Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Adoption Costs

It's not a big surprise to most people to hear that adoption costs a lot of money.  An overwhelming amount, really.  To try to keep people's spirits up about the cost, two things are often spoken of: tax refunds and grants. 

The first is the adoption tax credit.  Last year it was a refundable credit, meaning you don't have to have a certain amount in tax liabilities in order to get the full credit back.  You only get to put that on your taxes the year you finalize though, so this is money we don't have access to.  This year the credit has gone back to being non-refundable, so you only get back as much as you paid into your federal taxes up to a specified amount.  While this is a really nice, it doesn't help with the fact that all your adoption expenses are due up front, not after you get that tax return.

The second is that there are lots of grants available.  And this is true, somewhat at least.  We originally applied for 4 of them and then just recently for 2 more.  Each application took considerable time to fill out, required getting references, and letters of recommendation.  Lots and lots of paperwork on top of the already incredibly large amount of other paperwork adoption entails.  So, we were quite disheartened when we heard back from each of our 4 original grants that we didn't receive any of them.  In fact, in the words of one grant,

This grant cycle we received almost 400 applications with financial 
 requests approximating $3.5 million dollars.  We had $60,000 to award.

So yes, there are lots of grants, but I'm not feeling like the odds are with anyone as far as being awarded one.  We haven't heard back from one of them and the other we just heard back from this week.  We were accepted (YAY!), but it's not really a grant.  There is a little bit of money that will come in from the organization, but essentially what it is, is a way for people to donate to our adoption fund in a tax deductible way.  This would have been super helpful to have in place before so many of our friends and family graciously gave to us, but it is what it is and we are so thankful. 


So if you would like to give to our little cause, we would be eternally grateful. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Explainin' Some Things

I've had several recurring questions get asked of me, so I figured it was time to explain some things.  Here are the questions I most often get asked: I thought you were going to adopt a baby that they couldn't find a family for, why are you "up against" other families then?  Why would you turn down a situation?  Why in the world have there been so many situations being presented to you?!?!

They all kind of get answered with one mass explanation.  Let's hope that while I type this my children don't find black paint to paint the carpet with like they did yesterday when I thought they were happily playing with horses in the playroom. 



Naughty, naughty children.

So here's how our adoption process is working.  We are working with several agencies, most of which cater to finding families for hard to place children.  This includes babies with all varieties of special needs, babies with drug or alcohol exposure, older children, and African American babies. 

The reason we seem to be getting so many calls and emails is because of both the number of agencies we have our profile with and the variety of situations we are open to considering. 

We are not alone in this though.  The agencies we work with recruit families who are open to these situations because they want birthparents to have a large pool of prospective adoptive families to choose from.  So for us to be presented with a case in which no other potential adoptive families are open to considering is ridiculously unlikely.  And that's a good thing.

Because we are working with agencies who place hard to place babies though, there are going to be cases that we do not feel equipped to take on.  For instance, if we knew a child was going to be born who would never have use of their legs, we would not be the ideal family.  We have a 3 story home with lots of stairs and little accessibility and there is no real way to alter our home to accommodate that.  There are also a few varieties of special needs that we just don't feel are the right match for our family dynamic.  Also, some of the cases we get calls for are for White children with special needs, and we've decided that adopting a Black child is what we are best equipped for and have made significant life altering choices to provide the best environment for our future child based on that. 

I hope that makes sense.  We love you all and appreciate the outpouring of support we have received.  Questions are always welcome. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Get Your Ashy Forehead On

Here's a conversation that happened today that fully describes my entire morning and afternoon with Evelyn.

While playing outside...
Me: Honey, don't play in the dirt, we have church tonight and I don't want you to get all dirty.
Evelyn: I won't play in the dirt mom, I'll just throw mud.
Me: How about not that either.
Evelyn: AHHHHH!!!!   YEEEEESSSSS I WILL!!!!!

Fab-ola #1

We also had our house appraised today as the final piece of our renovation loan.  The appraisal happened right before naptime which is generally the time when the house is in the most disarray.  Instead I had to have it spotless and open house ready essentially.  It happened, but not without me neglecting my children.

Fab-ola #2.

I rush to make a quick dinner of chicken nachos of which Evelyn won't really eat because she is boycotting most food right now.  If it's not a list she has created in her mind, expecting her to eat it will result in her peeing on her chair, out right refusal, and then finally getting it in her mouth only to have her gag and near puke it back out again.

Fab-ola #3

Scott had to work late, so it was just me and the girlies headed to Ash Wednesday service (one of my favorites of the year that I wasn't about to miss) single mom style.  Well, except for the whole part about still having a husband who was working his tail off for us.  I will never say I do anything single mom style for real, because seriously, I don't think a non-single mom has any clue what an actual single mom feels like.

