Thursday, December 07, 2006

Sunset over Catalina

November 11, 2006

Suka, Joe, and Jesi enjoying a nice day at the dog beach in Huntington Beach. A bit overcast, but the water was warm and the air temperature was just right!

October 6, 2006

Enjoying a sunset at Aliso Creek beach park in south Laguna Beach during our beach bbq to celebrate the fall family birthdays (mom, myself, Zak, and Joe's) while we were all together. Yes... it's gorgeous here and we are so fortunate to live in such a magnificent area! That's (Catalina island in the horizon of the photo)

An Ethiopian feast ends with a momentous decision

It's been much too long since my last post, so please accept my apologies for the delay! I can tell you that lately our quiet lives have been rather hectic. I have so much to report that it's hard to know where to begin.

The day after Thanksgiving was a day I've been looking forward to for a while now. It was to be our first time attending a southern California Ethiopian adoptive family potluck! For weeks I drove Joe nuts talking to him about how great it was going to be and preparing for the moment when we would finally get to meet other families that have adopted/are adopting from Ethiopia. Not to mention the thrill of finally meeting some of their precious little ones in person.

The potluck was down in San Diego, which is about an hour and a half from us, but of course, as fate would have it, Joe and I hit terrible traffic on the drive down. For any of you that know me, you can imagine that with my excitement and two months of waiting for this day, I was a handful for Joe to deal with as we inched our way closer to San Diego. I kept looking at our navigation system's screen as it ticked away the minutes to our arrival at the destination. By the time it showed an arrival time of 1:58 pm... nearly an hour after the potluck was to begin, I was near tears. As I've said before, I've never been very patient and to me, every minute we were missing was one less minute spent at the potluck. Before long, we were so desperate that we hopped off the freeway (in the middle of nowhere in between Orange County and San Diego where there is nothing around but open land and one road that is part of Camp Pendleton), and we thankfully took advantage of having military id's. After we zipped through security, we were cruising. Now we were smokin'; 35 mph feels fast enough to take the wrinkles out after such a dramatic slow down on the freeway. Since we were now driving on a small and winding road through Camp Pendleton that more or less paralleled the freeway, we really had to follow the speed limit to avoid a ticket from the MP's (military police). Apparently they don't have enough to do so speeding tickets are the highlight of an MP's day.

By 2:00 pm we had arrived at our destination. The party had begun and a sign on the front door told visitors to go ahead and enter. We shyly made our way towards the action out back and met the hostess. My eyes filled with the sights and sounds of kids splashing in the beautiful pool surrounded by rock walls and an attached hot tub. Teenagers, babies, toddlers, you name it, they were there. I think in total that day there were said to be about 70 people in attendance. My attention quickly became rapt as we admired the littlest members of the crowd, taking in their smiles and giggles. One little doll grabbed my finger while in her daddy's arms and wouldn't let go. She was too cute for words.

Although the children had quickly caught our focus, we did turn it to talking to the parents and future parents in the crowd. We met a wonderful couple that lives up near my uncle and are currently awaiting their referral for siblings. We swapped stories, discussed agencies, various decisions that have to be made, and enjoyed some fabulous Ethiopian food. We asked so many questions of the parents that have already got their kids home from Ethiopia, and were thrilled about the support they showed us when we told them about the difficulty our age has posed for us. They rallied around us and our decision to do this, despite our young age, and many offered to help in any way they could. My heart felt like it was going to explode with excitement and thanks. They answered all sorts of questions ranging from reasons for choosing the agency they worked with to how they decided on the age and number of children they adopted.

As the afternoon wound down and people began to say goodbye, Joe and I reluctantly made our way toward the door. The day was filled with smiles, laughter, and truckloads of information. By the time we climbed in the car, Joe looked at me and confirmed with me something very exciting. We have been waiting to feel more certain before posting this update, so please start the drum roll.... after MUCH deliberation, Joe and I are planning on adopting twins or siblings rather than just one infant. **PAUSE** Yes, you read that correctly. We are now planning on starting the adoption process with the intention of adopting twins, or possibly siblings. We are still working on deciding on that one, or maybe we'll leave it open and see what we're referred. This may be something we discuss more with the social worker that does our homestudy before we make a final decision. I have talked it over at length with the social worker with Adoption Avenues and she seems to feel strongly supportive of this choice.

