Wednesday, December 21, 2011

3 Weeks In.

I've been trying to get all our journalings in order, as both Patrick and I documented A LOT from our trip to bring Acacia home. However, at this point, the stories are better kept for our own memories, or to tell over cocktails at dinner parties. We've been home three weeks... and we know that, yeah, hearing about Africa is cool and all... but "How's Acacia doing?!" is the real topic everyone is interested in.

So, with due diligence to our travels, Click here for our (facebook) album of favorite pics from trip #2. For something that was not meant to be a vacation, it had some pretty great vaca-like moments.

Now for all things baby...

Acacia was freaking awesome for us in Addis. She rode around attached to me via baby carrier like a total pro. I even brought her (in a taxi) to the Embassy to pick up her visa, and then out shopping... and did this SOLO! Well, I had a translator, and a driver, but Patrick wasn't... able to accompany me. (I'd told him not to order that salad! FYI, do NOT under any circumstances, eat raw vegetables unless they are peeled when in 3rd world countries.)

It was the moment we entered the airport that this kid kinda lost her marbles. And I don't blame her- the Bole Int'l Airport is not a comfortable place, especially when your flight doesn't leave til 1AM and it's only 9. En route to London, and then to the States, she DID sleep a lot, but was an unhappy camper during waking hours. Our very last flight, a whopping 37 minutes from Newark to Boston, she must have sensed our relief, because she perked up and was pretty calm by the time we met up with my parents smiling faces outside the terminal. Strapping her into the car seat for her very first restrained car ride, I held my breath. But, shoveling her full of rice puffs seemed to keep her satisfied, and she was asleep by the time we made it home.

We put Acacia in our room for the first few days, then moved her into Zinnia's room (now, "The girls' room") with quick success. Minus that first night where her timeclock was all kinds of screwed up, she has slept approximately 12 hours a night ever since. I am SO afraid to jinx myself, but sleep has not been lacking in the least for any of us. Lately, Acacia's even been going down for naps and bedtime without crying... sometimes even giggling. Our secret? I do believe we've just been lucky enough to get a good egg when it comes to zzz's. However, my fostering her ability to self soothe hasn't hurt, either. Zinnia is the one having a tough time, now that she can't sing at the top of her lungs in the dark until she drifts off to sleep.

Zinnia has been having a rough time in general, as expected. Yet in just 3 weeks, we're starting to see the roles be established. Acacia now laughs and squeals JUST like Zinnia, to the point where I have to look to see who's making the noise. She copies her big sister pretty readily, so we have to constantly encourage Zinnia not to grab things, be pushy, etc. Zinnia is great at riling Acacia up, and we're still at a point where we appreciate the chaos as long as it's happy.

Food has not really been a struggle, just a learning experience. Acacia needs a constant reminder that there will always be enough food for her, and that she won't go hungry. We have to try to all eat together at all times, and she doesn't yet know how to stop eating when she feels full. Usually she has to get bored being in her highchair before she will stop. If a container of milk or a box of cheerios crosses her path of vision, laser beams shoot from her eyes. She used to scream, but now that she knows the sign for more, she's gotten comfortable in knowing she can communicate that she's still hungry. It's not that the orphanage starved her; they just followed their own schedule vs. taking a baby's hunger cues. Aka, she got fed when she could be, not when she needed to be. And, they fed those kids so fast, they didn't get a chance to even taste what they were eating (not that porridge or ground pasta had any flavor anyhow!) So far, Acacia will try anything, but definitely favors certain foods. Patrick has shifted his focus on Acacia when it comes to the eternal struggle to get our children to eat broccoli. Neither of them are giving him much satisfaction, but Acacia provides a glimmer of hope! And, considering that the other night she ate a plentiful helping of eggplant curry (filled with garlic!), I'm pretty sure we can say we have a good, healthy, non-picky eater on our hands.

Zinnia was probably the most cautious one year old on the planet. I remember hearing all my friends with children of the same age woefully telling tales of split lips and concussions and countless other scares as a result of the fearless pre-toddler. I just didn't have that problem with the now-three-year-old who will still opt to go down the stairs on her bum.

Not Acacia. She'd have taken ten flying leaps off the top stair by now if I'd let her. She's gotten two eggs on her little forehead from diving head first off the couch without reserve. When she falls on her face on our tile floor, which occurs at least a dozen times a day, there is no dramatic ado for an icepack or a band-aid (and not a plain one, a Dora one. Even though we only buy the plain ones). She gets back up without one tear shed. The funniest thing about Acacia is how much she loves water. She must get that from my dad. ;) She practically dunks her head into the bathtub, and purposely "gets water in her eyes," something we'd grown to learn was an all-time parental sin with our first born.

All in all, for only 3 weeks being home, we've had it pretty good. Acacia is turning into a very well adjusted kid, and the sisterly bond, though in progress, is starting to adhere. We are very excited and ready for Christmas, and gearing up for the first Kwanzaa celebration. (Kwanzaa runs from 12/26 to 1/1.) More on that endeavor in the coming week!

Happy holidays, everyone.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Africa, Day 3.

How is it that Acacia could so perfectly sleep through the night, but I couldn't manage? Maybe it was because I had so confidently announced that I'd conquered jetlag.

We started the day with a trip to the AHope Orphanage with the Gourley's (another adopting family). They were bringing donations to this home for children who are HIV+. Many of these children will never be placed in homes, which is a shame because they were all lovely. Two girls in particular captivated us. I would take turns holding each one of them as I could feel their silent hopes that I was coming to save them. After this experience, I can now understand why families return to Ethiopia to adopt more children after their first.

We arrived at the US Embassy after lunch. The 2 1/2 hour wait was well representing of the entire process. The visa interview took less than one minute, and was a clear case of much ado about nothing. On Thursday, Acacia's visa will be ready, and then she's only a plane ride away from US Citizenship.

We finished the day with dinner at a traditional Ethiopian restaurant. Our translator, Abraham (Ahh-Bee for short) reserved us a table that was front and center to the entertainment stage. A band was playing when we arrived, with instruments that were ancestors to our familiar ones. They were joined by an ensemble of performers that sang and danced. Acacia was such a trooper. After being dragged all over Addis by day, she still found the energy to dance in Killeen's lap at night. Four adoptive families tore injera bread together and drank honey wine. Some, like us, were finishing their journey, while others still had some road to travel. That night, we were family. Oh, and Killeen and I discovered that a few jars full of honey wine is the key to a good, African night's sleep.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

We got her! Ethiopia, day 2.

Outside our Guest House:

Getting into Addis was quite a blur. The plane ride here was nothing short of perfect, for when we departed DC for London, we had a free seat in our row. I think I slept at least 5 hours- awesome. When we changed planes in London? Free seat score #2! We can only hope this will happen on the way back, but I bet Murphy's law will prevent that bonus from happening when we need it most. The bummer about London -> Ethiopia as that it was a smaller plane, thus the giant movie library we enjoyed on previous flights was replaced by a movie schedule, and I can't say I was enticed by the provided documentary about the olympics in China. Regardless, the extra space was delightful. Our driver was ready and waiting when we past through the long customs lines, and we got to our Guest House around midnight. The accommodations are significantly better than those of the last trip, and that said, we slept like babies on the first night in.

