Monday, December 31, 2012

A Jar Filled with Memories

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I am a frequent Pinterest user, and early 2012 I read about the idea to keep the little stuff (hotel cards, tickets etc.) in a jar on a shelf all year and then at the end of the year, take it all out, look it at, remember the year, and then let go of it, and start filling it with the next year's mementos.

Here is 2012 at a glance:
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Note the large collection of running/race type things. This year was my first race (hard to believe after I have actually done so many) with my 10k back in March. This was followed by the ROC race with Blake, my September half marathon, three races in October (Mud Run, Rugged Maniacs and Run for your Life), and a race the first weekend of November for charity. It is crazy to think my next race is my marathon!

As I glanced back over my 2012 posts, I noticed that many of them did involve running in some way, as it did affect my life a lot. Not just the time and training commitment, but also in that it brought me new friends, new experiences and new rushes of accomplishment this year. I joined the running club, and in that met some good friends. I had distance accomplishments with each consecutively longer run, but also the new experiences of running from zombies and jumping over fire (to name a few). It has been a fun, and definitely unique chapter of my life.

There is also our Yosemite trip, complete with a trail guide of the crazy long hike we did, survived, and are considering doing again someday!

We have mementos from our last (hopefully) anniversary without a child. Even if she is being watched, we won't have the money to burn (not that we had it this summer either...) on a nice hotel and expensive dinner. But it was fun to remember the trip, and the delicious food!

The top right features the red paint cards from when we decided to paint our dining room. We have tickets from a show we went to in February as well as ticket to the movie Hunger Games.

You may notice the pop-tart wrapper- that was put in to represent my first camping trip ever... in the snow! In the bottom left there was something so random we couldn't figure out what it was, or what it was from, but after some online searching realized it was from our trip to the Orange County fair this summer, and the fun time we had with Erin's kids.

One big thing (that I made sure was in the picture, if not in the jar) that happened in 2012 is that we got Tasha! This sweetheart has been a lot of trouble, but a lot of fun as well, and was a big feature in my posts this year too.

But the biggest thing that happened in 2012, bar none, is the amazing experiences and feelings that we have had in our adoption this year. It is represented in the photo just by the plane tickets and tickets to the museum we went to, but it could not have been any bigger part of our life. We got our referral, became legal parents and even got to meet our precious little girl! (who we miss dearly and are anxiously awaiting news on the passport to get the last few steps complete). Ever since we started the adoption, we knew there would be a light at the end of the tunnel eventually, but it has been so much fun living it! I am sure that 2012 won't be able to compete with the feelings of 2013 when she gets home, but for now, it is ranking as a record good year for us.

Most of these, after getting the moment to reminisce on them, I have no problem letting go of now. However, a few items get to stay. Both Ghana mementos, as well as my first medal, are safe.

This next year will bring a lot of HUGE changes in our lives with Grace coming home and me staying home with her, but it is sure to be an exciting year, and I look forward to going to sleep, and waking up in 2013!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Test of Commitment

My marathon is almost exactly a month away, and unfortunately, training had gone by the wayside between our trip to Ghana and Blake's accident. Mid November I had gone on a 16 mile run, but since then I hadn't run any longer than 8 miles.

I knew I needed to get a long run in sometime during this break if I was going to make my goal of a 20 mile training run before the marathon. Yesterday it rained, and I wasn't able to run as planned, so I decided I needed to run today.

My last few runs had been so poor that I didn't want to over commit myself if I still needed more time to work up to a greater distance. So, I was going to run somewhere between 5-9 miles, and then run back, making it between a 10-18 mile run.

Today, fortunately, I felt great! When I was at mile 7 or 8 I decided I was feeling good enough to go for the whole 18 mile run (which was my original goal for this week if I hadn't slacked at all).

Mile 10 I noticed a bunch of gray, ominous clouds on the horizon. 

Mile 11 the wind kicked up, and it was kind of creepy how the park near our home was deserted, the sun was gone, and now I have a cold wind to contend with.

Mile 12 the rain started, and then got harder till it was pouring! Adding to the "joy" of running in a full blown storm was that it happened to be a section of road which didn't have trees or anything to cut the heavy rain pouring down on me. At this point (as I am cold and wet in addition to being tired) my plan is to make it to the first place where the trail goes under the road, and in the protection of the overhang call Blake and ask him to pick me up, because it just isn't worth it (Blake fully expected this call too as he heard the storm).

Mile 13.5 I made it to the first overhang (see, no cover) and looked at my distance. I still was feeling physically fairly good (if wet and cold), and I knew that I WANTED to make the distance. I had committed to the marathon, and if that was going to happen, I had to get through these runs! I also thought about how there was a very real possibility of rain even on the actual day, so I shouldn't let it stop me. So... not looking forward to going back in the rain...I started running again, no call to Blake.

It took a great deal of commitment to make this happen:

Okay, so it isn't 18 miles. I was .3 off. It bugs me, to be sure, and on a normal day, I go past my destination to make the planned distance... but I genuinely didn't have it in me to go any farther. Even though the storm had lessened a lot by the end, I was still cold, and wet, and tired of forcing myself to move. But today I proved something to myself. I know that when I put my mind to do something, I can follow through!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Gold Coins


 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

The last week before Christmas I taught my students about this verse, where God has already planned good works for us to do, but it is our responsibility to do them. I compared the good deeds God plans for us to the gold coins in Super Mario (which most of them understood the reference). They are there, on almost every level. Some of them are easy, and you almost can't miss doing them. But some of those gold coins you have to jump for. These are the good deeds that you might not have thought of, or might not do unless you were looking for the opportunity. 

I got proof of God's planned good works in my own life yesterday. I had a dentist appointment, but I got in autopilot as if I was driving to work, and realized that I had missed the freeway junction that I normally take to get to the dentist. Fortunately, I know my streets well around there, so I just took another exit. This exit had a homeless person, and I have bags in my car ready to bless a homeless person if I see them. I was able to give him one of these bags, and hopefully make his day just a little brighter. 

I couldn't help but think about how I would have never taken that exit normally, and if it was God who allowed me to autopilot just so that I would go a different route because I was supposed to be at the other freeway off ramp, because that person needed me that day.  

I wanted to share this as a reminder that whether you believe that God has prepared them or not, there are ways we can bless the people around us if we are looking for ways to help. I hope that I will, and I hope that I am willing to take that extra effort to get all the gold coins I can. 


The delay in Grace's arrival is her passport, and besides hopefully January, I have no idea when this passport will be ready. The funny thing is that most people don't even stress about the timing on their kid's passport because their I-600 takes so long to get approved, it is done by then. We are excited that everything went faster, but now our very speed is actually holding us back! Bottom line is, until we get the passport, we can't request the visa interview, and thus no visa print date.

Still, as by reasonable expectations all of these steps could be done by the end of January, we are working hard to be ready for her to arrive at any time. I don't feel that I am nesting in the sense of cleaning the house (though I am trying to clean it) but I definitely feel the pull of getting her room ready and making sure we have all the items we need.

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One big project is painting her closet doors. When we bought the house they were gold/ brass framed mirror doors, and we talked about replacing them (1- I don't like gold, 2- it looks awful with the yellow). As it came down to time to get her room ready, we decided that it would be less expensive to paint over the gold instead of replacing the doors. We started two days ago, and probably have another day or two to go, but it is feeling great to get it done, even if her room looks like a construction site for now.

Thanks to my great family support system, all of the items that I feel like are needs (as opposed to many wants) are purchased and on their way to our house, so once we finish the doors, finish decorating, and make one more trip to Ikea, we should be able to rest easy knowing that whenever she comes, we are ready to welcome her into our home.

Another aspect of nesting, I think, is preparing for the quickly approaching one income time. In the past, I just made a shopping list, and we bought all the items at Sprouts because it was easy and convenient.  In the hopes of saving every penny possible, I have spent the last week or so doing major price comparisons with our store, amazon, costco and a new website I found called azure standard (where you can buy bulk organic items for really low prices). It is interesting to see that when you do the math, there is no clear winner in every category, but the way to be the most cost effective is to buy each item at the cheapest location.

I also started selling teaching items on a website called Teachers pay Teachers (link at the top), and today I made my first sale! I sold a worksheet I made for 2 dollars, and after the website took their cut out, I only earned 90 cents... but that is 90 cents more than I had when my worksheet was just sitting on my computer, and now another teacher benefits from it, win-win!

