Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cleared Case

It came at 4:30 am Denver time and was waiting for us when I woke at 5.  I've been checking Brad's email first thing every morning since our case was submitted to Embassy, and today I was hoping to find the second email about the birth parent interview that we never received yesterday.  But my blurry eyes, still unfocused from sleep, settled on an email with the subject line of "Cleared Case."

What?!?

I opened the email with trembling hands, and my brain refused to comprehend the message.  So I woke Brad and he confirmed what my heart and mind were struggling to believe.

I don't know how or why ours was the rare case the Embassy clears without an interview, but it did.

It's been exactly seven weeks since we last saw Eli Lingo.  And we may see him again before we hit the eight week mark.

Joyous.

Thankful.

Praising the Lord.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Progress

The US Embassy notified us today they have completed screening of Eli Lingo's case and are now beginning the review of orphan status for its Determination on Child for Adoption, which will allow Eli to immigrate to the US.  

Typically when families receive this notification they also receive an email requesting a birth family interview, but we received no such request.  The birth family interview is not a required step in the process, but from what we've seen it's conducted in pretty much every relinquishment case.  

So while there is a chance we didn't receive that email because the Embassy has decided a birth family interview is not necessary, more likely is our case has just fallen further behind with the Embassy.

And based on what we've heard from the family who was submitted the day before us, the Embassy's backlog is worsening.  They received a request for a birth family interview on Friday and learned today their interview is scheduled for August 15th.  It appears the Embassy is currently taking about twice the amount of time to process cases as they announced last May. 

But we're going to focus on the positive: we have progress today.  Eli's case may not be moving as quickly as we expected, but every day is a day closer to bringing him home.


Thanks to our friend Nikki for this photo of Eli.  It's nice to see our boy with a big smile on his face.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Maybe Tomorrow

You quickly learn when dealing with Ethiopia "maybe tomorrow" means "could happen tomorrow, but probably won't."

Yesterday the Embassy told us our case was scheduled for initial screening to be completed today.  It wasn't.

"Maybe tomorrow" is kind of a joke, used to explain "Ethiopian time."  Except it's not so funny when it's your child.

So maybe Monday we'll have better news.  But for now, we're still waiting.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

One of "Those Moms"

I know I'll be one, one of those moms.  Particularly when it comes to nutrition. 

Will you be one with me?

Sally from Real Mom Nutrition urges us all not to fear being "That Mom" in her great post about what she calls Snack-tivism.  And she's not alone; Lisa at 100 Days of Real Food also recently wrote about the conundrum of what to do when someone else offers your child food that you really prefer they not eat.

I would feel (will feel) the same way if (when) Eli is given snacks like this.  In fact, Brad and I have already had the "nutrition talk" with our soon-to-be nanny, specifically about what kind of snacks Eli should have.

Eli has not eaten much, if any, processed food in his life so far and we'd like to keep it that way for as long as possible.  And Eli will be coming to us with particular nutritional challenges, so it'll be even more important that we give him good, real food to help him grow and recover from the effects of malnutrition. 

I gave up processed food many years ago on the advice of my allergist, who was unable to determine what foods were causing me allergic reactions.  His theory was I may have a sensitivity to food preservatives; once I stopped eating processed foods, my reactions ceased.  And when I have them now, I can typically trace them back to some kind of processed food I've eaten.

So processed foods aren't a part of our day-to-day routine.  We know we can't realistically raise a child totally free of the preservatives and other artificial ingredients that comprise so much of the American diet these days, but we will try to limit them as much as possible.  Processed food as a treat, not a part of his regular diet.

Fortunately our soon-to-be nanny agreed with us and still wants to be our nanny.  Being "that mom" didn't chase her away.

I really believe if we all expect better food for our children, then better food will be provided.

p.s.  We've had no progress with the Embassy.  In response to an inquiry about the status of our case, we were told they are currently short staffed due to summer leaves and so it is taking longer to process cases.  So we are still sadly, anxiously waiting for them to even begin processing his case. 

So much for that May announcement about their screening backlog being cleared.  Sigh.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Swordfish and Summer Vegetable Stir-Fry

I haven't posted much about food lately because I've been, well, a bit preoccupied.  But, don't worry, we've certainly been eating and Brad continues to conjure up the most delicious meals.

