Tuesday, December 21, 2010

eating my words

I usually LOVE putting together our family Christmas card and letter, but this year I have been decidedly grouchy about it. Nothing makes me grouchy like having to eat my own words. The thing is, last year our Christmas letter promised a bigger family photo - one with us and our Ethiopian child who surely would be home by then...

I have made a concerted effort not to assign my own time-frame to our process: it will take exactly as long as it takes, God is in control, our son will come home at the perfect time. But last year at this time I just could not fathom a scenario in which our child would not be home by the following Christmas. All I can say is, lesson learned!

All these waiting stages stacked on top of one another have certainly not been easy... but I can also see God's goodness in the midst of it all. He is never late. He never breaks his promises. He loves us and wants to give us good things. Some of the deepest valleys of our journey so far have yielded some of the most amazing blessings, so we will keep walking, keep trusting, keep waiting as long as he wants us to wait. We know how this story ends, and it is beautiful and worth the wait.

Merry Christmas from the Ballasts
Seattle and Addis Ababa
December 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

belated part 2

When we got back from our first trip to Ethiopia I wrote a post entitled "ethiopia, part 1 of ?". It's been 6 weeks today since we returned and I haven't written much more about our time there. Partially because I actually covered most of the basic details of the trip in my first post, and partially because it is just so hard to write about. I miss it - I miss him - too much, and I haven't been able to go there.

But today I will suck it up and go there because there are some stories that need to be told.

In case you are not aware, there are 2 types of adoption cases with respect to how the child becomes available for adoption: abandonment and relinquishment. Abandonment can mean a lot of things. In legal terms it simply means that there are no birth parents involved in the process. Again, there can be many reasons for this so please don't make assumptions. [Really, let's not make assumptions ever, but especially in adoption. Seriously.] Anyway, our case was an 'abandonment' case, and as such we were told that we would not be able to meet any of our son's relatives. Despite that (or maybe even because of that), we decided that we wanted to travel the 12+ hours each way to the town where he was born. If we could not give him the benefit of pictures and stories from the actual people who gave him life, we at least wanted to give him pictures and stories from the place itself.

Here are the top 3 most significant decisions we have made as a couple:

1. To get married
2. To adopt
3. To travel to our son's birthplace

I am not exaggerating: that three day trip literally changed my life forever. I will never be the same.

Another decision we have made together is to keep the details of our son's early life private, so I won't be sharing every little bit of why this trip was so incredible, but I do at least have to tell you the part about God giving us an ocean when we asked for a cup of water.

On Sunday morning we got in the van in Addis Ababa along with another adoptive family, a driver, a translator, and a young woman who was also on her way from Addis to the small town in Western Ethiopia where we were all headed. After a brief introduction, the young woman and the translator began an animated conversation which was clearly about us, and we kept hearing our son's name repeated back and forth between them. I think I drew blood biting my tongue to keep from interrupting them and asking what in heaven's name they were saying. Finally, the translator turned to us.

This young lady is a member of your son's extended family. When we arrive, she would like to introduce you to his grandmother.

Shock. Joy. Nodding. More shock. I sobbed and laughed and lifted my hands to the God who loves to blow us away. We had half-heartedly asked God to give us just one small connection to our son's beginnings on this trip - maybe a story from a nanny from his first few weeks in the orphanage. Maybe a memory from the guard about when he first arrived, who brought him, how he looked and acted. Honestly, I wasn't even expecting that much. It seemed like so much to ask, especially when we were told there would be nothing to learn, and no one to talk to. This was a trip to take pictures, collect a pinch of soil, and buy a souvenir - something of which we could say, "This came from the same place that you did." And what did God do? He showed off: He put an actual relative of our child right in our laps, sharing a 12 hour van ride with us, headed toward the home of a grandmother we didn't know existed.

We came away from that trip with videos, pictures, and experiences that I absolutely cannot put a price on. It was not an easy trip or a cheap one, but I would not trade it for the world. If you have the chance to do this, DO IT. Of course I can't guarantee your child's relative will be in a van with you, but I can say I do not think you'll regret it.

[Note: You may be asking yourself, if your child has living relatives, why did he need to be adopted? If so, please see the beginning of my post regarding assumptions. Thank you.]

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

smile big

Nate, Dexter & Zeke (ages vary, but all between 14 and 20 months old)

Sunday, November 21, 2010


This weekend we had an event at church where families gathered to create a new art exhibit together for Advent. The theme was "Symbols of Christ" and each family chose a symbol to incorporate into their art, along with imagery that was representative of their own Advent experiences and traditions. Each family also wrote a statement to accompany their piece. I didn't bring my camera so these cell phone pictures aren't great quality, but here are some pictures of our art, along with our statement.

We chose the Iota Chi as a symbol to focus on, one of the oldest symbolic representations of Jesus Christ. This symbol reminds us that Jesus Christ is our true foundation and source. This Advent season our family is spread across two continents: Jon, Haley, Nate and Dexter are in Washington, while our newly adopted son Zeke is still in Ethiopia. Our paintings are a visual representation of the truth that, though we are far apart, we are united in Christ.

In other adoption-related art news, Nate was coloring today and drew a family picture. This is the first time he has drawn his family and included Zeke in the drawing!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


We had a great time celebrating our big day on Monday with two other YWAM adoptive families -- it is such a huge blessing to have friends close by who are walking this road with us. Especially the kind who are willing to drop everything and invite you over for dessert, or drive across town just to give you a big hug! The other cool thing about these two families is that all of our Ethiopian children were born in the exact same town - how crazy is that? Our children will travel all the way across the world to join our families, but they will still have neighbors who share their birthplace. God is good!

the kids had ice cream

the adults had (home-grown!) pumpkin pound cake

the boys loved the dollhouse elevator

can't wait to have a picture with the WHOLE family...

and so it begins

[In line at the store today with Nate & Dexter]

Random Woman: Do you have two boys?

Me: (honest to a fault) Actually I have three.

Random Woman: Oh that's great - I had three boys also.

[Sidebar -- why do people say that they had children? Even if your children are adults now, wouldn't it still be accurate to say that you have three sons? Just sayin'.]

Random Woman:
So is the baby at home then?

Me: Um... yep.

It's not exactly a lie, right? He is at his home, which is not my home, but nonetheless it is home for now. In some ways he is more at home today than he will be after he moves across the world to live with us.... but that's not a conversation I want to have in line at Safeway with a perfect stranger.

And so it begins: the awkwardness of talking (or not talking) with strangers about adoption. At this point we are not even conspicuous yet (unless you happen to ask a specific question like "Do you have two boys?"), but soon enough it will be open season. In the meantime I think I'll be avoiding eye contact at the grocery store and memorizing Colossians 4:6 --

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Monday, November 15, 2010

we're yours

We are thrilled to introduce you to our SON,

Eba Ezekiel Ballast

(or "Zeke" as we will call him) officially adopted into our family TODAY, November 15, 2010!

We were happily surprised to receive a phone call early this morning letting us know that our case was approved today and we are now the proud parents of a third beautiful boy. It should be just about 6-8 weeks before we can go back to Ethiopia and bring him home!

We are praising God today, thanking him for doing this good work and also thanking him for each one of our friends and family members who have faithfully prayed for this day! We love you, and we're so thankful to have you with us on this journey.

