Sunday, 31 October 2010

Pumpkin Carving

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Before Five in a Row

I admit to having some suburban mom guilt. Recently, someone informed me that it was time for me to start looking into preschools, in order to insure that the one I enrolled Tommy in was excellent. I felt a little guilty. I didn't bother telling her that I probably won't be sending Tommy to preschool next year. Maybe I will, but probably not.

It isn't that I don't think Tommy will like it, because he probably would. It is partly because it is so expensive, well more than partly. But it is mostly because I dislike the idea of having to drive him 15 minutes each way for him to spend 2 hours someplace while I have to figure out things to do in that "wasted" space. I don't spend much time shopping, and I'm sure neither Jeff nor our bank account would appreciate it if I started creating errands to fill four to six hours a week. Also, with number two on the way (officially), I would be toting around another child during these errands, and I have found that kids seem to have a limited tolerance for shopping. Thus, I think the cost to benefit ratio is a bit too heavy on the cost side. I know, sacrifice, children, love, blah blah blah.

My solution has been to find activities where we all get something. I go to bible study, Tommy plays with his friends in the nursery. We go to the library together for storytime and picking out books. I go to MOPS and he goes to Moppets. Soon, we hope to get in to BSF, which has an actual program for the kids (come on, extra teacher for the two year olds). We are out three to four mornings a week with this schedule, not to mention Sunday brings Sunday School, so Tommy is getting plenty of socializing in (plus more at play dates, the arboretum, and the park, but that will be on hiatus for the winter).

The second part of my solution, and the alleviation of my "my child will be so far behind when they start kindergarten" suburban mom guilt, is Before Five in a Row. On it forces me to make up craft projects for Tommy. I have felt particularly bad about our lack of crafts because I actually liked crafts when I was younger and I always had to seek them out for myself. We have some craft supplies, but since Tommy doesn't ask for crafts I never remember to get them out.

The point of BFIAR is to read the same book everyday for a week, and do a little project that relates to the book.

I let Tommy pick the first book, and he chose Corduroy.

We did various activities that tied into the book:

We learned a bible verse about friendship, talked about what family and friends are, and had a discussion on polite manners in a store.

He made a button box, and has been having a blast sorting buttons (well supervised, I assure you).

He made a bank, and received some money to save. Six whole pennies!

We acted out the dramatic scenes. Tommy particularly enjoyed pretending to fall off the bed and crash into a lamp.

On the last day, we took a field trip (this was my idea, not the book's) to a "department store" (Ikea), so Tommy could do things like Corduroy did. We brought the book and started the story downstairs, then went up the escalator when Corduroy did, then Tommy chose a bed to sit on, just like Corduroy for reading the rest of the story and pretending to hide from the night watchman. Tommy had a blast, and I got to stock up on frozen meatballs. Win-win.

I thought the Corduroy ideas were pretty good. This week we are doing Good Night Moon, and it has been less inspiring. However, at least it is getting me thinking about activities for Tommy other than pulling out the cars or the trains, again.

Monday, 25 October 2010


Well, we have been making some significant strides in the area of potty training. After the last round I decided we needed a long break. We were both done. But then Tommy started insisting on wearing underwear. He didn't do it everyday, but when he did he was rather stubborn about it. When he asked I let him. He sometimes went in the toilet, and sometimes didn't. He also began requesting to go more even when he was wearing a diaper. When he asked he got to go, but we didn't push it.

After a few weeks of this I got tired of the underwear battle. I didn't mind letting him wear it around the house, but when he insisted on wearing it out and not consistently going in the toilet...that was less than ideal.

I received a great deal of advice after the last attempt. Thank you all. I decided I would go in the opposite direction of the "three day method" since that absolutely did not work for us, and basically adopted all of the "do nots" from that plan. We are going slowly. I am using bribery- multiple types- stickers for peeing in the toilet, little plastic sea creatures for pooping in the toilet, and Hotwheels for days that he stays totally dry. He also gets to help clean up when he makes a mess. I am using diapers at night and during naps, and occasionally when we go out and I don't want to worry about him wetting. I am also allowing Tommy to go on trees, the grass, etc when we are in the backyard instead of having him pee on himself while I rush him to the toilet.

Tommy is doing such a great job. He has been dry at church and at the playtime during my bible study, he has stayed dry at Costco, Trader Joe's, and the Zoo (huge triumph). The only issue I am having is getting him to go in public toilets. He doesn't like being held up, standing on the seat, or sitting on the seat, and he is way to short to reach otherwise.