At breakfast on Sunday, we were greeted by Niki Gourley, whom I'd met a few weeks back on my excursion to Baltimore. We met her husband Steve, and newly acquired baby Yoseph, who has the biggest, widest eyes, toothy grin, and affinity for drumming on anything his hands can thump against.

The other family here, the Lains, are a fun, friendly, adventurous clan of 4, soon to be 5 when their Ethiopian daughter's adoption goes through. They are from the states, but have been living in Mongolia the past few years. Need I say more to prove they are super interesting to talk to? :)

Patrick's last post covers the events of our Sunday, with church and a trip to the mountain tops. I have to add here how cool it is to be in this country again and be able to experience a little more of the land and the culture. The last trip didn't lend itself to hardly any sightseeing or the like - it was: Get in. Go to court. Get out.

Monday: THE DAY we've been waiting for. It was really hard to arrive on Saturday night, knowing we wouldn't get to see Acacia until Monday morning. So, when the moment finally came, we found ourselves back in the same room we'd said our goodbyes 4 months prior. It had been repainted, and along with some new furniture, it was now a much more pleasant environment (although my happier sentiments may also have helped). When a nanny rounded the corner with our daughter, she burst into tears at the handoff. Perhaps she'd been holding a grudge since our last visit. (Where did those fun people go, and why did they leave behind all these pictures of themselves?!?) I took it as a good sign that she had some attachment to her caregivers.

We made our peace over a bowl of porridge, followed by a short nap. The feeling of her little body and soft belly snuggled against my chest was something I'd missed beyond belief. By lunch time, we'd packed her up (which was easy, she only owned the two things we'd given her), and poof! she was our responsibility. Upon leaving, the director told us that she truly enjoyed our daughter, that she has her own unique way of communicating, and that she needs someone to unlock her smile.

Well, I'd say it took about an hour. I thought she'd be a major challenge when it came to the expression department, but that little girl was ready to be done with institutionalized life. She smiles, and smirks, and giggles amongst all the frowns. She blows lots of raspberries. She shows clear and incredible pride when she accomplishes a small goal, like bending down to pick up a small object without falling on her bum. When something drops to the floor, she makes a huge deal about it, gasping and pointing even if it's a practically invisible crumb of food. She despises the beginning of a diaper change, but cooperates considerably by lifting her legs to help me.

Our first night, when I put her to bed, I found that she rocks herself side to side to fall asleep. It was both the cutest and saddest thing I've ever seen. When she was officially out, still sitting up and slumped over, I leaned her back and she settled onto her tummy, wiggling her bottom like a happy puppy. She only made one squeak all night long.

When we rose in the AM, she looked a little surprised, but broke into a huge grin. No baby, it's not a dream... you really do have a family! I will remember this moment when I'm stuck in an airplane over the Atlantic, and she's clearly not so happy with me. I know this is the "honeymoon phase," but I am currently intent on enjoying this African honeymoon.

First night with Mom and Dad!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Back in Ethiopia by Patrick

Back in Ethiopia. The familiar smells of burning diesel and rich coffee are uncanny. New friends include the Africa sun and mosquitos. This morning we attended a non-denominational church with other adoptive families that were staying at our guest house. While not my path, I was inspired by the congregation and reminded of the passion that can exist in one's life.

Later we drove 45 minutes to the first break in the treeline that overlooked Addis Ababa. A small path diverged from the road, and invitingly wrapped around a corner into the woods. Our teenage driver stopped and our montley crew of four adults and two kids exited the vehicle. The driver was nervous and began asking us what we were doing in his native tongue. Maybe telling the guest house that we didn't need a translator wasn't the greatest idea. He started pointing at the path and saying "No road!" He was adiment. He started pulling in expert witneses to build his "No road" arguement. We were convinced. I would be sure to even tell my friends and family that this path into the woods, should indeed, never be classified as a road. While the belief that our friends' particular concern was proper geographic classification, even I am not that void of common sense. Then it clicked, he thought we were going to walk back to the guest house on this road, I mean, whatever. We were able then to calm him down and let him know not to leave us behind while walked down, uhm, the path?

The walk was invigorating. Full of unique vegetation, and impressive views of the capital. As we continued our surroudings became more remote. Since the road was no longer visable, we decided not to assume that our driver was going to wait for us long.

Back at the van, we were mobbed by a group of kids looking for candy. We were reduced to handing out vitamin c drops. At least we did our part for the day to battle scurvy.

Pictures and video are proving to be harder to upload. They will come, but may be another day or two. Tomorrow we reunite with Acacia. From that point forward we take the next step in our path to Acacia. Thank goodness, we didn't choose the name "Road to Acacia."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ethiopia, Trip #2

3 days 'til takeoff! ...Help!

We have been non-stop for the last week. I watched other cleared families get on a plane the VERY next day, and still have no idea how they did it! We could have flown out over this past weekend (which is what our agency was expecting us to do) but we felt it best to have a full week to prep, and to leave just after the holiday.

Amongst the packing, booking, planning and cleaning, we have also been doing our best to revel in the last few days with our firstborn, as our family is about to change forever. Sunday morning we all snuggled in bed, reading and tickling and laughing like crazy before going out to breakfast with some of our best buds on the planet. It was a great pause in the hectic weekend to truly enjoy life just as it is in the present, while finally having the peace that Acacia is about to assume her rightful place within her forever family.

The day after a very thankful Thanksgiving dinner at my aunt and uncle's house, we'll leave Manchester and fly to Dulles in DC. From there, we stop in London for a few hours (meet us for tea, MJ???) and then continue on to Addis with a 10pm arrival (which is 2pm on Saturday, our time).

We're staying at the Ethiopian Guest Home , and will be driven there upon arrival. I wish I could say we'd wake up Sunday and have our long awaited moment of taking her in our arms forever... but the transition home where she lives is closed on Sundays! Our entire first day in Ethiopia, we'll be ten minutes away from her, and unable to see her. Irony at it's finest. The nannies are there with the children of course, but other supporting staff gets the day off, and well they should. We will spend Sunday drinking the best coffee on earth, and shopping at Merkato. Merkato is the largest open air market in Africa, covering several square miles and employing an estimated 13,000 people.

Monday will be the day we've been waiting for since we first saw that little face in a photograph on April 27th. When we met Acacia for the first time, I marveled and delighted and all that, but always in the back of my mind was that I'd have to leave her. This is the trip I've been dreaming of.

When Acacia comes into our custody, she's ours, and ours to care for. It will be a wake up call! The guest house will be filled with other adoptive families, so I'm sure we'll all be swapping hair care tips, asking feeding questions and trading too-small and too-big clothing.

Tuesday is our Visa appointment at the Embassy. So far, every family has made it through the appointment smoothly.

Wednesday, we will go visit Numan orphanage (and leave Acacia with the Nannies at the Guest House). It's a three hour drive south to rural Assela Town, and I hope our van has a huge "oh-shit" handle - Ethiopians drive fast, and there aren't any lines on the roads. We will be bringing all your donations with us, and spending some time around Acacia's home turf. I can't wait.

