Sunday, February 26, 2012

Keeping Busy...

In the last couple of weeks, we've made a lot of progress in our paperwork to get Meryn home. (I say "we", even though we are doing really nothing, it's the staff of our agency in Ethiopia!) : )

On February 9th we heard that Meryn's birth certificate had been printed and was in hand.  Then on February 20th, we heard that Meryn's passport has now been received.  These are the first two of three steps to getting submitted to the Embassy.  Now we are waiting on the doctor exam and his report, one more MOWA letter, and them Embassy Submission!  I'm thinking 3-4 weeks, but hoping for 2-3. : )

Once our file is totally ready and taken to the Embassy, they'll either accept or reject it due to some missing piece.  We're praying everything they want to see is there and they accept it.

After it's accepted, what's likely to happen is the Embassy staff will review it, which will probably take 4-6 weeks.  Because of the type of case ours is, it has a good chance of being deemed "not clearly approvable" by the Addis Embassy, and being forwarded to the Nairobi Embassy for further review.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  The Nairobi Embassy has been clearing the "not clearly approvable" cases in 5-10 days, it seems.  Once you're clear, you're clear!  The Addis Embassy will contact you to set up your visa interview, which is when you'll appear at the Embassy with your child!

So, I'm thinking maybe 8-12 weeks from now.  That sounds like a long time.  Another two months? Maybe three?  So, I'm making a list of projects to go to when I'm tempted to bury myself in the computer, or sit around waiting. Here's what I'm hoping to work on before Meryn comes home:

-Digital photo books (from iPhoto) for the years 2007, 2009, 2010, and maybe 2011
-A scrapbook of the year Paul and I were engaged and our honeymoon (Yep, I'm THAT far behind!)
-Mastering Arabesque I by Debussy, and Nocturne Op. 9-2 by Chopin (piano pieces)

If I can get even half of that done, it'll be a great 2-3 months. We also have some traveling we're done, visiting a friend in a city south of us, then a little family getaway to Goa. Beach time! I hope the distraction does us all good.

Still waiting....

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Tapestry of Grace: Week 24

This week begins a three week unit on Classical Greece.  We learned about the independent city-states of Athens, and Sparta.  They were very different places, focused on different things.  Culturally their values were very different, which was interesting to study about.  We read how these two small city-states were able to stop the spread of the Perisan Empire.... about the Persian wars and how the Greeks eventually overtook the Persians as the dominant world power.  We read Aesop's fables every day this week, drawing pictures to go along with the fables, and making up our own fables!

The kids had fun with trying to re-create Greek clothing! : )

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Job for Everyone

I have high ambitions.  Big ideas in my head of how a house smoothly runs, how children help and have ownership in the chores around the house, how happily they will help and pitch in.  I dream of being a disciplined, organized mom.  Because I'm so not that.

But, this year, I at least went to the effort of creating a "system" to help the kids learn to do little jobs around the house.  Actually, I didn't create it. I just made our own version based on the book "The Everyday Family Chore System" by Vicky Bentley.

Here are some pictures of what we've got up around the house and got the kids doing.  It comes and goes, but the five finger jobs every morning are consistently sticking around, which is a step in the right direction. : )

The kids each have five jobs they do every morning.  They get to wear these little clip on hands if they want to, until their jobs are done.  Their five morning jobs are: 
1. Make my bed
2. Get Dressed
3. Brush hair and teeth
4. Tidy my room
5. Job chart jobs

Then, I have a set of jobs they can do around the house.  Each week, they get two jobs. The jobs rotate so they don't get bored with them. And they're learning a lot about taking care of the house.  There is also one weekly job that just gets done once a week.  So this week, Luke's two house jobs are to rinse the dishes and help sort laundry.  Kiryn's are to set the table and sweet the kitchen and dining room.  Luke's weekly job is to help me wash windows.  And Kiryn's is to help me clean the TV cabinet. 

The first week we did this, they had great attitudes about it and were really helpful!  We gave them stars for doing a good job: 2 stars for first time obedience without complaining, 1 star for one reminder, and o zero stars if it took more than that, or if there was complaining.  At the end of the week, they got to redeem their stars for a trip to Baskin Robbins as a family to celebrate a good week of jobs! : ) 

I wish I could say I've been disciplined enough to keep this going every week.  It's kind of hit and miss, but something at least to work toward being consistent with over the course of the year.  : )

Monday, February 20, 2012

Yusuf Update: Surgery Delayed

We heard the good news over the weekend that Yusuf's surgery was scheduled for this Wednesday, the 22nd.  We went into a flurry of making plans for this week... one of us needed to go up there, and take the four girls who've been home without their parents and baby brother for two months to see their family!  No trains were available, so we decided I'd just have to drive me and the girls up there on Tuesday and stay for two nights, be at the hospital all day Wednesday, and return to Jaipur on Thursday. 

