Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Leaving on a jet plane - part dos

For those of you who are on facebook you already know I've had this song in my head all day!! Well, it's 2:00 a.m. and I can confidently say we are ready with bags packed and everything coordinated while we are gone (hope so!)

I'm feeling every emotional right now - excited, nervous, sad to leave the girls, looking forward to some down time on the plane and most of all anxious to meet our little H! This entire three weeks has been a complete rollercoaster but I wouldn't change it for the world. I'm so emotional right now I'll cry at the drop of a hat and I feel so out of control with my tears - feels very similar to the hormone surge I had right after I birthed Claire and Eden. I think my body is just getting ready to be a new mama again and once again, I wouldn't change it for the world. OH I can't WAIT to see him smile, kiss his head and cheeks, feed him, change his diaper, sing to him, tell him we love him forever and can't wait to bring him home... this will be a day we will forever be changed. (Might be Friday but we are scheduled to first see him Saturday)

Please pray for us as we leave for our amazing physical journey to our son - Lord knows we've been on the emotional journey for years! Here are some specific requests:

- Pray for H's heart to be prepared as we come into his world and he starts learning that we are now mom and dad. We will look different, sound different, smell different... might take some getting used to =)

- Pray for our safety as we travel as well as for our health - I'm still battling some health issues and Neil is notoriously sick when we travel. Hoping to not use our cipro but we are prepared if so (thanks Justin!)

- Pray for the girls - I'm nervous about leaving them this long as we've never stayed away longer than 2 nights. Claire is especially having a hard time with us leaving. She is really upset that we get to meet him and she doesn't and keeps saying "it's not fair" and "take a ton of video of H - make sure you get him making noises!" She has a tender heart that yearns to meet him just as much as we do. So hard to tell her she can't go. Eden is just excited to stay with the grandparents =) but talks about H - a lot!

- Pray for us to make every moment count and to soak in as much of Ethiopia as we can. We want to experience the people and culture so we can relay it to H as we raise him. We want to remember every moment as they are now the moments weaving our lives and stories together

- Pray that we get to meet H's birthmom - it's a slim chance because of where she lives but I've been praying this even before we were on a waitlist so I will continue to pray for this meeting to happen.

- Pray for our hearts and minds to be prepared and open to see what we will see and hear what we will hear. I've always heard and read that once you go to Ethiopia you are forever changed and leave part of you in Africa. We will see some hard things and we will see some incredible, beautiful things. We want to be open to what God is showing us and where He is leading us!

Thank you to so many of you who have been some of our #1 fans! We couldn't do this without your love and support. We are overwhelmed to see how the church just envelops each other and how great our God is through others.

I will try to update on here but not sure what communication we will be able to have while in Ethiopia so stay tuned for when we return!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Referral Call & Court Date Call!

(BEWARE! This post is LONG LONG LONG but ever so special for me to get it down for our family! Don't forget to check out the next post to see what donations we are collecting to take to Ethiopia with us!)

After you've been waiting for something SO long and it finally happens, you don't want to forget a detail of the day, moment, feeling... to say we were surprised by our referral call would be an understatement. We were still what I thought unofficially #5 on the list and in the depths midst of renewing our homestudy paperwork. So here it is... after 21 months and 2 days on the waitlist (26 months after we started this amazing process of adoption) we got our referral call throughout the day of Thursday, June 28, 2012...

