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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I love a great story!

I never did tell the story about naming this blog ... and it's a great little story with not one, but two little coincidences. (I love when that happens!) So I was trying to come up with a unique, catchy title and a little word trick that writers use within poetry or titles is "alliteration". It's the repeated use of a similar consonant within a sentence that gives it a catchy "tune" or a pleasing sound. An example would be the description "a sizzling summer sun". For my blog, I came up with "Family from afar". It was descriptive, unique (so it was available from blogger) and had a nice flow to it. The dictionary definition of afar - is "from a great distance, from far away." And we are creating a family from a distant land - from far away.

A few days later, I discovered the bible verse Isaiah 43:5-7, Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, "Give them up!" and to the south "Do not hold them back." Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth - everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.

I remember thinking - wow, what a coincidence! The verse said "bring my SONS from afar". Sons not daughters - what a coincidence. Then I noticed the explanation in the footnotes that said "afar is the upper nile region". Now, knowing that the Nile originates in Ethiopia, my curiosity was piqued and I googled the word "afar". Coincidence #2 - In the bible, Afar is a region in ETHIOPIA!!!

A few recent happenings ...

The Kulp family received a referral for a baby boy, the Semlow family received a referral for a sibling group of 3, and the Tennant family received a referral for an 18 month old boy!

We are one week from our court date of October 8 - the count down has begun although I am trying not to focus on it. This much I know - sooner or later, we will have a successful court date and we will bring our sons home.

Our travel group (7 families) is in communication through email and has begun coordinating gifts for the Transition Home and orphanages (it looks like we will be visiting 2 orphanages). Upon a successful court date, we will contact the waiting families with referrals to coordinate bringing care packages to their children.

Our travel plans continue to solidify and it looks like we will likely be travelling on Emirates through Dubai. We may stay with some family friends there for an extended layover before we meet up with our travel group in Ethiopia.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Our son's voice

Today we received 2 CDs from the Gibson family with video from their trip to Ethiopia in July. My eyes welled up when we saw our sons interacting with their friends and the adoptive families. There is one scene where Kari Gibson is talking to several little girls and they are saying into the video camera "Mom, I love you." Our 7 year old is taking this all in and as the camera pans across their faces, he looks into the camera and with a soft, sweet voice he says "Mom, I love you". We all sat there in shock! What an amazingly sweet moment.

We are narrowing in on our travel plans. Sadly, we will not be flying NWA through Amsterdam - this option is just too expensive. Presently we are considering an extended layover in Rome on the front end of our trip - or - an extended layover in Dubai. Jay's family has friends that work in Dubai and we have contacted them through email. They have invited us to stay with them and will roll out the red carpet for us. So - we have 2 great options to consider.

Two AWAA families received referrals this week for a 2 month old boy and a 2 month old girl! Congratulations Howley and Burk families!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Happiness is ....

For my daughter who loves exploring outdoors, happiness is . . . sitting next to a mountain stream within a few feet of a drowsy, 12-point bull elk. See that smile? That is pure joy!

On Saturday night, we had dinner with the Hutchinson family who live only about 35 miles from us. What a great connection to make! We both received our referrals in the month of June and we have the same court date - Oct 8. With a successful court date, we will be travelling together to Ethiopia on Oct 25! The Hutchinsons have 3 beautiful children and are adopting 2 sweet little girls that are living at the Transition Home with our 2 little boys!

We are so fortunate to have this family close by - to travel together to the other side of the world, experience this amazing journey together - and then to have our children who have lived at the Transition Home together for many months, be able to maintain that connection here in the U.S. - nothing short of amazing!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Early start to the weekend ...

Emme & the 12-point bull elk ....

We had a sudden opportunity to take a very quick trip to Colorado and we jumped on it. We jetted off on Wednesday afternoon and were home again by Friday evening. A very quick trip but so worth it! We packed in lots of outdoor activities (Elk watching and listening to their "bugles" echoe through the canyon, hiking to beautiful little glacial lakes, driving Trail Ridge Road to 12,000 ft elevation where the snow was still on the ground, horseback riding, falling asleep to the sound of a river, and more ...). As a family, we LOVE being outdoors and Colorado is definitely a family favorite now! The mountains are AWESOME - literally! This trip was kind of a "last hurrah" for us as a family of 4. Next time we do something like this we will be a family of 6 introducing two little boys to our love of the outdoors.

Tomorrow morning we have an appointment at USCIS to update our fingerprints. Our court date is now less than 3 weeks away!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Count down to court date

We are beginning to focus once again on our court date - now scheduled for October 8 with six other families. Once we successfully pass court, AWAA will immediately request appointments at the US embassy and the consulate to acquire a visa and passport. We are represented in court by our adoption agency, but we will need to be present in Ethiopia when our children are given their passport and visa.

We had a conference call with our adoption agency on Thursday - with all of the families that currently have referrals. The first group travelling in October (our group) will be AWAAs largest travel group so far. Then their are 2 groups scheduled for November and one travel group in December, so far. The conference call covered lots of logistics about travel, what to bring, information about the embassy appointment and general information. It's always great to hear the voices of other families we have gotten to know so well on our chat group and blogs.

