Thursday, December 15, 2011

So much to be thankful for...

Since I let Thanksgiving pass before I did a post on Halloween, I decided that I needed to hurry and put up a Thanksgiving post before Christmas came and went!

I am so thankful for so many things this year, and this past Thanksgiving was one of them. I got to spend a week at home which was amazing! It was so great to get to see everyone, but as it always seems, it went by way too fast...

I got to spend one evening with some of my favorite girls and closest friends: Laura, Stacy, Jess and their husbands and kiddos! They're some of my best friends in the world, even if we don't see eachother often... I love them!

While I was home we also spent a lot of time hanging out, cooking, and eating. Heather, Des and I also went Black Friday shopping... Let's just say that the night shift nurse was the wimpiest of them all when it came to staying up all night! hehe. We also went to Christmas at the Zoo and it was beautiful and so much fun! Ainsley of course loved seeing all the lights and animals, and I loved my mug of unlimited hot chocolate, and of course just making fun memories with our family :)

2011 has not been an easy one for our family... but it seems as though it is ending well for most of us. We have much to be thankful for, and a good God who has given us all that we have. It is for Him, for His gift of Jesus, and for the hope we have in His resurrection that we are most thankful. But right under Him, is family... So here is a bunch of pictures of our Thanksgiving in Indy.

Christmas at the Indianapolis Zoo!

I hope your Thanksgiving was as full as wonderful memories as ours was!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Homestudy = Complete... Woo hoo!!

Well if the title of this post isn't self-explanatory enough... we got our homestudy back one week ago today!! Woo hoo!! The very next day we sent in our application (the I-600a: Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition) to USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). It was received by them yesterday and now we are waiting for them to let us know they are processing our paperwork, and when they are done they will send us an appointment for our biometric fingerprinting. Funny thing though, although we have to have an appointment to get fingerprinted, we don't actually have to go in on our appointment date and time, we can just walk in whenever. Weird, I know. Then after we get fingerprinted, they will process those and when all of this "processing" is finished they will send us a form called the I-171H, which is the paper that says that we can travel internationally to bring back our children for the purpose of adoption. Without this form we can not travel to go get our kids! When we get through this step with immigration we are FINALLY going to be on the waitlist!!

In the mean time we are starting to apply for grants. We are also in the process of setting up an account with Lifesong through our church that will allow us to receive tax deductible donations. We're not really sure how long it takes to hear back from these, but we do know that sometimes it can take a while... That seems to be the story with most things with this adoption.

Just a note as well. Please do not use our adoption experience as a litmus test for how most adoption processes go. As much as I complain about how long each step takes, the truth is that our process has FLOWN compared to most others we know. Uganda's process seems to be pretty straight forward for the most part. Our adoption agency has been amazing, our homestudy agency was amazing, our social worker was amazing. Basically, when it comes to the people who are actually facilitating this process we have hit the jackpot! We have friends who have been in the process for a year or more and who still are not even on the waitlist, and we know people who have been on waitlists for over a year. So our 3 1/2 months so far, is really nothing compared to the length of the journey many take. However, obviously everything about this is unpredictable, so we never know how long it may take when all is said and done.

Please continue to pray for us, and most importantly, for our sweet kids, all 3 of them!! Please pray that God would provide for this journey. We've already seen His hand in this and we know He has called us to this. I saw this picture on another sweet adoptive family's blog. I love this because it was my Daddy's favorite verse, plus it has provided a lot of comfort through this whole process, and is a reminder when I'm doubting. Maybe that's why he loved it too :)

Thanks for all your support and encouragement along the way!! Thank you to each of you who has donated to our adoption and prayed for us along the way! It means more than you know!!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Oh, what's that you say?? It's December? Oh, and we've already had one major holiday since Halloween passed. Yeah... I know, I get it... But if there's anything in life I'm good at, it's procrastination. To be honest I just didn't realize I hadn't posted any pics yet of the cutest little "Buzz Buzz" (as she calls bees) you've ever seen... well I guess in this case it would be that you've NEVER seen. I'm all about helping other people and bettering society, and let me tell you... I would be doing the public a great disservice if I didn't post these pictures. Plus, I have to tell you how tough our little cookie was. It was 40 degrees out and raining and she refused to wear a jacket! Because, of course, then she couldn't wear her wings... and that was apparently unexceptable. So even though most bees don't have blue lips, ours did. (Please no hate mail about her catching pneumonia or cold or some other deadly disease.... People get sick from germs, not exposure to cold... check WebMD, they will validate my story!)

