Sunday, February 28, 2010

To the Ends of the Earth

Saturday I got a letter from the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security. I eagerly ripped it opened, sincerely hoping it was our final approval from them for our international adoption (our I-600A); it was instead a step back.

It was a notice that I need to come in on a certain day and time to be re-fingerprinted because the first prints they did on me could not be processed. The fingerprints are "rolled" meaning they don't just ink you and stick your finger on the paper. It is done electronically so there is no ink, but each of your fingers is rolled manually by the technician from basically nail bed all the way across to the other nail bed on a computer pad. The person adjusts and realigns your fingers over and over, even applying lotion occasionally to get a good contact with the computer reader. It is not the most fun process! As the man did my fingerprints the computer rejected them a few times and several of my fingers were redone even more than once there on the spot. The technician said my narrow fingers were complicating things! But I expected once the computer was happy with them all that would be the end of it. Wrong!

And still we wait on the FBI clearance. A whole separate thing and a whole different government agency! When we turned in that paperwork 9 weeks ago the estimated processing time was less than 6 weeks, then it became 8 to 10 weeks and the last time I checked their website it had been updated to 13 weeks! These processing times are not just for us, but anyone needing FBI clearance. The massive snowstorms that have closed down much of the country in the past couple of months haven't helped.

Setbacks, delays, and waiting are all parts of the adoption process; they are certainly not unique to our story.

As an elective I took a class on persuasion techniques in college and one technique in particular I remember was that if you ask someone to do you a favor (and the bigger, the better), you will increase your standing in their eyes as a result. I hate asking people for favors, so this idea was fascinating to me. The reason it works is because if the person actually does something for you (and particularly if it is a lot of work) then subconsciously they justify their efforts by thinking, "I'm doing this because this person is important."

God knows we are wired like this because He created us. This is one reason why newborns are so helpless. When we do so much work caring for our newborn children the work is actually bonding us to them. The pregnancy and labor and sleepless newborn nights bonded us to our biological children.

And so as I try to make some sense of the craziness of an adoption process, I realize the paperwork, the headaches, the waiting, the work and rework are all actually bonding us to this child that will one day be ours.

She is important, she is worth it.

And so we march on with the realization that we would wait years if it came to that, do all the paperwork over again, even, for a child we've never met.

I now understand the quote I've heard but have no idea the source, "Biological children grew in your tummy; adopted children grew in your heart."

At church this morning I was surprised to hear the soloist sing the song "To Make You Feel My Love". It is not a typical church song, but oh, was it beautiful. And so related to an adoption journey, although that wasn't the topic covered this morning.

Bob Dylan, forgive me for quoting some of your lyrics:
"When the evening shadows and the stars appear and there is no one there to dry your tears, I could hold you for a million years, to make you feel my love."

"I know you haven't made your mind up yet, but I would never do you wrong, I've known it from the moment that we met, there's no doubt in my mind where you belong."

"There's nothing that I wouldn't do. Go to the ends of the earth for you."

I pray there is someone to dry her tears right now and that she feels loved. I realize that even once we can bring her home, it may take a while for her to make her mind up that it is home and where she belongs. I guess Ethiopia is technically not the ends of the earth, but from Texas, it certainly seems like it!

This post is part of the Moms' 30-Minute Blog Challenge.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Naked Phase

Do you know the naked phase?

Toddlers usually hit it somewhere around age 2.5 years and while in this phase they delight in being naked and at random points during the day they will strip down and then do victory laps around the house because they are so pleased with their naked selves.

"Why are you naked?" becomes an often-heard question around the house.

My daughter was the queen of the naked phase because she had the dexterity and fine motor skills to get all her clothes off (every single stitch of clothing) in a second.

As toddler phases go I really don't mind this one too much. Sure, there is the aspect of "I'm doing good to dress all 3 of you people plus myself once each day, and now somebody needs to be redressed?!!" But, truly I can think of far worse battles! If we're at home, especially if it is towards the end of long day, I've been known to just let the toddler be naked, or half-dressed. Hey, at least they're not playing in the street!

