Famous Last Words

Our Adoption Journey to Haiti

Promises October 16, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — rgraham100 @ 5:47 pm

PROMISES

We launched this blog 4.5 years ago. The last line in the opening blog post read, “We ask for your prayers and your encouragement as we go through this process over the next 2-3 years.”  Wasn’t that adorable? We thought this adoption would take 2-3 years.

 

Here we are. Nearly 5 years later. And over the past few months, I have felt compelled to share with you the real story that has been written in our lives.

 

Our family has the most amazing community. We get to do life with people from diverse backgrounds who don’t always share the same beliefs. For our cherished friends and family who do not share our faith, this is a story about God…so this post is going to get a little bit churchy. And it’s long (fair warning).

 

This whole journey began in August 2012 not out of some desire to “rescue a child” or “do the right thing.” It was not even our idea.  I’ve had the opportunity to tell this story 2,689 times and every time I do, it is just bizarre. It was literally a “feeling” (Christian code word for this is a “calling”) I had on an airplane. I felt that God was telling me that we should adopt a child. Again, weird, I know.

 

We knew nothing about adoption. We had never considered it. But we knew without a shadow of a doubt that God was driving this – and that we damn well better get on board.

 

So in the Bible, God makes all these promises to people. Big deal things, like “wait on me, and I’ll give you strength,” or “if you get tired, I will help you endure,” or “just call out to me and I will answer you.” Pretty compelling stuff.

 

Someone very early in this journey told me, “hold onto God’s promises, because this is a long and messy road and some days, His promises will be all you have.” We have heard that once your adopted child is home is when things get really complicated. So this wait apparently is just the beginning of that messy road. Awesome.

 

Anyhow, I want to share with you just some of the ways God has showed up and kept His promises throughout this adoption, because I get goose bumps every time I think about it and my cousin recently told me, “you’ve got to write this stuff down.”

 

$$

One of the most obvious, tangible ways God showed up is by providing us with the financial resources to fund not only the adoption, but also seven trips to Haiti in two years to bond with Jonathan.

At the earliest stages of our adoption, someone told me that if God is really behind this, the money will come.

Patrick and I have been completely overwhelmed by the generosity of friends and family. For example:

  • Several years ago, Patrick found a mysterious envelope under the windshield wiper of his car.  He assumed it was perhaps a mistaken drug dealer’s payment (naturally). Of course, he opened the envelope and inside was $600+ cash with a tiny torn up piece of paper with a scribbled note that read, “God bless your adoption”
  • Or the time I was super stressed about money and an envelope arrived in the mail from a family member with the total amount of cash we needed to make the final payment on our adoption
  • Or Patrick’s high school friend’s mom who paid for our hotel on our vacation so we could save our money for the adoption
  • Or the friend who bought Patrick and I first-class tickets on our first trip to Haiti
  • Or our neighbor’s children who host lemonade stands to raise money for the adoption
  • I literally could go on and on – we have probably 100+ of these stories

 

Strength

I have heard from hundreds of people, “I couldn’t do it” or “I don’t know how you do it”. The reality is, I am not doing it.  If I had to muster up the strength to ride out the emotional coaster that we have been on the past several years, forget it. I am pretty pathetic. I cannot handle seeing an elephant in captivity at the zoo. I can’t even watch my son pitch in a baseball game without wanting to vomit. I certainly could not manage the turmoil of a Haitian adoption. Seriously, when I:

  • Was afraid I had dragged Patrick, Noah, and Brady down a rabbit hole of financial stress and emotional despair
  • Listened to people who questioned our decision – is this real-what if your agency is scamming you?  Why don’t you adopt from the US (that’s a whole ‘nother blog post)?
  • Had so much anger and bitterness inside that I literally wanted to crawl out of my skin
  • Couldn’t even walk into our church without tearing up because I was certain God had forgotten about our son in Haiti….God, in a number of different but very real ways, gave me a peace that is completely and undeniably from Him.

 

Community

I recently turned 40. And my husband threw me an amazing birthday party in our backyard. Toward the end of the evening when the sun had already gone down and the candles were lit, we all gathered around the birthday cakes (he made 5, because that is how he rolls) and friends and family sang happy birthday.  And as I looked around our backyard (this goes back to me being pathetic), I literally had to will myself not to fall to pieces because of the overwhelming feeling of gratitude for our community. Our friends and family who:

  • Traveled to Haiti with us and were eye-witnesses to some of my family’s most vulnerable moments. We had 12 friends and family members travel with us. That is a lot of money, time, and emotional energy – not to mention the post-trip gastrointestinal troubles many faced.
  • Sat with us (okay, me) while we cried over lost time with our son
  • Drove us to the airport… every single trip. Even at 4 a.m.
  • Stayed up all night with a very-anxious Noah the night before his parents left him for a 15-day trip to Haiti

We have so many stories of people that God has planted in our lives who have carried us through the bad and celebrated the victories.

 

So there it is. This isn’t a story about the Wicklines. Or our son in Haiti.  This is a story of the promises that God makes and how He keeps them. And if you want to know more about this God who shows up EVERY TIME, let me know.  By the way, the God I am referring to loves all people – gay, straight, white, brown…you name it. In fact, His son Jesus, while here on earth hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors – He was and is very cool. He roots for the underdog, loves the weak. He is not a harsh, exclusionary dictator. Sorry (not sorry) for getting political (it is my blog after all:))

 

Jonathan will be home soon. And things will be hard. Can somebody please remind me of His promises?

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Final thoughts…trip 7 October 8, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — rgraham100 @ 1:00 am

My creative blog titles are a reflection of my fatigue.  These last couple days have been a blur. J did great during his first major excursion outside the orphanage. His favorite things, like so many of us, were eating at the restaurant, baths, and Netflix.  

I’d say the biggest challenge was sleeping. He’d “sleep” for about 11 hours, which was great. But for most of those hours he was rubbing my head, rubbing his feet on my legs…tracking me down wherever I would try to go in the bed. I literally curled up in a ball at the foot of the bed, desparate for sleep…he found me.  Needless to say, the current plan is to move him directly into his bed when he gets home.  No co-sleeping for bonding purposes….or I will never make it.

We were supposed to meet our driver today at 11am.  He showed up right on Haitian time-11:45.  He didn’t know how to get the orphanage and told me he was counting on me to help.  I sometimes get lost leaving my neighborhood, so the idea of me navigating the streets of Port-au-Prince is hilarious.  The one time he made a turn and I insisted he was wrong, of course I was wrong.

We dropped off J and hung out with several of our favorite kids. We headed back to the hotel around 3. 

Tonight we hired a driver to take us to a restaurant that overlooks the entire city-crazy beautiful views and amazing food.  While I will miss J, I am hoping to get some sleep tonight😴

 

J October 6, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — rgraham100 @ 6:51 pm

This trip has definitely been a learning experience. Here is what we have learned so far:

-Jonathan loves meat. And potatoes. He’s basically a Midwesterner.  He passes on fruit and vegetables.  So he is also basically a Wickline (except he doesn’t eat dessert).

– He was not at all afraid to get into the pool, as long as he can cling to me or dad.  We can also count on him wanting to get out of the pool once we finally get used to the water (and vice versa-the second we are dry it is time to get back in).

-He addresses dad and Brady as “poppy” and “Noah” no matter how many times we correct him.

-He is sort of a nightmare to share a bed with because of his constant twisting and turning.

-He’s not afraid to bark orders at the servers (we will have some work to do at home).

-He wants to go to bed around 5 pm, so we have to do some serious entertaining to keep him going until at least 7:30 pm to avoid a 5am wake up call.

– His go-to show on Netflix is Ninjago…it appears he has Brady’s eclectic taste in terrible kids tv.

-He loves to laugh; constantly wants to be held or hold hands-both awesome signs of a  happy, healthy future for this little guy.

 

Trip 7 October 5, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — rgraham100 @ 11:08 am

We were not planning on taking another trip to Haiti before homecoming, but given our looong stay in MOI we decided to take one more trip before we brought him home.

We did not want there to be such a long stretch between our last visit and homecoming.

Brady, my dad  and i arrived last night. We had smooth travels and made it through the Haitian airport in record speed (about 15 minutes to get through customs, baggage, and find our ride).

We arrived at our hotel around 6, enjoyed some Haitian cuisine, watched my favorite baseball team, and went to bed.

We pick up J this morning at the Orlando bring him back to the hotel with us! More to come….

 

Passports October 3, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — rgraham100 @ 5:01 pm

We learned today that Jonathan’s file has been officially submitted to passports. We also learned that we had the distinct honor of being a family with one of the longest wait times in MOI (the phase we just exited) our adoption coordinator has ever seen😐

So when do we get to bring him home you ask? Who knows!  Most families trend anywhere from 6-8 weeks from the time they enter passports until homecoming. But we like to mosey through each phase. We are praying for homecoming before Christmas because I don’t think my heart can take one more Christmas without my baby home.

