Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Matching Grant!

As you probably know, we have been in the domestic infant adoption process for a little while, and as you're also probably aware, it's a very expensive process ($20,000 in our case). Since we began our adoption journey, we have held various fundraisers and raised several thousands of dollars that would have otherwise taken us years to save on our own. There is no end to our gratitude for the generosity that has been shown to us!

We are embarking on one final fundraising effort: an adoption matching grant through a non-profit organization called Lifesong for Orphans. This amazing organization has just approved us for a matching grant of $2,500!!! However, in order to receive this dollar-for-dollar grant, we must first raise this full amount and are not allowed to contribute to it ourselves.

To be able to have $5,000 (a quarter of our total adoption expenses) covered would be a tremendous lift as we continue on this amazing journey!

We humbly ask you to consider making a one-time (tax-deductible!) contribution toward our matching grant.

To make a secure online donation to our Lifesong for Orphans account:
-Simply click the “Donate” button on the right side of this blog.

To make a donation by check:
-Make check out to: Lifesong for Orphans
-Please write “preference Atchison #1565 adoption” in the memo line and mail to:

Lifesong for Orphans
PO Box 40 / 202 N. Ford St.
Gridley, IL 61744

We are prayerfully hopeful that with your help, we can reach our $2,500 goal, which can then be parlayed into $5,000 total toward our adoption expenses. Oh and did we mention that all contributions are tax deductible???

Much love,
Alan & Tara

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Taking the Bitter with the Sweet

As most of you know, we are currently in the waiting phase of the adoption process, which officially began in April. All the paperwork has long since been submitted, as have all the pre-placement funds. In adoption lingo, we are what is known as "paper pregnant."

It's kind of weird knowing that we could become parents at any moment, but for the most part, we have lived pretty normal lives for the past six months. Probably the most frustrating part is simply not knowing the timeline. Most people have nine months with which to plan. We have...well, we won't really know until we know. Oh well, I guess some of the best things in life come together quickly and unpredictably.

We've gotten a tremendous amount of work done on our house in preparation for our baby's arrival. My former man-cave is now a nursery. We painted and rearranged all of our upstairs rooms in order to maximize space. On a personal level, we have made some healthy changes to our eating habits and I have become a bit of a workout fiend (which I guess is good as I approach the doorstep of my 30th birthday). Tara challenged me to start working out in the mornings after witnessing my repeated evening willpower fails. After laughing at her suggestion for about five minutes, I finally said "Ok, I'll give it a shot" and almost three months later, it's a regular part of my morning routine. The goal is for my future kid to be able to say "My dad can beat up your dad!" (though it's much more likely that the other dad and I will just catch a Phillies game instead).

So here comes the part that is extremely difficult to discuss, but probably important to share. Some of you are well aware of the details and others of you have recently asked about this, having heard only sketchy details. So, it's time to share the good with the not-so good. This past July, we were briefly matched with a birthmother who was eight months pregnant and chose us to parent her baby boy, who was due in August. I will never forget the call I received from our case worker who told us that this young woman chose our profile out of the stack and wanted to meet with us. The meeting turned out to be the most exhilarating two hours of human interaction that we'd ever experienced. The two sides fell in love with each other almost immediately and by the next day, the match was made official through our agency. We made the announcement to the world and began immediate plans to bring our about-to-be-born son home. It was, without a doubt, the most amazing joy we'd ever known.

A week later, we received the devastating phone call that, for reasons that are still somewhat unclear to us, our birthmother decided to pull out of the adoption plan. Now let me take a moment to address that aspect. Birthparents have the full right to withdraw from the adoption process at any time before the birth (and in some states, for a short period of time after the birth). We do not disagree with her right to do so, but naturally, that didn't lessen our pain by any stretch of the imagination. Tara and I can honestly say that throughout the course of our lives, we had not tasted true suffering up until that point. This was nothing short of a miscarriage. The pain of losing a baby -- even one not yet born, nor carrying your own genes -- is second to none.

