Happy Birthday Ava

24 Apr

Happy 3rd birthday sweet girl.  While the pain of not having you with us never dulls, the gratitude for moments spent with you grows every single day.  You are equal parts blessing and gift.  You are prayed for and loved.  You are forever our daughter in our hearts.





The What-ifs and Shoulds

1 Apr

One night a few weeks ago, as Andy said grace and I opened my mouth to add the familiar, “and God bless Ava and those who care for her,” the words just wouldn’t come.  “I can’t,” my voice cracked, and Andy finished the rest.  The reality of the timeline we’re facing had reached out and slapped me across the face.  “I can’t say this forever.  I don’t know how to do this.”

How can a world exist where two people completely capable of providing a family and future for a child with no hope of ever having either not be allowed to do so?

Those familiar words at grace started as a way of including Ava in a routine we knew she would be a part of one day.  Now they are a daily reminder that she’s still not home.

We’re approaching the one year mark from the day we committed to adopting a little girl with big eyes and an extra chromosome.  Looking back at the early months of the process, it’s very easy to get caught up in the “what-ifs.”  Back when we were deciding on a home study agency, completing preliminary paperwork, sharing our happy news with everyone we knew…what if we had just decided a week earlier?

What if, instead of our home study draft sitting on someone’s desk for more than a week, I had called and been a stronger advocate for it being finalized?  Then our dossier would have been in Ava’s country just in time to be grandfathered in to the old requirements, instead of putting everything on hold for nearly a month while we completed the new ones.

What if after our first trip, the social worker in charge of Ava’s file had not insisted her biological family appear in person to sign paperwork and instead mailed it or taken it to their home, as frequently occurs?  It would have been completed in a matter of days, not weeks.  Ironically, Ava’s family had just finished signing the required paperwork just before the ban was signed into law, two months after our first visit.

Had either of those scenarios been adjusted by just a few days, we would have been to court in December and been allowed to bring her home by order of her country’s Supreme Court.

We should have had the chance to share with a judge the opportunities that exist in our country for children with special needs and how excited we were to share our life with Ava.

We should have nervously waited for the judge’s decision, then collapsed into a puddle of happy tears when we heard our request had been granted.

We should have over-packed on our Gotcha Trip, leaving no less than three outfit choices per day for our little girl who had never owned clothing of her own.

We should have been able to take those iconic pictures…leaving the orphanage, first bath, first bedtime story, walking off the plane with the newest US citizen.

Ava should have seen several specialists by now and be in weekly therapy.  Her almost 2-year-old little body should be quickly outgrowing those 9-12 month outfits.

There should be a car seat in the back of the car and little pants and tops added to our laundry.

I should be on maternity leave, struggling to leave the house with matching clothing, let alone make-up on my face.

Our dogs should have learned that the best place to find good eats is right under her high chair.

Ava should have learned by now that being rocked to sleep is awesome and that Momma and Daddy will always pick her up when she cries.

She should be home.

Instead, the waiting, the grief, the hope, the ache continue.


Thank you so much to all who continue to keep us in your prayers.

The New Normal

25 Feb

The world can only stand still for so long.

Until recently, normalcy ceased to exist in our lives. Days blended together, indiscernible from the last because each brought the exact same routine. Wake up, check no less than ten foreign newspapers for signs of hope, write or call a political figure, check email repeatedly for news from our agency or the Department of State, seek comfort from those in our exact situation, convince ourselves that tomorrow will bring good news, sleep very little. Repeat.

Gradually over the last month, we’ve willed ourselves to return to a new sense of normal. The world had to start spinning again. Our new normal is a little like running on generator power. Socially we’re still unplugged so we can devote that energy to important things like being productive at work. So if we aren’t the best at returning calls or emails, please forgive us, we’re trying.

There’s also a new feeling that comes with this new normal, guilt.

It visits when we find ourselves laughing at something on TV or considering going out to eat. It visits when we sit down to a balanced meal, step outside for fresh air, or put fresh clean clothes on each morning. It visits any time we’re doing something Ava doesn’t have the privilege of enjoying. It makes us feel like we’ve somehow forgotten about her or given up. (It’s obviously a tricky and emotional place to be, please know we are seeking help to navigate and understand it.)

News from Ava’s country has slowed to a trickle and updates from the Department of State have become increasingly discouraging. The simple fact is this ban is a law. Unlike in the past when Ava’s country has just “closed” to adoptions, this is binding. It can only be repealed or amended by politicians who have shown no concern for the ban’s effect on their youngest citizens. (A glimpse into their thought process here.) More concerning is the change in political climate in Ava’s country, which by all accounts from our friends there, is an indication of what to expect in the years to come.

With that said, we know both sides are still talking. Though Ava’s country continues to stand by the decision of their Supreme Court (families who passed court before the ban can continue), we find some comfort in knowing the topic is still being broached. Our agency, the only one in country who deals solely with special needs adoptions, is also keeping their office open as long as they have the funds to do so in the hopes something will turn around. Many, many others have already shut their doors.

Families in Ava’s country are being offered more money to adopt and increased sums to adopt children with disabilities. While “taking care of their own” is an admirable goal, the path to societal change is long and twisted. It requires more than monetary incentives to find homes for more than 100,000 orphans. Our constant prayer and plea is for Ava’s country to realize that these children deserve a future that they are easily decades away from providing, particularly for children with disabilities. An entire generation of children is poised to fall through the cracks of a broken system.

