She’ll always be my daughter.


May 12th, 2011

I have three children.
Two live in my house.
One no longer does.
She came into my life last June and lived here until March.
Sometime around the holidays we began to notice a change. Not bad things, just changes.
Changes that showed us some parts of her past that were a surprise to everyone.
And changes that showed us she was not were she was supposed to be.
In April we made the decision to allow her to move to a new home, another family.
A place that, we hope, can provide what she needs and can devote all of their time and energy into helping her heal.
I wanted so badly to be that person. To be the one to help her heal.
But it was clear that living here was not what she needed from us right now.
What she needed from us was a chance to move on.

She doesn’t live with us anymore.
We’re legally not her parents.
But she will always be my daughter.
Always.

Christmas Shopping and Helping a Family at the same time


October 25th, 2010

My friend is hosting an online silent auction to raise money to bring her son JohnMark home from Ghana.

It’s a pretty amazing story. I’ll give you the short version but go get a box of tissues and read her story here.

The short version is this: about 2 years ago, they adopted two older girls from Ghana. They knew the girls had a baby brother but he was not in need of a family at the moment. While visiting an orphanage in Ghana, guess who they met? Yep, BabyBoy. So, after much paperwork, waiting and red tape, they are bringing home their daughters’ biological brother.

Now, they are trying to cover a few costs. They are auctioning off quite a bit of cool stuff, a lot of it hand made in Ghana – including raw shea butter. If you’ve never used this stuff, you are missing out.

Here’s the deal – the items can be shipped to you at your expense or they can be picked up the night of the auction if you win. But I’ll throw out this offer – if you are from out of state and win an item, I will pick it up and ship it to you at no cost – just to say thanks for helping out a family.

Happy Christmas Shopping. Ready? Go.

We’re a family of five.


July 28th, 2010

Last night, I got back from 6 days in Alaska.

I left on Thursday to meet my daughter.

Kevin blogged all the details here.

Long story short, this adoption fell into our laps. We were preparing to adopt an older child but we thought it would be next summer before we welcomed a child home. But a friend was talking to a social worker who mentioned that a girl from Ethiopia needed a new home. The friend contacted me and told me to contact the social worker. I did.

A flurry of paperwork, phone calls, meetings with lawyers, social workers, home-studies, more paperwork and 7 weeks later the call came to book plane tickets.

Her name is Yeshumnesh – she’s smart, funny, talkative and pretty much all around a great kid.
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An Open Letter to Our Family and Friends (Round 2)


July 22nd, 2010

An Open Letter to our Family and Friends,

We announced earlier this spring that we were pursing the adoption of an older child. We never imagined that a few short months later we’d be welcoming an 11-year-old girl into our home. But that’s what will happen the last week of July.

Just like we did with Milo, we want to share with you some of our expectations and rules. Because of the nature of this adoption, it’s a lot different and we’re going to be sharing more. This is more than we’ve shared online, for reasons that will become obvious, and we’re trusting that you will keep this information offline. It will eventually come out, but for privacy and safety reasons we need it to be kept confidential.

On July 22 Abby and our good friend Nicole will be traveling to Alaska to meet Yeshumnesh (pronounced Ye-shem-nesh). They’ll return on July 27. She’s a bright, out-going and active Ethiopian girl who will turn 11 in August. She originally came to the United States on Christmas Day 2009, but that original adoption is being disrupted (that’s adoption lingo for what happens when a child is placed with a family and it doesn’t work out). The reasons behind that disruption will remain private, but we can say that in general it’s due to a clash of personalities and parenting styles. This family was not the right fit for Yeshumnesh.

Yeshumesh is now enrolled in 6th grade at Heritage Middle School, which is only a few blocks from our house. She’s very athletic and enjoys soccer, biking, cross-country skiing and ice skating (hockey!). She likes to color and do crafty things, and she enjoys listening to stories. She’s quickly catching up on her English as well. She’ll have her own bedroom across from Lexi & Milo’s and we hope we can decorate it together.

