Saturday, January 31, 2009

Adoption Update-Conleigh

Someone posted a comment a while back about wondering where we were in process with Conleigh. We don't get monthly updates from her orphanage and generally, we're at the stage in her process where there isn't very much news. So we often don't have anything to say. We are in IBESR and have been since the end of September. That's four months in. I really have no idea of how long IBESR seems to be taking right now. It was 3-5 months a while back but someone on another site rumored that it might be more like 6 months. And there are people I know who've been in longer than a year. So who knows? But that's where we are...IBESR.

Here's some photos of that cutie from our latest trip...

Life Interupted

Last night, D got a call from his grandma saying that his grandpa died while at work. They have owned a gas station for nearly all of their married lives. His grandpa has worked the full service station by himself every day for much of that time. Yesterday, his grandma tried to call the station but couldn't get ahold of anyone. So she sent someone into town to check. When that man arrived at the station, he found another couple there. That couple had tried to purchase gas and when D's grandpa didn't come out to pump it, they went inside and found him slumped over the counter. His grandpa loved the filling station and was very proud to have built a business by himself. So it's very fitting that he should go, sitting in a place he was very found of.

On the other side of things, the whole thing stinks. Life often makes no sense and this is no exception. This is our family's third death of an immediate relative in a year's time. This is the third person in our lives who was anxiously looking forward to Kenson but never got to meet him. D's grandparents were a huge part of his childhood. His mom was an only living child so there are no aunts and uncles. D has one brother and his grandma left on his mom's side. My heart hurts for his grandma; I can't imagine her hurt. She has had a lot of loss in her life time as she has lost two children and now a husband. Her heart is pretty hard towards God, I think, and she doesn't have much opportunity for social interaction as she doesn't work and is not really involved in any clubs or church activities. Thankfully, a couple who were great family friends stopped by last night to be with her and spent the night. I pray more people will rally around her. I pray she will let some of her walls down and let people love on her. I pray we will be able to love her wholeheartedly, in real tangible ways.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hits and Misses

Things Kenson loves:
-peanut butter
-ESPN (he loves to watch it on tv, maybe because of the balls?)
-having a clean face and hands
-Papa playing with him (and Mama too, but Papa's a lot sillier)
-cars of any kind
-pureed fruits like baby food pears and applesauce
-the screen savers on both our computers (We have them set to do photos and the both do photos of Kenson and Conleigh. I think we may intentionally leave our laptop on in the living room just because it will always have photos of Kenson with us on it. It's like having a book of photos, but better.)

Things he hates (or at least dislikes):
-ice (I showed him how the ice dispenser in our fridge works and gave him the smallest piece of crushed ice. You should have seen the face!)
-taking baths or showers (we're on day 4 or 5 of not bathing because he won't let me take his shirt off if he thinks he's going to get in and right now it's not worth the drama of making him do it)
-stuffed animals (He was terrified of the sock monkey and actually jumped when it fell on the floor towards him. He also cried at a teddy bear from my grandma and a lion puppet from my friend, Bev.)
-our dogs

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

HCH photos

If you're a HCH parent, here's a link to the photos we took last week. I'm sure we missed kids but I thought we got everyone.

FHG photos

For all you For His Glory parents out there, here is the link to find the photos we took of the orphanage last week. We tried to get everyone but I know we missed kids. Everyone was eating lunch when we arrived. The big kids know are eating in the rooms that were built above the sleeping quarters. Having the big kids eat up there really made for a lot less traffic in and out of the main building. Some of the big kids were being really silly and acting like they didn't want their pictures taken. So if your kiddo has a goofy look on their face, that's why. The baby rooms were a bit hard as D followed me in and scared them all with his white man's face. So I know we didn't do a good job of getting photos in there because all the kids were screaming and crying. The toddler room was getting baths when D went in. It was still a crazy place but the nannies made all the kids sit down for pictures so it was a bit easier than it has been in the past to get photos.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Let the joys begin as well

Lest you think our days at home have been marked only by crying, let me share with you some photos of the joys of adopting a toddler. Everything is new which is good but overwhelming. I think the newness must come in layers. The first time in a room you notice the walls and the lights. The second time you notice the sink and toliet and bathtub. The third time you notice the water in the sink and toliet and bathtub. The fourth time you notice that Mama can make the water come and go. The fifth time you want to try it. So you put your hand in it tentatively. Then you try to make the handles work. It's all amazing. And the best part is, it splashes!

And now real life begins...

Real life with a two and a half year old-hmmm, what words would describe that? Cracker crumbs and milk dribbles? Maybe stinky pants and sticky fingers? Or giggles and sheer amazement over simple things? Two year olds are their own animal regardless of how they come to your family. Kenson spent yesterday "adjusting". Lots of screaming and crying and tantruming. A lot of "I want Mama" behavior whiplashing into "Put me down!" A lot of "I really don't know what is wrong but everything is wrong."

