Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Letters from Levi and Zahria :)

We got new pictures and videos of the kids yesterday (I'm surprised I haven't worn them out watching/looking at them!)..........ahhhhhh, I can't wait till we can post them!!!! :-D But we got letters today and we CAN post those! I had to black out some of the "identifiable" information (I feel like this is a cop show! :)) but you can still read the translations! :) LEVI AND ZAHRIA, WE LOVE YOU!!!!! <3

Friday, July 27, 2012

Things You Should Know About the Adoption Process

I started writing this post last week, because multiple people are asking what they should know about adoption. Adoption is incredible, but it is NOT easy. Jesus adopted us and He died on the cross for us: NOT easy (in fact, He was the only one who COULD). So please know, adoption is the most beautiful and incredible thing in the world. But it's not _______ (help me out here!) EASY!!!!

Things You Should Know About The Adoption Process:

1. Things rarely go right the first time. Or the second. Or often the third. Don't expect them too. Paperwork will get messed up, people will make mistakes, your social worker will visit more than planned. You will redo paperwork a million times and you will constantly be barraged with additional unexpected requirements.

2. You can't control anything. By this, I mean ANYTHING. I should know. I am a control FREAK. I love knowing exactly how things are supposed to go and getting them DONE. ASAP. Adoption is to me what a giant pile of colored marbles, legos, and broken crayons are to someone with OCD. I almost can't handle it. I was raised by a Marine. You do things a certain way, at a certain time, and WITHIN a certain time (as in, NOW). You get it done, you move on. Efficiency and quality, people. Not so with adoption. I'm surprised I don't have gray hair (in fact, I am surprised I have any hair at all. I should have pulled it all out by now....). Example: the first day of my homestudy, I handed EVERY. SINGLE. PAPER. that was needed to my social worker. All of it. Our homestudy wasn't finalized till almost seven month later. SEVEN. That's a whole different story with extenuating circumstances, but trust me on this, you can't control this process. Let it go now...just give it to God. Literally the only things I could control were what came off my printer (and even my printer rebeled more times than I care to admit). Every piece of paperwork depends on someone else, and those people don't always share your agenda or timeline. I have 25lb of paperwork in my house to prove it and every single piece had to be signed off on, notarized, certified, state certified, or apostilled (go look it up, I didn't know what it meant either ;)) before it could be submitted.

3. There are no timelines. You will ask your agency for some kind of timeline. Did I say ask? I meant beg. You will BEG your agency for a timeline. You will get a vague answer (it isn't all their fault...they cannot control how fast people move, or what issues may arise with your case) of something  from 2-4 years. People will ask YOU for a timeline. When will your paperwork be done/arrive in Ethiopia/be approved? When will you get a court date/embassy date/travel? When will your kid(s) be home? Here is how a typical conversation goes for me (adjusted to fit our referral now):

Kind friend: "Any news on your adoption?!?!?"
Me: "Nooooo, not really. Still waiting." (At least NOW I can say I know who my kids are!)
Friend: "Oh. Nothing? So, when will they be home?"
Me: "We don't know......it all depends. It's pretty complicated, but basically we have no idea when they could be home. We are now waiting on a court date."
Friend looks puzzled.
Me: "Okay, so after you get a referral--get matched with your kids--you wait for a court date. Court dates are typically 8-18 weeks after referral. BUT, courts close August to October, because of the rainy season, when everything floods, and since Ethiopia is a 3rd world country, they have to close down their international courts. So right now, Ethiopia is pushing to get families to get in early for court, before the rainy season starts. So we COULD get a date anytime. Families who got referrals after us have already gotten their dates so we are next in line. So we could travel ANY time, but we could also NOT get a date and have to wait until courts open again in October. Then we would get a date for October or November and make our first trip over. IF we passed court the first time, then typically embassy is 8-18 weeks after that, but sometimes you fail court due to paperwork not being ready, or due to other reasons and then we would need to wait for another court date, where a rep would stand in for us. Then if we passed that time, we would wait for an embassy date. Then, as long as they didn't need to do a further investigation into our case and send it to Nairobi, Kenya, we would wait to clear embassy and after THAT they could be home. So basically they could be home in late September, or maybe not till next spring, depending."
Friend collapses, eyes glazed over with information overload.

