Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Our Voyage So Far

As we begin a new year it seems appropriate to reflect on our adoption voyage so far. It all really started back in 2010, when we decided our family would not be built through biological children, but through children already in the world who needed a family. We were new to the world of adoption so we began researching our different options: domestic infant adoption, foster care adoption, and international adoption. It did not take us long to decide that international adoption was the best fit for us and where we could do the most good. After researching all of the different adoption programs, we settled on Russia because it was a well- developed, stable program (at the time), where we would be able to bring home a 2- year- old boy after just a one year process. We knew we would not be able to adopt until we paid off a couple loans so for two years we waited and read about the Russian adoption process.

By the time we were financially able to adopt in 2012, we came to the conclusion that Russia would not be a possibility for us due to their insanely expensive adoption fees and multiple required trips. This was a little sad and stressful for us, but it turned out to be a good thing because Russia closed their doors to adoption shortly later. We quickly decided to adopt from Africa because, honestly, it is the cheapest place to adopt from. Even though Congo was a pretty new program, we chose it because it would allow us to bring home a young child in a year and it required only one trip there. Also, we thought if we are going to adopt from Africa, we might as well adopt from the poorest nation in the world. In the spring of 2012 we sent out our applications to our home study and international adoption agencies. Our agonizingly slow home study was the only thing we got accomplished that year.

2013 was a year of short bursts of excitement and progress surrounded by long stretches of discouraging delays, with some fundraising and large adoption fees sprinkled in. In February we accepted Roland's referral and in April our adoption was approved in the Congo court {He was officially considered our son}. In May we received some information that allowed us to hope we would be able to bring Roland home that summer. It was just a slim chance, but I really thought things would work out for us. The situation did not turn out how we hoped. After that crushing disappointment, a lot of my optimism in the process faded away. However, time went by and gradually progress was made. In November, Roland was issued his immigrant visa, the very last step before bringing him home. Unfortunately, this happened during the exit permit suspension so about 75% of our joy and excitement about his visa was sucked away. In the year of 2013 we were able to complete the entire international portion of the adoption. Even though we completed every step, jumped through every hoop, paid every fee, proved ourselves to be fit parents time and again, we are still not allowed to bring our son home. It is a pretty big let down after a long year of praying, paperwork, and waiting.

I started this blog exactly one year ago. As I wrote my first post, I remember feeling disappointed in the lack of progress up until then, but excited to start the new year. To be honest, I am not looking forward to 2014.  It sickens me to think that the adoption is extending into anther year and I predict it will be a year filled with not- overly- hopeful waiting. There will be no paperwork to fill out until Roland's visa expires in May. The exit permit suspension is expected to last until September and there is no certainty as to when children will actually be allowed to leave after that.  There will be absolutely nothing to do except wait and hope that Congo will eventually allow it's adopted children to come home. We're praying 2014 will finally be the year a child will be brought into our lives and Roland will finally have a family.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Christmas Getaway

Instead of brooding at home over celebrating another childless Christmas, Matt and I decided to take a mini trip and make the most of our time alone together. It was nice to get out of town and see and do some new things. Even though we were quite busy the entire time, Roland was always at the front of our minds. During almost every activity, we talked about what it would be like if he was there. That little boy is so much a part of our family and we haven't even met him yet.

On Christmas day we drove up to Spokane with Yukon (we boarded Copper because we did not think he would be warm enough sitting in the car while we were out doing things). We were suspicious of the roads, but we arrived uneventfully. That evening we got dressed up for our fancy Christmas dinner at the Davenport Hotel.

 On Thursday we drove over to the Coeur d'Alene Resort for lunch and an eagle watching lake cruise. Every year hundreds of bald eagles migrate to Lake Coeur d'Alene during the week of Christmas because of high concentrations of fish.

The Coeur D'Alene Resort

The view from our table at lunch- not too shabby.

We then bundled up and headed out on our cruise. The weather was nice (high close to 40 degrees), but it felt pretty chilly out on the lake.

The on- board biologist said we saw around 175 bald eagles. I don't know if I personally saw that many, but I saw a lot. In the pictures, look for their distinctive white heads. I was surprised to see how  many eagles would share one tree.

The lake was surrounded by a wide variety of houses, from sinking shacks to beautiful mansions.

This is a mansion from my perspective, anyway.
Cruising back to the resort

By the time we got back from the cruise we knew the daylight was dwindling so we hurried across the world's longest floating boardwalk (which can be seen from our lunch view photo).

On our way back to Spokane we stopped at the Post Falls Park to let Yukon stretch his legs.

When we got back to the car the first glow of sunset began. 

As we drove back to Spokane, we enjoyed one of the most amazing sunsets I've ever seen.

