Monday, December 21, 2015

Fundraising and Savings Update #5 Plus a Goal Change

We have good news and bad news vis-a-vis fundraising / savings. The good news is that we have now raised $11,947.67  and saved $9,640.62 (having two jobs really helps) for a grand total of $21,588.29. Thank you! We are definitely on pace to meet our original goal of $24,180.

The bad news is that we have to adjust our original goal to a higher amount. Right before we submitted our application to our placement agency (St. Joseph's), we learned through conversation with the director that we really should be anticipating around $35,000 total for all the adoption costs, given the latest trends in birthparent expenses and fees paid to the adoption professionals in whatever state the child is born. (Our agency networks with a number of agencies in different states.) We decided we were going to still go with this placement agency because even with these additional fees it is still comparable nationally to other agencies. Hence, our goal has risen from $24,180 to $34,180 (see our adoption costs page here).

This is discouraging, but we know the Lord will provide as He has done in the past through your donations, our jobs, etc. This is just another test of how much we trust the Lord and another sacrifice to enlarge our hearts with love for our child. We also are going to apply for adoption grants in the new year and work our tails off at saving through being extra frugal.

So we pray with confident hope that God will help make this dream of motherhood, fatherhood, and above all a loving home for a child in desperate need come true. This is our prayer, our miracle we pray for this Christmas season. If you think of it, then please remember us in your prayers.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Our First Roller-Coaster Ride with a Possible Adoption Situation

It probably is cliché to say that trying to adopt is an emotional roller coaster ride....lots of ups and downs, exhilaration and terror, disappointments and fast-moving decisions to be made.

n.b. we actually both love real-life roller-coasters!

This past week or so, we experienced our first taste of the adoption roller-coaster. (Spoiler alert - because we don't want to get anyone's hopes up - this doesn't end in us adopting.)

Now that we're home study approved, we're in the process of applying to the agency we'll work with to connect us with adoption situations (St. Joseph's in Kansas City). But a few days before we planned to send in our application, we got an email from our home study agency in Maryland about a potential adoption situation. A mom was thinking about placing her toddler son in an adoptive home, and were any of the "waiting families" interested?

We got that email Thursday December 3rd and had until Monday December 7th to say yes or no to having our profile shown. Thursday night we scrambled to get our profile done - just in case - and we also spoke confidentially to an adoptive family we know, asking their advice. (They had adopted a toddler - this was something we really hadn't looked into.) Bethany asked about toddler adoption in a Facebook group with adoptive parents and got some great advice. And we prayed a lot!! This felt like a really momentous thing, the first time we would have our profile book shown, the first time we'd have a chance at being chosen, maybe even becoming part of our child's story of how he/she came into our family...there's just no way to completely stop your mind from wandering, from thinking "this might be IT....."

It's crazy how fast everything moves too! Thursday to Monday is not that long a time to make a decision that could potentially change our lives forever. So we decided to say "yes" and ask the agency to show our profile. Making that decision was terrifying and exhilarating all at once! At the core, it felt like a "yes" to life. A "yes" to the possibility of welcoming a little one into our home, even with so many question marks about what it would be like. Not seeing the entirety of the road ahead, we felt comfortable and at peace with saying yes to this step. it turns out, the mom got more counseling from our agency over the weekend, changed her mind, and we got an email Monday night saying that she decided she did really want to keep parenting. The agency is going to connect her with whatever supports they can to make that possible.

Not gonna lie: we're disappointed. It would have been amazing to have our very first adoption possibility turn into an actual adoption. And of course we are so excited to be parents!! While trying to stay grounded and in the present moment, we did daydream about little feet running around our home, a little child to read to and love, and so on. And we could not help but think about our first Christmas with a precious child bopping around, wide-eyed at the wonder of life. Those dreams will have to wait a bit longer and it is so hard, especially around Christmas.

At the same time, throughout the weekend we had been praying for God's will to be done and for the best situation to happen for this mom and her little boy. We hope and pray this is it! At the least, this little guy won't have to go through being separated from his mom - even when that ends with a fantastic new adoptive family, it's still a loss for the child and his first mom/parents. So we pray for blessings upon this family and we believe that this situation was brought into our lives so we can intercede for this mother and child, both of whom are going through very difficult circumstances this Christmas.

Whew. The roller coaster is real. This was a very vivid first taste of the ups and downs in adoption - getting hopes up, trying to stay detached from a particular situation, praying for the best outcome for everyone, whether or not that means us adopting right now. We know we're so early in the process, and of course have no way of knowing how many more "rides" we'll be on. Please keep praying and thank you for your support!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

National Adoption Day

Every November 21st is National Adoption Day!

Here are a few things you can do to celebrate today.

1.) If you know of anyone involved with adoption (whether that be an adoptee, adopted family, or a birth parent), then give them a good word of support today or say a prayer for them. Tell them you are happy to celebrate National Adoption Day with them. Hint hint: we love prayers and encouragement. But seriously, reach out to anyone you know!

2.) If you have any desire to learn more about adoption or extra free time, then we encourage you to educate yourselves about adoption. Today is a great day to start to do so. Check out our bookshelf:

3.) Get out your favorite drink, whether that be wine or hot chocolate, and toast with your family to the beautiful reality of adoption and muse the mystery of adoption in your own life. While not the same as being adopted by a family, we are all adopted children of God (cf. Romans 8: 23). It is interesting to ponder what this may mean for how we think about adoption and how we should teach our children about adoption. Perhaps we will explore this theme in the future in a later piece.


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Fundraising and Savings Update #4 Plus "Two Coins for You"

Fundraising and Savings Update #4

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! We just wanted to update you about how the fundraising and savings are going. Through your support and working two jobs now (Dan started working full-time at the end of August while still writing his dissertation), the Lord has really blessed us with a miracle of provision. Before we offer a reflection on all of this, we will just cut to the chase: we currently have raised $11,252 from donations and we have saved a total of $7,296 towards the adoption for a grand total of $18,548!!! Therefore, we are in great shape for the adoption and just in time for some of the biggest expenses coming up (placement agency fees of $4,500 plus when we get matched we will pay birth parent expenses that could be anywhere from $0-$3,000 or more [see our adoption costs page for more details]).

Now, we just want to reflect upon this blessing. We are so humbled by your generosity. With any gift or donation of any size, we realize we are on the receiving end of a sacrifice to make this gift possible. This naturally reminded us of today's Gospel passage of the widow from Mark 12: 38-44. In this passage, we read the following:

"Jesus sat down opposite the treasury
and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury.
Many rich people put in large sums.
A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.
Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them,
'Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more
than all the other contributors to the treasury.
For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had,
her whole livelihood.'"

Now, as we heard this, we couldn't help but think about our generous benefactors and feel like we are on the receiving end of that widow's generosity, as we know many of you who gave are in financially tight places, like the widow. You may have not given your last two coins, but we know you have sacrificed in the spirit of the Gospel and we are humbled. You are making possible this beautiful adoption.

We think the best way we can re-pay you is to make sacrifices, in turn, like you and the widow. We are working hard at saving all we can for the adoption, but more importantly we are trying to cultivate in our hearts a self-sacrificial love for the child who will be placed in our arms, for the birth parents, and for everyone. It starts with prayer, offering up inconveniences and sufferings to the Lord, and just trying to do loving acts of kindness, when we can, to those around us - even when this is difficult.