4. Your life mantra will become: "Hurry up and wait." You will rush around like a maniac, filling out paperwork and demanding that others hurry and finish what they owe you (social workers will forget you, friends wriitng reference letters will procrastinate until your friendship is almost over, and government agencies will lose your paperwork) and once you have FINALLY gathered all this precious information, which was all due at a specific time, you will wait. Indefinitely. Indeterminably. Impatiently.

5. You will become bipolar. You will desperately long for people to ask about your adoption, because it is so important, and because the newness wears off quick and lots of people forget to care after the first year. You will wish SOMEONE cared enough to ask and see how you are doing. And when they do, you will dread answering and wish they had never asked and that you could brush the whole thing under the carpet because there is no news, no progress, and no way to explain the situation to a person who has not experienced adoption themselves. You can't summarize your entire process in a few sentences to help them understand why everything is always such a mess. So you respond, and they look at you like you have three heads. And if they are a truly good friend, they will ask again, but not too soon.  

6. You will cry at the drop of a hat. My poor grandfather is a saint. We have a phone date every Tuesday night and he and my Grammy used to ask me every week about the adoption. About a year and a half in, they must have realized (even though I tried to hide it) how much it hurt to talk about it every week and never have anything new to say. So they stopped asking. About two months ago, my grandpa mentioned it for the first time in a YEAR. He said, "Sweetie, any news on the adoption? I know you don't want to talk about it too much....I know it makes you cry, but I don't want you to think I don't care. I'm afraid that asking about it hurts you and makes you cry and I am afraid NOT asking about it hurts you too! So I will just ask and you can answer and then we can talk about something else right away, but I wanted you to know I care." The man is an angel. And he's totally right. That's why I say adoption makes you bipolar. You want people to ask and to care, and at the same time, it hurts. But it hurts when people don't ask too. So go ahead and ask, just be understanding when the person starts crying, and don't stare at them like they have lost their minds to go through this process when they tell you, "I don't know" to EVERY question you ask them.

7. You will fall desperately in love with someone (or multiple someones! :)) that you have never met, or even seen. You will stay up late, get up early, work extra hours every possible second, scrimp like Scrooge (cereal, pasta, apples, repeat), and fundraise until people are afraid to open your emails. You will dream of your precious child and thinking about them every waking hour and the thought of them will push you through the whole process, however long it takes. And then when you DO finally see that precious face(s), your heart will explode into a million pieces and every fiber of your being will love that child. (You will then grow shaggy brown fur, giant claws and teeth and stand eight feet high. That's right, when you look in the mirror, you will see a mama grizzly bear).

8. You will be changed forever. You will wonder how you lived before adoption.....how you COULD live before adoption. After seeing the need, having your children experience it firsthand, and being completely broken inside, you will cry for orphans all over the world on a daily basis. What is the Christian church DOING?????? What was I doing????? It is our responsibility to care for the needy, specifically the widows and the orphans. How could I have been so selfish before, thinking only of myself, my needs, my wants, when children are DYING all over the world? I can help. YOU can help. Adopt. Help someone else who is adopting. Sponsor a child. Buy donations. It's not hard, it's not asking too much, and it is your responsibility. Do SOMETHING!!!!!! As I was walking through Wal*Mart the other day, I saw a bottle of nail polish and thought, "I like that color, I think I'll get it; I deserve a treat." My next thought was, "No you don't! And a bottle of nail polish and a bottle of Ibuprofen cost about the same. I could send the Ibuprofen in the donation bin." Bye-bye sparkly lilac-purple.

9. You will want to go back and adopt more kids before you are through with your first adoption. And you will start saving for it. Every minute of pain, every struggle, all the frustrations and challenges will fade and you will be planning how to go back and adopt again. You won't be able to help it. Those kids steal your heart, and not just the one(s) you are adopting. Part of your heart will be left with the country or place they come from. (Did I mention we are going to adopt again?)

