Friday, May 9, 2014

The Triangle.

For those of you peeking into the adoption world through the glasses of our life, you probably get an overall happy, fuzzy feeling about it. Our boys are cute and silly and we have endless adventures. I talk about adoption often but it's always from the side of the adoptive parent. I rarely talk about the hard stuff. But it's there. Always. It's as much a part of the story as anything else. 

At the base of every adoption story is a triangle. The adoptive parents, the adoptee and the birth parents. 

There is no other time when that triangle is more present to me than this week in May every year. Within days of each other we have Mothers Day, both boys' birthdays and Eliot's Family Day (Gotcha Day). All super fun celebrations if we're sitting on the point of the triangle of the adoptive parents. You were born! I became a mom! We became a family! Adoption is awesome! Let's get donuts! 

If we sit on the point of the triangle of the birth parents this week is the anniversary of the hardest decision we ever made, the day it happened, the day everyone celebrates motherhood, and the day the government made it all final. That's a heavy week. Beyond heavy. Adoption is heavy.

If we sit on the point of the triangle of the adoptee this week is confusing. It provides as many questions with no answers as it does answers to unasked questions. It is loss and gain. It is beautiful and broken. It is a tension unlike any other. Adoption is complex. 

We're not doing anything differently this year. We're still celebrating all week but as the adoptive parents we're not tied to the idea that this will always be a week of Nothing But Joy for our boys. We're taking each year as it comes, letting them guide us as they process all that it means. 

I met a birth mom this week (18 years after the fact) and she teared up when talking about Mother's Day. Just 12 hours before, I was excitedly filling out an adoptive family's recommendation form as they start the process. Joy and pain. It's not one without the other.
"He is mine in a way that he'll never be hers, yet he is hers in a way that he will never be mine, and so together, we are motherhood." -Desha Wood

Monday, April 14, 2014

Birthdays are good for the sole.

Remember Eliot's birthday last year? Super fun party and all his friends brought Hot Wheels cars that he was able to take to Guatemala and pass out to children?


It was impactful enough that he still talks about it. More in a processing sense than anything. Still trying to wrap his mind around kids his age that don't have thousands of toys to fight over with their brother.

This year he's not having a party (we rotate every other year for the big parties) so don't be sad when you don't get an invite. BUT he still wants to collect stuff to take (after a little nudging, lets be honest). His other love language? Shoes.

Starting soon, we're collecting kids shoes. Practical and sturdy, not cheap flip flops, etc. Shoes that were made to last. Kids sizes. New or gently used.

Deadline is May 10.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Spring is the time for COLOR!

(This is the shape of Guatemala, if you're not sure)

I got this today. Sorry for the gross pic but it's not going to look great for about another week and a half as it heals so you get the fresh pic.

I could have just gotten the outline of Guatemala but knowing all that came from that experience, both our adoption and every trip since then, I felt like it needed to be as impactful as the effect that country has had on me. On my family.

If you're unfamiliar with Guatemalan textiles, that's what this tattoo was based off of. I chose all my favorite patterns and my amazing tattoo artist combined them all.

My favorite part? Each region/town in Guatemala has their own pattern that are worn by the women on their huipil (traditional guatemalan tops). Like these below:
I researched which pattern came from Eliot's birth town and we strategically put that pattern over top of that town.

I love it. Each section reminds me of different amazing things that have come out of our experience. Our amazing first child, the love for the country, the friendships (!!!!), the growth in my character, the growth in my faith. I am a different person because of this country and all it gave me.



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Just a guy on a ladder.

We lead mission trips back to Guatemala. Russ leads music at the church. I run the foster/adopt clothing ministry. We volunteer with the orphan care group at church and at Eliot's school. We have adopted and are planning to again, an older child this time.

When any combination of these facts about us are told to a new person, we're met with a reaction of "You guys are amazing." Usually someone shaking their head. I cringe every time. And I never know what to say. We're not amazing, we're not extraordinary. We're regular people. Given what we've been given, seeing what we've seen, this is what we do. If you see a lightbulb out above your bathroom sink, you change it. If you see someone drop their stuff, you help them pick it up. It's quite simply us filling needs presented before us that we are able to. There's way more impressive things being done by way more impressive people.
Desmond is obsessed with firetrucks right now. Last week we were driving on a major road in St. Louis that runs through a college campus. On the edge of campus was a large red truck with a ladder/stairs attached extending to a huge sign welcoming you to campus, a guy at the very top, changing something on the sign.

Dez started shouting "Mom!! A fireman guy! A FIREMAN GUY!"

"Oh, no, Dez, that's just a guy on a ladder."