So we decided to clear out the middle of the living room so that it was free from the coffee table and similar things so Kenson could have a tantrum spot that would be safe. I'm pretty sure he recognizes we will meet his needs. Previous trips with him plus his interaction with us in the last few days seem to indicate that. And you can only spend so long trying to soothe a mad toddler. After 1 1/2 hour screaming match this afternoon we decided we would just let him sit on the floor and scream.

The afternoon's main ordeal was over him wanting us to carry him around. He wanted to be held but only if we stood up. Not so fun with a 30+ kiddo. In reality, I suppose it's about control. "My life is out of control but I can control if Mama stands or sits." So on the floor he went, followed by the directions "Sheeta Mama" and "Sheeta Papa." (Sit Mama, sit Papa) We went about our business, ignoring the tantrum except for occasionally telling Kenson to sit with us. And he stopped after about 5 minutes of the new tactic. (Which had been preceded by the hour plus tantrum.) Hopefully, that will continue to work, especially as we deal with grief and anxiety emotions.

Monday, January 26, 2009

So many new things

We're home. In our own beds. (Sort of. D and I are actually sleeping on an air mattress in Kenson's room.) We left Haiti on Saturday and overnighted in Miami. Then we flew from Miami to Ft. Worth and on to Omaha today. Some family and friends greeted us at the airport.

Kenson did amazingly well. Sans one moment, he was generally calm and laid back. He had a 30-40 minute melt down once we got to the hotel in Miami. He heard kids playing as we were going through the airport and from then on, he kept looking for doors and pointing like he thought the doors would take him back to the kids. My non professional opinion says the finality of it started to sink in. But he did calm down and was smiling 30 minutes later.

He has had so many firsts that my mind can't even fathom it all. First airplane ride, first chicken nuggets, first french fries, first warm bath, first warm shower-the list is endless. There was lots of pointing and saying "Go tday" which means look in Creole. By the end of today, he was starting to get much braver and walked a bit in the airport so that I didn't have to carry him. (Thank You, Jesus! The kid is heavy. I took two slings but he is almost too big. The slings made it easier but the reprive from carrying 35 pounds of weight was nice.)

We took a Magna Doodle and a toy car for the airplane ride which were very successful. He loved to look at the window of the airport and watch all the "Macheens" and "Avions". He clammed up once we got to Omaha, then slept on the way home. My family stopped for a short while before they headed back home so he was still unsure and quiet but once they left, we ate and D got out a car set that lets you put cars in a ramp and race them and Kenson was set for life. He giggled and laughed and talked until it was time for bed. He did have a bit of a freak out moment when I tried to put him in his bed before he was asleep. The bed is a crib that converts to a toddler bed and it is white with bars that look just like the cribs at the orphanage. He got the mad cry going and kicked at the bars on the back and then kept pointing to go downstairs. So down we went until he was totally asleep and then I put him back in it. I think he'll be fine once he realizes that he can go to sleep in that bed and we'll still be there.

He also is scared of dogs, the sock monkey I got him for Christmas and the loud flushing of commercial grade toliets. (Dogs I knew would be an issue but the others are just random things.) He has a rattling cough right now so we will probably be going to the doctor tomorrow. I am not feeling all that great either, which is why I'm typing this at 1 a.m.. I've got a sore throat and a cough. Hopefully, we'll both be feeling better soon. At any rate, it's good to be back. I'll try to get some more pictures up tomorrow.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Sleepy parents, sleepy baby

We made it back into PAP today. We had a crazy long day. We left Mirebalais around 10 this morning for our dusty, bumpy, 2 hour drive into Port. We got dropped off at Visa Lodge and ate lunch there. (I had goat; D did not.) We then had to call a driver to take us to Kenson's orphanage to pick up Kenson. Kenson's bio mom was there so we stayed and visited with her. Then we got our paperwork together and got ready for the van ride to a supermarket to meet the family who we are staying with tonight. What a blessing they have been to us. We have been able to sit down and relax in a setting that is basically just like an American home. Not a hotel, not a Haitian hotel with cold showers and cramped quarters. Kenson has done just fine so far. He has had kind of a dazed look but has gone to both D and I with no tears. He did not care for the spaghetti sauce or green beans at supper but at spaghetti noodles and some chocolate ice cream. After a bottle, he conked out right away. What a lovely sleeping baby! And hopefully that wil be followed by two sleeping parents. It's really eary but we both are exhausted. So perhaps we'll be asleep before 8 o clock Haitian time.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Random pics

PAP street

Derek and Conleigh on Day 1. That's about as close as she was getting to him

A tap tap in PAP-A tap tap is a Haitian taxi. They can be a converted bus or pick up truck. They are called tap taps because you tap to get off. Usually, they are packed full of people sitting shoulder to shoulder, knee to knee. On the bus versions, people ride on the luggage racks on top of the buses.

Preparing for toddler adoption-books on adoption

The Strength of Mercy by Jan Beazley (An inspiring story of one woman's Romanian adoption, from start to finish. For me, I came into adoption because of Romanian orphanages so this book just had a special place in my heart.)

