picture up all over the house, and have studied his face.  He will not know who we are.   It will take pain and healing for synchronicity to begin to grow.  Unfortunately, it is Efa who will be in pain.

Efa celebrated his second birthday last weekend.  Never has the sensation of his babyhood slipping through my fingers been so strong.  Never has my prayer life been so vibrant.  However, I was so sad, that I actually posted a comment on Scott Brown's (our unresponsive senator) fb page.  After seeing Sen Brown on TV, on Efa's birthday (also, St. Patrick's day, a big day in Boston) yucking it up with his daughters and other politicians....I needed to do something.  This is the comment I posted.

We pleaded with your office three times to help us get a visa for our little boy who is till waiting in an orphanage in ET (months later). Other than the initial response, your office has not responded or helped at all. Sen Kerry's office and Rep Keating have been compassionate and responsive. I did get a call from your re-election campaign asking for money though. Again, I said...I would welcome a call or a response to our email...but until then, I will no longer support you with my vote or my money. Nothing like NEEDING help to see the fabric of our politicians. So disappointed with you.

Two days later, Jason received a call at his office from a staffer.  They talked for 45 minutes.  Jason only yelled when she said...if Efa had an injury or a disease that Scott Brown would get him out, but he was healthy enough and fine in an orphanage.  Jason said, "Healthy, by whose standard?"  He said, we had a healthy child adoption two years ago and she still is dealing with the remnants of being in care (very good care).  Have I mentioned we have had our 5th bought of pneumonia in 2 years?   He said that she would be hard pressed to find any doctor the would agree with her, and he wasn't even going to touch the emotional cost the children pay.  I know Efa is doing well.  He is loved.  He is in great care, as good as you get.  But Efa has a family.  Children should have families.  The disconnect was unbelievable.  Needless to say, the call ended without the staffer convincing us that not answering our emails was okay.  I guess Jason hit a nerve because he received a call after hours from the head of the office last night asking him to call them back on Monday.  At this point what can they do?  Fire Evan Elliot (hmmm tempting)?  Why?  So they can replace him with someone like him?  No way....we want changes.  USE should have a drop dead date....USCIS has thirty days to make a determination, so should USE.  USE needs to drop the sham of investigation.  There is no reason a phone call should take 7 weeks.  At any point we have been able to get in touch with the officers within hours. The only corruption I have seen is the intimidation used by the USE.  They are like a bully on the playground.  Only problem, the kiddos are the ones taking the hit.

I do feel like this part of the journey is coming to an end.  I feel like the real work is about to start.  One of the great joys of this adoption (yes there have been several) has been the friendships formed or grown.  The prayers, the texts, the phone calls, sweet gifts, comments.  I have been blessed by so many.  More news next week.  Praying it is good news, finally.

Friday, March 9, 2012

When God's Plan is Different than Your Own

We received an RFE.  Request for more evidence.  Yesterday after seeing other people clear in a day from Nairobi, I was in tears.  Really unusual for me.  Jason never sees me in tears.  But I was fatigued by the obstacles and the fighting to bring this beautiful boy home.  I think I have said this countless times...I am an experienced adoptive parent.  Yeah right!  So he went to work, and talked to the attorney who had just found out that we would be receiving an RFE.  His first response apparently..."How am I going to tell Jen, she is already in tears."  Truly it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I felt like I was a 6 year old child, sobbing every moment I was alone.  I just could not see out of this hole...what other evidence could we present?  We had already presented supplementary evidence.  The grief was/is at times physical.  My heart hurt.  I could not get a coherent thought together and could not pray anything other than, "Help me."  Wow, writing this even sounds overly dramatic.  See, that calendar math is devastating and I am convinced, a trap.  Efa's birthday is next week.  Why has that become such an important deadline to me?  It is clear that my plan and God's plan are a little different.  Month's ago in my bible study, there was something that hit me hard.  Are we proclaiming to be Christian but living as atheists, not trusting in God's plan for our life.  It made such an impact I quoted it at a very safe time.  I said, "when things don't go the way you want them to is where the rubber meets the road in faith."  Jenn and Tom, you may remember me even saying it.  Ohh, am I regretting saying that?   

