Welcome!

Welcome to our Adoption Blog! If you want to know about our story and why we are adopting please go to the sidebar down below to find the archive and find our earliest posts. We also are writing as Adoption Journalists for Red Letters Campaign.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Can I share with you?

Ok so out of desperation of having the same meals over and over and over again I started looking for some new recipes.....I love to eat and I LOVE to cook so I am often bored with my same ole repertoire. Then I found this blog, Life's Ambrosia. It is so yummy and so very easy:) My favorites so far (and this is by no means healthy or low fat stuff.....this is the good stuff) cheesy sloppy joes, slow cooker pulled pork sandwiches, slow cooker pulled pork enchiladas, cheesy tator tots, asian pork meatballs (we had these tonight with fried rice....so good), and the flank steak with chimichurri sauce..... So I just wanted to share with you in case you were in need of some new recipes:)

Morning at the Park

This morning was BEAUTIFUL! Technically it is still August in Texas and it was actually cool today! You know like low 80's? Yeah that is cool here. So I loaded up the kids with all of our fun park stuff, lunches, picnic blankets, etc. and headed to our favorite park. Jackson and I usually do this once a week all year long from September-April, so this was Olivia's first time at what will soon be her favorite playtime spot:) I started taking pictures after Olivia decided to cover, and I mean COVER, herself in dirt and playground mulch. She was literally taking huge handfuls and rubbing it on her arms and legs:) She was so dirty that when we got home I just put a huge beach towel in her crib for her to take a nap on!



blowing bubbles





so content with her bubbles.....







Lunch Time!





Hey brother, what are you doing?

can I come up?

up
up
all the way up!

We love days at the park:)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Happy Birthday Honey!!

Today Paul turned 29:) We took it easy today and just had a great time as a family. We started out at the spray park with the kids. I had not fished out my camera battery yet, which ended up taking some work to get it out, so I took some pictures using Paul's cell phone.








After that we ran through Steak and Shake drive through for yummy mini burgers, fries, and milk shakes. The kids were in heaven! After naps, the kids gave daddy his presents and we worked on making him his cake. Jackson and Olivia loved making the presents this week and worked really hard on them. Jackson made him a picture frame and Olivia made a bulletin board for his office. They used foam stickers and did it all by themselves! I would point where the letters should go so they actually spelled words and even Olivia worked really hard to spell Daddy:) But I never actually did anything so this is really the first crafts that were 100% done by them.

my sweet girl making cake:)


Why do I always get these goofy faces when I ask him to smile?

teamwork

ignore the no pants, we are potty training:)





daddy's foam bulletin board

Jackson and Olivia made this fun birthday card as if you couldn't guess.....


Daddy's new picture frame.....don't ask about the winter jacket.

no we will not both look at the camera......


decorating the cake

we will win Food Network Cake Challenge for sure:)

The best picture I got of all of them together.....

Happy Birthday Daddy we love you!!


Ignore my singing but I thought this was a cute video:)
video

oh and Jackson got a new motorcycle from the dollar store because he pooped in the potty twice today:) just in case you were wondering

Friday, August 28, 2009

while I was making dinner......

Olivia was busy doing this.......



That would be my camera battery stuck in the bottom of Olivia's play baby bottle.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I'll try....

Ok so I am getting some pressure for some people to be a better blogger so I will try to do better this week I promise!!

Last night was so much fun. We have been a part of an awesome playgroup this summer. There are 5 families and we meet each Tuesday at a different location. Each mom has a turn hosting, which means she picks the place and brings the snack. Last night we ended our summer playgroup with a night at a local ice cream place, and even the daddies were invited. So half way through my poor camera died so I had to steal some pictures from my friends so it would be blog worthy....

There are 11 kids in our group and the oldest is 3:)


People enjoy when our playgroup visits their establishments!




Jackson getting some love from his buddies



That is a Jackson behind all that ice cream I promise.....


See!

I'll try to have more pics of Olivia next post but like I said my camera died and really all you would of seen was the back of her head since she is constantly on the run! If you thought Jackson was an active toddler......you have seen nothing.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Random Thoughts

I am not one for forwarded emails but I got this one today and thought it was pretty funny..... especially #7.




1. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.

