Monday, February 28, 2011

Signing the acceptance papers

We signed the acceptance papers for our daughter-to-be yesterday afternoon.  These forms are a little confusing, especially the child's visa application.  I had an example to follow.  If you need an example form, let me know & I'll email it to you.  If you wonder why these documents do not look complete, it is because I photoshopped our personal information out of these pictures.  I do have unedited copies saved that we will put in a scrapbook for our little girl.

 Her visa application.  This is a confusing form, because you fill it out on behalf of the child.  There are places where it you have to fill in a spouse's name, schools attended, nationality, employment, and names of children.  These are all questions about the child - not yourself.
I printed these cards up to send to a handful of our family members.  We included a little information about our girl and two photos of her.  I mailed these today at the post office.
 We sent these to our parents, grandparents, siblings, and a couple other people.  I know there are lots of others who want a photo, but we still have a lot of hurdles to cross and this is not a "done deal."  We will be more generous with her photos after we have passed court.  Thanks for understanding.  Our parents and grandparents will be happy to show her off, so ask them if you live near them.

While I was driving to our social worker's office this morning to drop off the acceptance papers, I got the phone call from the International Pediatrician that I had been waiting on.  I had honestly been dreading that call, because our initial consultation with her after our first referral was filled with gut wrenching words like "nutritionally wasted", "malnourished,"  "HIV," "failure to thrive," and "developmental delays."  We went from hopeful to scared over the course of that phone call, and I was afraid she would find something in the report that we had missed this time and I'd be in for another scary phone call.  Well, that did not happen!  She said that this little girl looks pretty healthy.  She feels that this baby might be a little older than eight months and she estimates that she is anywhere from 8-12 months old.  We are fine with that, and that is not enough of a variance for us to bother with changing her birthdate.  We are so thankful that she is healthy and that the nannies are taking good care of her!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

We got a referral!

It has been over a week since I posted anything, and that is because we have big news that we have been dying to share!  Last Friday, Feb. 18, at 2:41 PM I got a call from our social worker.  I wasn't sure who it was when I saw the number on my phone.  I hoped it was her, but thought "No, it's probably just an appointment reminder."  I was at home, and I had just finished uploading pictures that I took at the botanical garden.   She told me that she had a referral for us.  I tried to add James to the call, but he didn't answer his cell phone.  Then I called his work number, which I never do.  He picked up, and I told him that I was on the phone with our social worker and that we had a referral.  He asked me to call him back on his cell phone, which I did.  Both of us listened to our social worker as she began to tell us about a little girl.  She is eight months old, and she weighs 21 pounds.  Our social worker told us that this little girl is the chubbiest Ethiopian baby she has ever encountered!  I carefully took notes as she told us more of her story.  She told us her birthday, which may not be exact because birthdays are not kept up with in Ethiopia.  None the less, there is something pretty interesting about the birthdate that we have been given.  Do you remember this post that I wrote about dreaming that I was in labor?  (You can read it here.)  I had that dream on Sunday, May 30th, 2010.  Now, that is not the birthdate that we have been given, but it is pretty close!  And guess what else.  Her name means "Sabbath" and I had that dream on a Sunday.  Now, I'm not saying that is divine revelation or anything like that, but I do think that is special.

We got off the phone with our social worker, and James told me that he would be leaving work in about 10 minutes.  So, I had about an hour to wait for him so we could see her pictures together for the first time.  My mom called soon after I got off the phone with James, and it was really hard not to say anything!  I decided to go ahead and get the tripod set up so we could take pictures.  The tripod was in my car, and in all the excitement, I managed to lock myself out of the house when I went outside to get it.  I managed to find a way back in.  James came home, and we opened the email with her photos.  She is beautiful!  She has dark chocolate brown skin, chubby little legs, chubby little arms, and long eyelashes.   We read through her records.  She can crawl.  She can sit up by herself.  She can babble and grasp toys in her hands.  She likes to play pee-a-boo with the nannies.