Woke up that morning to Claire complaining for the 3rd day that she had a sore throat after she had just finished a round of antibiotics for strep throat so I called and made an appointment for her and Eden since she had a persistent cough lingering for 3 weeks. Why not take them both if I can? The appointment couldn't be made with our dr. so we made it with another dr. in the same office on the opposite side of the building (this is significant). So I packed up the girls for Claire's swim lesson that morning at 10 a.m. - yes, we still went - and didn't really stop for the rest of the day! After swim lessons, the girls went to my weight watchers meeting with me, we quickly grabbed Chick-fil-a (I noticed I missed a call from a 971 number but it didn't register) and got to the dr. office for our appointment. On our way to the dr. office, I got a call that showed up as AGCI so I picked it up and spoke with our case manager "T". She said since we were updating our homestudy she was looking through it and saw a couple of inconsistencies in regards to our parameters. I had noticed that the week prior with our home agency social worker and thought it very strange that there was an inconsistency found this late in the game. "T" asked me to discuss it with Neil and to get back to her - when asked when she needed to know by, she asked me to call that day.  Had to get the girls to their appointment and when we were taken back to a room, this is the one we were in - the African Safari room =) SO I had to take a picture because I thought "Oh how cool is that?!" and talked to the girls about the acacia trees in the background.

We wouldn't have regularly been in this room because remember it was on the other side of the office. When we were getting weighed, Claire caught a glimpse of a little girl peaking through another exam room and she said "Hannah!" which was a girl she knew from school. The little girl opened the door and I recognized the mom from working with her on the yearbook but we didn't know our girls knew each other from the playground. After a quick hello, we went back into the exam room to be diagnosed with another positive strep test and Eden with a sinus infection (yuck!) The mom and two girls (same age as my girls) were in the waiting room checking out when we left so we ended up talking more and quickly into the conversation she said "I don't know if I ever told you but we're adopting a little boy! The birthmom's due date is in two weeks so we are getting ready to bring him home!" SO of course I had to say "Really? We're adopting a little boy too but we're still #5 on our waitlist and don't really know when we will get our phone call. Actually, I was just on the phone with them this morning about something but it will probably still be awhile" (if I only knew!) So we really hit it off and exchanged numbers since we live in the same neighborhood and the girls will be in school together next year. I left thinking, that was really cool!! Just love it when God crosses our paths with others that we can relate to!

Now back to getting on the phone with AGCI! Not thinking anything but the goal of clearing up our homestudy, I called Neil and we spoke about our parameter decision... one we had gone back and forth on over the past years and decided we were going to change our homestudy. Now, this has been on my heart for a VERY long time and when I asked Neil, he didn't even hesitate. I was floored and thanked Jesus in the same breath for such a peace about something we had really struggled with before (not that we always feel peaceful when it's God's will!).

So when I got home, I called "T" back and I told her we'd like to keep the parameters that was in the back of our homestudy and again, wondering how it was in there in the first place - thank you Lord - so she asked me a few other questions just to clarify. I looked a few things up while on the phone with her and then she said it "Well, then...I have a little boy to talk to you about..."
I was STUNNED and almost speechless - all I could say was "No way! Are you serious?" and Claire was right by my side saying "What? What?"  And with tears in my eyes, I told her we got our phone call for baby brother! She screamed, hugged me and ran into the next room to tell Eden.  After only hearing that he was 3.5 months old and hearing his given name, I quickly got off the phone to call Neil so we could be on the call together with "T". When I told him "You need to come home now!" he couldn't believe this was it! We were all so surprised! Now I will tell you, the 20 minutes following our hangup was the LONGEST 20 minutes of pacing, celebrating with the girls (Eden was in her room cleaning it all on her own accord because "Baby brother is coming and he might put the small things in his mouth") and just not knowing what to do with myself! I was supposed to have a voice lesson in 5 minutes so I called them to let them know I had to cancel (the dad is an adopted dad himself so he totally understood!) but then we just waited. Claire wrote "H" a note with a giant heart and it said "We just got our call. We love you already. Can't wait to see you and hear what you learned in Africa." Could it get any sweeter?

