Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Please Just Stop It

When we started our adoption journey, I wasn't looking for a cause to stand behind. I wasn't on a hunt for a passion or a calling. I wasn't out there searching for the thing that I would come to represent. Truth be told, there are all kinds of causes we can stand behind. Abortion, animals and all that that entails (fostering, spaying, controlling, animal rights, etc.), education, the military, homosexuality-- the list goes on and on. God calls us to all sorts of different things thankfully, because if we were all called to fight the same fight, very little would get done.

When we said yes to God's call to adopt, it wasn't because we were trying to be do-gooders or to solve some sort of problem or even because we wanted to grow our family-- we were simply being obedient to God's call to grow our family via adoption. Does this mean we aren't excited? Absolutely not. Totally excited. Does this mean we don't want another child? Again, no, We can't WAIT to have our girl home!

But, here lately I feel like my life has been one big ole' soapbox after another. What once was not my cause is now hitting very close to home. All of the misinformation floating around out there about adoption? It affects my family. Every time someone tells me an adoption gone wrong story (way worse than a scary pregnancy story, btw), it sends my heart into panic mode and puts a watermelon sized knot in my stomach. It's funny how we don't always notice people's words or the language they are using until it directly affects us.

Today, I want to talk specifically about one question we have been asked consistently throughout our adoption.

Are you ready for it? Any guesses which question I'm talking about?

Ok, here you go:

Oh, so you're adopting. Does that mean you can't have more kids of your own? 

There are so many reasons why I am not a fan of this question.

While I realize many people simply don't think before speaking and are just innocently asking a question, this question is not my favorite.

First, this question implies that I want to talk to you about my body and whether or not I can get pregnant again. It implies that something is unnatural about adoption. Just to get this out of the way-- yes. As far as we know we could get pregnant again... easily. We have never actually 'tried' to get pregnant, and yet there are two cute little girls living in our house, both of whom grew in my belly. So even though this question doesn't hurt me in terms of infertility, I have LOTS of friends whom this would hurt deeply. Point being, unless someone approaches you wanting to talk about the status of her reproductive organs, I say don't go there. It's potentially very hurtful and really not okay.

Second, this question implies that I would ONLY want to adopt if I weren't able to have a baby growing in my belly. This question cuts me to the core. My daughter is NOT a second option. She's not a back-up plan or a result of a failed attempt to have my 'own' baby. In fact, she IS my OWN baby. I can honestly say that I feel more bonded with Emily having not met her yet than I did when my girls were growing in my belly, and I had yet to meet them. I've seen her face. I've heard stories about her personality. I know that she likes to play with trucks just as much as she likes to play with baby dolls. I know that is fascinated by a pair of sunglasses. I've watched the three videos I have of her on my phone so many times that I can quote every sound and movement. Do I KNOW her? No. Do I LOVE her? Absolutely. And when you ask me if I'm adopting because I can't get pregnant, it offends me. It hurts me. It lessons what we are trying to do. We aren't following God's call to adopt simply because our own plans fell through. We are adopting BY CHOICE because we believe in God's call to take care of His children.

Are there a lot of families out there who only became drawn to adoption as a result of infertility? Absolutely. Does that in any way lessen their families or love for their kiddos? Not a chance. God chooses to bring families together in many different ways and under many different circumstances.

What I'm saying is this: please don't assume that the only reason people adopt is because they are unable to get pregnant. And if you do assume that, please don't tell me about it, specifically in front of my children who have ears and are very intuitive, as most all little people are.

God calls us all to different things. And you know what? THAT IS OKAY. It's HIS plan; how could it NOT be okay? Just because what God calls someone else to do may fall outside of your comfort zone doesn't mean it isn't someone else's heart's greatest desire. I long for Emily in a way I have never longed for a child before. I believe this is one of the many ways He is confirming our call to adopt. She is so much more than the back-up plan this question implies.

Moral of the story: Choose your words carefully. And I need to eat more M&M's. Words hurt less when padded with M&M's.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Honesty and Motherhood are My Favorite Combination {a giveaway}

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: being a mom is friggin' hard work. 

