Monday, July 29, 2013

Little One Letter

Hi Little One,

It's crazy for me to think for so long I wrote to you as a boy and now you might actually be a girl! Oh my goodness! I can't wait to meet you.  I am probably even more excited now that we have absolutely no idea what gender you will bring to our family!!

I have to tell you the kind of love and support our community already has for you.  So many people are excited to meet you. We talk about you almost every day. We discuss what you will be like, when you will arrive, how your transition will be, and how very, very much you will be loved.

You also have lots of prayers coming your way. Not just from me, your mama. Although I have to tell you, I am praying for you often. I pray for your safety. That you will know you are loved by your first family and by us. I am already praying you will connect with us and God will bond our family together. I hate it that I can't be there from your first moments. I may be missing years of your life and it pains me more than you will ever know that I can't protect you from all the things that will happen before we are united in family-hood.  And so, instead I pray.  That God will protect you. But I know it will still be hard.  So I look forward to the times we will get to spend together.

Today I weeded the garden. I pictured you with small garden gloves and a small shovel.  I imagine at first you'll just dig the dirt but eventually I'll help you learn to garden. Or maybe you'll be like I was as a kid and stay inside while your whole family digs in the dirt. I hope not. From personal experience, I can tell you, one day you'll wake up. You'll be grown up. And you'll have no idea how to plant flowers and you'll wish you had spent more time with your mom and dad landscaping.  So maybe I'll just make you garden. Just kidding.  If you pick up my stubbornness, this will be absolutely impossible.

I guess I'm saying, each day as I do things I look forward to the ways we'll do them together. How we'll teach each other about each other. And how I'll teach you about things here and maybe, if you're a little older, you'll teach me your culture.

I've been cooking all day and I've been wondering if you would actually like any of the things I've cooked.  No doro wot, no injera, no tibs. Nope. Avocado salad and pudding.  Yeah, I am pretty sure I'm going to need some new recipes.  Don't worry--I'll learn for you. In fact, maybe I should get on that. There's one thing I can do during the wait.

I love you, little one.  I think of you so much but love you more.



Thursday, July 25, 2013

Break it Down Now

I know many people who read my blog are considering adoption themselves. And I get a similar question from lots and lots and lots of people.  So today, I'm going to try to answer it as best as I can:

How much does this adoption cost? Why is it so much?

You may have noticed a beautiful new thermometer wiki over on my sidebar.  I decided I personally needed a way to show how far we've come (because we've come a long way with all your help!!) and how far we have to go.

That thermometer has a pretty large number, huh? It seems almost ridiculously large to think we will need more than $42,000 to complete this process. Well, first, let's say God has already provided so, so much.  We've used almost $14,000 and, as of today, we have a little over $8,000 in the bank, thanks to generous people who love us well.  But we still have about $20,000 to go.  So how do we get there? Well, let's start with how far we've come.

I think the adoption process can kind of be broken up into three phases that are neither equal in length nor cost.  And when you break it down, cost-by-cost, it all seems to make sense. It's just adding them up to a total that looks crazy-pants.  So let's break it back down.

First, you have the acceptance/dossier-gathering phase.  We were accepted to AWAA March of 2011 and officially submitted all our paperwork on November 18, 2011.  Here are the fees and costs
we paid in between:

Application Fee
1st Installment of Program Fee
Home Study (varies by state)
Home Study Visit Travel Fees
Hague online training module
Documents/Background Checks/Passports
USCIS Fee & Update Fee + Fingerprinting
Notarization, Certification & Authentication

These fees help make sure we are legit. Like, we love each other. And kids. And we've thought about this for more than 5 seconds. Our agency says that through the home study process. And then with the USCIS fingerprinting, the US government puts its seal of approval on the process as well.  Some of this money goes to our agency as well, to help them run smoothly and to continue all they do in-country to keep kids and families healthy and safe.