The garage door went up and Claire FLEW out the door to hug Neil and Eden wasn't far behind! So we gathered by the computer in the bedroom and called "T" back. She wanted to go through all the details of our little guy before sending pictures which is a good thing because it helped keep my ears opened and mind focused. In retrospect, I'm glad I had that time waiting for Neil because it really gave me the time to calm down and be prepared to hear everything "T" was telling us. We put a movie on for the girls and then we heard the first words we ever knew of our little guy. We've never felt anything like it before... being so excited and heartbroken at the same time... it's nothing we could've ever been prepared for even though you've heard people speak of it before. And then we invited the girls in to see the pictures of him which only heightened these emotional polars. Such joyful tears but a sob I've never had before in my life... Neil and I were just overcome and I don't know how else to put it in words. To see his study that little love someone you've been praying for but are just laying eyes see his birthmother's pain on the last day she held him... it's beyond words and comprehension. My heart is broken and we are humbled and honored

We told "T" we would like to proceed so she sent all the paperwork to get started on. First thing first, a call to the international pediatrician and then out to get a picture printed to take over to our parents house to share our news! We went to Rome's pizza to celebrate and Claire made sure little "H"s picture was sitting on the table with us (we can't post anything public until we pass Embassy on our second trip!)

Our parents were thrilled and the girls enjoyed being part of telling them with the picture
as a surprise! Here are the proud sisters at Rome's =)
celebrating with ice cream
I insisted we get a picture of all 4 of us the day of our call and this is the best we got =) 9:30 p.m. and worn out with all the excitement and to-do list ahead of us
The most amazing man in the world!

So we were in the whirlwind of notarizing, overnighting paperwork, contacting the int. ped. over and over, calling and contacting everyone we wanted to tell before we posted on facebook,  going to the dr. (for homestudy and me dealing with an infection and then an allergy to a medication that ended up with me in the ER Monday night)... the 4th of July holiday threw us off as the day before we were told we had to redo some of our paperwork and we were frantically trying to track down a letter from our social worker that took 5 days to get to us in the mail!! July 3rd we had gotten a message in one of our emails from "T" that she was really praying for our family to make it through before court closures (which was why we were feeling like we were literally racing the clock to get everything done ASAP!) but that she honestly didn't see us getting a courtdate before closures. I was disappointed and cried at the news convincing myself that we weren't going to meet him till October.

To say the week was stressful, on top of my allergic reaction and the go around with 3 dr. offices for myself, is in understatement but we got through each late night and each day by the grace of God giving us the stamina we needed!

Friday, July 6th - yet another day that snuck up on us by surprise and will go down in history for our family. We celebrated Claire's last swim lesson with us all going to cheer her on! I included the pictures here since it was part of the day and I don't think I'll get back to them if I don't do it now... a family who knew our journey brought a baby gift to us and I broke down crying! She probably thought I was crazy but what a sweetheart to think of us and I told her I had just been an emotional mess!

(Eden and Julianna enjoying their time in the baby pool while their siblings were in class)

My fish with a mighty freestyle form
celebrating with donuts
Claire and her swim coach, Kelsey
We quickly got dried off, dressed and headed to Rome's (yes, again!) to meet up with some of Neil's coworkers and a formal coworker who was visiting from South America (he loves Rome's so it was his choice). 20 minutes into the meal I noticed I missed a call from 971 number and knew that we had someone else taking over our process as "T" is out of country for a few weeks. So I excused myself to call back and after "M" asked me how I was feeling she said "Do you think you'd be feeling up to traveling soon? Your court date is set for July 23rd!" Again, floored, surprised, taken aback... not knowing what to say or how to take it all in! I got all the info written down (get visa papers sent asap, call travel agents to get quotes, etc.) and got to celebrate with the girls, Neil and his friends with our amazing news! It was off and running again to get it all done on a Friday afternoon to the post office, money orders, passport pictures, calling a courier service, fill out application, call travel agent, get a quote, get it to AGCI to approve... my head was spinning and the craziest part? I had a dr. appt at 3 p.m. so we had one hour to get it all together so Neil could take over and get it where it needed to be (thanks to my dad for taking Eden to her swim lesson)! So I'm on my phone doing what I can as I have to literally SIT and WAIT in the dr. waiting room for one hour... oh the irony... I kept thinking "NO one in here knows what just happened to me and I want to tell them! All I can do it sit here and wait!" And you know what? The Lord just gave me a song "Be Still and Know that I Am God"... this whole journey has truly taught me about surrendering control, trusting Him... and I was once again in the position of not being in control literally (this is hard for me but God is refining me) and trusting that Neil would get it all done. And you know what? He did =) We make an incredible team! By the time I got home from the dr. we had everything completed along with our itinerary approved and tickets bought to leave in a week and a half. Now it's off to planning for the kids, researching and getting our immunizations done, making a photo album, getting donations for us to take to Hannah's Hope, coordinating all that was supposed to happen while we are now going to be preparing to leave or not here at all. My parents brought over these flowers and balloons to us to help us celebrate today!
This took a long time to compose but I really wanted to get it all down before I forgot any details since everything is happening lightening speed. I PRAISE our Father for moving mountains to get us to meet our son so quickly. There are so many of you who have been praying for us and supporting us throughout this journey and I thank you. God has used you to give us the strength when we needed it and has shown us His love through you all.

