Friday, October 26, 2012

Embassy Donation List

Okay, I have to say THANK YOU to everyone who has donated supplies for this embassy trip. Our house was literally STUFFED! I am SO grateful! And the orphanages will appreciate more than I can tell you!!! Below I have made a list (I tried to count everything) of what we have received! We literally have 200lb of donations going with us. All with my unique identifying zebra tape......hey! It worked last time! Even the Ethiopian men at the airport who brought me a cart thought it was great. :)

                                                    (Click on the picture to see it full size.)


Embassy Donation List:

55 Beanie Babies
14 Pencil Sharpeners
7 Slinkies
27 boxes of crayons
2 packages Kleenex towels
120 toothbrushes
153 chapsticks
57 adoption bracelets
7 jump ropes
100+ balloons
1 balloon pump
3 hackey sacks
3 balls
3 yoyos
3 large boxes of gronola bars
1 large bag of fruit snacks
24 kids sunglasses
30 toy jewel rings
44 jumping frogs
53 matchbox cars
100+ small toys
5 paddles and balls
4 pads paper
8 decks of card games and flashcards
50+ stickers
13 plastic necklaces
14 packs of gum
103 flosses
6 soaps
5 Desitin
4 lotions
10 pairs scrubs
20 pairs of shoes
4 small formula packets
8 bottle nipples
2 triple Antibiotic ointments
2 A+D ointments
21 toothpastes
1 baby rattle
2 bags cough drops
1 Iron Drops
1 Vitamin D drops
19 boxes bandaids
1 box alcohol wipes
4 bottles multivitamins
1 Robitussin
3 Benadryl
5 Tylenol
2 dry erase boards
2 puzzles
8 books
6 boxes markers
18 boxes pencils
11 boxes colored pencils
1 box of erasers
1 bag of pens
1 box eye of eye patches
10 bottles of bubbles
16 bottles pain reliever
16 bottles Cough + Cold relief
40 bags of clothes (Obviously I can't take them ALL, but the rest are at Goodwill and shelters! :))
 $360 cash to buy formula in country for the infants!



THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Miracles

This past week I've been a cranky mess. Matt and Marina are flying out Saturday (and now we are going with them, but hold that thought!) and I was so frustrated and stressed because I desperately wanted to be on that plane with them. I wanted to travel with good friends, and I wanted my daughter to feel safe because her friend would be with her. And I was done waiting. I was near a breaking point. Exhausted and heartsick, I cried multiple times a day this whole week.

Fast forward to Friday the 19th. I don't know if it was God giving me a hint or my own stubborn self trying to force something to happen, but I started feeling like we were going. So I started believing that we were going. Going on Saturday the 27th. I even wrote a post about it (although I held off actually posting it because I didn't want people asking about the trip when there actually was no trip at that point). We spent the weekend shopping for donations and minimal outfits for the kids (how do you shop when you don't know their sizes? Weight charts and eye-balking pictures!!!). Then we packed. I sorted and rearranged and went all out crazy the entire weekend. Abe is a saint for putting up with me. I also spent all Saturday crying. Like EVERY. TEN. MINUTES. Allllllllll afternoon. Every movie we watched while packing made me start the waterworks. "What To Expect When You're Expecting" (total trash by the way and completely inaccurate), "Killers", "Beethoven". Cry cry cry. Abe just sat there and snuggled me and let me be a mess. (Thanks babe <3 I love you!)

By Sunday afternoon, I was done with the waiting and inaction. I had to DO something. I emailed my travel agent and asked about getting on Matt and Marina's flight the following Saturday. At 9pm or so that night, I got an email back from her (who does that? They were CLOSED. How awesome is SHE?!?!?!) with a quote of $1,600 per ticket with that flight being open. For our court trip, tickets were $2,300 each. I started freaking out again. What if the embassy didn't give us our date and we couldn't catch the flight? What if the birth parent interview (BPI) went awry? What if we didn't clear embassy????

Sunday night I went to sleep and got up at 3am for work. Worked two torturous hours and then at 6am (the time of the BPI) I started checking my email every other minute or so. Wore my phone battery down before I even left work to head to my next job. Abe had to come bring me my charger.