The Post Adoption Blues by Karen Foli and John Thompson (This was the first book I read after our foster care experience and it helped me to see how all of my emotions were really okay. It helped me to see what kinds of emotions adoptive parents dealt with.)

Attaching in Adoption by Deborah Gray, Toddler Adoption by Mary Hopkins Best, and Raising Adopted Children by Lois Ruskai Melina (I kept these as resource books. They explain attachment well, describe what potential attachment problems might look like and have good ideas on how to promote attachment.)

Attaching in Adoption is a bit technical; another adoptive mom just reminded me of this. But if you don't have any understanding of how a child learns to attach and how a child's brain physically is changed by trauma, the first few chapters explain it very well. If you have been in a class or read other materiel, you could probably skip the first half of the book. Chapter 8 walks through steps identified by the author as necessary for attachment. These steps, in my mind, are similar to developmental stages that all children go through. The last 4 chapters have strategies for specific attachment related problems like anxiety, the need for control, overstimulation, fairness amongst siblings, and inability to read social cues.)

Toddler Adoption is written by a psychologist who adopted her son as a toddler from Peru. Her book is a comprehensive combination of her experiences as a mom and her experiences as a family counselor. I know some people have read this and thought it was scary and talked too much about attachement disorders. I didn't feel that way. The author is simply sharing about the families she works with. And, in general, families who are not having major attachment issues don't seek professional help. So her book is only representative of a portion of toddler adoptions. And if you are adopting any child, you should have some type of picture in your head of the negative things that can arise. The book covers potential toddler behaviors and emotions as well as discussing how various parents have responded to these things and if those responses were successful. One of the things I appreciated most about this book was that the author discussed failed toddler adoptions and the reasons why they were not successful. For me, one of the aha moments was when she shared about parents who started out with an infant adoption but ended up with a toddler adoption due to delays in their process. That described us and made me realize that I needed to make a choice to accept that we were adopting a toddler not a baby, even though that wasn't how we initially thought things would look.

Raising Adopted Children is a book I kept even though it wasn't as useful as the other two. I kept it because I thought I might want to reference some of the chapters later like Talking about Adoption, Ethnic and Cultural Identity, and Family History. Generally, I only read bits and pieces from this book as much of it mirrored things I had already read/learned.

Books I hope to read are The Connected Child by Cross et al and After the Dream Comes True by Michelle Gardner.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Live, from Haiti, it's Wednesday night!

As I write this, I am typing one handed as a baby sits on my lap and the orphanage staff/family prepare our supper. Conleigh is downstairs singing and doing their bedtime routine. The last few days have been exhuasting with little sleep, many concerns, and lots of little hands. But it's a good thing. We arrived in PAP with no problems and headed to Conleigh's orphanage. She spent most of yesterday being standoffish and stubbornly refusing to have anything to do with D or I. Today, after some bribing with food, she was much better and wanted to hang around the lady who was willing to carry her everywhere.

Kenson's visa was not printed yesterday as the Embassy had said. Apparently, there was a problem with the printer. But today, we received an email from the Embassy saying the visa had been printed and that our processor should come by and pick it up. So printed it is!

Preparing for toddler adoption-books on race

I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla by Marguerite Wright (This is by far the best book I have read on racial identity. The writer is a black psychologist and seemed very practical and full of common sense. She finds so much middle ground on race. She doesn't believe in the "just be color blind" mentality nor does she believe that transracial adoption is just another form of white oppression.)

Black Baby, White Hands by Jaiya John (Not a favorite of mine by any means. It is the story of one of the first interacial adoptions in the US. The writer is the adopted child. I personally thought the writer came across as a victim who continually dwelt on how he had been done a disservice by his family, community, etc.. But it is worth the read because it shows a perspective that I had not considered.)

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin (The true story of a white man who transforms his skin to black and then travels into the South during the 1960's. As someone who grew up in the 1980's with a family who was essentially free of prejudice, this gave me real insight into how deep seeded prejudice could be. I always have felt like Black culture has hung onto the past and just needs to move on. But this book helped me to appreciate how moving on would be difficult. It also helped me to see how far we have come.)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

God and Me-Inside my brain

Today and yesterday have been crazy whirlwind days as we prepare for our trip. Days where I have woken up before the alarm. Days where I have eaten at really weird times. Days where I have felt like I have been constantly moving, because I have no attention span. And oddly enough, at church today, I was told multiple times that I appeared calm. Ummm...if only they could crawl inside my cranium.

My natural tendancies gravitate towards neurotic, controlling, anxious behavior. As I was revealing this to a close friend of mine, Ann, she said something to the effect of me appearing to be a faith filled, adventurous person. Ann also said that she had really noticed worrying and anxiety coming out in me the last month or so in my emails and that at one point, she wanted to send one of my emails back to me with something about how I had just received good news but instead was focusing on the negative and being consumed by that. I wish she would have.

