from HERE we go

So, what's next in our family's adoption journey, now that we're officially pursuing our China adoption?

Let me give you the run-down:

--we're still finishing our home study, but once a completed draft is submitted to AWAA for review, we will then submit our application to pursue the adoption of an infant boy from China's Waiting Children Program (WCP).

--once our home study is completed and approved by AWAA, we will then submit an I-800a application with USCIS (USCIS is the agency that ok's the US Consulate in China to issue a visa to our son)

--how does the WCP work? A list of children in this program is published monthly by China's CCAA. Once it is published, agencies match families with children on this list...although, the process is a little more complex than I just described.

--once we receive, review and accept the referral for our son, we will then submit a Letter of Intent (LOI) to China. This essentially is a contract between our family & China to move forward with this child's adoption.

--after our LOI is submitted to the CCAA, we then wait for the CCAA to issues us a Letter of Approval (LOA), or Pre-Approval (PA). This is the initial approval for us to be our son's adoptive family.

--finally, we will wait for our Travel Approval (TA). This is our final approval, which clears us to travel to China to finalize our son's adoption...and bring him HOME!

--apply for Micah's passport somewhere along the way (yes, Lord-willing, he'll be traveling with us to get little brother)!

So how quick will all this happen? It's hard to say exactly, but we feel pretty confident it could all take place before the end of the year (smiles ear-to-ear)!!


another milestone!

365 days ago, TODAY,
we landed on US soil with Micah! He really did amazing on the flights home. I'd say he slept close to 95% of the 15+ hour flight from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to DC. It had been an exhausting week for him, and, he was not feeling well at all (that pesky transitional home upper resp infection). Every time he woke up, we fed him a bottle, changed his diaper...then back to sleep. However, I would be remiss if I didn't elaborate on the diaper part...heh heh! On our international flight, we were seated in a bulk-head row so we could use a bassinet for Micah. Well, this particular row happened to be right behind business class. Let me just say, those poor people did NOT get their money's-worth on that flight! Micah had the worst (and I mean WORST) smelling poop ever!! Everyone around us was gagging and covering their heads. I'm so not exaggerating. The man next to me actually placed his eye mask over his nose and mouth. Although I'm not sure if it was Micah's aroma or Micah's nasty cough that prompted him to be so resourceful...or, maybe both.

Micah asleep in his bassinet on Ethiopian Airlines

Worn-out daddy...poor Micah had no idea that he was about to touch-down on the other side of the world (I still have a tinge of sadness when I think about moment--taking my son from his birth country).

Our first night at home. Micah's cough had gotten much worse at this point--uncontrollable coughing spasms. I was afraid to leave his side--so I kept him by mine all night. I was so ready to hop in the car and drive him to the ER! I vividly remember telling Vince that "we didn't go through all this, only for him not to live through his first night home". I was tired & scared! So Vince called a friend/physician/adoptive-ET dad who was able to calm my nerves.
(BTW, this is where Micah slept his first few nights home...then he moved to a papasan in our room...then to a pallet on our floor...then to the couch, with me on the other...then, finally, to his crib in his room!)

Welcome'd-Home at the airport by Mimi, Papa & the cousins.
...now tell me, again, where am I?? and who are all these white people???


you say tomato, God says...CHINA

Huh, you say?
Let me explain. And, I'm going to try to make a long-story short.

We submitted our application to adopt from China in July 2007. Due to the significantly increased wait-time, we chose to pursue a concurrent adoption from Ethiopia. Micah Yoseph came home March 2009. While we journeyed our Ethiopia adoption, we often pondered what our China adoption would ultimately look like. Some where during 2008/2009, Vince and I came to a point of certainty, that our China adoption would lead us to a special need infant boy.

Our agency permits families to start the paper-chase for a subsequent adoption six-months after the placement of a child/ren from the previous adoption. Vince and I prayed about what would be next for our family. At that point, it looked like we would have enough time to complete a second Ethiopia adoption, without interfering with our China adoption.

