Saturday, October 22, 2011

Introducing... Noël!!!

Our first official family photo... it isn't our "family" yet.. we need Gaven in it!
Noël is legally ours, as of Thursday, October 20, 2011!  He is 4 years old, tall and thin. He has spent most his life in an orphanage until now. When we first met him he was shy, which is what the referral letter said- "he is quiet and shy". I think this is true only when he first meets people because tonight, he has been smiling, dancing and talking up a storm. We have no idea what he is saying but love to hear him talk. Each day he opens up more and more. We meet him last Sunday and on Friday we were able take permanent custody. Today he spontaneously told Max, his papa, he loved him very much in kinyarwanda (we know a few words). Max was cutting him and apple and he was bouncing around. It's so nice. He seems to be more of a daddy's boy. Although he hasn't shied away from me, I can just tell. We think maybe because he has never had a daddy caretaker- and of course because Max is so wonderful with him.
Noël and his "papa"... Noël can't wait to see his photos!

Things I've learned about Noël so far:
He tells us yes by raising his eyebrows. He tells us no by waving his finger back and forth- I love when he does this it is so cute! He will pout his lips out if he is "mad", he hasn't really been mad mad but it's  a face to say more than no- it means don't do that. He likes to be held when we are out. He likes to help do things- like put the crackers back in the package or use the key to open the door.

He LOVES his soccer ball, toy airplane, PJs and teddy bear. We brought several toys and we just sort of cycle through them all. Reminds me of when my son, Gaven was little and we did the same thing. I can't wait to be home and have a big, grassy area to play ball. Noël loves to kick the ball back and forth and he kicks strong! He slept well his first night with us. He was happy about the PJs and teddy bear. After I gave him the teddy bear we had a 15 minute play session just throwing it up in the air over and over. We pushed the beds together so it's like one big, big bed.
Yummy crackers!
He loves to eat. He takes huge bites. He can eat 3 bananas in a row (they are smaller than ours in America). He drinks a lot of water. He likes his cup with a straw I brought. I just keep it full with water.

So far things have gone so great. I was expecting the worse- him crying when we met, when we took him, all night... but he has really only cried once. That was when he couldn't put my earring on. He didn't get that he doesn't have a hole and I do. But it didn't last long. A few times he looked weepy and unsure but that was because of the situation we were in at the time. He wailed on Wednesday when we said goodbye to him at the orphanage- that broke my heart despite it being a good sign at the time.
My cool new dude!
Our next big stop is Kenya. I hope things continue to go well. We won't have anyone translating or explaining things there. After we do what we need there to get his visa, we will be homeward bound. I am so excited about that! I think he will travel well. I'm sure some melt downs will come but I hope they come when we are home. I'm enjoying the honeymoon :)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Meeting Our Son

Signing our Act of Adoption - starting the legal process!
Max signing.

After our long 3 days of travel to get here we drove to the orphanage! I still am not suppose to say any identifying comments about our son. We have to wait until we have our court decree and he is legally ours- hopefully later this week we can flood you with pictures! Today we signed the Act of Adoption, which gets the legal process going. Tomorrow we are going to go ask for a court date. The court date can happen either later tomorrow (Tuesday), Wednesday or Thursday. Please pray we make it in tomorrow. There is a larger group from another agency, 6 families, so we hope to get in before them.
Bonita (our Gladney in country contact), the Pizzutelli's and us at lunch.
Our meetings with our son.
It's strange to meet a stranger and think of him as your son. My love for him has already been growing but now it truly begins. I wanted to cry the second day (Tuesday) we met when he skipped back down to the kids area with the nuns. We had a good time with him and I can't wait to have him home! He's so smart. This transition of short visits each day (2 hours in the afternoon) is good for us both. Just the right amount of time to play and connect and get use to each other. Soon we will get to visit in the mornings as well- right now we have had stuff to do in the mornings and therefore miss the morning visitation hours that end at 11am. It works out well to have the visiting length of time gradually increasing.

