Colin & Noelle

Colin & Noelle


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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ethiopian Cuisine.

A couple of weeks ago, Colin and I went out to celebrate my birthday. When we started planning where to go for dinner, nothing really interested me. I was sort of in the mindset that I would rather stay home and not spend the money on eating out because honestly, nothing sounded that interesting. And with Thanksgiving in the same week, I knew we'd be eating well enough. So the desire to do anything special in terms of dinner just wasn't as appealing.

Until I remembered the Ethiopian restaurant we've been wanting to try in Louisville! We've talked about it for months, but for some reason, we'd just never gotten around to it. It was on my pre-adoption bucket list (yes, I have one of those!) and seemed perfect! The only downside to planning this was in the few days prior that felt like torture. I'm not even kidding. Throughout the day(s) before, I would catch myself thinking about this meal. Wondering how it tasted, pouring over the menu online, and hoping I would like it. Nevermind the Thanksgiving feast we'd be having the very next evening... I was having Ethiopian food !  ;)

Queen of Sheba
We drove to Louisville and arrived at Queen of Sheba restaurant. We walked in to find a smaller (but decently sized) restaurant, with perhaps about 5 or 6 other tables of people at any given time. The atmosphere was wonderful with lower lighting and festive Ethiopian decorations along the walls. The waiters were friendly, appropriately attentive, and able to answer any questions about Ethiopian cuisine that we, or the table next to us, could think to ask.

Now, the food... What can I possibly say about the food that could accurately describe how amazing it was?! While sitting at the table, I believe all of the following thoughts ran through my head at some point: "How do they make it taste so good?! What is in this stuff?" / "Wow, I wonder if I'll ever be able to recreate this for our child(ren) at home!" / "How will I ever explain this to anybody??" / "Anyone that ever comes to visit us has  to come eat here" / "We just need to move to Ethiopia so we can eat this all the time."

Like that, but on repeat. ;)

I will say that I wasn't overly in love with every single thing, but the same could be said of any restaurant. It was just a taste preference. Here's what we ordered, and my thoughts on each:


Traditional Ethiopian Coffee - not like American coffee, and not even like the Ethiopian coffee you can order from Just Love Coffee. I have never had anything like this in my life. My best (although probably terrible) description would be that it was like coffee/tea. It had spicey tones to it, similar to what chai tea has, except it was coffee. It would not be my regular go-to for my morning cup o' joe, but it's something not to be missed when looking for an Ethiopian experience!

Beyaynetu - Appetizer sample platter. Colin really liked the Fossolia (greenbean) wrap, while I didn't care for that as much, but would highly recommend the Kosta (spinach) wrap.

Doro Wot (Chicken Stew)  Sega Tips (Sauteed Beef)- A large number of Ethiopian meals come in the form of Wot (sometimes spelled wat; meaning "stew"). Ethiopian food is traditionally not eaten with utensils, although they can usually be requested at American restaurants (but what fun is that?!). It is also traditionally eaten off of one shared platter (see pic below), although you can request individual plates at some restaurants as well. I ordered the Doro Wot, and Colin ordered the Sega Tips, and each meal came with the following on the side...

Injera (bread) - This is a must-know for anyone looking to familiarize themselves with Ethiopian culture or cuisine. This is practically at every meal. Like stated above, Ethiopian food consists of a lot of Wot and no utensils. Injera is the vehicle used to get stew from plate to mouth. It comes as the "liner" on the plate, underneath the foods, as well as rolled up. It is similar to a very light, fluffly, thin pancake. The taste however, is nothing like a pancake. I had read that it's "sour" and can take some getting used to. I was a little nervous about that to be honest. But after trying it, it was only "sour" in the sense that sourdough bread is "sour". And by itself, it's nothing too impressive. But when you tear off a piece, use it to scoop up your wot, and eat it all as one bite --- it's a whole new thing! It balanced out the spices in the food nicely, and was the perfect pairing!

Kik Wot (Lentil Stew) - Okay. Did I not tell you they eat a lot of wot? You order wot for dinner, and voila!, you get a side of wot with that... I must make another confession to you. I was ready to try Kik Wot when I saw on the menu that it came as a side, but I was not anticipating liking it a whole lot. I am not one of those people who eats really terrible or really healthy foods (okay, I eat a little of both!). I'd consider myself average. But for some reason, I think of the word "lentil" in the same way I think of "tofu burger" (which is pretty synonymous with the word "yuck!" for me). But friends, I have seen new light. I can't tell you if I like lentils any other way, but I now love  Kik Wot! I found myself going back to it more than the chicken...

Salad - Okay, this was pretty much just salad. But it was really helpful to have something "cooler" to eat in between bites. Ethiopian food uses a lot of spices... not any really hot peppers that I noticed, more spices that kind of add up to just a lot of flavorful heat in your mouth - especially if you're not used to it.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _


Overall, we had a wonderful time. We took leftovers home and snacked on them along with our Thanksgiving leftovers. I was curious about whether or not the injera would hold up in the fridge or get soggy, but it seemed to do fine for a day or two.

Everything about being there just made me long for Ethiopia that much more. I can't wait until we can go back, and I most definitely cannot wait until we get to travel to meet our sweet little one and try these dishes in Ethiopia! For now, I'm on a mission to find some recipes online. I'm hoping to get a better handle on cooking Ethiopian food myself before we bring baby Graham home... Wish us luck! :)




*** Please keep in mind that Ethiopian food is not a "quick" in-and-out type of meal. We probably spent just under 2 hours there (I'm guessing?). Allow yourself time to enjoy it. 




Friday, November 30, 2012

World AIDS Day.