Zeke, we are humbled and privileged to be your parents. Today is the day we've been waiting for: we're officially YOURS!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

not yet

Earlier today (MUCH earlier, since Addis Ababa is 10 hours ahead) we had our 2nd court date. We did not pass.

We don't know very much about why we didn't pass except that the staff of our agency is confident that it will get worked out and we will pass soon. We do know that our lawyer had all the proper documentation, nothing was missing, everything is in order... but for some reason the Ministry of Women's Affairs is not signing off on our case so the judge can't finalize the adoption.

We don't have a 3rd court date scheduled, apparently because the judge wants to proactively investigate why MoWA is holding things up and as soon as she (yes, our judge is a woman - how cool is that?) figures out what's going on and gets what she needs then she will pass our case (and several others like it).

There is literally nothing we can do at this point... except pray. Will you pray with us? Please pray for the judge as she investigates the way MoWA is handling these cases - pray that she would get the information she needs to be able to pass them all. Please pray for the people who work at MoWA to have integrity and wisdom and to act in the best interest of the children whose lives they impact. Please pray for the children who are waiting - that they would receive excellent care, remain healthy, and get lots of love and attention. And please pray for us and other waiting parents, that we would have peace and would trust God's timing.

Thank you!! We'll give more updates when we have them... hopefully the next phone call will be GOOD news!

Monday, November 8, 2010

let's go back

This morning when I looked in the mirror my eye caught on a faded orange smudge across the hem of my tank top. Then I remembered that I was wearing this tank top under my t-shirt on a rainy day in a rural town in Western Ethiopia. Its been through the wash since then, but laundry detergent's got nothin' on Gimbie dirt!

Ohhhh, I want to go back so bad.

You're probably thinking, DUH you want to go back - your son is there. Yes. I do want to go back because it will mean bringing home our little boy. But it's more than that... we fell in love with all of it - the beauty, the culture, the openness and sincerity of the people we met... even the deep red dirt that stained our clothes.

Seeing the smudge on my shirt today made me feel something bittersweet, something hard to put into words but if I had to try...

I'd call it homesickness.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

thinking before we speak

I am really annoying and nit-picky about words. I think maybe I always have been. According to my mom, when I was 2 or 3 years old and she tried to pull off the classic parent trick of skipping words on a page of a book I would have none of it. "You skipped a word Mommy!" My voice is probably slightly less grating now, but I am every bit as militant about words today as I was then.

Every subculture has its own language and adoption is no exception. My word-loving brain has had an absolute field day over the past year learning (and unlearning) all the lingo, and sometimes finding out the hard way which words get which groups of people all worked up. I think adoption language has become particularly important for me because I believe that words have the power to shape our attitudes, our self-concept, and how we see the world, and therefore words about adoption have power to shape my child's attitudes, self-concept, and worldviews. This is critical stuff, deserving of our careful thought and attention.

I don't want this post to turn into a rant about all the adoption wording/language that frustrates or angers me (though that temptation is strong!), but I do want to use one example of how I see language as a powerful tool to set the tone for a child's identity. [Disclaimer: I am not trying to condemn or judge anyone here. I am just sharing my perspective on language in adoption, one that I know some might disagree with and that is OK. Yep, talking to myself here as much as to anyone reading this.]

Gotcha Day. I read this phrase on adoptive parent blogs all over the internet. For the uninitiated, this phrase is used to mean the day that a child joins their adoptive family. I believe this phrase is an example of language having the unintended-but-still-significant power to influence the perspectives, identities, and attitudes of not only a child, but the family and community surrounding the child. What are the implications of the phrase "Gotcha Day"?

1. The child is objectified into something that can be "gotten".

2. The phrase is inherently adoptive-parent-centered, because the adoptive parents are the ones "getting" the child.

3. "Gotcha" is a word used in other contexts to mean that someone has been tricked or that someone else has gotten the better of them. How does it feel for an adopted child the first time they hear the word used that way?

4. Gotcha Day is cute and catchy, making it appealing for parents of young children. But these young children will grow into teenagers and then adults. Does a 15 year old want to celebrate "Gotcha Day"? Does it still feel appropriate at this stage to talk about the parent-child relationship as the parents "getting" the child?

5. The phrase allows friends and family to continue to view the adoption only through the lens of the adoptive parents who "got" a new child.

Let's compare this to another language option for the same event: Family Day.

1. The phrase does not contain implications about transactions, commodities, or other negative aspects of the adoption industry.

2. The phrase is more neutral in terms of perspective - the adoptive family is adding a child and the child is becoming part of a new family. However this phrase might not be a wise option in domestic open adoptions or some foster-to-adopt situations because it implies that this child is only now part of a family because of adoption. If the child was very much part of a family before the adoption then this would be an insensitive choice. On the other hand, for a child who has been without parental or familial care for the majority of their life this phrase might be appropriate.

3. The word "family" has a fairly unambiguous meaning, therefore a child will not hear another opposing meaning that could muddy their understanding of adoption.

4. Family Day is something that does not feel silly or hokey to celebrate with teenagers or adult children.

5. Choosing a phrase like Family Day sends a message to friends and extended family that this adoption was not just about parents getting a child, but about a significant event in the life of the whole family, which in turn affects all its members.

My least favorite thing about language is that it is always imprecise and imperfect in some way. There is no perfect way to talk about adoption. I'm definitely going to mess it up, both in my own home and on this blog. But that is not an excuse to say that language doesn't matter. It does. Again, I'm not judging - I'm simply saying that we need to think it through and we need to do so with a long view of our families and our kids. How will this sound in 5 years? 10 years? 30 years? What will this mean to their friends at school? What message does this send to our community? How will my child reinterpret this when he or she reaches adulthood? We can't do it perfectly, but we can be intentional and thoughtful and, call me an optimist, but I believe that will make a positive difference in both our children and our communities.

Monday, November 1, 2010

prayer and perspective

OK so I found a little more time to blog... :)

There are many YWAM families like us, waiting on one more document until our cases are finalized and we are legally made parents of our sweet kiddos. It's no fun, especially since most of us have already met our little ones and fallen off the deep end in love with them. We want them home. It's natural.

But on the other hand... we signed up for this. This is international adoption. If there is anything we can expect, it is bumps in the road, changes to the process, and delays in the time-line. That doesn't mean we have to like it, but it does mean we can accept it as a normal part of the journey. In this rough waiting stage here are a few things I'm trying to remember to help me keep it all in perspective:

1. I can't make this go any faster, but is not going as slowly as it feels. Ethiopia has one of the fastest processing times for adoptions. China has a 4 year wait for non-special needs adoptions. Domestic foster-to-adopt cases can take years and years to be finalized, depending on the birth parent's status. We have been in this process for 13 months and we are almost done. In the grand scheme, this is a lightning-fast time-line!

2. I am not entitled to a smooth process. We are talking about transferring a human being from being legally in the care of an organization to being legally placed in a family from another country. This can be nothing but complicated. Adoption is still relatively new to Ethiopia and they continue to refine their process to make it more ethical and safe for families and children. Bumps in the road for me will hopefully mean a better process for the future.