 Seeing her pictures for the first time.
 Because of what happened with our first referral we decided to wait until we had the chance to speak with a physician before sharing the news.  We wanted to have a chance to talk about this little girl's medical records with a doctor before we made our decision.  While we are still waiting to hear back from the International Pediatrician, we were able to go over her records yesterday with some friends of ours who are internal medicine physicians.  We are very thankful their willingness to do that for us, especially with the busy weekend they've had.
 I can't wait until she is chasing these two around the house!
We are incredibly thankful and excited that we have been matched with this little girl.  A big thank you to all of you who have prayed for us the past few months.  If everything goes smoothly with the adoption and we get to bring this baby home, we will change her name to Samantha Eva.  We will keep her Ethiopian name as a second middle name.  Please continue to pray for us and for the little girl that will hopefully soon be our daughter.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cajun Fettuccine

1 lb.Andouille Sausage*
1 stick of butter (this was a little too much, I will use less next time)
1 pint of half-and-half
1 bunch green onions, chopped (tops, too)
8 cloves garlic, chopped
Creole seasoning to taste
1/2 lb. fettuccine

Cook pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain, then rinse under cool water. Drain again, thoroughly.

Slice the sausage and brown it.  Drain the grease and dispose.

Melt the butter in a large pot and saute onions and garlic for 3 minutes. Add the sausage and saute for 2 minutes. Add the half-and-half, then add several big pinches of Creole seasoning, tasting before the next pinch until you think it's right.

Cook for 5 - 10 minutes over medium heat until the sauce thickens. Add the pasta and toss well. Let it sit for 10 minutes or so over very low heat, stirring often. Serve immediately, with French bread and a nice dry white wine.

I got my idea for this recipe at Gumbo Pages.  There are a lot of great recipes there.

A word about the Andouille:  Pronounced an·dou·ille [an-doo-ee, ahn-dwee]  This is hard to find outside of Louisiana, from my experience.  The closest thing we've been able to find in the St. Louis area is Johnsonville Cajun Brats.  They aren't the same, but they are good in a pinch.  We stock up on these sausages when we visit Louisiana. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Weekend Recap

Valentines' Day usually isn't a grand occasion around here, but we had fun celebrating this year.  Friday night we got a coupon for a sushi place we'd never been too, and we had dinner there.  The name of the restaurant is The Drunken Fish.  It is a local place, and it was the best sushi we've had since visiting NYC in 2009.

Saturday night we did a little experimenting in the kitchen, and we came up with a tasty new pasta dish.  We had that for dinner with a bottle of wine while we watched "Mama Mia."  James was a pretty good sport watching the chick flick.  I did catch him playing chess on his iPhone once, but that's ok.

We don't like to go out for dinner on Valentine's Day.  We did it a couple of time when we were dating, and the restaurants are all just too busy.  I'd rather cook and have a nice dinner at home.  Some years we have picked up Chinese take-out and had that on our china at home.  James and I cooked dinner together this year. 
This is how I originally had the table set.
James came home with flowers!  He gave me roses on our first Valentine's day in 1999, and I think this was the first time since then.  He gives me other types of flowers from time to time, just not roses.  I love that he found a bouquet that had a lavender rose in it.  I had lavender roses in my bouquet when we got married.  It is a little hard to find them.
 Here's what we had for dinner:

Scallops in Vermouth Cream
I originally found that recipe in a cookbook from Southern Living called Easy Weeknight Favorites
Roasted Brussels Sprouts I'm not a big fan of Brussels sprouts, but these are so good!
Carrot Souffle
Multi-grain Rolls (not homemade)

For dessert:
I made the chocolate covered strawberries, and James got the ice cream at Whole Foods.  If you've never had it, I know green tea ice cream sounds awful.  I tried it once at a Japanese restaurant, and I love it now.  The coconut milk gave this a great flavor.

I hope you all had a great day with the one you love!

Monday, February 14, 2011

A prayer for Valentine's Day

Take some time this Valentine's Day to reflect on your love for our Savior and how you can show His love to others.

O Lover of the loveless,
It is thy will that I should love thee
with heart, soul, mind, and strength,
and my neighbor as myself.

But I am not suffieient for these things.
There is by nature not pure love in my soul;
Every affection in me is turned from thee;
I am bound, a slave to lust,
I cannot love thee, lovely as thou art,
until thou dost set me free.

By grace I am thy freeman and would serve thee,
for I believe thou art my God in Jesus,
and that through him I am redeemed,
and my sins are forgiven.

With this freedom I would always obey thee,
but I cannot walk in liberty,
any more than I could first attain it, of myself.
May thy Spirit draw me nearer to thee and thy ways.

Thou art the end of all means,
for if they lead me not to thee,
I go away empty.