We're leaving on a jet plane - donations list!

Everything is happening so fast - we haven't even gottent ow rite down our referral call on here but we got our court date yesterday - July 23rd!!  We are all set with our travel dates and times (leaving Wed. the 18th and coming back the 25th)! Many have asked how you can help - we are taking donations for our agency's transitional home Hannah's Hope. If you can donate any of the items below, that would be really helpful and such a blessing!! Can't believe we will be meeting our little guy on July 21st - he will be just 4 months and 1 week and I will get to hug, kiss and tell him we love him! My birthday is the 15th and Neil's is the 25th and I'll have to say, this might just be the best birthday EVER!!!

• Diapers of all sizes; please include preemie sizes

• Baby wipes (this is always needed)

• Bibs

• ...Hand sanitizer

• Kleenex boxes

• Infant and children’s vitamins

• Formula: vegetable-based Similac, soy-based Similac, as well as regular formula

• Children’s clothing: this must be new or like new (no holes or stains)

Toddler clothing and shoes (at this time we are asking that families do not take infant clothing)

Light jackets or sweaters for all ages

Boys’ clothing for ages 6-10 years old

Girls’ clothing for ages 6-13 years old

Underwear for all ages—please consider slim clothing

Shoes for all ages, but especially older boys and girls. The popular “Croc” is great for these kids!

• Bottles: Avent bottles for both 8-12 ounce feedings.

• Diaper rash cream: Desitin is preferred, but A&D ointment or Butt Paste is also useful.

• Baby shampoos and baby oil

• Shampoo, conditioner, and lotion for older children

• Age appropriate development toys for infants and toddlers

• Blow up balls/outside toys

• Sidewalk chalk

• Bubbles

• Children’s DVDs and CDs

• Men’s and women’s deodorant

• Good quality electric shaver

• Rechargeable camping lanterns (for when electricity is out)

• Twin sheets (mainly flats) in children’s patterns and colors of pink, purple, red, blue, and green. Solid or

print materials are both acceptable.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Random catching up from May and June

Well, I'm back! Honestly, I needed to take a little hiatus from the blog world - writing them, reading them, getting lost in them but just tonight I tumbled across some really inspiring posts from people I know and people I'll probably never meet. My evenings have been filled up with so many other things so along with NEEDING a little break, I also just had other things to get done. So, this is my photo makeup for the past month! I can't post everything but here are some highlights and just some fun things too =)

Eden just loved her teachers this year - Ms. Myra and Ms. Megan - and asks almost daily to see them... still... even on July 5th... she can't WAIT to get back to school but is still trying to understand she will have different teachers! This is them at their end of the year program in her Red Classroom.
Mother's Day is almost my favorite holiday because when we didn't do anything to deserve our birthday, I feel like honoring our mother's (and father's on their day) is something really special! The girls spoiled me with cards and letters and such cute stuff about 2 weeks before mother's day and mostly on their own accord. We had a wonderful morning of worship and then spent time with the family at Billy's restaurant!