Our little Christmas trip also served to celebrate our 8th anniversary (we are just so efficient) so on Thursday evening after dinner we stuck to tradition and watched The Hobbit. The Lord of the Rings/ The Hobbit have become our anniversary movies as they always come out at the same time.  (Our wedding was Dec.30 and now we are forever stuck celebrating it right between Christmas and New Years, as if there already is not enough celebrating going on.) We're hoping we will be in need of a babysitter for our 9th anniversary while watch the grand finale of The Hobbit.

Before driving home on Friday we stopped by Spokane's Riverfront Park and took the Skyride over Spokane Falls. It was a fun little ride that I look forward to taking Roland on when he's older. Sorry the pictures are not great- the windows were icy and smudgy.

And that pretty much sums up our short, busy trip. It was good for us to get out of the house and "do" Christmas different this year. It was fun, but we are definitely hoping next Christmas will look vastly different. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Bleak Year

A couple of days ago officials from the Congolese government met with various embassies about the exit permit suspension. They now estimate the suspension will last a year (before they stated it would last "up to a year"). The suspension began last September so it is expected to last until Sept. 2014. My hopes of travelling next spring are pretty much squashed. There is also a real possibility that Roland will not even be home in time for Christmas 2014. They warned us that they do not have any timeframe for when they will begin issuing exit permits again after the suspension ends. That is a bit unsettling. I also find it hard to believe that they will just start issuing exit permits again after stalling adoptions for another 9 months. Once the ball stops moving for that long, it seems unlikely that the Congo government will do the work to start it again. I am nervous that this temporary exit permit suspension will turn into a permanent ban on international adoption in Congo. It looks like 2014 will be a difficult year of waiting for a child who I am not entirely convinced will ever come home.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A quick update before Christmas

I realized I haven't posted anything in a month so I figured I should write something. It turns out there is very little to say when your adoption is entirely complete, but you are still not allowed to bring your child home. Our one little bit of news is that our adoption agency is working together with the other adoption agencies to try to decipher and accommodate the wishes of DGM (who is responsible for issuing exit permits). There are things in the works, but I probably should not post about the details as it involves international issues. Please pray with us that these efforts will result in something positive in the new year. Today I made an appointment to get our Hepatitis A booster shots. When we got our first shots back in May, we were sure we would be travelling well before we would ever need the booster shots. I guess optimism doesn't get you very far in the world of adoption.

This will probably be my last post before Christmas so I wish you all a very merry one. If you are among the fortunate people who has their children with them, hug them tight and never forget what a precious gift they are and remember what a true blessing it is to have your family safe and sound together for the holidays. If you are like us and will be celebrating Christmas with your child on the other side of the world, I pray God fills your heart with peace and patience and hope.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

We've Caught Up

We have now completely caught up to the huge, aggravating delay in the Congo adoption process- the ban on exit permits. Today Roland's visa was issued. He is officially allowed to immigrate to the United States. The adoption is done. Today should be one of the most exciting days in the whole adoption. Under the normal procedure, we should be travelling to Congo very soon. We should be buying plane tickets, buying baby supplies, figuring out what to pack, and making doctor appointments for when Roland is home. Instead, we are doing nothing. It is just another day. We are not travelling to Congo in a couple weeks to bring our son home.

While the visa is not very exciting, it does bring some relief. In case things do start to spiral downhill in Congo adoptions, it is always best to be as far along in the process as possible. Since every step of his adoption is complete, we will have more fighting power if we need it.

So now we just continue waiting. We have to find a balance of being patient while still being ready to travel on short notice. I have started reading adoption parenting books again. I haven't opened those books since the home study because they are just too depressing to read when you are still so far from bringing your child home. I figure it's time to start re-learning what to do with this baby so we will be as prepared as possible when we finally get the word we can go bring him home.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Situation

I just got off a conference call with USCIS and the US Embassy in Kinshasa. They didn't really have any new information to share and it is not helpful when their favorite phrases are "in theory" and "we cannot comment on that" and "we cannot speculate". Basically they just said that DGM (the agency in Congo responsible for immigration) is still suspending exit permits (which are required to bring all adopted children home). Nobody knows how long this suspension will last- it could be one more month, a year, or even longer. They say the purpose of this suspension is to revamp the adoption process and attempt to reduce fraud. USCIS and the Embassy can not predict if  the exit permit suspension is a step toward a complete shutdown of adoptions or just a hiccup along the way. They also did not provide any course of action for adoptive parents, besides to wait indefinitely on the whims of DGM.

