Thursday, October 24, 2013

3 Months Home

Today marks 3 months since Afua joined our family. Eric and I talked about it today and it seems so much longer. Like she has always been here. It's funny how that happens, but she truly is such an important part of our family already.

Our medical appointments have slowed down, therapy visits are steady though. We are preparing for two surgeries and we anticipate the results to be wonderful.

Some new things that Afua can now do:

~ crawl across room

~ sit for 30 minutes if engaged in an activity

~ self feed teething crackers and bring spoon to mouth with help

~use a communication button to ask for "more" at mealtime

~ stand while holding hands for 15 seconds

~ crawl to her Daddy when he gets home for snuggles (her face lights up when he walks in the door)

Amazing little girl who has shown us to never give up hope.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

World Cerebral Palsy Day

Today (10/2/2013) is World Cerebral Palsy day. Any previous year, I have thought about my former students who have CP and have inspired me in so many ways. This year, I am a mom to my newest daughter who has CP and in my 2+ months of parenting her, I have such a new found respect for any person with a disability and their parents, siblings and other loved ones. In honor of this day, I wanted to share a letter I wrote to my daughter.

Dear Afua,

I am so proud of you, my sweet daughter. You are the most determined, affectionate and loving little girl I have ever met. I don't know how you kept your will to fight all these years, but you never let your life circumstances dictate how you love others.

I know more than anyone, how hard you have worked for every single milestone. I celebrate that you can sit up independently, because I have watched you tumble so many times and get right back up. I smile and cheer as you crawl across the floor because I know how many times you tried and not an inch of movement occurred. Yet you tried and tried and tried. Baby girl, you try a hundred times with the optimism that the next time will be "it". How I wish this was the way I approached life, thank you for that lesson.

In our 2 months together, we have spent times in waiting rooms, Dr offices, testing rooms. You have been poked, moved around, sedated, restrained and imaged. Instead of crying or whining, you look to connect with each person, squint until you see their eyes and smile. You are trusting even when people in your past have not been trustworthy. I wish I was easy to forgive and forget.

You have taught me that words are not needed to communicate thoughts and feelings. We don't have a common language (yet), but we know each other so well. Sometimes words can get in the way of real communication and you have showed me a new way. 

Thank you for your love. You have changed us all and your story will be something amazing. Thank you for letting us be a part of it.

With love, Mommy

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

2 months home

Afua landed on US soil 2 months ago. It has been a joyous, heartbreaking, victorious, frustrating, amazing 2 months. We have celebrated so many milestones from small to big and we have been so incredibly busy.

Medically we are in a good place. Afua has an eye surgery and ENT surgery scheduled in the next month. These are minor procedures but due to her low muscle tone we have to stay overnight for the ENT surgery. She is eating enough calories, so the worry over a feeding tube is gone for now. She has gained 5 pounds in 2 months!

Some of Afua's new skills are:

~ if she wants more of something, she will say "oh" in attempt to say more. this is HUGE in her steps to communicate with us

~ she can now crawl 6 steps and rarely rolls anymore. she crawls and scoots upright most of the time

~ she recognizes members of her family vs. strangers

~ she is starting to play games with her siblings

~ she can stand with assistance for 10 seconds and pull up to her knees while holding on to something

~ she loves music and when someone helps her clap her hands

This week we will have Afua's IEP meeting and fit her for leg braces. I look forward to both appointments and what they bring. We are very proud of Afua and all that she has accomplished.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Marathon vs. Sprint

The fatigue is setting in. For almost 8 weeks we have been referred to more Dr.s than most of my other children have seen in a lifetime. Afua is bravely enduring the appointments, she experiences life with such gentle and joyous spirit that is only a reflection of the way she has survived life thus far.

There are days when we just need to retreat and cocoon (adoption term for staying home to establish a "home base" and family unit for a newly adopted child). I highly recommend cocooning, even in small doses for all adopted children. Kofi and Joy were 6 and 3, but we did not go anywhere for the first few weeks, and then we ventured out slowly. It helped anchor them into our family and we really needed to get to know each other. Afua doesn't have words to tell us how she is doing, so getting to know her is even more crucial. This mean days hanging out on the floor, having her crawl all over me and exploring some of her toys.

I have felt that as more and more medical interventions and appointments come up, that I need to slow down and have a long term view of this. Each week, I look at my calendar and think "next week will be better" but for 8 weeks that has not been the case. Not that any one week is bad, but it's always filled with driving to our Children's Hospital, waiting in various offices, saying the same things over and over again to various medical professionals and then more referrals.

Parenting a child with special needs is a marathon. And in order to avoid burn out, I am quickly realizing we need days that are not medical in any way. I need to set aside all that is to come (surgeries, therapies, procedures, appointments) and simply see her as my little girl.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Your child can't be your only black friend

(this blog title started out as a half-joke and as I was discussing it with a friend, I decided to leave it....for better or worse)

I wrote a post a while back about Living as a multicultural family and documented our experiences thus far. I still feel the same way as I did when I wrote that post and we continue to find opportunities to immerse ourselves into all our children's world. But as I have thought about issues of multiracial families and spoken with other (more experienced) adoptive parents, my black friends, my adoptee friends, I came to this conclusion:

Your child cannot be your only black (or Asian or biracial or....) friend.

From very young, children begin to notice skin color and race. It may begin the same way the notice blue eyes and brown eyes, but soon it turns into something else. The book I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla is an interesting read for anyone who wants to understand how children form racial identities. No child should feel like they are always the only one with their skin color, the only one with white parents, the only one who is adopted. It's a lonely place to be even in the most loving families.