The day after we received the heartbreaking news, we found a handwritten card on our porch from one of our dearest friends. This person had previously experienced a miscarriage, knew what it was like to suffer, and also understood that truly coming alongside hurting people meant walking with them in their pain without being able to provide solid answers. While all the words of sympathy, support, and encouragement from all of our family and friends will always be cherished, the words in this card were unique and comforted us in a truly remarkable way. They were as follows:
Dear friends, since I got the text yesterday about your birthmother pulling out, I've been mulling things through my brain. Searching for something...anything. While I know the deep pain of losing a child, this is different! This is harder!! I wish I could write you some clever words or share some wisdom of some sort...just something to ease your sorrow right now. I will give you all I have, and it's everything (but it doesn't feel like everything yet!) I am fervently praying for you both! Know that Jesus and many others weep with you today!
Three months later, after a lot of processing and a lot of prayer, I believe we have a healthy and hopeful outlook. The world, which only looked gray to us for a time, has begun to display vibrant colors once again. Jesus truly did weep with us in our deepest agony. Our family and friends rallied around us and mourned with us. Our church community completely loved on us. We began to examine why this happened, where we went wrong, and what could have been done differently, only to conclude that we may never know why this happened and that there's nothing we could have done differently.

Additionally, over the course of the past three months, a strange and beautiful thing has actually resulted because of this experience: We are all the more excited about becoming adoptive parents and have never been more in awe of the beauty of adoption. And, just as importantly, we are more convinced than ever before that open-adoption is the best way to go for everyone involved. However brief, the interactions we shared with our former birthmother were more amazing than we could have ever imagined, and we excitedly look forward to once again establishing that kind of relationship when we are matched for good. The feelings of love and admiration you develop for your baby's birthparents cannot be measured, quantified, or put into words. During the time that we were matched, I recall talking to some pregnant couples and actually thinking inwardly "How sad that you and your spouse don't have any birthparents, other than yourselves, with whom to share this incredible joy!" With all my heart, I can honestly say that this sentiment has not wavered. And I can also honestly say that we will always have a special place in our hearts and think fondly about the amazing woman who, for a brief time, chose us to be the parents of her son.

If you are considering adoption, please don't let our recent experience deter you. Our hope and prayer is that this experience will be a positive testimony to others. The truth is that adoption "disappointments" as these are called, are not all that common. But be the statistics as they may, I encourage you to pursue adoption knowing that the rewards far outweigh and completely triumph over the risks. If we had the choice to erase our memories and to simply be six months into the waiting process without having gone through our disappointment, we would turn it down every time. As difficult as it was (and is) to experience, we have learned immeasurably more about the faithful guidance that comes from Christ, the beauty of forming families through adoption, and the kind of parents we are striving to be when our son or daughter finally comes home.

The heart of man plans his way,
but the LORD establishes his steps.
-Proverbs 16:9

Friday, August 13, 2010

With a Little Help From Our Friends...

If you know us at all, you know that Alan and I are, indeed, people-people. Although, like the rest of humanity, we need personal alone time every once in a while to be rejuvenated, we generally receive life and are energized by being around others and getting to know new people. During this adoption process, it has been particularly energizing and encouraging for us to meet other couples who have adopted, are currently in the adoption process, or are thinking about adopting in the future. It's naturally helpful to share this part of ourselves in common with others because adoption, though growing in popularity, education, and understanding, is still not too common in our society.

During our home study meetings, we were presented with the option of meeting with another couple also adopting through Bethany Christian Services for the purpose of friendship and support. As you can imagine, Alan and I jumped at this opportunity to connect with another couple in this way! Meet new friends who are forming their family through adoption as well, you say? Heck yes!

