Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Stockings

The Christmas before my son, Gaven, was born my parents bought us a trio of nice, needlepoint stockings. My husband (Max) and mine had our names embroidered. Since we didn't have our son's name yet (he was to be born in January, right after Christmas) he didn't have a name on his. Gaven's is the one on the far right - the single snowman. Following the same tradition, this year I decided to buy and hang a "matching" stocking for our son-to-be. His is the other blue stocking with the 3 snowmen. Gaven helped me pick it out. We bought it from the same place as the others... he thought it was the best match because it was blue like his and had a snowman. Gaven can go on and on pointing out all the things all four have in common, just the boys have in common, just him and this brother... and on!

I hung our son-to-be's stocking right in the mix with ours even though he will not be coming home for Christmas. His stocking will remain empty. However, I'm filling it with prayers. It is a visual reminder that he is in our hearts this Christmas. It's hard.

It's been a rough month for me thinking about our son in Rwanda and yearning for the time he will be here with us. We have had 2 friends bring their son's home recently, one from Ethiopia and one from Rwanda. Although our families haven't gotten together yet, hopefully soon after the busy holidays, I have been able to connect via phone and email. It makes me long for my son too! These families were at least 9 months ahead of us their adoption process so it's like getting a glimpse into my future. We also had some friends over for dinner who are VERY familiar with Rwanda. That stirred up my emotions too. Although the orphanage we are adopting from is very nice comparatively, it is still an orphanage and there are many issues that come with that. It's hard.

Adoption Update:
I called my case worker yesterday just wanting to check in and talk through some of my recent reflections with her. Her only update on Rwanda was that the first 30 families' files have been processed (although all may not have received their official letters yet because some of their fingerprints and other papers need to be updated first). Hopefully after the next batch of dossiers are processed we will have a better idea of when we can expect our dossier to be approved. I would LOVE to have our son home before summer vacation so that I can have that one-on-one time with him while my son is still in school. However, it isn't looking that way. After our approval it still can take a few months to get the referral (a match with our son) and then a few months before we travel. I can still hope and pray :)

In the mean time, I have asked our adoption agency if they can connect me with another family that adopted an older child. We requested a boy 0-4 years old. From what I have been told by several sources, it is common practice for an orphanage to match a family with their oldest age request - which make sense since most people probably request younger. So most likely, we will be up matched with a 4 1/2 year old. I would love to talk with a family, who adopted a similar age, about their experiences in the country with their child and the first few months. My husband and I also plan to take a course our agency is offering to their families who have or are adopting an older child. So I just keep trying to educate myself and prepare. Our pastor made a comment once that stuck in my brain "Plan for the worse and hope for the best." That's what I'm doing, I'm being proactive and learning as much as I can (without physically being in the situation yet) assuming our child may have attachment, trust, food, sensory and developmental problems as a result of the trauma he has experienced in his short, precious life. Despite the heaviness of it all I remain hopeful. God has NEVER let me down and I trust He NEVER will no matter what the situation is at any given moment.

"Delight yourself in the Lord and He WILL give you the desires of your heart." This Bible verse has been my life mantra since become a Christian. It is a source of comfort and truth. I must first delight myself in the Lord. The word delight reminds me of the desire, spontaneity and pleasure of communing with God- not a drudgery duty or obligatory task. I have found that as a result of spending time getting to know God through the Bible, He has showed me my hearts desires. Often they have been hidden by false desires of the world only to be discovered by my willing obedience and joyful service to others. I hold to this truth in the present and when thinking about the future.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My New Parenting Tool Box

There are many things to learn about parenting an internationally adopted child. Being a mommy to our future son from a Rwandan orphanage requires a different kind of parenting. There are many things that I will have to do differently. I thought I would do a mini series of posts about what I learned at my recent Trust Based Relational Intervention training for children from hard places and the effects their previous life trauma on them.

In this short video by Dr. Purvis, she gives a short summary of the bigger picture I hope to "unpack" and couple with practical tools for my new parenting tool box.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Adoption Training in Texas

Dr. Cross, me, Dr. Purvis
 Last week I was able to go with a few other ladies from my church to Dr. Purvis and Dr. Cross's professional training on how to connect with children who have been adopted internationally or in the foster care system. They are the authors of a wonderful book (that every foster/adopt parent should read) called 'The Connected Child'. I have been studying for this course for 2 months and it culminated with a one week intensive on the Texas Christian University campus. I learned so much! Hopefully, in the near future I will post about some of the things I learned. Our team of 4 are all part of our church's Orphan Care ministry. The hope is not only to learn how to best parent my future child but also to help develop a class for the foster/adopt parents at our church. Here's a little video about the sort of things we were about by Dr. Purvis.

Gladney Center for Adoption, Fort Worth, TX
I also had the opportunity to go to check out Gladney, my adoption agency. It was great to tour the facility and learn all about their history. They have a really nice display area in the front lobby telling their history with the artifacts, photos and videos. Something else I didn't know is that they also have an on site dorm for young moms who are planning to adopt their child to another family. Everyone I met had a genuine passion for their job - from the president to the dorm "mom". It was a very warm and caring place.

me & my case workers
 On Friday, my two case workers from Gladney, stopped by the training to have lunch with me! It was such a thrill to get to spend an hour just getting to know these 2 wonderful ladies on a more personal level. I feel like I have two new friends in Texas :)

Adoption Update
I don't have any new news on the time frame for our adoption. However, a Gladney attorney who just got back from assisting in Hauge training in Rwanda said that it was really good. She was impressed with their commitment to orphan care and their overall integrity. She said everyone was really positive and no one ever seemed down on adopting. Rwanda is trying to implement 1 church, 1 child in their own county and encourage domestic adoption. She also said Rwanda has already drafted some of their Hauge framework and hopefully by the beginning of next year they will have a good idea of an implementation date. Another good thing to hear is that they hired 2 more people to help process the current dossiers, although there is no new updates on that end of things. She did say the nuns at the orphanage are anxious to match families. So hopefully once we get our approval letter from Rwanda we will get a quick match.

