Friday, March 27, 2009

Where do you start?

Ok. For anyone interested in adoption…this blog is for you.

I've had several people ask me lately "where do you get started with the adoption process?" This is kinda a tricky question, because there are so many places to start. You can start by selecting a home study agency, an adoption agency, a country, ohh the possibilities!

First thing you should do is pray. Making the decision to adopt is not one you should take lightly. I really don't think it is for everyone (namely, the person mentioned in the previous blog that asked me "why do you want to have kids?") I would kinda compare it to foreign missions. God calls each of us to support foreign missions by praying for our missionaries, supporting them when they need it, and providing funding for them. But, I truly believe that God does not call all of us to fly across the ocean to work in these foreign lands. It is the same with adoption. God tells us to care for the orphans. You can do this by supporting a local foster family, donating money to worthy charities that assist orphans or adopting parents or by adopting a child.

Ok. The next few steps are subject to change for each couple. I'm simply giving you an idea of where we started.

The next decision you need to make is whether you want to have an international or domestic adoption. There are pro's and con's to both. Our decision to adopt internationally was mainly because we did not want to take the chance that the birthmother might return to claim the child later. This happens more often than you would imagine, and I couldn't stand the thought of having someone come back and take my child away from me.

After we made the decision to adopt, we started doing research on what country we wanted to adopt from. We chose to do this prior to selecting an adoption agency or home study agency, because we can't adopt from just anywhere, and certain adoption agencies only work in certain countries. Jace is 28, and I will be 27 at the end of this month. Because of our age, we cannot adopt from most countries. This could be considered a good thing or a bad thing…we are looking at the good here. We only have a handful of countries to select from, where if we were 30 we would have lots to choose from. I like that the system narrowed the list for us.

What are the criteria for selecting a country? Well, there are lots of things to think about here. Do you want a boy or a girl? Or do you even care? Do you want an infant? Or a preschooler? Are you willing to take in a child with special needs or minor birth defects? How much time can you spend out of the country? Jace and I decided that we didn't care if we got a boy or a girl (let's be honest…if we had a biological child, you wouldn't get to pick, so why pick now). We want an infant (which means that they will most likely be about 12-18 months when we go pick him/her up). This is our first child, so I don't want to miss anything. The thought of missing 12-18 months of my baby's life is hard enough. Also, we are not planning to adopt from a country whose primary language is English. If we get an older child, we might have to learn the language, and that's just not what we want to do right now. The last decision was the time out of the country. We don't exactly work jobs where they allow us to take 6-8 weeks off. We decided we wanted to limit the time out of the country to less than 2 weeks.

Well after you have all those questions answered, now it's time to get online and start doing some research. Find out which countries meet your criteria. Below are a few websites I found to be very helpful:

http://www.adoption.com/
http://www.rainbowkids.com/

http://www.childwelfare.gov/adoption/adoptive/
http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/

After reading up on lots of countries, we narrowed our search to South Korea or Taiwan. Both countries have infants available, and they allow married couples over the age of 25 to adopt.

The next step is to select an adoption agency and a home study agency. In our search for an adoption agency, we had lots of trouble finding one that worked with placing children from South Korea in the state of Louisiana. Also most of these agencies had slowed or completely stopped the adoption program from South Korea because it was in such high demand. We are taking this as God's way of saying "go with Taiwan."

There are only a few adoption agencies in the US that work with placing children from Taiwan. While e-mailing home study agencies, I was requesting information on adoption agencies that work in Taiwan. One of the local home study agencies mentioned Journeys of the Heart Adoption Agency. I did some research and found a few blogs of people that went with them and everyone sounded pleased. So we have completed the adoption application and are awaiting our approval.

As for the home study agency, we went with Adoption Home Studies, Inc. They have worked with Journey's of the Heart in placing children from Taiwan. I'm so nervous…our first home study appointment is on April 2 (say a prayer for us!).

