Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What are the Best Referral Gifts

Since all I do know is think about the referral. I am trying to figure out the best gift to send to the children to let them know that I am on my way.

Here are a few things that I am considering:
  1. Me. I am hoping on a plane right after I receive the referral to meet them.
  2. My father. He is going with me.
  3. Picture of me in a talking picture frame with me talking of course.
  4. A picture book with pictures of the house and their room.
  5. Snow globe with a pictures in it. Isn't every kid fascinated by a snow globe? Sort of a warm up to a Chicago blizzard like it looks like we are having tonight.
  6. Matching bracelets or necklaces. I would have the same to help them recognize me. I like the idea of ID bracelets, name bracelets, or necklaces with a cross charm.
  7. Writing a children's book for them illustrated by my father. My favorite idea.
  8. Something fun that they can share with the other kids like a case of bubbles.
  9. If I'm feeling really brave, I could sent them a tape of me singing them song or a few nursery rhymes.
Any ideas? What did you send?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Officially Waiting for a Referral

It's time to wait...and wait...and wait...
When I began the process I was told that the wait for a referral would be between 0-6 months. For my own sanity I focus on the far end of that range. It's hard to believe that I am almost at the two month mark already.

I think I will be able to deal with the wait pretty well for the first 4-5 months. I have a lot of things to do and I know that the time will go by quickly. Without the referral, I don't know the gender of the children or their exact ages. I am open to either gender so I may be referred two boys, two girls, or a set. I am requesting children that are older than two and younger than six and may receive a referral for anything in between. There is a difference in preparing for twin two year olds and making plans for one 3 and one 6 year old. You know what I mean.

With that in mind there are so many things that I am finding it difficult to resist:
  • Buying bedroom furniture and choosing colors.
  • Walking into children's stores and toy departments.
  • Buying cute outfits at JC Penny's (because I walked into the children's department) that were all on sale for $2-5 dollars. I had to call my friend for an intervention.
  • Getting a fixed picture in my head of who they may be. I want to be able to love and embrace them as they are rather than have them live up to some crazy expectation.
  • Calling them by names that may not fit them (currently they are the Kende Poohs).
  • Purchasing toys, BOOKS, and games of any kind.
  • Looking at too many pictures from other families, wishing that I had pictures of my own.
  • Blogging and commenting on the adoption forums!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Who's Children Are They Now

When I decided to adopt and then stumbled on the Ethiopia program it completely sucked me in. I found myself reading everything that I could about the country and trying to understand how adoption served the children and the country. I could never imagine waking up as a child and my mother, father, and other families members were no longer around.

Here is a video about Ethiopia and the AIDS orphans. I'm not sure how anyone could watch this video and not be touched to the core. I'm not sure how anyone could watch and not feel that they must do something.

In the video you will meet the woman who started Abebech Gobena (her name) Orphanage . She began her mission by picking up two children who were clinging to their deceased parents. From that and with no resources at all she began the orphanage that now has six separate facilities and has taken in more than 5,300 children since 1988. You can learn more about her story through a MetaCafe video.

Transracial Adoption -- What's Your Preference?

Get ready for an eye-opening experience.
Project Implicit has created a series of Assessments to evaluate whether or not one has a preference for one race, culture, skin-tone, or religion over another. It is really interesting in the way that you move the through the online assessment. You get your results immediately.

FROM THE SITE: Psychologists understand that people may not say what's on their minds either because they are unwilling or because they are unable to do so. The IAT measures implicit attitudes and beliefs that people are either unwilling or unable to report.

Twilight Zone Politics

Obama Wins South Carolina in a Game of Twilight Zone Politics.

I'm sure that I must be in the twilight zone. I've heard of slanted reporting but I think this is going a bit too far. As I follow the primary races, Barak Obabma won the South Carolina primary getting 55% of the vote to Hillary Clinton's 27%. He got 55% of the vote and still, every news story that I am seeing is attempting to diminish his win.

There have been several statements repeated on newscasts that have me mad:

  1. He only got 24% of the white vote. He will need more votes from white America if he wants to legitimize his campaign.

    Do the votes of African American people count differently in South Carolina? Why does he need one groups vote over another to be legitimate? I was under the silly impression that you needed more votes than the competition and rarely do you see one candidate when 2:1.

  2. He won because he got 80% of the African American vote.

    Impressive, I think. I don't know of a white candidate that received 80% of the white vote, 80% of the female vote, or 80% of the male vote. Why is this a bigger story than the fact that Obama almost doubled the number of male and female votes that Hillary received?

  3. The South Carolina primary isn't representative of Super Tuesday and we'll have to see what millions of American's do on February 5.

    Perhaps that's true but let's look at what happened in South Carolina. Barak Obama received 294,000 votes which was more votes than ALL the votes that were casts in the 2004 South Carolina democratic primary (290,000). Can the man get credit for anything?

  4. It seems that Bill Clinton has gotten in Barak Obama's head and he can't shake him.

    Really? Does that also explain why Hillary Clinton showed no grace and could not even offer a concession speech? The media seems to think that it was the Clinton's way of letting Barak know that his win was insignificant. Why wasn't it just being a sore loser?

