Monday, October 31, 2011

Say Cheese!

Yesterday we accomplished what may in fact be the most difficult part of our dossier... a family photo.
Those who think this is a simple feat obviously aren't currently parenting toddlers.  Our little guy's country requires family photographs wearing business or semi-formal clothing.  Seeing it was Sunday, we decided to dress-up a bit more than our usual church attire.  Running tight on time, a last minute "accident", and a crabby boy prevented a pre-church photo shoot.

Thankfully, after lunch, naps, and a quick touch-up of hair and makeup we were able to get a few acceptable photos.  However, there were many more with the deer-in-the-headlights look, someone not looking at the camera, and just plain silly ones.

This morning I had my physical.  I hope to get in to do my drug screen in the next few days.  After 2 pregnancies, the whole peeing in a cup thing is really a non-event.  We'll wait until after our first set of documents is registered 'in country' before having our bloodwork since that is time-sensitive and has to occur within a few months of our court date.

Right now we're finishing up our Home Study (physicals and drug tests needed for this as well as background checks and references) then our first set of documents will be signed, notorized, and apostilled.  Apostilled is a fancy word meaning "certified" or "authenticated".  Our documents will be sent to our state capital where they will certify that the Notary (or whatever other signature required) is correct.  At a later date, this will also be done with the licenses of the physicians performing our physicals, etc.  It is one additional step of guaranteeing the information provided to our little guy's country is legit.

Is all of this worth it?  You bet.  Jump over to the Reece's Rainbow waiting children page if you don't believe me.  Take a look at the kids and read their stories before you try to tell me otherwise.  While you're at it, check out some of the blogs of families working to bring home their children.

Here is a Bible verse that I seemed to see everywhere as soon as I first saw our little guy's photo:
"Once our eyes are opened, we cannot pretend we don't know what to do.  God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know and holds us responsible to act."
Proverbs 24:12 

And so act we must.  Hang on little buddy, we're coming to get you!    

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Our 'pot of gold' at the end of Reece's Rainbow

My parents arrived on the 19th for their fall visit.  They like to make the trek and be back home before the snow flies.  Until then, neither my parents nor Dave's knew we were considering switching from 'domestic infant' to 'international special needs' adoption.  Since we really only made the commitment to our agency and Reece's Rainbow a few days before they arrived, we decided to wait until their arrival to share the news.  Okay, maybe I was the driving force behind that decision, but the party-planning part of my brain was already at work.  We would only have one chance to share this news with them and I wanted it to be special.  Both sets of grandparents were invited and the date was set for the evening my parents arrived.  (I didn't think I could contain the news much longer.)

Our bio boys (ages 2 and almost 4) love to have "Dinner Parties".  That is usually quite simple and only involves the dinner being candlelit.  In the past, I'm sure we've probably even eaten hotdogs by candlelight.  However, this was a bigger occassion.  It's not everyday that you get a new grandson.

Since we found our little guy on Reece's Rainbow, I went with the rainbow theme.  The table setting was quite easy since we have Fiestaware.  I added rainbow candles and goblets.  (Kids think everything tastes better from fancy glassware.)

The real treat was the cupcakes.

One not-so-minor detail I forgot in all of my party planning was figuring out how/when we'd share the news with our parents.  I was assuming Dave would do this and he figured I would since I had spearheaded the party plans.  Oops!
Just before the evening ended, we gave the grandparents framed photos of our little guy.  One look was all they needed and I think 4 more people are in love with him!

Unfortunately not every family's announcement is met with the enthusiasm and acceptance we've received.  We are truly blessed.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?

This afternoon I had to pick up our 'newly issued copies' of our Marriage Certificate for our dossier.  The process of getting them was simple and relatively inexpensive.  I exited our County's Register of Deeds office with a spring in my step and a song in my head.
        "These are the people in my neighborhood, in my neighborhood, in my neighborhood...
        ... they're the people that I meet, when I'm walking down the street, they're the people that I meet each day."

This 'neighborhood' does not consist of the houses up/down the hill from us.  Nor are these people necessarily even people I've met face to face.  This neighborhood is comprised of people we've 'met' during the adoption process thus far.  And what great people they are!

Since this post was triggered by the ladies at the Register of Deeds office, I'll give my first shout-out to them.  They are efficient and friendly.  The Notary at our Credit Union also falls into that category.  I've had telephone and email contact with several families who have used our adoption agency.  They are wonderful.  They've provided insight into the process that can only be shared by those who have walked this road ahead of us.  Additionally, many have offered to be resources as we continue this journey.  These are people who are taking time from their own family to help us expand ours.

There are individuals/families out there that have a soft spot for Down syndrome/Reece's Rainbow kids.  Many know the joy of a child with Ds; all are advocating for these kids.  We follow each others' blogs and I've already received encouraging words from some of those Mommies.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention our Social Workers Jenny and Lauren.  Each has a very different yet equally important role in our adoption process.  They are working tirelessly to complete the documents needed to get our invitation to visit our little guy's country.

And so, "...These are the people in my neighborhood.  They're the people that we'll meet, while we're adopting from EE, they're the people that we'll meet each day."

