Saturday, July 28, 2012

Suggested Donation Items

For those of you who've asked, here is a more detailed list of suggested donation items that the Transition Home and orphanages need. We will be collecting some of these items to take with us when we go for court. To save on weight and price we would prefer to just take money for diapers and then buy them in Addis Ababa.
So here's the list:

Current Priority Transition Home Needs
o Clothing and shoes for children ages 8-14 ***HIGH PRIORITY
o Bath towels for children*** HIGH PRIORITY
o Antibacterial hand gel (40oz containers available at Wal-Mart for $5)
o Small sized diapers
o Baby bottles and nipples
o Vitamin D drops
o Unscented baby wipes ***please note, unscented/sensitive skin wipes are the only type used***
o Toothpaste and toothbrushes
o Scrubs for nurses and nannies
o Crocks for nurses and nannies
o General first aid items

Orphanage and Transitional Home General Donation Needs
o Powder-free gloves for nannies and TH doctor
o DVD and VHS children’s videos-especially Christian videos and/or ones with singing/dancing
o Crocs for nannies
o Toiletry bags (small) for children’s personal hygiene items (one per child needed)
o Puzzles for young children
o Toy cars and trucks appropriate for toddler aged children
o Iron drops
o Diaper rash ointment (A+D preferred)
o Paper towels
o Children’s clothing (new or slightly used); Boys and Girls; sizes 0-8 years. Clothing needs include day clothes (especially pants), pajamas, underwear, and shoes.
o Diapers for up to 30 pounds
o Toys to stimulate babies such as colorful objects, rattles, etc. that are appropriate for babies up to 2 years
o Unscented baby wipes ***please note, unscented/sensitive skin wipes are the only type used***
o Powder formula with DHA/RHA
o A + D Original Ointment, Diaper Rash and All-Purpose Skincare Formula
o Hand Sanitizer
o Candles
o Children’s Notebooks
o Enfamil or Similac Lactose free formula*
*the following Generic Brands with identical nutritional value to Enfamil & Similac are also acceptable:
1. Parents Choice formula from Wal-Mart
2. Target’s generic Formula
3. Kirkland formula from Costco
Soy based or other special formulas are also acceptable as long as they are one of the brands listed

Medications/Medical Donation Needs**
o Multivitamins

Tri-vi-sol (o to 6 months)
o Poly-vi-sol (6 months to 2 years)
o Chewable multi-vitamin (2 years to 9 years)
o Adult multivitamin (9 years plus)
o Tylenol (acetaminophen) Infants, Children's, Suppository
o Syringes for giving medicines (5mL)
o Plastic and Latex disposable gloves
o Baby nose saline spray
o Neosporin
o Mouth and nose masks
o Benadryl liquid/elixir
o Permetherin for scabies
o Lice kits
o Toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss
**Please check the expiration date on all donation items as expired items will be discarded upon
receipt and cannot be used.

On behalf of the all of the kiddos and the staff at the orphanages and Transition Home, thank you for your gifts and support!!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

One Month Post Referral Status Update

So, you may wonder what post-referral activities look like. Well, for some it looks like this: rising at the crack of dawn to work on grant applications, baby room decorating, shopping, filling out necessary paperwork, fundraising, deep cleaning the house, making baby food, preparing to start packing, getting necessary prescriptions for travel, etc. 

For me it looks like this. Wake up late feeling half rested due to restless sleep. Walk around in a morning fog. Then the fog lasts all day. Walk in circles audibly saying “What should I be doing right now?” Go get a snack because I forgot to eat lunch. Fill out a few more blanks on the seeming endless paperwork. Make a few more phone calls to pediatricians/specialists/therapists/ insurance/adoption agency /dentists (that one is an entirely separate topic). Get distracted thinking about flying for hours upon hours and brown skin babies and court dates. Feed Dave some sorry excuse for dinner because I didn’t think ahead and prepare anything. Sit on the couch and tell Dave how my head feels like it’s going to explode. Whether from allergies or more thoughts than it has the capacity to hold or increased heart rate sustained for too many days…I’m not sure.  Paint watch Dave paint in the girls’ room. Get distracted thinking about baby beds and pink curtains and bed time prayers. Stare at photos of two adorable faces with big brown eyes and smiles that have burrowed their way deep into my heart.   Go to bed and repeat the next day.  