This may be a long process with lots of laundry to do and messes to clean up, but so far it has been much easier this way.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

That Time We Met SCC

So, if you know Jeff well, you know he has a great sense of humor and spends most of his time making jokes. Now, Jeff is also rather quiet, so it is very possible that you don't know this about him. But, it is important to know that for the purposes of this story that we often have running jokes.

When we were in the process of adopting Tommy, we applied for a number of grants. One of those grants was from Show Hope, the adoption assistance/orphan care organization started up by Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman. When you apply for this grant, they tell you that you will receive a letter in a certain period of time letting you know if you qualified. After a few weeks had passed from our application date, Jeff and I began joking that we would get a phone call from SCC letting us know whether we got the grant. So, every few days I (as the person who picked up the mail) would report that we had not gotten our phone call from SCC yet, or Jeff might ask if SCC had called yet. It was slightly more elaborate at times, involving The Great Adventure album references, and so on. Finally we did get our letter, and we did receive a grant. It was such a blessing to us. But, no phone call from SCC, of course.

About a month or so ago we got an email inviting us to volunteer for Show Hope at an event in a town about an hour away from us. We jumped at the chance to give back...and to show off our adorable child. Last night we attended the "Evening With the Chapmans" tour and worked the Show Hope booth as a family. It was very simple, we just showed up for a brief training and then manned the booth and helped people fill out forms during the pre-concert, the intermission, and after the show, and passed out packets at one point during the show. The rest of the time we got to hang out with other Show Hope families and watch the concert for free. It was so encouraging to be in a group of other adoptive families and have a chance to talk about our experiences. Plus, it is always fun to get to see a free concert.

I cannot say enough about the Chapmans and everyone involved with Show Hope that we met, and their incredible commitment to adoption and orphan care. Julia Chapman (daughter-in-law) was actually the one who ran the booth and did our training. Apparently there was a much larger than expected response (go Illinois!), and seeing her face as she tallied up the sponsorship commitments we received, it was obvious that her heart was in it. While the show was not about adoption specifically, the subject repeatedly came up as the Chapmans frequently refer to their kids. Three of their six were adopted, and the experience has had a huge impact on their lives.

Show Hope sponsorships address orphan care on two fronts: providing for kids who are in immediate need of medical care and may never be adopted as well as making it possible for more people to create forever families. The model of Show Hope sponsorship is not one to one (one sponsor to one child in need), like you see with many organizations. Most organizations that provide child sponsorships work with children living in families, or at least with a relative, and thus are geographically stable. Orphans in many countries move around. They may transfer from orphanage to orphanage, into and out of foster families, or hospitals. They simply aren't as easy to track. Also, many of the kids that receive help from Show Hope are special needs, and likely need more costly medical care than a sponsor might be able to provide in one month. Thus, sponsorship is split between two separate (but important) ministries. Half of the money goes to orphan care. The majority of this is in China, because Show Hope has a special needs hospital there where they house about 130 special needs orphans, some of whom need simple surgeries to be deemed "adoptable" other who may need long term care and may or may not be adopted, and some who need a hospice where they can die with dignity.

The other half of the sponsorship money goes into the adoption aid program, to provide grants for families who need assistance with their adoption costs. Grants range from $2,000 to 7,000 based on need and available funds. They give about 30 grants a month, but turn down about 100 qualified families every month simply because they don't have the funding to do more than that.

I shared in a previous blog that I've never been a big SCC fan. Nothing against him, my family just never listened to him. We mostly listened to Rich Mullins, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith (ask Kevin how he feels about Go West Young Man), and the incomparable Don Fransisco. I didn't (until last night) know his kids names, or much about his family other than a cursory knowledge of Maria's death (as in, I read an article in the news and read about it on the Show Hope website). I've also mentioned that I love love love the album he wrote in the aftermath of that loss. I can't listen to the album often. It is a hard listen because it is real. If you ever wondered what it really feels like to bury your child, listen to that album. When I hear it, it absolutely takes me back and it resonates with my experience. This is both very healing but also very difficult, thus, I can only handle it from time to time.