Our town opens up all the shops on Main Street on Halloween night and has trick or treating for all the kids, a fun tradition we didn't know about until this year! So for your viewing pleasure...I introduce to you, Buzz Buzz the incredibly cute Bee :)

Pretty darn cute, huh??

Yeah, I thought so too :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

(21 Days of Remembering My Daddy: Day 19)

Sometimes it is so strange how God works. My Daddy sent out a daily devotional email to thousands of people Monday-Friday for the last several years of his life. It was something he loved doing, and unlike me and this blog, was something he was very committed to.

He passed away sometime in the early morning hours on a Sunday. After I got the call we were quickly on the road on the way home. We got in late, and went to bed shortly after arriving. Sometime in the middle of the night I remember waking up suddenly and reaching for my phone. I opened my email and wanted to re-read what his last devotional was.

He sent this devotional out one year ago today. My hands shake just typing this. Oh my, how one year can change everything. But oh how grateful I am that what he wrote was true, is true and will always be true.
Life is for Living
by Pastor Steve Goens
Friday, November 19, 2010
2 Corinthians 4:13:18

I never really struggled with the existence of God. What I did struggle with was His interest in me. While living in Massachusetts I would often lay in bed and pray, "God if you are real and concerned about me, show yourself at the end of my bed." I prayed that prayer, every night, for months and never one time did He show up. Not once!
I thought about those days that I wanted to walk by sight, but since I have walked by faith now for over 38 years I see the blessings, reality and reasons of these verses written in 2 Corinthians 4:13-18. "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
As we begin this extremely brief look at this entire passage let us begin at verse 14. "Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you." We are looking for that day that either we die, and will be with Jesus - "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord," or we will be raptured out of this world - "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye." We anticipate one of these two things because Jesus was raised up. Death does not end it all!
In verse 15 we learn that "all things are for your sakes . . ." This life is not all about you, however the work of Jesus Christ on your behalf is all about you. Because of His great work, the "abundant grace" produces thanksgiving for the glory of God.
"for which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day." We do not quit because things get tough. In fact, the man of God who walks by faith knows and considers these tough times as "our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." The problems and trials that make one that does not walk by faith, give up, only strengthens the man of faith because he knows that the troubles are temporal but walking with God, day by day, is an eternal walk. For those that are saved, therefore we endure, therefore we fight one more round, not for the temporal, but for the eternal. Our houses are on earth, they are temporal. Our homes are in Heaven, that is eternal. Our presence is on earth, that shall pass away. Our hearts are in Heaven, where we shall forever dwell with our God.

Because He Lives


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

An Update....

Sorry for the lack of updates lately... We've been sort of at a stand-still and I didn't want to update until we knew for sure what was going on. So I won't go into all of what we thought might happen or what the potential delays were, as in any sort of adoption delays are the name of the game in most cases. So I'll just progress to where we are right now, which is actually right on schedule!

Our last homestudy visit was on Sunday the 30th. We survived the walk-through (which was completely painless). Our social worker contacted us yesterday and let us know that she has submitted the complete write up. Now it could take a couple of weeks for our homestudy agency to review and edit it. They will then send the final copy on to our adoption agency, and when they have reviewed and approved it we can apply to US Immigration! Woo hoo!!

The immigration process will take a few weeks, but basically after they receive our application and our homestudy, they will send us an appointment for biometric fingerprinting, run an FBI background check (yes, we will have 2 FBI background checks!) among other things, and then hopefully send us our approval! Upon approval from them we can get waitlisted!! I seriously get so excited about this!

Yesterday while I was filling my mommy in on all of this she said I sounded like I was on speed! I'm not, I promise... unless an excessive amount of caffeine counts, then I'm guilty as charged. I just really can not explain to you the level of anticipation. Can I get an AMEN from my fellow adoptive families?!?!

From stalking other adoptive families' timelines it looks like from the time we apply to UCIS to approval can take around 4-8 weeks. So we're looking at the end of January or early February?!?! Of course it can take longer if something gets delayed, which is of course very possible! Matthew frequently reminds me to just take it one step at a time, and of course, he's right.

Finally, I just have to say that our adoption agency is AWESOME! We have been so blessed by their kindness, guidance, and most of all their patience! I have a feeling that adoptive parents are some of the most impatient people in the world and they handle all the questions and calls with such grace. We are so grateful for them!

Please continue to pray for the three of us and for the children God has chosen for us!

Friday, November 4, 2011

(21 Days of Remembering my Daddy: Day 4) One of Daddy's favorite poems

I've dreamed many dreams that never came true, I've seen them vanish at dawn.
But I've realized enough of my dreams, thank God, To keep me dreaming on.

I've prayed many prayers, when no answers came, Though I waited so patient and long,
But answers came to enough of my prayers To make me keep praying on.

