Sunday, August 17, 2014

Summer Recap 2K14

We are rolling into another school year around here. All the supplies have been bought and backpacks packed. Teachers have been met and classrooms visited. This will be the first year we send all four of our kids here off to school. I am excited for them and happy that they are growing and thriving little people who are more than ready for this. But, I will still have a stash of tissues next to me in the van as inevitably the emotions will come. And, this year I expect they will be BIG. 

We attempted to keep our commitments this summer to a minimum. We had so hoped we would be welcoming home our kids and did not want them to be overwhelmed with the hustle and bustle that so often becomes our norm around here. However, our home and our family continue to wait for the two little kids stuck in the DRC. I will attempt to touch on some of what we did to advocate for them as well as hundreds of other kids stuck in this exit letter suspension. 

Starting in March we began working with Both Ends Burning and Kelly Dempsey. We made contacts in Representative Bruce Braley's office as well as Senator Grassley's. Senator Harkin proved to be much harder to contact and get on board. In April 170 members of Congress sent a letter to the DRC President and Prime Minister - all six of Iowa's elected officials signed on to the letter. To date we have not received any response. 

In May we had another phone call with the Department of State. It has become the norm that these conference calls leave us angry, frustrated and defeated. This was no different. However, over Memorial Day Weekend we heard news of Italian families bringing home their children and soon we learned that 15 kids adopted by American families would also be issued exit letters and allowed to come home. We believe this to be a direct result of Secretary of State discussing this with President Kabila during a visit to Kinshasa. 

In June nearly 70 families converged on Washington DC and over two days we had nearly 100 meetings with Members of Congress. This was an amazing experience! We were able to share photos, stories and plead with our elected officials to HELP us. And many of them were on board. We were able to meet with staffers from the Foreign Affairs committee and Rep. Ed Royce - the Chairman of the House Foreign Relations - personally met with us and shared his commitment to finding a solution. We learned that Kabila would be in the USA in August. 

While in Washington DC we held a candlelight vigil on the capitol of the United States Capitol. It was an incredibly emotional experience seeing all of these precious children's faces and hearing from so many parents begging and pleading for action and for their children. We were able to attract some national media attention as well. 

The next day several parents stayed behind to represent us as the House Foreign Affairs discussed House Resolution 588. They brought pictures to show the Members of Congress who these kids were and they were strongly supported. Everyone agreed and spoke strongly that this suspension must end and that these children must come home. On July 8 this resolution passed the house without opposition. The Senate passed a similar resolution unopposed a few weeks later. 

On July 16 - 167 Members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama asking for his personal involvement in find a solution to this crisis. On July 23 we held a nationwide White House Call In Day - the volunteer operators said the majority of their calls had to do with DRC adoptions. 

Mike and I along with another family from Des Moines met with Bruce Braley to further discuss things he could do to help us and advocate for our family and kids. 

In August President Kabila was in Washington DC for the Africa Leader's Summit. We have learned that in every meeting the adoption crisis was brought up and discussed. I call that a job well done of getting the word out that this IS a problem. We believe it to be a political problem - it is clearly not about what is in the best interests of the children. That was made clear when one family lost their son due to not being able to get him out. He lived when he should have died and he died from something that could have been easily treated had he been able to get the medical care he deserved. It was a senseless, tragic and unnecessary death. And it illustrates how urgent this really is. 

We are making preparations to travel to Kinshasa once again. When we started this process two years ago we thought it would be a 6-9 month process with one short trip. Obviously that timeline has been blown out of the water and we have no idea how many trips it will take to finally be able to bring them home. For now we are anxiously anticipating the day we have our kids back in our arms and the day we are back in Kinshasa. It's a vibrant and beautiful place. We are praying with all that we have that God would move mountains and make a way for these kids to come home. We have already renewed their visas once and are hoping and pleading to not have to do it again. Our God is a God capable of miracles and we are hoping for one and praying for one. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mother's Day and the Wait

Another's Mother's Day has rolled around and I'm still in the Wait. The Wait has been one of hardest things I have ever lived through. It's brought a large amount of growth. It's brought closer friendships. It's brought hard conversations. And it has brought me to my knees pleading with God to move mountains, to make a way for my family to be together, to allow me to fulfill the promises I have made to Him, to myself, to my husband and to two little people who I have given my heart to.

