Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cultural Education 101 - Fail

   Last weekend, we were with a family who had adopted a little boy from Uganda a couple of years ago.  The precious little boy and AB played together for a long time at a mutual friend's birthday party. Later that night, as I was tucking AB into bed, she had some pretty serious questions on her mind.  She had noticed that her new friend had a different skin color than his brothers did and she wanted to know if her little brother's skin would match hers.  I told her I didn't know, but his skin might be a different color than ours. It completely melted my heart to hear her say, "Well, mommy, skin doesn't have to match to be a family.  I don't care what color his skin is...he's my baby brother!" So thankful that she gets it :)
   Later that same week, we took a trip to the library where I decided it would be a great idea to get some books on Colombia and do some cultural education with them.  I found 3 books full of pictures of the country, the major cities, the food, the coffee, the people.  I couldn't wait to get home and look at the books with them and show them about the country where their baby brother will be from.  I told the girls on the way home exactly why I'd gotten the book.  AB was excited to see what the people look like, so she could start to get some sort of visual for what her baby brother might look like. I have to admit that I, too, found myself staring at the pictures of the kiddos playing and eating throughout the books and dreaming about my little boy - wondering if he would enjoy some of the same activities as the kids in the book....like playing soccer and climbing trees.
  As soon as we got home from the library, it was time for lunch. Past time, actually, and I was starving.  I sat the books on the counter and started making sandwiches.  What I did not notice while slaving over the stove slapping the soy butter onto the bread was that AB had gotten one of the books and began looking through it on the couch.  Suddenly, I hear her scream, "Mommy!!!!!" I look up to beautiful, wide, terrified, oh-my-goodness-what-are-we-doing eyes.  I start to get heart palpitations wondering what in the world is wrong and I run to her side.  As she turns the book to me, she tearfully exclaims, "Is THIS what he's gonna look like?!"  And shows me this picture...

   ...of a scary-looking gold statue-thingy. Poor girl.  Thankfully she was not traumatized at all and smiled really big when I turned a few pages over and found some kiddos playing soccer in a field.  Lesson learned: when doing cultural education with your small kiddos...preview the learning material and supervise as their soaking it in!!

Monday, April 22, 2013

You're Invited to Dinner...

   Our fabulous "One More Home" cookbooks are here! We had 590 recipes submitted by family and friends - and, y'all - they are delicious! Nutella bread pudding, crawfish bread, potato soup, gumbo...just to name a few! I can't wait to eat cook my way through it!!  They are $20, plus $3 if we need to mail it to you.  Here's how to order:

1. Click on our "Donate" button at the top and enter "Cookbook" in the "comments" section.  Make sure your mailing address is correct if we need to mail it.

2. Leave me a comment on this post  and a way to contact you about payment and where to mail it, if needed.

3. Leave me a comment on my Facebook post and I'll message you to get payment and mailing info.
4. E-mail me at jmalcoleman@gmail.com with your size and I'll reply to get your payment and mailing info.

5. You can also let me know if you see me at church, work, or around town!

   They'll be ready the early part of next week for anyone in the Martin area or for those of you who need it mailed.  If you're in the Slidell area with us, my parents will be down for a visit next weekend and will bring them down for us to hand out.

   Let me tell you a little about the creator and organizer of this cookbook - my mom.  She came to me with this idea not long after we mailed our initial adoption application to our agency.  I thought it was a great idea and was completely ecstatic! For several weeks you guys gave us recipes of all kinds...can I tell you how hungry it made me to read over them before sending them on to her? Wow!! I could NOT wait! For several weeks, my mom spent a couple hours each night - after working all day - putting the recipes into the correct format, retyping them if necessary, alphabetical order, categorizing them, creating the index...oh my goodness...so much work.  My dad got in on the fun, too!

   She pre-ordered 50 cookbooks...all of which SOLD pretty much hot off the press :) So, now, we're taking orders for more!! This has been awesome for our family....but not just in the financial/fundraising aspect. To watch my mom and dad work hard on this for us...who am I kidding, for their GRANDSON!!...is just purely awesome.  I really can't thank them enough...love you guys!

   And a HUGE thanks to everyone who submitted recipes for this cookbook!!!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Our Home Was DEFINITELY Studied

Wow.  Just wow.  My brain is still in a bit of a "verge of explosion" fog.  I've seriously had trouble focusing these past few days during our home study.  Everything went great.  We won't have the official write-up and home study approval until mid-June, but since she let us keep the kids we already have, I take that as a good sign :) But seriously,I had no idea it was going to be this intense on my brain!  Let me back up a little bit...

