Sunday, November 05, 2006

Busy Work

I am sorry it has been so long since I have updated. Life has sure been busy. We are still hot on the adoption trail working hard everyday to collect all of our documents and such. We had our home study on Nov. 1st. I of course kept busy preparing the house and making sure it was clean, warm, and inviting. Exactly the way I would have it all the time if I had all the time in the world. It turned out to not be as big of a deal as I expected. Mike our social worker showed up right on time which impressed me greatly. We sat at the table with chocolate chip cookies and talked for about 2 hours. He asked us a few questions but mostly he just informed us on the process and what documents we need to get to him so he can complete the report. I turned in quite a bit including our biographies to him but we still have several to pull together. He will in turn create a 6 page report on us to send to the adoption agency which in turn will be sent to Russia and is the most important deciding factor for Russia's acceptance of us. It includes information about us, our family, our environment, our life style, our finances, our health, pictures of us and our home, etc. He said the report will take him about 4-6 weeks depending on how long it takes to get our background checks back and how quickly Joey and I can gather the remaining documents.

As far as the adoption agency goes, we have submitted our formal application and first chunk of money. We ended up borrowing from my parents which I absolutely hate to do but felt we had no choice. I am just so grateful that they are so caring and generous. We will pay them back when our 2nd mortgage refinancing is complete. Now we get to start working on chunk #2. It has been difficult as it is the slow season with Joey's job and sometimes our regular finances are of concern but as usual our incredible God has continued to step in and fill the gap. I have been offered two side jobs and have been given some great fundraising advice and Joey has been able to do a few side jobs as well and has begun the process for his motorcycle building business. He is very excited but stressed as well. And of course there is always those incredible miracles God provides along the way. We received a check yesterday for $74 for an overpayment on our home insurance! What? Here it comes out of the blue! God is so good to his children. We are following what we believe to be His will and we trust that He will guide us each step of the way.
So right now we are just rush, rush, rushing to get things done which should take about 2 more months and then we will have to play the dreaded waiting game. We are doing pretty good emotionally and keeping our excitement up but we also aren't stupid and are trying to be prepared for roller coaster to come. Thank you to all of our family and friends who continually show interest, support, and love for us. We are so thankful. Have a great night and I will post at the next step!

Love, Erin

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Adoption Awareness

Well we had our adoption awareness meeting on Tuesday morning. We went in thinking it was an interview for us and then quickly realized it was more informative orientation style. Basically Irina just shared with us the risks in international adoption and how their process works. It was a 2 hour phone call with A LOT of information. It was great because we were able to ask our questions as well. Thank you to everyone who has been asking us about it. We really appreciate your support.

So, it sounds like our next step will be to set-up a home study with a company licensed in Washington. A home study consists of visits to the home, interviews, pictures of us, our family, house, submitting a floor plan, financial records, medical records, etc. Pretty invasive really but neccessary. We are also in the process of filling out our formal application. We are really trying to get it in with our first chunk of money by Oct. 31st so we can take advantage of the discount they are offering on their fees. Irina also gave us a list of paperwork and documents we can start acquiring. We will need 4 original copies each of our marriage license, and many other documents, plus we need to get our passports, fingerprints, police reports, INS papers, etc.
I stepped away from the meeting like, "Wow, we have to get working!" We definately have a lot to accomplish and of course my goal is to do it as quickly as possible and get this moving. Please be praying that all goes smooth with obtaining our paperwork and that there are no mistakes as mistakes that are discovered at a later time could lead to major heartbreaking set-backs. If you also wouldn't mind praying for finances that would be awesome too. This chunk by Oct. 31st will consist of $600 for admin fee, $350 application fee, and $2500 toward adoption costs. We are blessed with this discount though because that $2500 could have been $4000 if we didn't get in on this discount. Anyway, needless to say- it is already a lot of money plus all the forms that we need to order and we don't have it so just pray that we will find a way. I am really excited because I have had two additional job opportunites that were offered to me this week that I will be working on so praise God! He is already answering prayers. We are also looking into grants and re-financing so we will work it out. God has his hand in the matter. Joey is having more of a difficult time with it I think with him being logically minded. I am more of a dreamer walking on faith and air so we balance each other out. I know that there is reality especially with money but if we look at it that way then yes, it is impossible but God put this in our hearts so I know and believe that there HAS to be a way. With Him ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE!