This Saturday marks "World AIDS Day". In 1988, the World Health Organization declared December 1st as the annual date to recognize the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It has continued to be observed globally in places like the U.K., South Africa, Ethiopia, and the United States, to name just a few. As I've browsed the web over the past few days in an attempt to refresh my knowledge, I have come to the realization that so many people don't understand HIV or AIDS. And I'm not talking about those affected in third-world countries. I'm talking about Americans. I'm talking about people within societies that are considered "well-educated" and have great access to public schooling -- that theoretically cover topics like this in basic middle/high school health classes! And even though I feel that I was raised in a school district that talked about HIV and AIDS constantly, some of the statistics were still quite shocking.

So why is this relevant to our Ethiopian Adoption Blog? Because HIV is relevant. To Ethiopia. To Africa. And especially to some fellow adoptive-parents and children within our community -- and quite possibly, yours. Due to a variety of reasons, children with HIV are often overlooked by potential adoptive parents. And while some of the time that decision is thoughtfully made, at others, it is undoubtedly due to lack of understanding -- a decision deriving out of fear of the unknown.

Then, some children who are  adopted may find themselves coming home to communities that are apprehensive towards them. Parents who have just endured the long journey to welcoming this new child, and who are doing the best they can to love and provide for this child, may find themselves feeling alone and without the support they need. Adoption is a beautiful thing, but a challenging thing. It's worth every second, but that doesn't mean there aren't moments of loneliness where it feels as if nobody understands (perhaps aside from other adoptive parents). And although a lot of adoptive parents genuinely love to talk about adoption, that doesn't mean they never get tired of being asked ignorant or overly-personal questions. Throw HIV into the mix, and I can only imagine how hard that must be...

Which is why all of us  need to be educated -- whether or not you ever adopt an HIV+ child. Your best friend might. Your sibling might. Your  child might. An HIV+ child could one day be your neighbor, your niece or nephew, or your grandchild. And that's okay. Do what you can to educate yourself. I imagine that it's one of the best ways you can offer support to a family with an HIV+ child.



Now, because I think being educated about HIV and AIDS is so important, here are a few basic facts and stats to get you started, if you happen to be one of the many people who know little to nothing about HIV/AIDS, or if you simply need a refresher...

  • HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and AIDS (Aquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome) are NOT the same thing -- sort of. 
      • HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, similar to the common cold, but is too strong for the body to fight off. AIDS is the final stage of HIV, and occurs after too many cells have been destroyed and the immune system is already severely damaged. 
  • HIV can be managed! It doesn't have  to lead to AIDS. And it doesn't have  to lead to premature death. It used to be that HIV could progress to AIDS very rapidly. Now, individuals who are HIV+ can often expect to live full, happy lives, thanks to modern medicine. 
  • Without any medicinal treatment, upwards of 30% of babies born to mothers with HIV, will contract HIV themselves. An additional 5-20% of children who do not contract it by birth, may contract it through breast-feeding. Mothers with HIV who receive proper treatment and choose to formula-feed can reduce the risk of their child contracting HIV to less than 1 or 2%.
  • HIV can be passed via bodily fluids, such as through sexual contact, needle sharing, pregnancy/breast feeding, etc. It cannot be passed through general, daily activities, such as skin to skin contact, sitting on a toilet seat, swimming in the same pool, or simply by being around someone who is HIV+. (In 2011, roughly 15-25% of American's didn't know this).
  • Approximately 1 million Americans are living with HIV. And 1 in 5 don't know about it. (Imagine what those statistics must look like in countries with less resources!)
    •  
  • There are no symptoms of HIV. By the time any symptoms appear, the virus has usually advanced to the AIDS stage -- which is why it is important to make sure you are tested!


Now, check this out...


And this...

 (for an idea of what "Sub-Saharan Africa" 
looks like from a global perspective)

(The blue star is approx. the location of Ethiopia)


DO YOU REALIZE THAT 9 OUT OF 10 HIV+ CHILDREN LIVE IN THAT RED AREA? AND THAT HIV TRANSMITTED TO CHILDREN THROUGH BIRTH IS *ALMOST* ENTIRELY PREVENTABLE?!  That should break our hearts. That should cause us to be moved to action...


So as we enter this years' World AIDS Day, I hope each of you will consider how you can make a difference in the battle against HIV/AIDS. Educate yourself, get yourself tested (please, please, please!), spread the word and increase awareness, donate blood, donate money to an organization that provides medicine to HIV+ individuals in less-fortunate regions of the world, offer an encouraging word to an adoptive family with an HIV+ child, and/or pray for those around the world suffering from, or orphaned by, HIV/AIDS. 





For more information, please check out the following links...
AIDS.gov (United States)




      Monday, November 19, 2012

      November: A month for all things "Adoption"


      I admit, November is one of my favorite times of the year. It's always been a month full of family. Between Thanksgiving, my birthday, the birthdays of several family members, and all the yummy foods, smells, colors on the trees, and Christmas decorations starting to pop up... November is just all around pretty dang awesome, in my opinion.

      But until this year, I never knew that November also happens to be "National Adoption Month"! How amazing, right? And it's been a pretty exciting "adoption" month for us and some of our friends this November...

      We started out the month with our new wait list number -- we are #78 this month! Early November brought us another get-together with families from our agency, where we heard a story from another family that recently traveled over to Ethiopia for their first visit. Their story is their own, and I won't re-tell it publicly here, but I will say that throughout it, we laughed at some moments, almost cried at others, learned a little about what to expect when traveling, as well as being reminded of the idea that anything can happen in this process-- both in heartbreaking ways, as well as positive ones. At this meeting, we also learned that at that time, just a few short days into the month, at least a few families had already been given referrals for 6 different children in November! Amazing, right?! Overall, we left that meeting feeling really connected to other families, inspired, excited, and just ready to see where this month takes us...