Our social worker must be super intuitive. She introduced us to a couple she thought "we'd get along well with," and in hanging out two times already, I have just been so beyond-words, thankful for these new friends that have entered our lives. Last Friday night we had them over for pizza and a Phillies game and it felt as if we were spending time with friends we'd known for much longer than just a couple of months! It's amazing to me how shared experiences -- in this case adoption and similar infertility stories -- can so easily and quickly forge a meaningful friendship. These new friends are evidence to me of God's provision, love, and care for us in our lives, especially during this waiting season that can sometimes feel particularly lonely and difficult. I speak for both Alan and myself in saying that we are both looking forward to hopefully many more shared memories with this couple and our future kids who we know God will faithfully bless us with, just as he has blessed us with not only these new friends, but a community of friends who we call family.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Benefit Concert Recap

This past Saturday, we hosted the Atchison Adoption Benefit Concert, at 2424 Studios. We'd been planning this event for the better part of a year, but due to logistics and scheduling conflicts, it had to be pushed back several times. The event allowed us to raise over $400 dollars, which was awesome, and also allowed me to finally showcase a bunch of songs I'd written, and just have a good time playing music on stage with some very talented friends.

The night started out with music by Will Chambers and his group, Old Love. Afterwards, my friends Grant Hollis (djembe), Laura Winchell (vocals), and I (vocals, guitar) took the stage. A few days before this show, I developed some sort of throat irritation and a bit of a cough. Perfect timing, right? To remedy this, I went up on stage with a bottle of honey and -- I kid you not -- took a swig before every song. I think this really grossed some people out, but it helped my irritated throat reach 100% range capacity. Whatever it takes...

One of my favorite songs to play was one that I wrote called "Little Girl, Little Boy" which is about our future children. Unlike a couple having a biological child, the waiting game for us looks a lot different. We aren't able to look at any ultrasound pictures and we're not able to feel anything kicking inside Tara's belly (unless she's got indigestion or something...) While this can be frustrating, we still feel a tremendous amount of love for our future children and simply look forward to all the things we're going to do and experience with them. And in no particular order, we're looking forward to adopting a girl and a boy, hence the title of the song.

The highlight of the night, as I'm sure all in attendance would agree, was when my buddy Phil came up on stage to sing "Head Over Feet" by Alanis Morrisette to his girlfriend Betsy. You see, Phil and I, in addition to being friends at the same church, also work in the same building and have lunch together from time to time. And well, some very silly things have a tendency to come out of our lunches together. One day, a few weeks back, as we were having lunch on a really swelteringly hot day, Phil decided to do a spot on Alanis impression for me. After a few moments of doing impressions, we somehow birthed the bright idea that he should come up and sing "Head Over Feet" to Betsy. So I went home, learned the song on the guitar, and after a few practices, we were ready to go...complete with Phil doing a harmonica solo! When it came time for the actual performance, Phil didn't disappoint, and Betsy, to her credit, actually stayed in the room and received it well. I think when all was said and done, Phil "won Betsy over, in spite of him."

(Watch video of "Head Over Feet" at the bottom of this entry)

In getting this show ready, I would be completely out of line if I didn't throw an enthusiastically grateful shout out to all the amazing college students who are interning at liberti church this summer. These students selflessly gave of their time and energy before, during, and after the event, and I couldn't be more grateful! Thank you also to Kurt Ro, who set up "Kurt's Cafe" and sold lattes throughout the night. Thank you to Dan Schultz for running the sound (by all accounts, it was mixed perfectly!) Thank you to Bethany DePoy, who designed the flyer for the show. And of course, thank you to Laura, Grant, Will, and Joe for giving of their time and talents.

And thank you to all the rest of you who contributed by helping out at the event and/or coming out to the show. Your support is extremely heartwarming...and I hope you enjoyed the music!




video
Video - "Head Over Feet"

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

All Alone in a Crowded Room

Tonight was one of the most emotionally difficult and challenging nights in our journey to adopt a baby. And the weird thing is, you'd have never even suspected or realized it if you weren't us.

Which you aren't.

I don't think.

As required by our agency -- and rightfully so -- we attended a class at a local hospital on infant care. Seems innocent and simple enough, right? Well it is....and it isn't.

If you're a guy who impregnated his wife and are attending this class with her, you probably feel perfectly normal.

