What’s Next? :: Our Adoption

IMG_9298
Sometimes, I think it’s hard for friends and family to relate to our adoption because we don’t have a due date. We don’t even have a timeframe to share. And besides me getting bigger from eating a lot, it’s not visible that we will have another baby. The adoption process involves many steps, requires lots of paperwork and is not necessarily easy to follow. Someone once said: It’s like going through a divorce, moving countries all by yourself, battling a rare disease or running your own business – if you haven’t had to deal with it, you simply can’t know what it feels like. So I want to shed a bit of light and give you a better understanding of how we are preparing for adoption, where we stand, how much every step costs and what’s supposed to happen next. (Take a look at my posts about Adoption Myth Busters Part One and Two to gain further understanding of the complex process of adoption.)
headlines_blog
We submitted a pre-application to our agency (read more about our choice of adoption agency here) and attended an orientation meeting (via conference call). Currently, Paul and I are completing a list of education requirements: Read books, take online courses and watch videos while completing exercises. Once all books are read, courses completed and questionnaires filled out, we will submit an official application to our agency along with $500. Considering that we will get approved, we then move on to the family assessment or home study.
headlines_blog
Home studies differ by agency, state and country. For us, the home study consists of home visits by a social worker, interviews (joint and separate), training, health statements, income statements, lots of document gathering action, background checks, a day-long Education Seminar and references. The above steps then conclude with a home study report written by the social worker. On average, the home study takes between 3 and 6 months to complete and will cost us about $3,000 (including document processing and such). In addition, the administrative agency fee of $10,500 is due. At this time, we will be able to apply for adoption grants.
Fundraising-300x203
headlines_blog
All throughout our adoption (and likely even after a baby is placed with us), we will be raising funds to cover all of our adoption fees and expenses. Adopting – whether domestically or internationally – is incredibly expensive. We are looking at roughly $29,000. Only by faith and with the generous help of others, we will be able to afford our adoption. We have saved up a decent amount of money but are far from having all the funds we will need available to us. Our fundraising efforts are proving to be a great bonding experience for Mr. Thrasher and I. Even Emma has been excited about helping out. (Emma’s Lemonade Stand is now famous in our neighborhood.) And we believe that it opens up the opportunity for friends and family to get involved and become a vital part of our adoption journey. Even if you can’t donate, you can share our story, educate others about adoption or simply pray for us, our baby and the expectant mother who will be choosing us to raise her child. Find out what else you could do to help us make a home for a baby and visit our Fundraising page.
headlines_blog
Soon enough it will be time to prepare our adoptive family profile. This will be one of the most important first impressions we will ever make on any expectant mother/parent who is considering to make an adoption plan. It will address expectant mothers/parents talk about our likes, our goals and dreams, how we met, how we raise Little Thrasher, why we want to adopt, how we celebrate holidays, who our friends are, what our home, our church, our city looks like and much more. It will be an introduction to the expectant mother/parents and allows them to get to know us as a potential forever family for their child. It basically has to accomplish two things:
  1. Share relevant information about our family and
  2. Paint a picture of what a life with the Thrashers would be like for a child.
Once we have written, designed, printed, shared, uploaded and sent out our family profile, we will be officially ‘a waiting family’. Waiting to be chosen to give a baby a loving home and family.
(to be continued)

signature_Wiebke_New

A Is For Apple :: A Baby Shower

A few of my girlfriends and I recently hosted an intimate gathering to honor a dear friend who was expecting her second child, a little girl. Since she didn’t want a(nother) big shower or any of her friends spending lots of time and money on decor and food, we kept it very simple. If you know me or have seen some of the other events I designed, you understand how challenging it was for me to ‘keep it simple’. :-) Here are a few lovely photos showing the cute decor details I put together:

Handmade "G is for Girl" garland.

Handmade “G is for Girl” garland.

Delicious food served by Linda Edson, amazingly talented chef and owner of Aracely Restaurant in San Francisco.

Delicious food served by Linda Edson, amazingly talented chef and owner of Aracely Restaurant in San Francisco.

Tasty desserts made and styled by Linda.

Tasty desserts made and styled by Linda.

walker_baby2_shower_003

Emma didn’t mind that I borrowed her chalkboard easel from IKEA.