And I'm a firm believer in the notion that the mom of the 1950's, with her perfect everything,
 simply doesn't exist. 
However, this precedent she seems to have set has left mothers everywhere crying and feeling as though they simply aren't enough. And I don't know about you, but I'm just not that okay with that. 

Instead, I prefer for us just to be honest about how hard this job is and support each other in the trenches, while we are covered in spit up, surrounded by dirty clothes, 
and in desperate need of....oh, I dunno...a shower. 

And really the only thing I love more than honest conversations about motherhood is honest memoirs about motherhood. 

Friends, I'd like to introduce you to my real life friend, Robin O'Bryant. 

When I tell you that Robin is seriously one of the funniest people I've ever met, what I really mean is, I almost wet my pants and sprayed Diet Coke out of my nose in her kitchen while sharing birthing stories one night while we gorged ourselves on the most divine shrimp dip ever created. 

She's real and honest and real honest. 
And she literally makes me laugh out loud. 

Oh, and did I mention she's an author? 

Not only that, but she's a cool author. 
(Note: I totally swiped this picture from her facebook page because how cool it would it be to purchase this book and find it was signed by the author. And how cool is the author who does this?!? Love it. Please also feel free to notice that sister friend is wearing Noonday. I spy with my little eye at least two pieces in this picture. The girl has good taste AND can write.)

And oh, her book. 
With memoirs with titles like 'Boob Sweat' and 'Awkward Naked Moments', how could you not love it? 

She loves Jesus, loves her husband, and loves her little girls to the moon and back. 

And I found her book to inspiring, relatable, and hilarious....all at the same time. 

And, because we need just one more reason why Robin is awesome, she'd like to give a copy of her book to one of you. Oh, and she'll sign it for you. Make that two more reasons why she's awesome. 

All you have to do to win is leave a comment on this post. 
Perhaps tell me about one of your own funny moments as a mom. 
Or one lie you tell yourself in terms of motherhood (my personal favorite is that just because I don't eat broccoli is no excuse for me not to force my kids to eat it. That's fair, right?). 
Or just tell me why you'd like to read Robin's book.
I'll choose a winner on FRIDAY, so hop to it. 

And if you'd like to get to know Robin a little better, check out her website or her oh so funny blog.  

And just for the record, the thoughts and opinions presented here are all my own. Robin did not have to pay me to honestly say that she's all kinds of funny and talented. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Where Does All the Money Go? {an adoption financial breakdown}

This picture was taken the day we found out Hollyn was a little girl baby and not a little boy baby. 
First, please notice how little Libby looks in this picture. 
Second, please do not comment on the fact that she is almost the exact age in this picture as Hollyn is now. Apparently our family grows by one child every five years. 

There are many ways that being pregnant and adoption are different, but the one that I'm noticing every single day here lately is the financial aspect of adoption. 

It's scary and overwhelming.
It's also the reason we initially said no to adoption before we got pregnant with Hollyn-- how in the world were we supposed to pay $30,000 for an adoption on a teacher's salary? 

While we're still living on that awesome teacher's salary, we also now realize that God is so much bigger than many many zeros.
 He loves our girl. 
He loves adoption. 
He places children in families. 
And isn't He ultimately in charge of our finances all the time any way? 
Yes, yes He is. 

But the two most common questions I get asked about our adoption are:

1. When is she coming home? 

Do you know the answer to this one? If so, PLEASE tell me. I'd love to know. 

2. How much does it cost to adopt internationally? 

First, let me say that every agency asks for payments in different amounts at different points throughout the adoption process, but they all equal roughly the same amount of money. 
Second, the last expense-- travel-- that totally depends on what time of year we are required to travel. Everything is more expensive near Christmas. 

Point being, the actual total? 
It's an estimate. 
Also, other factors such as time play into the final costs as well. 
If our adoption takes longer than expected (which is quite likely with any international adoption), then we will have to get our Home Study, fingerprints, etc. renewed-- each to the tune of a renewal fee. 

