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.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Crazy, Crazy Roller Coaster Ride

When we were first beginning this journey and reading about adoption, different countries, domestic, agencies, attachment, bonding, therapy, mom blogs, etc. Two themes kept appearing over and over and over. 

1. You MUST be flexible especially in international adoption. Flexibility is key. Being flexible will save your sanity. 

2. This is like a roller coaster. There will be amazing highs and many things to celebrate. But there will be days that are HARD. Days that just suck the life out of you. But to hang in there because all roller coaster rides eventually end. You may step on another one right after. But all roller coaster rides eventually come to an end.

Well, folks. We went into this eyes wide open. We read and researched like crazy. We attended webinars. We read everything we could get our hands on about the countries we 'qualified' for. We scoured blogs for any shred of helpful information or insight. We emailed agencies. We asked questions. We spoke with agencies. We asked questions. And we prayed. Oh we PRAYED!! And, you know what? God answered. He clearly made the path for us to walk down. He led us to the Democratic Republic of Congo. And the way our story played out after my August 20, 2012 phone call with Amy from our agency can only be described as God orchestrated. We were at the start of our ride heading up the roller coaster.

The months before we accepted the referrals of our kids were not so easy. We were on our way down to the bottom of the roller coaster. We questioned ourselves. We questioned God. I cried - a lot. And in the few weeks before we said yes to becoming Graham's family I was in the middle of one of the most confusing times in my life. We were coming to the bottom of what we thought was the lowest point on the roller coaster. We were hurting and grieving and we thought surely it cannot get any worse. We were wrong and just didn't know it.

We started our climb up another hill of the roller coaster at the end of March 2013 and the beginning of April. On the 8th of April I saw my baby girl's face for the first time. Oh what an amazing day that was! We waited anxiously and somewhat impatiently for the documents we needed to go to court to be made their parents. We tried to prepare ourselves for a LONG wait in court but were surprised to make it through relatively quickly. And then we were a family of EIGHT! Amazing. We were still on the uphill climb of our roller coaster.

We had worked to submit our documents to the United States Government to have our children classified as immediate relatives and get "in line" for a lengthy investigation period. We told ourselves it would be well into 2014 before we received confirmation of their cases being completed. The ride kept chugging on up.

Then news came that slowed down that climb. The DGM put a hold on issuing exit letters. We were so disappointed. But we said "it'll be ok - it will be a long time before our kids have visas appointments and surely they will be open by then!!" We were still climbing up that hill but much more slowly.

We were pleasantly surprised to be approved quickly by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service but even more shocked to FLY at lightning speed through the embassy investigation period. Two month investigations seemed to be absolutely unheard of!!! Our kids had visa appointments BEFORE Christmas. 

Our roller coaster ride had suddenly gotten very fast and was approaching the top of the hill at high speed.

On December 31, 2013 we met our kids for the first time. I hugged and said thank you to the woman who is filling in as 'Mom' in my absence. I held my kids for the first time, hugged them, kissed them, cried tears of happiness to be with them even for a short time. This was the exhilarating top of the roller coaster.

Coming home without them started the trip back down the other side of this crazy roller coaster. But we felt confident this was a short hill. That surely we wouldn't be gone for long. In fact we didn't even completely unpack our suitcases. We had hope that the DRC government, the DGM and the Embassy would make something happen and that the kids we love so much would be home soon. Time kept slipping by with no news and no indication of change but this still seemed to be a short hill - a bump on our way back up this ride.

Then this past Friday (3/21) we hit the lowest of lows so far on this adoption journey. There was a conference call between the Department of State, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and the US Embassy in Kinshasa. Going into the call we did not get our hopes up - we know better by now. But the absolute lack of information and the lack of any sort of progress on anyone's behalf was disheartening. No one has answers. It appears, from the outside, that the DGM is not making the changes it says need to happen. We were told this will last until AT LEAST September and quite possibly much longer than that. And no one could say definitively that they WILL actually start issuing exit permits again. So we were left with more questions. How long will this last? Will this ever end? Will our kids ever come home? How old will they be when this does happen? What kind of chaos will there be in Kinshasa when or if this suspension does lift. There is estimated to be hundreds of us at this step. 

It felt like hope was gone. It felt like we were left completely on our own in this fight. It feels like our government has failed us. It feels like there is no one left to fight for us and our kids. And that is an awful feeling and an awful place to be. We also received reports that the situation in Congo is not good, that it is very dangerous for our children and the families they are living with. These were hard truths to hear. It is hard to be stuck on the other side of the world away from important pieces of your family. 

We had officially hit the lowest point on this roller coaster ride. Our stomachs had fallen out & we were feeling sick from all of the ups and downs and twists and turns.