I used organic apples, baker's twine and designed cute Thank You tags to make the favors.

I used organic apples, baker’s twine and designed cute Thank You tags to make the favors.

Brown lunch bags held a little treat for the guests to take home.

Brown lunch bags held a little treat for the guests to take home.

Love the apple stamp I found at Paper Source.

Love the apple stamp I found at Paper Source.

Credits:

Photography by Paco and Betty

Food by Linda Edson (Aracely Restaurant)

The Agency :: Step Two :: Our Adoption

Mr. Thrasher and I took the first step towards adoption when we made our decision to adopt. Which, we strongly believe, originated as a God-given dream in both of our hearts. (Read all about our adoption decision here.) 

Step Two was to choose our adoption agency. Our main criteria was that our agency should be a Christian agency. God had to be in and all over this process and we needed our agency workers to speak the “same language”, understand the power of prayer and share the love and compassion of Jesus Christ. We also knew that we wanted to adopt domestically, ideally from California. After hearing only great things from our friends, we decided to contact Bethany Christian Services.

logo

We strive toward a world where every child has a loving family. ~Bethany Christian Services

After a few calls, asking lots of important questions, and discussing our fears and concerns, we submitted our pre-application and attended an information meeting where we learned more about adoption in general. Bethany cares first and foremost for the birthmothers. They love and care for them before, during and after the adoption. Bethany encourages long-lasting, open relationships between birth and adoptive parents. Paul and I now understand that we will not just be welcoming a baby into our family but that we will forever be bound to a loving, courageous mother who selflessly decided that her baby should be raised by us. My heart breaks for her, I’m overwhelmed by empathy for her and astonished by her sacrifice. Our prayers are no longer just about our baby. We pray for the well-being of our baby’s mother. We pray for her emotional stability. For her safety.
adoption-logoToday, we received Bethany’s “Next Step” package. A plain brown envelope on our door step filled with forms, questionnaires, fee schedule (yikes!) and a list of education requirements. Besides a bunch of paperwork, this envelope also contains hope, excitement and joy.

signature_Wiebke_New

Baby + Toddler Sign Language :: Look Who’s Signing Now

We're working on the sign for 'Ente' (duck).

When I was pregnant with Emma, I had the best intentions to teach her Baby Sign Language (based on ASL). I learned that “research studies show that signing with babies accelerates language acquisition, reduces frustration, enhances a child’s self esteem, and deepens the bond between parent and child.”

Even Mr. Thrasher thought it would be a smart idea. Well, that was before baby when we were determined to be Super Parents. In the end, Mr. Thrasher claimed he’s already ‘speaking’ enough languages (PHP, Drupal, Ruby on Rails, Java) and doesn’t have the capacity to learn another language. So it’s just me who is signing and signing and signing. For months, I felt like a clown waving my hands in front of my clueless child without seeing any results. But I kept it up, learned my signing vocabulary with the help of My Smart Hands’ fantastic online dictionary and babysignlanguage.com, and continued to playfully teach Emma.

At the age of 11 months, Emma started signing ‘milk’. Of course. She quickly realized that Mama acted on that sign and decided to use it whenever she wanted anything – food, snacks, water, a hug. Her second sign was ‘dog’. Not a surprise either. Accompanied by a cute, grunting sound and pointing of her tiny finger at our dog Griffin, it is now the first thing she ‘says’ after waking up in the morning. You thought she would be happily throwing her arms around her Mama’s neck…

I began teaching Emma sign language when she was 6 months old. Today, Emma is 15 months old and I love seeing the results of my teaching efforts.

And truth be told, it does reduce frustration and it certainly creates a fun, interactive bond with my daughter. I can tell she’s adorably proud when I praise her for showing me the correct sign. She also seems eager to learn more. But more importantly, she seems to have the time of her life. At least, that’s how I interpret that big smile on her pretty face when she signs and we communicate with each other.

Her vocabulary to date includes about 20 signs: milk, eating, dog, cheese, flower, Papa, Jesustaking a bath, pleaseshoes, socks, (teddy) bearbed, baby, zebra, all done, it’s time/clock, gorilla, monkey and sometimes penguin.