      Another noteworthy event came on November 4th, which has become known as Orphan Sunday, as coined by the Christian Alliance for Orphans. Unfortunately, we have been so busy, we didn't get the chance to attend any local Orphan Sunday events. The goal of Orphan Sunday is for Christians, often through the church setting, to bring awareness to the orphan crisis in our world today, and to encourage Christians to consider how they might be able to "defend the cause of the fatherless" (Isaiah 1:17). This doesn't have to mean adoption specifically, but rather all kinds of caring for orphans. We hope to be a part of this next year, and we hope you'll consider looking into this as well. Perhaps you could attend an event or encourage your church or group to hold an Orphan Sunday event?

      Then, this past Saturday, the 17th was National Adoption Day (primarily focusing on Foster Care Adoption) and a pretty big day for those within our adoption community! It was our 2-months-down mark on the waiting list -- as well as for our new friends who are 1 number behind us (because our dossiers arrived in Ethiopia at the same time)! We're not-so-secretly hoping to get referrals at the same time so we can travel together and officially meet, since they live in a different state. ;)

      Saturday was also a big day for my friend Shayna (who so generously organized our Jewelry fundraiser with her friend Lena earlier this year). Well, Shayna's family has been fostering a little boy for the past couple of years, and his adoption was finalized Saturday -- such an exciting way to celebrate National Adoption Day! Also, let me just say that long before we even considered adoption for our family, I remember Shayna often sharing her love for foster care/adoption. Her heart towards the fatherless is inspiring and amazing to witness. She has been an incredible source of encouragement throughout this process. Thank you for that, Shayna!!

      But wait! There's even more! Remember our friends Ashley & Patrick Gollasch? A while back we wrote this blog post about them. They began their domestic adoption process this year. They wrote up a "Dear Birthmother" letter, submitted it, and officially began waiting at the end of August. By the end of September they were matched!! It is UNBELIEVABLY quick. This past weekend was their baby shower, which we unfortunately could not attend due to living so far away.. but it sounds like it was a wonderful day! Their little one (gender still unknown) is due to arrive in just a couple weeks!! So a big CONGRATULATIONS to the Gollasch Family!!

      And a big Thank You to whoever has found the time to finish reading my novel of a blog post today!!

      :)









      Thursday, November 1, 2012

      USCIS Approval!


      We are very happy to announce that last weekend we received a letter in the mail from USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) informing us that our fingerprints had been processed and that our I-600A application had come back favorable! And very quickly - with only a month between the filing date and completion date! We were told to expect up to 90 days, so we are ecstatic about this!

      We'll need to update this paperwork over time, but it states that we are provisionally pre-approved to adopt 1-2 child(ren), either gender, 0-3 years of age from Ethiopia and bring them into the United States upon their adoption (more or less - that's the condensed version).

      We're feel so blessed that God has brought us on this journey. Even in the moments where I felt overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork, and when I've been unsure of how things would come together, He has been faithful in His perfect timing, and this approval is just one more thing we can check off our "to-do" list and praise Him for! Thank you Lord, for being with us every step of the way! :)



      Tuesday, October 23, 2012

      October [so far].


      We've been pretty quiet around here, and somewhat quiet in "real life" when it comes to talking about adoption-related things. Mainly because there hasn't been many newsworthy changes, as I suspect will be the case for most of the next year, with a few exceptions here and there.

      I've had a few blog post ideas floating around in my head lately. However, over the past [almost] month, we've just been catching up on life outside of our adoption. With all the paperwork and education requirements, it felt so consuming there for a while. It was definitely a busy season for us, and our adoption process took the front seat. Now, as we mostly just wait around for a year, we're kind of taking the time to catch up on the other areas of life and we've been keeping pretty busy.

      We expect to get an updated wait-list number once a month, usually within the first few days of each month, but on some occasions, they'll send it out a few days early. So we won't know our next updated number until early November. Although we don't know how this will affect us and our standings, we've heard of a few families receiving referrals this month! Which is awesome, considering there weren't any last month. But *hopefully* this means referrals are picking back up. We're excited for our fellow adoptive families, as well as to get our November number to see if we've moved up at all.

      For now, the only small update on our part is that we were assigned a fingerprinting appointment that we went to last week! It was for our I-600A which is our petition to bring an orphan into the United States (basically asking immigration to approve us to bring home an orphan from Ethiopia). I was a little nervous about missing that appointment (if you're a no-show they just assume you didn't want it and drop your case!), but we made it with more than enough time to spare, and everything seemed to go as well as possible. Now, we wait for an update that we've been approved through USCIS. Hopefully we will hear back within the next few weeks...

      Also, October 17th marked 1 month down with waiting! A small milestone, sure, but a milestone nonetheless! :)


      Friday, September 28, 2012

      We Have a Number!


      Ladies and Gentlemen...

      We have received the first of many wait-list updates to come!

      The numbers for October came a few days early - and we couldn't be happier!


      We are ecstatic to announce that we are officially...


      #85!

      Now, that doesn't mean that 84 people will get referrals before us. It could mean that. Or it could mean 70 will, or 90 will.


      Have I lost you yet? Here's how it works: 

      Every family gets put on one list. There is no "boy" list or "girl" list with our agency, as there is with some. Colin and I are now #85 on that list (yay!). Theoretically, the first 10 people on the list could only be looking to adopt a girl, and if we were #11, but open to either gender, we'd be next in line if a boy came up. Same with any other criteria such as age or certain health risks. So we could be #50 (or whatever number), and if every single family in front of us on the list only wanted a child that was    (fill in the blank)   , and we were open to other options and a child that met our criteria became available for adoption, we would get that referral (and vice versa - if we are too specific, we could get to #1 and sit there for months). Once we get a referral (where we're matched with an available child) we'd have the choice to accept or pass it on to another family behind us in line - although families do not usually pass up referrals from what we've heard. So it's not exactly about being at the top of the list, but as we get closer, the odds for a referral will improve drastically. By nothing short of a miracle would we receive a referral any time soon, given our current standings. 