  5. Barak Obama still has a lot of ground to make up if he is truly going to be in contention for the White House.

    He has almost twice as many electoral votes than she does. It may be early in the race, but the fact that he is leading her by a pretty good margin seems to only be mentioned as a side issue.
Mmmmmm.........At least all of us are not absolutely crazy. Here are stats from CNN and MSNBC polls:
  • MALE VOTE: Obama 54%, Clinton 23%, Edwardss 23%
  • FEMALE VOTE: Obama 54%, Clinton 30%, Edwards 16%
  • BLACK VOTE: Obama 81%, Clinton 17%, Edwards 1%
  • WHITE VOTE: Obama 24%, Clinton 36%, Edwards 29%
My headline would be, "Barack Obama trounced Hillary Clinton in every category."

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Ethiopian Reflections

Ethiopian Boy Doll
There is an online store called Ethiopian Reflections. They have variety of unique Ethiopian gifts and authentic clothing. Several months ago I read an article about a the first ever plastic doll that was being manufactured in Ethiopia. Senzero is a boy doll that comes with a CD to teach Ethiopian customs, history and culture. In the CD Senzero does a traditional Ethiopian dance and moves his shoulders up and down. Children can push his head backwards and forwards, and lift his knees in the air like traditional dancers from the west of the country - with Ethiopian countryside scenes rolling across the background.

Ethiopian Girl Doll
There is never a shortage of dolls for girls but Ethidolls has come out with an Ethiopian doll named Makeda: The Queen of Sheba. More than just a doll it is considered a collectible and has a hefty $100+ price tag. Like the Senzero doll it comes with a book and CD about Makeda's rise to the throne and her Journey to Jerusalem to visit King Solomon.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Look Who's Adopting

The trend for single mom adoptions is growing in the US. In his Southern Digest article, Thomas Lester interviews several women who have decided to parent as singles.

Of the 50,000 children of all ages permanently placed in U.S. homes through public adoptions in 2001, 32 percent were adopted by single women--and 55 percent of those women were black, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Children's Bureau.

The federal government figures show that half of the single, black women who adopted were, like Harris, between 30 and 50. Continue Reading the Article

The Color of My Culture

Do African Americans have a culture that is unique to them and their experience? I believe that we do.

Several months ago I read a post from a woman that bothered me a great deal. She was writing in response to a black woman who had been raised in a transracial family. She recited the standard, "We are all the same and people should not focus on race." Someone in the chain of respondents mentioned something about black culture and the first woman asked, "do black people have a culture? We are all Americans." It reminded me of a woman that I worked with many years ago that asked me a similar question. She wanted to know, "What is the big deal about black culture, smoking, drinking, drugs? Why would you celebrate that?"

I have finally decided to respond. Below is a my answer that includes everything that I remember growing up in America as a little black girl. I've shared this with several friends from different parts of the country and they all immediately connected with the words. I read it to my father and he said that he was so true and emotional for him.

I have also added links, so that anyone can learn more if they want. In reading it would be interested to hear how much of it is familiar to your own experience. I'd also like to hear if it provides any value for adoptive parents that will race children from different colors.

The Color of My Culture
Valarie A. Washington

My culture is colored by the family that raised me. It is the soulful blackness of the church that loved me and the colorful mix of the the foods and flavors that nourished me. My culture is the red-hot rhythmic dance of a people, the jazzy blues of music that beats in my heart, and the brown-eyed melodies of life that I learned how to sing.

The color of my culture is dark green and life affirming like collard greens on Thanksgiving. It's rich and strong in orange fibrous keratin like yams on Sunday afternoon. It is golden yellow like fresh cornbread crisp from that old cast iron skillet, and it is the conspicuous black spot staring back at me from black-eyed peas cooked on New Years day. My culture is as colorful as any soul food dinner served on mix-matched plates and as shiny as the Reynold's wrap we use to take our plates to go. It's sour green pickles, wine candy, red kool-aid, grape now-n-laters, red-hots, lemon heads, and bomb-pops. Continue.

To Name or Rename

Adoptive parents are sometimes hurt when they tell their families about their plans to adopt or they begin to discuss issues about ethnicity and whether or not they should change the names of their children. I wrote this post in one of the forums in response to the many stories that we hear. Someone said that I should add it here, so her you go.

On naming your children and even on telling your families about your plans to adopt who and from where, here is the rule I've always used for myself. I never discuss my decisions with anyone until I've done my own research and have made a decision based upon what makes sense for me and my life. By the time I tell anyone anything about my plans I am so committed and sure about what I want to do that other people's comments don't even phase me. I sometimes find there thoughts interesting or humorous but in most cases people that you are pouring your feelings out to:

  1. Will not have to live with any of the ramifications of your decision.
  2. Aren't really that vested in the process.
  3. Have so many issues to deal with in their own lives that this is nothing but idle chatter for them and they never even give what they say a second thought while you are off worrying about it.
No matter what you decide someone will always disagree. It's possible that even you will wish that you had or had not taken a different path. One person mentioned that there are many studies that speak to the impact on ethnic names and how they are viewed in the school system or job market. To that I say, that people will give you a statistic of 30% of children with this or that name... but they never tell you what happened to the other 70%.

Today there is a man named Barak Obama and another man named Mitt (using his middle name) contending for the White House. There is a Secretary of State named Condeleeza and a congressman named Kweisi Mfume who gave up his American name to claim an African one. By contrast their are John's, Mary's and Jane's that haven't fared so well. Yes there are people who may look negatively on a name but always remember that if they do, the fact that they do speaks to their limitations as a person and not the limitations of the name or the child.

