Thursday, June 30, 2011

Vacation: Horsetooth Peak and Twin Sisters

We have several things we try to do every year when we’re in Estes Park: Matt always takes the boys for a morning by himself so that I can have some extended time with the Lord.  This is a tradition we borrowed from our sweet friends the Bonds, who used to vacation at this same cabin when they lived in Lincoln. DELIGHTFUL. I really look forward to this time when we’re on vacation, time to read and pray and journal and just be alone. Usually they drop me off in town, but this year they were climbing Horsetooth Peak, which is near the cabin. So I stayed there and it was so restful and wonderful. Until I looked at my computer (which was still on central time) and thought the boys should have been home by then… and almost had a panic attack.

They called me from the top of the mountain (the only place besides town where we get cel service – Matt called from the cel to the cabin phone.) It was a beautiful, clear day and I could see them through the cabin telescope. Matt said it would probably take them about 2 hours to get down, and that they still had to eat their lunch. That meant they’d probably be down by 3pm. About 30 minutes after we got off the phone, a GIANT storm blew in: rain, thunder, lightning. I prayed they were off the top of the mountain before it started (especially since Matt had Tobin strapped in a METAL backpack on his back), but knew I didn’t have to worry until after 3. So when I looked at my computer and thought it was 4:15… I tried really hard to trust the Lord – and I know if something horrid happened to ALL THREE OF THEM Jesus would hold me TIGHT. But that’s my whole world up there. So I panicked. And then I realized it was really only 3 :15 (3:30 by that time…) But I couldn’t get myself down off the (emotional) cliff until I heard the van coming up the mountain to the cabin. PRAISE THE LORD.

Needless to say… they were FINE. And a little confused as to why they came home to a weepy mom!
They did make it off the top just as the storm hit. The thunder and lightning were not popular with either boy, up that high. But they had a blast climbing Horsetooth Peak.

The other thing we always do is have Matt and Luke go on a hike just the two of them – something too hard for me or for Matt to do with Tobin in the backpack.

Luke was super excited to climb Twin Sisters this year (and he LOVES getting time with just his dad as well. Although he was surprised at how much faster his dad hiked without 40 pounds of Tobin on his back!)

The view of Long’s Peak and Meeker from the Twin Sisters trail.

And up on top:

 Here’s my favorite picture Matt took that day, of my mountain climbing boy:

They made great time on their hike, saving me from any more nightmares (praise Jesus!) And meanwhile, Tobin got to do one of his all time favorite things: Stay in his pajamas all morning long. :)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Vacation: Climbing Lily Mtn.

We totally were not expecting to take a vacation this year – thinking it wouldn’t work out financially or time-wise. But Matt decided to go ahead and reserve a week at the cabin our friends generously let us use for free, just in case it worked out time-wise. And since my adoption related trip won’t take place until later this summer – AND since the only week available to us was early in June well before we even knew when I’d be able to travel… yay for a super cheap vacation! And in one of our favorite places on earth: Estes Park, CO.

The first thing we did was go on an awesome hike to Fern Falls – it was beautiful, and there were lots of photo opportunities. Except once we got the camera out, we realized all the batteries were dead. Bummer.
So the second thing we did…

Was hike Lily Mountain. Lily is about the easiest mountain in the Rocky Mountain National Park, but it’s hard enough for me, thankyouverymuch. I’ve never been willing to try before, but I’ve been running this year, so I thought I’d be in better shape for it. It was tough (for me), but so much fun!

 Last year, Luke about wrecked his feet hiking in already-worn-out-basketball shoes. So this year we bought him some hiking boots. We bought them a little big so they’ll hopefully last a while. So he and Matt ended up with matching shoes. Yes, Luke’s feet are BIG.

 Luke loves to scramble around on the rock formations. Tobin decided he wanted up too, so  Matt took him up. Luke was WAY braver this year than he has been in the past, and didn’t need any help at all. I of course was happy to stay with my feet firm on the ground, and take pictures (and not very good ones, since the sun was directly behind them.) Just so you know how high they were…the camera is at it’s biggest zoom setting.

Tobin had a blast – for the first half of the hike.