And that's it, friends. I don't know how our story will hit you, but we're not fireman guys, we're just a guy on a ladder. This isn't a false humility post, we really are just doing what we do. Everything sounds more impressive than it really is. And really, the minute we start thinking of ourselves as "fireman guys" we're all in a lot of trouble...

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Giving good gifts.

"Why is there a dog in our backyard?"

Eliot looked at the dog, at me, at Russ, back at the dog. Maybe the huge foolish grins on our faces started his mental processing of what just happened. Maybe it was my unintelligible squeak saying "It's OUR dog!"

*****************
Because we know good people, we have several friends who foster dogs. Every time they posted pics of their latest foster over the last six months, Russ and I would have "the chat." Eliot has been asking for a dog for the last two years. We've read articles on how they promote healthy brain activity and teach basic life responsibility in children. (and by "we've read" I mean I post these articles generously to Russ' inbox…) Every time a pic would pop up on my newsfeed, I'd screenshot it with some emotional plea and text it to him. He was all...

I could see that over months of this I was wearing him down. Every once in awhile he'd nibble. He'd ask a noncommittal question. I'd scurry to find out the answer. Then he'd say no. I'd casually mention that Dez and I went through the Humane Society after pre-school. He's say "Fun!" and change the topic. You may hear a "no" in that but me? Those were gateway to a "yes." Not to mention Eliot's sincere plea. Without knowing it, he was working Russ. Sharing memories, unprompted, of times he had with Daisy, talking about how Daisy was his best friend, etc. We could see there was a legitimate void in his life.

Right around the start of November I could see Russ was on board. So much so that we were both checking almost daily to stray rescue sites and other dog shelters websites. We'd see a potential dog and both agree it wasn't the right one. I emailed back and forth with my fostering friends and before we could make a decision, their foster dog would be adopted by someone else. Then one day in early December a friend posted a link on her FB newsfeed of a neighbor who needed to find a new home for a couple of her pets. I texted Russ, "I found our dog." He had meetings all day so I didn't exactly get the reaction I was hoping for. Without his consent I called the owner and set up a meet-n-greet for Russ' day off. Sometimes ya just know.

We met her. And she was perfect. Any doubt we had about taking on the extra responsibility was gone. She was perfect. The timing was perfect. It was just weeks before Christmas.

We set up the date for the drop off at just a few days later. For days we knew what was coming. We snuck out to a pet store to stock up on stuff but got distracted by the cool dog toys. "Eliot would pick this one!" "Wait, he'd love this one!" We were giddy.

For the next few days it took everything in me not to tell him what was about to happen. He was mad about having to do homework, he was frustrated with his brother for ruining something of his, he didn't feel good one day, etc. I'd just hug him hard as my non-verbal way of saying, "BUT YOU'RE GETTING A DOG! THE PERFECT DOG!" With every down he felt, my smile got bigger. He must have been a little confused.

The drop off was set up for Friday afternoon so that when he came home from school, she'd be here. I was busting at the seams as I drove him to school. HE WAS FINALLY GETTING A DOG! Who cares about practicing your spelling words for the test that morning, you're getting a dog! THIS AFTERNOON! AND YOU HAVE NO IDEA!

We came up with an elaborate scavenger hunt with clues and gifts, starting with a clue wrapped and under the tree. Russ hid the dog outside while I picked E up from school.

"Hi El, how was school?"

"Eh."

"Well, what do you think of getting an early Christmas present?"

"Really?"

He took a sweet forever taking off his coat and putting his backpack up. And then asked for a snack. And that's when I riggled and jiggled in impatience and yelled, "OPEN YOUR CHRISTMAS PRESENT!"

He S.L.O.W.L.Y. went through each clue, annoyed that we'd try to answer it for him, just to move on. FINALLY the clues led him outside and to the back yard.

"Why is there a dog in our backyard?"

Our clues were obviously not very obvious.

Eliot spent that entire weekend obsessing over our new dog. We've had her for three months now and at least every other day he's says, "Can you believe we have a dog? Marzipan, can you believe you're our dog? Mom, can you believe how perfect Marzi is?" She's the first thing he looks for every morning. He tells her how beautiful she is when she walks by him. He truly loves loves loves this dog.
Being on this side of good gift giving feels like nothing else.

I imagine this is how God felt right before we opened the email with Eliot's referral picture. How did he feel as he watched us pick up the phone to hear, "Katie, check your email, I sent you and Russ a referral. I think this is the one." I've never thought about God feeling giddy but I can't imagine him feeling otherwise the morning we left to go strawberry picking and ended up getting the Dez "phone call" on our way there. He knew what our family would look like and what amazing gifts our children are. That's not to oversimplify the complexities of adoption, but God knew and I really believe he was pretty excited for us to finally meet these two turkeys.










