Thursday, March 29, 2012

Gotcha Day

I have so many details swirling around in my head about our experience but not enought time to write it all down right now. I know many of you are eagerly awaiting an update so I'll give you a few datails now :). I'm unable to post picture to our blog since we only brought our iPad, but boy do we have some cute ones. Picking Elliana up at Acacia Village was a joyful experience but also heartbreaking. Our agency was almost 2 hours late picking us up, so we arrived right at nap time, which is never a good time for a transistion. Our embassy appointment went well (despite the fact that we were late getting there too and I was about ready to have a heart attack fearing that they would not allow us our appointment... Not the case just took a long time for our turn. Then, it was a matter of minutes with the official before we were out the door. I kept thinking..."really...all this waiting and praying and paperwork for a 45 second interview..." We get her Visa today and head home tonight. I think our plane is going to be full of babies. Many people I spoke with who had Embassy appointments on Wednesday and Thursday are heading home tonight. Ok now onto the good stuff.....

Elliana has been in our care for about 36 hours now, and she is doing great, under the circumstances. I'm sure she is feeling a little panicky. Can you imagine how confused she is right now? Here are a few observations we've made in our time together. -

  • She is super smart and observes and absorbs everything. 
  • She loves bubbles and the squeezable bags of fruit! Oh yeah, and toddler gummy fruit. She fed us yesterday. Too cute! 
  • Day one she was all about daddy. Yesterday not so much. We will see what day 3 brings! 
  • I think she likes her new clothes and shoes! 
  • Her hair is super curly and oh so beautiful. I cant stop playing with it. 
  • She slept 12 hours her first night with us. 
  • She had her first bath last night, which she did not particularly enjoy :(. Her nanny did advise us of that in advance - she ate great the first day. 
  • Yesterday she didn't eat a whole lot, except for dinner. She enjoyed her boiled eggs, potatoes and injera. Sounds appetizing, huh? At this point we are allowing her to eat whatever she WILL eat... Just to get us through these first couple of days. 
  • She does great in the car. - she sat on our lap beautifully for 2 hours at our embassy appointment. She hasn't spent too much time off of my lap! 
  • Yesterday afternoon, she finally got off of my lap and played for a bit. She discovered her reflection in the sliding glass door and smiled. This was entertainment for at least 45 minutes! She tried to share toys with herself :) 
  • We are still calling her Geneme for the most part.. Sometimes Ellie-Geneme. 
  • She said a few things yesterday, which was wonderful! Of course, we have no idea what she said! -
  • She likes our cell phones and holds them up to her ear like she is talking... 
  • Her lips are so beautiful but become dry and chapped easily. I had a fun time applying Chapstick while she tried to eat it! 
  • She likes stickers and knows exactly what to do with them. We have plenty for our plane ride home (thanks Karen!) 
  • She likes books and her favorite one from the collection I brought is "The Jesus Story" 
 Honestly, with each passing moment we can see how she is beginning to trust us more and more and come out of her tender shell. Yesterday she started smiling at us. We have nothing to do with that. God gets all the glory here. No book, class or course can mend a broken heart like He can. Praying He continues to reach our little girl in ways that we cannot.

Once I get home and can get TWO babies off of my lap, I'll write more about Acacia Village, the Embass appointment and our experiences. I'm sure once we get home there are going to be a few struggles between two sisters who are going to be fighting for equal lap time!

Monday, March 26, 2012

We made it!

We arrived this morning. All is well. We didn't sleep a wink on the flight ... Too excited. Found out that the Rudstroms are staying at the same guest house as us. Waiting for them to return with their daughter! We go tomorrow morning to pick up Elliana forever!! We will post more soon

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ethiopia Guest Home

This is where we are staying again on our return trip to Ethiopia (and where we stayed on our first trip).  I just saw this video yesterday and thought it gives a great vision of what Ethiopia is like .  The footage looks very much like video footage we took while there.  This will give you a little glimpse as to why we adopted from Ethiopia!  Enjoy

Ethiopia Guest Home - More Than a Place to Stay from Session 7 Media on Vimeo.

She's Finally Coming Home

After 2 years, 4 months and 2 weeks (but who's counting) of waiting, dreaming and praying for our little girl, she is finally coming home!  It's been a long, and sometimes exhausting journey, but God has shown his promises many times along the way and has placed her perfectly into our family.    

On Thursday, we were disappointed that we didn't hear from the Embassy, once again.  Our Case Manager called my cell phone at 9:30 am and asked if I received "the email."  I assumed it was an email that we had been forwarded to USCIS.  She said, "no, you are cleared to travel!"  Honestly, she had to tell me at least 3 times because my brain was not comprehending what she was saying, especially since we hadn't gotten an email.  Apparently, the Embassy STILL had our email address incorrect, so we didn't get the original email clearing us to travel, that came through earlier that morning.  Thankfully, the Embassy copied CWAE, who then forwarded it to our Case Manager here in the US.  Brad was on a conference call in another room, and I busted in jumping up and down!!  He knew something was going on because I never bother him when he's on a call!  

