Called To Care :: Our Adoption

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We are adoptive parents. We are not just talking, blogging, praying or thinking about it. After completing yet another application and attending an all-day seminar at our adoption agency (read here about our choice of agency), we made our first payment to the agency. Not that we are excited about spending money but this step marks another milestone in our adoption process. We are officially in their system as adoptive parents.

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But first things first: Thanks to another wedding planning job and an anniversary gift from Grandma we were able to reach half of our adoption fundraising goal. Hallelujah. (On that note: Please do recommend my affordable yet excellent wedding planning services to that friend of yours who just got engaged!)

By now, Paul and I have read several books on domestic infant adoption, completed online classes, attended informative conference calls, and last Friday we drove out to the Central Valley of Northern California to join other adoptive couples for a seminar at our adoption agency. We would also meet our social worker for the first time. I was excited and a bit nervous.

We had planned to leave early but still just made it on time. (A classic disagreement between husband and wife: For Him, being on time means arriving when the event begins. For Me, it means arriving at least 15 minutes early.) Entering the conference room, I quickly noticed the melting pot of ethnicities and socio-demographics our intimate group of “parents to be” formed. A seminar-typical icebreaker exercise got us all quickly to chat and bond over our joint adventure. By lunch time, we were all friends.

Often couples turn to adoption after suffering through infertility. We (thankfully) can’t relate to the grief and feelings of loss that surface as couples struggle with infertility. Mr. Thrasher and I simply have a strong desire to grow our family through adoption. One may say God planted that dream in each of our hearts and our marriage was created to lead us to adopt. Too spiritual? Stay with me.

A calling is God’s personal, individual invitation to carry out the unique task He has for you.

As agency workers, a birth mom and a panel of adoptive parents shared information and stories, I had a revelation of the ministry adoption really is. Yes, we will have to pay a scary amount of money for the adoption but I can now see even clearer how this money is used to do God’s work. Along with the heartache, grief and darkness of adoption, comes healing, new life, a clean slate, an abundance of love and (sometimes) salvation. Not just for the children. But also for the birth mothers. And even for the adoptive parents.

That day, God’s voice spoke to us louder than ever. We know His calling for us to adopt will bring great challenges, doubt and frustration. We know not all of our friends are committed to supporting our adoption. (And that’s ok.) We know some family members still have lots of questions. (And so do we.) We know we are required to trim our spendings even more. (Can we ask friends and family to donate money while we still occasionally pay $4 for a latte or buy new shoes?) We won’t succeed at this task on our own. Only through the constant guidance and reassurance of the Holy Spirit will we be able to carry out this mission.

We left the meeting with more conviction, more faith, more courage, and more love for our new baby, its birth mother and her family.

And for one another.

On our drive home we made plans for teaching Emma about adoption, prayed over our next steps and were giddy like teenagers in love. We still don’t have a timeline and we never will but we know we are expecting, our family is growing and God is with us.

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P.S.: If you are a follower of Jesus, will you join me in praying this prayer?

I pray that the church will be called to care for orphans in a way that leads more Christian families to adopt, to support other families who adopt, and to fight for legislation that makes adoption more accessible. By God’s grace, may every child who needs a permanent home become part of a loving family. In Jesus’ mighty name, we pray. Amen.

Get Involved And Make A Difference :: Adoption Fundraising

Baby Bottle Bank (on-going) 

adoption_babybottlefundraiserThis is how everyone – even Emma’s little friends – can make a not-so-small ¢hange: A baby bottle serves as a piggy bank. All of our loose and randomly found change goes straight into that baby bottle. It seems too small to make a difference but before you know it, you’ll have a few dollars saved up.

If you’d like to replace that catch-all at your front door where you put your change, we’ll bring you a baby bottle too. Just toss your spare change into that bottle, let us know when it’s full and we’ll come pick it up or switch it with an empty one!

This has been a lot of fun for Emma to learn the idea of “putting money aside and saving it”. If you’re interested in getting a baby bottle, contact me at thrasherhomeblog [at] gmail [dot] com or leave a comment (with your email address).

Pancake For A Purpose (Fall)

For one month, we will be serving all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast including coffee or juice for you and your little ones. Kids eat free. More info about location, time, price and menu will follow.