Wow, tangent much?

So we head to church.  I check the girls in and all is well and I go in to enjoy the service.  After communion I go and pick them up to bring them in for the last song and benediction.  Now, if you are remembering that I am solo for this venture then you are shaking your head at me right now because WHY WOULD I GET MY CHILDREN OUT OF FREE CHILDCARE EARLIER THAN NECESSARY!  Evelyn sits beside me and whines for food the entire time (I'm in the front, front row by the way).  Bella wants to run back and forth across the pew and wave at people.  Then during the benediction Bella decides to high-tail it for the steps to go up and say hi to Pastor Kris.  My snatching her led to her becoming a human noodle on the verge of very loud noises as she tried to work her way out of my grasp.  So as soon as possible, we head for the door.  As we are leaving church on the very crowded steps Evelyn starts sobbing quite loudly, "Daddy's never coming home again!"

Fab-ola #4

So here was my moment of peace for the day.

Ahhhh.  Singing sweet music for Jesus.


Yep, I took a picture with my phone, in church, and instagrammed it. 


Monday, February 20, 2012

Who Doesn't Love A Good Rant and Ramble About An Article

In case you haven't seen this article, it's a good one on what research says about adopted children and forming a racial identity.  Some favorite quotes...

What we find is that parents are pretty good about the culture part, but not very good about the race part.
There was a point in my past where I thought the two were interchangeable terms, they are however, quite different.  

Groza said parents generally don’t create an atmosphere where it’s all right to talk about race as their transracially adopted children grow up in what are typically white communities.
Your child is not colorblind.  Pretending that they are is romanticizing at best.  You either talk about it now, or expect them to not be able to talk about it later.

Most of the adoptees surveyed said they grew up in majority white communities, and some expressed anger.  “Sticking a child in a place where no one else looked like them in a dinky town is, in my opinion, child abuse,” one respondent said. 
This is part of the reason we live where we live and why we are choosing to adopt an African American child.  If we lived in rural Missouri instead and felt the call to adopt an AA child, I believe we would have had to move.  In my mind this goes for if you choose to adopt internationally as well.  The rate of children being adopted from Africa is growing rapidly, I just hope that those children don't have to be a town spectacle as the only black child around.

So far, Goff said, they have had to work through the hard questions about Ning’s birthparents, which he said isn’t so different from the questions any adopted child might ask. Otherwise, the biggest challenge they face is from other parents. Goff said parents  ask about whether the girls are “real” sisters or questions about their “real” parents when the girls are in earshot.
Children who were adopted are real.  Their siblings are their real siblings.   Their parents are their real parents.  It is not appropriate to ask deeply personal and potentially insulting questions to others just out of your curiosity.  Here is a great post, Is It Ok To Ask If Someone's Kids Are Adopted.


Kim, now 43, a doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota-School of Social Work, said culture is the easy part, the beautiful part, but convincing parents that living in a more diverse area might be better for their child’s racial development is a hard sell. Ultimately, she said, parents don’t want to be the ones outside their comfort zones.
This is always bothersome to me.  Parents don't want to move because it makes them feel uncomfortable or out of place, but have no qualms about making their child be the one to feel out of place?  Seriously?

Although Holt (An agency they discuss in the article) may make racial challenges clear, Kim said most agencies do not and will not.
“At the end of the day, they don’t want to scare away parents from adopting,” she said. “That’s why there’s not as strong of an effort to push that as there could be and needs to be, at times.”Nevertheless, Groza said the opportunities adoption offers to children who would otherwise be institutionalized or shuffled through the foster system can outweigh the possible risks.
Sigh.  They don't want to scare parents away from adopting.  They care more about scaring parents away than telling them the truth or telling them they need to make hard choices if they want to adopt trans-racially.  Yes, it is better for an African, Asian, Hispanic, or African American child to be adopted into a family in the middle of nowhere with only White people for 50 miles than to languish in an institution.  But why in the world are those seen as the only two options when those parents could make some life changes for the betterment of their children?  Yes, making a move far from home is a huge life change and it would be hard to leave your home, job, friends, and area you know.  Oh wait, that's what is happening to the child you are adopting.  You are just being asked to potentially move a few towns over.  Nevermind.

Sorry if I sound too snarky.  Just a bit of a soapbox for me.
 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Someday I Might Become Tech Savy


I wish I knew how to use some of the devices I own to anywhere near their full capacity, but alas, I don't.  I just now (almost a year after getting it) have learned that I can download the photos off my phone onto Picasa.  This is quite the revelation.  So before you get to see pictures of our Valentine's Day festivities, you get a glance back at the last 6 months or so as seen by my phone.  


My big girl turned 3!




This picture kills me.  London and Bella at the zoo.