Last night's show was at least half older songs, ones that I recognized from ACTS (our church's high school choir) or that Jeff knew from his childhood of listening to SCC. Apparently the audience was allowed to submit requests, and he even did a verse of Got to B Tru. Very funny. Then Geoff Moore (who I had never heard of before last night) came and did some songs with SCC and then talked about Show Hope. Enter the volunteers passing out packets, then intermission. I have no idea what the other concert goers did during this time, but I was mobbed by people who wanted to sign up to support Show Hope, and I helped them out with that. Afterward SCC did a few more songs, and then Mary Beth came and talked about her experience with losing Maria. Then SCC did a few songs from his Beauty Will Rise album, which was awesome for me. Tommy was sleeping at that point, so I just sat in the aisle holding him and crying. Thankfully it was dark.

All that to say, if you either like SCC or care at all about adoption, or maybe just like people who are very sincere about what they believe - go to this show. Just go. That is about as ringing an endorsement of anything music related that I will ever give.

After the show we had a few more people interested in information, and then when most everyone had cleared out we helped break down the booth. At that point Geoff Moore came over, which I thought was cool because he is on the board of Show Hope, and my Jeff thought was cool because he was a fan of Geoff Moore and the Distance. He met Tommy and chatted for a minute, and then we got back to cleaning up. At some point Jeff told me he was certain if we hung out long enough that we would meet SCC (this was actually an extension of the conversation we jokingly had in the car on the way over, wherein I deemed it a 5% chance that we might meet him, and Jeff said he bet it could go either way). I laughed. Then we said goodbye to everyone, Julia Chapman informed me that she loved my shoes (which are super cute), and we got Tommy dressed in his pajamas and headed toward the parking structure.

On the way out we were stopped by this man, who asked about Tommy's adoption (hey, is he domestic?). We got to talking and it turned out that he was the director of Show Hope. He thought Tommy was awfully cute (because he is). At the end of the conversation we said something about how great it was for Show Hope to help bring Tommy home. He said, "wait, he's a Show Hope kid?" We said yes, and that we had been there volunteering at the booth. He responded "Come on, I have someone you have to meet." He takes us through a small group of people, into a room, and then says, wait a minute I need to check, knocks on the door and says, "Steven! There's someone here you have to meet." The whole time this is happening, I'm thinking "where are we going?" until we walk into what was clearly backstage and then it was like "oh my gosh, are we going to meet SCC? That's crazy!" So, we got to meet SCC. He was very nice, pretty much exactly what you would expect based on how genuine he seems on stage. So, that was the rather exciting conclusion to our long night.

The less exciting conclusion involves me getting a terrible headache, having a miserable ride home, and then accidentally squirting soap directly in my eye while trying to get ready for bed in a haze of pain. Nevertheless, overall a great night.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

The Getty

This post should have been done a month ago. This is the day after our unforgettable trip to the Aquarium.

My history crew and our future not historians (please, please let our children study something that pays better) took a trip to the Getty on our last day together. Between the train rides, the gardens, and the play room our kids had a better time there than they did at the Aquarium. It was much harder to get them to leave.

We had a few incidents. I blame the arboretum for the first one. The arboretum, which we love and visit often, has some great water features in the children's garden. The best part of these features is that the kids are invited to play in them- grab out rocks and drop them back in, wade, splash, sit, and so on. Tommy's favorite is a little frog pond with smooth stones. The Getty also had a pond with those same smooth stones. Guess what Tommy did? He leaned right in to pick them up and drop them. Then he ran straight into the other fountain, the one without any rim or railing...lovely. He experienced the consequences of wet shoes for the rest of the day.

I also think he may have touched one of the paintings when I wasn't quite as fast as I should have been. Since no alarms sounded I can't be sure. I am happy to report it was a very ugly painting, though it is probably worth more than we will earn in a lifetime.

Still, Tommy and I had a great time. He had checked out a book on impressionists from the library, and it was fun to show him some of the works from artists he had read about. He also got to have a hot dog and sweet potato fries for lunch which always makes his day (I was impressed by how inexpensive and good the food was at the cafeteria and they were so helpful with finding out about allergens). But best of all he spent the entire morning chasing after big kids, while I got to hang out with some of my favorite grown-ups.

It isn't easy getting three active kids to stand still for a photo!

Fun activities in the family space! Above: rearranging art. Below: making masks.

Thursday, 21 October 2010


Wilson park in Torrance has a mini-train track and a a few times a month a train club offers rides. It just so happened that one of their days in September was also the weekend that Jeff was with us. We met up with some family members and rode the train together.