In other good news, Brady, my dad and I head to Haiti this week for a quick visit.

 

Pillar of Patience August 11, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — rgraham100 @ 2:18 pm

I recently received a work-related email from a prospective donor that our fundraising team has been pursuing for months.  In the email, she called our team a “pillar of patience”…I had to laugh because that could literally be my personal theme song.

I had no idea that the capacity to wait and pursue could coexist for so long.  Waiting has been the undertone to our family’s way of life for a long time.

We are 54 months into the adoption process….. still waiting.  I am not even sure anyone still reads this blog because really, is this kid ever coming home?:)

I think about what has happened in the past 54 months.  Our boys at home have grown up – they are no longer the little people they used to be.  Our dogs are old.  We bought a house.  We lost a parent.  Ohio State won a national championship.  I got in a car accident and a tattoo.  Patrick’s facial hair is little more gray. We’ve spent more time in Haiti than we ever imagined.

Life just moves on….while we sometimes gracefully and sometimes not pursue our son who lives 1300 miles away.

We’ve have some forward movement in our adoption since I last blogged.  On May 31, we received J’s adoption decree, which means he is legally ours.  But we still have more waiting to do before he comes home.

We are currently in a phase called MOI.  The timeline for MOI is 8-12 weeks.  We have been waiting more than 10 weeks.  If history repeats itself in terms of our other timelines with this adoption, I suspect we will wait at least the full 12 weeks, if not more.

Once we get through MOI, we will enter passports.  We will wait 6-8 weeks to receive his passport (I am expecting to wait more:))

And once we have his passport, we need visa and immigration approval.  I don’t think this is supposed to take very long.

We believe 2017 is the year we will bring J home.

 

Perspective March 20, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — rgraham100 @ 5:12 pm

Every trip to Haiti has looked and felt different.  I’ve learned so much over the past 16 months.  It was such a joy to be able to experience J’s home country with Jen, Colleen, and Erin.  Every night after we would return to the hotel from the orphanage, we would sit outside to eat dinner and talk for hours about our adventures that day.

We all admittedly know absolutely nothing about the country and could not even begin to scratch the surface on the complexities of its history, current conditions, or the future prospect of its people.

I wanted to share with you the perspective of each woman on the trip in their own voice…

Colleen-

Great Expectations vs Reality: 

INFANT/TODDLER ROOM:  In retrospect, I was not at all properly prepared for my time in the infant/toddler room.  Without realizing it at the time, I now see that I was envisioning a church nursery set-up where I’d be rocking sleepy, snuggly newborns who have that new baby smell with soft music playing in the background.  As a parent who has had 3 kids in a daycare setting, I also anticipated some kind of tracking system for which kids were in the room, who had eaten and who hadn’t, and a secure door to keep the children contained.  Let’s compare these expectations to the realities I experienced:

(1)  Instead of lullabies there was talk radio playing in French/Creole.  (silver lining – the babies and toddlers are hearing words/sounds)

(2)  Instead of rocking chairs there were a few toddler sized plastic chairs.  (silver lining – at least some of the kids had places to sit other than the floor)

(3) Instead of the sweet newborn baby smell there was a smell of urine as the babies/toddlers were in cloth diapers primarily rather than disposable diapers and unfortunately many of those cloth diapers were soiled. (silver lining – ummmm, hmmmmm, well, cloth diapers are better for the environment??!?)

(4)  The door to the infant/toddler room was sometimes closed/locked and sometimes left opened/unlocked so the babies/toddlers often could come and go from the room into the hallway as they wished.  There was no tracking system that I saw for keeping track of who should be there and/or who had eaten and/or who had been changed.  This was such a shock to my Type A personality.  (silver linings – (1) the freedom of mobility seems to have led to good physical development in most of the children – lots of kids were crawling, creeping, walking and even a 5 month old and a 6 month old were both already sitting up on their own.  (2)  The open/unlocked door to the infant/toddler room allowed many of the older kids to come in the room and interact with the little ones and help the nannies – this was heartwarming to see; (3) perhaps the nannies just know “their” 18-20 kids all so well that they don’t need lists and tracking forms any more than I need one for my own kids at home.)

(5)  Kids as young as probably 9 months old had already begun pushing other kids away who came near them when they were being fed for fear that the other child would take their food.  This was heart-breaking to see.  (silver lining – hmmm, another hard one, I guess the kids have good situational awareness and are learning to stick-up for themselves??).

