Thursday, April 3, 2014

Slow but Moving

When we got our referral, maybe I thought things would move faster. That every time people asked me what was new, I might have something new and exciting to say.

Here's the thing: no matter what side of this waiting you're on, it's waiting. And slow.

And some of the things we see as movement, well, they aren't that fun to give as updates. Because it usually goes like this:

You: "So do you have any updates this week?"

Me: "That document we were waiting for? We got it."

You: "Cool! So you'll travel soon?"

Me: "Yeah, no. It will now go to someone else and they'll review it and send it to someone else."

There's that.

So today, when we got two pieces of good news, it officially became a good day! First, that document we got to send to someone else? Well, it officially left the US today. This is a GOOD thing. It left and is currently in the same country as our son. And the embassy there will review it and then we'll move to the next step.

We are not traveling to Ethiopia any time soon but our documents left this week. Praise the Lord!!

There are good things happening. There are still several steps before we get to travel but we are really, really hopeful it will be this summer sometime. You can pray that all the time frames we've been given will stay on the "short" side of the window so we can travel as early as humanly possible. Because that's our prayer.

Secondly, we got new pictures and a few fun updates of our precious IC today. He's wearing an outfit we gave him and holding a care package we sent. I couldn't believe how little he looked in the photos! And precious, of course. He always looks precious. I may or may not have sent him teal skinny jeans and an orange shirt. Because it's only fair if he knows how much his mama loves color. He wore them. This may be the only time in his life he'll actually wear what I pick out. I'm going to take full advantage.

So yes, it was a good day.

And can I just say, as a sidebar, that even though there's not a ton to tell each time, please don't stop asking us how it's going. We LOVE sharing info about our little dude, our process, and our plans for when he comes home. Even if we don't have anything majorly new to say, it's so fun to share the process with so many we love.

And finally, any time I have your ear, I'm gonna give you some prayer requests. Of course, you can pray our process will be streamlined and we'll get moved through the next steps quickly. You can also pray for our little IC. Pray God would surround him and protect him and prepare him for all the crazy that is his parents. And, of course, you can pray for us too. This parenting thing? It's new. And exciting. And new. And we need lots of prayers.

It's not us but we're sure glad something that started in the US is now in Ethiopia!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Little Man Monday

Hi Darling,

I can't even begin to tell you how often you are in my thoughts. This is the first one of these I've written from my office when your picture was sitting there, right next to me, as I type. It's so surreal to me that you are a person. A little man with thoughts and experiences. I know this isn't the first time I've expressed this. It's just still almost hard to believe. It's always in my thoughts.

This week or next week, all our "official" paperwork that brings us closer to you should finally be on your continent and in your country instead of in ours! Hooray! Oh, IC, I just can't even tell you what a relief that is. Hopefully soon it will be us in place of the paperwork. We're sure hoping we get the clearance to meet you soon. Soon is relative, I know. But I just can't wait to look into your eyes and touch your hands and give you a hug.

I've been working on getting our house ready for you. Not too ready, mind you. I want to meet you before we work on your room. But I did buy a night light last week. It matched and was on sale. And every little guy needs a night light. Every big guy needs a night light. Ask your Dad:). I keep looking at sheets and things for your bed but I'm waiting until we get to spend time together to do too much more. As Dad and I watched TV last night, we reflected on how you'll be sleeping in the room next door soon. It's just wild.

We went to the zoo this weekend. My favorite exhibit, the penguins and puffins, is closed. They won't be back on display until 2015. It was a big moment to realize the next time we see the penguins and puffins in the zoo you will be home with us, walking the paths and enjoying the animals. We hope you like the zoo as much as we do. It's kind of one of our favorite things. This past time, we saw elephants screeching. Never have I heard such a noise! I look forward to seeing all these things all over again for the first time with you.

You better believe as soon as we get the word we will be on a plane to look into your eyes and promise you we'll be yours forever. Can't wait!

All my love,


Monday, March 24, 2014

Created for Care

A few weekends ago, I went to a retreat for adoptive moms. I was super excited. And also a little worried. Because, you know, I am a mama with no kids at home. I was a little worried I would be the only mama who was "retreating" from her zero children. I mean, not worried enough to not go. I wanted to experience what everyone had been talking about and meet other mamas who have been where I am going. Plus, we are really hoping to bring something like this closer to our home for mamas from our local area. So I was going but worried.

I had an 11-hour drive for my local mama friends to reassure me and scold me for my negative thoughts.

So we arrived and I was ready just to learn, listen, and live life with other mamas.