Again, the total is an estimate, but I hope this post will give you an overall idea of the financial commitment of an adoption. 

***NOTE: You may have noticed that we have not mentioned what agency we are using. This is strictly to best protect our adoption and our daughter. When all is said and done and she is home, I will be so happy to tell you about our agency. Also, if you're considering adopting from the DRC and would like more info. on our agency, please email me.*** 

Home Study (fingerprints, documents, notarization, etc.): $2000 (approximately; varies by state) (Paid July 2013)
Agency Application Fee: $500 (Paid January 2014)
Agency Management Fee #1: $2800 (Paid January 2014)
Child Medical Fee: $350 (Paid January 2014)
Referral fee: $7500 (Paid January 2014)
Referral fee #2 (due when we pass court which will hopefully be within the next six months): $7500
Agency Management Fee #2: $2800 (Paid March 2014)
Child Care Fee: $900 for every six months of care (Paid January 2014  for the first six months of care. Due again in July.)
Home Study Review Fee: $350 (Paid January 2014)
Child DRC Passport Fee: $350
Post Placement Coordination/Translation Fee: $800
i600a Form- $900 (approximately) 
i600 Form- $900 (approximately)

This alone, is over $20,000. 
Throw in fingerprinting and all the forms we have to acquire and then have notarized and then travel costs, and you're looking at approximately $30-35,000. 


That number seems just crazy to me still. 
It's hard to hear it, but not for the reason you may think. 
And this number seems to be pretty much across the board for every country--- this is not a Congo thing or an Africa thing; it's an international adoption thing. 

Yes, it overwhelms me because we will actually have to have that money and then pay that money-- crazy. 

But, it's even crazier to think that it costs that much to give a child what every child deserves-- a family. 

We used to think this number was absolutely insane. 
Okay, we still kinda think it's pretty insane. 
But, I will say that the deeper we get into the adoption process, the more the expenses make sense. 
Although I still think there are ways the overall process of adoption could be improved (couldn't pretty much everything be improved?), I respect the process and all the zeroes. 

You may be wondering just why I'm sharing about our finances and whatnot. 

There are two reasons I'm sharing this: 

1. I want people to have a better understanding of what it takes to complete an adoption. We almost missed out on what God has in store for us because we were scared by some big bad zeroes. If I could go back in time five years ago when we first started thinking about praying about adoption, I'd laugh at how unfaithful I was being, look myself in the eye, and tell myself to let go and LET GOD. 

2. I want people to see all the ways God is working to bring our daughter HOME to us. 

The myth that you have to be rich to adopt is just that: a myth. 

"With God, all things are possible." 
-Matthew 19:26

We are currently working to raise the funds we will need once we pass court. 
While I'm praying we pass in way less than the six months we're expecting to devote to this process, I'm not sure what we'll do if we pass tomorrow. 
We don't have the $7000. 
Does this stress me out? 
Yes, it does. 
But more than I'm stressed about it, I'm faithful. 
God will provide. 
He will give us what we need to bring our daughter home to us. 

If you'd like to help in any way, we're currently running our MAKE YOUR MARK fundraiser. 

You'll find the Paypal button on our sidebar if you feel led to give. 
We truly truly truly appreciate every single dollar that is donated. 

If you have any further questions about international adoption or fundraising or anything else you think I might can help with, don't hesitate to email me. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

I Woke Up Happy

Last night I had the best dream. 
My girl was home. 
We were drying her off after she'd taken a bath, putting on her jammies, and brushing her teeth. 
It was so normal, so real, so typical. 
There is nothing special about a bedtime routine.
Except that when your daughter isn't home, EVERYTHING seems special about a bedtime routine. 
I'm not waiting for something magical or extraordinary or exceptional in some way that defies the normal day in and day out of family life; I'm just waiting for normal family life with my whole family.

I woke up overwhelmed with happiness and with a very heavy heart, all at the same time. 

Today is an important day in the big scheme of our adoption and of our lives together as a family. 
Some people associated with our adoption agency are in her country today, visiting her orphanage. 
They're bringing a baby doll and a dress and, most importantly, a photo album filled with pictures of our family to our girl. 