Last night as we sat down to dinner (in front of the tv--boy, that's gonna change soon, huh?), I took one bite and exclaimed "this must be photographed!" and ran upstairs to grab my iPhone.



Yes, I'm a nut.  But it's also true that this was one of the most delicious meals we've had recently.  And Brad makes a lot of really good stuff, so that's saying something.

The recipe is from this month's Bon Appetit, Summer Vegetable Stir-Fry, which Brad served on a bed of farro with grilled fresh swordfish on top.

Heaven.  Seriously.

Friday, July 20, 2012

What's next?

Eli's case was submitted to the Embassy yesterday, so we've now entered the final stretch to bring him home.  Here's the Embassy's description of the process.

Nutshell is the US Embassy will conduct an independent investigation to determine whether Eli Lingo meets the definition of "orphan" under US immigration law.  The Embassy will conduct an initial review of our case and will likely schedule an interview with his birth mother before making a determination. 

We don't know exactly how long this will take, but this announcement from the Embassy in May of this year is what I've been clinging to:

Screening backlog
We are pleased to announce that we have cleared our screening backlog and the current time for screening new cases is two business days.  We have also increased the number of available birth relative interview slots, and the current wait time for a birth relative interview is one week.


Two days . . . one week. . . . 

We really could still be on a plane before the end of the month. 

In the meantime, we're so thankful to traveling families who have given us new photos to tide us over.






His response to "smile!" always cracks me up.

Love these two boys together.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Embassy Submission

The day that seemed like it would never get here:  Embassy submission. 

My day today started much the same as yesterday, beginning to check my emails at 3:00 am (noon in Addis).  Again Brad and I both checked our emails repeatedly throughout the morning, still not knowing which email address had been given to the Embassy.

At 7:40 am our time, when we'd just about given up, we received an email from the US Embassy in Addis Ababa advising us our case had been received.

You all know how I've struggled during this wait between court and Embassy.  People warned me it was hard.  Well, I'm telling you, it's not hard.  It's HARD.  All caps.

These three kiddos have been sharing the journey toward Embassy:


They've gone to get their passports together, they've gone for their medical exams together.  One was submitted to Embassy yesterday, and Eli was submitted today.



Their moms and I have been sharing this part of the journey together as well, which has been a tremendous blessing.  We've shared frustrations, we've shared joy.  This week we shared a lot of tears. 

Our families will be forever linked by these past few months.  And one of our children needs our prayers, needs your prayers.

While I'm so happy and grateful that Eli's paperwork was fixed and he was submitted today, my heart is heavy for the child who was not.  She and her family have waited and waited, and it's time for her to come home.

Will you please include her in your prayers?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Another Setback

As you all know, we've been waiting to be submitted to the US Embassy in Addis Ababa to finalize Eli's immigration approval and get his visa to bring him home.  Each adoption agency in Ethiopia is assigned a particular day of the week to submit their cases; ours is Wednesday.

We were initially told our case could be submitted the first week of July.  Then it was July 11th.  And then it was today, July 18th.  Brad and I anxiously checked our emails repeatedly this morning, hoping for confirmation from the Embassy that our case had been submitted. 

Nothing.

At 8:00 a.m. we stopped checking our emails, recognizing that the work day in Addis had ended.  I'd started checking my emails at 3:00 a.m., so it's been a long day for me already and I'm fairly exhausted.  Both from my disrupted night of sleep and this series of disappointments.

We later received a call from our coordinator at the adoption agency, who advised there was an error in our letter from the Ethiopian Ministry of Women's, Children's and Youth Affairs ("MOWCYA," formerly "MOWA") that needs to be fixed.  We're told they should be able to get a new letter tomorrow, and that the Embassy has agreed to let them submit our case tomorrow instead of making us wait yet another week.

So hopefully tomorrow I'll have good news. 

But for now, we're still waiting.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Yes, Chef

I've written before about how much we love Marcus Samuelsson's cookbook, The Soul of a New Cuisine:  A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa.  It's been our go-to cookbook for learning how to prepare some dishes that will hopefully make Eli Lingo feel at home.

