We are the Snyder family and ... we are different

This is the story of our journey to our daughter in Ethiopia. God is preparing our family for her and preparing her heart to come home to her family. We chose the difficult road of trusting and obeying God. It is worth every step!

Monday, March 29, 2010

get r done

Today Dustin and I got really serious about getting this paperwork done. We must have both been thinking about it this weekend because when we got up we both started working on it right away. We did get several things accomplished like getting our marriage license, submitting Dustin's birth certificate request, finding out my foreign birth makes it more complicated to get another birth cert for me, going to jail to get fingerprinted and getting some additional documents signed. There are still a couple of things we need to do before we can send it in for our homestudy but we are definitely close. I didn't realize that we had to have this large packet of information all filled out before the homestudy process started. I thought it was something we had to work on while the homestudy was going on, clearly I was wrong. We are still waiting to hear from AWAA as to whether or not we have to use their services or can use our local service. I didn't realize that it is their policy that we use them so their staff is talking about it and going to decide if they will make an exception for us or not. I can certainly understand why they would want us to use their agency because then they know exactly what they want and exactly how they want us to do it and all of the proper forms and stuff. I'm sure that keeping it inhouse does make it easier on them. Hopefully we will hear tomorrow of their decision because the AWAA social worker is scheduled to come Wednesday night and if we don't use them I need to call her and let her know not to drive down here. Plus then I can get our paperwork submitted to our local agency right away and get this homestudy done. They say it takes 2-4 months but the lady I talked to didn't make it sound that long. She said that the longest part of it is usually just waiting for the fingerprints to get back from federal and getting the paperwork from state agencies. Of course it's always the government that we have to wait on.

In other news, one of the ladies I went to Hearts at Home with happens to have a friend who is also adopting from Rwanda. Turns out they got their referral just a couple days after that conference and are currently in Rwanda getting their son. It's so exciting and I'm so grateful for being introduced to her on facebook. I have gotten to read their blog and they just posted some great pics and videos of their experience so far in Rwanda. Dustin was also very interested in it and now we are hoping that we will get to meet with them and ask them questions and have them share their journey with us. Of course we understand that there is time to adjust in coming home so we wouldn't expect any meetings anytime soon. Hopefully though a few months from now when they have gotten settled in we will have a chance to meet. It would be great to befriend a local family who has a Rwandan child that our child can be friends with. That's a bond that is hard to come by in the midwest.

I signed Dustin and I up for the hague training that we have to have for our adoption. We are required to have 10 hours in and this will count for 8 of it. I'm not exactly sure where the other 2 hours will come from. Dustin and I have to complete the online course separately and we will each receive a certificate for it. It is quite long, a little boring, but I am thankful that it is something we can do online in our own time. It would not be very fun to have to drive somewhere and go to a couple of 3 or 4 hour sessions. Thank God for the internet. We have 8 weeks to complete the training so I will have to stay on Dustin to get it done. Hopefully I will have mine done this week. One of the benefits of not working :)

Someone told us that they were thinking about adopting and wanted a little more information about it when they saw that we are. Dustin sent her an email with a few things about the process and why we chose adoption. Then I followed up with an email with some more in depth details about the whole process and where we are in it. It was nice to know that we could be of help to someone else who is thinking about adoption. It may be a little overwhelming right now but at least they know in the future a little bit about what to expect. Our prayers are with them and their family for the decisions they have to make. Sometimes God is calling you for a plan but He just doesn't mean it for right now, planting the seed.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

homestudy

Well I just got a phone call from the social worker in Cedar Rapids that will be doing our homestudy through AWAA. I am still trying to get a hold of our family coordinator to see if we can use our local agency but have not been able to get a hold of anyone yet. As of right now we have an appointment next week for our first visit with AWAA. Kind of excited and kind of nervous too. It will be a lot of questions to answer and it takes 3 hours or so. The social worker seemed very nice though. This also means we're getting inches closer in the process and that is very exciting. It doesn't feel like work when I am filling out papers but it feels more real when we actually have the homestudy starting. That may or may not make sense, but I know what I mean :)