2. I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.

3. The only time I look forward to a red light is when I’m trying to finish a text.

4. MapQuest really needs to start their directions on #5. Pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

5. There is a great need for sarcasm font.

6. As a driver I hate pedestrians, and as a pedestrian I hate drivers, but no matter what the mode of transportation, I always hate cyclists.

7. How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?

8. I would rather try to carry 10 plastic grocery bags in each hand than take 2 trips to bring my groceries in.

9. I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.

10. Was learning cursive really necessary?

11. "Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this ever.

12. I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars teams up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers!

13. While driving yesterday I saw a banana peel in the road and instinctively swerved to avoid it...thanks Mario Kart.

14. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

15. I find it hard to believe there are actually people who get in the shower first and THEN turn on the water.

16. Bad decisions make good stories.

17. I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then not seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste.

18. Is it just me or do high school girls get sluttier & sluttier every year?

19. You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you've made up your mind that you just aren’t doing anything productive for the rest of the day.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

More thoughts and pictures

I know that Thomas' story is a crazy one but I am glad to say it is a very rare one. I have had a lot of time to think about his story since I have known about it for over a month and another agci family asked me the other day if I would use AGCI again. The answer is yes. I really loved our experience with AGCI and yes it was frustrating at times but that is how adoption is. I would ask more questions and I would be more upfront about my expectations from them. I just want families out there to be informed and know the ups and downs because it isn't always a fairy tale. I really do think AGCI wants the best for the children they represent and I don't think that they are trying to be malicious or harmful to families. How did this all happen then? Unfortunately I don't know the answer to that question but I do know that shedding light on what goes wrong in adoption can help us all learn how to make it better.....


Anyways here are some more pictures of Olivia. We have been having a great time these last few weeks:)
Riding the train at Sandy Lake Park


Uhhh are you sure about this mom?


DAD! Let me ride with brother!



Playdough creations!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Thomas' Story

I have struggled a lot with things since we have gotten home. The poverty in Ethiopia was very similar to the gypsy camps of Romania but on a bigger scale. I expected this and knew that my heart would be effected. It took me several years to readjust to my life in America when I came home from Romania and this time seems to be no different although I am easily distracted by life with two toddlers. I don't want to readjust though, and I don't want to be distracted....I want God to use me to make a difference in the lives of others but I am not sure exactly how He will do that yet. I am praying for clarity and opportunities that only He will lead me to.

The other thing that bothers me is what I have learned about adoption. I have researched agencies up and down and felt that God was leading us to AGCI. I had heard amazing things about this agency and about Almaz, the orphanage director. It seemed like a perfect fit. And it was for the most part. The end was rough and I felt like sometimes I was being ignored but I knew that adoption was hard and that this might be the case. From all of my research I knew things would go wrong. And when they did I felt frustrated but prepared. In the end our case had a few bumps that required us to wait several extra weeks for our daughter but this is really a best case scenario in adoption. I fought long and hard with USCIS, but in the end they did send me that new FDL:), only a week after we returned home!

My story with AGCI is a good one. From my standpoint alone I would recommend them to other families, and I would probably would use them again. But the fact is that I have been given two other families stories and they aren't as pretty as mine. Actually they are down right ugly. I would like to share one with you. But first, please know that if these stories aren't shared, if they are just swept under the rug, then a change will never be made. This could happen again. It could happen to you or me. We all have to learn from these stories and make adoption better. Both adoptive families and agencies. I started this blog a long time ago because reading my friend's adoption blog helped me understand what adoption would be like in real life. So as I depict the pretty side of adoption in my day to day life, I feel it only necessary to show you the ugly side that is indeed out there.

Here is the story of Shane and Michelle. A family that I was given the privilege of getting to know while we traveled to get our precious children.



On July 13, 2009, we traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to bring our adopted son, Thomas, home. Although we know that many people have experienced great joy working with AGCI, we feel compelled to also share our story.

My husband and I agreed a long time ago to internationally adopt at least one child, and we felt called to do so this past November, 2008. For a variety of reasons, we felt it was God’s plan for us to adopt through All Gods Children International, Inc.

We completed our home study and dossier in February 2009 and originally were put on the waiting list for a healthy baby girl, age 0-12 months. After talking with our caseworker, we felt moved to expand our parameters to a health baby boy or girl, age 0-12 months. On May 5, 2009, we received Thomas’s referral.