Now, you may just be sitting there wondering "What in the heck are they thinking?!" Believe me, when this idea started going through my mind, I started questioning my sanity as well. But after considering it for about two or three months now, not only do I feel comfortable with the logic behind what my heart it telling me, but Joe has also come to agree with me. Before I begin the attempt at explaining our reasons, I want to cover an important issue that surrounds our adoption. Race, ethnicity, skin color. Yes, we are adopting transculturally. And not just transculturally, but transracially. Since it's an important aspect of our adoption, I need to cover some important ground about this issue that so many people are interested in understanding our position on. You'll probably hear many different opinions on the matter from different transcultural/transracial adoptive families you talk to, and our own feelings will undoubtedly evolve as the process unfolds. This can be such a touchy subject in our society that it's been a struggle for us to know how to handle. So, I'll tackle this one like Joe. Blunt and to the point. Joe and I are Caucasian. We are white... blond hair, blue eyes, and very light colored skin. Our baby(ies) will not have that in common with us. They will have black/brown/dark skin, likely dark brown eyes, and curly black/brown hair. By doing this, we will be creating a family that is transracial. More importantly (and appropriately), transcultural. Our family will grow and be able to add the long and very rich history of Ethiopia to it. Our children may not look just like us, that is part of what will make our family so special and beautiful. Joe and I feel "colorblind" in a sense, but realize that in order to fully support and care for our children, we cannot be completely colorblind. It would be an injustice to our future children. We want them to know everything they can about their Ethiopian roots and have a strong pride in their culture and history. Ethiopia is an amazing country, filled with amazing people. We would never take that away from our children. Both Joe and myself feel that it is a blessing in every sense of the word to be privileged to have a transcultural/transracial family.

That being said, I'll get back to our feelings about adopting two rather than one. We want our child to have the comfort of growing up with a sibling that looks like them and shares a similar history. When they get old enough to start realizing that they don't look like mommy and daddy, I want them to be able to have that commonality with their brother/sister. When they are struggling with issues surrounding their adoption, I want them to have the support and closeness of a sibling that has that in common. Joe and I will always do our best to show them that we love them unconditionally and embrace their culture, history and beautiful dark skin, but it's not the same as having a sibling they can share that with. Someone that looks like them and share a similar life story.

We've thought about doing two separate adoptions, from Ethiopia, but don't feel that's the right decision for us. Adoptions are long, stressful, emotionally, physically, and financially draining. Getting our kids at the same time will allow us to work through the transition at once instead of two separate times. It also means our kids will have a playmate from the get-go, which is nice for the entire family. They will get to have each other as they go through the process of adjusting to life in our family and grow up together with that special bond.

None of this is to say that there's anything wrong with adopting just one child. Or doing separate adoptions. I'm just attempting to explain our own personal feelings on what works best for us. Since it's so late here, I also hope this reads how it's supposed to. Sometimes thoughts and feelings can be so hard to put on paper and still make sense. Nothing is set in stone yet... it'll be a long while yet before we get our referral and until we have the referral, get through court, and travel to Ethiopia to bring our little angels home, everything is an uncertainty. But, until the stork tells us what he's bringing, you can expect it'll be twins!!! I've always dreamed of being a mommy to twins... as crazy and difficult as I am sure it can/will be on some days, the amazing bond they share and joy they will add to our lives will be well worth it!

The final announcement I have for tonight is that my mom has finally moved to California!!! Surprise! I can't even begin to tell you all how happy that makes me! She flew out here last Tuesday and started work on Wednesday, November 29. We convinced her to stay with us since dad is stuck in Colorado finishing a few projects around the house before he can list it for sale. In the meantime, we're doing our best to send him our love and talk lots on the phone! He's the only one left in Colorado now! I hope that the house sells quickly once they list it in the spring, but with the way the housing market's been so slow... it may be a while before dad can get out here to join mom. So, despite the fact that I am so sad dad isn't out here with mom, I am overjoyed to have her around to spend time with again. You can only imagine how big I've been grinning lately with all the exciting changes happening!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Taking a stand

I wanted to take a moment and provide links to some organizations and causes that I feel strongly about. These are not directly related to our adoption, however, I feel that they are relevant. We are adopting from a country that is ravished by HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and poverty. I urge you to take a look at their websites and see what the organizations stand for, what their goals are, and what you can do to help. There are so many people in this world that need us to stand together and unite. We all have strong voices and we CAN make a difference.