But my husband? Is not a fan of the naked phase. "You can only be naked in your room or in the bathroom!" is his unwritten, but much repeated rule.

My 3rd child is entering the naked phase, but this ever-lingering winter is really interfering with his plans for life without clothing. Just a couple days ago when the temperature was in the 30s, I set out to dress the toddler for the day and he refused his shirt, "Only when I want to wear a shirt!" My 4 year old daughter was distraught, "He has to wear a shirt!" she cried. But I knew how this would play out. "Sure buddy, I'll take the shirt with us and you just let me know when you're ready to wear it." He got about 2 steps out towards the car in the 30 something degree weather and he decided he was ready to wear the shirt!

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Friday Fragments, Finer Things Friday, 7 Quick Takes Friday.
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How does God feel about orphans?

"Learn to do good; Seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow." Isaiah 1:17

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27

"When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands." Deuteronomy 24:19

"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling." Psalm 68:5

"God sets the lonely in families." Psalm 68:6a

“I will not abandon you as orphans, I will come to you." John 14:18

"To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more." Psalm 10:18

"Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not bring justice to the fatherless, and the widow's cause does not come to them." Isaiah 1:23

"Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute." Psalm 82:3

"He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing." Deut. 10:18

"And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do." Deut 14:29

"But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands; to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless." Pslam 10:14

"Your rulers are rebels And companions of thieves; Everyone loves a bribe And chases after rewards. They do not defend the orphan, Nor does the widow's plea come before them." Isaiah 1:23

Can we call ourselves followers of God and ignore these verses?
There are 147 million orphans in the world.

Love them, pray for them, visit them, feed them, speak out for them, care for them, provide for them, adopt them.

Find more Thankful Thursday, Thursday Thirteen

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Love Is In The Air

Have you ever wondered how to keep that Valentine's feeling all year 'round?

We are now a full 9 days post-Valentine's Day and the helium-filled foil balloon is still going strong in its spot at the highest ceiling point in our house where it drifted after a certain toddler (who got the balloon at church) took the string off.

The love?

It fills our home, ever hovering there above us!

Anyone wanna make a guess at how long 'til it comes down? My money's on 4th of July!

Find more Wordless or Wordful Wednesday.

Monday, February 22, 2010

What's best for them?

When I had my 3rd child, my 2nd child was only 20 months old.

My 2nd child, my daughter, was my clingiest baby and toddler of my 3 kids.

My boys were ready to walk on their own everywhere just as soon as they could. Not my daughter, she wanted to be carried all the time until she was two and a half. So there was a good 9 months after my 3rd child was born when I could be found either carrying 2 babies (my newborn one and my toddler one), pushing 1 in a stroller while carrying the other 1, or pushing both in a double stroller.

My boys both weaned themselves around 9 months old. My oldest just gradually started drinking less and less milk as he nursed over a month period. He was far too busy to focus on nursing. And my youngest just one day decided he was done, refused to latch on, and never did again. It was like, "I'm done with that, Mom!" But my middle child, my little girl? I weaned her around 12 months. It was my choice, not hers.

My boys both crawled really early at 6 months old and 5 months old. They had kitchen cabinets to unload!! My daughter? Was content to sit in the middle of a blanket and play happily and didn't crawl until she was 10 months old!

She is the one of my three kids that would have stayed my baby forever, I believe, had she been able to.

There have been many times I've wondered why God didn't allow her to be born last. Many times I felt guilty about having another baby so close in age to her and bumping her out of the baby position earlier than maybe she was ready.

But God? God knows what our kids need even more than we do. I think he knew that a fairly close-in-age baby brother was just what my daughter needed.

She's four and a half now. Today we had the spring conference with her pre-K teachers, and it couldn't have gone better. They had wonderful things to say about my daughter, and although she has an August birthday and will be a very young 5 year old to start kindergarten this fall, they believe she's 110% ready!

Two years ago, my little girl was a crying, withdrawn mess at school who didn't talk to her teachers ever the entire year! I really thought perhaps I had ruined her having another baby after her, but she's fine, even better, I believe, because of it!