As adoptive parents, we make the choice to adopt and we need to immerse ourselves into our children's culture. Anything less is not acceptable, IMHO. We can't say that we live in a white town or we don't know any minorities or we attend a white church. We chose the neighborhoods, we chose the schools, we chose the churches. That is not a valid excuse. Children long to belong, they don't want to be the odd one out, they need mentors. I say this because I struggle with these issues too, not because I have it all figured out.

If you are thinking about adoption or you are still in the process, this is a perfect time to make sure your life is multicultural and multiracial. Consider your daily activities and how would your adopted child feel living in your world. How many people would they see that are people of color? Are there any adult or teen adoptees in your life that can give you a glimpse into your child's future? Can you plug into a community of people that would provide mentoring or a situation where you are the minority? This could be cultural or racial. This is the time to make connections.

Also consider any barriers you have personally to having friends of different races. Sometimes we have to confront our own feelings of racism (yes, even parent who adopt minority children can be racist...) or superiority. This link contains an explanation of white privilege and how that can impact our parenting or prevent us from acknowledging racism. (I haven't investigated that website for any other content, but the description is good) 

While our family has found mentors for our children and frequently visit with adoptive families, I know I can always do more. So I give this challenge to others as much as myself: how can we as adoptive parents immerse ourselves into our children's world and not expect our children just to join in ours?

Your child can't be your only black friend.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Cerebral Palsy

One of the first things we knew about Afua was that she has Cerebral Palsy. We were not troubled by the diagnosis and we knew that she was perfect just as she was. But once we took her to our first neurologist (I say first because we now have two that follow her) he was not sure if there was another type of neurological disorder going on. We had and MRI and we waited for the results.

Turns out, she does have CP. She had lack of oxygen to her brain either during birth or in utero which caused a part of her brain to be affected. We are following up with neurologist #2 to understand the extent of her injury better. So in some ways I was thankful to know what is going on, but a part of me was so sad that day.

I cried for my little girl and I cried for all that she has been through. I can't understand the magnitude of the rejection and loss she has felt during her first years. I cried for a culture that we love so much that doesn't love our daughter with a disability. I have spent enough time in Ghana to know how people with disabilities are viewed and how limited their opportunities are.

Many therapists that have evaluated her have given us such promise for her mobility and improvement in general. We are starting from the beginning, teaching her the most basic things we would teach our 6-9 month old babies. It's exciting to see her respond to the techniques and all the medical things that are available to her. Right now, sky is the limit and we get to witness her healing as we find more answers.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

You have your hands full...and other things I don't want to hear

We had 3 blissful days cocooning at home. Afua was done with appointments, over stimulating environments and being poked at by various people. And so was I. We needed a few days off knowing that Friday was our MRI that she needed to be sedated for.

During those quiet days at home, I saw huge progress in our attachment, in her physical abilities and in the way she communicated with us. I got to know Afua better as we moved through the day together. She was all over her siblings, engaged in their playing and scooting around to keep up with them. Precious!

Friday, we got up early, before anyone else was up. We went through admissions and into radiology. As we spoke with various people (admissions, nurses, doctor, child life specialist) the question come out inevitably. Because of our skin colors not matching, people know we are related due to adoption or foster care. I tell our story briefly and it leads to more questions. How many other children do you have at home? Do you have any of you "own" children? Really, you have 5 children? Did you know she had a disability when you adopted her? Wow, how do you do it? And MUST have your hands full. I can barely keep up with my (1,2,3) children. When this starts, I smile and take a deep breath....

Yes, our life is busy, but I think life is always busy. We fill our life with busy things no matter how many children we have. I was busy with 2 children, it was just a different kind of busy. Having 5 children is not crazy or impossible. It's sometimes loud, sometimes stretching all of us, but most of the time it's just a lot of love. And is it really a bad thing to have "full hands"?

Dear medical professionals, random deli counter acquaintances, soccer moms and anyone else that we encounter as we venture out: adoption is a fairly intentional way to add to our family. There is no "oops" adoption, it is pretty much all consuming work emotionally, physically, financially to have a child join our family. So please see it as a blessing as we do :)

Love, Me

Monday, August 19, 2013

My beautiful butterfly

Today, Joy headed back to preschool. She was so excited to pack her lunch, check and re-check her school supplies and she was ready to go well ahead of time. I couldn't help but reflect on the little girl who joined our family 18 months ago. She was quiet, withdrawn, shy and frightened. Today, she skipped from the car to school, hugged her old teachers and headed to her new classroom.

Joy is the perfect name for her. She is full of energy, full of 5 year old girl happiness. She is my beautiful butterfly.

Friday, August 9, 2013

2 weeks home

It will take some time to post my travel journal, 5 weeks worth of thoughts and adventures. But I wanted to give a quick glimpse into our 2 weeks home so far. I have friends who are considering adopting a child with medical needs and maybe this will help to understand how things are going for us.
Afua right before our first flight takes off

Afua was quite sick when she first arrived. Her orphanage did not give us any medications (not sure if she even was on any medications?) and they did not tell us what/how she eats. A child with low muscle tone has usually eating difficulties and we quickly discovered what NOT to do. It was scary to see her refuse to eat, begin to lose weight but we are thankful for quick action from our medical team.

At our final destination: Afua in her stroller and we escorted another little girl to her family

Day after we arrived, we saw our pediatrician. She was able to get us to see a neurologist the next day and he ordered an immediate EEG to monitor any seizure activity. This neurologist has spent time in Africa and was wonderful in giving us further recommendations. The EEG did not show seizures within the hour period of time, but we may go in for a full day monitoring later on.
Our first family picture

Our next stop was a swallow evaluation. We were unsure what food consistency was safe for Afua. We knew she coughed and gagged with certain consistencies. We learned that she cannot swallow liquids safely. We received a referral to a feeding clinic and a nutritionist so we can decide if a feeding tube is needed to supplement her nutritional needs.

