1/27/10 - The Saga Continues

Mike spent time yesterday morning trying to get through to National Visa Center without any luck. I made it through at about 8:30pm but the computers were down! A very nice woman, who sounded disappointed that she couldn't help me, advised calling back in a few hours. I got through again at about 10:30pm and was told there was not a supervisor available to check if our updated information was on file and no I couldn't be put on hold but to try back in about 10 minutes or tomorrow. Needless to say, I tried back right away as it was taking anywhere from 5-15 minutes to get through. I did get through to a person again at 10:45pm and he said he had no new information for us but maybe the information would arrive tomorrow and to call back and talk to a supervisor then. He was not very compassionate! So Mike tried again this morning and was not able to get through.

So we called the big guns again - senator Dick Durbin's and Representative Melissa Bean's office.

I am so ready for this saga to be done!!! Please pray that we focus on how BIG God is and not how annoying this issue is!

1/25/10 - The New I-171H Form Arrives

Hallelujah!!!! Hallelujah!!!

An envelope bearing the return address United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) arrived in the mail today and Mike, knowing it was something important, opened it and left the beautiful form on the counter for me to see when I arrived home from work!!

Our new fingerprint expiration date is March 2011 and our approved age range reads from 0-6 years old!

Mike spent 45 minutes on the phone with National Visa Center (NVC) yesterday and was disconnected 3 times in an attempt to verify that they have also received the updated information. He'll try again today. Once we know NVC has the correct information, our agency can email the Embassy in Ethiopia to verify that they have been sent the information from NVC. Sound confusing - that's okay, just know we are ALMOST THERE!!! This form arriving means all the major legwork is complete and approved. All we need is two agencies to verify they have the information and we are done!!!!!!!

PRAISE: Please join us in praising God for this triumph!

PRAYER: That verifying the two agencies (NVC and The Embassy) have the corrected information goes smoothly and quickly!!

01/21/10 - Surprises from My Coworkers

We had our monthly staff meeting tonight at work and as we were beginning the meeting it was announced we were celebrating me and the adoption! Out came two big boxes:

And a cake (and I didn't even notice the guy at Target had spelled the word congratulations wrong until it was pointed out to me - hee! hee!)

For those of you who know me well, you'll know there is rarely times when I am speechless - tonight was one of them. I was totally surprise and totally blessed.

I brought one on the gifts home for Mike to open.

Now whenever I put my babies in the car and strap them in, I will be reminded of all my dear friends at work who have shared this journey with me and cheered me on, many from the beginning!

The Paper Chain

We're counting the days until we leave to get the boys!!!

1/21/10 - Update and HUGE PRAISE

A little after noon today an email arrived from USCIS saying our case had just been completed and we would be receiving a new I-171H form within a few days - PRAISE GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Let me back up a day: After receiving no answer from USCIS in response to an email sent by me Tuesday night, Mike called our federal senator and representative as well as local to ask for help. After work, I faxed our Privacy Act Release Forms to both our senator and representative's offices. By 10am this morning there was an email from USCIS stating they had received our requests and specifically wanted to know, in writing (but email form was fine) from both parents (to which I signed both Mike's and my name to the email) what we wanted changed or amended to our original form. I replied we wanted our new fingerprint expiration date and the age increase to 0-6 years old.

I don't know exactly what got things rolling but I know that God's people prayed for us and He moved!! To Him be all glory and honor and praise!

After we receive our form in the mail, we'll phone NVC (National Visa Center) to verify that the information was forwarded to them and then ask our agency to email the Embassy and verify that they have received the information (and on the advice of our Yahoo Group, we ask for written confirmation that the Embassy has the info!).

What a ride!!!!

1/19/10 - Update on the Age Range Update

Mike called NVC (National Visa Center) today and spoke with a nice person - yeah! However, they do not have our updated age range and new fingerprint expiration date. So I am sending an email to USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) kindly asking them to resend the information. And then - we have our senators and representatives information and we aren't afraid to call them!! Please continue to pray that this issue would be resolved and by Thursday so we can purchase our tickets!!

1/18/10 - Paperwork and Plane Ticket Update

We have tickets on hold!!!!! It is an awesome flight, leaving Saturday afternoon, flying to Washington DC, 4 hour layover, and then a direct flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with a 45 minute stop in Rome for refueling (how awesome is God - we wanted to spend am extra day in Italy but that is not to be with no vacation time for Mike but we are still getting to "stop" there!)!!! Same thing on the way back, leaving Ethiopia at 10:15pm Friday night, lay over in Rome for refueling and NOT having to get off the plane with the boys, back to Washington DC arriving Saturday morning, 5 hour lay over, and then arriving home in the afternoon. We are able to hold the tickets until Thursday.

Our agency America World has okayed our flight itinerary!