Thursday is wide open for whatever the week brings us, and I'm hoping we can travel somewhere noteworthy with another family or two. We depart Thursday night, again crossing through London, then to Newark and into Manchester at 3:53 pm on Friday afternoon.

If you've made it to this point, then you've read a LOT about this adoption. Thank you! Though we will be laying low for the next few months, I do want to invite anyone who so desires to meet us at the airport when we arrive home. I am not one to enjoy a lot of fanfare, but the moment that my two daughters meet for the first time as sisters chalks up there with the most important moment in my life to date. I keep imagining that moment much like a bride imagines her walk down the aisle. Even if both kids are screaming, it will be the happiest moment of my life! So, naturally, anyone who wants to share in it is invited. No need for rsvp's or anything... just show up to Manchester Airport before 3:53pm on Friday, 12/2.

Next update coming at you from Africa!

XXOO, Killeen

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The post I've been waiting 2 years to write.

November 21st, 2009, we attended a Q & A adoption meeting. A darling set of parents, with a twice-as-darling daughter from China, sat with us and a few other couples in the community room of a little church. They showed us a video, talked about the agency they represented, and spent about 10 minutes covering each country with an open adoption program. We left, saying "seems pretty cool." A few weeks later, we were plopping our initial paperwork in the mail with a non-refundable $100 deposit.

We always wanted to adopt, but honestly, we hadn't put a lot of intense thought into it. It just seemed right, we simply both agreed it would be a great way to grow the family we wanted. We knew there were all sorts of challenges that came with adoption, but we didn't really know what they were. No risk, no reward, right?

Never in a million, trillion years did I think I'd find myself, almost exactly 2 years later, on my knees on my kitchen floor, crying "Thank you... Thank you... Thank you..." after four months of pure uncertainty that my baby girl would ever come home.

As covered in my last post, on Oct. 11th, our case was deemed "not clearly approvable," and forwarded to Nairobi, Kenya's Central Immigration Office (CIS) for further review. When we found out that CIS was instead coming to Ethiopia to address the problem in country, there was a glimmer of hope. 11/7 - 11/18 was the slated length of their stay, and they committed to reviewing all of the cases that had been flagged for Kenya.

I went to Baltimore on the weekend of 11/5, to be with 4 other adoptive mamas stuck in the same mess. Out at lunch, only having met each other in person the hour before, you'd have thought we'd been friends for 10 years. We dissected and analyzed and ruminated over our cases and our predicament. We flip-flopped between hope and fear and back again. It was so amazing to be able to talk so freely about something so complicated, because all 5 of us knew exactly how each other felt, without having to explain one word of the story. I sat there, rather impressed that I'd just put myself on a plane to spend the weekend with strangers. I don't do that! But then it hit me: No, I don't do that. But Acacia's Mom does.

It was a really powerful realization. I sat in the airport waiting for my departure flight back to NH on Sunday eve, and I wrote the kid a letter to give to her when she's ready to hear her story. It was the first time I'd really let her back into my heart since I left her, versus trying to block her out of it because it hurt too much to be so far away. Then, it occurred to me that this, that all of this, was preparing me for what I'd naively set myself up for two years ago. If this had been easy, my perception of adoption would remain inaccurate, and I probably would have floundered when it came time to step up to the challenge of being an adoptive parent. Instead, I've had to reach deep to get through feelings of loss and grief; the very things I will have to help Acacia get through in the future.

News from USCIS has been filtering in this last week and a half. I've cheered for the families who cleared, and cried for the families who got unfavorable news regarding the need for more lengthy investigation. Each day that passed without news of my own wore me down a little more. Yesterday, the new friend I stayed with in Baltimore received the dreaded, not-so-good email. As soon as I got that word, I fled work, devastated for her, and knowing I couldn't just sit at my desk and await the formidable email myself. I knew it was coming; we'd had a hunch that our cases were grouped together.

So when it came, not 20 minutes after I'd reached home, I called Patrick before opening it. (His email is blocked at work, thus I was appointed messenger.) It was a password protected PDF, and though it was only 5 characters, I managed to mess it up twice. Poor Patrick just sat there on the other end of the line, shouting "What is it, what is it??!!"

There is nothing like opening an email that changes the course of your life. When I saw the clearance, it knocked the wind out of me. A four month question had just been answered.

There's so much more I could say, but I haven't slept in a week. :) Regardless, I HAD to write something tonight, because I know how many of you have been admittedly stalking my facebook page (which means there's plenty of you that I don't know about!) This has been hard for those of you who care about us, too. We recognize that, and are so, so thankful to be able to give you the good news I believe we've ALL been waiting for. Followers, your investment in our lives is clear, and held dear.

We plan to leave the day after Thanksgiving, and will come back the first weekend in December. I will post official travel dates when the flight is booked.

In closing, the picture at the top of this post seemed a little silly at the time, but in essence, that's me holding up my positive pregnancy test. Two years later, I am being rewarded for the risk I hardly even knew I was taking.

Oh, and Happy National Adoption Month. :) May you be encouraged, not discouraged, by our story, should you ever find adoption to call to you. I can assure you, it's the most meaningful choice I will ever make.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Long Overdue Fill-in


It has been a rollercoaster of a month for the McGowans. I'm not sure I can say that I want to ever relive what will forever be known in New Hampshire as Snowtober. Yet it's safe to say that the storm that led to a multi-day power outage was the least of our concerns. It felt like a rather fitting way to finish off what's usually a gorgeous month in autumn; in darkness... with little information as to when light might be restored.

The last day of September held good news. We were submitted to the Embassy! We were one email away from bringing home our sweet, sweet girl. Well, in early October the email came... but it didn't quite say what we'd expected.

"...insufficent evidence... cannot approve... sending to Nairobi for review..."

Wait. WHAT? It was like that email was in another language. But it wasn't. It said, pretty clearly once I could find the power to comprehend it, that more proof was needed to classify Acacia as an orphan. The entity to do this? The closest Central Immigration Office (USCIS)- in Kenya. It would take 1-2 months before Nairobi even RECEIVED the case, never mind beginning an investigation on it.

As I'd heard it before, very, very few cases were ever forwarded to Nairobi. It seemed dire... until I signed on to my trusty Facebook group of other adoptive parents to break the news. Turns out, the news had already been broken by one, two, three families. We made four. Another had gotten the news a few days prior. How could this very unlikely outcome be the fate of FIVE families from my very own agency?

One of the moms started a new Facebook Group for those of us in this predicament (from all agencies, not just our own). A few weeks later, that group grew from 5 members to 50. To date, there are 87 of us there, and we have learned that Nairobi has about 60 cases awaiting them.

USCIS had to react. Instead of the cases going to them (via diplomatic pouch, I might add, which is like snail mail in the pre-Pony Express era), THEY are attempting to expedite their lengthy process by going to the Embassy where our cases lie. I'd like to think it was a mixture of their common sense, and our relentless questions and rallying. We contacted our Senators, we berated the Embassy with emails. We created enough of a stir for USCIS to hold a 90 minute conference call with over a hundred stakeholders, including ourselves, and a rep from our Senator's office on our behalf. We have challenged our agencies to change their processes to be proactive rather than reactive. And we got somewhere with it.