Christian says something about his "little sister" almost everyday now. In fact the other day we were at True Value and he felt the need to tell the guy checking out our items that he was getting a new little sister. I didn't go into detail that we were adopting, just smiled and we walked out. Sometimes I have mixed emotions about telling people about our adoption. Although you wouldn't know it by the amount I talk about it. It's just that I feel weird telling people about it when we have such a long ways to go. I think when we get our referral I will be yelling it from the rooftops and telling everyone I come in contact with. Again though, you never know what might happen. I just have to remind myself to trust in the Lord my God, for He is my protector. His plan is great and if I continue to follow in His path all will go according to His will. Can I tatoo that to my forehead so I won't forget? If I do will the ink from the words seep into my brain so I can't possible forget them? lol

Dominic has also said little things about how it will be different when we have a little sister. His reaction is much more matter-of-fact and dry. I don't know that he says much when he is not around us. Last time I talked to his teacher she said he hadn't mentioned it at all, but that was several weeks ago and none of us were talking about it as a family in depth. I hope that he takes the transition well. He is such a good big brother now, I can only imagine that with a little more age and having a girl that he will be even better. We are so lucky to have a son like him. Remind me I said that the next time I am frustrated with him or he's getting in trouble :)

Lots of our friends on facebook that I have seen recently are very supportive about our adoption. Many of them ask basic questions and I have a bit of a "script" that I tell everyone about why adoption, why Rwanda, the specs and where we are in the process. I do love it though. It gets me excited about it and hopefully gets them excited about it too. It would be great if it was in God's plan for us to not only touch this little girl's life but also encourage another family to expand their family through adoption. One agency sent us a book about adoption. I just started reading it today when I was giving blood and of course already got misty eyed during the first chapter. I left it at the blood bank and need to pick it up tomorrow so I can continue reading this weekend. I am also applying for a census job tomorrow to hopefully help with adoption costs. It's only for a couple months, the hours will probably be mostly nights and weekends but for that short amount of time it could definitely be worth it. Right now every penny counts.

Good night dear friends and thank you for checking out our blog. I know it's sporadic when I write but I am glad that you read it when you can. This week pray that we will be able to use our local homestudy agency, renewed vigor in completing the necessary documents and continued faith in God's plan. Thank you

Thursday, March 18, 2010

paper work

Today I started working on our actual paperwork. I have most of the forms filled out that I can and wrote a first draft of the letters that need to be submitted. It would be great if I only had to write one draft of the letters, but doubtful. They have to be submitted to AWAA first so that there aren't any mistakes and they can go in our dossier. I need to call our family coordinator tomorrow so we can get our homestudy started. It's something I probably should have done Monday so that we can get the ball rolling. Right now that is one of the things that will take the longest. After that is completed than the waiting will begin. It seems to me that the average wait for a referral is 4-8 months. I'm really hoping we will be closer to 4 months, I won't hold my breath. I also need to get us signed up for the Hague online courses. We both have to have 8 hours of certification for an international adoption. Dustin needs to apply for a passport next week. My goal is to have everything completed so that when the homestudy is done our dossier will also be done and we can get it turned in asap. Many of the documents required for the dossier are also required for the homestudy, so they will be dual purpose. I love it when we can kill two birds with one stone. One of the more fun things I get to do is get some family pictures together. They are preferred on 8x11 cardstock and decorations are allowed. That means I will get to make them like scrapbook pages. Finally something fun and creative that I like to do. I also can't wait to make her a little book about our family and start a scrapbook for her. I think those will be great projects to work on after all this craziness is done and we are just waiting. There will be plenty of adoption down time while we wait for our referral.

