The Best Friend I’ll Never Meet

The family who went to the Congo last week to bring home their daughter is now safe and sound in America. While there, Amy (the mom) posted not only on her public blog, but on the private adoption discussion boards that all of us in our adoption group flock to every day. It was there she posted tips, stories, recommendations, and of course the 226 pictures that have put joy and hope in our hearts. For the first time, she allowed us to see our children laughing, playing, and enjoying friends. Her husband is even preparing a video of life in the orphanage that our kids call home.

Be still my beating heart.

Now they’ve posted the homecoming video for their precious new 5 year old daughter, Britnelle. (Kleenex advisory.)

Brittnelle’s Homecoming from AbellMedia on Vimeo.

Even while Amy was in the Congo, she blogged these words,

“I’m busy, busy, dreadfully busy…much, much too busy for you.”  There are so many times in my life that I knew God was calling me to do something, but I chose to say, “I’m busy, busy, dreadfully busy…much, much too busy for you.”  I always seem to have an excuse why I could not be the one at that moment.  They actually were really good reasons.  It is not good for my kids, I am busy doing these other good things that I want to do, I just cannot afford it…when really God is saying you may not think it is good for your kids, but I will make it a learning and growing experience for them (this journey has had so many teachable moments for our children)…you are doing great things, but I need you here, God says I am in control and will meet all of your needs.  There are more reasons I have used, but God always has a better reason why I should.

“If you see someone who is hurt or in need, maybe its time to perform a good deed and then you will see when you make them feel better you’ll feel better too.”  I can think of so many times in my life when I chose to be too busy and not follow God’s leading and guess what, I regretted it.  I can honestly say I cannot think of a single time I chose to follow God’s leading despite how busy I was or what I had in mind that I was not blessed beyond my greatest imagination.

I have said before adoption is a beautiful picture of God’s love for us.  We had in our minds the way this whole thing was going to go down when God led usto adopt again.  I can assure you it was not to come to Africa.  I had no desire to spend thousands and thousands of dollars to come here.  I had no desire to stay in conditions below what I thought was standard.  I had no desire to eat food I did not want to eat.  I had no desire to sweat uncontrollably just walking out the door, not to mention the ice cold showers.  We liked our family, we had an even number.  Starting with a young child again brings many challenges.  We have already adopted two children…it is someone else’s turn.  I had many, many more excuses, these are just a few.  But we truly felt led here and it would have been way easier to give all the excuses and some of them were pretty good, but today as I sit and listen to this beautiful little girl say, “I love you mama” and reach her hands up for me to pick her up and when I do she throws her arms around my neck and zerberts my cheek…I cannot imagine not following God’s leading.  We have helped a child out of a desperate situation (when you make them feel better), but in four short days she has taught me more about love, trust, hope and myself than I can ever repay (you’ll feel better too).  It is a privilage and an honor to be her mom!

There are so many of us now who dearly love this family that we’ve never met as we’ve shared Amy’s family’s journey and now their homecoming. Instead of just focusing on their family while they were in the Congo, she remembered all of us who are going to be following in their footsteps, waiting with bated breath for any whisper of news or hope. She’s given us both. You can follow her blog at truejourneyoflove.blogspot.com.

And now it’s our turn to prepare to go. Though it will be a few more months before we travel, we’ve got to save and raise travel expenses. We can’t use credit cards in the Congo, so financial preparation is key. Our next event is NEXT Saturday at Trevecca’s men’s and women’s basketball games (at 2:00 and 4:00 p.m.) , where a portion of ticket sales will go to help with our travel expenses! We’re so grateful for our Trevecca family offering their support, and hope you’ll join us for some basketball and blessings!

Dunkin’ for Punkins!

Guest post by Ken

Along the journey of international adoption, we have grown accustomed to several questions, “When are you going to get your kids? Any updates on your adoption?” Those two are the big ones, but another one that we hear from time to time is…

“When is you next fundraiser?”

If you are asking yourself this question, then I am glad you asked!

On Saturday, Feb. 4, (2 & 4 p.m.), Trevecca Nazarene University is sponsoring our adoption. They will be doing this at their men’s and women’s basketball games. A portion of all general admission ticket sales for the two games will go to defray the cost of adopting our children. We will have a booth setup in the lobby for donations and to share information.