I have so many roller coaster emotions about this. 

Part of me is so hopeful.
 Seeds will be planted today. 
She will see our family-- HER family--for the first time today. 
She will be hugged today and played with and loved on...... by someone else. 

(insert big dip on the roller coaster here-- you know, the kind that makes your stomach drop down past your knees)

Someone else will hug her today. 
Someone else will play with her today. 
Someone else will love on her today. 

And while I'm so very grateful for these middle mamas who are there to love on her when I can't,
 I'm also so very jealous. 
It's selfish.
 I know it is. 
But what mama wouldn't be jealous in these circumstances? 
I so badly want to kiss her little cheeks and hold her little hands and see her smile- a REAL smile, not the little smirk we've seen in pictures but a full-on belly laugh kinda smile. 

There are tears today. 
Lots of tears. 
And unfortunately I'm totally out of M&M's (how did THAT happen?). 

And there's more bittersweetness to come. 
Next week, or maybe even this weekend, I'll get some new pictures of her. 
We haven't gotten any new pics since October. 
She's had a birthday since then. 
And while I know it's so very good that she has grown, it will be bittersweet to see how much she has grown and changed, all without a family there to cheer her on and celebrate each and every milestone. 

Adoption is hard, friends. 
Following God's call is hard. 
My heart literally hurts today. 
And I can't stop crying. 
And can I just say that pregnancy hormones can't even begin to touch adoption hormones? 
It needs to be said. 

But God is good. 
His word is good. 
And I wouldn't change a thing if I could....except I certainly wouldn't have allowed myself to eat all of the M&M's. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

And I'm Crying Again

Just this morning, I had a friend tell me that I was strong for adopting from Congo. 
I laughed and told her that all the tears I've cried and all the bags of M&M's I've eaten would beg to differ. 
I don't feel strong. 

I feel like I'm 100% dependent on Jesus to bring our daughter home. 
We are depending on Him to prepare our hearts and her heart, to place our paperwork in the right hands at the right times, to bring favor on her case with the right judge, and to provide the funds we need to cover all of our adoption expenses. 

The money part of adoption-- there are so many things I could say about this. 
Bottom line is: I hate it. 
I hate that it costs so much to give a little girl a family. 
I've said it before, but we view adoption as a means for children to gain families, 
not for families to gain children (although that is a great added bonus).
I HATE to think that so many families are willing to open their homes, hearts, and lives to children but say no because of the overwhelming financial commitment that comes with adoption. 

We don't have the $30-40,000 we will need to cover our adoption. 
Could we have waited to start the process until we had saved that much money?
Do we believe it would have been the right thing to do? 
Absolutely not. 

We feel called NOW to act towards bringing our daughter home. 
We believe 100% that this is what God wants us to do. 
We are simply being obedient, no matter how scary that may seem sometimes. 

And I'm so glad we said yes. 

My daughter-- oh how I wish I could show you her little face. 
She is so so so beautiful.
And if we'd waited to start our adoption process until we'd saved the money we'd need to move forward, we could have missed her OR she could have spent YEARS in the orphanage waiting for us. 

Again-- our God is so much bigger than any amount of money. 
He loves our girl. 
He made her. 
He designed her. 
He knows her better than we ever will. 
He has been there with her while we can't be. 
And I fully believe that He wants her to come HOME. 

In the meantime, we are praying. 
We are saving our pennies. 
And we are getting on our knees and asking for help. 

Right now, we are working to raise $10,000 that we will need to cover our costs costs that will legally make Emily our daughter. 

And right now we have absolutely no idea where that money will come from other than to say 'Jesus'. 
We stand firm in the idea that He will provide. 

Will you join us in praying our girl home? 

Would you like to make a donation to help bring her here? 
If you feel called to help in this way, you'll find a donate button that will link you to paypal in the right hand column on this blog. 

Every dollar donated is one dollar closer to our girl. 
We are so grateful for every donation that comes in, whether it's $1, $100, or anywhere in between. 

