Saturday, December 31, 2011

a review of 2011

2011 was a tough year on me.  Lots of hopes and dreams and not a lot of fruition.   A lot of trust in God, a lot of being obedient, a lot of tears, a lot of heartache.   I am praying that 2012 is much easier on me emotionally.  I am praying that God shows me more "whys" instead of "because I said so." I am praying that God reveal himself to me....  Here's to a better 2012!

Here is a look back on some of the happy times of 2011.  
 
January - Cannon turned 7

February - Pine Wood Derby

March - 2nd Annual Spring Break Oklahoma Tour 

April - Easter

 April - Grace turned 4


 May - Opened the pool, lots of swimming this summer!


June - Big kids went to Kamp. Cannon's 1st year, Kay's 3rd year.

August through October - Lots of football!

August - 2nd, PreK & 5th grades

October - Celebrating Kay's 10th bday 

 October - Happy Halloween!

November - updated kids pictures

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December 1: World AIDS Day, a borrowed post

This post was borrowed from The Farmers Wife Tells All. This family just returned home with their child from Uganda. Today, December 1, is World AIDS Day. A day to bring attention to the disease that is one of the main cause of orphans in Africa.

I wrote this post in April when we visited Uganda for the first time. Our day at the AIDS hospital there is seared in my memory, and I feel like an appropriate way to acknowledge World AIDS Day is by stopping and recognizing that people live with this illness that ravages bodies and robs lives. This illness that is so easily treatable and preventable. Please, take a moment with me and walk in their shoes.

Today we visited an AIDS hospital. That is something I think every American should do. This particular hospital is free, so many of the people there could not recieve care elsewhere. The largest source of funding for this place is the US government. This was really interesting to me in light of the budget battles going on at home. If there is anywhere money needs to be spent, it was there.

The reason we visited this particular hospital was to carry the message that we are Americans who are open to adopting an HIV + child. In this country, HIV+ orphans are the true "least of these." It is unimaginable to people here that families would want to adopt them. But the truth is, in the US, you give your HIV+ child medication twice a day and they visit the doctor 2-4 times a year. The end. Yes, there is stigma to deal with and yes, it is a serious, lifelong illness. But it is one that can be managed. Many docotors say it's easier to manage than diabetes.

Anyway, the first thing we were told is that the patients are treated by number, not name. This is due to the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS here.People have to keep their status a secret, and the use of numbers is a safeguard for the patients. Nonetheless, I can't imagine being treated medically as a number. It was clear from the beginning that these people are ashamed of their status. In most areas we've visited, people look at us and smile and maybe say hello. These people looked the other way if I smiled at them or looked at the ground and avoided eye contact with anyone.

Each section of the hospital we were taken to was full of people waiting for medications or to be seen by a doctor. Looking at the full benches of waiting people and knowing the small number of doctors available, I decided I will never again complain about waiting in a doctor's offiice. People arrived early in the morning, and I realized they would probably spend much of their day there.

The pediatric inpatient unit was heartbreaking for sure. We looked through the glass at a little one lying in a bed with his mother standing over him in the intensive care unit. He was listless and very sick. At this hospital, although it's free, parents must stay with their children the entire time they are being treated. They sleep on the floor under their kids' beds and are expected to help clean and perform other work during the day. For this reason, few orphans are seen here as inpatients, because there just aren't parent figures to stay with them during their care. Some babies' homes send the Mamas (caregivers) to stay with the children there, but that puts a strain on the homes as well. Because of this, many of the homes do not even take in HIV+ children.

The outpatient kids' area was much happier. Here most kids were just waiting for medications or routine checkups. There was a nice play area outside where the kids could run around while waiting to be seen. One little girl looked at Jon as we walked through, gasped, and said, "Mommy, look!" It was so cute.

What I saw mostly in this place was a lot of people doing the best they could with the very limited resources they have. When I looked at the patients, I just got a sense of how very wrong it is that this disease has devastated this continent while so many of us are oblivious to it. I saw suffering but also a lot of resilience there. It was truly a life enriching experience and I would encourage anyone who has the chance to visit an AIDS unit. Even locally in the US. These people need love and they need to know that Jesus has not forgotten them and isn't afraid of their illness.

"For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ - Matthew 25:35-40

Sunday, November 27, 2011

adoption #2 update

It has been almost a year since we started our 2nd adoption journey. This time last year we were almost done with our OK DHS classes that we had to complete before we could adopt. Our home study was about done and so were our background checks. We (mostly me) fully expected to have our 4th kiddo home sometime in the spring. Studies show that African American males are the least likely to get adopted, and that is exactly what we wanted. DHS needs families to adopt, right? There are so many kids that need homes right?

Well, yes. The kids that need homes are mostly over the age of 10, aren't necessarily African American in our state or there are more than 3 siblings that can't be split up. In a year, there hasn't been 1 African American under the age of 4 that was chosen for our family. We were recommended for maybe a handful but so were 100's of other families.

We also had another situation that could have ended up in adoption but that failed as well.

Confused. Heartbroken. Sad. Angry. Grieving.

Now we are in a season where Ry doesn't necessarily want to adopt again. There is too much sadness, too much pain, too much of the unknown.

Looking back, Grace's adoption was so simple. I had no idea at the time but it was. We completed our paperwork, waited, then got on a plane to bring her home.

This time we have done everything and have been waiting with nothing for almost a year. Our home study expires mid-January so we really may be at the end.

God calls us to take care of orphans, to take care of those who need help, to give a father to the fatherless. I want to be obedient. I want to do what I am feel I am called to do. I am trying.

What do I do? Private domestic adoption is ridiculously expensive, often times more than International adoption. We looked into Crisis Pregnancy Centers but they too are usually high on the dollar side as well as several of them want you to have an open adoption. I don't know that we would want that. Rwanda is closed on their adoptions right now. It has been 15 months now that they have been working on the Hague accreditation. The are no DHS children who need us. We want to provide a home for someone who needs one. Someone who needs a family. Someone who belongs in our family.

My heart aches, like really really aches. I adamantly believe there is another child out their for us. But where are they....








Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Two years ago, Ryan and I were in Florida. I was very unsettled about our adoption and was waiting (im)patiently for our referral. We had received our approval in August and I didn't understand why the referral part was taking soooo long.

We were leaving Florida that morning. We had eaten breakfast and were headed back to our hotel room to finish packing. I had a call on my cell phone saying to check my email because our referral might be there. I flew to the computer and there it was. I had an email from a long Rwandan name. I opened it. Sadly, I looked without making sure Ryan was looking. I was selfish. I just wanted to see who would be joining our family. Looking back, I should have made sure he was right there with me.

As I scrolled down, I flew past the letter and went right to the picture. This picture.
I was like a child on Christmas morning tearing open the package without caring who or what or when. I studied the picture. Then went back up to see her name, Elina. I searched for her birthdate, April 2007. We were having a girl and she was 2 1/2 years old. We were getting our Grace. She looked so beautiful in her little dress. I was mesmerized by her little toes sticking out of the size too small sandals. Her lips, I fell in love with those lips.

Fast forward two years, through lots more paperwork, traveling, tears, learning, joy, frustration and laughter. Grace was made for our family. Grace was made to challenge me daily as a parent. Grace was made for me to love like I haven't loved before. Grace was made to bring me closer to Him.

We have come a long way in these two short years. We are all so glad that she is a part of our family. We adore her spunk, independence, feistiness, and sheer love of life.

Grace, October 2011, with her US citizenship celebratory cupcakes that Kay made.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween through the years...

2008
Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker


2009
Nikki the American Girl and Darth Vader



2010
Jango Fett, an Ewok, our Cupcake


2011
Pioneer Football Player, Minnie Mouse, Kisses from Katie - Katie Davis

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

From the blue gates in Rwanda to the blue roof of the US Department of Homeland Security, Grace's citizenship is complete. It has been a long road of post-adoption paperwork. From the re-adoption, to getting an american birth certificate, to submitting the envelope full of paperwork to the USCIS office, it has been almost 2 years. We are so glad that this is complete! Now, I just have to get her a social security number then a passport.... hopefully those will be a bit easier and/or quicker!