I know that those tendancies are not godly ones but ones that are rooted in my belief that my plans and my thoughts are better than God's. Oh, how I know that! But convincing myself to live like I believe that is a totally different thing. I like order. I like plans. I like time lines. I like schedules. I like all of those things especially if they are orchestrated by me. But the minute something gets out of whack, I dig my heels in and throw up my hands in despair. It is then that the tendancies I do so well at hiding, rise out of the fallow soil of my heart and begin to become full grown sin. Today, I was reminded of that. My friend, Ann, said it to me. My friend, Lisa, who knows my struggles with this asked how I was doing with it. Our minister preached on how the condition of our heart affects the posture of our hands: open to serve and give or closed for self preservation.

The real deal is we don't have all the details of our upcoming trip hashed out. That makes me crazy. We don't have a printed visa. We are lacking some transportation. But God has reminded me today that thus far, He has filled my life with Ebenezers. He has continually placed before me mile markers of His faithfulness along the way that point to the truth that thus far, He has helped us. And I know that regardless of what plans have been made or not made, He will continue to be faithful and that my faith often boils down to just one simple challenge: "Do you trust Me?" I need to just answer "Yes."

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Soon we'll be getting on an airplane...
Soon we'll trade our sub zero temperatures for sweltering humidity...
Soon we'll be greeted at the airport by a Caribbean calliope of sounds...
Soon we'll be sweaty and sticky and up to our necks in fingers and hands and faces...
Soon we'll hold one sweet little girl...
Soon we'll leave one sweet little girl...
Soon we'll find a scared and shy and perfectly wonderful little boy...
Soon he'll be stuck to me, plastered to me, clinging to me...
Soon it will be forever....

Tickets are booked, suitcases are packed, final plans are being made.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Not exactly the news we'd hoped for but still pretty good

Kenson's visa appointment went well today. Unfortunately, they did not print his visa. Since the Embassy is closed on Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Embassy told our processor it will be ready on Tuesday, January 20th. So while we are excited to think we are so close, it's also a bit of a let down because it won't feel like we're done until we have a visa actually printed.

It also brings up a whole new deliema of when to travel. In anticipation of a successful appointment on Thursday, we had been thinking all this week we would probably travel this Sunday. Even if they didn't print the visa on Thursday, they would have had Friday to print it. And obviously that didn't materialize. So now we are trying to decide if we wait until we know for certain the visa has been printed or if we just go and trust that it will be printed by the time we're ready to leave Haiti. If we wait until the visa is actually printed, that could push our travel dates back until Wednesday at the earliest. We aren't just doing an airport pick up as we're visiting Conleigh first so we will have some wiggle room between our arrival in Haiti and our departure. We prayed about it a little bit ago. I cried about not having an 'easy' decision. And I think we've decided what we will do. But the control freak, perfectionist that lives in my soul and desperately wants out is concerned about not making a mistake.

If at first you don't succeed,

Try, try, and try again. For some reason, our adoption processor took Kenson to the Embassy but was unable to get Kenson into his visa appointment yesterday. He was asked by the Embassy to bring Kenson back on Friday. I don't know what time. So we'll wait again today. (Kathy, you might have been right about the medication issue.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

It's 9:42 p.m. and...

Still no news. I really thought we would know something today about Kenson's visa. Like if the visa meeting actually occurred. Like if everything went fine. Like if our visa had been printed or not. I will go to bed tonight with no answers. We'll see; I may need to find some Tylenol PM or it might be a sleepless night.

No news

Well, it's almost 4:30. Kenson's visa appoinment was scheduled for 7:30 this morning. We haven't heard anything back from Haiti yet. I emailed a couple of hours ago but haven't gotten a response. So I made cookies. (Told you I bake to alleviate stress and kill time.) I of course ate a few cookies too. (Does the dried cranberries make them healthy? What about the Splenda? I also used Smart Balance's butter blend instead of regular butter or margarine. Doesn't that help?) D doesn't think fruit belongs in cookies or cake. But he said these were really good and then helped himself to like 4 or 5. (He then said he was exempt from eating vegetables at supper since he had fruit in his cookies. He is always trying to weasel his way out of vegetables!)

Cranberry Oatmeal Drops with White Chocolate Chips

2/3 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup Splenda
1/2 cup white sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1 3/4 c. flour
2 c. rolled oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Cream together margarine and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Stir in oats. Stir in cranberries and chips. Drop by spoon onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Prayers for Bear today

Again, I would ask you to pray for something specific today. I'm asking you to pray for a little boy in Haiti nicknamed Bear. Bear needs medical care ASAP, medical care that connot be provided in Haiti. He has spina bifida which means his spinal cord developed incorrectly and a portion of it is currently exposed at the base of his spine. A surgeon is the US is already lined up as is a host family. But multiple attempts to get Bear a Haitian passport and a US visa have not been successful. He was born on borrowed time and every day he waits jeopordizes his life. He has been waiting to travel since before Christmas and if he does not receive his passport and visa today, he will not be able to have the necessary surgery in a timely manner and would have to wait another 2 weeks which may be time he doesn't have. So pray for this little guy who needs a chance that he can't get in Haiti. And pray for a woman named Lori as she advocates for him with both the Haitian and US governments. His story is currently at .

