Preparing for Layla

I am currently 29 weeks pregnant. The day I delivered Cora, she was 29 weeks 5 days old. This thought is with me every day at work; it’s with me every time I go a few hours without feeling her … Continue reading

The worst kind of deja vu

I truly can’t believe I’m about to write this again. We have devastating news regarding our current pregnancy. Last Wednesday, I had an official ultrasound and the doctor was able to confirm my fears. Our baby is going to die. … Continue reading

Our journey to Abenezer

If you have read our past blog posts, you are pretty caught up on our adoption story. We started the process in September of 2013, two months after losing Cora. In January of 2017, we (finally) obtained legal custody of Abenezer and he officially become a U. S. Citizen the day we arrived with him in America. Meet Abenezer Shrader:

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For those of you that follow me on Facebook, I was very open about the process happening in Ethiopia. We arrived the day before court (Monday), immediately went to the orphanage to meet Abenezer (as required) and passed court the next day (Tuesday, January 10th). We had our “gotcha day”-the day we took custody of him that Wednesday the 11th. His orphanage, Noble Action, graciously fed us lunch and gave him the sweetest goodbye ceremony. I cried the entire day, in fact I think Abenezer was confused as to why I was crying and not smiling. I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that Abenezer was about to leave the only family he had ever known to be in a totally different country and culture. I also was so incredibly happy we got to be a part of his story in that way. We don’t know much about his past, as we do not have any contact or information about his family.

He was obviously very well cared for and loved by the nannies there. We have a big picture of all of his friends in our living room to help him remember them always. I think the fact that his best friend, Mahilet, went through her own goodbye ceremony right before we came to get him made him more anxious and excited for our arrival. He was adament he was excited to go to “his country” (America). Here are some pictures of the precious orphanage and ceremony:

We stayed in the Sidra International Hotel in Addis Ababa and we were so blessed by our stay. We had power, internet, good food and great friends staying with us. Our agency typically has several families traveling together so we were blessed to be traveling with 4 families. The hotel staff loved Abenezer and talked to him in Amharic whenever they got the chance.

We stayed at the hotel for the entirety of the process. After we took custody of Abenezer, we had to get an approval stamp from MOWA (their DSS) to continue to get his Ethiopian passport, we had to have the passport to start his medicals/TB test (48 hours), we had to have the medical slip from the doctor to start his exit visa process with the US embassy and make flights. We hit a few holidays that delayed us a few days and Abenezer had a positive TB test (but negative chest x-ray) that also delayed us, but we were still out of country in 2 1/2 weeks. We are very blessed to have made one trip and come back with him. Even though it was very stressful, we have no regrets. We are planning to return to Ethiopia to visit in a few years, so we can actually enjoy the country and sight see. Here are a few pictures of the hotel and our adventures:

We are adjusting to him, and he to us. He loves Lydia; he hugs her so hard she falls down every day. He loves to sing (anything English or Amharic), loves to read, needs to be on the go 24/7, eats like a grown man, loves our local museum, is scared of heights, still scared of big dogs, watches Clifford and Sesame Street daily, says “I love you”, amongst other things. He can write his entire alphabet, knows 1-20, days of the week all in English and knows his shapes as well as plays (and wins) UNO. He’s a very smart boy and VERY boy-like (which we are also getting used to). He will be going to daycare soon after my leave is over and he may start Kindergarten this fall. We are enjoying every bit of him and cannot believe he is finally here after 3 1/2 years of the process! Let the adventures truly begin!!

 

 

It’s finally happening!

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It’s here! It’s here! We are headed to Ethiopia Sunday morning and will arrive Monday morning January 9th because our court date is scheduled next week! We’ve been waiting almost 16 months to see this boy’s face and a week from today we will have met him! We have still not decided how long we are staying, as every case is different. We have to stay in country to sign his birth certificate and that could be anywhere from a 5-9 day trip. Usually, this is the most complicated and unstable part of the process as their servers can go down and the birth certificate can’t be printed right away. After the birth certificate, it’s exit visas and passports plus medical exams/tests and we can go home! So far, it’s taken people 2-3 weeks after court to bring their kiddo home, so we are torn about leaving after the birth certificate process or staying in country to bring him home.