I don't know what this week will hold.  I imagine I will have some more hard sad moments.  My heart is not hurting as much, though.  I have hope.  He has met me where I am, angry, hurt, sad, and heartbroken.  Ironic that in bible study the kids are learning about the days before Easter.  The ugliness, pain, and sadness.  But the story does not end there.  That is the beauty.  Easter came.  Jesus conquered all of that.  He rose.  So with that same hope, I meet each day.  This story will end with an amazing blessing.  Efa.  A child chosen for us.  How can I be so lucky?  So blessed?  So again, we wait.  I think when I am done, I will have a PhD in patience.  

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Just when the "radio silence" was deafening.....

Anyone who has been sent to Nairobi knows that the days after being sent are excruciatingly quiet.  For so many weeks and days while your file is at USE, you become so connected to your emails.  You check at 11:30pm and then again at 6am and then by 9am you are looking forward to the next day.  This is the craziness that creeps out of us PAP, wishing away a day-CRAZY.  Forgetting that each day is a gift.

So we were sent on Tuesday, or so we thought.  After being sent, Jason sent several emails out.  One to USCIS with a copy of our cover letter identifying our supplementary submissions of our extra investigation.  After our experience with the embassy, we could not trust our file would be sent in its entirety. He also asked USCIS to check that it had in fact been sent, as we were aware of a family that had been told that they were sent but were in fact not sent for another week.

Sweet boy with his big boy haircut....
Well, this morning the silence was, again, deafening.  I had a supernatural sense of peace about me.  I did ask Him to continue to give me peace about the wait and His role in the wait.  And then the email came through.... an email from USE giving us our tracking number and confirmation that our file had been delivered.  On checking the tracking number....the file had not left on Tuesday, it left after the close of business on Wednesday and was overnighted and courier serviced to USCIS.  Hmmmm.  Did not know that they could overnight it?  Did someone call and check on it and discover it had not been sent on Tuesday as we were told?  We will never know.  But I do know that things are moving.  Now we wait for clearance or an RFE (request for evidence).

Truly, today my heart was full.  There have been blessings throughout this hard hard process.  I have learned so much more about God.  I have truly wrestled and screamed at Him.  I have been furious with Him.  After all, what good will come from making Efa wait?  Perhaps I will never know.  But I do know that He has got this covered, and that He is okay with my not getting my way.  And that somehow He has planned this too.  In it all, I have grown closer to Him.  

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


I think that this little guy may be a goofball.

He is well loved.

Drills while he waits
Sweet boy

We wait.  Our file has been sent to Nairobi.  As much as we expected the email, it still punches you in the gut.  I can not bring myself to look at the calendar and see where that will bring us.  Even writing about it makes me cry.  It has been 8 months since his referral.  It has been 4 months since we met him.  It has been 7 weeks since our submission...but the timekeeping does nothing to change the fact that we wait.   I know that the calendar is a tool of despair in the process of adoption.  After all, I am an "experienced" adoptive parent...can you hear the sarcasm?  I was really careful not to plan on him being home by Christmas.  However I thought for sure that we would travel in January.  And in my mind, I started to think how special his 2nd birthday would be in March.  March 17th.  March 17th, he will not be home, though.  I fell into the horrible trap of having a calendar of expectations.

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.  Psalm 73:23

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hard Stuff

When we got our referral, we thought that we would have to wait but Efa would definitely be home by the end of the year.  Then we thought January.  Now we are not sure he will be celebrating his second birthday with us.  We wait.  We aren't the first and unfortunately we won't be the last.  So to bring you up to date.  We were submitted 5 weeks ago after we decided to hire an attorney, re-tracing, and re-interviewing the witnesses.  In the "stake-holder" meeting that DOS held in October they asked parents to take an active part in verifying and challenging the story that the agencies were telling.  Our agency has been transparent from the start.  As soon as they heard the DOS conference call, the PAP's have to go over the paperwork of their child.  There is nothing hidden.  We went the extra steps because the DOS asked PAPs to.  Our agency placed and add and hung fliers looking for BM, as well.  So, in affect, DOS says jump, we (and agencies) say, "how high?"