Join in praying for orphans. You can go to this site where I am posting from God's Heart for the Orphans (a free prayer guide from our church). I've been adding facts and pictures to each days prayer to hopefully make an even deeper connection for the reader. Go here to check it out and let's pray together for the world's orphans! Together, as partners with God, we can change this global issue.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Please Pray With Me

This Sunday, November 7, 2010, is Orphan Sunday
It's an annual day set aside for rediscovering the importance that Jesus puts on caring for orphans. This virtue has been largely lost among the church today. This has not always been the case. The early Church was known for it's sacrificial care for widows and orphans. They knew that over 40 times in the Old Testament, God has commanded His people to care for orphans. They knew that Christ elevated children to a high place in His Kingdom. Caring for orphans was rightfully a part of the DNA of the young Body of Christ - to such a degree that to be Christian was to participate at least nominally in caring for orphans. It was the rare exception not to be. We need to get back to this principle.

I hope you will join me in praying for just a few minutes each day for the next 40 days on behalf of all orphans! Every morning (@ 6:00am), I will post a different, short 2-3 sentence prayer. You can personalize it as you feel led. I hope you'll commit to praying for 40 Days for our world's most vulnerable children...and together help bring God's heart back into the DNA of the church. Imagine going through life with no parents to speak love into your life, to help you blossom into the person God created you to be. They are often institutionalized, abused, neglected, hungry and forgotten. They are lonely, afraid and vulnerable. They are on the streets, in orphanages, and in OUR very own communities.

Please commit to this simple but eternally impactful action and let's see what God does!!! :) pass it on...

I'm not posting in on my blog. You need to go to I think if you subscribe there you will get the new prayer each day. You can also download it free from our church's orphan care website here

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Nutrition & International Adoptees

Recently, I viewed a webinar hosted by Adoption Learning Partners about nutrition and internationally adopted children. It is called Food for Thought: Impact of Poor Nutrition in Early Development. The course was only $15. You can still take the course, it's just taped verses live. It's about 1.5 hours, the first hour is lecture and the last 30 minutes is answering questions. As a Registered Dietitian, I was super excited about this course. I have tried researching the topic of malnutrition in internationally adopted children and found the scientific literature scarce. However, it is a growing area of research and focus so hopefully, we will see more and more evidence based practices.

One somewhat unrelated thing I learned from the webinar is that children from Korea are well feed institutionally (in orphanages). I don't know specifics but that is what the pediatric doctor said, a specialist in caring for international and foster care children. Apparently, they are not lacking nutritionally- sometimes they are even overfed! So interesting... I would love to learn more about what they do different there.

Here's some of the basics that I found interesting or important:
First, let me preface all of this nutrition stuff by saying the most important thing we can do for our child(ren) is give them a nurturing, safe, predictable, and sensory rich environment. Internationally adopted children tend to come from environments that are not only nutritionally deprived but social and sensory deprived. I'm leaving next week to finish the course I'm taking from Dr. Purvis at TCU and hope to share more about caring for our children when I get back. It's been a huge, huge resource and an amazingly practical amount of knowledge... Everyone who is (or has) adopted needs this information! OK... back to the nutritional aspect ...

If hunger is a problem in the country, the orphanages probably have an even greater hunger problem!
Growth and Orphanage Kids
We were shown 3 pictures of children and asked to guess the sex and age of each child. I guessed all boys ages 3,5 and 8. I was shocked to find out they were all girls ages 11,14 and 17! These were children raised in institutions. Obviously, growth failure is huge in children raised in orphanages. When compared to local children of matched social-economic status, institutionalized children were significantly smaller and the community children were in the normal ranges. I won't go into the details but it was fascinating to learn about the various factors of why this is the norm. I'm sure you can guess several of the reasons.
    Growing Once at Home 
    The good news is the catch-up growth is very substantial! There is typically great improvement in height, weight and head circumferences soon after they come home and are fed a nutritious diet. Head circumference is one of the best indicators of cognitive development later in life, so this is a good, good thing. This rapid catch-up growth is essentially complete after a year of being home with you. (Interesting side note: In gastric bypass patients the first year is also the greatest time of impact. The most rapid weight loss period is the first year.) Children often consume 200-300% over the RDA. The RDA is the Recommended Daily Allowance. So these kids are chowing down hard core! :) The doctor said not to worry about overeating the first year home (unless they are eating to the point of vomiting or hording- those are different issues and should be addresses differently). Give them nutritious foods (not empty calories AKA junk food).

    Micronutrient Deficiencies
    These vary by country (due to the regions food crops and consumptions) and probably even by orphanage (due to possible outside sponsorship). Typically, this doctor finds iron, zinc and vitamin D deficiencies. Cognition, social interaction and attachment can all be affected by these deficiencies. BUT since our children will be consuming more than enough of the RDA the greatest source of intervention in these areas (cognition, social interaction and attachment) will be YOU and ME - the parents! :) He said to have your child tested within 2-3 weeks after coming home.

    Overall, the best way to attend to our child(ren)'s diet is to feed them the best we can and don't make this an area of tension or battle. The doctor said "Give up the control"! Start with feeding them foods that they will eat and are are familiar then slowly add more variety and texture. For some kids, meal time may be an "icky" experience for them, depending on how and what they were fed at the orphanage. Textures may also be an issue for them, again, depending on how and what they were fed at the orphanage. A speech and language specialist may need to be contacted for help (tips and tricks) or if you are in a metropolitan area you may have the awesome ability to go to a feeding clinic! Or you may need be referred to a Registered Dietitian and asked to keep a 3 day food record to assess their diet's specific nutrient composition... The doctor actually said that! It's not a plug for RDs... at least not from me ;)

    The Q and A session was all over the place and answered many, many great questions. I thought this was a great resource and the price is great. I tried to just give a brief overview. There were a lot of research data and details I left out that I found helpful in understanding the bigger picture of nutrition in regards to both orphanage feeding and post adoption nutrition.