Monday, October 24, 2011

One Less Orphan in the World tonight

Since finding Reece's Rainbow, I've been following the blog of a family that lives about 45 minutes from us.  They too have been working to bring home their little boy.  Though we've never met, I faithfully check their blog several times a day.  Today begins a new chapter in their lives.  They went before a judge and for the first time in his young life, Carter has a Mommy and Daddy.  In reading today's post, there is absolutely no way you can deny God's hand at work.  It is events like this that gives those of us in the midst of preparing Dossiers, doing Home Studies, fundraising, and praying our children home the extra shot of energy we need.

So tonight as I lay my head on the pillow, I will recall the words of Isaiah 43: 5-6...

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

... and thank God that there's One Less Orphan in the world tonight.  Welcome to Mommyhood Ashley.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Our Story...

We are a family of 4 looking to become 5.  We're heading out on a journey to bring our son home.  This trip will take us thousands of miles across the ocean, as well as through an ocean of paperwork.  You see, the boy who is to become our third son was born in Eastern Europe and has never known life outside the orphanage walls.  The clock is ticking as we fervently work toward his homecoming.  This little guy will soon turn 4 years old.  What's the hurry you ask?  Well, once he turns 4, the risk of him being transferred from the orphanage to an adult institution increases with each passing day.  Our son is "genetically enhanced" with a third copy of his 21st chromosome.  The medical descriptor is 'Trisomy 21', but most know it as Down syndrome.  And so our journey begins...

Thursday, September 22, 2011 began like many other days with me rushing out the door to take our 3yo to Pre-School.  I had glanced at the bulletin board in the school's hallway several times in the past, however that day I stopped to read further.  Handwritten in a child's writing was the quote "I don't want to live like I don't care".  Beneath that sign was printouts of Waiting Children from Reece's Rainbow (  Our 2yo and I headed out on our morning errands, but not before I looked at the Reece's Rainbow website.  When I saw this little guy's sweet face, I thought... and hoped... and prayed that he would become our son.

Dave and I always knew we wanted to adopt and had started the process between the births of our biological sons.  At that time, we found a non-Special Needs, Domestic infant adoption to be the best fit for our family.  We were pursuing this avenue when I became pregnant with our second son.  Our adoption plans were placed on hold until he was 10 months old.  At that time we re-opened our case and began our wait for a placement.  Despite our openess to any race, either gender, and many other factors, we continued to wait for over a year.  We then began to examine if we were on the correct path and if we were really called to adopt.  We never came to a firm conclusion and continued to wait... until September 22, that is.

That weekend, Dave headed "Up North" to a Men's Retreat with my request that he pray about our adoption, where we were headed, and the possibility of bringing this little boy home.  They boys and I stayed home that weekend.  Much of it was spent with me scouring the Reece's Rainbow website as well as imagining this little boy's laughter and smile intermixed with that of our other two boys' as the three would play together.

I contacted Andrea at Reece's Rainbow as well as got preliminary information from the adoption agency that serves his region/country.  We had been pursuing Domestic Adoption with Bethany Christian Services, however they are not the providers for this little guy's region.  Bethany has since agreed to be our Home Study agency-- which is a huge answer to prayer since they already know us and have been wonderful to work with.

Dave returned from his retreat not with a certainty, but with a willingness to consider it and "see where it goes".  We prayed that God would either open or shut doors.  And so the onslaught of being bombarded with things about adoption, Special Needs, Down syndrome, etc. began.  Everywhere we turned there was something confronting us... Think you're safe when Sunday morning's sermon is from 2 Samuel?--not so... Mephibosheth is in there.  Sunday evening's Core Community focus?--adoption.  My moms' group speaker?--my new friend Robyn who will soon travel to bring home her 5th Special Needs child.  The medical journal Dave was reading for work?--an article about teaching children with Down syndrome to ride a bike without training wheels.  And the list goes on.  Some may call it mere coincidence, some say God's hand.  We choose God.

Since that Thursday in September, we have withdrawn from the Domestic adoption program, started the steps necessary to get our Home Study to International standards, committed to our little guy on Reece's Rainbow, scheduled physicals, applied to Creative Adoptions, talked to families who have used Creative Adoptions, and found out our little guy is indeed still adoptable and that his country will consider our application.

In closing, I'll try to answer a few questions you may have.  I am purposely not referring to our little guy by name or country in my blog.  This is done out of respect for his country and it's privacy laws.  While blogging, I may refer to him by any number of terms of endearment.  Our blog title was chosen because Dave commonly refers to our boys as "the dudes".  Those closest to us know the name we've chosen for him (which is quite different than his birth name).  He also has a codename given to him by Reece's Rainbow to help protect his identity and whereabouts.  We don't really know how long it will be until he's home.  Our best guess is 7 months.  During that time, we will complete our Home Study and compile our Dossier (a dossier is about a zillion documents required to be sent to his country).  Then the real wait begins.  Once our dossier is 'in country' it will be translated and delivered.  We will wait for our first travel date.  At that time we will travel to Eastern Europe, meet our little guy, and accept his formal referral.  We then return home and wait for our court date.  Upon receiving our court date, we return to EE, visit our boy, go to court, then the 10-day wait begins.  There are 2 options during that 10-day wait.  We can remain in-country and continue to visit and sightsee or return to the US and make a third trip to EE to get our son once the 10-day wait is over.  Those decisions will be made closer to the time of travel.  A lot depends on when our court date falls (ie. day of the week, holidays, etc.) since the 10 days are 10 business days, as well as what we feel will be best for our 2 little dudes waiting at home.

Finally, we covet your prayers during our journey.