Update-Lori got both his passport and visa today. He should be able to travel to the US soon!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Please Pray...

If you have a chance, please pray that Kenson's visa appointment goes well Thursday morning. If it does, the visa could be printed that day or Friday and that we will be able to make arrangements to travel this weekend!
Things to pray for...

-favor by the person completing the visa appointment

-Kenson who will be traveling outside of the orphanage walls for maybe the fifth time in his life

-safety in traveling to the appoinment

-the orphanage workers who will be taking Kenson to the appointment

-our hearts and nerves as we await the outcome

We will keep you posted!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Preparing for toddler adoption-Books on general parenting

Along the way, I've read lots of things that I hoped would help me prepare my heart for adopting and being a family. Here's a few of the things I've read and a few comments about each one.

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer for Toddlers, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg
The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp
(I read all of these and appreciated their practical, common sense take on parenting. I have not been around babies/toddlers a lot and needed something that would show me the big picture of baby/toddler care. The baby whisperer books did this. The Karp book especially seemed to dovetail nicely with my parenting/teaching style. I believe discipline is about learning not about punishment. I am generally lighthearted, even when disciplining. I generally work with kids at their level. I think kids have to have the natural consquences of their behavior come to fruition but that adults may need to help this process along by making sure there are consequences for bad behavior. If you are a love and logic person, I thought this seemed to fit well with that.)

The Attachment Parenting Book by William Sears
(Not my favorite by any stretch. I know some people really like the Sears' family. For me, it was too child centered. I don't believe children are designed to be the top priority within a family. My personal conviction is God first, spouse, then kids. I'm not saying that he is saying kids come first but I just couldn't get past some of the suggestions he made which seemed to lean that way.)

John Rosemund's Six Point Plan for Raising Happy Healthy Children by John Rosemund (I like John Rosemund and think his cut and dry thoughts are desperately needed by many parents. I don't think everything he says is appropriate for children who have experienced trauma or are struggling to attach. But I think the basic principles that he sets forth are important for all families. Misbehavior equals consequences. Children need only appropriate choices. Parents do not need to orchestrate all of their lives around their children and should schedule time from their children, should not feel like they have to entertain their children constantly, should be able to do certain activities without their children interupting, etc.. )

The Ministry of Motherhood and The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson (Both of these really helped me get my brain around what being a Godly mother looks like. Both of these helped me see how my parenting is about teaching my children not just what to believe about God but what to believe about the character of God.)

Books I am hoping to read:
Prayer Saturated Kids by Arlyn Lawrence and Cheryl Sacks
Heartfelt Discipline by Clay Clarkson
Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel

Monday, January 12, 2009

Preparing for toddler adoption-our hearts

Over the last few months and weeks, D and I have spent time talking about this next chapter of our life, our life as parents. And how does one prepare for these things? We buy cribs or beds. We purchase new clothes. We read up on developmental milestones. We look for bath toys and install car seats. And you try to prepare your heart.

When we did our foster experience, I can honestly say I was ill prepared. I thought the discipline would be the hard part. I was so wrong. D and I both struggled with missing our old life, with dealing with a child's grief, with having a child who saw us as her babysitter. We struggled with feeling discombulated because we were so used to doing everything together and being on the same page and we couldn't do that with this little girl. D couldn't help with bathtime because it seemed inappropriate. D could be involved in minimal ways with bedtime but when the tears came and the fear came, it had to be me and only me who laid with her and held her. We felt like we weren't a team. We both felt uncomfortable and out of sync. Because it was an emergency short term placement, I didn't take any time off of work. I struggled to balance everything. And then we felt guilty for feeling this way about a little girl who was scared and confused. No one told us to expect those feelings and no one told us that was normal.

I hope that we will be better prepared for our transition with Kenson. We know, in some ways, what our hearts might feel. We know that we aren't the only people to feel that way. I've gotten there by hearing other adoptive families tell about their feelings. I've gotten there by reading lots of books. I've gotten there by trying to use our foster care experience as a learning one, as an opportunity to see the flaws in my parenting, as a way to see how D parents, as a way to see how we as a couple will need to adjust and readjust to all the changes.

We have been blessed along these last 2 years to watch many children come home to their families. The families who have been brave enough to write honestly about their transitions have been so helpful to me. It has allowed me to give myself permission to not have a perfect family. It has allowed me to give myself permission to not like the new person in my house at all times. It has allowed me to give myself permission to feel discouraged and disappointed and disgruntled.

