Sunday, November 11, 2012

Transition in Thinking

For the past three weeks, we have been working to complete some of the education credits required as part of our home study. These online trainings have been very helpful and beneficial, but I must admit, they have also been a bit overwhelming. One training was through the National Council for Adoption over Inter-Country Adoption and the other was through the International Adoption Clinic at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

This fall I have also been taking a class on Sunday nights at church taught by our pastor, Josh Black, called Biblical Theology and Interpretation. Josh uses a phrase often, "ratcheting up", in reference to how a theme is threaded and developed throughout the redemptive history of the Bible and ultimately culminates in Christ.

I feel as though these trainings have been ratcheting up the reality of adoption REALLY building our family. Listening to the realities children in orphanages experience now hits closer to home knowing our child will face some, if not all, of these realities. Building attachment and trust will be more important than following other traditional parenting tips such as letting the child "cry it out". Our child, regardless of age when we bring them home, will need to be held and rocked. Who knew that this motherly instinct to hold and rock a baby actually helps children develop and grow?

The Johnson & Johnson company ran the commercials saying "having a baby changes everything." Even though we have not biologically had a child yet nor have we brought home our adopted child yet, but the expectation and anticipation for the time we will be parents has already begun to change everything.

If you walked in our house, you would not see any physical changes (we have not bought a crib or painted a baby room yet). If you observed our daily routines, we have not made any significant changes in how we spend our time.

So what has changed?  I no longer think of myself as just a wife. I am beginning to find myself thinking more like a mom. I can't quite pinpoint exactly what that even means yet, but I know there has been a shift, subtle as it may be. I see Philip as a dad and envision the things he will do with our child and say to our child. My decisions, small or large, now take into account that there will be a child joining our family.

I am realizing that we don't just become parents when we arrive home with our child. We have become parents in our decision to go down this adoption road. God didn't become our heavenly Father the day our hearts turn to him in salvation through Christ. He has ALWAYS been our Father as he initiated our adoption as sons into his family and gave us our eternal inheritance. We did not choose him, but he chose us before the foundation of the earth.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

And We're Off!

Thanks for the many prayers and words of encouragement so many of you offered us as we went into our first meeting with our social worker to officially start our home study on Saturday. We definitely felt God's peace throughout the meeting and continue to see his hand work out the details for us.

I won't go into a lot of details about everything we talked about with Sharon on Saturday, but if I were to summarize what the goal of our first meeting with her was it would be that she get to know us and we get to know her. It sounds simple. And it really was. If anyone reading this is considering adoption, but you are hesitant because of all the details and all the people who seem to be scrutinizing you... have no fear... it isn't as scary as it might seem. Maybe God's even nudging you to begin this incredible journey to expand your family through adoption.

The big questions she asked us were why we decided to adopt and why we decided to adopt now, how we met, what fears or concerns we have about adoption, what is our marriage like and what do we as a couple disagree about and how do we resolve disagreements and how do we make big decisions. Those might sound like daunting questions, but many of them we had already written out answers to in our application or autobiographies and talking with Sharon was not intimidating at all.

She asked us if we wanted her to do the official "walk through" of our house or if we wanted to do it another time. We of course wanted her to do it Saturday since we had spent 2 1/2 hours cleaning the night before and honestly, our house was probably the cleanest it had been since we moved in. The questions she asked us about our house (square footage, number of bedrooms, how old, etc) took longer than her actually walking through our house. Part of me wanted her to open the shower curtain so she could see the bathtub that I had scrubbed as clean as possible the night before. :)  But the other part of me was relieved to know that she was not evaluating how good we could clean our house, but instead was evaluating if our home was safe to bring a child into and if our home had room to bring a child into. She spent more time admiring the quilt my mom and I had made for our bed than anything else. Really, it took probably 2 minutes and I'm not exaggerating. She did say this part of the home study for foster care is a much more detailed process so for those of you who have been approved for foster care I greatly admire you and appreciate what you do.

