taking shifts

Pretty much from the beginning of our marriage, Tim and I have had a consistent pattern in facing stressful situations: we take shifts. It’s totally unintentional, but we are almost never majorly stressed out at the same time. When one of us is running around declaring that the sky is falling or lamenting the pewter grey clouds, the other is usually commenting on how blue that sky is, or how glad they are that the chill makes evening tea sound nice again. And then with no predictability, we switch roles.

It’s my grey cloud shift. Today is my day to feel sad. We recently got some updated pictures of Daniel (I so wish I could share them here!), who is sporting chubby cheeks and a huge grin. He’s about 6 months old now, and though he’s still underweight, he is catching up. This morning, when I opened my phone and was greeted with a picture of those wide eyes, I just felt the weight of the months that remain between now and when we will actually meet him in person. It seems eons away, and as per the usual, I’m also feeling a bit stressed about how to plan in the midst of it. So yes, today is my day, and thankfully, Tim is pointing out the blue sky that he was having trouble seeing a few weeks ago.

On a practical note, our paperwork has gone through all the hoops on our government’s side, and is en route (as I type) to Ethiopia. Things there will slow down a bit during the upcoming rainy season, but hopefully our case can creep forward. My dream would be to get him home before the new year. It’s a little unrealistic, but hey, a girl can dream!

now what?

Our last post was obviously tied to a pretty monumental moment. The money came in, the referral acceptance fee has been paid, the official acceptance documents have made it to their destination. As people of faith, we stand in awe and gratitude for the provision that came at the moment when it was most needed.

The question we hear from all corners now is, “Now what?”

There are a few details that remain in this phase. We had to get one more document notarized and then certified in order to send in our adoption dossier (hopefully by tomorrow). We pay off a few other expenses. We start thinking about all the details that  will need to be in place when the time comes to travel to Ethiopia.

But mostly…now we wait. Now is the time when our dossier has to make its way across the desks of bureaucrats in both the United States and in Ethiopia. Boxes need to be checked, approvals secured at multiple levels, protocols carried out, this time by people other than us. So we wait and pray and try not to think about the days we are missing with this little boy who is growing and changing all the time. This is a particularly tenuous time in light of the state of adoptions in Ethiopia. Accepting this referral is pretty huge of a leap of faith, and for a while we’ll just have to be content hanging in mid air.

And what do we need now? More than anything, we need cheerleaders. Any of you who have been through this process know it is exciting and beautiful, but also long and exhausting and full of discouraging moments. And we know full well the added risk moving forward with a country in diplomatic turmoil, but we’ve chosen to believe the risk is worth it. So in this time, be partners with us in hope, focused on the beautiful possibilities, finding the joy in the waiting. (We’re Team Founds, so that might be as simple as being on call for board games, mini golf, or an evening trip to Tasty Freeze.)

And, if you’re the praying type, we’d love it if you would pray for us… and for our son-to-be… and for the process to keep moving in Ethiopia.

Again, thank you, thank you, thank you for being such an amazing community!

update: seven days later…

So, last Monday, we thought we had a month to raise $20,000 to bring our kiddo home.

Then, by Wednesday, we heard that it was two weeks. We took a deep breath.

On Thursday, we found out that, no, we had it wrong again. It was ONE week. We couldn’t decide whether to panic or just laugh out loud at the absurdity of it.

As Christians, Tim and I are constantly challenged by Jesus’ teaching about worry. The teaching is pretty simple: “Do not worry.” Jesus asks us, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” In our culture, not worrying is seen as almost irresponsible, even though any real reflection will force us to admit that worry accomplishes nothing. No extra hours added to our lives. No changed circumstances. So Tim and I made a choice. Though it’s much easier said than done, we decided that we would view this as an adventure rather than a freak-out-moment. And yes, we laughed at the absurdity of it.

One week later (accounting for a few checks still on the way), we have arrived at our goal! Not in a month, not in two weeks….in ONE week. Generosity poured in from every corner of our our lives, every stage of our history, and in some cases, from people we’ve never met. Elementary school friends, junior high friends, high school and college and grad school friends, met-them-along-the way-friends. Brothers and sisters and parents. Aunts and uncles and cousins and God-parents and might-as-well-be-relatives. Realtors and professors and summer camp kids (now adults) from 17 years ago. I mean, come on now. Shake your head with us. Laugh a bit, both at the absurdity and the beauty.

