Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Conleigh update

As many adoptive parents have done, D and I have always tried to make sure Kenson and Conleigh had pictures of us to look at while in Haiti. This, though, is problematic. Orphanages are not conducive to keeping personal property personal. It usually becomes community property and is broken or lost. We have sent Kenson photo books twice but never actually witnessed him have them in his crib. We took a photo book with us in June for Conleigh and personally put it in her crib but it disappeared within the day. So, I decided to make Conleigh a blanket with a photo of us holding her. My thought was that it would be a "lovey" for her which she might get really possessive of thus thwarting other kids attempts at running off with it plus the photo would make it easy for staff and the other children to see who it belonged to. There are kids at the orphanage who do try to help enforce the "rules" but, my reasoning is, that with a photo book, the kids/staff don't know whos family is who and they may not be able to read the names written on the book. So, I puchased a small baby blanket and then photo fabric to iron on a photo. (And of course I scrapbooked around it because it just looked cute!)

Lori, a worker at HCH, recently sent me this update on Conleigh along with several pictures of
her with her blanket.

She's still her princess self, but she is starting to get funny now! She has a different nanny now, and that allows her more interaction with the kids her age, which has brought her out more, in terms of interacting and playing!She loves that blanket you guys sent! She just gets this big grin on her face when I give it to her at night. It sits on the dresser by her bed during the day, and so far has managed to stay around! Hurray!

The pictures and update warmed my heart. Here's to hoping the blanket stays around for a LONG time!

Bye Bye 2008

The Livesay family recently posted about welcoming the new year in and challenged their readers to think about describing the old year (2008) in 5 words. I thought about it for awhile but I am not sure I could do it 5 words. We've just had too much go on in the last year. From D's 52 year old mom dying but living eternally to adoption timelines bypassed to spending time with our kids to resigning from teaching to stepping into more front and center roles in our faiths to being upheld by our family and friends to learning about God's character and being close to Him. There's just a lot we've done in the last 12 months. So I've got ten words for the old year, done in semi-chronalogical order.


Monday, December 29, 2008

I600 approval

I called USCIS today to check on our I600 status. I was told that our I600 had been approved. They are supposed to be emailing confirmation of this soon. (If I don't hear anything by Wednesday, I will call again.) Our parent liason told us to go ahead and contact the Embassy to schedule Kenson's visa appointment. So I emailed them and got a generic reply back. (ie if you don't hear back from us in three days, please resend your message) Hopefully, we hear something before three days have gone by. It has been wonderful to hear that we have I600 approval because, although it doesn't routinuely happen, people can have their I600's denied and then their whole adoption is in jeopardy. Hearing that we have approval has lessened that small burden for me. We would love to hear that we have a visa appointment scheduled before New Years but I don't know that that is feasible. I also don't know when they will be closed for New Years. The website says just New Years Day but since that's on a Thursday, I'm wondering if they will take January 2 off too. We'll see. But soon we will have a visa.

We don't have travel dates yet as we are going to wait to make them until we know Kenson has a visa. D is taking time off of school and if we head to Haiti and then get stuck there waiting for a visa, he would be using part of his adoption leave to sort out paperwork rather than spending it at home being with Kenson. So even though I wish we could leave tomorrow, we'll be staying put for awhile. Again, soon, we'll be going...soon.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Random Christmas photos

My cousins enjoying their Christmas gifts, KNEX and a harmonica. Quinn also got a harmonica. He wants everyone to know that he doesn't know how to really play a song so he just invents the songs himself!

My cousin opening one of Kenson's gifts. My cousins open Kenson and Conleigh's gifts since they aren't here and we take pictures. Then we can put the gifts away but still feel like our kids were included.

D is thrilled with the new lamp we received from my aunt. To make a long story short, there is a running joke in our family about paperclips and D. We've gotten garland for our Christmas tree made out of paperclips as well as recipes for using paperclips and this lamp.

My grandma usually does not wrap gifts. Her normal wrapping job is a Walmart bag with all the gifts inside. This year, she bought reusable grocery bags to put our gifts in. She even used tissue paper to stuff around the gifts. That is definitely an upgrade. Look how amazed Jared is!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Over the last few days...