According to Congo, we are Roland's legal parents. We are completely financially supporting him- childcare, food, doctors visits, a safe place to live (for $600 a month). Next week Roland has his visa appointment, which will allow him to immigrate to the United States. However, one government agency (DGM) in Congo is holding almost all adopted children hostage until an undetermined point in time. If we were wealthier, we could go visit him as often as we wanted or we could even move to Congo to care for him full- time. However, that is not an option for us (with his on- going monthly childcare fees, we don't have enough money for the final trip to bring him home). It is a very confusing spot to be in as parents. We are responsible for him, yet we are not allowed to bring him home. How do we keep living in a state of being ready for our child while also being mentally and emotionally prepared for a long wait? How do we make life decisions when opportunities present themselves? How long can we put our lives on hold for?

We chose the Congo program 1.5 years ago because it was moving quickly. In the current situation, we would seriously consider switching programs if we had not already passed the court process and the embassy investigation and spent $30,000. We are financially, "legally", morally and emotionally committed to Roland wherever the tides might take us.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Happy Birthday, Roland!

Dear Roland,
Today is your 1st birthday. It breaks our hearts to not be able to spend this day with you, celebrating your first year of life and showering you with love (and maybe a few gifts). We are sorry for the losses and instability you have experienced in your short life, but from the few pictures of you we have seen, you seem to have such a strong spirit. You have the ability to grow and thrive and blossom in less- than- ideal situations. You seem to possess and radiate such a pure joy. We hope you do not lose these attributes as you grow up in a land of excessive abundance, where wealth, convenience, and opportunity are taken for granted. Where you come from will always be a part of who you are. We hope you are able to use it to create something positive in your life.

We are excited to learn all about you. What are your favorite games to play? What are your favorite foods? What makes you laugh? What comforts you? We can't wait to hear your voice, read you a book, take you on a walk in the woods, and show the happiness and comfort of petting a gentle dog. More than anything, we want to just hold you and demonstrate to you that we are your family. You are our child, who we have waited so long for. We will love you for the rest of our lives.

Roland, you are so loved by so many people. You have four wonderful grandparents and another grandma in heaven who would have so wanted to meet you. You have three uncles, an aunt, and three cousins. You have great- uncles and aunts and the list goes on. You also have a sweet, loving church who are a whole other family to you. All of these people have been thinking of you, caring for you and praying for you.

Happy Birthday, Roland! We love you and we are doing all we can to bring you home with us. You are in our thoughts and prayers every day.

Mom and Dad

Monday, October 28, 2013

We're on a Roll....for now

I have been waiting for so long to say this: Our US Embassy orphan investigation is complete! I am so accustomed to delays and procedure changes that I am a little amazed whenever anything gets done. (It may also have something to do with the information I receive not always being up- to- date, so there is always the "surprise factor".) Roland has his visa appointment at the beginning of November, which he will attend with our agency's in- country lawyer. Once his visa is issued, we are basically at the end of the process. Under normal conditions, he would be home by Christmas. However, our rolling ball of progress will soon crash into a concrete wall, known as the exit permit suspension. We will have gone as far as we can go without actually travelling to Congo and bringing our baby home. We are very grateful for the recent progress that has been made and we are praying that the exit permit situation does not hold us (and everyone else) up for too long. We are SO CLOSE!!

16 But I will sing of your strength,
    in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress,
    my refuge in times of trouble.

17 You are my strength, I sing praise to you;
    you, God, are my fortress,
    my God on whom I can rely.
Psalm 59: 16-17

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Embassy Investigation

We have finally seen some progress with our US Embassy investigation, which we have been waiting on since July. The person who dropped Roland off at the orphanage has been located and he is willing to fly to Kinshasa for an interview. Yay!! I was having doubts that they would ever find this person. We are hoping this interview will satisfy the Embassy and they will then consider our investigation complete. This investigation has been looming over us for so long; it will be a huge relief to have it over with. Then we can apply for Roland's visa and wait in line for exit permits to be issued again. We're hoping the exit permit suspension will be lifted by the time we are ready to travel so we won't have any other significant delays.

We are happy things are moving forward again, but that is when I find it is harder to be patient. When things are stagnant, I can send my emotions to a kind of hibernation. Right or wrong, I have emotionally disengaged myself from Roland the past couple of months. Mellow sadness is easier to live through than the heart- wrenching reality of being separated from my son. Now my excitement and hope has been renewed and I'm praying things keep progressing so we can finally get this kid home.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

18 month recap

The past year and a half of our lives have been spent pursuing an adoption from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We have been at this for the length of two pregnancies now (not to mention the two whole years we spent planning and preparing to begin the adoption and the four years we spent trying to conceive). Our home study was completed one year ago, which means it is about time to have it updated. Eight months ago we saw a picture of Roland for the first time and we accepted his referral. Six months ago our adoption case passed court in Congo. Three months ago our I-600 was approved. No more progress has been made since then. We have not received any more information on the status of our Embassy orphan investigation. Also, exit permits are still not being issued, which basically means that, for most of us, adoptions are not being allowed to advance to completion. After 18 months of waiting, praying and hoping we still do not have any idea when Roland will join our family.