Ethiopian embassy closes at 10am EST (5pm their time). 7am hit. 8am. 9am. I met with my mentee and sat down with her to give her feedback on a project. And lo and behold, at 9:17am an email made my phone buzz and I jumped at it like it was a live bomb. We had CLEARED!!!!!!!!! I emailed back that instant with dates we wanted to go (I gave them three days for next week) but they did not respond before closing for the day. I was more tense than before now. We didn't want to announce it because we didn't have confirmed travel and we still weren't sure if we were making on M&M's flight AND even if we did, flight prices could wreck us.

I didn't hear anything from my travel agent all day yesterday. I knew she was probably crazy busy and I didn't have an appointment with the embassy anyway, so there was no point in bothering her. Around 9pm that night (LAST NIGHT :)), she called me. And told me of a miracle. Here's how our conversation went:

Agent: "Marissa, it's me! I'm so sorry I couldn't get back to you. I was slammed all day!"

Me: "No problem! Thanks so much for calling me."

Agent: "Okay, you're all set. I've booked your flights."

Me: confused/stunned/??????/silence.

Agent: "I know you really wanted to get on that flight and the only way to hold them was to book them. So I did, and I processes it as cash so they would go through and I have 24 hours to cancel them! If embassy doesn't give you a date, let me know so I can cancel."

Me: "OH MY WORD!!!!!! You're amazing!!!!!!!

Agent: "It gets better! Tickets are cheaper than what I had quoted you! $1,500 each for you and Abe and $1,350 for each kid!!!!

Me: "That's amazing!!!!!"

Agent: "Yes! So I already booked them. But there weren't any seats left for the kids on that return flight. You and Abe were the last two."

Me: ................

Agent: "So I wait-listed the kids and called Washington, DC, and spoke to the airline manager and told them we need two priority/emergency seats for your kids since you are already on that flight. Those seats will be clear by tomorrow."

Me: "Are you an angel from heaven?"



And that, ladies and gentleman, is the story of our embassy trip miracle. How cool is God? The kids seats cleared this morning and I paid for the tickets. We are ready to roll! and Marina and I are sending the agent flowers.

Leaving Saturday for Ethiopia!!!!!!!!!!

Attachment Plan

(I wrote this blog on Friday, 10/19/12).


This is is people. The game changer. The final inning.

We are still in limbo. Our I-171H (immigration) finally arrived this past Tuesday, but we are waiting on the results of the birth mother interview, which is going to be on Monday, Oct. 22nd. The embassy could clear us, require more documents or interviews, or send us to Nairobi. I'm choosing to hope/believe/pray/obsess that we will pass. And that we will travel on Oct. 27th. Why the 27th you ask? Well, Marina and Matt are flying then.....and I'd like Z and Shanbu to be able to talk (they speak the same dialect) on the 18 hour flight (pre-layover) home!!!! :)


It's almost the end (we pray!) of this specific journey, and we are expecting an email from the embassy fairly soon. This email will tell us that we are free to spend the remaining savings we have (four years of working 18 hours a day) to climb into a giant piece of metal and fly halfway across the world. I hate flying. But I'm DYING to climb into that aerodynamically impossible metal bird and sit in a cramped seat for 13+ hours. Because we will be flying to our kids. And THAT is surreal. (P.S. Our I-171H, also known as "immigration", arrived three days ago!!!)


While we are waiting for that precious embassy email, I'd like to explain our attachment plan to you. I'd posted it before, but I want to bring it up again, and this one has adjustments. A lot of what is below is directly copied from my previous post.


Now you may be thinking: an attachment plan? What???? What does that even mean? Why would they need one? Aren't they getting older kids?


An attachment plan is just what it sounds like. We have to figure out how to make our children trust us, bond with us, depend on us, and realize that we will NEVER leave them and that we will ALWAYS care for them.


We've spoken to multiple families (as well as our agency and social worker) who have adopted children of all ages on the topic and made our decisions for our personal attachment plan based off the information we have gathered.