3. The YWAM and CHI staff are the best. No really. THE BEST. We met dozens of staff members in Ethiopia - nannies, directors, coordinators, lawyers, etc -- and every single one of them was a superstar. They were truly some of the most compassionate, conscientious, and considerate people I have ever met. It kills us to be separated from our boy. It kills us that our case is still not finalized. But it comforts us immeasurably that our son is being loved on and cared for by amazing people. It sets our minds at ease that smart, capable individuals are doing their best to get our case decided as quickly as possible. We also met adoptive parents in Ethiopia who were working with other agencies and orphanages. Here's what we kept hearing from them: Wow... You guys are so lucky... Gosh, I wish I could say that about the people we worked with... You should see where our kids were... I wish we had the support you have... I wish someone had prepared us as well as your agency did... And on and on and on. It helps so much to know that we are in very good hands and so is our son.

Of course none of the above will make our children magically appear in our arms... but I hope that if you are waiting like us, these things still bring you a measure of peace. God is at work and he will keep his promises. I don't think that necessarily means we'll have our kids home by Christmas or whatever deadline we've set in our heads (though I would love that of course!). God is big enough to be glorified even when our deadlines are missed and our hopes are shattered. God is big enough to be glorified even when our plans fail and our children wait. God is big enough to be glorified in our journeys, even when they are bumpy and longer than we wanted, even when they make us cry out "how can this be your plan?"... even then, God can glorify himself. Let's make that our first prayer - Lord, glorify yourself, with all the prayers for speed and smoothness coming only after and in submission to that one.

ethiopia, part 1 of ?

Where to begin? Since I don't know how much time I'll have to blog in the next few days/weeks, I will first post a summary of our trip and then go into more detail later when I get a chance. Here are the main highlights of our trip:

*We started off the trip with a fun evening in Washington DC with a college friend and her husband. I've never been before so it was fun to see the White House and all the monuments lit up at night!

*We arrived safe on Saturday AM and though we were tired, we hit up the shopping district to stay awake and try to get on Ethiopia time.

*On Sunday we drove 9 hours to Nekemte. The road was everything we had been told it would be: bumpy, crazy, crowded, interesting, and beautiful!

*We visited a 130 year old palace on Monday morning before driving the final 2 hours to Gimbie.

*Monday afternoon we spent time with our son's grandmother and saw the home he lived in for the first 9 months of life. It was a total shock to find any of his relatives -- the experience was nothing short of miraculous for us. The conversations and experiences we had on that day will bless our son and our family for the rest of our lives.

*Tuesday was a long day of travel - 14 hours from Gimbie to our guest house in Addis. From carsick toddlers to minor traffic accidents, there was never a dull moment!

*Wednesday we went to Adama to meet our boy! Although our first hour with him was mostly punctuated by screeching and crying, he did eventually warm up to us and show the sweet personality hiding behind the screams. I can't put into words how much we love this child. The time we spent with him was truly a gift.

*We were graciously given the option not to take our son from the Adama orphanage to the Thomas Center in Addis. Instead the orphanage director, Tezera, will make this trip with him later this week. This gave him the opportunity to stay in his familiar environment for a few more days and gave us the opportunity to say goodbye to him on happy terms. He would have no doubt hated every minute of the 2 hour drive in the arms of strangers, and will be much more comfortable traveling with Tezera, whom he knows and loves. It was a blessing to be able to leave him in the arms of his caring nannies - he even gave us kisses when we said goodbye!

*We spent most of Thursday in the courthouse waiting room. We had already been made aware that all the YWAM cases were missing one document from the orphanage which would delay the final deciding of our cases. Still, we were thankful that we got to appear before the judge and our part went well. And we are VERY thankful that the case can now be decided without our presence so we did not have to extend our stay in-country or make (God-forbid) yet another trip back for a 2nd court date. We hope and pray this document will come in soon so that we can officially become his parents! At this point it looks like we may still be able to bring him home in December or January... It is hard to have all these things out of our hands, but we not only have trust in the awesome YWAM and CHI staff who are working on our behalf, but also ultimately in the God who holds us all in his hands and will bring about the fulfillment of his promises at just the right time. After court we went back to the guest house and enjoyed a coffee ceremony before heading to the airport to begin our 32 hour journey home.

*We thank God for keeping us safe and healthy the whole way - no problems with food, water, or travel.


Now... we wait. The only way to describe how we feel right now is that it feels like we left a part of ourselves in Ethiopia. During this time we will live our lives - love and care for our kids, do our best at work, keep up with our responsibilities and relationships - but in everything we do there will be a subconscious recognition that a piece is missing. And in one sense, I am not sure that bringing our boy home will change this feeling. Yes, our family will be whole -- and what an incredible blessing and answer to prayer that will be! But Ethiopia has captured our hearts and it will always be our son's first home. I almost feel like having pieces of our hearts on both continents is just the new "normal" for our family. I'm not sure I ever want to lose this deep love and longing for that amazing place... So my prayer is for us to be together soon, but also for God to show us how to live with peace wherever we are... and to live with peace in two places at once.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

we're home!

Amazing. Blessed. More to come later. Must sleep....

Typical scene on the road to Gimbie

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

hours, not days

We leave in less than 48 hours! We are mostly packed and just have one or two last-minute errands to run. To say we are very excited would be a vast understatement, and to say we are a little nervous would be right on the money.

Here are a few prayer requests:

-For strength, clarity of mind, and energy to take care of the last few things that need to be done before we go. Both of us are pretty stressed out at work right now so please pray that we could make all the last minute arrangements and have peace about how we are leaving things.

-For Nate and Dexter and their grandparents who will take care of them while we are gone, please pray for fun bonding time and safety.

-For our little boy in Ethiopia, that God will bless him and protect him through yet another transition as we take him from the YWAM Widow & Orphan home to a different children's home in the capital where he will stay until we come back to bring him home.

-For physical and emotional strength for us as we set off on what will be an amazing but challenging trip.

Thank you so much for your prayers! It is awesome to know that we have so many people praying for us as we go.

I will close this post with a quote from our 3 year old. Jon was walking home from the park with the boys and Dexter looked up at him from the stroller and said, "Daddy, when I'm a grown-up, I'm going to help all the boys and girls who don't have mommies and daddies to get new mommies and daddies. God wants me to do that."

Friday, October 15, 2010

yep, what she said

No time to write, but I don't need to. Kristen pretty much said it all in this post...

Do Orphans Need Saving?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

1 week and counting

In 1 week, 0 days, and 16 hours we will be on our way to Ethiopia. Aghh!! Yay!! Wow. When it comes to stuff like this I get the most stressed about 1-2 weeks before the event. So yes, right about now. By the time I am within a day or two of something huge, I am totally relaxed. Everything is done, all is prepared, and I have nothing else left to do but be excited. But a week or two beforehand my sensory perception goes all wacko and I start feeling like the impending event is closer than it really is and that I'm much further from being ready than I really am. Today it feels like I am just about to hit the balancing point where the to-do list seems manageable and the deadline for getting it done is just the right distance away... ahhhh, deep breath.