Well after you make all those decisions, you get the paperwork, oh the mounds of paperwork. We have an 8 page application from Journey's of the Heart and another 15 page application from the home study agency. You need to have original copies of your birth certificates and marriage license (and you must be willing to mail that copy to the United States Government). So we have ordered more copies of all of those things for each of us. I'm going to have to do a totally separate blog just on the questions they ask on these applications. You wouldn't believe some of them. I have a 4 page typed word doc for the agency application and a 7 page typed word doc for the home study (Jace is not finished with his home study application yet). We also have to ask 6 people to be our "References." How in the world do you pick 6 people? (Or in our case, 6 couples, because we want to be over achievers!) We can only use two relatives (yes only two…I have two sisters, and a brother, he has a brother…and our parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. How do you pick just two?? This is tough) As for the other 4 references, we have so many people who we could pick…oh we have so many wonderful friends. But the references have to know both of us pretty well. Geez. I have lots of people that know me really well, but they don't really know Jace that well. I think we've finished our list, but I'm not going to list their names today, mostly because we haven't asked everyone yet.

Now we are at the point where we are trying to get as educated as possible. We have a lot to learn. I want to read books about Taiwan, toddlers, traveling, and adoption. One of my favorite things to read is other people's adoption blogs. I love to read the stories about how they got started, and then to see pictures of their children. That is what gives us hope. It's going to be a long road, but eventually, I pray, we will have a kid of our very own.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Who will help me with the adoption applications?

I feel as though I have been working for hours on the applications for the Home Study Agency and the Adoption Agency. Wow. They really want to know EVERYTHING about you.

So I'm doing this paperwork at the kitchen table, while my wonderful husband watches TV. (Don't worry; he has an entire set of questions he has to answer on his own later).

Below are some of the pictures of me and Ella completing some of these applications (and reading other people's adoption blogs). Ella is so excited about the possibility of getting a baby brother or sister.







Monday, March 16, 2009

How did Lucy and Ella manage to lock you out of your house?

Well as most of you know, Jace went on a fishing trip with his dad, brother and uncle this past week. They left early Wednesday morning and returned later Saturday afternoon. This means that I got to spend a few days at the house by myself. See, I don't mind staying home alone. Jace goes on a lot of business trips or whatever, so I'm at home by myself a lot.

Well Friday evening, after I got home from work, I went to go visit with my neighbors (these are not the ones that called animal control….totally different neighbors). I just pulled the front door closed and didn't bother locking it because I was just going two houses down the street. I left Lucy and Ella just hanging out in the living room. I knew I was coming right back.

After my visit with my wonderful neighbors, I stopped off at the mailbox to get the mail, and then headed back toward the house. Once I got to the front door, I realized that Lucy and Ella have locked me out. See we have one of those deadbolt locks that you just kinda turn and it locks. Well it's really easy to lock (this is not the door that you have to jiggle, push and pull to get the lock to work…we have another door in the house that works like that…but oh no not this one). One of the dogs must have jumped up on the door and turned the lock. Great. Now remember…Jace is out of town. I live an hour and a half from my in-laws, and I really don't remember if we ever gave them a key.

Then it hit me, the wonderful neighbors that I was just visiting with have a key. So now I head back over to their house to get the key. Of course, they all get a good laugh out of this. They usually keep my key taped to the inside of one of their kitchen cabinets. Well this time it is not there. So now the hunt begins. Both my neighbors and their children begin searching for my key.
Now, in my mind I'm thinking…my cell phone is in my house, locked up along with my puppy dogs. I don't know my in-laws phone number. I don't remember phone numbers anymore. They are all stored in my cell phone, which is locked in my house. And it's not like I can just call Jace. Oh no, he's fishing in the middle of nowhere and he hasn't had cell phone reception for days. What in the world am I going to do if they can't find the key??