Our agency can coordinate travel for us but we are also checking into a more direct travel route with Northwest Airlines that flies from Minneapolis to Amsterdam and then Addis Ababa. Our agency generally books travel with Ethiopian Airlines which flies from Washington Dulles with a re-fueling stop in Rome. Northwest would be a more direct route but I need to verify cost and if the Netherlands require a transit visa for our Ethiopian children.

I stopped at the outlet mall this weekend to exchange some clothes I had bought for the boys. With the court delay, we no longer need shorts and warm-weather-wear until next summer. So I returned several items and picked up the cold-weather version. What a shock our little boys are in for when they arrive in Minnesota just in time for winter!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Good Job USCIS!

We recently sent a letter to USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) requesting to be re-fingerprinted before they expire in early November. Our fingerprints expire on Nov 7 and since our tentative travel dates are Oct 24, we need to get them updated in case our travel is delayed. All of our dealings with USCIS have involved very long wait times in the past, so I was bracing myself for another long wait and the stress of getting too close to our travel dates without resolution. We did get a receipt on Sept 5 saying that they had received our letter and to expect an appointment in the next 6 weeks. Not good news. Within the next day or so - we actually received our fingerprint appointment for Sept 20. Great news!! We are meeting with our social worker again on Sept 16 to update our homestudy. So by next weekend, we will be completely up-to-date.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

News from our Agency

Thursday we have a conference call with our agency and the other October travelling families. Duni will be sharing specific travel information and agency updates, and it is a time to ask questions.

There was also a conference call yesterday with families that are waiting for referrals. The chat group was extra busy yesterday posting notes from the call and discussing recent changes. The biggest change is that we will not be staying at the Hilton, like previous travellers, but instead we will stay at a local Guest House. A Guest House is like a small hotel or B&B and is staffed by a local family and their employees.

I'm glad to hear this news for a variety of reasons. I think we will get a better, first-hand experience of the Ethiopian culture at a guest house, rather than being tucked away in a 4-5 star hotel. In addition, other travelling families will be more accessible for support and friendship, and a local guest house will have more of a direct benefit on the local economy. I've done some quick internet searches and checked other agency blogs and most everything I have seen and read has been very positive. I'm looking forward to it!!

Below is the recent update on referrals for the month of August. Because there are so many kids at the Transition Home (due to the court closure), many of these kids are still in the orphanage and won't be moved to the Transition Home until after the first travel group (7 families) picks up their kids in October.

August Referrals
America World received 11 referrals of children between the ages of 0-6 years for the month of August from Ethiopia. Below are the DTE (Dossier to Ethiopia) of the families who received referrals:

Referrals on August 5, 2008 DTE: 11/1/07- Infant girl

Referrals on August 19, 2008 DTE: 11/19/07- Sibling group under 3, 1/25/08-Sibling group under 6, 2/1/2008-three year old female

Referrals on August 26-29, 2008DTE: 12/21/07- Six year old female

In addition 4 families with DTE of 2/1/08 received referrals of infant boys

Monday, September 8, 2008

September Update!

Photo above: Jay and some of his nephews getting hot rock therapy after a cold swim in Lake Superior ... soon there will be 2 more boys in a photo like this ...

"September Update" - now that's a welcome email title when it comes from Ethiopia! We also received an adorable new picture of the boys. They both look healthy and happy and our 2 year old (T) looks like he is gaining weight - a good thing. (We cannot post pictures of the boys on our blog until we have a successful court date.) Here is an excerpt from our email ...

Both boys are continuing to eat well! T. is a definite two-year old and really wants to do things by himself…like feed himself.

Both boys are good sleepers. T. takes a two-hour afternoon nap.

What beautiful boys they are! D. has darker skin, and just about the prettiest smile ever! T. has lighter skin than his brother, but has the same great (though mischievous) smile. They look physically healthy. Both boys got their heads shaved recently, and look too cool!

D. is still the sweetest boy and continues to ask about his family multiple times a day. T. is now known for being a collector of items... anytime the nannies are looking for something they tell T. to bring it to them, and he knows right where it is! Especially when it comes to all the kids shoes!

Both boys have been very healthy and not dealt with any sickness since they have been in our care.

Later this week we have a conference call with our agency and the other October travelling families to review Ethiopia travel details.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Good news ...

In a previous post, I mentioned the sad news about a family who lost their baby girl to pneumonia while they were waiting for the court date. That family has been in mourning and recently had a memorial service in her honor. On Friday, we received happy news with this email header "Thou hast turned my mourning into dancing!". That family had just received a referral for a 3 month old baby girl - and although it does not heal the pain from their recent loss, they are rejoicing in this second child being brought into their family. What great news heading into the weekend!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Happenings ...

Today we are celebrating the birthday of our youngest daughter who turned 10 today. We pulled out the photo albums and looked back at baby and toddler pictures. Where has the time gone?!?!?

Not much is happening at the moment with adoption news ... we continue to look forward to our court date on October 8, and we have tentative travel dates of Oct 24-Oct 31. Two of our three critical forms are due to expire so we are having to update our Home Study (which means another fee and another home visit with our social worker) and our FBI fingerprints need updating as well. Both of these are in process at the moment.

School has started and both of the kids are feeling comfortable and getting established. It's been a good first week of school.