Right now it feels like our ride is stuck here. It has lost the momentum to go back up another hill. We are desperately hoping and praying for positive movement forward. For answers and for a solution to be found. We are forever grateful to our children's foster family. They are doing an incredible thing and are loving on our kids in our absence teaching them what a family is like. But it is a temporary solution. Their permanent home is HERE - with us. For our kids we firmly believe that international adoption is the best answer. That is not the case for every child in the DRC but for our children it is. You will have to trust me on this as I refuse to reveal the parts of their story that make me believe this to be the case. Without us there is no one coming for them. They would be stuck in orphanages - most likely until they aged out if they even lived that long. Their futures after that would be very uncertain. We are not on this ride to 'rescue' anyone. If anything we are the ones being rescued. Rescued from our ignorance and inaction at what is happening around the world. No, we are on this ride because we believe we can provide a loving home for a child who otherwise wouldn't have one. We have met two of these children and call them son and daughter. We love them and have a God given FIGHT within us to do everything in our power to see to it that they have the very best.

Please, please pray for our family and for the families just like us that are STUCK. Please pray for our children and the many other children who have parents desperately wanting to bring them home. Pray for those children who don't have and never will have a family - they need positive influence in their lives and they need God's Holy protection in that place. Pray for movement within the government agency responsible for this suspension of exit permits - that they would let these children who have waiting loving parents take these kids HOME. 

Pray for the roller coaster ride to start moving again. We've hit what we hope is the lowest point. We hope the only direction we can go is UP.

Monday, March 10, 2014


We were completely blown away by the generosity and love showered out on our family during our week on Give One Save One. We made HUGE progress toward covering our financial needs for our trip to return to pick up and bring Graham and Olivia home. Here is a short video of our little people saying thank you!

Remember how I thought my husband was crazy for setting a goal of $4500??? Well, I thought he was nuts. Turns out he's not quite as crazy as I thought. Our total for the week came to $4016. Seriously. How amazing is that?!?

We aren't sure how much longer we will have to wait which could mean extra foster care fees for our kids while they wait for us. And we are preparing for a long stay in country when the time does come to bring them. If it ends up being short that will just be a bonus but we want to be prepared emotionally and financially.

There are a couple more fundraisers in the works right now and we will share them when the time is right. One of them involves an article of clothing you are going to want to get your hands on. The other one involves getting some seriously awesome bags and totes at a killer price.  Both of these are so exciting and I can't wait to share them with you!!!

We are praying continously that God would see fit to make a way for our kids to come home soon. You see they should have come home with us when we travelled back in December/January. We are so glad we took that trip and got to know them just a tiny bit. Our little girl's birthday is quickly approaching and I am really, really struggling with the high likelihood of missing it. I've never not been with one of my children on their birthdays and the thought of missing it is so hard. We are not sure of when we will be able to bring our kids home. We are committed to doing so in an ethical and legal manner and since there is a suspension in place right now there is no way to accomplish this. It's very frustrating. And its heartbreaking to have spent time with children you call son and daughter and then say good-bye to for an unknown amount of time. It's just plain hard. But we know they are worth it. They are worth every tear I've cried, every prayer uttered, every frustrated scream, and all the pain of the wait. They are worth it. We call them our son and daughter because they are. We are their parents and we are committed to bringing them into a loving family.

So, a huge THANK YOU to everyone who shared our story and video, to those who so graciously gave to us and for everyone who has and continues to pray for us in this journey. It is our desire that you see hope through us. That even though this path is painful and hard and not rosy that you see we have HOPE. And we BELIEVE. We believe that God has always been with and has loved our kids since before they were born - since before we knew about them. It is our belief that adoption and orphans and widows are close to His heart. Is our belief that He will make a way for these kids. And because of what we believe we have HOPE.

Friday, February 21, 2014

What a second! How much?

Thank you again to everyone who has been donating this week.  Thanks to some more awesome donations today's total comes to.....


"Pause for effect" (Gru - Despicable Me)



I must admit this is a very awesome number.  How much more awesome can it get?  Well that depends on you sharing our story with everyone you know and getting them to chip in as well.  There are two days left in our fundraising week for Give1Save1 and I think there is still time to make my original goal of $4500. (We are 71.5% of the way through the week, and we are 84.5 % of the way to our goal).  Please please please help us get there (Any size donation is gratefully accepted.).

As promised, here are a couple more videos for your enjoyment:
Graham Espoir's Balloon
Proof Olivia Maicha is a Daddy's Girl

Give1Save1 Day 5: Why

(Well - I build up to this post for four days and my wife steals my thunder.  Oh well, I will write it all fairness I didn't tell her I was writing a post like this so she has no idea that she wrote what I was thinking.  And instead of putting it at the end; Come back tomorrow to read the post for Day 6)

If you have been following the posts I have been writing this week, they haven't made adoption seem like a very attractive adventure.  There is all the paperwork, the people judging you, the waiting, and the heartache.  Why then would someone do all this?  Why would you keep going and keep on trying to finish this journey?
The answer is very simple and I am confused as to why it is not more apparent to many of the people who have asked us this type of question.  We chose to adopt, which in other words means we chose to love the children God has given us.