-we celebrated Christmas with my family. Way too much food but wonderful times of simply being with my family. My grandma got a digital picture frame which my cousin preloaded photos onto so that was fun to watch all the photos she had put on it.
-our dogs thoroughly enjoyed their time at the farm and we have experienced the smells to prove it!
-we have tried to not obsess about getting a visa. USCIS was closed Thursday and Friday so there is no new news. So far, I wouldn't say my attempt at not obsessing has been very successful.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

USCIS update

We've been wondering where our paperwork was at the last few days as our processor was saying it was at USCIS and USCIS was saying they didn't have it. Our liason asked our processor for more information and he said that he had turned it in last week to USCIS. So I called USCIS again today. Initially, they told me they didn't have the paperwork. So then I asked them to double check as our processor said he had turned it in to them. So they checked again and then said they had it. I'm a little uneasy as their first response was that it was missing but as of right now, we'll just believe it's where they are saying it is.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Menu Planning Monday

Turkey Wild Rice Soup with fruit (Believe it or not, I'm still using up left over turkey from Thanksgiving.)

Spicy Black Beans, grilled chicken breast, mixed vegetables

Baked Potatoes with the works (nacho cheese, sour cream, bacon bits), carrots and celery

Nachos (Nacho cheese, salsa, refried beans, sour cream, and my own personal favorite ingredient, a drizzle of Dorothy Lynch salad dressing), fresh fruit

One of the things I like least about adoption is...

Emotional whiplash. We have spent the last few days going through emotional ups and downs which have not been much fun. Thursday, we were told Kenson's dossier and passport had been delivered to the USCIS office where they would be approving and printing his visa. We were told to call the USCIS on Friday to see if we had approval yet. Thursday night, I could not sleep. All sorts of things were running through my head. Like depending on how long it takes to get approval we could actually be ready to travel by the end of Christmas week. So I didn't sleep much. I checked airline prices. I made mental to do lists. I felt like things were really going to happen sometime soon.

Then on Friday, I called the USCIS office in Haiti. They said they did not have our passport or dossier which they have to have in order to approve our visa application. Ugh! So I emailed our liason who said she would contact Haiti to see what was going on. That was Friday. No news as of Friday night so I emailed back to check just in case. Still no news. I figured if we hadn't heard anything by Friday night, I probably wouldn't hear anything over the weekend so I just resigned myself to having to wait until Monday to find out anymore. Over the weekend, I've been forced t0 accept that there is a really good chance our dossier and passport may not even get to the USCIS office until after Christmas, two full weeks after we actually had our passport.

And I've been telling myself that the chance of our dossier/passport actually being lost are small and that it's probably still with our processor in Haiti or was not logged in at the USCIS office when the woman I spoke with checked. I worked today and we still had not heard anything today by the time I got home. So I emailed back, asking for any new information. Our liason didn't have any and said they had been trying to find out answers all weekend long. So up and down, up and down, that's how it all goes. Somehow I'm sure this is supposed to make you stronger.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Flip Flop Fleet

I just added a new widget to my side bar. It's a link to a project a fellow adoptive parent is working on. And the simplicity of it is beautiful. Their goal is to send shoes to 3rd world countries, specifically Haiti. The simplicity of it is that they are asking individuals to commit to collecting 50 pairs of shoes at a time. This can be done through a group effort where many people work together (like a Sunday school class) or by families on their own. We always have a Haiti box going so we just added to that by making a box for flip flops and other shoes. We have been just watching for cheap shoes and then adding them to our collection. We have both new and used shoes in our pile. Just yesterday I found 4 pairs of flip flops at Old Navy for 97 cents a piece. If you live in a cold weather climate, now is an especially great time to find shoes really cheap. We're up to 19 pairs so far so we're almost half way to our goal of 50. My experience has been that often people want to help others but really don't know how to go about it. The truth is there are always opportunities to give and minister if you really look and ask. So my challenge to you is to start your own flip flop fleet. Visit Dawn at the official web site and then sign up to find 50 pairs of shoes. It's a wonderfully easy way to make a difference around the world.

