Posts from the ‘Adoption’ category

There’s a crazy Barbie in my son’s crib.

Last month our updates were delayed by a computer malfunction at the transition home. It was a big bummer, but when we did receive the latest on our boy, I soaked up every detail of the report and pictures. We were delighted to see a bald Baby S, fresh from a clipper line-up, no doubt. THE cutest bald head, right?Commonplace

In the uncropped photo, he’s very much standing right at the edge of his purple crib, looking every bit of his nine months. Sigh…

The next best thing about this picture is Crazy Barbie.

Reasons:

1) um, that she’s there at all.

2) that she seems to be having a super time. Live it up now, Barbie. (I promise I will be bumping her from her post just as soon as possible. I kind of feel like she might be rubbing in this whole “I’m here, you’re not” thing a little.)

3) that she’s white. And every child in the transition home is not. And every nanny is not. But (most) every adoptive parent from our agency simply is. It’s a beautiful non-thing, really.

Sidenote: Ever been shopping for a dark skinned Barbie? Or toy? It’s worth the excercise, promise.

I had no thoughts about color when I was very young. No conversations with my parents that I can remember. Very few personal friends of different shades. But…I vividly remember my mom buying me a family of beautiful, dark skinned Barbies. I noticed the difference right away. I think I might have even smiled nervously, unsure. She didn’t say a word, but the gesture was epic and formative, as I now look back. And, of course, in the next blink, I know my little girl self was off playing with my four brand new Barbies (because that is what kids do with great and new toys). It was a score.

A million points for toy diversity. 😉

4) that she is anything but off-the-shelf. Maybe a few too many smacks at the mercy of a wired toddler? (Hopefully if S stares at her a little everyday, he’ll have no fear at all when he sees me in the morning. Ha!)

5) that the sassy Barb made me laugh.

Yes, God’s grace absolutely can take the shape of a misplaced toy on my son’s crib. He knows what we need, and I needed that laugh.

We’ve hit another familiar little policy bump in the road. The timing doesn’t feel super, but we know better than to complain too loudly. We’ve seen a whole lot more grace than we deserve.

 

For us, right now, there’s so, so much grace in all of you checking in on us in your various wonderful ways. To name a few: a funny t-shirt, a friend remembering an important-to-us date, a sneaky check, a phone call, a suitcase of donations (MOPS moms!!!), a thinking of you text, a written prayer, a package of little boy treasures from a photo client, a listen that only a sister can give, an entire small group’s willingness to host a post-Halloween party “in case we [had] to travel with our trick or treater” (Shucks, we didn’t. But a nice offer, just the same.), a couple of you who have shared our burden right alongside some of your own very big burdens, affirmation, several “I want to do this for you guys” statements, and the kind of “I’m praying for you” that is the. real. deal.

Let me tell you, the real deal works every time. For every circumstance. And truthfully, some of you have flat out bested us at our own We’ve Got This model. You snuck in and showed us God’s grace in these genuine gestures, and it really does make waiting much easier. So, thanks for butting in and being so nice.

Back to Barbie…

That flailing gal was either a donation to the transition home or a gift to a child living there. Next to his medical notes, the September report didn’t specify whether Baby S actually plays with Barbie (He should. She seems great.), but I do know that he has been part of a system that is largely resourced by donations. His diapers, wipes, formula, food, clothing, bed sheets, toys come from the transition home supplies, mostly stocked by traveling families. It’s a beautiful system, and we’re grateful for the families who traveled before us.

To be honest, we’re not used to receiving charity or having a child who needs it. Despite our We’ve Got This model, our family of four has indeed needed grace and stuff. Humbling.

Grace and stuff.

I could not begin to dictate the exact right ways to put that powerful combo together, but I do know that there seem to be plenty of opportunities, all the time and everywhere, to try to give a little of both.

There is just no denying its impact. 

We’re grateful. And also still very joyful and excited. Last week our agency hosted a conference call about this new government change. We feel at peace with the information we have, and we’ll wait until we hear more about our last document.

In the meantime, we’ve entrusted Barbie to watch over that little bald head.

 

Advertisements

Present Here, Ready for There

http://annalhall.tumblr.com/

Our little family is trying to maintain a “Present Here, Ready for There” kind of existence. Somehow, we’re managing to stay grounded in the in between.