And then he decided he’d had enough and was ready for a ride. At 40 pounds, this is definitely the last year that Matt will be able to carry him (and Lord willing, next year we’ll have another little guy in the back pack!)

The view from the top!

No pics of all 4 of us… because we had our fancy camera, and realized after we got up there that we don’t know how to make it do self-timer photos. We figured it out that night, but too late for a family photo on Lily Mtn. At least we had batteries!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fast and slow are in the eye of the beholder… (aka: News on our adoption!)

Those of you who are on facebook know that we got more exciting news on our adoption this week: Lord willing, I’ll be travelling to meet our new little guy for the first time in August. Yippee!!
(More details for personal friends and family HERE… If you’re not already on my list, you’ll need to send me your email address to receive permission to read… It’s getting pretty near the limit of how many I can invite.)
One of the comments I got was “That seems so fast!” – which is totally true from one standpoint. Considering that we started our home study in January with very little money to contribute toward the adoption, it’s very fast.
But I’m also reminding myself this is just one more step on the journey… And the hardest part of waiting is still in front of me: The part where I’ve seen a little face, looked into little eyes, filed with the High Court asking for permission to be this little one’s Mommy and Daddy. And then gotten on a plane to come home and wait. Ugh.
I’m expecting to learn a LOT about the waiting heart of our Father – He’s in that exact position – WAITING for His children to turn from darkness and come into His light, His family.
Also…While we officially began pursuing international adoption in January 2011, we were working toward being in a place to adopt for over a year before that. In 2009 we began to save and change the way we did things financially so that we could be in a position to adopt. In 2010 I thought it would be months before we were able to jump in – we were just waiting on our rental property to sell. And then it didn’t sell, and we spent much of our savings paying the mortgage that was usually paid by renters. And then our furnace/AC died. And I gave up all hope that adoption was a possibility or part of the Plan for us.
So… this doesn’t feel fast to me. Yet.
But I also have friends who waited 4 years between pursuing adoption and actually having children in their home. I have friends who were sitting by the phone waiting to hear news of Nepali daughters when the US shut adoptions from Nepal down, sending them back to square one.
So: It is pretty fast. But it’s not over yet.
And…while I wait, I have lots to do! So far, the Lord has provided exactly what we need when we needed it – through our scrimping and saving and hard work, and through so many others’ generosity.
We have enough for my plane ticket, but we’ll need more than just that for this trip (half of our lawyer fees, plus my room and board for 2 weeks.) So: Lots of work for me! And then when I get back… I’ll be hitting the ground running, working on stuff for the Etsy shop and some other fund-raising ideas, so that we have the money we need together when we get our court date. We’re likely to wait anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months for that date…but we’re also likely to get the court date with very short notice (some people – after waiting months - have found out their court date days before they needed to be in country.)
p.s. I’m going to write more about this at some point: Adoption is really expensive. But it’s also really doable. If we – a single income family, on a pastor’s salary – can do this, you probably can too. It has and will continue to involve some hard choices, doing without things I really think I need (I’m looking at you, Kindle. And you: badly in need of a pedicure toes. And you: eating out on any kind of a regular basis.) But it’s totally worth it.
Last year was discouraging, with our furnace dying and the rental not selling. But we also realized after the fact that we’d spent almost as much as we expected to spend on our adoption on those two things. We didn’t want to, but you do what you have to do. It was hard to see that money go, but also encouraging that we got through the year and didn’t tank financially – proving that we could do it again and be a family to a little guy on the other side of the world who’s never known Mommy or Daddy. “Worth it” doesn’t even do it justice…

I'm going (I think...)

So. 3 weeks after I heard I was welcome to travel, I finally heard the details I needed to know in order to travel (I think the babies' home administrator must have been on vacation or out of the office... Or the Lord was wanting to teach me some things, which I am THANKFUL for.)

Early this week, I sent this email to my family:

Well the bad news (for our Texas family, at least) is that our fam will not be able to come to Houston for my birthday after all.

But the good news: I’ll be in Uganda meeting (and taking pictures for all of you of) our newest little Meyer. EEK!