Online Donations (on-going)

See the PayPal button on the right side of this page? Just click and donate securely via PayPal.

Thanks for making a difference for a child!
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Adoption Myth Busters :: Part One :: The Adoption Awareness Blog Project

Recently I’ve enjoyed watching the very positive side of adoption as shown on ‘Modern Family’ (Cameron and Mitchell contemplating adopting another baby) and then there’s ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ depicting the darker side of adoption (Mer and Derrick losing their adopted daughter).

I’d like to suggest it’s also a good time for all of us to start learning more about adoption [...], because the problems will be fixed more rapidly if faulty stereotypes are replaced by genuine understandings. ~Adam Pertman, Huffington Post, Nov. 2011

Why would someone adopt?

  • Some consider adoption because they are unable to get pregnant, some simply have the desire to adopt (like my husband and me), some have family connections that call for adoption, e.g., stepparent adoption, and others may choose to add to their families through adoption for other reasons.
Aren’t you worried that you wouldn’t be able to love your adopted child as much as your genetic child?
  • This was actually my biggest fear. But the wise Mr. Thrasher had the perfect analogy to help me overcome it: He asked me to imagine that dear friends of ours had died in an accident leaving their little son behind (I didn’t say it was a fun exercise!). If we were the ones to take care of him from that moment on, would I be able to love him, care for him and treat him as if he was my biological child? Heck, yes! I already love that boy with all my heart. There was my answer.
  • My own biological father shut me out of his life no matter how hard I tried to connect with him. So forget the genetic ties. They are no guarantee for a loving family. Your commitment and decision to love are the guarantee. Just like in a marriage. Paul and I are not related by blood. But we became One through a covenant and a promise we made to one another.

So where do I start?

  • Read books like The Adoption Decision or Successful Adoption: A Guide For Christian Families, join online adoption networks, talk to people who adopted, join the Adoption Awareness Blog Project here on Thrasher Home, follow adoption blogs (Filled With Praise, Congo, Here We Come! are great blogs) and request info packages from different adoption agencies.
  • Researching an agency is an important step in the process and includes asking questions, talking with references, and gathering other information.
  • The agency you select will depend on the type of adoption you are pursuing (domestic, international, etc.) and other details specific to your family’s adoption plans which may include your age, faith, marital status, costs, etc.

I’m single and 40 years old. Would they let me adopt a child?

  • Adoptive families come in all shapes and sizes. In the last 20 years there has been a steady, sizable increase in the number of single-parent adoptions. The desire to nurture and to share life as a family is a strong universal need that is felt by a large number of people and one that is not exclusive to married people or couples.
  • Despite the greater acceptance of single-parent adoption, the traditional view of parenting, that a child needs a mother and a father for healthy growth and development, still exists. Adoptive parents and agencies, in preparing prospective adoptive parents, stress the importance of having friends and family who can lend support and serve as a backup system. Source: Parents.com
  • Next: 40 years is not old. Secondly, there are no legal restrictions in most states, but many or most birth families select the family for their child, so parents who are younger than 25 or older than 45 may wait longer to be selected.

How much does an adoption cost? Isn’t it ridiculously expensive? 

  • Having to cover intense adoption expenses is a big part of the reason many parents are hesitant to build their families through adoption but it may be more affordable than you think. See Ashley and Mark’s adoption story, for example.
  • Adoptions with the lowest cost are those completed through a public agency (state social services). These generally involve adoption of children in the U.S. foster care system. For more on adopting a waiting child, visit AdoptUSkids.org.

How would I ever be able to afford paying for an adoption?

  • Have faith. If God has put the desire to adopt on your heart, He’ll provide.
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” ~ Matthew 19:26
  • Other resources to consider:
    • Adoption tax credit:
      • Currently the federal adoption tax credit provides a credit of up to $13,170 per child (2010) for “qualified adoption expenses”. That’s half the cost!
    • Interest-free adoption loans (e.g., the ABBA Fund) and grants
    • Fundraising
    • Monetary gifts from friends and family
    • Employer adoption benefits

I’ve heard that you may have to pay the birth mother’s rent or her cell phone bill? What are other adoption expenses?