 A few good verses to meditate on:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus....11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Phillipians 4:4-13 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Week in Autumn

Autumn is my favorite season and this past week it was made even better because my dad came out to visit us from North Carolina. Before he flew out I realized that we have not spent any time together in the fall months since 2002. He has always come to visit in the Summer and we always have visited him in the Spring or Christmastime. We made the most of our short time together, enjoying beautiful scenery, the crisp fall air and the changing colors. We drove and hiked through mountains and canyons, forests and rolling prairie. We indulged in mochas, chai tea and hot chocolate, homemade apple- craisin bread and pumpkin spice cake, and of course fall- hued M&Ms. In the evenings we retreated to warm blankets on the couch and watched most of season 3 of The Walking Dead. It was nice to just have a break from our daily routine. All in all it was a wonderful week celebrating family and the beauty of autumn and we all wished Roland could be a part of it. Here are some pictures of our good times:

 Our first glimpse of snow on the distant mountains

My dad taking a stroll at the beach on our way to Riggins

 Hiking the Rapid River trail
 Matt enjoying some fall colors
 My dad hiking through some gorgeous canyon scenery

 Whew! We made it to the bridge.

All three of us on our last day together

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Another Roadblock

I have some discouraging news to share. I will not write much because, for one thing, I do not know much and also, if I keep writing this whole post will easily slide into one big pity party for myself. But, I do want to briefly update you all who are following along with us on our adoption tale of woes journey and maybe you can send an extra prayer our way. The Congolese government has again decided to suspend issuing exit permits to adopted children. The children cannot leave Congo and come home without this permit. The government has briefly done this before, but this time they say the exit permits will be suspended for up to one year. Also, it is unclear if adoptions will be able to proceed up until it is time for the exit permits to be issued. So, the worst case scenario is our adoption progress is completely halted for up to a year and then we pick up where we left off. A better scenario would be if we are able to continue on with our Embassy investigation waiting game while we also wait for the exit permits to be issued again. Please continue praying for us and all the adoptive families stuck in this never- ending process and especially for all the children who live day after day without the love of their parents.

 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose....What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?.....No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Romans 8:28, 31, 37

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Hanging out in Limbo

We received another picture of Roland today (two months in a row- WooHoo!- our agency is on a roll). He is looking remarkably well. It took me a few minutes to even recognize him. He is actually chubby now (or at least compared to how he's looked before) and he is smiling. I love that smile. He is sitting upright on the floor by himself so we have proof he can at least do that much. In all the other pictures he has been lying down or being held by somebody. It is hard to look at a picture of this adorable, happy baby who is supposedly mine, and not be able to hold him.

We also finally received a little update on the actual adoption. The process has changed slightly again (surprise, surprise). This could either be good news or not- so- good news for us. The US Embassy  now wants to fly the pertinent people in the investigations to Kinshasa for their interviews instead of travelling out to the various cities themselves. They are currently trying to locate the person who dropped off Roland at the orphanage. If they can find him they will fly him out to the Embassy for the interview and hopefully that will fulfill their investigation requirements. However, if they cannot find this person or he is unwilling to go, then we have to wait until whenever the Embassy decides to travel again to Roland's birth city, which will probably not be until early 2014. If we have to go down that route, we will not be bringing him home before the Spring {cringe}. Obviously we are fervently praying that this person is located quickly, he is willing to travel to Kinshasa for the interview, and our investigation will get wrapped up smoothly so we can bring Roland home as soon as possible. Already there is no chance of Roland being home before his 1st birthday (in Nov.) and barely any chance in time for Christmas. We are still holding out hope that he may be with us for Matt's 30th birthday in February. I have visions of celebrating Matt's big birthday in a hotel room in Congo with our first child. We'll see.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Nursery Unveiling

Over the summer we have been working little by little on putting Roland's nursery together. It is mostly done now; we have the furniture set up and the pictures put on the walls. We are just missing curtains, storage bins and some sort of chair to read and snuggle on before bedtime. We are renting the house we live in so there is only so much we could do as far as decorating. We couldn't do any painting and we decided not to try wall decals because the walls are textured and we did not know how well they would stick. I love what we have, but it still does look a little plain. I suppose it is better for a nursery to look quiet and calm than loud and chaotic. Also, there's plenty of room to add stuff later. Here is what we have so far: