Friday, April 29, 2011

News (prayer request!) from the North.

Well, pray-ers, here's the latest-  There was a bit of a hold up at the border, and, as a result, Ramsey got in to Canada too late to make it to get fingerprinted.  Of course now it's the weekend and the plan was that they'd be coming home Sunday.  The obvious answer would be to stay through until Monday and do it on the way home then, but he has another guy with him and I don't know how flexible that guy's schedule is.  If they don't get the fingerprints done in this trip, it means either waiting a looong time for the results from the paper copy to arrive (which would hold up our home study being completed) or making a separate long trip back to Canada to get it done electronically.

Of course my natural reaction is to stress right out and, I have to admit, when I was on the phone with Ramsey hearing this news, my stomach started to sink.  But almost immediately God reminded me of news we got on Wednesday that seemed like yet another brick wall and that I went to bed crying over that night- and that He resolved easily the following morning.  So I feel remarkably peaceful and am just waiting to see how He's going to deal with this.  I'll let you know when I find out!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Infamous Home Visit!

Of all the myriad of nerve-wracking and invasive home study requirements, the home visit has to be one of the more stress-inducing.  I know for me, in all the years that we've talked about, prayed about, and researched adoption, that's been the One Big Thing that I've worried about.  So I thought I'd write up a description of how ours went while it's still fresh in my mind- maybe it will help ease the stress of someone else that's gearing up for their own!

After all of the paperwork (tax information, background checks, medical information, identifying certificates for everyone in the family, autobiography questionnaires the size of novellas, etc., etc.) is handed in and the  home study is paid for, your file is handed over to your case worker who then calls to schedule your interviews and house check.  Your case worker is the person who will review all of your information and will write your actual home study.

As it turned out, our case worker said she'd come right to our house to do our interviews and we'd get them all done in one day.  Which is a lot to conquer but we were glad to be able to get it over with all at once!  We'd be doing a joint interview with both Ramsey and I, individual interviews for each of us, and an interview with the kids (Reuben was the only one that she was required to interview since he's the only one 10 or up, but she included the other kids so they wouldn't feel left out- they got to draw pictures and chime in.).  And, of course, she'd be looking at our house.

We had one week from the time I spoke with our case worker to the day that we scheduled our interview for.  Which gave us a week to get the house in shape.  When we bought our house, it was a fixer-upper.  We've done a whole lot of fixing-upping but it's still got a ways to go, so we were a little nervous about that.  At this point, the work that remains is cosmetic, and our case worker told me on the phone that would be fine, but still, as you prepare for your house to be looked at, all those little things jump out at you.  No trim around the living room windows... or a kitchen window...  a bedroom floor needs to be refinished...  Is it reasonable to try to paint the kitchen this week??  (No.  No, it is not.  The kitchen remained unpainted.)  So Ramsey spent the week doing home improvement projects that seemed to us to be highest priority, and I spent the week cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.  I am, well, a bit of an underacheiver in the housekeeping department, so there was plenty of cleaning to be done.  (A bonus of the house check- my home is now thoroughly spring cleaned.)

I knew from plenty of others who have gone through the home study process that the case worker wasn't going to be giving our home the white glove test.  But still.  You want to put your best foot forward.

Anyway, the day before our visit was scheduled, three of the kids and Ramsey came down with a stomach bug.  Perfect.  I called our caseworker in the evening to tell her that I hoped it was just a 24-hour bug, what did she want to do?  We ended up postponing our appointment from 10 a.m. to the afternoon and would check in that morning to see how everyone was.  Come morning, everyone was on the road to recovery.  We went ahead with the afternoon appointment. 

Our case worker arrived at 2:30; four hours later she was on her way out the door- joint interview, kids' interview, Ramsey's interview, my interview, and the house check complete, about as painlessly as they possibly could be.

The interview questions didn't feel terrible, most of them seemed to simply expand on things we'd already been asked about in our autobiographies.  The things we said about ourselves that we would consider to be negatives (we argue, I'm a yeller) just didn't seem to shock our caseworker and on we went to the next question.  Kids say the darndest things, you know, so we'd been a little apprehensive to think about what the kids might come up with to say but the kids' interview wasn't horrible (we eavesdropped from the kitchen), and in fact it was pretty fun to hear the things they said- no probing to find out just how terrible a set of parents we were, but more asking about what our family is like and how the kids felt about the adoption, and about how they felt about getting a new brother or sister.  No worries there, I doubt there have ever been a more enthusiastic set of siblings!