Daddy and his girls!

We stopped to visit with Mimi and Poppa too!
Daddy and his girls just hanging out in our usual choice of dress - the swimsuit
Claire chose between gymnastics over T-ball for the spring this year... she LOVED her gymnastics class and has really improved with her strength and balance. Her favorite is balance beam.
They each got medals for their end of the season performance!
We've really enjoyed just hanging out with friends!
The Lamar crew - Charlie, Andy and Mary
Eden's playgroup friends while the big girls are at school! Lyla, Lily, Eden and Lydia - we have a lot of "L" names in this bunch!
A Jed sandwich! Loved our visit with the Bowers family!
I have loved celebrating with my friends too! SO proud of Marie for graduating from PA school after teaching biology for a number of years.
Claire's last day of school came way too fast! Can't believe she is now a 1st grader! She chose her end of the year outfit =) Daddy's Rock Star with her nest necklace from Meredith!
sweet sisters
We've had some great visits with Heather, Mike and Pierce - can't believe how fast he is growing up too!
Can't be spring and summer without some nature projects! We watched carefully for weeks as a birds nest was built on our front door and out of 6 eggs, 2 hatched. I could write a whole blog on the pics of these little ones... how I get totally immersed in the nature projects around here! I think I like them more than anyone else!
Celebrating with more friends! Danielle is expecting her first and it was great to all get together to shower her with love!
Crystal with Julia, Casey, Christina, Danielle, Marie, Me and Kate with Everett
And yet another nature project (these aren't really in good groupings are they? That's really bothering me but I don't have the time to reorganize!)  We were given these AMAZING Tobacco Hornworms and Claire really got into learning about them. They really are unique in how they cocoon and their behaviors. Our kitty Rollo liked them too =) We didn't end up having a successful cocoon and emerging like we've had in years past but it was still really cool and the girls were proud to show them to their friends!

One morning, after a glorious sleeping in thanks to Neil, I woke up to the cutest bus set up I've seen =) These girls could play together for hours and I'm so thankful for that blessing! Each chair is labeled for each  of us including brother in the back!

We've spent a little time out at Sea World and the girls had a great time learning the difference between seals and sea lions. They thought the nursing mother was so cute and I just loved seeing that sweet little sea lion be cuddled by her mommy!
Having fun at Bay of Play at Sea World!
We went to a fundraiser for Children's Cancer called "Reese's Royal Ball" and the girls loved getting ready for the ball - nails and hair done by mommy and even mommy dressed up with them =) Its was a great event for an even greater cause!
These girls can't go a day without building something and playing with their squinkies! This one was built for daddy and this pic ended up on a decorated snack jar for Daddy's office for Father's Day

OK.... that's enough! Next up, anniversary post and another one on my little scientists =)
If you got this far, here is a nugget: we've actually got our referral for our amazing son in Ethiopia a week ago today on June 28th and I'm working on that blog post... it's not an easy one to write! Our hearts are overjoyed as well as grieving so it's not easy to put it all in words and some of it just won't be. Can't wait to share the news with those of you who didn't know yet!
Jenny came into town too!

9 years and counting

June 21st, 2003 was one of the best days of my life but it was just the beginning of this amazing journey the Lord has partnered Neil and I to be on together! After 9 years, we have been through so much and look forward to what the next years will bring into our lives. Sometimes I can't believe how much we have changed as people in this time together - how the Lord has transformed our hearts, our points of view, our faith, our priorities, etc.

We always like to take the time to celebrate together so we had an evening to go to dinner and then enjoy some live music with some friends... it was a perfect evening especially as we had just completed our third home study visit the day before!
Love of my life!

I love you Neil!!
You're God's gift to me, to our children and to everyone who knows your heart!