Postal Services, state seals, notary stamps, Columbus skyline

Needless to say, I haven’t had an overly high productivity rate the last month. But we are making slow progress on both the girls’ room and paperwork front. Paperwork that included approximately 380 some miles and nearly 7 hours worth of driving. (It’s a long story that includes crazy phrases like updated homestudy and I-171H from the USCIS needing notarized, notary authentications by local clerk of courts and state certified by Secretary of State.)

In other news, we were notified by our agency last week of the official dates of ET court closures.  The Federal First Instance Court of Ethiopia announced their official closure dates today. The court is scheduled to close for the rainy season from August 22nd-October 1st. This date of closure is two weeks later than into August than anticipated, for which we rejoice.”
Rejoicing indeed! This is a shorter than usual and later than usual closure!! In another email received today, our agency saidYour court file is open, and you are currently in line waiting for a court date. The court has not asked for any additional documentation at this point, so I anticipate we will hear of a court date soon for your family.”  
Now tell me, how am I supposed to calmly prepare for such a possibility without getting too excited?? Well  here are some of the preparations I am trying to calmly complete. 

Fund-raise. This is a breakdown from our agency of our remaining costs.

  Trip 1 - Airfare (2 adults; prices will vary by season and location)  $2,400 - $4,000                             
Trip 1 - In-Country Travel Package (2 adults) ••••                   $1,400 - $2,500                                  Trip 1 - Visas (2 adults)                                                                             $40
Trip 2 - Airfare                                                                              $2,400 - $4,000
Trip 2 – Airfare (1 child)                                                                 $250 - $1,000
Trip 2 - In-Country Travel Package (2 adults) •••                         $1,000 - $2,000
Trip 2 - Visas (2 adults)                                                                                   $40
Visa/Embassy Fee (1 child) •••••                                                                    $230

Post Adoption Visits (varies by state)••                                              $600 - $1,300
Post Adoption Visit Travel Fees
(varies by state and location from social worker)                                    $0 - $300
Post Adoption Report Refund
(refunded in installments as, and only if, each report is returned on time) ($1,000)

So basically, we have paid for about two-thirds of the adoption so far. We have approximately $10,000-$12,000 left to go. I am looking into some grant applications, but we are finding that grants are hard to get in our season of life. We also plan to have another garage sale in September, although a lot could happen between now and then!

Next on my agenda: trying to start collecting donations to take to orphanages when we go. We will hopefully donate to both the transition home (where the girls are now) and other local orphanages (I hope at some point to visit the orphanage the girls originally came to, but I think it is quite a long drive, so I’m not sure yet if or when it will happen). 

I’m starting to shop for snacks/toys to take to the orphanages to give the kiddos that we will see and play with while we are there.

I’m trying to brainstorm ideas for simple yet cute ideas for the girls’ room. (Bleh. Craftiness and me get along like oil and water. The end.) 

I am looking for recommendations for a new family doctor, because we will need to take some prescriptions with us when we travel, and of course my lifelong family doctor just moved away. 

I am also in the search for a good, affordable dentist, because wouldn’t you know I just busted out with my first ever cavity. Clearly I needed something else to worry about. I mean, who doesn’t love a good needle in the gums and drill in the teeth to look forward to every now and then?? Oh and of course we need something to spend money on, it’s really piling up around here. 

So there you have it. One month post referral activities. The bottom line? It’s been happy and chaotic and pretty much frazzled around here. If you would like to lend a hand?? Here are a few ideas:

*First. Pray! Pray that if God sees it as best for our family, He would move on behalf of our case and provide us with a court date before August 22nd.  Pray that I won’t freak out if this does happen. Pray that I would be free from the anxiety that constantly threatens my spirit. Pray for healing in our baby girls’ hearts and for them to be prepared for such a drastic transition. Pray for Dave and I’s marriage to be secure as we step into some deep water. 