As you can imagine, Tommy though it was great fun.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Prayer Card Update

Both my mom and I have finished making prayer cards. I've mailed them out to everyone who has sent me their address, and for those of you who live close to Mom she has hopefully gotten them to you by now.

If you would like to join us in praying for Mtoto's journey home and didn't get a card you can either send me a note and I will get you one, or, you can pray through this list. Each card has one of the follow requests on it:

Pray that Mtoto is protected from common (but difficult to treat in Africa) children’s infections. Cold, ear infections, influenza, etc.

Pray that Mtoto is protected from illness carried in contaminated water: giardia, worms, typhoid, cholera, and any others.

Pray that Mtoto is not exposed to diseases transmitted by blood: malaria, all Hepatitis, HIV/AIDS.

Pray that Mtoto is protected from contagious diseases measles, mumps, rubella, polio, meningitis, chicken pox, influenza, whooping cough.

Pray that at least one woman working at the home would pay special attention to Mtoto so he can develop the ability to form an attachment.

Pray that Mtoto’s diapers will always be changed when they are dirty, and that he will not be subject to multiple diaper rashes or yeast infections.

Pray that Mtoto will receive food when he cries in hunger so that he can establish a healthy understanding of need/parental response.

Pray that Mtoto gets enough sleep to grow and maintain his health.

Pray that Mtoto will be frequently held and carried. Pray that someone would decide to carry him on her back in a sling while she works.

Pray that the water used to make Mtoto’s formula would be clean and free of lead.

Pray that Mtoto would be able to spend a little time in the sunshine each week, and that his body would produce the vitamin D it needs.

Pray that Mtoto’s formula cans will be replenished and that he will never have to drink tainted formula.

Praise God for the opportunity the Klug family has to add this baby to their family, and to the community in which you interact with us!

Praise God for Mtoto’s life, and that Mtoto was brought safely to the orphanage.

Pray for the mamas who work at the home, that they would be well provided for and have peace in their personal homes, that they may be refreshed when they come to work.

Pray that the Consul in Mtoto's country would have his/her heart softened towards
orphans/adoptive families.

Pray for us to get a court date as soon as possible, and then, a visa appointment.

Pray that the Judge will have favor on our petition to adopt, and then, that the US embassy would favor our visa petition.

Pray that we would have no problems or hold ups procuring Mtoto’s passport or clearance to leaver the country from his government.

Pray for an end to the violence in Mtoto’s homeland.

Pray for Mtoto’s birth mom, that she would have peace and feel God’s love.

Pray for a timely and fair visa appointment and process.

Pray that Mtoto has excellent nutrition, that the food he eats is adequate, that it is clean, and that he gets it often.

Pray for our lawyer, that he would have the words to answer any questions the Judge might have about us.

Pray for the man responsible for acquiring our documents, that he would be safe, healthy, and favored by the offices he deals with.

Pray for Tommy’s adjustment to learning about and then adding another child to our family.

Pray that Tommy and Mtoto would bond.

Pray that Jeff and Mtoto would bond.

Pray that Amy and Mtoto would bond.

Pray for patience and peace for Jeff, Amy, and Tommy as we wait.

Pray that Jeff, Amy, and Tommy would have the ability to trust in God’s timing and plan for Mtoto’s journey into our family.

Pray that God would provide the finances necessary for this adoption.

Pray that we would be allowed to take one trip, and that it would be as short as possible.

Thank you to everyone who is joining us in praying for our sweet boy. The wait already feels so long, and it has only just begun. We appreciate you support more than we can explain.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

New Look, Same Great Taste

With a second boy now on the way, we decided it was time for a new, more gender neutral look. Although, we seem to have left out yellow, green and most other gender neutral colors...

To prove that nothing else has changed, here is some Tommy cuteness.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

It's a Boy, Part 2!

October 9, 2008.

The day we waited for, prepared for, longed for. On that day we expected to welcome our firstborn into the world. For five months we anticipated this day, until that appointment when we found out that she would never make it to her due date. Which, by the way, according to our specialist was October 8th. 8th, 9th, it made no difference. On both those days in 2008 we had empty arms and broken hearts.

October 8, 2010.

We got the letter from USCIS letting us know that our visa approval was being forwarded to our country. Good news, but not a big milestone. I scanned it and emailed it to the woman who is guiding our case.