Our kids each have a personal history that we will not be sharing or discussing. They have possibly been abandoned, have been moved multiple times with no warning or explanation, have had numerous adults in their lives (none of them permanent) and have had communication barriers (or no communication) with their care-givers for years. It can only be expected that they will have attachment issues. These issues could be a huge range of things but mostly likely will be an inability or struggle to attach to anyone, specifically an adult/care-giver OR the tendency to try to attach to EVERY adult they see. We want them to learn that WE are their parents forever and we want them to learn that it is safe to attach to us. We do not want them trying to attach to others.
Therefore: attachment-plan-a-la-Ruper. :)



So here is what we have decided. On our "airport day", the day when we finally come home with the kids, anyone and everyone is welcome to come to the airport. We WANT as many people there as want to come, to celebrate one of the happiest moments and greatest victories of our lives. :)


On the "airport day", anyone who wants to can come. You can bring balloons and signs and cameras. Basically, it's a party, except that we ask you do not GIVE our children anything, and also that you do not TOUCH them. No hugs or kisses. Imagine being taken from everything and everyone you know, leaving with two people you cannot communicate with, and not in your wildest imagination be able to envision where you are going. Imagine leaving a dirt courtyard with small wooden buildings where you sleep and then coming to AMERICA. Imagine being surrounded on the trip home by thousands of people you don't know who do not speak your language and being exhausted and given unfamiliar food and being forced through airport security and customs. Imagine FINALLY landing after 19+ hours flying (not including layovers) and being greeted by a large group of unknown white people (and you are used to seeing brown skin) and all of them want to touch and hug and kiss you. And you can't ask what's going on, who they are, or what's happening. Completely overwhelming. So we've decided that we cannot allow anyone to touch the kids. Anyone. Period. Thank you for your understanding and please feel free to hug me and Abe! ;)


Also, no presents, no snacks, etc. Thank you so much for your generosity but they need to learn that everything they need comes from us. This will do wonders in helping them attach to us and learn to trust and love us. (PS, if you want to SEND presents, or give them to me and Abe to give to the kids, that is fine with us. :))


After the "airport day", we will be staying home as a family to work on our new "normal" and to start bonding as a family. We will not be allowing visitors at all for about 5-8 weeks. During this time we will work on teaching them to trust us. Eight weeks may seem like a long time, but it really isn't. We will use an intuitive approach depending on how our kids do, but 5-8 weeks of solidarity is the plan. If we happen to make a trip as a family and you see us, feel free to say hello and chat but please do not touch our kids or give them anything. You CAN talk to them though; I'm sure they would love it. :)


After eight weeks, we will allow family and close friends, 2-3 at a time, to visit us if they want. During these visits, you are welcome to play with and communicate with our children! :) We would love that. And we are sure they will too. You are extremely important in their lives. The only clause is that you may not touch them (no hugs or kisses) and you may not give them anything. No presents. No giving them a drink if they are thirsty. No feeding them. No helping them complete a task. Abe and I will be taking care of that to ensure they know WE are their caretakers, even in the presence of other adults.


After ten-twelve weeks, we will evaluate how we feel our children are doing and figure out how we will proceed from there.


Thank you for your understanding! We love you all, are so glad to have you in our lives, and can't wait to introduce you to our precious children! :)

Monday, October 15, 2012

3....2....1.....

Okay, so Wednesday we got our embassy submission email. And our file-under-review email. Thursday we received another email saying that the embassy is requesting an interview with the birth mother. Most likely, the American Embassy in Ethiopia is just checking in to make sure that everything is being done legally and that the kids aren't being sold. Sometimes scheduling these interviews take weeks/months depending on the embassy's scheduling availability. However, on Friday we received yet another email, saying that the interview appointment will be Monday, Oct. 22nd, at 1pm. So exactly one week from today. Then the embassy will probably make a decision sometime next week as to pass us, request more documentation, or investigate our case.

After we clear, we give the embassy three dates we are available and they pick one. Then we go and get the kids!!!! We COULD travel early and pick up the kids before clearance but we would be stuck in Ethiopia indefinitely as the kids wouldn't have visas and other critical documents. And we are too poor to risk flying over and staying indefinitely. So we are waiting.

On that note, Marina and Matt cleared for Shanbu this morning!!!!!!!!! (That's right, her second BigBird came!!!) We are SO happy for them!!!!!!! Can't wait to see pictures of Shanbu with his Mommy and Daddy FOREVER!!!!! :)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

EMBASSY SUBMISSION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

WE GOT SUBMITTED TO EMBASSY YESTERDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AND THEY ARE REVIEWING OUR CASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!