We decided, for now, to buy a one way ticket and see how everything progresses once we are there. That could mean we leave soon after the birth certificate is signed if we foresee delays, or it could mean we bring him home with us forever! Please PLEASE pray with us that the trip is much quicker than we think and we can choose one trip to bring him home. This is the ideal choice, but because of delays in country this may not be what happens. I’m very sad to be without Lydia for a possibility of a few weeks but she will be well taken care of by family! We are also keeping our Lifesong account open in case anyone would like to make any last minute donations as we are spending SO MUCH on plane tickets, hotel stays, food, etc. You can donate HERE to our account. As always, we APPRECIATE all your prayers, thoughts, donations, kindness in this 3+ year process. It’s been a journey so far but the real ADVENTURE begins next week!!

In Him,

Shrader party of (soon to be) 4!!

Pray for Ethiopia

 

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For those of you keeping up with our adoption news, Ethiopia has been in a State of Emergency since the beginning of October due to unrest in country. You can read about it here and here. The state of emergency will last 6 months, unless the government decides to extend this.

This continued unrest lead to a travel warning for US Citizens, effective October 21st. This means the US warns against nonessential traveling to Ethiopia due to unrest. Our agency is allowing us to travel for now (if we get a court date soon) into Addis Ababa. We may get to visit with our son while we are there, but we are not allowed to leave the capital. I’m sure at the time of travel, our agency will provide us with guidelines of what to do/not do while in country.

The state of emergency has caused internet and cell service to be restricted or shut off for three straight weeks, so the US Embassy has little access to US citizens while in Ethiopia. There are curfews set in place and many rules against certain news channels and social media sites. US citizens even run the risk of arrest if they violate rules. We trust our agency to protect us if we travel anytime soon and more importantly, we trust God. Thankfully, court is open and they are issuing letters to families.

We are waiting on our letter for travel approval and we’ve heard it will be a few months after the letter that we will get a court date (the two used to come simultaneously). More than likely, that means no travel at all until 2017. It’s very disheartening but at this point, not unexpected.

Please keep us and all other waiting families in your prayers. There are many families that have been in this process 3-5 years already, including us. The holiday season is approaching and most of us thought we would have our kiddos, so this season may be another one of anxiety and sadness for most families. Pray for our kids to be safe and healthy and for the government to see the need to get them home to their families. Finally, pray for Ethiopia. It’s a complex situation there and it breaks my heart to see unrest. We will update the blog if anything changes.

 

The Shraders

Stuck waiting

Since we started this adoption process almost three years ago I’ve heard that THIS part…the waiting part…will be the hardest part of the whole process. I disagree. Everything has been taxing so far: the paperwork, the finances…oh the FINANCES and definitely the pictures of a little boy who is so, so, so far away. Waiting is hard, but I’m pretty sure the hardest part is yet to come.

I haven’t written since we announced our referral but really, there wasn’t much to say. We had to do some more paperwork and they met with officers to interview them before they could approve our adoption. At this point, we have done all we can do on our end. We are waiting on a letter from MOWYA in Ethiopia (Ministry of Women’s, Children’s and Youth’s Affairs) to get a court date in Ethiopia. Worst case scenerio (and YOU KNOW that’s what I’m anticipating) is that we get ONE WEEKS NOTICE to pack, book a flight, take Lydia to TN and fly to Ethiopia. Typically, people get 2-3 weeks notice for travel. We will get a call one day with no warning and I have absolutely no timeline for when this will happen. It could be today…or 6 months from now. Everything has slowed in Ethiopia due to a drought and training for new government employees. So far, we’ve been really lucky because everything has been somewhat smooth for us.

What happens when we get that call? The first trip is 4-5 days in country during which we will get to meet our guy, visit his orphanage for 2 days, and then meet the judge in court to legally become his guardians. Then we get on a plane and come back to the States, we will be officially his legal guardians but he will stay behind. During this trip, we get to meet him and interact with him but we are not supposed to bond with him. It will be a surreal experience to meet our son and pretend he’s just a random little boy in an orphanage, but I understand how hard it would be for him to bond with us and then we leave the country.

The second trip can be 1-2 months after the first and it’s another 4-5 day trip. We will take him to the guest house where we will be staying for a day or two before we go to court again to apply for his exit visa. Once we have the exit visa, we head back to the States.

