Monday, March 21, 2011

february wrap up

so part of my blogging resolution to include more pictures is actually coming to fruition!  unfortunately, we still haven't made the plunge to get a new camera, but to hold us over we have b's parents fancy pants camera that takes amazing pictures.

february was kind of an action packed month for us.  b and i went away for the first time ever from all 3 kids.  i was ready to compose a full blown blog for my trip to vegas, but then i realized i'd probably get a little to heady about the whole thing... you know seeing old white men schmoozing young hookers in upscale bars, or hearing, ahem, some late night entertainment in the next room, or just being indoors for 3 days straight- it was enough to make anyone crazy.  but despite the lows, it was pretty dreamy just being with the dude with no other responsibilities.  i felt scandalous at how selfish i got to be--- spending all day at the spa, ordering an $80 lunch room service, shopping at the world's largest forever 21....  i'll admit to go from getting maybe a half hour to myself each day, which is dreamily spent reading a book or cat napping to 3 whole days of the most indulgent place on earth-- it was almost too much, yet i somehow managed:)  to sum it up, vegas is def not my first choice in a vacation, but being put up at the wynn for 2 nights and having all these cheesy hvac guys buyin us drinks and dinners made it tolerable.    needless to say, i got my 'vegas' fix for the next 100 years or so.
while we were gone, b's parents stepped in, or should i say stepped up to the challenge of 3 crazy mofo's.  here are some pics that proved they not only did stellar, but that the kids loved every minute of it...

preparing for her future.

pop pop logged some serious floor hours running cars with oz

had to call in the reserves... aunty allison to the rescue!

wouldn't be a visit from nonna without her famous sugar cookies

this frosting is pretty good.


i could gaze into those eyes forever.

probably the weirdest picture ever.  people always say tali is like a doll, but seriously this is creepy.

most of the fun of these pictures was seeing how the rodgers tried to manage t's hair....

table work.

wink wink.

hair bear

so there you have it.  the kids really had a blast, and since everything went so smoothly, we will definitely be employing the rodgers' overnight services as often as possible!  and as for any pictures we took in vegas?  yeah, we don't have a single one to show for our trip. its almost like we were never there.

next up in february, we went to disneyland for oz's 4th birthday.  we took lily when she turned four- kind of seems like the perfect age.  since oz had never been, he really had no idea what to expect, but no joke at least once a week he asks me when we can go back.  it really is the happiest place on earth.
we left early on a tuesday morning with b's parents and brother in tow.  my mom stayed back with tali so we could really maximize our time.  when we went last time, lily was pretty into all the rides, but wasn't tall enough for some of the bigger ones.  this time, lily and oz were tall enough for every ride there except indiana jones.  now, we had pretty low expectations since our kids are extremely cautious-- like to a fault.  they never take risks, and always assess every situation for danger.  we figured we'd be spending most of our time on the kiddie rides, but straight out of the gate they wanted to head for pirates of the caribbean.  with that under our belt, they were fearless!  we worked our way up slowly... thunder mountain, then the mattlehorn, and then thanks to uncle d's urging, we all went on space mountain.  it was crazy!  i couldn't believe it.  i wish sooooo badly i bought the picture they take when you are on the ride.  oz and i had landed the front row with b and lils right behind us.  the look on oz's face was priceless-- sheer terror!  it was so crazy to be zooming around on that ride and literally having to hold their heads up cuz the gravity was so strong pulling them in every direction. i thought for sure oz would start freaking out-- yet the dude just manned up.  of course he didn't want to go back on, and to this day he will randomly announce that space mountain is the scariest place on earth.  another dream was fulfilled on our trip as we opted to spend the big bucks and eat at the blue bayou (the restaraunt that's in the pirates ride).  b confessed its always been a childhood dream of his to eat there, so we told the broyles (who we were meeting at disneyland for the day) to make reservations and just like that, another wish granted.  the day was altogether amazing.  the longest we waited for a ride was for 20 minutes-- and that was for the nemo submarine ride--- last time i checked people wait like 2 hrs to go on it!  the kids most favorite ride was thunder mountain.  since the park was practically empty, we would ride and then literally hop right back on.  no line at all!  needless to say we scored!  the next day was more of the same.  it was a really cool trip and one that i know we will all look back with such fondness...  here are a few pics to go with it!

she basically ate that whole thing


watching their favorite ride thunder mountain zoom by

why yes, it is a small world after all

too cute

i'm like that guy in the chair from the maxell ad in the 80's

he's a looker alright.

why yes, i am wearing shorts.  