So, inspired by your generosity and the Gospel, we would like to continue this path of sacrifice by simply loving you with what little we have this week - "two little coins" of prayer. If you dear benefactors, or anyone who reads this blog, are in need of a prayer, then please feel free to email us using the "contact us" tab and send us your intentions. We will write your intention down in a private journal and keep you in our daily prayers (coin #1) as well as offer up our difficulties along the road of adoption for you (coin #2).

widows-mite.jpg (300×240)

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Next Steps after the Home Study

So now what happens after the home study?

Now we put a basket on our doorstep and wait for the stork to drop off the baby, haha :) Nope - there is still more to do! But we really have come quite a long way, and are so grateful for everyone's support and prayers.

Here's our to-do list going forward:

1. Catch our breath and take a breather for a week or two.

2. Apply to St. Joseph Adoption Ministry (Kansas City, KS), which will be our matching & placement agency, meaning that they are the ones who will connect us with potential adoption situations and once (God willing) one works out, they will handle the legal paperwork to make us the adoptive parents of our new son or daughter. The application process for them is nowhere near as long as the home study, since they receive the full home study report from our Maryland agency. But we do need to do some extra things like get a letter of reference from our pastor, attend an infant CPR course, etc.

3. Create our "profile book" which is a picture + text book about us, what life is like in our family, where we live, what we like to do, etc., that will be shown to birth parents considering an adoption plan for their child, so they can see if they want to choose us. Basically the most important crafty project we've ever done!! Is there a patron saint of really, really important crafts? Hmm.... Christ worked in a woodshop so . . .Christ send us your craftiness!

4. Once we're accepted by St. Joseph's and have our books ready to go (multiple copies to send multiple places - our future baby could be born in one of a number of states), then we're in the waiting pool, ready to wait and pray that God would send us the child he has chosen for us. We will be officially a Waiting Family, although we have been waiting for a child for quite some time! So we think this a misnomer.

We will keep you posted! Again THANK YOU for supporting us throughout this pilgrimage, cheering us on, and giving us spiritual and material support. It has been a true journey of faith, hope and love so far. Please continue to pray for us.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Home Study DONE! We are approved!!!

Wow - a lot has happened since our last post about the adoption process! On August 28, we handed in the rest of our home study paperwork, which meant that we could start the interview phase of the home study. As it turned out, we were able to schedule all the interviews in September, which was perfect because Bethany had a long work trip in October.

To cut to the chase: we finished the final interview on September 29 and were officially approved to ADOPT on October 14th ! **Cue the fireworks here!!**

So that's the big, exciting news. Before we outline what comes next, we want to share a little about what the interview process was like.

First of all, our social worker (we'll call her "Debbie") was wonderful. She was experienced, professional, very friendly, timely, and efficient - basically all the qualities you want in a social worker who is interviewing you. She was very easy to work with, including working around our busy schedules and coming to our home for all of the interviews so we didn't have to drive to the agency. Not that we've ever done this before, but it felt like having the interviews in our home was more comfortable and relaxing rather than the office-like environment of our agency. Plus our social worker had several opportunities to see our home, which we personally think is pretty, well, homey :)

Interview #1 - September 11
This was our first meeting with Debbie, so we were kinda nervous! The night before we cleaned our home - not to a crazy level of white-glove clean, but respectable. Dan set out a platter of chocolates and a tray of tea in case Debbie wanted any. Oh, and the interview was in the early afternoon so we both worked that morning and then hurried home right after lunch.

Debbie was so friendly right away. She seemed very motherly and kind, which put us at ease. We gave her the 60-second tour of our digs, and then settled down in the living room to chat. She explained the process to us: she had a number of questions to ask us, and although there was time for us to talk leisurely, she might need to switch topics from time to time in order to cover everything. She also explained that the process was meant to be transparent, meaning that if anything came up that might be a potential issue, she would address it with us - we'd never get a letter in the mail saying "sorry, you fail" or anything like that. We would know ahead of time if there was a problem. And she said she would take lots of notes during our conversations to make sure not to miss anything.

This session had some pretty intense topics: she asked about us as a couple, how we met, our strengths and weakness, what we love about each other; she asked how we came to the decision to adopt, so that involved sharing about our infertility, which is always challenging because it is personal and still quite sad; and then we talked for a long time about our parameters for the child we were hoping to adopt: boy/girl, race, medical issues, family background, etc. With all of these topics, part of the social worker's job is to help us address and work through any lingering questions we have about anything related to adoption, and Debbie was also able to provide guidance along the way if we wanted it.

All in all, we spoke for about an hour and a half, and it was pretty exciting, but also tiring. But overall, we thought it went well!

Interview #2 and #3 - September 17

This was a two-for-one special. Debbie came to our home in the morning, and first talked with Dan individually, then with me. This was a chance to get to know us a little more, and to talk more in depth about our respective backgrounds: family, childhood, education, career, etc. Topics included the composition of our families of origin, how our parents raised us, our experiences in elementary school, high school, and college, and our job history. It was all very comfortable and rather pleasant. (Who doesn't like to talk about themselves?)

Side-note: In-person reference interview - September 19

Part of the home study process was to have four references submit written letters about us to the agency. One of those references later needed to be interviewed in person. Our original choice for the in-person interview ended up not being able to make it work (they had moved quite a ways out of town earlier in the Spring), so another reference kindly made the time to come visit and meet with Debbie in person. Anecdotally: the plan was that Bethany would watch their two oldest kids while they went to a coffee shop with Debbie (Dan had a work event that morning). Well, their oldest son decided we needed a little more hands-on parenting practice, and got sick at breakfast! It was providential though - yes a kid throwing up was providential - because our friends were able to tell Debbie, "Yes, I think Dan and Bethany will be good parents - after all, they're cleaning up our son's throw-up right now and taking care of him while he's sick!" Ha ha (and no we didn't know they were going to do that!). The reference interview went fine too.

Interview #4 - September 29

This one took place in the evening, the day after we got back from a week-long trip to Philadelphia to attend the World Meeting of Families and see the pope. Needless to say, we were a bit tired! Thankfully we had enough energy to do the interview and sound decently coherent. The main topic for this session was our ideas about parenting, and specifically about parenting an adopted child. Debbie asked us questions about what we think will be our strengths and weaknesses as parents, how we plan to discipline our child, and so on. And we talked through our thoughts on the needs our child will have by being adopted and how we will help him or her cope with the loss that comes with any adoption.

We talked about our thoughts about open adoption and having an ongoing relationship with the birthmother and/or birthfather (which we are open to). And we talked about what we've learned and thought about regarding interracial adoption (which we are also open to). Debbie had a lot of good parenting tips and was very encouraging to us in regards to the transition from being a family of two adults to a family with a little baby. As much as we so, so much desire to be parents, sleep deprivation will still be real! We talked through what that will look like, particularly with adoption where time spent bonding with your child is so important.

At the end of this interview, Debbie said that she doesn't see any red flags, and doesn't see any reason why we wouldn't be approved. That was sweet music to our ears!! She also said that she was almost finished writing up the home study report and that the director of the agency would send it to us in about two weeks to see if we had any edits about factual evidence. Awesome!

Receive draft of home study - October 6

It took less than two weeks for our agency director to email us our home study. We then had the chance to read it in its entirety, see what it said about us, and correct anything - mainly the corrections would be misspellings of names and factual things that were missed.

It was strange reading a 15-page report all about us! It actually was quite moving in a way. The report outlined our life's journey to this point - our childhoods and upbringing, how we met, dated and got married, our struggles with infertility that led us to the decision to adopt. Reading it brought up a lot of emotions and memories, and on a spiritual note a distinct sense of God's presence throughout the ups and downs of our lives so far.