    Personal Note
    Hope you find this review helpful. On a more personal note: I just met a lady at work who adopted a brother and sister two years ago from Kazakhstan. The girl is in my son's third grade class! It was so fun to meet her. We both work at the school. She had read a "Praise" note I left on the teacher's work room bulletin board about how we received our 143 number! I am thrilled to get to know her. Seems like there is always an instant connection when meeting other adoptive parents. LOVE it!

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    I'm So Happy I Could Kiss A Giraffe!!

    Kissing a giraffe in Kenya 2006

    I just got word from our adoption agency this morning that we have a number! We are number (drum roll please).... 143!!! Yippie-yahoo. It's a big number compared to what I've read about from other families adopting from Rwanda but I am just so thrilled to finally get a number and "get in line"!

    I also have received word that 20 families received their non-objection letters. Which is what we are in line waiting for... it's basically a letter from Rwanda saying that we can adopt an orphan from their country. Congratulations to all those families!! After a family receives their non-objection letter, the nuns at the orphanage are given the family's paperwork and begin the process of matching the them to a child!

    All this can still take a while. I still don't really have a good idea of a time frame. But this is still fantastic news! As you know Rwanda temporarily has closed it's doors to accepting more applications for adoption while they transition into a new adoption process (from non Hauge to Hauge). We were not sure how this transition would effect the families who turned in their paperwork before this happened. I had heard they were hiring new staff and training them but didn't know if anyone would be working on the "old" stuff at the same time or if everything would be focused on the new path. Looks like they are starting to process dossiers again in the midst of the changes!! I think in another month we will have a good guess on a time frame. I was told they are renumbering the dossiers ahead of ours so hopefully I will get a new lower number soon! In the mean time I will praise God for the good news this Monday morning! :)

    Saturday, October 2, 2010

    Inspiration From Others Who Dream Big

    I was planning on writing about some of the great things I'm learning in my new class relating to adopting kids from hard places... but as I was reading blogs and came across this amazing lady... She is young- 20 years old I think. Her story is something like this: She decides wants to take a year between high school and college to live in Uganda. Her parents agree. She works as a local kindergarten teacher. She has taken in several children to raise and started a program to sponsor other kids so they can go to school (the schools are not free like in the U.S.) and have a feeding program. After her year, she returns home as she promised her parents and attends college. She soon realizes God wants her back home in Uganda. She breaks the news to her parents and returns. She now has over a dozen kids living with her and her program sponsors over 400 local children. I was amazed as I read her blog entries. She has loved and comforted the old and dying, assisted in birth, been given starving babies, sewn wounds together with stitches and all sorts of other things you can't imagine someone her age doing. Her heart beats for God's children- particularly the orphans. It is inspiring to read. Read her blog and check out her organization Amazima.

    I was told growing up that one person couldn't make a big difference in the world. That change had to come about through governments and political leaders. I remember coming out of high school wanting to be the change I desired to see in the world. Since I have come to know Christ personally, I have begun to experience the difference one life, saying "God, please use me" can make in the world. I have witnessed many people, making incomprehensible changes in the world. They are incomprehensible because they are just ordinary people (really!) who focus their life like a laser with a deep passion for hurting people and reliance on God... and God uses them in ways you just can't dream up. God's plan for your life is bigger than your dream for your life.

    I wonder what path God has for me and my dreams...

    He is continuing to lead us down the path of adoption from Rwanda. As you know we made the deadline of turning in our dossier to the Rwandan Embassy in the U.S. by Aug. 31 - truly by the hands of God (read my post about it... it was a crazy day, Aug. 30, 2010, running around getting county and state authentications and more!). As of September 15th, 2010 our dossier was checked into Rwandan government branch for adoptions (Ministry of Family and Gender Promotion is the official name)! This is a date that will be on my calendar every year and celebrated in honor of God's Mighty Hands.

    Thursday, September 16, 2010

    Dossier to Rwanda... Now What?!

    Dossier to Rwanda...
    Our dossier was delivered  to the Prime Minister's office on Wednesday, September 15, 2010. We are officially waiting for our non-objections letter (which is their approval for us to adopt from Rwanda)! It's just now starting to sink in that we made the August 31st deadline. I don't know if we will get a "get-in-line number" or how they plan to process things at this point in time.  Considering all that has happened, I'm happy just to begin the wait. One thing I do know is that they (Rwanda) has already started hiring and training more staff as they develop their new Hauge process. However, I don't know what that means as far as processing dossiers like ours that are waiting under the old non Hauge system. I think we will all have a better idea of time frames in another month or two once things start moving along again. One cool thing is, I learned this week is our adoption agency, Gladney, was asked to help with some of their training! What a great opportunity! If you are looking into adoption, I highly recommend Gladney. They are a Hague agency. I have had great case workers that have always called or emailed me back within a day- they will talk with me on the phone and answer all my questions and concerns with professionalism and care.

    Now What?!
    I signed up for a class with TCU (Texas Christian University) Institute of Child Development. It's called Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) Professional Training Program. It taught by Dr. Purvis, who wrote The Connected Child, in fact, the book is part of our curriculum. I was researching upcoming conferences about parenting as it relates to international adoptions. When I told my friend that I was thinking of going to a particular one she asked me to think about going to the TBRI training. She and a few others from our church's orphan care ministry were planning on going and invited me to join them. After looking it over, I was thrilled to go! This is just what I was looking for! God is providing me with excellent parenting tools. I already have a great kiddo and I'm an excellent mom (with God's grace and guidance) and I trust I will have another great kiddo and be an excellent mom to him as well. However, I do know from others who have already walked this path that children from hard places need extra special care and a commitment to helping them overcome their challenges. I want to understand all I can now and risk being over prepared so that everything my family does to get ready for our son, he will be set up to succeed.

    So for now I have homework to keep me busy! :)

    Tuesday, August 31, 2010

    YES!!! WE MADE IT!!!