Heard from the babies’ home (at last) this morning. They’d like me to come the first week of August. I want to be home by 8/13 or so because Luke starts middle school on 8/16 and I don’t want that to be crazy(er). I’m waiting to hear when exactly they’ll have room for me in their guest house – but I’ll likely be traveling from 7/30 – 8/2ish until 8/13 (depending on guest house availability and flight availability, of course.)

Please pray with me that I’ll hear back from the babies home tomorrow so I can get that flight booked – it just gets more expensive the closer you get… And pray for a good flight and a low fare J.

Speaking of the flight…
  • Since this first trip doesn’t include actually identifying our child (they have a child already in mind for us; the identification was the main reason I wanted Matt to go on this first trip rather than the second, longer one) and
  • Since it’s looking like the courts are going to start actually requiring both parents to be in court (in the past it was a “requirement” that they didn’t actually hold anyone too…but word on the street is that it is moving to medical exceptions only.) and
  • Since we think we will have enough money for this trip if it only involves ONE plane ticket (and THANK YOU SO MUCH to those of you who have helped us out with this and been praying for our funding – praise God for you! We have a lot farther to go, but we have just about what we need for this step.)
I’m going to make the trip on my own.

I was worried about this at first, but now I am EXCITED and not afraid (we’ve been leaning this way for a couple of weeks, so I’ve had some time to settle into the idea). Also, our friend Brooke (who also adopted from Uganda, and for whom I babysit) has family in Kampala. She said they would be willing to pick me up at the airport – the arrival was my biggest concern – and maybe even let me stay with them that first night and get me to the babies’ home the next day. Praise God for His provision through friends!

More news and prayer requests coming soon !
Love you all!

I did hear back (immediately) from the Babies Home about specific dates when I could come. BUT when I contacted the travel agent (who is highly recommended by other adopting families), I got some bad news. The tickets for the exact 2 weeks I need to travel are DOUBLE the price they quoted me before I had exact dates. The quote was the lowest possible price, so I was expecting the real deal to be higher - but not double. The agent was very distressed. I went searching on my own, and confirmed those prices - and saw that if I could/would wait until September, they go back down again (maybe because it's less of a peak time, maybe because there's more time between now and the flight.

I did NOT want to wait until September - because I'm anxious to go, but also because going in September pushes the second trip (when I get to bring little guy home) back - probably until early to mid-2012 (going in August, I think there's still a slim chance we might get a court date in 2011...)

I am thankful to the Lord for almost immediate peace. I was tempted to be frustrated and sad - especially since it feels like if I'd heard back from the babies' home earlier, maybe I would have been able to get better tickets.

BUT. Yesterday in my time with the Lord, I laid it all out (more for myself than for Him, since by definition, He already knows. :D) 

The bottom line: If the Lord wants me in Ug*nda in August, He can provide the $$ and the flights for me to go (without us making a bad stewardship decision and spending double the money just so I don't have to wait - that was never an option.)

I decided I'd give it through the weekend, and if we weren't able to find a better deal, then I'd wait until September, and receive that from Him. I trust His goodness to me.

And He is good whether I go in August or September. Whether from there the process moves quickly or slowly...He is good.

And... I had a couple of folks send me cheap deal sites... It looks like I may have some tickets booked at a MUCH better price (the price I was actually expecting - not the lowest possible, but not outrageously expensive either.) Praise the Lord.

If that all goes through as planned, I'll be in Ug*anda meeting our little guy the first 2 weeks in August - getting back just in time to get Luke settled into Middle School. Jet Lag + Oldest starting Middle School = Meltdown? We shall see... :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Happy 40th Matt!

Matt and I both hit the big 4.0. this summer (Matt’s birthday is in early June, I’ll be joining the club in August).

About a week before Matt’s birthday, I was talking to a college friend who said, “WHAT? 40? We have to throw an old person party for him!!” (this person is 21, so…)

I got to thinking about it – there’s NO WAY I’m throwing an “old person” party, since I’ll be joining him at 40 in just 2 short months. Also: 40 is not old, and age is not bad. I refuse to decorate with black and buy into the cultural message that aging = death. Aging = 1 day closer to Jesus :). But 40 is a great reason to celebrate, so we did throw a party.