My Ugly Green Heart

Today my heart is a bit ugly and green. It's not looking like what I want my heart to look like. It's jealous and frustrated and weary. We have seen two families from our orphanage who exited MOI after us, receive passports and visas ahead of us, and have either already picked up their children or will be picking them up shortly. I want desperately to be excited for those families. (And I am.) But my selfish old heart says "Why them? Why not us?"

Jealousy is one of those adoption emotions that often gets swept under the rug. No one wants to admit that they are having trouble rejoicing for someone. No one wants to admit that they have spent time literally crying tears of sorrow and frustration over someone else's praises, because they wanted those praises to be their own. But the truth is, for me at least, jealousy seems to lay fallow just beneath the covering of my heart, ready to jump out and take me hostage when someone else gets the very things I've been longing for. I can't say that I have ever been more aware of this than in these last few months. We have consistently felt passed by, as time lines have been surpassed. We know that the small voices that creep up and say things like "That's not fair." and "Maybe sending someone a more assertive email will help." are not productive voices. But that doesn't change the fact that they are still there, lurking in the back of our minds.

So if you've been there or are there, in that place where jealousy seems to be eating at your core, know you're not alone. Your quiet discontent is all too familiar. But I also know that God has given me a wonderful promise: He has given me all I need for Godly living. And that means His gifts of self control and joy are available to me if I choose to accept them. Sometimes taking those gifts isn't easy. And sometimes, it takes me multiple attempts to firmly get my hands on them. But I choose to believe that perhaps tomorrow my heart won't be quite as chartreuse as it is tonight.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Adoption Update-Kenson

Well, Kenson's passport and dossier have been submitted to the USCIS office. I'm not sure exactly when it got there because when I emailed Tuesday it had not yet been done but then when I emailed tonight to ask again, I was told it was already submitted but with no date. For those of you who don't speak Haitian adoptionese, the next part is for the USCIS office to approve a form called an I600 which is essentially an application for a visa to enter the US. I have no idea how long it will take to get I600 approval. Hopefully, it is quick. We were given a checklist when we filled out the form of things that this office needed to approve our case and all of these things have now been completed or are sitting in their office.

Once we have I600 approval, we will have to get a visa appointment for Kenson and then his visa should be printed. Again, I have no idea on time frame. Christmas is next week and I don't know for sure when the offices close. D printed off a sheet that says they are only closed for Christmas Day but who knows. But we're guessing a couple of weeks.

We would really like to be home before the first of the year for selfish, tax based reasons. We will be able to claim an adoption credit on our income taxes and we are not sure if Kenson comes after January 1 if we will have to wait yet another year to claim this credit. This sounds silly to quibble over a year but in 2008 I was employed full time and we will owe much more in taxes than we will in 2009 where I will be staying at home. And we would of course have liked to have been home like yesterday for personal, loving on my baby reasons.

Anyway, we're making progress.

God and Me-Advent Repentance

The words "advent" and "repentance" are two really churchy sounding words, words that get glossed over by a lot of people in a lot of ways. Some people have heard those words a few hundred times and when asked would probably say that they know what they mean but when pressed would struggle to define them. Some people would say that they have no idea what those words mean, maybe something to do with religion? And some people would be able fire off definitions for both words but would be unable to apply those words to their own lives. And all of those people would be missing the point.

Advent is a season, a period of waiting for something, usually used to describe the weeks leading up to Christmas. It's a time frame; it has parameters of when it starts and when it stops. It can lead to specific behaviors like decorating a Christmas tree, wrapping presents, or buying gifts. Advent's truest purpose though was preparing the way for the Lord Jesus to come to earth and to ultimately come into our hearts. In a physical way, God directed the scene for His birth by filling a woman with child and a manger with hay. Later on, some 30 years later, God provided a donkey for the King and a road laid with palm branches. In a spiritual way, while the ancient Isrealites were waiting for a Messiah, God used the Old Testament prophets and John the Baptist to share powerful images about what the end of their advent would look like.

And God does the same thing today. He spiritually prepares our hearts. He desires for our hearts to be places where Jesus lives and dwells constantly, where we allow Him to cover our sins with His death and where we work to change our hearts to be more Christlike.