And then the tour of the house.  She saw it all within a minute and a half.  She didn't look at the attic, basement, or unfinished side porch, just the actual living space.  She cared the most about seeing the room that our new little person will be occupying, and asked in the interview about the bedroom dimensions and the bedroom windows' dimensions, as well as the square footage of the house.  She wanted to see that there were smoke detectors on both floors, and asked if we owned a fire extinguisher (yes, two, one on each floor.)  Otherwise, it was just a quick tour.  At one point, as we walked through the house, she was passing by the bathroom, so I opened the door to show it to her.  She glanced in, said, "yup, it's a bathroom," then kept on walking.  (So glad I gave the toilet an extra scrubbing!)  So, I don't think I needed to focus so much on the cleaning for her benefit, but it would have been a distraction to me if I hadn't so I'm glad the house was nice and sparkly for her visit.

All in all, I'd say that not only did we survive the home visit/interviews, but I even think it all went quite well.  And really, so much of fear is dealing with the unknown, and now we know- so it'll be so much easier next time around!  ; )

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

News, sort of, and prayer requests.

I spoke with our placing agency today.  They said that our case hadn't come up in the Thai  meeting last week- apparently they often overschedule and don't get to all of the cases.  Hopefully, our case will come up in their next meeting.  Our agency wasn't sure if Thailand meets weekly or bi-weekly- either way, the earliest we would now expect to hear anything would be next week.

Obviously, I'm bummed that we don't have an answer yet, but at least the tension of "we could find out any second" is now off.  I'm back to hoping that we'll hear something in a week or two.

And, while we wait, we continue to move forward on our end.  We're getting the house ready for our caseworker's visit tomorrow.  (Hopefully we'll still be able to go ahead with that as scheduled- the boys both woke up sick during the night last night.  Praying it's just a quick, 24-hour type thing.)  After our caseworker's visit, she will begin writing our homestudy.  Ramsey has his trip to Canada this weekend, which includes getting fingerprinted on Friday.

Please pray for:
  • Chloe
  • that when our case does come up in Thailand we will be granted permission to move forward with adopting Chloe
  • that the boys will recover quickly and that no one else will get sick
  • that we will have a good visit with our caseworker tomorrow 
  • that things will go smoothly when Ramsey goes to get fingerprinted in Canada and that we'll get the results of that quickly
  • that God will provide work for Ramsey
  • that God will give us peace and patience as we wait to hear Thailand's decision 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Home Study Interviews Scheduled!

We got a call from our case worker today, to schedule our interviews and house check.  I swear, the people at our agency have elephant memories- they all remember us from three years ago, when we did a couple of initial orientation type things before Skateboard Ruben.  Apparently this lady ran the orientation meeting that we attended.  Anyway, she was very nice and put me at ease and was not at all scary.  She practically sounded as excited to be getting us through our home study as we are! 

As it turns out, we will be getting through our interviews all in one day- Ramsey's and my individual interviews, our joint interview, the kids, the house, all of it.  One week from today, next Wednesday!  That means we have one week to get the house in shape.  I know not to get so stressed about it that I pull out the Q-tips, but there's still plenty to do without getting that detailed.  I'm so glad to have it scheduled, and at a time I feel good about- a week gives us time to get the house in shape, but still over with quickly so we can keep things moving along.  I so hope we have news by then...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Can I just say that waiting is hard?

Those of you who have adopted before are laughing at me right now, I know.  But I'm not saying that I'm surprised that waiting is hard, I'm just acknowledging it.

Even the shortest adoption process is rarely as short as the DIY version of adding a kid to the family, and many adoptions take years.  Add to that the fact that I am not, by nature, a very patient person (Ramsey, I'm sure, would tell you that is the understatement of a lifetime), as well as the fact that I know enough people who have adopted to have an idea of a realistic timeframe, and I would say that I was fully expecting waiting to be the hardest part of this process.  And I was right, so far it is.

I just didn't expect it to be this hard, this early on.  I did great with it last week.  I knew we wouldn't hear anything, so I just kept on praying and life went on.  This week, though.  This week is "next week", which is when our agency hoped to have news for us.  So each day, between 12 noon and 8 p.m., there is the potential that the phone will ring or an e-mail will show up with our answer.  And when the phone rings, I will either be overjoyed and will call everyone I know (all the way back to grade school teachers) to tell them our good news and will write a blog post punctuated with no less than fifty-seven exclamation points, or I will be heartbroken.  And will write a blog post.  Without exclamation points. 