People kept asking if it was a surprise: I can’t even keep Christmas presents secret, how in the world would I pull off a surprise party? (Seriously. Every year as soon as I’ve bought his present, I start asking Matt, “Want to know what I got you???” I can’t stand it, and always end up telling him or giving early. :D)  Plus: I’m not really a fan of surprise parties myself. Too much of a planner, plus expectation is half the fun. I don’t enjoy the feeling of everyone else knowing that was going on, while I’ve been in the dark.

Anyway… I think it came off pretty well, considering I didn't start planning until 6 days before.
I made this happy birthday banner , and some of Matt’s favorite foods.

For his birthday every year, I make him a banana cream pie, using this recipe. It’s from scratch as I don’t like banana flavored jello pudding, and it’s surprisingly easy to make a vanilla custard. Except you have to stand over the stove without interruption for about 20 minutes, which means I have to make it after the kids are in bed. And also, you shouldn’t get distracted by the TV show you’re watching while cooking and accidentally put in the egg whites instead of the egg yolks. Because then you’ll have to start all over again. Oops.

Instead of a full pie this year, I made a double batch of little individual banana cream pies in muffin cups. I used crushed Nilla Wafers for the crust and real whipped cream on top – delish.

We also had  Reese's Peanut Butter cups, chocolate chip cookies and snickerdoodles (which I’ve never made before, and haven’t liked much – they’re usually kind of dry and brittle. But since they’re one of Matt’s favorites I went looking for a good recipe, and found this one. It is a WINNER. Amazingly soft and wonderful. Yum. I had to make Matt take the leftovers to work so I wouldn’t eat them all.)

Matt’s mom brought peanut butter balls (which I really appreciated, since he loves them, but they are a mess to make), plus we had queso and chips, a delicious dip from Betsy, and yummy ham/cream cheese rolls from Matt’s stepmom.

Matt’s mom brought me pictures of him as a kid, which were awesome.

We finished it off with lemon water, lots of pop (yes, I live in Nebraska now, I call it pop.), and sweet tea using my dear friend Wendy McCord’s recipe (Which Matt will now be requesting regularly! So delicious!)

It was fun to have so many friends and family around us on Matt’s special day, and the kids had a BLAST. Luke played basketball out front almost the entire time – he wanted to put up a “no parking” sign in the driveway, he was so excited about getting to play ball with a bunch of friends.

Tobin was of course in the middle of all the action outside until the mosquitoes drove us all inside. He had to be dragged kicking and screaming to bed hours past his bedtime where he immediately collapsed from exhaustion.

Good times. And here’s Matt’s gift from his (younger) sister:


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pray for my heart...

Hi Friends!
Thanks for all of your kind words and encouragement about our news that we are welcome to travel to Ug*nda at any point. We've contacted a couple of attorneys, and are waiting to hear back from our babies home with the answers to some questions we have about what is next, and about our potential child.

I would SO appreciate your prayers for us...

* For my heart... the reality has really set in that there is a child on the other side of the world who needs a family, and who, Lord willing, is for our family. It's very hard not to want to just jump on a plane and go RESCUE. But that is not the way it works, and while some of the hoops we have to jump through are annoying, many of them are necessary for the protection of children and families. I can also hear the Lord saying to me that this waiting process is good for me too. But I feel like I did during the first trimester I was pregnant with Tobin: Hopeful for the future, anxious to meet this little person the Lord had made for us, but also fearful about all of the unknowns and potentials.

Please pray in all of this that I would remember that we are waiting on the LORD. Not for Him to do what we want, but for HIM. I want Him to be our (my) focus, not the future, decisions, unknowns, or even our sweet little boy. I am trying to allow all of these thoughts to drive me into Him, rather than distract me from Him.

* For wisdom... We contacted a couple of Ug*ndan attorneys who are very highly recommended, and have heard back from both of them. Now we have some decisions to make. In an independent adoption, your attorney is really the lynchpin for your whole experience. I don't think there's a bad choice between these two firms, but we'd like to make the best choice.