If you're a woman sporting a big, cute pregnant belly and are attending this class with your husband, you probably feel perfectly normal.

But if you're an adoptive couple with no pregnant belly to display, and are being looked at a little differently because people are not really sure why exactly you're in that class, then you sure as hell don't feel perfectly normal.

Such was the case for us tonight as we sat through an otherwise well taught and clearly presented class on caring for newborn babies. And don't get me wrong, we learned a lot of good stuff that can and will be applied when we become parents. But the truth is that we were apprehensive about going to this class tonight to begin with. Since entering the official "waiting phase" a month ago, we've really been struggling with not knowing when our baby is coming home; when that phone call is coming; and knowing that most other expecting parents have full clarity in those areas. (Note: if you're one of our pregnant friends, please know we're not bitter at you at all, and are excited for you; we're just really struggling in this gray area of unpredictability right now).

We tried to go into this infant care class with a positive attitude, but right from the start, the instructor spent a lot of time on aspects of the birth itself, followed by loads of information on the importance of breastfeeding. This was certainly not out of place given the obviously pregnant women throughout the room, but would it have hurt so much to simply ask the crowded room of couples if there was anyone currently in the adoption process? When is it going to come to the point when adoption can be legitimately recognized in these kinds of infant care classes without the class having to be a specific "adoptive couples" class??

Throughout the two hour class, Tara and I seemed to take turns mentally checking out at various intervals. At the end, as we were turning in our class evaluation, the instructor asked Tara when she's due; always a great thing to ask a non-pregnant woman. We said we're adopting, which surprisingly, seemed to catch her way off guard. Is this really the mentality of infant health care in the year 2010?

As we exited the classroom, pretty emotionally detached, we purposely distanced ourselves from the five or six pregnant couples in front of us, hoping to avoid any chance of interaction. Now mind you, Tara and I are hopeless chatterboxes, and 99.9% of the time, we embrace any kind of potential awkwardness and happily discuss adoption in detail with anyone. Unfortunately, tonight was .1% of those other times.

After a few minutes of hanging out in the hallway to let everyone else exit, we headed to the elevator to find one of the couples still there. Crap! Didn't wait long enough! As we got into the elevator and literally stared at the floor, hoping for a quick and silent ride down to the parking garage, the guy inevitably spoke up: "When are you due?"

And just like that, the part of my brain that keeps me from making crudely sarcastic comments at inappropriate times got switched off. "I wish we knew!!" came my blunt response, followed by a few moments of awkward banter in which we, regretfully, were probably a bit stand off-ish.

We got in the car and left, feeling as though we'd run an emotional marathon, which was compounded by learning that the Phillies had lost 8-0 to the Mets. You know, the important things in life...

This blog entry is not about throwing a pity party or thinking that people should feel sorry for us. We are unbelievably blessed in every way and never want to lose sight of that. And we are going to someday be the parents of a beautiful baby, which keeps us excited every day. But we are pretty upset at the way our infant care class seemed to completely ignore the fact that a growing number of couples attending these classes are adopting due to infertility...and that maybe, just maybe, those couples are feeling somewhat inferior and a little out of place in a room full of pregnant bellies. If this blog serves any credible purpose to any infertile couples in the same situation, please know you're not alone. And if this blog ever falls upon the eyes of an infant care class instructor, please understand that adoptive couples deserve to be acknowledged as legitimate parents-to-be, instead of simply assuming all couples in your class (especially the ones who clearly don't look pregnant!) have due dates to give birth.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Wait Begins!

A major milestone has been reached:

As of today, we are officially in the "waiting" phase of the adoption process!

(Big exhale!) Simply being able to wait never sounded so good.

As we've written about in numerous past blog entries, the past year has seen us tackle huge amounts of paperwork, background checks, and home study meetings. During that time, as people would naturally ask us if we are expecting to get a call to adopt a baby any day, our response was always a resounding "No...we're not at that stage yet."