The first website I found recently is Join Red. It has a very exciting and much needed goal of providing antiretroviral drugs and HIV/AIDS education and prevention to people in Africa. The proceeds from the sale of "red" products (see website for more details... you can buy "red" products from places like Gap, Armani, Motorola, Apple (iPod!), Converse, etc.) go towards the purchase of antiretroviral drugs and HIV/AIDS prevention education to people in Africa. This is a really exciting opportunity for consumers to purchase products that spread awareness of the need in Africa for help at fighting the AIDS pandemic. It's so easy to help and by having "red" products not only means that proceeds from your purchase help the cause, but you also help by showing your support and spreading the word.

Join Red's website is:
For those of you on myspace, their page is:

The next group that I really like is called "ONE." Their campaign is to make poverty history. ONE aims to help Americans raise their voice as ONE against the emergency of AIDS and extreme poverty, so that decision makers will do more to save millions of lives in the poorest countries. They have a number of ways you can help. You can sign the ONE declaration, wear the white ONE bands, and do many other things to show your support of the ONE campaign. ONE is about using our voices to start create a change. They are not asking for donations, just your voice. For more details please see their website.

ONE's website is:

Another exciting adventure that is about to begin is a 4,000 mile run across the Sahara desert. Three men will run 50 miles per day for 80 days, crossing 6 countries during their run. The goal is to raise awareness about the poverty in Africa and the lack of access to clean water. They hope that through this charitable campaign they will raise money to provide clean water so that one day everyone will have access to clean water since this is a direct cause of malnutrishment, starvation, unsanitary conditions, and crippling poverty. For more information and to follow the race as it progresses, please see their website.

Running the Sahara's website is:

There is also a website that is raising money and gathering supporters for the AIDS pandemic, malaria, and tuberculosis in Africa. On their website you can add your name to the map of people who support "The Global Fund." From their map you can see statistics on the number of men/women, ages, locations of people that support The Global Fund. This is another organization which enables YOU to make a difference. For more info, or to add your name to the map, please see their website.

The Global Fund's website is:

Well, that's all for now. When you have a moment, please take the time to look over the sites and see what they're about. It's too quick and easy to sign the declarations, add yourself to the map, or buy red products to tell yourself you don't have the time or whatever. We can all stand together and make a difference.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all for reading this and hope to have more adoption updates soon!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Progress, frustration, excitement... and the Santa Ana winds

Thought of the day: Patience IS a virtue.

Sadly, it's just not a virtue that I seem to possess. I have tried all my life to be patient. No matter how hard I try to be patient about things, in general I'm quite unsuccessful! Once I set my mind on doing something, I'm going to do it. When I start thinking about something, I can't get my mind off of it. Knowing this, you can probably imagine that ever since we decided to move forward with our adoption, I have been gung-ho, ready-to-go. I've done extensive research on the various agencies that do placements for Ethiopia and have found one that may just be the one we'll move forward with. That being said, what more is there to do than for me to start the paperchase?!

Recently, I began putting considerable time into planning some fund-raisers we'll do to try and help gather the much needed financial capital for the adoption. Joe and I have talked through this topic a number of times. We started the adoption process with the feeling that "If we can't afford to pay for the adoption out of pocket, we will have to wait and save until we can." However, through all my research and time spent trying to figure out how/when we will reach our savings goal of anywhere from $20,000 - $30,000 that the adoption will cost, we have both had to come to terms with reality. We can afford to support a child financially on a day-to-day basis, but it will take us an incredibly long time to save that amount of money on our own. We live in an area that has an extremely high cost of living. This means that although our combined income puts adoption grants out of the picture (our combined salaries put us in the realm of being "over-qualified"), they do not take into account the housing/living costs of the area in which people live. So, we may make more than a single income family in the middle of nowhere in Nevada (not that it's not a great place to live!), but someone that lives in an area where housing is so much more inexpensive could, in reality, be much more financially well off than our double income situation in a higher cost of living area. Did that make any sense? Therefore, we're left with the options of paying for the adoption through fund-raising, loans and paying out of pocket. Obviously this is quite a personal/private sort of topic, but I feel it's important to share all aspects of this journey as we continue along the path towards creating our family. I just wish there was more fairness in looking at people's financial situation when qualifying/disqualifying them for grants. I guess I do feel better knowing that most families that adopt end up doing fund-raisers, obtaining grants, and borrowing money, so we're not alone.