That's were repentance comes in. Repentance is saying "I'm wrong." Repentance is putting down your pride. Repentance is changing your behavior. The current advent season, while a time to prepare our homes for Christmas, is a time to prepare our hearts for Jesus. It means repenting, either for the first time or for the thousandth. It means asking God to show you what things you need to repent of. Sometimes, that's easy because you know how messed up your life really is. However, more often than not, we all think our lives are just fine, that we don't have any major problems and therefore have no need for repentance. But what if our hearts aren't quite as perfect as we think they are? Pray a quick prayer to God, asking Him to reveal any areas in your life that you need to rearrange in order to make room for what Jesus wants to do.

This is essentially the sermon our minister preached on Sunday. He followed it with a song I thought was very powerful because of its simple words and application of repentance beyond just lying, stealing, violence, and the like. Some of the words that really got me were repenting of domesticating God into someone who looks just like me, repenting of fake righteousness, and repenting of wanting more things all the time. Anyway, please click on over to the song I Repent as sung by Derek Webb. It's a great way to apply the season of Advent to your life.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New Kenson photos

The photo updates have been a little spotty as of late. (As in, they may come or they may not.) So I am especially grateful for these pictures. They always make me miss my kid like no other but I would be terribly sad to not see recent pictures of him. And the best part? Seeing his wonderful smile! The kid seriously does not know how to be crabby. (Okay, he does...we have seen that in person.) But in general, he is so easy going.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The first Haitian Eskimo

I've puchased a few clothing items for Kenson's homecoming...what do you think?
Seriously, it is stinkin' cold here. Like normal temperatures of below zero with windchills of 20, 30, or 40 below. My poor little Haitian baby would be seriously wanting some of that tropical weather if he were here right now. Man, is he in for a rude awakening!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Menu Planning Monday

Hop on over here for more menu and recipe ideas.

Turkey Pot Pie, apple slices, corn
(I have turkey left over from Thanksgiving in my freezer. I'll add some broth and vegetables and then thicken. Then into a cooking pan and topped with a premade Pillsbury crust.)

Carmel Bread Pudding, turkey bacon, fresh fruit
Carmel Bread Pudding (Should really be a dessert, I swear. But I have leftover middles from some bread bowls to use up so it's a good excuse)
1 loaf of Vienna bread (or other sturdy white bread)
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 cups milk
1 cup light cream
2 t. vanilla

Cut bread into cubes. Beat eggs until frothy. blend in sugar. Beat in milk, cream, and vanilla. Combine bread cubes with wet ingredients. Pout into a greased 9 x 13 pan and bake at 325 degrees for 65-7- minutes.

Sauce-Combine 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 cup whipping cream. Heat to boiling and cook for one minute. Remove from heat and add 1 t. vanilla. Serve over bread pudding.

Coconut Crockpot Chicken, rice, California blend veggies

Grilled cheese, vegetable soup
(We normally can't get Brie locally but since it's Christmas our grocery store has it. I'm hoping to have a Brie, pear, and ham sandwich.)

Chill Dogs, carrots and celery, pudding
(Using up left over chilli from last week)

Blushing Pasta, lettuce salad, breadsticks
(The bread stick recipe is new. Now that I'm home more, I am really enjoying getting to do some more with yeast.)

I am so brave that...

I cut off all the tags on the clothing we have purchased or received for Kenson! I know, what an adreneline junkie I must be!

I have been hesitant to cut the tags off of the clothing we have because it always seems like there is this huge "what if" hanging over us. And if that "what if" for some reason happens, I wanted to be able to either return the clothes or resell them as new with tags. (Just trying to be practical.)

But since we had many new things to put away from yesterday, I took the plunge and cut off all the tags on everything in his armoire.