I am writing this so I can remind myself of the message in about a year. As we've gotten further into our process of adopting a child from Ethiopia I've heard several stories of families who already had children and then adopted a child. The first few months after the adopted child came home they felt like they had ruined their family. The kids were all really difficult for a while as they were adjusting, but then after some time passed, the family emerged even better than it was before.
Jer 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

This post is part of the Moms' 30-Minute Blog Challenge.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

He'll be 7!

How is it that you are almost 7?

My first baby.

The biggest brother. Totally enthusiastic about us adopting "even 100" as you said, little sisters and brothers, but nobody older than you. We get this. We respect this. We are thankful you, at age six, could articulate so well what we already knew.

Ever the mastermind behind most of the games and imaginative play with your sister and brother. Mostly using your strong will for good, but also ever testing to see just how much of your world you can control. You wish you were in charge of the entire house and I have no doubt your dad and I will fight you on that issue until the day you leave home for college.

A numbers guy. You think in numbers. I cannot just tell you to clean your room. "How many things do I have to clean up?" you will ask. I explained the concepts of multiplication and division to you one time, well before you ever heard it in school, and you grasped it, loving to be quizzed on math problems aloud just for fun.

You are now officially better than your mom at basketball, but at least I can still beat you at a 50 freestyle swim!

As our firstborn every age you hit, every new thing you do, is new to us, it's a big deal. I realize this is a gift and a burden. You are foraging the way for your brother and sisters behind you. Teaching us how to be parents.

To think that seven years ago we had no children is amazing! We would never go back. Even though you see to it that we two non-morning people never sleep past 7AM, life with you as our son is better than we ever could have imagined! We are so proud of you and can't wait to see what God does with your life!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

So, you wanna be a Little League mom?

It's that time of year again . . .the beginning of baseball season. At our house, this week has actually been the uncomfortable straddling of the last week of basketball with the first week of baseball for my oldest. Thankfully, the overlap is only a week!

Since I have all of 2 years experience as a Little League mom I will share my vast knowledge in 13 points:

1. Allocate at least 2 hours for sewing on that Little League patch. To laugh at my past attempts, click here.

2. The patch goes on the left sleeve. I cannot tell you how many people arrived at my site in the last year by doing an internet search on "little league patch which side" and were sorely disappointed to find their question still unanswered as I lamented about sewing on the patch but never mentioned which side! So I'd like to give a big shout-out to all you devoted, computer savy, internet searching, Little League patch sewing on moms and say, it is left. The Little League patch should be sewn on the left shoulder of your little wonder boy's jersey! And use a thimble -- you're welcome!

3. During Little League season, the crockpot is your friend!

4. Be warned, you are about to spend hours in total outside on the bleachers watching your kid play. Baseball season can bring the weather extremes of uncomfortably cold and uncomfortably hot sometimes all within the course of one game. When in doubt, dress in layers and always err on the side of comfort, rather than fashion!

5. Although you enjoy watching the sport of baseball oh so much more than basketball, when you are either freezing to death or dying of heat stroke, you will be wishing for the days when your kid played an indoor sport!

6. If you have your toddler with you and you get engrossed in the game (or a conversation with another mom on the bleachers) for 45 seconds, you will find him right smack dab in the middle of a large mud puddle 50 yards away!

7. No matter how awesome the game is, the snack at the end will likely be the highlight for all the boys (at least up to age 8 or so).

8. Even though Tom Hanks said it best in A League of Their Own, there is usually some crying in baseball, especially Little League baseball. My experience, it is better to let the coach deal with it. Nothing worse than a mom on the field; if there is truly something broken or needing stitches, you will be called in!

9. Hear me out on this one moms, your boy does not care if his baseball pants are a pristine white. I believe they actually like them better with the grass and clay dirt stains on them so save your time and your stain removal tricks for a time when it really matters!

10. There is really not much cuter than a little boy in a baseball uniform!

11. Buy your son his own batting helmet and coach him to use only his helmet over and over again! I have a friend who is an elementary school teacher and she says every spring there are lice outbreaks with all those boys sharing baseball helmets!