It seems quite obvious to me that love is a choice.  It is not genetically implanted that you love your children - look at our society if you need any examples of parents who abuse, neglect, hurt, and even kill their children.  Parents love their children because they choose to.  It is much easier to not be a parent then it is to live being one - when you choose to love a child you are choosing to put their needs before your own.

For anyone who questions why adoptive parents go through such a long, arduous, expensive process to bring children they have not met into their homes, families, and lives, I offer the following questions to ponder.

If you have biological children, when did you start loving them and spending money on them?  We have 4 biological children - and I loved them before I met them too.  I spent money on doctors and decorating rooms for them.  I watched as my wife gave up large chunks of her life to make sure our children had what they needed while in the womb.  I watched as she spent 8 weeks in the hospital on bed rest with our first child so that he would be born instead of finishing her last 3 weeks of college.  We didn't know him then any more than an adoptive parent knows the child they are referred before they meet them - only what a picture or an ultrasound can show.  During those eight long weeks of living in a hospital, not once do I remember her questioning why she was doing it or suggest that it would be easier if we didn't have our precious son.  Why would someone postpone their graduation for someone they hadn't met? Because of love.

If  you are pregnant and there are complications, what would you not risk to bring your child into the world safely and healthy?  Would there be a procedure you would decline because it was too expensive?  Would there be something you wouldn't try even if it were moderately risky for you to do?  I love all my children and there is nothing I wouldn't give to make sure they are happy, healthy, and safe.

There also seems to be a simple precedent set - "For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only son... (John 3:16),"  "to buy freedom for us who were slaves ... so that he could adopt us as his very own children...  (Galatians 4:4-5)."  I am saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ because of the love of the Father.  Through the payment of his blood, I have been adopted by the Father.  Through their great sacrifice I have been made an heir to the kingdom of heaven.  What would the Father not have given for me? Nothing was to great a price. Why? Because he loved me first.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)."  "Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child (Galatians 4:7a)."Was I perfect that he chose me to be his child? Far from it.  I am a sinner, and yet he loved me anyways.  Is there any imperfection a child can have which is greater than the ugliness of sin to a righteous God?  He chose me in my brokenness so he could help make me new.  He loved me in my emptiness so that I could overflow his love.  It is with that same love that I love my children.  It is that love that gives you the strength to make it through the adoption process, no matter how trying.  It is that love that allows you to weather the hardships and become a stronger person and a stronger family.  It is that love that gives you hope in the knowledge that some day you will hold your child in your arms and they will know how much they are loved.


We weren't sure what to expect when we met Espoir. Would our time with him go smoothly or would it be a really bumpy ride? We were blown away by this little boy and amazed at how well he did with us. He's spent his first three years in other people's care and really knows nothing about us but didn't skip a beat when it came to relying on us for his needs that week. We were somewhat surprised at just how natural it all felt. Again, we just didn't know what to expect. The first day had it's awkward moments and we had a few communication snafus but really for the majority of the time it just felt like we had known each other forever. We really, really enjoyed our time with him in his birth country. We know there will likely be some rocky times in the future as we all adjust to being a forever family and as he learns a new language and culture but we've laid down a good base foundation. We are praying to be together with again soon and that he would receive us as well the second time around. We really, truly LOVE this boy. He is our son - not just on paper but in our hearts as well. He is full of energy and loves life. I am so excited for him to meet his forever brother and sisters. Here is a video of him telling us, his brother, sisters & grandparents that he loves them. And we really truly do LOVE Espoir.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Downer Day

Hey all,

Today was a slow day.  I will take it as a sign that you are all waiting till tomorrow to keep urging people you know to consider helping us.  Please do.

From here on out, we will release a new video for every $500 raised.  Please keep people coming.

Give1Save1 Day 4: Interminable Waiting

Waiting is hard.  Waiting with no control over anything and nothing you can do that will change the amount of waiting you have to endure is worse.  Waiting for a deadline that seems to keep moving out farther and farther from where you are while you are waiting for it to arrive just really stinks.  That's where you find yourself after you make it past court in your child's country of origin.  They are yours, and there is nothing you can do to speed up the time between them being yours and the time you actually have everything put together to go and get them.