I think that there has to be a difference in sharing thoughts, plans, and ideas and looking to others for validation. This process is tough enough. We may always want support and excitement from others but we cannot expect it nor can we be upset when we don't get it.

My mother used to tell me when I was young, that when people come to you to talk about their issues, they are not really interested in your opinion they just want to be heard. I believe like in the stories that are often reported here that my mother was probably right...as usual.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Getting A Little Personal: The Prelude

This is just a quick note to the few who do read my blog. These post have a little different tone than the typical post that I do about adoption. So, I moved to them to a different blog that I am calling, "The Color of my Culture." It gives my unique perspective on race, how it affects the self-identify of children, and what some of the long and short-term consequences can be.

The Prelude
Part 1: Early Education
Part 2: MisEducation
Part 3: Educating Them & Us
Part 4: Home Schooling
Part 5: Return to Education
Part 6: Education of a Mayor

Through these articles you do find out why I became so heavily involved in working with children and why I was so committed to the idea of adoption at an early age.
  • I lived in an all black working-class neighborhood and went to an all white school in an upper middle-class neighborhood.
  • My father married a white woman with three children in 1970's Indianapolis, so I was part of two transracial families from age 10 into adulthood. Whew...we survived it!
  • My father's mother was mixed (Cherokee, Scottish, Black) and the politics of that were very present in almost all of my interactions with my grandmother. For black readers, my grandmother was COLOR STRUCK and not ashamed to let you know it.
  • Both of my parents interacted socially with friends of different races but RARELY was race ever discussed in our home while I was growing up. Except for the white friends that were no longer allowed to visit my stepmother after she married a black man.
  • I attended a traditional black church where I was told that, "I could do all things through Christ..." I was told that I was created in God's image and to never hide my light under a bushel.
Through this series of posts I hope to give at least a glimpse into the complexities and hurdles of being black in America.

Don't laugh at this picture of me with the Mayor of Indianapolis. I was 16 and had won the ACTO-SO award for writing. ACT-SO is the Afro-Academic, Cultural Technological and Scientific Olympics.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Toys for our Ethiopian Children

I am always on the look out for toys, games, and books that we can give to our Ethio babies.

I found these dolls at Kwanzaa Kids. To help children learn how to dress.

Someone else had asked about action figures. I'd never seen these before. Use the search box to find the Mighty World action figures. They have Mighty World Construction and Lewis is the African American foreman. There is Mike the K-9 officer. These are really cute.

One family was talking about purchasing dolls and gifts for all the children at the orphanage.If you are looking for things that you can buy in bulk to take on your trip try Dollar Day. You just have to register to see the prices. Most things are around a dollar and they come by the case.

The biggest list of dolls that I found for all ethnic groups is from Dolls Like Me.

A Shot In the Arm

What vaccinations are needed for traveling to Ethiopia?

I still probably have several months before my referral and travel to Ethiopia. It's time to go and gets shots. You have to start early because you need a series of shots and they have to be spread out over the months.

My father called to let me know that he had gotten his first shots. He's ahead of me and I'm okay with that. He paid someone $50 to stick him in the arm but he told me they used an extra sharp needle so it wasn't that bad.

Here is the run down of the shots that we need.
We have decided to take the combined Hep A and Hep B shots. It means 3 shots instead of 5. I've also found out that county health departments are about half as much as going to travel clinics.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sending Messages About Race

I found this interesting study conducted in Baltimore about children of color and the messages that they receive about race.

Young Black Children's Development Affected by Messages on Race.

I thought it provides a research-based contact to the series of post that I'm currently writing. In the article the researcher writes,

Racial socialization can be described as the practice of communicating messages about race to children "who are black in a society in which being black has negative connotations," according to the study, quoting a noted child development expert. Depending on parents' values, racial socialization can emphasize achievement, morality, racial equality and self-esteem; the minority experience, including awareness of discrimination; or black culture.
The key to the statement above that I believe is most overlooked, is that being black brings with it a negative connotation. A connotation that is not true but accepted. Because it is widely accepted, that is why people report being color blind or not wanting to focus on race. That is why Black Americans hate to hear those statements.
The issue isn't being black, the problem is that people associate being black with something negative.
  • In a colorblind society, people of color (like me) cease to exist.
  • When someone says don't focus on your color or race, they are really saying, "why focus on something so negative it will only bring you down."
All parents involved in transracial adoptions will eventually have to confront that issue. For those of us with dark skin, we don't have to focus on it. All we have to do is accept it and live in it on a daily basis. Black skin is not a straight jacket that one has to free him/herself from.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Getting A Little Personal: Part 1 Early Education

Part 2: MisEducation
Part 3: Educating Them & Us
Part 4: Home Schooling
Part 5: Return to Education
Part 6: Education of a Mayor

I grew up as a little girl in a predominately black neighborhood in Indianapolis. I lived in the same house from the time I was born in 1966 until I left for college in 1984. We didn't live in that area because we tried to segregate ourselves, we lived there because that is the area of the city carved out for people with dark skin like me. There was a little neighborhood school about a mile and a half away. All the kids from neighborhood went to school #73. I was there for the first part of kindergarten, the last half of fifth grade, and all of sixth grade. What I learned in those years and through those school moves had a great impact and taught me a lot about the city and country that I was growing up in.