Have you tried sign language with your baby? How is it going?

 

Sleeping In The Suburbs :: Part 5

After scaring expecting or brand new parents with Part 1 and Part 2 of my series ‘Sleepless In The Suburbs’, then leading them on with a slightly more positive Part 3 and Part 4, it’s time to proclaim the good news of victory over all sleep demons.

Snoozing with her best friend.

Back in July/August of last year, after we started with the CIO (Crying It Out) method, Emma quickly showed that she was very well capable of sleeping for 12 hours in one stretch without the need for extra fuel or attention. She was 6 months old at that time. All this nursing in the middle of the night was simply because she wanted the comfort of Mama’s boobies. (Mr. Thrasher says, he can relate.)

For the first few months as new parents it seemed like a never-ending story and I kept asking God why He had to punish test us with such a difficult baby. Today, I can barely remember when Emma decided that napping in her crib is absolutely refreshing and that she would be ok if I just put her down in her own bed, said ‘Gute Nacht’ and left her in her room to fall asleep. After six stressful, sleepless, exhausting months for all family members, Emma had finally learned to not only go to sleep without fussing at night, she was also cooperating during daytime naps.

As lots of wise (wo)men, doctors, sleep experts and research confirms, babies need the predictability of a daily routine - including naps. (Thrasher Home is not a scientific or medical blog so you won’t find the facts here. But I encourage you to read more about it if you doubt it.) Therefore, we decided that Emma’s sleep schedule, especially bedtime at night, would take priority over our social life. And if that required for either Paul or me to stay home in the evening while Emma was sleeping or getting a babysitter, so shall it be.

The reward for our sacrifice is priceless. Let me share a summary of Emma’s sleeping habits as of the age of 6 months:

  • We do feed her before bedtime/naps but she’s always awake when we put her in her bed.
  • Emma doesn’t cry when put in her crib and left in her room to fall asleep on her own. Only when she thinks she doesn’t need a nap, she objects loudly. However, this doesn’t happen at night.
  • Bedtime is 6.30pm. She is fast asleep by 7pm.
  • She mostly goes down for her naps during the day without fussing.
  • At almost a year, she still naps twice during the day: around 9.30am and 2pm. I always try to be home or in the car around these times to give her an opportunity to sleep. (She refuses to fall asleep in her stroller.)
  • Starting at 6 1/2 months, Emma was sleeping through the night from 6pm to 6am. She usually woke up once around 11pm, fussed softly for less than five minutes and went right back to sleep.
  • Emma often plays quietly with her toys after waking up from a nap.
I know some of you have been exploring CIO? How has it been going for you? Tell me.

iFamily :: Electronics In Today’s Homes

We may as well call each other iDad and iMom…Mr. Thrasher and I share seven screens in our home. That may not be a lot for a home in the Bay Area, the epicenter of tech startups and Apple HQ. On occasion, four of those screens are in use at the same time: A movie or TV show is showing on the TV screen while Mr. Thrasher is quickly fixing a bug (that’s code for he’s software engineering something) and I was just reminded by something someone said on TV to look something up. At some point, both of us receive at least one text or alert which brings our cellphone screens to life. Only the iPad is peacefully resting in its sleeve on the bookshelf.

Do I really want to let my toddler play with a $600 device? Source: Thinkgeek.com

Quoting an article in the NY Times “technology has become an alienating force in the contemporary home”. Unfortunately, I agree. All too often, I am spending my nights with my husband but not together, while both of us are lost in our own virtual worlds. The other night, we started a game of Words With Friends while we were lying next to each other in bed. Knock, knock. Who’s there? Certainly not romance.

That’s when we realized we had to make a change. A while ago, I invented ‘opening hours’ to limit the time I spent online and thus allow me to focus more on offline quality time with friends and family. I’m happy to report that my daughter definitely benefited from my newly found self-discipline to control the use of electronics. I never neglected my baby because I had an important email to write or text to send. But now I’m also interacting more with her while she’s eating instead of texting or reading her a book in the morning instead of checking emails or having a pillow fight in bed instead of logging into Skype to see if my family in Germany is online.