On a random note, one of the most interesting things about this Christmas was receiving and opening Christmas presents for Grace. Next year, when she is home, she can open them herself (with help) and we can see her excitement, and enjoy the items with her. I love that our family members thought of her as they shopped this Christmas, and bought her these cute and fun toys:

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

But at the same time, it made me miss her so much! I know she will have fun with all of her new toys and games, but it is hard not being able to share them with her now. In the grand scheme of things, if it is only a month, it will pass quickly, but for now... its hard.

So we will continue to plan, and prepare, and get everything ready, and hopefully, soon, there will be a little girl here to enjoy all of the items that we have waiting for her arrival.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Snow Story and our Snow Dog

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Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

Roxie has always enjoyed the snow. She runs around, plays in it, has a great time, but then she wants to be in with us, warm and comfortable.

Tasha adores the snow. That might not even be doing it justice. Of course she is a husky, and bred for this kind of weather, but where Roxie would want to come in, Tasha wants to stay out. Where Roxie only sits or lays down in the dry, no snow parts, Tasha had no problem laying down in the snow. It just suits her.

My in laws have a cabin in the mountains where we go up Christmas day after opening our own presents. It is always very exciting to be checking the weather daily to see if there is snow forecast, as my husband has never liked driving in the snow, and with him just starting to drive long distances again on Monday, we didn't want to chance him having to drive in the snow with his newly healing wounds.

At first, this Christmas, there was snow most of the week, and we discussed possibly missing it this year. Then it shifted to just Wednesday and Thursday, so we were concerned about being stuck up there, but not about getting up. Still nervous though, and not committing to going with that large of chance of having to drive at least one direction in the snow. Then, as Christmas day approached, we saw the storm get downgraded to just a ten percent chance of snow on Wednesday.

We should have known better.

You see, depending on how you look at it, snow either loves or hates Blake, because he is not fond of it, and yet multiple times, when we decide to head up the mountain, the teeny tiny percentage chance of snow suddenly changes to a full blown storm... when we are already there.

We thought our last story was impressive- thirty percent chance of snow flurries turned into an all day, all night, chains (which we didn't own at the time) required kind of storm that ended with us leaving the car at their cabin after we stayed an extra two more nights than planned and his parents had to drive us down.

In some ways, this Christmas tops it. Because of his injury, we were more cautious. We were nervous when it dropped to a forty percent chance, since we knew what that thirty percent did to us before.  But when it was down to ten percent... we decided to risk it.

Tuesday, Christmas day, was a gorgeous drive. Totally dry roads, and temperatures consistently in the forties as we traveled. Even as of last night, our weather app of choice said the forecast was clear, still a tiny percent chance of storm. (Apparently we use the wrong app because my father in law's app always predicted snow).

We woke up this morning to snow. Lots of snow. Chains required snow. Beautiful snow... but not in our plans snow. This snow continued all morning. Even though we had talked about leaving before lunch, that was out of the question, and we relaxed at the cabin, enjoyed the beauty of the storm, and I caught up on some reading (while he played a video game on his brother's computer).

It started to subside around eleven and we saw sun come out, this boded well, but Blake was completely not ready to decide if we were staying or going. At two, as I was feeling a bit stir crazy, we took a walk and discussed our options. After agonizing back and forth, Blake decided to risk the drive down over losing another day of vacation. A big portion of this final decision was seeing the snow plow come through right as we made our choice, as it meant we would have freshly scraped road. Thankfully, due to the sun, and many cars driving on it, we were able to get down (the back way) with no problems. We didn't even need chains at this point!

So now we get to add a ten percent chance of snow becoming a two to three inch storm, but got the pleasure of seeing our husky in her element. My parting treat for my readers is a cute video of Roxie and Tasha having a ball running around in the backyard of my in-law's cabin while their dog, Layla, alternates between trying to play with them, and barking at them to stop playing.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Three Days

Three days until the Les Miserables movie comes out, which I am super excited about! (And the rest of the post will have lyrics interspersed from that musical... just for fun!)

The time is near!
Let us welcome it gladly with courage and cheer
Three days from today is Christmas Eve, which officially starts Christmas celebrations at my parents' house. I have been spending a large portion of the day baking for Christmas this year, and Monday is slated to be another big baking day. I literally have not wrapped a single present yet, and the time to do that is running out, but this year has been so off between Ghana, the adoption and Blake's injuries, it just hasn't happened yet (much like our Christmas lights).

Every day
You walk with stronger step
You walk with longer step-
`The worst is over.'
Three days from today Blake gets his stitches out. We are again so thankful and grateful that it wasn't worse. He went back to work yesterday, and they had to ask him some questions, and while he was there he got to see some pictures from last week... and let's just say God was protecting him, in a major way.

At the end of the day you get nothing for nothing
Sitting flat on your butt doesn't buy any bread
And you're lucky to be in a job
And we're counting our blessings!

Three days is how long the California rules say that you have to be out before you get any money for being injured on the job. We are learning way more than I ever wanted to about Workman's compensation thanks to Blake's adventure. So, the three days that Blake was home from work to recover, he doesn't get paid, and those days will apparently come out of his paycheck. Crazy. Oh, and if he had to be out longer, he would only get paid 2/3 salary for each day after the three days until he returned to work from workman's comp. This is a big reason (the other being that he felt better) that he went back yesterday, even though he can't do his normal job, so that he could start earning his salary again. I find it really strange that our system is set up this way. If someone gets injured while they are doing their job, you would think that they would continue to earn their salary, it isn't like they wanted to be hurt and not working. On the other hand, I understand that they have to do something to prevent people taking advantage of the system (any more than they already do) and employers can't afford to have people out long term, pay someone to do their job (for companies this applies to) AND continue paying the employee full price. It is just interesting to learn about, and be thankful that it hasn't applied to us before.

In my life
She [Grace] has burst like the music of angels
The light of the sun
And my life seems to stop
As if something is over
And something has scarcely begun.
Three days is also how long I have left as a teacher for the indefinite future. Things with Grace have been going faster than we had initially expected, and though we are currently slowed down by a lack of a passport for her, it could easily be early to mid January that she comes home. My work has been excellent about understanding when I had to leave for Ghana, or appointments, etc., but they need a definite date for my last day. It would be too hard on them and too hard on the kids to have me maybe here, maybe not, maybe this is my last day, maybe it gets delayed etc. So when I should have been learning about Blake's accident, I was in a meeting with them, finding out that what they decided to do (and I think is a good plan) is have me teach with my replacement for the first three days after break, and then have me just be done, and be at home, waiting for when I become a full time mom. It is exciting and scary all at the same time, and Blake and I are looking closely at our numbers to figure out how to make it work, but the plan for now is that I stay home with her until she is preschool age, and then I go back to work.

All this to say, life is exciting these days!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

5 Reasons I will never be a nurse

Nursing never really crossed my mind as I thought about different career paths back in high school and early college. Blood isn't a huge issue for me (no problem pulling out my own loose teeth as a kid), but I still never thought about nursing, even when I volunteered in a hospital one year. But since Blake's injury, whether I liked it or not, I am getting the smallest taste of what a career in nursing would look like. It inspired me to write a post on 5 reasons I will never be a nurse.

1- I don't like seeing people in pain.

  Part of my "nursing duties" involve helping him take off his old bandages, which hurts him, and cleaning his cuts, which hurts him, and then putting on new bandages, which again, hurts. I do it, because I know it needs to be done, and he can't do it himself, but I hate it the whole time.

2- Due to reason one, I am not a very effective nurse.

  We (ahem, mainly I) had to clean off the tried blood that they couldn't tackle yesterday, but I didn't want to hurt him, so I was trying to be really gentle, which wasn't getting much off. Blake repeatedly had to tell me that I could go harder, and remind me that most of the dried blood areas didn't hurt. Also, as we wrapped the cloth bandage back over his hand and wrist, he had to tell me to wrap it tighter or it wouldn't do its job, which I was reluctant to do because again, I didn't want to hurt him.

3- I want to help too much.

  If it were up to me, I would try to have him just resting, and completely not using his hands at all for risk of hurting him. If I was a nurse, I would have to be encouraging my patients to do what they could as long as it didn't hurt or open up wounds, but I want so much for him to heal and feel good, that I try to do everything.

4- It is weird for me to dress an adult.

  Blake, as number 3 mentions, does as much as he can, but he is still pretty limited due to one wrist being injured and the other hand and wrist are injured. So, clothes are pretty tough for him, and I have had to help him in and out of his clothes since he got injured. It is a very interesting feeling trying to help dress an adult, and I don't think I am a fan. Kids, sure no problem, but adults... hrm.

5- Its too hard.