My neighbors managed to find a couple of keys that might work. So we head back over to the house, me, my neighbor, her 3 kids (ages 8, 5, and 2…I think). Well just our luck, none of those keys worked. We all head back over to my neighbor's house to search again. By this time, the kids are asking me why my dogs would lock me out of my own house. I don't know the answer to this. Why would they do this? Do I really mistreat my dogs? Are they getting back at me for all the times I came home late or didn't play with them enough? As if all these horrible thoughts going through my head aren't bad enough, when were testing the keys that ended up not working, Lucy and Ella are just sitting on the other side of the door, crying. So sad. They wanted us to be able to open the door.

Well we finally found they key! Horay. Me and two of the neighbors kids (the 8 and 5 year olds) went back to the house. Somewhere along the way, the 5 year old realized that he didn't really like big dogs, so he was just going to check to see if the key worked, and then take it back home. The key worked! So I went on inside with my neighbor's little boy and we played with the dogs. They were so happy to see us.

After loving on the puppies for a few minutes, my neighbor's 8 year old son looks at me and says "I don't really like big dogs." Ok. So you've been playing with my dogs for like 15 minutes and you just decided that you don't like them? Well of course I must ask him "why?" He simply says "because they have too much hair." Then proceeds to point out a large hairball that has been growing in my living room for about a week now. Geez. Now I've just realized how dirty and nasty my house really is. And it took an 8 year old boy to tell me that I need to clean it!

Don't worry. On Saturday I vacuumed the entire living room, and I even mopped the hard wood floor. Don't you just love how honest kids can be! I made sure to tell his mother later what he said (we had a good laugh!), and I also told her that I did clean up my house after that…so anytime her kids want to come over, I promise not to gross them out again with nasty hairballs!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What do you say when someone tells you they are adopting?

From the beginning of this process I have always said that I would be happy to answer any questions you may have about adoption. My goal is to help others with the process. I'm learning a lot as I go along. This post is not meant to hurt anyone's feelings…I'm trying to help you understand. And everything I'm telling you not to do, I'm sure I have done in the past, so please forgive me.

When someone comes to you and tells you that they are adopting, say "congratulations" or "that's wonderful" or "you guys will make great parents." I love to hear things like that. It is a very exciting and rewarding thing when you choose to adopt a child. We are going to be getting a baby, much like someone who is pregnant, it will just take us a little longer, and I won't have any crazy pregnancy cravings.

In my efforts to educate you, I would like to give you a few phrases that you should not say to a couple who is adopting or has an adopted child (note: a few of these items came from a sermon by Dr. David Platt from The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham Alabama. He and his wife, Heather, adopted a child from Kazakhstan in 2007. If you wish to listen to the entire sermon please visit http://www.brookhills.org/. The sermon is titled "Freed as Sons" and he preached it on Dec. 21, 2008. You may download an audio clip of the sermon).

1. "Do you plan to have children of your own?" Um. Yes. We are adopting a child that will be OURS. When I bring that little boy or girl home with me, he/she is mine. So yes, we will have a child of our own.

2. "Why are you adopting?" This is a question that my sister can ask me, but if I don't know you that well, don't ask me why I am adopting. My answer to this question is that "Jace and I have always wanted children" and I leave it at that. Also, don't ask me "why do you want kids?" Yes, I was actually asked this question earlier this week. I can't explain the desire I have to have a child of my own. I guess if you've ever actually had that desire you can understand, otherwise, just keep quiet.

3. "We like the idea of adoption and hope to do that one day, but first we would like to have a child of our own." Now this one, I may have said before or at least I know thought it. As David Platt mentions in his sermon, we have this idea that adoption is somehow a consolation prize for those who cannot have children. It is not. There is no difference between an adopted child and a biological child. The difference lies in the process by which they become your child, but he/she is your child, no matter which process you take.

4. "Have you ever met your adopted child's real mother?" or "Will you be able to meet your adopted child's real mother?" This is a touchy subject. Any child I adopt will be MY child and I will be his/her REAL mother. Jace will be his/her REAL father. By saying this you are kinda implying that somehow I'm not qualified to be called "real" because I did not give birth to the child. That is not true. I am going to be a REAL mother!