It makes it feel like a pregnancy that has no due date.  You know that someone is joining your family.  You know who they are.  All you want to do is bring them home - but you can't.  There always seems to be "just one more thing" you have to have.  You have to turn paperwork in to the US government. Then you wait for them to review it. Then they decide to add an "investigation" into the process.  And you wait again. Then the country you are adopting from, in an effort to limit child trafficking, stops allowing legally adopted kids to leave the country. And you wait again. You end up waiting for the next thing to delay you rather than focusing on bringing your child home.

You lose patience and go to visit your children.  You see them, you hug them, you hold them, you play with them, and it feels good. And then you have to leave.  There really isn't anything like leaving your child in a place you know is not the best place for them, not knowing when you will get to go back to them.  It tears at you when you have to do it and every day after that.  You know all to well what it felt like to have them, and now you can't again.  It makes waiting hard.  It makes staying positive hard.  It makes you irritable because you want to fight someone to bring them home and there is no one to fight.

After all this, you might be asking "Why?"  Come back tomorrow for the answer.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


So these have been an awesome couple days.  Thanks to your generous donations during the first three days of our Give1Save1 week, we are over $2000 donated. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. This is awesome.  As a fun little treat for reaching this level, you can watch another video of Graham Espoir here.

Please keep up the awesome sharing, encouraging, and giving and thank you so much for all you have done already.

Give1Save1 Day 3: Revelation and Heartbreak

You are there! You finally made it to referral.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term as it applies to the adoption process, referral is the time where your agency/lawyer matches you with a child - or in our case two children.  For most people there is a long wait between the time you get your documentation approved and the time when you actually get to see your child's face for the first time.  It is hard to just sit around and wait, and just like in a pregnancy before the first time you get to see your child (whether via ultrasound or in the flesh), while you wait the anticipation builds.

What will it be like when I see them for the first time?  Will I love them right away?  Will it be a boy or a girl?  What do I need to know to parent them right and how do I learn it?  Those were all questions I asked during each pregnancy while I waited and waited for something to happen.  Adoption is the same way before the referral - you don't really know much about the child you will see when it happens, so you question everything.  And with adoption, you just add more questions like: What will I do if it is a sibling group?  What should I be doing to raise money to pay for this whole process?  How will I deal with raising a special needs child (I would include all children with traumatic backgrounds in this group, and sadly most adoptable children fall into that category)?

Then, one day an email will come.  It will have a picture of a child in it and information about the child.  Unlike pregnancy, at least for us, adoption allows you to look at this and say - "No - keep looking".  I frankly never understood this, and maybe that is because of the reasons we are adopting, but I think it has more to do with the type of parents my wife and I want to be.  Every time we were waiting for results of all the tests they run and before they do the ultrasounds to check for defects, we decided that we would love whatever child God gave us.  We had the same attitude when we went into the referral.  We said we would love whatever child God presented us with.

So we move on.  We say yes.  We give our hearts over to loving these children, even if all we know is where they were found and what we can see in a picture.  You start loving them then.  Unfortunately, adoption referrals don't always turn into adopted kids.  Sometimes there are problems.  Sometimes after you give your heart over to loving this child or group of children, you get told there were complications.  You get told their case can't be moved forward with and to start over. It hurts.  It hurts like it hurts when you lose someone you love.  I don't think there are good words for this.  It is heartbreak and more.

Unlike when you lose a child during pregnancy, this process can repeat itself multiple times in short succession.  You are expected to somewhere muster the courage to continue each time.  You have to find a way to move on and to continue loving the next child that is given to you to love, even if it is for such a short time.  You have to find a way to keep faith that eventually the child in the picture will end up being your child, and that time it won't be hurt that you feel.  After all of that, you will be ready to finish the adoption process.  You will be ready to fight for your child.  You will not have doubts.  You will want them home.  You will want to hold them.  And at that point, you have moved on.  Your child has been revealed to you, and you will move into the next phase: Interminable waiting.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Give1Save1 Day 2: Scrutiny

After the first step inevitably comes the second.  You have made your decision - thought it through and have prepared yourself for what is next. Scrutiny.  You will find this decision analyzed and commented on by more groups than most other decisions in your life - your friends, your family, our government, their government, social workers, psychologists, and perfect strangers. Prepare to be studied.  Prepared to have a high power lens aimed at your life and a hot lamp stuck underneath you.

You will have to be ready for people to look at your life and let them judge whether they think you are a "Fit Parent" or not.  At least you get to pick the social worker who gets to poke around all your personal information - at least sort of (maybe if you live in a more populous place than Iowa there are multiple qualified people within a short driving distance who can perform the service).  Then they let someone analyze if you are mentally stable enough to have kids - which if you already have kids is a fun hurdle in itself (most of them perfect the art of driving their parents completely insane by the time they are 2). They ask you for your financial information because everyone has to be financially prepared when they have a child.  Then, after you tell them intimate details about your relationships with your family, details about your childhood, and a whole list of other fun facts which make you think you are one of the categories in tomorrow's Jeopardy which they intend to be prepared to win, they sit down with a neat little set of rules and grade your ability to parent.  And after they do, they send their crib notes to the government so they can cheat on writing their own paper and give you the same grade as the first people - at least most of the time (who knows, maybe while your paperwork was getting lost in the mail your fingerprints expired and you suddenly became a psychotic mass murderer they didn't know about but strangely has a desired to adopt a child).