The most beautiful words came at the very end where they officially approved us, right before Debbie and our agency director had a spot to sign off on the report!!! Again, music to our ears!!! Never has dry, bureaucratic language been so lovely! Those sentences are the culmination of a process that began officially on April 2, 2015 when we began filling out the adoption application - and of course before that, when we decided to pursue adoption and discerned the best time to start - and most cosmically, when God chose this particular path for us, that here we are now, approved to adopt.

Pretty awesome.

Next post = Next Steps (stay tuned)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Praying with Pope Francis for Our Adopted Child!!!

Last week, Bethany and I had the privilege to attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia because Bethany was there for work. What an incredible gift! It was a blessed time for our family and our marriage feels strengthened and renewed! We had many highlights during the week from having a lunch with an Argentinian family, who packed up everything they had to travel with their family for a whole year throughout North and South America in a 1989 VW van (you can check out their blog here:, to listening to great speakers, such as Bishop Robert Barron and Pastor Rick Warren. We got a chance to catch up with good friends of ours from Vancouver - Felipe and Veronica (along with their sweet daughter). We venerated the first-class relics of St. Maria Goretti and St. Padre Pio. Saw children get kissed by the Pope, like this adorable one dressed up in a Pope outfit: (PS - if anyone would like to make a similar outfit for our adopted baby, we won't resist :-) ) Not to mention, an awesome festival of families featuring top musical performers and families who personally witnessed to the beauty of marriage and family. Lots to be grateful about. It was an amazing time of grace and joy.

The moment that was the best was meeting and praying with Pope Francis. He drove by us only a few feet away. Then, 1 million people gathered together for Mass on the packed Benjamin Franklin Parkway (with another reported half million unfortunately unable to enter due to the slog at the security check points)! We were able to get in and to pray with the largest Mass crowd we have ever experienced. Providentially, out of the millions of people and thousands of priests who were handing out communion, we also got to receive communion from our good friend Fr. Ambrose Little! What a grace!

We really appreciate Pope Francis' down to earth style and fatherly heart for the family to be a "miracle" of love in today's society, which "threatens perhaps the family more than any other time in the history of man." He offered the challenge to "make peace with your spouse every night" and to ask yourself one question, "In your house, do you shout? Or, do you speak with love and tenderness? It is a good way of measuring our love."

As the Pope led us in the Mass, we silently offered it up for many intentions (for our families, friends, you our fellow blog readers :-) , etc.), but our primary intention was for our adopted child to be as well as the birth parent(s), who will make such a hard and heroic decision. Who knows, our child may already be conceived?! If so, then he or she had two parents ready for him or her and praying in the midst of one million people for his or her loving presence in our family! As Pope Francis said and we prayed, "May our children find in us models and incentives to communion! Not divisions. May our children find in us men and women capable of joining others in bringing to full flower all the good seeds which the Father has sown!" (Here is the full transcript of his homily.) Amen.

Here is a picture of us below at the event. Enjoy:

Please continue to pray for us! Viva la familia! (And Pope Francis please come back soon :-) ).

Oh and here is one more funny thing: Pope Corgi . Hahahaha, yes even dogs enjoyed the Pope's visit, I mean he is named after Francis for a reason!

Friday, August 28, 2015

The last of our home study paperwork is handed in and a cool spiritual connection!

Big Home Study Update
We have been diligently working through our home study paperwork since we received the stack of forms and instructions back in mid-June. Today we're happy to report that we took the very last set of forms to our agency and handed them in!

All in all, everything came together beautifully.

We didn't take a picture at the agency - after all, the scene itself is not that exciting (us, a file folder, in an office) but we did take a few at the Mexican restaurant we went to afterwards to celebrate:

Watermelon margarita - YUM

Tamales and a guava-rita almost finished - also YUM
After dinner, we had a fun relaxing time at the nearby Barnes & Nobles. Not going to lie: it's been a bit stressful getting together all the forms, waiting for state & federal clearances, making sure we're on top of things, all while working and doing all the normal life stuff. It is absolutely worth it, but we were so happy to have this done and get to relax! It feels like a huge burden lifted to have all the forms in. And we're so grateful for everyone's support along the way.

What Happens Next
In addition to handing in our paperwork, we also gave the agency a hefty check ($3,000) to start the next and final stage of the home study. After the agency staff reviews our paperwork to make sure nothing is missing (a possibility with 50+ forms and over 200 pages of documents!) we will be assigned a social worker. He or she will contact us to set up four interviews:

1. Together, in the agency office
2. Dan alone
3. Bethany alone - these are to ensure that neither of us is feeling pressured to adopt, which we can assure them is not the case!
4. Together, in our home - the "home visit" that's kind of the capstone to the whole home study process

Our social worker will also meet with our in-person reference, as one more check that we're sane and stable and would be decently good parents. After those interviews are done, the social worker will write up the actual "home study" which is an official document - a report about us - that states our readiness to adopt, and can be shared with other agencies, adoption attorneys, etc. as acceptable proof that we've been verified and vetted. This report usually takes the social worker 4 to 6 weeks to complete.

As far as a timeline, because of some work travel coming up for Bethany later in the Fall, we are very much hoping to complete the interviews in September and have the home study report written by November. Here's hoping!

Significance of the Day
On a side but not unrelated note: today's feast is a meaningful one for us - Saint Augustine. Here's a bio if you don't know much about him. Both of us have studied his writings, particularly his famous Confessions and De Trinitate (On the Trinity), in college and grad school, and have been moved by his journey to faith and ardent preaching of the Gospel. But here's the personal connection that's really neat for today: we spent our honeymoon in Rome, and one of the many churches we visited was Sant'Agostino:

Like so many churches in Rome, there were a few surprises inside. One was that St. Monica (Augustine's mother, who prayed for his conversion for years) is buried here. (!!) Another was that there was a little alcove in the back dedicated to Mary as Our Lady of Childbirth:

The medals, and blue and pink pillows on the right hand side are tokens of gratitude brought by parents after a son or daughter was born. This is a popular place to pray for the gift of a child, and for safe delivery of that child.

You are probably getting the connection...! At the time we were in Rome, just a few days / weeks married, we were of course blissfully unaware that children don't always come when you want them to. We prayed at this altar for the gift of children, yes, without realizing at all how many years it would take (may still take) until, God willing, we too could go into Sant'Agostino and leave a token of our gratitude, something we would absolutely love to do someday. We often think of that shrine and say a prayer to Our Lady for her intercession.

Needless to say - it was pretty neat to have an important day in our adoption pilgrimage coincide with a feast day that is personally significant for us because of its connection with our prayers for a child. Well played, God. Well played :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The adoption process is enlarging our hearts

by Dan

"The worst form of a prison is a closed heart" - Saint John Paul II

I have often pondered these words and what it means to have an 'open heart' of love toward others. It is definitely not easy in a lot of cases and I am still learning. But one thing is for sure: the process of adoption opens hearts. I'd like to call it training in sanctity.

When Bethany and I began this process, we expected to have our hearts opened from the child we would welcome. And in many ways, our hearts have been already opened more than once toward this child yet to be placed in our home. Our hearts are open to him or her in our daily prayers, in the paperwork we do, in the studying up of parenting skills, in fund-raising and saving money, and in the sacrifices we make to prepare to love the child. But what we did not expect was that our hearts would be opened from contemplating and learning about welcoming the birth mother (and in very rare cases the birth father - and so for the purposes of this post we will just refer to the birth mother) as part of the process. Yet this is exactly what is occurring and let me explain a little bit.