However, this afternoon, the doctors called and said they can't do the surgery as planned.  Yusuf has had an infection coming and going, and the surgeon says it basically won't clear up until he gets a new liver.  But now, his mother and father both have an infection as well.  Coughs, fevers, etc.  Since his father is having surgery to remove a portion of his liver to donate, the docs say they can't risk the father and mother both being sick while their wounds are healing from the transplant. They need to wait until their better.  So they'll re-evaluate on Friday. 

This means that we will not get to be there for the surgery. : (  On Saturday, Paul leaves on a five day trip, and on Wednesday, I go to join him in a city south of us.  From there, we will have a little three day get-away planned and will not return home until March 9th.  

Please pray for this family! The girls are so disappointed that they're not able to go see their parents tomorrow.  Pray for the infection to go away.  Pray for Yusuf's transplant to happen without issues or complications.  And pray for healing in all their bodies so we can get this show on the road!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tapestry of Grace: Week 23

This week, we delved into Persian culture and learned more about the Israelites exile from their homeland.  We learned about the Jewish holiday Purim.  We read the book of Esther, how God chose her and placed in a position to save the Israelites from destruction at the hands of Naman.  We learned how God released Israel from it's exile and they were sent back to Israel from Babylon with blessings to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. 

The kids are both continuing to learn and grow!  Kiryn's handwriting is just awesome. And she is really growing in her reading.  Luke is finding most of his work pretty easy at this point! : )  Here's a couple of pictures of the kids making a Cyrus scroll!

I don't know why I'm so proud of this handwriting! : )

We wrote "important" messages on the inside of the scroll, then rolled it up and sealed it!

Even scrolls can be girly...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tapestry Catch-Up: Weeks 16-22

I'm such a slacker.  But this adoption has OVERTAKEN my brain the past couple of months, getting ready for court, going to Ethiopia, and now waiting to be submitted to the Embassy.  Don't worry, we've still been learning and educating around here just like we're supposed to... I just haven't had any room left in my brain to write about it.  I'm really working hard at continuing to live my life right now, instead of simply WAITING for the next phase with Meryn to start.  So.  We're catching up. I opted for one big catch-up post, rather than an individual post for each week, because honestly, I can't remember week by week at this point...

So, weeks 16-18 (end of Unit 2), we learned all about the establishment of Israel and Jerusalem. We read stories of the Judges of Israel, Samuel being called by God, and about the neighboring cultures, like the Philistines.  (Did you know the Philistines were famous for their blown glass?  We learned all about how to make glass....)  We read stories of David, and learned about the Phoenicians briefly.  We attempted to make a sling like David used to kill Goliath.  We used fuzz balls as our stones: much safer, not nearly as projectile, which was disappointing...

Kiryn made big strides in her phonics book.  I love the way she illustrates these words: 
She told me the picture for "rang" was someone's finger that rang the doorbell.  Awesome.  I think this is just spectacular for a five year old. 

We learned all about David, the Shepherd of Israel, and how he had a heart after God's own heart. And how his son, Solomon, was the wisest of all men, and built God's temple, a beautiful, grand place for the Israelites to worship their Most High God.  We learned the stories of the succeeding kings, and how they tore the nation apart, dividing the tribes into two nations, and how most of the kings continued to disobey God and grieve his heart, not keep his commands.  We read about the Assyrian's conquering Israel and taking captive the people and leading them out of their land. We studied the Babylonians and their deportation of the Israelites, how they were scattered all over Babylon and Egypt, working and living as slaves again, and the walls of Jerusalem were destroyed.  We learned about the great city of Babylon, it's rise and fall, and it's kings.  We attempted to make a section of the Isthar Gate, famous blue gate to the city of Babylon, decorated with dragons and lions.  This is what we ended up with: 

Meanwhile, we keep Levi busy as best we can...

We've studied making portraits in our art lessons.  Here's Luke making a portrait of Rapunzel and Flynn Rider. 