He was so sweet the first day. I was prepared for the worst- crying, not wanting to engage. But he didn't do that! He engaged with us for about half of the visit and wandered around to other families and kids the other half. It was good. It's hard with 8 families and their new kids all in  one small court yard area. But it is also a good transition for the kids. The kids get to see each other doing the same thing they are doing- meeting their new parents and being adopted. Yesterday, we played some soccer. Our son would yell at Max and say "papa" when he wanted to kick the ball to him. He calls us mama and papa but he doesn't really know what that means. It still melts our hearts. When we show him pictures he points us out and says mama, papa. Love it!

He loved the short video of our friend and her daughter singing a kid's song in kinyarwanda. He sang with them and we joined in. It was fun. We watched it several times together. We will have to connect with our friends and their Rwanda born kiddos as soon as we've mellowed out at home for a while.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Video: Friends Teach Us a Song in Kinyarwanda

A friend of ours, Elizabeth, adopted 3 beautiful children from Rwanda years ago before the country was really "open" for adoption. She is an amazing woman in many, many ways! Her family is so excited about us bringing home our little one. Her children taught her and her husband this song when they first came home. Now her youngest daughter, Erica, wants to pass it on to us to learn and sing to our precious one. This is so, so precious I had to share it with you!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I'm A Mommy Again!!

Can't wait for these little feet to be running around my home!
Monday morning, September 26th, I got the email I have been waiting for.... the one with the picture of my son in Rwanda! My husband and I were so thrilled and couldn't believe it. I read the email and then had to rush off to work. It was the weirdest day as I tried to live my life as usual but knew everything was about to change. I've spent the week rushing around trying to get as much done as possible before we leave on Oct. 14th to bring him home. I thought I would have a ton of words to write but it all seems to fall flat when I try to express how this past week has been.

The one thing I can say that has been absolutely amazing to me is the pouring out of support our friends and family has shown us. The people at my work have rallied the staff and students asking for donations to help us with the plane tickets- they have plastic bracelets that say 'Make a Difference', they are throwing me a shower and encouraging me to take the week off before we leave to 'nest'! :) My husband's work has been equally supportive to him. And my (non-work) friends are throwing me a shower and family is so excited. It's just be a very cool feeling of love and excitement.

Our son, Gaven, is excited too. One neat thing is that his teacher has adopted 2 children herself so she gets it all and has been supportive. Gaven will not be traveling with us. He doesn't want to go and miss school, baseball and playing outside. My parents are coming to live in our house and take him to school and practice and help take care of everything (cat, dog, plants, life!). Gaven is thrilled to have his grandparents living with him for 3 weeks. I know he will miss us but he will be in good hands! :)

We will post pictures once he is legally our little one but for now... imagine the cuteness that fills these shoes!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rwanda - Home of My Son-To-Be

Rwanda: Home of My Son-To-be, Land of a Thousand Hills, People of Sorrow & Reconciliation, A Country Close to God's Heart!
The terraced hill sides from Kigali to Kibuye.
Ever since we decided to adopt a son from Rwanda, I've had a deep desire to go there and serve the people... To give back to the place that will give me more than I can ever repay them for- a son. I went with my church, Saddleback Church. Saddleback calls our mission trips- PEACE trips. PEACE stands for: P-plant churches, E-equip servant leaders, A-assist the poor, C-care for the sick, E-educate the next generation. These trips are very intentional and in response to the needs identified by the local churches (not what we think they need).  I also got to focus on our adoption but first I want to tell you about my other experiences with a team of 11 other amazing, Christian servants!
After hours & hours of travel!
When we first arrived we went to the PEACE office in Kigali. Kigali is the country's capital. There they have a very well organized team of people dedicated to the PEACE plan. When any of our church's teams go to serve in Rwanda it is through this "system". It's very cool because it's all in response to the needs identified by the local Rwandan pastors. Our desire is to come along side the local churches and serve them- always giving God and the local church the glory. Our team was requested to help continue what another team began last year, a soccer outreach program. The churches are starting to reach out to the community kids (including the street kids) by starting soccer teams (they LOVE soccer in Rwanda). We also were asked to do a 2 day seminar on how to do Sunday School for the kids. The churches wanted to know how to incorporate the new kids that come to church as a result of the soccer outreach programs.
PEACE office sign in Rwanada - for my Saddleback friends :)
We did the bulk of our "work" in Kibuye, near Lake Kiuv the western boarder of Rwanda. We stayed right behind the local hospital in dorm style houses. We had flushing toilets and running water. We usually had electricity and sometimes hot water. It was very basic by American standards but very nice for local, non-tourist standards. We had a cook who would prepare our meals which was extremely nice so we didn't have to take the time to drive to a near by restaurant to eat every meal. Because we were located right in the middle of town we were able to walk to most our daily activities. This gave us the opportunity to really experience more of the culture. As we walked people would often walk with us and practice their English- especially the little kids! They loved to hold your hands and walk with you. There was a school located right above us on the hill so we got to play with the local kids all the time. It was so fun. We met several street kids (orphans) while walking to and from our activities and it broke my heart. I met one boy, Enrique, who I would've adopted in a heart beat! My friend Ginny and I got to know him a little and some of his story over the days. His story was sad. We did our best to plug him into a local church that welcomed the street kids into their congregation in hopes he would be cared for and get connected to a loving family. Please pray for this dear boy and that a loving family takes him in and cares for him as their own.
Enrique & me
We help put on a huge soccer festival with several local churches. It was so fun! That was one of the main focuses. A lot of meetings before hand and planning- before and after. One of our team members, Joe, is a soccer coach and also helped other local coaches learn drills and team building tools.
The kids loved these dried plant awards! They were so proud!

