Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Traveling, Bonding, Airport Parties, and Other Such Matters

So it’s official. The time has come for the final stage of this adoption process. My head is in no way comprehending what I am writing, but my body is going through the motions. Maybe it will sink in when I have 13 solid hours of plane ride to do nothing other than think about it. 

I am going to TRY to keep this short{ish} and to the point. I have plenty of other things I should be doing (although with having 5 whole days to get ready, I’m not sure what to do with all this time!) but I wanted to share some thoughts on what the next phase of our life may look like.
We will be leaving Sunday. Dave will hopefully be joining us a week or so later, and at this point our return date is Oct. 16th (actual arrival in Dayton will be the 17th.) This date is subject to change if our paperwork isn’t completed in time. 

I have debated long in my mind about having an airport party. There are obvious reservations: we are going to be in the thick of learning to know the girls and establishing trust, trying to keep the transitions as unintimidating as possible, and already know we will need to be sensitive to Cy’s shy personality. However, our close friends and family have been so instrumental in the journey. Your prayers, gifts, encouragement, and constant support are all a very real part of caring for the fatherless, and specifically Cypress and Sami. And we want you to celebrate with us what God has done through your willingness to serve Him by blessing us and the girls. You are a very real part of these girls coming home to our family. So how can we not have a celebration on the day this dream becomes a reality? Plus we will likely go into isolation mode at least for several weeks when we arrive home, so this will be a brief chance for you all to see the girls and for me to give you hugs (which I will try to soak up as much comfort and strength from as I can get) before we “cocoon” for a while. So, all this to say, to our close family and friends, we invite you to welcome us home at the Dayton airport on the 17th (unless notified of a date change). However I do have a few requests: Less noise/balloons/flashes/applause is better. It is a celebration, and we don’t want to take that away, but the girls’ well-being is our primary concern. Also, I know this is so brutal to ask of you, (and I would be the first one to fail in this if I were on the giving side) but please don’t touch/hug/kiss /hold the two lovelies. I seriously feel so guilty asking this of you, but it really is for their best. More on that in a bit. So feel free to come and hug us, say hi to the girls, and shower as much love as you can without touching :) 
Now to the game plan for once we are home. Most of you are familiar with the concept of taking time for attachment, and I’m so thankful for family and friends who desire to be informed and support us in a parenting style that will likely look different than most. Just to familiarize you a little more…we commonly use attachment/bonding interchangeably. Here is a quick differentiation between the two. Bonding: the love and warmth felt between a child and her parents. This sometimes happens immediately for the parents (as we feel it did for Dave and I) and sometimes can take weeks. Bonding is about sharing a loving relationship, and is very connected with physical touch. Attachment: learning to trust. It is the child learning to completely trust and have confidence in the parents meeting her needs and being a constant in her life. It is a more complex process and usually takes longer (months and sometimes years). For a better, more in depth look at bonding and attachment, please read this well written post about it.
So as we try to foster a loving, nurturing relationship with our girls and create an environment that helps them learn to trust Dave and I as their dependable parents who meet their needs, here are few things we hope to do:

  • ·         At least for the first 3 weeks, we will stick very close to home, limiting our outings to only necessities, and limiting our visitors to only immediate family. If you have a gift or food you would like to bring by, we would be so grateful, and I would be happy to meet you on the porch for a quick hug and a minute of adult conversation, but please don’t feel bad if I don’t invite you in or bring the girls out to meet you. In the time since they have lost their bio mother, they have had multiple care givers and people constantly coming and going in their lives. These first few weeks are critical for us to establish that we are their parents, that we will be the constant in their lives, and that we will meet their needs.

  • ·         To carry on with that thought, please don’t think I’m rude if I seem overly protective when we do start socializing. Dave or I want to be available to meet even their smallest needs for a long time, to help build their trust in us. So we will be the ones to give bottles, fill sippy cups, tie shoes, give snacks, change diapers, etc. And even once we start getting out, we will still limit the amount of holding we let others do. NOT because we do not trust you or do not want to share them (in fact, there may be days when I will need you to remind me of this post and encourage me in this!) we just want to be sure we are not confusing them or sending mixed signals. Much of this will depend on our assessment of their attachment to us after we’ve been home for a month or so. We will alter it as necessary.

  • ·         Our parenting may look strange. You may see us cosleeping, wearing Sami in a carrier a lot, disciplining in very gentle ways that offer many opportunities for re-do’s, rocking our 5 year old and giving her a bottle of milk, giving snacks anytime they’re asked for, having “time-ins” instead of “time-outs”, and who knows what all else we may come up with! Do not hesitate to ask us if you’re curious about what we’re doing. I don’t have time to explain all of these possible scenarios and the reasoning behind them now, but I will be happy to in the future. I would much rather have a discussion with you about why we chose to handle something the way we did, than to have you assuming we’re crazy parents! (And after the discussion you may still make that assumption! Honestly, this is new for us to, and much of it will be trial and error.)

If you would like to read more about attachment plans or cocooning, click here for another great post.
Please feel free to ask us questions, we do not have many answers, but we do have access to a lot of great resources and we can at least try to explain why we are choosing to implement certain standards for our girls’ first weeks and months home. Ultimately, this is going to be a moment by moment prayer for the Gentle Healer to give us wisdom and insight into how to best shepherd our girls’ hearts and be ministers of grace and healing to their lives. Thank you again so much for your wonderful support of us thus far. They are ALMOST HOME!