The day was a hard one. Easier than last year and the year before, but still hard. I felt pretty draggy and down, and was really wondering if we were making the right choice about our adoption, if we were somehow misreading events, and so on. I sent up quite a few complaining, "are you sure you know what you're doing?" type-prayers, if you know what I mean. So, while T napped I dragged out my bible study and after finishing it read a few Psalms, praying for God to grant me peace and assurance. I came across these verses:

"But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief, that you may take it into your hands; the helpless commit themselves to you; you have been the helper of the orphan." "Oh Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek; you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed, so that those from earth may strike terror no more."

I thought, there it is, my peace, my assurance. I decided to stop complaining and move on with my day, confident that God knew what he was doing, even if I did not.

That evening, as we were about to tuck Tommy into bed we got a phone call from our caseworker. I thought that was odd. Usually when I email her a document she emails back to let me know she got it; she doesn't call. I thought it was even stranger when she asked us to put her on speaker.

She wanted to tell us about a little boy. That day she had received his adoption release. All of the families in front of us turned him down because they wanted to wait for girls. We were floored. Shocked. Completely caught off guard. We weren't expecting any news like this until at least the end of October...but thought we would be waiting until December.

She told us to think it over and call her the next day with our answer. October 9th.

As you can imagine, we said yes. Wouldn't you?

I continued to be amazed at how good God was to answer my prayer for peace immediately through scripture, and then how he moved in a huge and awesome way to not only reassure us, but to take a day of hardship and turn it into one of happiness. I thought immediately of this: I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow...Jeremiah 31:13b. That is what God has so masterfully done for us. Taken two days that were days on which we thought we would receive the blessing of a child, Leah, but instead faced grief and sorrow, and once again made them days of rejoicing. His timing was perfect.

As for our boy, I have to be very careful with my details- the curse of leaving the blog public. He is young, and the spacing between him and Tommy falls within my "perfect" range of 18 months to 2 1/2 years. He has no known health issues (I say known because they only test for HIV). He is in an orphanage, and he has been cleared for adoption.

If you would like to join us in praying for him and this ongoing process we will be creating prayer cards. Each will have his cute little face and one (or two closely related) specific prayer requests on them. Each card will have a different request. All we ask is that you take a minute each day to pray for the one thing on your card. I will also be posting specific requests and updates as the case progresses for those of you who want the whole laundry lists. If you would like a card, please email or FB message me your address, or if you live close to my parents you can pick one up from them.

In the meantime, please pray for the little guy's health and safety (our code word for him is mtoto- pronounced mu-toto- which means young child in Swahili), and that we would be able to get a court date soon. For me: if you followed our last adoption you know we lost a referral when it turned out that the first boy we were matched with was not available to be adopted. Although we are clearly thrilled with the way things turned out (Tommy rocks!), I have a lingering fear that it will happen again. Even though this time our referral has already been cleared for adoption (orphan investigation complete), I have a worry that the orphanage will change their mind, or something. We've already had a little scare on this issue...hence the delay in relaying the news. I know it is silly, but, it is where I am struggling right now.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Daddy Goes to the Zoo

We had the opportunity to visit the zoo as a family. Tommy and I had been a few times (thankful for friends with family passes), but Jeff hadn't had the chance because someone has to work. Apparently money does not grow on trees.

Tommy even got to pet a llama (llama, red pajama).

There was much silliness.

The highlight of the day was the baby meerkats.

Friday, 8 October 2010

The Long and Winding Road

I started this post at the end of May...but it needed to marinate for a while, I guess. I have rewritten the end of it as each milestone passed...homestudy, fingerprints, visa, and so on. Anyhow, here it is...

About a week after we came home with Tommy I began planning our next adoption. We would go back to Uganda, of course, adopt from Tommy's babies home, and live happily every after. I started scheming along these lines- mentioning it to Jeff, keeping track of events in Uganda, starting a new pile of "things to take to Uganda," and so on. In January, after Jeff finished his dissertation and started his "real" job, we got in contact with our lawyer. He was busy, but said he could fit us in. We were thrilled. We announced we were starting the process. Then things shut down. Our lawyer had things come up, and had to back out of representing us. We made contact with another lawyer, and received more discouraging news. We had already updated our home study, so we started researching other options just in case. Home studies have expirations dates, and, having just invested $1,500, we needed a back-up plan. We looked into Rwanda. We even found an agency that used Tommy's African name as their name. The week we had a phone interview with them Uganda had some very positive movement, so I called off the call. I didn't want to waste their time. Then visas in Uganda didn't start again, and we started looking again at another country (Rwanda seemed on the verge of signing Hague/shutting down, and they have now done so).