One of the other things we got to do was visit homes and talk with the people about the sponsorship program our church is involved in. The local church identifies families that has taken in orphans and helps financially "sponsor" that family. All the families we visited were so special and extremely grateful and hospitable. The program involves more than just monetary help. It is a whole program designed to educated people on good hygiene, clean water, growing their own food and micro-enterprise. First the pastors of the churches get trained by the PEACE headquarters staff or Saddleback volunteers on a PEACE trip, then the pastors train certain church volunteers who then go out into the community and teach their neighbors. Usually, the families in the sponsorship program are trained-they call them CPTs (Community PEACE trainers). These families are doing amazing things in their own lives and the lives of others around them all in the name of Jesus Christ. The picture below is taken a one of the CPT's houses. She treated us with corn on the cob- such a giving gesture. In the background you can see one of the filter, which is part of the PEACE clean water initiative. Neighbors come to her to fill up their water jugs with clean water. While they are waiting for the clean water she says she tells them about the true living water- Jesus.
You can see the water filtration system behind us (Ariana, Noel & me).
We also went to the local hospital to pray with the people. It was extremely heavy, since many of those people will not leave alive or will be sent home to die. Most of the people knew Christ so we held their hands and prayed for relief of pain and comfort. It was so heart breaking I can't even describe it. To pray with people moaning in pain, mothers crying for their children... it was real suffering and real pain relying solely on prayers. A stark contrast to the hospitals here in America.
My sisters & I in the hospital courtyard area with head's of staff.
Another sign for my Saddleback friends!!
We got to do serve in several other ways- a lot to share in a brief blog entry... not to mention my adoption stuff. I will share more about that in another entry, another day... so stay tuned ;) I am so thankful God allowed me this experience. It broke my heart in many ways. I've wrestled with God for days about the things I experienced. He is such a mystery to me- CS Lewis had it right when he portrayed God as a wild, loving lion in The Narnia Chronicles. God does things His Own way, in His Own Time. It's not for me to understand but to trust. It's not an easy walk but it is a rich one. If you want to live a life that is more rewarding than anything you can imagine then risk your time, money, and heart by loving beyond yourself.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Kibuye, Rwanda... Here I Come!

I've been thinking about going to Rwanda for a long time, since before we decided to adopt. But now that we are adopting from there, my desire to experience and give back to the country just keeps growing and growing. So with the blessings of my family, I'm going next month! This has been in the works for months but I have been hesitant to commit. It seems crazy to go... why not just wait until it's time to go for our adoption... why spend the money... why take the time... why risk the heart break...

It's hard to explain but I just long to go. When you are pregnant you have the ability to feel your baby growing inside, to feel them move around, to see pictures of them inside you. But for me, I'm missing out on all of that by choosing to grow our family through adoption. And I miss it. I want to go see the country my son is from, I want to meet the people, I want to give back, I want to be close. It seems crazy but if you were in my shoes you would probably feel the same way.