Imagine this. I was five years old at my neighborhood school and some how it was determined that I knew everything they were teaching the kids. I knew how to read at the age of 3.5, I knew my colors, numbers, and whatever else I was supposed to know. I clearly remember that a woman would come and take me out of my classroom and take me to a separate room where I was asked a lot of questions and asked to write stories, and do drills with flip cards. What I didn't know was that I was being assessed by the school board. The school board determined that I was exceptionally gifted and that my neighborhood school would not provide the intellectual challenge that I needed. A decision was made to remove me from my neighborhood school and transfer me to a school that seemed so far away. It was like a different world to me. The houses and trees were huge and all the kids at the school were white. There were a couple of other brown faces like Aaron and Vivica Foxx who is now a big time actress.

This was the first time that I was asked to navigate issues that in 2008 we are still dealing with as a country. At five years old in 1971 I went to a school that allowed children to progress at their own rate. Great right? Here is the real deal. This school was only about 6 miles from my house. It was a public school just like school #73 in the exact same school system. Still, things were very different. Why or how is it that a this school only a few miles away offered such incredible opportunities to students that the kids in my neighborhood would ever know about? Something else that I never knew was that my parents (my mother) had GONE to the school board and complained about the substandard conditions and the low expectations at my neighborhood school. That's why I was tested and moved. That's the ONLY reason why I was tested and moved. I also learned that every year that I was at that school, out learning my neighborhood friends my mother had to trek down to the school board and get a special dispensation to keep me there.

If you don't see the trouble with any of this let me point it out:
  1. I was moved because I was too intelligent for the school, but no one else at my neighborhood school was tested. Was I really so smart or was the school poor? If the school was providing a sub-standard education, should anyone have been left at that school?
  2. In the same school system should one school get the hand me downs from the one school or should they all get the same resources? (More on this in a bit)
  3. What was really different between the kids in my neighborhood and the kids at the new school? Did the white kids get tested to before they were allowed to attend this school? That's rhetorical but the answer is NO. They did not have to be tested. Smart or dumb the white children only had to live in the vicinity. They were given access simply because of where they lived, I had to prove that I was smart enough.
  4. What is it like to be the only brown brownie in your brownie troop? How does it feel to a nine year old to have great friends at school who you can visit but they are not allowed (by their families) to visit you because you live in a black neighborhood? What do both sets of children learn from the experience?
  5. What is it like to go to school with people from a VERY different cultural experience and then have to live in the neighborhood with people that share your culture?
It is difficult for a small child to absorb all of that and why they are really not accepted in the neighborhood or the school.

Back to number 2. Because of some really outrageous things that happened to me at this school, my mother had to remove me in the 5th grade. I will never forget that day walking into Mr. Dillanger's class as the new kid, living in, but somewhat disconnected from the neighborhood perspective of my friends. I was about to learn how the difference in the way that we were being educated impacted our future.

Mr. Dillanger's Long Divison
Here's what happens very early. Mr. Dillanger's class was learning division, something we had mastered in 3rd grade at the other school. I was asked to go to the board and a said the problem wrong. I said something like, "divide 5 by twenty" instead of the other way around. He told me that I was wrong and said that it couldn't be done. He said, "then show me." I realized my mistake but it was no big deal because I had long ago learned how to do division using decimals. I made the problem 5.0/20. My ability to do that was immediately scolded. I was told that I was showing off and that his students were not at that point and I would confuse them.

Ah - ha the difference! At #106, my white school we were taught to challenge the limits, to question, to reach, to explore, to LEARN. Here at my neighborhood school that had hand-me-down books, the black students were already being taught not to "show off" by being too intelligent. It was being taught by the teachers. They were being taught to color only within the lines and never reach beyond what they were given. That is where a serious divide begins.

This is not some sad tale of my childhood. It is only a small glimpse into what made me so resilient and why I believe that I can help my new children figure out how to make their way it what will seem like a very new world.

This relates to Ethiopia adoption or transracial adoption in general because I was the conspicuous child. The difference was that after my daily school experiences, I went into a home with a strong mother, I played for hours with black children in my neighborhood, I participated in little league clubs that were predominately black, and I attended a black church. There was a balance to the messages that I was receiving about who I was and who I should be.

Thank God!

Tucker Carlson and The Race of America

I don't want to politicize my site but I am watching Tucker Carlson talking with Pat Buchanan and some other guy. I am outraged that they are attacking Barak Obama for attending a traditional black church. They are actually saying that if a white candidate went to a white church he would be finished.

Oh please! Pat Buchanan how many black people attend your church? How many are Mitt's, Huckabee's, or McCain's. Give me a break. I can walk into a workplace where every manager and the majority of employees are white and no one thinks a thing of it.

I am a part of an adoption community where the majority of adoptive families are white and the children are Ethiopian. They are African, they are black. Many of the adoptive families proudly state that they live in all white communities, their children attend all white schools, and they see no problem with it. I have heard many families talk about horrible comments made by their families and the decision to adopt black children. They believe that all you have to do is to give people strong values and their race is irrelevant. Get ready for a rude awakening.