We are very grateful for any funds that are raised, but we are also excited about the chance to spread the word about adoption. We are not experts and we have made many mistakes along the way, but our prayer is that our story will serve to encourage others to explore what they can do as well to help those in need.

So, if you’re in the area on Saturday, Feb. 4, the Trevecca men’s and women’s basketball teams will be playing (2 & 4 p.m.) we would love to have your support. Each ticket bought is one step closer to helping us bring our children home!

Going Back to Court

The orphanage director and our agency believe that the errors won’t be a problem, but our case does have to go back to court. They anticipate it was only take a few days to correct and we should be out of court again. We’re changing the language of the documents somewhat, but not completely. The new language makes me nervous –not so much that the court won’t approve it, but that it won’t suffice for immigration. Having gone through several immigration processes with Ken, I know that they’re very particular about things, and their appreciation for creativity in language and procedure is different than mine. Hopefully our agency right in that this is no big deal and that the wording is not all that important.

My students did the sweetest thing for our adoption today. They actually created t-shirts last semester and sold them, with the profits going toward our adoption. They presented me with a rather large check today. I was speechless! Fortunately, I had some new pictures of the kids to show them, which was fun. Lots of ooo’s and ahhhh’s over the two of them, and over Emmanuel’s sweet smiling face. Then they had a good laugh over one of Rose’s pictures– you can see the mishchief written all over her face. Everyone seems to agree that we will have quite a character on our hands.

I can’t wait!

Sigh . . .

We finally received copies of our court documents, which tell a little more of the story of why our case has been in court so long. There are several reasons, all of which are not pleasant. But, the good news is that judgment has been pronounced, and we’re now progressing through the non-appeal period.

We hope.

There are lots of little errors in our court documents. Mostly misspellings, which should be easy to correct.

But there’s one big error: Ken’s citizenship. The court documents indicate that he’s an American, and although he looks like one, he is in fact, Canadian. This is not a simple typo. I don’t know how easy it will be to correct. I don’t know if there’s a different process for Americans-married-to-Canadian couples, other than the fact that the American of the two of us is the one who has to travel to the DRC. (The Canadian of the two of us is going to help keep me safe.) I do know that I am required to be the primary adoptive parent. So I really think it does make a difference. We had to fill out our initial immigration approval forms differently because Ken is Canadian, and had to provide extra documentation to prove his status in the U.S. Having dealt with immigration before, I know the only mistakes they gloss over are their own.  Will we have to go back through the court process again, or will they just be able to correct it, as if it’s a typo? I don’t know. Our agency is contacting the orphanage director to see if corrections can be made and how this will play out.

For now, I’m going to finish correcting a few dozen other typos.

Sigh . . .

Miles and Miles of Little Brown Smiles

After yesterday’s slightly less than stellar news, I was thrilled to see that the woman who is currently in the DRC to pick up her daughter went to the orphanage and took over 200 pictures of the kids and posted them for the families in our agency to see.

Up until now, we’ve had only one good picture, and the kids were not smiling. The others were such poor resolution, it was hard to discern their facial characteristics.

These pictures are FANTASTIC.

There are over 100 children at the orphanage, with 15 “mamas” taking care of them. In the sea of children’s faces, we quickly recognized Rose. She worked her way into more than a dozen photos, with several of just her. In every picture she has a different expression, as opposed to the somber-robot look she has displayed in all of the photos we’ve had up until now. She has the sweetest dimple on her left cheek, and what appears to be a significant amount of sass. Ken and I got to laughing because the more we looked at the pictures, the more we realized that she had snuck into so many pictures. She’s frequently in the background, and in one picture of children sitting at a table eating lunch,  you can see her eyes just peeking from behind the shoulders of the other children. She’s our little “Where’s Waldo!”

Emmanuel was a bit harder to find. We haven’t received as many pictures of him, and after studying the ONE good picture of him that we have, and the photos online, we think we have figured it out. One of the reasons it’s been so hard to figure out who he is is because he’s smiling! He’s joking with friends, laughing, and even casting glances at his sister who indeed, worked her way into the “boys only” photos. He has the cutest button nose, and has already lost a tooth.

All in all, there are about 2 dozen new pictures of our kids. We’re not allowed to post pictures online for security and privacy reasons, but I can show them to people in person. It has been so good to see our kids with different expressions, having fun, and being well cared for!

Finally! Sort of . . .