I've trusted many a friend who failed And left me to weep alone,
But I've found enough of my friends to be true To make me keep trusting on.

I've sown many seeds that fell by the way For the birds to feed upon,
But I've held enough golden sheaves in my hands To make me keep sowing on.

I've drained the cup of disappointment and pain And gone many days without song,
But I've sipped enough nectar from the roses of life To make me want to live on.

Author Unknown

Thursday, November 3, 2011

(21 Days of Remembering My Daddy: Day 3) Lunch in the Park

Sometimes I wonder why certain memories are so strong in my mind. Lately I've been thinking a lot about picnic lunches that my Daddy would take me on when I was little. Where I grew up we only had 1/2 day Kindergarten and I was in the morning class. I remember often times after Daddy would pick me up from school we would go through a drive-through and pick up some lunch and he would take me to a park to eat. I don't remember everything about it, but I remember there was a creek, some picnic tables, and lots of birds that I would enjoy tossing food at. I specifically remember there was one week where every single day either my Daddy or I would drop food on ourselves and get it on our shirt (which, by the way, was never unusual for him and still isn't unusual for me to this day) and he would joke and say "We can't take us anywhere!" I still remember the way he would laugh when he would make silly, cheesy "dad jokes" like that one and crack himself up... I actually always thought they were funny too.

I know that some of these memories don't mean anything to pretty much everyone who reads this. However, it's only been a year since he's been gone and I can already feel some memories fading. I'm writing these things down for me... so that I can look back and jog my memory of some of these sweet times that stick out to me. Time just goes so quickly...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

FAQ 3: WHY is adoption SO expensive?

This is a question a LOT of people have... and it's been a while since I've done a FAQ, So I thought I would go ahead and share. I feel like a lot of people, including myself 6 months ago, have the perception that there is someone somewhere getting rich off of international adoptions. The truth is, that's just not the case... at least not that I'm aware of... it is just a very expensive process. So here is the breakdown to where our pennies and nickles are going to be going for the next few months... If you have any questions about what any of the specific charges are about let me know in the comments and I'll do my best to answer it.

Stage 1 lasts 4-5 months, which is the estimated time from application (which was August for us) until being waitlisted which should happen around January and includes:

*agency application fee: 250.00
*NCFA Training : 175.00
*Home Study fees: 1,500.00(+)
*US Citizenship and Immigration Fee: 890.00
*Approval Fee: 2,500.00
Total: $5,315.00

Stage 2 is from January until we get our referral, which averages 3-6 months:

*Passport photos: 20.00
*Passport x2 people (mine is still good, but Matthew's is expired and Ainsley will need one): 120.00
*Placement Fee: 3,000.00
*Orphanage Services Fee (1k/child): $2,000.00
*Lawyer and Court Fee (1st installment, 500/child): $1,000.00
*Fed Ex Fees (for shipping of Dossier): $300.00
Total: $6,440.00

Stage 3 is due about 2 months after we receive our referral, when we travel to go get them:

*Humanitarian Aid Fee (500/child): $1,000.00
*Round Trip Air Fare x3: $3,000.00-$4,500.00
*Visas to Uganda: $100.00-$150.00
*Lawyer and Court Fee (2nd installment, 2k/child): $4,000.00
*Visa for children at US embassy (120/child): $240.00
*Medical exam for children at US embassy (500/child): $1,000.00
*One-way airfare x2 children (approximately 1k/child): $2,000.00
*Approximate Travel Fees (lodging, food, transportation, etc...): $2,800.00
Total: $14,140.00-$15,690.00

Stage 4 is after we return home with our children

*Post placement and post adoption service fees: $650.00
*Court report for finalization of adoption: $200.00-$600.00
*Citizenship certificate (550/child): $1,100.00
Total: $1,950.00-$2,350.00

Estimated Subtotal Costs: $27,845.00 - $29,795.00

When looking at these figures remember that many of these numbers are estimates. For instance, we aren't sure exactly what our in country expenses will be once we get there, it may be more or may be less. The cost of airfare is another variable that is difficult to accurately guesstimate. Also, as with anything in life it seems, there are unexpected expenses that pop up here and there. We already had to get an additional background check done by the FBI that we didn't know we were going to need that total cost us $66.00 ($15 per person for fingerprinting and $18 per person for background check).

So that's it... it takes a lot of time and a lot of money to bring 2 orphans into a family. But when looking at the cost Jesus paid to pay for my adoption into the family of God... it just doesn't seem so bad.