  • Some of the biggest costs in an adoption are costs related to the unplanned pregnancy itself. These are costs that an adoptive family would have if they were pregnant themselves and the courts view them as the responsibility of the adoptive family. These items include all medical bills, maternity clothing and possibly other items such as rent and utilities during the unplanned pregnancy.
  • Basic service charges included in U.S. adoption costs are: home study and parent education, post-placement supervision, attorney fees and court costs. Additional charges may be incurred depending on the adoption type pursued. With domestic adoptions fees may include: birth parent expenses (see above), including legal representation and counseling, and birth expenses. In international adoption, additional costs include immigration processing and may also include for foster care, escorting, and medical care and treatment charges. Additionally, there are transportation and accommodation costs involved in travel to the country where the child resides. ~ Source: AdoptionInstitute.org

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Disclaimer: The above adoption myths are based on questions we had when we first looked into adoption and focus mainly on domestic infant adoption. They also address concerns raised by our friends and families. The answers are a combination of research we’ve done ourselves on the interweb, conversations we had with our adoption agency, books we’ve been reading and stories from other adoptive parents like Hilary and Dirk or Ashley and Mark.

Family – A Guest Post By The Truthful Mom :: The Adoption Awareness Blog Project

For the month of November, several talented, witty, smart, funny and real bloggers will be joining me here on Thrasher Home to support the Adoption Awareness Blog Project. Every Wednesday, I’ll be welcoming a guest blogger who will share their thoughts about ‘Family’.

 

By Sarah of The Truthful Mom:

At my best friend’s wedding the minister spoke about how the bride and groom were coming together to join as a family. He reminded them that even if they did not go on to have children; God had created this family of two for them. I love that. I believe that.

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. ~Genesis 2:24

It was very soon after we were married that my husband and I were bombarded with questions about when we would “start a family.” While the sentiment was sweet (and likely fueled by my mother’s friends wanting her to have grandchildren), it always bothered me that somehow marriage wasn’t deemed enough to be a family. You see, when I took my vows and committed to marry my husband I very much believed that I had “started” my family. It may only have been a family of two – but it was two people dedicated to each other in love.

So, stemming from my thoughts about “starting” a family, I guess my definition of family would expand even further. In my life I have been blessed to be surrounded by good friends who I love dearly and who encourage me to be my better self. I definitely consider these people to be part of my family because in my heart I have dedicated myself to them in support and love. These wonderful people have come in all shapes, sizes, colors, ages and backgrounds – but these are the people with whom I share the joys and sorrows of my life and love.

Family is the people God put in your life to love you, commit to you, challenge you and support you along your path. Some of these people you may know from birth but some of these people you accumulate along the way.

When I think of adoption and family I smile. I see bringing a child into your family – pledging to commit to each other and sharing love together – as a beautiful part of God’s plan. How we find each other isn’t the important part of being a family. How we appreciate each other in our family is what should be important to us as we live our lives.

Where Did My Baby Go? :: Looking Back At My Pregnancy

She used to be swaddled and didn't move at all when in her crib. Now she's standing up and moving around as if it was the Olympics.

About eight months ago, I went through the most scary, intimate, stressful, exciting, happy, ecstatic, nerve-wrecking, painful, thrilling experience in my life: giving birth to my daughter Emma.

You may expect a post like this around Emma’s first birthday. But I’m sure by then I’ll be writing posts about planning and decorating her first birthday bash and more importantly how insanely fast my baby grew up to be a toddler. Yes, they do tell you that. Yes, you hear and read it everywhere: “Cherish those baby months, they go by too fast and before you know it they want to be independent, push you away when you want to cuddle and pick their own outfits.” And you as a rookie mom are like: “Yeah, I know.”

No, you don’t! You have no idea how fast they really grow up. I mean, all of your mommy girlfriends have told you. But there is no way to truly grasp what it really means. Until you see it for yourself.

When you finally take a break from cleaning the house, preparing dinner, folding laundry, planning the next party and blogging about all this, and you’re actually getting down on the floor to play with your baby it is too late. You realize that she has learned to roll over, sit up, crawl, pull herself up and get back down, cruise around, eat solids. She has grown not one or two but six teeth. She makes these sounds that have significantly evolved from just cooing and making bubbles. Her face has several expressions that just crack you up. A million times over and over again. Instead of onesies and rompers, she suddenly wears jeans, jackets and shoes. Nursing feels like wrestling because she’s way too antsy to get back down and explore stuff. The car seat adapter has long been retired and she doesn’t look ‘lost’ in her stroller seat anymore. Even crawling is not exciting anymore. Instead, she just wants you to help her walk.