10. You will meet the most amazing people and make incredible friends. These people will be crying with you, laughing with you, angry with you.....they will just BE with you, no matter what. They are always there to lean on, and to call or text, no matter what the time. The adoption community is one of the most amazing groups I have ever had the privilege of being a part of, and I wouldn't have made it this far without them. Just to name a few people who I CONSTANTLY talk to (multiple times a day): Brandy, Christina, Tracy, Amy, Lindsey, Carrie, Jamie, Kaylen, Paige....thank you ladies, for being a support system of titanium caliber. There are at hundreds of others I have met, and naming them all would be impossible, but they are all incredible people and I am so thankful for them!!!

Adoption is hard. Adoption is amazing. Are you being called?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Talking" to my kids for the first time!!!!

I got one of the greatest gifts ever today.

My son and daughter got to see me and Abe signing and talking on a pre-recorded video, telling them how much we love them and how proud we are of them. And WE got to see a video of THEM watching us, seeing us for the first time in "real" life, and not just pictures.

I cried my eyes out.

Levi was wearing one of our adoption bracelets that we did as a fundraiser. My friends Brandy and Logan gave them their care packages, and a doll for Zahria (THANK YOU BRANDY!!!!!!!) and then asked them if they wanted to see us. Levi and Zahria sat down on a chair together, looking excited and possibly a little overwhelmed. Logan started the video and they both immediately leaned closer to the computer, smiling BIG. When we started talking and signing, Levi's eyes LIT up and his face split into a HUGE grin. He looked SO. HAPPY. As if all his fears were relieved. I am going home. My parents can sign with me. I will have a way to communicate. .

I started bawling like a baby.

Zahria was grinning too, and watching intently. Someone who works for our agency translated what we were saying to her, and she kept looking up, eyes shining, to listen, and then back at the video. I bawled some more. THIS is why we went through over two and a half years of complete hell, fighting tooth and nail to be able to get these kids. To see their precious faces, and to be able to tell them that we LOVE them and we are coming for them. To see their excitement and for them to know someone CARES and that they get a mommy and a daddy forever. Every minute of heartache and suffering, all the frustration, the insanity--it was all worth it. I did more than I would have ever thought possible for these kids and I would do it again in a heartbeat. THESE are the light of my life, and they make our family whole.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Possibly traveling in August?!?! Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease...... :-D

The delay on our case has been taken care of! Sorry, no more details than that haha, you know how adoption rolls. The main word to remember is CONFIDENTIALITY! :-p Sorry!!!!! :) But you can rejoice with us and know that it has been resolved (YAY!) anddddddddddd.........................

...........there is a VERY high chance what we will be traveling this summer for court! :-D :-D :-D As in, August. MAYBE.

Ethiopia just announced that its courts will be closing August 22nd.....two weeks later than normal! Since our case is open, that gives us a HUGE chance of being pushed through....especially since a lot of families who got referrals after us have already been given court dates. So...............  :-D Please pray!

If we ARE able to go, there is also a high chance that we will fail court. Because of the delay, certain things need to be changed in the kids' paperwork and if we went in August, that probably wouldn't be enough time for the paperwork to get through all the government approvals........so we would most likely fail, and then be given a second court date (that we do not have to be present for) and then hopefully we would pass. And wait on an embassy date. If we go now though, at least we could start the wait for a second date and for embassy, instead of having to wait till October or November for our first trip. Guess we will see what God has in store for us............. ;)

During this time, where we MIGHT be traveling in less than a month, we thought it would be a good idea to talk about donations for the orphanage. We will be bringing  as many donations as possible to ET with us (the donations will be most of our luggage!), and if you would like to help and send us some, we would greatly appreciate it, and we know all the kids and orphanage staff would too!!! :)

If you want to send us something, email me at signingchick08@hotmail.com! :)

Orphanage Donation List:

-reusable grocery bags
-infant and children's tylenol
-Vitamin D drops
-Iron drops
-chewable multi-vitamins
-plastic and latex disposable wipes
-clothes (for children 0-15)
-crocs (all sizes)
-hand sanitzer
-lice treatment
-A + D ointment
-diaper rash ointment
-unscented baby wipes
-rattles and other hard, plastic stimulation toys for infants (can be soy)
-Enfamil lactose-free formula
-Parents Choice lactose-free formula (can be soy)

-matchbox cars
-individual bottles of bubbles
-card games
-jump ropes
-soccer balls
-small notebooks
-pens and pencils
-balls (small, or that can be deflated)

You can also send us a monetary donation if you would like and specify how you want it spent towards donations. We just want to bring as much as possible to give out! :) Thank you for considering!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Language for Levi!!!!!!!

So something awesome happened!!!!!!!  My family coordinator (FC) emailed and told me that Levi and his teacher's assistant at school were asking for a sign language book or resources to help him learn some ASL before he comes to America. We sent some papers (with pictures of signers) through email to some friends who just took pictures for us while they were in ET (Ethiopia) and they were able to print them and give them to Levi. They said he was BEAMING. We were happy but sad too, because it's all in English and 2D and ASL is 3D and moves, so learning it off paper is TOUGH.  Plus you can't get grammar or a lot of other nuances or important (conceptual) aspects of the language, just the literal signs for certain objects. I emailed my (FC) and asked if the school that they are now sending him to had internet access, specifically YouTube, because I thought I could send them my ASL video links (http://www.youtube.com/signlanguagebasics). My FC said that the internet is unreliable and that it probably wouldn't work, BUT THAT I COULD SEND A DVD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HOW FREAKING COOL IS THAT?!?!??!?!?!!? So Abe and I put all my YouTube videos on CD/DVD last night and are mailing them tomorrow! I GET TO TEACH LEVI TO SIGN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HE GETS REAL LANGUAGE!!!!!!!!!!! BEFORE I MEET HIM!!!!!!! F-L-I-P-P-I-N-G OUT! :) I bet by the time we get there, we can talk a little to him!

Please keep praying for an August court date!!!! Mid august will be 8 weeks since our referral (this week Thursday will be 5 weeks) and court dates are TYPICALLY about 10 weeks after referral (although they range 8-18) so there is still a STRONG possibility that we could go to court before closures. I WANT TO GO SO BADLY!!!!!!!!! I am DYING to meet my kids. Can I wait? Of course. The waiting is SO much easier, now that I know that Levi and Zahria are safe, and that they are ours, and where they are. I feel complete and utter relief. But of course I am DYING to meet them! I am so in love with them.....waiting feels like forever, and it's already been 2.5 years. But it is no longer torture. The unknown, the endless feeling of helplessness, that is gone. So if we don't make it till after closures, I won't be devastated. Just disappointed. I really want to go next month! Because I seriously have the two cutest kids in the world and I just want to hug them! :)

 Can I also say, the people you meet through adoption are A-MAZING. Just incredible. I have "met" (through email, Facebook, phone and face-to-face!) so many people who are absolutley some of the best people on the planet. People who are willing to support us no matter what we are going through (adoption or otherwise). People who text and call me on a daily basis, listen to me whine and cry, and just love me. People who share in my joy, and cry when I cry. People who are taking time out of THEIR trips to ET to take pictures and videos of our kids for us, and to deliver our care packages to them. People who love our kids almost as much as we do. These people are some of my favorite people in the world. I could not name you all (too many of you, and I adore you all!) but you know who you are. <3 Thank you!!!!!! I love you all so much!!!!!!!

Awesome surprise from last week and this week. TWO VIDEOS!!!!! One is a 7 second video of Zahria and Levi (they are BEYOND gorgeous) blowing us kisses and waving. Levi just does one sweet but manly kiss hahaha. :) Zahria is a little diva. :) The second is a 30 second video is of Zahria (most precious and beautiful girl in the WORLD!) giggling and waving, and saying, "Hi Mawmeee! Hi Dawdeeee! I love you!" and blowing us kisses. Can I just say, I bawled when I watched the videos. Or should I say, bawl when I watch the videos? :) I'm surprised I haven't broken or worn out the video. I watch them a million times a day, often for five minutes straight. Zahria's laugh is the sweetest sound I've ever heard. It's more beautiful than any music. And Levi's eyes and smile are the same. It kills me. (*sniff*....wipes eyes). Oh, by the way, this adoption has made me a crybaby and a sap. That's right, this Marine's daughter is officially a salt water resource.

