Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Latest Iris Pictures

After getting news that Iris has a bad cough, we were thankful to get some new photos today. It is bittersweet though because I see how much she's growing, looking so much older and I feel like I'm really missing out. Please pray that it would be quicker than expected for an embassy appointment. I need her and waiting is taking its toll.

Good Reminder

I found these from the web, they are all John MacArthur quotes on being a wife/mom & I think they are great.

Prov 31 Woman: She always does what's best for him. She pursues his best interest. She strengthens him. She builds him up. She encourages him. She sees it as her role to do good to this man. She never speaks evil of him so that those in the home would learn to distrust him because of her testimony of his absence of character. His blessings are her delight, utterly unselfish. To live for him is her constant happiness and she knows she'll reap the benefit. Never unkind, always submissive in the most gracious way.

It's the love of her heart that puts delight in her work. If she felt like the reason for her to live was to fulfill herself, everything she had to do for someone else she'd hate. But because she knows her reason to be is to give herself for the joy of those she loves, the delight of her heart becomes the delight of her hands.

The first half of your life women, you make an investment, the dividends of which you will reap the second half. It flips over. This woman would raise her children and when her children were old enough to be on their own, they would spend the rest of their life blesing the woman who gave her life to them. That's God's design. The compensation then for old age is the exhilarating blessed joy of the return of the investment of youth in chidlren.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Yummy Tortilla Bites

I am no chef by any means, but I came across an appetizer for tortilla bites which looked really simple and delicious. After trying them last night I was sold and thought I'd share it for anyone interested.

Take soft tortillas, cut them into quarters and place in the individual muffin tin circles. Grade onion and put a little bit of that in each tortilla, then spoon some black beans on top of the onion & lastly a scoop of salsa on top of the beans. I decided to add a little cheese, which is a must for me and tasted really good. Bake 350 for 10 min and serve with sour cream.

It was simple, quick, and tasty. My kind of food :) Enjoy!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Just Wait...

Adoption = Waiting. I know this because every step of this adoption process has been hurry up and wait. Get the homestudy done, wait. Get the dossier done, wait. Get the referral, wait. Travel and meet your precious child, then wait. I'm not a patient person & this last part of the waiting process feels like forever. On Monday it will be 4 weeks since court. If I knew it would be only 4 more till we were back in Ethiopia that would probably help. However, I don't have that assurance since it seems everything goes slowly we can only hope that it will be that quickly.
I think about my daughter waiting for me, she doesn't even know who I am and that I've been waiting for years to have her here in our home, in our arms.
It is a LONG process for international adoption and worth it completely, but in this final stage when I can see the light at the end of the tunnel I feel like it's never going to end.
Atleast now I can look at her pictures and have the sweet memories with her but I'd give anything to turn those memories into reality once again and be there taking care of her.
Hoping and praying these next few weeks go by quickly and once again I find myself on a plane to Addis Ababa, exhausted and thrilled all at the same time.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Favorites

Favorite Breakfast: Chobani Vanilla Yogurt with granola on top and strawberries, with a large cup of coffee.

Favorite Lunch: Spinache Lettuce, Strawberries, Fetta, Grilled Chicken, Corn & something crunchy mixed with Olive Oil, Balsamic vinagrette & a dash of sugar.

Favorite Dinner: When I don't cook!

Favorite Dessert: Peanut Butter Chocolate Icecream by Haagen Daas or cheesecake.

Latest movie I saw that was actually quite good was "Courageous". Totally worth the 5.00 on demand.

Blake's latest obsession: throwing EVERYTHING down our stairs. Favorite part, his laugh as it all goes flying down.

Favorite Republican candidate so far? Mitt Romney.

That's all for this week - enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Adoption Memory Books - Are you there?

