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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sometimes, It Takes A Village...

In many regions around the world, there is a saying, "It Takes A Village to Raise a Child."  This phrase incorporates family support, community involvement and resource sharing.  We have witnessed this here in Thailand (and other parts of Asia), as well as Africa (especially in Ethiopia).

In the U.S., our lifestyles have slowly removed us from this concept.  Rather than a village, our child-rearing is focused around immediate family and friends, which fits nicely into our crazy, productive, always-moving American ways (I argue that below the surface, we still utilize the power of a village for child-rearing).  For the most part in Thailand, this is how Ron and I raise Aidan- with our immediate family and friends- and how we'll raise our two daughters when they come home.

But, with our daughters, it may require a village...

Ron and I have been truly blessed with stable jobs.  As Ron is in the Army, we are fully supported here in Thailand.  I have been fortunate enough to obtain a part-time job at the U.S. Consulate.  Moving to Thailand, we took a large family pay-cut as I cannot practice as a veterinarian here and had to get creative with what I could do.  Of course, we also decided to adopt 3 children while in Thailand as well...

We were fortunate with Aidan's adoption that we were able to pay for the entirety ourselves.  Although I won't include exact numbers, the final price including travel, adoption fees, foster home fees, guest house fees and post-placement reports teeters around 3/4 of my annual salary here in Thailand.  To do this, we budgeted our money, cancelled our cable, reduced our Internet speed, ate as locally as possible, avoided extravagant travel, and lived as simply as possible.

Then we decided to adopt again.  Before doing so, we completed our family budget for the next 2-years before finally committing to adopting again.  At the time, we had decided to adopt 2 more babies from Ethiopia, and had all the fees accounted for (essentially a year's worth of my earnings in Thailand).  But then we decided to adopt older girls...

For this adoption, the fees, post-placement reports, HomeStudy and guest house expenses are the same.  So we're covered in almost all aspects.  All but  Since we are adopting 2 older children, we no longer can fly with them on our lap, as infants, with inexpensive infant tickets.  Instead, we must pay for 2 additional airline tickets- and those tickets must bring our girls from Addis Ababa to Washington D.C to Bangkok: 3/4 of the way around the world.  And unfortunately, these tickets aren't cheap.  $2,500/child - not cheap.

On top of this, we have other expense for the girls' arrival- clothing, furniture/bedding (we can't reuse Aidan's crib for them), and college savings (YIKES).

So what are we going to do?

In this case, we're asking our village- our family and friends- to help us bring our girls home.

We have a 500-piece puzzle of a painted map of Ethiopia (shown below). We are asking family and friends to consider donating $10.00 (or more) to help us bring our girls home FOREVER.  For every $10.00 donated, we will write your name and brief message on the back of a puzzle piece.  Our hope is to have each puzzle piece sponsored- $5,000 raised (the cost of airfare to bring our girls home)- by our village.  The competed puzzle will be hung in our girls' room, where they will be reminded that although Ethiopia and America are rather different- somethings are the same...we utilize the power of family, friendships and community to love and support children.

To most, $10.00 doesn't seem like much.  It's about 3-4 cups of coffee at Starbucks or a lunch out at a local restaurant.  But when $10.00 combines with 499 other $10.00's, that's significant, and great things can be done- like bringing two older orphans home FOREVER.

I wish I could say I was going to be running a marathon to raise this money- but I'm not.
I wish I could say that God called us to adopt and we have our church to support us- but I'm not (and we don't).  Humanity "called" us to adopt...
I wish I could say that I found a second job here in Thailand to cover the fees, but I haven't.

But what I can say is that Ron and I are adopting two of the most amazing, beautiful girls from Ethiopia.  I can say that for the rest of my life, I will spend every waking moment supporting these girls, ensuring they have everything they need, loving them until my heart is ready to burst, and nurturing them to slowly overcome their loss and grief that no human, let alone child, should ever have to experience EVER in life.

Our marathon will begin when our daughters come home.
Our "calling" will continue as we embrace the human spirit and the strength of humanity.
And I will continue to work, wherever and however I can to help provide for my family.

From the bottom of our hearts, Ron and I thank you for being part of our village- our family and friends.
We thank you for helping us bring our daughters home.
And we thank you for being constant reminders that the beauty of humanity can be found everywhere, in everyone we know.

Donations can be made on the PayPal link found in the top right corner of this page.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Joy of Parenting An Adopted Child

I want to start off by saying that when Ron and I talk about Aidan, we say he's "our son"...."he's our child."  We never refer to Aidan as an adopted child, although we readily acknowledge and embrace that he is adopted.  For the theme of this post, I am recognizing Aidan as that...he is adopted, and he is our beloved son.

Listening to friends and family talk about babies, the conversation of which parent the baby looks like almost always comes up.  When looking at a friend's child, I can't help but notice that the child has my friend's eyes, their dad's nose, and so and so's such and such.  It's what we do.  We find similarities of our friends and family in their children.  Some of my friends take pride that their child is a mini-me of them- identical, except a generation apart.  Other friends wonder where their child's appearance came from, as they don't look like either parent.  Regardless of the similarities or differences, we're always looking for glimpses of others in their children.

Adopted children are different.  Aidan does not share Ron's or my genes.  We do not have the same genotype, let along phenotype.  We are completely and utterly different.  And I LOVE THAT!  When I look at Aidan, I am not looking at glimpses of Ron or I.  I am looking at just Aidan- the unique little individual that he is.  And so much is a mystery that it's fascinating!

Yes, when I look at Aidan, I see his birth mother, my Ethiopian angel.  He has her striking appearance and marble-like, glistening, beyond gorgeous eyes.  I have her image, her smile, her eyes and her gentle presence forever engrained in my heart (and in many pictures and video).  We share the same son, but with different stories and roles as his mother.  I never want to forget (or ignore) that Aidan does share many of the same characteristics as my angel because she deserves that recognition (and so much more).  But when I look at Aidan, there's much I don't know.

And there's joy in that.  Looking at Aidan, I see him for exactly for who he is- as his little, crazy, hilarious, non-stop self.  He's Aidan.  Everyday, I look at him in awe.  Everyday, I watch him in awe.  I always wonder, "Where did he get that look?"  "Who in his biological family had which trait?"  Although I realize we may never know many of my questions, there's beauty in the unknown.  Not knowing makes me appreciate Aidan just the way he is!

Does Aidan do things that remind me of Ron or I?  Absolutely!  I joke that he is Ron's mini-me.  Aidan is at the stage where he worships Ron- everything Ron does, Aidan wants/needs to do, too.  It kills me with extreme cuteness!  Aidan says things that we say.  He looks at things the way we look.  And I know as he gets older, he will act more and more like Ron and I.  And there's beauty in that, too.  There's beauty in sharing your life with a child, bonding to them, and influencing their lives.  So Ron and I will always see ourselves in Aidan.

But when we look at him- really look at him- I don't see me, and I don't see Ron, and I don't see anyone from our extended families.  All I see is the most perfect little person.  I marvel in that!

In adoption, there is so much that is unknown.  There are so many questions, and never enough answers.  Very often, the unknown is the "ugly" side of adoption as the questions burn and the lack of answers ache.  But in this case, the unknown is truly wonderful.  When I look at Aidan, I don't see the known or unknown...I watch him with amazement as I watch moment by moment unfold as I learn more and more about who Aidan, the individual, is.  It's refreshing, astounding and truly incredible- a fantastic way to parent my perfect little person! :)