Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Well, whataya know?

I never meant for this blog to turn into an "adoption" blog. I know that sounds funny but I really set out to record the happenings of our family, some of my thoughts, and post a whole lotta photos. I guess in many ways, a blog could save me from my endless guilt for not keeping up with my scrapbooks.

(I am sooooooooo behind in my scrapbooks.)

I realize most of my posts these days focus on our current adoption and while that is good (and at times, the most newsworthy), there really are lots of other happenings here at home. Kids are growing up (way too fast, I might add) and we are in the thick of trying to figure out a new fall schedule - complete with many different schedules, activities, etc.

This morning found me a bit discouraged. I was feeling sorta down as I left the house this morning to walk Moo-shu (the dog). I was feeling like I am behind with household chores - the laundry piles are pretty heinous about now. I am not really prepared for all the subjects I need to teach the 3 that are home this year - 2 are a bit behind in some areas and I just can't decide the best curriculum and way to go with them. 
My kids are whining and carrying on about doing any school at this point. 

But the biggest thing getting me down is the adoption (I know, here I go again about the adoption...). I have felt a bit discouraged - feeling worried about the money and that although we have had some wonderful help from family and friends...worried that it just won't be enough. While many have been encouraging and excited for us, some, have not. I have found myself worrying that what God has called us to do, well, that He won't come through somehow with all the little details and money needs and emotional needs and....well, you get the picture.

As I turned to head home with the dog, I saw it.
A rainbow.
It was over my house and I didn't have a camera.
So pretty and so unexpected.

*** Not the actual one from today but you get the idea.

I even felt a bit guilty when I saw it.

God was reminding me. He's got this thing.

Later in the day, He moved a mountain for us.

Our dossier is waiting for one document to be returned from NY state. We have been waiting for 3 weeks for this document to be "stamped" and sent back to our agency. Our agency had called to check on it and had been told it would take three weeks. 

Three weeks have now passed so I decided to have a go at it. I was told quite firmly that this was going to take 6-8 weeks as they were so behind from summer. At first they couldn't even find my birth certificate (the document in question). I needed to call them back after getting lots more info from our agency with regard to when it was sent, how it was sent, what color envelope (?), etc.

At some point the fact that we needed this for an adoption came up and she told me we could "walk in" to get it which would be faster.


A bit too far from VA...

She put me on hold, and quite honestly I nearly hung up. The phone was silent for so long and I was pretty sure that she and I had become disconnected. I was bumming out that our adoption would now be pushed back at least a month due to one document and the fact that they were behind because employees had been on vacation.

I really almost hung up.

When she returned to the phone she was laughing and giddy and nearly crying. She told me that she had talked her supervisor into doing our form now, since it was pulled out. That because we were adopting (I then told her all about T, and about being a native NYC girl, and about how God had just done a miracle through her), that because of all that, she was going to push us ahead and that she and her supervisor were so excited. (A huge shout out to my new friend, Mrs. Griffith and her boss in NYC!)

They estimate it will be on its way in the mail tomorrow - not Sept 28 (the date she had estimated to me at the start of our conversation).

Well, whataya know?

I get teary just writing this out.
God gave me such a boost today.
Thanks to HIM for HIS kindness to me this day - with something I needed - which seemed impossible -  which was threatening to make me feel even more discouraged.

He sees,
He knows,
He cares.
He is active in the details and in our little concerns and worries.
He is faithful.

*** I have linked this post to a wonderful blog called A Place Called Simplicity as part of Memorial Box Mondays. Click back to their blog to read about others' stories of God's faithfulness.

Friday, August 24, 2012

First day of school, the perfect picture, and a sore toe...

Well, summer is officially over (sniff, sniff) and school has started around the Snell house.  Luckily (or unluckily, I can't decide), we start it a bit staggered. Jemila started Wednesday, Kulate started Thursday (both at public elementary), Drew starts next Monday (full time at the community college), and my homeschooling three (Kate, Jack and Ben) start after Labor Day (this momma/teacher needs a whole lot more time to get myself organized).

I am sad for summer to be over (I think I have said that a few too many times on this blog lately) but just had so much fun (already scheming to head back up to Jill's for a visit and to the Maryland Snells for a weekend in the next few weeks). But I must admit...the SWEET quiet right now is AWESOME!! The girls are off learning tons of stuff at school at this moment, the others are still snoring away  catching up on their beauty sleep... and I am leisurely drinking tea and eating bon bons (well the tea part is true).

So I have to share my wonderful first day of school story. Jemila's first day was Wednesday and it was excruciating difficult to get up early and get breakfast/lunch packed/hair done etc on time for the bus. But we got it accomplished and were ready for the first day of school pics.