We finally received word today that our agency has received our court judgment and is now sending our documents for translation.

Wait.

Didn’t that happen in October?

Apparently, our agency was verbally informed that we passed court on October 11th, but the judge didn’t actually finalize the judgment until January 6th. We are now in the beginning of the 30-day appeal period, which we thought began on October 11th.

Sigh.

So the good news is that there’s finally paperwork coming through. The bad news is that we are literally 3 months behind where we thought we were. But at least something is happening!

So, what does it look like from here?

  • After the non-appeal period is over (February 6th) it will take 1-30 days to receive the Certificate of Non Appeal. We also need several other documents to be processed during this time too, but I don’t want to bore you any more than you already are. 😉
  • Once all of the documents are received, we prepare another monstronsitron pile of paperwork for US Citizenship and Immigration Services for final approval. (We’ve already received pre-approval.) It takes an average of 6 weeks for this approval, although right now, things are being processed a little faster — depending on who our immigration officer is.
  • Once immigration approval is received, an embassy appointment is scheduled for our kids. Right now, they are scheduling appointments about 6 weeks out from the date one is requested.
  • It takes 2-4 weeks for the embassy to issue our kids’ visas, and then we can schedule travel.
  • Somewhere in there we get our own visa to travel, but I’m a little fuzzy on when that happens. We can’t apply for a visa without travel dates, but we can’t schedule travel without a visa.

I’m resisting the temptation to do things like add up the minimum times and add up the maximum times and project a window for travel.  We have already significantly exceeded the time it would take to get the court judgment. Every step could take longer, or things could speed up. I don’t want to drive myself crazy trying to calculate a timeline I have no real control over. More than governments, or immigration officers, or judges, there is One who already has our travel date set. And I’m resting in the fact that it will come on the exact day He has planned.

What’s New With Our Adoption?

Nothing.

I actually got an email last week from our program coordinator that I had documents to review and correct, which is what we’ve been waiting for, but she was wrong. She was tired and thinking of someone else.

False alarm.

We’ve been told for over three months now that we should expect progress “any day now.”

That day hasn’t come. Yet.

But it’s coming.

Once we get our court documents, there are still a half a dozen steps to complete, but it seems like we could travel as quickly as about 3 months, or it could be much longer. It really all depends on the government workers both in the Congo and here in the United States.

I’ve been on the fringes of the online discussion boards for all those who are adopting from the Congo through our agency. A few weeks ago, we shared our blog addresses, and I’ve been following the posts of others families. One of those families got word last Thursday morning that her daughter’s visa was being issued, and she flew to the Congo on Thursday AFTERNOON.

Her stories have been fascinating. Her little girl sounds precious, smart, and eager to be a part of her new family. I found out that the orphanage has been having someone come once a week to teach English, and her little girl was already able to count and knew a few basic other words. Otherwise, their daughter did NOT speak French, but Lingala. Oh dear. We still don’t know what language that our children speak, but since we had been told that the language of the orphanage was French, and now that we know it’s not, I think we might want to take the time to learn some Lingala as well.

She has also written a whole list of tips for those of us travelling after her. Things to bring, what to expect, people we’ll meet. It’s been so helpful. We’re excited to know that we’ll have some internet access, and fairly reliable electricity. We’ll be pretty much confined to the convent, for safety, but we will have meals and a courtyard where we can enjoy some fresh air.

The one thing I’m certain we won’t fully grasp until we get there is the level of poverty. Even though she is a seasoned traveller, she has been unable to communicate the gravity of what she has seen. I know that it is the poorest country in the world, and the most hungry nation in the world, but I don’t think anything can really prepare me for what we’ll be experiencing soon.

Any day now.

The Best Baked Oatmeal EVER

As I was settling down last night, feeling proud of my Ziplisted breakfast plan, I decided to take one more look at the recipe I was going to use to mentally prepare myself for the morning.

The first line of the instructions for the Baked Oatmeal with Strawberries, Bananas, and Chocolate was, “spray the inside of a 10-1/2 by 7 inch baking dish with cooking spray and place on a baking . . . ”

10 1/2 x 7?

If it’s not 9 x 13, it’s not in my kitchen. Ugh. I had to adjust.