As proud as I am, it hurts to watch her grow up like that. Of course, I’m grateful that she is healthy and develops so fast but, come on, give her (and me) a break!

Yesterday, for the first time since that day I birthed my baby, I actually started to consider getting pregnant again. There it is! I said it out loud. I even confessed it publicly. And I’m totally sober.

A few weeks ago, while we test drove an SUV to make space for our uebertall baby, large stroller and restless puppy, I wanted to strangle my DH when he kept talking about how the car had enough space for “Emma and her two brothers on the backseat”. We’ve had that conversation a gazillion times – I did not want to go through another pregnancy. Never ever ever never. All that pain, discomfort, nausea, lack of sleep, dietary restrictions, the swollen feet, swollen face, swollen everything. Thanks but no thanks.

Despite the warnings in our hospital birthing class, Mr Thrasher showed suicidal tendencies when suggesting to make another baby only 48 hours after Emma was born. Seriously? Thankfully, I was still drowsy from the Epidural and thus unable to take him down.

Did I give you a pretty good idea of how strongly I felt against having another baby? I was ready to have my tubes tied.

But the other day all that changed. I was in the process of taking Emma out of her stroller to move her into the car seat when I suddenly realized that a) we will have to upgrade her infant car seat very soon, b) she looks like a toddler in her jeans (size 12-18 months) and c) my back aches from lifting her up.

What happened? Where did that fragile newborn go that was 100% dependent on me? That tiny human that was too small to fit into her newborn sized pajamas? That little baby girl that wanted to nurse all day and later just lay content on her activity gym and play with dangling toys and rattles?

I was thunderstruck. I wanted to have those moments back. And the only way of getting them back would be to get pregnant again. (We are hoping to adopt a baby eventually but that wouldn’t allow me to nurse again. Well, that’s a story for another day…)

I’m not saying that I will get pregnant again. I’m just saying that I’m open to reconsider.

I suppose Mr Thrasher was glad to hear that he is not playing with his life every time he mentioned the ‘P-word’ (as in Pregnancy) in my presence.

Let me close by quoting the great Justin Bieber – “Never Say Never.”

Roadtrippin’ :: Tips For Road Trips With Baby

After mastering the art of flying with an infant, it was time to tackle the next travel hurdle: a road trip with baby.

We were taking turns driving.

I can report back to you that we recently survived our first road trip with baby and dog to SoCal. An infant in the backseat doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go further than the pediatrician or the mall. Even though we were a bit nervous and expected the worst, we ended up having the best road trip of all times. Or maybe it was because we expected the worst…?

Personally, I am not a huge fan of long road trips unless they are part of the journey. And that’s where Paul’s and my opinion go different ways: Paul wants to get to the destination quickly with as little stops as possible. I, on the other hand, prefer to take it easy, stop frequently at rest areas to enjoy some yummy, homemade snacks, get out of the car for a few minutes, stretch my legs and let the dog run around, and I drinks lots of liquids and don’t care if I have to stop every hour to pee. Needless to say, lots of fighting happens in the car. Especially on longer trips.

This time we had to figure out a fight-proof plan. With baby and dog on board, I certainly didn’t want to end up arguing over how many breaks we would or wouldn’t take. Now let look at the Thrasher Road Trip Tips, shall we?

First, we agreed to remain flexible and make the ride part of the journey and enjoy it as much as possible. There wouldn’t be a limit on pee breaks, coffee breaks, nursing breaks, diaper changing breaks or any other breaks. If the usual trip would turn into an all-day ride, so shall it be. We usually try to not leave Emma in her car seat for more than 2 hours in one stretch (unless she’s fast asleep) so our breaks included not only a few minutes of leg stretching for Paul and me, and playing catch for Griffin, we also let Emma lounge around on a picnic blanket for Emma.