Before she left, we scheduled the second meeting with her that will be this upcoming Friday (October 26th) at 5 pm and we scheduled the third meeting that will be on our day off on November 12th at 2 pm. She said more than once that she does not see anything in our application or in the info we shared with her that will cause any hiccups in the home study and we might even be able to complete the home study early. When she said this, I think I had to wrap my fingers around the church pew I was sitting on  in our living room so I would not leap for joy. When we initially applied, I had a pie in the sky hope that we could complete the home study by the end of the year. Now, I know there is still no guarantee, but just knowing it is a possibility that one thing in this process might go faster than expected is encouraging to this task-oriented, Type A, number-crunching, detail-driven math nerd. :)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What We Know about the Details

Lots of people have been asking about what the process of international adoption involves, how long it takes, etc. One thing we know for sure is every adoption is different and every agency handles things slightly differently, but we want our journey through this process to help others possibly considering adoption to know some of the details and steps.

So read on if you are interested in some of the nitty, gritty details...

Sarah, our Ethiopia caseworker, outlined the overall process for us last week in our orientation phone interview. Here is what we know....

The Home Study as defined in the Ethiopia Program Manual is a "series of interviews and supporting documentation put together by a licensed social worker in a report for the purpose of adoption."

The Home Study involves four "visits". I place visits in quotes because at least one will be in our home and the others may be in the office at Topeka or might possibly be over the phone. We aren't entirely sure. None of the visits are unannounced.

The main goal of the home study is for us to build a relationship with the agency and social worker as well as to get any questions we have answered. The home study is NOT about the agency looking in every drawer and closet to see if our home is spotless and clean. The main purpose of the visit that will be in our home is to ensure that our home is a safe place to bring a child into as well as ensure we have room for a child to join our family.

During the home study, we will also clarify any specifications we have for the child we want to adopt (age, gender, etc) and also if we decide we want to adopt two children at once, our home study has to be written and approved for two children for the ages we specify. (More to come on our journey to this decision in a later blog post....)

The home study typically takes 4-10 months to complete. (If you know me well, you know what end of that timeframe I am shooting for!).

Once the home study is complete, a notarized copy is filed with the government in order to get our I 600-A. According to the program manual, the I 600-A is "the applications families file with CIS in order to be approved to adopt internationally.  The I 600 A is for non-Hague countries."

It usually takes 3 months to receive approval of the I 600-A. While we are waiting on this approval, we will begin to gather other documents that will be submitted with the Dossier. The Home Study and the I 600-A are two of the twenty documents. The Dossier is "pronounced “doss-ee-ay.” A collection of paperwork submitted to the Ethiopian Courts and MOWYCA for permission to adopt a child from Ethiopia." Sarah told us that the Dossier is essentially who we are and why we want to adopt in the form of 20 different documents. Our birth certificates and marriage license are a part of the Dossier as well.

After the finalized Dossier is sent to the country, the wait time is typically 12-14 months for the referral of a child younger than six months. The referral will include a picture and date of birth, but Sarah did emphasize that birth dates are sometimes not exact. We will also receive as much of the medical history of the child as they have, but the medical info is often not fully reliable. 

Lifeline partners with West Sands Adoption Agency for the placement and referral and West Sands also handles everything in-country when we travel to Ethiopia. The orphanages in Ethiopia are government run so West Sands works with a couple of those in order to place children. On our first trip to Ethiopia "is to meet your child, and to ensure the child matches the information you were provided and that you are satisfied with your referral.  You will also have an  appointment at the Ethiopian Court House to give your consent for the adoption.  It is highly recommended that BOTH parents travel for the court appointment."

During our first trip, we will stay at a guest house on near the transition home ran by West Sands. Our child will move from the orphanage to the transition home for the time between the first and second trip. We will get to interact with our child daily on the first trip that is typically 5-7 days in Ethiopia.

We then have to return home and the child stays in Ethiopia until all their paperwork, passport, and visa   are processed and finalized. It can be 3-4 months between the first and second trip when we travel to bring the child home. The second trip is also about 5-7 days spent in Ethiopia. Both parents are not required to travel on the second trip.

Whew... is anyone still reading??? That's all Folks! (For now... well that's what we know for now.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A New Blog, A New Journey

Welcome to the Ingram Family Blog!

Yes, you heard it here... the Ingram FAMILY! We are starting the journey of beginning a family through adoption.

We will use this blog to update and explain the steps of the adoption process, but this blog will be for more than that. We will be both be adding posts from time to time.