I was immediately struck by how beautiful the lodge was where the retreat was held. I mean, you want to talk about an oasis. So, so pretty.

When you check in at C4C (cause they're cool and have an acronym), you get a name tag with your name and the country your kiddo/kiddos came from. So, I got a sweet Ethiopian flag on my name tag. And also, I quickly decided I needed a shirt that said, "Africa has my heart." Because it does. 

Only my friend, Liz, also decided she needed the shirt. So we both put it on and took a picture. You can't see Liz's but you'll have to trust her shirt matches mine.

As soon as the retreat sessions started, I knew I was in the right place. There were three kind of breakout sessions: sessions meant to equip you (called Be Love), sessions meant to refresh you emotionally (Be Loved), and sessions meant to help you connect with God (Beloved). I tried to hit a lot of the equipping sessions. You know, because I am about to be a mom for the first time in my whole life and he's seven and I'm totally overwhelmed (I'm told all new moms feel this way, whether their child is a newborn or 15).

So, I went to breakout sessions and listened to moms with tears in their eyes share how hard and wonderful this journey is, all at once. I saw moms hug each other and pat each other on the knee knowingly and share how sometimes the hardest thing is how alone you feel.

Which is my biggest concern. Except, I know I'm not alone. I've been promised this by so many mamas going before me, all over the country and in my back yard, promising they'll be by my side with coffee and chocolate (and maybe even some wine) when the circumstances require it.

It was such a blessing to sit at dinner with women I'd prayed for but never met. To hug my friends that I've felt so close to but only from across a screen. I can't even tell you what this meant. 

Beth Guckenberger (remember her? From this post?) was our keynote. Her knowledge of the Bible and heart for orphans just lights me up. And of course I've heard her 3 times in 1.5 years. So yeah. I feel like God just keeps placing her in my path. I got some awesome worship time and great words from the word, if you know what I mean.  

But of course it wasn't all serious. Sometimes you just have to put on a crazy costume and take a picture with your girls.

Or several pictures. Whatever. It was so fun to be silly and enjoy each other's company. 

So after a long, full day I went to bed, full and heart-happy.

And then I woke up with a stomach bug at 2am. Yeah. Not my favorite. Especially because my sweet bedmate and I had just met earlier in the day. Oh man. Hi, dear adoptive mama friend. What's that? You thought when you got away from your six kids you would have a vomit-free weekend? So sorry to ruin that for you.

But seriously.  My roommates were so kind to take care of me and help me make it to morning.

And then I had to skip some sessions. You know, for rest.

I was down but I was not about to be out! I got myself around and headed back for some afternoon sessions. And, of course, more photos with these chicks:

Because seriously? When you get a weekend with the girls, you go for it, even if you lie on the ground to rest while everyone else chats.

I did get to go to the signature session of the weekend, called "Date with God." It lived up to they hype. I got a little over an hour to experience different stations and share some quiet time with God. It happened to be in a room with dozens of other women but it definitely didn't feel like it. I wish I could explain it to you. But it's pretty much a post in and of itself. And even then it is hard to explain. There are stations and different activities, all of which are meant to help you share time in the word and in prayer. It was a beautiful time for just the two of us. 

After dinner, the mamas from my agency all got together for a group photo. It was amazing to see so many moms I'd prayed for and watched for the past three years. And to finally be the one who was being asked the questions about their referral and their process. Finally!!

Aren't we a pretty bunch? And pretty sweet and kind, too, if I do say so myself. I mean, the rest of them, of course.

So yeah, there was a stomach bug. And some skipping sessions. But in general it was amazing. And so many of  my mama friends said, "We'll see you next year--can't wait to hear how attachment is going!"

Oh my heart.

So thankful for a weekend with adoptive mamas. Can't wait to do it again. Sans stomach bug next time, if I do say so myself.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Stitch Fix: My First Experience

I am no fashion blogger.

I am no fashion anything.

But I mentioned on Facebook a while back I was getting my first Stitch Fix box and it sparked some interested. I promised I would follow up once I got my first box so that's what I am up to today. If you have zero interest in mail-order fashion, pass this post on by. No offense on my part.

For those of you who don't know, Stitch Fix is a fun way to get clothing items in the mail. For $20, a stylist will choose five pieces for you and mail them to you. That $20 goes towards the price of any item in your box, should you choose to keep it.  You fill out a style profile ahead of time, giving examples of fashions you like and don't like, how adventurous you are, and what you think is reasonable price-wise.  The brands are boutique-style, unknown but very cute.