We discovered a fantastic nature park in our city, that we will return to again and again.  We found peacock feathers, and all kinds of great leaves. The kids loved running in wide open spaces, on trails, just being in nature. So relaxing.

Luke got a chance to show off his memory work. He recited "Caterpillar", a poem he's memorized this year.  I was so proud!

We've also learned about how artists do "still life". We set this up to do a still life titled "Breakfast." Here's what we ended up with: 

Luke's Masterpiece

Kiryn's Masterpiece

This homeschooling thing is sure fun.  Some days, it doesn't feel like a lot of fun, but when I look back at these pictures, I'm so proud of what they've accomplished, and the joy of doing it with them! I love my kids. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Wonder of Technology

We had a GREAT day today!  A friend we've had for ten years currently lives in Addis Ababa. She offered to go to the care center to visit Meryn, and the day before she planned to go, asked if we'd like her to take her computer so we could Skype while she was there.  WhAt?  Of course!

So today we were on pins and needles, waiting for the call that she was there and ready to go.  Even though the picture between India and Ethiopia was pretty grainy, it did all our hearts good to see our little girl!!  One of the first things my friend K showed me was Meryn ROLLING OVER!  Oh, so happy to see this! : )

I think Aynalem, Meryn's nanny, looks just amazed that she's seeing us on the computer! So cute! : ) 

K got to ask Aynalem a lot of questions since she can speak Amharic.  I learned that Aynalem is not married and has no children and lives with her family in Addis.  She's been working at the care center for six months, and she really loves those three babies they've given her to watch after. She called the other two babies in the crib with Meryn her brother and sister. : )

Meryn clearly loves Aynalem.  She wouldn't take a bottle from K, but calmed down and ate great with Aynalem.  She watches everywhere she goes and reaches for her and is definitely relieved to see her and go to her.  She's the only mother Meryn's known in her life.  I'm thankful for Aynalem and her genuine love for Meryn, her sweet gentle spirit.  She asked when we were coming back (I think more with the thought, "How much longer do I have with this sweet girl?"), and said "I love you, I love you." to us on Skype.  Thank you God, for answering my prayer to give Meryn a loving care taker for this time.  It makes the wait so much easier...

So thankful for the technology to get to be with our little girl for just a few minutes today! Thank you, thank you, thank you, K! : ) 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Yusuf Update: Surgery is ON!

God has done amazing things for this little baby Yusuf!  After doing lots of research a couple of months ago, we were able to find a hospital in Delhi willing to discount their services in liver transplant for Yusuf and his family.  And not just any hospital.  According to their surgeon, they are the number one, #1, hospital in the world for infant liver transplants.  Seriously.

So the doctors all agreed to work for free, and gave them a bed in the government ward, also free.  Their only costs will be medicines and consumables through their stay.  But this will still amount to a whopping $15,000.  Not to mention Yusuf will need about $150 of medications for 24 months post-surgery.  Shew.

So we began to pray that God would provide this amount.  And that Yusuf's father could be a donor.  Turns out he's compatible, he can give Yusuf a small lobe of his liver.  What a praise!

And, within just a few weeks, our family members, who have been here and met this family and grown to love them...  our family asked their church to give a special love offering to help.  They raised enough for half the surgery and for the medication afterward for two full years!  We couldn't believe it!  What an answer to prayer!

At the same time this was all happening, I got a message from a friend that I've never actually met.  This same friend told us about the grant foundation who funded over half of our adoption.  She wrote to tell me of a medical aid foundation called First Hand Foundation.  We contacted them, and they sent me the application.  Here is where the drama began!

We had only 5 days to get the application turned in.  The committee meets once a month, so it was 5 days, or wait a month for the surgery.  The only way to get everything that was needed, including lots of documents from the hospital, was for me to go to Delhi.