One of the responses we get when we tell other people that we are pursuing open adoption, where there is the potential for ongoing contact with the birth mother, is worry for us and the child. People ask aloud, "What if the birth mother interferes with your parenting in a bad way?" or "What if she will not be able to let go and to move on with her life?" Well, those are good questions that have been addressed in our parent training and ones that we have pondered a lot. But I think the questions must be proceeded by another question. The first question we should be asking is, "How can we not involve and love the birth mother (unless she does not want involvement)?" The birth mother is the child's biological parent. We can never be that and there will be a special connection with the birth parent in a way the child won't be connected to us. Does that lessen our role as the child's mother and father and our unique connection as his or her parents? Absolutely not, but we need to respect that beautiful and profound reality of biological parenthood and the tremendous gift of the child that this mother is placing in our hands. What better way to honor these realities than to continue to have her involved in some way in the child's life?

Really, at the end of the day, adoption is not just about embracing the child, but also welcoming his or her biological parents into our family (if it is possible and they desire it). We do this to honor the child's biological connections, but more importantly we do it because as a Christian we are called to love all people because all are worthy of God's love as His beloved. This is radical, this is challenging, but this is the path to happiness when we have the courage to follow it.

This enlargement of our hearts to prepare a place for the birth parents was not expected when we started this journey and who knows how it will shake out in the concrete situation that awaits us, but open adoption is beautiful, "enlarging," and very Christian. It is about enlarging our hearts and this is a very good thing for us and for preparing to love the child.While open adoption may involve difficulties, we are called to open our hearts to it even if our hearts may be bruised. Just like one goes through "growing pains" as one matures and develops, so too are we willing to endure possible pain in order to grow our hearts. It is certainly a pilgrimage. Please pray for us that we may have a living, beating, LARGE heart for all involved as we welcome them into our home!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Home Study Update #2 and Fundraising Update #3: Closer All the Time

We continue to plod away at our home study paperwork and let us tell you - it's actually exciting and dramatic at times as you will see below (who would have thought that about paperwork?) ! And we continue to be blessed by people's generous donations to our adoption fund. Here are some updates from the past few weeks, mainly successes, one (short-lived) setback, a thrilling fire inspection, and as always a whole lot of fun (because we are doing this all for baby!).

More Paperwork Done

We got our fingerprints taken, which was interesting because there was no ink involved - it was all digital. And we completed all of the medical forms that needed to be done: a self-reported medical history that had to be signed by our doctor, a visit with our doctor for her to fill out a current health form, and lab work to test for HIV, tuberculosis, and a whole host of other things. It turned out that we had to spend a total of six hours at the doctor's office or lab over a few days. We forgot to fast the morning of our appointment (oops) so we had to go in for lab work the next morning. And after we got the TB test (a shot in the arm), we had to go back two days later to have it checked, and to pick up our lab work and the signed forms. So that made for a busy week, but thankfully it's all done and we are disease-free!

Bethany finished her autobiography, which was both fun to write and pretty challenging (and she will be signing copies of it soon! j/j). It was difficult to know what to say and not say in a four page, single-spaced history of one's life! The point of the autobiography is to introduce ourselves to the social worker so she can then ask us more in-depth questions at our interviews. Dan's is still in progress.

Forms Lost in the Mail
Bethany mailed a packet of forms from work, and kept checking...and checking...and checking to see if they'd arrived at the agency, and they didn't. It was pretty stressful. Several of the forms had to be originals, so if they were lost, we'd have to redo them from scratch, pay extra money etc. Not to mention that the forms had sensitive information like our social security numbers that we didn't like being "out there." Yikes!!!

Forms Found
Ten business days after mailing the forms, a few prayers to Saint Anthony (patron of lost items) and getting close to the point where we were going to give up, contact the post-office, and re-do the forms, they showed up at our house with a sticker that said "Unable To Deliver." What?! On one hand, we were thankful to God and St. Anthony. On the other hand, we couldn't figure out at all why they never arrived at our agency nine miles away! The envelope had the right address and exact postage. Whatever the reason, we were so relieved that they were found, and we have resolved to hand-deliver them going forward - it's just not worth the headache, even if it is certified mail. We take that this was a test of our resolve. Rest assured, we are more than committed!!!

Fire Inspection Passed
On August 3rd, a fire inspector from Prince George's County visited our house and declared it passable for purposes of adoption! This was very exciting because as we shared on our adoption timeline, the main reason that we moved to our current house was because our previous apartment (a basement apartment) didn't have windows in the bedroom and so most likely would not have been approved for an adoption. So it was very gratifying to complete this step of the process - and we're very happy we don't need to move again! Oh here is one funny moment from the inspection:

Fire Inspector: "Where is you CO detector? You need one near every furnace area."

Dan: "It's around here somewhere plugged in."

Dan then proceeds to look everywhere. Five minutes passed. He can't find it. Definitely not plugged in.

Fire Inspector: "You need a CO detector to pass."

Dan, getting frantic, proceeds to look all around to no avail. Another five long minutes pass. Fire inspector's patience getting tested and then speaks.

Fire Inspector: Leans an elbow on a table and says "Well, I don't think . . ." "Wait a second, what's this?"

Lo and behold, the fire inspector found our new CO detector . . . buried beneath some papers on a table! Thank you, fire inspector and how did that little guy get there?!

Dan: "Oh, there it is!" He sheepishly then plugs the CO detector into wall and vows never to move the CO detector again. Proceeds to say silently one Glory Be in thankfulness. The fire inspector is pleased and ready to move on.

House is now ready for baby from a fire safety perspective! Hoo - ya! 

All Reference Letters Received
Our agency told us that one of the main reasons home studies get delayed is because reference letters don't get sent in. We're happy to report that all four of our wonderful references sent in their letters, so we don't have anything to worry about there! And we assume they said good things about us, too :)
Thank you references (you know who you are)!

Fundraising Total So Far
Since our last update, we've been given another $1,395.46 from our generous friends and family. We are grateful! This brings our fundraising total to $7,709.46. Combined with our adoption savings, we are now at $11,327 - almost half of our goal! The list of names to add to our quilt keeps growing :)

Baby Stuff Bought
It's yard sale a lot of baby stuff is really cheap. In a leap of hope, we (okay - Bethany) have started buying up some basics that will come in handy for our little one, whenever he/she arrives: a little tub, a bouncy chair (which was tried out by a friend's baby, who seemed to enjoy it), some infant clothes and hats, two cloth diapers (in case we go that route), and some books and toys. This all feels quite surreal. Baby stuff has felt "off limits" for so long that we still can't wrap our minds around that this stuff will be for our baby some day. So we bought it, and it's in the closet, ready to go. So, here's hoping!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

What We Learned at our Parent Training: Part Two

Since our pre-adoptive parent training class was over a month ago, we think it's time to wrap this up! Haha (not like we've been doing anything in the meantime....!) For those who are interested, and for our own recollection, here's a list of other things that we learned at our parent training (which was excellent, and super helpful).