We are not allowed to post his picture or our court date on social media until an undisclosed time (but basically we’ll be shy about it until he’s here with us). We haven’t shown most of our family or friends his picture or told many his name, because we don’t want anything to disrupt our process. This kills me because he is so cute, and in my heart he’s already ours. My type A personality wants to be fully prepared and packed so that when we get a court date all we need to do is book a flight. I’m dealing with the fact that isn’t feasible. His room is minimalist for now, but ready for him. We are still collecting clothes (4-5T fall/winter), toys, shoes (7-9…I really have no idea until we meet) and books (especially educational books) from anyone who is willing. Right now, I pray for God every night to prepare my mind and my heart for this trip and for him. I have been struggling lately with mommy guilt and I know it will only increase when he gets here.

 While we wait, we have a few praises and a few prayer requests: 

Praise #1: I connected with another mom through our agency who has a little girl in the same orphanage. Turns out this little girl and my guy are BFFs. She lives literally across the States, but that’s closer than Ethiopia and I’m hoping for some FaceTime/Skype sessions to help him stay connected to his childhood. I LOVE getting pictures of them together. There will be a big picture of our guy with his friends printed and hung on his wall when he gets home.


Praise #2: Everything has been so smooth for us. Too smooth. We were #SO BLESSED (I can’t type that in emphasis enough) to get a referral when we were so low on the list. Our interviews and letters have been processed so quickly. I’m anticipating something to go wrong (it’s who I am) but I’m just trying to count my blessings.


Praise #3: Social media. The connections to other Ethiopian adoptive mamas through FB groups have been a Godsend. I can ask any question and someone has been through it with some good solutions. I have major anxiety about maternity leave and only being home for 12 weeks before I send him to preschool/daycare and going to work. I asked others’ opinions and they eased my anxiety and gave me good plans to tackle the transition to school. I’ve also gotten an extensive packing list of all the little things I never would have thought of. Thanks mamas!


Praise #4: Lydia is finally old enough to start explaining all of this to her. She sees my necklace and says: “Africa?” I say: “Who is in Africa?” and she says “brother”. She has a brother/sister in her class at school and is relating that relationship to her brother. It’s going to be my favorite thing ever…seeing these two bond.


Now for the (many) prayer requests:


  • Please pray for our guy right now and Ethiopians in general. Ethiopia is having the worst drought in its history and it is causing widespread famine. Thankfully he is not on the street and is in an orphanage with three meals a day. He has friends, clothes and does some school there.

  • Pray for the waiting period. I was just in the middle of typing “waiting hasn’t bothered me that much” and we got an email update from the agency saying that the process has been slower than they predicted due to the unpredictable staffing issue and other issues that need to be taken care of before adoptions. Once they have sufficient staffing, things will move faster. The process is incredibly unpredictable. We got a referral sooner than we ever thought imaginable, but it looks like our court dates may be the end of this year, into the next. Just like all the hard times, this brings us closer to God in a way we never imagined.

  • Pray for my mommy heart. I feel guilty for leaving Lydia behind when we travel across the world. I feel guilty that he’s stuck in an orphanage a little longer and we can’t do anything about it. I feel guilty for the fact that just as we are bonding, I will be leaving him to go back to work. I feel guilty ALL. THE. TIME.

  • Pray for smooth travel when we do get our travel date, that we are prepared, court goes well, Lydia does well in TN with family and we have some good bonding with him before we get onto a plane for 21 hours.

  • Grace. We’re normal people trying to walk by faith. We have, and will again, said the wrong things. Hurt peoples feelings. Are human and flawed and so we ask that you give us grace and understanding in the coming months and years. We aren’t going to be composed and pristine all the time. We’re hoping to use our openness, frankness, as a path for other families to see how normal people can be used for extraordinary things. If we can pull this off, many more can as well.
If you are reading this blog post and you have prayed for us, donated to our adoption, given us clothes/toys/books and generally supported us…THANK YOU. We could not have continued through this process without a village behind us. Not everyone is able to or willing to adopt but everyone is called to orphan care. You are caring for orphans when you support adoptive parents. We will continue to need the emotional/physical support after we bring him home. So far we’ve only been through the “easy” part of this adoption, so we will need a lot of understanding and support in the future as well. Thank you for loving on our boy as much as we do. Here comes the grand adventure!
adoption
 Love,
The Shraders