I wasn't sure what to expect. Would there be a ceremony? Would there be an interview? All we got was a letter telling Grace she had to be here at this time on this date. Easily enough, all we did was wait for our turn then I wrote her name several times on her certificate. We surrendered her Green Card and that was it. No oath or swearing on her heart. No raise your right hand and repeat after me. Just a new "Certificate of Citizenship," a Citizen's Almanac and a letter from Barrack welcoming Grace to our country. Welcome indeed!

Here is our American citizen right after we left. She was quite happy with her flag and held it all the way home. She came saying "America, America."

Kaylee made citizenship cupcakes for her little sis. Here's Grace ready to dig in. Again with the flag :).

Our bedtime reading for tonight. We covered the important presidents listed (Washington, Lincoln, Kennedy) then recited the Pledge of Allegiance. I told Grace there would be a quiz tomorrow.
Our bedtime prayer tonight for Grace was thanking God for our country and for bringing her to our family. God shed his grace on thee...



Saturday, October 1, 2011

i am not a professional

Cannon has needed a hair cut for about a week and a half. It hasn't gotten done. So today after football, I said "sit down" and I attempted my first hair cut with the handy Remington clippers of course. I made sure I had the right guard on. Carefully placed the blade against his head. Moved my arm in an upward motion. Then something went wrong. He screeched. I stepped back. I tried again. Same response. Tears were flowing at this point. The haircut ladies make this look so easy. I tried one more time. More tears flowed down his dirty face. Now the lower right quadrant of his head had shorter hair than all the rest. I have no idea what I did wrong. He grabbed a hat and off we went to get his hair cut by a professional. Thank goodness for that sweet lady!


Saturday, September 3, 2011

What To Expect When (You're Adopting)

(first portion borrowed from Farmers Wife Tells All)

It's the universal primer on giving birth:
I remember scouring the chapters over and over during my first pregnancy, comforted by the thorough explanations of exactly what was happening inside of me and what was to come. There was even a chapter about what to expect when things don't go as expected (which could be alternately titled, 73 Ways Your Birth Might Go Wrong.) I kind of winced through that chapter, but got through it just so I'd be familiar with what was happening if disaster struck. How on earth did women give birth before this book told them how to?

Exactly, how did we do anything before books, how-to-guides, and the internet. That goes for adoption too. How did people figure out what step they are on, what they need to do next, where to send their documents? How did they know what "situations" were available and what other devices would scare them to death of doing something wrong.

I can't lie. Adoption is a tough road. There are pleasant hills and then there are deep valleys. There are newly paved roads and then there are roads filled with pot holes that will just tear you apart. There is not a guide for it. There is no handy dandy do this and you will get a child book. There are alot of books on "what can go wrong with the process and/or your attachment." But there are no books on what you need to do for a smooth sailing adoption.

This go round for us has been not quite what I expected. There has been a lot more waiting and a lot more unknown. There has been a lot more unanswered questions. But still we wait. I pray that God shows us what he would like for us to do. I pray that He gives us some clear answers and that He protects our hearts from hurt.

Adoption emotions are not much different than pregnancy emotions. Some times women miscarry, some times adoptions don't go through. There is the loss of a child in both of them. There is pain and tears in both of them. And God's will is done in both of them.

I am praying that this fall will be full of answers for us. Full of adoption related answers that can either complete our family or let us know that our family is already complete.



Tuesday, August 23, 2011

the last few weeks

a quick trip to galveston for some beach time

lots of football

more beach time

2nd & 5th graders

prek

Lots going on. Getting ready for a full fall.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

She's doing what I am scared to do...

If you look to the side of this blog, you will see a link to "Kisses from Katie" and Amazima Ministries. A few years ago, I stumbled across her blog and have been a dedicated reader since. My husband also follows Katie and together we help support her ministry. My 10 year old daughter also keeps up with Katie and we have great conversations about what it means to follow God and what it looks like...

Katie does every day what I am scared to do. Take that step into the complete unknown in a foreign country and take care of strangers. Every time she posts my heart either breaks or is filled with joy. It is hard to read the stories of the starving, dying and addicted individuals. But it is joyful to read the stories of these same people being cared for by Katie, regain their lives and thrive in their communities.