I went to google. I typed in that country, and "blogspot," and came across the blog of a family who had recently adopted from that country. I scrolled down and looked into a beautiful pair of brown eyes that looked very familiar. Exactly like Tommy's. Tommy and this boy wouldn't pass for twins, and maybe not siblings, but defintly cousins. I was so struck by their resemblance that I emailed the woman and asked her how she went about her adoption. She emailed back with a glowing review of a group that facilitates adoptions in that country and promised to put me in touch with someone who could tell me more. I spoke with this other woman extensively, and was touched by the ethics and vision of this organization. It was exactly what I wish existed in Uganda. We decided to apply as we waited for Uganda to open. So, on the 13th of April I mailed in our application. I had not intended to work on the application that week. I told the woman who was assisting me that I would do it the week after because Tommy's party was that week, my parents were coming, and I had so much to do. But that checklist was calling my name, and somehow Jeff and I got it done. I still cannot say what motivated me to change my mind and power through that paperwork, the paperwork I didn't intend to look at until the end of April, I just did it. On the 15th of April this organization stopped accepting new applications, because they had too much interest. Ours, however, was "in" for consideration.

So, we waited. We waited to see what was going on in Uganda. We waited to hear if we would be accepted by this other organization to go to this other country. While we waited we prayed. We prayed for patience, and we prayed for direction and clarity.

Honestly, I was intrigued and impressed by this organization, but my heart was in Uganda. I love Uganda. It is the most beautiful place on earth. I can't wait to go back. I can't wait to show it off to Tommy. I long for the day when we can touch down and he can look out the window and read "Welcome to the Pearl of Africa." I cried when I first read that sign, and I will cry again when I return. Oh, how I long to go back. My heart aches for it. For the soft sunlight filtering through the banana leaves, for the red dusty dirt that contrasts so beautifully against the blue sky, for the cool breeze off Lake Victoria bringing a slight relief from the heat, for the warm and loving people that we know there, who we can't wait to see again. But I'm not going back. Not now. Not this time. It breaks my heart, but, unless something drastic changes, we don't think Uganda is where God is leading us.

I think the crack in my determination really started at the zoo. Bear with me. We were walking through the exhibits trying to find some animal or another. I was distracted- probably trying to save Tommy from the attack of the crazy Canadian geese, or trying to keep him from climbing in one of those cool double wagons that people pull all over the zoo, but that is not the point. I was distracted. Then, I was overwhelmed. I felt a twinge in my chest, you know what I mean, the kind when something is heavy upon your heart, and I felt so compelled to respond with a prayer for our adoption. I said the first thing that came to my mind, "God, show us where to go." My eyes had been cast downward, but as soon as I finished praying I looked up. Right in front of me was a huge map of Africa. It was tan, and had all of the countries of Africa outlined in black. Except one country. That country was a big, green splotch on the map. It was the "other" country. The name of that country was also on top of the map, and apparently it was the featured country of that exhibit.

My immediate reaction: Oh, that sign is always there. It has always been there. What a coincidence.

So, I pushed it aside, but I kept coming back to it. I began to wonder if maybe I shouldn't dismiss it. It wasn't as thought I had been running around the zoo praying about our adoption. It was kind of odd that I felt so convicted to pray in the exact spot where I would look up and see this sign. So, we kept praying, and waiting.

Then a friend, who had no idea that we were looking anywhere other than Uganda, suggested that I stop looking into Uganda and look into this other country or one other country. I wondered if she was right. A few weeks later I was griping to another friend (via email) about my uncertainty over which country we should go to. I wrote "I really wish God would just give me a map." As soon as I wrote those words the image of the zoo map flashed in my mind. I began to wonder how many maps I needed.

But, we still fought it. Uganda started looking even better. Things began to really happen towards opening back up. We still hadn't heard back from this other program. It felt like it was all dragging on forever, this unending indecision limbo. Every week we would ask our bible studies/small group to pray about the adoption and our decision. Every week we still didn't heard back from the program, and Uganda stayed shut. The true miracle in all this is that Jeff and I were both waiting patiently. We weren't stressed about it. We weren't consumed by it. If you knew us during T's adoption you know that is a huge change.