Adopting an older child is always a lot more complicated than adopting an infant, and in this case the disruption further complicates the whole thing. Because of these issues there are few things you should be aware of:

Parenting
First and foremost, you can throw standard parenting rules out the window. We’ve talked with other parents who have adopted older children, and all the standard parenting tactics simply don’t work. So if you thought we were weird parents before, we’re going to get especially weird now.

Tantrums & Extreme Behavior
Secondly, it’s common for older adopted children to exhibit extreme behavior. There can often be a sizable difference between their actual physical age and their emotional or psychological age. It’s common for older kids to regress, to be stuck in earlier developmental stages and to bounce around between stages.

This is where some creative parenting will come in to play as we help Yeshumnesh deal with the loss in her life and find appropriate ways to express her feelings. She’s been through a lot and will need to throw a lot at us to make sure she can trust us. Tantrums and extreme behavior like running away are not uncommon. As intense as this may be, it’s important to remember that it’s not reflective of Yeshumnesh as a person, it’s because of everything she’s been through. Think scary circumstances, not scary child.

Food Issues
Experiencing any type of malnourishment can be hardwired into kid’s brains and results in a lot of food issues. It’s common in older adopted kids and we’ve even seen this with Milo. The best approach is to not get into battles over food. This means letting the kids have access to food whenever they need it. Building the trust with them and letting them know their needs are always provided for is more important than spoiling supper. This will mean things like having healthy snacks available all the time, giving the kids water bottles, having a stash of sealed, healthy food in their rooms, etc.

Yeshumnesh’s Story
We’ve been told that Yeshumnesh readily talks about her birth family in Ethiopia, so don’t be surprised if this comes up. However, keep in mind that this is a volatile and emotional topic for her. Validate her feelings, but don’t question or deny her statements. It’s possible she’ll tell you something that contradicts with the story we’ve been told. In general it’s best to let Yeshumnesh lead these discussions and not try to pry information out of her. Let her share what she’s comfortable with. If you have questions about what she told you, please talk to us.

Materialism
Possessions can be a common source of strife for kids, but especially for older adopted children. They may have had few possessions in their birth family and even less in the care center. Combine that with an impression of the United States as a land where everyone is rich and you can have whatever you want, and these kids are set up for intense issues with materialism. We’ll be teaching Yeshumnesh proper attitudes about stuff (just like we teach Lexi & Milo), though it may mean some unique approaches for a while. In general we try to share most things in our family and we’ll need to continue to emphasize that. One common tactic we’ve heard is that everything needs to come from us as parents. This is more about knowing that we are the ones providing everything. We may need to remove tags from gifts and let Yeshumnesh assume everything comes from us. Later on we can let her know who gave her what.

Coming Home
We don’t know what the first weeks home will look like. It may mean having a strict routine and few visitors. Yeshumnesh is also out going and visitors may help her settle in. We don’t know how it will go. We want friends and family to be in touch with phone calls and e-mail, but don’t be offended if you’re not invited over and we’re not hanging out with anyone. We’ll need to get used to Yeshumnesh and she’ll need to get used to us. Milo and Lexi will also have their own adjustment periods and we’ll really need some normal routine so everyone can settle in. It’s common for these types of adjustments to take twice as long as the child’s previous adjustment took, so it’s possible it will take a year for things to really become normal. We don’t really know. So some of this may need to last for a while and we may be spending Thanksgiving and Christmas at home. If we are visiting someone else we’ll likely need to implement our routine there. At this point it’s all unknown but we just want to prepare you for what it might look like.