12. If you are super paranoid about the lice (not that I am or anything!), then you can also persuade your husband into assistant coaching just so you know he'll be in the dugout to enforce the my-kid-will-wear-his-own-helmet-rule. But for this to work, you must also lecture your husband on the rule and the dangers of lice over and over again!

13. For all the hectic baseball season adds to your life as a mom, when you see your boy smile and wave at you from 2nd base, it is all worth it!

Find more Thankful Thursday, Thursday Thirteen , Things I Love Thursday & A Thousand Words Thursday.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

You know you're adopting when . . .

You know you're adopting when you begin taking pictures of your mail!

This letter inviting us to come be fingerprinted by Immigration is one of 3 big steps we have left before we'll be on the waiting list to be matched with our little girl in Ethiopia!

The other 2 are:
  • Still waiting on the FBI clearance, we sent our fingerprints to them (a lot of fingerprinting involved with adoption!) 7 weeks ago, but it seems most families are now waiting 8-10 weeks for their results instead of the 6 weeks or much less it used to take.
  • Then all we'll need is final approval from CIS (Citizenship and Immigration) which we should get a few weeks after we go in for the fingerprinting this week.

Find more Wordless or Wordful Wednesday.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Embellish a t-shirt!

Believe it when I say, if I can do a craft, nearly anyone can do it!

My daughter has some cute red print pants but was lacking in shirts to go with them.

So here's what I did:

I bought a basic plain white long-sleeve t-shirt for cheap, got inspiration from the flowers on this dress and added my own red rosettes.

To make the flowers, I cut 1 inch wide strips of fleece from an old sweatshirt my boys had outgrown. I twisted and wrapped the strip of fleece until it looked like a flower. Then I just hand sewed the flower together and very simply hand stitched the 3 different rosettes to the shirt.
So easy, and the result was a custom t-shirt that was just perfect to match the pants she already had!

I made a matching hair clip by putting three rosettes together.

Easy, cheap, and my daughter got compliments when she wore the outfit -- definitely my kind of craft!

This post is part of the Moms' 30-Minute Blog Challenge.

Check out Gratituesday, Tuesdays Unwrapped, Tackle it Tuesday, Try and Tell, and Works for Me Wednesday.

The dogs are taking over!

I love Not Me! Monday (a blog carnival created by MckMama) because it gives us all a chance to relate in a real, every day life kind of way. You can head over to her blog to read what she and everyone else have NOT been doing - but really have!

Around here:

A stuffed bulldog is NOT threatening to take over the place!

In case you can't read his shirt, here is a close up of the words "I've decided to put myself in charge."

And the real dog in the right background of the first picture? Does NOT wake us up at 5:30AM to go out every morning. NO, we have 3 young children who sleep through the night, there is NO WAY we are getting up with our dog at 5:30AM! And by "we" I do NOT mean my husband. I do NOT rationalize that I paid my middle-of-the-night-dues during the infancy days of our 3 children!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What does Valentine's look like in your house?

Would you like an illustration of what Valentine's looks like in the Chaos Household?

Want to know what completely saved my sanity at about 6PM tonight? This website with a template for making the lollipop flowers I'd envisioned for my daughter's Valentines for her preschool class. Because when it came to crunch-time (6PM the night before she needed to bring 15 Valentines to school) I realized that for the life of me, I could not actually draw a flower shape! I tried over and over with all 3 of my kids looking on (well, Toddler alternated watching with licking the black marker and stealthily grabbing the scissors so he could wave them around). And just at the very moment I would have broken down and run to the store and bought some factory produced Valentines had it not been so cold and rainy and I'd already had to venture out in all the weather 3 previous times today, I had an epiphany!

The Internet is my friend! And sure 'nough, exactly 30 seconds of searching landed me this free printable template for flower lollipop valentines! Seriously, how did people mother without The Internet?

Here's our final result:

It would have been prettier had I not been simultaneously petting my 2 year old's imaginary pet snake ("He's right there Mommy, pet him! PET HIM! He's nice!), helping my 6 year old decorate a shoebox to take to school to collect the Valentines passed out by classmates, and reheating last night's dinner to present as dinner again tonight!