      Also, some of the families are on the main "healthy child" list AND a separate list for HIV+ children. If these families accept a referral for an HIV+ child, they would be removed from the main list as well (I assume from what little I know about the HIV+ list). 

      Please join us in praying this month for more referrals. Very few were given out in September, which I can only imagine is wearing on those who have been waiting at the top of the list so long, hoping this would be their month. I've heard it can happen this time of year since the Ethiopian courts are closed. Once October arrives and the courts re-open, we're hoping we'll see a surge in children whose paperwork is ready to go so that they can join their families soon! 

      Thank you! We look forward to celebrating our countdown with you all!!


      Monday, September 17, 2012

      Three weeks later...

      After several weeks of (blog) silence... we're back!

      Three weeks ago, we turned in our dossier, which was very exciting!

      We were told that it could take about 3 weeks to get to Ethiopia. We heard from some other families that it could take up to 4. We periodically logged on to our account online to track where it was (which we could never figure out how to do). However, each transaction for shipment was charged with our credit card, so our bank account would occasionally have a new charge. So we'd think, "Well, the first charge has shown up, so it must at least be in ____ location by now, right?" We tried to "follow" where our dossier might be, but really, had no clue based solely off of those charges...

      Until this morning!

      Exactly 3 weeks to the date -- our dossier arrived in Ethiopia today!! I received an email this morning from our agency's Ethiopia program director that it had arrived!!!! I immediately forwarded a copy to Colin and called him to tell him the good news!!

      This means we are officially on the waiting list as of today!!! We don't know what number we are, but we *should* hear by the beginning of October when the updated list of families is released... Of course, we will update when we know more. For now -- we 're just super excited!

      I can't stop praising God for getting us to this next step! He has been soooo good to us in this process. If you have been keeping us in your prayers (oh, how we appreciate those!) please join us in thanking God for His goodness, too. We often go to Him with our requests -- but we want to make sure we are going to Him with prayers of thanks and exaltation as well, because HE is so wonderful to us, and HE is deserving of that praise! Thank You, Lord!

      "I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me."
      -Psalm 13:6


      Monday, August 27, 2012

      Big Update...



      Well. Today was the day...



      The day we have been building towards for the past 6 months.
      The day we finished our education.
      The day we turned in our dossier!!!!!!


      Our home study report was finalized last Friday, the 24th. We had it overnighted and received it Saturday - giving us the last component necessary to complete our dossier. So after we double, triple, and quadruple checked that we had everything... we drove to our other agency today to turn in all our education and dossier paperwork! 

      For those that didn't know, we received an email a few weeks back, letting us know that there would be some changes in requirements for any dossiers submitted after August. Well. Those new requirements would likely delay our process up to an additional 3 months. Needless to say, we busted our tails and prayed like crazy that God would let this happen. We knew it would be tight, but we also knew it was doable. We did a massive amount of education, and spent the majority of our free time over the past few weeks making calls and obtaining as much paperwork as possible. And well, despite a few close calls that had us getting a little nervous... by the grace of God, it happened!! With several days to spare!!

      Whew. It feels weird. Awesome, yes. But mind-boggling weird... We're not really sure what to do with ourselves, and we're still processing everything. We keep looking at each other in disbelief -- "Did we really just turn it all in? We're done?!"


      So what now?  Right now, our dossier is being sent around the country (The U.S.) for the next few weeks for authentification, and it should arrive in Ethiopia within the next month. Once it arrives, we are officially on the wait-list! There will be a few documents to update here and there. A few papers to file. But mostly.. we're just waiting around for the next year or so. Our agency updates us with wait-list numbers once a month. We are hoping to hear a number by  the October or November notifications, but we shall see... Then we can give monthly updates and let everyone know where we are at on the list. And you can all count down with us each month! :)







      Friday, August 10, 2012

      Update: Home Study Education [probably] Complete!


      Well. It's [almost-but-not-quite] official!

      With the completion of our Ethiopia essay tonight, we have finished our educational requirements for our home study agency!! [Now, we are still waiting for it to be reviewed, and they could always kick it back and ask us to re-do some of it, but we over-did a lot of it, so I'm hoping that will not be an issue!].

      Once this essay is reviewed and gets approved, we *should* be getting our home study finalized, which puts us another step closer to our dossier being ready to go to Ethiopia!! :]

      -----

      Now, before the dossier can be sent, we need to finish some education for our main agency:

           * Read Through 2 websites from the D.O.S. on Ethiopia
           * Read "The Connected Child" book by Dr. Karyn Purvis
           * International Adoption Clinic Seminar by Univ. of Alabama
           * The Hague Convention "Inter-country Adoption Training" (10 hrs; online) [almost completed]



      So for the next few weeks, we will be focusing on getting our dossier documents together, and finishing up these educational requirements. We're getting closer!

      Okay, I guess that's it. We were just so excited, we had to share! :)

      Tuesday, August 7, 2012

      Coming Up for August (& Sept) ...


      Well, we are this|close to finishing up our home study. We have just a little bit left of our essay to finish up, and we are done with this piece of the adoption!