Friday, January 24, 2014

Debt Free Adoption

After presenting at our monthly local orphan care meeting, I had a few requests to post all the info I'd gathered online somewhere for easy access. And it just so happens I have a blog for any platform I want. Lucky you guys!

Back in the olden days, before the internet was a legit thing, a hot young couple hastily jumped into an international adoption with an "Eh, we'll figure it out somehow" attitude and made dumb decisions. So this post is the opposite of what we did, kind of a "wish we would have known about that when we started all this biz years ago…" entry.

This only applies to private and international adoptions as adoptions through foster care do not cost the adopters anything. This also won't address tax info. That's over my head, frankly, but I have a couple people you could contact if you have questions about that. I will tell you though to keep a folder where you have copies of receipts of EVERY PENNY you spend on your adoption because the tax credit will need to be proven to be awarded. Give future-you a present by keeping all of that in one handy place from the beginning.

****Important point**** Make sure your fundraisers aren't always asking for money from the same people. Think of ways your community can reach out to others beyond your circle. Think of goods or services or events you can sell that would interest more than just your direct family and friends.


Before you look at my list and get super impressed, know that I gathered the majority of my info from juliegumm.com (Author of Adoption without Debt). Her blog and book are PACKED with ideas and organizations. Go there. Often.

Grants/loans:
*Direct Grants- you fill out an application and they award you money (going to your agency, not your pocket). There's always criteria and rules. It's a lot of work to fill out the applications but IT'S FREE MONEY, PEOPLE. And once you fill out one application, a lot of them require the same info that you've already gathered. Go to Resources4adoption.com to save yourself weeks of research. She's done all the hard work in finding and organizing all the grants out there. She keeps it up to date. She's your new best friend and probably has a pair of traveling pants with someone. (Check out Show Hope, A Child Waits, Affording Adoption, and Gift of Adoption to name a few)
*Abba Fund- Check with your church to see if they have an Abba Fund account. It works like an interest free loan. There are guidelines, of course, so check details!

(giving you a visual on what you're working so hard for)

Partner Organizations
*Pure Charity is a great online organization that you can channel funds through. Funds go to your agency, not you and as long as your agency is a 501c3, your donors get a tax deduction. Also, as long as you have an account, friends and family can go through your page to shop at Target, etc and you get credited a percentage of their purchases.

*GoFundMe and Paypal work similarly, except with GoFundMe you create a page, have a goal, can add updates and pictures, etc.

*Give 1, Save 1: Apply to this website to be their "Family of the week." They feature your family story for a week and run a campaign for a week. Lots of $1s add up!
(another visual)

Big Events (all eggs in one basket kinda stuff) (side note: if you know a friend with event planning skills, ask for help! You may be losing out on maximizing your event if you've never done something like this before!) (another side note: I don't believe you can sell alcohol at any of your events without the right permits. Look into that…)

*Both Hands Foundation: This is by far the best organization to help with fundraising that I've ever heard of. You raise potentially huge amounts for your adoption while serving the needs of widows in your community. It's brilliant. Check out the website!

*Food! Whether it's a pancake breakfast, spaghetti night, or pig roast, you can raise a lot if these are done right. Start with asking for donation of food items. Ask for volunteers to help cook, decorate and serve. Host a silent (and/or live) auction. Ask for big donations to auction off. Hold raffles all night. Host an "after party" that costs extra.

*Yard Sales: ask friends and family for donations of their stuff they're getting rid of anyway. Run a bake sale/lemonade stand along side it. Advertise like it's your job. Contact yard sale hosts the few weeks leading up to yours and ask for their leftovers (assuming they were taking it all to Goodwill anyway.) Make sure you indicate (in ads and at the sale) that proceeds go to an adoption.

*Photo Mini-session: If you've been here very long you know that we had a day of mini-sessions through Fresh Art Photography before Desmond's adoption. People paid a set amount (or more) for a time slot, we had multiple backdrops (all in a warehouse) and a variety of props. The photographers donated their time (which was unbelievable). I had friends bring us lunch, coffee or sodas as needed since we packed that day with A LOT of families.

*Karaoke Night: I read about this on Julie Gumm's website and loved it. See if you can get a venue, equipment and snacks donated (low overhead cost). People buy tickets to come but can also buy a "No Sing" necklace upon entering. This is important because you can pay a set fee as often as you want to make other people sing. Unless they're wearing the necklace. Make them expensive. =) I would also recommend raffles and silent/live auctions at this event.