As we head out the door (to take pics on the front porch), we see the bus heading into the neighborhood - which is fine - it usually goes around the circle of our neighborhood before reaching our stop. BUT NO... not this time, the driver went the opposite way which meant it would reach the stop before we could get there. So we took off running (Kulate and I in our flip flops).

As we approached the bus it was obvious that we were the last ones to get on and they were holding it for us. I had my phone all ready for the "getting on the bus photo." Just as I lifted the phone to my face to get that great shot of Jemila getting on the bus...I fell.  Off the curb.

This wasn't just any "trip" off the curb...oh no... this was like something you might see on Funniest Home Videos...it was about a 5 minute long fall (ok, I exaggerate a bit) but limbs were flopping all over, I think I may have done a triple lutz somewhere in there, and I was disoriented... my face was only inches from the pavement when it was all over. The bus was pulling away - and shoot, I didn't get that picture.

What I did get was half the neighborhood's (remember it was the first day so even all the dads were all out...sweet) eyes on my graceful fall. They were all very kind - one parent even hugged me, I think (I don't really remember...I was a bit shaken). Luckily for me...I only ended up with a cut up knee and thumb, and a pretty cut up big toe. Not bad for the fall of the century...

Kulate is a little doctor and was SOOOOO excited to take care of my boo-boos. She lovingly washed and dried and bandaged my foot for me when we got home and was so concerned that I was alright. Once I was all cared for she very matter-of-factly asked me - "Were you embarassed?" (DUH) I answered - "Well, yes." She replied - "Yeah Mom, your crack showed."


WHAT????!!?!?!?  @#@$%@#%@$#@$@#*



What a way to start off the school year...

Re-do on Thursday which was Kulate's first day. My Spongebob bandaids are off, I am healing nicely, thanks -  no falls, got the pics, no cracks....

Such a sweet picture - Kulate spontaneously put her arm around her big sis. What you can't see is that her mouth is full of egg. We were rushing. I REALLY didn't want to be late for that bus again...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee...

Oh how I wish I liked coffee...I have always wanted to like it but alas, I am just not a coffee drinker. I like tea...

My whole family drinks coffee. A. Lot. Of. Coffee...A. Whole. Lot. Of. Coffee.

Whenever we get together with the cousins, or our parents, or our sisters and their families, coffee is a main topic of conversation at some point. Coffee is oo'ed and ah'ed over, sought after, bought, brewed, and of course, necessary each morning for anyone to function. My one sister in law has coffee in her email address and has her kitchen decorated in a coffee theme. One of my sisters' dog is named "Latte."
My kids are even becoming coffee drinkers when they can score a cup (yes, don't judge...).

When we adopted three years ago from Ethiopia we were surprised to learn that coffee originated there. Coffee is a staple drink in Ethiopia and coffee ceremonies are a huge part of the culture. We were lucky to have been a part of several ceremonies while were there. Yes, I did try it...sadly, I still didn't like coffee. But boy, my husband did.

Ethiopian coffee ceremony while we were in Ethiopia.

After that trip, John became quite fascinated with the whole coffee process (aw heck, he was before that too). He ordered coffee beans, roasted them on our back porch (I'd pass people in the neighborhood hours later as I walked the dog, and they would say "Do you smell coffee??" Um...yeah).

A year or so ago I read about a sweet family that was adopting an adorable little boy from Eastern Europe who had Down's Syndrome. Their story and struggle to adopt him caught my heart. They were doing a coffee fundraiser - Just Love Coffee. I thought it would be a cool gift for my husband and teens to buy them some Ethiopian fair trade coffee and even some Just Love Coffee T-shirts - and it would help a family to bring home their sweet little boy. They loved their coffee and tees.

Just Love Coffee offers organic, fair trade coffee. Their small company is passionate about coffee (much like my family members...but more) but they are also passionate about helping those in need - non-profits, artisans - and adoptive families.

So I am announcing our 2nd fundraiser - we have opened a store front with Just Love Coffee!!
For every bag of coffee sold through our store, we will receive $5 toward our adoption. Their store offers other items as well - mugs, t-shirts, etc - and we will also receive a portion of those proceeds as well.

This store will be available throughout our adoption process so if you are looking for a gift for the holidays, or just some yummy coffees, just click on our button in the right column which will take you to our storefront and you can peruse the selection.

Need a cup of Joe?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Days of Summer...

Ah...summer has been fabulous this year! We are enjoying each other more, doing more, and I am loving having all my kids here while life is carefree and fairly schedule-free. Personally, I am dreading the school schedule and daily grind that is fast approaching...