    God did some MIGHTY miracles. You would be amazed at the long list I could type right now of all the works of God's hands in the last 24 hours! Our dossier is sitting at the Rwandan Embassy! We made the August 31, 2010 deadline! This was the most intense 24 hours of my life... I was pretty settled last week thinking things may not happen for a long time. I felt like God was telling me to just hang loose and not let my mind wonder to any conclusion on what the new deadline news meant. I kept praying and seeking Him and trying not to form a new plan but listen for God's whisper in the storm. Then yesterday, when I got that glimmer of hope that we could make the deadline- it all changed! Hope poured in- I could barely keep my emotions in check today (I had to put my head between my knees and breath deep a few times) as I waited and waited for the GOOD NEWS!

    I'm still processing all this and need to go eat! Thank you all for your encouragement and prayers. Every single one of them I treasure and made a difference.

    Hold on baby boy- the day is closer than we know!!!

    Monday, August 30, 2010

    Holding Our Breath with Hope in Our Hearts

    At about 10am today (Monday, August 30, 2010) I received a phone call from our adoption agency. Our case worker proposed long-shot way for us to get our dossier into the Rwanda Embassy in D.C. before tomorrow's deadline! The plan is/was for us to try and get our 2 medical forms authenticated in California and the rest of our completed dossier FedEx'ed overnight to a courier in DC. The courier would then take the documents to the State Department to get all of it authenticated at the Federal level. Then the courier would take it over to the Rwandan Embassy to be marked received August 31, 2010 (the deadline!). She said it's a long shot, everything needs to happen as planned along the way and it would cost us a pretty penny. I immediately said let's do it!

    Today's long shot activities went like this:
    I immediately took a quick shower and called friends to see if I could get someone to watch my son all day (with no notice). A few phone calls later - DONE!  Next, finding directions to the county clerk/recorder office to authenticate the medical papers- amazingly - the local branch right off the freeway can do it, (I know the way) - DONE! Get directions to the state department in Los Angeles, check traffic (amazingly there is no traffic) and print directions - DONE! Look up the couriers on the websites that the agency gave me (the agency's courier couldn't do it). I write down their phone numbers (I'll call on the way.) Pack my son's gear (bike, swimsuit, munchies), get my paperwork in order, stop by the bank to get cash (I have no idea what the cost of authentication and parking is nor the form of payment allowed). Drop my son off, we sing and talk all the way as I "play" happy mom, not freaking-out-pumped-full-of-adrenaline-can't-believe-this-is-happening-mom. - DONE! On the way to the county clerk's office I call (on my new cell phone, I barely know how to work), the courier numbers. No answers, left messages. Call back- someone picks up- YES! I tell him my situation, he says he can't do it (because he is max'ed out doing the same thing tomorrow!) but can give me the contact information for someone he thinks can. This man was awesome, he said if the contact couldn't do it he would help me find someone that would- what a God send! I called the referral- no answer, left a message. Got to the county clerk, short wait, maybe 5 minutes (seriously!) - DONE!. Headed up to Los Angeles. Called the guy again- he answered. Short conversation- he said YES he would give it a try. I told him to email me all the info to send the FedEx stuff to - DONE - got a courier! Got to the the state department- no traffic (never had that happen driving on the 5 North to Los Angeles). Took a number and waited about an hour. Got the forms authenticated at the state level. In the meantime my hubbie had looked up the nearest FedEx. I drove over there, made copies for my records and sent it off - DONE!!

    The lady we hired was able to do all the stuff she had to do to send the rest of our entire dossier, money orders for the state department and Rwanda Embassy and for the courier and anything else necessary. I'm sure her story is equally amazing. She is 3 hours later than us so she had to hustle! DONE!

    What's Next:
    The paperwork is on it's way to DC! Today's battle is won! We are praying and fasting for tomorrow's battle. Please join us in urgent, constant prayer. What I understand needs to happen:
    1. Our courier, Jeff D, to get the paperwork early and take it to the State Department for final, federal authentication. We have 20 documents. This is over the limit so please pray that like other families before us... the department does it anyway- quickly on the same day (in time to take it to the Rwandan Embassy).
    2. He takes it over to the Rwanda Embassy. That they accept it and each document is stamped received August 31, 2010.
    If this all happens, we are very hopeful we will join the other families with our dossier in before the deadline and will be approved to adopt. And because we will have made the deadline and thereby "grandfathered" in, our non-hague approval will be ok.

    It's been a wild day. I didn't even want to post this but my husband encouraged me so others can be praying. So if your reading this please start praying! I am also praying for the other families that may be doing the same. Please pray too for Rwanda's Hague transition to be swift, I know there are many families who are not as far along in the process to adopt from Rwanda and are mourning this uncertain time (my heart is with you). Thank you!

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010

    Uncertainty Will Certainly Happen

    We were still waiting for our I600A approval from the US Citizen and Immigration (CIS) allowing us to bring our child into the US after our Rwanda adoption. It has been 2.5 months (an unusually long wait). I finally got a status update from CIS and they need an official copy of a form they only received a copy of... which typically only needs the copy form but CIS has changed their approval process and so things are changing and what was isn't what necessarily what is.... However, it doesn't really matter at this point because bigger changes are happening...

    I wish my big news was just the apparent stack up of dossiers in Rwanda. However, we received "unofficial" news that Rwanda is planning to switch their adoption process from non-Hague to Hague. They may temporarily not be accepting dossiers after August 31, 2010 until this transition is complete. If this happens then all the "new" adoptions would have to be Hague compliant. So what does that mean for us? I don't know!?! We were only steps away from sending off our dossier. It's almost complete and authenticated- accept for the CIS approval we were waiting for. And unfortunately for us, our CIS approval was the 1600A form which is for non-Hague countries. We would need to start our CIS approval with a 1800A for Hague countries. Which means more paperwork, time and money (we would have to pay for the new approval, our fees don't transfer or anything totally cool like that!).