People comment that teaching would be hard, and it is, but nursing, wow. Just a little over 24 hours in, and I am overwhelmed, tired, and want to be done and it isn't even that bad. I have new found respect for those who do this all day every day with fresh blood and worse injuries than his.

So... Thank you to all those nurses out there or those with loved ones who need you to be their nurse, my hat goes off to you. Here's hoping my home career as a nurse is short lived.

Friday, December 14, 2012


You will keep perfectly peaceful the one whose mind remains focused on you, because he remains in you. Isaiah 26:3

This afternoon was awful, but it could have been worse.

I missed a phone call this afternoon, and didn't have a chance to check it until 3:40 or so... and saw I had a text message too. Both were from Blake's coworkers informing me that he was in the hospital.

I actually went immediately into panic mode, and knew I needed prayer before I could even process this information at all. So, I went into my coworker's room, just told her what I knew and asked for prayer.

That verse I chose above is so true, because after her prayer I was able to focus, and figure out the next step, which was to find a way to contact him at the hospital. I was able to call him, and he answered, told me basically what had happened and what his current status was, and that when I came I needed to bring some clothes, because everything he was wearing was cut off him after the accident. I told a few more coworkers on the way out, and asked them to pray as well.

I first was thinking I should go home, then decided that it would be faster to hit up a Target on the way so that I didn't lose time trying to get home first.

Once I got to the hospital, I stayed with him as he got x-rays, and thirteen stitches, not counting some spots of glue and then all bandaged up. ( I did pretty well with the sight of blood all the way through except for when the guy was testing if the topical numbing agent was working on him by pulling at different spots, at that point I had to stop watching for a bit).

But I am truely grateful that the accident wasn't worse, that I still have him, and he didn't need anything more than stitches (especially with what happened, which I can't share online). I am thankful that his face, head, eyes etc. were all perfectly fine as well.  My heart goes out to those families whose stories were so much worse today, because I got the slightest taste of that, and it was awful. I had to keep praying throughout my drive that I could stay calm, because I didn't want to get in an accident because I lost it, crying from relief, on the road.

Be praying that he heals quickly, especially the palm of his right hand, because it is really restricting what he can do independently (and we are already having power struggles over his want to do things... sigh...) His cuts are palm and wrist (no major arteries, praise God) on his right hand/arm, and wrist area on his left arm. He also looks like he has been slapped or sunburned on his stomach, with lots of cuts on there as well. But again, his pain is low, he got to come home today, with no overnight stay, and he should be pretty well healed in the next 5-10 days (with lots of scars, but still).

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Exceedingly, Abundantly...

20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

                                                           Ephesians 3:20-21

This verse is the only way I can put into words what I am feeling today! 

 Just yesterday, I was explaining for the hundredth time how we are optimistically hoping for February as the time she comes home, and thinking that our timer for our I-600 hadn't even started yet, since we don't have her birth certificate yet. 

 Today... we got an e-mail... our I-600 is approved!!!!!!!  I'm shaky, excited, and more than anything blown away by how radically this changes our timeline and expectations. What an amazing confirmation of us going on that trip without that document, the fact that it got approved without it. Wow. Just wow.

We are down to weeks now folks! I don't think it could happen by Christmas... (though so much of our process with our little girl has been faster than I thought, who knows) but it isn't crazy to think it might even be by the new year!  

Keep the prayers coming! God is powerful, and he is moving radically in our lives! 


Sunday, December 2, 2012

No Due Date

I have loved being able to post pictures of my little one on facebook, and the overwhelming support I have gotten on there has been great.

I have known for a while that adopting, especially international adoption, is not yet a common enough practice for everyone to fully understand what it entails. I even have family members that I have to continue to explain the steps to, and there are times that I have even been unsure about exactly what the next step is.

Ever since we talked about going to Ghana (some before, but lots more after), there has been one question I have gotten more than any other: "When is she coming home?" (or some variant of that).

I get it, really, I do. When you announce you are pregnant, the typical first question is, "When are you due?"

Most people, myself included, like a general timeline of when things are happening. In pregnancy, if you give your due date, people could do the math, and figure out what trimester you are in, and immediately know the common symptoms of that time (and can ask if you are having them) or the key steps at that point (like did you find out the sex). It is a helpful frame of reference to know when the child is coming.

International adoption is so different.

I don't have a due date. I probably won't even know something close to a due date until a week or two before I am "due." I have guesses, estimates and "typical" timings, but the hard truth is that they mean close to nothing. Just because most people take 1 month to do something, we could take 4 months, or a week, or anything in between or worse.  This wide degree of variance is on every step!

That is without factoring in the unknowns that are sure to crop up along the process. For example, in our process, we have been affected by the strike in Ghana by government workers, and an accident that killed two workers in the birth certificate office, and made the rest of the office take time off to mourn. Other families ran into judges going on vacation and birth certificate machines being broken. You can't account for those things, even if all other factors were "normal."

You also can't account for the fact that so much of our process depends on how quickly many different people do their portion. Each person involved in far away Ghana has their own life, their own motivations, and their own list of what they need to do and how fast they personally want to work.

I learned in statistics that you need to control the variables to get reliable data. International adoption is pretty much the opposite of that- the variables are countless, and thus reliable data is close to impossible.

Obviously, when people ask me the same question countless times, I don't go into all of this, it takes too long. I have been going with a, "we hope sometime around February or March."

But the truth is... we don't and can't know for sure when she will be home with us until she actually IS home with us.

I *think* that our next step is getting our birth certificate, and then getting that to the embassy.
I *think* that will start our wait for the I-600 approval, which does actually have a max of 60 days to approve (unless something goes wrong).
I *think* that once that is approved, we are waiting for her visa and print date, and then she can come home!

With that said, I would like to point out (again) that our birth certificate is already slower than it "typically" is (due to the aforementioned accident). On the other hand, we passed court faster than "normal." Pregnancies may vary somewhat, but generally take the same amount of time, but not adoptions.

My analogy for adoption timelines is like different groups of travelers on a long journey, like across the United States. All travelers leave from the same point (a specific city in the west) and eventually will arrive at the same point (a specific city on the east coast), and even have the same goals on the journey (like seeing relatives, a band, and a theme park). Even so, there are numerous routes they could take to get there, and each journey will take a different amount of time depending on the path taken and the time spent at each site. Worse, the travelers themselves are not the ones saying which way to go or how long to wait, and they only know when to move at the time to move. In this scenario, could any traveler tell you when they will be on the east coast? Probably not.

Bottom line is that no one but God knows the day or the hour that she will be home, and please keep in mind that the estimated time I give you is nothing more than a hopeful estimate, but we are hoping and praying that she will be with us soon.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Departing Accra Airport and arriving at JFK

I have mentioned before that I am a researcher, but there are some times that research can only help so much, such as when it is a topic that no one else has written about. So, I have written this particular blog post for people who need to fly internationally out of the Accra airport, as well as including information about what to expect at the JFK airport when you arrive from that flight.

Getting to the airport was easy. When we arrived (almost 10 hours early because we had a late flight, and a relatively early check out time) we hoped to check our bags, and then go to the relatively close Accra Mall for a large chunk of that time. Most international airports I have been in, this is no problem. You find your airline, you wait in their line, check your bag.

The first thing we noticed in the departure area is that there was no Delta area. At first glance, there were no airlines listed, so we thought you could just check in anywhere. Not so, its just that Delta only sets up their area about 5 and a half hours before departure. It isn't a big airport, so whoever has flights leaving relatively near that time, that is when they set up their area.

Because of how early we were, we had the fun afternoon of having our luggage with us at the mall. It mostly meant my husband was standing around with the luggage while I shopped in the stores there.

Anyways, when we arrived back at the airport at 5:30 (an hour after check in started), there was a whole Delta area set off by lines with the Delta logo on them. We find our area, and then are handed a paper to fill out. Then our luggage is inspected, as are our passports, and the document we had to fill out. We also had to make luggage tags for our suitcases. We get our boarding passes, and are told don't enter your gate until 6:30, but your gate closes at 8:00 (for a 10:10 flight).

Interesting... we weren't really sure what that meant, or where we could go or not, but figured that we would keep going until someone told us to wait there.

From entering the international departure area and checking in, we went left, and followed the signs to immigration (even though we were not really sure if that is where we should be going).

There are a few stores and restaurants, but not much. The stores sell similar items but more expensive than what you can buy on Accra streets, and we didn't try the restaurants, so I can't report on those. 