i know, i thought it was captain jack sparrow too!

lily used her toy $$ for a pirate get up.  
and that my friends was february!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

heavy heart monday

i had exactly 27 minutes to get a run in.

 i was supposed to meet this woman at uptown at 10:30 who had also adopted from ethiopia and used the same agency as me.  i really couldn't be late, despite my desire to run longer than a half hour.
i parked at mitchell park, threw tali in the stroller and headed up pismo st.  i always go up pismo st, because the house my mom and i moved into after my parents divorce is on that street, and running in that neighborhood always brings back fond memories.  i took a left on toro and vacillated for a minute as to whether or not i wanted to go up the secret little path behind scolari's.  i decided yes at the last second and swung the stroller wide right and practically bumped into three super old people shuffling their way down the path.  this is why i never go this way... for some reason there are always people on this obscure little path i thought to myself.  i stopped the stroller and moved out of the way so they could pass and nodded politely to them.  as they sloooowly made their way by, i looked over to the stairs at the back door of the grocery store a few feet up from me and saw 4 kids hanging out.  typical slo high slackers i thought to myself as i picked up my momentum and made my way up the path.  on a whim, i glanced the kids direction one last time.  it took a few seconds for me to register what i saw.  but as the path ended it became clear.  the girl on the stairs was literally cutting a line with her atm card on what appeared to be a history book.
cutting a line.  on the back steps of scolaris at 10 in the morning on a monday.
my heart started pounding.  i stopped the stroller at the end of the path where i was out of sight from them.  i couldn't even process what i was seeing.  its not like i've never been around drugs, but there is something so caustic about snorting drugs.  especially meth, which is likely what it was (and don't even get me started on that demonic drug-- seriously there is nothing romantic or fun about meth- it's literally death.  you are literally snorting death).
 the conversation in my head went a little like this... what do i do?  what do i do? i should call the cops.  yeah, totally.  i'll just call the cops and they'll come deal with these kids and teach them a lesson.  i can't do that.  what am i gonna do, call 911 and say what?  there's kids doing drugs behind scolari's?  i should go talk to them. yeah, i really should.  i can't do that!  what am i going to say?  i'm not a recovered drug addict or motivational speaker...they'll just think who does this crazy mom think she is?  i have to go.  i'm going.  i'm gonna talk to them.  
so i turned my stroller around and started walking back... i uttered a quick, 'lord please give me the words to say, cuz i have no idea what is going to come out of my mouth.'

i walk up and their stuff is put away, and they are just sitting there talking.  when they see me, they shut up immediately.  i notice there are two girls and two boys.  the girl i saw cutting the line is sitting on the steps. there is a brown haired boy sitting behind her, and then a blond boy standing next to her.  the other girl is leaning on the railing.  i notice they are all well dressed, well groomed, attractive kids.

'guys, guys, seriously-- what are you doing?'  i implore as i approach.
they all look down to the ground.  no one will make eye contact with me, and no one says a word.
'listen, i'm not an idiot.  i went to slo high, i cut class and went up to the old junior high and did stupid shit too. but seriously, the stuff you are messing with is not okay.  its really not okay.  on so many levels.  that stuff will really, truly ruin your life. i can promise you that.  i had friends that messed with it, and trust me the road back is long and hard.'
silence from all of them.
'hey!' i say to the girl on the steps.  'hey you, look at me.'  she looks up as i pull back the shade on tali's stroller.  they are literally at eye level.  'look in her eyes.  look in my baby girl's eyes.  you were once this little you know.  you were once this little girl, and you have a mom and a dad who LOVE you.  i mean, really, really LOVE you, and if they knew you were doing this, they would be heartbroken.'
she looks down to the ground, and doesn't say a word.
i press on, 'i want you to look at her. maybe you don't have a mom or a dad at home or whatever, i don't know your situation, but i can promise you wherever they are, there heart would literally break to know this is what you are doing.  it would break their heart, i promise you that.'
she stares at the ground.  its getting intense, when suddenly the tall blond boy next to her looks at me and says with definite attitude, 'okay. okay!'
i turn my attention from the girl to him and look him square in the eyes and say, 'hey, watch the attitude alright! listen, i'm not going to the call the cops.  but seriously, you guys need to stop this.  stop doing this and go back to school.'
with one last look at the girl on the steps i turn the stroller around and start running.  when i'm safely out of eyesight i just start crying.  i start thinking about my kids and its all to much.  i start thinking about those kids, and their parents and i can't stop.

