10.16.2008

Great Smoky Mountains: 08.24.08 - 08.30.08

The following is a recap of our trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park with my parents.
It took place almost two months ago!!



Day 1


We left after Church at Silver City, driving to Nashville to pick up my parents and then to our cabin in Gatlinburg. We arrived after midnight.


Day 2

The first thing we had planned for the morning was to go get some breakfast at a local restaurant. Then we planned to go get groceries in order for us to pack a lunch. After that we would go on a hike....however...our plans changed...

It rained all night and it was raining in the morning.
As we drove down the steep hill from our cabin to town this happened...


There was nothing Robert could do...we were driving under 10 mph, the wheels were turned with the curve, and we just slid over the side. The road was slick because it hadn't rained in several weeks, so water on top of oil and chemical buildup led us to this. The poor guy drove his in-laws over the edge into the trees.

So, we called a towing service and were out and safe and sound at the restaurant for breakfast
in about one hour!

Here is Robert in the car as it was towed.

The rest of our day consisted of breakfast, grocery shopping, leaving the car for a few hours with the mechanic, walking around Gatlinburg while we waited for the repairs to be done, going the visitors center, a short nature walk near the visitors center, and dinner.

Here are Dad, Mom, and Robert on the nature trail.



Day 3

The headlines the next day...


In the morning we took a drive on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
and we stopped at this old church.


While we were there I followed two older couples into the woods
and took some pictures of these deer.


While my parents and Robert went to see the church, I stayed in the woods. The people I was with said they had seen bear droppings and that they thought there might be a bear around because the deer were acting skittish.

I am glad that I stuck around because I was the first to see a bear! The picture below is the closest I got to getting a picture of them. They are in the very center of the picture...in the background just to the right of that tree in front.


Maybe you can see them better in this closeup...


We also went on a short hike to Grotto falls. We hiked in our ponchos in the rain.
We were soaked by the end of the hike.

Momma and me under the falls.



Day 4

We drove the Cade's Cove Loop Road to the Abram's Falls trail head and hiked to Abram's falls, pictured below.


It was once again a rainy hike!



Day 5

Family picture at the beginning of our hike to Chimney Tops.


This was one steep hike!


It looked like it had cleared up enough that afternoon in order for us to get a good view, but by the time we got to the top the mist rolled in...this was the best view that we got!


Here is what the Chimney Tops looks like from the ground.


On the way back to the condo (where we stayed for the last couple of nights of the trip) we all saw bears! A momma and three cubs crossed the road in front of us!




Day 6

We began early with a hike to Clingman's dome tower...the highest point in the park.

Mom and dad start the ascent.


Here we are at the top.



Acting silly on the decent.


Our second hike of the day was the Alum Cave Bluff trail. This was a beautiful hike! All the way up there was something pretty or interesting to see!


Why the trail has the word "cave" in its name.





Picnic lunch at the top.


The view.



Day 7

We drove home, dropping our parents off at the airport in Nashville. While in Nashville Mom and Dad went to the Parthenon while Robert and I had lunch with our friends from Harding, Adam and Jocelyn Rollins. We stopped by the Opryland Hotel to kill some time.


The End.

New York City: 9.11.2008 - 9.13.2008

Robert and I went to New York City over one month ago! We went to see both the Yankees in their last season at Yankee Stadium as well as the Mets in their last season at Shea Stadium. We also went to visit our friends who live in Brooklyn--Steven and Jennie Baird. It was Robert's first time in New York, but not mine--It brought back several memories of sightseeing and baseball games from when I was a Kid. Here are some pictures from the trip!

Day 1

We flew into NYC on September 11th. We watched the memorial going on on TV before we boarded our plane in Atlanta. It was an interesting day to arrive in NYC.

When we arrived in NYC we entertained ourselves until the Bairds got off work.
First we went to the UN for a tour.



Then we walked downtown, ate at the Carnegie Deli, and saw Times Square.

That evening Steven and Jenny walked us to where we could see this view
of the September 11th Memorial.


Day 2


The next day we got up early to catch the first ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.


After some more walking around downtown, we met Steven and Jennie at Shea stadium...
...but sadly the game was rained out


Day 3

We slept in and then took the subway to Yankee stadium.