After all these appointments the first few days, I was glad to have a day off and just spend time at home. Afua was on an antibiotic for awful ear infections that she had for a long time. Finally, she started eating and feeling better as her ear pain was going away. With that has come energy to play, explore and get to know her siblings.
Practicing reaching with Joy

We are thankful that we have stayed out of the hospital and figured everything out from home. We also have an MRI scheduled soon that will give us more insight into Afua's health. Our neurologist is not quite sure if she has cp or another kind of neurological condition that causes her to have low muscle tone.

Our family is doing well and all children are adjusting to many changes. Friends are bringing meals, which frees up time to bond and play. Afua's personality is emerging. She is quite determined, curious and she loves music. We are keeping her world as small as possible. But with 4 siblings and activities, she has been out of the house a bit more than we'd like. We did take a morning to enjoy nature and she loved listening to birds on the nature trails.

In the short 2 weeks that we have been home, the most overwhelming part has been paperwork. Our children's hospital makes it as painless as possible, but there are still assessment forms to fill out, applications for medicaid, phone call to arrange various appointments and each referral leads to another referral or five. There is so much we don't know about Afua and we are trying to move slowly with things that can wait. And with urgency the things that cannot. I am her advocate in getting the services started and also letting healthcare professionals know what can wait. Because she needs to have a day off at home. It's hard, but she is such a brave little girl with a joyous spirit. I am one blessed Momma.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Day 2

Travel Journal Day 2: we meet again Day (not sure if it's gotcha day yet)

I woke up after sleeping a blissful 9 hours. Haven't done that in ages. I got ready slowly and enjoyed the fact that I was able to do this. Otherwise I would start missing my 4 kids at home and one little one that is just 30 minutes away from me. 

I keep thinking about Afua and if she knows I am so close. That I am doing everything within my power to be with her and get to her. I wish I could talk about all of that (some day) but getting custody of her today is not guaranteed. We will have to ask, plead and maybe even beg to get her out today. 

I had a breakfast from home, asked for a cup of hot water from the hotel and made myself a Starbucks via, granola bar and applesauce gourmet meal. I need something familiar in my stomach with all this excitement going on. 

Around 10 am Patrick will be here and we will go to Afua's orphanage. 

Day 2 continued...(not gotcha day)

Patrick and I went to Afua's orphanage. We were instructed to sit and wait and she would be brought to us. It is a familiar routine they do and visitors are not allowed to observe any of the children's care areas. After some time, her auntie was carrying her, walked right passed us into the manageress to make sure she would approve of her appearance and then unceremoniously she handed Afua to me. I noticed that she had grown in the last 7 months, taller and heavier. She was smiling as I'm sure she knew she could have some one on one human interaction.

We went to sit outside under the shade of a tree and I observed that Afua had a lot of high muscle tone all over her body. Her ankle were stiff, her back was stiff and she kept arching her back uncomfortably. She was also suffering from a cold and we kept having to wipe her nose. While we were visiting, we received a call that we should go meet with the person who could give us custody of her. So we said goodbye and went to the office.

The meeting did not go well. The person in charge wanted to intimidate me, thinking because I was a woman I would not dare to speak to him. He also assumed I had never adopted or been to his country and he learned that neither was true very quickly :) He started with an immediate "no" but after I gave him all the reasons I should have custody of my legal child, he finally said he would think about it. He also stated I could visit Afua anytime I wanted for however long I wanted to bond with her. He asked that our power of attorney (POA) come and see him to discuss the custody issue. 

We returned to the orphanage and they didn't let me see her. So much for the bonding promised to me just a few minutes earlier. My heart sank. I really thought common sense would prevail, but it was not the case. In a culture where bribes are a common way to negotiate (and many Americans are willing to participate in great amounts), those who opt not to participate are at a disadvantage. I know that adoptive families have one focus: to get their children home. But there is a bigger picture that we all contribute into with our action, inaction and how we conduct business in general. My first full day back, and I had my fill of the current adoption climate here. 

After the conclusion of our adoption business and no chance of seeing Afua again, it was time to visit good friends. It was so good to see auntie Comfort, Mary, Lucy and Audrey. Lots of children were there too and I felt like it was the perfect place to end the day. Auntie Comfort was our lifeline since Erics last visit to Ghana as she would visit Afua weekly and it is because of those visits that she received better care. I don't know if I can ever express to her what those visits meant to me as we waited. I often wondered if the orphanage would let us know if Afua was sick or if something happened to her. We found out the hard way to they would not, and having Comforts presence there made a world of difference.
Precious, Lucy, Audrey and me
auntie Comfort

Overall, today was a bust. I felt like I need to fight for everything and this trip isn't going to be easy. The positive is that I am IN Ghana, close to my girl and surrounded by the most caring people who love my girl as much as I do.  

Travel Journal: Day 1

Travel Journal: Day 1 

Today was the long 24 hour journey to Ghana. I personally like the route that goes through Europe vs a long straight flight across the Atlantic. I had a layover in Chicago and then in Germany. as I left my husband and kids behind, I realized that I had a one way ticket and no idea when I would return. But I knew that I would be fighting to get Afua home and I would not leave without her. 

All flights were so smooth. Great weather to travel, no issues with boarding, layovers or connections. I had nice people sitting next to me that knew when to engage in conversation and when to let me sleep or watch a movie. As a mom of 4 (soon 5) kids, I am never alone. I prefer it that way, but it was nice to have some "me time". 

On the last flight, there were many  Ghanaians boarding and it made me feel like we were so close!!! Just 6 1/2 more hours and I would once again touch down in beautiful Ghana. 