Okay, this is a rant but it is based upon the fact that there is a dual system in this country. If I go to a black church, I am a segregationist but I can adopt children and feel no real need to interact with people of color and that is acceptable.

Sorry guys, but I just had to get that off my chest. No. I do not have any issues with the race of people who adopt. I feel for the children who will grow up as the only one and constantly have to answer questions about their ethnicity, their hair, their views, and why they feel the way that they do.

The Right to Vote: My Right Denied

It's 2008 and the presidential election season is in full swing. In the year that I will bring little brown babies home from Ethiopia there are both a woman and black man in a race for the democratic nomination for president. Barak Obama is half Kenyan and grew up much of his life abroad. I so identify with him and his personal story and could not be happier that he is truly in the race.

I am terribly disappointed in a couple of things that have happened over the last couple of days in the campaign. I won't elaborate but I have read ridiculous stories accusing him of some covert terrorist ideas because he is named Barak Hussein Obama, Jr. He was named after his father and not Sadam Hussein. The comparison is absolutely ridiculous. Last night I have to admit that I was a little ticked off (a lot ticked off) that they began to attack his church. Bill O'Rielly said that Barak's minister is some type of nut that needs to be investigated. I live in Chicago and am familiar with Trinity United Church of Christ. I have many friends that go there and I have actually spoken to groups of young women there on a couple of occasions. It is a church that does amazing work in the black community. It is a wonderfully progressive church with a large congregation of Bible believing Christians. I venture to guess that they have done more to support people and communities than Bill O'Riely. If it matters, it is also Oprah Winfrey's church.

Anyway today I went over to the post office and right next door they had a space set-up for early primary voting. I was told that all I needed to vote was my drivers license which I produced. The woman looked my address up in the computer and my mother's name came up but not my name. My mother died three years ago and lived in Illinois for all of 17 months. I have been here for 20 years and lived in my home for almost 12 years. I was not on the list of registered voters. This makes no sense to me. The three or four people there struggled to come up with a reason why my deceased mother showed up as a registered voter but not me.

One guy said he believes I may have been deleted by accident instead of my mother. Another lady made a call to the county and they told her that no one is EVER deleted. Mmmmm.....I'm not there so I must have been deleted. I was then told by one person that I could come back with my voter's registration card. But, the gentleman in charge said that even if I had the card but did not show up in their database that I would not be allowed to vote. What.....!?!

If I would like to vote in the primary I am now being told that I have to drive to the county office and re-register to vote. Even with a voter's registration card in my hand this is what I am being told. What...!?!

And Bill O'Riely thinks that Barak Obama and his minister Jeremiah Wright are the problem. Give me a break!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Reading Is Fundamental

When I was a kid there was nothing that I liked more than books. I wasn't really into dolls and can't really think of a particular toy that I was crazy about, but I loved books. When I was about eight or nine I would walk a few blocks from the babysitter's house to the library. I would stay in there until it was time for my mother to come an get me.

I would take a stack of 10 or 11 books (whatever you were allowed) to the counter to check out. I was really tiny as a little girl and I liked thick books. I'd struggle up to the counter barely able to see over the stack. There was one nice librarian that would always say, "Valarie, let me keep some of your books right here so you won't have to carry them all." I never went for that. I read so fast and I was afraid that I would run out of books. I remember that I would read 2 or 3 books at the same time to keep from getting bored. I think I still do that today.

Anyway, when I thought about getting the kids one of the first things that I thought about was BOOKS. Not books that I would read but really hoping that they would develop the same love for books and reading that I had. With English not being the kids first language, I've decided to order as many books as I can that are written in Amharic. Not only because of the language but also because of the culture relayed in the stories through the characters and the artwork. I am hoping to find someone here who speaks Amharic and have them read several of the books on tape. I imagine sitting down with the kids at night and reading an American story and also reading along with one of the Amharic stories with them.

I found this link to several Amharic books, let's see how many of them I have before the kids come home.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Is Adoption the Answer to Ethiopia's Problems?

In a recent question posed to adoptive parents, someone asked if adoption was really the answer to the poverty in Ethiopia? The questioner wanted to know if the money that we spend on adoptions would not be better used to support the families and keep the children in Ethiopia. The question stemmed from a concern that some children are being relinquished by parents who are simply too poor to care for them. Some adoptive parents struggle with the fact that many of the children are not true orphans (no family) as they had first believed.

My Answer: I don't think that adoption is an answer to poverty anymore than food aid is an answer to poverty. I believe that adoption is a way to place children in homes and change the course of their lives. At least to us it seems that way, but I believe that the course of our lives including the adoption was always a part of God's plan for the children, their birth parents, and for us.

I broke this into three parts. You can continue to read:

Friday, January 11, 2008

Winter into Spring

I have to admit that I really struggled through this holiday season. Three years ago my mother died the day after Christmas and even though I fight hard to not allow myself to get down, the sadness comes over me like a big wave. This year was made even a little tougher because an older woman who has become a very cherished friend lost her mother almost on the same day. Her mother's funeral was actually on the same day as my mother's in 2004. As I sat at her mother's funeral I just couldn't fight back the emotion. On January 4, 2005 just three years ago I had sat in the same seat as her. On the exact same day I too had to listen as they eulogized my mother.