We also have some decisions to make about when we travel, and whether we will both go on this first trip, thinking through how we will work the second, longer trip (will Matt go with me for the first week or two, to appear in court; or will I do the entire 3-5 weeks by myself?)  We've been thinking this through all along, but now we actually have to start making decisions.

* Because we were taken by surprise by the invitation to travel and meet our child whenever we're ready, we are not financially ready. We totally recognize that if we don't have the funds to travel, then it's not God's plan for us to travel yet. But we'd sure love to go as soon as we can (and this summer would be ideal, since it works so much better for Matt's work schedule.)

* It is a TOTAL longshot.... But because we have not heard back from our babies home in answer to some of our questions, I am holding out hope that they might be considering letting us do a referral. This means they would select a child they think is the best fit for our family (they already have a child in mind for us anyway), and we would begin the process from home rather than making the first of the two trips. This would mean that we would be able to adopt with only one trip to Ug*nda. I don't mind going twice (and would love to go as many times as we can! I can't wait to see this place that has so been on my heart and in my prayers!) But making only one trip potentially shaves $4K off of our total cost. It also allows us to get started on the process sooner, without needing money for airfare quite so soon.

Thanks for loving our family and for praying for us! Even typing all of this out is such a good reminder that our hope is in Him!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Adventures in Uganda: NEWS.

Due to the nature of adoption in Uganda (and, frankly, the occasional craziness of the Ugandan adoptive community), I chose not to share any details on our blog about our adoption while we were still in process. But because this blog is the story of our lives... I want to go back and fill in those empty spaces.

I'm backdating these...Today is 2/28/2012. But I'm dating this post from the day we got our first exciting adoption news...6/1/2011. The following is an email I sent my family that afternoon with the subject line "NEWS."

It's fun to have some news to share.

Last Wednesday we sent our home study and other paperwork to Ug*anda to our babies' home (via Federal Express, which is the only reliable way to post things, from what we've heard.)

I've been trying not to be anxious, knowing that it should get there sometime this week (the 30th or 31st), and watching my email for a notice from the Babies' Home that our paperwork is received, so we can be on the waiting list.

We've been in contact with the babies' home since January or so - we knew they had a waiting list, but also that not many families on the list are open to toddler/older boys so we probably wouldn't be on it for too long: 6 months at the most. So I was expecting to hear from them, "Paperwork received, you’re on the waiting list.” It was also our understanding that they do not do referrals or match families with children until you make the first trip.

We heard from them this morning.
They have all of our paperwork, we are approved. And they would like to know when we would like to come to Uganda to meet our child and begin the process. EEK! And YIPEE!!

** Additionally – we are not going to make the following public knowledge yet. But they also have matched us with a child. Here’s what the director of the Home said:
“ I therefore have the pleasure to inform you that we have a healthy boy called Marvin Kiggundu- 2 years old that we would like to match to your family for adoption.”

We are completely shocked. But my friend Brooke met Marvin when she was at the babies home for her adoption, and was able to show me a couple of pictures of him that she took last year when she was there. Here's my favorite:


So apparently, and obviously: LORD WILLING... in late July or early August Matt & I will be flying to Ug*anda (that's about as early as we can imagine getting it together to almost all of our college staff is out of the country until mid-July.) To meet our SON.

Please pray:
- For CALM. This is surprising to us, but not to the Lord.
- For WISDOM: When to go, how to work out the logistics of travel, care for our boys, etc.
- For my passport: We applied  for renewed passports a long time ago, but I sent in a copy  of our marriage license instead of certified copy or the original. Don't know what I was thinking... But we just heard from the passport office yesterday that we need a certified copy - so I need to get a certified copy from Brazos County, turn that in, and who knows how long it will then take them to process it. Matt's came last week. :(
- For finances: We've been working and saving like crazy, and the Lord has provided JUST what we needed each step of the way. But for this first trip, we need between $7K and $8K - $4K for travel, and another $3-4K for legal fees to get the adoption/legal guardianship process started.

I could get totally freaked out about that, but I'm determined to trust the Lord. He has provided, and He will provide. And the timing of our saving/working/raising funds is completely in his hands.

Thanks in advance for your encouragement and prayer! LOVE LOVE LOVE you all!