Today I googled Adoption Memory books and it was quite depressing. There was the cheapest one which looked quite cheap (around 20.00) and then there were the ones that cost around 70.00 which was an ouch! It's depressing because I looked at what 'Babies R Us' has to offer and for less than 30.00 you can get really adorable ones, but of course it wouldn't apply to an adoptive situation. I don't need some amazing custom made book, just one that I can write the adoption story instead of leaving the entire first year pages blank. Does any one else out there have a link where they have found one that's decently priced and cute at the same time?

Please feel free to share what you have found!

Monday, January 23, 2012

My baby sister had a baby girl!

Welcome to the world Lyla Michele!! Born this morning, weighing in at 6 pounds, 14 oz....We've been waiting for you, expecting you for weeks now. Thought you might have come during the Ethiopia trip, but you took your sweet time and now you are finally here.
3 brothers, 6 cousins & lots of love!  Congrats to Rachel and Jason, you are excellent parents and I can't wait to watch you raise your daughter.

Look forward to holding you soon!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Favorites &....

Friday again, time to think of some new favorites to share, but before I forget a wonderful lady from my home church in Clearwater Florida, Pat Seitz, has created a blog. It is called BringingIrisHome.blogspot.com and it is for anyone who is interested to know where we are at financially as we face a second trip to Ethiopia. It's been almost 3 years so a lot has changed since we started. Ok, now that's out of the way...

Best place to waste time on the internet is pinterest.com. It is awesome & I am officially addicted.

Best fleamarket is Kane County in St. Charles, Illinois. Hoping I can find a great one in Florida!

Loving my 7th Generation Dish Soap. It's Lemongrass & clementine zest and it makes washing dishes just a little bit better.

Most surprising place to find cute white dishes? The dollar tree!

Favorite store for cheap long curtains? Hands down Ikea. Perfect for matted frames too.

Lastly, for those who love to decorate and paint: There's a great line @ Lowes called MyColor and is inspired by Pantone. It's 10 dollars for 35FL. OZ and they have a great variety of colors. It's for walls and trim/ furniture and accents. Ultra low VOC, low odor, self priming and looks great :)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Adopted for Life book

For the most part I think almost every christian family who is adopting has read or atleast heard of the Russell Moore book "Adopted for Life".  Joe and I read it years ago at the start of this process of adopting our girl from Ethiopia, but I began to reread it recently and was quickly reminded of how encouraging, honest, and bibilically sound it really is.

There are so many great truths and for anyone who wants to just learn more about adoption, what people are thinking who are going through the process, or if you are interested in adopting one day..I would  encourage you to get a copy.  I think a lot of people dismiss any thought of it until they know someone personally who is adopting, I sure did. Before we began I didn't know anything, such as there are 5 million orphans in Ethiopia alone. I also didn't view it in the eyes of how God does. This book is truly worthwhile of your time, even if you never think you'll adopt. Here are 2 favorite quotes from the book:

"Infertility isn't good. Miscarriages are evil. Death is horrible. I don't shrug my shoulders in resignation at those things. I lost three children, children i'll never know until resurrection morning. But even in this, God was working all things together for good. If it hadn't been for the infertility, for the miscarriages, my wife and I never would have traveled across the ocean to that orphanage. Our lives would have been impoverished, and we wouldn't even have known it."

"It is one thing when the culture doesn't get adoption. What else could one expect when all of life is seen as the quest of selfish genes for survival? It is one thing when the culture doesn't get adoption and so speaks of buying a cat as adopting a pet. But when those who follow Christ think the same way, we betray that we miss something crucial about our own salvation."

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Chevron @ Target

I have not been to Target in some time and today I was blown away to find so much cute stuff. They had chevron everything, which can be difficult to find...storage bins, towels, plates, platters, and even a lampshade (LOVED IT). After much self discipline I went with a 2.99 kitchen towel.

Beyond the chevron stuff though was so many cute house things & adorable baby clothes. I always thought Target had a great selection, but they seem to be stepping it up all the time. In the house decor area was adorable antique looking bird decorations (not everyone's cup of tea I know, but for me it's amazing!), really cute decorative trays & even metallic poofs. It's days like these I realize how dangerous it is to go into stores like that because it always leaves you wanting more.