After my last post, we had a rare international phone chat with Nathan’s brother and our sister-in-law. They live in Rwanda, but the beautiful picture above is from their April trip to Ethiopia. I love it. Phone calls are always a priceless time, mostly because we crazy miss them. Also because…Nathan and I are only so-so at sharing a phone, and…I’m pretty sure the conversation was cut off exactly four times. Worth it though. Toward the end of the much needed chat, Travis reflected on our forty day waiting period. [Court closure (probably) caused a little extra adoption wait time for us.] He acknowledged the wait. And the rain. You see, while we have been waiting to meet our boy, Ethiopia has been in the middle of one of its rainy seasons.  Perhaps, he said, this will give you a new perspective on the biblical story of Noah. Maybe, he said, you have the opportunity to practice the kind of faith that only comes with working toward an abstract, bigger-than-you goal. Certainly, he confirmed, this is a time of purpose. Forty days. To be still and wait. To plan and prepare. To be unsure and hope. To rejoice with Ethiopia’s rain.

Okay, I am paraphrasing a bit here, and trying to tread lightly with the parallels, but these were the themes. Thought-provoking and challenging. Classic Travis.

As a kid, I was honestly horrified by the story of the ark and the flood. Still am. Frankly, I don’t always know where to place this story’s tragedy (and many, many of today’s human tragedies) in my theology, in my faith.

Here’s what I do know:

The wait, all of it, has been a rich time for us.

We’ve had a few notable moments when, even in hindsight, it seems like we could easily assess our circumstances, stamp our glass HALF EMPTY, and the rest of the world would join us in calling it so. There’s not a thing wrong with acknowledging hardship. It can be so necessary. Still, there’s a scary gravity that comes with being in charge of our own PR. Nathan and I have confessed to each other several times that we especially feel the weight of our adoption press. We know there would be real tragedy in centering that unique story in the negatives.

In truth, the immediate slow-down of Ethiopian adoptions allowed us more time to honor and respect this foreign country and to posture an attitude of humility rather than entitlement.

In truth, a long wait equaled countless happy moments with our firstborn and much needed time to become resource-ready for our second.

In truth, the heartache that came with trying to add to our family made us even more certain of this adoption, this baby. The month-long threat of Ethiopia closing international adoptions made us more certain still of this adoption, this baby.

In truth, separation makes us miss a child we haven’t met.

This is beautiful, all of it, and we feel responsible to call it so.

As for the additional 40 days during court closure? Well, that’s been a really sweet time too. Far beyond us, though, it’s a necessary time for Ethiopia. When we really consider why we are waiting, the reason courts are closed, it is easy to just sit tight and wait. Ethiopia needs rain. Crops like maize, wheat, and sorghum depend on adequate rain. These crops will need to stretch further as Ethiopia accepts and will continue to accept refugees. Below average harvests or suffering pasture lands are devastating to poor households.

While the rains came, Nathan and I were eager to join forces with Team Anita and help plan the Team Anita – Pay It Forward Golf Tournament. I know zip-zero about golf, but I still take notes from Anita all the time. She was just one of those gems who had big reasons to complain but chose instead to make her story greater than the negatives in her life. I love seeing the good work that her faith continues to carry out. 

We’ve also used the last month or so to furiously learn. Of course, we’ve already done some training and read a book or two on the stuff of adoption, of Ethiopia, of attachment, of the political and ethical underpinnings of it all, but I’ve had a new fervor. Apparently, this hunt for info is some kind of primal need that trumps cleaning or nesting or packing. I want to know what I don’t know.

Which is a lot.

No surprise here: I still don’t know very much, but I’m all about recommending content that is helpful to curious passersby. Look me up.

 

We’re still waiting. Not necessarily the ark-building kind of wait (lest you think I have a Noah Complex), but it is a faith wait, for sure. Thanks be to God, for moving us along, each step of the way.

Here’s the latest:

  • Courts open next week on Monday the 6th.
  • Two families have already been given dates to travel by the end of this week. Happiness! And also, woah, holy cow! (unexpectedly soon for these families)
  • We still need that one little letter…that we can only assume is going to take several weeks + to be issued. Maybe. Probably. Who knows.
  • We’re pumped, pumped, pumped.
  • Baby S is getting older and wiser and cuter.
  • Turns out, Steak N Shake’s Happy Hour milkshakes alleviate nervous energy tremendously…

and also might be adding to our baby weight. 😉

 

In forty days…

Commonplace

In forty days…after the rainy season, Ethiopian courts will reopen for the hearing of adoption cases.