As far as the fund-raisers go, so far, we have a list of ideas. The list is:
- Ice Cream Social/Spaghetti Dinner/Pancake Breakfast
- Advertise in local papers asking for Garage Sale donations, then have an adoption fund-raiser garage sale. ADVERTISE THE CAUSE!!
- Start a basic website that accepts donations and sells items supporting adoption, with proceeds going towards funding of our adoption.
- Car wash (we'd need manpower though... don't think Joe and I alone could wash enough cars in a day to make much money)
- Kids Carnival (have a bounce house, face painting...??? Don't know how to get the cost low enough to make this possible)
- Bake Sale
- Raffle
- Dog Social – Pet Talent Show
- Teddy Bear Picnic
- Book Sale
- Recyclable bottle donations (ask people to collect their bottles that have a CA cash refund and give them to us to get the money back for rather than putting them in their street recycling bins).

Now, on a lighter note, we have spent a lot of time talking to agencies, current/past adoptive familes, and narrowing our selection more and more. Originally I came to like Children's Home Society and Family Services (CHSFS) quite a bit. However, once I spoke with them more, I learned that, due to their specific agency requirements, we would not be able to start our adoption until at least one of us turns 25. That means we wouldn't be able to get going on the adoption until next October! Grr. Both of us feel that the time to do this is now and we don't want to postpone it a year.

Fortunately, I've found another exciting possiblity. It's a small agency that has a much newer program in Ethiopia. They are called Adoption Avenues. Their average timelines have been much quicker (they are smaller and newer to Ethiopian adoptions so they have a shorter waitlist of adoptive parents). We do have concerns with using an agency that has less experience working in Ethiopia, but they have some great references, their social worker has been extremely friendly and willing to answer any and ALL questions we've had, and we like that it's felt much more personal than the larger agencies we've talked to. There is someone available to talk to 24/7, so if we're in Ethiopia and have a question/problem and need to talk to someone at the agency, there is always someone that can be reached. In addition to all the other positives I've listed about this agency, they are ready and willing to work with us right away! They feel that age isn't the only factor in someone's ability to parent, financially provide for a child, etc. Therefore, unless the social worker that does our homestudy finds another reason that we can't proceed right now, we've got the green light!

This doesn't mean we're starting right now. We're actually still reviewing our proposed timeline. Joe is concerned about starting until we've COMPLETELY FINISHED the house projects (we have to replace the kitchen countertops, install baseboards downstairs, and finish the drywall repairs in the bathrooms). However, I believe that the perfect time to be finishing all those projects is while we're anxiously waiting for our referral and needing something to keep us busy and distracted! It is clear now that we both feel that we would like to get started before April. Since the process is so unpredictable and frequently takes about 2-3 times as long as the forecasted time period, getting started sooner would be good. For now, we're shooting for starting the application and homestudy sometime in January.

While we wait, we're continuing to enjoy the area we now call home. The Santa Ana winds have been making for a warm November (it was 94 degrees the other day!) and we're enjoying strolls on the beach every chance we get. This weekend we'll be welcoming the newest member of the extended family, and we couldn't be more excited about that. Joe's cousin and her husband have just picked up their new little angel from the Los Angeles airport this evening! They adopted her from Kazakhstan and it's been a long, grueling process. I have admired their patience and strength throughout and hope Joe and I are able to get through our adoption process with half as much grace. Meeting their little angel will definitely make the weekend special for us!

As you can see, we're moving forward little by little! I will be sure to post updates over the next couple of weeks as we begin planning our fund-raisers and narrowing in on our "start date." If any of you have some creative ideas for fund-raisers, please let us know! We would appreciate any suggestions since neither of us has planned a fund-raiser before and feel a bit clueless!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Ethiopia - expedition 2006

Wow... make anyone else ready to go to Ethiopia?! I love the music, I need to get my hands on some Ethiopian music. Can you believe how beautiful Ethiopia is?

Monday, October 09, 2006

An evening of dreams...