At the time of our referral, we understood that Thomas had some developmental delays that were attributed by AGCI to his story prior to arriving at Hannah’s Hope—normal developmental delays that most internationally adopted children have. He had been relinquished to an orphanage in the south of Ethiopia and essentially had been in a crib for the first several months of his life. Other than those minor delays, AGCI reported Thomas to be normal, both physically and cognitively. The only thing that could have caused any concern was that Thomas does not suck bottles, but, in providing this information, AGCI explained it away such that it didn’t raise any concerns:

Thomas does not suck bottles. We feed him from a cup. He has been at an orphanage that uses only cups not bottles.

After reviewing this information with our family pediatrician and the international adoption clinic, and after asking many questions of AGCI regarding Thomas, we accepted the referral on May 11, 2009.

Between the referral and June 18, 2009, we did not receive any additional information regarding Thomas or a court date. Although we were anxious for news, we had comfort in knowing that our caseworker left for Hannah’s Hope at the end of May for a six-week stay in Addis Ababa and would report any problems or concerns.

On June 18, 2009, we received a phone call from AGCI, congratulating us that we had passed court (on June 11th, we would later find out) and that we should plan to travel on July 3, 2009. This was a surprise because we did not know about a court date prior to the call; we had been waiting patiently to see when it would be scheduled. During this call, AGCI also told us that they had additional information to pass along. Thomas had seen a neurologist on more than one occasion, starting in May (not long after our referral). He also had undergone two brain scans (EEGs) not long after the referral. The EEG reports referenced “global irritation” and, though the EEG was inconclusive, they couldn’t rule out possible seizure disorder. Thomas was prescribed and had been taking phenobarbitol, an anti-convulsant used to treat seizures. One of the reports stated Thomas probably had “perinatal encephalopathy” due to severe asphyxiation as the reason why he had neonatal seizure and psychomotor delay. The physician visits, scans, prescription and diagnosis all were made prior to our court date. One was clearly dated May 28, the other dates were unclear. All were done without our knowledge.

We were shocked and outraged that we had not heard any of this medical information until after our court date. Certainly they have an obligation to inform parents when the medical condition of the child changes materially after referral—and changes to such a degree that the child no longer falls within our approved Home Study parameters. Perinatal encephalopathy indicates brain disease, and seizure disorder obviously has very serious connotations. Our obvious question was, “Has Thomas been having seizures at Hannah’s Hope?” – because certainly presence of seizures would shed a lot of light on the somewhat obscure doctor’s reports we’d just seen. It would also certainly put Thomas in a special needs category, which was beyond our Home Study parameters. AGCI consistently responded with reassurances that Thomas had not had any seizures while at Hannah’s Hope (he had been there approximately 7-8 weeks by this time). AGCI downplayed the doctor visits, brain scans, anti-convulsant and diagnosis of brain disease and repeatedly assured us that Thomas was not special needs and had never had a seizure at Hannah’s Hope. We understood from them that he must have had one seizure sometime after birth, but before arriving at Hannah’s Hope –and none since arriving there. Further, our case worker had been in Addis Ababa for a few weeks already and certainly she would tell us if Thomas was not the healthy child they had referred to us.

We felt confused and shocked. Because Thomas already was legally our son, and because we relied specifically on AGCI’s representations of his good condition and lack of any seizures in their care, we felt as if we had to move forward and bring him home. Further, we were aware that if we backed out of the adoption at this point, Thomas would never be adopted again and we couldn’t adopt another child from Ethiopia. And we had already spent tens of thousands of dollars and had no clear understanding that we’d get it back if we backed out.

Just over one week before travel (and after we had purchased our plane tickets), we received another call from AGCI, asking us to amend our Home Study to include “special needs” as part of our approved parameters. We were floored again – this request signified a clear move into a category that we never intended to be in, nor did we consent to. It also was a category in which AGCI consistently assured us that Thomas was not.

In response to our concerns, AGCI again assured us that Thomas was not considered a special needs child. AGCI said the addendum only was needed because the United States Embassy would see Thomas’s medical information and could deny or delay his visa because the information indicated that Thomas was not within our approved parameters. According to AGCI, this was just a step to avoid bureaucratic delays and did not mean in any way that Thomas had special needs.