I was watching the Teen Mom season finale today (judge if you must, I'm addicted) and had this strange sense of connection with first-parents Tyler and Catelynn as they drove 8 hours to see their daughter Carly and her adoptive parents for the first time in a year. They were nervous and worked up about the weirdness of seeing someone you love so much but don't know at all. On the car ride they wondered out loud: Will she like us? What will it feel like to hold her? What does her laugh sound like? How will we feel when we meet her? Like Tyler and Catelynn, we've seen pictures of our little one and gotten updates on his development, but that is no substitute for real, live interaction! Watching their sweet reunion gave me a funny feeling in my chest -- a nervous, hopeful, excited twinge of anticipation for our own upcoming meeting. Like Tyler and Catelynn, we'll have a day or two to meet and play and give a few gifts... and then say "see you later." Not good-bye, just see you later.

[I think it goes without saying, but of course a first meeting between birthparents and child is a fundamentally different experience than a first meeting between adoptive parents and child... the comparison doesn't go very far, obviously. Still, it was interesting to be able to relate to some of their feelings!]


Last night at dinner we were all talking about kids in Nate's kindergarten class. Jon has been trying to get him to learn 2 new names every day, so Nate reported that he learned the name of a girl in his class and that she is from Ethiopia. We asked how he knew that and he said because "she wears a hood". Well, we explained, some girls who wear a scarf on their head are from Ethiopia, but not all of them. And some girls are from Ethiopia but they don't wear a scarf. And that if he asked his new friend where she was from, she might say "I'm from here," because maybe she is. Then we started talking about ancestors and how maybe his friend is from Seattle, but her ancestors might be from Ethiopia, or lots of other places around the world. I realized that we have never really told Nate or Dexter where their ancestors are from. Hmm... since we will definitely talk frequently about our Ethiopian son's heritage, maybe we should also talk to our Dutch/Western European Mutt children about theirs! I think it would be strange if they could tell people "my brother's ancestors are from Ethiopia" but not be able to answer that question for themselves. Looks like it is time to get out the globe!


We were driving the other day and Dexter was talking about when he was a baby. He's been bringing that up a lot lately and I wonder if it is because he is anticipating not being the baby of the family anymore... Anyway, it led to an interesting conversation between me and Nate.

Dexter: Nate, when you were born did you hold me?

Nate: No, when I was born you weren't born yet. I was born in California, and you were born in Seattle.

Me: And [our little guy] was born in Ethiopia.

Nate: But you weren't there. You didn't know him when he was born. You had never met him when we were going to adopt [the little girl we thought we were adopting back in April].

Me: [Quiet for a long time.] That's true, I wasn't there. But I do know where he was born, and I am going to go there to see it next week. And I'll take pictures so you can see it too.

Nate: Oh.

Me: Are you sad we didn't adopt [little girl]?

Nate: [in a "Mom you are so silly" tone of voice] No, I'm not sad!

Me: Good. You're excited to adopt [our little guy]?

Nate: Yep.

Me: Well good. Me too.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

all i do is make lists

I haven't posted in almost 2 weeks because things have been a complete whirlwind getting ready for our trip. I have tons of posts piling up in the wasteland of the back of my head, most likely never to be written... but that is OK. All I have the time and sanity for today is a random stream-of-consciousness list of updates/thoughts:

1. We got lots of shots last week. They hurt. The next day I was pretty sure I had Yellow Fever.

2. Dexter told me the other day that when his baby brother gets home we will take him to Red Robin. Later he offered to share his Bear-Bear with brother, which is basically like taking a bullet for him in Dexter's world. Sweet boy.

3. When we leave Ethiopia, we'll be leaving our son at the Thomas Center, a home for children who have been adopted but are waiting for their embassy dates so they can go home. Yet another new environment for him... a great, warm, loving, developmentally stimulating environment! But still. :(

4. We are taking 100 lbs of donated formula to Ethiopia with us for babies in YWAM Widow & Orphan homes! (Because these people rock.)

5. We will be gone just over 8 days. During those 8 days, we will spend 76 hours traveling, either by plane or van. For most of those hours we won't have any kids with us (!!). Anyone have any good book recommendations?

6. Our agency (YWAM Ethiopia) is organizing mission trips to many different parts of Ethiopia in 2011. They do all the planning & organizing, you just sign up and pay one all-inclusive fee for the trip. They have all kinds of trips -- manual labor, relational ministry, evangelism, etc -- for all sizes of groups. And I know I am biased but just let me say... THESE PEOPLE ARE AMAZING. I would go anywhere with them. They love Jesus, they love people, and they are just plain awesome. Here's a link with more info. Do it!

7. One of our possible embassy dates is 12/21. If that ends up being our date, we would most likely arrive home with our boy on Christmas Eve. Which means our child's first morning in our home would be... Christmas morning. Welcome to America, kid! Meet your brothers, the crazed maniacs screaming about Santa! This is your new normal! [For the record, if that's how the timing works out, Santa will come very early to our house to avoid aforementioned chaos.]

8. And finally, to any adoptive parents reading this... we are days away from meeting our child and weeks from having him home. Is it normal to feel WOEFULLY inadequate at this point??

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

October 28

We have a court date, again -- but for real this time!! On October 28, 2010 we will attend a court hearing in Ethiopia to officially adopt our little boy! (For the record, I usually have a rule about ending 2 sentences in a row with exclamation points... but this qualifies as a special exception! Oops, that's 3 now.) We are surprised, thrilled, and overwhelmed with everything that will be happening in the next 4 weeks and beyond.

Due to a slight policy change in the Ethiopian court system, the original court date we received of November 26 was bumped up a whole month. Hooray! We will probably travel about a week before our court date so that we have time to visit the remote town where our son was born. It is a full day's journey each way, but what a small price to pay in order to experience a piece of our child's history! We'll be emailing our friends and family a full itinerary so you can pray for us specifically each day. If you want to receive that email, please contact us at theballasts (at) gmail (dot) com.

It feels very surreal to have an actual day when we will become the parents of this precious child... I am reminded of the verses our pastor will be preaching on this week from Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see." We can't say we have been perfectly faithful through this whole journey, but God has been. He is the one who fulfills our hopes and turns faith into sight, and we give him all the glory!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Video Review: Amharic 4 Our Kids

I recently purchased a video from Amharic.com entitled "Amharic 4 Our Kids, Vol. 1". Here is the blurb about the product on the website:

This is the first fully animated DVD that is designed specially for kids to teach them Amharic (the most popular language in Ethiopia). It is suitable for kids of all ages and skill levels. The educational section focuses on the Amharic alphabet, vocabulary, and writing, while the entertainment section contains popular songs and dancing. Run Time: 1 hour, 27 minutes.

I was hopeful that this would help us learn some basic Amharic with Nate and Dexter in preparation for our adoption, and then to use post-adoption as well. The fact that it was in an animated kid-friendly form seemed to be a good fit, as it would allow us to all learn together.

Overall, I was very disappointed with this product and I give it a 1/5 rating. It contains 4 different sections, which I will review individually.

This section presents approximately 20 color and body part vocab words. The primary problem with the vocabulary section (and truthfully, the whole video) is that it is not a research-based language learning tool. The way that the material is presented in this video is not consistent with current research about how children (and adults) learn language. In order to facilitate language learning, words should be presented clearly and repetitively with as many visual cues as possible (visual cues might be footage of a real person saying the word, multiple examples/pictures of the word, the phonetic spelling of the word, etc.) Instead, this video uses very poorly done animated characters with robotic voices who speak the word only once, and even then it is nearly impossible to hear over the loud background music and sound effects. The only thing that saves this section from being completely and totally useless is the quiz portion. Here they actually show a phonetic spelling, which allows the words to be understood and repeated. (They also use the real Jeopardy! theme song and if they paid for that privilege I will be surprised, given the low quality of the rest of the video!)