Playing at the fountain at the Legends.

Kitchen demo

Fun at the park.

I absolutely cannot get enough pictures of sleeping babes.  I just want to squeeze them!


Lunch at the zoo.

More sleeping babies because you really can't get enough of them.

C-u-tie


Such a good daddy!

Such a happy girl even though she appears to have sustained some kind of blow to the head either from her own clumsiness or an over zealous sister.

Ethiopian dinner from Blue Nile Cafe in River Market

Attempting to get a picture of me with both girls.  Few of these are in existence and none of them are very good.

I miss the nose crinkle.

Chickenpox!

My packing helpers.

Behold.  A picture where Evelyn is smiling somewhat normally.

The kitchen got new cabinets and floor!

Yogurt is fun.
And then the kitchen got counters and appliances.
Pretend I didn't take this one while driving.  It's just for Meredith.  And Stephon.

And then the kitchen got finished off with a backsplash.

I'm not sure what prompted that face.

Sister love.


I chopped my hair off on a whim.

What my living room often looks like.
 Wow.  Photo overload.  Maybe I should do this more than once a year...

Monday, February 13, 2012

A thought - by Scott

Sorry all, no cute pictures-just a thought from Scott.

I wonder when those who believe in "equal opportunity" think opportunities become equal?

The fact that I can ask my grandparents what the Civil Rights Era was like makes the argument that there is equal opportunity for the races hard to believe. The equal opportunity argument starts to leak uncontrollably when I can ask my neighbor what it was like to be "stuck" in Squier Park through white flight. The naked emperor makes an appearance when I consider the fact that men and women my parents' ages know what it's like to use segregated toilets. But the argument becomes absurd when local white kids struggle deciding which of the local $10-20k per year private schools to turn down, while the local colored students struggle to learn in public schools that are so bad the state has to take them over.


There will always be unequal opportunity, but let's not believe the lie that says we don't have to confront it. Instead, let's call it what God calls it - brokenness - and seek the ways that God is using us as part of his plan of redemption of race relations.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bella - 18 Months

She's a year-and-a-half old already.  My sweet little babes is getting big!  Whoever warned me that it would go faster with the second knew what they were talking about.

Most of this may be boring, but remember I am a negligent  baby book writer inner, so if I don't put it here, the info will be lost for all eternity. 


She's 22 lbs. 10 oz. which puts her between the 10th and 25th percentile if you use U.S. growth charts but right at the 50th percentile in the World Health Organizations breastfed children's growth chart.  It could likely be because she has decided that teething = not eating and she has been cutting 4 canine teeth for a few weeks now.  She has 12 teeth all the way in and then the 4 that are just now starting to break the surface.

The 12-18 month clothes are just starting to get a bit tight and short and she has outgrown her size 4 and 5 shoes. 


She's getting much more verbal and has a lot of words that only we can understand.  Evelyn can get her to copy almost any word she wants, but she won't do the same for me.  A few phrases have crept in as well such as: here you go, all done, and big sister.

Her favorite foods are chips, popcorn, and hamburger. 


She's turning into a more naughty little stinker who adores getting into cupboards and drawers that she knows are off limits. 

We are still working on the whole sleep thing.  She was doing fabulous with our efforts to just calm her in the night and not nurse, but then teeth came to ruin our plans.  We will get there eventually. 


She is such a little mommy when she's playing.  She will rock and sing to her babies before she puts them in their beds.  Push toys and duplos are her other two favorite toys right now.

She's still a little ray of sunshine in our days.  Her mannerisms are too cute for words.  She is an easy one to love.




Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Not Ours

The little guy isn't meant to be ours.  We finally got a phone call a little while ago letting us know that the birthmom took a while because she had it narrowed down to us and another family and couldn't decide.  We would have loved for her to have made a different choice, but are resting in the knowledge that it wasn't meant to be. 

I am very sad about it.  It stings and my heart hurts. 

Sorry if I don't respond to texts or emails right now, I just need some time. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Chain of Events

A little over a month ago I contacted an agency in Arizona about working with them.  I had our paperwork all filled out for them and just wanted to talk to them before sending it in.  That night I got an email from them saying there was a birthmom situation that fit us.  I let them know we would like to be shown, but that they didn't have our profile yet.  They said to get it to them ASAP and we did.  We heard nothing.  I figured it didn't make it there in time, so it must not have been the baby for us.

Fast-forward to Friday evening around dinnertime.  I got an email saying that birthmom wanted to do a phone interview with us and two other potential adoptive families.  I was shocked!  I had no idea she was even looking at our profile. 

Saturday we spent a little over 15 minutes talking on the phone with her and falling in love with her life story.  My heart is in this one.  And it's a little boy, due mid-April.

We are told we will hear something on Monday.