The latest info in regards to where we are at in the adoption process can be found by clicking the "Our Adoption" pennant at the top.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Welcome to The “Phil” Up

Here you will find my ramblings about life, faith and sometimes sports. As well as of course our plans to adopt a child from Ethiopia which of course would be included in two of the preceding subjects mentioned.  Don’t expect too much though as many of you know my creative juices were squeezed out many moons ago. Anyway, here is to happy blogging and hopefully happy reading in the days and months to come.

-- Philip

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Reason to Pause


That word has seemed a distant reality for quite some time. There is so much responsibility and privilege wrapped up in that word and there is also some fear and anxiety in that word as well.

As we have been filling out LOTS and LOTS of paperwork, I've said a few times already that people who are having children biologically should have to do this much paper work before having a kid. It really makes you stop and think of the enormous responsibility it is to become a child's parent.

Then you hear the painful news of a 21 year old son of a family from the church I grew up in who passed away in his sleep.  This is a reason to pause.

To pause and consider the magnitude of the grief his parents and family are experiencing. To pause and ask do I really want to sign up for this thing we call parenthood with the possibility of getting that phone call with horrible news about your child?

To pause and consider the Lord's promise to never leave us or forsake us. To pause and consider the years, days and moments he does bless us with and rejoice in the promised eternity we will spend with him if we know him.

To pause and consider the grief the Father experienced as he watch the Son suffer and die for the sins of the world. To pause and consider the grief we cause the Father each time we choose the things of this life over His ways.

He knows our every fear better than we know it ourselves. He is the Great Father. He makes parenthood possible.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

"It's all a part of me and that's who I am."

If you know country music, you will recognize the title of this blog as a line from the country song, "Who I am" sang by Jessica Andrews.

This blog post is one I have been formulating for the past four to five months. I know, I know... you are thinking, "Who thinks about a blog post that long?" Well, I guess I do. Maybe as you read this blog you will understand more about why I would process this post for this long.

In the past couple of years, I have had many people for different reasons say to me, "Holly, you were just raised so differently." For the most part (I think anyway), this was said with good intentions and meant as a compliment. It is probably more of a compliment to my parents than to me however.

A few folks said this to me and initially I did not think much about it, but as I heard it a few more times, I began wondering why people kept saying this to me. I am not entirely sure that I have figured out 100% why people say this to me, but this blog post is what I have been processing as a result of hearing "Holly, you were just raised so differently." so many times.

This is my attempt of discovering what might explain the reason I hear this. This is my attempt to introduce you to parts of my background and family you might not know about me. This is my attempt to explain to you Who I Am.

Another line of the song... "I am Rosemary's granddaughter."

I am Juanell's granddaughter. I call her Mau along with her other grand children and great grand children. Mau was my first grade teacher. Mau was at every big moment in my life... most of the games I played in, my high school graduation, my wedding and so many more moments and memories include Mau. I think one of the really special things about Mau is that EACH of her grand children think they are the closest to Mau. She is really great about making us all feel significant, heard and loved. Mau is a reader and has suggested books for me to read through the years and never once I have I not liked a book recommended by her.

Mau is a part of the teaching legacy that I am a part of. She was loved by all her students, but pulled no punches. She even made my cousin and a few of his friends do push-ups for goofing around too much. One nickname she had was Meany-Sweeney. I like to think that my no-nonsense, but caring teaching style was inherited partially from her.

Sleep overs at Mau's are a favorite memory of all her grandchildren. We all had our own special tooth brush to leave at Mau's house and all slept on the floor in the living room by the TV and woke up to pancakes for breakfast. Pancakes at Mau's house are second to none. Ask any of us. But the real treat was when she cut your pancake up for you. She cut the pieces into the most perfect squares.

I think what I inherited most from Mau is her stubborn and perservering spirit. She sets her mind to something and gets it done. She is a problem solver. She doesn't ask for help because she usually doesn't need it.

I am Lois' granddaughter. She was my Grandma Call and died before I was 2 years old. I have only one faint memory of her in the chicken house collecting eggs with Mandy and my dad was holding me. I'm not sure if this is an actual memory or a memory formed by the stories of hearing about Mandy liking to go gather eggs with Grandma Call. I wish I would have known her. Stories I hear about her make me smile and realize I am probably a lot like her. She was even challenged the pastor of the church about women teaching a Sunday School class!