So this morning, I switched recipes, combining the one I was planning on using with another one, and adding my own twist. The result is this:

Best EVER Baked Oatmeal with Strawberries, Bananas, and Chocolate

  • 3 Cups rolled oats
  • 1 Cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 pint strawberries, sliced
  • 2 small bananas, sliced

Preheat oven to 375. Spray 9 x 13 baking dish with non-stick spray. In large bowl, mix dry ingredients (oats, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, salt) together. In a separate bowl, mix milk, eggs, vanilla, and butter. Blend milk mixture into dry mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread into 9 x 13 dish. Top with sliced bananas and strawberries.

Bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. (Serves 8)

I must admit, the last-minute change in recipe scared me a bit. I didn’t even have chance to read the recipe reviews for one of the recipes that went into this one.

I shouldn’t have worried.

It. Was. Awesome.

I had expected the texture to be like a big bowl of oatmeal, but it was more like a bowl of soft and warm granola.With melted chocolate.  So yummy! Ken thinks it would be awesome with ice cream over it. I think it’s perfect just the way it is!

Ziplisting

I wasn’t breathing well enough to do a whole lot of “think work” during the past week, but prior to that I was working on my latest meal-planning venture: Ziplist.

It may seem sacrilegious to even mention another meal planning tool besides E-mealz. I have loved E-mealz for years. It has revolutionized and simplified the way I plan meals and shop. So simple. Good recipes.

But sometimes, I get to the point where I want to choose my own food.

This is one of those times.

It’s not like meal planning is really hard. But my problem has always been getting from seeing something I like online (like on Pinterest), saving the recipe, recording what I need to buy, buying it, printing out the recipe, and then making it. Well, let’s just say, sometimes it’s just easier to put a frozen pizza in the oven.

I’ve found the Ziplist makes those steps a little easier. Ziplist is a website that helps organize recipes, create grocery lists from those recipes, and then can send your grocery list to a mobile app that can carry your list to the store (even on an Ipod Touch without WiFi). You can even share it with someone else’s mobile device (Ken’s) and sort by grocery store, if you shop at more than one. That way someone else could hypothetically pick up items at the grocery store if he were hypothetically closer to say, Aldi, than me. Hypothetically.

It takes a little bit of effort to set up well, but I pushed through the “just put a frozen pizza in the oven” phase and came up with what I think is a pretty interesting list of recipes. I’ve got 45 at this point, although with Pinterest around, I’m sure it will continue to grow.

I sorted the recipes into categories: Mexican, Asian, Italian, Comfort Food, Side Dish, Quick, Crock Pot, Sunday School, etc. Sometimes recipes would fall into more than one category (like a Mexican Crock Pot recipe) so I could put the recipes in more than one category.

I can then select to put that recipe on my shopping list, and it creates a list of ingredients from the recipe. I have to edit through this, because sometimes their robots don’t read my recipes very well, and sometimes I have most of what I need for the recipe on hand already. But it hasn’t missed a single ingredient yet, and sure makes it a whole lot easier to create a list!

As I decide on a week’s worth of recipes and edit what I need, it automatically syncs to a mobile app on my Ipod Touch where I can see my grocery list.

I’m already excited about this week’s recipes. It’s a sort of dinner-around-the-world and back home again list.

  • Sausage, Spinach, and Provolone Pizza
  • Jamaican Pumpkin Soup (Crock Pot)
  • Quick Mu Shu Pork Tacos
  • Buffalo Chicken Mac and Blue Cheese
  • Mexican Salad
  • Baked Oatmeal with Strawberries, Bananas, and Chocolate Chips (for Sunday School tomorrow)

Now that my shopping is done, it’s back to translating it into the kitchen. I hate putting my laptop in the kitchen, and I don’t want to kill trees to print the recipes. Ziplist helps again with the mobile app on my Ipod Touch, where I can bring my recipes up as I cook.

This is my first week trying it, but the shopping trip was great, and I’m pumped about the recipes! I’m still learning about all of the features of Ziplist, but so far, I’m loving it!  

**I think I’m mostly out of the woods from the pneumonia, and hopefully the peritonsillar abscess. Gearing up for the semester over the next couple of days while finishing up all my medicine will be the real test. I’ve had pneumonia before, but this was definitely the worst and the fastest moving. And having Ken gone for a conference was hard. Thankfully, we have some very kind neighbors who lent a hand with the dogs this week. Lets’ hope I’m over this sickness stuff!