However, and this is a big but expected however, the Embassy in Ethiopia does not have our updated home study age range. That information needs to be on file before we can travel. It was already on our list to call the National Visa Center (NVC) Tuesday afternoon to see if they had received the updated information or if United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) needs to resend the information (which they have had since the first day or two of December). We have been told that NVC id "notoriously unorganized" (reassuring, huh!?) and to get a supervisor involved in the case. Mike will be making that call Tuesday afternoon, as we know from our Yahoo Group that afternoons seem to be the best time to call. PLEASE PRAY that a compassionate person answered the phone and wants to do everything in his/her power to help us!!!

1/16/10 - Paperwork Update

The updated home study and DCFS endorsement letter (which were a result of Mike's sudden job change) have arrived!!! Yeah and huge thank yous to our social worker Faith!!!

We are waiting for verification from America World, our international adoption agency, that the Embassy in Ethiopia has received our updated age range. Apparently we don't receive any kind of notification that this has taken place. So our agency has contacted the Embassy and is waiting to hear back from them. I don't know how quickly that will be, so we plan to call the National Visa Center (NVC) in the middle of the week to verify that they have received the information from USCIS and have forwarded it on to Ethiopia - sound confusing - it is!! But only a few more weeks of confusing paperwork stuff!!

PRAISE: That we are over the hurdle of the job change update and HUGE praises for Faith!

PRAYER: That we are easily able to discover that the age range increase is where it needs to be!!

Stuffed Animals and Blankets for the Boys!

Even though the boys were not with us a babies, we wanted them to have special "baby blankets." We found these cute blankets at Target and registered for them (but them bought them when they were on clearance!). And we had talked about having a special stuffed animal for each of the boys but really had no clue what we wanted. I am so blessed that my dear friend and co-worker Gina knows me so well; she found and gave us these stuffed animals! As I showed them to Mike, I had in mind which animal was for which boy, and Mike chose the same as me!!

A giraffe for Ryan:

And a zebra for John:

Recent Newspaper Article

This appeared in our local paper about a week ago:



We received the email today: we will be traveling to get the boys February 13-20!! We are beyond excited!!!!! We are so close!!! We are going to get them soon!!!

And it is all so God. A week ago I would have been devastated to not be going in the next travel group on January 29th (which in when we thought we would be going). But throughout this past week, God has put such a peace on my heart. I thought on what was real and true - I know who my boys are and they are coming home and God's plans are good and they will not arrive one day late!! Just this week I began to pray and ask God to give us His travel dates, the dates He has known for always, and (selfishly) the dates that would stress me out the least!! And He has answered my prayers!!!

Please join us in praising Him for the good and perfect gifts of John and Ryan!! 31 days until we leave, 33 days until me meet them, and 34 days until they are with us forever and for always!!!

And we'd also take prayer for our new I171-H form to arrive - USCIS has had all the information for six weeks so we are hopeful that it will be in our hands soon! This is the form that approves our increase in age range.

Video of the Boys!


We are overwhelmed with love and excitement to see our boys and can't wait to go get them!

Video one:

Video two:

Hope you all enjoy them as much as we do!!!!!!

1/12/10 - No Dates Yet

The three wait listed families have been denied appointments by the Embassy in Ethiopia and will therefore have to wait two weeks to travel to their precious children - please keep them in your prayers.

And so this adds three families to the next travel group with room for seven more ... we continue to wait to see if we are one one them. If not, we would leave two weeks later on February 13th (guessing here).

HOWEVER, God knows when we are traveling and when we will see our two precious boys!! And God's plans for us are good!! And our boys will not arrive home one day late!!

Care Package Update

Care Package 4 - Thank you so much Setliffe Family!

Your boys were seriously the cutest boys EVER!!! The oldest boy was all smiles & giggles!! He LOVED the bouncy balls & was full of joy playing with them. He chased them everywhere & laughed every time they bounced. He was so smiley & just kept looking at us & lighting up. You are going to love his sweet personality. He looked very healthy and seems to be such a joy!! Your youngest was a little more reserved, but still such a sweetheart. His eyes pierce to your soul and I just fell in love with him! He loved all the toys & really enjoyed the fruit snacks! He was playing with the balls too & he really loved them. He also seemed really healthy...just a little more cautious than his brother. Amy, you are seriously going to fall in love with those boys the second you meet them! They LOVED the pictures and kept flipping through again & again! Praying that your travel plans come together & you get to them SOON!!

This is our favorite photo:

1/08/10 - Do You Know When You're Traveling Yet?

We of course have been asked this many times and everyone, including us, is excited to learn of our tentative travel dates!