We asked Irina lots of questions about time frames and child preferences etc. The time all depends on the preferences we choose. We are open to either a boy or girl, caucasian, under 2, and any sibling they may have up to age 4. She said that it should move rather quickly then because boys are readily available. After our dossier (all the documents) are sent to Russia to be translated we should receive our referral(a child chosen for us) within about a month and travel plans for the first trip shortly after. The dossier process can take 2-3 months as it also includes the home study but this part is mostly in our control so we are trying to get it done ASAP! I decided to take today and tomorrow off work to really focus on getting the neccessary paperwork ordered and application filled out and such. I also have been so busy that I have really been falling behind on other household and personal goals including my real estate school so I can get my license. We are really conflicted about our preferences because if we say a girl, it will take a long time and we will for sure have a girl. If we say no preference (because we would like to leave it up to God) it feels like we will for sure have a boy because of many more boys being available. So either way we make a choice. Like I said, we don't mind which so I think we will stick with "no preference" and leave it in God's hands.

That's all folks! I wish I had more exciting stuff to share but we are just not at that stage yet. Thank you again so much for your friendship, interest, love, prayer & support.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Promise

Where do I even start? I guess I will start the night of Sept.29th, 2006. I was at the computer about 10pm looking up dreamy European Cruises for ideas of how to celebrate this coming year of 2007 when both Joey and I will turn 30-years-old and we will also arrive at our 10 year anniversary. One of the cruises showed a stop in St. Petersburg, Russia. I am not sure why but the next thing I did was google "Russian Adoption." The next thing I knew I was reading a website called "The Spirit of Adoption" on the America World website. I read a story by the founder of the agency and just began to cry and cry. Now don't get me wrong, for those of you who know me, crying (happy, sad, angry, glad) is not exactly out of the ordinary but what happened next is. All of a sudden I was physically shaking and my teeth were chattering and I just could not stop searching for more and more information. I felt the Spirit of God moving in my heart and I was overwhelmed with joy, relief, anticipation, excitement, fear, and absolutely "pregnant" with faith. I knew I was not physically pregnant but with the feelings I just described I certainly felt "pregnant." I was just flooded with emotion and so grateful to God to placing in me a promise. A promise to fufill the dream of becoming a mother that I have carried since childhood. Finally about 12am I pried my fingers away from the keyboard.

"Joey...Um, we have to talk" I said sheepishly, not having any idea of what his response would be. He came upstairs and I explained to him what had just taken place and the feelings I was experiencing. He said, "Okay, let's do it!" No hesitation from him at all! I was shocked. He said he was ready to adopt and preferred to do it internationally and that he had been thinking of it.
This confirmation sent me over the top and I fell apart in his arms with so much joy and I did not stop talking and dreaming for hours. I wanted to call everyone I knew. But decided just to call two people that I thought might be up- my brother Brandon and sister Brittany. I left both a message. It was and still is so exciting telling everyone and everyone is so excited for us because this is definately an answer to prayer.

As I said before, Joey and I are coming up on 10 years of marriage. My plan was of course to marry young and have children young. Well that wasn't going to work because Joey joined the Navy after we graduated high school and was stationed in Virginia. We were married two years later and I also moved to Virginia for two very challenging years of marriage. It just wasn't a good time to start a family. We were so far away from our family and friends back home, we barely knew anyone, Joey was out to sea constantly and it was just a huge time of adjustment. After his four years were up we moved home a short time and then decided to move to Los Angeles to follow my dreams of acting and singing. Still no children. We were both working full-time (which is why I didn't take the time to go after my dreams until 6 months before we left) and Joey was going to school. We were incredibly busy and the years passed so quickly we didn't really have time to start a family. ( So ironic because that is my strongest dream and hearts desire.) We finally agreed to move home in 2004. I hated not being near my family and by that time I remembered how desperate I was to be a mom. So we moved home and took the necessary steps to get pregnant. I went off my birth control and changed medications because I take blood thinners for a clotting disorder that started when I was 14. I had to change medications from a pill to an injection because the pill could cross the placenta and harm a growing baby. Well, it's been 2 years now come November. We started to seek fertility treatment earlier this year because we still weren't pregnant and I was only having aprox 4 cycles a year. We stopped this spring because we found out when I switched medications that I had been prescribed signifigantly less than my body needed and when I started upping the dose, my never ending cycle returned. I am still working on getting this regulated but it turns out there may not be a fertility problem after all.