The team of USCIS officials from Nairobi arrives in Ethiopia on Monday, 11/7. We have all our ducks in a row. We have faith they just might look at our case, and just might find the 51% proof they need to deem Acacia an orphan and let us, her lawful family, bring her home. They stay for two weeks. We will be holding our breath the whole time. Should they not find enough proof to rule our case approved, we have 90 days to gather their requested evidence to again attempt to get our kiddo home.

So, these next two weeks are pretty big. Those thoughts and prayers and energy you've directed our way? Please, please keep it all coming now more than ever. Not just for us, but for all the amazing beautiful children I've come to know through sharing photos and swapping stories with their parents. Children whom are being held in institutions while their loving families are left at the mercy of the US government. The process is meant to protect the children, I get that. However, for the stage we're in, we're truly caught up in messy, inconsistent processes that are still being defined. We pray that the USCIS swoops in on 11/7 and sorts it all out.

So, there's a light at the end of the tunnel... and we just have to hope that we can reach it before another outage hits. If October brought snow, perhaps November will bring sunshine and rainbows.

And now, if you haven't read enough already... I want to share the words of a fellow adoptive parent with a true gift for erecting a window into the world of adoption. So many of you have written us, or timidly asked us how to help us through this. This blog entry not only addresses that, but also explains what life is like from our current perspective, and what it will be like going forward. (Funny enough, the waiting is apparently the "easy" part!) Enjoy:

Jen Hatmaker - How to Be The Village*

* Don't get caught up in the Christian nature of her writing should you not be of Christian faith. I'm not, but I still relate to the true essence of her speech on every level.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Last update for awhile.

The very short version of today's adoption news:
Our case has been forwarded to another country for review.

What it means:
Probably no Acacia until after Christmas.

That's about all we feel like explaining. We are going to refocus our energy on ourselves and Zinnia, knowing that Acacia is being kept safe in Ethiopia.

We really appreciate all the support we've received. Regarding now, please don't apologize or feel sorry for us- that doesn't help. We are facing something really difficult, but we need to try to rise above the things we can't change, and put a lot of this behind us for awhile.

Keeping us quietly and discreetly in your thoughts and prayers is what we ask.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The final stretch, and the things that are making it bearable.

While Patrick and I traveled solo on our first trip to Ethiopia, the wonders of social media have made it possible to connect with many of the other families within our agency. Those of us that are currently in the same boat have found each other, and thus Facebook has recently served an entirely different purpose for me. While the twelve to fifteen families that frequent our page the most are people I’ve never met, I feel like they are the only people in the world who understand what I’m feeling right now.

We have collectively been supporting each other whilst simultaneously freaking each other out. As soon as someone hears an update from our agency regarding their case and posts the news, I immediately, unintentionally, and without much rationale, apply that information to my own situation. People have needed rewritten adoption decrees, police reports, interviews with birth family members, interviews with witnesses present during the ruling of an abandonment case, further proof of investigations regarding abandonment, MIA birth father identification… the list goes on. Every time someone has another hang up, I pessimistically assume that I am going to need this same information at some point. I have set myself up to expect negative news… it’s just what I do. I have such a hard time conceptualizing that things will work out.

After 6 weeks of anticipating it, we finally got our case submitted to the US Embassy (USE), which is the last big step in this game. Hearing the long awaited news that we’ve made it past the iron gates of the USE was really awesome, but the hardest part will be making it back out of the gate. The USE has been holding on tight to those cases, making it near impossible for anyone to please them enough to get visa clearance for their son or daughter. The families I know who had been submitted as long as a month ago are still in paperwork nightmares; only five out of 19 of us have cleared. I remain hopeful that much of my delay in getting submitted was due to requests made by, and already fulfilled for, the USE. I’m not at square one when it comes to their asking for additional info. Just wish I knew how many squares there were to go.

As mentioned in our last blog entry, these adoptions have all been finalized in the eyes of the Ethiopian government. It’s our own government that’s delaying the inevitable journey of these waiting children. Acacia is 14 months today. Each delay is more time away from her that I can never get back. I am so happy that most of our children are too young to know what the heck they are waiting for. It’s torture on this end, but I am confident that ignorance is bliss for the babies. Their nannies are awesome.

Amidst this all-too-painful elongated wait, I’m making a list of positive things that wouldn’t have happened if we’d returned to Ethiopia when we thought we would. This list pales heavily in comparison to the prize at the end of the path… but it’s all I’ve got.

1) Our fundraiser (see post from 9/18) was derived out of a need to keep busy and do something good. And we ended up with a literal boatload of baby products to donate, and enough cash to get extra bags checked and grant the orphanage with a sizeable donation. They discourage cash donations, so our task this week is to figure out the best way to utilize the money through existing projects in the area.

2) I got to attend my dear friend’s wedding, and witness the union of two beautiful families becoming one. I don’t think I’ve ever cried at a wedding, but I bawled like a baby when the couple’s first dance turned into a family huddle with their four children. Really powerful to see this family’s milestone, especially at a time where the conspicuous, non-nuclear family is something heavy on my mind (in a good way).

3) I took the old, beat up, red bureau that had been hiding in my closet, and a $5.00 yard sale score mirror, and painted them. Should’ve taken a “before” pic, but here’s the final product. Eat this, Pottery Barn!

4) I bought this picture frame to hang over Acacia’s crib, which I am filling with pictures of her and us. Seems small, but had this all gone quickly, I would never have had the time to do it.

5) I am delighting in the rapid growth and blossoming maturity of my soon-to-be three year old. Zinnia makes me smile like no other, and this extra 1-on-1 time with my first born is truly special.

6) Patrick’s insane marathon training plan has yet to be interrupted, and it’s safe to say he will survive the training without having to run circles in the courtyard of the Children’s Hope Intl. Transition Home. He’s been immensely dedicated, and I am so happy to see that he will achieve his goal.

On the subject of Patrick, I must say this amazingly trying process has strengthened us as a couple. I feel like by making it through this together, we can face anything. Thanks for being awesome, babe.

7) The Life is good music festival: fifth year volunteering, third year as a photographer. I had an incredible time and have some great pictures to add to my portfolio of musician's portraits.

And there are many more great things that have happened in the last month. Time spent with friends and family in this calm-before-the-storm kind of atmosphere. Still, I can't wait for the storm hit. "Eye on the prize," our agency says, over and over. How can I begin to look anywhere else?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Progress in Another Form: a Recap of the Fundraiser

The Short of it:

  • We collected a suitcase full of baby supplies that weighs significantly more than I do.

  • We raised $1333.00, with $485.00 of it designated for the 50/50 raffle winner.

  • We drew the raffle winner this morning : Mike Holt.

  • Mike, who also happened to attend the party, talk to everyone at it, AND stay until the very end, insisted that we keep his jackpot for the cause.

The Long of it:

I really thought we'd have a travel date to go and get Acacia by now. We are likely still anywhere from a few weeks to a few months away from having her home, and as I've said before, it's the unknown that's putting me over the edge.