Next, when you finish all the document gathering, you submit a good chunk of money and officially become a "waiting family."  This is called being "DTE" meaning your Dossier went To Ethiopia.  That's when your waiting "clock" starts.  So, when you hear me say we have been waiting for 20 months, that means our dossier was sent to Ethiopia 20 months ago.  At this point, there's nothing official to do but wait. We have read books, been to parenting and adoption conferences, and prayed a lot. But here's what we submitted to get to that point:

Courier Service
2nd Installment of Program Fee
Post Adoption Report Deposit
Dossier Service & Translation
1/2 International Program Fee (1 child)
training module for older child adoption
home study update (Dec 2012)
gas for free USCIS update
home study update phone call (July 2013)

The wait times continue to get longer. Here's the thing about that: all those documents we gathered? They expire.  Our home study expires every 12 months. Our fingerprints expire (I am 100% serious). And when you update, it usually costs something.  Not always. The first set of fingerprints were free but the next ones we will inevitably need will cost us the same as the first time we did it. So yeah.

One day (and only God knows that day) we will get a call from our family coordinator. She will tell us they have a referral for us. We have a week to review the documents and decide whether or not we think this child or children are the ones God has called to our family.  You get a picture to go with that documentation. I don't know how you don't say yes at the first glance but we will make sure the paperwork is reviewed by an international specialist etc.  When we do decide this is the referral for us, here's what we'll need in the bank to accept it:

USCIS update
International Specialist Consultation
3rd Installment of Program Fee
Post Adoption Administrative Fee
1/2 International Program Fee (1 child)
Full Program Fee for 2nd child

There are plenty of "ifs" in these costs (like will God give us one child in this referral or two--that changes everything) but this is the number we will be thinking of when we predict how much we'll need to be happy and not completely terrified when the call comes.

So... let's say we get the call. We have the funds. We celebrate and accept!!  Next comes even MORE waiting and then two sets of traveling. The first traveling is to go to court and make him or her or them ours. Then we will come home and wait in horrible suspense. And one day,we'll get a call that the US has agreed with what Ethiopia has already said: "they are ours."  And we will travel to bring them home.  

Travel is unpredictable when it comes to costs.  We'll have very little notice to buy tickets and our dates won't be very flexible.  We'll be at the hands of travel agents who will work hard for us.  But here's what we *think* it will look like:

Trip 1 - Airfare
Trip 1 - In-Country Travel Package (2 adults)
Trip 1 - Visas (2 adults)
Trip 2 - Airfare
Trip 2 - Airfare (2 child passes)
Trip 2 - In-Country Travel Package (2 adults)
Trip 2 - Visas (2 adults)
Visa/Embassy Fee (2 child)

As I said, we can't be certain about travel  costs but this is what we think it will look like.

We are so thankful to our God.  Wow. He has done amazing work in people's lives to help us get to where we are. I mean, yesterday alone we received a gift that moved us way up toward our goal. Seriously. You don't know me well if you think for a second I didn't burst into tears. But then again, I burst into tears at God's faithfulness all the time.

We are seriously amazed at how many people love us and feel compelled to help us and we thank God for the way he has brought this together.  Not one kind word, prayer, or check goes unnoticed. We are so, so blessed by our village.

So where do we go from here?  $20,000 is still a sizable chunk. We'd like to raise as much as possible and then we'll move forward with asking for grants.  Here are some of the ways you can help, if you are so inclined (and this is in addition to prayer, which we need desperately):

*Trivia Night! If you are in town, message me for more details. August 23 we are trying to pack out the church. It should be a blast!

*support through our adoption account--we are blessed that our church has created an account for us. You can write your preference is for your donation to go to us in the memo of a check written to our church and it will go into our support account.

*And finally, t-shirts! We are still selling our t-shirts through August 13. You can preorder them on at our Storenvy store.  Here are the designs:

Adult shirts are a softer shirt and are available at $20/shirt.

Children's shirts are a gildan shirt (your everyday tshirt) and are $15/ shirt.

You can order in person from E or myself up until August 13 (or my parents if you happen to live close to them). Share with your friends, your family, your neighbors. After all, who wouldn't want an adorable, comfy shirt!?

We know God will pull this all together. We feel deep in our bones he has called us to this and we are thankful he always provides for the things in his will.  We are along for the ride. And what an exciting ride it is!!

Thanks for blessing us with your love. We don't deserve it. But for grace...