Because it was already 9:35 am here, it was 4:35 pm in Ethiopia.  We only had 25 minutes to request our appointment dates and have the Embassy get back to us.  We quickly typed up the email with our requested appointment dates (Thursday, March 29, Tuesday, April 3, and Wednesday, April 4) and hit SEND.  At 9:54 am (4:54 pm in ET), we received the email back from the Embassy giving us NEXT THURSDAY as our appointment date!  Wow, that was quick and only a week away!!!  But, we've been planning for this day for the last 11 weeks (since we passed court).  We were all basically packed, except I for last minute stuff.  

So, we leave VERY SOON!  It's been a whirlwind of packing and getting things set up for next week for our big kids.  It's the beginning of sports season, so our boys have multiple activities next week.  God Bless both of our parents for stepping in and helping to care and shuttle our kids around next week!   

We would like to thank all of you for your thoughts, prayers, love and support during this adoption process.  It’s been a long and difficult journey and we will never be able to fully express our gratitude to you for supporting us. 

Please keep our friends who are still waiting for approval in your prayers!  We are heart-sick that we cannot all travel together again, but pray that we will somehow see each other again!  Also please keep our kids at home in your prayers and our sweet little Ellie in your prayers.  We cannot imagine the fear that she may feel as she leaves all that she's ever known.   Please pray for peace in her heart and that she may learn to trust and rely on us to meet her needs.  My heart is grieving for her already -- I just can 't imagine. . . 

We will try to keep our blog up to date so that you can continue to share in our journey.  Last time we were in ET, I was unable to get into our blog to make a post -- not sure what to expect this time.  

Next time I post, we should be a family of 6!  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

We are cleared for travel!!!!

I just received a call from our Case Manager that we have been cleared to travel!!  We didn't get the email -- the Embassy still had our email address incorrect.

We requested our 3 dates and are waiting to hear back from the Embassy!

I am still praying for our friends.. that they will hear soon.  I hope this brings you all hope -- our police report was 18 months old -- and yours are not that old.. so keep praying.  Hoping to travel with you!!

Will post more later!

God gets ALL the credit here and always.  He always works things out for the best.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

No News, Part II

I recieved an email from our Case Manager that wasn't too promising.  The trend in most cases being referred to the USCIS in Nairobi were done so between 4 and 5 weeks after submission to the Embassy.  We are at just over 4 weeks.... also, another case that was submitted the same day as ours, and had a phone number requested the same day as our case, was just sent to Nairobi yesterday. 

We are probably in one of two scenerios.  The first scenerio is that they were unable to contact the police officer at all.... or scenerio two is that they made contact with him, but he was unable to remember the specific details about our daughter's case (which wouldn't be a surprise seeing has how he wrote the report 18 months ago!!).  The bad thing is, we just don't know because the Embassy will not give us any information as to where they are on the case.  Even IF they send the case to USCIS, they do not tell the family why.  They just say that it 'was not clearly approvable.' 

OR, they could email us tonight and say come and get your daughter (which would be AWESOME!!)  but, we just don't know and it stinks.

The last case that went to USCIS in Nairobi took 9 days from the time it was sent until approval, but there have been others that have taken 3 months.  I'm not trying to be the bearer of bad news, but I guess I just need to prepare my heart for this in case it happens. . . and it might just take a while. 

I'm still clinging to this promise (which is also on Ellie's name sign hanging beside her empty crib): 
 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

No News

I decided to post a quick note since I see many of you are checking for updates.  Nope, we haven't heard anything from the Embassy about our case.  We did email them on Monday for a 'status update' and they did reply that they are working on processing our I604, which is the "Determination on Child for Adoption" form (which has to do with their orphan status) and that they will contact us when it is complete.  At first I thought maybe that was encouraging, but there is a box on that form that can deny the Visa and send the application to the USCIS.  Arrggh... hoping we don't go there, but, it has been over 4 weeks since the Embassy received our Case and they are sitting quietly on it.  We have no idea if they were able to touch base with the police officer involved in our case or what the status of that situation is. 

I also emailed our Case Manager this morning to see how long the Embassy quiety sat on the other cases before forwarding them to Nairobi for processing and review by the USCIS (Immigration people).  I haven't heard back from her yet, but I do know that if it does get sent to USCIS, it takes 5 days to get there, about 7 - 10 days for them to make a determination (hopefully a postive one!), and then 5 days back to the Embassy before they will email us for an appointment. Uggh.. that's another 4 weeks added onto the process.

We are REALLY trying to be patient, honestly... and I know God's bigger plan is way better than my own, but, it's really discouraging that it will soon be 3 months since we last saw our little girl.  Our family is starting the feel the void of not having Elliana home already...and the continued uncertainly of things. Please keep our kids in your prayers. 

So, praying really hard, that we would hear good news tonight (which would be Thursday in Ethiopia).  Not really expecting to hear anything Thursday night, since the US Embassy is only open until Noon on Fridays in Ethiopia, but God is a BIG GOD... so I'm still hoping and praying. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Could this be the week?