Katie has written a book and here is a sneak peek into her life. She is also speaking at Catalyst this fall and I am so excited to be able to hear her speak in person.

Take a few minutes and watch how God is working in this young ladies life. Pray for her. Pray for the lives that she touches. Support her.







Thursday, July 21, 2011

life...

Life, these days, is filled with pleasant surprises.

*I found a $10 in my pocket the other day. That was a good one. Isn't it always nice to find money in your pants.

* Grace has become a puzzle girl. Kay loved puzzles at 4 years old and I am delighted to see Grace start doing them as well. It started out with big old floor puzzles. Now she has moved to 24 piece puzzles. This is such a great thing for her to be able to do...so many skills involved. She has come so far in just a year and a half. I didn't think she was ready for the smaller puzzles but she proved me otherwise.

*Answered prayers. God sure likes to keep me on my toes. I pray for things that I think are important or needed. I pray for His will but sometimes just want Him to do things my way in my time. He likes to answer my prayers in His way. I like His way better. Wish I could always remember this. More to share here but it is not yet time...

Life is full of them, surprises. Some are not good surprises, some are better than average. But I like them, at least these days...









Friday, July 15, 2011

in 10 short years, she went from this...

to this...
Happy Birthday to my oldest!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

another family complete

The Cassada family recently returned home from picking up their 2 boys from Rwanda. Their welcome home video is just amazing and brought back so many memories.

Take a few minutes to go watch their video here. Let your heart be warmed.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

summer....

Summer has started off busy! Kay and Can have had several weeks of non-stop fun. At least I hope they are having fun....
Cannon with his 2 favorite counselors at kamp, Brad & Jake


Kay with her counselors, Anna & Sarah Margaret


Grace enjoyed being an only child for a week. Got to watch what she wanted on tv, had the pool to herself, and of course all of our attention. Here she is mastering her floating.


Here is the newest addition to our family. A little kitten who was orphaned by her mama. She was found by friends and Kaylee said "mom, she needs us." So, here is Jayne.


Our next project...kitchen renovation. Cabinets used to be in the spot above, the stove is on the left. I'll post before and afters as we progress!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Adoption #2 Update

Just a quick update on adoption #2. In simple terms, there are no new developments. I do feel that I have done all that I can do on my end. If God sees us fit for another adoption, then He will make it so.

Steps we have taken:
1) Completed all DHS requirements. We hear from our worker occasionally but there seem to not be very many african american boys in our age range in our state. We even increased our age range but still nothing yet.

2) Sent our homestudy to 50 states either via email or mail. I have heard back from several states and have been told "your homestudy has been sent to the correct person." So we will see if we get any calls from that.

3) Sent letters out to certain individuals who may come in contact with women who are looking for adoptive parents.

4) Researched international adoption again (Uganda). The time in-country is 6-8 weeks which seems like a long time at this point. We were in Rwanda/Ethiopia for 3 weeks...

So I feel at peace and content with what I have done. I do feel that we are supposed to adopt again so I will leave that up to God to show me when.... for now I will enjoy the sweet 3 souls that God has blessed me with. Lots of fun things are planned for the summer!


Sunday, June 5, 2011

She asked...

Last night we got home late. Grace requested a bath because "my feet are dirty. I played outside" They were, so we bathed. As always after bath, we put some good old coconut oil in her hair and were combing it out. She was up on her stool looking in the mirror.

She asked me.... "mama, I'm brown." I said "yes, Gracie, you are brown."

She then asked me... "mama, your white." I said "yes, Gracie, I am white."

She said "why?"

I stood there amazed at the question. She is only 4 by a few months. I didn't think it would come this soon. I thought I had a few more years. I am not sure that she understood exactly what she asked. I am still taken aback when I think about it....

I said to her "well, God made us this way. And I am more of a carmelly tan then white." We then talked about the things we have in common. "Mama has black hair and I have black hair" she said. I followed with "you, daddy and yaya all have brown eyes!" We continued on with our similarities as this is one of her most favorite things to point out.