(21 Days of Remembering my Daddy: Day 2) Our last conversation

My Daddy passed away sometime in the early hours of Sunday November 21st. Unfortunately, I hadn't spoken to him on Saturday. I had spent the day going crazy around my house trying to get it ready for guests. He and my mommy were supposed to leave on Monday to drive down here to spend Thanksgiving, along with lots of people from Matthew's side of the family. One of the negative parts about working in healthcare is that unfortunately, people don't stop being sick just because it's a holiday, and Matthew was scheduled to work Thanksgiving, and so we decided just to host as many people as wanted to come at our home. However, I had spoken to him on Friday afternoon. I remember I was driving from our home in Creedmoor to Durham and we talked the entire way. All together the conversation was probably 20-30 minutes long. I wish now that it was longer.

Funny enough, our last conversation was about adoption. There was a little boy in a difficult situation here in Durham and his aunt who is raising him had approached Matthew and I about possibly doing a consentual adoption of this little guy. When all was said and done, she got cold feet and despite the difficulties of her situation is still raising this little boy. However, at the point of our last conversation it actually looked like we might end up bringing him into our home as our son, and that's what I was talking to Daddy about.
I wish I could type here more of the details of our conversation, but doing so would require me to go into more details about the background of the little boy and even though very few of you know who he is, I want to respect his privacy.

Daddy acknowledged how difficult the situation could be, how young Ainsley was at the time, etc... However, he was completely supportive. At one point he stated that sometimes he wishes that some of the adults who did harm to children could have a conversation with him about it in a dark alley. He was joking of course, kind of :) You basically couldn't have much of a conversation with my Daddy without him joking about something. He also joked that if we adopted this little boy (who was African-American) that it would be perfect because between him, Kai(a blonde), and Jake(a red-head) that his three grandsons would be Chocolate, Vanilla and Strawberry :) I can still remember the sound of his laugh when he said it...
Everytime he would come back from the Philippines he would talk about how much he would love to bring some of the street children there home for us kids to adopt. I think that he would be really excited about our adoption. I've told Matthew that I bet he would have loved to have gone with us and spent some time with us while in Uganda picking the kids up.

I also remember one time when I was younger he was going to have the dark wooden paneling in the church painted white. Someone in the church told him that it was a bad decision because all of the kids' fingerprints would show all over that white paint. He said that all those fingerprints would make it even better!

He truly loved people, and he truly loved kids. It seems like the worse the situation they were in, the more he was drawn to them. The darker the circumstances, the more drawn he was to share with them the light of Jesus.

I'll leave you with this picture someone took of my Daddy last time he was in the Philippines... Now just look at that picture and tell me he wouldn't be so excited about his next 2 grandkids!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

(21 days of Remembering my Daddy: Day 1)

I believe that this was taken the last time I saw my sweet Daddy... we were having lunch before he took us to the airport.

November 21st will mark 1 year since my Daddy first saw his Savior face to face. It is unreal... I'm going to try really hard to post each day a memory of my Daddy and/or a lesson he taught us. He was always very intentional about teaching life lessons at every opportunity. Even as an adult I know very few people who are as intentional in their child rearing as my parents were. The truth is, I think there are probably hundreds of people who could testify to these teachings who were lucky enough to have been invested in by him over the years. I actually didn't write today's post... My brother Todd wrote this 4 days after Daddy died last year. I didn't ask his permission to share this, but I'm going to anyways, and plan to share the other things he wrote as well. I'm also going to see if I can persuade my 2 sisters to share as well, and maybe some others in our family.. Heck.. we may end up with more than 21 days worth between all of us. After all, 4 kids provided a lot of opportunity for life lesson teaching over the years!

Lessons from my Dad.
by Todd Goens on Thursday, November 25, 2010 at 5:15pm

As I am sure that you all know, my Dad, Steve Goens, the author of Life is for Living...Because he Lives, went to Heaven sometime during the early morning hours of November 21, 2010.

While I will not be using this site a lot, as I don't deserve to attach my writings to his name, I wanted to take the opportunity to Thank You for reading his devotionals and for your support over the years and also share a little insight into his life that will perhaps shine a light on him in a personal way and will encourage you in your tough times.

On Tuesday morning of this past week I met a man who told me that he thought my Dad was too tough on me as I was growing up. As I tried to explain to him, I knew how to push his buttons better than most and deserved a lot more of his discipline than he ever gave me. The conversation jogged many memories of teaching moments that I witnessed and was a part of over the years and I thought I would share a few of these today.

When I was in the 8th grade the Bedford Junior High School Cutters traveled south, across the mighty White River to play the Mitchell Blue Jackets for a football game. During the game I got hit very hard and was lying on the field, trying to remember my name, where I was and why I was seeing stars in my eyes, the first voice that cut through the fog belonged to my Dad. He said " Get up boy....Don't let them carry you off the field". He then encouraged me to get back in the game and compete as soon as possible.