i don't know if those kids will ever think about what i said.  and as hard as it was for me to muster up the courage to talk to them, i have zero regrets. sure i've thought and re-thought all the other things i could have, or should have said, but when it was all said and done, i felt like god had given me the words to get my point across.
that morning in the shower while i was praying for my day, i didn't pray for anything out of the ordinary... patience with the kids, energy to get my stuff done, grace for my husband.  the thing is, we never know when god is going to put something like that in our path.  i can't tell you how many times i wished i would have stepped out in faith when presented with a situation.  you never know what god will use in people's life.  chances are those kids just dismissed me as some whack job mom, but i feel confident and so thankful that god gave me the opportunity to love those kids and even more thankful that i was obedient to walk it out.

maybe it is in these eyes...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

in process part 4

thanks for the questions.  just cuz they are all so awesome, b and i are gonna tag team it up.  it's a blogging first-- me and b writing together, should be interesting...

and quick disclaimer-- i am in no way an expert on this process.  there is a lot i don't know.  this has just been my personal experience thus far... we still have a long way to go and much more to learn.  by being transparent in these questions and the process in general, it is my hope that it would de-mystify some of the notions people may have about adoption, and hopefully encourage anyone who is on the fence to take the plunge!    

1.  have you always known you were going to adopt?
(H)- yes and no.  for a long time i didn't think i even wanted to have kids... then i got married and a baby seemed like the next step, but like most girls, i thought wouldn't be able to have kids for no real reason.  it was probably then that adoption first entered my mind.  not having any idea about anything, i was sure it was something i would want to do.  once we got pregnant with lily it fell to the back of my mind.  every so often i'd hear stories, or meet people that had adopted and those desires would be rekindled, but i felt pretty overwhelmed with just trying to figure out the one i had... five years later i had 3 kids, and its really then that the desire to adopt came on the forefront.  in our past discussions about adoption brandon felt strongly about wanting to adopt domestically (more on that later).  when we talked it out and decided international adoption was for us, we felt a real strong pull towads haiti.  i was still pregnant with tali at the time, so we weren't going to do anything soon, but after some preliminary research we were confident it would be haiti when the time came.  a few short months later the earthquake hit, and we quickly realized that haitian adoptions were going to be on hold for awhile.  it was then that we found our way to ethiopia.  i had heard from a few people that the process was the easiest there and the need was great, so we thought, why not?!  
when people ask me why i want to adopt, i sometimes feel super tongue tied, like i need to have some profound answer.  but the reality is i just want to, and god has provided the means to do so, so we are walking forward in faith.
(B)-I don’t really know…I had some reservations for sure. Logically it made good sense: I wanted to have another kid, Holly didn’t really want to get pregnant again, and we had the capacity to love another kid as our own so why not?! Functionally we could provide a good home full of love so it didn’t seem like such a crazy idea…except how was I going to pay for it?! I had some reservations going into it because of some things I had seen on TV about the way adoption (especially interracial adoption) was being portrayed in the media as sort of a popular thing to do—like having an interracial family was trendy, which is total bullshit as is much of the media hype surrounding pop-culture…for whatever reason it’s pretty natural for me to aggressively resist pop-fads (or just fads in general, though I did have a mullet in 7th grade…) and even the slightest media buzz about something so personal unfortunately had an impact on me (I am ashamed to say); that until I decided I could give a shit about what Brad and Angelina do and if the media wants to titillate the readers of US Weekly with spam about a black child as an accessory then they can poison their own conscience but they can’t have mine.
The Bible commends adoption, I know in my heart it is as right as rain and that is that.