I had a friend pick me up and he surprised me by bringing his wife and baby along. I have seen this baby in pictures only, so to see her in person was wonderful. She is just precious!!!! 

The hotel was new to me, so I checked the room out and it was perfect for the next few weeks. I took a quick shower and unpacked/sorted things. I checked emails and let everyone know I had arrived safely. 

I am in Ghana!!!!!

Friday, July 26, 2013

We are home!!!!

After 24 hours of traveling, we arrive home Wednesday afternoon. Our last 48 hours in Ghana were busy as we were getting her passport printed, taking it to the US Embassy for quick visa printing. Eric came to Ghana for 2 days and we were also trying to visit friends in that short time period. We also escorted another little girl home which made our trip fun and busy. I can't wait to share how all the events unfolded, but things couldn't have been more perfect!

Yesterday we started to look into Afua's health. Today, we have an EEG scheduled to investigate her seizures. Becoming a mom to a child with special needs feels a bit overwhelming. She has had 3 (ish) years of life without us and we are trying to catch up and provide her the medical care she didn't get in Ghana. Our pediatrician helped us in prioritizing her needs and it is making things easier. Our biggest focus is managing her seizures and completing a swallow study for eating. All the kids are handling all the changes very well and we are taking things a day at a time right now.

I am going to share my travel journal (34 days worth) as I find the time. I know some people would like to know what happened and why I ended up staying in Ghana longer than planned.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The fight continues

We are still working on all the paperwork to get Afua's visa printed. One more key document remains. I am still cautiously optimistic we could get it done this week. Today will determine much of that. We are enjoying sweet snuggles while we wait.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Update from Ghana

I have been in Ghana for three weeks and one day. Its gone by quickly in some way as we worked on the final steps of Afua's adoption. On June 2nd, we had our exit interview, the final step where all documents are gathered to issue a visa to the US. Our hope was to pass right away and travel home later that week. Our tickets were booked as there was no reason to deny her a visa.

During the interview, we were told they needed to look at some things more closely. They would not issue a visa right away, but would keep me updated due to Afua's health. We canceled all our tickets, and decided that I would stay in Ghana. Until it was done. No matter how long. Just as we wouldn't leave our 4 children at home sick in another country, we would not do this to Afua.

We received the answer that we have to re-do one document and then they will print her visa. In some ways it is a hard thing to do, but better than families who have been in this situation for month. Ours was solved in a week.

Now we are working hard to get this document re-done and we should have a visa next week. Afua''s health is still a concern, she has seizures and she has been fighting a respiratory illness. She also continues to vomit and has lost weight since I've been here. I don't get custody of her until I have a visa, so I visit her daily and that is hard.

I moved out of the hotel finally and I am staying with friends to save money. I am grateful for all the support given here, at home to Eric and the kids and we are doing fine because of it. Being away from my family for this length of time is something I didn't think I could do, but it is the right path for our family and what we are supposed to do. So there is peace in that.

I have kept a daily travel journal and I will post it here once I get home. Some details have to remain private until the entire situation is finished.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

One more flight!

I am in Frankfut, Germany just one more flight away from Ghana. It's been clear skies, smooth flights and no sleep. I actually watched two movies which is more than I have watched in a long time. My luggage weighed in at 48 pounds each, just under the 50 pound limit! All my clothes for the next few weeks are in my carryon, suitcases are full of donations and supplies for Afua. It's so surreal to think I am so close to seeing her again. It's been 6 1/2 long months.

The next couple of days will be very important. On Friday, I will have two important appointments that will determine how my mood will be over the weekend. It's hard to relax while that looms over me, but worrying isn't going to help either.

I haven't spent this much time alone in maybe 19 years? It's nice, but I miss my kids already and it would be nice to have a travel buddy. Last trip Emmi was the perfect companion, so excited to go to Ghana for the first time. On the way home, I will have plenty of company with Eric and Afua.

I hope to blog again once I get to Ghana. One more flight!

Friday, June 14, 2013

I have some news to share...

Over the last couple of weeks I have felt an unrest. It's difficult to describe any other way than that I felt like I needed to get my house in order. Get ready for THE trip. Get supplies etc. But everything around me said the adoption wasn't nearly to its conclusion as we don't have Afua's passport yet. And without that passport, we can't do the last 2 steps of her adoption. Still, I felt the need to get ready.

As I received concerning news and things seem to stall around us, Eric and I made a decision after much thought and prayer that I will be going to Ghana. One way ticket. Until she comes home.

Afua and Comfort doing their exercises

The decision is one we have complete peace about and we are mindful of the sacrifice of that decision. Emotionally and financially our entire family is sacrificing to bring Afua home. Our children were ok with that, because they know we would do the same for each of them. And they want their sister home before it's too late. Her health is in a delicate balance and we want to be sure we are not taking that for granted.

So I will leave next week and stay until we both come home. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Adoption Grants part 4 (fundraising other than grants)

I have had fun compiling resources for adoption funding. The process can seem so overwhelming especially with finances. Hopefully sharing about grants  has helped and this post will talk about other ways you can raise funds for adoptions.

1. Both Hands
Caring for the orphan and the widow at the same time. An opportunity for a family to raise funds for their adoption and help a widow at the same time. Watch the video on the website, it tells the story better than I could with words.

2. Lifesong for Orphans
Offers matching grants for adoptive families as well as interest free loans

3. A Child Waits
Interest free loans for adoption costs. Also offers grants to families.

Your creativity is the only limit to fundraising for you adoption. Well, maybe following the law may create some boundaries, but generally my creativity stops within the limits of the law:)  I have friends who have made crafts, art, jewelry, knitted or made body products to raise funds. Some have held pancake breakfasts, 5k runs, car-washes, silent auctions, restaurant fundraisers, concert benefits, family carnivals to name a few. Ask your friends involved in direct marketing companies (Scentsy, Mary Kay, Usborne Books, Thirty One etc) if they would donate their commission toward your adoption. Many are willing to do that. There are also some existing fundraising companies that will help those of us who may not be as creative (like me...). I like the ones especially that offer women in developing nations the opportunity to earn a sustainable living or give portion of their profits to humanitarian efforts.