*Trivia Nights are huge in St. Louis. People bring (and pay tickets for) a table of their friends. There's usually ten rounds of ten questions. Again, raffles and auctions are great at these.

*Freezer meals: One family had their community make a deep freezer full of ready-to-cook meals and raffled it off. The freezer was donated as were the meals. They made a significant amount of money raffling it off.

*Restaurants: A lot of restaurants will often partner with a family or organization for a percentage of one evenings meals to go to your cause. Then you advertise like crazy for family and friends to fill that place that night!

*Direct Sales Fair: Know anyone selling Arbonne, Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, Noonday? They're all looking for more customers anyway, so combine them all into one venue for one afternoon. Obviously asking them to share part of their proceeds with your adoption.

*Mustache Fight: I heard a story about a wife who wanted to her husband to shave his mustache. He didn't want to shave it. So they held a competition. Whoever raised the most money in a weeks time got to make the mustache decision. They raised over $1000 in the first 24 hours. This could also work with shaving head or dying hair a crazy color, etc. Get creative, peeps. It's just hair.

*Bingo Nights!
*Golf tournaments! Mini-Golf tournaments!
*Walk-a-thons!
(A double visual, keep working hard.)

On-Going sales
*T-shirt sales

*Just Love Coffee: sign up for a "store front" and encourage your people to buy coffee through that site.

*ThredUpGather clothes (especially name brands) from family and friends and ship them (for FREE) to this company. They resell them online and you get paid up to 40% their resale value if they make the cut. You can do this as often as you want. They pay you via Paypal.

*Cash4shooz: This website pays by the pound. Gather up unwanted shoes and send them in!
(And another)

How to ask for donations, straight up.
(These can also be AT your big events)
*Puzzle Pieces: Buy a large numbered puzzle (depending on how big you think you're donor pool is). "Sell" pieces of the puzzle for a suggested donation. As people donate, you write their names on the blank side of the puzzle piece and once all pieces are bought, you put it together and frame it to post in your house somewhere.

*Envelope Tree: Get 100 or 150 envelopes and number them 1-150. People take the envelope with the number of what they're willing to donate. 100 envelopes = $5050, 150 envelopes = over $11,000.

*Tag-a-bag: (especially for international adopters or domestic traveling to another location) Get a piece of luggage that can be written on with permanent marker. Charge people a fee to write a message/sign their name on the suitcase (like they would a cast.) Then use that luggage for your pick up trip.


That's all I got, peeps. Seriously, go to Julie Gumm's website often. She's solid biz.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Those who constantly attempt to become legends rarely do. -Ancient Proverb I just made up.

I just came inside from running a puking dog out to the front lawn. I'm on day three of these yoga pants and have accumulated enough fuzz on them to prove it. My youngest is crying at the door because I won't let him go outside. (It's winter and he's insisted on being naked all day.) I'm 11 days behind the "Read-the-bible-in-a-year-plan" and it's January 12th. My Christmas tree is sitting dead in the corner, it's needles slowly creeping their way around the house. The dog needs a bath. The kids need a bath. I could use one myself, actually. We're out of milk and I couldn't tell you the last time my kids ate a vegetable. I'm ignoring all the committee emails from my eldest's school. I'm not a natural home-maker so being a SAHM feels like prison a little bit and if I'm totally honest, I often get jealous that the hubs is in his dream job. I'm still not sure what I want to be when I grow up and I'm weeks away from turning 37, which in my head feels like turning 40 three years early. And this isn't even a bad day.

I would hate for today to be the day I'm scrolling through my mom's Instagram feed from 25 years ago and see that all the pics of me have a #worldchanger hashtag.

I'm noticing this trend among my parenting friends, specifically my christian ones. Posting a picture of your kid and adding the hashtag "World Changer."
#dailydez #worldchanger #clothesoptional

This morning as I took pause and looked at the reality of me right in this moment I was extremely thankful my parents never added that title onto my identity, at least not that I'm aware of. Holy pressure! Upon seeing that I think I'd start cataloging all my "good deeds." I could read fifty articles about how being a mom is one of the highest callings, I could look at our ReSource ministry and pat myself on the back, I could assign undue credit to the influence our adoption stories have had on our community, all these in attempt to build my own heavenly crown, hoping to prove to myself I'm being a good steward of my life, that these things add up to *kind of* changing the world?

But you know what? These are not the things I should be finding my identity in, and neither are the fuzzy yoga pants and puking dog. I don't feel like I'm disappointing anyone because I'm living today as a child of God. That is my identity. No additional banners attached.