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Treasurer's Report

The following is likely the worst treasurer’s report you will ever read. I am a terrible accountant. My theory: why balance the check book when I can just call the 1-800 number on my debit card and find out my balance in a matter of minutes? As for record keeping, I have a chaotic stack of adoption receipts that I occasionally shuffle through in a panic. Ususally the ones I need are lost, only to show up later in an unsorted stack of mail. I have certain areas of at least “maintained” organization, but personal record keeping is not one of them. I am not proud of this. Especially when it comes to adoption records. I regret my lack of order especially the first year of the adoption process. Next time I will be much more diligent. (And yes, I did just say next time, before this time is even finished. What can I say, the children’s searching, hopeful eyes haunt me.)

So, now that we are clear about my rather haphazard records, I will continue on with sharing what figures I do have. These posts are hard. Our culture’s privacy when it comes to finances makes it awkward to have this discussion. But openness is good. For various reasons. 1) I know when I was researching adoption, I was anxious to hear exactly what kind of “crazy expensive” figures we were looking at. Also I found it helpful to see many other families who did not have amazing jobs or a huge inheritance or substantial grants or a rich daddy, but were still stepping out trusting God to fund each step of the way. So to all of you out there praying about adoption :) here is an honest look at the $$. And if you would like to see our agency’s breakdown of the entire process and it’s costs, click HERE.  2) Openness is good for us because in a way it helps keep us accountable. 3) It provides opportunity for all of the generous givers to see more clearly where their money is going, and gives us opportunity to thank them for their open hands. 4) It gives a stellar opportunity for all of us together to lift our voices and our hands in praise to God, who is CLEARLY paying the way for His girls to come to their new home. Ultimately, this post is all about Him. We have small roles. Dave and I are accountable for seeking His wisdom in how to properly use the funding He has supplied, and you all are to be thanked for being willing to allow the finances to move from your hands to ours. But the bottom line is, it’s all His. And we are all just grateful observers of the transference of His resources on behalf of His children who He is placing in a family. If ever I doubted; doubted that it was His will for us to adopt, doubted that He really would fund the process, doubted that He really was passionate about lonely children being united with a loving family…the financial provision alone, especially in last 2 months, has been enough to convince me fully. Please remind me of this if I am every harried and at wits end with two little crazy cuties. I must not forget how specifically God worked to bring them home
So here are some details on our current financial status. We currently have around $7,500 in adoption debt. We have $9,600 in adoption savings. Before you lose all confidence in our accounting abilities, I offer two explanations. First, the savings figure has drastically increased in the last few weeks. We are humbled and amazed. (Side note to all who asked about the garage sale’s results: Total profit was around $840. We were wowed.) Secondly, our debt is on an interest free credit card. Because it is interest free for a year, we are not in a big hurry to pay it off since we are at least earning a few pennies in interest with the money in savings.

As for remaining costs. We basically just have our plane tickets and in-country costs. On our court trip we paid $2,300 for each ticket. We really hope with having more than 2 day’s notice, we will be able to get better prices on our next trip, but I don’t know how much difference it will make. The cheapest I expect they could be is $1,600-2,000. We will also have Cypress’s ticket home, which I expect will be around $1,000 but again is a guess. (Let me just say all of our remaining costs are guesses. I am sharing conservative estimates, but want to at least give you an idea.) The in-country costs look roughly like this: lodging-$500/week. We will potentially be there for 2-4 weeks (could be more, could be less). Food-$50/week. Driver-$50-$100/week depending on what rates we can get, where all we need to go, who else might be there to travel with us, etc. That gives you an idea of the basics. Please understand how hard this is to estimate. We are still comparing rates/amenities with several different guest houses so we do not have specific lodging plans yet.

 One final factor in this trip. One final IMPORTANT factor. My sister Janna will be accompanying me back. We will hopefully be leaving to go back in the next 2-3 weeks, and will stay with the girls until we have a confirmed embassy appointment, at which time Dave will join us and then we will all come home together. I am so excited to share this experience with Janna. I am jump-up-and-down delighted about it. I have prayed for an opportunity to have my family travel with me for almost as long as I’ve prayed for this adoption. I only wish I could take them all! So Janna will also be funding a ticket, and splitting the in-country costs with me. She’s stepping out on faith in regards to funding also, knowing that God has brought this opportunity to her life, and believing He will make a way regardless of her limited income. 

Now you basically know as much as we do in terms of what costs to expect in the coming month. To summarize:
Tickets: $2,000/adult $1,000/Cypress
Weekly in-country: $650 for the week(s) Jan and I are there with the girls. $1,200 the week Dave joins us for Embassy. (And no that is not because Dave will eat $600 worth of food, but rather because we will likely pay our agency an all-inclusive rate for the final week.)

Thank you all for journeying thus far with us. Words don’t seem to be enough, but hear it from the depths of my heart how grateful I am. We are. I cannot explain how humbling it is to…open the mail to find a check or an anonymous visa card, find cash in my purse or in our house, have meals stuck in my freezer, have my house cleaned from top to bottom, have my laundry folded,  read notes of encouragement on facebook, be thrown a superb baby shower filled with gifts and love from so many friends, be prayed for/with/over, and the list goes on.

 As always, this post is entirely too long. I hope that if you read this far, you came to the conclusion feeling blessed by God for being such a supportive part of our journey to bring our girls home. May your faith be encouraged by our story of God’s provision. He delights in giving good gifts to His children. I hope your eyes can see His goodness, and you can feel the warmth of His smile on your life. Run after Him with reckless abandon and trust Him to fill your life with His faithful provision.