I was a huge Yankees fan in middle school when I lived in Connecticut, so being at Yankee Stadium brought back a lot of memories!

I was excited to see that the grounds-keepers were still dancing to the YMCA at the 7th inning.

In spite of fact that the Mets game was rained out Friday night, Robert was able to trade in our tickets for tickets to the 3pm game on Saturday (which had become a double header). So we went to the 1pm Yankees game and then we took the subway to Shea and caught the last three innings of the Mets game and the complete second Mets game. That is a total of about 9 hours of the day devoted to baseball--Robert was in heaven!

Knitting is a great way for me to keep my hands busy when watching baseball!


Here is a picture of us with Steven and Jennie at the final Mets game.

9.16.2008

Update!


We have been back from Angola for over two and a half months now. We have now had time to process the trip as a team and as a team we have decided (by a unanimous decision) on a location for our future mission work. We will be living and serving in Huambo, Angola (pronounced Wuambu). Eventually I will post more about the city of Huambo. For now you can see where it is on this map and refresh your memory of our time in Huambo on the survey trip with the pictures here.



As far as the adoption goes...we are still on the waiting list. We do not know exactly where we are on the waiting list, we only know that there are about 289 total on the list. However, there is a forum on the CHSFS website that maintains an unofficial, password protected list. Families who choose to may be put on the list. They say that your place on the list is about twice as high it would be on the official list. We are currently number 65 on the unofficial list (see adoption timeline on the sidebar for updates on this), which means we are approximately number 130 on the official list. Basically this list gives us an idea of whether or not things are moving along in the adoption world. At this point in time the courts are closed in Ethiopia for the rainy season, but referrals are still being given...slowly. CHSFS is now saying that the estimated wait time has increased to 12 months...a relatively longer wait from the original 6-9 months when we started the process. CHSFS is hopeful that the wait time will shorten as referrals speed up. I am hopeful that 12 months will be the worst case scenario.


School has started for the Silver City Church kids. Last moth we had boxes and boxes of school supplies in our extra bedroom. Back on August 2nd we had a back to school event for Boone Park Elementary (a school about 4 blocks from our house). Pleasant Valley Church of Christ in Little Rock raised funds to provide school supplies (exactly what is on each child's school supply list) for every student (about 460) at Boone Park. At the event we had food, games, and each child found out that all of their school supplies would be in their classroom on the first day of school. The event was a great success about 90 children from Boone Park were there with members of their family. The event was a great success!


Mentoring started at Silver City this week and Robert is heading that up once again. He also has a small group of boys coming over each week to do a more in depth survey of the Bible. These boys are coming by choice and they may even have to do homework! We are looking forward to watching these boys learn and grow during this time.

We have enjoyed a couple of weeks of vacation in the last month. The last week in August we went to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee with my parents. And this past weekend we were in New York City visiting friends, seeing the sites, and of course watching the Yankees and the Mets. Stay tuned for pictures and commentary of our adventures!


8.21.2008

Why we are adopting...

I have been meaning to post this since the beginning of this adoption process, but I wanted to be able to really sit down and express why we are adopting siblings from Ethiopia and how Robert and I came to that decision.

***


How we came to the decision...

Robert and I had talked about adoption in the past (even before we were married) as a possibility that we wanted to consider in the future. Then one day in January, I was thinking to myself, what if we adopted now? "Now" meaning first, before we even consider having biological children. We were at a conference and one of the speakers was simply challenging us to meet a need--that's what triggered the thought. I thought about it for a couple more days and researched it a little on the internet, then I brought it up to Robert. I wanted to find out what the needs are in the world of adoption--my thought was that I want to adopt now if it is truly needed.

Robert was on board with looking into it, so we did. It is amazing how many opinions there are out there on the subject of adoption. There are countless programs and organizations out there! At one point I was completely overwhelmed by them all, frustrated, and ready to give up on the idea. There are so many requirements, it costs a lot of money, there's a ton of paperwork, and there are so many choices. Robert was my encouragement during this time. He helped me to look at the process with optimism again. Knowing that he wanted to do this as much as I did in the beginning gave me new energy to pursue it.