Music & Dance
This section is neat because it shows traditional dances from different regions of Ethiopia. That being said, these videos are easily accessible on YouTube and certainly not worth buying the video for. There are also 2 animated song/dance parts that I found to be borderline creepy. The animation is so poor that it really takes away from the presentation.

Amharic Alphabet
This part is totally useless. An animated character sings a very annoying song that repeats letters of the Amharic alphabet. You can't understand what he's saying and it is not the kind of song that can serve well as a mnemonic device because it just repeats the same tune for each set of 2 letters. If you already knew the Amharic alphabet, the song might be a fun way to repeat and review the letters, but if you don't know it this video certainly won't teach it to you.

Writing in Amharic
Again, I found this section useless. An animated character says the names of all the Amharic letters, while a person's hand is shown drawing them. This is repeated over and over, but no explanation is ever given of what the letters represent. The letters are never used to make words, or explained in phonetic terms, so they are virtually meaningless unless you already know them.

The video is called "Amharic 4 OUR Kids," and after watching it I am certain that OUR kids does not mean MY kids... perhaps it would be more beneficial for use within an Amharic-speaking family as a teaching tool to help children retain their language in an English-speaking country? Even then, I'm not sure it would be very beneficial.

So here's the funny part: MY KIDS LOVE IT. They ask to watch it every day. They usually get bored with each section quickly, but they still like watching it. The vocab section is their favorite, and I think after several viewings (with lots of reinforcement from me) they might actually learn a few of the words presented. So... I do not count it a total loss. I had planned on buying another one of their products (Amharic the EZ Way), but now I am definitely reconsidering. Anyone know any good, research-based language learning programs for Amharic??

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

story-telling, story-keeping

I have a question for all those of you who have already adopted:

How do you respond when people ask about your child's "story"?

We have already encountered this a little bit from friends and family who know we're adopting, but I'm guessing it will be much more frequent after we bring our boy home. Even now I am struggling to figure out what to share and with whom. The bottom line is that this question is deeply personal - not for me, necessarily, but for our son. After all, whatever information I share is his information. Even taking the easy route of just saying we don't know much about his story is actually still sharing something intensely personal, because it gives the impression that he won't know his story either.

My preference would be to have a go-to line that I use with most people, politely explaining that we don't share personal details about his life prior to adoption... But in some ways I have issues with that too, because it kind of implies that what happened pre-adoption isn't important or that it is something taboo that we just don't talk about (neither of which are the least bit true). What I really want to say to people is that our child's story is important, and we do talk about it... just not with YOU.

I'd love to hear how other adoptive parents handle these types of questions... Do you share different amounts with different people? What's your favorite way to say "mind your own business" politely?

Friday, August 27, 2010

by request

For those of you who requested rambly and uninformed... here you go.


When I was in 3rd grade we got a new student in our class. My best friend was in a different class, so when we met up at recess I informed her of the event. "We got a new girl in our class today and she's black," I told her. The new girl overheard me and came over to us. "I'm not black, I'm Mexican." "Oh. Sorry," I said, and my friend and I ran off to play wall-ball. I remember thinking something along the lines of black, Mexican, whatever. Later I remember being shocked to find out she lived in one of the nicest houses in our neighborhood and her father was a wealthy small-business owner.


I grew up believing that I could do or be anything I wanted. I grew up believing that everyone had that same opportunities in life, no matter what race they were or what their background was. I grew up believing that if you didn't reach your goals in life, you didn't want them bad enough or work hard enough to get them.

Those things were true for me, but who was I? A white girl whose parents went to college, got married, got good jobs, stayed together, and provided for all my physical, emotional, spiritual, and educational needs. Did I earn any tiny little bit of that privilege? Nope. Did this unearned privilege inform the above-mentioned beliefs? Of course.

This is not bad or wrong or anyone's fault. It just is. Or was -- I don't believe those things anymore.


In the paper the other day I saw a story about unemployment. The headline read "In jobless misery, it's mostly women and children first." The article noted that single mothers have been hard-hit by unemployment and featured two pictures of white women with children. They also included a table of unemployment statistics, which showed that black men had the highest rate of unemployment by a significant amount. But that's not going to sell papers is it?


What am I rambling on about? Well, I think I'm trying to get at a couple of things. One, that I have started very deep in the hole when it comes to understanding racial issues in America today. But, two, I am trying to grab the rope with both hands and climb my way out.

Why does this matter, and what does it have to do with adoption? Well, as I noted in my previous post, it turns out we are white and our third son is not. In order to be the best parents we can be for him, we need to understand what this might mean for us and for him. I've heard people say, "Oh it doesn't matter what color our child is, we love him just the same." DUH. That was never in question. The question is, would you ever need to say that about your white non-adopted child? And even if we were to say that race doesn't matter to us, it will very likely matter to our son. It is part of his identity, and brushing it aside is like saying that part of him has no value. OF COURSE it doesn't affect how much we love him, but it does affect who he is, just like being white affects who I am. As his parents we want to help him form a healthy racial identity; taking the blinders off and realizing all the ways that our society is biased toward white as the "norm" is a step toward being able to do that.

Oh! It is so hard to it "publish" on something this scattered and unfinished, but I guess it is representative of where my thinking is on these things right now. As Claudia reminded me in the comments of my last post, I am thinking, and that is important in and of itself.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

a little light reading on racial issues

How will we -- two white people with two white kids who grew up in mostly white communities -- parent a child who is not white? Not an easy question, and it doesn't have an easy answer. We are trying to listen to many different perspectives as we consider this challenge, including adult transracial adoptees, adoption professionals, anti-racism advocates, parents who have adopted transracially, and others.

I just wrote a long post about 'white privilege' and how this adoption process has opened our eyes to racial issues in a way that we had never considered before (and that statement in itself is actually evidence of 'white privilege'), but then I decided it was too rambly and uninformed. Instead I will invite you to read this essay, which compares white privilege to right-handedness, and also to check out this disgusting juxtaposition of two very different captions on two very similar pictures.


Friday, August 20, 2010

court date (beta version 1.0)

I usually wake up to the boom-boom-boom of little feet (whoever coined the term "pitter-patter" never had kids), but today I was awakened instead by a very unexpected phone call. Our case manager is on MST and forgot that it was only 7 AM in Seattle, but I did not mind a bit because she was calling to tell us that we had been assigned a court date for November 26 in Ethiopia! This was a shock to both her and us, as we were told not to expect any information for at least a few weeks after the courts reopen in late September. Apparently someone is working some overtime over there (or maybe they just have really good rain boots?) because families are still getting assigned court dates, despite the rainy season closure.

We are excited, but we are also trying to be realistic about what this means. It does not actually mean that we'll be going to court on November 26. In fact, we were given about a 90% chance that this date will change in the next couple of months. It does not mean we can buy plane tickets or start making arrangements for travel. All of that will still need to wait until after the courts reopen and things get back up and running. But it does mean that our case is ready for court, which is encouraging. It means that the court system is still operating at some level even though they are officially closed, so maybe that will result in a smoother transition time when they reopen. It means that something is happening and that feels good!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

first steps

Today one little word broke my heart.