As we head into another week of feverishly checking our email 'in case' we get the ONE from the Embassy, I have hope.  I really do.  All of me wants to say it's never going to happen, but I know that's a lie.  Two families who were submitted with us were cleared to travel and begin their trip this week.  Congrats to the Rudstroms & Goebelbeckers who will be bringing home sweet Tizita and Henok.  Blessings for a safe trip and sweet reunion!  

So, it at least gives us hope that some cases are moving.  We also received an email on Friday that little Elliana is sick and on antibiotics.  Certainly news no mother wants to hear when her baby is so far away.  Please keep Ellie in your prayers this week that she is feeling better soon (AND, that she receives word that her Mommy and Daddy are coming soon)!

Also please keep our traveling families in your prayers.  Although it seems like their journey is coming to an end... it's only just beginning.  Hoping they can give us some tips since they are going before us!

I better get to bed soon... I'll be up most of the night stalking my email!!  :) 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

We are still here

She looks like she has a secret!  Maybe she knows
the date we will get the call to come get her! 

We are still hanging out waiting for an email from the Embassy.  Please tell me (other parents who are waiting)... do you check your email 10 times during the night to make sure you don't miss the email coming in?  I know we do, but maybe we are just crazy!  We'd hate to be wasting time sleeping when we could be planning our next trip to Ethiopia!  

We haven't heard anything since they requested the phone number last week.  If they were able to get in touch with the individual (and if he provided the information requested), then we could be days away from getting an email to go get our daughter.  

If they were unsuccessful in reaching the individual, we may be looking at being sent to the USCIS office in Nairobi.  Our Case Manager did say that sometimes that can be a blessing in disguise, as typically, the USCIS office in Nairobi approves the case a few days after it arrives.  I suppose that is better than it sitting in the Embassy for a few weeks.  But, with so many cases having the possibility of going to Nairobi, I'm wondering what their case-load and wait will be like.  We are praying we won't have the opportunity to figure that out but at the same time, I'm trying to prepare my heart for that situation.  

I can't say that I am completely in love with our latest circumstance, but I know there is purpose (somewhere!) in it.  

I remember back to  July/August when we were completely distraught because our adoption had been put on hold... and then we were finally back on the referral list...but no referrals were coming in.  We just didn't understand the timing of everything that was happening...
One of our referral pictures of Geneme Elliana

Then, half way around the world, there was a little girl in an orphanage, who was not 'referable' because she was missing paperwork in her file.  So she waited for months, and months, and months until one day she had the final piece of the puzzle for her file.  She could finally be referred to a forever-family.

. . . That was the day we received a surprise call saying, "I want to tell you about a little girl .." and our hearts were forever changed.  

So whenever I'm temped to allow our circumstance to steal my joy, I remember the marvelous things have happened in our family in just a few short years, and how it was all perfectly orchestrated by God.  Even with my self-confessed 'planner' personality, I couldn't have planned a better outcome.  I just need to allow God to continue to plan our course and trust that it is happening exactly according to plan.  (even as it stretches us farther than we thought possible).   
The heart of man plans his way,
    but the Lord establishes his steps.   
Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Status Update

Just thought I’d give an update of where we are right now.  I know many of you are eager to hear what is going on.  

We are almost 3 weeks into being submitted to the Embassy.  They emailed us on Tuesday asking for additional information and a phone number for a person familiar with Elliana’s case.  Our Agency quickly provided that number to them, so we are praying that the number is correct and that this person is readily available to speak to the Embassy.  I have been a bit anxious about this, as this person hasn't been asked about the case for 18 months -- so I'm just praying he remembers the specifics.  We haven't heard anything else after that.  

We did, however, just receive an email tonight from our Agency that 3 cases have been sent to the USCIS office in Nairobi for further review – meaning the Embassy was unable to make a determination as to the status of the adopted child.  I believe all of these cases are the same scenario as ours :(   From what I’ve read and understand, this process can add additional weeks or even months to the process.  Upon receipt of the case (5 days later) the USCIS office can do one of three things.  They can approve the case; they can make an RFE (request for more evidence); or they can deny the case outright. We really do not want to think about this right now, but realize that it could be a possibility for us or for any of our friends who were submitted at the same time as us.   Please keep us all in your prayers.  

This has been, by far, the hardest part of the wait.  I feel like we are so close, but yet so far away from bringing our daughter home.  The Lord has continued to teach me throughout this journey that I am not in control, and I am continuing to learn that.  I think the hardest part is knowing that we could be off on a jet-plane next week, or we could still be sitting here 3 or 4 weeks from now.  We just don’t know the timing of it – only God does, and I’m sure He has it perfectly planned. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

New Elliana Pictures

We were delighted to get new pictures of Elliana today, some of which she is in a full blown laugh!  She's getting way too big to not be home with her family!  Please continue to pray that she is home soon.

Also, we did hear from the Embassy that our case is in process.  They had our family email address incorrect -- we have a 'zero' in our email address, and it is often mistaken for an "O". Glad that was corrected!  Hopefully the next email we get from them is one telling us to come get our daughter.