I've also read a lot of books on attachment, adoption, and parents. (Those of you who are experienced parents, quit laughing!) I am not naive. I don't believe books have all the answers. But they have allowed me to consider new perspectives. Some books have provided me with ideas of things I might be able to try. Some books have solidified in me what it looks like to parent in a Godly way. And some books have just been full of hooey! But by reading and evaluating ideas, your brain is actually performing at a very high cognitive level. It stretches and grows. At the time we had L with us, we were not sure what age of a child might possibly be joing us. And so many of the books out there seemed age specific. So I really hadn't read anything asI was waiting until I knew more about our situation. Stay tuned for a list of books I read with a few comments about each one in another post.

Lastly, I know I've learned a lot since we had L in our home. I saw my own flaws. I saw D's flaws. I saw things I could do differently to be a better helpmate. This reflection always puts me right back at God's feet, wanting to know what to do or asking for help with a specific thing. As we floundered through our foster placement, I ended it feeling like a huge failure, like I had contributed to the problem of multiple foster placements. I didn't even want to think about adoption or starting a family for at least 3 months after that experience. But God worked to teach me how that experience, even though painful and not easy, was a good one that will benefit us in the future.

So hopefully our hearts are as ready as they will get. I know we're really not ready because I don't think you are ever truly ready for most life changing events. But that's okay. We can be moderately prepared and then make up the rest as we go. Isn't that what parenting really is all about anyway?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Purses Galore

Last week, I spent time cleaning our upstairs, including our guest room/Conleigh's room which has turned into a dumping ground for stuff. Included in that stuff were two quilts my dad bought at an auction and then passed on to me. They were hidden up there because, well, because they were in need of hiding. They were UGLY. (Fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down, ugly.) But I needed to do something with them to get them out of that room. So I decided to make some purses out of them. Here's the finished products.

They are on my etsy shop if you want a closer look.

In a similar vein, a ministry in Haiti is providing Haitian women with jobs by teaching them how to sew. This is an important project because many Haitian women are unemployed and dependent upon their husbands/boyfriends for financial support. This can result in woman who feel like they have no alternative but to put up with a man who has bad behavior like alcoholism or who is abusive. Women feel powerless. The women who are associated with this ministry have created some great purses and they are for sale on etsy. Here's the link; it's a great way to empower Haitian women.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Preparing for a toddler adoption

Preparing for a toddler adoption is something I know a lot about. Being prepared for a toddler to come and live at my house is something I am pretty sure I will, at some point in time, feel like something I knew nothing about. That being said, I do feel like God blessed me with the ability to teach young children for many years before I became a mom and that those experiences will help me as I parent. As a teacher and someone who has a master's degree in literacy, I think a lot about Kenson and Conleigh's language abilities and brain development. Not because I want them to be perfect but because I know how much early exposure to good language experiences influences brain development. I do believe both orphanages do a good job at providing stimulation in terms of oral language skills for the kids they serve. In both places, the nannies talk to the babies and sing to the babies and play those little patty cake type word games with kids.

But I also recognize that my kids are missing out on valuable vocabulary development because they are not hearing English and are not hearing the "normal" conversations that a family has. They are also not being read to and seeing written environmental print like street signs and grocery store prices. So in some ways my kids will have some challenges because of this.

My kids will also have some challenges because they are toddlers. Toddlers in general are caught between being babies and being big kids. They're torn between needing an adult and pushing for independence. They are stuck with big kid wants and little kid vocabularies. Toddlers can be frustrated by that. And frustration leads to feeling out of control. And out of control leads to, well, everything being out of control!

Now take a toddler who has had his whole world uprooted by an adoption. Those toddlerish feelings of frustration are coupled with new places and new people and new rules and a new language and a new schedule. I'm sure you see the challenge.

Here's where the teacher in me jumps out...As a teacher I have worked with both kids who feel out of control and with kids who have some language delays. For Kenson, I'm hoping to work on both of those by creating cards based loosely on a program called Boardmaker. I've made several things which I hope will be useful as we transition. (I started posting them in this same post but then it got kind of long so I think I'll break it up. Stay tuned for more posting.)

Preparing for toddler adoption-meeting new people

Meeting new people
This is one area I actually feel a bit weak in. Lots of adoption research suggests keeping your new little one close to and limiting contact with anyone other than Mom and Dad. For me, I found this to be really hard to discuss with my family. And I'm not exactly sure how we will implement it. I have talked about it with my family but it still feels a bit up in the air. (I'm planning to use a sling when we go out in public because I think this will kind of send a subtle message that Kenson need to stay close to me." But other than that, I'm not sure.)
Anyway, I do want Kenson to know how much others care about him even if they aren't holding him and hugging him. And I also want him to learn the names of our family members even though we live at least 2 hours away from our immediate family. So I have 2 things ready to go.

