Friday, August 31, 2007

Interesting Motto

I came across this ... well, I guess it is a motto or a slogan or something along those lines ... on the Hope Bringers website:

We Have No Regrets In:
Caring more than some think wise
Risking more than some think safe
Dreaming more than some think practical
Expecting more than some think possible

Maybe we'd all be a little happier if we applied those principles to our daily lives in some way or another.

Collecting Crocs and Socks for AHOPE


Now that we have explained our passion for the children at AHOPE in this post, we wanted to introduce our blog readers out there to our fund raiser.

Basically, we will not be able to travel to Ethiopia to bring Abenezer home until December at the earliest - well, that leaves a WHOLE lot of time to kill until then! As such, we realized that it is the perfect time to begin to collect donations. There are many things not readily available in Ethiopia and mailing things there is extremely cost-prohibitive. So most adoptive families stuff their suitcases at least partially full of donations (which, on the flip side, leaves tons of room for souvenirs!)

Now, many items are needed in Ethiopia - pretty much everywhere. But we wanted our main "donation" to be something that Grace would be excited to be involved in as well. So, we are collecting Crocs and Socks for the children of AHOPE! Ethiopia has a pretty extensive rainy season (which is why the courts are closed now and we are stuck waiting...) so Crocs are ideal because they dry out quickly and mildew free. Also, their long-lasting, anti-microbial material is great for an orphanage setting. Our goal is to collect one pair of Crocs and socks for each child at AHOPE - so about 80! That is quite a few pairs, but we are going to do our best.



Some people have donated money to our cause and we are hoping to be able to purchase the Crocs at cost, rather than retail, in order to purchase many more. Also, even gently used pairs would be helpful too!

If you are at all interested in donating a pair of Crocs, or socks, or making a monetary donation to the cause, please let me know! (if you don't have my email address, lease a comment below and I'll be in touch) Additionally, we hope to fill in the cracks of our luggage with various medical supplies - first aid ointment, band-aids, cold medicine, etc.

Wish us luck!!!

Can You Ever Do Enough?

In my excitement over Abenezer knowing he has a family, I wonder about the others - the millions of orphans in Ethiopia and other countries who will never know such joy. Maybe because they suffer from a 'special need' and there aren't enough families willing to take that on. Or maybe because they just aren't in the right place at the right time.

And my heart aches for them.

But the truth is, I can't adopt them all. Adoption is not a fix for the various problems that have caused or contributed to the insane numbers of orphans around the world. Its a solution for our family and for Abenezer, but certainly not a long term fix for Africa or anywhere else.

I think everyone has a time (or times) in their life when they are a bit more socially aware, conscious of what others are going through . And those times can be very enlightening - and yes, very sad and depressing too. Because there are just SO many things out there. The work of the Humane Society, the continued plight of Katrina victims, the atrocities in Darfur. Even if you were the most dedicated person on the planet, you couldn't contribute your time or money to all of those things. While checking on the Heldt blog today, I saw a link to this post. What an great, thought-provoking viewpoint on the issue.

I guess you have to do what you can - and just keep trying to raise what it is that you "can" do. And try and encourage others to do the same...

He Knows!

He knows he knows he knows he knows he knows!

He knows he has a family!

Yeah!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Does He Know????


I DON'T KNOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It's driving me nuts! What I do know:

1) Our agency director IS in Ethiopia.
2) She took a number of welcome bags to distribute.
3) We sent our welcome bag to the agency a month and a half ago.
4) Another waiting parent found out her daugther received her bag and she is at the same orphanage as Abenezer.

So was has seven years of post-secondary education taught me about logic? That yes, he did receive his welcome bag this week and that he now knows he has a family.

What does my heart say? I'll believe it when someone tells me for sure!!!

So hopefully I'll have a confirmation on this issue soon - it is driving me nuts.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Unexpected Gifts



You know, this whole parenting thing is so strange sometimes. I never know what is going to really touch my heart or make an impact. For example, yesterday we went to Michigan Adventure with my mom and Julie (more on that later) and Grace did pretty well, although had her crabby moments throughout the day. Later last night, I think she was feeling a little bad about her on-and-off bad attitude and she was trying to "make it up" to me. She did this by just sticking by my side (which was a little rough since I was tired and could've used a few minutes alone, but oh well). She didn't want to go anywhere without me because "I love you so much and you are the best mom ever." yep, brightens the day. Just like when Ally buries her face in my shoulder and doesn't want to be taken from me...