Looking at websites and information packets from agencies got old quick. Everything blended together and started to look the same. It was difficult to see where we fit in the world of adoption. We were leaning toward international adoption (possibly Ethiopia) with one agency, but I needed a recommendation--a more personal look into adoption.

Robert and I were blessed to make contact with a couple who had very recently adopted from Ethiopia using CHSFS. This couple was much like us prior to making the decision to adopt - young, more than likely capable of having biological children, and choosing to adopt now. Hearing their personal story was so helpful. We met them for lunch one day in order to learn from them about their experiences with adoption. They were straightforward about the challenges that they faced throughout the process, the challenges that they still face, and he challenges that they will face in the future. They had books to recommend, a beautiful story to share, and so much encouragement to give!

It was that day, January 24,2008, that we became convinced that we would make the decision to adopt from Ethiopia using CHSFS.

We are not adopting because it is trendy or because we want to rescue a child from whatever situation they are in. We would be honored to be parents of children who need parents. We have found that there truly is a need for people to adopt.


Why are we adopting from Ethiopia?

In the beginning, as we researched international adoption, we were simply drawn to adoption in Ethiopia because we meet the requirements for adoptive parents for that country. Ethiopia has a government that supports international adoption and the agency that we are using has a strong Ethiopia program.

Also, we love Africa! We have been to other countries within the continent of Africa and we plan on spending a significant amount of time in Angola, Africa doing mission work there (as if any of you who have read this blog didn't know). We look forward to being a multicultural family!

I recently read the book There is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene and it opened my eyes to the need for adoption due to things like AIDS and famine leading to a shortage of adults to care for their children. Here is a quote from that book that really touched me:

"'Adoption is a last resort,' I would be told in November 2005 by Haddush Haleform, head of the Children's Commission under Ethiopia's Ministry of Labor, the arbiter of intercountry adoptions, 'Historically, close kinship ties in our country meant that there were very few orphans: orphaned children were raised by their extended families. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has destroyed so many of our families that the possibility no longer exists to absorb all our Ethiopian orphans.
'I am deeply respectful of the families who care for our children," he said. 'But I am very interested in any help that can be given to us to keep the children's first parents alive. Adoption is good, but children, naturally, would prefer not to see their parents die.'"

This book has magnified Ethiopia's present need for adoption for me personally. It also sets the bar high for Robert and me. We are challenged to help keep Ethiopian parents (and adults in general) alive. I have been doing a lot of praying and thinking about this lately. My prayer is that Robert and I help meet Ethiopia's needs alongside our children.

Why are we adopting siblings?

"You're adopting siblings?!" That is what most people say to us when we share our news with them--especially those who do not know exactly how crazy we already are! It is a big step for first time parents to adopt siblings!

We basically feel that if one child is going to rock our world, why not adopt siblings? There is a need for siblings to be adopted, which is the main reason why we made this decision. Another benefit is that in the future I believe that it will be comforting for each of our kids to have a sibling that is experiencing some of the same feelings that he or she is having.

We recognize that siblings will add new challenges to the adoption experience...and it is a little weird to think that if we are adopting siblings under the age of four that at least one of them might have been born before Robert and I were even married!...but we are excited about the adventures before us...whether we are blessed with infants, toddlers, or preschoolers we are looking forward to meeting these children where they are in life



***

We have already overcome many challenges that have come with this Adoption. We recognize that God has already blessed us with an incredible amount of support from friends and family, He has blessed us financially, and our faith continues to increase as he guides us further in this process. We continue to seek God to guide us through the challenges to come.

8.01.2008

And now back to...Angola in Pictures V: Malange & back to Luanda

You are in for a treat! These are some of the prettiest pictures of Angola yet!!

Africa's second largest falls, the Kalandula waterfalls.

We took a hike down to what we thought would be the base of the falls.



We encountered some mud on the way down.


This ended up being our view, pretty, but not what the guide led us to believe.


All clean. Check out that Rainbow!!


Receiving a gift from the church in Malange.


Co-pilot Teague on the way back to Luanda.


Back in the Luanda Traffic.

Our last Sunday in Angola.

An Angola vs. Uganda Football game. Ask us about this adventure sometime!


We flew home a couple of days later. The end!