We make it to the immigration area. There are documents, just like the ones we had to fill out when we got off the plane that we are supposed to fill out again. (Moral of the story, have a pen, and be ready to use it).

This goes into a line to have your passport and this immigration paper checked. They should also check your boarding pass, and stamp it. This is important to note because my husband's worker did it correctly, mine didn't. She never asked to see my boarding pass, so I never showed it, and I am sure the lack of a stamp would have been a problem at some point! After talking to him, I went back and had her stamp it.

Then you get to the "typical" security check of our modern airports- take off shoes, jackets etc. have your stuff scanned. You are patted down (not always a part of the process, but was here), and scanned.

Now you are almost to the gates section. There is a duty free shop, and the typical bathrooms/ giftshops in this area.USE THEM NOW, as mentioned below, you can't use them later.

We get to our gate, very pleased with ourselves and start to wait. (So I never did find out where the 6:30 stop was supposed to be). Now, the waiting area had rows of chairs, but you could see that the next step was into a long room, with windows (why we could see this section) which is where they would take you next.

At I think 7:30 or so, they had us line up to go into this room. I figured it was one more passport/boarding pass check. Not so. It is actually another security screening, more intense than the other, and much more thorough. They opened every carry on (and that included people with the small suitcases as their carry-ons) and searched them completely. They asked questions about any items that looked suspicious. They did another full pat down and shoes were requested to be taken off for this further inspection before proceeding.

People with tightly packed suitcases were bummed, as their contents were totally rearranged, and didn't fit very well afterwards (which really is unfair that the next step for those people was to prove their carry-on fit in the carry-on space). Word to the wise, be ready to answer questions about any item in your carry-on, and don't pack in a way that would make it hard to close after being looked through.

Now we are in the room I saw when we were waiting by our gate. It is a nice enough room, but there are no bathrooms in it, no stores, and no food. We did fine, but remember, they start to close this room 2 hours before the flight leaves. The rule at home to arrive 2 hours before a flight will not cut it here. If you are hungry now or need to go to the bathroom, I honestly don't know what they would tell you, it was a slow and intense checking process to get to this step.

Depending on where you were on the line to get into this room, you will be waiting between 1-2 hours in there before the next step (boarding for us was 40 minutes before the flight).

Okay, so boarding was more or less normal- you had to ride a shuttle to the plane, and then go up the stairs to actually enter the plane, but not too bad. You made it though the Accra departures!

We flew into JFK. I wished that I had known what to expect there too, even knowing it might be somewhat different for the next person. Biggest thing is it takes crazy long to get to your gate- we had a 2 hour and 20 minute layover, and we needed almost all of it. Like, we had time to buy a coffee, sit down with it, and then they started boarding our flight. Second thing is to go to the bathroom on the plane, I hated those long minutes waiting in lines even though I had to go, but didn't have an opportunity. 

They pass out customs cards to fill out on the plane, and we knew that was the first stop off the plane. This moved incredibly slow for us, mostly because it was an early flight. Once you get to an official, they check your passport, your customs card (one per family) and ask you questions about your trip. I think it took us 30-45 minutes just to get through this step (there is a bathroom in this area, but we didn't use it, because we didn't want the line to get any longer while we did that).

After customs, we had to get our bags from baggage claim, EVEN THOUGH we had a connecting flight. One was on a terminal different than the one on the screen, and the other was off of the terminal sitting next to the baggage spinner.

We think, no problem, next step. Nope. There is a line, again, now to have your passport and boarding pass checked again. Once we got past that, we got to wait in a line to check our baggage. After checking your bags, there was finally a good bathroom that we could use.

A lady there handed us a slip of paper with even more confusing directions than the signs (go up, go past this point, go down?). After trying to follow those directions, we opted for the airport tram instead of the shuttle we were supposed to go to.

We, personally, were going from terminal 4 to terminal 2/3. So we took the tram, got off at the proper stop, and then had to figure out what was happening next.

We had to cross over to the terminal from where the tram was. It isn't far, and you can see it out the window, but yes, the right thing to do was to walk outside to the next terminal. (Not fun, dressed for 90 decree Accra weather walking even a little bit in 30 degree New York weather.)

Good, we made it to the terminal. We had very little trouble following the signs here, only to see... a security line. You know, the one where you take off your shoes, they scan you, etc. The line moves slowly too, there was at first only one line, but they eventually opened a second.

Once we passed this, yes, we made it to our gate.  I hope that knowing our long process helps you if you happen to be traveling this way in the future.

Biggest timing things:
-Accra departure, arrive 4 hours early to go through all their steps
-JFK connecting flight, have a significant layover, short ones would be tough

Ghana Part 6- The good, the bad, and the bittersweet

I didn't have the chance to update on Thursday because we actually made it home today, so I have been away from the internet of the hotel room since Thursday morning until a couple of hours ago.

The good

Our contact picked us up on time, we went to the embassy and successfully filed our I-600 (without the birth certificate) and got permission to have our POA turn in any additional papers!

If we can get an escort, that means that all of our parts are done. If not, we will be returning, but only to pick Grace up and take her home with us.

We were able to get on the plane, on time, and make our connecting flight, and successfully make it back home.

We did get to see Grace on Thursday (we weren't sure if we would or not) and she was happy and smiling almost as soon as we saw her, so she remembers us! Oh, and we were able to get a picture of her smile, which we had been trying to capture all week.


She is the most consistent in smiling after she "practices walking" on Blake's legs. He holds her, and she moves her feet, and he moves her forward, but she loves it.

Grace looking at us as she eats her snack. 

The bad

I was really under the weather on the morning of the embassy, and got sick again like Sunday, but this time in our contact's car (thankfully in a bag) but I was really embarrassed. This nausea made me almost decide to just let Blake visit her on the last day, but shortly after being willing to do that, I drank more water and thankfully I felt good enough to stay too.

After a short happy time with Grace... she had a full blown meltdown. Crying, squirming, our tricks that had kept the tears away all day were not working! So we had a real parenting experience outside of that orphanage playing the game of "why is she upset, and how can we fix it" that every parent has to play at some point.

Food and water kept her placated temporarily, and we actually figured out that she was really tired and needed to sleep, but getting her to do that was no easy feat. But we kept alternating snacks, water and then rocking/singing to her, and FINALLY (as I was singing a song I had made up with the super simple lyrics of "don't cry") she went to sleep in my arms.

Then Blake watched her to ensure she was really asleep before I very carefully sat down.

So this picture, which I love, is not just a sweet moment, but a hard earned moment of true parenting in an foreign country in front of strangers. Both of us, talking about it later, half hoped and half dreaded the orphanage workers coming over to rescue us, but are much happier that we were able to diagnose and fix her tears ourselves.

I plan on writing a whole different post on our airport experiences because I think they might be helpful to others having to travel, but both leaving Accra and entering JFK for an international flight would go in my bad category. I mean, they weren't awful, but they both were crazy unorganized, unclear and had lots of lines (every airport, I know, but I'll elaborate more later).

The bittersweet

We are home. We get to be with our dogs, our cats, our family and our friends again. We plan on decorating the house for Christmas this weekend, and look forward to all of the things that are comforts of home that we can't have in Ghana.

And yet... we are both seriously down, at different moments throughout the day. Today is the first day since meeting her that we didn't get to see her or hold her. Today it is hitting us that as wonderful as the week was, until we finish this process, which is still months away (at best), we don't get to be with her again till she has her visa and can come home. Who knows exactly where she is in the attachment process, but we are definitely attached to her, and missing her already.

We have 26 different items we bought for us in Ghana (as well as gifts for her as she grows and gifts for family) and lots of pictures and video to remember those precious moments together, but it doesn't even compare to being with her.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ghana Part 5- Sigh

My title for the day is Sigh.

All the way around, it was not a great day.

It started with the fun of the unknown. The driver who has been taking us to the orphanage to see Grace wasn't sure what time he would pick us up, and the last we heard yesterday is that he was going to talk to the other person (who would be taking us to the Embassy) to figure out what we were doing today.

Last we heard, Ghana contact 1 was going to pick us up at the hotel at 12 to go to the orphanage to see her, and Ghana contact 2 was going to pick us up at the hotel at 1 to go to the Embassy. Obviously that is a problem, thus why they needed to work it out.

No email, no call, no messages, so then we figured that what probably happened is contact 1 was going to still pick us up at 12. But we weren't sure, so we spent the morning wasting time in the hotel room, waiting for a call that could possibly come earlier. Then it was 12, and we still hadn't heard anything.