I know I have not blogged on the boyfriend vs. boy friend preschool saga in a while, but that is not at all because it has gone away. My 4 year old came home with this today from her friend-who-happens-to-be-a-boy.

But really, this is all the Valentine's pre-show. For the real Valentine's Day, we actually have a babysitter! For the 1st time in I don't know how long, we will not celebrate Valentine's Day many days earlier or later when we can happen to find a sitter. I am happy to say, this Valentine's Day dinner I will not cut anybody's food or hear, "What do I have to eat to get dessert?" or have occasion to say, "We don't lick the salt shaker!"

Happy Valentine's Day, y'all!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Best Kind of Changed!

It is really the strangest thing, we have not yet adopted a child from Ethiopia, but I can honestly say, just getting this far into the process of adopting a child from Ethiopia has been a huge blessing to our family!

As we drove home in the car the other day, my 4 year old daughter suddenly (we were not talking about the subject) said, "Mommy, when I grow up I'm going to adopt a little girl from Ethiopia!"

Soon after she also announced that she wanted to be a puppy dog when she grew up to which my 6 year old informed her she could not be, and World War III broke out in the back of my SUV making me wish for the partition that limo drivers have to seal off the driver compartment from the noise of the rest of the vehicle. But then I may have missed those
13 words:

"When I grow up I'm going to adopt a little girl from Ethiopia."

And those words are yet another precious illustration of what the process of adopting a child into our family has done
for our family.

I think I could talk all day for months and months about loving others - people who are not your family or even your friends but people created and loved by God just the same - to my kids and not get through to their hearts at all. But this adoption process has changed all of us in ways I never would have expected.

We are thinking more about other people, loving them, even. I believe it is one thing to feel compassion for people in need, people from other parts of the world, and it is a whole other thing to think of those people as your family.

We bought those Africa shirts in the picture above through Children's Hopechest and they are in turn providing shirts and a pair of shoes to 5 orphans in Ethiopia. When I imagine those children getting their new things, they are not just children, orphans in a far away place. No, now that orphan is potentially
my child, my daughter, getting shoes for the first time in her life to protect her little feet. And it all becomes very personal.

My 6 year old son keeps giving me little bits of his money from his bank or his allowance, "This is to help pay for the adoption, Mom," he tells me.

How many times have I prayed for God to create in my children selfless, generous, loving hearts?

I never imagined he'd do it like this, but God's ways are always better than ours, aren't they?
"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways." Isaiah 55: 9

Find more Thankful Thursday, Thursday Thirteen & A Thousand Words Thursday.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Great Pickle Juice Flood of 2010

I opened and closed my fridge several times this morning as I packed lunches and made breakfast. And the first few times I thought as I closed it, "Something does not smell right!" By the end of the lunch packing/breakfast making routine I had the thought in the back of my mind, "You know, I think it smells like pickles."

But in my non-morning-person mind, that is where the thought ended. It wasn't until late-morning, after 1.5 cups of coffee, when I began preparing lunch for the child who wasn't eating at school, that it occurred to me that the pickle smell was VERY STRONG, unusually strong!

And so I investigated and found way at the back of the top shelf, a pickle jar on its side in a pool of pickle juice.

I may or may not have shut the fridge and put off dealing with the mess until approximately 9 hours later.

When I unhappily discovered the top shelf pickle juice flood had overflowed into each and every shelf and drawer in the fridge, spreading its odorous green slime over canned drinks, milk jugs, egg cartons, apples, & oranges. But the best surprise was when I pulled out the lowest refrigerator drawer and discovered pickle juice lake (picture above) at the very bottom of the fridge.

I'm sure you'll be shocked to know that after cleaning it all and putting everything back, my fridge still smells like pickles!!!

Find more Wordless or Wordful Wednesday.

Monday, February 8, 2010

They had to try it!

This afternoon when I put my toddler in two minutes of time-out (he threw a toy across the room), he decided to try out some new tactics.

The first 30 seconds he spent yelling, "But I love you Mommy! I love you!"

I ignored him.