Language
We talked about this with Milo, but it’s always helpful to have a reminder. Phrases like “real mom” or “natural family” can have some really negative implications. We like to stick with neutral terms, like “biological mom” and “birth family.” We also don’t talk about children being “given up”/”put up” for adoption, but instead say “parents created an adoption plan.” We also need to be careful when we talk about how “lucky” or “blessed” someone is to be adopted. This can be a difficult because it’s confusing your feelings with Yeshumnesh’s. Remember that Yeshumnesh is not lucky to have had all this stuff happen to her. Instead of telling Yeshumnesh how to feel (whether explicitly or implicitly) by saying “You must be so happy to be with your new family,” tell her how you feel by saying “I’m so happy you’re a part of Kevin & Abby’s family.” She may or may not reciprocate those feelings—she may not be happy to be a part of our family for a while—and that’s fine. Don’t tell her how she should feel.

It’s also likely that Yeshumnesh will call us Kevin and Abby instead of Mom and Dad for a while. Family members should be prepared for something similar.

Pre-Teen Girl
On top of all of this, keep in mind that Yeshumnesh is a pre-teen girl. Everything is emotional and dramatic and drowning in hormones already.

What Do We Need?
We’re really excited to welcome Yeshumnesh into our family. We’ve been thinking about our next adoption for a while and we started preparing for an older child adoption early this year. Lexi is pretty excited and just asked Abby to make a princess dress for Yeshumnesh.

But the process itself is hard. It’s been a lightning fast rollercoaster. We got the initial call about Yeshumnesh on June 8. By way of comparison, Milo’s process took 19 months. Summer trips have been cancelled and we’ve been living in limbo, going from extremes of frantic preparation to deep lows at news of each delay. Due to the sensitive nature of this process, we’ve been pretty quiet about it online, which means we haven’t shared much, been able to commiserate, or fundraised at all. Also, the issues involved are heavy and it’s been physically exhausting trying to process everything. In a nutshell, this is brutal.

We’re preparing for a difficult transition with Yeshumnesh as well, so things may be tough for a while. We’re trying to be realistic about what to expect, which can sound intimidating, but we’re also excited about winter ice skating and family activities and all the positives.

In the end we need a lot of support. We just need general sanity and will be turning to friends to provide babysitting and date nights and sleepovers and whatever might work to share responsibilities and maintain sanity. If you’re the praying type, we could use plenty of prayer: Legal issues (we’re making travel plans in good faith that legal issues will be sorted out), travel, transitions, family bonding, logistics and even financial considerations could all use prayer.

Our friends and family have been incredibly supportive of Milo’s adoption and we’re hoping to find the same love and support this time around. We need and crave that and we appreciate everything people do for us. This is going to be hard and we will screw up and need help and grace.

Please let us know if you have any questions and thank you for being understanding and accepting in this turbulent and exciting time for our family.

Thanks,
Kevin & Abby Hendricks

Our Newest Addition: It’s a Girl!


June 15th, 2010

We haven’t talked about it much but we started down the paper trail of adoption this spring.

We figured we’d be bringing home our kid(s) next summer.

Plans changed. A lot. And it’s really exciting.

She’s an 11-year-old girl going into 6th grade and she’ll be joining our family this summer.

Due to the sensitive nature of this whole process, we won’t be sharing a lot of details.

But we can tell you that she’s almost as tall as me, her smile is amazing, she likes to ice skate and color.

It’s been a crazy week of checking paperwork, making “to do” lists and getting things ready.

And yes, it’s slowly sinking in that I am now the mom of a pre-teen. A middle-schooler.

This is going to be an adventure.

A Letter to Rahimeto’s Mom.


May 9th, 2010

Today is Mother’s Day.

I thought about you a lot today.

Are you wondering how your little boy is doing?

Are you wondering if he looks or acts like you?

I know you think about him as often as I think about you.

He’s doing great. Actually, he’s doing better than great, he’s amazing.

He can walk and talk (a little bit). He likes balls and trucks and bubbles and throwing things.

He’s got a big sister that he is crazy about. They run and laugh and argue and play and sometimes drive Mom and Dad up a wall.

He likes to hide and then pop out and surprise people.

Your baby boy is so sweet and affectionate. He loves to sit in our laps and cuddle.