I’ve teared up more times than I can count this week. There is no way for us to adequately say thank you for your generosity. All I can say is that I cannot wait to tell Daniel someday about the village of people that helped bring him home. We still have a long road ahead (the timeline to get to him is unknown), but we are headed into it newly encouraged. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

huge news! (and an urgent plea)

If you read our previous post, you know that our last few months have been particularly hard. When we had finally made it to the point where we could accept a referral, Ethiopia unexpectedly shut down the processing of international adoptions. It was a sudden, blanket suspension. No one really knew what was going on, how long it would last, if it was final, etc. Then, some movement for families that had already been matched, but no real indication of what it meant for the rest of us. Tim and I wrestled, got angry, got sad, got confused. We looked at other countries and settled on India as a possible next step (which would involve big setbacks). In mid-June, we sent an email to our agency asking for some straightforward advice: should we start the process for India, or wait it out? They advised that we stick it out with Ethiopia. So we told them we would, and added that we were now open to either siblings or to a single child. We settled in for the long haul.

Five days later, our agent left a message mentioning some “fairly good news.” We assumed perhaps there was a new statement from the Ethiopian government. Tim called her back. Then he called me.

“Well, they have a baby boy for us”.

“What? Wait. Like, they have a baby just for us right now?”

“Yes. Apparently his file came to them around the same time as the email saying we were open to taking one child. He’s 5 months old, and healthy.”

“Wait, what?” [insert pause for genuine disbelief]

“I know.” [I could hear his smile]

It has taken a while for this to even begin to sink in, but needless to say, we are beyond excited! It will still be months before we are able to go and get him, but we now know there is a beautiful baby boy waiting for us in Ethiopia.

Here’s the deal. The referral came WAY before we were expecting it…and that means the bills are coming earlier, too. We now have ONE week to raise almost $20,000 in order to make Daniel our own. Less than a month. We are officially calling in reinforcements! If you are able to pitch in even the smallest amount to help us get to that goal, we would be incredibly grateful! Or if you know someone who has a heart for adoption who might be interested in supporting us, we’d love it if you could pass on our information. We fully believe that with bits and pieces from our beautiful village of friends and family, we can pay that bill and move on toward bringing our son home.

There are a few ways you can contribute:

  1. You can donate on our GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/founds. The organization does take a small percentage as a fee (8%), but it is an easy way to give online.
  2. You can donate through our AdoptTogether page. This online option is tax deductible, and takes out a smaller percentage (5%): https://www.purecharity.com/founds-family-adoption
  3. You can send us a personal check if that is easiest and you don’t want anything taken out. Just let us know and we’ll get you our address!

Whether or not you are able to contribute financially, we value your partnership in so many ways. In the coming months of waiting, and then in the transition period that follows, we’re thankful to know we have so many people surrounding us with words and actions of encouragement along the way. Thanks for the ways you are a gift in our lives.

 

Adoption: The journey from A to B, by way of D, M, (back to A), X, R, Z…

A few years ago, I started keeping a gratitude journal. One sentence, every night. I’m on the third year in that little leather journal, and I often like to look back and see what I was doing last year, the year before…what good things I celebrated as I went to bed on those nights and maybe the few nights surrounding them. Last night I looked back and saw that on May 15, 2016, I was thankful for friends who sat with us on a Sunday morning when we were broken. We were broken because, after a year of investing our hopes (and language learning efforts) into the process of adopting from Brazil, we had hit a major roadblock, and we were in the midst of deciding whether to choose another country. I remember that May 15th well. I remember a lot of tears, and I remember that they lasted for days. A few weeks later, we began the process of adopting from Ethiopia.

Almost exactly one year later, on May 16th, 2017, we found ourselves reading an alert from the U.S. State Department that included these words: “The Department of State will continue to advocate for intercountry adoption from Ethiopia. However, given the uncertainty of the future of adoptions there, prospective adoptive parents should consider other countries.” A few weeks earlier, the Prime Minister issued a suspension on all international adoptions, with no word on the why or the how long. Little coherent information has come out since then. Tuesday’s announcement is the closest we’ve gotten to, “This is direction you need to go.” And so, Tim and I are waiting to find out what the process looks like to change countries…again. Granted, this could all open back up as abruptly as it shut down. But it seems unlikely at this point, so we’re sketching out possible next steps.

A year ago, I was barely holding back tears, pretty much 24/7. Oddly, this week I find myself almost unable to feel…anything, really. At least not anything I can grab hold of for more than a minute or two. I have teared up while talking about it a grand total of one time, for maybe a minute. I have felt angry for a few 30 second intervals, when I think about the process of starting over, or when someone (with good intentions, of course) suggests that we consider an option that is far, far more complex than they realize. Once in a while I look into another country’s program and feel a moment of excitement, even. But mostly…nothing. It’s an odd feeling. I don’t really know what to do with it.