Realizing that wasn't going to work, he switched tactics and began yelling, "I don't love you! I don't love you!"

I ignored him.

So, he saw the need to try yet another tactic. His sister had just minutes earlier gotten some attention for complaining that her leg hurt. So for his final 45 seconds in time-out he yelled, "My leg hurts! My leg hurts!"

Only in my mind did I commend his efforts!

Then there is my 4 year old daughter who has for the last several weeks been trying out a new, totally different tactic of her own.

It is the loud-and-dramatic-crying-when-she-doesn't-get-her-way tactic. She began using it on her brothers. I remember the first few times those boys were so surprised at her pitiful crying that they immediately caved and began going above and beyond to make her happy again.

But, by about the 5th or 6th time, both her big brother and her little brother didn't seem as phased by her crying outbursts. I suppose boys without sisters have to wait until they are dating to learn that girls sometimes try to control people with their tears!

Then she tried it on me.

I ignored her until the crying went on for an annoying amount of time (I think I max out around 6 or 7 minutes). And then I told her that I'd be glad to talk to her about why she was upset when she was calm, but if she still needed to cry she'd have to go to her room because it was hurting my ears. When she realized I wasn't going to cave to the tears, she quit.

I love the moments in parenting when your kids are so transparent you can see exactly what is going through their heads and you know just how to handle it. Sometimes those moments feel really rare and I am just frustrated by their behavior and at a loss as to how to handle it, so I am thankful for the times I clearly see it and for the laughs my husband and I can have at their expense after they've gone to bed!

This post is part of the Moms' 30-Minute Blog Challenge.

Check out Gratituesday & Tuesdays Unwrapped.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Teaching what I don't know

I love Not Me! Monday (a blog carnival created by MckMama) because it gives us all a chance to relate in a real, every day life kind of way. You can head over to her blog to read what she and everyone else have NOT been doing - but really have!

Around here (when I was NOT digging through the dirty laundry to retrieve my 6 year old's basketball uniform to present to him to wear as if it were clean):

I did NOT teach my toddler to go pee-pee standing up last week.

I did NOT already complain about the conditions of the bathrooms in my household with 2 people going while standing up, so there is NO WAY I'd encourage the addition of a 3rd person with less than stellar aim! NO, NOT ME!

There was NOT a point where my 2 year old son was poised standing on the stool in front of the potty with me and my 4 year old daughter in there coaching him. "Now lift up the seat like this before you go." "Point it in the potty!" "Maybe you're holding it too tight!" "Make sure it goes in the water not on the side!" "Good! Look, you're doing it!" "Are you sure that's all the pee-pee?" "Then put the seat back down." "And wash your hands!"

His sister and I do NOT expect a thank you note from his wife in about 30 years!

And I do NOT expect the therapy bills in a few years when the trauma of being coached in the bathroom by his mother and his sister come back to haunt my son!

But for now, my toddler is NOT extremely proud of his new ability and was NOT eager to show it off to his Sunday School teacher first thing when I dropped him off this morning!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Adoption is certainly not labor-free!

Remember this post I wrote last weekend? Praise God, Ronel is home! Just tonight! He is not an orphan in Haiti any more!

If you didn't read the backstory, you should, you totally should! God writes better stories than Hollywood! The image of Ernest Parker leaving his comfortable home in Houston to fly to earthquake ravaged Haiti to rescue the son he had been in the process of adopting and sleeping on the embassy floor with 8 year old Ronel for over a week fighting for that boy, assuring him he wouldn't leave without him . . . Well, I can't help thinking it is probably as close an earthly picture as you can get of how God loves us, adopts us, rescues us, never leaves us and redeems our lives from the rubble! And if you were part of the media/technology blitz, it worked! Twitter tweets, emails, phone calls all went out to tons of government and news officials on behalf of this family to the point that officials told them they were so tired of hearing about them that they wanted them out of Haiti!

And now 7 updates on our adoption from Ethiopia:

- We finished all the paperwork required by our agency, passed our homestudy and are officially approved by Gladney!