I am the queen of thinking ahead, always in prevent mode, always trying to minimize the chance of looking foolish or making a mistake. And God has been teaching me in the last ten years that living in the land of what if or it might not work is not a good place to live. It cuts into my ability to trust Him and creates a false sense of control within me. It elevates my planning to a position of godhood, where it is by my planning and my planning alone that disaster is averted. So those tags are now gone and we are doing our best to live in a place where we believe God will continue to work to bring Kenson home.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Toddler Shower

My friends hosted a toddler shower for me today. Many of my work and church friends blessed us with gifts and their presence. It was a great time for conversation for a bunch of busy women. And I fielded many questions about Kenson coming home and what that transition to home might look that. Sharing some of the things we will be doing attachment wise will hopeful make that transition easier as our friends have now heard about it beforehand and will know some of the rationale behind it. My friends, Nicky and Meghan, who are biracial also talked about their experiences as someone who looks black but lives with a white parent. Good conversations about seldom talked about things!

We really didn't NEED anything but we received many useful and thoughtful gifts like DVD's, clothing, toy trucks, large legos, and much much more. And there were some things we knew would be purchasing like small stools, medicines, extra crib sheets, samples of body and hair products, and thermometers that we are especially grateful to not have to purchase.

Thanks so much to Ann for the use of her home and her beautifully braided egg and bread pastry. Thanks to Lisa for pulling out all of her homecky Becky skills and baking several items as well as putting together a scrapbook for us. Thanks Nicky for bringing fruit and dip. And thanks to anyone who did invitations and what not. I am so thankful to have the friends I do who have prayed with us, rejoiced with us, and invested in our lives.

Friday, December 12, 2008

More photos for another mom

Sorry the rest of y'all have to be party to my shameless sharing of photos. To me, this seems easier than trying to get photos to email. Plus, if I keep posting photos, pretty soon one of you who reads this will fall in love with the beauty of some kiddo and think "I should adopt from Haiti!"

To the mom who I'm posting for-I hope this is the right kid! If not, let me know and I'll go back through my photos. (And we're going to HCH very soon so I'll definitely have some photos then.)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Passport is printed

Woo hoo! Kenson's passport has been printed. Now his paperwork has to be submitted to US Citizenship and Immigration Services in Haiti. They approve his visa paperwork and then the visa is printed and we can travel. I don't know the timeline on this but we're hoping it will be short since a lot of the things necessary for his visa have already been done.

I should also add that I don't think we'll be traveling before Christmas. It's possible but probably unlikely. Who knows though?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Menu Planning Monday

Homemade pizza with 1/2 pepperoni and 1/2 ham and pineapple, celery and carrots
(I made this crust for the first time yesterday and left out the wheat germ. It was a super easy, very tasty wheat crust.)

Homemade chilli in Wal-mart bread bowls, fruit
(Just a dump recipe using tomato juice, ground beef, beans, onion, celery and spices)

Italian Bean Soup, lettuce salad
Italian Bean Soup
3 celery ribs, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 cans of chicken broth
2 cans of butter beans, drained
1 can of tomatoes, diced
1 t. basil

Put all into a large pot and heat through.

Brown sugar and salsa marinated steak, baked potatoes, mixed vegetables
(I saw a recipe for marinating/cooking pork in brown sugar and salsa; I'm going to try it with steak because that's what I happen to have.)

Cheese and veggie quesedillas, fresh fruit
(Thinly slice whatever vegetables you want; I'm using red pepper and onion as well as some cilantro leaves.) Layer a layer of shredded cheese, the vegetables, and another layer of cheese on a flour tortilla. Add another flour tortilla on top and cook. You can do this in a regular skillet/griddle on your stove or if you have an indoor or outdoor grill, you can do it there too. You don't need a fancy quesedilla maker. To make it easier, start with the bottom tortilla in whatever you're cooking on so you don't have to try to transfer an uncooked quesedilla to the pan/grill. Then build the quesedilla.

Chill Dogs using left over chilli, fresh fruit, pudding

Saturday, December 6, 2008

MM Hummel Bates, December 25, 1922-December 5, 2008

Motorhome adventures
Yardstick in hand
Shop 'til you drop
And great apple crisp

The last week in pictures

Christmas decorating (D is way into stockings this year, don't know why.)