It showed up in this month's child developmental report from YWAM, looking innocent enough in the section labeled "other comments". But last month the report said walks with help... and this month it says walking. Oh! I cried and cried: equal parts sadness and pride.

Some of my tears were for myself -- as a mama it hurts to miss this milestone in my baby's life.

Some of my tears were for him -- though I know he is loved and adored by his nannies, he didn't stumble into a mother's arms after those first precious steps. Separate from wanting that for myself, I want that for him.

And some of my tears were for his first mama -- she missed this too.

Even still, we will tuck away this memory and keep it for him. We don't have pictures or videos, like we do of his brothers' first steps, but we have this little moment of faraway pride and love. It's not the same, and maybe it's not enough... but we'll give what we have in love, and where we fall short may God's grace abound.

Nate, age 12 months

Dexter, age 15 months

Monday, August 2, 2010

sharing links

Are you following Our Little Tongginator? If you are an adoptive / prospective adoptive parent who is not allergic to wit, honesty, humor, perspective, and exclamation! points! then you should definitely check it out. If nothing else, visit every Sunday afternoon for what TongguMomma calls "Sunday Linkage". Where this woman finds the time to be an amazing mom to her Little Tongginator and scour the web every week for the most thought-provoking and interesting blog posts about adoption... well, it's a mystery to me. I'm sure thankful she does though!

Friday, July 30, 2010

if you are waiting

If you, like us, are in one of the many waiting stages of the adoption process, may I recommend reading Psalm 90? (Actually, I recommend reading just about any psalm, but for the sake of today's post, let's go with Psalm 90.)

Lord, you have been our dwelling place. Our dwelling place. We can't wait for the day when our dwelling place and our son's dwelling place are one and the same. But the psalmist reminds us that today is that day: we are both at home in the Lord. He is every bit as covered by God's loving protection and grace today as he will be on the day we finally hold him in our arms.

For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. It seems to work the other way in the adoption process, right? A single day can feel like a thousand years when you are waiting to meet your child... but God is not a slave to time like us. That is not to say that he doesn't care how many days separate us from our children, but rather that he is beyond time and not bound by it as we are.

You sweep men away... we are consumed... all our days pass away... we finish our years... they quickly pass, and we fly away. These verses about our fleeting life might sound morbid and depressing, but I find comfort beneath the surface. Whatever we are going through, and whatever our children are going through or have already been through, these things will pass. As Paul puts it, "for our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us a glory that outweighs them all." (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. How different is this prayer than the one I have caught myself praying sometimes: "Lord please number your days aright because I am so wise and know better than you when things ought to happen..."

Relent, O Lord! How long will it be? I love the honesty and passion of the psalmist here. It gives me freedom to pour out my real feelings to God... but having just prayed the prayer above, I am freshly reminded that no matter how I may feel, God is the source of all wisdom and I cannot know what is right unless he teaches me. In this verse I learn that my feelings my be valid and even valuable, but they are not the foundation of my faith.

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. I want this verse to say "Satisfy us in the morning with a call from our caseworker," but it doesn't say that. It says that the source of our satisfaction, joy, and gladness is God's unfailing love -- not the fulfillment of our hopes in the form of government approvals, court dates, and plane tickets. God will give those things (He will, he will, he will! I believe, Lord help my unbelief), but those things are not prerequisites for our satisfaction, joy, and praise to God.

May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. The psalmist prays for his generation and the next, and the two are inextricably linked. The work of God among a generation of parents produces the splendor of God among their children.

May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us -- yes, establish the work of our hands. It is a generally recognized fact that adopting a child is a lot of work. As an adoptive parent, it can be tempting to think that this whole crazy, messy, beautiful thing is happening because we put in the work to make it happen. The psalmist doesn't leave any room for that line of thinking. This final prayer reminds us that yes, our hands have work to do, but no - we do not make anything happen. The favor of the Lord is our only hope, and we cannot lay claim to his favor by any merit of our own. Only by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ can we claim favor with God - not by our work, but by his redeeming work on the cross.

I'll wrap this up with a little language lesson. In Spanish the words for "wait" and "hope" are the same: esperar. As my Spanish-speaking friend reminded me the other day, "No puedes esperar sin esperanza."

Friday, July 23, 2010

birth certificates: all good news!

We got word today that our agency representative in Addis received our child's birth certificate today! This means we now have all the necessary documents and our case can be resubmitted to court next week. We still don't know exactly when we'll be assigned a court date or when that court date will be, but as I shared yesterday the most likely time frame is October or November. We are so thankful for the hard work and diligence of the YWAM Ethiopia staff and the local MOWA office in getting all the proper paperwork as quickly as they did. Praise God - one more hurdle cleared between us and our son!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

birth certificates: good news, bad news

We are still in a holding pattern, waiting to hear that our little guy's birth certificate has been obtained and our case resubmitted to court. Due to some office closures in Ethiopia it has taken a bit longer than expected to get the certificates, but we are told they should be ready this week and that cases may be resubmitted next week. Hooray! It looks like our most likely time-frame for a court date is October or November.

On the one hand, the new birth certificate requirement probably added at least 12 weeks to our process because it pushed our court date until after the rainy season closure. But on the other hand, this requirement seems to me like an absolutely necessary and valuable thing, so for that reason I am glad it was made. Personally, I have major issues with the fact that the US issues birth certificates with adoptive parents' names, without acknowledging in any way the fact that these parents did not, in fact, play a role in the child's birth. I would want my birth certificate to have my birth parents' names on it, no matter what happened in my life after I was born. Or, if I had made the heart-wrenching decision to place my child for adoption, I would still want my name to be on the birth certificate because I still gave birth to that child. Why not let a birth certificate remain the record of a child's actual birth and then issue an adoption certificate with the same legal weight as a birth certificate? I'm sure that could create issues I haven't thought of yet, but at least it would give adoptees and birth parents the respect of having truthful documentation of their lives.

[Disclaimer: I feel I should admit that I am not the most informed person on the whole issue of how an adoption is legally documented, so if someone out there reading this sees something in the above paragraph which is misinformed or not factual... help a sister out and educate me. I'm just basing my opinions on what I do know, which is admittedly not all that much. End disclaimer.]

Anyway, as sad as I am to have to wait 12 or more extra weeks to hold my little man, I am so very glad that his country of origin is taking steps to make their adoption process more ethical and respectful of the children and birth parents involved. I am hoping that we will receive a copy of our son's original (pre-adoption) birth certificate. It makes me uncomfortable to think that the only legal document we'll have related to his birth will have our names on it. Even though we will now be his parents forever, the truth is that we weren't there when he was born and a piece of paper doesn't change that.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

what the CT adoption article didn't say

I recently read this article from the July issue of Christianity Today, titled "Abba Changes Everything: Why Every Christian Is Called To Rescue Orphans", by Russell Moore. At the risk of over-simplifying, the main point of the article seemed to be that, in light of the biblical call to care for those in need and the biblical model of adoption, all Christians ought to either pursue adoption themselves or support those who do so. A cursory mention of other options (such as mission trips or child sponsorship) was given, but the terms 'orphan care' and 'adoption' were often used interchangeably and the general take-home message as I understood it was that, according to Mr. Moore, adoption is the best and most godly way to 'rescue orphans.'