Leave with peace of mind and create a packing check list so you don’t have to contemplate the whole time if you forgot anything. What always helps me is to go through a regular day and night routine with Emma and think about the ‘tools’ I need. Remember things like bulb suction, thermometer, baby food including feeding utensils, a night light (to plug in at your destination) and flip flops. (We always forget our flip flops when we leave on a rainy day.) A packing list written once is a suitcase quickly packed every time. Believe me. Martha said so.

In regards to timing, we decided to follow Emma’s schedule as much as possible. When we missed our original departure time (because someone still had to finish packing), we allowed Emma to take her next nap in her crib and planned to leave as soon as she woke up. That way she would be well-rested and happy instead of tired and cranky. Try to stick to her bedtime routine: Change her into her pajamas, read a book or sing a song, say your prayer or do whatever you do to tell her it’s time to sleep.

Then, I prepared lots of fresh food-to-go: chopped fruit, pasta salad, chilled drinks, crackers, the usual selection of Haribo candy, enough water for Griffin and a decent amount of bottled organic German breast milk – all stored conveniently in a cooler on the backseat. All this helps avoiding fast food chains and overpriced gas station snacks. The breast milk was for ‘emergencies’ when she started to get cranky and we didn’t want to stop. Otherwise, I nursed.

Since we had to manage to fit Griffin, Emma, car seat, cooler, breast pump, beach gear, and duffle bags for everyone in the car, we decided to invest into this cargo roof top box. Thankfully, we didn’t have to take our massive stroller since Paul’s mom has a simple Snap’n'Go for us that we attach to Emma’s car seat when we’re in SoCal. But we knew eventually, we’d have to bring it along.

Next: Turn the backseat into an amusement park so Emma wouldn’t get bored. Between a comfy one-piece outfit (skip those cute but unpractical outfits, traveling is not the time to make a fashion statement), sun shades for both back windows, a genius toys-on-a-string solution (see photo below), a box with more toys, a sippy cup with water and freshly pumped breast milk, Emma definitely traveled first class.

Emma is ready to go.

Keep smiling! Take a fully charged camera and Flip to document Baby’s first road trip. We surely captured some great moments and have a couple of fun snapshots to share.

Bedtime routine at a rest area at sunset. Emma was excited!

Any tips or genius ideas you wanna share about successful roadtripping with a baby or toddler? Bring it on!

Thrasher Summer List

(Catalina) Island in the sun.

Let’s set boring to do lists aside and make a summer to do list. The only rule: It has to be fun!

Here’s ours:

  • Take Emma to SoCal
  • Take Emma to the pool
  • Take Emma to the beach
  • Go to Tahoe for vacation
  • Have more fun with her whale shaped baby pool
  • Build a patio in our backyard
  • Get a porch planter with new plants
  • Have a cookout in our yard or somewhere else
  • Go to an outdoor festival
  • Check out at least one local museum
  • Have a picnic
  • Join a playgroup and go at least 3 times
  • Learn four new children’s songs (German for Mama, English for Papa)
  • Take a ferry
  • Take a family photo outdoors with Griffin
  • Go fishing
  • Go camping
Signed and approved by all family members.

Sleepless In The Suburbs :: Part 3

That’s it! Our spirits have been broken. It has now been 191 nights since we left the hospital with our baby girl. 191 nights without more than 4 hours of sleep. And that was only when she was a newborn. We had to change our pace in order to regain sanity and save our marriage.

I know I have blogged about this topic many times already but since we’re still in the midst of probably one of the most difficult stages of parenthood to date, I’m gonna keep sharing.

For the past three months or 91 days Emma had been waking up every 2-3 hours at night. We even had weeks of hourly wakings. Do you know that feeling of crankiness towards the end of the day when you’re really beat and just want to crawl under your covers? How would you feel when you finally fell asleep after tossing and turning restlessly at night only to suddenly awaken again shortly thereafter? Oh, and don’t think you could load up on coffee, Monster drinks or Red Bull to help you function during the day. Na, you’re still breastfeeding so none of that, lady.

We recently went to SoCal for an inexpensive vacation. While staying with Paul’s mom, Paul offered to take care of Emma at night so that I could get some good night sleep. What an awesome husband, hey. He and Emma along with her travel crib, one bottle of breast milk and a bottle of water moved into one bedroom as I went to bed in a separate bedroom. Dear Lord, that was amazing! I had forgotten how wonderful it is to sleep through the night without any disturbance. I was reborn. I was a new person. I was actually friendly and nice again. Seriously.