Most nights before we eat, we pray for our kids, “wherever they are, whoever they are.” For a year, that has meant, “Wherever in Ethiopia, whichever African children.” The last few days, the wherever and whoever aspect of it is less about anticipation and more about frustrating ambiguity. But wherever and whoever, there are children that we can’t wait to bring home some day. We need to remember the simple beauty of that. And we may need you, our community, to remind us once in a while to keep that good thing in view and to look for joy in all the parts of this ridiculously roller-coaster-esque journey.

on never knowing when or how it will go

Adoption is weird. That sounds….well, weird when I say it, but it’s true. Adoption doesn’t follow the rules of growing your family. It balks at your timeline and any desire you have to plan ahead. It refuses to give you signs of progress most of the time. In a pregnancy, there’s a timeline. In about nine months, you should open your schedule up. You know, don’t plan to take on any big projects around that time. And the signs of progress are clear—first trimester, second trimester… Now there is a heartbeat, now there are functioning lungs, now the baby is kicking. And of course, you have a pretty good sense of how old your kids will be. You know, they’ll be a few hours old when you meet them.

Sometimes the weirdness of adoption doesn’t bother us that much. It just is what it is, we know that, and some parts of it are beautiful. At other times, though, frustration sneaks up and pounces. Sometimes it comes when we pray for our kids, and I hear exasperation in Tim’s voice as he asks God to help us get to them sooner than later.  Sometimes I feel it when I think about taking teaching assignments in the summer…in the fall…in the spring, and I think, “Should I be signing up to be in a classroom, or do I need to be online this semester?” (P.S. I really don’t love teaching online.) Sometimes it comes when we get referral email after referral email with precious children that don’t fit our profile (siblings). We once got an email about a beautiful baby named Timothy…I mean, come on.

I think the trick for me in this season is to remember that it isn’t an in-between. This isn’t a no man’s land between starting the adoption process and bringing our kids home. This is a learning space, a time to be stewarded well. This is where we take a good look at our marriage, where we take a good look at ourselves, where we try to become better parents before we fly to Ethiopia. I forget that too often. May God continue to send me reminders when I need them most.

Shifting Lenses

We could choose to dance around this topic here, I suppose. Save it for outside conversations. Pretend it’s not that big a deal. It’s tempting to do it that way, honestly. But this is the blog where we keep you updated on our adoption journey, and this is part of our journey.

Those of you following us know by now that we are adopting from Ethiopia. The obvious implication: we are adopting black sons (most likely boys, at least), children who will grow up to be black men. And it would be dishonest to pretend that this fact doesn’t impact the way we encounter our world now. A few days ago I watched a video of an unarmed man being shot outside of his stalled car. Not long ago it was a man lying on the street next to his autistic patient. There was the man choked to death on a sidewalk. The teenagers shot down while playing with toy guns. The man shot an unconscionable number of times through the window of his car. Whatever your argument for the why, or the how, or the who, the fact is that each of these men/boys is some mother’s son. Terence’s mom is named Leanna. Tamir’s mom is named Joy. Michael’s mom is named Lesley. Eric’s mom is named Gwen. Philander’s mom is named Valerie.

I’m a sociologist, so I think about/teach about things like race and ethnicity all the time. I think about relations of power, about historical shifts and institutional discrimination, and I try to open my eyes to my own blind spots. I read research and look at statistics showing things like the degree to which black men are more likely to be shot by the police than are their white counterparts. These issues disturb and enrage me in a deep way as a sociologist and a teacher and a citizen.

But it is a different thing to think through this issue not as a sociologist, but as an adoptive parent. Suddenly I’m not thinking about abstract things like “race relations.” Suddenly I’m thinking about the fact that my sons are statistically more likely to be shot than their white friends and neighbors, and the reality that I cannot entirely protect them from that fact.

Now, don’t read even a hint of self-pity or martyrdom or any other such ridiculous thing in this. That’s not what I’m going for. Our kids will just be our kids, period. We’ll be four imperfect people doing the daily work of learning how to be a family. That process is both beautiful and messy no matter what the composition is. We are pumped to board a plane someday and meet the other half of our family.

But like I said, this is a blog about sharing our adoption journey. And as we think about our somewhere-out-there kids, and about fast approaching parenthood, encountering our culture with new eyes is part of the journey. And in that, we are newly reminded that doing something about the injustices of that culture should probably be part of our journey, too.