But, we are still here in the Wait. The Wait has also brought a lot of pain, A lot of heartache. A lot of tears. And it has brought me to my knees begging and pleading God to make a way and as the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months the Wait has also brought doubt, frustration, intense pain. And anger. These are not warm fuzzy fun things to feel. 

But, here we are at another Mother's Day weekend - the third since we started this process - and this is by far the hardest one of them yet. I have so many reasons to be thankful and to celebrate this day. To someone from the "outside looking in" it would appear I have every reason to love Mother's Day & to celebrate big. I have four beautiful children that God has blessed me with. I did not endure endless months of fertility struggles although I did endure days when I wasn't sure if myself or my children would make it past labor and delivery. I have been given the gift of watching these four amazing children grow and blossom into some pretty incredible - and sometimes trying - individuals. 

And, anyone from "the outside looking in" would be correct that I do have every reason to celebrate and that I should indeed celebrate being a Mother. But, then why do I wish more than anything else that tomorrow was just another day and that there would not extra emphasis on Mother's? Why do I wish I could just close my eyes, cover my ears and make it all go away? 

Why? Because the Wait has been slowly stealing my joy as well as bringing all of those not so warm and fuzzy feelings. The Wait has told me that I cannot be full of joy and celebration because of what is missing. But what the Wait fails to understand is that even in these uncertain times there are so many things to celebrate and to be joyful about. It is hard to remember this in the day to day but it is still true. There is much to be thankful for and to celebrate and it is ok to do so while aching for what is missing. The Wait would want me to believe that I cannot be happy or joyful while people who are so important are missing. But the Wait is wrong. It is possible and indeed it is ok to be celebrate. 

I can celebrate the four children I have been able to carry in my body and have the privilege of raising every day. I can celebrate the fact Graham and Olivia are my children even if they are not in my arms tomorrow. I can celebrate my own Mom, my husband's mom and our grandmothers that have all played such an important role in our lives. I can celebrate that these women are playing a significant role in my children's lives today. I can celebrate the women who carried and gave birth to two children in west Africa. I can celebrate that they chose life for those two children. And I can celebrate that I have been given the privilege to be their Mom. I can celebrate Mama T who has selflessly been loving and caring for my children until I am able to hold them in my arms forever. I can celebrate that each of my six children has experienced, in one way or another, the love of a mother. 

And, while I celebrate all it means to be a mom and all the women who have played a mothering role in my life it is still ok to ache for what is missing. Celebrating doesn't mean all the pain is negated or gone. But wallowing does not acknowledge all the good that is in my life. 

I will hope and pray and hit my knees pleading with God that this is the last Mother's Day in the Wait. That this time next year will be pure joy and celebration and that there will be no ache for who is missing. But, for this year I will choose joy and I will choose to celebrate even if doing so through bittersweet tears.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Remember the cost

This was my first Easter as an adoptive parent.  I started writing a rather long post yesterday to try and explain the thoughts I have been having, but instead want to leave you with just these two nuggets:

1. Jesus' death was the price of my adoption.
2. Through Jesus' victory over death through his resurrection I can be part of my true Forever Family.

Joyous Easter everyone - may we all remember what was paid for us.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Going Public and a Great Community

If you know my husband and I you will know that neither of us are super gregarious, outgoing people. We tend to be quiet and mostly keep to ourselves. We are both, by nature, introverts. However, when the call came for us to reach out to local media outlets I was all over it. Anything to help my kids. So, I sent an email to someone I had rather randomly connected with awhile back. Right away she was on board and quickly got the green light from producers to move forward.

While we were in St. Louis at an Empowered to Connect Conference we found out our TV interview was going to be much sooner than we originally expected. A few of our friends ended up "breaking in"to our house and getting it all cleaned up and ready for us. Seriously....we have the best village of people here.