On top of all of that, today would be my mother's 74th birthday. I thought that in honor of her birthday I would share a story that I've told so many times since her passing. My mother was terminally ill but always remained in great spirits. Though she was very sick, she puzzled the doctors because she never really showed the signs of the illness until a few weeks before she died. Weeks before she died she was still taking walks around the block. About a month before she died she explained to me that she knew that she was going to have to go but she wanted to wait until the spring. It was clear that she really only had weeks and it was just November. My mother became sicker and weaker but she just kept holding on. The chaplain, the doctors, her nurses could not understand how she was holding on.

To help you understand my mother better, she was concerned that if she died in the winter that no one would come to her funeral. My mother envisioned a big party where she was the guest of honor. She had picked out the perfect dress, songs, pictures, and even written her own obituary. That early December morning when my mother died, it was about 15 degree in Chicago. I ran around for the next couple of days making all of the preparations and getting myself ready to go to Indianapolis where my mother would be buried. I happened to look at the temperature control on my car and it was 72 degrees outside. It was 72 degrees in Chicago on December 30, 2004! God had changed a Chicago winter into spring. The news reports said that 15 was not a record low and that 72 was not a record high, but never in history had there been such a huge gap between in such a short period of time. The same spring weather that we were experiencing in Chicago was also being felt in Indianapolis. That day the sun was out and it was just like a SPRING day. The next day after everyone had traveled back home safely there was a huge ice storm -- winter had returned.

I always share this story because it is a testament to the faithfulness of God. When we can't figure out how or even if God will show up, he shows up in the most unthinkable ways. Even this week in Chicago it has been unseasonably warm and I can't help but think it is like my mother's personal message to never give up and never to lose faith.

I tell the story because sometimes I need to remind myself that even when I can't see it, God is busy working life out on my behalf. I'm trying my best but I have to admit that today I'm having to fight hard to do that.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Is Adoption the Answer to Ethiopia's Problems? Part 2 of 3

Part 1: The Question for Adoptive Parents
Part 2: Adoption Plan for Moses
Part 3: The Master Plan for Our Children

Moses Was Adopted and He Married an Ethiopian Woman

The Bible is filled with accounts of children and the circumstances of their births. One of the most known stories is that of Moses the Hebrew who interestingly enough married a woman from Ethiopia. When Moses, the Hebrew was born, to save him from certain death, his mother placed him in a basket and sent him afloat on the Nile River. She thought that she was sending him to safety.

As the story goes, Moses was pulled from the water by Pharaoh's daughter, the same Pharaoh that wanted to kill him and all of the other first born Hebrew sons. Pharaoh's daughter found the abandoned baby floating on the water. She pulled him to safety, adopted and raised him as her son. He was raised in the house of Pharaoh getting stronger. Without even knowing it, Moses was simultaneously being nursed at the bosom of his natural Hebrew mother while learning to be an Egyptian ruler. Think of the contrast of what he must have learned.

All of it was the unfolding of God's plan for Moses and his life. Moses who had been raised to rule and oppress, freed the same Hebrew people he had been raised to rule over. Instead of being the great ruler he is known for telling Pharaoh to let the people go. That was always God's plan.

God's plan was not altered because of the circumstances surrounding Moses but rather Moses was strengthened and shaped because of them.

Moses grew up and walked right into his purpose. He finally had a conversation with God where God finally reveals His plan. God tells Moses that he is to bring the people out of Egypt. Look at what God says to Moses in Exodus 3:17. I think is so consistent with this Ethiopian adoption struggle.

God said to Moses, tell them that:
  • I have seen the affliction of my people in (Egypt)
  • I know their sorrows and I have heard their cries
  • I AM come down to deliver them
  • I will bring them up out of that land into a good land flowing with milk and honey
  • Come now, I will send thee into the land of (Egypt) to bring the children of (Israel) out of that land.
Are these all things that God might say about us in Ethiopia? What is important to me in this is that God makes it clear who is going to save and deliver. While God is working through Moses, the plan and the power all comes from God.

God called Moses to be a witness and a vessel but not the savior. That's how I feel about this adoption.

But, like some of the parents involved in the discussion, Moses wasn't sure that he was doing the right thing. He momentarily got caught up in all the issues that made this plan improbable. He could have wasted time asking God why his mother put him in the basket, why Pharaoh's daughter pulled him out, or how his mother could go to the palace and breast feed him. Instead, Moses confessed his uncertainty and ask God why him? Moses told God that people would want to know under what authority they should follow him. Just like people ask us why we are adopting.
And God said, "I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of (Egypt)... - Exodus 3:12
He asked God what he should say and who should he say had sent him? And, in a way that only God can speak he told Moses to simply say, "I AM sent me to you!"

When my children begin to ask questions, this is how I will explain the story to them. I will tell them that God has a special plan for their life. Adoption is only one small part of that plan.

Is Adoption the Answer to Ethiopia's Problems? Part 3 of 3

Adoption Is Only Part of the Master Plan

All children are fearfully and wonderfully made. All for purpose, all with a plan, and all in God's time. Since we as adoptive parents are also children of the Most High, then he has a plan for us too.

Psalm 139
says that from the moment a child is formed in his mother's womb, God knows the child intimately. There is no height or depth; no distance, time, or darkness that can hide us from the plans that God has for us. In the scripture David talks about how overwhelming it is to know that God knew him so well and created him with a special plan and purpose in mind.