*Donate items for us to take to orphanages. Here are some suggestions:

Antibacterial hand gel
Baby bottles and nipples
Unscented baby wipes ***please note, unscented/sensitive skin wipes are the only type
Toothpaste/ toothbrushes/floss
Scrubs for nurses and nannies
Crocks for nurses and nannies
General firstaid items                                                                                                                             
lice treatment
A + D ointment
diaper rash ointment
infant and children's Tylenol
Vitamin D drops
Iron drops
chewable multi-vitamins
We of course will be limited with space/weight boundaries when we travel. We do hope to take funds to be able to buy diapers and such when we are there to take to the orphanages, so if you would like to donate that way let me know, and I will keep your financial donation to be used specifically for these supplies.

*While I would love to be able to plug in with a matching grant opportunity, we do not have anything lined up at the moment. We do however, have an account with Just Love Coffee, a great organization that helps growers, supports fair trade and adoptive families, and sells stellar coffee (it’s our favorite!). If you make a purchase through our account (click HERE to go to our account) a percentage of the cost will go towards our adoption. I’m also having a ThirtyOne Party, and a percentage of the purchases will go towards adoption costs. If you would like more information on any of this, please contact me! For those of you who have given to us financially, thank you so very much for being willing hands and feet of God. Please consider yourselves a very real part of this adoption story. It is so inspiring and humbling to watch God work through His people to complete this work. We absolutely could not do it on our own. 

I leave you with a verse I committed to memory last summer, and am repeating often to myself these days.

“O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. Ps. 131

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Long Awaited Call

A journal of a certain Monday in June.

It was an ordinary Monday. Paperwork, maybe some laundry if it got lucky, catching up on social networks, and lots of other important stuff like that. There had been several referrals from our agency the week before, so I had to go look at the “unofficial” waiting list to see what our numbers were. We were the 17th family on the list, #11 for infant boy, #10 for infant girl, #1 for young siblings, #1 for siblings over 4 yrs, #2 for toddler boy, #2 for toddler girl, #1 for child 4 yrs or older. Because of our request (one child or siblings, either gender, 0-5 years old) we had a lot of numbers! Seeing three #1’s was exciting, but not overly; we have had at least one #1 since February. Still, I was trying to be hopeful that our time was coming soon. I took a picture of the waiting list and sent it to Dave and my family. And then carried on about my day.

 At 4:30 I called Dave to see what his plan was for the evening. He said he was in wheat harvest and would be working late. We had a Youth for Christ meeting planned so I told him I would just go without him. As we were talking, my phone beeped an incoming call. I took a quick glance and then did a major double take. It said “Caitlin E is calling”. Interrupting Dave’s sentence I said “Dave, DAVE, listen! Caitlin is calling. CAITLIN EDW*RDS! I HAVE TO GO!” I don’t know if he said anything, at that point I’m not sure I was even capable of hearing. Caitlin is our family coordinator from our agency. She is who guided us through the paperwork process, who we talk to about our request, and who we call to whine to when our wait times are only getting longer and longer. And she is the one who calls with news of a referral. Although my mind briefly computed the fact that there is always a chance she could call about something else, my heart didn’t believe it for a moment. My whole body caught an instant case of the shakes, even my voice. I shakily answered her call, and she asked if Dave was home. My reply, “No, but you can call him! He’s in wheat harvest!” (I’m sure she was glad for that important detail.) She told me she would make a 3way call. So I waited. Nervously. So very nervously. Then she came back on and said she couldn’t get a hold of him. So we disconnected so she could start it again. And I sat on the floor laugh/crying and shaking, and trying to breathe. 
The shaky laugh/cry face
 Then my phone rang again. Excitedly, I tried to turn up the volume, because I have had Caitlin’s ring tone ID set to the Hallelujah Chorus, and I have waited oh so many days to hear it sing hallelujah to me. But alas, hitting the volume button while the phone is ringing does of course silence the entire ring. But no matter, I had a phone call to take! I answered and heard Dave’s voice. She proceeded without keeping us on pins and needles to much longer. (I’m guessing she’s learned the hard way trying to make some small talk and the mom looses her grip and has a full blown hyper-ventilation attack on the phone.)  She told us she had very exciting news for our family. She said “I have a very unusual referral for you!” I’m thinking, “uhh, that’s a good thing, right? Please no quadruplets!” She then told us of a darling nearly 5 year old girl named A. (We won’t share names or photos publicly until we pass court). Then she said, “and A has a darling little sister! Only a few months old!” At this point my end went silent, and I succumbed to the sobs. Two girls!? How did this happen? For over two years we’ve been talking about our boy. The list has almost constantly been shorter for boys, and since our request was neutral, we always thought we would get a boy. And a BABY?? I haven’t day-dreamed about an infant for at least a year!  I was in shock on so many levels. She continued on with a few more details, most of which I did not hear, and then told us “congratulations, you have pictures waiting in your email inbox!”  After she disconnected, Dave and I in shaky voices asked each other, “did that really just happen? Did she say TWO GIRLS??” 