- Apparent Project
-147 million orphans
-Ordinary Hero
-Just Love Coffee
-Adoption Bug

Please share your best fundraiser as a comment or send me an email at I will gladly update this post as more ideas are shared.

Friday, June 7, 2013


I was hoping my next post would be announcing my travel to Ghana. I have ordered my "travel essentials" aka bug spray and granola bars. And gummy bears for Eric. I have diapers, nutritional things for Afua, toys and clothes. I have donations already arranged in airtight bags to allow the maximum space for everything. All I really need is a "green light" to go. We need to know her passport is well in the process and I am off. We thought we were about 2 weeks from traveling, but as it turns out, we are not.

In April, Ghana adoptions were suspended, see THIS LINK Those who were well into the process already were considered "safe" and could proceed without much worry. Others who were just beginning were taking a calculated risk, but would likely make it through the process also. But what this has caused for everyone in the process is delays and slower timelines for everything. We passed court in December, nearly 6 months ago. By all reasonable timelines we should be done. Kofi and Joy were home 5 months after court and the typical timeline is 3-6 months. Many other families are worried and frustrated just as we are. Children do not thrive in orphanages, especially children with medical needs. We miss our sweet girl and long for her to be home. The uncertainty is challenging at best.

We will continue to clarify our timeline and make plans according to that.

Dear friends, please know that even though I don't have a perfect answer to when I will be traveling, don't hesitate to ask. I am glad you are thinking about Afua and want her home too. I may burst into tears (and I have many times) but that doesn't mean I don't want to talk about it. Right now, we just want her home and the delays are hard.

Eric and Afua 3 1/2 months ago saying their goodbyes

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Good news!!!

Friday, our long awaited i600 approval came. Afua's orphan investigation is done and we are cleared to the next phase. Our final adoption steps are:

1. Continue to secure Afua's passport
2. Visa medical exam for Afua (passport and a visa packet from the Embassy is needed for this)
3. Schedule visa interview with the Embassy after the medical
4. Visa interview
5. Visa printing
6. HOME!!!

We are getting so close to having her home. I will likely travel to Ghana somewhere between steps 1 and 2 which will lengthen the stay, but this way we can address some medical concerns and bond better witht Afua before we take on the long journey home. The end is in sight, the light shines at the end of the tunnel, but we are not quite there yet.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

This Momma Worries

This week has been hard. So much struggle around me, not just adoption related but all evidence of this fallen world. I haven't slept well, I am easily distracted and I find myself just wondering about so much injustice.

Officially Ghana adoptions have been suspended, but some regions are open and processing adoptions. The US side is placing more investigations which is causing delays. Some children will stay in orphanages because of the suspension. Some families are in limbo waiting if they should continue an adoption from Ghana, or look into another country.

Above all of this, one little boy went to heaven last week, someone very special to me. He had CP just like my Afua does and he had seizures just as we believe Afua does. He had access to the best medical care even before he was born, yet a seizure overcame his little body. While I mourn this loss, I think of my little one who is waiting and know this could happen to us too. I am letting my mind go to a place that scares me and I just want to hop on the next plane and bring her home.

We are still waiting to get an approval on our i600 application. Every day should be the day of good news, but so far it hasn't yet. I truly appreciate the encouraging words, the prayers and the support of everyone. This part is hard, but I know not as hard as for the one waiting in an orphanage.

She is loved by so many here in the US and in Ghana.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Honoring First Mothers Everywhere

Mother's Day used to be MY day. I would gladly accept a little extra sleep, kids gifts from school and my husband's carefully selected gift. There were years that I wished we had more children, or grieved a little life we never met, but I was a Mom and that's what mattered.

And then our family changed. Two precious kids from the other side of the ocean became a cherished son and daughter. And Mother's Day took a whole new meaning...

There was another mother that had carried them, loved them, protected them and wanted them. And as I began to parent my children, I was in a way sharing this journey with her. It was no longer MY day, it was now OUR day.

Last year, I didn't feel I could take any credit for their mothering, as it had only been 2 1/2 months. We kept our Mother's Day very low key and enjoyed a lovely day together. This year, with school and language development, they know what this weekend is about. I am pretty sure there are some cute gifts waiting for me, and we will take a picture of them and send it to Ghana for our extended family there to see. I still feel like I can't take all the credit for this day, because there is another woman who did the most sacrificial act out of love for them. And I want to be sure that she is acknowledged somehow too.

One way that I honor first mother's everywhere is to be intentional in my gift giving and choosing organizations that lift women out of poverty by providing sustainable income for them. Here are some organizations I love:

Beautiful scarves and a wonderful business model.

Light Gives Heat
Jewelry and many other accessories.

Delicate Fortress Creations
Many beautiful gift items from around the world

31 Bits
Jewelry that has been featured in many fashion magazines

Candles benefiting various social justice causes.

Other ways you can help women in developing nations:

Because Every Mother Matters
Sponsor a woman to start a business and reverse the cycle of poverty in her family

And my personal favorite:

The Fern House

Helping women in crisis pregnancy situation by providing safety, health and training for a career.