My friend Robin tipped me off that he was doing a book signing at our local Whole Foods yesterday, so I went on down with our copy of Soul of a New Cuisine and his new book Yes, Chef: A Memoir.


Oh my gosh, he is the nicest man.  While waiting in line, a woman came through and asked if we'd like a name inscribed in the book.  I gave her three:


When Marcus (I can call him "Marcus," right?  He's hugged me in a photo and all. . . .) saw the name "Lingo," he asked who was Lingo.  I told him Lingo is our 4 year old boy from Gambella, Ethiopia, and he got the biggest smile on his face and asked to see a photo.

We chatted briefly about Ethiopia and Gambella (he says there are lots of snakes in Gambella, eek!) and I told him how much we love his African cookbook.  That Lingo will be well fed with food from his homeland, thanks to him.

Dear Brad, Cook for Kathleen and Lingo
Dear Brad and Kathleen, Cook Africa for Lingo
Marcus, my friend, you may have just passed Thomas Keller on my list of most adored chefs.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Birth Mother Photo Book

When we return to Ethiopia to bring Eli Lingo home, one of the things Brad and I are most looking forward to is meeting his birth mother when she travels to Addis Ababa for her Embassy interview.  I won't share her, or Eli's, history here because it's a very personal story.  But I will say that we love this woman we've yet to meet, and our hearts break for what has happened to her and her family that led her to such an agonizing decision.

We are not permitted to give his birth mother anything of "value," but we're told we may give her a photo book.  And while we will be sending periodic reports and pictures to the Ethiopian Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs after he comes home, this may be the only time we get to meet her and give photos directly to her.  Travel to Ethiopia's capital of Addis Ababa is considered safe, but the US State Department warns against travel to Gambella due to serious safety and security concerns.  In fact, US government personnel and their families are currently restricted from travel to Gambella.  Hopefully one day the conditions in Gambella will improve and we will be able to take Eli back to visit his home region.

Making this photo book was harder than I thought it would be.  How best to convey a sense of who we are, these people who will raise her boy, and give her some comfort about where he'll be when he leaves Ethiopia?  What do we want her to know?

He will go to church, and learn to love the God that brought him to us.

He will go to school.

He will play.

He will have his own bedroom, his own bathroom.

And of course we want her to have many photos of him.  This beautiful boy to whom she first gave life, and then gave the opportunity for a different future.

I don't know exactly what Eli's mom prayed for when she brought him to the orphanage, but I know that God heard her prayer.

I remember well the day the orphanage records show he arrived.  We had traveled to Minneapolis to spend the holidays with Brad's family, and my thoughts were consumed with adoption.  Adoption from Africa.  Although it had been on our minds, Brad and I had at that point only casually discussed it.  And yet, here I was, with a pang in my heart and a sense of urgency that I didn't then understand.

But I understand it now.  That pang, that urgency, were Lingo's mom's prayers being answered in my heart.

As soon as we returned to Denver, Brad and I began exploring adoption in earnest.  And on Brad's birthday we accepted Lingo's referral.  Our prayers were answered.

I hope that when Lingo's birth mother meets us she feels that her prayers were answered.  I want her to have peace in her heart and know that her son will be raised with so much love.

If it's even possible to capture that in a photo book, I hope this does it.


Shutterfly photo books are the new way to preserve your memories. Create your own today.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Summer Jam Fest

For some reason, canning has always intimidated me.  I grew up watching my grandmother do it and fondly recall her sending me down to her basement whenever we visited to pick out what canned goods we'd take home.  My favorites were her salsa, pie cherries, and sauerkraut.  Yum.

But even though I don't remember thinking it looked hard I've always been intimidated to give it a go myself.  Last fall Brad and I bought a canning set, and I fully intended to try canning, but all we used the big pot for is boiling lobsters and king crab legs. 

Until now.

We'd been getting fresh rhubarb from our CSA every week and it was piling up.  So I finally took the plunge and made some strawberry rhubarb jam.  It turned out so good that a few days later I made some rhubarb conserve (kind of like a chutney).  And then last weekend I bought a huge tub of blueberries and made some more jam.



You know what?  So far it's all turned out pretty fabulous.  The blueberry jam is a little thick, but the flavor is great.  (And I suppose thick is better than runny.)