Over the past couple of weeks, we have been working on a massive eight-page family profile that pretty much describes everything about who we are, our daily lives, our home, our jobs, and yes...our dog. (Massive thanks to our friend, Chris H. who did most of the program-based work of actually creating it according to our vision). This profile, which was submitted to our agency yesterday, will now be shown to multiple pregnant birth-parents, who will view them in order to determine who they would like to meet as potential matches to adopt their baby once he or she is born.

To set the record straight about one thing, this will not be some ten-year sob story waiting game like the media wants you to believe, so please get that nonsense out of your mind if you happen to be thinking it. As we've all been reminded of lately, adoption stories in the news are almost all negative and magnify the few situations gone wrong rather than laud the vast majority of healthy, successful adoptive placements. So while we don't think it'll be tomorrow, it shouldn't be too long.

So, after all the grunt work we've done over the past year, it's a relief to finally answer the million dollar question: Yes, we are now eligible to get a phone call from our agency, at any time, that a birth-parent would like to meet us for a potential adoptive placement! :)

My man-cave is about to turn into a nursery...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Essence of Community

Two of our most recent fundraising endeavors have come to a close and what a success they proved to be.

In early February, we began a massive baby bottle fundraiser in which willing participants each took an empty baby bottle provided by us and filled it up with change (or any currency they wished) and returned it to us a month later.

When we began this project, we estimated that we'd possibly bring in around $1,000.

Hopefully.

Probably more like $800.

Maybe.

As of today, with a few bottles still trickling in, we've officially raised $2,800 through our baby bottle project!!

I know...we still can't believe it either.

We're still completely blown away by the community support we've received. We didn't know that this would spread like wildfire, but by the grace of God, it did. We are so grateful to all of you who gave so generously to our adoption fund through this project that it's just too hard to really put into words.

However, one contribution in particular must be pointed out:

I was sitting down at church one Sunday, several weeks back, shortly after we launched the baby bottle fundraiser. A young, seven-year-old girl named Tahnayja came up to me. She had found a dime on her way to church and was trying to figure out what to do with it. Somewhere along the way, she had heard that we are adopting a baby, and while she didn't fully grasp what that meant, she understood that it's an expensive process. She came up to me and thrust out her hand with the dime in it. I asked, "What's this for?" She replied, "For your baby!" I thankfully received the small coin from her hand and put it into my pocket, fighting to maintain composure.

It was one of the most touching gifts we'd ever been given.

I couldn't help but relate this scenario to Luke 21, in which "Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, 'Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.'"

I don't mean for this to minimize -- in ANY way -- the generosity shown to us by all who have contributed to our adoption fund, but what had compelled this little girl to give away her newfound prize to us? To a seven-year-old, ten cents can mean you're only a few more dimes away from a piece of candy. In a very real and tangible way, it truly felt as though this little girl had somehow "put in more than all of them."

***

On March 28th, we held our benefit brunch at Ida Mae's Bruncherie, a wonderful family-owned restaurant. THANK YOU to all of you who came out to support us, even though I'm sure the draw of eating great food didn't require us to twist your arms. The place was packed for most of the day so we ended up going from table to table to express our gratitude to all who came. We had a bunch of surprise attenders, which was awesome. Overall, it felt a little like our wedding day, as we wanted to make sure we spent at least a few minutes with everyone who showed up. Special thanks to Heather, Stew, Jeff, and Jeanie who drove considerable distances just to participate in our fundraiser. You have no idea how much it meant to us. We made about $200 at Ida Mae's that day and are unbelievably grateful to the restaurant's owner, Mary Kate, for being willing to partner with us in this effort. Ida Mae's is a wonderful restaurant that serves great food and employs wonderful people -- so hey, you should support them and eat there as often as you can!

Some pics from the Ida Mae's brunch
(sorry if we unintentionally missed you!)
















Saturday, March 6, 2010

March 28th - Ida Mae's Benefit Brunch

On Sunday, March 28, 2010, we will be partnering with Ida Mae's Bruncherie for a benefit brunch to raise funds for our adoption.