2. why aren't you adopting domestically?
(H)- honestly, i really don't know much about domestic adoption. the things i do know is that it is very pricey for a private infant adoption and they are in high demand. when it comes to 2 and older typically you are able to adopt through the foster system which is not expensive.  since we intend to adopt a child that is between 12-24 months, i honestly don't feel like my strengths would lie in adopting a child that age that has been in and out of foster care in this country.  i also don't feel like our family would be up to taking the risk of having a child come be with us for awhile and then have to leave (which can happen in foster situations).  a lot of people have a lot of opinions about foster care/adoption in this country.  instead of focusing on that, i'll tell you more why we chose ethiopia (ET). ET is one of the least expensive countries to adopt from.  in terms of country relations, our embassy's currently get along great.  the process tends to be quick and easy compared to most other countries, and there is a HUGE need for adoptive parents—as  in 5 million children waiting for care.  this is due primarily to HIV/AIDS, starvation and disease.  the combination of need, ease and cost all made ET the natural choice for us. 
(B)-I can be a little more raw on this one…and when you say to yourself (about me), “how could you?!” I’ll say, “I'm a realist Focker…” My position on this is based purely on supposition and my claims are largely unsubstantiated, however that being said I do not feel they are completely off base. I was initially very bent on adopting domestically—it seemed to me that it didn’t matter, a kid who needs a home is a kid who needs a home, why must it be more complicated than that? Well, stop and consider for a minute the circumstances normally surrounding adoption both domestic and international…in my estimation domestic adoptions do not typically arise from the fact that one or both birth parents may have died from disease or some combination of natural factors medical or otherwise—typically domestic adoptions are from force of necessity; young mom/parents don’t want a child (this seems the cleanest/least damaging), drug abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse…on and on, but the bottom line revolves around something much more damaging than one might otherwise see as the root cause in international adoption cases. Typically on the international front there could be a combination of medical, environmental, or health factors that may lead to the death of one or both parents and there are no surviving relatives to take on caring for a child, or if there are surviving relatives they do not have the resources to care for another person in their family…the possibilities are endless as to WHY the child is without family, but the root causes seem to stem less from neglect/abuse and more from environmental factors…all of the circumstances surrounding adoption are bad, and each camp carries with it a unique set of issues. Adoptive families are all equipped in different ways to handle what they choose to bear and that is uniquely personal and nobody’s business but their own.
          All that to say, what we have learned about early child development in this process definitely sent some red flags up with regard to domestic adoption in terms of what issues we would no doubt be inviting into our family…and to be completely honest—we didn’t want that…there are people (saints) who do and who God has equipped to offer a loving caring home ready to nurture those challenges into positive change and there are families who know that they are not equipped like that…we’re not equipped like that, our hearts are geared towards something else, not better, not worse, just different.  

3. the biggie... so how much does this cost anyway?
yeah, so it’s kind of pricey all right.  all agencies are different, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $17,000 to $30,000 for an ET adoption.  why the range?  well, different agencies have different fees, and depending on what time of year you travel can have a big impact on how much you spend.  one of the things that drew us to ET initially was that you only had to travel to addis ababa (the capital) one time.  however, about a month after our initial application went in, the embassy changed the requirement from one visit to two, with each visit being between 4-7 days.  even though the price point seems high, thanks to the big man in DC (3 cheers for obama for extending the adoption tax credit for 3 more years) the year you bring your child home you qualify for an adoption tax credit of up to $13,000 and some change.  for us adding on the $$ it would cost for us to birth another baby thanks to our crazy high deductible, we're not to far off from coming out even if we end up on the lower side of the range.

4.  not to get to personal, but how are you paying for this?  are there ways to get help?
(H) - thankfully not all the money is due up front.  our initial application fee of $250 seemed easy enough, but when the next bill came, we really had to figure some stuff out.  after much thought and prayer, we decided to ask b's family for help.  in the meantime, we really wanted to move forward but didn't have the means.  so b had the great idea to borrow from his 401k in the form of loan-- which for those not in the know is a legitimate option that does not carry the tax consequences as a withdrawl, it is basically a 5 year loan available for up to 50% of your holdings—now i'm sure some of you may think this a bad idea, but for us it was the perfect solution.  once that money ran out, b's parents gave us a very generous christmas present which took us through the next few hurdles.  and though the majority of that money has been spent, we are pretty sure that we don't have any more big fees until we actually travel which could be as long as 18 months from now.  it's been such a huge confirmation from god that we are heading in the right direction, for with each  seemingly financial roadblock god has provided us with the means to keep moving forward.  we are confident that he will continue to provide as we get closer to traveling.
there are many grants and loans available to prospective adoptive parents.  i looked into them briefly and have  an extensive list if you are interested.  from what i gathered in my brief research is that all of them work differently but ultimately they can each provide you with small increments along the way.  in terms of getting one big adoption loan beforehand??? i'm not aware of any such thing, but that doesn't mean its not out there!