And Emily's suitcase? 
It's filling up with the names of people who have given on her behalf. 

She is worth asking for.
She is worth giving for. 
She is worth sacrificing for. 
She is worth putting my pride aside for each and every day until she is home. 

Thank you thank you thank you for your help and prayers and support. 
If you need, I'll be eating M&M's on the couch like it's my job.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Shopping for Swimsuits Should Be Illegal

You thought I was gonna post a picture of me modeling a swimsuit, didn't you?
Clearly you don't me at all. 

Today I want to take a minute to be random and share some things I've been thinking about lately. 
Let's get started. 

1. This week I've been reading. Let it be known that I prefer to read a book straight through, all in one sitting. What can I say-- I like closure. Apparently I like closure more than I like sleep. And I'd rather stay up late ready than be responsible and go to bed at a decent hour any day of the week. This week I've read both The Antelope in the Living Room and The Fault in Our Stars. Antelope had me literally laughing until I cried. If you've been married for a few years, I highly recommend it. If you've only just recently joined us here in the land of married folks, I recommend waiting a bit on this one. My prediction is that it will be way funnier after the newness has worn off. Think the newness of your marriage will never wear off? Then you've just proved my point; wait on this one. So many truths about old love and what it really means to be married. LOVED THIS ONE. 
Moving on to Stars. I started this book last night; I finished this book last night. I may or may not start crying again if I talk about it for too long. LOVED THIS ONE TOO-- for totally different reasons. If you're an adult who is too cool for teenage novels, then steer clear. However, if you haven't totally lost touch with the younger generation and can still speak teen, then I highly recommend it. 

2. Can I just say that I think the McRib is one the grossest things ever invented. Seriously, the only thing I can think of that grossed me out faster than a McRib commercial is that one time when I was helping Libby clean out her hermit crab cage (may he rest in peace), and we found maggots hiding beneath the coconut bark. That is almost as disgusting to me as the thought of eating a McRib. 

3. I recently started watching 'Nashville'. Yes, I went back to the beginning and watched it from the start; I'm not a savage. Anyway, I'm now living among those of you who can't wait for Wednesday to get here so you can see what happens with Deacon and Gunner and all of my 'Nashville' friends. Tonight will be my first Wednesday night to watch 'Nashville' live. I feel like I've moved up to a whole new rank in life. 

4. One time in college I had two pet alligators living in an aquarium in my apartment. It's a long story, but sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night I can still hearing them hissing at me. Needless to say, they weren't living with me by choice. 

5. Shopping for swimsuits post baby should be illegal. By this I mean, it's a danger to my mental health. And if you're one of those women who just loves your post baby body, we may or may not be able to be friends.....ever. Yes, my baby is four. Yes, my post baby body hasn't existed since 2004. No, I'm not willing to never again eat French fries. Yes, I still miss my body pre-Libby. And all of that combined with the bad lighting in dressing rooms combined with two kids pulling at me and rushing me and all of the above, and it's just not a win-win for me. Needless to say, if you see at the beach wearing jeans and a t-shirt, just smile, nod, and go with it. 

What's on your mind these days? 
Do tell. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Created for Care: Adoptive Mamas Unite

Oh, how I needed this time. 
Time to be with other mamas who know what it's like to wait and fundraise and fundraise and wait. 
They understand how it feels to love a little one you haven't yet met. 

They get it. 
And being around the them brings out the best in me. 

I honestly believe every adoptive mama needs an adoptive mama friend...or 449 adoptive mama friends. 

Some of my all-time favorite people came together to hear God's word, reflect on all that it means to be a mom, and chat about the in's and out's of adoptive and all that it entails. 

Some of my favorite take-away's from the weekend:

* Waiting is a spiritual weapon of warfare.

*The word of God should always be the star of my story. 

*When we take our stories and our circumstances into our own hands, we love in state of chaos. 

*Am I dressing my sin up in pretty clothes? 

*When we say YES to where God wants us to go, He will silence the storms in our lives. 

So grateful for Created for Care, for time to reflect on the big, crazy mess that is my life these days, and to spend time with the One who matters most.