Now, 10 years ago, I could have probably predicted that those things would mean a lot. However, before starting the adoption process I couldn't have told you how important the tiniest scrap of information on my son would be. Each small tidbit of information, each photo a treasure.

Well, on Saturday I was lucky enough to spend over a half an hour on the phone with a woman who just returned from Ethiopia! She was there visiting her daughter (same orphanage as Abenezer) and was able to not only take some photos and video for us, but also spend a little time with Abenezer! Just being able to talk to her about it was such a treat. Little things like this really make him more real to me.

She said that he is very sweet. =) He is one of the kids you are just drawn to. He is very healthy and happy. When you come in, many of the kids just charge you, all vying for some small bit of attention. Other children hang back and don't wish to have any contact. Abi seems to fall in the middle. He loves attention, but if he gets pushed out of the way, he lets another child have a turn and goes to play with a ball or something.

The woman who met him, Charlotte, also gave us a guess on his age. She and her husband, John, have a 3.5 year old daughter and a 1.5 year old son. They adopted their son from Ethiopia last year. Based on her observation and comparison to her own children in size and development, she guessed Abi was about 2.5. Our best guess has been that he is about 3, with some of his records even suggesting he is four, but that doesn't seem too accurate.

It appears that he isn't talking too much yet, even in Amharic. This may be because he is only 2.5 and just not an early talker, or may be due to some delays. Given what he's been through, that wouldn't be unusual. I want to work on my sign language with Ally (we haven't really been keeping up with it lately unfortunately...) because I'm thinking that might be a good ice breaker in the first few days and until he gets a better handle on his English language skills. I still hope to learn a little bit of Amharic too.

Charlotte also shared with us how popular our little guy is! Apparently one of the orphanage volunteers has taken a shining to him and wanted to adopt him herself! Fortunately Charlotte set her straight and told her he already has a family waiting for him. =)

Sometimes when I hear stories of people visiting the orphanage and getting to see my little guy I get jealous. I want to be there! But this time I just felt good - I was so appreciative that Charlotte was there. And that she was willing to take a little bit of her limited time in Addis to pull him on her lap and give him a squeeze from us.

She also was honest about the orphanage - it is definitely a third world country. But she said that the kids are happy, well cared for, and definitely loved. That helps. Still can't wait to get him home as soon as possible!!!

But it all makes the wait just a tiny bit easier...

Thanks Charlotte - for everything.

We're Approved!

That's right! On Friday our golden ticket came in the mail - our 171h! For those of you not forced to be familiar with government forms, that just means we received our government approval to bring an orphan into the country! (Well, technically two orphans since that was our original plan.)

Whoo hoo!

It took almost exactly 2 months. Our application was submitted June 13, we had our fingerprints done on July 12, and we were approved on August 17. The USCIS has the processing times for our office running three months, so we didn't do so bad!

One step closer to Abi!

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Birthday Girl!!!



Can you believe it! My little Gracie - SIX YEARS OLD. Wow, if that doesn't make me feel old, not sure what will! Her birthday was actually yesterday, but I wanted to get some photos to put up.

Unfortunately, her birthday was marked by a storm that rolled in and we lost power. But I think she had a good birthday. My parents drove out for cake and ice cream, but due to the storm they could only stay for an hour. But it was still nice to see them.



Today was her party - her two best friends came over and we had big plans to head to Michigan Adventure. Well, the lovely storm fronts pounding the west side of the state for the entire week continued so we didn't venture out. Instead, the girls happily played for hours and we went out for Happy Meals and a movie. Grace wanted to see Shrek the Third. Of course, the other 2 had already seen it, but they were good sports (more or less).

Sometimes I just look at her and marvel - she has really grown up a lot in the past year. She is reading now and doing really well. It is amazing how much her self confidence plays into her abilities. When she is feeling confident, she can read pretty complicated sentences and words. But once she gets hung up on something she loses all concentration and gets really frustrated. But she is doing better about pushing through. The same was true of swimming. She started lessons about six weeks ago. The first class they 'tested' the kids for the proper level. She was placed with kids younger than her even though we have seen her do some of the things she wouldn't for her test. But little by little she got more comfortable with her teacher. And now, she can jump off the wall into the deep end and swim back to the wall all by herself! I'm so proud of her.

And she is a very thoughtful and sensitive kid too. She spends a lot of time thinking about Abenezer. Sometimes at night she tells me she misses him and wants him to be here with her. And she clarified that too - not 'here' in her heart, but 'here' right next to her.