When my sister Heather was in the 8th grade, she was exceptionally fast and as a matter of fact, held the Bedford Junior High School record for the 400 meter dash for many years. She still might...maybe someone can check for me. Anyway, on one particular night, Heather was probably 50 yards ahead of her nearest competitor as she headed to the finish line, when she pulled her hamstring and fell to the track. My Dad was standing along the fence and immediately hollered for her to "Get Up!". She got up and took a few more steps and fell again, and once again he yelled "Get Up!" This was repeated 3 or 4 more time as he ran along the fence and encouraged her to finish the race...She finally crawled across the finish line, battered bruised and sore...She still finished third and that 1 point that she earned was enough to be the winning point for her track team on that May evening in 1989.

One night when Julie was in high school, Kris and I drove to Columbus to watch Julie play basketball, and when we got to the game I was informed that Julie had a ankle that was badly twisted and swollen two or three times its natural size and was extremely painful for her to play on, but she was going to try and play that evening. As she warmed up and tried to get ready for the game, we were not sure if she was going to be able to go. When the game started Julie was still stretching her ankle and, as the first Lady Star off the bench, her Coach asked if she was ready and Julie took a deep breathe and jogged out on the court...that's when the unique "Steve Goens, Motivational Heckle" went into full effect. Anybody who ever attended a game with my Dad, knows what it was like. He rode Julie the whole night, telling her she was "Dogging It" and that if she was going to play, she better not let her opponent get the upper hand...he told her repeatedly that her ankle was no excuse.

To the new age, liberal, feel good, cuddle and hug group of people that run the world now, my Dad was much too tough on us in these instances. They would say that he should have stepped in and tried to keep us from further injury and that he didn't show a lot of compassion in these circumstances. He would have laughed at them.

What he taught us in our childhood was that life is tough. Sometimes you get knocked down and all too many times it hurts very bad. There is no shame in feeling hurt or being injured. The shame is in not finishing the race. The shame is in not competing. The shame is in using excuses. My Dad allowed us to "play hurt" under his supervision while we were kids to teach us life lessons that can readily be applied to situations like we face today....It is okay to cry, it is okay to hurt, it is okay to be sad but you have to finish the race and you have to keep competing...Live life to the fullest and Never ever quit....

I love my Dad and thank him for the lessons he taught me

I loved it the day he wrote it and I love it just as much today. I love you Bubby!
More to come tomorrow...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It’s Fall Ya’ll!

Fall is my favorite season of the year! By the time September or October rolls around I am craving cooler weather... I am craving a break from the heat that is so smothering in our North Carolina summers...
We have been enjoying this fall so far! Our front door is adorned with a wreath covered in fall foilage. I have baked my husband his all-time favorite dessert, pumpkin pie, not once, but twice! We have spent our afternoons at the park, in the backyard, on walks... Enjoying these last few weeks of perfect weather!
This past Saturday while I was sleeping after a night shift, Matthew took Ainsley to a pumpkin patch with some friends of ours. They picked out some pumpkins for us to decorate and carve at home! Here of some pictures of her cuteness that day!

So now that we had the pumpkins it was time to decorate them! While Matthew got his and Ainsley's pumpkins ready for carving (cutting the top off, or that "hat" as Ainsley calls it, and then gutting it) I set Ainsley up with one of the big pumpkins and some fingerpaints. I got the idea from the Young House Love blog and knew as soon as I saw it that it was something I wanted to do with Ainsley this year. I used duct tape instead of painter's tape just because I had it on hand... but the painter's tape would probably work better. Basically, you just cut the tape into the shapes you want, stick it to the pumpkin, and let the kiddo go at it with finger paints (preferably the washable, non-toxic kind). She had no problems getting excited and digging in! She had a blast... well, until she decided to take a taste of the paint... guess it was pretty nasty because it made her cry... good thing it's non-toxic!
When Matthew was done prepping the pumpkins we washed Ainsley’s hands (and arms, stomach, hair, chest, etc…) and he helped Ainsley carve her first jack-o-lantern! I have to say, it was pretty darn cute, and she had a blast!!

Of course, Matthew and I didn’t miss out on the fun… So here are the carved pumpkins all finished, lit up, and ready for Halloween!!
And our little pumpkin family…
Here’s Ainsley this morning posing with her pumpkins, after the painted one was allowed to dry overnight…
and here’s the other side of the painted one….
I hope that you all have been enjoying this beautiful time of year as much as we have!!