So you might be thinking at this point, "So adoption was plan B" but it's quite the contrary. At this point I actually do not want to get pregnant because I would not want to jeopardize this adoption. We have always been open to the idea of adoption whether we have biological children or not but just figured it would be domestically so when God put this on my heart, I knew it was Him because the thought of Russia had never crossed my mind and at this point we were focused on trying to conceive. I am so happy he interrupted our plan! I am so excited to follow his. There is nothing more comforting than knowing you are walking in the will of God. I know His hand will guide us through. There are so many unknowns at this point that I will discuss in a minute but despite all the odds being stacked against us, I believe this adoption will come to pass because He is able to do all things. I see things so clearly now. I was handling infertility alright I guess but on my worst days I would think horrible thoughts like, "It's not fair. What did we do that was so wrong that we cannot have the blessing of children? Why does EVERYONE I know have children with ease? I am trained ( I was a nanny for 3 years and the oldest of 4 children and have taken childhood education classes.) At my age and maturity in life I know what is most important to teach them! I have so much love to give! I have two spare rooms! Why God Why?" And His response would be "Trust me." Well now that He has revealed this to me- it is beyond a shadow of a doubt- PLAN A+! All this time I felt punished when really I now believe I am privleged. God knew that there would be sin and abandonment in the world and he knew he would need parents for the innocent orphans and He chose US! Joey and I! We are so honored! I know that this is already being orchestrated by Him even though we are just beginning. I am dreaming of the day I can look into the face of our child or children that he has handpicked for us. I feel so blessed.

Well, now that you know the backgroud and the promise, I will tell you where the faith comes in. I was so scared to go to bed that night. I didn't know if I would wake up and the feelings I had would be gone or if fear would take over or what. I did feel slightly different (coming down from the high I suppose) but I picked up my Bible and began to read. I received confirmation after confirmation and I knew that what I had experienced was real. Phew! Now we had to choose an agency. I was ready to get started immediately! I was filling out the application for the first site I had stumbled on when reality and reason in the form of my husband stepped in. He reminded me that we should probably do some research.

Through our research we discovered that Russia is having some major changes with their accreditation system and there are now only 14 U.S. agencies legally able to adopt out of Russia. There are about 26 more with their NGO status but I am not sure how that will work. There was over 500 before. Well- this serverely limits our choices. We researched for about a week and half and then mid-last week decided on Adoption Associates which is a well organized Christian Organization with a full staff in the U.S. as well as Russia. We learned of the daunting 6-15 month process of adoption and the cost in upwards of $40,000. We do not know how this will all work out or where all the money will come from but we have faith that it will all come together because what God has started, He will bring to completion. We are very nervous for a many reasons but the largest being that AAI's accrediation expires in March and because all the laws are in Russian government right now and up for change, they are unsure what will be the outcome for renewing. An AAI representative assured us that they are doing everything they can at this time to make sure their is no lapse in accrediation and her Russian staff is pro-actively working to obtain the latest information. A bonus for us is there is a 25% reduction in fees at this time partially due to the fact that because the agencies dropped so signifigantly, there are many children needing families at this time. She informed us that this a perfect time to adopt and they expect the process to move quickly. Please be praying for us that all goes smoothly with as little hiccups as possible. My children are already in my heart and my patience is not that great.

We turned in our preliminary application on Wed. and received several phone calls that day of follow-up which was much appreciated. I know good communication will be key in this journey. We sent it in as well as we needed to send in our $75 application fee. Our 2 hour phone interview is scheduled for 7am Tues morning. We are so excited. I am fairly confident in this company that we have chose. I emailed aprox. 20 of it's references last Tues night because we wanted to sign-up on Wed. morning. I honestly did not expect a response. I have since received 9 responses, 6 of which came that night. Each person so kind, honest, and transparent. I am forever grateful to them. All had very positive experiences and most offered continued support. I then sent in our application with great confidence. I apologize for being so long winded this first go-round but I just wanted to let my family and friends who I have yet to share this news with know the "WHOLE" story so they can come along this journey with us from the start. Thank you in advance for your support and prayers and for those that have been praying for our circumstance all along. We love and cherish you so much.

Hopeful & Excited,