Do I want my kids to be world changers? Duh. But to put that on them is unfair. (To put that on me is unfair, for that matter, I don't know how to grow world changers, although I'm sure there's a book out there that can teach me.) I don't know what my kids will do with their life but I want them to proceed just doing their best. Doing what they feel is their purpose, doing what glorifies God without the standard of pushing constantly to be a world changer. Adding that title changes the goal. I want them to be so secure in their love from both God and us that they feel the freedom to pursue even the most mundane life-style if it glorifies God and they love it.

It's not that I have low expectations for my kids. It has more to do with me wanting them to figure out what they love, discover what they're good at, what God created them to do and work at it with all their heart, regardless of the outcome.

I'm not trying to add to the mommy wars, not trying to say we're doing anything better than anyone else. We've just been talking lately about the weight of the common things we say to our kids and trying to think more critically about why and what and how that may impact them.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to change the crap in our world. There's nothing wrong with wanting your kids to make this place better for everyone. If you need to call yourself a "World Changer" as you get out of bed each day because thats the motivation you need to do what you do, then great. At the end of the day, though, simply call yourself a child of God. Because at the end of the day it's not about whether you checked stuff off your list, whether you failed or achieved, it's about resting in a place you couldn't achieve no matter what you did that day.
#childofGod #clothingstilloptional

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Adoption TMI update! Cuz who doesn't love TMI?!

Here's what needs to happen in order for us to be ready:

OUR RESPONSIBILITY:
Get re-fingerprinted
Get physicals from the Doc
Finish the PILES of paperwork for our home study
Finish our adoption classes (just one left!)
Collect a couple missing documents for home study
Create a "life book" (pics/info) to show at "staffings".

OTHERS RESPONSIBILITY:
Process our fingerprints
Mail in our physicals
Mail in our recommendation letters and employment verification
Schedule our adoption class that was postponed
Put all of that together and update the home study (biggest responsibility)

Then we wait. You remember that part, right? Speaking of waiting, this was me waiting to meet our newest social worker last week. Just a normal Friday, ya know?

The next steps are ones we've not experienced yet. In our home study we've specified ages and disabilities we can/cannot accept so when a child becomes available through the state that fits in those categories, we'll receive an email asking if we'd like to be considered. At that point we can put our name in the hat or not. The team (any where from 8-12 people) narrows it down to three families and hosts a "Staffing". A "staffing" is a meeting where they look at the specific child and his/her needs and decide as a team which family would best fit that child, ranking them 1,2,3. (Somewhere before that is an interview from the team.) Birth families are not involved at this point.

We could be interviewed for staffings for months or even years and still not get picked. And that's okay.

Please understand this process through the state is child-centered, as it should be. If we don't get picked right away, it's not our opportunity to be offended. No matter how you view us, we may not be the right fit for a child, where another family may be. We want the team to be critical about these decisions, as it's in everyone's best interest especially the child.

We're not hoping for this to be quick, we're hoping for this to be right.

So, that's it. Now, off to my paperwork pile! Feel free to pray, feel free to ask questions, feel free to send Starbucks.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Snow Session: Fresh Art Photography

A Saturday in mid-December surprised St. Louis with enough snow to cancel our adoption class so Jodie and I decided to do an impromptu family session instead! Click here for the full blog post of pics! (Here's a peek though...)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

'Twas the Night Before The Home Study (re-post)

...when all through the house,
not a dustball was stirring, and certainly not a mouse;
The family pics were hung on the wall with care
with hopes that the social worker would soon be there;

the child was nestled in front of a movie with care
while visions of a sibling danced in his head;
With Russ in his toolbelt, and me in my cleaning cap
we got swiftly to work, yelling "No time for a nap!"

Away to the window, I flew like a flash,
Windexing the panes and dusting the sash,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But boxes of stuff we don't need, it was clear,

To the dumpster Russ flew, so lively and quick,
I knew it was gone when I heard the lid click.
More rapid than eagles, with cleaner I came,
I whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, front stairs! now, banister! now, vanity and tub!
On, corners! on baseboards! on, trucks and stuffed cub!
To the top of the mantel! to the top of the wall!
Now scrub away! wipe away! dust away all!"

So into the trashcan the dust-mites they flew,
With my arms full of supplies, and Russell's arms, too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on my phone
The social worker appointment being postponed.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Into the room Russell came with a bound.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

"An extra week we have to prepare,
My gorgeous princess, you have no reason to despair."
And I heard him exclaim, ere he walked out of sight,
Happy home study to all, and to all a good night!


**Reposted from early 2010.

We are actually having a home study visit tomorrow (again). I should actually be cleaning but instead I'm reading old blogs. Seems like a good idea.