On Tuesday, the day before the application was due, I got up at 5 a.m., went to the train station, had a four hour journey to Delhi, then an auto, the metro, a short walk, and was at the hospital by 11:30.  I spent a few hours there meeting with surgeons and doctors, and visiting Yusuf and his sweet mother and father.  I was miraculously able to walk out at 3:00 with ALL the papers I needed, signed, ready to go.  I grabbed a quick bite to eat, then short walk, metro and auto back to the train station.  There was terrible traffic getting back to the from the metro to the station, and at 5:20, still stuck in an auto, I wasn't sure I was going to make my 5:35 train!  I panicked prayerfully, and the jam opened up and my driver sped through the gap and got me to the station at 5:25.  I threw Rs. 100 at him and ran off, up the platform, scanning the 6 trains that were there, trying to figure out which one was mine... finally found it!  Then, I had to channel an NFL linebacker to make my way down the staircase that was shoulder to shoulder people... "Me juldi main hun!!" (I'm in a hurry!!)  I had decided already I was willing to hop on a moving train, as long as it was slowly moving.  Thankfully, it didn't come to that. I sat down in my seat with about 4 minutes to spare. : )

The next morning, we scanned everything and emailed it to First Hand.  Within a week we had heard back.  Yes, the remainder of the surgery costs would be covered by First Hand!

God is so good and is really looking after this family.  Please take a moment to just praise Him and thank Him for his goodness right now...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Wait

I have a confession.  For all these months, as I have watched God do some pretty amazing things in our adoption, and seen how at every turn, things happened just as soon as they could, my faith has been strengthened. So has my expectation.  As we finished the court process and began the Embassy process with our adoption, I entered this phase with full expectation that God would be consistent.  That we would face no delays (even though nearly everyone else was), and that our daughter would be home in 8 weeks or so. 

 Folks, it's not going to happen.  A couple of weeks ago, I returned from the land of optimism (foolish optimism, let's be real), to reality.  There were a few instances in the last couple of weeks that crashed in conflict with my expectations and caused a crisis of faith.  Or at least a crisis of expectation.  

Just because I expect God to do something doesn't mean He's going to do it.  And just because I think it's best, doesn't mean it is.

Now that I have fully embraced the reality of adoption in Ethiopia right now, allow me to explain where my heart and thoughts are at now. 

Things are a little crazy and tense in adoptive parent circles these days.  The Embassy still has us all hopping and panicking.  When our family entered the Ethiopia program, it was just a few months before things went a little wacky at the Embassy and started to change.  

When you sign up with an agency, they give you a "timeline."  Our timeline said an average of 6-10 weeks after court before you could pick your child up.  That was the norm a year ago.  But the agency was very careful and clear to say that things always change in adoption and we could not necessarily expect that to still be true a year from then. 

I think it's time I just own that there is a new norm at the Embassy.  Many of us adoptive parents are really distraught that our cases are taking longer than the timeline we were given a year ago. We feel like since things are taking longer, there must be a problem with our case.  We need to DO something.  We need to start making calls.  We need to write Senators.  We need to hire an attorney.  Anything we can do to get our child home faster. 

I found myself walking down these roads mentally the last couple of weeks.  What can I do? Should I go to Addis and take matters into my own hands?  Should I write all our Senators and tell them about the bureaucracy happening in Addis that is so negatively affecting children? What should I be DOING to help my child right now???  I feel like we're in a plane that is circling the airport, waiting for clearance to land, and we have no idea how long it's going to take... Someone PLEASE make it STOP!

What God has been showing me in the last few days is.... nothing.  Do nothing.  

"Be still, and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10).  

The reality is that none of these delays are disastrous.  Yes, our children will have to spend a few extra weeks or maybe even two months in the orphanage.  But they will all come home.  If I were to push and push and hire attorneys and write letters, I know what would happen.  I might get Meryn home a few weeks earlier (and have a much lighter wallet), but many other families like ours would still be waiting.  Many of their cases might have even been put on hold while my squeaky wheel gets attended to.  No, this is not the right path for us. 

There is nothing wholly devastating going on in Ethiopia (at least to my knowledge).  Investigations are happening.  Cases are being sent to another Embassy for processing, causing longer wait times.  There are uncertainties.  There are mistakes in paperwork.  There are a thousand and one things that can go wrong and do.  And none of them are in my control. 

But I have a mighty Father, who is the Creator of all things, all people, all hearts and hands that touch each paper in Meryn's file.  He is a greater advocate for her than I'll ever be.  No, I'll not worry and fret over details and things I can't know or control.  Instead, I will lift my voice and my heart and my eyes to Him.  Lay it all at His feet.  Because He Is Compassion.  He alone sets the lonely in families.  Not the Ethiopian court, of the US Embassy.  I will be persistent, pleading, and patient.  He has appointed the day that she will come home.  He knows it now.  Nothing can change that day.  Nothing!  What peace and joy that gives me!  

Prayer and trust.  No fret or worry...  This is the new norm.