So, Shelley came on a Monday morning. By that afternoon the TV station was running 'teasers' and on Tuesday night we were the lead story on the news. It was so surreal to see ourselves on the news. Shelley and her cameraman were here for about an hour and a half so we were curious to know what clips they would choose to use. Overall we were very, very happy with the way our story was portrayed. HUGE thanks to Shelley Russell and the KWWL team for helping us to get our voices heard and letting people know that our kids matter! The next day the NBC news station in Des Moines picked up the story and our story was also covered on WHO Radio. For people who definitely do not try to live in the limelight this was pretty crazy for us!

Here are some links to our video and story and the Congressmen's responses:

Since starting this campaign with Both Ends Burning and Kelly time seems to be going at warp speed. Our petition to Congress was overwhelmingly successful and the Congressional Letter released by Senator Landrieu's office garnered well over 100 signatures (the original goal). All six of Iowa's Congressmen signed on to the letter!! For our specific cases we have been very pleased with the response from Sen. Grassley's office but even more impressed with Rep. Braley's office. My husband has spent quite a bit of time on the phone with his office and they are actively inquiring on our specific case as well as advocating for the larger group of families waiting to bring their children home.

Next week a delegation from the DRC will come to the United States. Many families who have already brought their children home are making last minute arrangements to make it to meetings with members of the delegation. It is our hope they will see how well these children are loved and that they are thriving in their new homes and their new families. Families who are currently stuck in this process are not able to attend meetings but we have hope the delegation will hear how committed we are to loving the children of their country.

Over the last few weeks I have continued to be amazed at how this community has, for the most part, come together in support. This is hard for so many of us and many people are hurting and emotions are running high. However, we have been able to unite and form a cohesive front to show that these children we love really are the most important. People are not "attacking" or lobbing accusations based on agencies or attorneys used. Walls are being broken down and new friendships are forming. These friendships will, in the long run, be great for our children. What a blessing to be connected with many families with ties to Congo & we hope to be able to keep those ties for our children!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


This is something we are very excited about!! Follow the link to check out our t-shirts and place your order by April 19!! We are still a few short of our goal.

Bolingo = LOVE in Lingala

We appreciate all of your support and love. This is a chance to wear it as well ;) 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A few facts

My family is sharing our story with a wide audience as of late. We have two children stuck on the other side of the world. We are legally their parents. They have clearance to enter the United States and yet they aren't being allowed to leave their country. Those are the facts.

It's also a fact that I love those two kids very, very, very much. I love them enough to make the hard decisions if it would come to that.

It's also a fact that besides their dad and me (and a very small handful of people involved in investigating their cases) NO ONE knows their story or the details surrounding the circumstances that led to us becoming their parents.

It's also a fact that we will continue to advocate on their behalf and fight for them to be united with their forever family. Every child, regardless of their place of birth, deserves to grow up in a loving family. Every child. For some kids that means adoption is their best option.

It's also a fact that there will always be people who don't 'get it'. Who try to drag people down, rain on their parade, piss in their cheerios, or whatever other little saying you want to throw in here. They may throw sweeping accusations at you. And, if you're secure in the knowledge of your case and your conscience is clear you will find those accusations laughable. It's also quite possible that will drive the people who don't 'get it' CRAZY. I'm ok with that.

In short - as my family gets ready to share our story on a wider scale and as it reaches people who don't agree with us or what we are doing I want them to understand THIS: They can throw accusations at us, they can say we have done awful things or participated in corrupt things, they can say we are awful people, they cn say we should not adopt outside our borders, they can say we don't have the money to do it, they can say we shouldn't ask for help, they can say whatever they want really.

But, in reality these people don't know the facts. They can quote generalized facts. They do not know the facts surrounding my family, my finances, my kids or any of our stories. Haters will always hate. We will not engage in a campaign to change their minds as that will be draining our resources from fighting for our kids and doing what we wholeheartedly believe to be the right thing for them.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Word About Fundraising

Does it feel like we have been in this process for forever!? Some days it feels like that for us too. Most days it feels like this is dragging on so, so, so much longer than we ever thought.