Typically the process is that you get submitted and wait a week to ten days to get s second email saying that they are reviewing your case. The embassy then has ten business days to decide if they will pass you, require further documention or interviews with the child's relatives, or investigate and send your case to Nairobi, Kenya. Since we got submitted yesterday, Oct. 10th, the embassy has till Oct. 24th to make a decision regarding what they want to do. To clarify, this is the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia. Ethiopia has legally given us custody of the kids. Now the American Embassy in Ethiopia is going to look into things and make sure that everything is being done correctly and legally. After they clear us..............WE GO GET THE KIDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is the LAST step, people!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


We were extra blessed because we recieved our submission email yesterday at 4:17am (Ethiopia is seven hours ahead of E.S.T.) and then at 6:55am, we got another email saying that they have started the review process on our case!!!!! That made an awesome day even better; I was bouncing around all day and grinning like an idiot at anyone within 200 feet of me. I'm sure I looked like a creeper. Marina got her review email six days after submission and my friend Brandy got hers TEN days after. So three hours was a miracle. :) One other family was also submitted, reviewed, and CLEARED yesterday. That is a record in the history of embassy clearances!!!!! So happy for that family......we were at court with them, and they rock. :)

While we are thrilled to be submitted and under review, we are still waiting on a new I-171H (immigration) with our new address, and we can't travel without it. So if we clear embassy, but don't have our immigration paperwork.....then we are stuck. I have called our officer at USCIS three times and left messages but she has not returned my calls. I am hoping our letter is in the mail and on its way. Please pray that it gets here in time! It's the only thing we need besides clearance!!!!!!


I thought I would put down a quick timeline of our process here, since it is almost over! :-D These are the most important things that happened.

December 2009: started talking about startiung the process
January 2010: started the process.

01/29/10: Announced our decision to the world
03/01/10: Officially signed with EACI (an adoption agency)
05/27/10: Switched agencies (signed with AWAA)
02/18/11: Dossier to Ethiopia.....started waiting for a referral
07/31/11: Found out about Levi (and started fighting tooth & nail for him)
05/31/12: Levi and Zahria showed up on the Waiting Child List
06/21/12: Received our referral for Levi and Zahria
08/17/12: Court date (PASSED)
10/10/12: Submitted to embassy

1,015 days so far. <3





Friday, October 5, 2012

Update on the Kids :)

We finally got our September update on the kids!!! We've been waiting impatiently for almost ten days now haha. ;) I pretty much wear out my phone battery every two hours, since I check my email every five minutes now that we live for updates on the kids and an email (*hopefully soon*) from the embassy! Here is some brief info that we can share from the update:


Levi is signing "Dad" (Yes, that's right, I'm jealous! Where's my "Mom" picture hahaha????)




We love you tooo baby girl!!!!!!!!! <3





 


Zahria: Z is healthy this month (yay!). She now weighs 48lb (that's a total of 8lb gained since May!) and is about 4 feet tall. My baby girl is growing!!!!!!!! My favorite line from the update about her is, "She is a dearly loved child at the transition home; she has a beautiful smile and laugh but is a little bit shy. She plays with children cooperatively and with understanding. She is good at reading different children's fiction books and has been reading a lot. She has no fears about going to America and can't wait to start a stable family life."

From previous updates we have also learned that she loves puzzles, role-play, and injera (the local bread). She does NOT like milk. Z is in 2nd grade (although levels are different than in America).

In last months update, the ET staff said: "She enjoys participating in different physical acitivites like jumping, running, throwing, etc., and performs them competitively. Also, she is a polite, disciplined, and loveable child at the transition home. She loves you and can't wait to meet you again."



Levi: My boy is healthy (yaya!). :) He now weighs 90lb and is 4 feet 10 inches tall. My favorite comment about him from the update is, "He is sociable, cooperative, and an excellent child. He is very much excited to go to America and start a new life with his adoptive family. He repeatedly asks us when his adoptive parents will come and take him. He expects his mom to help him a lot to learn sign language."

Previous update information has told us that Levi is passionately interested and involved with all sports. I am predicting a LOT of time in a large grassy area watching him play haha. Already have a sports schedule lined up for both the kids haha! Registration starts in January!

Last month the staff in ET said this about him: "He is a very interactive and happy child. He interacts with all children and staff members in a healthy manner. He loves all the CDs you sent and wants to thank you very much. He has been watching the CDs repeatedly and has improved his language skills. He loves you and misses you a lot. He has been asking when you will come and can't wait to meet you again and start living with you."



Also, both children LOVE soccer. Did I say LOVE? I meant L-O-V-E. That's right people, I'm a soccer mom. ;) Guess I should start looking for a bumper sticker...... ;)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Day in the Life of Marina and Me.