All four of the older kids were blessed to be able to attend youth conferences. The younger boys attended CIY-MIX in Knoxville TN, and the older two attended CIY-MOVE in Cleveland, TN. They traveled with our youth group, spent a week away from home, learned and worshiped lots, and had tons of fun. They were blessed to be able to do these trips through financial gifts the church received. All four spent their Thursday mornings this summer, serving at the church - cleaning, fixing, gardening, babysitting, etc in exchange for being able to attend the conferences. All around a win - they really learned to appreciate the gift of getting to attend (during a year when we are really trying to save), as well as felt real pride in the hard work they provided to God and our church each Thursday.

The little girls attended several VBS programs around town, took swimming lessons, and Kulate attended a few weeks of summer school. We hung out at the pool and the playground, and did crafts and lots of reading. We also had a great start to summer with a much needed trip to the Snell family and cousins up in Maryland. We always celebrate the July 4th with them in style with the best fireworks ever in PopPop's driveway!

Drew got to do some extra fun things this summer. He went "on tour" with his band (Raintree) and went up the East coast playing at house parties, festivals, and a few restaurants. They are a group of 5 extremely talented guys who compose their own music (most of it I like, some, well, not so much). They are wonderful guys and tho' I totally trust them all, this was a tough thing for me - to let Drew go with just a small amount of his own money, in a car with 5 guys and a trailer hitched on back. They had some idea of a plan and some booked shows, but everything else wasn't planned. They spent a few nights with relatives (my parents included), a few at hotels, and a few with new friends they met, and two in sleeping bags in a Wal-Mart parking lot (EE-GADS!!!). They went from VA all the way up to MA. So proud of my boy (and me too for not freaking out too much and letting him "follow his dream"). Thank you Lord for your protection.  He also got to do another fun short trip with his girl friend Zoe and her family - up to visit her relatives and the beach in DE.

We have recently returned from the family's favorite week of the year...the beach...the Jersey shore (THANKFULLY it is NOTHING like the Snooky's Jersey shore). We have gone to Long Beach Island now for 12 years. Having grown up in NJ and going "down-a-shore" for most of my childhood, my memories of our times at the beach are some of my happiest. So it is for my kids.

We go to the beach because my mom is AWESOME! She "gives" us this week each year. She arranges and pays for our house and provides us with towels, sheets, papergoods for the kitchen and always some wonderful foods she has lovingly prepared before. Spending this week with her each year is so special (especially this year - she just turned 80 and is just as energetic as ever). This year there were 17 of us at the house - other years there have been more but we were missing two of the husbands due to their work. The house is huge and the noise and laughter is huge and the memories will last forever!

God gave us glorious warm, sunny, breezy weather and we forgot about phones, and emails, and schedules, and worries, and just played in the ocean like little kids, built castles, rode rides at the Fantasy Island Amusement Park, celebrated Kulate's 6th bday, and enjoyed tea and coffee and long chats on our wonderful front porch. It was heavenly.

This year we ended our vacation with a two day stay at my mom's after the beach along with my sister and her family. Our little girls had never been there and were just as excited about seeing Grandma and Grandpa's house as they were going to the beach! 

**Notice my mom over our shoulders! (that's actually a reflection of her in the mirror behind us!). lol.

We spent one day in NYC (an outing I had long wanted to do) with my brother-in-law Jimmie as our driver (of our big ugly van) and tour guide. Little did we know that he is as good as any taxi driver there and can spout off history and knowledge about everything in the city as he makes his way through the crazy traffic. We could never have seen as much as we did without his help. It was a whirlwind tour of the city - we saw all the highlights without all the walking. We even saw a tv actor walk right by our car (Michael Emerson from Lost).

The most meaningful part of the tour to me was the 9/11 memorial. I haven't been back to the city since the event and it was so emotional to me to be there. Having been born in the city and spending my first nine years living in the city (Greenwich Village), I am a true New Yorker. It made me cry. The place is very peaceful and will be beautiful when all finished. Truly a place of beauty in a place that had seen such devastation. 
Before leaving mom's we went out to breakfast at a local NJ diner. Look who showed up and happily agreed to a picture? Chris Christie, governor of NJ (and keynote speaker at this year's upcoming Republican Convention).

After about a week back home in VA, we were able to journey back up to Maryland again to meet up  with my sister (who had stayed at my mom's for the week after our NYC tour) and her kids, at my other sister's home. The purpose of our trip was to visit DelGrosso Amusement Park in PA for a day. What a cool place - like something from another time. We spent half the day at the amusement rides, and several hours at the water park. Soooooo fun!!

Janie traveled back to VA with us as they were ultimately on route to  FL where they live. We got to have another few days with them (as well as with Jill's two older sons who came back home with us). We spent the days swimming, shopping, playing games, and eating! Jill made the trip down with her two little ones for a night to retrieve the boys. We had one more night all together before everyone had to return home to face the inevitable end of vacations, playing, and summer. Bleh... do I really have to  start to think about fall and plan our school and all this next school year will hold? 