The first is a homemade book. I bought a cheapy photo album and printed out photos of our family members plus their names. I also put photos of Conleigh, Kenson's nannies, and his birth mom in it. And then I made a title page with the words "People who love Kenson." Simple, easy, and probably something that will be part of our bedtime routine.
The other thing I did was to ask my family to pose in someway so that their hands were free from their bodies. I then took a picture of them from head to toe. I imported the photos into a photo program and cropped closely around their bodies. Voila! Paper dolls! I then printed them out and laminated them. I am adding magnets to the back of these and will put them on my fridge for Kenson to play with. As he plays we can practice saying their names, where they live, that they love him, etc.. I also covered a piece of posterboard to make an envelope for them so they can be stored in one place on the fridge when not in use.
(Sorry, Blogger keeps posting it sideways. Don't know why.)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Preparing for toddler adoption-picture cards

Picture Cards

The first thing I've made is a book of picture cards. I have found images for all sorts of common items I expect us to be using as well as phrases and things we will be doing. Using a word processing document, I inserted these pictures and then put the English and Creole word or phrase under the picture. On the back of the cards, I wrote simple sign language directions for that word. (I used a lot of baby sign language signs.) I then cut a part and laminated these cards. Then I attached a piece of velcro to the back.

I wanted to use these cards in two ways. I wanted to be able to take them with me from upstairs to downstairs or when in the car. I also wanted to be able to have them on my fridge. So I made two places to store the cards. The first one is a zippered CD holder. I attached the other side of the velcro to this. I first put 6 pieces of velcro on the inside cover. This is the place where I intend to "display" whatever cards I want to use. Then on the pages, I attached more velcro and then mounted the cards onto that. These pages will be my storage places for the pictures I am not using. The CD holder does have pockets but I wanted to easily be able to see the cards and get to them so I didn't put the cards in the pockets. I did try to organize the cards as I put them in so all the cards about activities were in one section, all the cards about getting dressed were in another, etc.. This zippered case will easily fit in my purse because it is small plus the zipper will keep me from loosing cards.

I have several ways that I hope to use this. I hope I will be able to use this when we are out of the house to show our schedule. I have a picture of our car, our church, D's work, the grocery store, etc. so I can tell Kenson where we are going but also show him with pictures. I also hope to be able to use this in establishing our routine at home. I have pictures for bathtime, bedtime, getting dressed, etc.. Same idea-show him and tell him the routine. I also have some of the common phrases like saying I love you, asking what's wrong, identifying emotions, etc. on these cards.

The next way I plan to use the cards is on my fridge. I made a piece of paper to mount on my fridge. I just used a piece of posterboard and then covered it with scrapbooking paper so it matched my kitchen. Then I laminated it and added velcro. I have made many food and drink cards. I will be able to use these as a way to tell and show Kenson what he can expect for lunch, supper, etc. . Initially, we probably won't be given Kenson a lot of choices about foods. But we will gradually introduce choices and these cards could be used for that as well.

In all situations, because I have the English and Creole and the sign language I will hopefully be connecting all of those communication modes for him. And because it's on cards, I don't have to try to remember everything at once. I know that these card aren't necessary for learning. Kids, especially as toddlers, learn new languages very quickly. But I hope these cards continually reinforce words as ways to communicate and also as ways to connect actions to words and objects to words. I also hope seeing the printed language on these cards will help to make up for the lack of exposure to printed text.

As Kenson gets older, these cards can still be used for matching games, letter identification games, sound identification games, etc.. It's just like having a set of flashcards but with everday objects. I know this all may be a bit ambitious but it's one of those things that I wanted to have ready. (Especially if Kenson does have some developmental language delays.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Visa Appointment

Kenson's visa appointment has been scheduled for Thursday, January 15 at 7:30 a.m.. So it looks like we should be able to travel by Friday or Saturday of next week. That is good news!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

No news yet but we do have a photo...

No news on a visa appointment yet. But we did get photos of Kenson from Christmas. Smiley as usually. But it looks like it was taken in the toddler room rather than baby room 2. Sad to say, but he's probably moved rooms and nannies again. Bummer, I was really hoping he'd get to stay in baby room 2 until he came home. It's one of those things where my humanness would like to control the amount of change he has to go through. But it is what it is, and I'm thankful for the picture.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Go towards the light!

Okay, after a bit of a loopy morning, I think we're finally on the absolute last thing of Kenson's adoption. I had two emails this morning: one from USCIS saying all of our business with their office was complete and another from the Embassy saying that they could not give us a visa appointment because they did not have an approved I600. So I emailed the Embassy detailing what USCIS had told us and also our adoption liason and asked her what I should do. And then I left the house! (I knew I would be a totally headcase checking my email every 5 minutes,waiting to hear from both of them.) So I drove to a town with aWalmart and a small mall so I could get out of the house. Those of you from around here know my shopping/opportunities for diversion would be quite limited.

Anyway, when I got back, our adoption liason had emailed and said to go ahead and call. So I called USCIS first to verify that our things had really been approved and weren't just sitting somewhere. They verified this and said that perhaps the Embassy just hadn't logged them into their system. So I was going to call theEmbassy but then came down and checked my email first. The Embassy had emailed back twice. The first was probably just a generic one, acknowledging receipt of our paperwork, and the second was in response to my emails, saying that they had received our I600 approval today rather than Wednesday which is what USCIS had said.