      And tonight we had a support group meeting with our placing agency and other adoptive families. All of them except one are adopting from Ethiopia! The one family that was there adopting from China are actually another military family, so Colin had a great time chatting with a fellow soldier for a little while. We also got to hear a little about the recent trip to Ethiopia that was made by two of the people who work for our agency. They checked out some of the orphanages while there and the program they partner with in Ethiopia. It was great to hear about what they experienced!  :)


      So what's next in the process?
      Compile Dossier --> Send Dossier to Ethiopia --> Dossier Arrives in country --> Get put on a wait-list.


      Now, we have good and "other" news.

      Good news: We originally thought that we had to finish our home study so we could send a copy in when we file a very important document called the I-600A (which is still the case). But we hear that document takes up to 90 days to get approved, and needs to be in our dossier. So we started thinking, "Oh now we have to wait at least a few more months to get our dossier submitted and get on the wait-list!". But we found out that we do NOT need it when we send the dossier. We can submit our dossier as soon as we have all the rest of the pieces, which hopefully won't take too long. We will just get our I-600A going, and when it is approved in a few months, we will send it to Ethiopia to be added to our dossier! That is wonderful news! It means we can potentially get on the wait-list months sooner than anticipated! So now we are doing our best to get our dossier documents compiled asap, so we can get it sent off. We are aiming to send it off August/September! :)

      "Other" news (because it's not really bad ) : The wait-list has grown, again. Not by a whole lot, but it's a bit of a jump from when we first started the process in March. It's a bit of a bummer for us, but the reason it has been delayed is because the program has been growing, and many more families are being added to the list! So it means more children will be getting their forever families! It's a wonderful thing, but of course, it makes us extra eager to get on the list as soon as we can! We were a little bummed when we heard this news initially, but it's nothing we weren't told to expect as a possibility when we signed up. They warned us that anything could happen. And you know what? We trust that God has the perfect (for us) child planned for our family, and that He has this timed how He knows it needs to be! So we are just doing what we can to get the dossier together as best and quick as we can, and to get on that list so we can start our waiting! :)


      Whew! Got all that? If not, thats okay. Our minds barely comprehend it some moments! ;) But if you're thinking of us and could remember to pray for us, we are always in need of prayer! Prayers for God's timing, and for Him to supply us with enough patience and grace for the moments we need it most...

      Thank you!

      -Noelle





      Wednesday, August 1, 2012

      Thank You, Rachel Beckwith!


      Some of you may remember hearing about a terrible 15-car pile-up accident that happened near Seattle, July 20th of last year. [You can read about it here - including local news footage.] The story of a young 9-year-old girl, by the name of Rachel Beckwith, quickly made headlines. Several days after the accident, she passed away from injuries.

      Rachel Beckwith

      But her story reached audiences beyond the Seattle area. Within a short time, her mother was featured on national news shows, including The Today Show, where she shared more of Rachel's story and legacy. So many people were deeply touched, not only at the loss of such a young girl, but of such a GENEROUS young girl. For those that are unfamiliar with her story -- After hearing that many children around the world don't reach their 5th birthday because of a lack of clean water, Rachel decided that for her 9th birthday party, she would ask for her friends and family to make donations to an organization that would bring clean drinking water to those in need around the world, in lieu of any birthday gifts. Her goal was $300. She raised $220. She was disappointed, but eager to try again next year. A month later, she was killed in that accident.

      Those around the world who were touched by Rachel's story decided to make donations to her fundraising page, in remembrance of her. Within a short amount of time, her story brought in more than 1.2 million dollars!! All going to help the organization Charity: Water.

      So why am I posting this now? Well, it's come full circle. Rachel's donations have been put into action, and many communities around the world have received clean drinking water through wells that have been built in her honor. In Ethiopia.  And because, obviously, Ethiopia has been on our hearts lately -- we can't think about our future child without wondering how far along they may be, what conditions they/their biological family may be living in, and if they, too, have access to clean, safe, drinking water. Because of Rachel, over 60,000 people -- over 250 communities! -- in northern Ethiopia, now have one of life's most overlooked gifts. Don't get me wrong, clean water for any community (no matter the country) is fantastic! I just can't help but feel an extra sense of gratitude to Rachel, as Ethiopia and the people of Ethiopia have been so heavily on my heart lately, and as I've spent so much time this past spring praying against droughts and lack of water for them. So I just wanted to share this video (below) with you all. It's Rachel's mom, Samantha, visiting Rachel's wells in Ethiopia... It is inspiring!








      THANK YOU, RACHEL! 


      Wednesday, July 25, 2012

      Meet Rachelle:



      Rachelle is a fellow military wife and friend of mine, who also happens to know what it's like being on the birth mother end of a domestic adoption. Early in this process, I asked her if she would mind guest-blogging for us at some point. I asked her to share a little from her perspective, because even early on (before we chose Ethiopia, when we were still considering domestic adoption), I had already heard a lot of the "warnings" about what to expect from birth mothers -- and I realized there are a lot of misconceptions and stereotypes about birth mothers (and adoption in general). But they didn't match up with what I've heard Rachelle say about her first pregnancy and the daughter she chose to place for adoption -- and to some extent, that frustrates me. Not all birth mothers fit the same mold. So this is a little bit of Rachelle's story, as she tells it... 


      --------------------------------------



      My friend, Rachelle!

      My name is Rachelle. I am 25 years old.

      When I was 18, I became pregnant and chose to place my child for
      adoption. Noelle and I met through an online forum for military
      significant others a few years ago, and since we both clearly share a
      love for adoption, she asked me to share some thoughts on her blog.

      As a birthmother, I went through approximately (my daughter was born
      premature) eight months of pregnancy. Numerous doctors appointments,
      blood draws, tests, ultrasounds, days spent with my head in the
      toilet...and, yes, let's not forget the excruciating physical pain of
      childbirth itself.