I'm still praying and praying but now I'm just feeling repetitious.  God's heard everything I have to say on the subject and now I'm sure I'm just becoming obnoxious.  Like the guy in the parable that got his loaf of bread just because he was so darn persistent.  I hope I'm that guy.  I pray that Chloe won't have to grow up in an orphanage, without a family.  I pray that God will move on the hearts of the officials who are making the decisions, and will grant us favor with them.  I pray that God will let us be Chloe's family.  I pray against spiritual forces that want to interfere and keep Chloe an orphan.  I pray that God will let me be Chloe's mama and that I will get to hold her and cuddle her and smooch those sweet cheeks.  And on, and on, and on.  When I feel like I've prayed, over and over again, every prayer that I can pray, I remember that Jesus is interceding at the right hand of the Father and I'm thankful not only that God is God and I can trust Him, but also that I'm not in this alone and that God knows my heart and it's not about how original, fresh, long, etc. my prayers are.

So.  Praying hard, working to get the house ready for the infamous home inspection, and trying to keep in mind that every day that goes by without word is one day closer to the day that we will get word.  No news is good news.  Right?  

Monday, April 18, 2011

For With God, Nothing Is Impossible...

This video is about a new friend of mine, Charlotte Seehawer, and her family.  God led them to adopt their son, Samuel, when it "should have" been impossible.  Adoption from Cambodia was closed but God led them to step out in faith and led them through one door after another in order to bring Samuel home.  As Charlotte says in the video, the doors were "locked up tight" but God opened each and every one.  It was Charlotte's encouragement that if God was speaking to anyone's heart about "Chloe", to listen to Him because God is not confined by man's laws and requirements, that first made us stop and begin to consider if God might be leading us to continue pursuing this adoption. 

We don't know what God has in store (though we are hoping to get a clue soon- our agency is hoping to have news for us this week!  Please be praying!), but no matter what His plan is, I find the Seehawer's story to be such a beautiful reminder of the greatness of our God and how He desires to use each and every one of us.  I hope you'll be blessed as well!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Long Version- Part 2

We decided that, since the agency had left it open to us to check back in later, we would at least go ahead and ask one more time. I e-mailed the WCP assistant on the morning of Monday, April 4th, asking if there were any way that they would consider waiving their sibling age requirement and allowing us to move forward with pursuing this adoption.

I probably checked my e-mail about 243 times between Monday morning and Wednesday evening, when I received a reply. The reply was from the manager of the WCP. She told me that she had recently returned from a trip to this little one's country where she met with their government's Child Adoption Center and had spoken to them regarding their flexibility regarding family eligibility. She had also visited "Chloe". She asked us to answer some questions to share to see if the country's government might be flexible in our case. Then she closed by saying that she looked forward to advocating for our family's eligibility to adopt from this country.

Even though I was so hopeful, I was still surprised to receive what seemed to be such an encouraging response! I shot back a quick reply, then received another e-mail with a little more information about Chloe, and a picture that she had taken of her during her visit- dated March 26th. What a blessing to see such a recent photo of her! She is as beautiful as ever... Her photo makes us just want to scoop her up and hold her... She is so precious.

I woke up at 3:30 the next morning, then couldn't stop my brain from composing answers to the questions the agency asked. I finally got up and sat there in the dark in the kitchen, writing our response. The sun was well up before I finished.

Again I sent off an e-mail to the agency and again I waited. This time, though, I figured that if it took 3 days to get the initial response, then I should try to wait at least a week before letting myself get too antsy.

I didn't have to wait a week- we got an e-mail on Monday afternoon. She had consulted with the country's Program Director and they'd come up with one more question they wanted an answer to- the country would want to know specifics about Ramsey's job and his schedule. I replied to that e-mail and the last thing I've heard is that she hopes to have news for us next week. Which technically begins tomorrow. Again, I'm trying to psych myself up for a wait- Friday is as much "next week" as Monday is!

So, that's where we're at. There's a baby girl on the other side of the world that has somehow, without being physically present, become as much a part of our daily reality as any of our other kids. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says "Pray without ceasing" and, boy, have we been. Ramsey and I have both had it strongly impressed on us that, if Chloe is meant to join our family, it's not going to be without a spiritual battle. We know that the last thing the enemy wants is for orphaned children to be adopted by families that will love them, nurture them, and raise them for the Lord and this is no exception. Too often he wins, by way of apathy and selfishness, but I refuse to let that be the case here, if there is anything I can do about it. Please be praying with us, for all we know decisions are being made about our situation right now. Please pray Proverbs 21:1, "The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; He directs it like a watercourse wherever He pleases", and above all that God's will is done.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Long Version- Part 1

After lots of research and discussion, Ramsey and I finally nailed down that we wanted to work with Holt International, particularly with their Waiting Child Program (WCP). The thought that we could be a family for a child who is already waiting for a home and might be less likely to get a family because of special needs appealed to us. We applied to Holt's WCP on February 11th. As we browsed through the photolisting, wondering if one of the kids we saw there might become our son or daughter, one sweet little face caught my eye. She was a baby in SE Asia, and it was speculated that her mother had been exposed to thalidomide while pregnant- this little girl was born with no left arm and her three limbs underdeveloped. There were two photos of her- one in which she is looking at the camera with her head tilted to the side and a slightly inquisitive look on her face, in the other she is grinning a dimpled grin right at the camera. She is beautiful.