I guess it is time I told you (for those who don't know), that Levi and Zahria are names that Abe and I picked out. I made up "Zahria".....well, I THOUGHT I did! I "made" it up and then when I googled it, it DID come up. Boooo haha! It means "desert flower" or "princess" (how appropriate are those?!?!!? Perfecttttttt! :). Their Ethiopian names are different, and of course confidential, so we will call them Levi and Zahria for now. Most of you have already known this for the 1,124 days we have been waiting for them to come home now. Because of course, names were the first thing we picked out. Wait, I just did the math. 1,124 DAYS WAITING?!?!?!? Holy crap. Anyway, back to my point. They have other names and if they want to keep them, that's fine. If they want to change them, that's fine. But for now, let's go with Levi and Zahria. :)


Monday, July 9, 2012


May 24th, 2009. 2:30pm (ish!) Best day of my life. I married my best friend.

June 21st, 2012. 2:58pm Second best day of my life. I received a referral for the two most beautiful children in the world.

That's right! WE GOT OUR REFERRAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :-D FINALLY!!!!! After 2.5 years of waiting, 17 months DTE, and enough tears to fill an ocean, we have a referral for our kids!!!!

First, can I say, Abe and I are over the moon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We've been freaking out every since Thursday, June 21st. when we got THE call. It was AMAZING. There is no way to describe the happiness and relief and JOY at knowing who our children are after 2.5 years of fighting for them. Most details of our referral are confidential, but they are a brother (deaf) and a sister (hearing). Absolutely GORGEOUS.

There is so much to this story that I cannot share. I wish I could. The details that would floor you. A story, that as it unfolds, becomes more complicated, and yet more intertwined with mine and Abe's life for the past several years, and even up to over a decade ago. A road with soooooo many stony, twisting paths, and mountains to climb. And so many, many miracles.

I'm going to try and tell as much of the story as I can but it won't be enough. Maybe someday I can share the whole story later, but right now it's just not time. Someday though. Because stories like this need to be told.

Let's go back to about 2000. I don't remember the exact year, to be honest. It must have been somewhere around there though. I was trying to teach myself some sign language so I could communicate with a nine year old deaf boy I met at work. My heart became burdened for orphans in Africa. Specifically deaf orphans. I told my Mom that I wanted to adopt a deaf child someday. She found information about an orphanage in Libya that specifically housed deaf children. I told her that someday I would adopt deaf children from Africa. And about that year, halfway across the world, my son was born.

2004. I entered college as an ASL-English interpreter. Either at this time, or in 2006, when I transferred to RIT (to become a better interpreter and to be surrounded by the deaf community), my daughter was born.

May 2009. Abe and I got married. We'd always known we wanted to internationally adopt deaf kids. We had agreed in March 2007 that should we get married, we would someday do just that. But not right away. Later. Like when we were in our mid-thirties. My dream of Africa was forgotten. We wanted to try and adopt Hispanic children.

January 2010. An earthquake shattered Haiti. Thousands upon thousands of children were left orphans. No one to care for them, no where to live, nothing to eat or drink. Many were injured. And they died like flies. My church personally sponsors an orphanage in Haiti and MANY of the children were killed in the earthquake. Six men from our church (military men, doctors, a chaplain) went down into Haiti with as much supplies as they could carry to get the kids out and move them to a safer area. What they found was horrors that still give them nightmares. Dead children everywhere. Dying children everywhere. When the group of guys returned, they shared stories that broke our hearts. We were in tears.

Abe and I hadn't wanted kids right away. We wanted our music to take off. We wanted to get a house. We wanted to pay off some school loans. We wanted to save for the adoption. I had an adoption account I had been saving money for, but had given it away to a missions outreach to children in the Philipines and we had nothing left to start the adoption process.