I will be going with our church. We will be taking part in a soccer initiative. Our church's Orphan Care ministry helped start it a few years ago as a way to help the local churches connect with street kids. As an adopting mom, I'm super thrilled to be able to be an advocate for other orphans who need to be connected to families and to understand how big God's love is and that He has a plan and purpose for their lives.

My son didn't want to go, otherwise I would've loved to have taken with me. He would rather stay with his grandparents- both sets- the lucky boy! My husband can't take the time off work. He needs to save his vacation days for when we travel to Rwanda for our adoption (which I naively thought would happen last Christmas but now realistically think it will be this Christmas- but praying it happens much sooner!).

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Beautiful Things….. another family's story

I was reading Rwanda adoption blogs. So many families bringing home their children. I love reading the stories... one day I will have such a story to tell. As I was reading, this blog entry just stole my heart. I cried as I listened to the beautiful song I have never heard before and saw the loving pictures of a mom and her new son. I couldn't help but imagine myself and my child in those photos. I pray for his health and well being and for us to be a family soon. Here's a link to a special video. I hope you enjoy it!

Beautiful Things…..

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Time flies When Your Having Fun - Really?!?

We have been having a lot of fun around here...  
               but it doesn't make the wait for our adoption "fly"!

So what kind of fun stuff? 
  • My parents came out twice! They recently retired and have been on vacation for months now. They rented a condo for 3 weeks near the beginning of the year. It was wonderful, they were only a block from the beach and had beautiful ocean views. Then they traveled some more and recently came back for two weeks. 
  • They bought a house only 5 hours away (verses 5 states). Which means we can go visit for weekends!
  • I thoroughly enjoyed my Easter break from school! Loved having a whole weeks vacation... can't wait for summer!
  • My brother came out and stayed with me during my Easter break to hang out with his favorite sister and nephew!
  • I had a very fun birthday party! The most amazing thing about my party is this: my husband arranged it all and asked people to donate to my plane ticket to Rwanda instead of gifts. My friends were so generous! The support I feel is huge! God has blessed me genuine friends - I am truly grateful for the people God has put in my life. They are the REAL DEAL!
  • My wonderful husband surprised me with a stand up paddle board for my birthday- he is horrible with surprises so I still can't believe he pulled it off! Watch the video :)
We still haven't heard anything about our adoption. I'm asked at least once a week by someone (if not more) what's going on with the adoption. All I say is, "I'm still waiting, waiting, waiting... but there has been movement!" I continue to hear of families recieving their non-objection letters (a letter from the Rwandan government saying they approve you to adopt) and referrals (information about the child they have matched you with to adopt). I've heard they are in the 80s and we are 143, so still a way to go. I thought this Summer would be the latest we would wait, but it seems like Fall will be the earliest. Now, I'm just hoping it all happens before our home study and everything else starts to expire (it has a year shelf life). Please keep us in your prayers and for things to happen sooner rather than later! Thanks!

In the mean time, I've been spending my "free" time helping put together curriculum with our church for adoptive parents. It's sort of a how-to on parenting children from hard places (like orphanages or foster care or other difficult situations). It's what I have been doing instead of posting on my blog-lol!! I'm really thrilled about it. One side benefit is that all this knowledge is saturating my brain. I'm so grateful for this outlet, I couldn't think of a better way to wait! Such a blessing from God. He has been so good to me.

Monday, March 7, 2011

More Changes Ahead

I've been praying about going to Rwanda before our adoption is completed. We still don't know when that will be and I was thinking of going there on a mission trip. I wanted to go and serve the people from where my son is from to give back to the country. Our church is very involved with Rwanda and has at least a half dozen trips planned this year. I thought it would be awesome to experience, learn and serve my son's birth county and it's people. I hadn't decided anything yet, I was waiting for God to give me a clear answer.