She is my girlie-girl. She would prefer to wear dresses and 'fancy' shoes any day of the week - but only as long as she can still dig around in the mud!

Overall she is really just a great kid. We are so lucky to have her as our daughter.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Crocs and Socks for AHOPE!


Hahaha - you didn't think I was done posting yet did you! Now that I have explained my passion for the children at AHOPE in this post, I wanted to introduce our blog readers out there to our fundraiser.

Basically, we will not be able to travel to Ethiopia to bring Abenezer home until December at the earliest - well, that leaves a WHOLE lot of time to kill until then! As such, we realized that it is the perfect time to begin to collect donations. There are many things not readily available in Ethiopia and mailing things there is extremely cost-prohibitive. So most adoptive families stuff their suitcases at least partially full of donations (which, on the flip side, leaves tons of room for souveniers!)

Now, many items are needed in Ethiopia - pretty much everywhere. But we wanted our main "donation" to be something that Grace would be excited to be involved in as well. So, we have decided to collect Crocs and Socks for the children of AHOPE! Ethiopia has a pretty extensive rainy season (which is why the courts are closed now and we are stuck waiting...) so Crocs are ideal because they dry out quickly and mildew free. Also, their long-lasting, anti-microbial material is great for an orphanage setting. Our goal is to collect one pair of Crocs and socks for each child at AHOPE - so about 80! That is quite a few pairs, but we are going to do our best.

Some people have donated money to our cause and we are hoping to be able to purchase the Crocs at cost, rather than retail, in order to purchase many more.

If you are at all interested in donating a pair of Crocs, or socks, or making a monetary donation to the cause, please let me know! Additionally, we hope to fill in the cracks of our luggage with various medical supplies - first aid ointment, band-aids, cold medicine, etc.

Wish us luck!!!

A Cause that Has Touched My Heart ... AHOPE


As you may notice, there is an usual amount of posts today (given that we have been pretty lazy overall!). You can chalk that up to being verrrrrrrry slow at work. So, I am going to take the time now, while I have it, to provide some information about some things that are very important to me. And I'm sure that I am inviting fate to just SLAM me with work after this, so I guess I better get this all in now! =)

As I discussed in my last post, our world has really changed in the last few months. My eyes have been opened to the rest of the world and certain causes have wedged their way into my heart. One of those is AHOPE.

Very early on in our adoption process, I found out about AHOPE. AHOPE Ethiopia is an orphanage in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, devoted solely to HIV+ children. Currently, AHOPE is home to about 80 orphans from age 1 to 13. It was started back in 2002 by our adoption agency, Adoption Advocates International, but it had a different name at the time. At some point, AAI transferred it over so now AHOPE Ethiopia is funded by a non-profit organization out of Washington state, AHOPE for Children. Though AHOPE is now independent from AAI, AAI and AAI families are still very involved in supporting AHOPE. I'm very glad we became aware of it.

Why do I put so much value on this organization? Well, as most people know, HIV is running rampant thoroughout Africa. There is an estimated 6 million orphans in Africa, many who have been orphaned due to the AIDS crisis. At the beginning of the decade, AAI was finding that approximately one in six children that were admitted at their orphanage, Layla House, were HIV+. AHOPE was started as a safe haven for these children.

Unfortunately, the stigma of HIV in Ethiopia (and throughout much of Africa) is still very strong - much stronger than even here in the U.S. (and it is still pretty bad here - see this story). Up until just a few years ago, HIV+ children were not allowed to attend public school. They were often (and still are) shunned in public, treated like lepers.

In 2004, something really great happened. Jane Aronson, the famed "Orphan Doctor" came to Addis - and she brought life saving medicine! For the first time, life-saving antiretrovirals medication was avilable to the children at AHOPE. When AHOPE started, fundraisers tried to raise enough money for each child's funeral - now they began raising money for medicine. These kids had hope. They were living, thriving! And starting in approximately 2005, they were even available for adoption in some countires, including the United States. (Click here for a short clip from a documentary about the adoption of HIV+ children.)

AHOPE has done a world of good for these children! They have a chance at life. In April, we committed to sponsoring two children at AHOPE, Eden (pronouced Aiden) age six, and Sebse, about 18 months. I can't post their pictures online for privacy reasons, but they are beautiful children. Sebse has a sister, Berkat age 2.5, who is also HIV+. For only $30/month we are able to contribute to their health and well being. Once we heard that - well, we just couldn't justify NOT doing something. After all, we can spend more than that on pizza in a month!