Because Stitch Fix is getting popular, I had to wait a few weeks for my first box after I ordered it. It came last night and I was SO excited. I tried to follow the rules and try on each piece with items already in my closet. And I made E take pictures. He played along well, though he kind of thought my fashion show was ridiculous. So in no particular order, here are my pieces and assessment

3/4 Sleeve Studded Top

You can't tell it in the photo but the top is sheer. It's a long shirt, which I really liked. It's not something I would normally pick out but I did like it. It was E's favorite piece. For a sheer top, however, the price tag (close to $60) was a little much for my taste.

Chevron Cardigan

Pay no attention to how very messy my house is! I know I'm about five years late but this was the very first time I tried on an asymmetrical cardigan. Also, first cardigan without buttons. It has a very loose knit and I could see myself wearing it all summer. It's versatile. And the price was right around $60, which for a sweater, I thought was mostly reasonable.  It's probably more than I would spend regularly but for a piece I could wear through a whole season in lots of versatile ways, I decided I could splurge.

Striped Fit and Flair Skirt

I liked this skirt but couldn't figure out if I would wear it regularly. You can't tell in the photo but it is a little fancier than I wear on a daily basis. If it were jersey, this might have been my favorite. The fit was amazing but it was maybe just a tad long, making it hit a weird place on my legs. Overall liked it but E mad a good point that it looked like something you could get jut about anywhere. My reason for getting a fix was trying to get pieces that were out of the ordinary.

Colorblock Dress

You guys. I LOVED this dress. I LOVED it. I like the colors. I liked the way it was flowy and fun. I could see it in the box as my new dress to wear to summer weddings. The price was not quite $70, which I felt was good for a go-to summer wedding dress. I loved it. You know what I didn't love? How it was falling off on top. I could have fit a whole other person in the arm holes. Oh I wanted to keep it. I did. But fit matters more than anything else (thanks, bestie, for that smart advice). And so I had to send it back. With a super frowny face and a bit of a grumpy attitude.

 Tribal Print Tank

I feel like this is a little second verse, same as the first. I loved this print. LOVE turquoise. I was so excited about this in the box. But it was a little sheer so I had to wear a tank under it and I thought it was falling off my shoulders, which was highlighted by the tank underneath. Plus this one's price (a little over $50) was a little much for me to wear a tank top.

Bottom Line

I thought my stylist did a pretty great job of picking pieces I liked. The fit wasn't amazing on some of the pieces and I definitely expect a perfect fit if I'm going to pay full price. Or at all really! The price was a little more than I expected on some of the pieces but others seemed to more reasonable. I kind of expected a few less-expensive items since that was on my profile but several of my pieces were more than what I requested.

So what did I keep? Well, if I would have kept all five pieces, I would have received 25% off my whole purchase. But since two of the pieces didn't fit well, that wasn't an option for me. So I kept the coral cardi and I am so excited to wear it this weekend.

The joy of Stitch Fix is the more your stylist "fixes" you, the more they "get" your style. So I am hoping Fix #2 has more pieces that I love in fit and style. And yes, I'm excited to have my next fix!!

If you are interested in Stitch Fix, you can sign up here.  I'm excited to say I think it will become something I look forward to doing a few times a year.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Nontraditional Valentine's Day

We've never been "Valentine's Day" people. I think this is because we both try to do special things for each other when the moment strikes, not because of a specific day on the calendar. That and we are not big into spending money for the sake of spending money. So we've spent many a Valentine's Day at home on our couch, sans gifts, perfectly content to just enjoy a night together.

Which is why, when I returned home from Austin I was surprised to have Eric run into our spare room and tell me he was grabbing my Valentine's gift. Because, you know, it wasn't Valentine's Day. And we don't do gifts.

He came back with this little guy:

A cute little minion-shaped Valentine box. It was filled with my favorite candy (Hot Tamales) and the sweetest card ever. So then, I pretty much had to put it on my desk, right?

Magically, it started to be filled with Valentines from kiddos from church. Magically or my coworkers put it on Facebook. One or the other. Either way it was adorable and I loved receiving so many fun Valentine messages from kids.

So what I'm trying to say is my Valentine's Day had pretty much already been made. I didn't need anything else and it had already been a great holiday. Before the holiday started.

But it got better from there.

I got to work on Valentine's Day and there was a special Valentine that wouldn't fit in my minion:

Tears brimmed in my eyes. My sweet friend had found this and thought of us. It is sitting on our mantle right now. I am sure, at some point, I will frame it. It was a reminder that though our little guy is not with us, he's always with us.  And we can't think of love without thinking of him.