Riding the wave of emotions in the past few months hasn't been easy to say the least. I am someone who lives by the principle of "high ideals, low expectations." I know how I want things to be, but I don't ever expect much, thus I'm more often pleasantly surprised than I am disappointed. However, my general rule doesn't apply to wanting my baby home. That exception is all about hoping for the best, and expecting the best... because how could I do anything else? Though as a result, I've experienced a lot of let downs.

The fundraiser was that kind of thing that had me returning to my low-expectation standby. I didn't want to get too confident that we'd get a good turn out or collect many supplies. I'm also not the fundraising type... I hesitate to put others in the position of feeling obligated to give. The whole thing was out of my comfort zone, yet it still felt like something that I needed to do.

I was admittedly a little discouraged when I didn't hear from some of the people I expected I would. Patrick sensed this, and did his best to encourage me that we'd have a great time. I did my best to remember this wasn't all about me, but about Acacia and her fellow buddies from her orphanage. It was tough, but I still found myself adding small details to the event to honor those kids. This included making a large batch of little lapel ribbons to wear at the event.

At the peak of last night's get-together, with the colors of the Ethiopian flag pinned to every shirt and blouse, I truly did feel a unification. There were people who were there for us, because they've always been there for us. We need that, and we couldn't be more thankful for that. There were also people who made an appearance because they really believe in what we're doing, and I was so touched by the conversations that revolved around this. There were a few friendships from the past that feel rekindled as a result of the evening. At 13 months old, Acacia has already managed to connect me to, reconnect me to, or deepen my connection with so many different people. This notion, along with the copious amount of donations we've collected, has put me at peace with the delays we've faced. We didn't let this extra time go to waste.

A few of Zinnia's teachers came to represent, showing me that Zinnia has, and needs, support in this endeavor, too. Her school put out their own collection box, unprompted, and such initiative speaks volumes. Another teacher was our babysitter for the night, gave Zinnia great care (as Zinnia will tell me everything!), and gave us total peace of mind while we were out. We came home to a sleeping kid with a glowing report.

When we drew the raffle winner today, I was really excited to see it was our friend Mike. He added a lot of energy to last night's outing, and it felt fitting that he'd get the other half of the pot. I was overcome with so much emotion when he told me he wanted us to keep it, and that there was no changing his mind. His generosity, which is a conglomeration of everyone's generosity, is appreciated, inspiring, and completely restoring. As I talked with him and recapped the evening, I felt like life's lessons were hitting me left and right. At a time where it's been hard to feel much progress in any area of my life, I suddenly realized that I haven't been as idle as I'd thought.

Again, thanks to everyone who participated, who came out with us, who added a tube of diaper cream to the pile, who has prayed for us, who has written us an encouraging message, or who simply reads this blog and silently cheers us on. I can see clearly at this moment that it has made all the difference.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Please make a promise. A call to my collegues in health and human services.

Just a quick update. Acacia's paperwork was not accepted by the US Embassy in Ethiopia today to process her visa. It was submitted and then returned because we were missing a report from the orphanage that would verify her official status. In the past the US embassy was rather straight forward with their disbursement of visas, but they have recently become pickier.

A quick primer about the process: at this point Ethiopia has already named Killeen and I as Acacia’s parents. Adoptions in Ethiopia are irreversible, and this was made clear by the judge when we first traveled. Bottom line, legally we are the only family that Acacia will ever have.

So, what is the purpose of the US embassy highly scrutinizing cases? My idealistic side says they are doing their part to assure that children are not being illegally trafficked through the system. However, if they did determine that a child was trafficked, the adoption cannot be reversed. So they would simply be assuring that this child would not be able to enter the US, and would be permanently separated from any family unless those adoptive parents became expatriates and moved to Ethiopia. My cynical side says that the US wants to appear tough on trafficking. I say this because a CNN story about three years ago exposed several adoption agencies in Ethiopia that were illegally trafficking children. Shortly after this, every government agency in Ethiopia tightened their process and added extra layers of bureaucracy (which is a separate gripe). The US embassy seems to be following the same process, so they aren’t the only person at the party, left to point the finger at if another trafficking scandal appears. In other words they want to be able to say, “We’ve cracked down on trafficking, just like Ethiopia.” The end result is a policy that hurts the intended population, and simply works to deflect blame. Acacia is our daughter, you are just stalling her homecoming.

My fellow human service and public health practitioners…please take a moment to reaffirm your practice…and make a promise to yourself that you will not support/make policy that hurts your population for the sole purpose of your agency’s PR. That is the most positive nugget I can pull out of this HIGHLY discouraging day. So we now wait longer.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Our Fundraiser!

[photo: a mother & daughter in the alley way of their home. Taken outside of the House of Hope, where we stayed during our trip to meet Acacia]

We're on the final stretch of the path to Acacia, and man is it hard to wait. So... we're focusing our energies on something positive: A fundraiser to help Numan Orphanage (where Acacia is from), and Acacia's adoption, which currently totals about 25K!

How to support:

50/50 Raffle

All you have to do to enter is click the DONATE button on the right (you don't need a pay-pal account; it accepts credit cards).

1 for $1.00, 6 for $5.00. Drawing will be held on 9/18, the day after our:

Fundraiser Event
Strangebrew Tavern
Saturday, 9/17, 4pm and on
Manchester NH

This event is an excuse to get together, and do something great for Acacia's orphanage. I might add that the beer selection is fabulous, and the day's specials include 1/2 off apps and 3.00 beer specials from 4-7pm. We are requesting that all attendees come with an item from the following list, which we will bring with us on our return trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (please ensure items have an expiration date of at least one year out).

  • Diaper rash ointment
  • Anti-fungal cream
  • Zinc oxide ointment
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Multi-vitamins for Babies
  • Cloth Diapers
  • Similac Infant formula
  • Baby Lotion - 0-2 years old
50/50 raffle tickets will be available that day, and there will also be a separate raffle on location for some fun prizes (more details to come).

Hope to see you there!!!

* Our 50/50 raffle is more like a 50/25/25 raffle- the amount we raise will be split between our own expenses, and a donation to Numan Orphanage in rural Assela, Ethiopia

Monday, August 29, 2011

Discoveries and disclosures.

Anyone who's ever been pregnant, and gotten very close to -if not gone over- their due date, knows how painful it is to hear over and over again the phrase "Still no baby yet?!" At that point, it's hard to refrain from pointing out that the oversized basketball under your shirt should be a clear indication that no, there is still no baby yet.

Adoption is about a thousand times worse. The obvious basketball isn't there to tip the inquirer off, and the question doesn't hold a black-or-white type of answer. And of course, it's actually a much more valid question, given that we rely on governmental agencies, and not nature's course, for some resolution- aka, the anticipated arrival of baby.

So, take the 39-weeks-pregnant scenario, and pretend that your doctor suddenly informs you that there was a mistake in the due date estimation... and you're really only 36 weeks pregnant. And here you'd thought all along that you were almost there. That's what happened to us this week.

Long story short, there's a group of ten families a week or so ahead of us, and another group a few weeks behind. We were a lonely group of one, happening to travel at a time no one else did. When the post-court approval stuff started happening, we were in the first group. We got a few updates along the way, but then we stopped hearing things. I told myself to just be patient, for if the agency had things to tell us, they'd tell us. Yet other families seemed to know so much more, posting all kinds of info that we'd never been tipped off to. It started to make me a little crazy, hunting down info through facebook status updates and adoption message boards. Then I realized that all of this hunting wasn't helping... especially when families started getting submitted to the embassy, and we hadn't a clue where our case was at.