What a weekend we've had! I hardly know where to start writing. My parents and brother came into town this past weekend for a visit. The timing of this particular visit was superb. On Friday evening, we were able to celebrate my birthday on the beach for a BBQ and campfire. I was so thrilled that Joe's fabulous aunt Pam and uncle Rick were able to join us. We had a relaxing evening chatting, watching the sun set, filling up on a huge spread of food and making s'mores. It was certainly a birthday to remember.

On Saturday evening we had the pleasure of attending the Mary Magdalene Dreamweaver silent auction fundraiser. The evening began with a train ride from Irvine to Los Angeles' Union Station. The train ride was fantastic. Rick and Pam met up with us at Irvine's train station and we all hopped aboard the train for the ride up to Los Angeles and an evening of adventure. While on the train my brother caught the attention of a fellow passenger since Zak was dressed in his dress blues. The gentleman treated Zak to a beer and brought "nibblies" to us all to enjoy. He found out that Joe was also in the military and then began talking with him as well.

Upon our arrival to Union Station, our party of seven made it through the train station and made our grand entrance to the event. In my most humble opinion, we all looked fabulous! Joe and I were able to meet some great people through my uncle Marty. He is the Executive Director of the Mary Magdalene Project and has accomplished amazing things during his time working there. In my opinion (though it may be a bit biased), he is a large part of what makes the event so successful. Joe and I placed bids on a variety of items, then made our way to our table to enjoy a fantastic dinner. After dinner is when the real amazement began. The LIVE auction! At the live auction a variety of "big ticket" items are sold. Last year Joe and I narrowly missed winning the auction on a safari in South Africa. Again this year the same safari trip was offered and we anxiously awaited the bidding for that particular item. However, we were rather disappointed when the bidding rather quickly went over our spending limit. Bummer... not in the cards again this year. But wait, now that we're not bidding, Uncle Rick was!!! We were both elated at the idea of them getting to enjoy a fabulous safari. Now Joe and I sat with fingers crossed, hoping that they would win and be able to travel to such an amazing country. Well, what do you know...??? They won the auction! We were extremely excited for them, and then COMPLETELY shocked when they gave the trip to us! After many tears from both Joe and I, we did our best to thank them for such an extraordinary and amazing gift. Can you believe it?! Apparently they weren't the only ones conspiring to get us the trip, as my parents were laughing later about how my dad was just about to start bidding when Rick's hand went up in the air. So now we have both my parents and Rick & Pam to thank! They all wanted it to be the first concrete trip to Africa during our adoption process. Since the dates on the trip are open-ended, we aren't completely sure yet if we'll try to coordinate the trip to our Ethiopia adoption dates, or take it sooner as a "vacation" in the midst of the adoption process... we're just not sure. I think it probably makes more sense to make them two separate trips so we can just focus on the adoption when we go over for that and not be trying to pack and plan for both trips at once! Besides, we're worried it wouldn't be a good idea for us to be so hard to reach the week before we pick up our baby!

So, at this point, Joe and I are high as kites and dreaming about our trip to South Africa when we learn there's another surprise! My parents won an amazing painting in the silent auction for the baby room. It is painting that was a photo of a zebra that was taken by the man that won the safari at the auction last year. He had an artist blow up the photo and turn it into this fabulous painting. It's so neat! I can see already that our little one is going to be so loved and quite spoiled! Uncle Marty has also already got our little one their first outfit! It's an adorable little brown, soft, furry bear sleeper. The feet on it look like little bear paws and on the hoodie there are bear ears!

We still can't believe the amazing kindness and generosity! We've been overwhelmed by the love and support of everyone so far since we announced our adoption journey. For all of that love and support, we thank you all. There are no words to express our appreciation and our excitement as we continue moving farther and farther in this journey.