    That's it!!! That's all the news there is!!! I have a choice at this point... I can worry and stress and be upset or I can trust God has a plan. Not only a plan for me but a plan for Rwanda. This is bigger than me... as the first line in the book Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren reminds me "It's not about you." If God wanted us to get in before the Aug. 31st deadline He certainly could have arranged that. We have had many, many delays along the way. Honestly, I believe this is part of His plan. I don't know why, it doesn't necessarily feel good and wonderful-lol!- but it is what it is and I have to trust God and His Plan (not the idea of my own plan). He cares and understands more about the global orphan situation than I ever can comprehend. Becoming a Hague country for adoptions is a GOOD thing! The Hague Convention protects the children most of all. And with Rwanda being relatively new to adoption it's a good thing they are implementing this process so early in the game (so to speak). It means their orphans will be less vulnerable to being sold, exploited or trafficked. Is it inconvenient for me- yes, but is it the best thing in the bigger picture- yes.

    Sure the news is upsetting. It means we have to wait for more information... we don't know how long we will have to wait for more information... or what that information will mean to us and our adoption. I can let my mind wonder to all the "what ifs" and "then whats" and plan solutions and possible answers in my head but truly it's all in vain because one thing I have learned over and over in this adoption process is that uncertainty will certainly happen- I can count on that! Hopefully, more official news will come out next Tuesday, August 31st, 2010 and I can then begin to figure out what this all means to me personally.

    Friday, August 13, 2010

    Building Your Child's Library

    One of the last monthly conference calls from our adoption agency, Gladney, was about the benefits of using children books to help your child in a variety of ways. I LOVE books so I plan to build a wonderful library for my future child from Rwanda. I a wish list of books I have found on Amazon but haven't invested in anything yet. I am still enjoying building my own adult adoption library. Maybe in the near future I will post a listing of books I have benefited from and why. But until then here is a list of suggestions from Gladney Center - Rwanda Adoption Program. Please let me know if you have read any of them and what your favorites are!

    • Online e-book: The Skin of Lions: Rwandan Folk Tales and Fables
    Funds go toward an orphan project – to purchase online here.

    • Brown Like Me – by Noelle Laperti – book about an African American Girl adopted by a Caucasian family

    • Africa is Not a Country – by Margie Burns Knight – a book about the diversity of culture and lives in Africa as a continent and the lives children live

    • The Colors of Us – by Karen Katz – on skin diversity

    • Why Can’t You Look Like Me – by Ola Zuri – skin diversity

    • I Love My Hair – by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley – African American hair

    • One Wonderful You – by Francie Portnoy – adoption/uniqueness

    • We See the Moon – by Carrie A. Kitze – relates to birthparents and a child’s understanding

    • Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions – by Margaret Musgrove – presents an alphabet of African Tribes; some of their traditions – great introduction to the diversity of Africa and culture

    ***Check out my BOOKS tab on the top menu bar for a complete list of books for adults and kids***

    Sunday, July 25, 2010

    Summer Reading, Resources and FUN!

    We are having a great summer! We just had a wonderful week at family camp with our church. Our son had such a great time we signed up for next year already... and God willing, we will be going as a bigger family :)

    We finished up with our fingerprinting last week and are waiting for final CIS approval, which allows up to bring our newly adopted child into the USA. Once our approval is given we will put it in our dossier. Our dossier (the massive document containing our last 9 months of paperwork!) is already authenticated and just awaiting a few more final documents. Then it will be sent off to some federal agency (I forget where), the Rwanda Embassy in the US, then to Rwanda for their approval. Our "paper chase" is almost done... and "the wait" will begin.

    One of my favorite adoption/parenting books is The Connected Child by Dr. Purvis and Dr. Sunshine (don't you just love that last name). If you haven't read it and plan to adopt or are a relative/close friend of someone adopting it is an almost mandatory read... especially if you are adopting an orphan from another county or a child through the foster care system. Dr. Puvis has now helped develop additional resources through Empowered to Connect! I am so excited about their new study guide: Created to Connect: A Christian's Guide to the Connected Child! You can download the free study guide from this link and view the videos on line. If you sign up for their emails you will get occasional videos/articles on related adoption stuff. They also are having an upcoming conference in Nashville, TN. I would love to be lucky enough to go!! Our church is also in the editing stages of producing an adoption small group study- I can't wait for it to be completed!

    Now we are off to an family picnic with other families from church who have adopted or are in the process of adopting. It is so great to have a church family that supports adoption and is cultivating an adoption culture. It's so important to have a support system and knowledgeable resources available.

    Tuesday, June 29, 2010

    USCIS Biometric Appointment!

    "Once someone touches your heart, the fingerprints will last forever."
    We have our last set of fingerprints to take. This time it is for our 1600A (Application for Advance Processing or Orphan Petition) through US Citizenship and Immigration. Our appointment is on July 22nd! It seems a little far away, I thought it would be sooner but I'm so thankful we will be in town. We have several trips already planned that I'm glad it's in between these summer vacations and visits. We don't have to drive to far- just up the freeway to Santa Ana.

    After we receive our CIS 1600A approval, we send our dossier (which is pretty much completed just waiting until after the fingerprinting to do our final medical forms) off to be authenticated at the federal level in DC and then it goes to the Rwanda Embassy (in DC). Everything has already been authenticated at the state levels. After that it's off to Rwanda!!!

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010

    A Poem To My New Son

    The other day I was reflecting on the parallel relationship between God's pursuit of me and all He did for me before I even knew or cared who He was and the relationship between me and my child to be in Rwanda. God did all these things for me, His child, before I knew Him or understood what it meant to know Him. Now I am doing these things for my child. So I wrote a poem to my child about it. I cry when I read it thinking about how God has been so good to me and what is yet to come. These pictures are from previous trips to Kenya and not directly related to our Rwandan adoption (although it's all been part of the journey).