5. "Are you planning to teach your adopted child about his/her family cultural heritage?" Yes. My child will know all about his/her family heritage. My child will hang out with Meme, Big Al, Nan, and Pops. He/She will get to spend lots of time hearing stories from Mamaw, Mama Ginny and Abbah. Oh the hours he/she will spend playing with all the cousins, Alyssa, Ana, Mitch and Kat. This poor kid will have more family heritage than he/she knows what to do with. We will also teach our child about cultural food, such as crawfish, jambalaya, gumbo, and the many different ways to fix a hamburger. They will get to hear all about the cultural literature, such as "But No Elephants" (my favorite book as a child). If you ask this question meaning will I teach my child about the country they were born in, the answer is no. This is a personal decision. I plan to raise this child just like I would if he/she were my biological child. As David Platt mentions, this question implies that our child's heritage is somewhere other than with us. This is just not true.

6. "I knew someone else who could not have children, and shortly after they adopted, they were able to have a biological child." I'm really happy for the person you are referring to here, but that may not be the case for us. You don't know our situation. I'm not saying that it is impossible for us to have children, and one day we may very well have a biological child. I don't know. I can't tell you what God has in store for us next. By saying this, I think you are trying to give us hope, but we don't need that. We are adopting. We are going to go get our child, and no matter what happens in the future, this kid will always be my first child.

If you have said one of these things in the past, no big deal. I did not post this to try to hurt anyone's feelings. This is a learning process for all of us. I know I have made some of these same mistakes before with others who have adopted. Again, I would like to encourage anyone interested in adoption to listen to David Platt's sermon "Freed as Sons."


Monday, March 9, 2009

When are you going to have a kid?

This is a question that my wonderful husband I get asked far too often. I want so badly to tell people to mind their own business. My answer to the question has always been "not today" and it's the truth. Jace will say things like "not within the next 9 months" or whatever. We've actually gotten pretty good at answering this question without actually giving away any personal information. I'm hoping that with this post, you will understand why I hate getting asked that question.

In October 2002, the night Jace asked me to marry him, we had a long discussion about the plans for our future. See up until this point we never made any references to our future. We never really discussed our many hopes and dreams. We were just dating, and you aren't supposed to talk about that stuff until you are in an "established relationship," right?

Anyway, one of the things we discussed that night was the idea of having children. I'll tell you, at the age of 20, kids were the last thing on my mind…but it is one of those things you should discuss before you get married (you know, just to make sure you are on the same page). I don't remember all the details of the conversation, but we came to the conclusion that we both really wanted kids.

Our plan was always to wait until we were both ready. I love a good plan! Neither of us would pressure the other into thinking that it was time to have kids. We got married young (he was 23 and I was 21), so we had plenty of time to have kids later. We never really were one of those couples that said "we will start trying on our fourth anniversary so we can have a child by our fifth year" or "we will have two children before I'm thirty." It never was like that for us. We just said we would know when we were ready.

We had the "lets have a kid" discussion in October 2006. As mentioned earlier, I like a good plan, so we decided that we would start saving up (with the intention that I would quit my job when we had a kid), we would go on our crazy roller coaster vacation (because you can't do that with a kid), and then we would start trying. The next year, both my younger sister and his younger brother got engaged, which meant that we would have to attend two weddings that year, and both of them involved travel, so no need to have a kid during that time. There was no way I was about to "steal their thunder" either.

Well we've been officially trying to get pregnant for about 18 months now. The past 18 months have been lots of fun!! I thoroughly enjoyed the "trying" part of this process.

So I'm sure you can see now where this story is going…we found out a few months ago, that there is a really good chance that we may never be able to have children.


The idea of fertility treatments and extreme measures were never an option for us. I have nothing against anyone who has used treatments to get pregnant, I want to make it clear that they do work, and not everyone ends up like "Octo-mom." It is a personal decision to do that, and we chose not to. After talking about this issue, a lot, we just decided that we didn't really care if our children were biological or not. It doesn't make a difference to either of us. If we chose to do treatments, the fact is that we could spend years trying, and at the end we could still be childless.