She married my Grandpa Call. She raised four kids on a dairy farm. She liked to pick wildflowers. Dad would try to point out the flowers she liked to pick when he would see them along the road when I went with him out to the farm. She passed when she was in her lower 60s sitting in her chair after she had fallen asleep probably from a heart attack because she had heart problems. I wish I would have known her. She must have been a pretty special lady because each time my Dad talks about her I see tears form in the corners of his eyes and if you know the Call family at all, you know they do not show their emotions very often.

I am the great granddaughter of Ferne Carter and Virgie Sweaney. I never knew my Great Grandma Virgie, but my mom shares many stories about her that convince me I am missing out to have not known her.

My Grammy, (Grandma Carter), is the beginning of the teaching legacy, but has shaped so much more of me than just me becoming a teacher. My interest and now hobby of sewing was started with her. Our yearly tradition of making Christmas candy started at her house. She loved flowers and to work in her yard. She wrote down the names of all the kids who visited her house for candy on Halloween. She made many blankets and quilts for many people. Her and my mom made many of the clothes my sister and I wore growing up. She let all her great grandchildren eat the expensive candy making chocolate and we always like to put it in the fancy ash trays. She didn't use them as ash trays, but we all thought they were so cool.

I was privileged to get to spend a lot of time with Grammy Carter. My mom had gone to work as a para at the school when I started pre-school. Each afternoon after pre-school I spent at Grammy's house. We made the best sugar cookies (really the only kind of sugar cookie I actually like). She was patient and let me help roll them into balls, dip the glass in sugar and then press them really flat. She only had basic cable so we both usually fell asleep in the afternoon in her living room watching some Soap Opera. We often took trips out of town to Wal-Mart or for groceries or sometimes for really no reason. I loved how she backed out of her driveway. We all joked she went 80 mph out her driveway and never looked as she pulled into the street. She attempted to teach me how to sew and crochet. I also loved going to the post office with her because I could reach her box to use the key to get her mail out. My parents box was too high for me to reach then.

I only knew Grammy after she had lost her voice and could only speak at a whisper. It was always so funny to me that when she got mad at any of us kids she could almost yell at a regular voice though. Needless to say, even though her bark wasn't very loud, it got the point across. When she got really mad, she would cuss and I like to say she taught me every cuss word I know. :)

As I got older, I mowed her yard, helped her rake leaves and loved helping her clean her house or wash her porch off. Afterwards we would sit on her porch and drink lemonade or cool water. She knew all her neighbors and most everyone in town.

She, like Mau, was very stubborn and strong willed. As she neared the end of her life, she developed Alzheimer's disease and we probably didn't realize how early she began showing signs because she was so independant. It was hard to watch her memory deteriorate and actually get to the point that she didn't know any of her great grandchildren. One of the last time I visited her in the nursing home she was talking about how Frank (my great grandpa) had been coming to call. It was neat to hear her talk about that time of her life that she had never shared with me before. She was around 90 when she passed away and even though, it has been almost 7 years since she died, I still miss her. I wish I could show her the first quilt that I made. I wish I could tell her about my career of teaching high school math. I wish she could teach me the secret of her sugar cookies. My mom often says after we have been making Christmas candy or sewing, "Grammy Carter would be so proud."

"The spitting image of my father"

This line of the song might be truer than any other. In the photo album my mom made of all my baby pictures, there is a baby picture of my dad at about 6 months old next to my 6 month old picture. There is a scary resemblance.

However, the similarities with my dad go much further and deeper than physical appearances as a baby. My dad is a perfectionist. He is quiet when he is thinking about something. He gets quiet when he is frustrated. He is thorough. He is an internal processor. He works harder than anyone I know. He plans far in advance, but often doesn't verbalize those plans. He would farm and run cattle full time if that would be enough money to take care of his family, but since it isn't, he works a full time job and still runs cattle full time by most people's standards. He would rather figure out how to do something himself than pay anyone else to do it (come see my kitchen if you don't believe me!). He is a self taught carpenter, electrician and mechanic. He is a problem solver. He takes pride in doing things the best he can. He is competitive. He is stubborn. He is usually right. He can come across as gruff or rude sometimes, but that isn't his intent.