Anyway, they said we could schedule our visa appointment so now we are just waiting to hear back from them on that. Hopefully we'll be able to get an appointment this week yet so that we can travel soon. My brother in law who lives in Boise is visiting NE for the first time in a year and has scheduled his trip for January 8-18. We are hoping we aren't in Haiti the entire time he is here; we would sure hate to miss him. But at any rate, the light is getting brighter, much brighter! I'll let you all knowwhen I hear back from the Embassy. (And hoping we hear something soon because I'm turning into a real nutball as I try not to check my email constantly. I'm trying to work on a purse as a distraction but I'm not sure how well it is working.)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

God and Me-WIITY

These last few days/weeks have been hard. Really hard. I have spiritually felt very flat. Emotionally, it seems like I've just rotated every few days between all is well, all is calm to panic, panic, panic. To be honest, there have been times where I've felt like if we could get through two days in a row without crying that would be an accomplishment. My thoughts have just been consumed by thoughts of a passport and then thoughts of a visa. I have spent a lot of time wrestling with all the uncertainty of becoming a parent, the uncertainty of my daily schedule, the uncertainty of what I will be doing in two or three weeks. I have been jealous and disappointed and hopeful and pessimistic all within a few days time. Almost every part of what I do seems to be dictated by when Kenson is coming home. And that all leads to a lot of anxiety and stress and tears.

Today during church the first song our worship team played was Reign in Me. The song talks about having God as Lord of your life, that He should be the most Supreme thing in your thoughts and in your heart. Specifically, the lyrics place God over your darkest hour and your dreams, over every thought, over every word. That is not how I have been living. Instead, I've been stuck a lot on how it is not fair that Kenson isn't home, that others have finished the last part faster than us, that none of our year end/January plans seem to be working out, that my desires don't seem to be important to God.

Gregg then preached from Matthew 16:24-26. "Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?"

Having God reign in your heart means denying self and losing your life. It means putting down what you want, not wanting what somebody else wants and doing what God wants. I can't tightly clamp my fingers around all the "stuff" in life that I want to have if I want to carry the cross of faith. My hands only have enough room for one of those things. That doesn't mean we have to abandon all the good things we desire because often our deepest desires were put there by God.

But it does mean I need to practice a little bit of the WIITY principle (Thanks Gregg for a great acronym.) In John 21:15-22, Jesus has been cruficied and has risen from the dead. He is eating breakfast with his disciples. Jesus knows Peter's passions and talents and heart. He desires for Peter to become the rock on which the new church, based in Jesus' death, is built. Jesus solidifies this calling by asking Peter not once but three times if he loves Jesus and then tells Peter that if he loves Jesus, he should "feed My sheep." After the last question and answer session, all of which have Peter feverently declaring his love for Jesus, Peter turns and sees John and asks what John's job in the new church will be. To which Jesus replies, "What is it to you?" (Get it? WIITY.) I needed to hear that today. What is to me what is happening in other families? What is it to me that my life is full of uncertainty and chaos? What is it to me if God has us still waiting while other families are home? Yes it is about a child coming home and being with his family but it is also about the role God has for me. Right now, it's still waiting. Why, I don't know. Do I wish it were not so? Definitely. But what is it to me? God wants my heart to be a place where His will reigns, where I know that His hand is still on us, where I trust that His wisdom and providence are wiser and more all encompassing than my human plans. What is it to you is really just God's way of saying, "Press on. Keep your eyes on the goal. Push down those thoughts rooted in concerns over this world. Focus on the eternal. Push on. Let Me reign in you."

Ready or not, here he comes!

The word "ready" has such a wierd meaning when it's used as a description of welcoming a new person into your family. I'm sure families who are pregnant experience the same feelings. You're more than ready! You've been prepared for what seems like forever. But at the same time you're not ready. You have flickering thoughts and worries. But you know that while things will change and things may mean being uncomfortable or stressed, your committment is worth the sacrifice. The clothes are in the armoire. The room is a wonderfully Caribbean turquoise and pale apple green. Hand made blankets have been completed. We're as ready as we're going to be so let's bring on the boy!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

No news yet

I know you are all just hanging on the edge of your seat, waiting to hear if we have news about Kenson's visa. I know it's consuming your every thought. I know that you have all checked airfare prices and started packing your bags because...what? You haven't done that. It's just me?
Anyway, after my phone call saying we had I600 approval, we did receive an email on Tuesday from USCIS. The email said the same thing and that they would be taking our approval, dossier, and passport over to the Embassy by Wednesday and that we would receive an email when that had been done. (My understanding is that the two offices are now in the same building so one would think it wouldn't be too difficult to get the paperwork there.) We did not receive any email from the Embassy saying that they had received our things before they closed on Thursday and Friday for the New Year and Ancestor's Day. So we're stuck waiting until Monday when I can find out more. We also did not hear anything back from the Embassy on scheduling Kenson's visa appointment. So again, we'll have to wait until Monday.