So, to get to the more "non-traditional" part of our Valentine's Day. I'm about to lose some of you. I know. That's ok. I'm cool with it.

E and I had been talking about getting new tattoos soon. We both wanted one. E's third. My first. I want one to commemorate IC's adoption but I wanted to wait until we got him home. So, I had another idea in mind. We talked and talked and talked about it. 

And since we had no Valentine's plans, we thought that might be something fun to do together. We planned our tats and assumed the tattoo parlor would be nice and quiet since everyone would be out to dinner with their special someone. Surely no one else planned to get tattoos for Valentine's Day, right?

Well, that would have been true last year. Or the year before. Little did we know, though, the tattoo parlor we chose was tired of such a quiet, boring Valentine's Day. So they ran a special on Facebook. They were giving a huge discount to people who came in as a couple and both people wanted tattoos.

When we arrived the place was packed! We were told it would be a three-hour wait. We filled out our paperwork, finished our designs, paid, and went to dinner. Dinner was so lovely and leisurely.

Two hours later we came back and found we still had an hour-long wait. We finally got into the chair and left with permanent ink.  Please note the photos were taken within a few hours of the art. They are a little red. They're still healing but we are both really pleased:

My foot. From Esther 4:14. If you are really perceptive you might notice I used this wording in talking about my experiences at IF. 

Husband's arm. It definitely makes a statement. And of course, that statement is we are grafted into God's family through the cross. How blessed we have already been through adoption.

We had such a wonderful night we've been talking about making it a Valentine tradition. Then again, we may run out of skin.
For now we'll just call it a beautiful memory. Nontraditional and beautiful. Just like us:).

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Adoption: Where Are We Now?

Well, it's been about a month since I shared our news with you. Our sweet little 7 year old IC became ours.

I thought I'd give an update. It's not much. But we are thankful for each and every piece of progress.

Last week I got a call from our family coordinator. She let us know that IC's relatives had a court date where they relinquished him officially and gave consent to our adoption. That was hard but it was a required step in the process. And it's over.

We also, surprisingly, got more photos of our cutie!! Right after we got our referral we sent a care package with a traveling family. Since our guy isn't in the transition home run by our agency, we didn't bother sending a photo release and figured we wouldn't get any photos.

But I got an email one morning with the heading "care package photos." It was from our family coordinator. When they gave IC his first package from us, the staff took photos. So now I have photos of him looking at photos of us.

Guys, it's about too much.

I mean, what in the world is he thinking? His big, beautiful smile can't surely contain all the emotion. So, so much emotion. I wish I could share the photos with you because it's really wild.

In the specifics of our progress on the American side, things aren't as promising.  I called immigration two weeks ago. Our case had not been assigned to an officer. They said they were hopeful it would be soon.

So I called again last week. The woman on the phone was super nice (and said "I remember talking to you last week") as she told me we still didn't have an officer. Still. Which means for now it's just sitting in a stack, right where it started 3 weeks ago. And she said I could call in a week but there wouldn't be more for me to know. I should wait two weeks.

That's five days from today. I won't even pretend to tell you I'm not counting. I'm counting. Every single day. I will call them in five days and try to "smile through the phone" as I beggingly ask if someone has looked at our darling boy's file.

Because, to me, it's not a file. It's a little boy.

Oh sure, he's made of paperwork and pictures, not flesh and blood.

But what they're holding in a file just a few short hours from my house is my son. And until they:

  • review it
  • decide they have the paperwork to move forward on the case
  • send it to Ethiopia
  • review it
  • interview a birth relative 
  • write a letter to go in our file; and finally
  • invite me to Addis to stand in a courtroom and legally become a mom

I will be a wreck. Because I don't know how he's doing. I don't know if he slept ok last night. I don't know if he has friends. I don't know if anyone asked him how his day was. Or if he got to eat his favorite food. Or if he ate any food at all. Or if he's safe, happy, ok.

I don't know. And it is harder than I could ever, ever imagine.

Sometimes I keep my distance from all the thoughts because they are just too overwhelming.

We still have absolutely no idea when we will travel. All those bullet points up above? They could take a month or six months. There's really no way to tell.  It all depends on who looks at our paperwork, how much they like it, and if they need more from us. Or if things get lost on the way to Ethiopia. Or of someone takes vacation.

But in the meantime, our son is sitting in their pile. Their pile they see as paperwork.

So would you pray? That the paperwork would be a child to them? That each person who reads through it would be efficient and thorough and handle it with the care they would if it were an actual child standing in their office?

Because to us, he's a child.