- We have been working on our dossier that will be sent over to Ethiopia for about 6 weeks. A dossier is a whole 'nother bunch of documents that all have to be notarized and then authenticated 5 times (not kidding). We are using a service that is helping us compile all the paperwork and get it authenticated. We did finally get that bank letter I complained about a couple weeks ago, but only because a friend knew someone high up at the bank that got us some special attention. Now we've moved on to other headaches! But as hard as the process is, at least I don't have to gain 20 to 40 lbs and experience all the discomforts of pregnancy and childbirth to bring this child into our family!

- We sent in our fingerprints for FBI clearance Dec. 27th and are currently waiting on those results. Also, we're waiting on our appointment to be fingerprinted for CIS (Citizenship & Immigration Services) who will (after getting our fingerprints) then issue us approval to bring an adopted child into the country. We hope to have all this in the next couple months and then be on the official waitlist.

- We are requesting a girl age 0 to 30 months. Since there is more of a demand for infants, we are expecting she will be in the older end of that range. The average wait time before a referral (when you are matched with a specific child) for a child over 12 months old with our agency is 4 months (for children 0-12 months it is 8 months).

- Once you accept the referral you wait 1-2 months to get a court date which is then usually 1 month or so later. You do not travel to Ethiopia for court, but are represented by a lawyer from the agency. Once you pass (it is rather common for the judge to order additional paperwork on the child and that could delay things by a couple months) court then you travel to pick up the child 3-6 weeks after passing court. Ethiopia only requires adoptive parents to make the 1 trip to the country and the stay in country is about a week.

- I am a planner and would love to be able to pinpoint an exact date when we will bring our new daughter home, but as you can see, that is impossible (Did I mention also that the Ethiopian courts close for about 6 weeks in the early fall for the rainy season? So nobody clears court during that time.), rather I have a range of some time in the next 14 months, most likely late 2010.

- We are trusting God's timing. His plans are always better than ours!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I'm loving my shorter grocery list!

Over the past year I've made it a goal to live more simply and basically, especially getting away from processed foods when possible.

I knew it would save money and be a healthier option for my family, but some benefits I didn't anticipate are shorter grocery lists and easier shopping trips. When I'm just buying basics like flour, eggs, and milk there are several aisles I can skip all together! Also, I love that my pantry is less cluttered without all the mixes and prepackaged stuff!

13 things I no longer buy:
  1. Paper napkins - switched to cloth, I do laundry nearly every day anyway, so it's no trouble to throw them in with a load. I'm using white ones we already had and bleach them every now and the then.
  2. Sandwich bread - making my own bread now, like this recipe and this one
  3. Pop tarts - the kids always asked for them at breakfast but ate less than half most days, I just quit buying them and after a couple days nobody even missed them! I usually have homemade muffins, hard-boiled eggs, bagels etc. if they want something to go with their cereal.
  4. Hamburger buns - if you try this recipe you'll never be able to go back to the store bought!
  5. Hot chocolate - so easy to make your own mix
  6. Cake mix, brownie mix, muffin mix - cheaper and not much harder to make from scratch
  7. Icing/frosting in a tub - so easy and yummy to make your own!
  8. Microwave popcorn - Did you know it takes the same amount of time to make it from the kernels on the stove?
  9. Pre-sweetened adult yogurt (I haven't yet weaned the kids off their squeeze yogurt) - I buy the large tub of plain organic yogurt and sweeten it at home with this recipe.
  10. Pre-made pizza crust - Love this recipe to make it from scratch, but substitute wheat flour for half the white flour.
  11. Hummus - it is so expensive to buy this pre-made; use this recipe
  12. Wheat crackers - gotta love a 5 ingredient recipe (and 1 of those ingredients is water!)
  13. Shredded cheddar cheese - it tastes much better and is usually cheaper to buy the block and shred it yourself!

Find more Thankful Thursday & Thursday Thirteen & Works for Me Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Doesn't chocolate cure everything?

A couple months ago my 4 year old was complaining that her tummy hurt, so I let her stay home from school. She was still fairly active and bouncy so I wondered about just how sick she really was, but there was a time over a year ago when I sent a child of mine to Sunday School when he was acting very bouncy but complaining his tummy hurt. Let's just say I learned my lesson when they called my husband's cell phone mid-way through to come get him because he was throwing up.