Naming an adopted child
This is something we both were interested in. It's one of those questions that seem obvious until you start thinking about it and realize that unlike a non-adopted child, a child placed for adoption has both biological parents and adoptive parents, each of whom may have a different name in mind. Our parent class affirmed that adoptive parents are able to name their child. What actually happens is that the birthparents choose the name that goes on the child's birth certificate. Then when the adoption is finalized about six months later, a new birth certificate is issued with the name chosen by the adoptive parents (if it's different). Sometimes adoptive parents try to honor the child's birthparents either by using the name they chose, or using a combination, for example choosing the first name and using the birthparent's preference as a middle name. And sometimes (depending on a lot of different things) the birthparents and adoptive parents discuss beforehand and agree on the child's name.

This was an topic that really brought out the uniqueness of adoption: the child has two sets of parents that are interested in his/her well-being, love him/her, and have a name in mind that expresses their hopes for the child or connections with their family, or whatever - all the reasons parents choose a particular name for their son or daughter.

We personally have some names in mind - still very much in the works, though!

On a related note: this is a beautiful video about adoption....definitely a tear-jerker! And all about a name...

Creating a Lifebook
A lifebook is basically a scrapbook that tells the story of your child's life, as well as your family's story pre-child. A lot of adoptive parents do this, and put in pictures of themselves, baby pictures of the child, maybe ticket stubs or receipts that relate to the travel for adoption, whatever. One reason this is good to do is that you can look through it with your child and talk about them being adopted as part of their life story. As the presenters said, if it's about the child, they'll love it :)

One example from the Internet, for an international - can't WAIT to start this!!!!

Challenges in Domestic Infant Adoption
Sobering....but good to know! They went over various challenges that we could face adopting domestically.
  • Uncertain wait time: you really don't know whether you'll get "the call" in one week, one year, or two years plus - this makes it difficult to plan for, not to mention the emotional, spiritual challenges associated with waiting (something we are relatively familiar with by now....)
  • The possibility of the birthparents changing their minds - meaning after the birth but before they relinquish their parental rights (it is very rare for an adoption to be contested after that point, and the birthparents would have to prove fraud or abuse to get the baby back)
  • Every state has different adoption regulations - there is very little consistency, which makes for a crazy patchwork of laws when adopting from a different state
  • Possible lack of the child's social or medical history, or it's inaccurate
  • Legal concerns re: missing birthfather (in case he shows up at the last minute and contests the adoption) - also just the sadness of not being able to tell your child anything about their birthfather
(We still think it's worth it :))

Hospital Time is the Birthmother's Time
This was a great point. Basically, the child belongs to his/her mother (biological mother) until the point that she (and maybe the birthfather, depending on the situation) signs papers relinquishing her parental rights. That means that in the hospital, it's her baby, and her time. The birthmother that spoke to us emphasized how much it meant to her to be able to create her own birth plan, choose who would be with her, choose when she would see the baby, etc.

I can only imagine that the time right before and after the baby's birth is high-tension, high-emotion for everyone! The birthmother still has the right to change her mind, and the potential adopting parents need to be respectful of that. It's not their baby yet. Also, there are a lot of emotions the birthmom experiences - other than the emotions of just giving birth, she has to face saying goodbye to the baby and often wants to spend a good chunk of uninterrupted time with him/her. That doesn't mean that she's going to change her mind - in fact, it's good for healing if she does stick with the adoption plan.

Transracial/Transcultural Adoption
This is when parents adopt a child from a different race or culture - especially a child who looks different from them. Part of adoption is learning about your child's birth culture and finding ways to keep that alive for him/her. Another part is making sure he/she feels at home in your culture too (which now belongs to them). Adopting transracially means becoming a "conspicuous family" - everywhere you go, people will notice you, maybe do a second-look. As parents, we need to help our child learn how to handle that. 

Adopting transracially is definitely something we are open to. We have that in our family already (Dan's nephew) and realize that while there are unique challenges with this, there are also unique blessings, like showing in a very concrete way that love transcends race or skin color, and also living as a family the universality of our faith family. (Not to mention our child will be adorable no matter what his/her skin color is :) :)) Anyway, we'll see what happens with that!

Attachment in Adoption
Babies that are adopted go through some extra transitions in their first few days. Not only do they have to leave the womb and adjust to the outside world, but they also have to leave the mother that they've been used to for the last nine months, and be held and nurtured by a different mother. They may have to be with a foster family for a few days or more, depending on the situation and risk. That's a lot of changes for a little one!

On our book list

Adopted children, then, need extra attachment-promoting care, meaning a few things:
  • Limiting caregivers and new faces for the first few weeks so the baby attaches strongly to mom and dad (this doesn't mean no one can visit - we're sure we'll need the help! But we as parents should be doing the lion's share to make sure our little one knows we are there for them. And for friends and family who generously want to help post-bringing-baby-home, I'm sure we can find plenty of things for you to do!)
  • Simplify the environment
  • Stable, consistent schedule
  • Eye contact and play
  • Avoid big parties (goes with the first idea - most likely the only "big" event those first few weeks would be the baptism)
  • Find what soothes the baby and do it - there is no worry at all in "spoiling" the baby
All of these things are good for any baby, for sure. But as said above, adopted babies arguably need extra care and attention because of the extra transitions they had to navigate in the first few weeks of their life.

Open Adoption
This means adoptions where there is some level of contact between the birthparents (and/or birth family) and adoptive parents. It could be as minimal as letters and pictures once a year, or visits every month, or anything in between. Like any relationship, this one needs good communication. Most importantly, it's about the child. It's become pretty clear that children benefit from having information about, and perhaps a relationship with, their birth origins. That can't always happen, but it's generally a good thing if it can. Our responsibility as adopting parents is to discern what level of openness we're open to. The worst thing we could do is promise more than we're comfortable with, and then scale back after the adoption - that can be heartbreaking for a birthmother.

The nice thing is that Barker helps you decide your comfort level with openness and contact, and is there every step of the way as the child grows, relationships change, maybe difficulties emerge, etc. Adoption is a lifelong thing - so is the relationship with the birthparents. Even if contact ceases (which happens not infrequently), our child's biological mother and father still remain a part of them, always.

Testimonies are Wonderful!
We had three "guest speakers" who shared their experiences with us: a birthmother (wow, was that moving), a young adult who was adopted, and a family who had adopted twice from Korea. All of them were amazing, and really put some flesh to the ideas we discussed throughout the day. All of them were unique - there's not really a "one size fits all" in adoption, although there are trends. And all of them helped us see the intricacies, complexities, and really the beauty and potential of adoption. Yes, there are definitely hard parts, for everyone involved. But there are also a lot of possibilities for healing, for strong family relationships, and for happy endings.

Any Questions?
We know we have some still! This really only glided over the things we discussed at our class. It gave us so much to reflect on and sparked some ideas we want to explore more. We welcome your questions if you have any about adoption. We will try our best to answer them, or find the answers. If you'd rather email us privately:

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Fundraising Update #2 and Home Study Update

Another fundraising update - another change to express our gratitude to those who have offered their financial support and prayers!

Since our last update, we have received another $2,487! This brings our total received to $6,314, which is awesome! Combined with our own savings, we are very near to the $10K mark at $9,932. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

This is something of a visual for the kind generosity we've been blessed to receive. It is a board in our living room where we display cards, photos, etc. Right now it's completely full of cards we received in the mail from friends and family supporting us in our adoption pilgrimage (with the exception of one Christmas-in-July card :))

This makes us happy each and every time we walk past it, and it's nice to open the cards and read the sweet messages again, too.

We also wanted to share this lovely card we received from three little kiddos who promised to teach our future child everything they know and share their toys :) It has a proud place on our fridge:

Again - thank you. We continue to be very touched by the donations we receive, as well as the pledges of prayers, which are so, so needed!