Based on the amount of time, money, and energy our family has invested in adoption, I think it goes without saying that I believe it to be a worthwhile endeavor... but to be honest, this article left me frustrated.

I think the main frustrations for me were not about what the article did say (in fact, I probably agree with a fair amount of it), but more about what it did not say. It did not mention the underlying problems - complicated, serious, multifaceted problems - that have produced the surface symptom of 210 million children in the world classified by UNICEF as "orphans." Ignoring these issues begs the question, What if all 210 million of those children lived in countries which allow adoption and were legally able to be adopted, and 210 million families adopted them... then what? 210 million more children would be waiting when we all turned around again because adoption only addresses the surface symptom and not the underlying issues.

And the reality is, no matter how much adoption is advocated, preached, and promoted, many of these 210 million children will never be adopted. That being the case, I was frustrated that the article did not seriously develop any alternative ways to address the needs of those children, the ones who either cannot or will not be adopted. Where was the call to love these children? In some countries this love might look like building schools, digging wells, teaching sustainable farming practices, or sponsoring a child. Here in America it might mean volunteering as a mentor, becoming a foster parent or respite care provider, or finding ways to support struggling single parents. If all we can talk about is adoption, we are leaving the needs of millions of children out of the picture.

Why are we (Christians) so afraid to admit that adoption won't fix everything? It reminds me of that particular brand of evangelism that tries to sell the idea that Jesus will make your life all sunshine and rainbows if you're a Christian. Shhh! Don't tell anyone that a life of discipleship is hard, that becoming like Christ means 'taking up your cross', that bad stuff still happens after you decide to follow Jesus -- it might scare people away! Yes. It might. But it's true and it needs to be said sometimes.

I hope more and more families will consider adoption as they make family-building decisions. And I hope Christians will consider ways that they might extend God's love to children in need. But I also hope we will stop confusing those two things, because they are not interchangeable.

**If you want to read more, I appreciated this adoptive parent's take on the CT article in her post, The Theology of Adoption. In it she links to this other fantastic and thought-provoking post, also about adoption theology, which is worth reading in its entirety.

**One more side-note: I will devote a whole post to this eventually, but it's worth saying that my thoughts outlined above are part of why I have loved working with YWAM Ethiopia so much. Humanitarian work is their primary focus, they do just about every single thing I listed that was missing from the CT article (and more), and they are just plain amazing folks.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

paper wait

It's been a long time since I've posted any updates on our adoption progress. No news has meant exactly that: no news. Our referral documents arrived in Addis almost 5 weeks ago but we have not yet been assigned a court date.

About 2 weeks ago we found out that the courts added a requirement for all adoption cases -- orphanages would now be required to provide birth certificates for children before their cases could be submitted to court. This means the YWAM orphanage staff needs to work to obtain a birth certificate for our little guy (he was not issued one at birth) and then our in-country representative will resubmit our case to court.

Yesterday we got an update from our caseworker at CHI letting us know that our case is still waiting on the certificate, but they are expecting to get it next week sometime and will resubmit our case to court at that point.

We are still not sure if there is a chance we could travel before the courts close down for the rainy season... but either way we are glad to know that our agencies are working hard on behalf of our child and us. Thanks for your continued prayers!

Monday, June 21, 2010

if you are adopting transracially...

...you might find this frustrating, offensive, difficult, and possibly more helpful than anything else out there to prepare for the road ahead.

[I know I probably need to be frustrated, offended, and made to read/watch difficult things in order to be the best adoptive parent I can be.]

For those who dare to join me, I'm attempting this Crash Course in Transracial Parenting. It's clearly not for the faint of heart, but then... neither is any type of parenting, adoptive, transracial, or otherwise!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

not enough

I have been putting off writing about this topic because I feel like in order to do it well I will need more time than I can seem to find. But I don't think that chunk of uninterrupted time is ever going to come, so instead of writing and editing for hours on end I will force myself to just share a few brief thoughts.

I have been poking around adoption blogs and adoptee blogs for awhile now. By no means do I consider myself an expert, but I am learning a lot (and realizing how much more I need to learn). In this process, one of the most important things I am coming to understand more fully is this:

Wanting to care for orphans is not a good reason to adopt.

Believe me, I am a strong advocate for adoption and I have a deep and passionate concern for orphaned children. I just don't necessarily believe that adoption should be promoted as the only reasonable response to the tragedy of orphaned children.

As another blogger put it:

If a person has a heart to care for the orphan that is really, really wonderful. As an adoptive parent my advice would be, send a check. Offer respite care for an adoptive parent. Help with a fundraiser. Take a missions trip to an orphanage. Sponsor a child. Sponsor several.

If a person
wants to parent children who were biologically born to someone else, adoption is a beautiful, transforming, life altering for all involved parties, option.

At its core, adoption is not about caring for orphans; it is about parenting a child. True, that child was at one point in time classified as an orphan, and true you are providing care, so in that literal sense, adoption is a type of orphan-care. But if your primary aim in adoption is anything other than being a parent -- even something noble, like rescuing an orphan or caring for the needy -- I wonder if it might be best to consider some other form of aid.

I can hear the protests: "But there's such a huge need! These kids need families! Everyone should consider helping to meet this need by opening their home to an orphan!" Well, yes and no. Yes, there's a huge need. Yes, these kids need families. And yes, I wish more people would carefully consider adoption as an option in their family planning.

But if you consider the prospect of parenting a child who was not biologically born to you and find that you are not called, equipped, and excited to do just that, then NO, you should not adopt. It doesn't mean you don't love orphans. It doesn't make you a "bad Christian" (as if there were such a thing). It's just not your particular God-given calling. By the same token, choosing to adopt doesn't give adoptive parents the right to look down our noses at anyone. As one adoptee blogger put it: Adopting a child doesn’t make you a saint. It doesn’t make you a hero. It makes you a parent.

To summarize, wanting to care for orphans is great, biblical, praise-worthy, etc... but as an adoptive parent it is simply not enough.

Friday, June 18, 2010

grief, grace, and PBJ

As excited as I am to bring home our boy, I have been struggling with lots of sadness lately too. Of course we are excited... but how does he feel? We chose this, we chose him, but he had no choice and that makes me sad. Although the process of adoption will meet his need for a loving lifelong family, it will also be yet another traumatic experience for him. He will be brought to an unfamiliar place (the transitional home in Addis Ababa) where complete strangers (that's us) will hug him and kiss him and speak strange-sounding words to him. Then a few weeks later these same strangers will come back and take him in a horribly loud and crowded machine for hours on end, only to emerge in a new place where nothing smells, sounds, tastes, feels or looks right. And this is only the beginning.

I am starting to love this boy more and more, which makes me grieve for what I cannot give him. I can't fix the brokenness that led to him needing to be adopted. I can't rewind the tape and change the events and decisions that brought him to where he is. I can't change the fact that he will not be raised by the people who gave him life, that he will never look like his Mom and Dad, that he will grow up across the world from his first home... and it makes me sad.