Order all my ways by thy holy Word
and make thy commandments the joy of my heart,
that by them I may have happy converse with thee.
May I grow in the love and manifest it to mankind.

Spirit of Love, make me like the loving Jesus;
give me his benevolent temper,
his benevolent actions,
that I may shine before men to thy glory.

The more thou doest in love in me and by me,
humble me the more;
keep me meek in lowly,
and always ready to give thee honour.

This prayer is from the book Valley of Vision.  It is a collection of prayers from the Puritans.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A "Welcome Home" Party

On Friday, James and I had the chance to witness the homecoming of a little boy that we had been praying for since we met his parents, about a year and a half ago.  We met his mom and dad at a training seminar that we were required to go to by our adoption agency.  At the time, I really didn't want to go to the training.  It was going to last all day, and it was on a Saturday in September '09.  We'd been very busy that month, and the training meant another busy weekend.  I'm so glad we went to it, because that is where we met our friends, Jack and Dana.  They had turned in their application the same day that did, before we even knew each other.  Our paper work was sent to Ethiopia on the same day, and we had hoped to travel to pick up our kids together.  God had other plans.  We rejoice with them as we continue to wait.  We are so happy that their Joseph is home with them now.
There was quite a crowd of people gathered at the airport, aunts cousins, grandparents, and friends.  Another traveler asked us who was coming home.  It was obvious we were anticipating someone - welcome home signs, ballons, gifts, and lots of cameras and kleenex.  It is such a miracle when a family is formed, either through birth or adoption.  It was hard to believe that the day we had all prayed about for so long was finally here.  What an encouragement it was for us to see the fruit of obedience to God's call for this family.

Joseph was pretty laid back most of the time.  I'm sure he was a little overwhelmed.  A crowd of white folks with flashing cameras, other travelers passing by, and lots of attention.  After everyone had said their hellos, Joseph noticed two African American airport employees.  He was kinda interested in them.  I'm guessing he was intrigued because they looked like him. 

I'm glad James and I both had the chance to be there.  It gave us some logistical things to think about when it's our turn.  We're hoping that our parents can meet us at the St. Louis airport when we come home.  It's not an enormous airport like O'hare or Atlanta, but it is much bigger than the airports in their respective towns.  It is confusing driving there.  It gives me a headache!  I just have to resign to the fact that I am going to get lost, I am going to have to drive a circle around the airport before I find the place I'm looking for, and that I am not going to remember how in the heck to get back to my car when my business in the airport is finished.  A map would help the average person, but I'm not the average person.  It's been over 4 years since James has asked me to read a map for him, that's how good I am with them.  I'd like to find away to make the experience less stressful for our parents when they come to meet us.  We've tossed a few ideas around, and I hope we come up with a good plan.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Child Sponsorship

James brought the mail inside on Tuesday.  He started to go through it, and he brought an envelope to me.  He seemed excited, but I wasn't sure what the reason was.  We got a newsletter and a smaller envelope in the mail from Compassion International.  In the smaller envelope was a new photo of our sponsored child.  We were thrilled to see how much he's grown in the last six months.  After looking at his photo for a moment, I started to cry.  That morning, I had cleaned out our bedroom closet and taken three very large bags of clothes to Goodwill.  Clothes that we had not worn in at least a year or two.  Clothes that we will not miss.  Clothes that we did not need.  In the photo, I noticed that Tariku was wearing an old pair of shoes with no shoelaces.  Have you ever tried walking around in a pair of lace-up shoes without shoelaces?  It doesn't work too well.  The shoes are loose, they rub your feet too much, and they leave blisters.  The benefits of our sponsorship were evident in the photo.  He looks healthier in the new photo.  This may sound silly, but I'm praying today that he will have shoelaces.

Americans take so much for granted.  It's so easy to get wrapped up in commercialism. We think we "need" the newest smart phone, the biggest TV, the most comfortable car, updated homes.  Expand your world, and make a connection with a child that doesn't have a pair of shoelaces and you will see that none of those things are needs.  What has my sponsored child taught me?  He's taught me to be thankful for my shoelaces.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A book review: They Poured Fire on us from the Sky

I finished this book, They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky several months ago.  It is a book about a heartbreaking time in human history.  It is written by two brothers and their cousin.  They are all "Lost Boys of Sudan." In the 1990's Sudan was in the throws of a bloody civil war.  Families were torn apart.  The innocent were slaughtered.  Children were orphaned.  Girls were raped.  Little boys had their lives spared though, but not for a noble reason.  Little boys would be trained to be soldiers to fight for the war.  Little boys who should have been herding the families' goats and playing games of make-believe were left with the option of trekking across the desert to freedom or learning how to kill a man.  Many chose the dangerous trek across the desert, where on the other side they hoped for freedom and reunification with any family members that might have survived.  This book is the story of three of those boys who made that journey.