However, there are three families ready to travel next week, who have been waited listed at the Embassy in Ethiopia. Apparently a new rule has been created or a old one is being enforced that each agency can have only 10 family appointments per date. There were at least 13 families signed up for an appointment at the Embassy (this is where families go to obtain the visas for their children to travel back into the United States) in the next travel group and so 3 families, who have purchased their tickets and are ready to travel to get their children and bring them home to their forever families, are on hold. There was hopes they would know today what was happening but it looks like our agency will meet with the Embassy on Monday instead. Please pray these three families would be allowed to travel!

So our agency is not telling those of us who have passed court when our travel dates are as they need to see what will happen with these three families.

1/07/10 - Merry Ethiopian Christmas!

Christmas Traditions in Ethiopia
Ethiopia (and especially the Ethiopian Orthodox Church) still use the old Julian calendar, so the celebrate Christmas on January 7th, not December 25th! The Christmas celebration in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is called Ganna. Most people go to Church on Christmas day.

Many people fast (don't eat anything) on their 'Christmas Eve' (6th). At dawn on the morning of Ganna, people get dressed in white. - we'll dress in white this day! Most people wear a traditional garment called a shamma. It's a thin white cotton piece of cloth with brightly colored stripes across the ends. It's worn like a toga. If you live in a big town or city you might wear 'western' clothes. The early Ganna mass starts at 4am!

The Ethiopian capital city is Addis Ababa. It's a modern city. Most people who live outside big cities live in round house made of mud-plastered walls which have thatched cone-shaped roofs. Sometimes houses in the country are rectangular and made of stone.

The design of Ethiopian Church is similar to the houses. In the country, they are often very old and have been carved out of rock. In cities, modern churches are built in three circles, each within the others.
The choir sings from the outer circle. Everyone who goes to church for the Ganna celebrations is given a candle. The people walk around the church three times in a solemn procession, holding the candles. They then go to the second circle to stand during the service. The men and boys are separated from the women and girls. The center circle is the most important and holy place in the church and is where the priest serves the Holy Communion or mass.

It's also a tradition that one of the Wise Men who visited Jesus came from Ethiopia.

Around the time of Ganna, the men and boys play a game that is also called ganna. It's played with a curved stick and a round wooden ball, a bit like hockey.

Traditional Christmas foods in Ethiopia include wat which is a thick and spicy stew that contains meat, vegetables and sometimes eggs (sounds yummy!). Wat is eaten on a 'plate of injera - a flat bread. Pieces of the injera are used as an edible spoon to scoop up the wat. - we'll be eating doro wat, a chicken stew, next year with the boys to celebrate! (Amy has actually made doro wat before - Daddy and the boys will have spicy stew and Mommy will make hers separate with less spices!)

Twelve days after Ganna, on 19th January, Ethiopians start the three day celebration of Timkat. It celebrated the baptism of Jesus. Children walk to church services in a procession. They wear the crowns and robes of the church youth groups that they belong to. Adults wear the shamma. The priests wear red and white robes and carry embroidered fringed umbrellas.

Musical instruments are played during the Timkat procession. The sistrum is a percussion instrument with tinkling metal disks a bit like a vertical tambourine. A makamiya, a long T-shaped prayer stick is used to keep the rhythm and is also used by the priests and a stick to lean on during the long Timkat church service!

Ethiopian men also play a sport called yeferas guks. It's played on horseback and the men throw ceremonial lances at each other (sounds rather dangerous!).

People don't give and receive present during Ganna and Timkat. Sometimes children might be given a small gift of some clothes from their family members. It's more a time for going to church, eating lots and playing games! - we'll begin the tradition next year of giving a small gift of clothing, possibly something we purchase in Ethiopia

75% Off Target Finds!

How great are these:

This one we plan on keeping in the boys room year round:

And it's no coincidence that these are green and gold!

Getting Ready for the Plane Ride - The Boys' Backpacks

We began looking for backpacks for the boys in the beginning of December and we didn't really like anything we saw - too many character ones that they wouldn't know who they were. Searching online on day Amy found these:
Pretty awesome, eh!!

We have begun to fill them with a few light and fun to play with on the plane items:

The Murals Are Done!

Mike has finished the room!! He actually finished right before Christmas and in time for the phone call saying we had passed court. I wonder what the boys will think when they see this:

The Boys Are Ready for Winter!

The boys are ready to face the cold and snow of the Midwest!! We have winter coats, snow pants, boots (thank you Julie for the snow pants and boots!), hats and mittens, and gloves. And since we received sleds for the boys for Christmas - they are all set!!

Wonder what the boys will think of snow?!

Christmas Presents for the Boys

Amy's Gramma has started a tradition of giving her great grandchildren a copy of The Night Before Christmas. Even though the boys are not here yet, she still wanted to give us a copy!

Our friends the Fishers, who Mike has known for about 30 years and who live in Wisconsin, are helping us show the boys which football team to cheer for:
And how cute will John and Ryan look in these - perhaps cheering the Packers on in the Superbowl!!