So I called Ghana contact 2, who was arguably more important for the day because it was all about getting our paperwork filed. He said he would call contact 1 and ask. He called me back, and said contact 1 was on his way to pick us up and then he (contact 2) would be picking us up from the orphanage at 1:30 (instead of 1). This was still close to 12, so we went downstairs and waited.

At 12:30 Ghana contact 1 finally arrived. We got to the orphanage, only to get to wait more. They were not prepared with Grace, so we just hung out under a tree with another adoptive family for another 15 minutes.

We did have a little silver lining in that we were able to sign a paper to allow us to take Grace with us to the embassy (though this turned out later to not be a silver lining).

After the little time of bonding with her, we started to look for contact 2.


Keep in mind our appointment at the embassy was at 2. I am NOT a late person. I typically run about 15 minutes before important appointments. This was incredibly stressful for us. We had been told that the embassy was very close to where the orphanage was, so I was just hoping that we would get there quickly, and just be a little late.

He arrived at 2.

We were anxious to just go... but first he had to take care of some business at the orphanage... then try to get copies made, but that place didn't have electricity... then we waited for him at another copying place.

All this while Grace is with us, in the car, but incredibly fussy (not crying, thankfully) but very wiggly and very much NOT wanting to be sitting in the car (which isn't that surprising from what we have seen of her, she is happiest being held, but by someone standing).

Blake and I were pretty fussy too (just better at hiding it) as each minute we spent at the various places to get the copies was a minute we were already late for our hard earned appointment.

We arrived at 2:40. Major sigh. Then he asked us to wait while he parked the car. Then we had to try to unload all electronics from our backpack (eventually just deciding to let them hold the backpack with all the stuff, there was so much).

By the time we got in to the embassy area, it was 3, and apparently, the people we needed had just left.

We were told they had been calling and calling for us, but we were not there. They told us to wait, but there was probably nothing they could do. We put our name on what I think was a walk in list, and proceeded to wait. A lot.

Grace, thankfully, by this time had stopped fussing and gone to sleep on Blake's shoulder. So cute! Couldn't get a picture though, because as previously mentioned they were holding all our stuff.

At 3:30, we had a glimmer of hope. The lady who had our name on the walk in list had found one of the people from the department we needed, and she would see us in the next room.

We walk in, with our paperwork, only for us to learn that this particular worker was really sorry, but she had never done one of these before, and she didn't want to mess it up, so could we come back tomorrow. She made us an appointment for 10 tomorrow morning.

We did hand her our paperwork (and are now not sure that was the right thing to do) and left.


In short, we had very little time with Grace at the orphanage doing the playing, fun bonding time. We had a lot of time trying to keep a fussy baby happy in the car and in the U.S. embassy, and we haven't filed our paperwork, which, you know, is the primary reason for the whole trip.

We are trying to be positive. We are thankful that we didn't make our appointment on the last day of our trip, but made it a day before our last day so that if we needed, we could try for an appointment on the following day. We are thankful that our flight is late at night so we can spend a lot of time waiting at the embassy if we need to.

If we are late, if tomorrow doesn't work out in some way, I am not really sure of the next step. I am ready to go home, but it really doesn't make sense for us to leave, only to come back next week or two to do the paperwork. In all honesty, the most logical thing to do would be to stay until this is taken care of. Or at least until they say that our POA can do the rest. It wouldn't just be one day though, because they don't have appointments on Fridays...

Pray. Pray that all goes well tomorrow and we fly back home. Pray that contact 2 is on time tomorrow, and tomorrow is easy. Pray that tomorrow is a better day.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ghana part 4- Three precious hours

Today was wonderful. We had three wonderful precious hours with Grace at the orphanage today, and at the end, we agreed, we FELT like her parents.

She loved some of the new toys we brought. She spent lots of time banging her crayons (plastic toddler crayons) together to make noise. She also loved the little tupperware container that I filled with beads so she could shake it and make noise.

We heard her trying to vocalize a lot more (though, of course, not for the camera lol). She seems to love being read to, being sung to, and being held. The few times that she got a bit fussy, and she started to frown, we could see that tears were coming soon, we just needed to hold her, sing to her and rock her a little, and she was good again.

She is already quite the little daddy's girl. While she loved us both, she definitely showed a preference for him. This is the main reason that the shutterfly pictures feature her with him, because he held her most of the time (and I was more likely to take pictures too, and he had to be asked to take a picture or a video).

I think the big things that made us feel more like parents today were:
1- We were able to get a smile out of her a couple of times. Man, there is no feeling like having your child smile at you.
2- She reached for us, both of us on different occasions, wanting to be held.
3- We got to feed her. Not a real meal, but a lollypop, a cracker and some water. Even though it wasn't our food, we were the ones that helped her eat, helped her drink, and cleaned her up afterwards. Awesome!
4- We got to hear her verbalize, trying out little words. It isn't a huge thing, but just like seeing her look around shows us that she can see, her moving her arms and legs show that they are working fine, having her turn when she hears noises shows she can hear, having her try to talk shows that her voice is fine, all of which make us really happy.
5- She crawled for us! It was even more exciting than we thought when she first did it, because although we had been told she could crawl by our former coordinator, the orphanage worker we talked to yesterday said that she couldn't. Today though, she was totally crawling (to get a cracker that had fallen on the sidewalk... but who cares what her motivation was). We even got it on camera! It isn't on shutterfly yet because it was captured on our video camera, not our phone or little digital camera. Later, we found out that she crawls often, but it was still a first for US to see her crawl. Best feeling ever.

Yesterday it felt like someone else's child, but today, she felt like ours. It also helped to see our adoption decree today where it names us as her legal parents and guardians. It also says that her last name is officially Olsen.

This is a bittersweet thing though. I love that we are attaching more to her, and her to us... but it makes it that much harder to leave, and wait for her to be allowed to join our family in America. If we had gone home after yesterday, it would have been hard, but okay, like when I have to wait to see my friends again. But after today, we missed her within a few minutes of getting in the car to drive back to the hotel.  Tomorrow we will get to see her, but just for a little bit. Then we can see her again on Thursday, but then we are flying back that night, and unless we end up having to do the pick up trip, not see her again until her visa is issued and she arrives at the airport near us. It makes me want to cry just thinking about those months until we get through that step.

Sigh. But for today, I will treasure my wealth of pictures and video and memories, and look forward to seeing her again tomorrow.

In other news, our hotel was crazy busy today because apparently the owner of our hotel is one of the main presidential candidates! So the parking lot was full, and there were reporters and cameras everywhere when we came back. We were thinking about eating here tonight, but instead we will probably head to the Italian place (I know, sad right? but comfort food is awesome) to get away from the crowds.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ghana part 3- Who are these strange people?

If you haven't headed over to my shutterfly pictures yet, do so today, and please comment or sign the guestbook so I know people can see those pictures! There are tons of pictures of our little girl. Before I even talk about today, I want to say that it is huge to me to be able to say that I don't know how many pictures I took today! Before today, I knew I had exactly 8. That's it, eight pictures of my child total. Today? I think it is somewhere around 60, and we get to take more tomorrow!

How do you put into words meeting your first child for the first time?

Last night Blake and I couldn't sleep, seriously. I think we both got a couple of hours, but it was sporadic at best. We ate breakfast at the hotel, and then started waiting in the lobby for our contact (not the one I thought I had frustrated... but I actually think we are fine now) who was supposed to meet us at 10:00.

At 10:15, the hotel receptionist asked if we had someone meeting us and if we wanted her to call them for us. We declined, but tried to call him. We didn't get through, and just kept waiting. Around 10:20, he called us and said he would be there in 45 minutes (I actually wasn't sure if he said 4 to 5 or 45 at first... but as we waited... it was  45 minutes lol). He arrived right around 11:00.

He drove us to the orphanage, and along the way, our main contact called, asked to talk to me, and told us that our adoption decree was ready and signed (phew, one thing off of my radar).

When we got there, another family from Montana was meeting and bonding with their children (two kids, a boy and a girl). We waited in the car, and then in chairs in the parking lot, but eventually, they brought Grace out to see us.

She is so tiny! Shortly after starting to hold her, I had our contact take a picture of the three of us together, which is now officially my favorite picture!

I honestly don't know how to put into words how it felt to be there with her. Both Blake and my main goal was to try to make her smile. I am not confident we totally succeeded, but we did keep her from crying the whole time she was with us, though she got close.

Whether it is because she is actually younger than her official age, or if she is just behind developmentally, her behaviors are typical of a younger child than one. From what we saw and what we were told when we were with her caretaker, she isn't crawling yet. Standing is out of the question, and even sitting unassisted is not totally mastered.