Happy Mother's Day! Let's spend the day (and all the days) finding ways to support mothers around the world!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Adoption Update

Late March, the US Embassy asked us for more documentation to continue to investigate our daughter's case. All requests were reasonable and understandable. All requests seemed doable. Out of 3 documents, we have made great progress with 2 of them. But 1 seems to be harder and I don't seem to have all the answers why. Other than that the document is in a far region and will take for someone to drive there to obtain it. Ugh. I hate this part. I want to be in control so I would want to just fly over there and do it myself. But that is not rational, doable and all that grown up stuff :)

So now, 6 weeks after the request, we wait for the document that I thought was easy to get. I know some day this will be a distant memory, but right now, it's tough. I am ready to see that smile and those sparkly eyes. My heart's about to POP!!!!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

When you say YES...

"When you say YES to adoption, you are saying YES to enter the suffering of the orphan, and that suffering includes WAITING FOR YOU TO GET TO THEM. I promise you, their suffering is worse than yours. We say YES to the tears, YES to the longing, YES to the maddening process, YES to the money, YES to hope, YES to the screaming frustration of it all, YES to going the distance through every unforeseen discouragement and delay. Do not imagine that something outside of "your perfect plan" means you heard God wrong. There is NO perfect adoption. EVERY adoption has snags. We Americans invented the "show me a sign" or "this is a sign" or "this must mean God is closing a door" or "God must not be in this because it is hard," but all that is garbage. You know what's hard? Being an orphan. They need us to be champions and heroes for them, fighting like hell to get them home. So we will. We may cry and rage and scream and wail in the process, but get them home we will."
--Jen Hatmaker

Right now our wait is hard. The closer we get to the end, the more resistance and slow down there is. I wish I could explain it all here, but it really is irrelevant as we wait here and she waits there. And then I saw the quote from Jen Hatmaker above. And my hard doesn't compare to my sweet daughter's hard. My wait is not like her wait. I wait in a comfortable home, I have unlimited hugs and kisses. I have food in abundance and medical care is easily accessible. And the same is my prayer for her. So we continue to fight for her and before long, we will bring her home. And she will know a love of a family, something that she has not had for the last 2 years.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Adoption Grants part 3

This is the 3rd post in adoption grant series. You can find part 1 here and part 2 in the 2 previous posts.

You may have seen the box to the right of my blog, with a generous amount of money displayed there. That is our grant that has been growing for Afua even before she was ours. It's absolutely amazing and awe inspiring to think that people were praying for her family to find her, donating to a grant to help with her adoptions costs and waiting to see who her family was. And now that they know us, they have continued to encourage us and support us along the way. This wonderful organization is called Reece's Rainbow

Reece's Rainbow is a wonderful adoption ministry that advocates for orphaned children around the world who have special needs. Over the years, they have helped 900+ children home by providing grants to lower the cost of that child's adoption. The grant stays with the child, not the family, and that makes Reece's Rainbow so unique.

Some special needs that the children have are minor, others are life threatening. Some children will need extensive medical treatments and therapies, others will not. All they need regardless of the special needs is love of a family.

I would encourage everyone to explore the possibility of adopting a child with special needs. They are overlooked and have very little hope in their current situation.

Among the children waiting for a family is:


Harry and Will (get it???)

Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names.  They are easier to ignore before you see their faces.  It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms.  But once you do, everything changes.” David Platt

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Adoption Grants Part 2

This post is a continuation of the adoption grant series, you can read part 1 here

For this post, I wanted to compile a list of reputable grant organizations that I either 1. received a grant from 2. know someone personally who received a grant or 3. could otherwise be verified as reputable. I hope you will comment if you know other grant organizations that are reputable.

So here is my list so far:

1. Show Hope
Criteria: Married, Christian couples who are home study ready.
Deadlines: quarterly deadlines with an online portion and supported documents sent separately

2. Gift of Adoption
Criteria: home study ready families, no religious criteria, agency or independent adoption
Deadline: monthly reviews

3. Affording Adoption:
Criteria: they are currently fundraising for future grants, but keep checking their website

4.Salvation International
Criteria: home study ready families
Deadline: quarterly grant deadlines, see website

5. A Child Waits
Criteria: home study ready families, prefer toward the end of adoption to give travel fund grants
Deadlines: ongoing

6. Help Us Adopt
Criteria: home study ready families, prefers families with no children currently
Deadline: twice yearly (April and October)

7. Lifesong for Orphans
Criteria: homestudy, pastoral reference letter. Offers matching grants and interest free loans
Deadline: n/a

8. One Less Ministries
Criteria, home study, statement of faith, pastoral questionnaire
Deadline: n/a

9. Jeremiah 29:11 Project
-watch the website for application periods, at this time they are reviewing and fundraising current applicants

10. Beautiful Feet Global Outreach
Criteria: home study ready families, statement of faith required
Deadline: ongoing

11.  Lydia Fund
Criteria: Married, Christian couples with home study.
Deadline: will review 90 days after application received

12. CARE
Criteria: home study ready families, faith based grant
Deadline: rolling based on funds

13. His Kids Too
 Criteria: Christian, homestudy ready couples
Deadline: n/a

14. Sea of Faces
I read that they are in fundraising phase right now, but keep checking the website for updates. Usually a quarterly grant program.

15. Families Outreach
Criteria: homestudy ready families, requires a pastoral letter
Deadline: will review in 4-6 weeks

16. JSC Foundation
Criteria: homestudy ready families, faith based grant
Deadline: 5 deadlines throughout the year

17. Heart of the Bride
Criteria: Christian, married couples with homestudy and agency
Deadline: ongoing

18. Love Has Come
Criteria: Christian family, home study complete, using a licensed 501(c)3 agency. Priority given, but not limited to, Montana families.
Deadline: Quarterly

Please stay tuned for part 3 in the Adoption Grants series. It's my favorite grant program of all time and a HUGE part of Afua's adoption story.And part 4 will include other ways to raise funds for your adoption, including tax-deductible adoption accounts, matching grants and fundraisers.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Adoption Grants Part 1

Adoption grants are one way to help with adoption costs. During our two adoptions, we have applied and qualified for adoption grants of various sizes. I have been so grateful that people have shared their knowledge of grants with us, and I thought I would "pay it forward". I also spoke with a  board member of a grant giving organization who chose us for a grant and it gave me some insight on what the organizations may be looking for.