If you can't tell today I am little crazy. I have been feeling so unmotivated about life. This adoption seems to be about the only thing that sparks my interest. Clearly with all of the things that I really need to do with the adoption I have not been motivated enough. I have got to get back out and run, it seems to help me stay focused on the many tasks I have to accomplish. This post is sort of informational for me. It's like my to-do-list and it is also to help me for when I post our adoption timeline. People having the timeline on their blogs has been super helpful to me. It gives me a very good idea of what to expect.

So I have a secret about my excitement. The other night I was looking online at cute little comforters and bedrooms decor for a girl. In fact I actually found my favorite. It would match the color of the room already but is still very girly. It's also not too little girly but romantic enough that it could work for a 2 year old or a 12 year old. Since we have no idea how old she will be I want to pick something that can be for a variety of ages. I also want it to go with the aesthetic of the rest of the house. It's so early to be thinking about that but imagining fun things like that help keep the thrill of adopting amidst all the mundane paperwork.

The boys are finally thinking about the adoption now. Dominic included praying for mommy and daddy as we go through the process of adoption. I taught Christian how to say hello in kinyarwandan and he forgot what it was. He asked me how to say hi in his sister's english, i mean language. It was very cute. This was really the first week the boys mentioned it without us talking about it or asking them about it. I think as time goes on they will continue to get more excited about it. We'll have to see what they think about the homestudy. Dominic has to talk to the social worker about his feelings toward the adoption. I'm very unsure of what he'll say. He will probably be much more honest with her than with us.

Well I still have lots of thoughts going on but I will leave those for another day. Probably tomorrow. It seems that all of my posts are filled with 15 different ideas and they all seem very random. I am doubtful that will change. Thank for reading!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

i luv blogs

I love to read other people's blogs. I have found this really great blog of a family who has adopted from Ethiopia and just adopted from Rwanda. There is so much useful information in their from someone who knows that it is not all rainbows and smiles when you adopt. www.africainourhearts.blogspot.com has given me lots of things to think about when our little one comes home.

From several blogs that I have been reading a common issue has been the age of the child. Many orphans come to an orphange with no record of birth so it is up to the orphanage to figure out their age. Some of them have been wrong in age of up to 2 years. There is a big difference between a 2 year old and a 4 year old developmentally. One post mentioned using fine motor skills as a good measurement for the age of a child. With the malnutrition they suffer from and often growth hormone deficiencies the size of their heads or wrists are not typical and cannot be compared to children in the United States for age assessment. I don't know that it worries me so much as it just something to be aware of and address when we get our child home. Another medical concern is parasites. It seems that most of the children coming from Africa carry some type of parasite and many local doctors don't know exactly what they're looking for since there is so little of it here in the US and especially the ones that are carried over from Africa. Intestinal problems are never a fun or easy thing to deal with but it won't be any different than our little niece who has been dealing with it since she was born. She's a Snyder, lol.

Something else I have come across in blogs is the attachment of children, especially when you get home. Everyone thinks that you come home and you love the child, the child loves you and everything is rosy. The child's world is being turned upside down. Everything they knew from food, environment, weather and of course caretakers has changed in an instance. The instant bond to a mother sometimes happens and sometimes doesn't, it's not personal. That will be one thing that I will have to keep telling myself as I am crying myself to sleep at night when I'm feeling like a failure as a mother. It's important when the child gets home for them to only attach to the parents and not to any of the other visitors because they are used to being passed around and not having a sole caretaker. I think that will be very hard for the grandparents who will want to shower the child with love and affection, but at the same time I think they will be understanding to the circumstances and what we're trying to accomplish. Another adjustment will be secluding ourselves off more than we usually do for the first couple months. I can't imagine how scary it would be to be in large groups of strangers when you just came to a new home and maybe don't understand that this is your new family and their friends. I'm even thinking about picking the children up from school and the huge crowd of people there. I also think it would be wise to obstain from church for the first couple of weeks home. Everyone will be so excited to meet the newest Snyder but that could be extremely overwhelming. It will be intersting to see how people react, so far everyone seems to be very supportive but that sometimes changes when it becomes real.