Crazy quilt Huskers table runner for a Christmas gift

Homemade strawberry lemonade concentrate for a Christmas gift

Saying bye bye to my treasured orange kitchen floor (the dogs just kept tearing the paint to pieces)

3 purses for 3 lovely granddaughters of a friend, all for Christmas

Friday, December 5, 2008

Adoption Update-Kenson

Um, there is none. No new pictures either. Our update said that they are waiting for our passport to be printed and that Kiki (the processor) was hopeful it would be ready the first week of December. That projected date is not looking any too promising. Sometime we'll have a passport but when is anybody's guess. As for why it is taking so long to print the passport, no one seems to know. They were out of passport books at one point in time but I know that problem has been resolved. Sometime soon, we'll have a passport.

Those of you who think this is ridiculous, let me share the most ridiculous part of this. If I had given birth to this child in Haiti, he would have been issued an American passport not a Haitian one and, if I understand it correctly, he would not need a visa to enter the U.S. But because he is adopted, he has to get a Haitian passport and then an American visa. So because he is an adopted child and not a biological one, it adds time to the end of the process. There is currently legislation pending that would ammend current laws to allow children whose adoptions meet certain requirements to come home on US passports without a visa, so that these children are given the same rights as your bio children would have. EACH is an organization that advocates for children and has a site that explains this legislation. If you click on the legislation tab, it will tell you the name of the law, etc. and then you can contact your Senator or Representative to ask them to support the changes in the law.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

God and Me 23-Death Where is Thy Sting?

As I write this, my maternal grandma is dying. Her 86 year old body is ready to be done. She's been in and out of the hospital for a month now with a variety of ailments including a cancer diagnosis. Really though, the cancer isn't what is the real issue right now. She hasn't eaten in weeks. She has fluid on her lungs. Her heart has been out of whack. And her kidneys are not functioning right. She has struggled with dementia for the last few years as well. Her body is just failing her.

We went to Omaha to see her last night because my dad said we should come. She has a breathing tube so she is unable to talk. I just stood by her last night and told her about my day, about the kids I taught and the weather. And I prayed for God's peace to fill her mind, for her to be able to rest in His promise of heaven in these last few days.

This is the second time in less than a year I've been with someone who is dying. My 52 year old mother in law passed away last January after a 4 month battle with lung cancer. Along with my brother in law, we spent the last week of her life with her. She was not really conscious due to the pain medicines but I prayed those same prayers for her as that week went on.

Both my grandma and my mother in law believed that God loved them enough to send Jesus to earth as a sacrifice for their sins. And I believe that both of them wanted Jesus to be a part of their lives. For my grandmother, she has known this most of her life and, to be honest, I think has struggled to put a relationship with Jesus as her top priority. I think living out her faith, while important to her, was hard for her due to her childhood and marriage. My mother in law only became a Christian a few years ago. For her, I saw many things change in those years including her priorities. My mother in law knew she was really sick, and she said she wondered if this illness and the way she would respond to it, were part of how God might use her now that her boys were grown up, that if she responded with grace and dignity and hope, that God might be glorified.

But the bottom line is this, for my mother in law and for my grandma, there are many things worse than dying. I know my mother in law hated the thought of leaving D and his brother behind and not meeting Kenson face to face. But she also believed that heaven would be good, that God's presence and the freedom from earthly struggles like pain were worth looking forward to.

A month or so after D's mom passed away, I was doing some talking with God. About her death. And God's reply to me was "Do you think you love her more than me? She's now in a place where she knows unconditional love, a love she won't ever wonder about. She doesn't have to wonder if she's good enough, if she measures up, if she's done the right things to make people love her. My love for her in heaven is the same as it was on earth, unconditional, but her humanness kept her from seeing it. And now she's free."

So death oh death, where is thy sting? For my grandma, hang on, He's coming. And for my mother in law, you're home at last, home at last, surrounded by the ever present, ever real love of Your Heavenly Father.

Monday, December 1, 2008


At least if I have to have stress induced habits, why can't they be fruitful? Why can't I paint or exercise or clean? Why do I bake yummy high calorie foods or eat said foods or sleep way to long? Is it really too much to ask? Or at least make my friends who exercise and clean and paint stay far far away and not make me feel guilty!

More photos for another mom

Here's a photo for another family who was recently matched with their little girl. This is from May of 2007.