If you know me, you can probably quickly draw the comparisons between my dad and me. Growing up, I would go to the farm with Dad and Mandy stayed with Mom at home. I think in some way I tried to be the son he didn't have, but was a tom boy at heart so I would have rather been helping him on the farm then helping do dishes at home. He patiently answered most of my questions that I would rattle off while we drove out to the farm and checked, fed and counted the cattle. At times, when he couldn't come up with an answer to my 100th question of the day, he would respond, "To make little girls ask questions." and grin.

We drove to church out of town after I was 5 and it was about a 45 minutes drive. Even though we lived further than anyone else at church, we were always one of the first ones there. When my sister questioned him on this, he responded, "Well, if we have a flat tire, we will still get here on time." He and my mom raised us with the mindset of "if you are on time, you are late."

The scary part of the relationship I have with my dad is that even though we aren't the verbal processors like my mom or sister I often know exactly what he is thinking or planning without him having to verbalize it. It kind of drives my mom and sister crazy, but his brain and mine are wired the same. My analytical thought processing is thanks to him as well as the ease that math and problem solving has come to me.

My dad is willing to ask the hard questions no one else will. He is willing to stand alone when his opinion differs from others and he won't change his mind just to go with the majority. He is driven and after having surgery on his neck, almost went crazy when he couldn't work for two weeks.

I admire my dad and the sacrifices he made for me most of which I am probably not even aware of. He always has managed money and time well and made sure my sister and I graduated from college debt free (what a gift!). I can't begin to thank him for all he has taught me through the years, for answering every question I asked and for teaching me the value of hard work.

"And when the day is done my momma's still my biggest fan."

My mom is probably one of the most self-sacrificing person I know. She has always put others before herself. She is my biggest fan as well as my biggest confidante. When we were first married, living in Wichita and starting our first year teaching, I called her on my drive home from school probably everyday, often in tears, frustrated that things had not gone well. She patiently listened, offered support and cheered me on to keep it up and stick with it. I joke now that she probably helped Philip out more than me because I could unload and vent with her and by the time Philip got home, I was over it and had a better perspective about it.

I can call my mom at a moment's notice and she'll help me through whatever I need to talk about. It is a funny thing... I swing betwen being an internal processor like my dad to needing to verbally process things with my mom. Often our phone conversations are about nothing at all, but still exactly what I need at the time.

My mom has the gift of hospitality and loves hosting people. I loved bringing friends from college back to Cedar Vale. She welcomed them as if they were her own kids and spoiled us with awesome home cooking for every meal we were there. She makes the best chocolate chip cookies in the world!She doesn't think she is a good cook, but she is one of the best I know.

That's one of the ways I am like her... she doesn't take compliments well and doesn't believe those things she is being complimented are true of herself even though she rocks at just about everything she does. She is overly critical of herself, but doesn't let that keep her from accomplishing some really amazing things. You should see the quilts she has been making with her long arm quilting machine. Oh and by the way, she has taught me to quilt and make purses.

My mom often thinks she doesn't get anything accomplished, but this is after she explains her whole day that has been filled with helping my dad with farm stuff, helping my grandparents out or helping one of her friends do something. She doesn't realize that she is accomplishing great things by serving so many people around her.

My mom has made sure to raise my sister and I so that we value family and make time for family. She made birthdays special and even when my dad was laid off and we didn't have much money, she managed money and planned things out so Mandy and I never really felt like we were going without. She was very honest and up front with us about how and why my parents spent their money and that knowledge has been a great gift as I have entered into my own married life.

My mom never forgets. She keeps so many things straight and never drops the ball. She juggles lots of things at once really really well. She can multi-task better than anyone I know. She sews. She plays the piano. She quilts. She embroiders. Probably the thing she doesn't so well is sleep. Unfortunately I got that from her as well. Oh well, if not sleeping well is the one bad thing I get from her, I'm doing pretty well. Oh and she can play Wipe Out on the piano. I don't know why but I love it when she does. She doesn't like it when I ask her to play it for someone, but usually I can convince her to do it.