Somewhere along the way, we shifted from the first group to the second group. We were told Acacia's visa medical was complete, when in actuality, it hasn't even happened yet. Communication between US staff and Ethiopia staff got crossed, and it never became clear until today that our case had fallen behind in the process just after birth certificates had been obtained. Our consultant apologized profusely for the oversight. Strangely, even though it's a major set back, I feel so much better knowing what happened vs. sitting here each night wondering why we feel like the only family not getting an update. The good news is that we now have a group- a "home" for the moment, anyway. Even if it delays the process, I guess it was meant to be this way for a reason. Fate's grand plan. Which reminds me...

We've been rather alone in another way, too. Adoption and religion are tightly knit. God speaks to many loving families, and helps them realize that His plan for them is adoption. It's a wonderful thing. And while I believe in God, and Jesus, I also believe in Buddah, and Shiva, and Gaia, and every other supreme being that spiritually moves the human race. When I see a "Coexist" bumper sticker (the one that spells out the words in multiple religious and spiritual symbols), well, that sums up my beliefs. And while I am very content and proud of the way I perceive spirituality, I can't help but feel that, by not serving one God, I miss the opportunity for an amazing support group. I see other families surviving this process through their devotion to God. They pray together; they create an amazing energy that I wholeheartedly beleive in. They find solace, and answers, for every frustration this process brings... all through the guidance of the Lord. I know I may as well wear a sign that says "Save me." But, that expereince has already happened, and it isn't my path to follow. All the same, I often wish it were.

So, the take aways from this weeks post:
1) You may ask me how the adoption is going, but in all likelihood, there won't be anything to report until after labor day. And, I may burst into tears if you ask me before then!
2) I am feeling very isolated as I deal with the stress of waiting for Acacia to come home. And, while I can't find the same comfort in God that most families seem to find, I do pray in my own ways, and appreciate your prayers - of any origin - in the biggest way possible.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Now that we are officially the parents of TWO amazing little girls, the big question is: "So when do you get to bring Acacia home?"

Here's the quick rundown -

  • We passed court at the end of July, and got the news on 8/2 that our adoption decree was complete.

  • This week, we got a copy of the decree translated into English. We also got word that Acacia's passport had been picked up, and that she was scheduled to go a medical appt. that's required prior to obtaining her visa.

  • Next week, everything will be submitted to the US Embassy, and we'll await word from them on when we are clear to travel. Sometimes, the embassy requests additional information beyond what's in our dossier (that stack of paperwork that took us a year to complete). If so, the clearance may be delayed a few days to a few weeks. Typically, a family is cleared 2-3 weeks after the submission.

  • When we are clear, our agency will choose three potential dates for us to have our visa appointment at the embassy. The embassy will respond back with the actual date of the appointment, and only THEN can we book our flight to bring Acacia home. The booking will happen only 1-2 weeks prior to departure!

In summary, we expect to travel in mid-September, but it could be a little earlier, or a little later, because as always, the adoption process is most unpredictable.

I always remind myself that, though she is coming back with us to the place we consider home, she will be further away from "home" than ever before. Everything she knows and understands is about to change. As we can attest, all sights, sounds and smells in Ethiopia are a 180 from what we know in the US. Add infancy into the mix, and Acacia is in for quite the surprise.

The best way to empathize with her is through an exercise I found in this blog:
...really thought provoking stuff.

Friday, July 29, 2011

An update and a favor. (by Killeen)

I've gotten a lot of face-to-face and written inquiries about where we are at with Acacia and the adoption process. I wanted to give a quick update.

Our court date, in which we consented to adopt Acacia and accept her as a permanent member of our family, took place on July 8th. It was quick, to the point, and so efficient it almost baffled me that we had to be there in person. Regardless, we made the trip, had an amazing, eye-popping, heart-warming experience, and happily acknowledged that this "irreversible adoption was forever in the eyes of the law" before an incredibly serious judge.

Then I cried, not from joy, but from the knowledge that we had to say goodbye for what suddenly felt like a very long time. The approval letter will come in approximately 3 weeks, they said. We could go back another 6 weeks after that, they told us. So, about 2 1/2 months. It didn't seem like a very long time. Not until I left.

I had planned to write a letter to Acacia on the plane ride home. Something that I could give her on a later birthday; something that explained as much as I could possibly gather about where she was from and what I knew of her life thus far, and explained how it felt to meet her. But I couldn't do it. I couldn't even think about her without feeling absolute grief. It took many days before I could look at any pictures or watch any videos we took. I liken it to giving birth, and having to leave the hospital without your baby. The feeling is no different, and I never could have believed that until now.

Today marks 3 weeks since our court date. I've had ups and downs. Zinnia has made it bearable. She's such a bright light in my world, and even in moments of sheer tantrum, I haven't taken her for granted for one second since we returned. I have also learned that the love for one child cannot make up for the feelings of loss of another. As much as Zinnia is the perfect daughter, she does not replace the void of Acacia. Again, I wouldn't have believed it could be so hard had I not met Acacia already. I guess, in some ways, it's a good thing to learn: I love that kid as my own, official or not.

Still... that official part is pivotal in getting her home. The Ethiopian courts close in a week or two. We need that letter before closure, or else we won't get it until they reopen in October. Two months could turn into five. It's the worst case scenario for us, but a scenario none-the-less.

In closing, please keep us in your thoughts this week as we hope for good news. Saturday, 8/6, is Acacia's first birthday, and it's all I can do to hope that she receives the (official) gift of a family. I have created an "event" on Facebook with the thought that I can save a copy of her virtual birthday party. I know, it's a little silly sounding, but I think it may mean something to her someday, to know that she was thought of by multiple people on a big day in her life, regardless of where she was. Please click attend & send her a birthday wish on Saturday if you can. :)

Sunday, July 10, 2011


(I suggest watching in full screen:)

The Amharic word for thank you is pronounced Ah-Meh-Seg-Hay-Nah-Lay-Hoo. Which is not easy to recall when an Ethiopian stands before you deserving this salutation. Most of the time the familiar "thank you" slips out, but there have been a few times in a day I can recall the word.

It's 4:00 AM in Addis Ababa on Friday morning and my mind will not let me rest. The task of processing my relationship with Acacia and my first trip to Africa is too consuming. I could watch television, but the rainy season results in daily power outages. We are located at our agency's guest house, about 15 minutes from the children's transitional facility. The area is a blend of residential and commercial that would induce a cold sweat for even the most relaxed zoning board in New Hampshire. There are major roads that are paved, with the look of a drive down Main Street in Derry, NH or Gravois in St. Louis. Turning off the main roads you reach an extensive network of dirt paths that are more densely populated. These paths are full of stone and metal shacks without a hint of open space. When all the doors and gates are closed, it has the feel of an open air multi-colored tunnel. Nearly everything is painted a bright color, regardless if its a make shift door out of scrap metal or an ornate wooden gate.