Yesterday I got home from a lovely (and by lovely I mean downright awful) day of travel with 2 exhausted, over-stimulated, post-Disneyland preschoolers. [I may or may not have burst into tears at the airport McDonald's and required the help of a kind stranger to regain my sanity and my chicken nuggets.] By the time we got home we were all hanging by a thread. The kids needed dinner and there was no food in the house so I started making PBJ. As I made the sandwiches my thoughts wandered to Ethiopia and my heart got heavy. I don't know if I can do this... He needs an Ethiopian mama... He deserves better than me... I know I'm going to make a million mistakes... I looked down and realized I had put peanut butter and jelly on the top of the sandwich and stuck and extra piece of bread on top. There was no fixing it, the sandwich was ruined and I started to cry (again).

"What's wrong Mommy?" I gulped and sniffed and looked down at the sandwich. True, I couldn't fix it, but I could make the best of it. "Nothing sweetie. Mommy made you the coolest, most special sandwich ever! It's a TRIPLE-DECKER PBJ!" The kids of course thought it was awesome and will probably not accept PBJ any other way from here on out.

God is funny. He is not above using PBJ to bring His deeply-needed grace into our lives if that's what we give him to work with. As I sliced up the triple-stack sandwiches I received the peace of his presence with me, reminding me that yes, I will mess up... but YES, God will redeem. He will use me to bless my children, even when I'm spacing out and buttering the wrong side of the bread. In this adoption journey, in my daily parenting challenges, in all areas of life I find myself utterly and completely dependent upon that grace -- the grace that takes our broken offerings and makes them into something beautiful.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

saving a spot

I'm being followed. Whether the boys and I are piling in the car for preschool or riding bikes to the park or just sitting around the breakfast table together, I can't help picturing a third little boy in the mix. Wherever we go, I picture him with us - where he would be sitting, how he would laugh at Dexter's silly faces, what Nate would want to show him and teach him.

Today the boys and I went to my parents' cabin on Vashon Island [more pictures here]. We left some room for Ballast boy #3... Can't wait to round out these pictures with another sweet son.

P.S. We heard from our placing agency today -- all our paperwork has been translated into Amharic and we are just waiting for the orphanage director to sign one more piece of paper in Addis Ababa before they can petition for our court date. The paper is supposed to be signed later this week, and from then it will take about 2-4 weeks to receive our court date. Please keep praying we will be assigned a date before the closure in August and September!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

the wheels are turning...

Our referral paperwork arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia yesterday! Sometime this week our agency's lawyer will petition for a court date for our case. It could take anywhere from 2-4 weeks to find out our court date, which we are hoping will be scheduled sometime in July. It is so crazy to think that in less than two months I could be kissing the sweet chubby cheeks of our cute little guy! It's harder to think about the fact that we will only have a day or two to get in as many kisses as we can before we get back on a plane to come home without him... Those will be long weeks while we wait for an Embassy appointment.

Our agency director returns home from Ethiopia this week, bringing with her new photos and stories to tell about how our boy is doing! She got to spend time with him just a few days ago and we can't wait to hear all about it. Seeing the pictures will be exciting, but strange too... he will look so different than he does in the pictures we have, which are now a few months old. We have memorized every little inch of him in those photos, so I know it will be surprising at first to see a bigger and older boy smiling at us in the new ones. We can't post pictures online until we pass court, but if you see me in person I'm happy to share - just ask! :)

Friday, May 28, 2010

bedtime story

As I tucked the boys in for their naps today and they asked for a story. I told them...

Once upon a time there was a little boy in Ethiopia who didn't have anyone to take care of him. Then he met a nice lady named Miss Joy. Miss Joy picked him up and gave him a big hug and a kiss. Then she told him, "I know a mommy and a daddy who want YOU to be their son and two little boys who want YOU to be their brother." The mommy and daddy and two boys were so excited to meet this little boy and bring him into their family.

Me: OK boys, sleep tight.

Dexter: That's not the end Mommy!

Me: Well, I don't know how the rest of the story goes yet. But I hope it will go like this: Then the little boy came home and they all lived happily ever after.

Dexter: (thinks about it for a minute) But you forgot the scary parts Mommy!

I had to shake my head... he is right. We have no idea what kind of stories these next chapters will hold -- whether they will be happy, scary, frustrating, joyful, or all of the above. All we know is that God is writing our book and that's good enough for us.

[Note: I should add that after the above exchange between me and Dexter, Nate piped up and said "The scary part was when he didn't have anyone to take care of him." Well said, buddy.]

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

the dotted line

We signed a referral today!!!

While our hearts were still healing, God took our hands and led us to a beautiful little 13-month-old boy. This all happened much more quickly than we expected, but we are THRILLED and so thankful to God for bringing us to this point.

In a previous post I mentioned a government agency closure that was holding up paperwork on most of YWAM's waiting children. Most... but not all. Our little guy is all ready to go, just waiting for us! Our dossier is already in Ethiopia, so when the referral documents arrive in the next week or two everything will be in place for the in-country agency staff to request our court date. Here's a tentative look at how long things may take from here on out (# of weeks listed is how long each step will take, not how many weeks from now until we complete that step):

1-2 weeks: referral documents arrive in Ethiopia
2-4 weeks: receive assigned court date
4-6 weeks: travel for court date
4-12 weeks: return for embassy appointment and to bring home our boy!

The Ethiopian court system shuts down for 1-2 months beginning in mid-August, so we are praying that our court date will be assigned for sometime in July. That is a best-case scenario, with a more likely scenario being a court date in late September or early October after the re-opening. We are trying to remind ourselves that we're dealing with the government of a developing country and therefore anything could happen... but we're also hoping and praying that this little boy will be in our arms SOON!

Thank you for all your prayers for us in this process, especially over the past few weeks. The only explanation we have for this awesome new development is that many, many, many people have been praying. Thank you, and thank God!

Friday, May 21, 2010

a little taste

We have been eating like kings and queens lately, thanks to a few of our generous Ethiopian friends.

I have been spending a lot of time with my friend from Nate's preschool, Chereka, along with her daughters and other family members who are always stopping by to visit her. Chereka is simply incapable of seeing me without giving me food to take home: big tupperware containers of wat and stacks of injera... Mmmm! She is also teaching me a few words in Amharic every time we hang out. So far I have the vocabulary of a 12 month old: hello, goodbye, thank you, Mom, Dad, yes, no, and I love you.

Nate and Chereka's daughter Hareg on a school field trip this week

One of my parents' friends, Nibret, is an amazingly talented chef, nutritionist, and cooking instructor (who also happens to be from Ethiopia). Last night she prepared a huge feast for all of us and then we shared the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony. She roasted raw coffee beans on the stove, then we all helped grind them with a mortar and pestle, then she used a traditional Ethiopian coffee carafe to brew it. Even my coffee-virgin husband thought it was pretty good! We also had fun watching traditional Ethiopian dances on YouTube. It is amazing how rich and diverse the culture is -- over 80 different tribes and people groups inhabit the country of Ethiopia, each with their own language, traditional dress, music, and customs. Learning and experiencing a small taste of these things makes me so excited for when we finally get to GO!

Nate grinding the roasted coffee beans

Dexter taking a turn

My mom gets in on the action

Thank you Nibret!