Again, because Thomas already was legally ours, we felt as if AGCI left us no choice but to amend our home study so we could get him home as soon as possible. AGCI had repeatedly assured us that Thomas had not had seizures in their care, and we trusted their repeated assurances of his good health. We felt as if we were boxed in – trust AGCI or the whole adoption could fall through. Initially, our home study caseworker did not agree to the proposed addendum because we never discussed special needs, nor had we undergone any special needs training. After discussions with AGCI, our home study caseworker only agreed to amend our parameters to include developmental delays, “minor special needs” and “possible seizure activity.” And this agreement only was made in response to AGCI’s direct and clear statements to our Home Study caseworker that Thomas had never had a seizure at Hannah’s Hope, nor was he considered to be special needs. AGCI specifically said that they “in no way considered Thomas to be special needs.” Without any other choice, we trusted AGCI’s characterization of this amendment as purely a way to avoid possible Embassy delays – not an acknowledgment that our initial parameters had changed. We definitely didn’t want to get hung up in Addis Ababa and have to wait another week or two for the Embassy to complete the paperwork. And we also didn’t want to incur additional flight costs to change our plane tickets.

We travelled to Addis Ababa on July 13, 2009. We were already nervous because of the recent turn of events. When all the families met with Almaz the first morning, she went around and mentioned how wonderfully the children were doing (all of them by name), but failed to mention Thomas----which was very unsettling to us. After that meeting and just before meeting Thomas, Almaz pulled us aside and assured us that he was doing wonderfully and, in response to our question about the seizures, said he had never had a seizure in their care. As she said repeatedly during our stay, she thought we were the “right family” for Thomas. However, within hours of first meeting Thomas, it became very evident that he was not the child that AGCI had consistently described. Although Thomas is now about nine months old, he cannot hold his head up – he is floppy like a two or three month old baby. Thomas cannot suck. We discovered that AGCI had been essentially feeding him by pouring milk down the back of his throat from an open cup. This was shocking to see. Thomas also could not lock eyes. For most of the time, he seemed to be in his own world. He was “present” only minutes of each day.
Additionally, within hours of returning to the hotel with Thomas the first day (after our Embassy visit), he had his first seizure in our presence. It was a visible seizure that involved repeated spasms. We later found out that this type of seizure is known as infantile spasms, where his arms fly up, his legs also jerk up at the same time, and his eyes roll back. This usually continues for 3-10 minutes, with a few or several seconds in between each spasm. This is not something you can’t notice as a seizure. From day one, it has occurred probably three to six times a day and lasts several minutes.

We were in shock. We immediately started tracking Thomas’s every move, calling our doctors back in the States to alert them to this situation and trying to figure out how we got in this position. We told Almaz that Thomas had been having seizures, and she replied that the Special Mothers “keep saying that he does that…” And when Thomas had a seizure at the cultural dinner, in front of the other adoptive families, Almaz did not act surprised or concerned. She did not even get out of her chair and come over to us. She simply said as we were leaving that we are the right family for Thomas and that God is good.

We spent most of our remaining time in Ethiopia in our hotel room, processing what was happening. We felt as if we had been dropped into a situation that we never considered or agreed to. Almaz, on the other hand, refused to acknowledge our situation – we felt like the pink elephant in the room. And just before we left for the airport, three Special Mothers (his night nurses) came to say goodbye to Thomas – only Thomas. They too knew he was “special,” and kept saying “God Bless You.” His spasms generally occur when he is coming out of sleep so they must have seen him suffer and were so happy that he was going to get help. It seemed that everyone at Hannah’s Hope was aware of his condition---but nobody bothered to tell us.
Thomas continued to have seizures and feeding issues throughout our flight home. Although our three biological children were anxiously awaiting our arrival with balloons, signs and cake, we rushed Thomas to our physician within a couple of hours after our 21-hour flight. Our physician recommended immediate hospital admission, and Thomas spent his first week in the States as an inpatient at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin’s epilepsy unit. He has been diagnosed with infantile spasms resulting from significant brain damage from birth. This is a serious type of infantile epilepsy that is hard to treat and carries a very poor prognosis. Thomas’s brain damage was caused by a severe lack of oxygen (5-10 minutes) during delivery. He also has significant vision issues (near blindness). He has severe special needs and a serious, chronic medical condition. He may never walk or talk – he may never really be “present.” He likely will never go to a regular school, and we’ve been told that he cannot even attend any type of daycare without a personal nurse. Although he has the clusters of spasms probably three to six times a day, most of the rest of the day he is having electrical activity in his brain that causes him to have involuntary reflexes, involuntary laughing/smiling episodes, periods of spaciness. In essence, he is in his own world, which makes it very difficult to bond with him.