And, a quick home study update: we have been diligently working to get through the many forms needed for the home study. We've now sent in just about half of the forms (24 out of 50) and are working on several others. The ones we've sent in so far have been the easy ones - just sign & date, or fill in basic information like social security number, previous addresses, etc. We've had to get two forms notarized, and luckily Bethany has a notary at her work, so that wasn't too hard.

Next up: we're going to get fingerprinted for security clearances this week, and we have a doctor's appointment set up for next week (July 20) to get the medical forms filled out: our medical history, lab work, make sure we don't have contagious diseases, etc. Other pending forms include our autobiographies (which are in the works), financial forms and proof of all our assets and liabilities, the fire inspection, and the forms that our housemates are filling out plus our reference letters. Slowly but surely!

So far the experience hasn't been too difficult. It's gone relatively quickly, and our agency has been fantastic about responding to our many questions about the forms, to make sure we fill them out right the first time. It just feels great to be making progress toward a goal so dear to our hearts.

One last photo: this is command central, the box that holds all of our adoption info: our research leading up to our decision to adopt, our application, all the forms we've collected so far, folders for all the forms we have yet to get, and so on. Small but mighty! It holds a lot of hopes and dreams (yes - Bethany picked it out, Dan wanted a much more manly container like a steel enforced vault surrounded by vipers :-) )....

Sunday, July 5, 2015

What We Learned at our Parent Training: Part One

On June 20, we fulfilled an important step in the home study process by attending a pre-adoptive parent training group held at our agency. There is a LOT that we learn, which we'll space out over a few posts, both to share them with you and to reflect on them further ourselves.

[Sidenote: I - Bethany - couldn't help but think of all the times growing up when I'd ask my mom, "How did you know that?" when she amazed me with her extensive knowledge of the world, and she'd reply, "Oh, I learned it in Mom School" - which I thought was a real institution for an embarrassingly long time. Well, Mom, guess what? We've been to Mom & Dad School, and we have the certificate to prove it! :)]

The basics:
-- Six couples, including us
-- Two presenters, both social workers who work part-time for Barker doing home studies, one of whom was an adoptive mom
-- All day: 9:00 - 5:00
-- Three guest speakers: a birthmother, an adult adoptee, and an adoptive family
-- Six sessions (more or less) on various topics related to adoption
-- Lots of time for questions and discussion

1.) The first thing we learned: Everyone involved in an adoption has gains and losses.

"Everyone" here means the three main parties involved in any adoption:
1. The birthmother / birthfather / birth family placing the child for adoption
2. The adoptive parents
3. The child

All three parties experience adoption as both a gain, and a loss. The birthmother, etc. gains the security of knowing her child is going to be well taken care of; she losses the opportunity to parent her child herself. The adoptive parents gain the gift of the child, and parenthood; their loss is (usually) the inability to conceive a child from their own union (infertility) and/or the loss of not getting a chance to parent a genetically related child. The child gains a family to take care of him/her; he or she loses the chance to be raised by the same  mother and father who conceived him/her.

Describing adoption in this way made it clear that it's not just a one-time thing, like the adoption happens and then it's over. Rather, adoption continues to touch the lives of everyone involved, forever. At different points a person might feel the gains more keenly than the losses involved, or vice versa.

It was really helpful to take the time to try and see adoption from the birthmother's/birth family's perspective, and from the adopted child's perspective - not that we're able to do that completely, but it builds empathy and a sense that many people besides ourselves are affected by our adoption. It also impressed upon us that we are really welcoming not just a child, but also the birth mother in some way into our family.

Other Takeaways:
-- Adoption does not cure infertility, even though it cures childlessness. It's okay to still be sad about our infertility from time to time, even after adopting. Acknowledging and accepting our feelings, and healing as much as we can, will help us be even better parents to our child, who has also experienced a difficult loss. If we know the path of healing, then we will be that much better prepared to help our child toward healing from his or her own loss.
-- The main questions many birthmothers wonder about while deciding whether or not to place their child for adoption are, "Will my child be safe? Will my child be loved? What will the adoptive parents tell my child about me?" - we found these questions very poignant and touching.

2.) The second thing we learned: Our child's adoption story is his/hers alone.

This point came up multiple times. First, our child's adoption story is his or hers. This means that we as adoptive parents really should tell our son or daughter everything we know about the circumstances of their adoption, about their birthparents and extended birth family, etc. - even if it includes difficult elements. The presenters advised making adoption in general a normal topic of conversation in our family from early on, so it's not something mysterious or feared, but a part (one among many) of our family's life and our child's identity. And they advised sharing particular details at age-appropriate moments, especially if they involve our child learning difficult or sad things about his/her birthparents. But the whole story belongs to the child, and must be told.

Second, our child's adoption story is his or hers alone. It was stressed that we, the adoptive parents, should not share details about our child's adoption beyond very basic things concerning location, hospital, birth date, etc. This is particularly important regarding information about the birthparents - our child should hear information about them from us, and should be able to decide whether to tell others or not. This especially matters when such details are sensitive, or difficult to process - our child shouldn't hear them second-hand from someone else or think that others are discussing very personal things about his life and background.

We found these pointers very helpful!

Other Takeaways:
-- There are most likely going to be things our child wants to know about his/her birth family and their history, that we won't know. It's okay - even if hard - to say, "I don't know" and commiserate with the child that that is hard, not having all the answers about your biological heritage.
-- It's important that we help them process what it means to be adopted, and any points along the way when they learn more information, and not just say something big and then move on. A quieter child may be thinking about adoption, still, and keeping the invitation open to discuss it is important. Lots of in-depth conversations take place on car rides, or at bedtimes - the key is being available when the questions come up.
-- There are some great kids' books that can introduce the idea of adoption to a young child and make the concept familiar.

We learned a lot more! To be continued...

Monday, June 29, 2015

Fundraising Update #1

From time to time, we will give an update on how our fundraising is going, mainly to share our immense gratitude toward the friends and family who have generously contributed toward our adoption fees and services.

So far, since we have announced our plans to adopt earlier in June, we have been generously given $3,827. Combined with our savings, we have a total of $7,444 raised toward our adoption fees!

Nothing says "yay!!" like the minions

Woo hoo!!!

That is 30% of our goal already, in only a few weeks. Wow.

(In case you're wondering why the amount we received is an "odd" number, that is because one family's two oldest children each sent us a $1 bill. :) )

We have been very touched by each and every donation. More than once happy tears have come to our eyes. We know that no one "has" to give. We know that the people who wrote us a check or donated online or gave us cash don't have piles of money to spare. We know that they are raising kids and paying off school debt and saving for their own big life changes or hard earned vacations, and on and on. So each and every donation feels like "the widow's mite" (giving even when you don't have much; see Mark 12:41-44). For this act of love, we are so very humbled and grateful. Thank you for your love and sacrifice in order to help us become parents and to give a loving home to a child in need.

And we also very much feel the prayers of friends and family who are unable to give financially - those prayers are very much appreciated too! We truly believe in the power of intercessory prayer and we are grateful for that powerful gift.

We've also received a few unique gifts: a baby "how-to" book (to brush up on before the time comes!), two little onesies, a blanket, and a newborn sleep sack. Having these around our home are great reminders of our end goal of parenthood, to keep us moving forward! And we just can't believe these things relate to us now. (Dan was reading a book about parenting and said out loud, "It's great to read these books and think how it applies to us and not some other parents. It's so exciting!")