I go my answer. It's a no. Here's the crazy, new reason why...
I just got a unexpected email today from my adoption agency. Apparently, Rwanda will now be requiring all families to be present in Rwanda to sign the Act of Adoption document that must be submitted to court to request a court date to finalize an adoption. This use to be something a Power of Attorney would do on our behalf and we would only have to travel once (later in the process). This document is submitted to the court to request a court date to finalize the adoption. It's sort of a complicated process (I'll spare you the detailed steps involved in the in-country procedures because I don't fully get them even thought I have it spelled out in an email!). It can take a few weeks between the signing of the Act of Adoption document and getting your court date. Therefore, we will have to either stay during the wait or travel twice. If you stay the whole process from arrival to departure could be 3-5 weeks, which includes your exit trip through Ethiopia to get your child's visa.

God answered my prayer about going on a mission trip to Rwanda while we wait. It's an obvious no! This unexpected news adds new complications. I'm glad God answered my prayer but not sure what to make of these new changes. Thankfully, tomorrow is our monthly conference call with our agency. I am looking forward to better understanding what this means to us and what our options are. Rwanda is relatively new to international adoption and we are considered "pioneers" in this process. We knew going into our adoption that it was highly likely Rwanda would change things along the way. Early in the process, I came to terms with the fact that I'm not in control of the process or timing. All I can do is go with the flow and rely on God for the rest. Here is a link to the post I wrote regarding this "letting go" struggle: Where the River goes, I flow

Monday, February 14, 2011

Birthday Blues, Eating and What's Next?

Celebrating our nephew, Sean's 17 bday and our son, Gaven's 9th!
Birthday Blues
My son turned 9 years old this past week. His birthday brought a sadness to my heart - not about him getting older or anything - but about my son in Rwanda getting older without us. We are all longing to have him here and celebrate our lives together everyday. My son talks about him, I talk about him, my husband talks about him. We are so excited to have him come be part of our family and can't wait!! My son's birthday was just a reminder of time ticking away. He was 7 when we started this process. It's been about a year and a half. Our paperwork has been in Rwanda about 5 months now.

Part of what makes it hard is we don't know what to expect as far as a time line goes. From what I've heard Rwanda is processing dossiers in the 40s (we are 143) but we don't know how fast/slow things are going. After they approve a family,  the paperwork then goes over to the orphanage to match a child(ren) with the family . Then the paperwork goes back to the government to start the adoption process. All this is done by 3 people (it use to be only 1 lady doing all this work but they have recently hired 2 more staff). AND they are trying to structure their HAUGE status simultaneously.... all this is why we have no idea what the time line is. I thought we would be matched and ready to travel in April or May... but now I'm hoping summer at the latest... I pray "please Lord soon."
I took this picture just for fun while I was waiting for the presentation to begin.
I took a class for my continuing education as a Dietitian on kids with eating issues. It was great! I learned a lot of helpful tools on how to expand a picky eaters diet. There was a lot of collaboration, with several of the participants from local feeding clinics. I had no idea of how many kids have problems related to eating for such a variety of reasons. Two of my favorite ideas that could be used for any kid trying new things are a check list & dog bowl and chaining. Here's a brief discription:
  • The check list & dog bowl (side note- these are my own titles just to try and summarize in an easy way they are not the professional used names): If you are trying get a child to try a new food you allow them "x" number of times they can scrap the food item into the dog bowl instead of eating (keeping track on a chart they can check off). This allows the child the opportunity to tolerate the food on their plate before scraping it off. Then you can progress from there, depending on the child and the number of times necessary before they can tolerate moving to the next step. (You should never make food issues a battle, it should always be fun and playful. You do not want to risk them going backward and limiting what they eat even more if they already have a limited food list.) Then you could try touching to your mouth without tasting it "x" number of times or touching to your tongue (without having to eat). Then putting in your mouth and getting to spit out - you can have a lot of fun with this skill ;) You can teach them how to hide it in their dinner napkin... who hasn't done that as a kid! Then they need to do one chew and can spit out. Then two chews, then three chews.... you get the idea. These are things you would try slowly at the child's pace- do the same step over and over "x" number of times until they are ready to go to the next step. 
  • Chaining: This was a great tool for kids who are brand or color specific (did you know some kids will only eat foods that are a certain color) . Basically you try and start expanding their food list by finding the same food item in a different brand (you can apply the above method of getting use to) then jump to a similar style or color of same item. It probably sounds confusing the way I described it but it's just using baby steps in adjustments.
What's Next?
My husband and I are super excited about a trip we are taking next week to our adoption agency, Gladney. They are hosting a free two day workshop for their parents who are adopting older kids (or have adopted older kids). One of the cool things that Gladney is doing for the parents they invited is giving them a credit on their adoption fees if they attend - basically reimbursing them for the travel expenses. How cool is that?! The other really cool thing - my husband is thrilled to go! I know that may sound strange but he is not a class taker kind of guy yet he was the one who first said we should go. I think it will be a great experience for us as a parenting unit. I'll try to summarize and post some of the golden nuggets we get... I tend to post a lot more entries in my head than actually typed entries to my blog - lol!