      It's interesting to watch an adoption happen from the earliest stages,
      to gain even a minute understanding of what an adoptive parent goes
      through for their child. It is humbling to begin to realize what asacrifice it is for the "other side", as well. The money, the worry,
      the red tape, the amount of paperwork and background checks,
      interviews, etc. How must it be to invite someone into your home, to
      peer into every crack and crevice of your life with a magnifying
      glass? I imagine it is like being presented with the longest of
      obstacle courses, you have to want it bad enough to jump through hoops
      of fire and take whatever else is thrown at you. That kind of love
      amazes me.
      In addition to those meandering thoughts, Noelle has asked me to
      dispel any rumors or negative ideas about birthmothers.

      Some stereotypes of birthmothers that I have personally encountered
      portray all of us as uneducated, unhealthy, ignorant, irresponsible,
      and/or drug addicted women who don't know who the father of our
      children are.

      I took prenatal vitamins from the time I knew I was pregnant, and
      never missed a doctor's appointment. I ate from all appropriate food
      groups and completely gave up caffeine. I played music for the baby
      every night through headphones I placed on my stomach. I journaledabout the first time I felt her kick. I have never been a smoker. I
      was an honors student in high school and won many awards for speech
      and drama. I am still on friendly terms with the child's birthfather.

      I am now a multi-published author and a college student. I love to
      read, write, travel, and spend time with my two year old daughter.

      Though the adoptive parents and I were strangers when the adoption
      happened, we are now family. I visit them  (and my daughter and her
      adoptive brother) across the country once or twice a year. Last year,
      I even took the children trick-or-treating. They are the godparents to
      my (second) daughter, and even hosted her baby shower. My (second)

      Rachelle's Daughters [2011]

      daughter has a framed photo of herself and her sister on the bookshelf
      in her bedroom. They love each other simply because they love each
      other, and it's more precious than words can convey.


      I am not saying every birthmother is like me, but I am saying that not

      every birthmother is like the ones so often negatively portrayed on
      television and in books.

      Adoption is beautiful. Your attitude and perspective determine the
      outcome. I have no doubt that Noelle and Colin will have their own
      wonderful story to tell one day, and I'm glad I get to witness it.


      ----------------------------------------------------------------------


      Thank you, Rachelle, for sharing some of your insights! :)

      Thursday, July 19, 2012

      Quick Update on Education

      So, I believe I mentioned before that our home study write up is "complete", but not finalized. Our social worker has to wait until we meet all the educational requirements for their agency in order to officially finalize it. We are hoping for the beginning of August (it can't go much quicker since our final scheduled class is August 1st!). So far we are learning so much (give me time to sort it all out in my brain and get around to typing some of it up -- I can't wait to share what we're learning).

      In the mean time, we are keeping very busy with other educational requirements (for both agencies). We are doing a little for our main agency, but since those don't need to be completed until we're ready to send our Dossier (which is a little ways away), we are primarily focusing on requirements for our home study agency so we can get that home study back as soon as possible! :)

      Currently, we've completed 4 online assignments, 1 of 6 home study classes, and are working on our Ethiopia cultural essay, as well as about 2/3 completed on our online Hague training. With all that we're trying to accomplish in such a short amount of time, we have a very busy schedule over the next few weeks. So if you're not hearing much from us, you know what we're probably up to! :)

      For updates on where we are on our education, you can keep up with us as we cross each item off our list at the bottom of THIS page.

      -Noelle


      Friday, July 13, 2012

      The Gollasch Family

      I want to introduce you to a couple that I just adore...


      Ashley and Patrick Gollasch. 



         Like Colin, Pat is in the Army. Like myself, Ashley is an Army wife. And we both married our soldiers at very young ages. Ashley and Pat were married just days before us, and the guys (not stationed together or even knowing each other), were both deployed around the same time, shortly after getting married. They returned roughly around the same time as well. They are roughly the same rank, and we are all roughly around the same age. After the guys returned home from their deployments, both Ashley & Pat, and Colin & myself started trying to conceive. So in many ways, I "get" Ashley -- we've been through a lot "together" over the last few years.

         But in a lot of ways, our story differs from theirs. We haven't been told that one day, pregnancy may not happen -- it still very well could happen for us. Ashley and Pat however, have a hurdle in their family planning that a lot of people won't ever experience -- a history of cancer. In high school, Ashley was diagnosed with a form of cancer known as Rhabdomyosarcoma, and underwent 18 rounds of chemo and 35 rounds of radiation. As a result of those treatments, she is now being told that pregnancy may never be an option. Talk about a family that has been through it all -- cancer, infertility, deployments, multiple moves and the every day stressors of Army life. And through it all, Ashley has stood faithfully by Pat's side, and Pat has remained lovingly by Ashley's. They have so much dedication and love for each other, I can't imagine the love they will have for their future children.



          The reason I'm writing this post to tell you about Ashley and Pat, is that they recently started their next great adventure -- Adoption! They are signed with an agency in southern California, near where they are currently stationed, and are on the path to adopting domestically. As I write this, the Gollaschs are working on their "Dear Birth Mother" letter, which will be presented to potential birth mothers, who may in turn choose them as the family she would like to have adopt her child. This is called a "match" (whereas internationally, a "match" is called a "referral"). 

         But here's the thing -- they need a home study to be done, and they have already spent a lot on agency fees and are just short of the fees they need in order to begin their home study process. Due to their location (which is far from home/family, and literally in the middle of no where, with nothing but a small Army community), they are having a harder time with fundraising. They have been saving what they can, taking out a small loan, and have even received very generous donations online, in part due to an awesome puzzle fundraiser they have going on (check it out here!). But despite fundraising however they can and significantly cutting back on spending, they're still short several hundred dollars for their home study fee, that they need in order to get started.