The owner of Ida Mae's has graciously agreed to have March 28th be an adoption-themed day on our behalf and will give us 10% of the restaurant's total earnings for that day. So, if you come to eat at Ida Mae's anytime between 8am and 2pm on that date, you will be contributing to our adoption fund simply by filling your stomach AND will be helping to support a wonderful, family-owned restaurant. Pretty sweet, huh?

Special entree for the day will be "Babies in Blankets" (aka sausage wrapped in pancakes). Vegetarian option (with fruit) will be available.

So come on out on March 28th...bring your family and friends...looking forward to seeing you!!!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Home Study Complete!

A major component of our adoption process has been completed! Last Tuesday, we had our third and final home study session; this last one took place at our house. Our case worker looked through each room of our house for anything potentially child-hazardous and to make sure we had hot water and flushing toilets! That was the funniest part..."Ok, I need to flush a toilet please."

Long story short, our house has been deemed safe for children.

We spent the next two hours at our dining room table going over a lot of detail regarding parenting itself -- discipline, finances, child care, etc. It was intense. Good, but intense. We've been talking to a lot of our friends and family members with young kids about their various parenting styles, so we have a lot of good information at our disposal with which to make informed decisions when we have a son or daughter.

It's a tremendous relief to have completed the home study process. Welcome to the show, the fun's really about to begin!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Baby Bottle Fundraiser!

We're beginning a new and interesting adoption fundraising endeavor for anyone who would like to participate. We just purchased a ton of baby bottles and we're asking willing parties to fill one up with change -- or any currency they'd like -- over the course of one month, and then return it to us. Why one month? Because as with all things in life, if we begin something with intentions of getting to it at some point, it usually doesn't get done. (I'm the king of that sort of thing). So we thought it would be a good idea to set a deadline.

As we begin this project, here's a breakdown of the current financial situation:

Total cost to adopt:
$20,000

Already paid:
$2,000

Next amount to be paid before placement with birth parents:
$4,200


Estimated income from baby bottle fundraiser:
$1,000-$2,000

So yeah, being able to raise that amount from the baby bottles alone could be HUGE for us! If you'd be willing to take a bottle and fill it up within one month, please contact one of us. If you don't have our contact info, our email addresses are on the top right under "Bios." If you don't live near us, we'd be happy to either mail you a bottle or drive it to you (within a reasonable driving distance of course).

Thanks again for all your support!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Second Home Study Go-Around

We had our second of three home study meetings this morning at Bethany Christian Services' office, and it went really well. The first meeting, last month, was a big get-to-know-you-apart-from-your-paperwork type of session. Today's meeting delved specifically into the health and quality of our marriage as we prepare to adopt a baby. It was actually really uplifting and encouraging to be asked such direct questions about the ways that we love and support each other, as well as the areas that we need to work on. Tara and I have been married for three and a half years now and just when I think I've got her all figured out, she goes and surprises me somehow. And that's just one of the greatest things about being married. I guess you just never have it all figured out until...well, I guess until death do you part. Sorry to sound morbid, but hey, it's in the vows. I didn't make this stuff up.

But I digress.

Our social worker politely apologized a few times for having to ask all sorts of personal, and sometimes very challenging and soul-searching questions about our marriage, but in actuality, it's really healthy and good for all parties involved. To be honest, I'm still a little bit perplexed at how many people still ask me if we have problems with the "interrogations" of the process. My response is always that the agency is responsible for helping birth-parents get matched up with the best adoptive parents possible to raise the child as their own. If the agency didn't want to know everything about us, I'd be a little worried! (A word to the wise, if you're thinking about adopting: be honest about the good, bad, and the ugly in your own life and deal with your crap NOW, not later!)

Our third home study meeting -- which will take place at our house -- is scheduled for February 9th. We've still got some baby-proofing to do before then. We're also in the middle of some really helpful and informative books, which are required to be read before the home study sessions are complete. These books will undoubtedly help us shape some major upcoming parenting decisions. But that's a blog entry for another day...