So peaceful...

Paul and I celebrated our victory over Emma’s nightly terrorism sleep issues. We were convinced that we had magically cracked taught her to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Ha! Not too fast. Back home she fell back into her old sleep pattern. Really? Why? What worked in L.A.? Was it the climate? The different day activities? We sorta kept her bedtime and routine the same so that couldn’t be it. Maybe it was that driving around for about an hour every time we had to get somewhere which always gave her an opportunity to rest/sleep.

Either way, we had to set an end to this. Paul was back at work and couldn’t afford to spend many more nights comforting Emma and even with a few nights of deep sleep I wasn’t able to make up for the past six months.

It seemed like there was only one more option and I hated to even think about it. Yes, that’s right. We had to let her cry it out. Even writing this feels like a fist clenched around my heart. (In Germany we say: Lieber ein Ende mit Schrecken als ein Schrecken ohne Ende.)

So we put Pantley’s book No-Cry Sleep Solutions back on the shelf and investigated the Ferber Method. The Ferber Method is a sleep training strategy designed by Richard Ferber, M.D., the director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children’s Hospital in Boston where he has been treating children with sleep problems since 1978.

The Ferber Method is not simply a “cry it out” approach to getting your baby to sleep. Instead, like some “no cry” methods, Dr. Ferber’s methods is supposed to help you teach your baby go to sleep and sleep all night without crying or with a minimum of crying.

But make sure to read up on Dr. Richard Ferber’s method before you judge. The folks at Babycenter.com have a great article about it. As much as I opposed any sort of crying it out sleep training (see Part 1 and Part 2), I never judged the parents who decided to try it.

However, I still feel very uncomfortable about this in my heart but my head told me that our whole family would benefit longterm from the ‘cold turkey’ method. And if you add up all of the crying your child now does when she wakes up in the middle of the night, especially if she keeps doing it for many more weeks or months, it will likely far exceed what she might do using the Ferber Method.

Well, here we are. Paul and I reading, talking, arguing and eventually deciding a game plan to teach Emma how to fall asleep by herself and let go of her sleeping aids: Nursing, bottle, rocking, shushing, lullabies, pacifier (not that she ever really used one) and mostly Mama and Papa picking her up.

Here’s our plan of attack:

  • Stick to our well-established bedtime routine and bedtime. Cuddle and hug her even more than usual before bedtime so she knows that we love her so much.
  • Then put her down awake, so that she is left to fall asleep on her own. (She has fallen asleep on her own several times before at night and during the day.)
  • Eventually, Emma will inevitably start crying. Allow her to cry for about 5 minutes, then re-enter the room to console her while only staying in the room for a short time – even if she is still crying – and not picking her up.
  • This second time we leave the room, we would wait 10 minutes before returning and doing the same thing.
  • The third time we wait 12 minutes, and set this as a maximum wait time for the rest of the night.
  • While listening in our bedroom to Emma sobbing next door in her nursery, we would pray together and encourage one another that we’re doing the right thing.
  • The following nights we will stretch out the intervals until we’ve reached the limit we allow our child to cry (12 minutes).

Stay tuned for more updates on our sleep training, how we tackle the daytime naps or hear me whine on Twitter in the middle of the night.

Family Photo Shoot

Whitney, the Betty of Paco and Betty Photography did it again! Check out the absolutely amazing results of our family photo shoot. We ended up with hundreds of beautiful, fun, emotional and cute images but I’m just posting a few to show off our wonderful little family.

Next time, you come and visit us, you may find canvas prints of these photos all over our house. Are proud? Not at all. Ok, maybe a little bit.

Lounging in her crib.

Love this one.

Our little Kojak baby.

Emma couldn't be bothered.

Our furry baby.

She looks so cute in yellow.

No words can describe how much I love my daughter!

My favorite!

Grandma knitted this beautiful blanket. Love the look on Emma's face!

'Toechterchen' means 'little daughter' in German. My sis gave Emma this onesie. It's my favorite!

Emma got tired and is about to...

...have enough!