Now, I'm not suggesting that you are a bad person if you don't immediately run out and sponsor a child at AHOPE! Everyone has their own things to support and you can't wear yourself too thin. But if you are, like we were, looking for something where you felt you had a direct impact on a child's life, this is a great option at an affordable price.

Please keep these children in your thoughts and prayers.


Perspective


I can honestly say that my life changed this past March. I can't pinpoint the exact day, but once we decided to adopt from Ethiopia, it was like a veil was lifted. I began to open my eyes and really see what extreme poverty, hunger, and disease is out there, both around the world and far too close to home.

Far from making me unhappy or uncomfortable, it has made me appreciate things so much more. Sure, sometimes I look at my big house, my fancy school district, my plush job and I get a little angry - angry at myself, angry at the world that is just so unfair and uneven. And, more often than I care to admit, I forget about all of those people - halfway around the world and in my own city - that are going to bed hungry. Personally, I am working on making awareness part of my daily life, trying to figure out what my place is in this world. What I am supposed to accomplish while I am here... I'm sure that will take time to work out. but having just started this journey within myself is terribly exciting!

I ran across this link while looking at someone else's blog. It only takes a few minutes to view the slide show. But it really puts things into perspective - what if the world only had 100 people in it, how would those people be broken up, how many haves vs. the have-nots?

I encourage you to take a look at it, if only to remind yourself, for a moment, that we are a nation full of haves. We are lucky. Even when things are hard, we can be thankful for the great friends and family we have, the clean water, the warm homes. The rest will fall in line...

Monday, August 13, 2007

What a treat!

We had such a nice surprise this weekend - not once, but twice! Friday and Saturday we were pleased to find emails from a traveling parents with new photos of Abi! Not only that, but they were same day! It was so surreal to look at these pictures of him and know that they were taken only a few hours previously. And we've been told we should also get a few others, along with a little bit of video, when they return. THANK YOU CHARLOTTE!

It is just amazing how such a small act of kindness by one person can brighten my whole week. And, even though we can't post those photos here, you'll all be pleased to hear that Abi is looking very healthy (and chubby!). December seems so far off!!! I'm sure it will be here before I know it though... right?

Monday, August 6, 2007

Some news perhaps? And other ramblings...

It sounds like our welcome bag should be headed to Ethiopia in about 2 weeks. Yeah! Not exactly as quick as we'd hoped, but since it is SO expensive and complicated to mail anything to Ethiopia, all these bags must go over with an agency worker and we happened to hit a dry spell.

So why is this 'big' news?

Abenezer will (finally!) know he has a family! I wonder what he will think? What could possibly go through a three year old's mind when being told such news? Excitment, fear, confusion - all of that and more I'm sure. What an overwhelming thought - a new family, a new country.

We also know of at least one family traveling in the near future who plans to get photos for us. We are so excited! I can't wait to see if he's grown, if his hair has grown out at all or if they are keeping it pretty short. Is he happy? So many questions...

Mark and I attempted to go to IKEA this past weekend. We have a list of things we want to get done before we head to Africa in a few months, including getting the kids' rooms all set with a bit of new furniture. Unfortunately, we figured by the time we packed both girls up to go, we wouldn't have enough room to bring anything home! We had to settle for buying a few picture frames to liven up our family room. We've also been hounding Craigslist like crazy looking for good deals! Anyone have a couple of great dressers they want to get rid of?

I think this is my nesting phase. Right now, the courts are preparing to close in Ethiopia and we won't have any news (at least not on the legal front) until October at the earliest. Yikes! That is a long time!!! So, I'm trying to fill that void in some way. I know that this whole process has moved very quickly and so many people keep saying that Christmas is really not that far away. But this is even worse than when I was pregant and waiting for the end (and anyone that knows me will realize it is a big deal for me to say that since I HATED being pregnant!)

The difference is, when I was pregnant with my girls I knew they were safe and comfortable. As a matter of fact, both of them, but especially Al, made sure they were comfortable by moving my internal organs to suit their needs! But with Abenezer ... I don't know anything! Every little shred of information that someone shares with us lights up our whole day. A new photo or small story makes our week. A few weeks ago a traveling parent was kind enough to share a photo of her holding him - and we finally got to see him smile! That made my July!

It is harder than I ever dreamed to know that I have a son half a world away. He could be lonely. Hungry. Crabby. Sick. And I can't do a thing about it. He might be happy or excited! And I can't share it. I'm missing it...