Thanks for standing shoulder-to-shoulder with us. This is the beginning of a long, arduous journey. We're gonna need you, your prayers, and your love for years and years and years to come.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

What IF:

I spent a weekend this month in Austin. I was one of those crazy people that saw some awesome bloggers/writers I love were having a conference with:

-no agenda
-no description
-nothing to go on

and I said, "Yeah. I will wait by my computer and get a ticket."

Which was good because they sold out in 42 minutes. Thanks to the timer on my iPhone, persistence, and a gift to pay for my trip, I got to attend this "IF:gathering"thing.

Each time I talk about this someone asks me what IF:gathering is. I want to give you a brief explanation but it's, well, hard.

A bunch of intelligent, Jesus-loving writers and bloggers from ALL across the denominational and political spectrum came together and asked:

"If we really believe God is real, then what does that mean for our lives?"

And they invited us to explore that concept as well.

We walked into the music hall in Austin with a literal key as our ticket to the conference. The tables were farmhouse picnic tables with beautiful floral centerpieces and I began to wonder if I was out of place. If this was a place for fancy, decorative women who had perfectly-kept houses and put-together outfits.  I seriously began to wonder if the colorful-tight-loving girl with puppy paw prints all over her wooden floors and fourth-day-wash hair would fit in.

I began to wonder if the whole thing was so tidy that we wouldn't really get to our dirt.

But it didn't take long to know that wasn't the case. I mean, the minute I heard Annie Lobert on stage, I knew the planners wanted more from women than a nice ambiance and false pretense.

So I dug in on Friday afternoon. I loved worshipping. I loved seeing other women really looking at their lives. And I loved running into old friends and meeting new ones.

I came with a group of 19 women but I am, as my friends say, a "super extrovert" and with a 1200 women I had never met, I was in extrovert heaven! I met so many new friends. And, of course, hung out with some old ones (not old friends, just old relationships).

I loved:

  • that we got to discuss in groups what God was calling us to
  • that  we had time to journal, one of my favorite ways to communicate with God 
  • that our meals were specifically planned to spur us on as we built community
  • that we shared communion together in a reverent and real way
  • that there was amazing free coffee all weekend long!
  • that I saw so many adoptive mama friends who know my heart and share my DNA for loving adoption
  • that we got to WORSHIP and I got to participate. This never happens at home!
  • that theology was not discussed beyond the basics of Christianity--that it was more important to be unified than to decide whether Calvinists or Arminians were "right"
  • that no one gave the "right way" to follow Jesus' calling on your life, that his plan was the right way

In fact, every single woman who spoke had a different story. No cookie cutters there. The only expectation is that we were expected to really spend time evaluating what God was calling us to and whether we were following him with reckless abandon.  We asked hard questions of each other and didn't expect answers.

We were called to love our neighbors. Our literal neighbors.

We were called to befriend people. Like actual, real friendships through dinners and conversations.

I shed so many good tears at the conference and left renewed and really thankful for Jesus' redemption, joy, grace, and friendship with me. Wow. It was so much.

But the weekend wasn't over.

So adoption. It makes you super close to people you've never been in the same room with.

My friend J is one of those people. She, too, is a first time mama to an adorable elementary-age boy from ET. Only her boy is home! We've spent many an hour huddled around keyboards discussing what God wants from us and spurring each other on to hard things. We've listened and "chatted" and understood each other when no one else could.

So when she offered to pick me and my friend Courtney (another one of these friends who became an IRL friend in May and has been irreplaceable ever since) up for dinner, it was a no-brainer.

We went to 6th street and tried to be cool, Austin weirdos.

After all, if I can't keep Austin weird, who can? I am pretty sure weird is my middle name.

We had dinner and went next door to see an elevated view of the street, one of the hippest in Austin, I'm told.

And then we left and ate massive, delicious, fried donuts from a trailer.

I still have dreams of those donuts.

It was the kind of night that you feel like you've been together for an hour but you realize it's been four. And you have to wake up early. So you hug, knowing God brought you together to encourage and love each other in a way others don't quite get.

At 6 am we went back to the airport after about 48 hours away. I sent this goodbye/hello photo to the husband and took off, back to the land of snow and ice.

I left renewed. The kind of renewal that makes you so tired that you go home and sleep on your couch for two hours because you are so exhausted. But renewed none the less.

So what if? What if God wants more from me than to-do lists, half-lived lives and acquaintance-like friendships? What if he really wants me to feed the hungry, love the unloveable, and share his word with everyone in my path?

What if I am where I am, when I am for exactly such a time as this?

What if? Well, I think only time will tell. But I was so glad for a good reminder.