Does it feel like we have been constantly asking for money or doing fundraisers? Yep, some times it feels like we are doing this all.the.time.

Guess what? We don't particularly enjoy it. It's dead uncomfortable to admit we need help, to admit we can't do it on our own and to put ourselves in a vulnerable position. But we do it because we believe with all our hearts it is worth it and that these kids are worth every hurdle and all the blood, sweat and tears it takes to get them here.

We have been blown away by the amazing support of our friends and family and even complete strangers. And not just financial support. The moral support and the prayers are needed just as much.

Because we can't do this on our own. We have poured our lives into this including our savings, tax returns and work bonuses. To be clear we are not asking for help without making significant sacrifices, too.

I'm sure there are questions swirling around about where all the money is going and why we keep trying to raise more. I'll do my best to address this.......

1. We have to pay for the homestudy. Part of that fee included psychological exams, the social workers time she put into interviewing us on multiple occasions in her office and in our home. We also attended an educational seminar, we paid to have fingerprints done, background check run in every state both of us lived in since age 18. This homestudy expires after a certain amount of time which requires an update which also costs more money. To date we've done one of these updates so far.

2. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. There is fee required to process paperwork before the United States will approve you to be an adoptive parent. It's not cheap. There is also a fee we each have to pay to have our biometrics (fancy term for fingerprints) taken. These are different than the fingerprints done for our homestudy. There is also cost associated with traveling to get to this biometric appointment- a roughly 7 hour round trip drive for us. Since we are adopting two unrelated kids we also had to pay this fee a second time for their papers to be processed and approved.

3. We pay the agency/consultants. They review paperwork, help guide and offer insight on the process, they have connections with people who do the leg work for the adoption.

4. The attorney needs to get paid. I'll do my best to remember some of the things this included and lump them in this category since our attorney took care of most of these. There may be court fees, paperwork fees, transportation fees, passports, etc. I know I'm leaving out a LOT but suffice it to say there are a lot of small costs that add up VERY fast.

4. Foster Care Fees. Kids aren't cheap. It doesn't matter where you live. It is expense to care for a child well. There are the costs of formula, food, diapers, clothes, lodging, medical costs, stipend for the family caring for them, etc. These costs are hitting us especially hard right now as we had not planned on them at all.

5. Travel costs. For us to get into the country we have to apply for visas, we have to pay for airfare (round trip for parents, one way for kids), we have to pay for people to help us in country, tips for people who help us, we have to pay for a place to stay while we are there, we have to pay for transportation while we are there, we have to pay for food while we are there, there are certain legitimate fees to be paid to finish up the adoption and exit the country, there are cultural items and souvenirs to buy while you are there. There could be unforeseen medical costs. If you pack more than the allotted number of bags or if they weight too much there are extra fees, too.

6. We will most likely fall into this category unfortunately. Eventually visas expire. Our children's visas are only good as long as their medical report is valid (or 6 months - whatever is shorter). There is a fee per person to get these renewed.

 And all the miscellaneous stuff that adds up. The cost to mail things - to our agency, to friends/family, overseas to our attorney. There is a cost to wire money overseas. There are educational  things too - books are not cheap but contain vital information. There is so, so much to learn. There are conferences to attend to help equip us to help our kids. And there are so many more things I'm forgetting or not mentioning.

All this to say.....we thought we were done this part. We thought we had the necessary funds raised to pay our final fees and make a trip to bring our kids home. Our kids should have been home months ago. Instead they are not and every month they aren't home we are incurring more and more fees. This means we must kick our fundraising back into gear. This is not what we expected. This is not what we wanted. But this is what is happening. We are asking for help again. We realize we have asked before and so many have generously responded. We appreciate it and we thank you.

We have several things planned and in the works and we are excited to share them with you. We are
asking for your help in making our future fundraising successful. We hope and believe we are nearing the end and will have what we need soon.

Thank you for sticking with us. For supporting us. For praying for us and our kids. We need it now more than ever.