Some tips when filling out the grant applications:

1. Be yourself
Really, the organizations, especially the smaller ones want to get to know you. Even though the application may be a "fill the blanks" type, there will always be a way to personalize it. Include your family picture, or if there are open ended questions, tell them your adoption story. Even if you have just finished your home study, you have a story. If they choose you for a grant, they will likely want to tell your story to their supporters. Just be yourself and let them see who your family is.

2. Include everything they ask for
A major reason for turning down an application right away, is due to missing documents. There is a reason why they ask for specific things and either have everything ready, or wait until you do. When an organization receives more applications than they can give grants to, this becomes the easiest way to thin down the pile.  If there is a major reason why you don't have a document to share with them, you could always explain (may or may not work) but at least acknowledge this with them. Also fill in every box in the application, double check this before you send it.

3. Focus on grants for your circumstances
Many grants have religious preferences. Don't apply unless you fit their criteria. Some grants have a domestic adoption focus, special needs adoption focus, older child focus, sibling group focus, Asia focus etc.  Some grant organizations post statistics on who received their grant, read those and see if you might fall into that category. Start your process by focusing on the ones that fit your circumstances the best, and then by all means apply for the others.

4. Make a goal for yourself
It's easy to look at the number of applications and get overwhelmed. I tend to do my applications in small batches. Like 2-3 at a time. However long you want to give yourself to get them done, make a goal and stick with it. Keep copies of all documents, some you may need multiple times. Ask for general reference letters from 3-4 people. Speak with your pastor, he or she will need to get involved with some grants.

5.  Don't focus on the "biggies" only
There are a handful of well known grant organizations that provide big grants for adoptive families. They receive many applications and are only able to help a select a limited number of families. It's a huge blessing to be one of the select few. But there are many smaller non-profits that also offer grants and the odds of being selected are in your favor. It may take a bit more work to find them, but so worth it if you are a recipient.

6. Follow up
This is huge!!!!!! I can't emphasize this enough. If a grant says they will review applications in a certain time frame and you don't hear from them, don't assume you have not been selected. One grant we applied for, I knew that their timeline for reviews had passed and I emailed them for follow up. It lead to a string of emails and ultimately grant approval. Had I assumed this was a denial, I would have missed out on a grant. Many organizations are small and things happen. One particular grant started out smaller, but they received unexpected donations and it ended up doubling in value. So please, don't only focus on the "biggies", the small ones are just as important.

7. Gratitude
When you receive a grant, make sure you keep them updated on your progress. Some grants depend on your story to be able to raise funds for future grants. Let them know when your child is home, send them pictures and thank yous. This will help future families and keep the grants going. And once you are in a financial position to do so, pay it forward by sending a donation to them. Another adoptive family will be blessed by you paying it forward.

Please post any tips you may have in the comments, I am sure others will have wisdom to share.

Part 2 will talk about actual grant organizations....

Friday, April 12, 2013


Yesterday morning I woke up to see pictures of my little girl. It does good to my heart to see that she is smiling and a little determined too. It will serve her well later on. Of course it brought more intense feeling of missing her, remembering how it feels to hold her and all the little sounds she makes. But I would rather miss her this intensely than not know how she is doing.

I especially love the last picture. I am not sure if Auntie Comfort will let me leave Ghana with Afua :) They have a beautiful bond and Comfort is such a blessing to us while we can't be with our daughter.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The middle

Between the leap of faith to adopt and having your child(ren) home, is the middle. It can be incredibly hard place to be. As a mother, my heart was not created to be split in two. My arms ache when my children are not near. I worry when one is away, even when I know they are safe and loved. But especially when one is in an orphanage, the worry, heartbreak and arm ache multiplies. Since we don't receive reports or updates, we operate on faith alone. We trust that this story will have a happy ending. It's already written, we just need to walk in it.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

When news become good news

Thursday, I received an email from the USCIS and my heart raced as I thought they sent us our i600 (orphan investigation) approval. It was only a week ago that they received all needed documents, so this would have been a super fast approval, the average is 30-60 days. Instead they asked for more documentation and corrected documentation. Of course, it is good that they are careful with each investigation and even smallest discrepancies should be corrected. Also, it gave me hope that once we comply with their requests, they will be ready to conclude and approve our i600. So not THE news I was hoping for, but a promising start.

As I re-read the email again, something popped out that I hadn't seen before. It mentions a city that is in one of our reports. I went back to our paperwork, found the part that mentions the city and in the past I assumed it was a suburb of the capital, Accra. As I googled this city, I noticed it was quite far from the capital and the likely place Afua was born in. Wow, more details about her past came out and I would have never been able to figure this out on my own.

That's when the email went from ok news to good news. We will likely never know Afua's parents or all the circumstances of her early life. So these little nuggets of information are like gold to me. Good news.

When Eric was in Ghana, he was trying to see if we could somehow figure out Afua's hometown. She has marks on the side of the face, which we thought were tribal marks. This would have been a clue to her birth place. Turns out they were from a tribal healer, who makes small cuts into a body part and then places ashes (or something similar) into the cuts in attempt to cure a disease. Her family may have taken her to a healer in order to cure her CP or another disease during the first year of her life. So what we thought was a clue to her past, ended up being something else.