One post I read was about how different it is to bring home an adopted child than when you give birth and bring your baby home. People treat it much differently when it should be treated the same. The adjustment of bringing a new child home is still hard, lots of times even harder than a bio baby. There should be just as much excitement with the adoption as if it were a pregnancy. I personally think it's much harder to adopt than to have your own baby because you have to wait much longer. Granted you don't have the physical strains on your body but you have the emotional. The post gave a list of suggestions to help a new adoptive family that would be wonderful, but certainly not expected. Things like a baby shower, balloons, flowers, cleaning their house, making sure the cupboards are stocked when they arrive home, meals, all kinds of things that would be great but probably won't happen. I just want to our new child to adjust to their new home and their new family. I want them to know that we love them and no matter what they do or what happens that love will never change. This is their forever family.

Monday, March 15, 2010

paper pregnancy

Today we got a phone call from our new family coordinator, Terra. She sent us an email with many attachments of paperwork that needs to be completed and turned in by March 29th. Once this paperwork gets turned in we will be able to start the home study. I was hoping that we would be able to start it at the beginning of April, so far it looks like that should be appropriate in the time line of things. Which is wonderful. Several people have asked about when they think we will "get" her and I tell them it's about a year or so. I would love for us to get a referral by Christmas, if we're being "real" I would love to have a girl home by then but I know that probably won't happen. I just keep in my head that it could take a long time so that I don't get too disappointed or frustrated if it takes longer than we initially anticipated.

The first document I opened up was a guardianship paper. That opens up a lot of discussion. We have always been well intended but never seem to get around to filling out our will. We already had my best friend picked out if something were to happen to Dustin and I, but with this adoption I'm not sure that is still the right choice. She is a single girl and while putting two kids on her is a lot to deal with adding a third one feels like placing such a burden on her. We will definitely have to give this whole situation a great deal of thought and prayer. I know God will reveal the right choice to us.

It's amazing how after we made the decision to adopt that God just keeps giving us affirmations that we are making the right choice. We keep hearing about adoption all around us from friends who have adopted or thought about it to people we didn't know very well now telling us about their own adoption stories. Wherever we turn God is placing it plainly in front of us.

Tonight we will look at ALL the papers more closely and get started. For now it feels a little closer with every step. Praise God!

Monday, March 8, 2010

timeline

Dustin has had some growing concerns about the promise of a child after all this money is paid and work is done. I can't say that I blame him because I have those same concerns sometimes. Unfortunately with adoption there are no guarantees of having a child placed. We have fears of being rejected after the homestudy is completed. We have fears of the government denying our paperwork. We have fears that some major tragedy in our world could change it all. You never know what could happen. All we know is that we have to continue to trust in God and let Him stay in control of this. After a week of holding onto the paperwork to start our homestudy and get our family coordinator we made the step and sent it into today. Dustin wrote the check and we're sending it certified mail. whew!

Something that has really helped me and encouraged me is finding other people's blogs about adopting from Rwanda. Most of the ones I have found are even using the same agency as we are or have at the very least mentioned the agency. That makes me feel much better about the agency we picked and that there are other people who either are or have gone through the same things. One of the blogs I read gave a timeline of when everything started, all their paperwork, travel and everything. It was very helpful to see that their paperwork and homestudy didn't really take all that long but the real wait was on the Rwanda government after everything was submitted, 4-6 months. After that the referral only took a couple more months. It seems to take between about 11-15 months from the time they submit an application to the day they bring home their child to the US. That also does not help my problem with impatience :) I work out the timeline and hope by next Easter we will have a little girl in our home. Looking at all the cute little dresses for spring make me long even more, but I know that in God's perfect timing it will all work out for the best.