    Before You Knew Me
    by Tristen McGhee

    Before you knew me I was searching for you.
    Before you knew me I was praying for you.
    Before you knew me I already loved you.
    Before you knew me, I knew you.
    No ocean is too wide to separate us.
    No obstacle is too large to stand between us.
    No wait is to long to suspend us.
    Before you loved me, I loved you.
    I will calm you fears with my gentle love.
    I will understand your sadness with my intentional love.
    I will soothe your anger with my steadfast love.
    Before you believed in me, I believed in you.
    God adopted me before I adopted you.
    God made me His child before I made you mine.
    God came to me before I came to you.
    Before you trusted me, I trusted God.
    Because God did these things for me, I can do them for you.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010

    Homestudy Completed!!

    This is a happy, happy moment! The long road to completing our home study is finished. We should get the hard copy soon. It's already been edited and reviewed by our international adoption agency, Gladney. It has been more than I expected. How so?... I didn't realize how much of the paperwork process would be out of your control. There is a lot of hurry up and wait- but going into it I didn't know that the hurry up would lead to the wait. I kept thinking the hurry up was leading to being done... and now it is!! Yippee!

    So what is next? Once we get our hard copy we will send it in along with our I-600A form to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, CIS for short. I think the purpose is that they will determine if we qualify to adopt a child. It seems like the home study approves us as prospective adoptive parents in our state, the I-600A approves us for US adoption and the dossier for Rwanda is like the application asking the Rwanda government if we can adopt from their country. I'm sure it's more complex than that but that's my interpretation of it all (at this point). CIS will notify us once they get our paperwork and then we are required to do more fingerprinting as part of the application. Once we get our CIS approval we will then complete our dossier and mail it off to Rwanda. Then Rwanda will (hopefully) send us our approval letter to adopt from their country. They will then start the process of matching us with a child, a boy between 9 months and 4 years old. After a 3-9 month wait we will be notified of a referral- which is basically a match!

    The other weekend as we were waiting for the final review of our home study I made a new baby quilt for our son-to-be in Rwanda. I made it hoping it will be a special blanket he will carry everywhere- kind of like Linus's security blanket. I plan to bring it to Rwanda when we go. My son, Gaven, never attached to a blanket or stuffed animal so who knows if our other son will or not. Nevertheless I wanted to have a special quilt ready for him. My husband says our son Gaven never had the need for a security blanket because he had me around all the time... guess I was the security blanket :) I'm honored to be able to be that again for another precious little boy.

    Tuesday, May 18, 2010

    Where the river flows, I go

    When I first committed to this adoption process I was determined to get everything done as fast as possible and break some land speed adoption records! I spent every free moment on paper work and reading book after book on parenting adopted children. My passion is still just as real but something has shifted in my approach. It's hard to explain. It's probably easiest to understand with an analogy that I picture in my mind. Imagine the adoption process as a river... I dropped my kayak in the water. With my paddle in hand I started paddling fast and hard. At every sign of rough water, I tried to push my way to the other side of the river to avoid the rapids and go where I thought I should go. When I couldn't maneuver around the rapids, I tried to use all my power to get out of them as fast as possible. My strength was draining and I still had a long way to go. It didn't take me long to realize the river was in control of where I went, not me.  I needed to take a break and recapture my strength so I could start paddling hard again. However, when I slowed down to catch my breath and started to contemplate the path ahead, I realized the river had no end to it. This river is The Forever River. There is no need to rush and push and strain. All that does is wear me out. Instead I am learning to go with the river's flow. Somewhere in this process, I have began to enjoy and appreciate this place on The Forever River. I traded in my kayak for an inner-tube! I will never again have this time on The Forever River. I will never again be a mom of one child. I will never again have the new awe of all I am learning about orphans and other adoptive families. I will never again be in this exciting part of The Forever River! My passion is still just as strong, actually it grows stronger the further down The Forever River I go but I am more relaxed. There are still rapids - times I have to deal with unexpected turns. And there are still times the current seems so slow I wonder if things are moving along at all. The Forever River hasn't changed but my heart has.

    I hope this analogy can express in images what my words cannot. As I was typing, the saying "Be Still and Know I AM God" came to mind. I guess, I have had to turn to God so often in this process that I just realized on a deeper level that He is in control and I'm not. I knew that before but I have learned it again on another level in my soul. My child will be my child when God sees fit. I can either try and make it happen in my time or relax and enjoy the process and trust God and His timing. He is pleased with our adoption and loves our child more than we ever will. Ultimately, our child is in God's hands not ours. I cannot quicken his "delivery" no more than a pregnant mom can quicker hers.

    We have completed everything necessary for our home study over a month ago... yet we still wait. The draft was sent last week from our local agency (the one doing the home study) to Gladney (our adoption agency). We are waiting for it to be finalized. I'm happy to know it's moving along in God's timing.

    Can you remember a time in life when you realized the path to your goal was just as important as the goal?

    Tuesday, May 11, 2010

    Saddleback's Civil Forum on Orphans & Adoption

    My friend, Alex Murashko, is part of the social media ministry at our church, Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. He ran into me on the patio area and asked me to tell him a little bit about why we came to the Civil Forum on Orphans & Adoption and what we hoped to get from going. Here is the video he captured.

    It was a great event- informative and heart felt! Saddleback will be archiving it (hopefully later this week) on their Civil Forum site. If you missed it, I encourage you to check it out. Also, archived is the Civil Forum on Reconciliation. Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda, talks about how the country's people continue to move forward in reconciliation since the 1994 genocide.

    Monday, April 19, 2010

    Learning, learning, learning, learning.