         If there is any way that you can offer support to this couple in their adoption, it would mean the world to them, and to us as well. If you would like to donate or participate in one of their fundraisers to help them reach their goal, I will post links at the bottom for you to do so. If you cannot financially give, please pray for them, offer them some encouraging words, or share their story via word-of-mouth, email, Facebook, Pinterest, or your blog.

         I know most of you reading this are family or friends of us personally, and are here to support our adoption, but Colin and I are not just pro-"our"-adoption. We are pro-adoption. Pro-taking-care-of-children-in-need . And if you're pro-adoption and pro-orphan-care as well, then we urge you to consider how you can help this well-deserving family, who has already fought cancer, war, and now the financial battle of adoption. Whether you can give $5 or $500. Your donation will make an immediate impact in their process, their lives, and in giving a child a loving home to two wonderful parents! 

      Let's make this happen for them!! :]

      Their Adoption Blog:  [Click Here]
      Make a Financial Donation Online: [Click Here]

      *If you are in the Boulder, CO. area, check out this Cold Stone fundraiser coming up!*




      Tuesday, July 10, 2012

      Books for Baby (#1): The Kissing Hand


      Last week I wrote about our home study interview. In a way, I guess you could consider today's post as "part two"...

      Later in the day, after our home study interview wrapped up on the 5th, we decided to start a tradition for baby. We went out to a book store and picked out a book for our future little one. Every big event (home study, maybe when Dossier is sent, or referral is received), we will go out and buy a special children's book that we loved as children and that holds some meaning to us in this adoption. We're thinking about writing a note on the inside for them to always look back on.

      This book was one that I picked out and remember reading as a little girl. It's called "The Kissing Hand" by Audrey Penn. Although often chosen for children heading off to Kindergarten, we loved the idea of the message enough that we chose it to mark the memory of our home study. 

      The description on the inside says, "School is starting in the forest, but Chester Raccoon does not want to go. To help ease Chester's fears, Mrs. Raccoon shares a family secret called The Kissing Hand to give him the reassurance of her love any time his world feels a little scary." 

      And a piece of the forward, by Jean Kennedy Smith, reads, "A child entering a new school or going away to camp, a child entering foster care or residential care, a child facing a temporary separation from loved ones or the death of a parent, grandparent, or other special person, even a fearful adult, will find reassurance in these pages. Parents and others who care for children will find an unforgettable way of communicating the message that all of us most need to hear -- "You are loved." "

      Why We Chose It:

      This adoption marks a new beginning for both us and our future child. It's beautiful and exciting, but sometimes the unknown can be a little scary at first. We have to remember, however, that as scary as it is to embark on parenthood (no matter how you come about it), it's much scarier for adoptive children, perhaps especially for those adopted internationally. No matter the age, gender, or nationality of a child, adoption always comes as the result of some type of loss, and brings with it new surroundings and situations that the child may not like, be comfortable with, or even fear. Often times children have lost parents to death, addiction, or abandonment. In our case, we don't yet know what will be the circumstances they come from, but we do know they will be surrounded by new faces, a new language, a new home, new foods, new weather, etc. There is always loss at some level, and although our child may come home so young they can't vocalize their feelings, they will undoubtedly express some sort of grief, in some sort of way. And although they may also be too young to understand the message of this book right away, we don't doubt that with time, they'll have questions about their birth family or about why their skin is a different shade than their parents'. They may wonder where they "fit" or how to make it through the scary things that life will bring as they grow up.

      Despite any questions or grief they may have in life, we want to make sure to build a solid foundation for them that they can trust -- that even when life gets a little scary, we are their parents, and we will always be there to love them. 



      CLICK HERE to purchase "The Kissing Hand".


      Friday, July 6, 2012

      Home Study Interview: Complete!


      You know those times in life where the anticipation of something is much worse than the actual event?

      For example, the months leading up to Colin's deployment were waaaay harder on me emotionally than him actually being gone. That may sound crazy, but I think as we try to prepare ourselves for what's to come (especially when we have no idea what to expect) we often think of the worst case scenario -- but then it happens, and you think, "Wow, I was worrying for nothing!"

      Perhaps on a smaller scale, I think I'd classify home studies in that category -- at least for myself, as I can be a worrier. I think the build-up to the interview was more nerve-wracking on me than the actual interview. Once our social worker arrived, we sat down, and my fears were pretty quickly put to rest. I still had some nerves -- don't get me wrong. You worry that you'll say something that won't come out just right, and maybe it'll be taken in a way you don't mean... You know? The inevitable jitters.

      But she was great. She asked us questions, allowed us to clarify and explain what we meant, and was very down-to-earth. She was insightful and wise. She asked us questions about our marriage, hopes in parenting, about our community and neighborhood, and then took a quick tour of our house. And in the end, the biggest impression she left us with was that she was on our side. We have things to learn, even still, but she is working with us to make this happen, and for that, we are so grateful to her.

      We are being told that the final write up should be finished within a few weeks, and in the mean time we will be working on our research paper and learning as much about Ethiopia as possible! We are officially registered for all 3 of our required classes and towards the end of this month and early August, we will be attending those.

      On kind of a side note, I just want to take the time to really thank each of you who has been faithfully praying for us in this journey, and especially as we were anticipating this home study visit. The amount of support we have been given by our friends in the past few days, who have talked with us, offering encouraging words and prayer -- it means the world to us. We don't take your prayers lightly. In fact, we believe prayer is the best support you can give, because we know and trust that God hears our prayers, and that He will be faithful to see this adoption through to the end.