 

Nathan and I kind of accidentally [on purpose] stayed a little unplugged during our pre-referral wait. We did our best not to obsess over the process, the timelines, other stories, the scares, the what-to-dos, the what-not-to-dos, um…adoption blogs, the delays, the statistics, the notices, all of that, but we did hear enough from the greater adoption community to know that court closure” and “the PAIR letter” are game changers. Whenever a dear-sweet-fellow-waiter would mention court closure” or “the PAIR letter,” everyone seemed all a buzz. The words have power, I tell you.

 

Well, here we are in the middle of court closure, waiting for our PAIR letter.

 

Every year, Ethiopian courts close for the rainy season. This year, they closed on August 10th, and at that time, our case was still being reviewed at the US National Benefits Center, leaving us pretty unaffected by the closure. From there, The-Halls-on-Paper traveled to the US Embassy in Ethiopia to be further investigated, with all steps falling under the PAIR (Pre-Adoption Immigration Review) process to determine that Baby S is eligible to immigrate to the US. We need PAIR approval before we can receive a court date, and a court date means we can hold our baby.

 

As of today…our investigation is complete. Hooray! We should receive that legendary PAIR approval letter within days. This is BIG.

 

It’s true that both the PAIR process and court closure are notorious because well, they tend to slow families down in that very last stretch before meeting their children. It goes without saying that this is super dee duper lame, but it does happen. We…(thanks be!) went through PAIR pretty smoothly, with no additional requests for documentation – a step that causes major delay for some families. We’re so grateful that our investigation won’t drag indefinitely. No lies, though, we are also a smidgen sad that we can’t get ourselves to Ethiopia in September. The only other form we need will not be issued until courts reopen (in 40 days!), and when they do, you can bet we’ll be ready for that document, a trip, a court date, a meeting with a very important 8-month-old.

With all the court hype, I’m half expecting that upon reopening, a symphony will start to play in the distance, the earth might stop, the clouds could part…something epic. October 6th. Watch for it. 😉

 

 

In other news, Luke loves school. Earlier today, he saw a stack of mail and asked if he could write “Mrs. Nash” on one of the envelopes. I just handed him a blank card, and this poetry happened:

photo (2)Note: Henceforth, he is “Luke 10” (his class #), conqueror of all things kindergarten. 🙂

 

We are making the most of the next forty + days, each of us knocking out our own daily adventures, separate to-do lists, and unique commitments (maybe more on that later). But we’re kind of taking a collective breath as well. For me, life is a little weird in this kid limbo, but we know that just around the bend, our lives will change as we switch back to baby mode. Forty days seems like a good amount of time (biblical, even) to focus on that transition and to seriously prepare for it. 

I’ve had a frantic moment or two and several bizarro dreams when I suddenly remember that formula, teething, crying, crawling, walking, diapers are on the immediate horizon. It can be very surreal. Indeed, our baby is already born. He’s lived half a year on a different continent. He is the very best kind of baby, doing baby things, every single day. Now is our time to catch up with him. And, if I can disclose, now is pretty opportune for us to invite others along for the ride. I came back to this dusty blog in hopes of introducing our son to our friends and family before he is here, in our arms. We’re not doing anything out of the ordinary, really, (just havin’ a baby) but it’s a bit tricky to introduce a child who’s not here. He’s our delight, and we need to be taking care of business, this side of the ocean. It’s time for us to be “plugged in,” as in I might or might not have checked my email 37 times today. The game could change at any moment. 😉

In summary: a bunch of miracles are happening so the Halls can have another baby.

 

Thank you to you wonderful people who are cheering us along. We appreciate it more than you know. 

Firsts, Lasts, and In Between

 

 

On the day Luke was born, my dear friend, Kayla, gave me this horrible book called Let Me Hold You Longer. It is just…the. worst. (But she is the best, and every time Luke hands it to me for a bedtime read…first, I cringe. And then I think of her. And then I rush through it between rapid blinks and quickly bury it under a stack of books.) Seriously, check it out. It will break you.CommonplaceThe book comes to mind as we wrap up these blessed preschool years with our firstborn. He came to us a total delight, and we three have had such fun in the last five years.