She can grab small objects though, and spent a lot of time holding the ball we brought to play with her. She enjoyed tapping it on the ground, and on Blake's arms. We both had a chance to have her on our backs Ghanian style (see shutterfly for those pictures), and it was strange, and we both much preferred to have her in our arms.

She liked it when Blake made strange noises with his mouth. She didn't make any vocalizations while we were with her, but she might just not be used to us yet. The caretakers, and our contact and his wife said that as we keep coming, she will smile for us, and interact more with us.

We read her a few books, and she did like looking at the pictures. Tomorrow we plan on bringing crayons, and see if she shows any interest in coloring.

I was torn a lot of the time between interacting with her, and taking pictures/ video so that I can continue to enjoy those moments in the next few months before we get her case finished and get to have her at home.

I want to say that I totally felt like a mom... but I didn't. Honestly. I loved holding her, but it was like holding my friend's kids. Fun to play with, hold and try to make smile, but I don't think those are the moments that make you feel like a mom. I think those moments will come when I get to change her clothes, feed her, give her a bath, and put her to sleep. The hard moments, the nights that we spend trying to get her to fall asleep or having to take her to the doctor.

I love being with her, but until she gets home she still doesn't feel like mine. Sweet, wonderful and precious... but not mine.

In other news, after time with her, we just cruised around, got dinner, and bought some more from friendly salespeople.  Actually, one of those encounters was very strange. We were trying hard to say no, only for him to go with another Ghanian technique. He "gave" us the item, and said its a gift, I want you to have it. Take it back to America, tell them its from me. If you want, you can give me a little for it, but take it, it is a gift. Normally, I sell for ___ but for you, I'll give you good deal. Etc. It actually was the second time today that someone got our money with that particular technique, because how do you turn down "a gift" that costs money?

Stranger was that we were talking to him after we bought it, and he introduced us to his daughter, and shared the story about how her mom had left her with him, and he is trying to make a living for her. We shared about Grace, and showed him a picture of her, and then he asked if we wanted to adopt his child too, and even showed us her birth certificate! It broke our hearts to hear that he was so ready to give her up if he could. We, of course, declined, but it was a strange encounter all the same.

The other interesting side note is that since we keep shopping from the same general area, there are a few people there who remember us, by name, as we walk by. Most just say hi, some try to get us to buy from them again, some introduce us to their friends who try to get us to buy something.

As bad tourists as we may be, we think this will be basically how the rest of our days will be here. Breakfast at the hotel, then a trip to the orphanage for our time with Grace, then back to the hotel or local areas for dinner, and then stay in the hotel at night. The tour company we had thought of booking with never got back to us, and that is just as well because I don't know when we would have time to go anyways. This trip was never really about Ghana... it was about being with our daughter and doing what we need to work towards getting her home.

It will be very nice when she is finally home, and we can start getting to do all of the hard parenting stuff. But for now, we will treasure the sweet moments, and try to grow our bond with our little girl.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ghana Part 2- First Full Day here

First let me state, for the record, that jetlag is crazy!

We crashed super early last night (way earlier than we should) which was understandable since we didn't get more than a few hours of sleep on the plane. Then we slept somewhat restlessly, only for me to be wide awake at midnight here. Obviously too early to get up.

I spent an hour or two looking at different things to see here, and thinking about where to go today, and then read some of my new book on my kindle, until about 2am.

At this point, I apparently was still crazy tired because then I fell back asleep, and slept until almost 10am. When I got up, I felt well rested, but awful. I am not sure if it was the heat, lack of food, crazy schedule or what, but I had a headache, and felt nauseous (sorry parents, don't panic, I'm okay, but just telling it like it is). Even though Blake was trying to get me to eat something so I could take my malaria pill, nothing sounded good, and the thought of eating made me want to throw up even more. At his urging, I took a bite of a protein bar, and got down my pill... only to go and throw up the food (and hopefully not the pill) a few minutes later.

After that lovely trip to the bathroom, we both decided it would be good for me to lay down and see if I felt better. I ended up falling asleep AGAIN, and then woke up again at about 1pm. I felt much better, was able to get a little food down, drank a bunch of water, and actually felt good enough to get out of the room and go somewhere!

I know that isn't the most pleasant start to our trip, but it is the bottom line truth of what crazy jetlag can do to you, not just sleep schedule, but how you feel as well.

We chose to go the Kwame Nkurmah (I probably spelled that wrong, but the slow internet means that I am NOT going to search for it and the right way to spell it) Museum and Memorial.

Probably the biggest thing that we did today was shop. Even though we try to be careful with our money, and know that logically we can't buy from everyone who asks us, it turns out to be really hard in practice, especially here!

First off, being white here is like a walking sign that says, "I am a tourist here." All day, we would have people walking us to us, guessing what country we are from, and just chitchatting with us. After this friendly greeting and welcome, all of a sudden you find out what they are selling. Saying no is practically impossible, as they just keep lowering the price until you agree! As a matter of fact, we haven't successfully said no to one of these friendly sellers yet. We had a few sellers who were less focused on introducing themselves and talking to us, and them we could decline.

So even before we got into the museum area, we had two people who had asked us our names so they could make us bracelets while we were in the museum. They are really cool bracelets, and the fact that they were made for us made them even more interesting. When we came back out to buy the bracelets, they tried to get us to buy more bracelets (and sigh, succeeded, we are such pushovers lol).

The museum itself was very interesting. Basically it was a museum honoring their first president who was also responsible in part for making Ghana a country free and separate from England. Imagine if George Washington had become our first president not in the 1700's but in the 1950-60's, what would be in his museums. First off, there were plenty of pictures, which makes sense because cameras were common in that time, but it was still pretty crazy to see their president dancing with Queen Elizabeth, or talking with Kennedy and Castro (two different pictures). They even had his car, a blue Cadillac, which again, makes sense because of the era he became president.

The whole museum and memorial were surrounded by trees and fountains (which we didn't take pictures of because it would have cost us 10 U.S. dollars just for the right to take those pictures) but it was a scenic enough place that we saw probably 4 different wedding parties taking pictures there.

Around the same time we were being asked our names for the bracelets, a few guys from the arts center next door introduced themselves and asked us to come and look at their items. We agreed to look after the museum, and they were fine with that.

So we honored our word and walked over there afterwards, only to be greeted by new people trying to lead us to their items for sale. We started walking with the new guys, but then the guys who had introduced themselves before the museum saw us, reminded us of our word, and we went with them. As we walked, one of the new guys tried to persuade us not to buy from them because they are kind of like ebay (my words, not his) where they buy items like the kind that he makes, and then tries to sell it at a higher price.

Still, as I mentioned above, we can't say no. Not just our personalities, but our persuasive salesmen make it very near impossible to say no. Besides, we truly love the craftsmanship here in Ghana, and want to buy a lot!

We walked away with only a few items from that shop, though they of course wanted it to be more, and then went with our new people to their booth.

These guys were awesome! Totally worth the experience (and the money). They played the drums for us, and gave us a drumming lesson of our own. I was better at it than Blake, and for the most part I was able to keep up as they kept the basic rhythm going faster and faster! Definitely a take home memory, playing the drums in Ghana. We then, of course, needed to buy a drum of our own.

But of the three drummers that we were spending time with, though they all play, they actually all have their own businesses. One of them was a painter, so we had to buy one of his paintings, then another guy was a basket maker and showed us how to make a basket, so of course we bought a basket. Actually, by the time the basket guy showed us his products, we literally were out of Ghanian money, so we told them that we had to go to an ATM before we could pay him for the basket. These nice guys were willing to escort us to get the money (and yes, it was escort, because if it wasn't for them we would have had another group of people trying to convince us to buy from them).

They even haggled with a taxi driver for us to get a better rate for our ride back to the hotel.

After we went back to our hotel, put our newly bought items down, we decided we really needed to eat.

I had read online about an Italian restaurant called Mamma Mia's with good reviews, and we enjoyed our comfort food there a lot, especially since it was really the first time I had eaten all day. I had spaghetti and Blake had pepperoni pizza.

The general market was right around the corner, so we decided to walk there to get our (apparently daily) supply of water, and a few other supplies. On the way there we had some more super friendly salesman introduce themselves to us. So we bought another painting and bracelet lol!

Over dinner, we did discuss it, and decided that we really like supporting the Ghanian economy, and we hope for this to be a once in a lifetime trip, so it isn't bad to get lots of items to remember the place and celebrate it in our homes. Also, if there is going to be any regret, I would rather it be us spending too much money, but having lots of items, rather than "I wished we had gotten ___," when we can no longer get the item at all.