So about two months ago, we decided that we really wanted a baby. We decided that we are going to adopt a baby! I'm very excited about the research that is available to anyone over the internet. We found so many useful websites and so many helpful people. After lots of research, we decided that an international adoption would work best for us. If everything works out, it may be two years before we actually get to hold our baby, but I think it is a pretty good plan, and you know how much I love a good plan.

Friday, March 6, 2009

What do you want to be when you grow up?

When you ask a child this, they always tell you that they want to be a policeman, a fireman or a teacher. Or maybe they say that they want to be whatever their parents are, because that is all they are exposed to. As a child I'm sure there were lots of things I wanted to be when I got older. Now that I am "older" I wonder if I made the right decision.

See I graduated in Aug 2003 from Louisiana Tech University with a degree in Finance. When I started college, I was working part time at a bank, so I just figured I would go into banking. To be honest, that was all I really knew, and I was pretty good at it, so why not spend the rest of my life doing something I was good at. After graduation, I got a job at a bank in Baton Rouge and hated every minute of it! I was so miserable. After about 6 months, I decided that I did not love banking. A few months later I got a job at an insurance company. In my 4 years with the insurance company I have done everything from auditing, accounting, business analysis, software support, project management, and help desk support. Over the past few months I have realized that I don't really love working on other people's computers.

So what do I love? How do you know? When should you decide what you want to be when you grow up? I'm almost 27 and I don't have a clue!

Our high schools are failing us. They teach us English, history, science and math, but they never tell us how we are actually going to use it in the real world. If my science teacher had explained that if I was interested in learning more about science, then I should become a nurse, or a doctor, or a researcher or something. And my math teacher should have explained that because I was so good in math, I should have pursued engineering or accounting or something. This is by no means a knock on my teachers…I had some of the best teachers ever. They were just doing their jobs. There should be more real world application for these things. At times I even blame my parents for not giving me more encouragement to research different jobs, and to take my time finding a career that I loved. I know where they were coming from…they just wanted me to finish college. They weren't real concerned what I finished in, just that I finished.

See I have two sisters who have also graduated from college, one with a Marketing degree and one with a Management degree. My sister that has the Management degree knew in about 7th grade that she wanted to own her own hotel. Yes, can you imagine a 7th grader coming to her parents and saying "I'd like to own my own hotel." Well she did. I admire her for that. She knew exactly what she wanted, and no matter what anyone else told her, she was going to finish college and then get good hotel experience, and one day she might even own her own hotel. I wish I had that kind of direction. My other sister is more like me, we went to college and finished. We never really had a clue what we wanted to be when we grew up. Looking back, I see all the things she is so good at and she doesn't do any of those things in her current position (that I know of). Don't get me wrong, she's great at her current job, but I wonder if, like me, there's something else better out there for her.

So after complaining for a while about not knowing what I really want to do, I sat down about 8 weeks ago and made a list. A list of things I want out of a job, and a list of things I'm good at or interested in doing for a living. After making the list I have decided that I want to take the CPA exam. It's a place to start. One day I want to do the books for companies, and help people do their taxes. I want to be my own boss, and set my own schedule.

Ok. So now I have decided to take the CPA exam. What do I need to do to be qualified to take the CPA exam? Return to college. Yes. I thought 5 years ago when I graduated that I was done. Nope. I'm going back to school. I'm now an official college student. I'm taking classes from LSU, and I hope to be done in about 18 – 24 months. It seems like such a long time, but in the grand scheme of things, a couple of years isn't that long to be able to do something I'll enjoy for the rest of my life.

I'm hoping that by posting this goal of mine (to pass the CPA exam), I'll actually have the motivation to do it. See it's much harder to give up on something when everyone keeps asking you about it.

I'll let you know when I'm an official CPA (then you can call me to do your taxes or something…hehe).