As far as process with the adoption goes, we've narrowed down the list of agencies we're considering working with. We've heard some great things from families that have worked with each of the agencies we're considering, and now we figure we'll have to sit back and wait to make our decision until we're closer to starting the actual paperwork process. Things change regularly as far as the fees, timelines, and requirements with each of the agencies and we know things with each of them may have changed when we're ready to start in April. Ahhhhh... April. Only 6 months to go. In the mean time, I'm starting to work my way through a list of recommended books on Africa, Ethiopia, Adoption, and Transracial Adoptions. I'm starting with a book titled "There's No Me Without You" by Melissa Faye Green. Other books in the "must read" list are:

  • I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla -Marguerite White
  • My Father's Daughter -Hannah Pool
  • Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria -Beverly Daniel Tatum
  • Black Baby, White Hands -Jaiya John
  • The Language of Blood -Jane Jeong Trenka
  • Outsiders Within -Jane Jeong Trenka
  • Beyond Good Intentions: A Mother Reflects on Raising Internationally Adopted Children -Cheri Register
  • Weaving a Family: Untangling Race and Adoption -Barbara Katz Rothman
  • Love in the Driest Season - Neely Tucker

If there are any other that any of you know of, please let me know! Joe is busy with classes, but I have lots of time to read and continue preparing for the trials of adoption and having a transracial family.

I'd better get back to visiting with mom, dad, and Zak now since they fly out first thing in the morning. It always seems like time flies when we have loved ones visiting. Hopefully mom and dad will get to move soon so we won't have so many of these whirlwind, activity packed weekends so often!!!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A few recent photos of us

May 2006
Joe and I at a fountain outside the Venetian Hotel after seeing the Blue Man Group perform on Mother's Day weekend.

August 19, 2006
An evening atop the peak overlooking Vail during our August trip to Colorado for an army marriage retreat and visit with family and friends.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Our weekend of clarity

Hello Everyone! Thank you so much for taking the time to read our story and follow along with our adventure! We hope you enjoy hearing our tale as it unfolds before us over the next year or two.

One week ago today, Joe and I made a life changing decision. After years of talking, planning and waiting, we had a moment of clarity and a calling of fate to begin our journey into parenthood. However, this calling is leading us down a path that is somewhat less traditional. We have chosen to begin our family by adopting! For those of you that know me very well, you'll know that adoption is something that has been a part of my life since I was young. I've known that I wanted to use international adoption as a way to create my family ever since my parents brought the idea into my life back in 1989 or 1990. I just knew it was a route I would eventually take. The idea of international adoption is something that has excited me beyond reason for years, and I guess that fits perfectly with my love and facination with all cultures, histories, races, and backgrounds that are anything different than my own. Many of you know my obsession with international travel to quench my thirst for exposure to people from all geographies in our world. The more I've traveled, the more it's been cemented in my heart that I would one day do everything in my power to welcome a wonderful little angel into my family through international adoption. Luckily for me, Joe feels much the same as I do in his reasons for wishing to adopt! He believes that adoption is an amazing way to create a family and that with all of the precious little ones currently in orphanages around the world, just waiting for a family, how could we not go this route? We have not chosen this route because of an infertility issue (as we haven't yet tried for biological children), we feel this is just the route our hearts are willing us to take right now. For us, we're also excited that we've chosen this child, and they will always know they weren't a backup plan for us. They were meant to be with us because although our future little one wasn't grown below my heart, they WERE grown in our hearts. As for the future... I imagine we'll be adding to our family through biological means too at some point, however, right now we know this is what's right for us. We realize this is a difficult path to take, and the journey will certainly test our strength, patience, finances and parenting abilities. Our choice is by no means one that we take lightly. Joe and I are completely and totally committed to each other and our future child and we will ride out this adventure through wherever it takes us.

Before I begin explaining our reasons for choosing to adopt from Ethiopia, I thought I should quickly mention our estimated timeline for this process. We are planning to apply for adoption with an Ethiopia program sometime in April 2007. We aren't starting the adoption sooner because we still need to make our final decision as to which adoption agency we'll be working with (and there are no placement agencies in California that do Ethiopian adoptions!), and we are also hoping to finish up the last of our house projects. In addition to that... The adoption is rather expensive so we're hoping to get some money saved up by then in order to get the process going. Once we apply in April, it will probably be about 1 year until we travel to Ethiopia to bring our angel home. After the application is submitted, we'll begin our homestudy process (this takes people anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months to complete) and gathering all of the necessary documents for our dossier. Once the dossier is completed, authenticated, notarized, certified and accepted we will finally be officially waiting for our referral. Once we get a referral for a child and accept it, it is generally about 8-10 weeks before you travel to Ethiopia for about a week to get your baby. Ahhh.... Patience will certainly be a virtue!