As if that wasn't even punishment for myself I went next door to TJ Maxx looking for something for Blake and spending an hour wandering aimlessly as I took in everything there. All in all, not a bad way to spend a saturday morning.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Favorites

Funniest show on TV right now in my opinion is Up All Night on NBC. It is so funny to watch, I just love it.

Favorite kids CD to listen to at this moment is called Seeds of Faith (Seedsfamilyworship.com). It hasn't started annoy me yet and I've listened to it about 100 times so far...

Best design book at the moment? Romantic Prairie Style by Fifi  O' Neill. I absolutely love this style and most every page in this book is inspiration.

Favorite date night...ordering in food and watching a movie (hint hint)!

Best place to buy flowers - Trader Joe's!

Most talented hair stylist: Colleen @ Paul Hyland Salon in Crystal Lake, IL.

When you're in love my how time flies

It was 15 months ago today that Blake was born. I remember exactly how it felt to be in labor, wanting so badly to meet this boy who had made it 9 months in my womb. I couldn't imagine how it would feel to hold this person who I had dreamed up for so many years. Well, as wonderful as it was and continues to be, I am amazed at how hard it is to be a mom! I think when you struggle with fertility you only think about the positive things and all the day to day struggles don't feel as real until you begin to face them.

Blake has been a great baby and has spoiled me in many ways, but now we are entering into a new phase...the training phase which requires lots of time, effort, and discipline. More than ever I see a need to be in the Word so that I can be a wise mom who raises my child to love and obey Jesus.  I only have a matter of weeks left until the dynamic changes and there is another baby home, so I really need to enjoy this time alone with blake & make the most of it.

Life has changed so much these last 15 months, but I have loved it & continue to be grateful for the miracle of this life.
"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." - Prov. 22:6

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Friends

While we were in Ethopia, we met a great couple adopting a baby boy and we soon bonded over the course of our time together. Alicia & Dawson made our time that much more special because when you go through the emotional journey of adoption, and you finally make it to the end, it's amazing to find another couple who knows exactly what it feels like!

On their blog over the past few days is a great description of the process and wonderful photos of our time in Ethiopia. The guest house, Acacia Village where our babies are staying are both featured, and because I am still learning how to incorporate pictures on my blog I would love for you to check out their blog to see for yourselves. It is called   http://www.theolferts.blogspot.com/   and if you scroll down far enough you will see a picture of Joe and I eating breakfast :)

Thanks again Alicia and Dawson for making such great memories with us, we love you guys!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Heading Back to Reality

Joe gets on a plane early this morning to head back "home". Duty calls, or in his case CDW does and tomorrow will be his first day back in the office in a month. Blake and I will join him later this week. It's a strange feeling to be caught in both worlds.
Florida feels like home, everyone we love is here, and we never really want to leave. In Illinois we have a condo, Joe's work, and a much quieter and isolated life. Seeing Blake love it here this much only intensifies our desire to make Florida home again. The prospect of leaving everything and starting over is much more exciting than scary or overwhelming. We have seen doors open with our adoption finalizing sooner than later, a branch of CDW opening in Tampa, and a longing to be part of not only Lakeside Community Chapel, but near to those we love and miss on a daily basis.

We gave it a shot, six years in the Northwest Chicago suburbs, but when no family is nearby and children make their way into the picture suddenly a new view makes its way into the decision process.  Okay, we both decide it's time to make a change and stop the talk and geer into action. This requires a job transfer for Joe, or figuring out if he can continue with his current job in Florida, short selling our place, packing up everything, and all the ends & odds that have to be done on top of our adoption responsibilities.