    We are moving along again... our home study is almost complete. We are waiting on a police report from when Max was a juvenile, it is never a clean cut process when trying to get juvenile records- despite the fact that they are yours. In the mean time I started working on our dossier. The dossier is the paperwork for the Rwanda government. After they review it, they will either approve or disapprove our request to adopt two of their orphans. Learning #1 God is still in control, not me :)

    Our agency, Gladney Center for Adoption, had a great conference call with all the families currently in their Rwanda program. It was really good and I'm happy they plan to make it a monthly event. During the call they answered some of the questions in my last blog entry... about forming new family traditions in remembrance of the Rwandan genocide. They said people have campfires and share with each other in their communities. The official government workers also have a Remembrance campfire service. I thought it would be great to start this tradition with other families who have adopted from Rwanda in the area. We live by the beach and it's a great spot to have families join together in bonding and remembrance. Learning #2 Campfires

    I also learned, that one of the other families in the Gladney Rwanda program is local! They only live a few cities away and go to our church! I'm so happy to be able to share with them some of the things our church is doing for orphans and adoption. That's four families I now know that are local and adopted (or adopting) from Rwanda. It's my prayer to have a community for my children to embrace that understands their unique situation.  Learning #3 Another Rwanda adoptive family lives locally!

    How beautiful would it be to have a community of other families to interact with and learn together about the Rwandan culture and about raising kids from there.  As part of our required adoption education we had to watch a seminar on Ethiopia adoption. Gladney doesn't have a Rwanda specific training yet, so the Ethiopia training is what they use. In the training, I learned that there is an awesome group of people who get together in their local community and do exactly that! The group is open to anyone but focused on Ethiopia and learning about it's culture, heritage and country.  I would love to have a local Southern California group of people dedicated to learning and teaching ourselves more about Rwanda. Our children could interact and benefit from being with other families like their own. We could have fun teaching all our kids about Rwanda, pray for and with each other, learn from each others experiences and lean on each other for support. Imagine (dream of) a monthly family potluck with purposeful crafts, learning to sing a Kinyarwanda praise song or basic language skills, doing Rwanda based outreach work together. I could go on but will spare you.  Learning #4 Dream BIG and trust God to make the seemly impossible, possible!

    Tuesday, April 6, 2010

    How Will We Remember?

    Tomorrow, April 7th, 2010 is the 16th anniversary date of the first day of the Rwandan Genocide. In 1994, hundreds of thousands of Rwandans were brutally killed. Whole families were killed with no one left to tell their story. Survivors are marked not only with large bodily scars from being hacked by machetes but forever scarred with memories of the unimaginable. I have read that in only 100 days about 1,174,000 people were killed. That's about 10,0000 people murdered every day, 400 every hour, 7 every minute. Imagine the images (I won't post any gruesome photos). There are many, many books, movies, and websites that tell the horrible history.

    April 7th is Genocide Memorial Day in Rwanda. I realize this is a day my family will need to commemorate in the future. It makes me wonder how will we do this. I hate having to make this personal and real in my life. Ask my husband... any movie or book that involves war or human atrocities I avoid. The pain is too real and disturbing. I know evil exists in human and spiritual form. Knowing how I am, I will probably focus on what this means for our lives... teaching our children about the importance of respect for different people and their cultures- something that we will be living out. I will be looking toward others who have walked this path and learn from them.

    The beautiful thing is that God has done an amazing work in Rwanda since that time. My husband and I had the privilege of hearing the Rwanda president talk at our church last year on the topic of reconciliation. Paul Kagame has an amazing testimony and leads Rwanda with the heart of God. I'm happy to be part of a church that encourages individuals to get involved and help others, locally and across the world. The Bible teaches us that every ordinary Christian is a minister and missionary (don't leave it to the "professionals"). Your life counts and you can make a difference. Take a few moments to remember (or learn more about what happened in the genocide) and pray for the survivors and for the continued reconciliation and development of the Rwandan people.

    Monday, March 29, 2010

    False Peak on Mount Paperwork

    Ok, so I hit a false peak. Do you know what that is? If you are a backpacker you probably do... but I'll explain it in case your not a hiker (or don't hike in mountainous areas). A false peak is when you are hiking toward a mountain peak that you can't see from where you start the hike. As you are happily hiking along you see the peak... or at least you think it's the peak. Your spirits soar and energy is renewed as you make your way to the top. Then as you summit you realize the peak you are on isn't 'The Peak'. You definitely made it to a mountain peak but in the distance you see 'The Peak'. The one you are on is just a smaller (false) peak that was blocking the view of 'The Peak' behind it. It's always somewhat of a joy killer when you are hiking and this happens. A short break is usually required to recapture your energy and spirits. This is how I hit my false peak on Mount Paperwork: Since we are coming to a close on our home study and I've done everything required for both our agencies (our home study agency, God's Families & our international adoption agency, Gladney) I naively thought we were done with most of the paperwork. With nothing to do (lol), I opened a file from my case worker entitled Rwanda Dossier Manual. That's when it happened, that's when I realized I was on a false peak. As I read the file, my energy slowly drained from within me as I realized I had to do a third round of paperwork- paperwork that I had already done twice! I thought, for the Rwanda dossier, I would be compiling paperwork I had already done. Wrong! The Rwanda government needs original copies of everything, just like the state of California, just like the U.S. government... of course they do! Only makes sense- right. So last week was hard to shake. I had to take a break. The beauty of the whole thing and the beauty of how God's timing is perfect, is that I had a fun trip already planned for last week! My mom invited me and my sister-in-law to a long-arm quilting retreat in Utah. It was very intense and gave me no time to think about the adoption and all the things I would have to do (again). It was great to see my family and a great break for my spirit. I am rested and excited to hike this path again!

    Monday, March 15, 2010

    Paper Chase... coming to a close?