4. what agency are you using and how did you choose them?
(H)- our agency is called AAI (adoption advocates international).  they are based out of washington state and have programs in ethiopia, china, ghana and thailand as well as washington state.  once we decided on the country, we began looking for agencies that had programs in ethiopia.  i joined an adopt ethiopia yahoo group and just kind of lurked around for awhile.  there are a lot of loud voices on there, but i tried to pay attention to the agencies that got talked about the most in the most favorable light.  after a few weeks i had narrowed it down to 3 agencies i wanted to look into further.  my next step was to contact the one person locally that i knew that had adopted from ET and ask her what agency she used.  fortunately for me, the agency she used was one of my top 3.  after hearing about her experience and what amazing things she had to say about AAI, it was a no brainer.
a bit about AAI... they are a small agency.  they typically only work with two orphanages in ET.  the directors are easy to talk to, and very accessible.  everyone in the office i've spoken with has been incredibly friendly and helpful.  the general feeling i get from those who have gone through the process with them is very positive (once i became in process with AAI, i got on their specific yahoo group.  the support and information i've received from it has been invaluable).  even though we are not adopting an HIV+ baby, one thing i will say is that AAI is kind of the front runner in getting these kids adopted.  last year they placed more HIV+ kids than any other agency.... pretty awesome to say the least.

5. how many times will you have to go to ethiopia?

6. what age and gender are you requesting?
(H)- while some people find it strange that you can request what gender you want, for us it was a non-issue.  we have 3 kids, 2 of them are girls, one is a boy.  it seemed like the  natural choice to add another boy to the family.  if i didn't have any children, there is good chance i would just be open to whatever came up, but for us, since we were given a choice we felt like giving the kids a brother would be the best fit for us.  (side note, if we were to leave our decision gender neutral, chances are very high we would receive a boy anyhow. there tends to be a greater demand for infant girls).
as i've mentioned before, b and i are not huge newborn people.  we like a good 12 months under their belt, so again, if given the option, why not do what seems like would work best for us.  so to sum it up, we are anxiously awaiting a referral for a 12-18 month old baby boy!

7. what does the general process look like and how long will it be before you bring your son home?
(H) - well, once you decide international or domestic and then you pick an agency, you basically contact that agency and ask for an initial application.  after the application and some dollar bills you have begun!  all agencies are different, but for us after our application was done we got loads more paperwork asking you everything you could think of.  then we began our homestudy.  since our agency is in washington state, we needed to have an approved agency in our state of california.  the one we chose was called across the world adoptions.  they are located in pleasanton.  they sub-contract social workers in our area to come and conduct the homestudy.  our homestudy was incredibly easy.  we met 3 times with our social worker who was very kind and helpful.  she then prepared a report-- 12 pages about EVERYTHING you could ever want to know about me and b and the kids.  after this was completed, we began even more paperwork to compile our dossier.  a dossier is basically a huge packet of notarized papers (including your homestudy, bank statements, more letters of reference, and other various random information) that gets completed stateside and then translated and presented to ET.  once you are DTE (dossier to ethiopia) status you are officially queuing for your child.  again, all agencies are different, but we will likely wait about a year or so before we will receive our referral.  your referral is basically a picture of your child with some basic background information.  you can accept or reject (but who's really going to reject right?!)  and then you began arranging your travel plans.  the first time you go to ET you keep your fingers crossed that you pass court, if so, you come back home and wait for another date (2-6 weeks) where you will ultimately travel to ET to bring your child home.
as for us, we finished our dossier up in january.  however, 2 days before we mailed the completed dossier to our agency, the ET embassy decided an additional form needed to be included.  this form is a government form that we had begun, but hadn't yet received.  sooo, we are delayed until we receive this last form, which should be any day now!  once we get that form, we send it up to our agency to add to our completed dossier, which gets translated and then sent on over.  

8. shouldn't they make it easier to get these kids a home?  why is it so much work and so expensive?
(H) no, they shouldn't make it easier.  though the process can be overwhelming and slow and seemingly unnecessarily bureaucratic, there are good reasons for it.  first of all, it’s to weed out anyone who's intention is for evil.  i know it sounds crazy, but there are some crazy mofo's out there who will stop at nothing.  this process is intensely personal and invasive, but so necessary.  another reason is that child trafficking is a huge problem right now.  you've all seen the dateline specials and heard of the scams... they are very real.  always be wary of agencies that make fast and easy promises, there is a reason the process can be long and frustrating-- typically its because they are doing everything right.   just a couple weeks ago a stateside 'christian' adoption agency was shut down.  it is important for all involved in the process to maintain a high level of ethics and integrity. so when i began to feel frustrated about additional forms or paperwork or delays, i try to recognize how necessary this is for everyone... especially the kids.
(B) If you can’t handle the pain in arse that is compiling your dossier then you have no business adopting, plain and simple…in fact that is very likely going to be the easy part. The reality of a child born in less than optimal circumstances is something most of us cannot fathom…it has a profound effect on EVERYTHING about that child and the six to eight months spent doing paperwork will pale in comparison to the ongoing night and day effort that will be required of you to create healthy and lasting attachment with your child.