Next up is apricot jam.  I've been preparing apricots each week from our CSA fruit share and storing them in the freezer until I have enough to make jam.  I'm only a cup and a half away, and it looks like we'll be getting the last of the apricots this week. 

I recall reading that someone's Ethiopian kiddo would eat only bread and jam when he first came to America.

Just in case, Eli, we'll be ready!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Anuak Angels

Sometimes when I click "Publish" I wonder if I've shared too much on here.  A few of my recent posts have left me feeling kind of raw and exposed.  But then we're lifted up by the kind words of encouragement and prayers of so many, and I know it was the right thing to do.  To share our struggles, frustrations, and fears, and have them eased.

Or something beautiful like this happens.

Remember me writing about Eli being so isolated at our agency's care center because none of the staff or other children speak his language?  Well, a mom from our agency read it and reached out to me.  Her girls are also Anuak and just came home in May.  Although they are learning English quickly (so good to hear!) they still know Anuak.

And they live nearby.  What are the chances of that?  There are about 350,000 Anuak in the entire world (as compared with 2.87 million people who live in metro Denver) and there are two sweet Anuak angels who live here to help Eli when he comes home.

Even better, this mom offered to have her girls put together a list of words in Anuak that will help us speak with Eli when we're back together.  And of course it'll help us teach him English for those words as well.

We are so blessed by the people who have been sent to help us on this journey.

Brad and I have been very anxious about this language challenge, since it won't only be us who can't speak with Eli.  Ethiopians at the hotel and in restaurants--who have been able to help other parents whose children speak Amharic--almost certainly won't speak Anuak.  I've tried to find information on Anuak words and phrases, and it just doesn't seem to exist.  I've asked our agency to see if they could find an Anuak translator in Addis who we could hire to help us during those first few days, but to my knowledge they haven't found one.

But now, thanks to this gracious mom and her beautiful girls, we should be able to fumble our way through a few simple words and phrases with Eli.  Having even minimal language skills will be so helpful connecting with our little guy.

I just hope he's patient with our pronunciation.  :)

So now we just have to figure out what we'll want to be able to say to him, or ask him.  Any suggestions?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Encouragement and Prayers


There were a lot of tears shed yesterday.  Tears of gratitude from the many people who reached out to us in support during this very difficult time.  Tears of frustration that our Embassy submission seems to be slipping further into the future.

After sharing my anxiety and frustration about our case yesterday, I read on facebook that the US Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is participating in the African Union Summit July 12-18 and so they are not making any appointments during those dates.  Brad emailed the Embassy in Addis to ask whether their offices will be open on July 18th for our case to be filed, but we haven't yet heard back.  If not, then our case will likely be pushed back another week.

Today marks one month since we first met Eli Lingo, twenty-nine days since the Ethiopian Federal Court proclaimed us a family of three.  And it's been almost that long since we've seen him; since he's seen us.  And I fear the warmth we built during our time with him is cooling, that we're losing that tenuous connection.  Will he even remember us by the time we make it back there?  Or will we be starting again as strangers?

Then later yesterday I read this on a blog I found just a few days ago.  The blog post was titled "Encouragement and Prayers."

Yes, please.

Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it. “ Hebrews 11:1

Lord, please give me the strength to live these words.  To have faith.

A friend who shares our predicament with her adoption, who is similarly stuck right now, said she's trying to stay focused on each day being one day closer to seeing our kids again.  (I'm paraphrasing; she said it much more eloquently.)  And she's right.  Even if we do not see the progress, it's there.  Whether our Embassy submittal date is now July 18th or July 25th (God, help us), each day is a day closer to that date.

So last night we thanked God for bringing us to where we are now and had a big ol' glass of this.  (Ok, maybe it was two glasses.)



Hope and Grace.  Now I just need to have some faith.

Thank you, friends, for being with us on this journey.  And thank you for your prayers.  We will all soon celebrate Eli's homecoming.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Faith and Hope and Grace

I need some, friends.

Faith.  I've lost faith in our agency.  The Ethiopian staff has not been diligent in processing our case since the court decree and birth certificate were received.  In order to be submitted to the US Embassy for processing of Eli's citizenship application and visa, he needs to obtain his Ethiopian passport and a clear medical exam from an Embassy physician.  Each of those takes three days to obtain, and must be done in order, but both can be completed in a week.