Thank you God for family and summer and vacation and the beach. We are so blessed...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Update on T

"So what's going on with T??"

We hear this often from friends and family. I so wish I knew what our little girl was doing right this minute...but I don't. I just pray for her little self and her heart and that she is well and safe and being loved on by her foster family. We had our homestudy approved by our placement agency (WACAP) a week or two before we left on vacation and at that time our case worker told us we could now ask for an update on T. She had warned us that many times it takes a while to get an update, that you might not get all the info you want, or you might not even get a reply. Every province and area is different in how they handle these requests. Quite frankly, I figured we wouldn't get much info - and I figured it would take a while.

As we were enroute home from our vacation, we got an email from WACAP saying that an update had come in - along with 8 new pictures of T!!! OH HOW I WISH I COULD SHARE THEM!!! SHE IS ADORABLE!!

These pictures are the first we have seen of her smiling (in all of them!). She is so cute and looks very happy. Her update sounds as tho' she is making good progress, isn't shy, loves to dance and help with family chores, is talking up a storm, and is small for her age. She has been in two foster homes since she was found as a newborn - the current one for several years and she is very attached to her foster mother. This news in wonderful and heartbreaking all at once. To know that she is attached is such good news for the future bonding in our family but will mean there will be lots of grieving (understandably) as her little heart leaves the home and family that she now loves. We have to remind ourselves that her new home with us will be forever. Her current situation as a foster child is not permanent - it doesn't lead to adoption. It doesn't lead to medical help and education always. It doesn't lead to a life free from the stigma of being an "orphan."

T's adoption is considered a special needs adoption. T, like so many of the children who are available for adoption, has a minor special need (in our opinion). When we found T on a waiting child list, she was listed as having mild cerebral palsy which only affected her speech. After having several doctors assess her files, it looks more likely that she had hydrocephalus at some point. Although her CT scans are clear now, she has clearly had hydrocephalus in the past (likely from an infection like meningitis, or an injury) resulting in an increased head circumference. She is speaking in long sentences now and seems to be developing just fine - tho' her speech is unclear at times. Many children wait as "special needs" kids with even milder issues (birthmarks, missing fingers, hernias, repaired cleft palates, etc).  These minor things can be considered bad luck for families. Because of the one-child-rule, these children are often given up in hopes of having a child who is more perfect. So sad...(by the way, is there such thing as a "perfect" child?? Don't they all have special needs of some kind? lol).

So where are we now??

Our dossier documents are currently being stamped and sealed by officials in DC and being held at our placing agency while we await some immigration paperwork and approvals. We are one step closer to that as we have just gotten our fingerprinting done in DC for the immigration process (so they can check that we aren't in the national registry of criminals!). Now it will be a matter of weeks to get our immigration approval. After that, our dossier (the packet of many important pieces of paper that represent our family) will travel to China. Several other steps come after that. Our case worker estimates that we will travel between March-May. It all depends on how fast each of the steps take. Several of the steps can take 2-4 months to complete.  At the moment, the trend is that each step is taking closer to 2 months than 4, but in adoption, things can change so quickly....no certainties in this process.


Now that we have passed the homestudy phase, we can apply for a number of grants (my next big project) and can move on to some more serious fundraising. Look for announcements of some of these coming up. Adoption and travel are so expensive. Although we are approved to be able to AFFORD to raise another child - GETTING her here is another story. The adoption process is SOOO expensive. Like, REALLY expensive. We are trying to meet most of these expenses ourselves - selling lots of our things, using retirement money and savings, saving every penny we can. But we do need help to meet the fees and the travel that lies ahead.

We SO appreciate all who have helped us so far with their generous donations to our puzzle. We are asking again that if you are interested in helping, that you consider purchasing a piece, or pieces of her puzzle. We are only about 1/5 of the way toward finishing the puzzle. Please consider making a $10 donation for a puzzle piece. Our chip-in on the right is only available when viewing our blog on your computer (it doesn't show up on a phone browser).

How else can we help?

Pray...pray...pray. Pray for T - she has some huge changes ahead. She will need to leave the only life she has known and she will grieve. She will need to adapt to a culture, language, environment, and family that are strange to her. Some children handle these changes like champs. Others, not so easily.

Pray for us. That we can save more, sacrifice more, and do more to help raise the funds for this adoption/travel. Pray that we can share our hearts to those who ask - that we can share that it isn't us but the Lord who is so great - that it is He who is "rescuing" a child from a life as an orphan without the love of a forever family - not us being nice people.  We said "yes" and "send us" - the rest is His work, folks. This is what He is all about - rescue, redemption, making beauty from ashes -like His rescue and "adoption" of us into His family.

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