You might notice that there are no pictures with this post. Well, it seems that though there is internet, which I am super thankful for, it isn't great, and some sites are worse than others. The normal site that I upload my pictures on to put in posts is one of the ones that doesn't want to work. So, this week, I will be uploading to a shutterfly site, and then I will go back and fill in pictures later on the blog, once we are home.

To see our pictures so far, and keep looking here for the week, go to:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ghana part 1- Home to Hotel

All we have done is made it from our home to our hotel and I already feel like we have had an adventure!

Both flights were fine, though they were close together, so the layover was crazy fast. The first passed quickly, and while the trip across the Atlantic was longer, between dinner, breakfast, movie, and catnaps, it didn't drag on too bad.

Leaving the airplane was crazy though. We walked down stairs off the plane, then took a bus to the immigration area, where they scanned our eyes and took our fingerprints besides checking our visas and passports. Then we waited forever for our luggage, and then we tried our best to communicate with people in the airport to get ourselves a phone, a phone card, and a taxi to our hotel. Though they speak English, we both have such strong accents it was actually a bit difficult to communicate. All of this passed with only minimal problems, but all felt very foreign and different.

Checking into the hotel went smoothly, and though it took a bit of time to get a signal, it looks as though the internet is working fairly well, so I was able to update facebook people, and now my blogging people that we are here.

Unlike most of my vacations, this one is pretty much NOT planned, more of a figure it out day by day kind of trip except for our appointment on Wednesday, and knowing the first day we are able to visit our little girl is Monday.

As we drove along the streets in the taxi, the biggest thing that strikes you is the sheer number of people selling items by the side of the road, and all of the women carrying their items on their heads, with perfect amazing balance.

Oh, and not only have I not seen another white person since leaving the airport, I noticed that even all of the advertisements have black people on their ads. It makes perfect sense, but just is that reminder that we are SO not home. We are in Africa. Crazy!

The plans for the rest of today is to try to rest without messing up our trying to recover from jet lag (i.e. not actually go to sleep), eat and then really go to sleep as close to Ghana time as we can.

Laying down sounds awesome right now. I'll try to post again tomorrow, but we are here, and we are safe in our hotel for now (if you consider safe being seeing the occasional mosquito and having water that if we drink we could get sick lol).

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


That's why I couldn't be happier
No, I couldn't be happier
Though it is, I admit
The tiniest bit
Unlike I anticipated
But I couldn't be happier
Simply couldn't be happier
  Well - not "simply":
  'Cause getting your dreams
It's strange, but it seems
A little - well - complicated
There's a kind of a sort of : cost
There's a couple of things get: lost
There are bridges you cross
You didn't know you crossed
Until you've crossed
And if that joy, that thrill
Doesn't thrill you like you think it will
Still -
With this perfect finale
The cheers and ballyhoo
Wouldn't be happier?
So I couldn't be happier
Because happy is what happens
When all your dreams come true

We are traveling to Ghana the day after Thanksgiving, and we don't have to cancel our tickets! That is the good news.

But I chose this song above because it is perfectly my emotions today. We have an appointment with the embassy to file our I-600, just got it today for next week at 2:00pm. This is what we were waiting on, because we were told that our decree was issued, just needed to be signed, and that would be done this week.

The birth certificate is recommended, but not required to file, and this will save us money from not canceling, even if it possibly delays the process.

Last we had heard, we would get to have her with us the whole week. We were thrilled and scared all at the same time. Today, as I confirmed with our contact that we would be coming, and asked how we would get to have her with us, I found out that the situation has changed, and we have to just visit her at the orphanage- up to two hours a day.

We still can do our paper filing as needed, we still get to see her, hold her, play with her etc. and we were not sure if we could take her with us in the first place, until this same contact, a few weeks ago said we could. 

Honestly, I think it is because of
 "There are bridges you cross
You didn't know you crossed
Until you've crossed."
 For various reasons, this contact was not supposed to be our primary contact. We (I) made the conscious choice to talk to this person instead of the "normal route" because this contact was responsive and able to answer our questions, where the people we are supposed to contact have let me down in terms of communication, with delayed, inadequate answers that ultimately would have to be relayed to this contact, then back to our people, and then to us.  When I found a way, I chose to eliminate the middle man in the situation. In retrospect, I am not sure this was wise, but a determined mom will do what she feels she needs to do...

It started with very positive conversations.  But my second to last contact with this person showed their irritation, and I think I somehow pushed it over the edge. My last words from this contact were (to paraphrase) use the correct route to communicate with me in the future, no more direct contact. I also suspect this is the reason for the "situation change."

I think it takes a lot of additional effort on the part of this contact to get permission for us to take her out, and he might have been willing to do that for us at the beginning of the conversation, but now...  sigh.

I should be thrilled, jumping through the roof happy. But I'm not. I'm frustrated with myself that while we are able to go, and able to keep our tickets, I lost a great contact, and lost the opportunity to have her with us for the week we are there. More than that, I hate that I so frustrated and irritated the person who has been one of the most helpful for us, and is definitely the most important in getting things done for her to come home.

I see those suitcases full of things for her, and while I am sure they will let us change her clothes while we are there, read her books etc., there are a lot of items we wouldn't have bought if we knew that it was just visits.

Maybe it isn't all my fault, and maybe something really did change that was out of my contact's hands...but as I reread our conversations, I can see this contacts' responses continue to shift downwards in attitude towards us. I don't know.

I know we are going, and as far as my facebook will say, I will keep just the positive, because the fact that we can go at all is amazing, and something only God could arrange. Hopefully, I can smooth things over with this contact when were are there, in person. If not, I will count my blessings that I get to see her, and get the paperwork filed, and start the waiting till she gets home stage.

Thank you for your prayers, and for your positive thoughts. Please continue to pray for this trip, and also that I get back on this contact's good side when we are in Ghana, oh and that he is not so frustrated that we cannot contact him in Ghana, because that would be bad. Anyways... I have paperwork to gather, lesson plans to make, bags to pack and a house to clean for Thanksgiving, I just had to get this out.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mom proof #3- receipts

Those of you who look at my blog title will notice that I started with Mom proof #3, while never having written about mom proof #1, and #2. I figure as my life continues, I will have many of these, similar to those frequently shown on mugs, cards, random stuff online. You know, the ones that say, "You know you're a mom when..." and then end with some witty reason that you have proof that you are a mom.

I will be mainly writing about my receipts from the day, but I knew it wasn't the first mom proof that I have experienced, and figured that I should throw the other ones in here, and then label it with #3.

Mom proof #1- Pictures
You know you're a mom when you can't help but show anyone you think might be remotely interested pictures of your child.

I only have 8 pictures of our daughter total... so I think this is even worse for me in some ways because I not only want to show pictures, but I want to show literally picture I have! I have one picture of her in my wallet, and I kid you not, there are moments that I think to myself, does this cashier, waiter, random person possibly want to see a picture of her?  I have been able to restrain myself (so far) but the thought does cross my mind.

Mom proof #2- Worry.
You know you're a mom when one out of ten (or less) thoughts is a worry about your child.

I am told that this is normal, and that it never goes away. It seemed to have hit the moment we got the real referral, and it hasn't really gotten much better. Every picture I have gives me a bit of peace, because then I know that at that moment, when the picture was taken, she was safe, happy and healthy. But otherwise, yes, worries flit through my head all the time. I usually take them as a hint to pray for her. My biggest fear is that something will go so wrong that we will never get to see her and/or never get her home. I spend more time than I'd like having to commit this fear to God, over and over again, and trust that He planned for her to be part of our family, and she WILL join our family, here in the U.S. and hopefully soon.

But my mom proof for the day is:

Mom proof #3- Receipts.
You know you're a mom when you see the receipts from diapers, tiny dresses and tiny shoes for YOUR child (as opposed to a gift).

I may not have seen my daughter in person, or had the opportunity to hold her yet, but the items that I have bought over the last week sure make me feel like a mom!

After a period of time that it looked like a dim possibility of traveling to Ghana after Thanksgiving, it has turned around, and now looks more likely than not (though still not certain yet). Also, we got definite confirmation that when we are in the country, we do get to have her with us for that time! So, we have been shopping in preparation for that event.

First up on the list is clothes! I asked my friends with kids and they said to plan 2-3 outfits a day for her... and at the start of the day today we had... one, total. I am sure I will eventually have more clothes than I know what to do with, but as I haven't had my shower yet (its in the works)... we needed to fix that, now.