Then the bad news…Dave said he would try to get home as soon as he could, but since he was harvesting wheat he could not leave and would probably not be home until 7. Caitlin called at 4:32. I had over 2 hours to wait, if we were going to “meet” them together. So, I paced around the house for a while, intermittently praising Jesus and then asking Him if this really happened, or if it was just a really good dream!? My puppy paced after me, convinced I’d lost my mind. Finally I decided to go for a walk. I walked for several miles, until Dave drove past and picked me up. We RAN into the house and straight for the laptop. Dave got to stare at their faces first while I took pictures, then it was my turn while he manned the camera. (Though we thoroughly expected a boy, we could not be more excited about our girls. Dave is smitten by these beauties, and he stares at their photos at least as often as I do.)

We spent the rest of the evening (week, really) in shock. We sent this text to my family: “NOTICE: very important family meeting needed, who all can be at mom and dads sometime tomorrow evening? U do not want to miss this. Also do not ask questions.  Needless to say, they all made it. We met in a central city at a park. It was a screaming, laughing, crying, praying celebration. Memories of that night will be treasured and shared with the girls when they’re home, telling of how much they were loved at first sight, bald heads and all!

We ate lunch with Dave’s family and gave another delighted grandma her first set of photos, and spent the rest of the week telling friends and family.

The emotions have been crazy. Over the top excitement. Gratitude. Love. Fear. Sadness. Anticipation. Mainly overwhelmed. And sleep deprived. How is one to sleep with everything from baby room ideas to attachment planning to international travel to becoming a parent of two swirling around in the brain?

26 months of paperwork and preparations, 18 months and 15 days of it spent simply waiting, and finally referral day has become a reality. The joy and love over these two darlings is indescribable. The gratitude to God for giving us this gift, for using the long, heavy months to draw us so close to Himself in preparation, is overflowing. The fear of losing these darlings, of them getting sick, of being able to parent them adequately and assist in their healing, is in constant need of rebuke. The sadness, that our joy and celebration is borne out of their grief and loss, is a constant awareness in our hearts. God’s work of redemption, of bringing beauty from ashes, is a marvelous thing. But it does come with a cost of pain and loss. And we do not for a minute minimize that reality.

So there you have a detailed (of course) account of how referral day unfolded. I do believe this is the first good news post this blog has seen! 

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
  and all that is within me,bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
 who satisfies you with good
  so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.” Psalm 103:1-5

**To answer the many questions of “Now what? When do the girls come home?” We are waiting for Ethiopia to issue us a court date. It could be as early as the first of August, but is more likely to be later fall. The courts close for August and September, as it is their rainy season and travel is extremely difficult. We could possibly squeeze in before closure, but are trying to not to get our hopes up. Once we have a court date, we will travel, meet the girls, and go before a judge. When we pass court, we then wait for the girls’ visas to be completed and to be issued an Embassy appointment, at which point we will be able to bring the girls home. This appointment will likely be several months after court. So once again, we are praying that we can be patient and trust in God’s timing, and that all plans of the enemy to hinder the girls’ homecoming would be thwarted.