If you read Psalm 139 you will discover that it says that there is no hiding place, no way around the plan that God has ordained. So, that even a child in Ethiopia is not outside the will that God has on the child. And that I, here in America am not so far away that God cannot find a way to join us together.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139: 13-16

Some adoptive parents get caught up with or take issue with why the children are available, why the parents gave them up, whether or not the parents were fit or unfit. Some judge whether the parents reasons are good enough, whether they tried hard enough, or whether they might have found another option. I take no issue with the birth families. I love them for their strength and thank God for them daily.

It's easy for me because I believe that all the children are God's children and were created for his purpose. Children do not belong to us they come through us and are entrusted to us by God to care for and nurture until they fulfill His plan. I believe that the children in Ethiopia were always planned for me and for whatever reason they came into the world nurtured first by different parents until it was time for them to move from that place. That is why it is so easy to love them before ever knowing them. I could get lost in what, why, and how about the circumstances, but I decided to just trust God.

After writing this article I did a Google search on adopted children in the Bible. I found this great article that also uses the story of Moses to help a child better understand adoption. You can read the article.

Ethiopian Baby Names: Meet Pooh 1 & Pooh 2

Every little girl and grown woman for that matter has thought about what they might name their children. Adoptive parents wonder if they will change the names or keep those that the children have. I am no different. I have decided that I would like for my children to have similar names and am very partial to Kendra and Kendall.

In the months going through the process I have wavered back and forth and of course I can't really make a decision until I see the children. The age that they are at time of placement also factors into the decision. I have this conversation with a good friend of mine who finally told me that she doesn't care what I decide to name them. As far as she is concerned my children (who I have yet to adopt) are affectionately called Kendi Pooh and Kendi Pooh 2.

I told her that Kendra and Kendall work for two girls or a boy and girl but not if I have two boys. She said, "No matter, they will still be Kendi Pooh and Kendi Pooh 2!" Other friends have picked up on this and they now call the kids The Kendi Poohs or Pooh 1 and Pooh 2. It's hilarious. I get at least three calls a day asking for status on the Kendi Poohs.

I have also found out that Kendi is an actual male name in Ethiopia (Tigran). If it comes down to it, that might solve my two boy name dilemma and please my friends greatly.
  • Kendra - Knowledge and Understanding
  • Kendall - Exalted
  • Kende - The Loved One
I just hope the kids have a good sense of humor because they will probably always be known as Pooh 1 and Pooh 2.

To get information on Ethiopian names you might try Rebekkah's Ethiopian Name Site or AACASA's Ethiopian Name Site.

Friday, January 4, 2008

International Adoption Vocabulary

I have truly developed a new vocabulary that is specific to international adoption. Here are the top 10 new words and phrases:

  1. Home Study - An unscientific study of your emotional and psychological fitness conducted by a social worker. It is all summed up in a report that includes information about your childhood, finances, illnesses (both mental and physical) and a physical look at your home. You'll never get a I-171 without it.

  2. I-600A - An advanced orphan petition that you send to Homeland Security to get approval for bringing a child into the country. Please send check, marriage license, birth certificate and make sure that they are all certified originals.

  3. I-171 - What you anxiously hope will come in the mail and what you would gladly pay extra to have expedited. It says that you have the official green-light of the government to bring a child into the country. It's the answer to the I-600A petition that they also cable directly to the country. It is the gold ticket at the Willie Wonka Chocolate Factory.

  4. CIS - Is the Homeland Security immigration department that processes your I-600A and I-171 too slowly. That is unless you are in Boston. I read that someone got there approval in about a week. Don't count on it though. Check my CIS clock at the top of the blog. Tick...Tock...

  5. Dossier - An elegant sounding name for a big stack of papers that require more paperwork that must sign, notarize, get certified, and get authenticated. I love that when you get a document notarized that then you have to trek to the Secretary of State or some government office so that the clerk behind the class window can examine the notary stamp and then certify or authenticate it. I don't really love it since I had to go twice. Why, you might ask? Because the woman behind the class said that the notaries stamp was not equally black inked on all sides. A story for another day. For others it's worse because they have to hire a Dossier preparer to do all of that and then they pay the preparer to send the information to Washington D.C. for more authentication. Oh yea, your dossier is not complete without the gold ticket!

  6. Approved! - Maybe it is not a new word but it has real meaning now. You wait to have your initial application APPROVED, your home study APPROVED, your health status APPROVED, your I-171 APPROVED and your dossier APPROVED in both countries.

  7. Referral - The word that we care most about, wait the longest to hear, think will never come, and is the answer to our prayers. If you're not waiting for one then it is the notification and identification of the child that we we will be adopting. It includes pictures, medical records, and history.

  8. Court Date - This is a good court date provided everything goes through. It is the day that the Ethiopian courts finalize the adoption.

  9. Travel Date - The date we wait for after waiting for the referral and court date. Can I please just go and get my kids? You can when you get an official travel date. But, you won't get the travel date until an Embassy date has been established.