Then we heard back from the program, the delay in responding to us was the result of a miscomunication. We were almost in, but we needed to do an interview. The next day, we heard that visas were going to be issued in Uganda the next week.

We had hoped that we would be forced into one country or the other. Perhaps this program wouldn't accept us, then we would go to Uganda. Perhaps Uganda wouldn't be open, so we would go to this other program without feeling like we were disrespecting Tommy's heritage and abandoning all of our wonderful, amazing, supportive (I could go on and on) Uganda adoption friends, not to mention our dreams/plans to return to Uganda.

So, we had some things to weigh out. First, was the miscommunication with the other program the chance for us to see Uganda open and pursue our plan to adopt there? We decided to look into "our plan for Uganda" and see how it played out. We prayed for clarity (again) and made a phone call. It went differently than we had hoped. Long story short, some things that we had been told would be true, and that we needed to be true in order for us to adopt on our current home study, had changed. If we were to go back to Uganda, we would be starting from scratch. We considered doing that, but we had no peace. None. It felt all wrong.

Every time we discussed this other program, we had peace. No panic. No feelings of extreme mistrust. It was nice.

We decided to move forward with the interview. We have been praying that if this was the wrong move that God would slam this door shut, have them reject us (and, of course, provide a way in Uganda). But the interview went amazingly well. We got the green light, and we have decided to go.

The insane thing is that this country is less stable than Uganda. It has generally more pro-adoption laws, but, as everyone knows that could change at anytime. It is certainly less safe and less politically stable. I felt a bit crazy even considering it, especially when Uganda is opening up again. For our dear friends who read this blog who are adopting from Uganda, please know that this is not a no-confidence vote in Uganda. We are choosing a potentially much rockier road. As I write this, I am wondering why. It isn't what I started out wanting. Frankly, I'm not looking forward to the bumps along the road. Some days I question whether this adoption will even go through. But, I have peace. Jeff has peace. Each time we contemplate taking a different course (as in running back to Uganda as fast as our legs will carry us) we know it is not the right decision. We may not understand why we are where we are right now, but the one thing we believe is that we are where we should be no matter what the outcome or how foolish or crazy it seems to us.

We have already hit a number of annoying delays on the Illinois side of things. Fingerprints that expired a two days before our homestudy was ready to send (and because we started so much earlier went unnoticed by our social worker), then a problem with the fingerprints we sent despite them passing a previous round, then a very long hold up at the state approval level. The one bright spot was that our visa approval was not delayed, and came even earlier than we expected. That was a huge blessing, because it removed the biggest point of paperwork anxiety that I had.

Now we wait for our referral. Best case scenario is a one month wait, but more likely we will wait up to three months. From there it is a very long process, probably four to six months. I am not looking forward to that second wait.

You may have noticed that I have not mentioned the name of this other country. My choice was to talk about the country and take this blog entirely private, or, not mention the name of the country at all. I am choosing to keep the blog public but not mention the country we are traveling to. It isn't a secret generally though, so if I see you in person (or on FB) and you are curious I would be happy to tell.

We covet your prayers for continued patience, for ongoing discernment about decisions that need to be made, and most of all, for the child that will be joining our family. They likely are living in very difficult conditions, circumstances that make Tommy's orphanage stay look like easy street. Knowing this is a very hard thing to bear.

Naper Settlement

We took a little field trip with a friend to see Naperville. Scott happens to enjoy historical outings, so we went to Naper Settlement. Unfortunately we managed to go on a "special" day when the settlement had been rented out by an organization that was having a craft fair and pow-wow, so a number of things in the actual settlement weren't open, and on top of that the festivities from this organization weren't until the afternoon (naptime). Before we went in the woman at the front (who worked for Naper Settlement) assured us that everything was open as usual...but she was incorrect. Very disappointing.

We made the best of it and saw everything we could. I don't know what it would be like on a normal day, but I was not very impressed. It wasn't the worse "living history" museum I have every been to-that is Amish Acres, hands down- but it was far from the best- Plymouth Colony, in case you wondered.

We also did the river walk, but it started to rain so we didn't take any pics and hurried home. At least Tommy had a great time chasing after one of the grown-ups that he greatly admires...

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Better Late Than Never

While I was in California for all the wedding festivities my flowers finally came up! I was beginning to think they never would. Jeff took some pictures so I could "enjoy" them. Happily, they are still blooming so I got to see them in person too.

Four of the five types of flowers I planted bloomed. The California poppies did not fare well. The green leafy part grew, but no flowers.