I didn't know her name so, rather than call her by the number she was listed by, I gave her the nickname of "Chloe".

After we were accepted to the WCP, I inquired about her. More than once, and felt a little pushy. It turned out that there were two elegibility requirements that we didn't meet. The first was an agency requirement- they required a minimum of 9 months between siblings, to avoid "artificial twinning". She and Zuzu are less than 2 months apart. The second was a requirement set by her country- only 0-2 siblings already in the family, though they will sometimes make exceptions for children with special needs. We have five children at home. The girl that I spoke with was nice but tried to gently redirect me- there was a family that had expressed interest in this little one and they fit the requirements, perhaps Ethiopia or Uganda would be a better fit for us. But, if I wanted, I could check back in a month or so...

Well, we felt that we had to take this as a closed door and began to explore our other options. We still felt a pull toward Asia so we looked into China which is much more flexible regarding family size. But we weren't sure if we quite met their income requirement- we decided to get our taxes done and see where we stood.

I just couldn't forget about Chloe, though. I pictured her growing up in the orphanage and, as much as I wanted to adopt her, I'd rather someone else adopt her than no one. As I prayed and fasted about her one day, I decided that I would at least try to do what I could to advocate for her to find a family. So I posted about her on facebook, I made her my signature line in my e-mails, I wrote a blog post about her. When I contacted a couple of organizations about her, I got some comments. Not just comments, but passionate encouragement that if God was speaking to our hearts about Chloe, to listen to Him. Stating that even if man says no, God can still say yes. More than one person told about their children that they had adopted that they were not "supposed to" have adopted.

At first I struggled with hearing this, wondering if I were just hearing what I wanted to hear, or if God was really conveying a message to us. More talking and praying...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Good news regarding Ramsey's Canadian record check!

Because Thailand (and China, which is our alternate country choice) is a country party to the Hague Convention, Ramsey is required to have a Canadian Criminal Record Check completed as part of our home study, because he attended college in Canada. Having his fingerprints submitted through snail mail would mean we wouldn't get the results for well over 3 months, which is considerably after the rest of our home study should be completed, and could hold us up from moving forward with our adoption. We looked into it and learned that having one's fingerprints submitted electonically is a much faster process (days, instead of months) but can only be done within Canada. That alone could be reason enough to take a trip to Canada, if it looked like forward progress were going to be significantly delayed, but, as it so happens (God has such a great sense of timing, doesn't He? : ), Ramsey will be speaking at a conference in New Brunswick in two weeks- his first time traveling to Canada in years. After many phone calls, we were able to get in touch with the actual person who can do the job. Ramsey will pop in on his way to the conference to be fingerprinted and submit his request and we should receive the official results 7 to 10 business days afterward- just in time to plug the results into our, hopefully, otherwise completed homestudy. Thanks, God!

So- I do still have the story of how we've come to the point of trying to adopt a little girl from Thailand on it's way (and I may be biased, but I do think it's a cool story), but I wanted to get this praise out there for those that I had asked to pray about the record check situation. Thanks, pray-ers!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

We're adopting! : )

If you know us well, you know that Ramsey and I have had a heart for adoption for, well, as long as either of us can remember. It's something that comes up frequently in our conversation and in our prayers. We are thrilled when we hear that friends are adopting and seeing photos and videos of homecomings make me cry.

So it probably doesn't come as much of a surprise to many of you to hear that we're adopting again. We've been in serious discussion and prayer about going ahead and taking the plunge for months now, and in February we made it official by applying to Holt International's Waiting Child Program and beginning our home study with Maine Children's Home. We have finally submitted the last of our home study paperwork (other than waiting on a Canadian background check to be processed for Ramsey) and should hear from our caseworker soon to begin scheduling our interviews.

The big question- "Where?" Well, the short story is that there is a little girl in Thailand that we are praying hard that we will be able to adopt. God would have to open a couple of doors in order for that to happen, so please be praying with us about this. This week we would especially covet your prayers- it is important in that both our international agency and the Thai government will be making decisions about their willingness to waive certain requirements so that we can go ahead with adopting this little sweetheart.

Like I said, that is the short story! The long story will be following, probably in several installments, over the coming days. But I at least wanted to get this blog off the ground with the short version so that people have a place to come to be updated.

Check in frequently- I plan to update as things develop. Thank you for joining with us in our journey, and especially thank you for your prayers!

Oh, and p.s.! "Insert Blog Name Here..." is not this blog's permanent title! Suggestions for a better title are welcome! : )