Then you get the great joy of telling your family and other people in your life.  How much of a joy that is completely depends on the person you are telling.  Some of them laugh at you.  Some of them are proud of you.  Some of them will support you.  Some of them will surprise you both for the good and for the bad.  Everyone, everyone will question you.  It was so much easier with pregnancy - I only had to remember two things until the kid was born - boy or girl and when is she due.  Adoption isn't the same - once again, more hands on.  If you are adopting, you better be able to give good answers to a whole number of questions people wouldn't normally ask: "Do you make enough money to add more kids to your family?" "Why are you buying kids? (since you obviously didn't have problems making them yourself...)" "Did you know most Africans are black and your kids are white?"  "Did you think this through?" and my all time favorite "Can you still get it out of it?"  Here's a tip - treat an adoptive couple like a pregnant couple.  If it isn't something you would ask a pregnant person, don't ask and adoptive parent.  For example, most people know that if she is already pregnant, we will find a way to support the child.  Most people know better than to tell you that you have too many children and shouldn't have another one.  Most people know that you will love whatever child comes out of the womb, no matter what they look like.  Most people know better than to ask if you "know how babies are made".  And most people don't walk up to you and ask if you have considered abortion as an option so you can "get out of it".  Like my mom would say, if you don't have something nice to say then keep your mouth shut.

The first step is kind of like the waiting period in a pregnancy before it's "safe" to tell people you are pregnant.  It is the time where things are less certain, and the only one who has to know about and live with you changing your mind and not adopting is you.  But after that time is up, you have to know for certain that you are adopting.  People will try and talk you out of it.  People will tell you that you are crazy.  People will tell you about "that one family that adopted and it was terrible for them and their kids".  You are not going to be talked out of it. Who wants to be normal if normal is being so self-invested that you can't look around and care for someone outside your neat little life. Yes some families have problems whether they have adopted or not, and although adoption may not be easy, there is always the strength, hope, and love which will make it work.

And, after months of paperwork and questions, you finally get to move on.  You will go on answering all the questions to people you decide to tell, but by this time it has become routine.  You will continue to fill out paperwork and become intimately aware of all the red tape that stands between lonely children and loving families.  And then it hits you.  You are in the third stage of your journey: Revelation and Heartbreak.  Come back tomorrow to read about it.


We have had a successful first day and a half as the Give One Save One Featured Family. As I'm writing this we are soooooooo close to breaking the $600. Let's keep it going people!

As promised here is a video of Mr. Graham. We have many more precious videos of him to share and will do so again if we hit $1000.

I'm sharing this adorable video now because I don't know how to do the fancy blurred face feature like my husband. He'll get some videos ready to share that show even more of this boys personality. I'm telling you - he is one awesome and amazing kid and I think he will fit in so well here with his brother and sisters. Him and Kailyn are going to make quite the out world!!

And as a bonus Here is our baby girl showing off her standing skills! . The videos are dark since we took these at night and there wasn't a ton of light in our room. This girl is such a joy and has a smile that could melt anyone. She is a Daddy's girl for sure!!! 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Give1Save1 Day 1: The First Step

"You're going to roll your eyes and call me crazy but..."  That's how our adoption journey started in February 2012, and I have a feeling that was the initial reaction of many of the people we told.  After having twins less than a year before that, it did sound crazy.  It sounded even more crazy when we told people we were adopting two kids.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

What I will deem "The First Step" in our adoption journey, and any adoption journey is the decision to adopt.  It is a HUGE decision with an incredible number of factors involved.  And then, after you make the initial decision to adopt, you are tasked with an even more tremendous set of decisions to make.  How old should they be?  Where should we adopt from?  Do we qualify to adopt from there?  What is the process for adopting from there?  How will they mesh with our current children?  Will they thrive in our community?  How much does it cost?  How will we pay for it?  Why am I doing this again?  My wife has presented me with evidence of being pregnant 4 (not a typo - see note) times, and I would describe how "The First Step" feels as being very similar to that feeling: Excited and Overwhelmed.