That is the fear we live with daily. As hope dwindles and we hang on to its last thread, what will happen to our girl if we aren’t able to bring her home? That reality is something we are just beginning to experience and the pain is not our own. We’re experiencing it for Ava, knowing too well the future she may face and praying she feels the peace and comfort of God’s love daily.

That is honestly all we can do as we face each day, one at a time, in this new normal.

The latest

25 Jan

I’m not sure what I expected the last few weeks to bring.  Well, I know what I wanted them to bring.  Answers.  Hope.

I would have also been very okay waking up one morning to realize this was all one big nightmare and in reality, Ava would be coming home soon.

I had high hopes that once the government leaders in Ava’s country returned from their holiday, there would be decisive discussion and within a few days, we would have an answer.  Unfortunately, we are no closer to knowing how this story ends than the day the ban was signed into law.  Fear of the unknown has paralyzed us for the last few weeks.

Several times now, we’ve had hope come close enough to tap us on the shoulder, but as soon as we turn around it’s gone.

-The possibility of an amendment excluding children with special needs from the ban—withdrawn.

-A petition from over 100,000 citizens in Ava’s country to overturn the ban—being considered because they’re required to by law, but not drawing much support.

-A march of epic proportions, think 20,000, by citizens of Ava’s country in support of American adoptive parents—already forgotten.

-The hope that adoptions would continue through 2013 because the bilateral agreement between our countries will still be in effect—a giant misunderstanding, the agreement only applies to the process of adoption, not the right of Americans to adopt.

-Waiting for their Supreme Court to decide the legality of disrupting adoptions for families who have met their children—they ruled this week only in favor of those who have been to court.

I realize that list is incredibly disheartening, but it gives a small glimpse into the roller coaster we’ve been on for a solid three weeks.  We’re not suffering alone.  There are at least 150 families who are in the exact same position we are.  They’ve met their children, but have not yet been to court.  There are even more, up to 1,000-who have started the process and many have even been matched with specific children.

So many people have been incredibly supportive of us during this overwhelmingly emotional time and continue to ask what they can do to help.  First, thank you from the bottom of this momma’s hurting heart.  We’ve reached the point where we have to go at it alone, though we know you’re cheering us on from the sidelines.

We have a few options we’re weighing that take into account Ava’s human rights.  We’re also still holding onto a thread of hope our Department of State will be successful in their negotiations to let us complete the process.

For now we hope and pray, while keeping our girl at the very center of every single thing we do.

One day at a time, until she comes home.


The ban.

3 Jan

After a week of willing ourselves to think positive.  A week of selectively reading newspapers here and abroad for only the “hopeful bits.”  A week of coming together as a community, with the families we’ve come to know on such a deeply personal level through our shared experiences, to assure each other that “this too shall pass.”  After a week of holding our breath, it was signed.

A ban on all adoptions between Ava’s country and ours.

That Friday morning, I rolled over to the all-too-familiar routine of the week…check the phone.  And it was everywhere.  The air was sucked out of the room as I said the words to Andy that I had sworn would never leave my lips, “He signed it.”

And our world just stopped.

The image of Ava’s face throughout our future, the one that made us say “Yes, we’ll go.”  That image was suddenly pushed to the back of a long dark hallway.  In rapid fire, doors were shut in front of it, one after another, until we were shut out completely.  Separated from something that had been just within our reach.

Over the last week, we have struggled with every conceivable emotion.  We’ve settled on a balance of stubborn indignation and complete despair.  We are functioning day-to-day by walking the thin line between hope and denial.

The rumor mill is churning with just enough loopholes for us to believe we stand an honest chance at unlocking all those doors and bringing Ava home.  And our faith tells us that God loves our girl, and the hundreds of thousands of other orphans in her country, even more than we do.  He is bigger than this.

With that said, we are currently in Waiting Purgatory.   There are two things we know for sure.  1) Our Department of State is working overtime on behalf of families in process and we feel incredibly supported and well informed.  2) Nothing will be determined until their government is back from holiday vacation, mid-January.

Actually, there are three things we know for sure.  3) We will not give up.  Please know that if you have donated to our adoption, this journey is far from over.  Regardless of the final decision, we will wait as long as necessary to bring her home.

The outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming.  Just knowing so many are praying for our girl and countless others like her brings an incredible peace to our hearts.  Thank you all so much.

Kristen and Andy

*Many have asked how they can help.  We are incredibly limited in what we can do to affect the outcome of this legislation.  This petition represents the most viable option available, please sign and share if you haven’t already.

*We also understand that most people have no clue what to say to us right now.  This isn’t a frequent occurrence in adoptions, we barely know how to react ourselves.  A well known adoption blogger wrote on that topic here, How to be the Village.

*We have also decided it’s best to put our posts about our first trip on “lockdown” until this is sorted out.  If you would like the password, just ask…it’s not a problem.

Better late than never…

26 Dec

Here we are, one day late, wishing you all a wonderful holiday.


We appreciate your love and support more than you know. It has been the best Christmas gift we could ask for…aside from Ava under the tree, of course.

The blog might be a little quiet for a week or two. We’re in a torturous waiting period. It’s most definitely testing our patience and faith, but we are optimistic. For now, please pray. I don’t know what else to ask of this amazing support system. Prayers are all we need right now.

Pray for Ava’s future and the future of other orphans with special needs in a land Far Far Away.

We love you all so much and we will be back soon with good news! We’re sure of it.

One stop Christmas shopping to help bring Ava home!

5 Dec

Use our link to enter Amazon’s site and 6% of the purchase price comes back to us.  Your screen will not look different and nothing is added to your total, Amazon simply tracks how you got there and automatically credits our associate account.

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