One last note on the infant/toddler room – the nannies in that room in particular have an amazingly difficult job.  While some things were surprising to me or maybe not the way I would do it, these women clearly love these children and work very hard.  Additionally, seeing the older kids love on these little kids too was so encouraging and sweet.  Most importantly, in general, the babies/toddlers were happy and playful and very physically capable!

SOCCER:  God had laid on my heart to spend some time playing soccer with the big kids during my time in Haiti so I was thankful when the opportunity presented itself on Saturday.  I’ve played soccer in some pretty poor parts of Brazil before so I thought I was definitely prepared for this.  I expected to play in dusty dirt.  I expected to have make-shift goals.  I expected to see some kids playing in non-soccer shoes and I expected many kids to just be playing in bare feet.  I wasn’t too far off with these expectations but I still had some surprises.  We did play on a dusty dirt field and the kids did have make-shift goals (but they were full sized goals)!  I did see kids playing in whatever shoes they had and many played in bare feet.  But I was still surprised to see kids playing (effectively!) in flip-flops and also surprised to see another kid playing in tall, rubber rain boots!  One child actually had a good pair of soccer cleats and a second child did too but his cleats had no laces at all (yet somehow he could run in them?!).  The most surprising situation however, was the child playing with one soccer cleat on and one bare foot!!!  What??!?!  It didn’t seem to bother him in the least but that kind of unevenness would drive this woman crazy.  LOL!

It’s worth mentioning that these soccer boys were so sweet and they welcomed me with open arms to play with them.  We had such a fun game and scored lots of goals on both teams so there was lots of celebrating which was super fun.  Also, I think the hearts of these boys was really on display when I did a head ball and my sunglasses broke and immediately a group of boys all came running over to help fix it!  It was so nice and they were able to pop my lens back in and fix my glasses.   The boy who actually fixed it was so proud of himself and so excited to show me!  It was a sweet, sweet moment.

HANGING OUT:  The other thing that I realized I was expecting was a big central area for hanging out.  I guess I was envisioning an area with couches and shelves with games and toys and puzzles and books.  There was nothing like that at the orphanage – at least that I saw.  In fact, I only saw one book the entire time I was at the orphanage which really breaks my heart because reading is such a huge part of my own children’s life. I’m hopeful there are maybe books in the kids’ bedrooms or at their school that I just didn’t see.  I’m also not sure I saw any toys or activities other than the ones we brought and the indoor/outdoor playgrounds.  But consistent with Becky’s past trips, we used the 3rd floor balcony as a central hang out place to spend time with the children and of course, we spent lots of time outside too!  This worked out great but just wasn’t quite what I had initially envisioned.

Erin-

My highlights:
-From my perspective, the most significant impact that Rocky (our driver) had on our trip was the revelation that we could buy food from the street vendors – thereby feeding the kids at the orphanage (with food they wanted to eat) and supporting many hard-working women (and men). Thinking of the lady from whom we purchased 150 meals, we paid her, which fed her family, some of whom were working with her. To fulfill our order, she had to buy extra food and supplies, which supported others in the chain. Even if this business school lesson had occurred to me at the time, I never would have felt comfortable to act on it without Rocky. Such a practical, win-win and I loved it.
Low points:
-Obviously, the kids we encountered live vastly different than most kids I know. Though they live more in want than in plenty in physical terms, the most striking disparity is their connection to family. The only time I choked back tears was when a girl flung her arms around me in such an obvious “I never get hugged” way. There were lots of hugs over the trip, but this was the one that stood out as symbolic of the craving for attention and love. I do not think the orphanage is void of love and emotional connection, but the dynamics are certainly not the same as a family setting. I’m not sure what was more heartbreaking – the four-month old infant I held or the 17 year old who is about to step out into the world.

 

Jen-

If I were to give advice to anyone going to any 3rd world country I would say, you are going to see things that are completely foreign and maybe unimaginable in the bubble we have lived in, however, some things are different – but not necessarily completely wrong. I’m also reminded of a quote I’ve heard attributed to Mr. Rogers (yes, the one we watched growing up!). I’m paraphrasing – he said his mother always told him if he was in an emergency situation he should always look for the helpers – the police, the doctors, the strangers that help each other. I wish on this trip I would have focused on that more. I wish I would have focused more on the smiles and the laughter versus the other. In retrospect I see the helpers and the good, but I wish I could have seen it more when I was in Haiti.

 

 

 
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