Please pray for us as we begin this endeavor, it's an especially scary thought for Joe who has never done a move like this and it's easy for panic to set in. Pray the doors would open with a job, our place would sell, and step by step it would be clear this isn't our plan but instead God is opening up opportunities so we can live here. My hope all these years were to end up in Florida, but that doesn't mean I want to come charging through if it's not where we belong in God's will for our lives.

Nomatter what - may I be content! "Let not our longing slay our appetite for living"

Friday, January 6, 2012

What Led Us to Adoption

In November 2007 I first learned what a miscarriage was. I had heard of them before of course, but never felt the impact until it personally happened. The next miscarriage was worse, it was June 2008 and I was at the Dr. to hear the heartbeat which never came. In a state of panic and shock I sobbed home from the doctor office and had the remains of the baby taken away the following day through a D&C.

December 2008 was my third miscarriage, also about 12 weeks along...also followed by a D&C that did not go as well as the first which required an additional D&C 6 weeks later. One day of testing showed nothing wrong with my body, no reason as to why it kept happening. It was at this point in the winter/ early spring of 2009 that I began to look into adoption. Up to that point it never occured as an option, unless it was "a last resort". I truly never had a heart for orphans and the thought of adoption had seemed like an insensative comment instead of a miraculous and wonderful decision.

As soon as I began to read about orphans in Ethiopia my heart broke for these souls that were without a family, without much food and clothing, no hope for the future...then I realized this is NOT ABOUT ME! I was so consumed with wanting to be a mother that I wasn't even caring about the life of so many children that needed to be part of a family. There was a sadness as I resolved myself to the fact that I would never have a biological child, but by God's grace there was acceptance too.

In April 2009 we filled an application out for CWA (Christian World Adoption) and were hoping to have a baby within a year from the program. A few months into the homestudy process I became pregnant and miscarried again. I felt hopeless and down, but the thought of a baby needing me and it not depending on my physical body gave me encouragement and helped me press on. It took us almost a year to send our paperwork to Ethiopia. We have never had an abundance of money and the process and fees were high. However, the Lord always provided through different ways exactly what we needed and when.

In March 2010 our paperwork went to Ethiopia. Shortly before that happened I had a positive pregnancy test. Assuming no baby would ever be born due to my past I prayed quite a bit and waited to be heartbroken. This time God's plan was a bit different. Blake Joseph Cotton was born in October 2010 and was a healthy miracle. I never imagined we would have a son, but in His grace He gave us one just when we needed him. His birth didn't effect our wait because time had slowed way down in the program so we waited, and waited, and waited. We were told March 2011 would be a referral, but it never came.
There was a phone call in April that gave us hope it would be any day, but then we learned our dossier had expired and a new homestudy / dossier would have to be complete before a referal.

This was all very frustrating and overwhelming, but we got it done and waited all summer. It felt like this was never going to happen and the entire process was all in my head! Then September 9, 2011 happened. We got the phone call that we had waited on for years, a little girl named Tarikwa was going to be ours. She was born March 1, 2011 (they assume) and we couldn't have been more excited!

We were told that things were going very slow and it would probably be spring until we would make our first trip. As disappointing as that was, we were just so happy to have a picture, an identity of who this precious girl was. We soon found out in December that our court date was Jan 2, 2012 and we would have to be there by December 28,2011!  This was beyond thrilling but so much to do...

We traveled the day after Christmas and was able to meet our girl on December 29,2011 for the first time. I can't express with words what it is like to have all that paperwork, the tears, the emotional toil just melt away as soon as I held her. It was like I had just given birth and that love that overwhelmed me with Blake was the exact same as I saw her right away. Before time began, God knew she belonged in our family. He orchestrated the events of the miscarriages so that my heart would be broken for the orphans of this world. He gave me the desire, he gave Joe the desire, He put it on other people's hearts to support us so it was even a possibility! God is so good to us and even though events don't always seem to make sense at the time, we can't see the fabric that is behind the scenes.