Eli was not taken for his passport for a full week after we received his adoption decree and birth certificate.  There was no explanation for the delay.  Then his medical appointment was not scheduled for another five days after that.  Our agency is only permitted to file new cases with the US Embassy on Wednesdays, and his medical report should be ready next Thursday.  So that bumps our case submission another full week.  These timeframes are known to the Ethiopian staff, so I'm having a really hard time understanding why there wasn't some thought given to when things needed to get done to have our case timely submitted.

I've also lost faith in our agency's US staff.  They have not been forthcoming with information regarding the status of our case, and I've had to learn about our progress from another family who was in-country.  My frustration with the lack of progress and communication has been met by the US staff with defensiveness and hostility, to the point where I can barely bring myself to speak with them.  It's not good right now.  They are supposed to be there for us, to help us through this difficult process, and I feel as though they've become our adversary.

I need my faith restored to bring this journey to a conclusion.  This time between court and Embassy is so hard, and feeling like our agency is not working in our best interest has made it much, much harder.

Hope.  I feel pretty hopeless right now.  Intellectually I know that we are almost done.  That Eli will be home with us soon and the way I feel right now will quickly fade, replaced by the joy of our new family of three.  But my heart is having a really hard time buying into that right now.

And I need hope for what is to come after we've finally been submitted to the Embassy.  The process can be quick, or it can be very long.  I'm so afraid of beginning the Embassy process with my hope tank on empty.

Grace.  I pray that God restores some grace to my heart and my spirit.  I've become so angry and frustrated, and I can't spend the next however long feeling like this.  There is no way to fix what has already occurred and I need to stay focused on what lies ahead.

Please pray for us.  For Eli's case to be filed on our now earliest-possible-date of July 18th. And for quick processing by the US Embassy after that. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

New Photos

Our agency sent some new photos with our July update.



Hopefully we'll be the ones taking photos of him in August.  With us.  And that we'll be the ones who decide when he gets his next haircut.  It was a shock to see his head shaved again.

Progress with Eli's case has been slow.  I don't want to go into details because right now I'm just trying to focus on getting through this.  And focus on the fact that we will all be together again soon. 

But it's frustrating.  And hard.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sweet Shot Tuesday, Ethiopia

Entoto Mountain, Ethiopia.


I began a free trial of Photoshop this week and have been having fun trying it out.  Although I really have no idea what I'm doing, I did successfully remove the water bottle from the nook of the tree in this photo.


Much better, don't you think?


Sweet Shot Tuesday with Kent Weakley Live, Love, Travel

Monday, July 2, 2012

Milestone Checklist

When we received Lingo's referral last March we were provided a medical report we really couldn't read (other than the lab test results, which were thankfully all negative).  Height and weight data were recorded, but we weren't able to decipher the figures.  Today we received an update and reading the two together has helped us understand both sets of information.

He's tall for his age, in the 75th percentile both last February and now, which is no surprise.  His tribe is known for being exceptionally tall and he seemed tall for his age when we met him last month. 

But he's so very thin, and has dropped from the 25th to the 10th percentile for weight since February.  His BMI was just under the 5th percentile in February and now it's less than the 3rd percentile.  Significantly underweight.

One day when he was sitting on my lap I reached down to see how big his ankle was, using my thumb and forefinger to measure.  This is how big our 4 1/2 year old's ankles are right now:


Ok, not actually to scale.  But you get the idea.  Small.

I've said before that we feel good about the care he is receiving at our agency's care center, and I still do.  Although we weren't able to visit the orphanage in Gambella where he spent his first six months in care, we have seen how the nannies where he is now dearly love the children.  They seem to do well with what they have, but I suspect there just isn't much at the care center to go around.

You all know how much Brad and I love to cook.  We're dying to get this little guy home and watch him climb the growth charts.

In the Milestone report, Sister (the care center director) describes him as "a quiet sociable boy," which made me smile.  I think that means he's playing well with all the children, even though he doesn't speak their language. 

We also received another photo from a travelling family, of him lounging on the playhouse slide.


Smiling. 

It warms my heart.

Eli Lingo, xoxo