So we rejoice in the small clues we get to Afua's past, we rejoice that her case is being reviewed with understanding and care. Once we have the additional information, we should be very close to a conclusion of the investigation. And another step closer to bringing her home.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Life as a multicultural family

Last week was Kofi's open house at school. Some parents knew that he was adopted, but some were genuinely surprised that our son had white parents. It happens at the grocery store, where we may be a few feet apart looking for things, and then Joy will yell "Mommy" and people turn around because they don't see a woman with a matching skin color. It happened at the pool this summer when the lifeguard wasn't sure if my son had a parent in the water with him. I was standing right next to him. It happens at boys sports, where people are unsure how to ask the questions about race, culture or adoption. But the truth is, we are a multicultural family, we do not blend in easily. We know it, and we are more than ok with it. Our decision to adopt from West Africa wasn't made without considering how we would live as a multicultural family.

Our communities are pretty divided around here. We have predominantly white communities (well to do and poor) and we have predominantly black communities (well to do and poor). We don't completely blend in at either one, but we're for the most part embraced by both. We also purposefully seek other multicultural families so that our kids don't feel alone. My boys are especially proud of their twin status and like to make it known. I hope they are always as proud to be siblings as they are currently. I should also add that our family embraced two different cultures before we adopted but it was not as obvious because my skin matches my husband's.

So what is it like to be a multicultural (especially multiracial) family? I think sometimes people expect us to be hesitant to talk about race or I see a nervousness when we talk about it so openly. My daughter knows her skin is a beautiful shade of brown. She knows we don't match and we don't pretend that families have to match to love each other. What's there to hide? My son knows he has a white Momma and we know our family came together in a unique way. We celebrate it, we love and we live it. I am fully aware that their take on having me as their Mom may change as we encounter the teens years and we will continue to figure it out together.

One of our first outings after Kofi and Joy arrived was to a chick fil a for lunch. It was 3 weeks into our adventure as a family of 6 and we were still pretty overwhelmed. A lady stopped me and asked if my children were from Ghana. Turns out her mom was visiting from Ghana and saw Kofis Ghanian soccer jersey. Joy spotted the women and immediately stood next to the grandma. Before long Joy rested her head on her shoulder ( a big no no for attachment purposes, but my heart longed for her to feel comfortable for the first time in 3 weeks). This lady was a grandmotherly type, she began to speak Twi to my children and that is when I realized that I could never be ALL my daughter needs. She longs to be with people of her race and while she loves me, creating those relationships for her is so important. In Sunday school, she loves other girls with brown skin. And we are fortunate in being able to provide this for her. But at times, we need to be more aware of this need and step out of our routines. And it's not just about the skin color. They need the cultural connection as much as they need a racial connection.

This past year has opened our eyes to our entire community and we are better for it. We step into situations where Eric and I are the minority to give our children a chance to blend in. I have danced the African dances, I have sat in the barbershops so that Kofi will get the style he wants, I choose a restaurant based on their demographic rather than the menu. And I am so thankful I was shaken out of my white bubble. I have always considered our family to be inclusive and our circle of friends reflect it. But I didn't go out of my way to seek out a community where I was a minority.

Last summer, we went to learn about West African drumming and dancing. It was taught by musicians from Guinea and most people who were interested had a connection to Africa. Oh, how they loved my children, all four of them. And the questions were so different (for the first time) than what we had encountered before. Some could guess pretty accurately where Joy was from. Maybe she has a Ghanaian look, I don't know. Kofi was harder to guess, but once they heard his name, they figured it out. We were welcomed as his parents and while my drumming was awkward and off beat, we had a wonderful time. I would never have these opportunities to meet such beautiful people, if it wasn't for being Kofi and Joy's Momma. I just hope it's enough for them, that we are truly embracing and welcoming people around us who help them navigate their racial and cultural identity.

Jake's got some fancy moves

Adoption starts with loss, and my children have lost a lot in the process. While I can't replace any of their losses completely, I hope we can find a different way to build up their identities as it relates to their West African culture and their race.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Peeling the layers of an onion..

I use this space to describe our journey to Afua. But I am also an incredibly blessed Momma of 4 other children, 2 joined our family the old fashioned way and 2 by adoption. There is much hesitation surrounding older child adoption and what that really looks like on a regular basis.I absolutely love older child adoption and witnessing the healing journey from an older child's perspective.
Picture from one week home.

Kofi is 7 1/2 and his first year in our family has been great overall. He has embraced his new life here (which is key to attaching) and he understands why he was adopted. He lived his life in Ghana, he remembers the hard times and I am fortunate that he talks about his experiences freely. At the same time he loves his country and culture, which he is now separated from. It is huge price to pay for him and there are days that the grief is so evident. We have worked through so much with Kofi this year, but of course more work needs to be done.

His biggest wish was to have a bicycle in America. Mission accomplished.

One of the things we are in the middle of is educational testing. Years of malnourishment, lack of education and trauma make it a challenge for Kofi to retain information. We don't know the exact root cause and so we are on a mission to find out. We have consulted with an adoption specialist who gave us many referrals in the coming months. Our school absolutely loves him, they have went above and beyond in providing educational supports for him.

None of the books prepared me for this last year. I received lots of tools from attachment books, but the day to day parenting is hard to learn from a manual. There are days that break my heart as I think of the life he used to live. And there are days that he longs for the comfort of that life no matter how hard it was. It was familiar and all he knew. Our life is still strange and different. But we do figure it out, together. We often say that just as he has never lived in America before, I have never been a Mommy to a boy from Ghana. We have enough common ground and love to figure it out together. 

my twins

The next few months we will learn new things about Kofi. He will be given diagnoses (some we know, some will be surprised to us, I'm sure), we will learn more about them. But in this Momma's eyes, he will always have just one label: SON.