It's sad to say goodbye to the last of my garden knowing it will be snowed in for months (ugh), but at least I have tulips to look forward to.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Kevin and Colleen get hitched!

We only have a few shots from the wedding...but here they are:

Notice I am not in any of them. I was probably in PM's office watching the miserable Bruin game.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Reintroduction Time

This week we began reintroducing lactose into Tommy's diet. Tommy's diet has been gluten free, lactose free, and very low sugar for the past year, simply because his intestines needed time to heal and those foods are hard to digest. We followed this diet plan because it worked very well for some friends who also adopted from Uganda and whose kids had problems similar to Tommy's. The diet helped a great deal, but it hasn't completely solved Tommy's issues. Things got so bad over this last trip to California that I told the doctor I wanted to move forward with testing for actual food allergies/intolerances.
In order to do that, we have to reintroduce both lactose and gluten. Right now Tommy is doing very well, so if he has a severe lactose intolerance we should be able to tell in the next few weeks. Lactose intolerance is not something we are particularly worried about because all humans have a lactose intolerance. If you don't believe me try this experiment: drink a gallon of milk in one sitting. The results will be ugly. This week we have started Tommy off with cheeses and yogurt, both of which are low in lactose. So far he is doing fine. This is a huge blessing, because if this continues it means I don't have to make his yogurt anymore. I probably still will when I have time, but I don't always have time. I am hoping milk goes over well, but I probably won't try giving him that until mid-next week when his carton of Lactaid runs out. At $4 a half-gallon he is going to finish it (yes, that's $8 a gallon- imagine what that will run us when he is a teenager). I would prefer not to find out!

Friday, 1 October 2010

Butter is Better

Over the past year we have tried numerous lotions, creams, and oils on Tommy's skin. Many have worked wonderfully, and others not at all, but I found that most of the creams that worked the best were filled with lots of chemicals that I would prefer Tommy not put on his body or in his mouth. And yes, invariably each day some lotion gets into his mouth. Many of the lotions actually have a sweet taste (yes, I've tried them because I wondered why he was so compelled to shovel them into his mouth) that encourages snacking. Yuck.

Another mom who had adopted from Uganda shared that she had been making her own lotions from raw shea butter. I figured I could do it too. But I put it off. It turns out you have to order five pounds of the stuff ($$) and then you have to get other natural ingredients and combine them, and eventually it all seemed a little too daunting to me. Finally, after months of contemplating this (and combating a recent outbreak of rash on Tommy's stomach and neck) I bit the bullet and ordered five pounds of raw shea butter. It set me back almost fifty bucks. Ouch. Especially compared to a bottle of lotion.

However, since the package arrived I have become a convert. First, it smells wonderful. Very nutty. Second, you can actually just chip off a little piece (it is a solid at room temperature) and rub it straight on skin. The body heat melts the butter, and you get moisturized. This does take longer than a lotion application though, and I don't like to waste time in the morning. So, I searched the internet and found a recipe for whipped shea body butter that did not require too many odd ingredients. Then I modified it even more to use things I had around the house. I also cut out a few of the steps, because I couldn't find my double boiler and I was feeling too lazy to search for it. I've found that most things that "require" a double boiler can actually be done in a microwave, as long as you watch very carefully and stir often. We've been using the body butter I whipped up for almost a week, with fantastic results. Tommy's skin looks great, and we've only had to apply it once a day. It is a bit oily on my skin, but with the dry air of winter coming that won't be an issue for long. This only used up about six ounces of the shea butter, so I imagine I will be making a lot more of this in the coming months. This recipe made a good amount of lotion from 6oz of raw butter. I'm not entirely sure how long it will last, but I think at least three weeks.

My recipe/technique for whipped shea body butter:

6oz raw shea butter (apparently there are different colors...mine is an off-white)

4 oz oil. I used a combo of olive, vitamin e, and another body oil (proprietary blend, now that I have intellectual property lawyer reading my blog I can't be too careful).

1 tsp cornstarch

Place the shea in a microwave-safe bowl. Melt slightly (I did 30 seconds, but my microwave is weak), stir. Repeat until the shea is liquid. Stir in the oil. Add cornstarch. Place in a chilled-mixer bowl, place in stand mixer and whip until thick and fluffy. I let mine go for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Put a small supply in an airtight container and store at room temp, place the bulk in the fridge to keep it fresh.