Behind each wall is a family, a court yard, or a shop. During the day the city opens many of their doors affording you a chance to see what's inside. For the shacks there are the expected produce and variety shops. Then there are the less expected auto part shops, which would lead me to believe that Ethiopia supplies the world, but we are told this is just the district for such goods. Finally, there are open doors that just reveal families sitting on the floor with exhausted faces and a general ambivalence about what they should be doing.

The stone walls with metal gates provide a different picture. While adjacent to the shacks they only seem to open for entry and exit. When returning to our guest house, a quick horn from the van is followed by a guard sticking his head out of the gate. The gate opens and we enter into a sizable stone courtyard. I've seen a few others and they all appear to have a similar layout. Enough room to park two cars, allow walking access to one or two building/room(s) that are located inside the walls of the property, space for a few plants and maybe a small table. While a bit cramped, I believe it is considered spacious for Addis.

Our days have been spent between our guest house and the transitional facility. We make the round trip at least twice a day via our agency's transport van. Each time we arrive our driver washes the van. Every time, even though we will just get back in the van and rive on the same muddy path in a few short hours. There is just something important about that van being clean. This is not a unique phenomena to this single driver. I'm beginning to realize that if it can be cleaned, someone in Addis is ALREADY cleaning it. Everyone is washing either a car, laundry, a wall, a floor, a tire, a chair, etc... All is being purified, even though we are in the middle of the rainy season. Soon the sky will cloud over, the rain will fall, the earth will soften and whatever it was that you cleaned will be dirty again. Yet it doesn't matter, that is the pattern, and the society embraces it.

There is little wasted in Addis. I've seen many delivery boys moving carts full of glass coke bottles. Coke that is so delicious by the absence of plastic bottles and high fructose corn syrup. While I've seen these bottles on our dinning room table, I've also seen them strategically broken and installed on the tops of shack walls to prevent intruders. Even further I saw two men playing checkers with the metal cap, while sitting on old tires. Caps up and down distinguishing the allegiance of each game piece. I am so inspired by the resourcefulness of the population and an acceptance of working with what they have. Of course I'm not naive enough to believe they necessarily have a choice.

I could say that work is hard to find in Addis and wages are low so the majority of this neighborhood sits around. But I don't know that this is true. What I do know is that I am thankful that I have a family and a wonderful new daughter. A daughter that can embrace where she comes from, but doesn't have to struggle through the hardships that I've seen over the last few days. It is important to understand that we are not saving her. She would have had a life in Ethiopia and from my brief experience with her personality, I know she would have had a good life. What we are offering her is a platform to further reach her greatest potential.

We leave for the US soon, and I say Amesegenalehew for my safe and comfortable life, as this trip has further let me appreciate this.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Greetings from Ethiopia

The less interesting 14 hour (sold out) flight, was full of near attempts at sleep that were thwarted by midnight dinners on Addis Ababa Time, and charged up missionary groups. Most noteworthy was the general energy that all of us were traveling for a BIG reason. The airport was the size of Manchester, but let's just say that it was operated with a slightly different management syle. It was here that I firt learned Ethiopia's operations are based on a "functional chaos." Long-lines, multiple checks, no traffic lights, few crosswalks, four lane roads with only space for two cars...but it all works.

After checking into our room, the transition home was our first destination. Up to this point we had relied on complex manual mathematical equations to pinpoint the exact moment we would meet Acacia. These calculations were inhibited by the answer to an equally complex manual mathematical equation to determine the amount of sleep we achieved. The simple answer to this equations was NOT ENOUGH. Now that we were on the road, we knew it would be 15 minutes until we met her. We were brought to a pleasant living room, that provided the idea of a western home. Shortly after our guide Hermissa brought Acacia into the room, emotions were surging to the same degree as the moment Zinnia was born. What was different was Acacia's quiet nature. She was set in our laps, as calm as a 150 old yogi. She scanned us with great suspicion. Her dark eyes were consuming in a way that didn't allow you to keep secrets. She was in a pretty white polka dot dress with a pink ribbon attached to a lace headband. I whispered, "Your lucky kid. Frills aren't our style, so you just have to ride this one out a little longer." On e of her favorite past times appears to be grabbing fingers and other small objects that aren't bolted to the floor. She's equally skilleed at safely sorring those items out of your reach, a practice she's perfected in the orphanage. I did manage to retrieve my finger. At 11 months she is walking with help. Due to the small size of her orphanage, it's clear that she doesn't get the exercise she needs. In general the standards at the oprhanage would make my collegues at the Child Development Bureau cringe. Too be fair, it is inspiring to see what they have done with the resources they have.

Yesterday, we spent 5 hours with Acacia. Killeen and I are both amazed by how naural it has felt. She is so sweet and calm. I do recognize that we are in a bit of a honeymoon phase. Acacia is a hugger and cuddler. She nearly feel asleep laying on our chests. She has a personality that she is starting to show. So far, we've brought her to the decision point, "should I laugh or cry." She hasn't quite made a choice, but it's early.

Now I'm scared about leaving her. Even in five short hours we've established a level of trust with her. Whie I know she'll be alright, I'm scared of leaving her behind. We can see that she nees us to read what may be her first book, her first run through the grass, and provide her with a more nutrient rich diet. But for now I am thankful that she is safe with a group that I trust to guide her through the functional chaos that is Ethiopia.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

All is the same and nothing is the same

The house is quiet and our tummies are full after the annual family BBQ. Everyone is one year older, but little has changed. The house looks the same. The dog is barking at the neighbors. The cat is demanding more food, even though his bowl is already full. A grocery list sits on the counter waiting for the weekly trip to the market. All is the same and nothing is the same.

Tomorrow Killeen and I will start a seven thousand mile journey. We’ll take anti-malaria medication, forget the concept of drinking water from a faucet, and play the part of a jet lagged zombies. Zinnia will begin the longest break from her parents. She will sleep in a new bed, eat at a new table, and ride in another car. A house sitter will walk the dog, feed the cat, and keep the neighbors from thinking we’ve abandoned our home.

Addis Ababa (capital of Ethiopia) sits at an elevation of 7,726 feet above sea level. A city in the clouds. My head is hard at work, searching for this city. Floating and hunting for Acacia in my thoughts. To me she is a picture, a concept, and a goal. But a mile above my head she is very much a one-year old baby girl. What is she doing up there? Is she crawling, walking, eating solid foods, or sitting on the potty? Only a few more hours and we’ll know. Foot by foot we’ve been climbing towards her and soon we’ll swing the doors open and have our moment. This will probably be a crying baby that is terrified of our two white faces, smells, and odd sounding language. Which is expected and totally okay.

Yet, maybe somewhere deep inside she has a unique feeling. Maybe right before she goes to bed tonight, everything appears to be the same, but the winds of change are telling her something different. This is stretch for an atheist like myself. Let’s just say I’ve had a lot of change lately, and I’m opening myself to the possibility of a greater force that connects us all. I’m opening myself to this in the same way that I’m embracing the belief that somewhere inside; Acacia already understands what’s happening.

Right now, everything is quiet. Quiet as we have one last peaceful night before our lives change forever.