In conclusion: we have a lovely list of names waiting to be written on our baby's quilt and we were talking the other night about how beautiful it will be when our little one is able to talk and points to names on the quilt saying, "Mama, Daddy, tell me about this person and that person and who is he? Who is she?" and we can tell stories about our friends and family, how we met them, memories we had together, and most of all how generous they were to us - in so many ways. Your love will not be forgotten.

We'd like to end with a favorite Bible verse of ours that we would like to share with you as a small way of saying "thank you":

"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." 
- Luke 6:38

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Intake Meeting #2: All About the Home Study

On Tuesday, June 16, we had the second of two intake meetings at our agency. We first met with the family services specialist, and she clarified some questions we had from the last meeting, and just chatted with us for a while. She asked a few remaining questions that we didn't go over before, like about our families and whether they're supportive of us adopting (thankfully, the answer is a big YES!).

After that conversation finished, we discussed the home study process and paperwork. All the forms were explained to us, one by one.

Whew! There is a LOT of paperwork! We've done a good amount of reading about what takes place in an adoption, so it wasn't a huge shock to get form after form after form, but every state is slightly different, and our agency has some forms of their own design, too. We are optimistic about it all and recognize even this paperwork is a blessing. We are so incredibly grateful to be taking steps toward an adoption that even copious amounts of paperwork seems much more like a blessing, than a burden. And strangely, none of it feels overly invasive. Yes, it is making oneself vulnerable, but isn't that the nature of parenthood? We'd like to think all of this paperwork just begins in a very distant way to prepare us for that exciting time and sacrifice of parenting well our future beautiful child! But back to the meeting...

It took about 45 minutes to have everything explained. The staff was very gracious with all our questions. We definitely wanted to make sure we knew what to sign and where, what to fill out, what needs notarized, etc., to not waste time in having to do anything over.

Here's a sampling of the paperwork we'll have to do:

Some of the forms are basic "sign & date" forms: the fee agreement, service agreement (contract with the agency), etc. So those will be pleasantly easy.

We have to provide copies of our birth certificates and marriage certificate, our latest tax return, and proof of auto insurance.

We each have to write an autobiography, and we have to draw a floor plan of our house and show escape routes in case of a fire.

There are also some appointments we have to make with various entities: our doctor's office, to get physicals and lab work; the fire department, to do a fire inspection on our home; and the police department, to get fingerprinted and have a background check done.

We have to show all pertinent financial forms (savings, investments, etc.) and a typical monthly budget. We have to send in certified driving records and letters from our workplaces certifying our employment there.

Our two housemates also have to provide medical records and get fingerprinted, and even their dog will play a part! We have to submit up-to-date vaccination records for him.

We have to attend an in-day pre-adoptive parenting training (we did that on June 20) and two online education classes.

We had to choose four references to send in letters vouching for our suitability as adoptive parents.


Then, after all that paperwork is filled out, signed, notarized as needed, and mailed to our agency, we'll be assigned a social worker. He or she will meet with us four times: once at the agency, once in our home, and once with each of us individually. And the social worker will meet in person with one of our references.

Then after the visits are done, our social worker will write up what technically is the "home study." This is a formal document that summarizes the agency's evaluation of us as prospective adoptive parents. It can be shared with other agencies we might work with, as well as courts or lawyers, as needed.

So that's about it! Deep breath..... It seems like a lot - and it is - but we're confident that at the end, it will all be worth it. In fact, it already is. We are so grateful to even do paperwork. It is a small sacrifice compared to the birth mom's sacrifice and the great gift of being able to parent for the first time. And when you really stop to think about it, we would give so much more than paperwork (and we will) to love a precious child as our own and welcome him or her into our home . . . Wow!  Bring on the paper work!

"The joy of the Lord is your strength." - Neh. 8:10

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Welcome: We're Adopting!

We're adopting! How awesome is that?! We are really, really excited to be a mother and father.

We are excited you came by to meet us here in our cyber hang out, known by the term 'blog!'

Here on our website you will find all sorts of neat things about us and our adoption journey. This could be anything from our feelings in the moment, to updates about our progress with the adoption process or fundraising, posts about the spiritual sides of adoption and adoption in general, or fun pieces.

We hope this blog will be a place to share the joy of life as we embark on this incredible pilgrimage to fatherhood and motherhood. We have been desiring to be parents ever since we got married. We cannot wait! We are already preparing our home and our hearts every day, keeping this whole process in prayer. Could you pray for us too? Thanks! And we will see each other soon in the cyber space world on this blog! Please check back frequently to stay updated.

Going Public

As you can see from our Adoption Timeline, we've been thinking about adopting for quite a while: since before Sept. 2013, when we attended our first information session at a local agency. As we prayed and discerned about moving forward with adoption, we shared our plans and hopes with close friends and our immediate family, but not with many others. This was mainly because there wasn't really that much to share - many, many hopes and dreams, yes, but not a lot of concrete action. Also (as hopefully is understandable) sharing our desire to adopt is very close to our hearts and very personal. It's not really "small talk" material!

But now, in June 2015, we're ready and excited to "go public" with our adoption plans and share much more broadly, by letter, email, word of mouth, and Facebook. Concrete things have started to happen: we've applied to a local agency, been accepted, and begun the home study process. It feels surreal, after months and months of anticipation, to get official emails from our agency starting "Dear Prospective Parents..."! (We wonder if the adoption process is going to feel surreal throughout, maybe until the moment our son and daughter is in our arms.)

"Going public" is both thrilling and kind of terrifying! It's relieving, in a way, to let people in our lives know about something that's been so much a part of our thoughts, dreams, and prayers for the past few years. This is us! We are adopting! And like sharing anything so dear, it also feels vulnerable and kind of scary. We know adoption has impacted the lives of several people we know, and we're now joining that group, "touched by adoption".

We wanted to share our adoption plans broadly now because, for one thing, we really could use your support! Given that we're a distinct minority among our friends and family, as a couple who is adopting, we are very much in need of prayers and encouragement to keep taking steps forward in faith.

We also wanted to share because we feel strongly that this isn't just "our" story. We believe God has led us down this path, and we'd like our story in some small way be a witness to His goodness, generosity, and faithfulness. We hope that by sharing our experiences, with adoption and also with infertility (which has had such a big impact on our lives), we can provide a window into a unique way of sharing Christ's Cross and Resurrection - a path of challenge, but also of joy, hope, and healing.

We really expect nothing from anyone - your interest in us, your friendship, your spiritual and material support, all of it is GIFT, and we are so grateful. This is our story, our little slice of the human experience, and we're excited to share it with whoever may be interested.

"I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ."
- Phil 1:6

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Intake Meeting Part 1

Today we had the first of two intake meetings at our agency in Maryland, Barker Adoption Foundation. It was a pleasant surprise to find out that we'll be asked for payment at the next meeting, in June, which makes things easier on our May budget!

For this meeting, we met with the director of the domestic adoption program, Ann. She gave us an overview of everything that Barker provides, from the home study process through services to waiting parents (those approved to adopt and waiting for a child) and beyond. One thing we really appreciate about Barker is the amount of services they provide. For example, they recently held sessions for waiting parents on the ins and outs of car seats and on how to prepare for a quick turnaround placement (when you get "the call" that you've been chosen to adopt and have mere weeks or even days before you pick up your child). We feel like they will be helpful and informative along every step of the way.