CommonplaceCommonplaceCommonplaceCommonplace

CommonplaceMeg White PhotographyCommonplaceKindergarten will be another great adventure. We believe that wrapped up in This Great Parenting Job is the big task of helping Luke find out just who God made him to be. For now, I’m thankful that God made him to say things like:

“Ah…this is the lifetime.” (feet propped, head back on the banks of the Missouri River)

or…

“These goggles are pushing on my eyecaps [lids].”

or…

“Mom, you are just wild.” (Ha!)

or…

“I can definitely do that by myself. Definitely.”

…and to do things like:

mindlessly snap his fingers when he is nervous or really concentrating,

identify our garden veggies, thanks to Dad,

commit to ninja training – on our couches,

tell his grandma about school and dinosaurs and his esophagus,

still read whatever amount of books we arbitrarily tell him to read while we snooze some extra minutes (It has worked famously for years.),

eat s-l-o-w-l-y…”but not as slow as Gramps,”

get back on his bike after a wreck,

set aside some of his quarters for Baby S,

ask for “Duke, Ryle, and Togan” stories, and completely unrelated, have play dates with his cousins, Kyle and Logan,

“throw rocks in water,”

count down the days until school starts.

CommonplaceCommonplaceThis year is going to be life-changing for our five-year-old, but he is ready (and pumped) to face it all head-on. In his first year of school, he will go on his first airplane ride on his first international trip to meet his only sibling. Luke has never had the idea that he is an only child, and this is the year he will officially become a brother. As long as he can remember, we’ve talked about and prayed for “his brother or sister in Ethiopia.” Today, a stack of his kindergarten forms sits on the table next to his brother’s immigration forms. Frankly, it can all be a bit much. But we’re ready. It’s time.

Luke’s preschool years have been stacked with remarkable firsts, lasts, and, even better, all of that life in between. God gave us the gift of being around for each turn, and Nathan and I get how cool that is. We’re ready to give him a high five and send him off for his life’s next at Truman Elementary, sitting next to his buddy Paige.

 

Every month, we get an update on our other little guy. Last week, we received July’s report, and wouldn’t ya know, he’s knocking out some of his own big firsts.

Commonplace

We burst with the pride. Still, we’re not around to see that he is:

eating solid foods

sitting without assistance

creeping

easily holding large toys

jabbering.

 

Or to see what is making him grin from ear to ear.

But for both of our boys, God bless the future firsts, the lasts, and that middle part too. We’ll celebrate the heck out of it all.

 

Long ago you came to me, a miracle of firsts;
First smiles and teeth and baby steps, a sunbeam on the burst.
But one day you will move away and leave to me your past
And I will be left thinking of a lifetime of your lasts…

– Karen Kingsbury

 

Eesh.

Thanks, Kayla, for being my first mom friend. You are wonderful at both jobs, even if you do torment me with sentimental children’s literature. 😉

 

 

 

photography by Tai Photography, Meg White Photography, Bonnie Hall

 

 

Our *Obsolete* Family Portraits

About a month ago, on a humid+windy day (delicious), we met up with Aimee Whitmire of Tai Photography to snap some Hall family mugs.

— An aside: The eighth grade version of Aimee sat in my classroom some years ago, and I take extra delight in seeing her behind the camera. She is hip and wonderful, and we adore the oodles of frame-worthy photos she gave us.

Still…these portraits are incomplete, outdated, obsolete. We are more than ready to amend this mix with Kid #2, and we know he’s missing from The Big Picture.

Someday soon, we’ll plaster the real family portrait. Until then, I guess this is our version of a maternity shoot, with…disc golf instead of a big belly?

Sure, why not?

CommonplaceCommonplaceCommonplaceCommonplaceCommonplaceCommonplaceThese two.Commonplace Commonplace“Buy Used.” Some unintentional Hall family propaganda. 😉CommonplaceB+NCommonplace Twelve years (!) holding hands. Nothing obsolete about that. Commonplace

Aimee, thanks again for sharing your gift with us! We think you’re great.