***To catch you up to speed on the specifics*****

Monday – Killeen and I depart and stay over in Washington DC for the night.

Tuesday – We depart early in the morning on a 14 hour direct flight to Ethiopia.

Wednesday – We arrive in Ethiopia early in the morning. We are transported to our guest house, run by our adoption agency. After a quick meal we’re transported to the transitional home where we will meet Acacia. We will continue to spend time with her for the remainder of our time in the country. Our last day we’ll go before an Ethiopian judge and attests that Acacia is the child we wish to adopt. We will then leave the country and say goodbye to our baby girl.

In an estimated eight weeks (after the paperwork is processed), we’ll return to Ethiopia to take custody of Acacia and bring her back to New Hampshire.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Time to pack.

We have our court date! We leave for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on July 4th, and will give our consent to the judge to adopt Acacia on July 8th. If all goes as planned, we will return 6 weeks later to bring her home. With less than a month to plan for trip #1, we are just slightly freaking out. :) So hard to believe we'll be meeting our daughter in mere days.

We recently went to a travel clinic, and got our arms stuck full of vaccinations (5 a piece) and left with two only-if-needed perscriptions, and a card for our passports that deems us safeguarded against Yellow Fever. I think it took that appointment for it all to finally sink in; we're really doing this.

We've started some conversations with Zinnia about the trip and why we're going. She gets it, sort of. I think I'm more worried about her adventures without us than I am about our own distant travels. She will be in good hands, but I know I'm going to miss her like crazy.

2 weeks ago, Zinnia transitioned to her "big girl bed," which is actually quite tiny. Regardless, she can get in and out of it at will. I don't want to jinx us, but she's been a rockstar with it! It's a common occurrence to go into her room at 11pm and find her smack dab in the middle of it, curled up on the floor amongst a slew of stuffed animals... but she's happily asleep and is plunked back onto the mattress none-the-wiser, so who cares?!

The interesting thing is, there was no need to pack up the crib. So, as it once waited for Zinnia to make her entrance into the world and our lives, it now awaits little Acacia to fill it up.

This part of the wait has been a lot harder. Acacia is real now, and I often wonder what the heck she's up to, all those miles and time zones away from us. Just learned that Ethiopia begins potty training at 9 months; let's hope she's taking to it well!

Our next post will likely be coming from Africa - stay tuned.....

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

"I was thrilled to have the opportunity to offer the only referral this week; a beautiful 8 ½ month old girl. The family waited just 6 ½ months to be matched."

That's an excerpt from last week's Ethiopia Adoption Update.... and that family is US! We got the call during the work day; and I can't tell you how exciting it was to get home and open up an email containing photographs of our daughter-to-be.

I am not permitted to share details over the WWW in any way, but I can tell you that I'm looking at her picture right now, and she's absolutely beautiful. She has large, wide-set dark eyes and very full lips. Upon review of her medical records by our pediatrician, she is deemed in great health, and hits the 50% percentile for both height and weight, which is awesome news.

We love her birth name, and have dubbed it to be her middle name (another detail I can't post). Now comes the hardest part... awaiting our court date. Families generally travel for court 2-3 months after the referral is accepted, but with all the changes to the program (see last post), it could take longer. Our adoption counselor was optimistic, however, that we wouldn't be too far off base for our date. Once we have that, it all becomes very real.

In the meantime, we are enjoying the new feeling of being a family of 4. Also, we want to thank everyone who's helped us get to this point. Whether it was writing a reference letter, purchasing a fundraising flower, or just taking an active interest; there's been a lot of support and we couldn't appreciate it more.

More soon, I hope. :)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Timing is everything - by Killeen

I’m pretty surprised to see that our last post was dated 8/8. Besides getting on the “official” waitlist in October, there had been minimal info to share, until now. While we still wait for a child to be referred to us, we believe we are VERY close to the news. Our agency cannot give us a distinct indication as to our place in the queue, as there are various factors that change that position frequently. Instead, we rely on the statistic info in our weekly email updates from our adoption team as an indicator of how close we are, given the similarities between the referrals and our request for the child’s age and gender. Usually, the referral list is short, with maybe one or two new referrals, if any. On April 1st, this was the list we received:

3 month old boy to a family that waited 19 months (family recently switched from requesting siblings to one child)*
3.5 month old boy to a family that waited 11 months
4 month old boy to a family that waited 10 months
3.5 month old boy-family waited 8 months
4 month old boy –family waited 8 months
3 month old girl-family waited 7 months
3 month old girl-family waited 7 months
3 month old girl-family waited 6 months
5.5 month old girl- family waited 6 months
4.5 month old girl- family waited 5.5 months!

*(this is a good example of why position on the wait list can change)

Because we hit the wait list in mid-October, we’d been waiting 5 ½ months at the time of the update. Given the last 3 referrals in the list, it feels like we’re close. And, we’d be ecstatic, if it weren’t for this kicker….

The Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs (MOWCYA) plays a crucial role in finalizing adoption by processing and reviewing all the necessary paperwork to make it a done deal. Last month, due to time and resource constraints, they ruled to reduce their processing averages from 25 cases a day down to 5. Their intent is to give each case the due diligence it deserves, and to protect the integrity of the adoption process while providing better safeguards for potential adoptive parents (PAPs) and children. USCIS (U.S. Central Immigration Services) continues to support the Ethiopian adoption program (thankfully!) and while they believe it boasts many positives, they also think there are areas where the program can vastly improve. The delay in case processing is in attempt to make such improvements. It all sounds great… but us PAPs have one huge question: How long do we have to wait now??

No one knows. Potentially, we could get our referral tomorrow, and subsequently wait months and months (a year?) to be able to travel for our court date (versus the average 3 months). All the while, our baby girl is growing up without us as we wait for our case to be processed. Weird. I anticipated returning to the states with Zinnia’s baby sister, not her toddler sister. Of course, this may not be the case at all – it’s just too soon to tell. It’s not the waiting that’s getting me, it’s the ambiguity. I’ve actually surprised myself at how little I’ve freaked out about any of this. I partially attribute it to the surreality of it all. I know it’s eventually going to happen, but it’s so hard to imagine.

Our agency is super positive and gives me a lot of confidence that everything will work out. They’ve been up front from day one that international adoption requires ultimate patience and the ability to accept the unexpected. Though, I can’t help but feel like, had we just gotten on that list a month earlier, we may have skirted this issue all together. Then I think back to the beginning of this journey, when one trip to Ethiopia was all that was required. The implementation of the two trip process happened right in the middle of our paperwork preparation. At that point, the thought of traveling across the world not once but twice was, understatedly, a lot to digest. Yet we were mentally invested in Acacia; we really didn’t skip so much as a beat.

This new speed bump is similar in the sense that, despite a massive change in process, we don’t see turning back as an option. Patrick and I barely even discussed it on that level – it’s almost like an unspoken understanding that for better or worse, we will see this through. We will ride out the path to Acacia, no matter how long, rocky, or indirect it may be.

As an aside – I have found it near impossible to keep up my etsy site with a very inquisitive, very precocious little 2 year old at my heels. And, as a working mom, I don’t see her enough as it is. I’m still selling direct, so contact me if you’re looking to update your floral accessory collection this spring. :)