It gets to be lunch time on Monday and still no word, so I email the agency asking if they know when we may get some news.  I'm told later in the day Monday or possibly Tuesday.

My heart is not doing well with this!  I am so anxious.  And then miserable.  And then hopeful.  And then I doubt that she is going to pick us. 

Spiritually speaking, I'm in a good place.  I know that God has a baby for us and that we are in His will right now.  But, my goodness do I just want to know the details! 

So when I hear something, Scott will hear something, then the grandparents and siblings will hear something, and then I will let you all in on the news.  Until then, I will continue to eat chocolate and be my impatient self.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Get Your Gluten-Free Valentine's Day On

 It's February in Kansas City and you know what that means... line drying your laundry outside!  Wait..what?  This weather is weirding me out in a completely fabulous way.  But it hardly feels like Valentine's Day is approaching because well, it's warm.  So instead of it feeling all wintery and lovey-dovey, you can give yourself a sugar high from heart-shaped goodies.  Have fun with that.

Holidays are kind of a trip when you have a kiddo on a more limited diet.  Pretty much all store-bought holiday-themed treats are out due to cross-contamination for us.

So hear you have it - pink marshmallows and a giant heart-shaped fruit cookie.

First up, marshmallows.  Evelyn has been asking for these for.ev.er.  I'm not sure where she got the idea in her head, probably from Calliou.  All crazy ideas she gets in her head I blame on Calliou. 

Most recipes I found contained corn syrup, and I'm morally opposed to buying it (or something like that), so I found a recipe that I could use organic sugar/evaporated cane juice for.  You can use whatever your little heart desires.  The recipe I found was vague on times and such, so here's a more detailed version that I worked up.

Marshmallows

Ingredients
  • 2 small packets Knox gelatin
  • 1 cup water (divided)
  • 2 cups evaporated cane juice
  • dash salt
  • 1 T vanilla
  • food coloring
 Dissolve the gelatin in 1/2 cup water and set aside.  In a small saucepan, heat cane juice and 1/2 cup water until dissolved.


Add in your gelatin/water mixture.  Heat to a rolling boil then remove from heat.



Pour into a standing mixer and let cool for 10 minutes.


 Add salt and vanilla.  Beat on high for 10-15 minutes until light and fluffy and doubled in quantity.  If you would like colored mallows, add about 10 drops of color about half way through the whipping process.


Pour into a lightly greased and powdered sugared 9 x 13 pan or two smaller pans, whatever you've got.  This is not an exact science.


Give them a few hours to set.  They will be super, super sticky.  If it leaves an indent when you touch the top like this, they need longer to set.

 
To cut them, coat a sharp knife in a little oil or butter and it should slide through.  Remove them and coat them in powdered sugar or else you will have one giant mass marshmallow of doom.


You can cut them with cookie cutters too if you'd like to.  How cute would these be melting in a mug of hot chocolate on Valentine's Day???


Yum...



Fruit Pizza

Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white rice flour
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp gelatin
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 T milk
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/4 cup potato starch
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar 
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • fruit of your choosing
In a bowl, beat butter until creamy.  Add rice flour, xanthan gum, gelatin, egg, sugar, milk, baking powder, vanilla, and salt.  Beat well.  Add tapioca and potato startch.  Beat until well combined. 

Lightly grease a stone baking pan.  I haven't tried this with other types of bake wear because I've found a baking stone to be the perfect pan for gluten-free goodies.  

Using wet fingers, spread the dough out into whatever shape you choose.  I've done this both as one large cookie, a few medium sized, or bite sized.  Anything works here.  Just keep rewetting your fingers if the dough starts to stick to them.  This can take a little while, be patient.


Bake for 12-14 minutes at 350 degrees.

When it's done, slide it off carefully onto a cooling rack.  Be sure to cover the rack with something because gluten-free cookies fall apart easily until they cool.  I used a silicone baking pan liner, but a paper sack or wax paper would work too.


With a mixer, combine your cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla until smooth.  I added a little red food coloring to be festive.  Spread onto your cookie once it is cool.


Make yourself some glaze to coat your fruit in.  I used strawberries and bananas cut into bite sized pieces.

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 T corn starch
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 2 T water
Combine these in a small pot and heat until boiling.  Allow to boil for 2 minutes, until thickened.  Let it cool slightly, but only for a few minutes because it will set when completely cooled.  Stir into your fruit and then spread over your cookie.


I've also done this recipe without the glaze and it's still yummy.  The glaze just helps keep the fruit fresh longer.

We had some friends over for dinner one evening and I had the cookies and cream cheese icing all made up.  I divided it into little bowls for the kids and let them frost their own little pizza and decorate with whatever fruit they wanted.  Made for a fun activity that kept them busy so the adults could chat.



Enjoy!
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