  10. Visa - It is what you fly half-way around the world to make it on time to the Embassy date to pick up. This is the visa that we get that allows the children to come home to the states. It's what you get when you get in country after you've gotten your referral, your court date, and travel date and after you've loaded too much of the wrong stuff and not enough of the right stuff in your suitcases. It is the first official thing that you do with the new children in their country.
The words and phrases that we really don't want to hear:

  • delay
  • wait list
  • denied
  • re-do, rewrite, resend, re-stamp, re-authenticate
  • fingerprints
  • FBI
  • immigration
  • I'm sorry...
  • It's in the mail.
Please add your own, I know that there are more.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Family Reaction to Ethiopian Adoption

Anyone who knows me knows that when I make a decision about something, I am committed to the decision and move forward. So, it is difficult for me to relate in some ways to the angst that some adoptive parents have when telling their family and friends about their plans to adopt.

I thought that I would share the first conversion that I had with my father about this adoption.

Ring. Ring.

Me: Hey Dad. Busy?

Dad: No, what's up?

Me: I have some news for you.

Dad: Okay. Shoot.

Me: I've decided to adopt.

Dad: (Full of excitement) What? Oh, honey that is just great! Well, as long as you're not trying to go to Africa or something silly like that.

Me: Well, I'm going to Ethiopia.

Dad: Ethiopia...? In Africa...?

Me: Yep and I'm bring home two Ethiopian kids.

Dad: Well, honey I think that is just fantastic. (Pause) Africa? Are you being serious?

Me: Yes sir, I am.

Dad: That is just fantastic. (My father is always the politician)

Me: Hey dad, you wanna go with me to get the kids?

Dad: Really? I wouldn't miss it for the world.


My father at 71 travels the country participating in senior Olympic track meets. Now, my father is so anxious rushing around getting shots and passports. Yesterday we were talking about the trip and he could hardly contain himself when I told him that he could possibly go to the track or see the Ethio Olympic athlete's training facility.

His only request was that we stay in a place with indoor plumbing. Okay Dad. No problem. Then he said, "well I hope they are as happy to see granddaddy as he is to see them." I wasn't sure what my children would call him. Now I know!


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

5 Strange Coincidences of My Birth

Not one of these coincidences ever seemed like a big deal but put together I think that it's all kind of interesting.

  1. I am the third born child of my mother who was the third born child.

  2. I am the youngest child born to my father who is also the youngest child. We are both the youngest grandchildren on our father's side.

  3. I was the only girl in my family with two older brothers, born to my mother who had two brothers and my father who also had two older brothers like his mother that had two brothers.

  4. I was born in February 1966, thirty years after my father who was born in February 1936 which was exactly thirty years after his mother who was born in 1906.

  5. I was born on the 15th day of the month at 7:42am. My son was born on the 15th day of the month and unbelievably at 7:42am.

Pray With Us

We Ask For Your Prayers.

A writer described prayer of intercessors as "Love on its knees in prayer, for others. Pleading on behalf of the needs of someone else."

When you pray please pray for:

  1. The CHILDREN. While adoption is an exciting time for me it can be a scary time for them. My children are so young (3 - 6) they may not truly understand what is happening to them or why. It is natural for the children to feel that they are being removed from everything that they know and being delivered into the hands of a stranger. Pray that God gives them peace, that He calms their fears during this time and that He comforts them. Pray that even as they transition from their natural families and travel from their home villages and into orphan care that they experience JOY that every child should have. Pray for their health and the hands of those adults that guard, nurture, feed, and care for them through this time. Pray that they have an easy transition and that they instantly feel the love and care of all those who wait to embrace them.

  2. The ETHIOPIAN FAMILY. I am so grateful to the birth families that hold these children in their care until they believe that they have done all that they can do. No matter the circumstances, it is never easy to let go of your children or to entrust their care to strangers from a strange land. Pray for the strength and courage of my children's relatives. Pray that God gives them peace. But, these families and the families of the children need your pray that the land that they live on bare fruit, that the get access to water and resources that they need to sustain their lives. Pray for their VICTORY over their circumstances.

  3. The MISSION WORKERS. Pray that God touch the heart, mind, and spirit of everyone that participates in this mission. For the nannies and drivers at the orphanages to the facilitators in the field. Pray for the strength of those on both continents that their minds might be focused on the needs of the children.

  4. ETHIOPIA. Pray that God will heal their land, that he open doors that seem closed, and that he shine light where life seems darkest.

  5. FAITH. This is truly a walk of faith. I'm grateful that the blessings have been many and that the setbacks have been few. Still there is more to come before the children make it home. At every turn pray that God increase my faith and the faith of all of those involved throughout this process.

  6. FAVOR. Pray that God grant us favor through this process. I ask for your prayers of favor with the agencies, the social workers, the coordinators, the facilitators, the government bodies, and any person that I may encounter along the way.
After you pray, thank God for it is already done!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Who's Name is it Anyway?

In adoption naming children may be one of the most important things that we get to do. If we do it could be the most important thing that the child loses. I came across this article today where a judge in Australia has ruled that parents do not have the right to change the names of their adopted children.

Adopt, But Don't Turn Ming Into a Kylie

I also know that many of the parents adopting from Ethiopia are constantly looking for the meaning of Ethiopian names. I found an online resource that may help you discover what your child's name means.

Your Child's Ethiopian Name

You may also want to check out the forum on Topix. To me it is a little hard to follow but you my find more information about names there.

Meaning of Ethiopian Names

Original Court Date: April 18, 2009
Final Court Date: May 18, 2009
[607 total days & 165 days w/IAN]