    We are coming to the end of our paperwork "lists". I'm waiting for a few more documents from other sources to come in, my husband to redo his livescan fingerprints (they sent them both to the same place instead of the 2 different places we wanted them to go), his DMV records and we have to do a few more pages of information for our agency regarding child preferences. We plan to hold off on the child preference forms a few more weeks- I think it will be near the end of what we need to turn in. We are still praying about some big decisions regarding preferences. We have been praying about adopting two children together (whew, I said it!). I'll write more about that later- if you are a person of prayer, perhaps you can pray with us about it. We also have to finish our required educational training. Each of our agencies are asking for different classes (covering basically the same materials). I'm trying to coordinate with both agencies and figure out what courses can transfer to the other agency so we don't have to do 22 hours of training! One agency requires 10 hours, the other 12 hours. Every course and certificate has a cost tied to it so we would prefer not to duplicate our material! After that's all done, the next adventure is our home study interviews and opening the document sitting on my desktop screen entitled: Rwanda Dossier Manual! That's the document we will compile and send to the Rwanda government once everything here is done. I feel good about where we are with everything. My husband says I'm starting to "nest" and it's true. I'm already thinking about how we can reorganize our house to make it better for more kids. I figure that will be a way to keep busy after we finish everything, send off the dossier and are just waiting for our referral. A referral is when you receive a child matched to your preferences... basically your future child's information.

    Monday, March 8, 2010

    An Early Suprise & Answer to Prayer!

    Yeh!!! I got my birth certificates!!! I had to get them through the state and I sent off for them in Dec., in Feb they sent a postcard saying it would be another 18 weeks. I would've held up our whole adoption process! I've been praying daily and asking others too - praise God they are here! :) Thanks to all who have prayed with me.

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    Pregnant Without the Belly

    This past weekend I went with a few girlfriends on a woman's retreat with my church. It gave my emotions time to play catch up with what is happening (our adoption). Adopting takes up so much of my energy and metal focus. Any extra mental space I have is used up thinking about paperwork - who I need to contact, composing emails, following up with phone calls, organizing and making copies of everything - administrative stuff. Being on the retreat, away from cell phones, email and my file box allowed my brain and heart to connect. It sounds strange but I fell in love with my child this weekend. I was so swept up in the tenderness of my heart towards our future child that it catch me off guard. I have been thinking about it and this morning decided it was like being pregnant but without the belly. You know when you find out your pregnant but you don't know what your having yet... that's a good comparison. I thought a lot about my child, wondering what they were doing, praying for his/her safety, food and stimulation. I am a mom of a second child somewhere out there.

    On Saturday the speaker spent some time talking about how God is our heavenly Father and what that can mean to us. During this time, I thought about how I wanted to love on my future child and reflect all the love God has poured out on me back onto my child. I want to be the loving parent for my child the same way God has been a loving parent to me. Today, I came across this Bible verse and thought it was fitting. "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." John 14:18  God adopted me into his spiritual family, He came to me with open arms of love. I want to be this Bible verse for my child. I send up prayers that echo the verse "I will not leave you an orphan, I will come for you." I wish my child could hear me the way a child inutero hears.

    Thursday, February 25, 2010

    Meeting Adovtive Parents

    Last night was the second time we attended our church's monthly family pasta night for people who have adopted, are in the process of adopting or are thinking about adopting. It was a great time. I had had a hard week with all the paperwork for 2 agencies (tip: If you are using an international adoption agency that is out of state and therefore have to contract an agency locally to do your home study... compare "to do" lists- it will save you duplicating your work... I didn't do this and spent the week retracing all my steps from the week before to get the same info but on different agency letterhead.). This meeting was great for my spirits. It was neat to hear from some of the parents who have already adopted and see the joy in their hearts when they spoke about their kids. I also got to meet another family who is adopting from Rwanda. They have done all their stuff and are just waiting for a referral (a referral is when Rwanda basically finds a child match for them and send them the child's information to agree to adopt). They have been waiting 4 months. We had great conversation with a few other moms who already have their kids, one has 3 from Rwanda, the other has a teenager from China. We were learning all about name changes, making up birthdays and other things you don't think about. I know this group will be a great support throughout the coming years and look forward to the bonds that form.

    Meanwhile... back to more paperwork! :) I think we have all the paperwork for all 3 of us for physicals and the cat's too! Next week I'll be working on all the financial paperwork like copying taxes, bank statements, credit card statements, and submitting our monthly budget information. Yuck! Lots of brain power required :)

    Monday, February 22, 2010

    New to Blogging

    I finally am getting this blog going! I'm excited about posting our journey to expand our family with a child from Rwanda. Our decision to adopt was easy, it's something we always said we would do if we decided to have more kids. We figured, if the point is to have more kids then why have more ourselves when there are plenty of children already alive around the world that need a family. The hard part was God's timing. For a long time we didn't want any more kids after having Gaven. He almost died at birth. That was so hard for us we couldn't even think of having more kids. We thanked God for Gaven's life and poured everything we had into raising him. Once Gaven started school, I started entertaining the idea of more kids... but my husband was ok with just the three of us. I never wanted my husband to feel any pressure from me to have more kids. I needed all his support to raise a family and if we were going to have more kids it had to be a choice from his heart's longing not my pressure. I talked with God a lot about my longing for more kids and had accepted the idea that Gaven might be my only child. Then.. I'm not sure when or why Max's heart started to soften to the idea but it did. We both knew we wanted to adopt but weren't sure when or from where. After doing a bible study on orphans with some friends from church, my husband knew NOW was the time and Rwanda was the location. We decided on Rwanda because our church is very involved with the county in many ways, including caring for orphans (not only encouraging international adoption but more importantly helping local church's in Rwanda learn about the importance of their families adopting Rwandan children). I had been to Africa a few times on mission trips and loved the people. It seemed like a good fit. We knew we would have a great support system through our church and family and friends and because of our church's involvement we knew it would be easier to stay connected to our future child's country (even a few other children adopted from Rwanda attend our church).

    We officially started the process the end of last year. We turned in our first "inquiry" application to an international adoption agency in November 2009. Now we are in the middle of mounds of paperwork to complete our home study. A home study is required by US and Rwanda governments. It basically looks at all aspects of your life to get a picture of who you are and approving you for adoption. It's a lot of work and a lot of time and demands a lot of detail and organization! I hope you follow us on our journey- we welcome your prayers and encouragement and thank you for the friendship... and if you have any tips on blogging let me know :)