The book is written in English, which was the fourth language of the writers.  There are a few places where it is apparent that they are still students of the language, but that simply adds to the poignancy of the book.

The boys write about their homes under attack:
People scattered everywhere.  Roofs went up in flames.  I left our goats and ran to join my parents, but I couldn't get past the gunman who stood in the middle of our yard.  The village was destroyed. . .I watched them kill our cattle, set the millet and sorghum fields on fire, destroy all the things that human life needs to survive.

This is not light, happy, feel good reading.  It is worth while.  Nothing makes me more thankful for the comforts and freedoms that we enjoy in the States than leaving the country for a short time and learnimg about the injustices that take place in other places.  This book will make you want to pray for our politicians instead of criticize them.

The boys write of how they reunited with each other, how they eluded death, how the reached safety, and how they ended up in the US.  They do provide some comic relief in parts of the book.  They talk about learning how to use a toilet, how to buckle a seat beat, how to eat a salad and so many other things that are everyday occurrences to us.  Pray for the people of Sudan, as the effects of this war are still evident.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Prayer for Faith

This is a song that we sing at our church.  It's been running through my mind the past few days, so I thought I would share the words to it here.

A Prayer for Faith
By: Joe Day
My heart is glad, that you are my Father
Adopted to you, as sons and daughters
And Your love endures, as You said it would
And my heart sings...

Teach me, the sound of Your voice
With the faith to respond, to love you...
Teach me, to follow you close
With the faith you bestow, to love you...

 My heart is glad, to serve you as King
Forgive the times, that I am stubborn
With a humble heart, may I come to you
And my heart sings...

(repeat chorus)

My heart is glad, that you are my Father
Adopted to you, as sons and daughters
And Your love endures, as You said it would
And my heart sings...

 (repeat chorus)

Lately, I have been praying for God to teach me the sound of his voice and to give me the faith to believe Him. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A book review: One Thousand Gifts

I have not finished reading One Thousand Gifts yet, but so far I have really enjoyed it. It is about her journey towards living a life of thanksgiving. Giving thanks for the simple things, giving thanks for the life-changing things, giving thanks in the midst of the difficult things. She writes about finding beauty in the mundane and in sorrow. She counts one thousand things that she is thankful for. I stumbled upon this book at a time when I needed it.

I like the author's writing style. It's kind of stream of consciousness at times. Her sentence structure reminds me of William Faulkner, although it is not as difficult to read her writing as it is his. She makes numerous references to the bible, sin, and God's grace. She talks about her own struggle to let go of the pain of loss and to trust God. Here is a quote where she is writing of that struggle that resonated with me:

"No, God, Your plans are a gutted, bleeding mess and I didn't sign up for this and You really thought I'd go for this? No, God, this is ugly and this is a mess and can't You get anything right and just haul all this pain our of here and I'll take it from here, thanks. And God? Thanks for nothing."

I have had those thoughts, and I felt guilty for it. I cried when read that, because I was relieved that I wasn't the only Christian who has felt like that in the midst of loss.

The author proposes that the problem in life is not the lack of time, but rather the lack of thanksgiving.  Slow down, take time to take in the beauty of life and see that thanksgiving makes time.  She writes that she is thank-full and time-filled.

"Thanksgiving creates abundance; and the miracle of multiplying takes place when I give thanks."

I have benefited from this book, and I will probably buy a few to give as gifts.  One thing about it that is a little distracting for me is that she doesn't always refer to her kids by their names.  She has six children, and she writes about them quite a bit.  She refers to them by names like "Tall-Girl" and "Little-One" etc.  I have a hard time following that.  She does throw in a name here and there, but I don't know which nick-name goes with the real name.  I understand that she might want to keep the names of her children private, but I wish she had just chosen a regular name for each child and used it consistently throughout the book.  Not a big deal though.  Certainly don't let that little detail keep you from reading this beautiful book.