Ethiopia is rooted deep in our hearts for many reasons...the need, the amazing culture, the opportunities to work with orphans/at-risk children while in Ethiopia, the camaraderie of Ethiopia-adoptive families...and on, and on!! We were very eager to return. And, it appeared that the wait for our referral would be less than our wait for Micah. Just makes sense, right? It did to us.

We re-applied to AWAA's Ethiopia program in Oct 2009, and applied to start our home study Nov 2009.

Well, almost six-months later, our home study lingers on. Our two previous home studies I cranked-out in less than three-months.

Many of you remember that several weeks ago, Ethiopia announced some new changes to their program. These changes weren't impossible to manage, but they did introduce some new financial and logistical obsticals. That said, Vince and I felt very compelled to pause and evaluate our current situation. To avoid boring you with even more details, here's the jist of what we felt God telling us...


Let me say, we have NO hesitation about Ethiopia's changes. They are good changes---and, these changes are even temporarily on-hold right now. Did we not have a pending China adoption, we'd still be full-steam ahead! But here's the reality for our family:

-ET's changes appear to increase the time-frame to complete an adoption (...who really knows??)
-a large number of families on China's waiting list have either adopted special needs, or pulled-out of the program all together, meaning the wait for our referral might not be as long as expected...so, a longer Ethiopia process could cause us to forfeit our China adoption
-there are many boys in China with minor special needs who need a family now

Just makes sense, right??!!

So, we are back full-force in the China program...and we are thrilled!! God has given us total peace! You might consider our decision as a lack of faith, but I can assure you, it's HUGE leap of faith. But we are certain this is God's direction for our family.

So, Baby Judah is coming from Asia. Ahhh, and it's God's sense of humor that we are fund-raising with t-shirts that have the continent of Africa on them. I just am thankful that God has given us the wisdom to be flexible. We still love Africa. We still need to raise funds to complete our China adoption. And, a portion of our t-shirt donations will still go toward play-ground equipment for Kind Hearts in Ethiopia.

So, what's next?
Complete our home study, submit our waiting-child application, and file our I-800a. No crazy dossier junk--it's already in China (whoot)! We hope to have all this completed by May, and we could expect our referral for Baby Judah realistically by the end of the summer.

Those of you who go way-back with us, know that we were actually in China when God planted the seed of adoption in our hearts!!

A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Ish 40:3-4

adoption tax credit IMPROVED!!

Most of you have already heard the news about the adoption tax credit legislation this week -- and are REJOICING, no doubt -- but for those interested in more details, read below:

From the Christian Alliance for Orphans Blog:

Amidst the intense controversy of the health care bill signed into law by President Obama yesterday, there’s at least one provision every orphan advocate can cheer. The adoption tax credit was preserved for another year...and increased in value!

To encourage and support adoption, the adoption tax credit was expanded by President Bush and Congress in 2001. This increased the value of the credit from $5,000 to $10,000, and indexed it for inflation (meaning the credit would increase each year to keep up with inflation.) For 2010, its value had risen to $12,170. However, the 2001 increase was scheduled to “sunset” at the end of 2010. This would mean that any adoptions finalized after December 31, 2010 would be eligible for—at most—a credit of only $5,000.

This sunset has now been extended one year. That means that it will need to be extended again before the end of 2011. For the present, however, this extension comes as very welcome news for families considering adoption or in the adoption process.

Specifically, the provisions contained in the health care bill include:

•The current adoption tax credit has been extended until the end of 2011;
•The value of the adoption tax credit has been increased from $12,170 to $13,170.
•The increase is “retroactive,” meaning that any adoption occurring after January 1, 2010 is eligible for this higher credit.
•The credit is now refundable. This means that even families that owe zero taxes can receive the full tax credit in the form of a tax refund to help with their adoption-related expenses.