You are excited after you make the decision to grow your family and know, at least believe at some level, that it is a "certainty".  This is true when adopting as well.  Pretty much as soon as you enter the community of adoptive parents, you find yourself in a swirl of information from people in every step of the process, from where you are to people who are in the thick of it, to people who have gotten to bring their kids home.  You realize that the children are very real, and you are going to be "one of those families".  You are excited for all the things you will get to teach them and do with them, and if you were already a parent like us, all the things that they are sure to teach and give you.

You are overwhelmed because, unlike a pregnancy, this is a very hands on process.  You have to be organized and learn a process you knew nothing about just a little time earlier.  You have to figure out the ins and outs of the system.  You have to prepare yourself for a process which you know won't go as planned, but can never imagine how much it may stray from the original idealistic vision had in mind.  You are overwhelmed answering questions from inquisitive minds that don't always think about how their inquiries may affect your feelings and attitudes towards them.  You're overwhelmed because you're a newbie - you made one hard decision which only opened the door for 100 more to be made.

So, if you were one of those people that said "they're crazy" when we told you we were adopting two kids from the Democratic Republic of Congo, don't feel bad - you weren't the only one.  But try to understand - we aren't crazy.  We did not make this decision lightly and by considering it extensively prior to making it we can stand firm that it is the right decision.  For us, if boils down to something very simple.  Sometimes God calls you to do something which seems crazy, but that doesn't make it any less right.  God might want to stretch you beyond your limits, beyond where you are comfortable.  God might want you to do something before "it makes sense".  Are you going to do it?

Please keep sharing about our family and consider donating during this week.  Come back tomorrow to read the next post in the series: Give1Save1 Day 2: Scrutiny.

Note: So, we have four biological kids, but as I said, two of those are twins.  If you are semi-skilled at math that would tell you about 3 of the 4 times I thought we were pregnant.  The fourth was far more overwhelming than any of the others, as it came during the beginning of the adoption process.  We didn't really think it was possible to get that news again - my wife would say that "this baby factory was c.l.o.s.e.d" after the twins were born.  A couple days past and we found out that this was one of those rare flukes that happens with tests having false positives. Ha ha God - very funny.

Give1Save1: Preface

I hope everyone is aware that we are the Give1Save1 family for this week.  From the handy stats provided by the blog, I can see that most of today's traffic has come from this site which makes me rather excited.  However, if you by chance happened to return to this blog without knowing, now you do.  If you want to know more about Give1Save1, please reference their blog ( The crux is you visit the site, you watch a cute movie about our family, you give a donation via the Paypal button there or using one of the other methods listed on our blog fundraising page, and then you tell EVERYONE YOU KNOW about the awesome family you just learned about that could use their support as well.

The company I work for has every employee write down their goals for the year, both business goals and goals related to how we do that business.  They encourage goals be written using the SMART guidelines (Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time Bound).  So here is my goal for this week: During the week starting February 17, 2014 and ending February 23, 2014, people will donate enough money to our Give1Save1 campaign to cover plane tickets.  This would equate to approximately $4500, which is about half the expense of the trip to pick up our kids.  This is a large amount of money, but I believe it is realistic because I believe in the generosity of people.  I also believe we will have at least 4500 people view our video by the end of the week if everyone extends our message into their networks of friends and families.  If everyone gives, then each person would only have to give $1 to meet this goal. (Another thing about goals from work - the managers write their goals first, which then filter to the supervisors, and finally make it to the grunt employees like myself.  If you couldn't guess from the goal itself, we need your support of this goal to make it a reality - consider yourself "Assigned").

Today I will publish the first segment in a series of posts for this week - I hope you will all come back to read each day.  I promise the posts will be more exciting to read than this boring preface.  The series of posts I want to share with you this week will summarize my thoughts on the adoption journey, which will hopefully let you into what our world has been like over the last two years.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The River, the Market, and Attitude - OH MY!!

We had the privilege of spending time with another family who was just there for a visit as well. We were able to spend quite a bit of time talking together and sharing our experiences. There were also some families there that had been in Congo for months and they were a wealth of information! And seeing them with their kids and how attached they had gotten over that time gave us hope for what is to come for us and our children. We have learned along this journey that there is no one out there that knows what you are going through better than a fellow adoptive parent especially those that are walking the path the same time as you. It's almost like there is an instant bond - there's a huge shared thread of life and it is so good for the soul to connect with them.

While we were visiting we had the opportunity to visit the Congo River with another family. Fortunately we were able to take a van that day - the night before we got to experience loading four grown adults, four toddlers and a baby plus our driver into a very small car for an evening out at a local restaurant. Needless to say the rules of the road are not the same as they are here!!

The river was amazingly beautiful and HUGE. Again, I had heard about it so many times and seen other people's pictures but to be there and actually see it with my own eyes was amazing. We were able to learn that this was the first time E had ever been to the river so it was neat to share that experience with him. That morning was the most time M spent cuddled up with me the entire time we were there. She took a bottle and fell asleep with me holding her which became our normal morning ritual. It was so sweet! We got to experience the Congo HEAT that day, too. Coming from the midwest in the middle of winter to that kind of temperature was a shock to the body!!