But with my daughter this time, my she's-really-not-sick suspicions were confirmed mid-morning when she came running over to me with a large Hershey's bar exclaiming, "
This will make my tummy feel better!!!"

I just had to snap a picture to document her cure for tummy troubles!

Find more Wordless or Wordful Wednesday.

On Blogging

Today's Works for Me Wednesday has a theme this week: blogging tips. And I am pretty much no help.

I've been blogging for just over a year and there are still so many aspects of it that I am clueless about.

I wrote this on my blog last year, "There is a lot to learn about this blog world --, comments, memes, carnivals, RSS feeds, widgets, gadgets, trackback, ping, permalink -- ya'll it's more chaos than even my home!"

And it is pitiful to report that I still have not had time to figure out some of those things, but the good news and my encouragement to newbie bloggers is that you can still blog without knowing all that stuff.

A big question I get is how do I find the time to blog, so here comes the answer . . .

I watch almost no TV.

(Lost is an exception and yes, it starts back tonight so I have got to get off the blog and on the DVR!)

Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, The Bachelor, The Office? Have all passed me by! Occasionally I'll hear people make references to the popular shows and I just stare blankly.

In the evenings instead of unwinding with an hour of TV that leaves me feeling rather unfulfilled, I write and read what other people write. I love the memories I've captured for myself and my kids on my blog. I love the people I've connected with through blogs. I can honestly say the blog world has made me a better homemaker.

I've learned to meal plan better, bake my own bread, schedule my day, repurpose, organize, sew a little, and laugh a lot at situations that might otherwise make you cry.

I've learned that I am not alone. I see other moms every day at my kids' schools, activities, etc. but when our kids are around it is hard to share more than half a sentence much less an entire story or lament about the 3 week old bag of grapes I found in the back of my SUV! But I read your stories and am so comforted that I am not alone in what goes on in my mom world. Just today Beth blogged about a poop incident and I can so empathize!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Seriously Specific Signs!

Last fall when we began the process to adopt a child from Ethiopia, one of the hardest aspects for us was the idea of telling our family.

My husband and I both grew up in families of two kids, a boy and a girl. So even just announcing when we were pregnant with our 3rd child was a little weird, and we did get the occasional, "You guys already have a son and a daughter, why have another one?" But, now we were breaking the news that not only were we trying for a 4th child, but we were. . .

adopting this one . . .

from Ethiopia!

One day during this early-adoption-process phase before we'd told anyone besides our kids and our adoption agency, my husband and I were driving with our children to a function a little over an hour north of our home. While in the car we were discussing the idea of telling people about the adoption and debating how we thought certain people would respond.

We were unsure of exactly the right exit to take off the freeway and got off too soon but we couldn't get back on, instead we found ourselves following a complicated detour due to some road construction. We were still talking, but I was also intently monitoring each residential street we passed to try to see if we could use it to escape the detour and get back to the main road easier.

At this point and for a several minutes prior we had been talking specifically about my husband's parents and how we thought they'd take the news of our plans to adopt.

And then it happened.

We passed a street with the same name as his mother's first name.

And the very next street had the same name as his father!

Seriously! I couldn't make this stuff up.

What are the chances that while we are worrying about how my husband's parents will take the news of our adoption, we would pass streets with their names, one right after the other?!!

Only God!

He is so involved in our lives that even details like street names are not too small for Him to speak through.

I love the verse, Isaiah 49:16, "Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me."

To me this means that God cares so specifically for each of us that our names (my name and yours) are inscribed in the palm of His hands and our issues (walls) are always at the forefront of His concern.

Do I believe that God spoke to us that day through a wrong exit, a detour, and street signs to assure us that He was with us on this adoption journey? Yes, absolutely! And my husband's parents? Took the news beautifully!

For His presence in the extraordinary and ordinary moments of my day-to-day life, I am so grateful!

This post is part of the Moms' 30-Minute Blog Challenge.

Check out Gratituesday & Tuesdays Unwrapped.