He still sucks his thumb.

Everyone comments on his eyes and his smile.

I talked to him about you today. I’m not sure how much he understood. But I promise I won’t let him forget about you.

I will make sure he knows how much you love him.

And how grateful I am to be his mother.

How can I thank you?

You are 7000 miles away, wondering how your baby boy is doing.

You are 7000 miles away but you are and will be forever connected to our family.

“Thank you” doesn’t even begin to express how I feel.

Amesegnalehu.

Links on Adoption and World AIDS Orphan Day, Plus Random Updates


May 8th, 2010

Several blogs I follow have posted very interesting articles or links to topics surrounding parenting, adoption, AIDS and a few others. I’m not going to try and rewrite what they have already stated much better than I ever could. Instead, I’m just going to link like crazy and give credit where credit is due.

Yesterday was World AIDS Orphan Day. I have mixed feelings about this day. It’s an important day. The world needs to know how serious this issue is but it can’t be summed up in one day. The kids are around and need our help the rest of the year. It’s an overwhelming task to try and help them all. Start small. Help one.

In the year 2000 there were 12 million orphans in Africa and more than twenty-five percent of those lived in NIgeria and Ethiopia. Eleven percent of all children in Ethiopia were orphans.

By 2010, between twenty-five million and fifty million African children, from newborn to age fifteen, would be orphans. In a dozen countries, up to a quarter of the nation’s children. The numbers were completely ridiculous.

Twelve million, fourteen million, eighteen million-how could numbers so high be answers to anything other than “How many stars are in the universe?” or “How many light-years from the Milky Way is the Virgo Supercluster?”

Who was going to raise 12 million children? Who was teaching 12 million children how to swim? Who was going to sign 12 million permission slips for school field trips and pack 12 million school lunches? Who was going to by 12 million sneakers that light up when you jump? Backpacks? Toothbrushes? 12 million pairs of socks? Who will tell 12 million bedtimes stories? Who will quiz 12 million children on Thursday night for their Friday morning spelling test? 12 million trips to the dentist? 12 million birthday parties? Who will offer grief counseling to twelve, fifteen, eighteen, thirty-six million children?

(Except from There is No Me Without You by Melissa Faye Greene)
note: Not all of the orphans she is referring to are orphans because of AIDS but even if it’s only 12 children instead of 12 million, it’s still 12 too many.

An excellent post by Erin of Full House, Full Hands, Full Hearts on World AIDS Orphan Day

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If you are considering adoption, you have adopted, you know someone who adopted or any combination of the above, please read this post on love and adoption by Tonggu Momma.

And another post on adoption from Fugitivus (If you can’t handle swearing, skip this one.)

These aren’t the typical sunshine and roses articiles about adoption. They are very real. Adoption is not perfect and is never the ideal situation for a child. It is the last resort. And yes, it can go wrong. And it’s important that people know all sides of adoption. I can’t stress this enough:  All adoptions come with grief and loss that is very real.

If you have an afternoon, read Yoon’s Blur. She’s an adult adoptee, who, in my opinion, does an excellent job discussing the good, the bad and the ugly points of adoption.

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And a few random updates.

  • You can still throw your name into the hat to win Kevin’s awesome book.  I’m giving away 2 copies and so far there are only 10 entries so if you are one of those people who never wins anything, you’ve got a really good shot of winning this time around.
  • My school did a fundraiser for charity:water last month. Pretty proud of the elementary school, they brought in almost $400.
  • There are less than 20 days left of school. That is such a nice feeling.
  • Fun things I have planned for my class: An ice cream party (because they brought in over $60 for charity:water), making our own playdough, making rainbow crayons from the broken bits of crayon, making one of those paper chains for counting down the days in school, cleaning out the classroom (cleaning isn’t that much fun, but if you say it the right way, you can convince a kindergarten student anything is fun).
  • Went to Feed My Starving Children tonight. My group packed up 34 boxes of food. The entire group packed 194 boxes (or something close to that). It works out to enough meals for 114 children to have one meal a day for a year. If you want a fun family activity, go check it out.