To read the bill itself, click here and read page 903 of 906.

This HUGE!!!!! Especially for families like our's!! Because Vince is an ordained minister, he's considered self-employed, which means we have a low federal income tax liability -- we pay self-employment tax instead & the credit does not count toward SE tax. So, with our second adoption we will be able to apply for the refund, and get to benefit from the adoption tax credit!! Yay!!!



Our last photo, as just the Martin-2!
Meeting Micah Yoseph!!
This moment was...surreal. Still not sure how to put it into words!!
Wow!! Looking at the '09 & today's pics remind me what a blurr this past year has been!! Where have the days gone?? Our sweet baby is a...little boy!!
(Thanks, Stephanie Allums, for taking this awesome pic on a moments-notice!!)

We had a fun day! Low-key. The high-light was taking Micah to Jason's Deli (he loves the free ice cream). I ordered him a PB&J--one of his favorites. We prayed, and started to eat when the crocodile tears began to flow. I had no idea what could be wrong!! Thought maybe he bit his tongue; but, the tears kept coming. So then we ran for the ice cream. Still...tears. In a last ditch effort before tossing our food in to-go boxes, I gave Micah an artichoke off my pizza. Smiles. Are you kidding me?? Yuck! I was actually going to pick them off. Poor Micah...all he wanted was our pizza---I guess his feelings were hurt because he got stuck with PB&J. Poor fella! But, that's our Micah!! Never a dull moment!!

On another note, we received a piece of mail that's been floating around the postal system since our move. The letter was from the Child Survival Program in Ethiopia (CSP) that we support through Compassion International. It included a message from a disabled mother (a Believer) in Wolisso, Ethiopia who is receiving assistance from CI's program and thanked us for helping to keep her family together. What a sweet, sweet day to get to read her words of thankfulness! We know it's was God's perfect plan for Micah to be permanently grafted into our family, but we have a deep desire to help at-risk families! The note included a pic of this mother with her daughter...priceless...Kept Ya Day!


unexpectedly overwhelmed

One day til Micah's 1st Gotcha Day anniversary!

I am caught off-guard by the emotion whelming up inside as I think about our trip to Ethiopia to pick-up Micah. One year ago yesterday, we woke up in the city of Addis Ababa. I was actually awakened by the ever-strong smell of burning coal. Most people in the capital city cook with coal (and burn incense as well). And not to mention the noise from traffic, people moving about on the streets, and dogs barking and prowling. We were 24-hours away from meeting Micah Yoseph.

I spoke with a sweet friend Friday who has been home with her sweet Anna from China for about 2 months. We discussed that how even after 2 months home, she and her husband have yet to mentally process their trip and time in China. They still look at each other, amazed, and ask “what just happened?” – Vince and I relate to that in every aspect! I think I can safely say that, I as well, have yet to process our trip to Ethiopia…but, maybe I am ready.

The emotion I’m feeling is partly from the sweet memories of holding our son for the first time – but, I think it more-strongly flows from remembering God’s faithfulness throughout our first adoption journey. He moved some serious mountains. And not only in our adoption process, but He moved mountains in our hearts as well! He brought low the mountains of self-sufficiency and distrust.

I look forward to revisiting our trip to Ethiopia here on our blog this week. I hope you'll follow along -- and I especially hope you'll check back toward the end of the week. We have some exciting updates with our second adoption, and I'm looking forward to sharing the details very soon!

Landing in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia--our son's birth country!

Here's our room at Yebsabi Guest House , complete with a...CRIB! Oh boy, did reality start sinking in! Are you feeling the giddiness?


where, oh where, are the martins? in the bathroom??

Well, life continues to be chaotic. And I hate that. Personal chaos conflicts with personal holiness. It's suppose to be crazy out there, but not in here...our lives, and our home. Guess it's mostly my fault. Lack of discipline. Lack of organization. Micah will have been home 1-year on 3.28.2010, but I still haven't found my groove (and throw a move into the mix--not good), and I'm afraid when I do find it, it will be time for Micah's brother/sister to come home. Craziness, but I love it. And am thankful for it!