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Different Kind of Parenting

Parenting an internationally adopted child (or even a child in foster care) requires a different kind of parenting. I have to throw out all my previous expectations, prepare for the worse and hope for the best! Now THAT is different and not what you would find in your typical new parent/baby book. However, my child will not be the typical child (the typical child in which most parenting books are geared toward- biological)... although he will be a typical child who is adopted from a hard place.

Throwing Out The Expectations
When I say 'throwing out expectations', what I mean is throwing out my preconceived ideas of what I think our adoption experience will be like and more or less just letting it be what is at any given moment. I know that sounds kind of "free" and strange but the more I learn about adopting the more I realize how much I didn't know before and how much I still have to learn. When I went to the week long Dr. Purvis class (and the months of homework preceding it) I learned more than I can process about the internal physiological affects being orphaned and not raised in a stable, loving, ever present  family can have on a child and it's outward manifestation in behavior. Basically, all is not as it appears to the untrained eye and what works (or worked) for my biological son, whom I've cradled and cared for since birth may actually be counter productive for an adopted child. Throwing out my expectations also means realizing that what I am experiencing will be totally different than what my child is experiencing. The day I first hold my child in my arms and know he is forever mine and we take him back to our hotel will be one of the top contenders for the happiest moments in my life. However, it could be the total opposite for my son - it may one of the scariest, uncertain days of his life. I have to be aware that his "Gotcha Day" may be a wonderful anniversary day that I want to annually commemorate with a celebratory type attitude but may be the exact opposite for my son. For him it may be a time he doesn't want to "celebrate" because it gives him mixed emotions, reminds him of his profound loss and stirs up feelings of abandonment. I guess what it boils down to is being more attuned to my son and his internal states (physiologically and emotionally) and being more attuned to my own "undiscovered" expectations.

Preparing For The Worst
My pastor once said to prepare for the worse and hope for the best. I forget the context... I think it was regarding financial planning or something like that. Whatever the context, the phrase stuck with me. It is my job to foresee, to the best of my ability, potential problems and plan accordingly. It doesn't mean they will necessarily happen but it is better to be prepared and proactive than unprepared and reactive. So I've been using my waiting time by continuously educating myself. Right now, I'm reading a great book called Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew. If you are adopting (or adopted or are friends/family of someone adopting) this is and excellent book! I'm about a third of the way through it and love it. It's heavy at times... as is all this learning... but I keep God as my hope and my center and confidant. When my heart is weighed down with grief for my future son's own grief and the grief of other orphans, I turn to my Lord and my Savior. I have seen the reality of this Bible verse in my own life and in many others who allow Him to take over their lives: You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever! It's from Psalm 30:11 & 12... which leads to my next point :)

Hoping For The Best

How can you go through life without hope!?! I can't... at least not very well. For about a year now, I've been wearing the same necklace 24/7. My husband gave it to me last year for Valentine's Day. At that point, we were 6 months into the process of adopting. The necklace is a heart that says HOPE on it. When I first opened it, I didn't really like it much. Not that I wasn't grateful but I just didn't connect with the word HOPE. For me, FAITH was more of a word I could connect with. However, after a few days I realized the orphanage we would be adopting from in Rwanda was called House (or Home) of HOPE! Instantly, I cried and vowed in my heart to not take off my necklace until my son was home. My husband told me he picked it out because he felt it was a word we lived by- HOPE. Ever since then I have been contemplating what he said and how true it is. Not only do I have faith that God will see me through and will make good on His Promises, I have the hope to carry me through until that time. And I know that my Father is my son's Father and will do the same for him... and He will do even better things than I can dream.