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I think we’ll call that good for the randomness tonight. I really don’t think I should be allowed to blog after about 9:30 at night. I’ll try and make a little more sense next time around.

By the way, Happy Mother’s Day. If you haven’t called your mom yet, go do that.

Some Dork Turned His Tweets Into A Book (and you could win the book)


May 4th, 2010

And the winners are: The Schroeders and Jessica. Congrats.

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The dork is my husband and the book is a collection of tweets about adoption, the kids, water, and life. And I’ve got 2 books to give away.

And the best part for every book that is purchased $2 will be donated to charity:water to build a well in Ethiopia.

Here’s how to win a copy of the book:

1. Leave a comment. Yep. That’s it.
2. If you tweet/facebook/blog about the give away, leave a second comment (with a link to where you posted it) and you get a second entry.
3. Donate to charity:water. For every dollar you donate, you’ll get another entry ($5=5 entries). Come back here and let me know you donated – we’re going on the honor system here people. If you don’t want to share how much you donated just e-mail me abbyhendricks at gmail dot com and I’ll put the appropriate number of entries in the hat.

Entries close on May 10th at 5 pm CST. Winners will be drawn by Lexi and Milo.

Good Luck!

Adoption Updates


May 4th, 2010

We’re moving ahead with adoption #2.

It’s exciting and a much different process then Milo’s adoption.
Milo’s adoption went like this:

  1. Attend informational meeting
  2. Fill out application
  3. Fill out longer application
  4. Attend Pre-Adoption (PAC) classes
  5. Fill out homestudy homework
  6. Meet with Social Worker
  7. Meet with Social Worker (round #2)
  8. Get Home Study Written and Approved
  9. Collect paper work (birth & marriage certificates, fingerprints, letters from bank/police department, etc, etc, etc)
  10. Complete dossier
  11. Get on the waiting list
  12. Get fingerprinted for homeland security
  13. Wait.
  14. Get a referral
  15. Get a court date
  16. Get birth certificate
  17. Get a travel date
  18. Travel to Ethiopia
  19. Come home and fill out more paperwork
  20. Finalize Milo’s adoption

Yeah. That’s a lot of steps.

This time around we are going through the Minnesota Waiting Child Program. Most of the children are at least 6 years old and many of them are a part of a sibling group so it’s very likely we will be adopting an older child (probably over 8 ) and it’s also likely that child will have an older sibling. The process is a little simpler.

  1. Attend informational meeting
  2. Attend foster to adopt training
  3. Fill out application
  4. Fill out long application
  5. Meet with social worker (I know there are several meeting but I’m not sure how many)
  6. Wait for a match
  7. Review child’s paperwork
  8. Meet with people close to the child (teachers, pastor, coaches, therapists, etc)
  9. Start visits with the child
  10. Set a date for the child(ren) to move in
  11. Finalize the adoption

We’ve finished up the classes, we’re waiting for the big packet to arrive in the mail. Sorry, this post is just the facts. I’m still processing all the information we learned this past weekend and trying to decide how much should be public knowledge. Don’t worry. I’ll keep you updated. I know you’re on pins and needles.

We Are the Truth


April 15th, 2010

What happened to Artyem Saveliev is terrible. And it’s important that his story be told. It’s also important for the world to know there are adoptions – international adoptions, domestic adoptions, infant adoptions, toddler adoptions, siblings adoptions,  older child adoptions, waiting children adoptions – that will end beautifully.

The best bits of our adoption story can be found here and here.

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5 months old, in Ethiopia, 3 days before we came home.

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17 months old, in Minnesota, 1 year after we came home.

And our story isn’t over.

Do you have an adoption story?

Would you like a few stories to read?

Here’s one.

And another.

And another.

And another.

And another.

And another.

We are the truth.