So then after spending thousands more on an already expensive adoption, we submitted a more complete file.  RFE ready was our standard.  Jan 10 we were submitted.  The first error by the embassy, they emailed our information to the wrong family.  This family was submitted several weeks before us.  So now we know that the file has been corrupted with other/their information.  Two weeks later USE requests the phone number of the police officer who brought Efa to the orphanage.  Delay tactic.  The phone number is already in our file.  DOS says jump, we say, "how high?"  Our agency provides the numbers a day and a half later, Jan 26.  At this point, our Senator and Representatives are involved We forward the email to them and say it looks like things are moving again.  A week later.  Nothing.  Senator reaches out again.  And the response is a little puzzling to them.  The embassy responds and says, "Gosh, we have only just received the numbers on the 30th"  Our Senator notices the date discrepancy and comments...hmmm, why the few days difference?  Meanwhile, no news.  This past week, we reached out again, this time to our agency.  Have the witnesses been contacted.  They asked the social worker on the ground to, the policeman has not been contacted.  We received an email form the embassy, last Friday.  They had contacted the witness on Feb 2 and Feb 7, but he was in training, so they would reach out again today.  Well, as it turns out, our social worker is in ET right now, so we emailed and asked....can you verify this with the police officer.  They called him Sunday.  No, the embassy has never called him.  They are ready to take and expecting the call from the USE.  Still no call today.

The long and the embassy lying?  are they calling the wrong witness?  are the police lying (why would he? He has already been interviewed two times)  Even if it all a big misunderstanding...why a call once a week?  This is NOT a "deal" or a "program"  this is a little BOY.  Why not call several times a day or a week.  

This part has been hard.  Hard like I have never had before.  Hard.  It has been close to 17 weeks since we met him.  8 months since our referral.  Today there is no end in sight.  I do know that it WILL end.  I have been like Jacob wrestling with God on the banks of the river.  Me saying...NOW.  Him saying...NOT YET.  

Philippians 4:4-7
 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Funny, how I have always loved 6-7 but never paid too much mind to 4-6.  I cling to 4-6 now.  It tells me what to do, Rejoice and to work on my gentleness (hard) and promises me that He is near.  This little boy will come home.  I know that.  But at what cost to him and to us.  I understand and want ethical adoptions.  I think all reasonable parents want ethical.  But I think we all also want our embassy to be ethical.    

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Update and Valentine's Day

Have you seen anything so beautiful as this little guy?  So sweet it hurts.  The sensation of watching his babyhood slip away, like beach sand through my fingers.  We are waiting.  We are waiting for USE to call our witnesses.  Tempted to travel, dial and hand over the phone.  But, truly I can't even go there.  Bella's adoption even with the delay was not this painful.  I can't even hear, "like labor, you will forget this."  I have decided to not post about it, though.  Can't.  Not yet.  I am praying without ceasing.  I now He has got this.

I am going to post about Valentine's Day.  I am so excited about what I am going to surprise Jason with.  It has been therapeutic to think about a new way of telling Jason, "I love you."  Whenever we have added a child to the family, we have made every effort to find ways to stay connected when we are exhausted, and pulled in a different direction.  Valentine's Day is falling just as we are about to add another little one.  So, I am surprising Jason with a dozen dates.  The catch,we are on a budget, college and adoption will do that to you.  My inspiration came from something I saw on Pinterest.

12 prepaid dates
Some of the dates I have planned:

World's End
1. Walk in World's End and hot chocolate.  There is something about the snow, the quiet, the deer, at dawn.

2. Brunch at Beehive Boston and skating on Frog pond.

3. Historic tour of the North End (downloaded to iPhone) and Mike's pastries.

4.  An evening at the Museum of Fine Arts (free every Wednesday) and then the cheese platter and wine at the restaurant.

Just to name few.  I have a few more than 12 that I have identified.  Now I have to take a few out.  All of the dates are inexpensive and pretty uncomplicated.  I tried to come up with some that were good in the winter, spring, summer, and fall.  Planning the dates have been so much fun.  The kids are helping.  I almost feel bad that he is missing out on that part.