Before Jacob and I moved to Louisiana, I was a social worker for the State of Tennessee as a child abuse investigator.  As part of my job, sometimes it was necessary to remove children from the care of their biological parents.  When this happened, every attempt was made to find a relative placement to prevent them from coming into state custody.  In these situations, I had to do a very basic home study, making sure there were no immediate threats.  This was usually accomplished pretty quickly...a simple background check from the sheriff's office, a walk through of the house making sure there were no firearms loaded and sitting out on the coffee table or live wires hanging from the walls.  The best home study ever was when I did one for the cab of an 18 wheeler.  Yes, you read that right....the cab and bed area of a semi-truck.  Whatever...

Back to this week...our home study was much more intense.  It was not quick.  There was a home inspection and hours upon hours of talking about lots of things.

At the beginning of the week, I just knew I was going to scrub the baseboards, tops of ceiling fans, reorganize the food pantry (hiding the canned foods and stocking up on organic veggies), and collect all of the dust bunnies under the couch.  None of these things happened.  In the end because of being exhausted, a little wired from too much coffee, and mostly realizing that she wanted to see the home our son will live in...not a house on display...I cleaned it just like I do every other week.  There was still a load of laundry that needed to be put away when she knocked our door - but they were folded :)

The home inspection went well.  She flushed our toilets, turned on our water, looked in our cabinets (to make sure there were no cleaning supplies within a child's reach), looked in the fridge and pantry, and checked out all the bedrooms.  I was really glad I hadn't wasted time getting the dust bunnies under the couch because she didn't even look there!

That was only a tidbit of the study, though.  We mostly talked.  Our  home study social worker, Ashley, is awesome.  Truly great.  I mean the, she-sat-down-and-had-popcorn-and-lemonade-with-my-kids kind of great. She basically wanted to know every tiny detail of our life story, what our relationships were like with our family and friends, and our parenting styles. She laughed with us and she cried with me.  I talked her head off and she listened.  She knew where we were coming from as parents and why we were taking our family in the direction of adoption.  She helped us work through and prepare a little for some issues we may face down the road, after our adoption is complete.  She even gave me a gentle, understanding smile when one of my adorable children had a meltdown in front of her and laughed because I hadn't gotten around to sweeping up the massive amount of Cheerios one precious little boy (who shall remain nameless) had scattered all over the floor during breakfast as they crunched under cute shoes.

I admit, though, that I had worried and stressed leading up to this.  Not because we had anything to hide or because I didn't think we'd do well on it, but because I have this problem called "control".  And I like to be in it.  When something is out of my hands, it drives me nuts.  I'm working on, though, y'all...slowly, but surely.  We're actually doing a study in our Sunday school class right now...Crazy Love by Francis Chan.  Have you read it? It will speak to the very core of your being as it teaches you about the awesomeness of our God.  Go get it, please :)  Anyway, earlier this week, one quote (talking about stress and worry) really stuck out to me as I was reading in preparation for Sunday:

          "Worry implies that we don't quite trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what's happening in our lives.  Stress says that the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace toward others, or our tight grip of control. Basically, these two behaviors communicate that it's okay to sin and not trust God because the stuff in my life is somehow exceptional."

Wow.  Yep.  That pretty much summed it up for me.  Why was I worrying - beyond the answer of "we have nothing to hide"? I do not have to worry! I do not have to stress!! As I sat down for a minute of silence just before she arrived for our Friday morning interview, I read this verse from Colossians 1:17, "He (God) is before all things, and in him all things hold together."

So, again, why was I worried and stressed about our home study when it was God who led us to have our home studied?  God is control of this.  He is holding this whole adoption journey together - dust bunnies under my couch and all.  It is for His glory that He has brought my family to this place.  It is God who is doing all of these great things.  It's a long, hard, tedious journey but God is going before us every single step of the way.  He's never asked me to do something and then left me on my own to figure it out.  Why did I worry so much over this?

My brain may still be a little foggy and trying to sort through just exactly what all Ashley talked to us about, but I'm not worried about it.  I know we'll pass with an A+ and the rest of our process will be completed and some day, I will tuck my little boy into his bed in our home.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

We're 2 Months In...

Things have been moving so smoothly and quickly with our adoption the past several weeks - but it has left my brain feeling a little mushy and unable to write, or type, everything down! So sorry for the lack of updates, but here's a little recap...

Fundraisers & Donations: I'm talking about this first because it's just beautiful.  More than beautiful, actually! Friends, God is moving in so many hearts and so many of you have chosen to come alongside us and support us on this journey. I'm overwhelmed.  I'm speechless.  I'm in awe of all of this love...some of it from complete strangers! I can't wait to see these awesome t-shirts on everyone as soon as we get them passed out.  Would you do us a favor...please post a picture of you and your family to my facebook page or email it to me at jmalcoleman at gmail dot com...we'd love to see it!!  We still have a ways to go, but oh my goodness - I just can't help but be reminded of this verse..."Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us." Ephesians 3:20  God is so very good, my friends...He loves, He calls, He provides....