I knew that this question would be asked. I knew that one day she would realize that we don't have the same color skin. But I also know that that is the only difference. Everything about us is the same... We all have hearts, brains, fingers, toes. We like to swim. We like to eat pizza. We all love each other and we love our God. God made us the way we are. God made our family.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Happenings

So much has been going on around here. Lots of busy evenings, lots of laughs, lots of tears, lots of prepping for summer, lots of prayer for things to come.


the end of school is near, this one is not ready for the summer to be here


looking at our in park home run hitter


school picnics


lots of softball games


prepping to send 2 kiddos back here.. Kay's 3rd year back!


school pictures this spring...looking at my almost pre-k girl

here she is in all her glory.... legs and orneriness

oh, the rapture was supposed to happen. did it?

this boy.... wow, is all I have to say.


"mom, pistol pete signed my forehead!"


This summer will be full of excitement, sweat and swimming. We are ready. Well, all of us except Kaylee.



Sunday, May 15, 2011

The only way through this...

The only way through this thing called adoption is faith that God is in it with you. Our family mission with adoption is to provide a family for a little one who needs us.

Grace's adoption, we knew what to expect. Complete the paperwork, send some money, wait for so long, get approved, hop on a plane, meet your child, more paperwork, come home. It was very cut and dry really.

This time around looked like it was going to be the same. Complete paperwork, take classes, wait for a little one. Yeah, well, it is all fine and dandy except for there aren't any little ones.

Most of my research shows that African American males are the least likely to be adopted. So instead the majority don't finish high school, bounce around the foster care system, many of them end up in prison somewhere.

Well, that is not the case in our state. Over the last 5 months, there have been 2 (yes 2) little ones who were African American and under the age of 2. Our homestudy was submitted but we weren't chosen for them. Ok, so why exactly are we doing this? Where are all of the little African American boys who need a home? Where is all the research coming from?

So last week I was doing some internet investigations. I did find some websites (www.adoptuskids.com & www.adoptionexchange.com) where you can search the database to see if anyone is in your age range. Our worker had warned me that most of the kids on these website are hard to place kids that have severe medical issues. I can confirm that this is the case. It was heartbreaking to see these little ones who need so much medically not have a family.

I then stumbled across this website. The Orphan Justice Center is a website who's motto is Rescue - Adopt - Restore. I found a listing where they have every state adoption specialist name and their contact information. I stared at the screen and thought, hmmm. Then my fingers started clicking and I sent our homestudy to every single state that had an email address listed. I wrote a letter to the "Dear Adoption Worker" and prayed that God show me if we really are supposed to adopt. I also mailed the same information to the few states who didn't have an email listed. So I contacted 48 states (I decided against Hawaii and Alaska). If I have this information at my finger tips and not a child is found, then I am taking it as a message that now isn't the time, I need to back off.

I have had a good response. Several states have said that they do not have any children within our age request. I have had several states say that they have forwarded our information on to other workers within their states. I have had a few phone calls. I also have had a few states give me the www.adoptuskids.com website and say that I should look there (again...).

All in all, I really feel that I have exhausted all of the avenues out there. Either there really aren't any little African American boys who need a home (which I have a hard time believing) or this just isn't our time.

To help my type A self, I have printed off a map of the US. I make notes on each state whenever I get a response. This helps me keep track and gives me a visual on who and where.

My prayer has been for God to let me know what the next step is. I know that there are kids out there that need families. I know that there is someone out there who needs us... just have to find him!


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter! Up from the grave he arose!

Friday, April 22, 2011

You say its your birthday...


Grace turns 4 today! She has been counting down and asking about this day for months. Last year, she really didn't get the whole birthday thing. But this year she sure does. This morning we had her party with her best friend. We went to donuts, got pedicures and had some hot chocolate at our favorite coffee shop. After that, she was treated to lunch with Dad by herself! Whoa. Then tonight we will have our family party. She has requested meatballs for dinner (her favorite food) and brownies. This girl is easy to please!

at the donut shop
getting pedis
enjoying some hot chocolate

Compare...contrast
2010, 3 years old

2011, 4 years old
She has definitely lost the toddler cubby cheek look and know looks more like a big girl! Can't wait to see how much she has grown at her appointment on Monday! I would say at least 5 inches!!