After the river we made a stop at the Symphonie D'Arts which was beautiful!! However, it was not little child friendly and we didn't spend long there. Next up after that was the Mommy Mommy Market. Let me remind you it was HOT and we hadn't expected to go there that day so we were a little unprepared - mostly mentally ;) We got a few things that day and spied a few other things that we wanted to pick up another time. E was having a REALLY rough time being there. We were never able to figure out if it was only due to hunger, if he was upset we wouldn't buy him every single thing he wanted or a combination of the two. Needless to say even Paul pulled him aside to speak to him in Lingala and I used my rudimentary Lingala to tell him to stop, too.

Fortunately for all of us that attitude outburst was short lived. He discovered the JOY of taking pictures with my old itouch. Both E and the other boy that was there LOVED all things technology but it made me too nervous to just give him free reign with the ipad or even my phone. But the itouch was all his and he LOVED it!! We dubbed him the paparazzi and he easily took 1000/day. M started showing a lot more of her precious personality on her first full day with us. She started flashing her HUGE smile and interacting more. She wanted to crawl around so badly but the floor was so smooth she kept slipping! We did learn that she can pull herself up and stand with assistance and she LOVES doing that! It was so good to see some more of that precious little girl's personality coming out.

We are so looking forward to seeing how their personalities and little selves blossom and grow in our family and to learn even more about them. Being their parents is such a huge blessing!

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Day We Met Our Kids

December 31, 2013

This is a day Mike and I have been dreaming of and talking about since we decided to pursue adoption almost two years ago. The day we met our kids - it's something that you just can't fathom until you're there and experiencing it. I wasn't sure if I would be a blubbering mess of emotions, if I would be so happy I'd burst into tears, if it would be surreal or if it would be a moment of pure joy. We had no way to know if the kids would be happy to see us, if they would be terrified or somewhere in between.

That morning we had gotten word that the kids were on their way. We had no idea when they would actually arrive so most of the morning was a lot of sitting around and just waiting. There were other families and kids there to keep us company and try to keep our minds off of what was about to happen. Literally a minute before the gates opened and our kids drove in Mike had gone back inside the house to our room. I had to send one of the other parents back in to get him. I knew I needed him with me when we met them.

My son was the first one to step out of the car. My first thought was how LITTLE he was!! It's so hard to tell in pictures but he was so small and even more adorable and precious than any of his pictures. He looked around and really just took everything in. His foster mom and her daughter got out next. Mike and I had stepped forward and E saw us. You could tell immediately that he recognized us - he was trying so hard to hide his little smile while he watched us and he was acting so shy.

I went to his foster mom first and said the only think I could think of which was "Merci". That was the only moment when I almost burst into tears. I am so grateful for this woman and all she has done for these two kids and by extension for me. I am able to wait knowing they are with someone who is taking good care of them and who loves them. She gave me a good, tight squeeze and a smile that said she understood all the unspoken words between us. Even now that moment makes me choke up. After that I went to E and knelt down to say hello. The two of us just checked each other out. He looked back to his foster mom as if to double check with her to make sure this was ok. She nodded and said something I didn't understand and that was all he needed to allow me to pick him up.

He tried to be so stoic but his grin kept emerging. We sat down together at the table and I talked to him even though I know he had absolutely no idea what this white lady he'd never met before was saying. I can only imagine what was going through his mind. He obviously recognized us which means he has seen at least some of the pictures I have sent. And I am assuming he had been told we were his parents because he seemed to understand that as well. Still, I'm not sure if he will ever be able to tell us what he was thinking in those moments. It was totally and completely surreal. They were there and they were in our arms! These kids we had prayed so much for and had loved so much from so far away were WITH us!


M was totally and completely zonked out. Her foster sister was carrying her and brought her to Mike. Seeing him holding another one of his baby girls was so neat. We have a picture of him holding Hadley for the first time and he is obviously completely in love and such a proud daddy. This was another one of those moments. Love at first sight. She is such a dainty little thing. One of the most beautiful baby girls I have ever laid my eyes on with a diva-tude to rival any of her sisters.

Their foster mom left us a bottle for her and through a translator gave us some basic info about what they like and some helpful tips. She and her daughter said good-bye and then they were gone. We had Paul explain to E that we were there for a visit and that he would go back to his foster mom in a few days. We wanted that message repeated to him several times so it was less confusing for him and I do think it helped.