Ann also had some questions for us about our application, so we talked through a few things. She shared candidly that the adoption process can be, or at least seem, quite intrusive. During the home study, we'll share very personal information about our past, our finances, and our ideas about parenting with people who are essentially strangers. That's just par for the course, so the agency can truly discern whether adoption is a good fit for a particular family, and also to help the prospective adoptive parents be as prepared as they can be. But it was good to hear that Barker recognizes the possible discomfort that can come with the process.

We talked with Ann about what led us to adoption, and she was happy to hear that we have adoption in both of our families, so it's not a foreign or mysterious concept to us, although I'm sure we have a lot to learn! We also talked through our plan to use another agency (St. Joseph's) in addition to Barker, and she gave us some helpful hints on what to ask St. Joseph's to make sure we're aware of all they offer and whether there are any potential gaps that might affect our decision to use them.

After meeting with Ann for about an hour and a half, we then met briefly with the family services specialist, Lisa, with whom we will meet for a longer time in June. It's at that meeting that we'll receive the stack of forms that we'll use in our home study. We opted to meet with Lisa in mid-June, after some travels that we already had planned. That way we'll be able to really dive in to the home study and make some good progress.

It feels great to be moving forward!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Adoption Application is Accepted!

by Bethany

On Friday May 1st, I got a phone call from the director of the domestic adoption program at our agency, telling me that our application has been approved by the application review board and that we can now set up an intake meeting to begin the home study.

Woo hoo!!!

Maybe it sounds silly, but Dan and I were a little - okay, a lot - nervous about our application being accepted. A lot of it was probably just the normal nervousness of starting something so huge and being dependent (definitely not for the last time) on the decisions of other people - strangers as of now - to move forward toward our dream of being parents. That's pretty nerve-wracking.

Both of us prayed a lot for our application to be accepted, and for peace no matter what.

As it turns out, we got the green light less than two weeks after the agency received our application, which to us is a great sign of their efficiency, and a good confirmation that we're a good fit with them.

The next step is what's called an intake meeting, which we are scheduling for mid-May. At this meeting, we will meet with agency staff and receive an overview of what the home study will entail. We'll also get the many forms that are needed for the home study, and get a chance to ask any questions we have.

Exciting stuff!

More about getting approved - largely so that we remember this moment:

I was actually on a bus en route to New York City when the agency called. I was heading up to Connecticut to attend my godson's baptism, and the bus had just arrived within view of the NYC skyline when my phone rang.

I didn't recognize the number, but saw that it was local, so I picked it up. It indeed was "the call" I had been waiting for, and my heart started to pound! I only just grasped what the director was saying - we've been approved, let's move forward - plus it was hard to hear on the bus - and was able to make a few brief replies before we concluded our conversation with the director telling me she would email me some meeting dates.

After hanging up, I had such a surge of joy! It felt so good to have concrete confirmation that we're actually doing this - we have actually started the adoption process. This is for real. So many emotions flooded my heart: joy, relief, peace, and excitement, for starters. I wish Dan had been with me, but he was several states away, running a weekend retreat for children of divorce. I texted him right away, and we were able to speak later that evening.

It was a very graced moment, and I hope it's a taste of moments to come filled with joy. (Of course, we know that there will probably be many moments of anxiety, uncertainty, and sorrow, too. But hopefully joy will have the last word!)

Getting the call on a Friday, too, was such a blessing, because I was able to relax and enjoy the weekend with my friends, especially my precious new godson!

With my new godson and my goddaughter!
Finally: May 1st was a special day to receive the good news about our application. It is the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker and the start of May, a month traditionally dedicated to Mary, our Blessed Mother. It looks like both Mary and Joseph are looking out for us!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Adoption Application is IN!

by Bethany

Today - April 20, 2015 - we are thrilled to share that we have mailed our adoption application!!

This is the first official step in becoming adoptive parents - and we're thrilled!

Glamorous parking-lot shot of us and our application - ready to be mailed!!

Over my lunch break, I drove to Dan's work (a few minutes down the road) and we went to Mass together, praying in thanksgiving to have arrived at this moment, and for the path ahead - for all the people that we'll meet along this journey, not least our child and his/her biological parents.

We also lit a candle in front of St. John Paul II's picture and asked for his intercession. And then I drove back to work and put the envelope in the mail. Wow! I don't think I've felt so jittery and excited about mailing something since we sent out our wedding invitations over four years ago!

About the application: it was 12 pages long, and covered basic information like our backgrounds, education, finances and health. We also had to provide four references (who our agency will contact), recent photos of each of us, and a big ol' fat check (first of many - yikes). We started filling it out on April 2nd, which has significance for us: it was Holy Thursday (our engagement anniversary) and also the 10th anniversary of St. John Paul II's death. We finished filling it out this past weekend.

Now, we wait to hear back from the agency. As long as we're approved, the next step is an intake meeting to get the many forms and instructions we need to start the home study, which will occupy us for the next several months. The intake also gives us a chance to meet the social workers and other personnel we'll be working with, and vice versa, and start building those relationships.

Ready, set, here we gooooooo!!!

Taken after mass, to remember what a beautiful Spring day it was

The Lord will give you the bread you need
and the water for which you thirst.
While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears:
"This is the way; walk in it."
- Isaiah 30:20-21

Sunday, April 12, 2015

"We're Adopting" Photo Shoot

by Bethany

To begin with, full credit goes to Dan for this idea! Back when we first started talking about adopting, he said that he really want to announce our adoption plans in a creative way. We've seen other people do this, and it seemed like a neat way to share such an important life step with "the world" - at least the small part of the world we know!

As Spring 2015 rolled around and we prepared our adoption application, we decided we wanted to do a photo shoot during our most favorite time of the year in DC, cherry blossom season.

We are blessed to live in a beautiful city, and Spring is arguably the most beautiful season here. After a dreary winter (sidenote for our Northern friends and family: yes, we have it easy compared to Erie and other points north!), it is oh-so-wonderful to see the first signs of Spring: flowers sprouting, and trees bursting into color everywhere you look. It even makes the work commute more bearable!

The shoot was Dan's idea; I was in charge of props.

In preparation of our shoot, I bought craft supplies from Michael's and fashioned a banner. My goal was to make it joyful and fun!

I also bought a fancy chalkboard and chalk, and after perusing Pinterest, I decided that the alphabet blocks from our toy box (for our visiting kid friends) would work great to spell out the name of our website. A nice tie-in with kids and playfulness!

We were blessed to have a perfect Spring day on a weekend for our photo shoot, and a willing photographer: our friend Ben, who Dan lived with before we got married, and who is now a seminarian studying to be a priest for our Archdiocese. (And who is going to Rome for 5 years of study!! Not that we're jealous...)

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception - one of our spiritual homes
The location of our photo shoot also had meaning for us. Dan want to Catholic University as an undergrad, and we met on the CUA campus when I moved to DC to start grad school. He asked me to be his girlfriend, and on our first dinner date, in a lovely little spot called Mary's Garden:

And we have spent many hours studying on CUA's campus, attending Mass at the Basilica, and just being together here. So it was a natural fit for us to take our "announcement" photos here!

The whole afternoon was just wonderful: sunny, happy, fun. At one point, a woman nearby read our banner and said, "Congratulations! What are your names? I will pray for you!'

Here are a few more shots:

And here we are with our photographer, Ben:

Afterwards, the three of us enjoyed some beers and soft pretzels at a nearby pub - it was the least we could do to express our gratitude to Ben!

All in all, we're both really pleased with how the photos turned out, and excited to share them with others! It was fun to do something really concrete, and it made the adoption seem that much more real: we have photo evidence now: We're Adopting.