Back to iDad and iMom and bringing sexy romance marriage time back. If you haven’t noticed, I need rules and guidelines and going cold turkey to deal with negative habits. Might be the German in me. So I started by deleting all my social media apps from my phone (read here why I took a hiatus from Facebook a while ago), I’m also turning my phone off on most nights and am charging it in the living room instead of next to my bed, on road trips we’re using our phones only for navigation purposes, to find a kid-/dog-friendly restaurant on Yelp or to make phone calls. By the way, car trips are excellent opportunities to connect with your spouse. And don’t forget to ‘talk’ with your toddler on the backseat.

The icing on the iCake, however is the No-Screen Sundays at Thrasher Home: On Sundays we refrain from logging into our computers, playing games on our phones or turning on the TV. Only exception: If we have truly important things to take care of that can’t wait. Speaking of important…my iBaby just woke up from her morning nap. Which means my computer goes into Sleep mode.

How iFamily are you? Do you let your toddler play with your electronics?

Dinner’s Served :: Meals For New Parents

While a lot of events from those early days as new parents are now just blurry memories, Mr. Thrasher and I still remember almost every dish our friends brought us during that time. Paul goes as far as claiming that the meal delivery was the best thing about having a new baby. (We won’t tell our daughter.)

Image source: annies-eats.com

As mommy and daddy will worry about feeding baby, good friends and family often offer to feed mommy and daddy. Especially a new mom will need regular, healthy, nutritious food to boost her energy to keep up with the demands of a new baby.

Inspired by never-ending news of pregnancies in our circle of friends and thus many more meals to take to their homes, I thought I’d share some tips on how to ensure that your meal delivery is indeed a blessing.

  • There’s an app for that. You’ll still have to make and deliver your meal but there are a lot of websites available that make scheduling the meal deliveries easy as pie (pun intended). Personally, I’m a fan of Meal Train. It allows you to enter details like preferred drop off time, dietary restrictions and you can save your delivery date into your Google calendar.
  • Use disposable containers. Being a fan of jute bags and hater of paper plates and plastic silverware, I cringe a bit putting this tip on my blog. But I think this is a valid exception as you really don’t want your friends to worry about keeping track of who brought what serverware.

    Don’t forget to include heating/cooking instructions with your dish.

  • Is your meal appropriate? When choosing a recipe or dish to bring consider specific dietary needs, allergies or if your mommy friend is nursing. You may want to avoid any foods that can cause gas for mommy and baby, for example: beans, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, onions. Look for long-lasting dishes like soups, stews, and curries instead of a mixed salad that will be soggy after a short while. Casseroles may be old-fashioned but they are easy to prepare, heat up and last for several meals. If your friends are from another country or even another state, they might be thrilled to receive a traditional meal that reminds them of home.
  • Make lots of food. We loved it when friends brought enough food for us to enjoy for lunch the following day. So grateful for that extra blessing!

Salad, bread, sides, dessert, beverages, napkins and a snack for later make a complete meal delivery.

  • Make it complete. Add a side (those pre-packaged salad mixes are easy to fix) or a loaf of bread, an after-dinner treat and beverages. If you’re time-strapped and can’t afford to spend hours in the kitchen, think about picking up a pint of ice cream or pre-made fruit salad. And for the beverage, Daddy may enjoy a chilled beer. I know Mr. Thrasher did. Think about treats like cupcakes or cookies that Mommy can enjoy single-handedly while nursing the baby.
  • Make it pretty. Add a special touch by writing a cute card or label the food containers with hand-written stickers and include pretty napkins.
  • When to drop off your meal. Plan on delivering your meal at a time that’s most convenient for the new parents. Call ahead to confirm your ETA. Think about preparing your dish the night before or sign up for a weekend day to bring a meal if your family or work schedule don’t give you much time to cook an extra meal.
  • Don’t linger. Even if your friends don’t say anything or seem to be having a great time, now is not a good time to ask all your questions about their birth story. Keep your visit short. New parents need rest and privacy. And they probably can’t wait to enjoy your meal!
  • Leave the kids at home. This is probably easier said than done. Every new mother/father is different but I remember very well how stressed and overwhelmed I was with the simple task of opening the door for my friends. You don’t want to burden your friends by having your own child running around or possibly spreading germs. Ask your spouse to watch the kids while you make your delivery.
  • Speaking of kids…If you’re cooking meals for adults and kids, make something age-appropriate and check with the parents about food allergies.
Now, off you go and bless your friends, you wonderful person! I can promise you they will be grateful for years and probably tell their offspring beautiful stories about you.