We are enjoying our new home (still renting), but out favorite part is that we're only 2 miles from our church/Vince's office. And Micah hasn't skipped a beat with the move either--I wondered if he might get a little anxious about a new, permanent environment--but he's done great!

And speaking of Micah, (now 19-months) he is showing interest in the potty. I totally was not prepared for potty-training this early. I was thinking maybe by 2 he'd be ready--but I think he's ready now. Yikes! Suggestions, PLEASE!! A friend told me tonight that if I don't capitalize on his interest, it might bite me later. I certainly don't want to buy pull-ups until he's 4!!


Ethiopia Makes Changes- update

Not much note-worthy to report from our conference call with our agency today. They've told us as much as they know, but many of the details will continue to be hazy until families actually complete adoptions under the new protocol. At that time, snags will arise -or- the changes will prove to be smoother than expected.

There are so many what-if's about the new process...too many to list here. For the most part, families appear to be accepting the new changes graciously. Although the changes are a financial and logistical hardship for families, adoptive-parents that I have talked with have been able to surface from the heartache to see the value of the changes in-terms of the longevity of inter-country adoption.

Vince and I are not angry about the changes...a little uneasy, but not angry. This is the reality of adoption. It's unpredictable, at best. Families don't pursue adoption because they are seeking predictability--they adopt because they are fighting for the fatherless. But, in that same breath, Scripture teaches us to test everything. So Vince and I are spending the next few days in prayer, seeking God's affirmation. We still have a pending adoption with China, and we fully recognize that God could place us back on that road whenever He so chooses.

That said...
Do we love Ethiopia? YES!
Do we believe we still have a son/daughter in Ethiopia? YES!
Are we fearful to adopt from Ethiopia now? NO!
Are we human beings with finite understanding? YES!
Do we need discerment and wisdom from the Lord at every bump (and smooth place)? YES!!
Look carefully then how you walk,
not as unwise but as wise,
making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
Therefore do not be foolish,
but understand what the will of the Lord is. Eph 5:15-17

Major CHANGES to Ethiopia's Intercountry Adoption Program

We received news yesterday that Ethiopia's Federal Court is now requesting that adoptive parents be present (IN Ethiopia) at the first court hearing for the adoption of their Ethiopia-born child/ren. Previously, the agency had the family's POA, and was present on our behalf for the hearing -- this just made sense since only 50% of adoption cases are granted on the first hearing.

This now makes Ethiopia a 2-trip program. Both parents must travel to Ethiopia to meet their child/ren and to testify regarding their desire to adopt this child/ren. Even if the hearing results in a finalized adoption, the process is far from over--meaning the parents must return to the US, and then make a second trip to Ethiopia 2-3 months later to bring their child home. This 2-3 month delay involves Ethiopia's adoption decree and new birth certificate processing-time, as well as the US Consulate's own investigation into the legitimacy of the adoption (prior to issuing a visa).

So what does this mean?

An extra trip to Ethiopia = $4-7000 in additional expenses.
Plus, meeting your child, but not being able to bring him/her home for several months.
However, because a family meets their child/ren prior to the adoption, it will no longer be necessary to re-adopt the child/ren for US citizenship (good thing!!).

We have a conference call with our agency this afternoon to discuss these changes in detail -- I'll share that info tonight.


Haven't Fallen-Off the Bloggy Train

I promise I'll post soon!! We moved to a new house last week (still
finishing last details). I'm exhausted. As soon as our DSL is up and
running, my randomness will resume.

BTW, for those who pre-ordered one of our adoption t's, they're going
into the mail ASAP!! Can't wait to wear mine this week-end! I'd love
to see a pic of you wearing your's!!

Oh, and happy 19-months to Micah today!!

Sent from my iPhone

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