Now, I'm sure many of you are wondering how we came to chose Ethiopia as the country to adopt from. There are so many amazing children in so many countries around the world, I will tell you I thought it was going to be a very difficult decision to make. However, as I began doing some adoption research (immediately following the discussion last Saturday which lead Joe and I to agree it was time to start doing our adoption research), I kept being drawn to the Ethiopian adoption programs. I looked at more adoption agencies' websites than I could even count, and at each website that had a program in Ethiopia, I ended up feeling a strong draw and connection. I don't know if I could fully explain it, so I'll give you some of the more concrete reasons that we love the Ethiopian programs.

First of all, there is an estimated 4.5 million orphaned children in Ethiopia. Let me say that again... FOUR and a HALF MILLION! And that number is growing every day. Many of these children are orphaned because their parents have died (many from HIV/AIDS & Tuberculosis), or because their parents are so incredibly poor that they cannot possibly care for their child. I'm sure many of you are wondering if any of the children are HIV positive, or sick with any other diseases, but let me assure you they are quite healthy. The do HIV tests when they arrive at the orphanage and then again at 3 months. You need a special license to even adopt an HIV+ child and those children are kept in special orphanages for HIV+ children so they can get the care they need.

Secondly, abuse, neglect, etc. Towards the children is virtually nonexistent. That means there are fewer difficulties with various emotional and attachment issues. In Ethiopia, children are considered to be a national treasure, and they do everything they can to care for them. Although the children undoubtedly will have some effects from living in a non-family environment, they tend to be much less than in children from orphanages in Eastern European Block countries for example. Not that the children in those countries don't need a home too... we just feel for our first experience with parenting it would make it that much more difficult. In the Ethiopian placement orphanages the children are taken care of in situation where they have "nannies" that love and care for the children, and most of the agencies place children from orphanages where the infant to caretaker ratio is 2:1 (2 babies per nanny). That's phenomenal!

Another draw for us is the age of infants when they come home. Ethiopia is the country with the youngest placement ages. A child must be in the orphanage for a minimum of 3.5 months, but that means babies can come home as early as 4 months old! Since this is our first child, the idea that we could have such a young baby is very exciting. We are still deciding what age range we'll be considering, but I think our cut-off will be 3 years old. However, I think we'll be shooting for an infant. We'll figure more out about that during our homestudy when we start talking with a social worker. Boys are more readily available than girls since there are so many families requesting a little girl to adopt, so it's likely we'll end up with a little boy. But, just as with pregnancy, we're opening to letting the stork decide what's in store for us!

And lastly, as many of you probably know quite well, I'm completely in love with Africa. Our entire downstairs is decorated with African woodcarvings and paintings I got while in Tanzania and South Africa. I have a beautiful coffee table book on Africa I got last year around Christmas (for myself, yes... Shame on me!) that I look at frequently. I desperately wanted to go for a safari in Africa for our honeymoon, however the expense was a bit out of our reach! My point is, for whatever reason I've spent most of my life in love with a continent I just can't get enough of. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that my heart would draw me that way in adoption, should I?

So, now that you've come to understand some of our key reasons for adopting, and some of the biggest reasons we've chosen Ethiopia, I hope you'll feel free to ask any questions you may have! We are going to start looking for Ethiopian/African cultural events to attend as we feel that keeping our child actively involved in those activities as they grow is very important. We feel it will be an important part of their identity to be able to be exposed to other African Americans and Ethiopians so they can explore and embrace their heritage. Therefore, to learn as much as we can, Joe and I are planning to start looking for events to attend and groups we can become a part of right away. I am so unbelievably excited to meet people from Ethiopia right now and also other families that have adopted or are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia. Just another way to get some exposure, ask questions, and get geared up to start the adoption!

I hope this first blog helps to start to clarify our reasons for selecting this path. My heart is filled with hope and anticipation for the adoption journey that is soon to begin. Now, if only I could figure out a way to slow the excited beating of my heart for another 6 or 7 months. As I think anyone could attest to, I am NOT the most patient person and now that we've made up our minds I'm ready to move forward right now! Eeks!

Our love to you all. We hope the fall is off to a great start for each and every one of you. Have the leaves begun to change colors yet in other areas of the country? It's still a bit hard to get used the "lack" of seasons here in Southern California after spending most of my life in Colorado with snowy winters!