God told us to go ahead anyway.

We started the process on complete faith. I worked some extra hours and we came up with $1,000 for the first few fees. Then my grandfather's church sent us $3,100 to cover our homestudy. We were floored. And so grateful. It was proof that we were doing the right thing, even when all logic said we were crazy. Our friends held a fundraiser for us and gave us $300. We sold adoption bracelets and made about $300. People donated money to us, anywhere from $5-$500 (this is over the process of past 2.5 years that all this has happened). When (two summers ago) I complained once, during a particularly difficult time during this process, that I wished God would show me more support (this was on a Thursday), we got a check on Sunday, dated for Thursday, in the amount of $10,000--the exact amount needed to send our dossier to Ethiopia. It was like God had slapped me across the face and told me, "Just TRUST. I'm taking care of this." Abe and I have added up the rough numbers of all the donations we have received towards this process......and it has come to $16,000.00. How does that even happen???? This is SUCH a God thing. Absolutely mind-blowing.

Most of the details about how we came to recieve our referral are confidential. We can't share anything, basically. For those who are not familiar with the process, we are currently waiting on a court date. Court dates are typically 10-18 weeks after the referral. However, Ethiopian courts close Aug-Oct due to their rainy season, so there is a chance we could go early (before the second week of August), or there is a chance that we could miss courts before closure and have to wait till almost November for our first trip. If we pass court, then we go back for embassy 10-18 weeks after we pass court. We can bring the children home after passing embassy.

Back to our precious kids. I will call them "Levi" and "Zahria". They are brother and sister, and Levi is deaf. They are the most beautiful children I have ever seen. So amazing. Words can't describe them, and we love them with all our hearts. When we got "THE" call, I was lying on the couch with my little sister, watching a movie. I had recieved an email from my agency about ten minutes before and wasn't expecting a call. When my phone started ringing, I wasn't excited at all, since the agency calls me fairly often. In fact, I almost didn't take the call. Something told me to just answer and I did. My family coordinator (FC) said, "Hi, this ***** from (my agency). Do you have a few minutes and a computer?" I said yes and grabbed my laptop and went into the bedroom so that my sister could keep watching her movie. My FC said, "I emailed you a few minutes ago." I said, "Yeah, I got it," thinking she meant the email she had sent ten minutes before. She was quiet. I opened my email and there was an unread message, sent about a mnute before. The subject line said, "Issuing Referral". I couldn't breathe. My FC started talking and I tried to stay calm. About 30 seconds in, I asked, "Is this a referral call????" She said yes, and I started bawling. Like, hysterically. I couldn't see to write down any of the information she was giving me (luckily she emailed it all :)). I just listened and cried. I was SO happy.......completely overwhelmed. The past three weeks had been horrible stressful with adoption stuff and then to FINALLY hear those sweet words and to know that I had my kids was the craziest feeling ever. When i called Abe after, I was frantically trying to think of a cool way to tell him, since typically when I call, I say, "This is NOT a referral call!" so that he doesn't get excited and then disappointed. I thought about saying, "Hi Daddy!" and then decided that wouldn't be clear enough. Then he answered the phone and all I could say was, "Hi." And then I was silent for a few seconds. And then I started crying. Then I said, "Babe, they called. They are ours!!! Levi and Zahria are ours!!!!" And then I kept crying.

It is the most amazing thing in the world to be able to stare at their little faces every day, whenever we want, and to know that they are our kids, and that we will be bringing them home someday soon. I feel like I've lost 100lb......like this huge  weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel relief, complete and utter relief. And I feel amazing joy. This is a MIRACLE and I can't believe it is FINALLY happening; FINALLY all coming together. After all the heartache and the pain, the seemingly endless fight, it's coming down to the home stretch. And it was all worth it. Every minute. Every time I look into their precious faces, I know that this was right. We were supposed to do this. These are our kids. And it is the most awe-inspiring, amazing, and scary feeling ever. I love these kids with everything I have and I will do anything for them. They are proof of God's love, His will, timing, and calling, of hard work and love, and of miracles. So many miracles.