We are not clearing embassy this week. Again. I emailed the coordinator yesterday to find out, so that I wouldn't  be up all night waiting for a non-existent email. Her reply was no, that we would NOT be submitted. Again. And it's been seven weeks. But rather than dwell on that and obsessing about the possibility of NEXT Wednesday, I decided to write a post that will hopefully make you laugh. :)

So over this adoption process, you get super tight (allow me to translate my street lingo: "close") with people from all over the country. I've made sooooooo many incredible friends who I absolutely adore, and who I could not survive this process without. One of these lovely ladies is Marina, who is waiting for embassy clearance (we are positive she is not clearing until I am submitted; because we NEED to travel together ;)) and she and I have been texting almost 24/7 (no joke) for ten days straight. I thought you might like to see in on the texts of two desperate and crazy moms (we survived court together), so here you go! Welcome to the minds of Marina and Marissa. This is an edited selection of some of our texts from the past 24 hours. ;)


Warning: Reading the following may induce blurred vision, extreme laughter and/or stomach pain. Other possible symptoms include but are not limited to: bewilderment, shock, and the desire to never again look at this blog. Talk to your doctor before reading this post.






Marina: "I got the big bag!" (We sometimes eat our feelings....)




Marina: "Hey-I heard about a Big Bird sighting near you!! They say we might see him in the wee hours of Wednesday morning!!"

(To understand "Big Bird", "Muffin" and other such lingo, read "Club Soda and Muffins".) 

Me: "Hahahaha I freaking adore you!"

Marina: "I am standing here debating whether or not to wash my hair. Ugh. I hate getting ready :)."

Me: "Hahahaha just wear a scarf or headband and then you don't have to wash it!".........(two hours pass)......."How's your day babe? Did you wash your hair? LOL!"

Marina: "I did wash it and didn't have time to completely dry it and my work wardrobe is suffering in a serious way and my ass is huge because I live on pretzel M&M's so I look a LITTLE skeptical today :)."

Me: "Don't worry, I went to sleep with my hair wet and it dried vertical haha! I'm wearing a cloth headband thingy. And jeans. Because I feel like rebelling. And a pair of my work pants split down the front at work yesterday, BELOW the zipper!!!"

Marina: "NICE!!!  Hoping I have more time for the gym when Shanbu comes home. I just wear long shirts to cover up my panty lines. And I have the benefit of wearing a lab coat :) I miss u."

Me: "I want a lab coat !!! Then I would feel cool! And I miss u too! Why you no live near me??? :(  I demand that you and Matt move!"

Marina: "Ok. On it. Lol. So have you received an update?"

Me: "No, did you??????? OMG I'll beat someone haha...."

Marina: "Me too. I am jumping out of my skin over here. I feel like we will still travel together."

Me: "I'm not making it (embassy) tomorrow..........."

Marina: "It's gonna be good. We got this."

Me: "It's pouring rain here. Appropriate. I hurt too much to cry.."

Marina: "We will pray hard Marissa!!!! Matt is praying--he is WAY closer to God than the rest of us peons :). Lol. You want me to call and tell them to put a stat order on it? Xoxo I am sorry love...."........(hours pass)......."Cake and beer go together, right? I hope I eat healthier when Shanbu comes home. I also hope my desire to wash my hair daily and not wear sweatpants comes back."

Me: "LOLOLOLOl!!!!!! It will! You have to be the sexiest mama hahaha!"

Marina: "Oh yeah...Sexy...That's me!!! The ironing board seems like an appropriate place to leave all of our laundry--clean or dirty. It's really nice--all options are just displayed and you can just pick whatever you want. Matt prefers his laundry folded and neatly hung in the closet--I don't know what's wrong with him."

Me: "Omg I can't breathe I'm laughing so hard!!!"

Marina: ":) glad I could give you an ab workout!"

Me: "I think my Big Bird got hit by a plane. Maybe Carrie took him out by accident."

Marina: "Boo and hiss!!!"

Me: "SQUACK!!!!"

Marina: "I am praying something happens tomorrow....Good night my friend."

Me: "Talk to you all day tomorrow? Haha love youuuuuuuuu. P.S. I have a scone ready for breakfast. Basically a muffin..........We should go into comedy hahaha."

Marina: "We would be amazing as a standup!  Xoxo. Maybe someone cool will read it and we can be on SNL."

Me: "Omg go look at Jill's new pix of her baby *****!"

Marina: "Is kidnapping illegal?"