It will hopefully only be a few weeks until we travel to take her home with us. All this waiting teaches me that I have no control over anything! Years ago I didn't know if we would ever have children. I felt the pain of being infertile and the longing to hold a baby in my arms and if God had chosen to never fulfull that it would still be okay. He is always trustworthy, always good and gives each one what is best. I am grateful and would encourage anyone who is waiting, suffering, or hurting to rest in God's plan for your life and not your own!

Adoption is not a last resort, instead it should be a first resort if that is something the Lord puts on your heart. There are 5 millions orphans in Ethiopia alone, hundreds of thousands world wide. Who will take care of these children and give them a home where they are loved and nurtured? Think of the money we put into luxuries, pets, vacations...when this time on earth is through we can't take any of that with us. What we can make count for eternity is whether we invested in people. Yes, it is a sacrifice and it takes lots of time and patience and money, but if God wants you to adopt, then He will have to provide the way for it to happen. There is an entire world of people who are in the midst of adoption and would love support, encouragement, and financial help. It would be great if people cared enough to invest in such a life changing decision.

Friday Favorites

Favorite place for a burger in Clearwater, Florida has got to be Cafe Carmel. I ate it once on Christmas Eve and have been dreaming of it ever since.

Favorite source of inspiration for interior design is a mix between Pottery Barn and Anthropology. Both of these are out of my league so instead I head for HomeGoods, TJ Maxx, and Marshall's. It's amazing what you can find for a fraction of the price.

Favorite color to decorate with the last year? Hands down, white. Not sure why I strayed away for so many years. It's crisp, clean, looks great against any color and feels fresh. Take my word for it, paint something white and you will feel much better!

Favorite new book? "Radical", by David Platt. A must read ("Taking Back your Faith from the American Dream"). Thanks Ben, for letting me borrow this while I traveled. It really pushes you to take a look at your life and examine your priorities.

Well, those are my favorites for today, back next Friday with a few more...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Few Things I Learned In Ethiopia

I should be happy for Joe when he sleeps during a 17 hour flight, but I am not.  The driving is crazy, the people are beautiful, and being around other believers is an immediate connection.

The most heartbreaking thing is hearing there are atleast 5 million orphans in Ethiopia alone. That's as many as the population in Addis Ababa, the capital. When the children are not in orphanages many are on the street begging for money and food or walking around because they are not in school. Their clothes are torn and tattered, yet they still have beautiful smiles on their faces.

Hearing about orphans and actually seeing them are two completely different things. It has been almost 3 years since we have done paperwork, hours of training, completed a dossier, emptied our savings, done and redone our homestudy; yet in the moment that we met our daughter it was all worth it. She is real and holding her showed us how many orphans out there need a mom and dad. They need a family who will tell them about Jesus and feed them, clothe them, and love them. They need a home, hugs, and kisses.

They may never have your eyes or your hair, but does that matter in light of eternity? Blessed is he who has regard for the weak - Ps. 41. Let your heart break for the fatherless!  We are so spoiled here in the US. Even when we struggle financially we are so rich compared to others in poverty, not only in Ethiopia but all over the world. It's easier to not think about it, but maybe it's time for a change.

New Year, New Blog

I've been following blogs for some time now, afraid to actually start one myself. Then something crazy happened to me. I went to Ethiopia and met my daughter who we will be bringing home in a few weeks through adoption. The world looks so different to me now that I have to write about it.

My main interest in blogs have been interior design, so from time to time that could make its way in here too, but I have to express how insignificant that seems now when you've seen a third world country with millions of orphans, one of them being your own daughter. It certainly took me a while to get here, but I'm so glad this is the path God has for me and my family.

As you start this new year, I'd encourage you to do some research on adoption. It's so easy to think it's too expensive, takes too long, and just isn't the same as biological children. There will always be excuses as to why it's too hard to do something, but maybe the Lord would open your eyes to this year wanting to change the future of a child. To sacrifice temporary luxuries and invest in a soul that matters for eternity...I promise you won't be disappointed!