Tricky thing about these clothes too is that we aren't sure what size she is, so we are guessing based on her age. Even though we have been told she is really small for her age, we got almost all dresses, so if they are a bit big, its okay. Oh, and the fact that by the time she gets home for real, she will likely have grown (considering it is another couple of months from time of travel to Ghana) so these probably won't be worn much after this week (unless she stays small, and the clothes are a little big, but who knows). So, I wanted to keep it cheap. We started with looking at various garage sales.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
I am a bit proud of my haggling these three items down from 10 to 8 dollars for the three of them.

Then we went to Target's clearance rack, and got these five outfits:
Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

Add those with the items we bought on the day we found out we were legally her parents:
IMAG0307, Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

and the dress I made for her from a shirt that I was no longer able to wear:
Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

(I know the lighting is terrible... but the pictures were taken at night, and Blake needs to replace a lot of light bulbs downstairs lol!)

That brings her up to 10 outfits for the five or so days we have her! Not bad. I also did get an order off ebay with some more outfits, but we will see if it arrives before we have to leave.If it makes it here on time, then we have the 3 a day recommended by friends, if not... we will make do with what we have.

Funny thing is that I want to see her in all these outfits... even if she doesn't need that many outfits due to dirt/spills/accidents, and I have mental images of changing her anyways just to get pictures of her in more outfits to treasure during the time till she is home. But then I wonder if that is treating her too much like a doll for me to just dress up? Anyways...

We also got other supplies:
Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

There are more not featured on here, but I tried to follow the suggestions of my friends... though we still have to take at least one more trip to Target (or somewhere) before we go, because I forgot a bathing suit for her! Sigh, I got swimming diapers, but no swimsuit yet. Hopefully they have some for sale even though it is November...

The hardest item to buy was shoes. We have no idea what size her feet are, and even looking online, we basically learned that shoe size varies by kid. Great. So we ended up going with two different sizes, and hoping that one of them works... or we will be buying her shoes in Ghana lol! Both could be too big, or too small, we aren't really sure at all, but they are very cute!
Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

Every time, at every store, I did feel a bit strange buying this toddler stuff. Especially since Blake and I were together... and don't have a child with us. I wondered what people thought, and (as mentioned above) contemplated telling the cashiers that I wasn't buying for a friend, a shower, a niece or anyone else... I was buying for OUR child. Who we haven't met yet.

It is a good strange. It is also a really good strange to think that if we cross our last hurdle... we will be with her in a week. 1 week. Wow.

Just like with Ireland, it seems surreal. Like it hasn't really sunk in yet. Although, we now have two suitcases that have her items in them (and room for ours as well) in expectation that it is happening.

My biggest and best mom proof is coming... holding my child in my arms! Soon... hopefully, prayerfully soon!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

From Abstract to Concrete

Almost two weeks ago, I received new pictures of our daughter, and proceeded to show them to pretty much everyone I work with, as I am very proud of my beautiful little girl, and when you only possess eight pictures total, you are inclined to share literally every single one you have.  I also e-mailed them to my mom and Blake's mom figuring they would disperse them to other family members.

Somehow there was a breakdown in this plan as I found out this morning that my dad hadn't seen them yet, and he wanted to know why they weren't on my blog (as he is a very faithful reader).

Honestly, the main reason that I didn't post these earlier is that when I received these pictures, I thought that I was going to be receiving more in the very short future, and then I would have more of a luxury of choosing which of them to post on the blog. Even as time went on, and it looked like the other pictures were not going to be showing up as quickly, I kept waiting because I could wait "just one more day."

But I do have more to say about our daughter, and I know there are people who I don't see in real life, who do read my blog, and for them, and for posterity, here are a few more pictures of our beautiful girl.





Most parents, having the luxury of their child with them, look at photos of their child as a way to remember the cute dress or a fun memory.

When you still haven't met your child yet, you appreciate seeing her and her cute faces, but you also use the few photos you have to detect clues about your child.

From our pictures, we noticed that she has pierced ears. Blake is excited, I am on the fence about it. They are cute, they do make her look more feminine, and they are obviously a big cultural thing (if even a baby in an orphanage gets them). If entirely up to me, I probably wouldn't have let her get them pierced until she was older, but now that it is already done, it's not a big deal. At the same time, I am not super thrilled about having to keep her in earrings, keep track of her earrings, make sure she doesn't eat her earrings etc. I suppose I could take them out, and let her ears close, but as Blake likes them, it is apparently a cultural thing and it was something I was going to let her do someday anyways, we are going to keep them in.

We also have observed how inquisitive she seems from the pictures, looking around, and trying to look at everything around her. Without more information, we (proud parents that we are) conclude that she seems to have normal intelligence. :-) Can you tell that just from pictures... probably not... but hey, that's all we have.

She does have teeth. Cute little tiny teeth (seen clearly in the second picture and just barely showing in the third picture). So we can anticipate the fun of teething, and have a nice confirmation of her approximate age.

But the biggest thing that has happened lately with her is that she has moved in our heads from the abstract to concrete. We know now that when we travel to Ghana (hopefully, prayerfully, miraculously the week after Thanksgiving but possibly later) we will get to have her with us for the week we are there. I am super excited, Blake is a bit apprehensive, but we both feel like it makes the whole prospect of parenting more real.

We have to get supplies for that week. So when we were at CVS last week on another errand, I decided we could just stop by the baby row, and pick up some of the needed supplies. I walked to that row... looked around... and lost my nerve and walked back to where Blake was in the store. Something freaked me out about really buying things for her, not just fun items (like books, clothes, hair things, I got those without any trepidation) but the necessary ones. That step was like really believing that I have a little girl who will be needing those items, and soon. Like this is really happening. It just, I don't know, got real.

I got back to Blake and he asked why I didn't get anything. I told him how it intimidated me, and sweet guy that he is, walked back with me, and just started grabbing items. We didn't get a ton that day, but we did get a few items. It still felt weird buying baby items when we don't have a baby at home yet, but I kept telling myself that we have a right to buy them, because we ARE parents.

The other way that it got real recently is with my researching. If you know me well, you know that I approach life like a college student. Every somewhat significant life event is like a class that a portion of my brain feels the need to study for to feel equipped to handle it.

Before Roxie, I read copious amount about dogs, dog care, and dog training. When we learned about getting Tasha, I prepared by reading about huskies. Before our kittens, I read about caring for kittens and cats and the supplies needed. Even before our camping trip, I read about cold weather camping.
You get the picture. Knowledge/ research is my shield that equips me to feel prepared for new situations and things out of my comfort zone.

A few years ago, when we decided to adopt, I read a lot of books about adoption, and caring for an adopted child, connecting with them and helping them understand the loss that is a portion of their life story. After choosing Ghana and starting that portion of the process, I started reading about transracial adoptions, raising a black child, multicultural families, and about the country and culture of Ghana itself. When we found out that we were referred a girl, I started reading about African hair, and researching how to keep it healthy, and clean and braid it.

Do you notice a huge gap in my research? I didn't, until recently. I don't know why, but it just hit me a few weeks ago (I know, sad) that more than an "adopted child," more than a "black child," more than a "black girl," we will be raising a child. I never read about how to care for a 1 year old, what to expect of a toddler, how to do the nitty gritty day to day parenting stuff!

Blake laughs at me, because most people don't approach life like a college student, and I am sure that a person could just be thrown into parenting without ever picking up a book and doing just fine. But me? I always research stuff before I do it (I even researched about mud runs before going!), and to leave out such a HUGE area of research really made me concerned about myself.

I think I figured it out though, and it goes back to the title of this blog, and really most of the things above too- I am having to go from abstract to concrete, and it scares me. All of the other topics were "safe" where they would be helpful no matter who our child is, and if something fell apart, it would still apply. Starting to learn about a one year old, buying items for her specifically, these things mean that I am putting myself out there that we aren't just adopting A child, we are adopting our little one year old girl whose smiling, inquisitive face is featured in the pictures above, and soon we will be taking care of her, since she is already ours.

I have now gotten a small collection of books from the library on this very topic, and am already feeling more prepared both for our week of caring for her, and for when she gets home and we care for her full time.

It is a good thing for it to feel real, and truly, I want to let go of my fears that she is an illusion, a mirage, or a beautiful dream that I could possibly have to wake up from someday. I hope my week with her will cure that, but I think it won't be resolved until she is home, and even then, I wouldn't be surprised if there are days when I look at her, while she is playing, sleeping or just sitting next to me, and wonder, even then, if she is really there, and really ours. I hope and pray that day is soon.