How could no one have noticed Thomas’s special needs? Where was our caseworker during this time? Why didn’t we know about the neurological testing and diagnosis prior to our court date? Given the visibility and frequency of Thomas’s seizures, it is impossible to believe they went unnoticed (assuming only three seizures episodes a day, for the approximate 70 days he was at Hannah’s Hope, he would have had 210 seizure episodes that went totally unnoticed!). Given the cause of the seizures (brain damage at birth), it is impossible to believe that they started the very day that they handed him to us in Addis Ababa. And given his significant delays, lack of focus (ability to see) and inability to be “present” for much time each day, along with his treatment as “special” by the Special Mothers and Almaz’s behavior/comments, it is impossible to believe that AGCI did not consider him special needs from the time he arrived at Hannah’s Hope.

Please pray for Thomas as we process this situation, and please consider this information as you examine your own referral and dealings with AGCI. We believe that AGCI unfairly and deliberately placed a child with severe special needs (and a lifetime of very expensive care) into our unprepared family. Now we are caught in an unthinkable situation – and our entire family is heartbroken. Honestly, how could something like this happen? We’re still waiting for an explanation.

Shane and Michelle Frazier

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Some struggles

Well, I really do want to finish our trip posts and tell you more about life at home but I seem to be having a hard time keeping my head above the water lately. Little Olivia didn't seem to get the memo in Ethiopia that her new family are extremely good sleepers and we highly value it......nope, Olivia seems to only want to sleep in 2 hour intervals which puts a bit of a damper on things. We are all doing fine and we are getting through it with some good advice from our international pediatrician and friends who have adopted before us. Just know that when you check my blog, or expect a call or email, or expect me to be anywhere on time, you might be waiting for a while since I might be taking a nap:) And please don't expect us to be wearing clean clothes since I am not sure when the last time I had the energy to do laundry!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Baby Dedication and more

We had Olivia dedicated two Sundays ago and I wanted to post about it before too much time passed. Jackson of course tried to steal the show when our pastor handed Paul the microphone so that he could read our letter/prayer to Olivia. Jackson grabbed the mic and said " I WANT TO HOLD THE MICROPHONE!" I almost died right there! I thought this is gonna be REALLY bad, and in front of the whole church.....but Jackson just held the microphone up to Paul's mouth as he read....sometimes it was a little too close and that was funny but at least he didn't try to speak in it himself or throw a huge tantrum. Everyone thought it was hilarious and I really wish we would have taped it. I dressed Olivia in her cultural dress that most Ethiopian children are baptized in. Little Miss Olivia didn't let her brother have all the fun as she tried to turn herself upside down while I held her the entire time. She would just lean all the way back and smile and wave at the congregation. What can I say? I have little hams for children. All in all it went really well and everyone thought they both did really well up at the front.







Stealing the mic

helping daddy




Olivia Shataye,

It is our prayer for you to find favor in the Lord and grow up to be a humble servant for Him with a compassionate heart for others. As your parents we will strive to teach you about God's commandments and promises. We are so thankful that God has brought you into our family and we will always tell you of His great love for you. We love you very much and will always be there to love and support you. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD. Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Love,
Mom and Dad




We also have been going out to test out the waters with two kids.....Let me tell you it is much different that just one. When I am by myself I am quickly reminded that they outnumber me! Here are some pictures of us at a jumpy bounce house place and from Jackson's swim lessons. He ended up being the best in his class at the end and he was one of the youngest since the class was for 2-4 year olds. That is awesome since the only thing he wanted to do at the beginning of the summer was sit on the step of the pool.

First day of swim lessons.....do you see the excitement?

blowing bubbles


jumping in!

climbing the ladder

watching brother


mmm this dinosaur sure is tasty



enough mom!!

cookie bouquet from paul's work

Jackson eating his big brother cookie

sliding down the big slide

what a cute kid she is