Paperwork: Yeah, we're still working on it :) But it's moving along!!

We passed!! The FBI has officially declared that we are not on their Ten Most Wanted List...or any list for that matter...and we can adopt a child.  Yay! We also received Louisiana state clearance stating that we're not criminals...so, yay, again! And the State of Tennessee has declared that we were never child abusers, so we passed that clearance, too! Still have to do Louisiana's, but that shouldn't take too long. Seriously, though, it's so awesome because our FBI clearances came back in less than a month...they told us to expect it to take at least 8 - 9 weeks!  Like I said, God is so very, very good...

Psychological Evals: We had our psyc evals a few weeks ago.  This is mainly why my brain is so mushy.  We both had to talk to the psychologist for an hour and then take one of those thousand-question tests.  No, there weren't really 1,000 questions...there were only 567.  Then there were two shorter "quizzes" with brain teasers on them, one of which made me feel like an idiot. Ha!! We will go back in a couple of weeks and she will go over the results with us and show us just what she will send in for our home study.

Timeline: I've had several people ask me lately what kind of timeline we are looking at.  Our social worker said we are on track to have our dossier submitted in late August/early September.  At that point, our dossier will be sent to Colombia where it will be translated, we will most likely be asked for more information on something somewhere in the stack of papers, we'll provide the information, then we'll be approved...probably between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Bring on the holidays!!! Once we're approved, we wait.  For how long...we have no idea.  The average timeframe from adoption application submission to our agency (which we did in January) to stepping off the plane with our little boy (which we can't wait to do) is 18-24 months.  But that can change.  That's the thing with adoption...everything is "on average".  But, really, it's all in God's perfect timing and we really have no idea.

Home Study: Our home study social worker will arrive at our house on Thursday and we will spend the next 3 days with her.  She will interview us together, separately, observe our kids (maybe talk to AB), do a home inspection, and do a little bit of adoption education with us.  Then she'll leave and go write everything up over the next couple of weeks.  We are hoping to be home study approved by late May.  Whoa...just realized that's only 6 weeks away!!  In all seriousness, please, please pray for us for these next few days.  It's already been a tough week.  Pray that we would be fully focused for the next few days, that we would not grow weary, and that we would not be anxious about anything.

That really about sums it up for now. We have a couple of more fundraisers coming up in the next few weeks, one of them being our awesome cookbook my mom's put together with the OVER 400 recipes y'all have submitted! I can't wait to eat cook my way through it!!  Please continue to pray...for our son, his birthmother, our social workers, and our family as we continue on this journey.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

1 Choice, 2 Families

  I'll go ahead and tell you that this post will not do justice to the amazing work that God has done.  Sometimes the things that God does really can't be described in all of it's beauty.  But here's my humble attempt at sharing something amazing...
  Over 50 years ago, there was a woman.  I do not know her.  I only recently learned her name.  I don't know what color hair she had, if it was curly or straight, if she liked to read or swim or sing.  I don't know her circumstances or situation.  I just know she had a choice to make.  And the choice that she made was life for her son.  She chose to give him life when she might not have had to...like I said, I'm not sure of the circumstances.  In choosing to give him life, she also chose to place him for adoption.  She was so very brave - even though I don't know her, I know she's brave because she chose life for him and chose to place him for adoption.  She made one choice...one very hard choice that I cannot imagine making.
   Yet, I'm thankful that she did. When she made that choice, she probably thought it ended there.  But it didn't.  Little did she know that by making that one choice, she was giving life and family to two little boys.  The one she carried in her belly and one who was over 50 years away from even being conceived.  A little boy who one day will call me "Mommy".
   When she made this one choice, she put a love for adoption in that baby boy's life that continued to grow and spread through the family he has now.  The choice put a desire in his heart to help other adoptive families in their journey.  That choice led that baby boy - now a husband, father, and grandfather - to establish an adoption fund in memory of his birth mother, to help provide financial assistance to adoptive families.  And that choice she made so many years ago, that gave life to that baby boy, also helped to give life and family to our son, through this adoption fund.  Her one choice came full circle.
   This woman had no idea how much life and love would be given because of that one choice she made so many years ago.  She had no idea that she was giving life to 2 baby boys.  She just made the choice, the decision, and love grew and continued to grow.
   My prayer is that as Jacob and I have chosen to be obedient to God and follow His will and His plan for us to adopt a precious little boy, that God will use that and plant a love and desire for adoption in each of our children, in the hearts of family and friends, that will grow and grow and that someday, they can choose to give life to a little boy or girl, who wouldn't have one without them.