      "...the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops."   -- James 5:16-18

      So again, thank you for your prayerful support (in addition to any financial or gift support you may have given). And if you think it's "just" a prayer, or doubt that those prayers make any difference, or that God can't hear them -- ask me how I prayed for rain and received an answer! It's a crazy story that I love to tell, and it may just blow your mind and reassure you that through this process, He really does hear us. And, oh, how blessed we are by that! :)




      Friday, June 29, 2012

      Coming Up for July...


      June was a busy month for us. We wrapped up our home study binder, held two fundraising events (a massive garage sale & frozen yogurt fundraiser), signed up with Adoption Bug to sell these T-Shirts, and took a 9-day trip to Washington state to visit the majority of our family (some of whom we hadn't seen in a year and a half).

      And while many of those moments have been filled with excitement and joy, there have been many challenging and emotionally difficult moments as well. I'd say June was probably one of the most hectic months (and for good reason - we got a lot accomplished!). But to be honest, we're just so exhausted from going, going, going... it can be so easy to feel rushed and forget to take some time to relax. And it also doesn't help that our bodies still seem to be stuck on pacific time! ;)

      But let's talk July.

      We can't say we know entirely what it will bring, but we DO have some exciting things on our radar!

      • Towards the beginning of July we have our first interview for our home study, where a social worker will come into our home, check out where we live, and conduct an interview to evaluate us as future parents. 
      • We also plan to start the educational portion of our home study. We have 3 required classes we are about ready to enroll in, as well as documents to review and be quizzed on, and a cultural exploration essay to write about the country of Ethiopia! There may be additional classes or assignments that are tailored to our specific situation that I believe we will address with our social worker at the interview. (Including classes on African hair and skin care, Creative discipline methods, Nutrition for children, creating a "lifebook" for your child, and marriage-building classes among others.) Some of these required courses will be available to us online, such as in video conferencing, and others will require we drive to the agency (about 2 hours away) to participate in class. 

      I guess that's only two major things - Home Study Interview, and Home Study Education. But each are huge steps that we are anxious to get started on! Now -- off to get this house clean and organized before our home visit! 

      Tuesday, June 26, 2012

      EthioJazz




           The other day on our flight to Denver, I casually picked up a copy of "Hemispheres" (United Airlines' in-flight magazine). What started as a browse to relieve boredom, quickly changed into an exciting read as I discovered an article written about Ethiopia's history and culture, primarily focusing on their music scene. The author, Rachel Slade, talks about the exile and return of Ethiopia's unique style of Jazz music -- EthioJazz. I couldn't pull my eyes away -- and I'm not usually the type to find reading about music irresistible. But this article was interesting and intriguing.


           Call it the history-lover in me -- or my love for discovering new cultures -- that had me thoroughly enjoying this article, but perhaps it was so intriguing because it was something so new, and yet seemed so vitally important because this heritage will belong to our child. When I originally saw the title "The Ballad of Addis Ababa", a little piece of me jumped for joy, and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. I wanted to soak in each word; memorize each photo. At this point, Colin and I probably know more than the average American about Ethiopia - much of those facts we hold in our repertoire being things such as their national language, climate, etc. But this article? It spoke to what life is like in Ethiopia, from an angle I had yet to discover. And I want to know as much as I can before we travel there (twice), and especially as we do our best to teach our child about their beautiful background as they grow up. I took a few copies with me and will find a place for safe-keeping. I hope to hold onto it for little one, and perhaps one day they, too, will enjoy reading a little about the culture they were born into, and what Ethiopia was like roughly around the time they were born.

           I don't know if this article will hold as much meaning to many of you who do not have an "Ethiopia radar" that goes off at key words such as "Addis Ababa", but it is still interesting just the same... Hope you enjoy it!

      Source: http://www.hemispheresmagazine.com/2012/06/01/the-ballad-of-addis-ababa/?pid=1286





      HERE ARE A FEW VIDEOS I CAME ACROSS
      ON YOU TUBE THAT HIGHLIGHT "ETHIO-JAZZ":









      Friday, June 15, 2012

      T-Shirts For Sale!


      Many of you have expressed a desire for something to order online, other than coffee. (I'm still surprised at the lack of coffee drinkers I've been meeting!)

      So we've set up an "online storefront" of sorts, where we are selling T-shirts!

      Okay, so why do I love this so much? Not only does each sale help us raise money for our adoption, but when you order and wear one of these shirts, you are advocating for adoption and raising awareness! Each time you wear it it'll be a reminder of the role you played in helping our family grow!

      The site we are using is adoptionbug.com. They work with many adoptive families, and the site is set up to help fundraise for adoption! If you order a T-shirt, it has to be from OUR store (at the link below) if you are hoping for it to benefit our adoption.




      Disclaimer: Our store is only allowed to carry certain shirts offered on the site, so we chose our 6 favorites. If you would like a shirt outside of what our "store" offers, that is great as well, but we will not receive credit for it. In that case, if it is at all possible, please look around at other families' stores to see if they are offering what you'd like! At the very least, it would be wonderful to help another family with their adoption! *Some shirts are available for purchase directly from the website, but not as part of any fundraisers - simply for sale by adoptionbug.com*




      Okay. The good part.
      Here's what we're selling...

      [Check out the photo captions for more info; click to zoom]
      "Faith, Hope, Love" in Amharic,
      the primary language of Ethiopia.
      "Adoption Rocks"
      The heart contains the Ethiopian flag.


      "How do you reach 147 Million Orphans?
      One at a time."

      [The following are part of the Show Hope collection, from the
      "Show Hope" foundation, which supports adoption & orphan care,
      founded by Mary Beth & Steven Curtis Chapman.]









      Ready to make a purchase?
      Or would you like to browse around?

      CLICK HERE  to view our Adoption Bug storefront!