signature_Wiebke_New

Excuse The Dust :: Thrasher Home Blog Makeover

Yikes, Thrasher Home looks kinda unfinished right now. It’s ok, you can be honest. It’s like a new house that I’ve just moved into. Exciting empty spaces, promising decor ideas. Yet, you wouldn’t necessarily host a party just yet. Walls still need to be painted, there’s no name on the door bell yet, no art is hanging on the walls, only a few necessities have been unpacked while the rest is still sitting in boxes in the basement.

Please bear with me as I’m in the process of a major blog make over: Fresh design, new framework, improved navigation, less categories, more widgets. Goal is to have everything ready by November 1st when I launch my Adoption Awareness Blog Project.

Also, I really don’t like that header that came with my new blog theme. If you have mad photoshop skills and a bit of spare time on your hands, please let me know. I’d cook for you, watch your baby, make favors for your next event, organize your closet – you name it.

  • Whatcha think of the new design so far?

Chopped :: Introducing Finger Food

After introducing solids at the age of 5 1/2 months, we’ve moved to the next culinary adventure in baby land: self-feeding and fingerfood.

"Sooo...how do I get those Cheerios out?"

I’m thankful to say that Emma has not rejected any food or category so far nor has she developed any allergies. Actually, she even added food categories like books, paper, plush toys, and mommy’s arm to her diet. She also doesn’t really mind whether her meal is warm or not. She has pretty much been devouring anything we have ever served her including:

  • Vegetables: carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, zucchini, peas, black beans, green beans
  • Fruit: mango, avocado, blueberries, nectarine, banana, pear, apple, peaches
  • Meat: chicken
  • Dairy: baby yogurt, salt-free cottage cheese
Unconventional combinations:
  • Cinnamon carrots with chicken
  • Chicken with cilantro and apple sauce
  • Black beans with avocado and cottage cheese
  • Guacamole

Emma is demonstrating excellent motor skills.

Recently we started project “I Can So Eat By Myself” which takes meal time to a whole new level. First of all, the splash mat we put under her high chair to protect our carpet is no longer large enough to cover the danger zone. I do have to say though that she is not really a messy eater. She even picks up the food she drops into her lap. Secondly, meal time now takes at least twice as long – from prep to feeding to cleaning up afterwards. Third, I am once again swerving between sadness to see my baby grow up to get more and more independent and pride that she’s developing so well.

  • Fingerfood: cheerios, veggie puffs, Monterey Jack cheese (cubes), whole wheat bagel (cubes), broccoli (small pieces of florets only). assortment of easily gum-able fruits, chicken
I also put a bowl with mashed sweet potatoes in front of her, gave her a spoon and asked her politely not to spill it everywhere. Not much landed in her mouth but she will have plenty of time to figure it out.
I am committed to using organic produce and fruit for baby’s meals. If I can’t find organic apples, she’ll get organic peaches. Meats are organic only. Same goes for Mama since I’m still breastfeeding (well, pumping).

What Not To Wear

My husband and I did something totally random the other day: We purged each other’s closet.

The rules: We could pick whatever clothes and shoes we didn’t like and toss it on the Goodwill pile. We both had six vetos that we could use to keep an item (not sure I explained that correctly: we were allowed to keep six items).

It was tough to see some of my favorite pieces fly out of the closet and straight on top of that ‘needs-to-go’ pile. DH was like ‘yeah, that thing needs to go.’ and I’m like ‘ouch, no, it hurts, please make it stop’.

The result: Empty closets with less clothes that we haven’t worn in a while. Plus we actually like the outfits the other half will be wearing from now on. Not that it’s majorly important but let’s be honest, we do care at least a little bit about our husbands looking snazzy and handsome. Vice versa, I don’t mind that my man wants me to emphasize my, let’s say, best features.

Win, win.