Paul talked to E and he started to come out of his shell a little more. I took M and Mike took E to play some soccer. I have video of their first soccer match and video of soccer from the day before we left. The difference is amazing. He totally blossomed and let his personality shine while he was with us. He was so tentative at first though but that smile he tried to hide finally came through and he wasn't afraid to show it. Mike put him on the swing and that grin was there to stay! He LOVED it!

When M woke up she was not particularly pleased to see me. I tried to give her a snack which she took without much enthusiasm. And then she screamed at me and screamed some more until Mike took her and then it immediately stopped. Little did we know that was how the whole week was going to go!!

The rest of the day went well. E was so excited about Fanta so Mike got him some when we went to the store. I had no idea a kid could get that jazzed over a beverage!! Both kids napped and Mike and I just sat and stared at them. It was a lot to take in!!

E found the stash of clothes we brought and immediately wanted to change which was fine. He loved the Thomas trains and the tractor that Elliot had given us to bring for him. And the bathtub - I have never seen anyone SO excited about a bathtub. Turns out he LOVES taking a bath and would have spent the entire week in it if I let him!!

M was very into her daddy. She was fine with me as long as I wasn't holding her. She would smile and play and really is the sweetest little baby. But if I held her it was a blood curdling scream. The only fix was Mike picking her up. And it wasn't just me - it was any other woman even the housekeeper who tried to help calm her down while Mike went to the store. Things did get better as the week went on but she very clearly preferred Mike over me.

We decided not to make a big to-do about E's birthday. I don't think he had any idea that's what the day was. We did celebrate New Years Eve though. We grilled food, made smores and had some fun crowns and glasses to ring in the new year. It was a lot of fun with all the kids and other parents. We went to sleep that night emotionally exhausted but so, so happy and already we knew coming to visit was the right choice. We had only gotten a glimpse of who these kids were but we knew they were amazing and we knew it was a blessing to call ourselves their Mom and their Dad.

Recap: Our trip to Congo

We've been home just over a month - it's probably time to recap our trip to meet our kiddos!!

We left December 28 - right in the middle of Christmas craziness!! Fortunately Mike's parents and my parents were able to take turns caring for the kids and getting them where they needed to be. It ended up being SO cold here that school was delayed or cancelled more than it was on while we were gone.

I'll leave out the details and just say that our flights there were smooth and mostly on time. The only snafu we had was in Brussels where we needed to get boarding passes printed and switch to a different terminal that had Africa bound flights. The line for this was LONG and there was one person working. We made it to the gate in time to visit the bathroom and fill up our water bottles.

Then we landed in Kinshasa. (if you want a good synopsis of the airport experience read this) My first clue this was going to be an adventure should have been on our descent when everyone started making the 'cross' on themselves. And then the entire plane broke out in applause as soon as the plane was safely on the ground. I had no idea that I apparently should have been worried?!?!? Then we took the bus 10ft to the terminal where we got to stand in a long line waiting for permission to enter the country. Then they checked our yellow fever cards. And finally we saw the most beautiful (just joking) board with our names on it. It was a relief to know there was someone there to help us figure all this out. Our in country contact took us immediately to the car where we met Paul who was a complete Godsend on this trip. Our luggage was retrieved for us and then we strapped most of it to the top of the car.

It was dark so we didn't get a great look at the city but it was just plain amazing to be there. I had heard so many people talk about it and had a rough idea of what to expect. Once we got to the house we were staying in we were ready to unpack and get some sleep. We met another family and they filled us in a bit. Seeing them with their kids made me so excited and a lot nervous to meet our kids!!

The next day we woke up expecting to hear from our in country people on when we should expect the kids to come. Instead chaos was descending upon the city (I'm only being a little dramatic). If you want to read up on what happened while we were there go here. We were not in the middle of the drama but it was close enough to make us wonder and we heard many gunshots throughout the day. Needless to say it was too dangerous for the kids to come that day so we just hung around and waited. It was also advised to stay put which was a slight problem since we hadn't made it to the store yet and didn't have any water! We borrowed a big bottle from another family to last us until the next day.

We kept this trip relatively low key. The purpose was to go and meet our kids, spend time with them and get to know them. We did make it to the river, a restaurant, thieves market and fabric market. When we go back next time we are hoping to visit at least our son's old orphanage and a few other places. Suffice it to say we think our kids are pretty amazing and we are completely blessed to have the opportunity to be their parents. It was so surreal to finally be there and to finally hold and kiss and love on these kids we have watched grow in pictures for nearly a year. Our son turned 3 the day we met him and our daughter hit 9 months while we were there. It kills me to think that we missed so many years and months with them but those few days together were priceless and we are so ready for them to come home and join their brother and sisters! There are less unknowns and I feel much more confident about bringing them home and melding our family together. Keep praying them home everyone - it will happen!!

Next up......The Day We Met Our Kids!!