I asked Dominic what he REALLY thought about the adoption and I don't think that he has much of an opinion about it. He is not excited about having to share a room again but I assured him that it would be another year or so before that even happened. Since he knows it's going to be a while (in kid terms a year is like an eternity) it isn't really affecting him yet. I don't think it will start to feel "real" to either of the boys until after we get a referral and can see a picture of their new sister and know her name. I think it may feel like that for the whole family. It's kinda like in pregnancy when you don't want to get too excited too soon because you never know what's going to happen.

Our family needs prayers that God will provide financially for this adoption. We also need prayers that our homestudy will go alright and be approved. Most of all we need people to support us and love us as we make decisions, sometimes it's hard. thank you

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

fundraising

James 1:27
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

I came across the most wonderful fundraiser inspired by this verse in the bible. Both Hands is a service project day to help improve a widow's home and raise funds for your adoption at the same time. I think this would be an amazing display of God's work and I hope that we can accomplish it this summer. I also found a couple other great ideas that I am going to try: baby bottle campaign and crop till you drop. I already know people that would probably come to a crop. The baby bottle campaign is asking friends, family and businesses to fill a baby bottle with spare change for a month.

I sort of feel weird about fundraising for something like this only because I know that there are lots of people who adopt every day and it seems like I don't really hear about them doing it. At the same time I look at the schedule of fees and think that there is no way we can do it on our own. God provides and works miracles in our lives, I don't expect this to be any different. There will be opportunities opened up to us through this journey and it will be exciting (and nerve racking) to see what God has in store for us.

Continue to pray for this child that is waiting for us, that our trust in God will remain steadfast and that our patience will grow.

Monday, March 1, 2010

acceptance

Well we got a phone call and emails from America World Adoption Agency that we have been accepted into their Rwanda program. I cried when I listened to the message she left. It's those same tears when you see the positive sign on the pregnancy test, and you feel a rush of emotions. We are so excited to begin this journey. When I say excited I also mean nervous. This is when the real work, expense and waiting begins. All weekend I kept praying that even if we were not accepted that we would remain faithful. It would all work out in God's perfect timing as long as we pray and trust completely in Him. Praise God!

Tonight we will get all the beginning paperwork completed and hopefully sent in tomorrow. There is another 10 day wait after they receive our packet of paperwork so I want to get it submitted as soon as we can. We will get assigned a caseworker and then can start our homestudy once the initial fee and everything has been paid. We also have to attend an online adoption course that tells us more about the adoption process and how it affects our family. There are so many things to get ready and fill out. It feels like the "hurry up and wait" game.

I called my mom and told her we were accepted because I was just so excited that I needed to tell someone. She also sounded excited and asked me lots of questions. It's funny because she asked me if we have thought of names yet. We certainly are a long ways from that step. It will probably be a year or so before we actually get to bring home a little girl. Anyway, I told her it depends on how old she is. We're not sure that we want to make her change her name if she is 6 years old and has lived with this same name all her life. On the other hand, sometimes there is such a stigma attached to having a foreign name. Teachers tend to butcher those names as well as everyone else and when they get older future employers will judge them on their name. We'll have to see when the time comes what we decide to do. When we were pregnant with both boys our girl name was always Camille so that may be the name we pick now. We may even use her native name as a middle name.

I'm still not sure how the boys feel about the whole thing. Dominic mentioned it today after school and that was the first time he has ever said anything about it when we didn't bring it up first. I told him that we were accepted into the program and he seemed mildly happy about it. We have talked about it but I don't know how "real" it feels yet...to any of us really. I suppose as time goes on they will become used to the idea of having a sister. For now Christian wants another brother, he says we should get a sister and a brother from Africa. Dustin says NO! It'll be amazing enough for us to pay for one let alone two. Although quite honestly I don't think I personally would be opposed to siblings. We'll just have to see what God works out. His plan is already set into motion as long as we continue to follow Him.

I'm sure after we start this paperwork and especially after we start the homestudy I will have lots of posts. Thanks for following us on this journey. It certainly is exciting and emotional, and worth every nit.