I could go on and on about all these significant people. I could add more people to the list. I am not sure if this explains why I was raised differently, but if anything, this is how I was raised. I am so privileged to come from the family I come from and hope to never squander the lessons and blessings that have been bestowed upon me by my family.

"It's all a part of me and that's who I am."

"Grammy Carter would be SO Proud!"

Some might say sewing is a hobby of mine. I will use the term hobby very loosely. If by hobby you mean, something I do on occasion, enjoy doing it when I do have time, but have room for a lot of improvement, then yes, sewing is one of my hobbies. It is also something that I am interested in and want to be better at.

The majority of the sewing projects that I have conquered have been at my parents' house in Cedar Vale. I really can't do much sewing unless my mom is close by to help me through the steps I'm not so sure about. I have braved a few simple projects on my own, but the cell phone is close during these times.

Each and every time I have been sewing, my mom always has said at least once during the project, "Grammy Carter would be so proud."

Yesterday I went to my parents to conquer yet another sewing project, a purse for my sister's birthday (yes, she knows she is getting it). Mau (the nickname we all call my grandma on my mom's side), who is Grammy's daughter, came by to see the progress I was making on the purse. As I was showing her, she said, almost in tears, "Grammy Carter would be so proud."

It is hard to explain the significance of these words without explaining the close relationship I had with my great grandma, who we affectionately called Grammy. I'm not saying that I was the favorite of her great grandkids, because she of course did not pick favorites, but I was lucky to get to spend a lot of one on one time with her that my other cousins probably didn't get. The year I went to preschool was the year my mom started working as a para at the school so Grammy would pick me up after preschool in the morning and I would spend the afternoon with her until my mom got off work.

Our afternoon activities make me laugh as I look back on them now. Most afternoons consisted of her laying on the couch and me on the floor (on her mattress we all fought over so I got it all to myself), watching soap operas and both of us eventually falling asleep. The only reason soap operas were on was because she only had the main networks so that was the only option for afternoon television. We would also make sugar cookies quite frequently. I wish I had her recipe because they are truly the only sugar cookies I really like and there aren't any others like it (or that I have tried). She would often be working on some sewing project that I would watch her do and at times help with simple steps. She and my mom often made clothes for my sister and I. They also made us dresses for Easter and Christmas. She attempted to teach me to crochet, but that didn't amount in more than just a small crocheted blanket barely big enough for a baby doll.

We often would go to Winfield or Ark City for the afternoon to run some errand. I loved how she backed out of her driveway. I'm convinced to this day that she literally floored it backing out. But my favorite afternoon activity was helping her wash her porch. I'm not sure why I thought this was so fun, maybe because I got to use the hose and spray water everywhere and it didn't really matter what got wet.

Grammy also taught us all how to make Christmas candy. I remember everyone being down at her house making tons and tons of Christmas candy. We still carry on the tradition and make some every year. This is definitely a tradition I will pass down to my children.

Grammy was also a teacher for many years. I only knew her being able to speak at a whisper so I like to think she lost her voice from yelling at kids for so many years. This probably isn't true, but I do love that I come from a long line of teacher from her to Mau to my mom and now to my sister and myself. Even though she only spoke at a whisper, if she got really mad and "yelled" at us, it almost came out as loud as a normal voice. It is hard to explain, but I always found it so funny that when she cussed, it came out clear as a bell. Don't let that fact make you think poorly of my great grandma. She was an incredible lady who lived a long and full life and I'm lucky to have known her for as long as I did before she passed away.

So... when my mom or Mau tells me, "Grammy Carter would be so proud", those words mean more to me than I can even explain.

Pictures below are of the sewing project!
Scraps from cutting out the pattern.

All the pieces that will eventually be a Birdie Sling (pattern by Amy Butler)

Lining and pockets! I had enough fabric to make two bags.

Bands attached to inside and outside! (This is not Mandy's bag)

Pinning the pleats (the pleats are what makes this bag so cute!)

All the pieces of Mandy's bag ready to be sewn together, except the handle goes to the other bag.

The Finished Product!

Oh, and I changed my mind on the fabric for my quilt. Below is what fabric we are going to use instead!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Current Reads

  • Christ Centered Worship by Brian Chapell
  • Adopted for Life by Russell Moore
  • Adopted for Life by Russell Moore
  • According to Plan by Graeme Goldsworthy